the dangers of passivity – Adam & Eve

Category : Genesis, faith

We live in a world where there’s a lot of choices.  Who should I marry?  Is this job right for me? Can I really eat a dozen donuts? In the midst of all of that, we can easily wonder what we should do.  We can become frozen by our fears, our doubts, and even the excitement of what’s to come.  Frankly we can wish for a “simpler time” or “clear choices.”

But would that really help?

Adam & Eve had it all.  They had an awesome place to live.  Probably some sweet beach front property.  They loved their jobs (naming animals and taking care of Eden).  And Eve was literally created for Adam.  (There was no need to rely on e-harmony to figure out that one).  Life was pretty good.

But they still found themselves struggling with a choice: to eat the fruit or not.  Instead of actively choosing to follow God, they passively stood by and listened to the serpent.  “Of course God didn’t really mean that you’d die” he said.  They knew better.  But it was easier (and more exciting) to go along with the serpent than take an active stand.  And by giving up their choice for passivity – they made the worst possible decision.  And thus, were kicked out of the garden.

Nothing good ever happens when we passively sit in God’s Kingdom.

This is part one in a five part series on the dangers of passivity in the kingdom. It was also featured as part of “The Daily” a short devotional geared toward helping people develop regular habits of reading the Bible.  If you would like to subscribe to The Daily, you can do so here.  Photo provided by flickr user Barbra L. Hanson.

the new R3blog.net

Category : R3

To say this change has been in the works would be an understatement.   I’ve been tweaking, building, creating, cursing and developing a new look and feel for R3 for the last year.  And it’s finally ready.  Although in a nice ironic twist all that coding I never used.  Because this is a brand new theme which I came across earlier this week.

That’s right.  This theme was modified in about three days.  The other theme took months.  And I’m not even going to use it.  All that work was for nothing.

Or was it?

The truth is, I could never have modified this current theme if I hadn’t spent a year working on the old one.  My effort has paid off, just not in the way I expected it to.

Does this remind you of anyone?  Because it sure reminds me of God.  We expect him to show up at a certain time, in a certain place, in a certain way.  And when he doesn’t we “lose” our faith.  We become angry because what we wanted to happen didn’t, and we blame God.  Never mind the fact that God never actually promised us that outcome, we took that promise upon ourselves.

Nothing is beyond God’s redemption.  Not you.  Not me.  Not your mistakes.  Not mine.

Nothing.

You’d think we’d learn this at some point.

But we never do.  We keep putting our goals and our time frames in front of God.  And when they don’t happen exactly how we expect, we become bitter and angry.  I would like to say I’ve finally learned this lesson.  But I know I haven’t really.  I’ll forget this lesson, and God will once again have to teach it to me.  Thankfully he’s a patient teacher.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy the new look and feel of R3blog.net.  And hopefully you’ll find R3blog.net to be a resource in your own life, as you learn to live out a life of faith.

how far we’ve come

Category : bible, choice, faith, living a life of faith, reader comments, taking action

It’s hard to believe that R3 is entering its 4th year!  (well technically “calendar year,” R3’s anniversary is in a few months).  I never dreamed that I had enough to say to generate three posts a week.  I find it amazing that I can do that.  But that’s not the only thing that makes this 4th year so remarkable.  It wasn’t that long ago that blogging didn’t exist.

Think about that one for a while!

The internet has been a great technology for growing people’s relationships with God.  There is no other technology that allows someone to write in their spare time in Kansas but influence Christians in Australia, Indonesia, or even China.  Or someone from Africa to influence people in Europe or America.  The internet has had a profound impact on living a life of faith.

While religion blogging is dominated by several “big name” bloggers there has been more than enough room for smaller writers to develop a community.  There are so many talented writers that I could spend an entire day simply surfing the internet reading.  Now if only someone would pay me to do that…

But blogging isn’t the only change.

How we study the Bible has also changed.  I can easily pull up Bible verses and do keyword searches online.  If you own an iPhone you can download Bible apps and get the same thing.  Never before has the Bible been so easy to access.  While I still read a paper version of the Bible every day, I rarely use it for quick searches or to look things up.  It just takes too long.  Digital is the way to go.

