timing is everything

Category : taking action

Timing is everything.  That’s a phrase that we hear constantly.  But how often do we apply it to our faith?  We know that timing matters when buying a house or building a business.  It also matters in sports (which is why you practice your “timing”).  Even comedians work hard to get the timing of their jokes right.

But again, do we apply that same thought to our faith?

We’re willing to take risks all the time.  We do it when we invest in the stock market.  We do it when we jump out of a plane or go on a roller coaster.  We even do it when we get married or ask someone out on a date.  Do we know if those things will work out?  Of course not.  But when it comes to our faith we slow down and start to say, “wait, I’m not so sure.  How do I know?”

Is it any wonder we freeze in our tracks?

But look at what Jesus says about timing: “And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend” yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.”  (Luke 12: 11-12)

Did you catch that?  “Will teach you at that time what needs to be said.”

Not a week before.  Not a month before.  Not even an hour before.

But “at that time.”

Timing is everything.  Even in our faith.

Photo provided by flickr user beggs

questioning Jesus

Category : taking action

If you had a chance to question Jesus, would you?

Our natural reaction is “you bet I would!”  But that’s a very different picture than the one the Bible paints.  In fact the people closest to Jesus often didn’t question Jesus.

“But they didn’t understand what he meant, and were afraid to ask him about it.” (Mark 9: 32)

The Disciples were an interesting group.  On the one hand they witnessed things that most of us never will.  They saw miracles like people coming back from the dead (in non-zombie form) and the blind seeing.  On top of all that they also had a chance to spend time 1-on-1 with God.

Now we can all talk to God in prayer.  We can all get our questions answered that way.  Prayer is an amazing thing.  But it’s not the same as talking to God while having a cup of Starbucks.  The disciples though did this (although I’m not sure how many Starbucks there were in Galilee).  They were able to talk, laugh, and just spend time with Jesus.  They had a unique opportunity that none of us will get in this life.

And yet time and again they passed up on the opportunity to question Jesus.

Right before Jesus was crucified he began to talk about dying.  The disciples, however, wanted no part of that conversation.  They believed Jesus was going to be a great military leader.  That he was going to reestablish a literal and physical kingdom, much like David.  In short he was going to make Israel a world power again.

They didn’t want to listen to him talk about death.  In their minds it just didn’t make sense.  And it terrified them.  So they did what most of us would do: stick our fingers in our ears and go “la la la la.”

It would be as if George Washington had told his troops on the eve of the Revolutionary War that he was “about to die”?  Or if Lincoln, during the height of the Civil War said he was about to die.  People would have been terrified.  Their leader, the person they put all their faith in, was going to die?  How did that make sense?  What was he talking about?

I think the disciples were afraid not just because Jesus said he would die, but because they couldn’t understand how Jesus’ death would bring about their image of a messiah.  Dead leaders don’t win wars after all.

Out of all of us the disciples were in the best position to question Jesus.  Yet they didn’t.  They let fear hold them back.  They more afraid of the truth than willing to trust Jesus.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the disciples hadn’t let fear rule those moments.  Would the days following the crucifixion look different if they had really understood what Jesus’ death had meant?  What if the disciples had pursued an answer from Jesus?  Would he have given it to them?

Of course that makes me think about you and I.  What would our lives look like if we questioned Jesus for the truth, instead of letting fear stop us short?

We are often too afraid to ask God for help.  We’re afraid to ask because he might say “no.”  We’re afraid to ask, because what does it mean if nothing happens?  We’re afraid to ask, because we can’t see beyond our current problems.  If we’ve only ever known suffering and fear, what else could there be?

We may be angry and yell at God and “question” his authority or justice.  But we rarely question God seeking real answers.  We don’t want to understand what God has in mind for our lives if it means learning that it’s not what we expected.  And isn’t that when we’re the angriest at God?  When our expectations don’t match reality?  How much less suffering we would endure if we just questioned God and actually listened for an answer!

knowing faith or living faith?

Category : bible, faith, feeding my brain, living a life of faith, taking action

I’m one of those people that loves to find that perfect balance between price and performance.  There is something about getting the “most” out of something that I just find fun.  I am always thinking about the best way to drive to save the most gas.  Whenever I build / buy a new computer I look for that sweet spot of price and performance.  I even do this when I buy sports tickets.  I know, it’s a bit weird.  But I also love it.

