Archive for the ‘Living’ Category

Fill Your Mind And Your Life With the Good News

September 21, 2017

I return often to the teaching of what you fill your mind with will determine what sort of person you will become.

Therefore, I do not fill my mind on sensationalism in news or news with an agenda. Those are only designed to get your emotions worked up so that you’ll stay on channel and watch the ads. (I’m in the media, I know how it works.)

But I do fill my mind with good teaching. One of my favorites is John Ortberg. He is teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. A few months ago I spent some time in those early chapters of Matthew recently. Powerful teaching.

Ortberg asked where you get your news. It was a trick question. For Jesus told the people that he brought the Good News. And what was the Good News (gospel)?

The Kingdom of God was here.

We could, if we so chose, to live in the Kingdom of God. Right now. Right here.

Check out the Lord’s Prayer–“thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”

This was not the kingdom of “things you gotta do to get to heaven.” It is the kingdom of how to live. Starting now. Even starting before you understand who Jesus is.

The Gospels teach us over and over how to live that life in the kingdom of God.

Yet, we over the centuries have perverted and turned upside down Jesus’ simple teaching. 

Say, “I’d like to live in the Kingdom of God and be a follower of Jesus.” Read the Sermon on the Mount. Try to live that kind of life that Jesus describes. 

You’ve switched citizenship from the world to God. And that’s a good thing. Even the Good News.

Think Of It As a Way of Living

September 19, 2017

Listening to a couple of guys chatting on a podcast about productivity sent me into my library to scan a good book I’ve read a couple of times–Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

The book is sort of an evangelistic message for helping us become more productive, more effective, and less stressed while doing it.

He talks about some classic things like learning to say no, focusing on what’s important, eliminating extraneous tasks and effort, watching your health, and the like.

But McKeown dropped this little gem on me:

Think of it as something you are. It is a different way–a simpler way–of doing everything. It becomes a lifestyle. It becomes an all-encompassing approach to living and leading. It becomes the essence of who we are.

I thought about this for a while.

Isn’t being a follower of Jesus like that?

It is not politics.

It is not singing a few songs with people we know and listening to a preacher once a week–most weeks.

It is not proving I’m better than someone else.

It is not about separating the sheep from the goats before the final judgement.

On the other hand…

It is following Matthew 25–feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting the prisoner.

It is like the “Good Samaritan.”

It is living out our spiritual gifts every day.

It is treating everyone we meet with respect and the love of God.

It is going the second mile.

It is becoming one with God just like our teacher was.

It is a way of life.

So That You May Lead Lives

September 13, 2017

“For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power,”
Paul writes these thoughts to the Colossians. 

In our rush to parse through the Bible in a rush to pull out rules that make us different (better) than others or in a rush to apply to politics, we miss the “so that.”

Why do we study, pray, meditate, grow in knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding?

So that, we may lead lives worthy of the Lord. What kind of life? Pleasing to God, bearing fruit in every good work, strong in character able to withstand those who are against us.

Thinking of descriptions such as compassion, joy, kindness, humility, patience.

What we know is only a foundation or a guide to living a better life. Paul, Jesus, James, Peter, the whole lot of them stretching back to Moses and all the prophets explain what that better way of living is. 

Yet, so many Christians miss that point. It is so sad. They miss the joy in the midst of their anger or pride.

For years I have made it my prayer that from the time I get up in the morning or when I leave the room after a study group that God will guide me to living a life pleasing in his sight.

If Only You Paid Attention To My Commands

August 14, 2017

If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. Isaiah 48:18, NIV

We have been discussing Jesus’ discussion/debate with “the Jews” as John called the group of adversaries in the Temple.

Jesus kept telling them that God sent him and that what he had been teaching was directed by God. And Jesus said his truth would set us free.

So, I asked, what is free?

Free did not mean libertarianism–that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, to whomever I want. That would be sort of an American response, right? I am free from constraint.

