a few weeks rest

Category : living a life of faith

Hey friends, I’m taking a few weeks break starting today from R3blog.net.  Don’t worry.  This isn’t your typical “I’m taking a break and never coming back” thing that happens a lot on the internet.  Instead I’m getting married.

Life has been very hectic for my soon-t0-be-wife and I.  And I’ve been praying a lot about how to handle all the stresses that come with major life change like getting married.  Each time I think about it, I’m reminded that God calls us to rest.  And that’s simply been something I haven’t done much of lately.  So now it’s time for me to rest.  Enjoy married life.  And come back to R3 with some renewed energy!

I look forward to seeing you all in the middle of August!

eb

how to make decisions

Category : living a life of faith

My life has never been more stressful.  I’m working three jobs, getting married, buying a house, moving and it’s all of that has happened in the last 2 months.  And a cancer scare for my fiancée.  And did I mention I have paid for the wedding, honey moon, engagement rings and down payment on the house.  Oh yeah, I was also unemployed for 11 months last year.

To say that things are busy and stressful would be an understatement.  Most days I’ve handled things really well.  For the sheer level of stress and fatigue I’m dealing with, I’d say things are going great.  But there are some days when it feels completely overwhelming (like today).  It’s on these overwhelming days where I’m emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted.

But I’ve realized something in the midst of all of this.  There are too many big decisions to spend a ton of time thinking about (why didn’t someone warn me how many decisions you need to make in planning a wedding!).  We’ve stressed about buying a house, and dealing with a house-flipper who turned out to be a liar (no water in the basement my ass!)  But I digress.

During this time I’ve realized that I have made all of these stressful decisions with one rule in mind: actively and aggressively pursue where you think God is.

That’s it.  No fancy decision tree.  No “10 steps to a better decision model.”  Just a simple question: is God there or not?  If he’s there then I run to it.  If not, I turn away, sometimes slowly, but still turn away.

There are so many questions…. Is the house the right house?  Will it always flood?  Is pink or blue a better color for the tables at the reception?  Am I spending enough time with my family?  I don’t know if all these decisions will be the right ones.

But there is freedom in trusting God.

We spend so much of our time coming up with rules to micromanage our lives, when one rule is all we need: love God with all our hearts, minds, and soul.  Everything else falls into place after that.  Even the color of the table cloths.

finding God’s will for your life

Category : living a life of faith

Have you ever asked yourself what God’s will is for your life?  I don’t know if this is an American thing or it’s something all believers struggle with.  (I’d be curious to hear what our non-American R3blog readers think.)  At any rate, at least in this country we spend much of our time searching for God’s will for our lives.

Culturally we see the world through something like Manifest Destiny.  Where we feel that there’s a purpose to our lives.  Where there’s something specific to take from live.  This is such a strong current of our culture that understanding “our purpose” is something I focus on professionally.  Almost every worker is searching for the meaning of their work.  And our search for our Meaning to Work has become a billion dollar industry.  (Of which I get nowhere close to a billion dollars…)

But is this wrong?  Shouldn’t we just be satisfied with whatever God wants us to do?

I’ve heard many believers over the years say that if you even question what God’s will for you, it’s a lack of faith.  But I disagree.  Certainly there can be danger in this.  We can easily fixate on what God’s will is for our future so much that we miss God’s will for us in the present.  We can also get wrapped up pursuing our own desires on God.

But the history of God is one of accommodation.  He continually meets us where we are, not where we should be.  (And thank God – literally! – for that!)  This is why I believe any step we take towards God is the right step.  If it takes me praying about which tooth paste to buy to bring me closer to God so be it!  I don’t think that’s any better, worse or indifferent from someone who moves closer to God by living in Africa or working with people who have terminal diseases.

There is no such thing as a wasted step when it’s in God’s direction.

You may not know the specifics of God’s will for you.  But you know the basics.  Jesus told us when he said that we were to love God with all our hearts and to love one another as ourselves.  If we do that, then we’ll find that our dreams align to God’s dreams for our lives.  After a lifetime of taking one step after another, we can turn around and see just how much ground we’ve covered.

image provided by flickr user Victor Bezrukov

truly living out a life of faith

Category : Uncategorized, living a life of faith

Some days we’re reminded that spiritual giants still walk among us.  This is one such story…

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

are you living the urgent life?

Category : living a life of faith

“Is there anything more important than your soul?” (Mark 8: 37 NLT)

That question, asked by Jesus, haunts me.  Because I’m not living that way.  When I get frustrated by traffic, am I living as if there is nothing more important than my soul?  How about when I’m frustrated because something I want is out of stock at the store?  Or when a business deal goes bad?

