The corner where you die

I finished my workout today at the YMCA downtown Dallas, and as I left, I pulled my Ford Edge onto the bustling downtown street and looped back to return to the hospital where my wife is laying on a hospital bed in a dimly lot room waiting on our baby girl to be born. We feel a bit displaced as we are going on almost a month in Dallas where a team of high risk specialists are supervising the daily condition of Nicole and baby Adilynn as they near the finish line of this marathon called pregnancy. While we are waiting, I sneak away to my retreat (the gym) to work off stress, comply with my introvert compulsions to be alone for a bit, and breath unfiltered air. The sanitized, controlled conditions of the world called hospital where house keeping mops our floors and empties our trash three times a day and urine measurements are even more frequent seem to pull the walls in a little tighter. A perfect world for me would be a quiet place with freedom to study and read to my heart’a content, sip on a hot cup of espresso and mix in a daily grunt session at the gym. About all I can find at in the hospital is a cup of low grade coffee.
So, imagine my surprise and amazement today as I pull out of the covered parking supplied by the Y onto the street only to see something that had somehow evaded me in the half dozen trips I had previously made here over the last two weeks. Within throwing distance of each other sat the YMCA, First Baptist Dallas and Starbucks. Now this may not generate the same excitement for you, but as I pulled to the intersection where I had one of these on each side of me, the scenes of a potential perfect day unfolded between my ears.

You see First Baptist Dallas is a monster church in the heart of downtown Dallas with a rich history…
And a great library. I could probably camp out in there for days filling myself to the brim with theology and philosophy (two great loves of mine, yet I never seem to have the quantity of time that I would prefer to simply sit and study). Whenever I needed to I could walk across the street to Starbucks and treat myself to a smooth cup of espresso as I meditate on the afore consumed thoughts, expressions and ideas. When my caffeination had reached it’s perfect peak, I could skip across the street to the Y (unconcerned about those who jeer me because I’m skipping), and indulge in a grueling session slinging iron, allowing myself an hour of clarity from all other things that may pull at my attention.

…this beautiful scene was unfolding in my swooning head all in a matter of seconds as I parked at the red light on the intersection of heaven and earth, and in my momentary trance I thought, “This is perfect. I could thrive here.”

Yet immediately a thunderous whisper popped my utopian bubble. He spoke to me, as he usually does, full of grace, and said, “no, you would die here.”

Immediately I knew what he meant.

When we come to the place of relaxed contentment where out primary concern is how to satisfy ourselves, we effectively dam up the river of life flowing through us and we quickly become stagnant. Now it is not wrong to have time devoted to learning, enjoying the fine things in life and reserving time for self-improvement, but all of these serve a purpose and are not an end in and of themselves. When they become the end, our focus turns inward and our personal needs and desire trump the needs of others. The time we take for ourselves only truly satisfies when we can leave those times equipped and ready to give. To take up residence when you see the mana is to forget about the promised land. The mana is fuel for journey only.
I knew what he meant when he whispered this revelation “…you would die here.” I will thrive as I pour out, not as I pour in. If I were to live in a place where every comfort and need was met by what I could get from others or from myself, I would no longer sense my desperation for Him who is my source of life. If I were to stop my journey and decide to set up camp where I could settle into a routine focused on fueling my love for things that will not last or do not matter in eternity, I would then become as effective as a dead man. To walk as Jesus walked is to be looking for places to reveal the love of the Father. Yes, downtown intersections need this love and some are called there. But let us follow His call and not our own. Let us continue the journey and look for those places of need instead of those places of paradise on earth. Our destination is a paradise, but it’s not on any intersection in this world.

