Easily Distracted.

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I am easily distracted.  I think that’s why my parents had me tested for an attention disorder more than once in elementary school.  I passed though, or failed, depending on which way you look at it.

I have great aspirations of starting my day in prayer or reading the bible, but for some reason I generally end up staring at my phone for 30mins until I have to get up and get ready for the day.    This is just a small example of distraction in my life.  I choose to spend time with something else other than Jesus far more than I’d like to admit.

Often times it seems that we consider a healthy relationship with Jesus to look like doing more good than bad, but I would argue that a healthy relationship is marked by the amount of time we spend with Him.   The amount of time we spend talking with Him,  listening to Him, and reading His heart (the bible) is a better barometer of our relationship with Jesus.

Since I am so easily distracted, and building relationships with anyone takes work, I tend to gravitate down the path of least resistance which usually involves a distraction of the electronic variety.

My TV, iPhone, iPad, and Laptop are not bad things, but they are when they stand between me and Jesus, which they often do.  I am so easily satisfied by a few minutes or hours with each of these things that I often forget how much better it is to be in the presence of the one who created me and knows me better than anyone else.  The one who authored true joy and satisfaction, which we can’t find apart from Him.

Here is Jesus talking about the things we distract ourselves with…

“19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. – Matthew 6:19-24″

When I choose to be distracted by something am I really hating God and loving that treasure that will only fade and break with time?  On the surface I don’ t think of it that way, but when I dig down deeper and look at the ratio of time spent with Jesus versus time spent with other things then maybe I am.

I often brush these moments of distraction off and say I’ll get it right next time, but next time isn’t coming.  My laziness has become a habit which is more serious than I treat it.  We either love Jesus or love the things of this world.  There’s no middle ground.

Jesus has drawn the line.  We can’t serve two masters.  It’s time to fight for our time with Him now and stop letting ourselves be distracted.

Are you easily distracted?  How to do you get back on track?

If you disagree with my thoughts or have some to add please leave them in the comment box below!

3 Negative Christian Stereotypes That Absolutely Need To Change

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One bad apple spoils the bunch?  Christianity at its core is all about loving and serving others.  But after years of imperfect people like you and me trying their best to follow Jesus, and others maybe not trying so hard, it’s easy to see the trail of mistakes left in our wake. The world has obviously made assumptions and built stereotypes after we continue to make the same mistakes over and over.

We do, however, represent Jesus as his followers.  We are his living ambassadors to the world.  So it is vitally important that we learn to represent him the best we can.  It’s been said that we as Christians could be the only glimpse of Jesus someone sees.

Here are a few negative stereotypes that we ourselves can begin to change for the sake of representing Jesus well in this life…

1. Treating people with anything less than love and respect.

There is no excuse for hate from those following Jesus.  Everything Jesus did and taught was in love.  He’s the perfect example of being unselfish.  There is never an excuse for hating anyone. Never. Ever. None. No exceptions.

“37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:37-38

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -1 John 4:8

You have no excuse for hate when following Jesus, biblically at least.

2. Making excuses for hypocrisy.

The truth is we’re all hypocrites.  There isn’t anyone who is perfect anywhere.  Hypocrisy crops up when we start pointing people any direction but Jesus’.  He is the one who is perfect and the one we are trying to be like.  Christians should make no claim to being perfect, because the world can see that we are not.  The more we own our broken and mistake laden lives the more people will see that Jesus is for them too.  That he can do the same things in their lives that he’s done in ours.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:3-5

So before you go jump on Facebook or Twitter and talk about how horrible someone or someone’s actions are, realize that you are yielding a 2×4 in your own eye and show some grace.   There is no difference between your sin and theirs.

We are not perfect so lets quit pretending to be…

3. Not being able to agree to disagree.

This stereotype is a struggle for our country as a whole, not just one for Christians.

More and more our country is becoming less and less tolerant with people who disagree with us.  We are so close to the things we believe that we can’t accept that anyone would have a different opinion than us.  Especially when it comes to the things that are really important to us personally.

We are allowed to have differing opinions. Seriously.

We are allowed to have differing opinions about politics, sports, how to raise our kids, theology, homosexuality, and even how best to follow Jesus.

But here’s the catch… you have to love and respect those who see things differently than you.  See point 1.

Who’s right and who’s wrong matters very little in this life,  how you treat people does.

The truth is that one bad apple really can spoil the bunch.  Specially to those who have never experienced Jesus before.  You can make a difference when it comes to what people think of Christians.  Go serve others and love like Jesus!