And still there is more change.

Even the way we do Bible studies is different.  There are online studies on hundreds of topics.  Churches are giving away much of their own materials away for free.  And now there are “social sites” popping up like EXAMEN.me.  All dedicated to providing high quality Bible studies and devotionals.

There has never been a better time to learn about living out a life of faith.  There has never been a time where so much has been available to so many.  And I, for one, can’t wait to see what the future holds.

As we go into the New Year, here is my challenge to you: find a new way to study the Bible and follow it for the next 30 days.  As you go through it, come back here and let us know how it’s going (I’m opening up the comments).  Did it work?  Was it a disaster?  Did it revolutionize your life?

the illusions of the world

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

………

We live in a society heavily influenced by the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution.  Because of that we think that every decision we make needs to have a root in scientific evidence.  But what if the decisions we are making aren’t really based on science?  What if the world is lying to us?  What if the world wants us to believe something is true even when it’s not?  How then, can we be sure our decisions are still science-based?  Are we just being manipulated?

The world is desperate to present us with a picture of safety and security.  It wants us to believe everything is “fine” and we don’t need to examine our lives – unless it’s to buy more stuff.  The goal is to not rock the boat.  To fit in.  To accept the status quo.

The truth is, despite all the science and knowledge we’ve accumulated, we are still pretty gullible.  We still fall for some pretty silly examples of photoshop distorting pictures.  What’s interesting though, is that while we stare at obviously fake images we reassure ourselves that we’re making decisions based purely on reason.  That our logic, and trust in science makes us smarter.

And so we discard religion.  As a society we’ve somehow decided that if it can’t be seen it must not be real.

I find this to be tragic.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize we can’t always rely on our eyes.  Photoshop has proven that.  Instead we need to learn to also trust God, and the things he’s promised.  That’s really the definition of faith.  Expecting pure scientific evidence for God’s existence will always leave us wanting.  At some point we just need to trust in his promises and move forward.  At some point we have to realize that “just the facts ma’am” isn’t giving us an accurate picture of what’s going on.

Sometimes the temptation for a Christian is to turn their back on the world.  We can over react to the scientific revolution.  We can say “we can’t trust science because it’s from the world.”  However that’s not what God wants either.  God has never said don’t use science or trust your reasoning skills.  But he has warned us that there is a “Thief” who is intentionally trying to manipulate us.

It’s our job to go out into this place and try to bring a new message.  And we can’t do that if we pretend the world doesn’t exist.  We do, however, need to be aware of how much we take in.  We need to know how much we surround ourselves with other world views.  Because it’s easy to be overwhelmed.  It’s easy to fall prey to the lies.  To fall victim to the status quo.

To paraphrase the movie Mr. Deeds, the world is very, very sneaky.

Faith and science aren’t enemies.  They both give us access to important knowledge.  Science helps us to understand the physical world.  It helps us to build hospitals, cure disease, build computers and the internet.  But it can’t answer the question of “why.”  It can’t explain our purpose or our reason for existence.  It can’t define our morality or bring forgiveness to an enemy.

If you want to truly be part of the revolution, you need both faith and science in your life.

christian bumper stickers

2

Category : choice, faith, taking action

 

“He Dyd 4U”

Or at least that’s what the license plate in front of me said. 

Every day I seem to come across a car that has message like that.  Usually it’s a Christian bumper sticker or “Jesus fish” slapped on the back.  They declare that “Jesus loves you” or “put the CHRIST in Christmas” or some such thing. 

I don’t know what most people think when they see those bumper stickers, but I always have one thought: does the driver has any idea what message they’re sending?  And I don’t mean with the words on the bumper sticker.  I’m thinking of a more fundamental level.  When you mark yourself as a Christian you are declaring that you believe certain things. 

So what happens when your life doesn’t match your faith? 