Sometimes this becomes a bit of an obsession.  For instance, in the last couple of weeks I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out which surge protector to buy for my TV.  Most people just go to the store and buy the cheapest (or most expensive one).  Not me.  I need to figure out exactly how many outlets I need.  Then I have to find which stores have the best deals.  And in the case of these power strips, I wanted to find out what the level of “ideal” protection was needed.  To further complicate this choice there are a new line of power strips that cut down on “phantom power” use.  (Phantom Power is the power a device draws when turned “off.”)

No matter how hard I looked, I kept running into a problem: no one would explain what the energy ratings really meant.  Exactly what is a joule?  How many do I need as protection?

I’ve realized that I know nothing about electricity.  I don’t know how it works.  I can’t explain basic concepts like Watts and Amps.  I have no idea how it’s made or how it powers my devices.  Yet I also know I believe in electricity.  Even though I can’t see it, I know it’s there.

Frankly that sounds a lot like faith.

Most Christians couldn’t hope to explain their beliefs.  They don’t know how it works.  They can’t explain basic concepts like the Original Sin or Atonement.  And while this is a bad thing (you really should know why you believe what you believe), people still believe.

So why is this lack of knowledge the lynchpin of so many arguments against Christians?

A lack of knowledge doesn’t mean something isn’t true.  As I’ve said, I haven’t got a clue of how electricity powers my laptop.  But I know that it works.  I know that somehow it comes from the outside into my computer.  Just because I can’t explain how doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Should I know more about electricity?  Absolutely.  But there is also only so much time in life to do things.  Sometimes it’s more important to live out a belief than to know about a belief.

When God says things like, “well done my good and faithful servant” he isn’t congratulating people for passing Theology 405.  He’s congratulating them for living out a life of faith.

Knowledge is important.  But not as important as living.

the miracle of obedience

1

Category : John, bible, faith, living a life of faith, miracles, taking action

What happens when someone asks you to do something unexpected?  Do you do it, no questions asked?  Or, are you more likely to roll your eyes?  If you’re really dramatic you might act like a certain 4 year old I know who likes to jump up and down and throw a temper tantrum.

Most of us don’t like to do things without knowing all the details.  We want answers to who, what, when, where and most importantly, why.  But maybe we need to reevaluate that.  Because Jesus pretty much never explained any of his miracles up front.  In almost every case before a miracle happened someone needed to act on faith first.

That’s how it was with Jesus’ first miracle – turning water into wine.

As the John describes the miracle, Jesus doesn’t really explain what he’s about to do.  There isn’t a 5 minute meeting to get everyone on the same page.  Jesus doesn’t send out a Facebook update saying, “I’m about to turn this water into wine.”  Instead this is how the Bible describes these events…

“Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’”

No explanations up front.  Just an expectation of obedience.  Can you imagine what the servants were thinking?  “This guy is cracked.  And worse we’re going to get in trouble with the master.  Aren’t we going to look like idiots when we get up there and hand this guy some water!”

Despite their doubts, they were obedient.  And because of that, they witnessed Jesus’ first miracle.

But so many of Jesus’ miracles worked like this.  People were healed only after they believed.  Some friends believed in Jesus’ power so much they cut a hole in someone’s roof to lower their friend down to Jesus.  A woman believed in Jesus so much that she was willing to risk death to just brush against Jesus’ clothes.

They had no promises, no status updates, and no guarantees.  They just knew that when Jesus said to believe, they should believe.

One of the biggest challenges facing the modern Christian is the view that miracles don’t happen.  I’m not surprised at this.  We live in a cynical age where nothing is taken on face value.  While that may protect us from internet scams and cause us to celebrate public failures of stars and athletes, it makes a poor way to develop a relationship with a loving God.

When I look at the ministry of Jesus I see a bunch of people who missed out on the greatest moment in human history.  Not because they couldn’t understand what was happening.  Not because they weren’t smart enough to figure it out.  And not because they weren’t’ “good people.”  But because they couldn’t stop asking questions.  Instead of acting, they simply stood by wondering what Jesus was up to.

