More than a Sunday morning Christian

20130721-095555.jpgI need a Christianity that is more than Sunday morning pomp and circumstance.  My desire is for a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday love, real grace and mercy for when we need it most.  I believe this is what the world is looking for as well. The challenge is to be more, to live a real Christian life. The Word of God is unchanging, immovable, the same today as it was yesterday and it will remain just as rock solid tomorrow.  God is not swayed by the changing social culture, the current president, or the wayward winter winds that blow.  But it’s easier and less confrontational to just go with the flow.

John Piper explains it this way. “…it’s the lack of a sense of desperation for God that is so deadly. If we don’t feel desperate for God, we don’t tend to cry out to him. Love for this present world sets in subtly, like a spiritual leprosy, damaging spiritual nerve endings so that we don’t feel the erosion and decay happening until it’s too late.”

“This environment can be deadly to faith. It allows false faith to masquerade as real faith very easily. And its power to dissipate zeal and energy and mission-focus and willingness to risk is extraordinary because it doesn’t come to us with a whip and a threat. It comes to us with a pillow and a promise of comfort for us and our children. The former makes us desperate for God. The latter robs our sense of desperation.”

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
(Casting Crowns, Slow Fade)

Welcome to Sunday morning Christianity. Aren’t we called to be more?

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

What does a miracle look like?

20130716-074832.jpgJust after being diagnosed with Takayasu’s Arteritus, I kept telling everyone that I felt like I was awake for the first time in a long time.  Why?  My Christianity was in hibernation, only to be awakened in crisis. I have learned that if we don’t use our “faith muscles” everyday they will be sluggish and sleepy when we need them. We will have to dust off our Christianity like a long-forgotten tool and hope that we remember how to use it and pray that it
will “start on the first pull.” I see so many people in the same place that I just was and want to scream at them to wake up! I have come to think of the Holy Spirit as caffeine for a drowsy spiritual life. Today, I am living my life steeped in God’s word and close communion with Him. But it’s only because it took a crisis to wake me up.   The problem that I know I struggle with is that I get too easily complacent and self-sufficient. It becomes a slow fade from utter dependence to “Oh yeah, hey God I could use you today.”
Let me break down my walls of pride and tell you that God isn’t interested in my eloquence as a speaker or a writer. He is only interested in my surrendered life. I am no good to Him, my message holds no weight, unless He, and He alone, is the author of it. And if I am brutally honest, with myself as well as the rest of you, without a diagnosis of Takayasu’s Arteritus, and the continuation of battling an incurable disease (which means no miracle) my pride and self-sufficiency would still be running my life. And my fear is that with a miracle, those worldly crutches would begin to eventually, over time, creep back in to their supreme position.
Life hurts sometimes, no doubt about it. When it does I have learned that I need to step past my pride and self-sufficiency and have the confidence in my weakness to ask for help when I need it and then have the humility to receive it on God’s terms so that his perfect strength can be displayed. I don’t need to understand it, I don’t need to agree with it. In fact, I don’t have much choice in the matter if I am going to be obedient.

Helplessness and weakness…I used to hate them but God loves them and because of them God is able to use me. Maybe this is my miracle…

Still Moments

20130716-071131.jpgMoses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13, 14 NIV)
Moses is telling the Israelites as they faced the Red Sea on one side and the advancing Egyptian army on the other side, do not be afraid, stand firm, don’t give up, just get out of the way and watch God work. I love that! Do you feel caught between an army and the sea today? Quiet your battling mind, hand over the struggle to God, no matter how big or how small, believe He will fight for you, and then get out of the way and watch Him work!

It’s A Bird. It’s A Plane

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly? Not in a plane, or on an amusement park ride but fly like superman. I think that would be one of the most amazing experiences ever! The freedom, the exhilaration of soaring above the trees, the view from the air! But I have to confess I am terrified of heights. It isn’t so much being up high
that scares me it’s the idea of falling. So if I ever wanted to fly I would have to let go of that fear of falling. I can promise you I will probably never know the experience of skydiving because I don’t know that I would ever be able to get past the door of the plane, let alone the free fall at the beginning. Isn’t that what holds so many of us back, fear? A fear of falling, a fear of failing? What if you didn’t have to be afraid? What if you could let go? I will never be able to fly if my feet stayed planted on terra firma. If I want to know what it is to fly, I will have to let go, I will have to jump.

I am only truly beginning to understand what the cost of being a true disciple of Christ is. This is where you begin to move from one in a crowd of nameless faces to someone who stands out, stands up, and says “Hey wait, there has to be more than this!” It is where you begin to move from what can God do for me to what can I do for God.