In my case, the license plate may have read “He Dyd 4U.”  But it was the woman who was trying to force her way into traffic that I was focused on.  Her actions could have literally lead to my death.  And the death of a dozen other people.  Every time you don’t use your turn signal, or cut someone off, you are sending a message about Christians. 

And it’s not a good message.

You can say, “love your neighbor” all you want.  But when you carelessly endanger other drivers, well, that’s not really the way to live out your faith, is it?  How can people believe what you say about God when your faith doesn’t match your life? 

We think we live in a world where everyone knows who God is, but that’s just not true anymore.  In fact a growing number of people are growing up unChristian.  The message this woman sent with her driving was that “I may claim Jesus died for you, but all I care about is getting what I want, when I want, and that includes not waiting for a traffic light!”  In one quick move she confirmed for people that Christians are nothing but self-centered and selfish. 

We live in a world that’s already hostile enough to the Christian message, do we really need to encourage those stereotypes by our driving habits? 

If you’re living out a life of faith, every aspect of your life demonstrates that purpose – including your driving.  So if you’re going to sport bumper Christianity my advice is simple…

Don’t drive like a lunatic!

walking on water

Category : David, God, choice, different, taking action, trust

 

In the last post, I spoke about David’s belief that God would be with him when he faced Goliath.  He didn’t need any more evidence. He didn’t have to wait for “just one more reassurance.”  He just took past experiences and applied them to his life.

Yet so often we don’t act with that same assurance.  Sometimes we want to wait for absolutes before we act.  We play it safe and ask, “God, should I do this, or should I do that?”  Waiting until God gives us some kind of definitive answer. 

Now on the one hand, this is a very valid and legitimate question to ask.  It can be a very bad idea to act without knowing God is there to support you.  But in many cases God has already told us to act, he doesn’t need to repeat himself.  For instance, Jesus already told us to love our enemies.  We don’t need to pray about whether we should love them, we just need to do it.

No matter what decisions we make, or what actions we decide to take, we must always move with God.  As bold as David was, he never would have survived without God’s help.  In fact, that’s the whole point of the story.  David was much smaller than many of the Israelite soldiers.  He was the youngest child (which Israelites viewed as ‘inferior’).  If David had come up to you or I, we would have laughed at him, and said, “sure whatever kid.”  He didn’t fit the mold of manly man, let alone hero.

Which is exactly why God chose him to act.  No one could confuse God’s action as something David did on his own.  Casting Crowns sums up David’s attitude saying, “I’ll go, but I cannot go alone.”  This was David’s life philosophy.  He was aware that it wasn’t his own abilities that would take down Goliath (or the bear, or the lion) but it was God.  He went, but he didn’t go alone.

In Me

If you ask me to leap
Out of my boat on the crashing waves
If You ask me to go
Preach to the lost world that Jesus saves
I’ll go, but I cannot go alone
Cause I know I’m nothing on my own
But the power of Christ in me makes me strong
Makes me strong

Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me

If You ask me to run
And carry Your light into foreign land
If You ask me to fight
Deliver Your people from Satan’s hand

To reach out with Your hands
To learn through Your eyes
To love with the love of a savior
To feel with Your heart
And to think with Your mind
I’d give my last breath for Your glory

With God’s backing, we can accomplish anything.  As David found out even giants are no match for God.  Or as Peter discovered, even walking on water is possible when we live out a life of faith.  What can God do with our lives, if we choose not to walk alone?

the dangers of following God

Category : God, bible, choice, radical, taking action

   

I often wonder if I would be willing to drop everything and follow God.  As I sit in the comfort of my home, surrounded by my things, I think, “of course I would!”  But would I?  Would I have the guts to follow God?

To be honest I’m afraid of what true surrender looks like.  I enjoy my stuff, and there are certainly days I can’t imagine giving them up.  It’s one thing to be a leader like Moses.  Someone who, in a sense, got fame and glory.  He was The Man.  But what if that wasn’t the mission God wanted to give you?  What would you do then?  Would you volunteer?

Because that’s what Isaiah did.