The people who missed out on Jesus were the ones standing on the sideline constantly wondering what this Jesus guy was up to.  The irony is the people who didn’t worry about all that were the ones who experienced the fullness of who Jesus is.

Maybe we should ask fewer questions and spend more time being obedient.  Maybe then we’d see a few more miracles.

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?

don’t manage your risk, embrace it

Category : barbarian, bible, different, faith, fear, living a life of faith, taking action

While most of us were busy celebrating the holidays, the world was in full motion.  In a matter of about 24 hours we learned that a terrorist tried to kill 270 civilians by blowing up a plane.  And while all of this was going on, the Pope was attacked during a Christmas service.

Fortunately both the passengers on the plane and the Pope escaped any significant injury (although a Vatican diplomat broke their hip and a passenger suffered 3rd degree burns wrestling the terrorist).

Reading headlines like this makes it easy to want to stick your fingers in your ears and hum Christmas carols really loudly. (I personally recommend Here Come Santa Claus.)  But is that what we should be doing?

One of the things that struck me in the story about the Pope was a simple sentence that read: “Security analysts have frequently warned the pope is too exposed in his public appearances.”

Now Security Analysts are paid to keep people safe.  Their job is to limit risk.  To create “risk management scenarios.”  But is that the job of a Christian?  To stay safe?  To manage risk?  When I look at the Bible I see people who constantly put themselves in danger because that was where God was headed.  They lived a life of faith so intensely that all that mattered was following God.

The Pope is a high profile figure.  He’s part celebrity.  Part politician.  Part religious figure.  Which means he represents a very “appealing” target to people who may have psychological issues (as was the case with this woman).

I’ve never been the Pope.  And not being Catholic, it’s very unlikely I’ll ever be the Pope.  I’ve also never had anyone care enough about what I do to want to hurt me.  I’m not famous, rich, or a religious figurehead.  So I can’t really understand what all comes with that.  I also don’t really understand what it’s like to have my life constantly in danger.  The most dangerous thing I do every day is scrape the ice off of my car.

But being the Pope is different.

He experiences all of those things.  He has to make daily decisions that may cost him his life.  And there are many people just like him, making those same kinds of decisions.  But far too many people make choices based on risk management scenarios.

There is something seriously wrong with our churches when we put risk management above living out a life of faith.  I applaud the Pope for being so accessible and putting his life on the line.  I applaud the Christian who walks into danger, because that is where she sees God calling.

As we head into 2010 I want you to think about one question: Are you living a “safe” life?  Or are you living the radical, revolutionary life that God calls us to?

i don’t want to go through the motions

Category : Jesus, Matthew, fear, living a life of faith, taking action, trust

……….

I admit it.  The last few weeks have been a bit up and down on R3.  I haven’t been able to post the usual three times a week.  It seems events have been conspiring against me.  At first I was sick.  Then I realized it was NaNoWriMo.  (That’s National Novel Writing Month for those of you scoring at home.)  And after writing about 20,000 words of a book, I had to put virtually everything on hold because, my friends, I have some good news to share.  I was offered a job on Monday and accepted.

That means after all this time I will finally be employed.

If you’ve been following R3 for any length of time you know that this last year has been hard.  I’ve been unemployed since the first of the year.  And that takes a toll on you.  More than just financially though. You can easily begin to doubt yourself.  And at times I really questioned where I was going.  Unemployment can also shake your faith.  There were times when I really wondered if I was really following God or just going off on my own tangents.  It also can impact your relationships.  It’s hard to be loving and engaged when you wonder where you will get enough money to pay the bills.  It’s also hard to stay active with your friends when they want to go do something that costs money and you don’t have the funds for that.

Looking back on the year I realize just how much I have learned and just how much I’ve grown.  I don’t even feel like the same person anymore.  And none of that would have been possible without trusting God and quitting my job.  The ironic thing is, that despite all the pain this year has caused, it’s something I wouldn’t trade for anything.  In fact, it’s probably one of the best years I’ve ever had.

You see I don’t want to go through the motions.  I don’t want to look back on my life and wonder, “did I really give everything?”  I don’t want to just be that guy who punches the clock and that’s it.  I want my life to make a difference.  I want to advance the Kingdom in powerful ways, or at least in whatever ways I can.