I love how Joni Ericson Tada relays this idea…
“God extends His hand and offers you life abundant and joy unspeakable, for here and eternity. But do you ever wonder how much it could cost? The answer is short, simple, and painful. “It will cost you everything,” God replies.

To understand life abundant, joy unspeakable, you have to be ready and willing to lay everything, everything, down and walk away. You have to be ready to stand on the edge of a cliff and jump, with no Plan B. This is where it is so easy to get tripped up. I am a sucker for Plan B. Plan B represents safety but another way of saying that is that Plan B is your failure plan. It is where you say, okay God Plan A is yours, but just in case you let me fall, I have my back-up parachute packed. How easy does it then become to pull the emergency cord as soon as we jump. We never get to experience the freedom of flying because we react to the fear of falling. I love how Woody puts it in Toy Story when he is talking to Buzz Lightyear (for those who are familiar) “that’s not flying, that’s falling, with style.” I, for one, am tired of living this way. Tired of hedging my bets, tired of looking over my shoulder, tired of living afraid to fall even if it is with style.

Joni goes on to say, “Most of us trifle with the cost of Christianity. We slap our sins on the table and, for the price of Somebody Else’s blood, happily walk away with an asbestos-lined soul and a title deed to heaven. With “eternity” taken care of, we get back to living life as usual, offering the obligatory gestures to God on Sundays and holidays.”

Will that work? It’s definitely not Plan A. Jesus said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39)

We are creatures of habit, creatures of comfort, and that too easily becomes the driver of our daily lives. I have begun to understand that I need to get over the idea that Christ died for me so that I could live comfortably, allowing Him into my life on Sunday during church or when I find myself in need. We need to understand that we cannot live however we want day to day, knowing that we have our insurance policy of salvation covering us when we die. We will never know life abundant and joy unspeakable if this is the route we choose.

God has a great plan for all of us and I am pretty sure it doesn’t involve the view from inside the plane, the comfort of the couch, or the safety of the sidelines.

Do you want to fly? I do! So, no more being afraid of failing, for greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. If God is for us who can be against us?

If you want to fly, first you have to jump! I think its time.

“I used to pray…

“I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” Mother Teresa

This week’s challenge…be the change.

An Undignified Runner

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There are a lot of songs I love to run to. One song in particular is called Undignified and is always sure to get my feet moving a little faster when it comes on. The version I run to is actually from the children’s worship team cd at our church. The first time I heard it I couldn’t help but want to sing along, and maybe even (gasp!) dance. It is very simple in lyrics but the message is a good one.

I will dance, I will sing, to be mad for my king.
Nothing Lord is hindering the passion in my soul.
And I’ll become even more undignified than this.
Some would say it’s foolishness
But I’ll become even more undignified than this.

This song is based off of what David has to say about dancing in front of the Lord in 2 Samuel 6:22, “Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!”
When I run to this song I can’t help but think of the Friends episode, The One Where Phoebe Runs. Here is a quick clip

We all need to be a little more Undignified in our walk (or run) with God but being undignified can also mean being embarrassed. I don’t like to be taken out of my comfort zone let alone going even further, as David says, to humiliated in my own eyes. But outside of my comfort zone is where I can find God because I stop relying on myself and begin relying on Him. This is the reason we don’t like to run with the Phoebe’s of the world. It is embarrassing to us, as fine upstanding formal “runners,” and people are certainly watching us and the fear that someone might see us and then judge us for our unorthodox style, is very humiliating. That isn’t how “runners run,” so instead we opt for the straight laced approach and avoid those “free spirits,” just like Rachel did. We have taken God and religion and made it clean and neat and in a much larger sense unapproachable to the Phoebes. That is what we have done though, not what Jesus did on his days here on Earth.
The disciples didn’t always get this either so we are in good company. They were found throughout scripture saying get these kids out of here, get these sick out of here, get these sinners out of here. They completely missed the point of why Jesus was here in the first place. When Jesus was at Matthew’s mingling with the “scum” of that time period he was rebuked by the Pharisees, and Jesus’ response… “Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.” Then he added “Now go and learn the meaning of this scripture. I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
We often have the spirit of the Pharisees. We shush those “Phoebe runners” shouting for the help of Jesus, we look the other way when they run by, because we are so caught up in ourselves and appearances, so caught up in our own “Jesus thing” that we are missing it! And not only that, if we associate with them we might be confused for being one of them. Totally missing what we have been called to do. Go and make disciples…Be the salt and the light.
So here is to running with a little less self-consciousness and a little more self-confidence in how we are called to run the race in the first place, flailing arms and legs and all! Here is to getting undignified!

Cease Striving…Be still…Know God (Ps 46:10) Sounds peaceful, right? Peace-filled is more accurate. "Still" has little to do with activity and everything to do with state of mind. Welcome to my crazy life!