Isaiah was eager to obey God.  He didn’t even stop to ask who, what, when, where, or why.  He just said, “send me.”  It makes me wonder if Isaiah knew what he was getting in to.  Did he even care?

In some ways Isaiah ended up with the short end of the mission stick.  His job was to tell Israel they were going to be judged and punished.  Talk about a job description!  In fact, in my NIV Bible there are dozens of pages devoted Isaiah’s speeches dealing with Israel’s punishment. 

That’s my dilemma though.  I want to be obedient, but I also want an easy assignment.  I think that’s something most of us share in common.  We all want to do something noble and exciting with our lives.  We just don’t want it to cost too much.  We all want to be the leader, and none of us want to give up our lives to do the grunt work. 

No matter who we are, or what we believe, God will eventually ask us to do something radical and crazy.  He will ask us to be different, to stand out, to make a choice.  When God says, “whom shall I send?” I want to be like Isaiah and shout, “send me!” 

active praise

Category : David, God, bible, choice, faith

Some days it’s just hard to be excited about God.  We wake up and it’s raining outside, or we’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed, or we’re facing a major tragedy.  Or worse yet, our fantasy football team just got crushed for yet another week.  In fact there are far too many days that I find it difficult to be excited by God.  Intellectually I want to worship him, but emotionally I just can’t seem to drag myself out of my rut.  I feel tired and I think I lack the energy I need to take another step. 

This is usually where I want to give up, or at least take some time off.  Sometimes I say, “God won’t really notice.”  Or, “I deserve this, I’ve been faithful!”  Of course neither of these are actually true.  And if I am really honest about it, the challenges in my life are often totally insignificant in the overall scheme of things.  There are billions of people who have it far worse than I do.  One of these people happened to be David, King of Israel  You know, of David and Goliath fame. 

David had this knack of always finding himself in trouble.  His life was characterized by people wanting to kill him!  I have yet to face a single death threat, so I think he probably had a few more things to worry about than I do.  And yet what do I find David doing in the midst of yet another assassination attempt?  Praising God.

That’s right, he was actively praising God despite his circumstances.  I’m really struck by the words he uses in Psalm 71 to describe his actions.  He doesn’t say, “I’m thinking about worshiping you” or “sometimes I will praise you.”  He says, “I will praise you more and more” (v. 14), “I will proclaim your mighty acts” (v. 16), “I declare your marvelous deeds” (v. 17), “my lips will shout for joy” (v23).

Proclaim.  Declare.  Shout.  Those are all active words.  David may have been suffering.  He may have been heartbroken by more people wanting him dead.  (You know that has to mess with your self esteem after a while…)  But through it all, and to his core, he actively praised God. 

God is worthy of our praise no matter what’s going on in our lives.  We shouldn’t hold back from telling people how awesome he is no matter what we feel like. 

  

God – You are so awesome that sometimes I forget just what you’ve done for me.  I know my heart is often fickle and I’m easily distracted, but you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I am so grateful for you!

intentionality: choosing God

Category : God, Jesus, choice, different, taking action

   

Why doesn’t God force us to believe in him?  We are created to need God, so why not just go one step further and be created to always believe in God?  But that’s not what God did.  Instead he’s given us this thing called free will, which lets us make our own decisions.  Don’t you find that kind of amazing?

If I were creating the universe I’d make sure everyone would know it. I’d want them to always believe in me.  I would have stamped the moon with a giant copyright logo.  But if there is one thing that’s consistent with God, it’s that he’s different!  He wanted us to have the ability to believe in him, or to not.  To love other people, or to hate them.  There must be a reason for that, right? 

And there is.  It means we have responsibility for our decisions.

Everyone who is a Christian became one because they made a conscious decision.  Becoming a Christian isn’t hereditary.  It’s not something you can catch in the airport.  It’s one made by choice.

Even before we can really get to know God, we have to make a choice to accept him.  And you can’t make a decision without, well, deciding.  This is true for every choice we make in our lives.  Do we get up with the alarm, or to sleep an extra 10 minutes?  Do we eat breakfast or skip it?  Are you nice to your co-workers or selfish?  No matter what decision we are presented we have a moment where we must choose a course of action.