The bottom line is I’m not living my life with any urgency.

I’m realizing just how much stuff creeps in and distracts me from what is really urgent.  In one of my favorite scenes from The Simpsons, Homer is kicked out of Moe’s Tavern.  By sheer coincidence someone who looks exactly like Homer (but with a British accent) goes into Moe’s.  His name, of course, is Guy Incognito.  Everyone thinks it’s Homer, and so he’s thrown out of the bar where we see Homer walking across the street.

Homer’s reaction is natural.  “Hey that guy looks like me!”  But before he can figure out why he has an identical (apparently British) twin, he sees a dog with a fluffy tail.  And that’s the end of Homer’s urgency.  Yelling, “That dog has a fluffy tail!”  He goes off to chase the dog.

That, my friends, is how most of us live.  We experience the amazing, and sometimes miraculous.  But we’re too busy following dogs with fluffy tails that we completely miss out on what’s truly urgent.   We seem to get distracted by everything.  People we work with, family members, bad drivers, movies, TV.  Everything.

That’s not how I want to live my life.  That’s not what it means to live out a life of faith.  In a letter to the city of Corinth, Paul captured that fact, saying, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9: 26-27)

I want to run that race like everything is on the line.  Because you know what?  Everything is on the line.  There is nothing more important than our soul.

How are you running?

photo provided by flickr user yoppy

are christians wimps?

Category : living a life of faith

When you think of a Christian, what do you think of?  Someone who is brave and bold?  Or someone who is a bit too uptight and self righteous?  Are Christians fearless or fearful?  Are they loved?  Or loathed?

Sadly in many cases it’s the later.  That’s why we get such stereotypes as Christians not being “manly men.”  That somehow living out a life of faith is the easy option.  (Because, as the argument goes, if you “need” God then you just aren’t tough enough to handle reality.)  All of this makes Christians out to be people who are wimps.  That we complain about stuff.  Launch protests over the things that “normal” people like.  Complain about TV and music, and generally do some pretty weird things.

That’s why, when it comes to Hollywood, Christians are more likely to look like Ned Flanders than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And it breaks my heart.  That’s not who Jesus laid out the vision for believers.  It’s not how he said we should be living.

“Then [Jesus] said to the crowd, ‘If any of you want to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  (Luke 9: 23-24).

Does that sound like Ned Flanders Christianity to you?

I don’t blame much of the world for viewing Christians as wimpy and whiney.  The truth is many of us are.  We don’t want to take a stand.  We aren’t willing to make sacrifices.  Despite talking a big game, we end up looking a lot like everyone else.

So how do we fix this problem?  The solution isn’t to create a marketing campaign to prove we aren’t wimps.  Or to prove that we do care.  The way to prove the intensity of Christianity is to live it out.  If we actually take to heart what Jesus said about being his followers, perhaps things would look a lot different to the world.  Perhaps we’d be seen as indispensible to our communities, not a nightmare of complaints.  Perhaps when Hollywood wanted to make fun of Christians, they’d find they couldn’t, because everyone could think of a believer who broke the Ned Flanders stereotype.

Image copyright of Matt Groening


living is more important than knowing

Category : living a life of faith

The Bible is an action oriented book.  It’s all about doing.  God continually tries to teach people about who he is, and how the world works.  (It’s hard to live by action if you don’t know what direction you should head!)  Yet time and again the people God points to as “role models” are the people who take action, even without knowing all the details.

Consider the woman who gives all she has at the Temple.  Jesus tells his disciples that what she does is worth more than all the large donations of the people before her.  She doesn’t know that.  She doesn’t know that God values her donation more than a big one.  All she knows is that God is important to her, and that she wants to honor him, and if giving everything she is what it takes, even if that’s only a few cents, that’s

Or the Good Samaritan.  He was a man who didn’t believe in God.  He didn’t know why there was an injured man laying on the ground.  He just knew he should act.  That was in contrast with all the Jews and religious leaders who walked by, knowing that God cares for the injured and helpless.  The man who acted was the one who didn’t “know better.”

Perhaps the most powerful example was the criminal on the cross next to Jesus.  While everyone else mocked him, he refused.  Out of everyone involved in that day, he’s perhaps the only person who recognized Jesus for who he was – and acted on that belief.  And because of it, he was saved.

Knowledge to God isn’t about how much you know.  It’s not about getting an A+ on a theological test.  It’s about putting what you do know into action.  Each of these people took the little that they knew and applied it.  And in each case God’s Kingdom advanced, and they left their mark on the world.