What are your thoughts?  Are there other stereotypes I have missed?  What suggestions do you have to help get rid of these stereotypes and trends?

 

Am I A Christian? (Part 2)

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Most things that are valuable and good in this life are difficult to define.  Defining what a makes a Christian a Christian is no different.  It is a tough venture not only to describe what makes us Christians, but also to live it.  Many smarter and better educated folks have written really good books on this subject.  I will attempt to quickly give a snapshot of how I would answer this question through this post.  But first a few thoughts from part 1, which if you haven’t already, please read before proceeding.

Confusing the fruit.

From the list of responses to the question of “What makes a Christian a Christian” there were some very good and Christ-like attributes mentioned. What’s important here to remember is that individually none of those things make you a Christian (with the exception one of them). They are only the possible fruits of being a Christian. When we confuse the fruit of following Jesus with what it means to actual following Jesus that’s where we begin to head into some really rough waters.

One of the scariest verses in the bible for me is Matthew 7:21-23… ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

What makes this verse so scary is that we can be doing the things God wants us to, and produce these fruits, and still miss the point.  If we are focused solely on the fruit of following Jesus it’s my fear that we will end up like the person described above.  Having done many great things in the name of Jesus we will miss out on Jesus himself.

If I am a Christian then I…

1. Believe in Jesus.

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

It’s easy to read this verse and think of it as a one time thing.   Confess Jesus to be our Lord and believe it at one time or another and you’re good.  You’re now a Christian.   The level of belief that we are talking here is one that permeates every part of our lives.  Not just for a moment, but for the rest of our lives.  We begin to see life differently and therefore begin to live it through the lens of our belief in Jesus and our making him Lord of our lives.  We begin to trust our whole lives to Jesus and live in a way that He comes first.

Everything that follows after this belief is not what makes us a Christian, it is the fruit of being one.

2. Have a relationship with Jesus…

Jumping back to Matthew 7, the second half of verse 23 says, “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”  The fact that the people Jesus is addressing in this verse don’t “know” him means that knowing Jesus is crucial to being a Christian.  Having a relationship with him means many different things for our lives and that relationship stems from our belief in him.  Jesus makes it pretty obvious that without a relationship with him we have absolutely nothing.

It’s important for us to remember that it’s not our deeds or what we do that makes us Christian, it’s our relationship with Jesus that defines us.   The fruit of this relationship, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, may help identify a life lived in Jesus, but they are not a list of things we have to be to be a Christian.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Tullian Tchividjian has a book entitled Jesus + Nothing = Everything which dives much deeper into this topic than I can.  It’s a fantastic read that is very worth your time.

When we add things to what it means to follow Jesus we essentially are offering something that is no longer rooted in Jesus, a watered down and fake gospel.  Be careful to live a life rooted in the truth of Jesus that we can find in the bible, and not on someone’s opinion.    Don’t be confused by the fruit, but seek to live a fruitful life through your relationship with Jesus.

Are there places you’ve been confusing the fruit of a relationship with Jesus with the real thing in your life?  Comment below with your thoughts.

Am I A Christian? (Part 1)

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If you follow as many Christians and church leaders  as I do on Facebook or Twitter, its easy to see two things; We do not agree on everything, and we like to add stuff to what it means to be a Christian.

What makes a Christian a Christian?  There are a lot of good “Christian” folks who would answer that question very differently.  Here are some of the answers my wife and I have heard over the years for that question….

  • Being a good person
  • Loving everyone
  • Being unselfish
  • Believing in Jesus
  • Serving others
  • Reading the bible
  • Being nice
  • Not cussing
  • Praying a lot
  • Never sinning
  • Being a Republican
  • Going to church every Sunday
  • Listening Christian music
  • Selling everything you own
  • Tithing
  • Abstaining from Alcohol
  • Wearing a one piece bathing suit
  • Giving money to others
  • Not watching R rated movies
  • Posting bible verses via social media outlets

Some of those responses are pretty comical, but this is a question that needs some serious wrestling with.

Here’s where you come in – What answers have you heard given for this question?  How do you answer this question?  What really matters when it comes to being a Christian?   Please comment below with your answers!

I will write a follow up to this post later in the week.  Look forward to reading your responses!

 

Jesus and Kitchen Nightmares

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Among the TV shows my wife and I watch consistently are two of our favorite; Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmares” and Jon Taffer’s “Bar Rescue.”  Both shows involve a ton of drama and a goal to resurrect a once thriving, now dying, restaurant or bar.

