an heir to the kingdom

Category : God

Recently I mentioned that each of us is a child of God.  But that means more than just getting gifts and behaving like kids.  In fact, it comes with a whole lot of responsibility.  When we become a child of God, we actually become heirs to God’s Kingdom.

Think about what that means.

It’s a big deal to be an heir.  It means we need to have responsibility.  It also means we need to understand how things work.  A CEO can’t run an organization if he or she doesn’t understand the basics of the business.  Presidents can’t “run” a government if they don’t know the laws and troubles facing their land.

Paul in a letter to the Galatians says we “are no longer a slave but God’s own child.  And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”

Slaves didn’t know how to run the kingdom.  Criminals didn’t know how to run the corporation.  Strangers don’t get the keys to the house.  God doesn’t see us as distant toys to be played with, like the Greek gods.  He isn’t indifferent to us as many postmodern religions claim.  God says we are heirs to the kingdom.  We are in line to receive the Kingdom!

If that doesn’t make you smile, then nothing will.

photo provided by everystockphoto

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.

what does it mean to be a child of God?

Category : God

“…we are God’s children.  And since we are his children, we are his heirs.  In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.   But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

Have you ever stopped to think about what it means to be a child of God?  For me this is a difficult thing to wrap my mind around.  Not because I can’t understand God adopting us into his family, but because when I hear that phrase I immediately think of people doing cheesy Christian things (like bumper stickers that say “honk if you love Jesus.”)  In my mind, the phrase “child of God” has almost been hijacked by well-intentioned, but people who are a little creepy and who behave strangely while dressing in 1970’s clothing.

I doubt I’m alone.

But when we stop and think about being a child of God, there’s a lot packed into that little phrase.  Some of the things that come to mind are…

  • We are in the family
  • We can’t lose that identity (you can’t un-family your family!)
  • We are heirs
  • As heirs we are responsible for “the family business”
  • We receive gifts from our Father (protection, love, mercy)
  • We can recognize our Father’s voice

The God of the universe wants us to be in his family.  The Creator of existence loves us so much that he wants to us to be sons and daughters.  If that doesn’t blow your mind, then I don’t know what will.  What other religions make such outrageous claims?

No matter how much I learn about God, I find I am always amazed by him.

are we actually good people?

Category : faith

If you wanted to change software on your work computer, how many people would you need to help you?  Go ahead and think about it for a moment.  If you’re lucky you can do it yourself.  For most of us in the corporate world we don’t have that luxury.  (For me it would be three to five people depending on what I was doing.)

Why does it take that many people?

Because we live in a fallen world.  In other words, a world filled with people who don’t always do the right thing.  Ironically most of us gloss over this fact.  We think we’re “good people” and the only “terrible people” are the ones who commit murders and crimes.  And even then, some of us might argue, it’s only because they had bad childhoods or were picked on as kids.  (Of course if that’s the case doesn’t that mean those were terrible parents, terrible children, and terrible teachers?)

You see my world view, the one of Christianity, says that we as a species are broken.  That we aren’t “good people” who sometimes make mistakes.  In fact we’re terrible sin-ridden people, who are so separated from what is good (God) that we’re better described as terrible people who sometimes do good.  (If you find that shocking, you should.  It’s completely different than what most other world views will tell you.)

It’s this brokenness that causes us to need 5 people to install software.  We need to build that much security into our systems to protect ourselves.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Sure others are bad.  But I’m the exception.  I’m different.”

If that’s the case, why are you different?  What really makes you different than everyone else?  I’m not trying to pick a fight with you.  I just want you to think about your own life, and your own situation.  I want you to think about what you believe.

photo provided by flickr user ChrisL_AK

fearing life

Category : fear

We are consumed and paralyzed with fear.

We buy fire insurance, life insurance, health insurance, flood insurance, pest insurance.  We have people inspect our homes for radon, formaldehyde, and lead.  We child proof our electrical outlets, put rails at the steps, install security systems, and use floodlights to illuminate the dark.  Some people even go so far as to literally put their kid on a leash.

Wow.  Is life really that bad?  Kid’s on a leash?

But that’s where we find ourselves.  And there’s few things more tragic than living life filled with fear.

Of course there’s no question that terrible things may happen to you.  It happens every day.  Your house may burn down, you may get cancer, your kid might be kidnapped.  These things strike terror into our hearts, because we recognize the loss.  But have you ever stopped to consider what you lose by living a life of fear?

This last week a 16 year old girl tried to sail around the world.  For about 24 hours the world thought she had died.  Fortunately she had just lost her mast and a French rescue ship was able to save her.  You know what the headlines read the next day?  Not “courageous girl is saved” or “adventurer vows to try again.”  But “Questions asked of parents” and “Parents accused of risking her life.”

The world’s first reaction was to question why this girl’s parents didn’t keep her “safe.”

So let me ask you this: what’s more damaging, being told to never follow your dreams because they aren’t “safe”?  Or putting it all on the line for something you believe in?

That’s one of the remarkable aspects of Christianity.  We so often think of Christians as the “safe, non adventurous” types.  But God calls us to be ridiculously courageous.  He asks us to push the boundaries of his kingdom.  To be adventurers.  Or as Erwin McManus said, we should be the barbarians at the gate of civilization.

Fear is often unreasonable.  We weigh things differently when we fear.  How many of us are afraid to swim in the oceans because of Jaws?  But you are 250 times more likely to be killed by Bambi then Jaws?

Fear can be healthy.  It can prevent us from doing stupid things, like licking an iron.  But it can also paralyze us and take the joy out of living.  If you’re a Christian, there is no place in your life for fear.  Fear drives a wedge between us and God.  And it stops us from doing what needs to be done.  It prevents us from running to the needy.  It freezes us from helping the hurting.  And it blocks us from living in the grace God has for us.