However, we would be hard pressed to prove that from Jesus’ words. He immediately begins talking about sin.

We can be free from a life as a slave to sin. Drifting from whim to whim, emotion to emotion. A life of feeling guilty and trying to drown that guilt with drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever.

We can be free to live with “peace like a river” and “well-being like the waves of the sea.

So, I asked, what is truth?

It’s not a proposition that I agree with and force others to agree with. It is a relationship with the living Jesus who lived, who died, who lived again.

We keep forgetting about living with God in relationship, not in fear of a God of eternal punishment if we don’t measure up to his rules.

An email came this morning with this quote from Isaiah. I like that thought. Sounds just like something Jesus said. Sounds like something I can live with.

And you?

Looking For God In All The Wrong Places

June 27, 2017

I am a Bible student. I don’t have, nor want, any advanced degrees in Bible. On the other hand, I’ve extensively read a variety of scholars over many years.

What am I reading for, you might ask. Good question.

While studying in the Gospel of John recently, this verse seemed printed in bold italics to me, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.”

Some traditions take the verse about keeping it on your mind so literally that they print the verse, but it in a little container, and strap it to their head so that it is “on their mind.”

Some people can quote the words of the scriptures extensively. Perhaps in that way, “the word is on their minds.”

I am sitting here in my hotel room at another conference writing this and trying to recall one time when Jesus quizzed someone about the words of Scripture. Perhaps the discussion about which is the greatest commandment.

Jesus seemed most interested in the condition of the heart. And he was concerned about how we live. He didn’t say, go and quote scriptures at people. He said, go and sin no more. Paul later tried to explain this in various ways be describing good behaviour or bad behaviour or listing for us the fruit of the spirit.

John wrote his gospel so that we could know who Jesus was.  It’s all about choosing the correct person to follow and then following well. You should search the gospel of John not to be able to quote, but to be as impacted by who Jesus was as John was.

For me, studying deepens my spiritual maturity. But it all began with experiencing God a long time ago. Why study? It’s one of the disciplines which all help us point toward the experience of God so that we may live a life freed from sin.

When The Power Goes Out

May 15, 2017

Very unusual in this part of the world–I awakened to more darkness than customary. Hmm, the power was out. No electricity.

My small electronic devices were OK. Cellular service was still functioning.

But no coffee.

No lights to read the newspaper by.

I could check some news. Post the day’s message to Facebook about the local coffee shop.

But I started thinking about power.

In physics, power is the rate of doing work. It is the amount of energy consumed per unit time.

It would be trite to start talking about God and power, I suppose.

But power is related to energy.

Our energy must be continually replenished.

How?

Connection with the spirit?

Proper rest?

Proper nutrition?

Enough exercise?

So far today, for me, it’s check, check, check. Time to go out and get moving.

Living In An Always On Video World

May 12, 2017

You lose your emotional balance. Start yelling and screaming at someone. You do it long enough for at least one person, perhaps more, to point their smart phone and click video / record. One Facebook post later, and 2 million people see what a jerk you are.

You step outside, and someone could be taking your picture. If you have caused anger in your significant other, even in your house you could be the subject of a new “film at 11” on the Web.

You would think that all this surveillance would make us behave better.

I wonder if Biblical writers such as John, who often wrote about light and dark and things we do in each, or James, or Paul even in their nightmares could envision the public exposure extending their thoughts about doing good.

The problem is that we see one video over and over and our brain starts to think this is a common occurrence. It isn’t. I just completed two trips–two continents, 10 different flight segments, five airports. Not one thing worth videoing. Darn, I’m not going to be famous (he said facetiously).

Someone asked me last night, wouldn’t it have been better for the person shooting the video to step up and try to be part of the solution? Sometimes we can’t. But I bet most of the time we can.

What if someone videoed us doing an act of kindness? Of being a calming influence when tempers start to kindle? Of preventing a friend or neighbor from becoming the next Internet Star?