Knowledge is important, but not at the cost of living out a life of faith.

image provided by flickr user dan taylor

a trip to the book store

Category : living a life of faith

I walked into a book store today.  That’s not a totally unusual experience.  I spend a lot of time reading, and so I spend a lot of time in book stores.  And as usual, I ended up in the “religion” section.  That’s when it struck me.  If I ever wanted to teach someone about Christianity the very last place I’d send them would be the religion section of a book store.

There was absolutely no way to distinguish good books from junk.  Scholarly work was displayed next to things like the DiVinci Code.  In fact, just looking at the display seemed to suggest that the more controversial you were in regard to your “comments” on Christianity, the higher billing you got.

Obviously this isn’t an original observation.

We’ve known for a long time that there’s money to be made in tearing down Christianity.  It happens in bookstores, in newspapers, and on TV.  (When I was flipping the channels on Good Friday out of the four “religious” programs, three were directly attacking Christianity and one was so cheesy, I wish it was attacking Christianity!)

I think in the end this just shows that spreading the message of Christ happens the same way as it always has – through relationships with people.  Community is what drove the early church to spread, and it’s what drives churches to grow now.  Despite all the great technology (like this blog) and all the books you can read.  Nothing beats community to building relationships with God.

If we want to encourage people to live out a life of faith, we can’t rely on others to lead them, we have to take that step first.

photo provided by flickr

small steps to changing history

Category : Luke, bible, living a life of faith, taking action

One small step for man, one giant step for mankind.  That was what Neil Armstrong said as he made history being the first person to step foot onto the moon.  As famous as that line was, did Armstrong really understand what he was doing?  Did he really know how his one step onto the moon would change the course of science, history, and culture?

I often find myself thinking about questions like.  It makes me think about my own life, and my own choices.  What small steps can I take today that may change the course of history?  Okay.  Maybe not world history.  But the history of my life.  Maybe even the history of those around me.

Sometimes the simplest action can transform everything.

That’s what I was thinking of as I read the introduction to Luke’s gospel.  In it he addresses the whole work to a man named Theophilus.  Now historians aren’t exactly sure who Theophilus was.  Some of the leading ideas are that he was a non-believer, but open to the idea of Jesus being God.  Another idea is that Theophilus was a wealthy believer who just wanted to better understand what living out a life of faith looked like.  Something I can relate to.  (The understanding, not the money!)  There are other theories, but those are the most likely.

I have to think that Theophilus had no idea what he was putting into motion.  He had no idea that millions of people would still read the book he had (most likely) funded.  It’s easy to forget that sometimes the littlest actions can have the most impact.  We never know when taking a few minutes to read a story to a kid can change their life.  Or instead of cutting someone off in traffic, we let them merge.  Yet time and again we see major life change happening with a simple moment.

God has a strange way of taking the small and turning it into the extraordinary.

photo provided by NASA

being defriended by God

Category : God, bible, failure, faith, living a life of faith

Have you ever been betrayed by a friend?  Someone you liked, someone you trusted, maybe even someone you loved.  When we experience that kind of betrayal, it’s one of the worst experiences we can have in life.  Not as bad as your team not winning the Superbowl.  But still pretty painful.

That’s why God’s love of us is so revolutionary.  We’ve all betrayed God before.  Most of us on a daily basis.  We’ve put him through exactly that kind of pain.  Yet God is always there when we need him.  Despite everything, God still stands by us.

This isn’t just one small part of who God is.  It’s one of the major themes that runs through the entire Bible.  We see this in the lives of Moses and David.  Jesus illustrates it with stories like the prodigal son.  It’s even the story of Peter’s life.

There are very few people in the Bible who are more outspoken in support of Jesus than Peter.  Peter was always the guy jumping to show just how much he was willing to sacrifice for God.  He put his life on the line more than once.  Peter wasn’t just talk, he was action too.  (You don’t get to walk on water by sitting on the shore.)

But in the hour of Jesus’ greatest need, Peter failed him.  First because he couldn’t stay awake and keep Jesus company.  Second, by denying Jesus three separate times.

Imagine if one of your closest friends couldn’t visit you in the hospital as you were dying.  Or never called to see how you were after losing your job.  You’d be understandably angry and maybe even a little resentful.  We’d start treating our friend differently.  We might not even call them our friend.

Yet God is the God of redemption.  And Peter’s story doesn’t end with being defriended.  It ends with Jesus restoring Peter as a friend.  In fact, one of the first things God does is send a message to Peter that Jesus is alive, and he shouldn’t worry anymore.

Think about that.  Peter had done nothing.  Yet God sought him out.

This is why God is such a radical God.  This is why the Bible is such a revolutionary book.  Despite our failures and betrayals, God does the unexpected, and keeps on loving us.

photo provided by flickr user saragoldsmith