Archive | January 2012

Not Normal

Yesterday we finished up a sermon series at church called Ri-dik-yu-lus, which I loved.  The central message was, “if you want want normal people have, do what normal people do.  If you want what few people have, choose to do what few people do.”  Pastor Steve talked about normal vs. ridiculous prayers yesterday.

The thing that stood out to me the most was this: the way you pray reflects what you believe about God.  He used an illustration of a “normal” family facing an issue in their lives.  They talk to their friends, do everything in their power to solve the problem, come to the end of their rope and decide “well, all we can do now is pray”.  How often is that true of us?  I think God wants us to pray while we act.  Not sit around waiting for him to answer and not do anything, but “push and pray” as Steven Furtick says.  He tells of the day when his wife was in labor with one of their children and things got a little dicey at the end.  The doctor and nurses went on high alert because the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck and she needed to push that baby out!  He talks about how he was glad that the medical team didn’t just gather around the bed and pray for everything to turn out right.  They took action!  Push and pray!

Normal people pray normal prayers, safe prayers.  Don’t go out on a limb.  What if God doesn’t answer the way we want him to– let’s not make God look bad or get our hopes up, only to be disappointed.  Here’s the thing.  When you pray and God doesn’t do what we ask in the way we want him to do it, it doesn’t have to rattle our faith.  We can choose to believe that God is sovereign, he is a good God, and he is in control. 

My final insight from the sermon was this question: if God were to answer all your prayers from this past week with a yes, just stamp them all yes, how would the world look different?  In other words, are you praying ridiculous prayers or normal prayers?  Just for those closest to you or for more than that?  A related question might be, if God were to answer all your prayers with a yes, would you have asked for more?  This isn’t presumptuous– it’s bold!  Pray with boldness and for boldness.  Pray for miracles to happen.  You won’t manipulate God.  But don’t underestimate him either!

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God is better than we thought

What I’d really like to do this morning is transcribe the entire chapter from Beautiful Outlaw because it is just so good!  I think that might get me in trouble with copyright laws of some sort and I don’t really want to blog from jail, so I’m going to do my best to bring out the essence and really encourage you to go buy the book!

Throughout the whole book, the author has been looking at different aspects of Jesus that we overlook, coming back again and again to the theme “and this is why I love Him… this is what is so amazing about Him… this makes me adore Him.”  He brings out the personality of Jesus in a way that just makes you love Him!  You can admire someone from a distance, respect them, think they’re cool.  But the only way to love someone is to know them up close, to see them for who they are, to see their personality come through.  We don’t often do that with Jesus.  We gloss over the stories that we’ve heard before (sure, Jesus walked from Judea to Galilee– did you know that’s 70 MILES?  He was human and humble enough to walk, when he could have just appeared wherever he wanted to.).  There’s this religious glaze that has accumulated in our minds, obscuring the beauty of who and what Jesus is.  It’s imperative to strip that away if we want to experience Jesus.

And that’s the point.  Eldredge says:

All of this is merely entertaining unless it opens the door for us to experience Jesus.  The best thing we can do now is pause, before we are saturated with more information about Jesus, and begin to discover him for ourselves.  Experience him personally….

Friends, this is not simply a nicer view of Jesus… This is not confetti– lovely while it falls, soon to be swept away.  Jesus is our life.  We need Jesus like we need oxygen.  Like we need water… Jesus is not merely a figure for devotions.  He is the missing essence of your existence.  Whether we know it or not, we are desperate for Jesus…

A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness.

Wow.  It’s so simple and yet so… unfamiliar.  When I say unfamiliar, I mean that we aren’t used to thinking of him this way.  Sure, we know that he died on the cross for our sins and wants to work in our lives, he did amazing miracles and we ought to pray to him and all that.  But our greatest happiness?  That jolts me out of what I “know” and into a whole new world.

He goes on:

Love Jesus.  Let him be himself with you.  Allow his life to permeate yours.  The fruit of this will be breathtaking.

Now for the best news you will ever receive…

You get to.

You are meant to have this Jesus, more than you have each new day, more than you have your next breath.  For heaven’s sake– he is your next day, your next breath.  You are meant to share life with him– not just a glimpse now and then at church, not just a rare sighting.  And you are meant to live his life.  The purpose of his life, death and resurrection was to ransom you from your sin, deliver you from the clutches of evil, restore you to God– so that his personality and his life could heal and fill your personality, your humanity, and your life.  This is the reason he came.

Anything else is religion.

God is better than we thought. Much better than we feared.  Better even than we dared to believe.