There is pain, beauty, and a whole lot of cussing in these transformations, but on a very basic level, minus the profanity (sometimes), these transformations mirror ours with Jesus.  I’ll use Gordon Ramsey and Kitchen Nightmares to illustrate my point…

  • Put In Our Place:

Kitchen Nightmares: At the beginning of the each show, for those who haven’t seen an episode, Chef Ramsey immerses himself into the culture of the restaurant.  He asks waitresses, owners, and customers what they think the problem is with the restaurant.  He tries the food, which he generally spits out – its hilarious.  More importantly Ramsey is very blunt in trying to get owners and employees to see their restaurant honestly.  Here, there need for help is made evident.

Jesus: Our relationship with Jesus begins at a similar point.  Jesus opens our eyes to how broken and sinful we are as people.  He shows us how good God is and how we don’t match up.  It’s there where we see who we really are as fallen human beings that our need for a savior is made fully aware.

  • The Heart To Heart:

Kitchen Nightmares: After all the arguing and wrestling over who’s right and who’s wrong.  After the yelling subsides there is a moment when Chef Ramsey sits down with those in charge to find out their story.   He get in deep to find out how bad the finances are and just how far from the breaking point the owners are.  It’s at this point that leadership generally realizes that Ramsey is for them, not against them, and that all his screaming, yelling, and criticizing comes from a place of wanting to see the restaurant succeed, not for it to fail.

Jesus: After we’ve wrestled with who we really are and we see God for who He really is.   This is the point we make a decision.   Do we lean into him or do we walk away?

When choose Jesus its generally because we realize just how much God loves us and how much we need him.  That he is for us, and that He has a plan for us.  We see His grace for the overwhelming and personal thing that it is. This is the moment we begin to entrust our lives to Jesus. We may not fully understand all that comes with a relationship with Jesus at this point, but we certainly know we want it and have made the commitment to follow him with our whole lives.

  • Everything’s Changed:

Kitchen Nightmares: From this point forward everything is different.  Leadership realizes that things have to be different to be successful.  That things can’t go back to the way they were.  There may still be struggles and difficult situations, but they must be met head on and handled appropriately. There are more tears, but Ramsey has equipped the leadership and the staff to be successful moving forward.

Jesus:  A life of following Jesus isn’t an easy one, but God gives us all the tools we need to be successful in Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the bible.  Success looks different with God than it does in this world.  Jesus says, “The first will be last and the last will be first.”  A long and fruitful life of following Jesus may not look like worldly success at all.  The world says “me first” while Jesus says “others first.”  It’s a hard road sometimes, but one that is completely worth it.

The redemptive work of Jesus in our lives will forever be one of the most beautiful things in this life.  We all love redemption stories.    Even the small example of a dying restaurant being given a new chance at life is something that draws millions of viewers.

Does this analogy resonate with you?  How has the Lord worked in your live to draw you into himself?

The Power Of Your Story.

3671730951_75b147ceb1_o-2-2 Each of our lives are a powerful witness to the greater story being told throughout humanity.  All of our stories play an integral part in sharing the greater story as well as helping us to find our place in it.

I had the privilege of attending a Sunday School class at my church this past Sunday with some friends.  They were close to the end of their study on the book of Acts (chapters 24-26) where Paul sat in jail for a couple of years for doing nothing wrong, but being willing to allow God to use him in any way God saw fit, he eventually had the opportunity to share his testimony with one of the most powerful people in Rome at the time.

If you are unfamiliar with Paul’s testimony it is nothing short of awesome.   Paul goes from being an incredibly legalistic Christian-killing-Pharisee, to one of the most influential Christians this world will ever see.

Our testimony, or the story of how God has worked in our lives, is the most powerful tool we have to share Jesus with others.  It’s where the rubber meets the road.  If God is who He says He is, then He has to be alive and working still today, and that is evident through our stories.   The fruit of what He is doing in our lives, and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), should be visible in us each day.  That’s the proof that God is still at work today.  We are Jesus’s hands and feet to the world and we are His ambassadors as Christians.  That doesn’t mean that we are perfect, but that even in our shortcomings God is glorified and lifted high.

We are enamored with stories as humans.  Advertisers now-a-days tell stories with their commercials so that we find ourselves wanting to be a part of the product on display.  They tell these stories in a way that make us want to be a part of them.  Advertisers have realized the power that comes with being able to do this and have taken full advantage of this.  Being a part of a story resonates with us because we are a part of a much larger one: God’s.

