Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sure, you can boot all the needy people out of your life, refuse to listen to anything but Christian music, only watch Christian movies, only read Christian books, only experience Christian education, and only have Christian friends. You can do that. And you will effectively "hide your light under a bushel."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm Never Coming Out of My Comfort Zone Again

“We have to get out of comfort zones.”

A comfort zone sounds like a great place to be, to me.  When I think of my comfort zones, I think of our bedroom.  I think of my hometown. I think of people with whom I can be real.  I think of our office, with our books, looking at our wall art, and typing on our laptop.  Wikipedia quotes Alasdair White to define “comfort zone” as “an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviours to deliver a steady level of performance.”  While “anxiety-neutral” sounds a little clinical and while it stresses me out to see “behaviors” spelled with a “u,” it still sounds great!

However, comfort zones are often described in negative ways because they are barriers to success. Even when Wikipedia quotes White, these words are added, “usually without a sense of risk.”  There’s the catch.  If we know anything from our exposure to success and leadership books from the last 30 years, we know that there is no growth without risk.  So when those six words end the description of “comfort zone” we get that the comfort zone is no place to be.  At least it is no place to stay.

Usually when I hear the call to “get out of my comfort zone,” I’m listening to someone who is encouraging me to have a spiritual impact on my world.  There are not as many needy people in my comfort zone as I need to serve, so I need to get out of my comfort zone.  The oppressed don’t live in my neighborhood much, so I need to get out of my comfort zone.  I should head to neighborhoods where I am not so comfortable to be serving kingdom style. 

I’ve been considering, though, whether “getting out my comfort zone” is something Jesus would be glad to hear me say I’m doing when I am with the poor, the sick, the oppressed, and the unbeliever.  Jesus was not out of his comfort zone when he was with anybody who needed mercy.  He could be in the home of a Pharisee, a tax collector, or some of his best friends.  He could spend time with a divorcee, an adulterous woman, a governor, a beggar, and a soldier.  And when he is with these people, there is no sense in which Jesus would have said, “I’m glad to get out of my comfort zone to be with these people, but I’ll be glad when I get back to my own comfort zone.”

So I’m never leaving my comfort zone again.  Here’s a start of reasons why.  What would you add?

1.  It would be wrong for me to be uncomfortable around people with whom Jesus would have been comfortable.

2.  I’ve denied it in the past, but I’ll admit that when I’ve been around people and in places outside of my comfort zone, they’ve known it.  I don’t want anybody to feel that I’ll be glad when I can be in my comfort zone – away from them.

3.  I want to be a risk-taker because risk-takers trust in God. Nothing great has been accomplished staying on the comfy couch in the comfort zone.

Monday, November 12, 2012

God Is No Longer My #1 Priority

I’ve removed God from the top of my priority list.  That’s right.  He is off the top of the list of “major concerns of my life.”  He didn’t ever belong there anyway.  It’s way past time for me to make this decision.

Use the best of my time off for him?  No more.

Give him a tenth of my income off the top?  Never again.

Consider him one of my “big rocks?”  No way.

If you want to know what led me to this decision, I’ll tell you.  The decision came from my realization of this truth:  Dead men don’t have priorities.  We don’t have time.  We don’t have money.  We don’t have “big rocks.”

In the context of calling me to set my heart and mind on “things above,” Paul reminds me that I died and that I have been raised with Christ (Col. 3:1-4). 

My new way of living is rooted in my deadness and resurrection with Christ.  Here is why God is no longer my #1 priority:  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on thiJengs above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.   Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

God is not top priority in my life because Christ is my life.  Everything is about him.   All of my priorities are decided based up his desires and purposes.  This is not me living anymore; it is Christ living in me (Gal. 2:20).  When I’m working, Jesus is my life so I pursue his goals there.  When I’m at home my wife and kids see Jesus when they see me.  Whatever I am doing with money, it will reflect holiness because it all belongs to him.  When I’m at play, I’m not wondering when I can give time for the sake of Christ; people will see Jesus in me.

How would your days be different if Christ got moved off your priority list so that you could make him your life?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is Anybody Following?

Self Reflection
It's time for some self-reflection.  Somehow what we (Christians) have been doing has made some people think that we are against them.  Perhaps some people think that because they have encountered a so-called Christian who was against them.  We do get lumped into one bunch often, no doubt.

Whatever the reason, we have to change their minds.  Jesus - our leader, teacher, savior, master - was not against people.  He was for people.

He was for the woman caught in the very act of adultery.  He forgave her and, because he was for her, called her to give up the sin that was bringing her down.  He invited her to a life of purity.  This was a better life; the best life!  He was for her.

He was also for the men who had brought the woman to Jesus.  Their self-righteousness, unbelief, and judgmental spirit was going to destroy them as they stoned this woman.  Jesus caused them to evaluate themselves and they all walked away without blood on their hands.  Jesus was for the stoners.

What do you think Jesus wanted to accomplish as he lived among us?  The gospels say that he came to save the lost.  He came so that we could have life to the full.

He was not focused on making sure that everybody knew the difference between him and the "sinners."  In fact, he became sin for us.  He was holy, righteous, perfect, and sinless; yet instead of behaving in a way that pushed  sinners away, he identified with them.  He ate with them.  He was friends with them.  And they followed him.

Did you get that?  They followed him.

If we are really for people, if we are really interested in leading them to the abundant life, we need to do something different.

Turn around and look at who we are trying to lead.  "Sinners" feel, in many instances, like we are against them; so they aren't following.  They are huddling together getting prepared to fight because they think that we are attacking.

It isn't enough to say, "They have the wrong impression."  If they do, it is up to us to make another impression.  That isn't easy.  It takes time, dialogue, determination, understanding and love.  We have to do it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Confession to Move Beyond the Sins of the Fathers

“Surely I was sinful from birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me!” (Psalm 51:5)

David was using a poetic tool called hyperbole as he wrote those words.  He’s not teaching theology, he’s expressing incredible guilt.  He had been sinning a long time.  He lusted for Bathsheba, fornicated with her (perhaps raping her), and then had her husband killed to cover up his sin.  He had been sinning a long time, and as he expressed, he felt as though he had been sinning since his conception!

Some of us have experienced the consequences of sin so long, we feel just like David.  We look back over our life and we see this perpetual struggle with a sin that we feel we just can’t shake and then we look a little farther back.  We realize that the sin with which we struggle has kind of been inherited. Again, this isn’t about theology; it’s about life.  Unfaithfulness, drunkenness, abuse, self-centeredness, love of money, dishonesty, sexual immorality, bigotry, or uncontrolled anger have existed in your family for years; more years than you’ve been alive.  And you feel the heavy burden of sin.

There will likely be a number of important steps to take for you to break this generational cycle of sin.  Really trusting in the forgiveness of God and letting the body of Christ help (starting with your spouse if you are married) are two great decisions.  But one of the first steps is going to be the same step of the Israelites who gathered after the reading of the law:  they confessed the sins of their fathers and their own entanglement in them.

“Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them.  Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways. But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces.  Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress” (Neh. 9:34-37).

Get it out there.  Pray, admitting this sin to God.  Cry that your predecessors did it  Weep that you do it.  Agree with God that your sin has brought you trouble, and then admit to others.  Get others praying.  Get others in your business. There’s no shame in admitting sin, only staying in it.  Staying in it will lead to more shame and death - and more generations entangle in it.  Confessing it is an important step to peace and holiness!  That’s Life at Work!