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

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

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?

love your enemy (and fellow drivers)

4

Category : God, different, love, taking action

 

What if we’re supposed to love our enemies not for their sake, but for ours? I’ve always wondered exactly why we are to love our enemies. In my mind it was because loving them showed them that God was different. And praying for them would allow God to enter their lives – as if he needed our permission.

But what if I have that backwards? What if the biggest reason we are to love our enemies is to keep us moving in the direction of God?

Undoubtedly there is a real need to love our enemies for their sake. God is not into forced behavioral changes, he wants people to change because we desire to know him. The only way to accomplish this kind of change is through love.

But the more I’ve actually tried loving my “enemies” the more I’m convinced God is working more in me than these other people. Now I admit, my life is filled with very few “enemies” and certainly no one who is out to do bodily harm. But it is filled with people who irritate me and people who treat me without respect.

I can’t say for sure why I started doing this, but one day after being cut off in traffic (for the umpteenth time) I started praying for the drivers. To be sure my prayers were often crowded by thoughts like “police officer” and “speeding ticket”. But I really worked at praying for every maniacal lunatic in a 4-wheel death trap driver that would threaten me with their driving. I didn’t want to pray generically for each one (although sometimes I do). I wanted to ask God to bless something meaningful in each of their lives. I wanted to reach out and try to find something that might really mean something to them.

That’s when this realization started to dawn on me – what if prayer for our “enemies” isn’t so much about them as it is about us?

God is a God of relationship. He wants us to have a relationship with him. Anything that furthers that relationship is good, anything that distances us from that relationship is bad. That is why loving our enemies is so important. When I get angry, and don’t love people I become less open to God. I stop wanting to listen to him and to talk to him. As the Bible says my heart “hardens.”

Strangely I found that praying for people who anger me or who cut me off in traffic prevents this very thing. While I often hate saying those prayers, and many times they feel forced, the result is taking a step closer to God instead of a step away. And with each step closer I become more open to what he wants to do in my life.

Jesus tells us to “shake the dust off [our] feet” when we’re rejected (Luke 9:5). He wants us to forget about our rejection and not let it become part of who we are. He’s warning us to not let others’ opinions and reactions form the basis of our self-worth.

Praying for my enemies is how I shake that dust off.

unburdening the burdened

Category : Bible thumping, mission

   

 “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11: 46)

As I searched to understand God, I started to read some blogs on the internet. Like all things in life, there are good blogs and bad blogs. But I have to admit, I was often surprised by the anger, bitterness, and argumentativeness with which so many Christian blogs are written. I almost always stop reading these blogs. “How can someone so angry teach me of God’s love?” I ask myself.

Before I started this blog, I gave a lot of consideration to what my motives were. Why was I writing? What was my purpose? Certainly I didn’t have anything to offer. After all, I’m not a Bible scholar, I’m not a brilliant theologian – I’m just a guy that wants to know who God is.

Of course being “just a guy” often means I’m no different than anyone else. I can be every bit as angry, bitter, and argumentative as the next guy. But Jesus wasn’t. Jesus was this guy who always knew the right way to handle the situation. He always knew when to get angry and when to act in love. Of course for him those two things went hand in hand.

As I thought about some of these “angry” blogs, I realized I would leave them feeling a huge sense of burden. I would feel the guilt of not trying hard enough, or feel bad about being a failure at living up to lofty standards. I never felt encouraged or “built into”. I felt weighed down.

But that’s not the impression I get of how Jesus left people. I think whenever someone encountered Jesus they knew they had met someone different, someone who made broken people whole. For certain he challenged everyone. But being challenged is entirely different than weighing people down with burdens.

Jesus frees us to pursue God by lifting our burdens and placing them on himself. That’s an amazing thing.

I don’t want R3 to be a place of burden. I want it to be a place of challenge for both you and for me. Sometimes hearing the truth can be difficult. Sometimes knowing we need to change our lives is hard. Sometimes doing the right thing feels impossible.

But I won’t run away if you won’t.