Part of the beauty of the bible is that we can find ourselves in it.  Often times when I’m reading the bible it’s like I’m looking in a mirror.  I can easily see all my blemishes and how much my heart doesn’t often match up what it’s called to be.  I can also see the great sacrifice that was paid so that those blemishes are forgiven and I am made whole only through and in Jesus.  Now my life has real meaning and significance because of the fact that my story intersects with the God’s story, and then begins to reflect Him. 

Our stories can help connect the biblical stories of the past with the present day.  As our culture continues to change it can be more and more difficult to understand how these stories from a vastly different culture have any modern-day implications for us as a society, however, our stories can play a part in helping to bridge this seemingly vast chasm.  God is the same today as he was yesterday and as He will be forever.  He has been weaving the same themes of redemption, love, and hope into our lives just as He did in the lives of Paul and other people throughout the Bible.   So those same biblical stories and principles are being played out in our lives as well, they just might look a little different.

All of our stories matter.  Inside the body of Christ we are all organs.  We are all vital pieces.  There are no spare parts.  In the  same way each of our stories are tied together.  There is no one who plays a lesser role than another.  It’s important that we don’t forget the larger story we are a part of and wander off on our own, we are a part of the greatest story ever to be told and we are entrusted with it being spread.

Your story is a beautiful one.  Share it with someone today. Tell of the great things God has done and is doing in your life.

 

 

“Trusting God Over Freaking Out”

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My wife and I spent a good deal of time talking and praying through some big life decisions this week. I asked myself a lot of those “what if” questions as we sorted through our options and the different paths presented to us. It’s tough sometimes to discern what God is calling each of us to, though both of us desperately want to be where ever He wants us.

It’s so easy to stress out about life decisions no matter how big or small.   There’s a rumor going around that life is easy, but the more and more I live this life I find that to be very not correct. I am learning that following this Jesus guy and putting my life totally in his hands goes entirely against every one of my internal instincts.  I am all about looking out for myself when Jesus is all about serving others. “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”

I get anxious when those two opposites meet.  When I am struggling with letting go of the way I want to see things go down and the fact God is in control of how those things actually happen.   We can play the “what if” game all I want, but in the long run there is much more enriched, fulfilling, and hopeful when we trust God with everything we have instead of wasting moments we will never get back by worrying.

“28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:28-34

There are so many things we all want in life, but what of those things really and truly matter?  A full and joyous life is lived through Jesus and not through ourselves, so shouldn’t we be excited about the thought of having God at the head and leader of our lives?

Putting God in control of our lives does not mean sitting back with our arms crossed.  Since God doesn’t often give us audible directions for all of the decisions we face each day how do we make the decisions God would be honored and glorified by?  Here’s how I approach life’s tough decisions…

1. Give your bible some lovin’.

The more and more we spend time in the bible the more we learn about who God is and what He desires for us.  There are so many stories of people just like us in situations like ours contained within those pages.  The more we read and learn the more it becomes second nature to live a life wholly trusting in Jesus.

2. Pray.

Easily said, but how often do we really do this?  God has given us his Holy Spirit as our helper which dwells in all of us, so help is really close by no matter where we are.  Include God in the decision process. Be real and honest with Him.  Make sure you give time to listen, and listen through the lens of the bible.  God speaks bible, so if it doesn’t match up with that then it probably didn’t come for God.  Pray with a heart that is open to whatever God would have for you.

3. Sit with a decision for a couple of days.

If you have the time before your decision deadline, make your decision and live it out for a few days.  If you can’t find peace after sitting with things for a few days then really seek to find out where that unsettled feeling is coming from.  It’s important to be careful here, because it’s easy to confuse that unsettled feeling of God calling us to take a risk with our own predisposition to take the safe route.

4. Bounce your thoughts off someone.

Seek out a fellow follower of Jesus whom you trust and ask them what they think.  They may not ultimately be influential in your decision, but often times they can help us gain a different perceptive that may be just what we need.

5. Jesus first.

When you do reach your decision go after it with a heart that is only seeking to make Jesus more and more famous. When we approach something with that attitude there aren’t many situations that God can’t or won’t work in.

This may not be full-proof but for me it has helped in those moments that there seems to be no “right” answer for.   Know that God is with us always no matter what decision we make.

How do you handle life’s tough decisions?  What do you turn to for help?