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Have you ever held onto something heavy? Have you ever had to hold something heavy for a long time? If you have, you know that if you want to have any hope of hanging on long, you’ll eventually have to adjust your grip. You’ll have to re-grab it. This allows the muscles in your hands temporary relief, a fresh position, and the ability to hang on for a while longer. Eventually, you may even have to set the object down for a bit, before you pick it up again. Now, if we’re talking about something like a rock or a dumbbell, the message I want to get across might not translate. But suppose you are carrying a 50lb block of gold, a sack full of diamonds, or, better yet, a baby. All speak of value and worth. What if you were holding one of these and you had to carry it 5 miles through the desert? The journey might be tough, but one look at what your holding would renew your strength and somehow you would find the motivation to re-grab and keep going. You know you can’t just set it down and walk away. It far too valuable!
I read a quote today by Zig Ziglar, the notorious motivational speaker. He said, “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”
Such a simple, great, true quote! It has caused me to consider – how do we renew our motivation daily? There are so many things that do not last, and there are so many things of great value that get heavy and hard to carry. Example? How about love. We “fall in love”, but then “the honeymoon is over” and during the everyday course of life, we are faced with the reality that those mushy, wooshy feelings we had about that girl/guy are somehow hard to find. However, those dirty underwear, annoying laugh, and smell from the bathroom all seem sooo easy to see, hear, and smell… everyday. What do we do? You re-grab. What about that goal you set at the beginning of the year? Now it’s the month of May and you’re already beginning to think, “Oh well, I can always try next year.” NO! Wait! Re-Grab! You don’t take a bath today and hope that it will last you the rest of the week, do you? (Please say “no”). Why? Because you realize the importance of hygeine for personal health and interaction with others! Where do we find the motivation to re-grab? We find it in the value of what we’re holding. You’re half-way through the desert, holding that 50lb block of gold, and your arms are screaming at you to put it down and walk away. Why don’t you? Because the value outweighs your discomfort. What are you carrying? What’s it worth? If you can set it down and walk away without regret, then why are you carrying it? BUT, if what you are carrying is of such value that to walk away from it would cause you greater pain than that of holding on to it, that’s right – re-grab. Take a rest if you need to. Shake out your hands. Take a deep breath, grab a hold of your object of worth, and press on!

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The new/old church

So, once again, God has brought me back to a place where I am ready to look at the church. What is it? What is it supposed to look like? Some may say, “That’s simple, it looks like this” and then they point to their local congregation. Or others may shrug their shoulders and say, “Who knows!” Therefore, why bother to ask, right?

I believe there are seasons for seeking and seasons to rest in what you have found. I went through a season of seeking, and in process I found myself very lost. So, I needed a season of rest. I needed to put aside my pursuit and analysis of the authentic church and simply relax in the “accepted” form of the body of Christ so that I could be fed and healed. It seems the time of seeking has once again dawned, and suddenly I find myself looking more deeply at the ways we gather, the ways we worship, the order of things when we gather, the structure of the service… and if it should be called a “service” at all.

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The Double Life

I was driving down the road the other day (where else could I have been driving right?), and I saw a sign. It was the name of a business, and it caught my eye. It was called Double Life. I don’t know what they do or what the meaning of their name is, but it got me to thinking about the concept of a double life. It struck me that the phrase could have a double meaning.
It could mean a life with two sides like two sides of a coin. Although it is the same coin, each side has a completely different image. How many people do you know who have two sides to them? Better yet, what about your life? I know there have been times in my own life that I feel like I’m living two lives. One way in front of a certain group of people, or at a certain time of day, or in a certain atmosphere. Then, when my situation or circumstances changed, I would “become” or act like a completely different person.
Of course we are all going to be very complex and multifaceted with a multitude of emotions, desires, expressions, and interests. The question is, at your core, are you moved, swayed or changed? Do your values, beliefs, and morals flux, shift, or vacilate? The Bible says that a “double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” It doesn’t take a genius to see the truth in this statement. To be single minded is to have a course set before him. Think about a ship captain who constantly changes course. If I ever get to go on a cruise, I definitely don’t want him as my captain. I might call him unstable, unreliable, and unmycaptain! I want someone who has a course set, knows how to get there, and will not change his mind in the middle of the trip!
Ok, so what about the other way to understand “Double Life”? How about this? A life X 2! A life that is doubled in value… not doubled in vision or focus. I believe this is the life Jesus spoke of when he said, “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly!” What is this abundant life? Well, for one thing, it is a life with clarity of focus and purpose. When you are certain of something, you are more likely to move more aggressively and commit more of yourself to it. Think of a tree swing. If you are confident the seat and the chain and the branch will all hold up your full weight and then some, then you will probably have no problem sitting firmly in the seat… and you probably won’t stop there! You will begin to rock back and forth until you become a living pendlum swinging back and forth as high as you can! You have confidence in the swing, therefore, you can enjoy it! When you have confidence in life, you really understand how to enjoy it. I contend that you will never have real confidence in life until you understand how to let go and let God hold you. When you understand that He is your creator who gave you a specific design, and He is the one who give you purpose and meaning, you will be able to trust Him with your future, fully commit to Him, and enjoy the life He created you to live. It is a life that is fully commited that fully lives! This the double life I have in Him! I have my focus set and I am fully committed to seeking Him and pleasing Him in all I do. I do not worry about what i may be missing or what others may say is a better way. I know that what I have is all I need, and I am confident of the abundance that is mine as I completely trust Him with everything! I refuse to lead a “double life” so that I may truly have… a double life!

