God asks us to do hard things

Category : God, barbarian, bible, choice, different, taking action

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Never think that God won’t ask you to do something hard.

In fact, that seems to be God’s favorite thing to do.  He never seems to say, “You know what, if you go on vacation to this exclusive resort, that will really get the people believing in me!”

Instead he says things like “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek”.  Or if you are like Hosea, he tells you to marry a prostitute.

Ouch.

A while back I wrote that God never gives us more than we can handle.  It’s one of the most popular posts on R3.  People have a hard time understanding why a “loving God” gives us hard things to do.  We don’t really want a God; we want a super powerful Santa Claus.  But taking an easy path in life isn’t always the best way to go about living.  I think God knows this.  He knows that sometimes the most growth happens when we have to struggle.  He knows that some people will be held in bondage unless we act.  He knows that evil won’t stop, just because we don’t want to get involved.

Sometimes the only way to advance the Kingdom is to push.

The more I struggle to understand what it means to be a parent, the more I realize just what God goes through.  When I look at my own parents I realize they held me to high expectations, not because they were being “controlling” or “demanding” but because they knew I had more potential in me then even I realized.

We don’t really want a God; we want a super powerful Santa Claus.

It’s the same with God.  He knows how much we can grow.  How much we can handle.  And sometimes to bring out our full potential, we need to work really hard.

There are things more important to God than giving us an easy life.

This is clearly seen in the Bible.  God has always been more interested in our relationship with him than in our sacrifices (for Jews) or following a bunch of rules (for Christians).  But we can’t seem to get that through our heads.  We keep trying “harder” to please God, when that misses the whole point.

When God gives us something hard to do (like telling Hosea to marry a prostitute) we change not just ourselves, but the world.

You can’t find a story in the Bible where something amazing wasn’t experienced when hard tasks were done.  You can’t find a friend who has been obedient to God, who hasn’t grown.  You can’t find lives changed when we, as Christians, do the hard thing.

What else can you make that claim about?

So when God comes to you and says, “I have something hard for you to do.”  Don’t fight him.  Instead, say, “how can I do it?”  And then go and do it.

upside down kingdom

Category : barbarian, different, faith, taking action

 

Sometimes the Bible scares me. 

I try and pretend I don’t understand, but deep down I do.  I know all too well that the Bible is clearly teaching a message I don’t want to hear.  In the book Titus, Paul says, “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”

That does not make me feel comfortable!  That’s such a dangerous statement.  If slaves must be obedient, pleasing, and trustworthy toward their owners, how much more must I be?

God calls Christians to an unbelievably high standard.  We are called to be set apart, to live differently, or as Erwin McManus says, to The Barbarian Way

We’re called to live this way in every area of our life.  Not just an hour or two on the weekend.  Which is why I found it interesting that I came across two sports stories in the same week. 

1. Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School

2. Covenant vs. Dallas Academy

Each story had one team from a Christian school.  But the endings were miles apart.  Grapevine demonstrated Christ-like love to Gainesville by cheering for them.  Why?  Because Gainesville is a prison.  They had no one to cheer for them.  They had no family or friends on the sideline.  They don’t even have freedom.  Yet Grapevine Faith created a moment of love for kids who may have never experienced that type of love before.

Covenant on the other hand destroyed Dallas Academy by 100-0.  Is there anything wrong with that?  Maybe not.  But can you imagine Jesus running up the score on a bunch of kids?  Neither can I. 

Compare that with what one kid from Gainesville State School said, “everything about it was upside down.”  Do you think anyone is saying that from Dallas Academy?  We don’t like to say things like this – but was God glorified in any way by running up the score?  Did it teach anyone anything about who he was?

Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and make poor choices.  It happens.  And we must learn to live with our failure and move forward.  God’s Kingdom is an upside down Kingdom.  Our lives should be upside down too.

 

the power of words

Category : God, book review

   

R3 has a regular feature called “what i’m reading”.  It’s a way to share the things that are influencing me and my journey with God.  Not everything I read makes it into this spot – just the things that make me think about how I should live out a life of faith. 

Wide Awake falls into this category. 

As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about dreams.  Not the kind where you fall asleep, but the kinds that make you live “wide awake”. 