Don’t Be “The Good Student”

May 5, 2017

We all knew the good student. Sat in the front of the class. Raised his hand all the time. She always asked the obvious question so that the teacher would know they paid attention.

They were great at memorizing. Remembering all the stuff they were supposed to remember got them through school with high grades.

I was not that student.

I preferred the back of the class thinking about just about anything other than the class. I have memories of this as far back as 3rd grade. Even at the university where I learned the “game”, I read the required reading in the first couple of weeks of the quarter so that I could read what I wanted the rest of the time.

So, why do I love to study and teach the Bible and other spiritual writing? Those are my teachers. Outside of a couple of people in business who helped me along, it was books who taught me.

But that isn’t enough. They teach you how to live, but then you have to go do it. It’s not enough to be a scholar.

I just read this powerful illustration in John Fischer’s The Catch. I love his concept of “Grace Turned Outward”, by the way. But on to the picture:

My wife, Marti, has created an image of a dead Christianity that she often refers to as prevalent among all of us. In this image, everyone is on the front side of the cross. Maybe Jesus is up there on it, or maybe He is not, but we are all seated in folding chairs, looking up. On our laps are notebooks. We are there to take notes — someone is teaching — fill in the blanks. Its a study guide that leads us up to the cross, but never through it. In Marti’s illustration, no one ever leaves. It’s all well and good, this focus on the cross, but at some point, we are to get up and walk through the cross to the other side. The key is to get to the other side of the cross because that’s where the power is — resurrection power.

We may have different personalities–outgoing, reserved, friendly, cool–but we can live with power and freedom because we live what we learn.

At some point we must put down the books and hymnals and go outside and live with people. How we act, not what we know, is the key.

What a Jesus-Follower Look Like

April 4, 2017

I’ve been writing at the beginning of the year for several years that we should determine who we wish to be, what sort of person we want to become, and then choose actions and attitudes that support that outcome. Many people think this is far better than some of the Resolutions or goals that people make.

The last 13 verses of chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Jesus-Followers in Rome paint a great picture of what we should become. It’s like a list–and humans love lists. But it’s not like a checklist where you can compare your “score” with someone else.

Rather this is a description of a person.

I’d like to be that person.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I know people who resemble this person. I wish more of them were inside the church rather than outside. I pray that there would be more people like this.

Offering Ourselves As a Living Sacrifice

March 29, 2017

“I appeal to you therefore to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”

This was a summation statement by Paul in his discussion to the Christ-followers in Rome.

We are all sinners–that is, we all fall short of doing what we should at all times and can commit any number of acts that separate us from God and people.

We acknowledge our belief that God brought Jesus back to life after he was killed.

We are brought to understanding that there are no divisions within the community of Christ-followers (the church). We are all the same.

Then Paul says, “therefore.”

That means given all these facts, we must do this next.

But what does this mean?

We do not come from a culture of killing live animals on the alter at the Temple.

First Jesus, then Paul, revolutionized the way we think of temples by referring to our bodies as the Temple of the Holy Spirit (that is, God).

Then not only did Jesus revolutionize relationships–basing them on love instead of power, Jesus also revolutionized what we think about God. God does not live in some stone building where we bring animals for a ritual slaughter.

Instead, we see it that our bodies are a temple in which the Spirit dwells. And we offer it to God as a sacrifice–not as one who is killed, but as one who lives.

I’m not sure what all Paul had in mind when he wrote that. But I’m guessing it has to do with things such as

  • Doing things that are pleasing to God
  • Putting into practice the teachings of Jesus about love
  • Putting others ahead of me
  • Giving not only our tithe, but also offerings, generously

As we try to focus during Lent on a Jesus sacrificed and resurrected, maybe we move beyond (at least in America, if not western culture) the Easter bunny, new clothes, candy, and other trivialization of the holiday.

Maybe an act of service. At least once a day. Or, maybe, just as a natural part of living every day.