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The REALLY real

There are not two realities, but only one reality, and that is the reality of God, which has become manifest in Christ in the reality of the world. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Have you ever thought about what is REALLY real? Most people don’t. Well, they don’t consciously think about it anyway. We all have presuppositions and paradigms and patterns of thought and basic belief that form the foundation for everything we think and believe. These form the “lenses” through which we view the world. It is these basic beliefs that cause us to act certain ways. For instance, when tragedy strikes, what is your response? Whatever it is, it reveals your basic beliefs about the existence of God, who He is, and if He is involved in His creation. If you don’t believe in God, you may just see a tragedy as the inevitable necessity of a purposeless world spinning out of control. If you believe there is a God, you may view the tragedy as judgement from God, an event that was beyond God’s control to stop, or an event that He allowed to happen so that a greater good might be manifested.

It is our fundamental beliefs that determine so much about our day-to-day living, yet most people don’t take the time to analyze these beliefs, critique and question them, and bring them out of the subconscious in the conscious decision-making area of our thought life. If and when we will do this, our decisions become more confident and more deliberate. We become an individual with a purpose, living on purpose.

Personally, I believe in God’s active involvement in and with His creation. He constantly reveals Himself to us, and it is the seeking heart that sees Him. He made Himself most clearly known to man in the person of Jesus, and it is by looking at Jesus that we see the heart, character, and nature of God. In addition, it is by looking at the life of Jesus that we understand how to please the Father. This is truly incredible to me! That by looking at Jesus we see both God AND ourselves! What a miracle His life was and is! God in the flesh – it is the ultimate reality. It is bringing together of heaven and earth. It is making the invisible seen to the physical eye (we now can see God), and making the physical seen by the invisible (God can now see us because our sins are covered by the blood). Bonhoeffer was correct. There are are not two realities, but one reality made know in the person of Christ. The physical world is real. So Jesus was born into it as a man. The spiritual world is real. So Jesus demonstrated it as he healed, cast out demons, and rose from the dead. Praise God for the life of Jesus. It is this life that gives us life and helps to truly KNOW the truth about reality. IN HIM, WE become truly real and see the world as it truly is, and it is in this truth that we are, indeed, set free.

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Trust me…

People want to trust.  And people want to be trusted.  …Why? 

To be trustworthy says much about the character and core of an individual.  It means that he is reliable and dependable.  We, as creatures designed for relationship with others of our “same kind”, want to be able to both rely and depend on someone else and we want someone else to feel they can rely and depend on us.  Why? Because this is the nature of a real relationship.  We are relational creatures always seeking and hungering for relationships of some sort. 

We encounter and interact with numerous people on a daily basis.  Yet in the midst of this interaction is an invisible (and sometimes almost visible) boundary that refuses to allow someone to move in too close.  It’s an automatic defense mechanism that calls out “prove yourself!”  Some have chosen to remove this barrier from their lives or have chosen to allow this barrier to be paper thin.  Those without this barrier are lacking a critical component of self-protection.  The Bible commands us to “guard our hearts.”  So we see how not only in the organ called our heart a vital organ that must be protected, but our inner being and seat of emotions identified as the “heart” must be protected with the same seriousness.  We see people often who are abused, taken advantage of, and run-over.  These are those who so long for relationship that they are willing to let down this natural barrier and allow unproven individuals inside the camp.  Sometimes this is done out of desperation for attention or affirmation, and the attention they often find is shallow, superficial, and sensual.  Sometimes people allow others through the trust barrier because they feel this is a demonstration of the love of God.  Out of a desire to demonstrate the life-changing love of Christ, Christians can exercise a lack of wisdom in this area.  Now I’m not suggesting by any means that we should guard against risk and work to keep ourselves, even our physical bodies, from any and all harm before we show someone the love of Christ.  In fact, this is exactly what it usually requires to reach out to unloveable ones we’re called to love.  You see, we must call out to people to allow US in.   But then we must exercise great caution when others call out to let THEM in.  We must go out with the foundation of love, integrity, goodness, kindness, etc… and ask people to trust us… and if not us, to trust our Savior.  However, we are called to witnesses of the grace of God.  People need to be able to trust us and our testimony.  Yet, as we seek out relationships with the world, it is most usually one-sided.  We go as those who have been born-again and transformed into new creatures, out of darkness and into light, and we enter the darkness calling on those in the darkness to trust us and follow us to the light!  Any call of theirs to trust them, must be weighed heavily.  It’s not that we cannot befriend and trust unbelievers at all.  Now, there are levels of trust, and I may trust someone at a more basic level.  For instance, I may trust my plumber to fix my sink with no knowledge of his spiritual condition.  I may trust my workout partner to spot me and not drop the weight on my head, and I may know full well that he is not a believer.  This will probably have no influence on his ability to understand how to assist me in a workout. There are degrees of trust and, to be honest, I have plenty of unsaved friends whom I would trust in a time of need over some of my Christian brothers and sisters.  Why?  Because they have proven themselves honest and able.  However, when it comes to weighter matters such as accountability, confiding in or confessing things to them, and seeking out wisdom, I would be very reluctant to look to someone who has not fully surrendered to the Lordship of Christ and the leading of the Spirit.  Let the guard be high.  Yet let love be unhindered.