I don’t know about you, but that’s too high of a price for me to pay.

photo provided by flickr user rocketjim54

being broken is a good thing

Category : different

I’m in the midst of moving.  Which means it’s time to pack up my old stuff.  There’s nothing like the thought of carrying heavy boxes to make you really evaluate something’s worth!  I’ve been pretty ruthless so far in getting rid of things.  And one of the underlying questions I ask is simply, “is it broken.”  The last thing I want to do is take the effort to pack something that’s broken.

Let’s face it, we all value things that work.  This is why we throw away VCR’s and 8 track players instead of keeping them forever.  Something eventually comes along that works better, so we jump onto the bandwagon.  The very idea that we should keep something that is broken seems strange to us.

But to consider brokenness as a good thing?  Well that’s just crazy talk.

Yet when we look at life through God’s eyes, brokenness becomes something to seek out.  In fact, I think brokenness is one of the best gifts God has for us.  CS Lewis said that pride was at root of all evil.  That the more prideful we are, the further away from God we are.  Think about your life for a moment.  When do you hurt the people you love the most?  I would bet that the vast majority of the time it’s when you felt you were being prideful.

Pride has a way of making us feel perfect.  Above reproach.  It says, “if I’m not broken, then I don’t need fixing.”

This is why so many people have no need for God.  They see themselves as “good people” who might not be perfect, but they certainly aren’t broken.  They work just fine most days.  “Other people of course,” they reason, “are broken, but certainly not me.”  But that’s not the reality of our lives.  The reality is that we’re all broken.  The whole world isn’t working the way God had planned.  Ever since Adam and Eve, we’ve lost our way.

The people who recognized Jesus for who he was (God) were the ones who recognized they were broken.  It was the prostitute pouring out the perfume that knew what Jesus offered, not the religious leader who was throwing Jesus a dinner party.  (Luke 7: 36-50)

That’s the theme we see throughout history.  The people who were best at keeping up religious pretenses were the ones who didn’t see the need for Jesus.  So they worked to kill him.  They couldn’t understand how he could be the Messiah if he was rejecting the “beautiful people” in favor of your average, run of the mill broken sinner.

Ironically they saw Jesus as broken.  Not themselves.  So my question to you is this: are you broken?  How you answer that question will determine how you respond to Jesus.

photo provided by flickr user wwworks

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

would you recognize Jesus if you grew up with him?

Category : Jesus, Mark, bible, different

I don’t get home very often these days.  When I was in college and graduate school I would go home for the holidays, but thanks to something called “work” I just don’t have that luxury anymore.  Now I grew up in a small town.  (It was a great place to grow up, despite having to walk uphill both ways in the snow to school.  But that’s another story.)  Even as a kid I always knew I’d be leaving.  There weren’t many jobs for an aspiring psychologist.  There still aren’t.  Such is the life of a small town.

Each time I went back home, I couldn’t help but notice something: the more I change, the less my home town recognizes it.  When I walk into my old church, or run into my old friends, they see me as the person I was.

I have changed in countless ways since I lived in that small town.  Yet when I go back, I am viewed as that shy, awkward teenager that left.  For them it’s hard to see what I’ve done with my life.

My guess is you have a similar story.  The people you grew up with see you as someone you really aren’t.  You might see this play out in your high school or college reunions.  You might even see this with your family.  They want to see you as someone different, but they just can’t quite wrap their mind around the fact that you are no longer “little Sally.”  (Especially since your name isn’t Sally.)

Jesus faced something similar.  When he went back to the small town he grew up in, people couldn’t quite get their minds around who he was.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked.  “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!  Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren’t his sisters here with us?”  (Mark 6: 2-3)

They saw him as the carpenter’s kid.  Not as God.  “And they took offense at him.”

Here the people who should have known Jesus the best, were the ones who ended up knowing him the least.  They were upset that Jesus was claiming to be God.  (A natural reaction by Jews who believed in only one God – going around claiming you were God was a crime in that culture).  But instead of taking time to re-evaluate their opinions, they just went with their old assumptions.  And they missed out on seeing the change.

The same will be true for you.  As you move closer to Jesus, your life will transform.  But people you don’t talk to regularly will miss that change.  They will want to see you as they’ve always seen you.  That represents a challenge for us.  For one it makes it easier for us to fall into our old habits.  But it also means people aren’t getting to see the best testimony to God’s existence – the changes in your life.

Sadly, it’s often easier to ignore change if it means you need to reevaluate your views.

a new frontier of God

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

How would you feel if a cell phone camera could take a picture of you through your clothes?  According to one CIA analyst this technology is on its way here.  You can read more about that on Gizmodo.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about.

What I find interesting is the response.  At least as I sit here and type this, the comments are overwhelmingly “so what, who cares if someone sees me naked.”  My guess is that most of you feel differently.  I know I do.

But how do you bridge this?  I have a friend who is hard core libertarian.  He thinks that the moment you step outside of your house you have no right to any concept of privacy.  That simply existing means you can be photographed naked, have your phone tapped or Google track your whereabouts.

We have gone back and forth on this for years.  Until I realized one day, that the problem isn’t me arguing more effectively.  It’s the fact that his world view is so different from mine.

I get my views on everything through my relationship with God.  But he doesn’t have that relationship, and so he thinks what I say is “just another opinion.”

This is the world we live in.  It’s a world that isn’t influenced any longer by Christian values.  And in that situation it doesn’t do us any good to shout louder about our faith.  We need to change the conversation to something else.  We need to engage with people and show them our faith.

I know this isn’t anything new.  I just think it’s important to remember this from time to time.