Yes, yes, and yes.

The best possible way

Today’s post is a continuation of the one from a few days ago, so you’ll want to read that one first if you missed it.  I want to elaborate on/explore the idea of disruptive honesty in our relationships, as modeled by Jesus.

The author of Beautiful Outlaw describes Jesus this way:

The man shoots straight.  Sometimes he’s playful, sometimes he’s fierce; the next moment he’s generous.  This is the beauty of his disruptive honesty– you can count on Jesus to tell the truth in the best possible way for you to hear it.

Well, sure you can “do truth” the right way if you’re Jesus!  What about the rest of us?  Here’s the beautiful part, the part that we miss.  When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He says that He will make us like Himself.  We say that and then act like we’re out there on our own!  Seriously?  This is the best possible news for those of us who know ourselves too well, our flaws, our personality challenges, our mental issues (you know you have them too!).  He doesn’t just give us truth, He is Truth.  He doesn’t give us rules/laws/commandments, He gives us the power to live the way we were designed to live.  That’s what perfection means– fulfilling the purpose for which you were created.

So back to transparency and being honest with one another.  I don’t know how to walk the line between being truthful and being judg-y.  My motives are not always pure.  Which is why, when there is a situation where I feel truth needs to be spoken, I immediately begin praying for wisdom and asking the Spirit to give me words or tell me to stay silent.  I’ve gotten it wrong too many times!

I’ll finish up this topic next time with the Great Offense of Jesus Christ.  Stay tuned!

 

Honestly?

I was really challenged by reading the chapter called Disruptive Honesty in Beautiful Outlaw this morning.  The book is all about peeling back the layers to see Jesus’ personality for what it truly is and the more I dive into this, the more I find myself falling in love with Him.  The Jesus that John Eldredge is bringing to life from the Scriptures is so much more compelling than the way we often see Him portrayed.

Whenever we are reading about the life of Jesus in the Gospels, we can rely on the truth that we are watching love in action.  When we encounter stories that seem startling, we can filter them through this truth.  I love this passage in the book, where Eldredge brings up the story of Jesus being invited to a Pharisee’s house to eat.  He bypasses the ceremonial washing and the Pharisee is “surprised”.  Then Jesus lays it on him: “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39).  Here’s Eldredge’s paraphrase:

“Oh– the washing bit”, he says as he takes a piece of flatbread, breaks off a bite, and chews it.  “It completely clouds the issue.  Outwardly you look sensational.  But inwardly, your heart is full of extortion and evil.”

Yikes.  Doesn’t even seem polite, right?  This is what the author calls Jesus’ “intervention”.

His honesty and severity are measured out precisely, according to the amount of delusion and self-deception encasing the listener.  When a soul is encrusted with pride, bigotry, self-righteousness, and intellectual elitism– as was his dinner host– then that shell does need to be struck hard at times in order to cause a crack that might allow some light in.

Now that’s all well and good and it’s easy to look at this story and cheer Jesus on for calling the Pharisee on the carpet.  But what about when it’s me that needs disruptive honesty?

The really challenging part of this chapter for me was the question, “why aren’t we more honest with each other?”.  The answer is because it will cost us.  We “really don’t care enough to risk the tension, backlash, penalties, or rejection.”  Wielding truth as a weapon is not the goal here.   Honesty is not meanness or harshness.

I love this part!

One of the things I most respect about Jesus is his inability to speak nonsense… There is a world of difference between being offensive and saying something that offends.  It is a matter of location– where in fact does the offense lie?  The man who makes a racial slur betrays something ugly in him.  The friend who says you’ve had too much to drink spares you something ugly in you.  A foghorn is offensive at a dinner party; it is the sweetest sound in the world for a ship lost in a storm.  Jesus’ words are not offensive.  It is something in us that is offended.

I think I’ll continue this post next time with some further thoughts on developing more honesty in our relationships with each other.  For now, I’ll leave you with the question: How has the truth of Jesus “disrupted” your life?

2 things

An interaction this weekend with an acquaintance gave me 2 insights, lessons that I really needed.  Briefly, the situation entailed a heated conversation by which I was completely caught off guard.  What I said came across in a way that I didn’t intend and it triggered a very explosive response from the other person.  Wow!  It wasn’t very fun, but I’m thankful for it nonetheless because I’ve really had some aha moments.