Jesus once told the parable of the talents.  In it he described three men who were each given talents (which was a sum of money equivalent to about 3 months of wages).  Two of the men doubled what they had been given.  But the last man didn’t do anything with his talent.  He was afraid and therefore didn’t act.

When the master of the three men returned he demanded an account of how they had used the money.  The first two were rewarded greatly, and the last man was punished.  Not because he lost the money.  But because he didn’t do anything with his talent!

That terrifies me.

I would rather lead a life of adventure, and chaos, and unpredictability than live a safe, comfortable life that wasn’t about pursuing God.  I knew that I had a choice to make about my job.  Stay there and be comfortable, but do nothing with my “talent.”  Or be willing to trust God so much that I would walk into a completely unpredictable world.

I chose to act.

I don’t always choose to act.  And I’m not saying everyone should quit their job.  But I don’t want to look back some day and think, “why did I waste my talent?”

This is why the Matthew West song “The Motions” has become a theme song of sorts.

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?”

That’s how I want to live.  How about you?  Are you going through the motions?

what to do when you make a mistake

Category : Paul, bible, failure, faith, sin, taking action

……….

What do you do when you make a mistake?

That’s a question I think very few people actually think about.  Oh sure we all do something when we’ve made a mistake.  But very few of us actually think through our actions, we usually just react.

The way I see it, there are only a few options.

  1. Do nothing – we essentially say, “I did something wrong and I am so scared of doing it again, and so scared of the consequences, I will never do anything again.”  When we do nothing, we shut down.  We can’t be used by God because we aren’t interested in being used by God.  We become like the ostrich who shoves his head in the sand, thinking he is hiding.
  2. Do the same thing – we make a mistake, but choose to do the same thing over and over.  This is the whole, “I am sorry I hurt you/ was a jerk, etc…” line.  And then the next day you’re back to your old habits.  We say it, and maybe in the moment we are sorry.  But not sorry enough to actually change.  This is where we are when we continue to commit one of our “favorite” sins  (for instance, you repeatedly get angry at a coworker).
  3. Repent - True repentance.  This is where we truly turn to God and say, “I am sorry, help me never to do this again.”  Where we fully turn away from our actions and embrace God.

Why do I bring all this up?  Because Carrie Prejean, a former Miss USA winner is involved in another controversy.  It turns out she was involved in making a “sex tape.”

For some celebrities this wouldn’t be a big deal.  Society often seems to reward people who do this.  We’ve all read the stories about a celebrity “losing” provocative pictures in a PR attempt to revitalize a career.  But for Prejean, who has started teaching and talking about “family values” this is a big issue.

Rarely do we talk about current events on R3.  I believe that the Bible offers us timeless principles that apply no matter the event.  And I almost never talk about a specific individual.  There’s enough gossip and junk out there, we don’t need to add to that.  But sometimes I make exceptions.  And that’s where I am with this.

I have no idea what’s on the tape.  I don’t know why it was made.  And frankly I don’t want to know.  To me that’s irrelevant.  What matters is how Prejean decides to act.  And to a lesser extent how we, as a society, respond.

We all have made mistakes.  How many of us would really feel comfortable having our mistakes be national news?  What Carrie Prejean did was wrong, and it was a mistake, and that’s not an excuse.  But does this prevent her from ever talking about family values?  There are many people who very much want that to be the case.  (As I was flipping the channels late one night I saw one panel of “experts” gleefully declaring this meant she could no longer talk about family values.)

Personally I don’t know if this tape excludes her from talking about family values.  I know there are a lot of people who are gleefully hoping that will be the case.  For her to fall, would be a major victory for them.  This situation brings legitimate questions that she must answer.  But when I look at the Bible I see people who aren’t perfect.  I see people lose their temper, act in fear, commit adultery and murder.

Yet God still uses them in powerful ways.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. But he does ask us to repent.

Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament was actively seeking to kill Christians prior to his conversion.  Does that mean he can’t talk about sin?  Or does it mean he has unique insight into the redemption that Christ offers?  Moses murdered someone before God chose him to become the leader of Israel.  Did that exclude him from talking about freedom to Pharaoh?  Peter acted in both anger and fear in the last hours of Jesus’ life – but God used him as the rock upon which the church was built.  Was God wrong in all of this?

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect.  But he does ask us to repent.  And in each of these cases, they repented and turned away from their sins.  So I ask you, what do you do when you make a mistake?

