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

living a life of freedom

Category : Acts, Luke, Paul

……….

I posted this on the website Longing for a Holiday at Sea.  But frankly I liked it so much I thought it should be said again:

This week’s message at church was on freedom.  So I’ve been thinking about the story of Acts 16.  In this story, Paul and Silas are thrown into jail.  After being beaten and while they are in chains, they start signing songs.  While in jail.

I can’t even wrap my mind around that.

That night there is such a violent earthquake that the doors fly open and their chains fall off.  The guard, who’s life is on the line if the prisoners escape, fears the worst and is about to kill himself.  But Paul says, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

What kind of freedom did Paul and Silas live with that allows them be so calm after being beaten and thrown in jail?

We often forget that in Jesus’ first deceleration of his mission and identity, he said, “[God] has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18).  God’s goal isn’t moralizing or giving us more stuff.  God’s goal isn’t a bigger house, a nicer car or prayers said in Latin.  It’s to set us free!

I’m not free yet.  Not like Paul and Silas anyway.  But I want to be.  And that’s what I am working towards, with Jesus’ help.

losing your christmas sheep

Category : God, Jesus, Luke, bible, different, faith, hope

     

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15: 1-7)

The parable of the lost sheep is one of the most famous parables in the entire Bible.  It’s the first of a collection of stories where Jesus emphasize the value God places on each of us.  As we approach Christmas it’s easy to lose sight of that.  It’s easy to develop a sense of entitlement and “I deserve this” attitudes.  Being with family might even make that easier!

But Jesus reveals something astonishing.  Saying, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” 

Can you imagine?!  No matter what you’re doing, or how you’re celebrating, or who you are, God wants to find you.  He wants to have a relationship with you.  Can you imagine?!

We often think of Christmas in terms of gifts, vacations and lots of food.  Which, frankly, are all good things.  But to God, Christmas means something a little bit different.  To bring us back into the flock, God sent his son knowing that he would have to die a horrible death.  God was willing to sacrifice everything to find us. 

I’m not sure I’ll ever stop being amazed at that.   

what if I had given everything?

1

Category : Jesus, Luke, hope, radical, revolutionary, trust

   

‘Cause I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

- Matthew West, The Motions

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to follow God.  Especially as we are hammered every day by bad news.  How do you follow God when you have no job, no money, no future?  How do you manage to live out a life of faith when your home or car is being repossessed?

There’s only one answer I can think of, and that’s being ”all in.” 

We can’t worship God half way.  If we’re to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, we can’t carry it just part way.  We can’t just say “I’m in it for the good times.”  Because when we take that approach, the minute bad things hit, we jump out and lose hope.

Jesus warned us to weigh the consequences of following him.  And I think he was serious.

He knew we could never withstand suffering if we haven’t fully committed to God.  If we’re holding onto the world, we’ll never be able to say “everything I have is yours”.  As long as we still crave what the world offers we know, deep down, we’re not being honest toward God.  Which is why our first reaction to bad news is anger towards him.  We’re upset he’s taken something that belongs to us.   

When we split our between the world and God, our focus always ends up on what makes us happy and healthy.  

When I look at passages like these, I don’t think God is trying to be harsh.  I don’t think Jesus was trying to scare people away when he said a follower must “hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life” (Luke 14: 26).  Jesus was trying to show the problems of having our focus on something other than God.  He wanted us to understand that we will never be able to handle life if we grasp him with one hand, but cling to the world with the other. 

Being a Christian is an all or nothing proposition. 

Until we’re willing to go “all in” we will never have the piece of mind that comes with trusting God.  We will never believe we’re really doing what God wants.  Because we will always crave something else.  It’s only when we learn to put God ahead of our families, our lives, and our comfort, that we can escape hopelessness.   

Knowing that we’ve given everything, instead of going through the motions” lets us withstand suffering.  It may even allow us to enjoy life in the midst of our problems.  But without giving everything, we have no chance when real suffering hits. 

Being “all in” is what puts this world into perspective. 

practice makes perfect

2

Category : 1 Timothy, Jesus, Luke, Paul, taking action, trust

   

Life can feel so hard.

Some days the weight of it seems to be crushing. It’s in those moments where all the advice you’ve ever received just doesn’t seem like enough. Things like “trust God” or “God loves you” feel so empty, so meaningless.

Of course it’s not.

Those things are entirely true. But simply saying that doesn’t really solve anything. We need to have some way to put it all into practice. It’s almost as if we need to experience it before we can live it.

Have you ever met someone who just seemed to “shine” with an intense glow, as if there was something special radiating from them? While it’s unlikely they just ate a lamp, what is happening is their faith makes them look different. These are the people who are living out their trust in God. They know that God loves them, no matter what the situation.

Sometimes I think we expect things to come too easily. That believing in God is a magic pill that makes our life easy. When we see these “glowing” people we think their lives must be fine. That they aren’t experiencing problems, because if they had our problems, they wouldn’t be so intensely different.

But nothing is that easy. They have problems just like you and I. But they know something important: faith takes work.

Paul tells us that we should “Train [ourselves] in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Living out a life of faith doesn’t happen by accident. And it doesn’t happen over night. It takes (literally) practice. We have to make choices that bring us closer to God. And the more we do this, the more “radiant” we become.

If this seems like an impossible task just remember…even Jesus “grew in wisdom.” (Luke 2: 52)

keeping God for ourselves

1

Category : God, Jesus, Luke, bible

         

The people were looking for [Jesus] and when they came to where he was,
they tried
to keep him from leaving them.” (Luke 4: 42)

Why is it that when we encounter God, our first reaction is to make sure we keep him to ourselves?  Shouldn’t our first reaction be to share him with the rest of the world?