Wednesday, October 26, 2011


What do we mean when we talk about following Jesus? When we say we desire to follow Christ, what exactly are we getting ourselves into? Is it about going to church? How about reading and memorizing Scripture? Does following Jesus mean we manage our sin better? Pray more? How about getting plugged into community? Or, perhaps it is about something totally different! Something more encompassing than each of these individual disciplines. To answer what it means to follow Jesus, we must first determine what theme(s) are central to his message. If we can discover and implement the heart of Jesus, everything else should inevitably align itself.

If we were to read the Bible only to find the heart of Jesus, we would readily find it. Too often, we miss it because we are reading the Bible with our own agenda—to find an answer to our problem, to gain wisdom, to defend our cause (the Bible can do all of these things, but that is not the main purpose God has given us the written Word). God has given us his written Word, in order that we might catch a glimpse of his heart and his plan for his creation.

For starters, I'd like to tell you what isn't at the core Jesus' message. To begin with, it isn't about sin management. His sole desire isn't to keep us accountable to the law. The heart of Jesus isn't about judgment and condemnation. Nor is the core of his message about time or money management. As a matter of fact, Jesus' message is exponentially more others centered than me centered! It's not about church growth. You might be shocked to hear this, but the central message of Jesus isn't even about evangelizing the lost. While all of these are great things, Jesus had far less to say about these than the more pressing matters close to his heart. Don't get me wrong, everything I just listed is important in the life of a follower, but they are all subservient to the overarching theme of Jesus' life.

The central themes of his message are of love, grace and hope. At one point, Jesus tells us his purpose is to seek and save the lost (I've come to conclude he was talking more about redemption and restoration and less about evangelizing, so to speak). And his plan for that, was to walk with us. Take on flesh and live as we lived. To actually live a life of action, not merely theologize and debate the issues. Jesus lived a life worth emulating by humbling himself and serving the least in the kingdom (who we find out have always been the greatest). And his deepest desire was that this might teach us (those who have taken his namesake) only one thing. Jesus hoped we would learn to establish his kingdom here on Earth. And the only way to do that is to, first, love our fellow human beings. And second, to love God. Perhaps I'm off base to mention love for man before love for God, but I believe it is impossible to love God, whom we cannot see, if we care unable to love those we see face to face everyday. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure that exact statement is found in scripture, so I must not be too far off base.

That is the core of Jesus' message. That is his very heartbeat. In case you missed it, let me succinctly lay it out for you. Jesus wants each of us to love as he loved--unbiased, unhindered, uninhibited. We begin to do this by developing a heart of compassion towards not only the marginalized and the less fortunate (whom I have come to find are pretty easy to love) but the religious, the Pharisaical, the pious, and those who feel entitled and far superior to you and me as well (let's be honest, those are the ones we find more difficult to love). It is only when I begin to do this that other things, like tithing, avoiding temptation, sharing my faith, etc. become easier. Jesus' kingdom would come much quicker and easier, if only you and I could learn to love as he loved--in selfless action, not just word!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I enjoy technology--for the most part. Actually, a more correct statement would be that I enjoy technology when it works as intended. Technology and I have a love-hate relationship. Technology definitely makes life easier, but I have begun to see the tendency it has to complicate things as well. In spite of all this, I have to admit that I may be a technology junkie--and I don't even have a crackberry. It seems I can't be anywhere without making use of some sort of technology. And heaven forbid I am somewhere without it, I usually feel pretty disoriented. Lately I have discovered it is pretty difficult to disconnect. This presents a huge problem. But it is making me re-evaluate things and hopefully make some changes.

Most of us, I fear, have become far too dependent upon technology. Can you remember the phone number of some of your closest friends--without looking at your cell phone? If the Internet goes down for an extended period of time, do you become less productive? Does the television need to be on while you are preparing meals? While you make your commute to work, how much of that time is the radio infiltrating your ears? Do you actually interact with the people in front of you, or are you preoccupied with the mobile web? Can you make use of a map if your GPS were to stop working for some reason? I hope the picture is becoming clear by now.

Technology can be a great tool; but that means it can be a great hindrance as well. If I am honest with you, I have to admit that technology has had the tendency to be a hindrance for me. When it comes to friends and family, I have used technology as an excuse to disconnect. Phone calls, text messages and emails have become an acceptable replacement for face time. I can make shallow connections with numerous people, all at the same time, without leaving the comfort of my own home. If I'm avoiding someone, caller ID allows me to screen all of their calls (yes, I have done this once or twice...or more). When it comes to text messaging, if I told you I never received it, you would likely accept that as a reasonable excuse since technology doesn't always work as intended. You might think it was still floating around somewhere in cyberspace.

When I am actually in the presence of other human beings, technology has a tendency to distract me. I can be sitting across the room from someone half-heartedly engaging while I am busy texting someone. It seems I can't even get away from technology when I go out to eat--everywhere I look there is a TV mounted to the wall with at least one show I don't mind watching. When it comes to spiritual disciplines, sadly I have embraced technology as a legitimate distraction. For example, when I decide to sit down and spend some quiet time with God, numerous technological devices are at my fingertips. The remote control lays there beckoning me to pick it up. While my cell phone is on vibrate, it makes just as much noise and is just as distracting as if it were to ring. When it comes to every avenue of life, I am finding it more essential that I be intentional and disconnect from technology. Only when I disconnect will I be able to truly connect!