Carrie has the same three options that we do.  She can do nothing.  She can do the same thing.  Or she can repent.

I don’t know what she plans to do.  Right now it sounds like she wants to repent.  But saying you want to repent and actually repenting can be two different things.  It’s much easier to offer false promises than to take the hard work of repentance.  Is it any different for us?  So again, I ask you, what do you do when you make a mistake?

what is my mission?

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

……….

One of the areas we, as believers, can get hung up is on our mission.  For some reason we think that we can’t act until God comes down in a beam of light or burning bush and directly tells us what to do.  To put it bluntly: that’s a load of crap.

I told you it would be blunt.

The Bible gives us more than enough stuff to work on.  At the very least your “mission” is to fulfill Jesus’ words “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19).

This is even called “The Great Commission.”

Of course that can look like a lot of different things.  God is a creative guy, you can be creative too.  What matters is that you’re being obedient to God.  And while I don’t know what your specific mission may be.  I do know that if God wants you to do something specific he will let you know.  That’s part of what happens when we are obedient – God has an easier time giving us specific instructions.

Perhaps, though, you will never have  a specific mission.  That’s okay.  This isn’t some kind of competition.  You aren’t less of a believer just because you haven’t seen a burning bush.  Living out a life of faith is about being active.  Not sitting back waiting for your “moment” to come.  Even if you are never given anything specifically, you can still live out a life of faith.

So go.  Act.  Do something.

welcome to the revolution

Category : God, R3, barbarian, faith, living a life of faith, revolutionary, taking action

……….

Revolution.  That’s a big theme around R3.  In fact, that concept is a core part of what drives R3 (hence the line: radical, revolutionary, different).  Being a revolutionary is part of what it means to live out a life of faith.  Why am I talking about all of this?  Because I am preparing to teach a new community group called Welcome to the Revolution.  The class is based on the book written by Brian Tome.  The book version of Welcome to the Revolution focuses on what it means to live out a life of faith as a new believer.  The class I am teaching condenses these ideas into a six week period.

Because this is such an important topic to me, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to teach.

As I was preparing for the class I began to think about how you define a Revolution.  What makes something revolutionary?  What are the key components of a revolution?  At the very core, what does a revolution look like?  What does it mean?

As I thought about it, three concepts came to mind.

  1. Revolutions are all about doing things differently.
  2. Revolutions are about action.
  3. Revolutions are hard.

While there are many different ways to describe a revolution, it’s these three things that define a revolution.  Especially the Kingdom revolution.

Revolution = different.  If things are working perfectly in your life you don’t need a revolution.  If your government is doing the will of the people, you don’t need a political revolution.  If you’re ok making your clothes by hand you don’t need an industrial revolution.  If you’re content writing using only pen and paper you don’t need a technological revolution.  But if everything isn’t perfect, then maybe it’s time to do things differently.  Maybe what’s needed is a revolution.

Revolution = action.  There isn’t time off in a revolution.  You don’t go to commercial break.  You can’t call “time out” so you can go get a drink of water.  Revolutions are 24/7.  That doesn’t mean there will be “fighting” all the time, but it does mean you are always on duty.  You never know when the next battle will be fought, and if you aren’t ready, you’ll find yourself quickly defeated (metaphorically, spiritually, and perhaps even literally).

Revolution = hard.  If someone told you a revolution was easy…they are lying.  Changing things is never easy.  This is especially true with the Kingdom revolution.  The more headway you make the harder it gets, the bigger the challenges, and often, the more it costs.

If you aren’t willing to accept these costs then your revolution will fail.  In the physical world this means that your idea won’t catch on.  Or your political movement will die out.  It will mean that change doesn’t happen and the status quo remains.  In the spiritual world it means your faith will falter, your trust in God will fail, and you’ll find yourself in a very dark and lonely place.

That’s the trade-off with a revolution.  You can change the world, or you can fall in defeat.  Revolutions aren’t half way affairs.  You are either winning a revolution or losing a revolution.  But the pay-off for being a successful revolutionary is amazing. Despite the danger, despite the cost, the Kingdom revolution is worth it.  Which is why I encourage you to seek out revolution in your life.

Become a revolutionary!  Change the world!