At the very core of the Christian identity is intentionality: the decision to follow God (or not) in all aspects of our lives.    

With intentionality comes purpose.  Not only have we agreed to move closer to God, but now we are moving with a goal in mind.  Our lives take on added value because we aren’t being blown about by new ideas and unexpected circumstances.

Luke tells us that at one point “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)  He made an intentional decision to focus the remainder of his life in concluding his ministry on Earth.  What would have happened if Jesus had allowed himself to become distracted?  What if instead of focusing on his mission, he let himself get distracted by things around him?  Would he ever have made it to the cross?

God moves with purpose, and he wants us to move with the same purpose.  We are called to go forth and make disciples of the world (Matthew 28: 19), not to simply sit around and wait for things to happen.  God has always intended for us to act intentionally.

Now if you’re like me, you find that a bit intimidating!  I’m not sure I’m exactly prepared to always live my life with God’s purposes in mind.  I’m not sure I can handle that kind of burden.  But to pretend that’s not what God wants is to hide the facts.  And in the long run the only one I’m hurting by hiding from the truth is myself. 

Realizing that I need to be intentional in following God has radically changed my interaction with him.  I look at things in my life and ask, “is this helping or hurting my relationship with God?”  If it helps my relationship I try to do more of it.  If it hurts I try to do less.  I obviously don’t succeed with either of these things all the time, but I try.  And in many ways making that choice is really what counts.  I’m not sure how much God really cares if we succeed or fail.  What I think he wants most is that we’re willing to try. 

As you read this post ask yourself those questions.  And when you get an answer act with intentionality.

losing sight of God

Category : David, God, choice, radical

   

Have you ever had one of those days where you find yourself irritated at everything?  For me that day was yesterday.  It was as if the world was conspiring to test my patience.  Everything “seemed” to be going wrong, and yet, nothing bad actually happened.  Sure my plane was delayed (both of them).  Sure I missed lunch.  Sure I had to walk to the furthest part of the airport for the rental car.  But I lived.  Nothing broke.  Everything worked out in the end.

And yet, I was furious.  I was embarrassingly angry with people for no particular reason.  Why?

Maybe I was cranky.  Maybe I was tired.  Maybe I was hungry.  But I don’t think those are the “real” problem.  The real issue is both deeper and simpler – I lost sight of God.

The Bible says God is a “jealous” God.  That’s kind of a weird thing to say about an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-existing God!  Why should God be jealous?  I mean, what could he want from us?  But I think that question misses the point.  God isn’t jealous because he wants something we have – he’s jealous because he knows that bad things happen when we shift our focus away from him. 

Our lives are designed to operate with God as the center point.  When that shifts, our lives, attitudes, and behaviors shift.  This is one of the challenging truths about Christianity.  It is a religion that requires us to make a conscious decision to believe in God.  It is not something that is passed on, it is something that must actively choose.  And in some ways it must always be actively “chosen.” 

Once we commit to God he asks us to walk a very radical path.  A path that goes against what we consider our “nature.”  And my nature tells me it’s okay to get angry over stupid things.  It takes, literally, an act of God to make me rebel against that notion. 

That’s why the minute I lose focus on God, I end up doing things I regret. 

Of course this is something we all do.  It’s called sin.  No matter how intentional we live our lives we will mess up.  But that’s okay, because God forgives us (it comes as part of the package of believing in him).  The trick is to pick yourself back up and say, “okay God, I screwed up, but I’m still committed to you.”  We have to actively make that decision to once again align our lives with God. 

That’s what David did in the Old Testament, and God did some pretty cool things through him. 

So yes, I lose focus on God all too easily.  And it gets me in trouble.  But I am confident that God is always waiting for me to realize my mistakes and turn back to him for help.  And you know what?  Every time I’ve turned back to him, he’s always there waiting for me.  And I’m sure he is for you.  Even when your plane is running late.