As a Christian, I long for a relationship with many people, even complete strangers, so that through the building of a real relationship, the love of Christ may seen in my life.  I see though that to love someone does not require me to trust in that person.  At least not initially.  Trust requires certain things.  First and foremost it requires a foundation.  This foundation is built on an observable record of and demonstration of honesty, integrity, and ability.  As a Christian, the requirements for crossing my barrier of trust requires the person to first be born again.  How can two walk together unless they are in agreement?  And how can a person come to a place of truly understanding me and caring about my success in reaching my ultimate destination (knowing and becoming like Jesus) if they are not striving for the same thing?  If we trust someone who has chosen to walk in the opposite direction that we are walking, chances are our direction will soon change.  We must be resolute and single minded in our decision to seek hard after God, and, along the way, live a trustworthy life so that others along the way may believe that what we tell them about our journey is true. 

 Some characteristics of trust are

  • There are levels of trust.
  • Trust must have a foundation.
  • Trust is developed over time.
  • It starts small and grows.
  • Trust is a choice.
  • Trust requires risk.

Relationships involving Trust:

  • Funtional (Finding Reliable mechanics, plumbers, bankers,  businesses, etc…)
  • Friends (Those who you allow to move to a position beyond an aquaintance.  I’ve found that those we may consider mere aquaintances require very little trust from us.  This doesn’t mean they will not ask us to trust them at certain times, but we do not have an obligation to trust those to whom we have not commited.  A friend requires a certain degree of mutual commitment and trust.  We are obligated to love aquaintances and even perfect strangers – the Good Samaritan – but there is not an obligation to commit to or trust them.)
  • Family (Those you were born to submit to and, therefore, trust. Mom and Dad, Grandparents, etc…  )
  • Forever partner (This one requires the highest degree of trust among earthly relationships.)
  • Faith/Final authority (This is the ultimate source of and object of our trust.  Trust must be complete.)
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crazy compatability

Over the last week I have been ruminating on two ideas: trust and risk. As I think more and more deeply about them and what is entailed in the the truth of each word, something is becoming more and more clear… there is a crazy compatibility between the two! Over the next few days, I will explore this more and post my thoughts because I believe the depth of this truth will cause the length of one blog to be too much. However, i will begin and end this post with this one thought which, I believe, will be the final word in this conversation when all is said: it might be said that FAITH is the final product when the active ingredients of trust and risk are mixed. Trust without risk is nothing but a grand idea or belief. Risk without trust is nothing but a bold, ignorant, and/or thrill seeking move. When, however, one believes in something to the point of being willing to risk, the end result that is able to be seen might be called faith. Now, I understand that the argument might be made about semantics… that trust and faith are really the same thing. That would mean that I might as well say that when you combine faith and risk you get faith. I understand this. In fact, in John 14, the Greek word used there is pisteuo meaning “to trust” from the root pistis meaning “faith.” To have faith does indeed mean to trust. So, yes, I am “splitting hairs” here, but the reason for it is to actually highlight an important fact about faith and get to the root of what it truly means to believe in something. Why? Because in James 2:19 the word pisteuo is also used (the word translated “to believe” or “to trust”)… when referring to the belief of DEMONS in God. So, we see that even demons believe or trust THAT there is a God, but the question is do they trust IN this God. When asking someone about their faith, my goal has changed from just inquiring about whether someone believes THAT THERE IS a God, and ask them if they are willing to allow this believe and trust IN Him to the point of RISK. It is here where I believe true faith is found. It is here where, at times, nothing may be clear but the single object of our faith. And because our view of HIM is clear, nothing else matters. We maintain a SINGLE focus that moves us to point of walking in a way that others may call risky, ignorant, or crazy… but we just call it a way of life. We’ve understood that crazy compatibility between trust and risk that results in a life of faith.

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