Erwin McManus is a brilliant speaker, and a gifted thinker.  But where he truly excels is giving you a framework to understand yourself, the world, and God.  And somehow he does this in two word phrases. 

The Barbarian Way (which is technically three words) showed me that God wasn’t a wimp, and even better, he doesn’t want us to be wimps!  A Barbarian wouldn’t shy away from helping someone just because it was difficult – he (or she) would charge right in and do it.  Because that’s what Barbarians do.  Now, whenever I am afraid of taking action, I think about being a Barbarian.  And it encourages me to act.

Chasing Daylight was just as influential.  If being a Barbarian was about going to places others wouldn’t, Chasing Daylight was about seizing a moment in time when no one else could.  It made me realize that some opportunities only come once, and if we don’t act, no one will.

Soul Cravings showed me just how much we need relationships and our dreams.  It isn’t that we just want these things in our lives; it’s that we crave them.

Wide Awake is no exception to this rule.  But instead of receiving the benefits for myself, it’s shaping the way I see other people.  It’s given me a framework to help other people live out their dreams. 

Each of those phrases has a deep meaning for me.  They allow me to sum up hundreds of pages of thoughts and examples, and boil it down into something that prods action.  I might not be able to think of a 10 point argument as to why I should act, but I can remember a phrase.

They also serve as a reminder of how God works.

For instance, my dream is to help people develop a relationship with God.  I want people to connect the dots of their faith, with the lines of their lives.  By writing R3 I am able to live out that dream.  But without The Barbarian Way to help me become a Christian, and without Chasing Daylight to prompt me to start this site, I never would have been in position to be asked to review Wide Awake.

Funny how acting in faith works out like that.

what i’m reading: Wide Awake

6

Category : God, book review, feeding my brain, hope

   

If you’ve been reading R3 for any length of time knows that I’m a huge fan of Erwin McManus.  So when I was approached by his publicist about reading an advance copy of his latest book, I was thrilled.  But I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive.  What if I didn’t like the book?  What if I had to say a bunch of bad things about it?  What if I had to come up with a third question that started with the phrase ‘what if’?!

That concern only grew as I had a hard time figuring out what to say about this book.  So much of it seemed familiar: the influence of The Barbarian Way, Chasing Daylight, and Soul Cravings is obvious.  But I’ve already read those books.  I already get that way of thinking.  I’m already on board. 

There’s no question Erwin’s writings have had a profound impact on my life.  The Barbarian Way helped bring me into a relationship with God.  While Chasing Daylight forced me to be bold, and was a  major reason this site was launched.   But when I read Wide Awake nothing immediately jumped out at me.

“Sure it was good.  But it wasn’t brilliant.” I told myself.  “What am I getting out of it?”

But that view changed when I was, of all places, at the gym.  I have no idea what caused the light bulb to go on.  Maybe it was sheer exhaustion.  Or maybe I just was looking for an excuse to stop exercising.  But in one moment everything crystallized.

Wide Awake isn’t so much about me and my dreams, but about other people and their dreams.

As I mentioned, I already get Erwin McManus.  And for the last few years I’ve been doing much of what he talks about in Wide Awake.  But what I hadn’t been doing is helping other people live out their dreams.  I had no framework for even recognizing that people were searching for their dreams.

Wide Awake changes that.

It gives me a way to relate and communicate with people about their dreams. 

At it’s core Wide Awake is about identifying the dreams God has for us, and then learning to live a life that makes those dreams a reality.  Considering most of us probably can’t even identify a dream we want to live, that’s no small task.

Since that moment at the gym, I see just how many people are sleep walking through their lives (myself included).  When I hear people talk about their unfulfilling jobs I no longer think in terms of job satisfaction, pay raises or a career change.  What I realize people are saying is that they long to live a different life.  They want to wake up, but they don’t know how.  And so they feel trapped.

When I hear that story of loneliness, I no longer have to say, “gee, I’m sorry to hear that,” because I have nothing else to offer.  Now I can offer them some hope.  I can talk about the potential in their lives, and the dreams that God has created them to live.

No matter how spiritual we are, it’s funny how we still take a consumerist attitude toward God.  I wanted Wide Awake to benefit me.  I wanted a blueprint of how to live the life of my dreams.  What I got was a road map of how to help other’s achieve their’s.

And you know what?

That’s letting me live out my dreams.