Bottom line is that I can make excuses and blame technology for so many things. Reality is that the only thing I can blame is not a thing at all, but a person. And that person is me! Technology is a neutral medium that can be used for both good and bad. What I do with it and how I make use of it is totally up to me!

(Of course, the irony is that I typed this on a computer and posted it on both my blog and facebook for all the world to see. And we all know, everyone in the world is dying to read my latest blog update.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Let's be honest, some of us are terrible at making decisions. We all know people that couldn't make a decision if their life depended on it. If you were to leave the decision on where to have dinner up to them, there is a possibility you might starve. During those times, I often wonder what is going through their mind that makes it so difficult to decide. More importantly, I wonder what happens when the decision that needs to be made is much more significant, say for example which job to take, where to move, whether or not to marry this or that person, etc.

We are bombarded with decisions around every corner. Some of them really have no bearing on how our day or even our life will play out (i.e. what to eat for dinner). However, there are many decisions we make that have huge implications on life. These decisions will effect every decision that follows and will change the entire outcome of our life. How we respond to each of these decisions we encounter is of utmost importance. I also believe that our response to these decisions has a lot more to say about our faith than we probably realize.

As Christians, we spend a majority of our time waiting on God (and if you've read my post on waiting, you know this is something I'm not great at). We can all think of instances in Scripture in which individuals were told to wait on God. The disciples were told to wait for the Holy Spirit. David waited patiently (sometimes) for God to make Him king. The Israelites waited for guidance and direction (again, sometimes). The authors of Lamentations, Psalms, Hosea, and others encouraged us to continually wait for God. Although waiting is a Biblical principle, I often wonder if it is possible we have taken it a little too far when it comes time to hunker down and decide.

Do we really need to wait on God before we make any decision and take action? Does God really have something to say about everything in life? Is it necessary everything is filtered through prayer? Or in some instances, do I just need to make a decision and take action? My answer to all of these is both yes and no! In the following few paragraphs, I am going to lay out three different types of decisions and how we are to respond.

First off, there are the decisions that should be quick and easy. I believe God’s Word is clear on many things. We should avoid sexual immorality. We should encourage one another. We should feed the homeless. We should share his message. Do we really need to wait on God to give us direction on whether or not to do things such as these--the Biblical mandates Christ has given us? Probably not; because, he has already given us his answer via Scripture. And let's not forget that He has blessed us with common sense (well, some of us at least). So, these decisions shouldn't require a waiting period. And let me add to this category, decisions on what to eat for dinner, what color of car to purchase, etc. Decisions like this just require that we make a decision and live with consequences (both good and bad). These decisions I refer to as the "just make a decision" decision. And let's be honest, to say we need to pray about these decisions is just a delay tactic!

For some Biblical examples of these types of decisions turn your attention to the creation account, the words of Jesus found in Matthew 28, and Paul’s writing found in Philippians 4:8-9. In the first passage we find that Adam and Eve, in the garden, have been given one “No!” and what seems to be a limitless number of yes'. There is no need to ask God and wait to see if the fruit from each tree is acceptable to eat. They already have the answer. The second passage is often referred to as 'the Great Commission.' Jesus' words, 'therefore, go...,' couldn't be more clear. Not wait. Not pray about it. Just go, and make disciples. Now for the final passage. 'Whatever' is the key word here. In two verses it is said seven times. Again, the possibilities are endless. Think about and do anything that is true, honorable, etc.

The second type of decision is the "wait on it" decision. I can't deny the fact that there are many things the Bible is unclear on. It is in those areas, I know waiting on God is a must! And for those decisions, waiting should be coupled with prayer. The Bible clearly tells us that prayer should be our first response. And that we should be in prayer continually. If you want a list of these types of decisions, I can't give them to you, because they will be different for different people. The important thing is to make prayer a priority with these kinds of decisions. However, the key here is that at the time of decision, make a decision, don't wait until then to pray about it. If you have spent time leading up to decision d-day, you should be able to comfortably make a decision. God has hopefully given you direction; if not, perhaps this decision has just turned into the third type.

Finally, the third category of decisions we must make. These decisions are kind of like a walk in the dark. We can't deny there are times in all of our lives where God doesn't give us clear direction, yet a decision is required. More often than not, these decisions will have time tables on them. And in these cases (and all cases), indecision is a decision (and it's usually the wrong decision). While some people may argue that something on a time table isn't God ordained, I would disagree. This is where the whole concept of faith comes into play. Sometimes we have to make decisions based on what little knowledge we have.

You will find Paul and Silas making these kind of decisions in Acts 6:6-10. Even though they didn't have clear direction, they trudged forward in faith, that somehow, someway, God would make things apparent. And when they were headed in the wrong direction, Scripture tells us 'the Spirit of Jesus stopped them.'

It is these times God builds our trust. These decisions teach us that God really does "work things out for the good of those who are called according to his purpose." While it may be difficult to take that step not knowing where it will lead, we need to realize that even if it is wrong, God has the ability to fix and reconcile. If we are seeking God, He will direct our steps. Even in the midst of indecision and wrong decisions, God is sovereign. So, if you are still waiting on God, perhaps he is waiting on you.