First, immediately pray when faced with a conflict.  I had never experienced this quite in this way, but it was amazing.  After a few minutes of conversation, I chose to step away and I instantly began to pray that Jesus would help me and be present in the situation.  I didn’t know what to expect from that prayer, but the biggest answer to my request was my response.  My normal reaction would be anger, hurt, and crying.  Even though intellectually I knew that I had simply been misunderstood, my typical response would still have been to take it very personally and have an emotional scar from it.  I was amazed by the sense of God putting a shield around my heart and emotions.  I wasn’t upset, hurt, or angry.  I was able to see things from her point of view and apologize for the part that I played in hurting her feelings, without taking blame on myself.  This is huge for me, and completely God at work in me!

Second, give others the benefit of the doubt.  Being on the receiving end of someone judging your intent as well as your actions, I was reminded that I too often do the same.  I see the actions and results, but I get to choose  how I judge someone’s character, personality, and heart.  Think more highly of others than you think they deserve and cut people some slack!

Third (I know this was supposed to be 2 things, but I’m on a roll), when we are offended or our feelings are hurt it’s often because someone triggers what we already believe about ourselves, others, or the world.  I heard this from a speaker this week and I immediately recognized ways in which I do this.  Someone questions me and my self-doubt is triggered, for example.  The solution?  Allow God to refine, restore, and redeem those beliefs until they match His.

In what situations do you need to ask God to be present?  Do you need to give someone the benefit of the doubt?  What beliefs need to be redeemed by the truth of Jesus?

The Real Jesus

Two-dimensional.  Bland.  Unrelatable.  This is how Jesus is so often portrayed in sermons, books, art, and religion.  It’s not very captivating, is it?  No wonder this type of Jesus gets side-lined in people’s lives, a nice addition on Sunday morning, but not someone who keeps our attention throughout the week.

I just started reading John Eldredge’s book, Beautiful Outlaw.  He describes Jesus as playful, witty, irreverent, fierce– someone with personality!  I love this quote:

If you do not know Jesus as a person, know his remarkable personality– playful, cunning, fierce, impatient with all that is religious, kind, creative, irreverent, funny– you have been cheated.

If you do not experience Jesus intimately, daily, in these very ways, if you do not know the comfort of his actual presence, do not hear his voice speaking to you personally– you have been robbed.

If you do not know the power of his indwelling life in you, shaping your personality, healing your brokenness, enabling you to live as he did– you have been plundered.

I don’t want to be inoculated by a “nice” picture of Jesus.  I’m not looking for safe, or tame, or sweet.  I want dangerous and life-giving and adventurous.  I want to walk on the edge of life with the One who challenges, stretches, and molds me into his likeness.  That’s the Jesus I want to give my life to.  How about you?

Elevate

I love it when the New Year starts on a Sunday!  There’s just something about a fresh start happening on the first day of the week.  I love Sundays because I get to be with my church family, learn, grow, recalibrate for the week.  Do you know what I mean?  I look forward to Sunday all week!

Last year, I selected 2 words as my theme for 2011: ask, and surrender.  I can’t claim that I remembered to live by them every day of 2011, but they did provide a framework for the kind of person I want to become and God blessed that focus in many ways.  I found myself asking Him for more, more often.  I was attuned in more ways to knowing His plan for me and walking with Him in surrender.  You know, life just looks different when it’s not all about me!

This year, I’ve been contemplating my word(s) for 2012 and I believe it’s a verse: Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Heb. 12:2

I cannot make a selfish choice when my eyes are fixed on Jesus.  I cannot live in fear when I’m completely focused on Him.  I’m unable to allow other things to control or overwhelm me when I’m single-mindedly pursuing the things of God.  This is the life for which I was designed, for which YOU were designed.

Over the holidays we had the privilege of flying to see family and going skiing in Colorado.  On our way back home, it was cloudy and a little snowy when we took off.  As we climbed to cruising altitude, we got above the clouds and it was sunny and blue sky.  Perfect picture of perspective, right? 

I was reading a blog by one of my favorite authors, Steven Furtick, this morning.  He says:

Make the Spirit-led decision to elevate above your problem before you deal with it at all. Whatever you have to deal with today, first determine to access the perspective shaped by the promises & presence of Christ.
Now you’re ready to deal with your issue from the highest level-the very altitude and airspace of God. Your doubts and worries won’t loom so large from up there.

If you stand toe to toe with your issue, addiction, deficit, fear, or temptation, you’ll be intimidated by what you see & shut down before you get the chance to fight.

But if you get up above the issue, and refuse to wrestle around with it in the mud of self-centered thinking and faithless strategy, everything about your approach will change.

 

That’s what I want– how about you?

This entry was posted on January 2, 2012. 1 Comment