10 Word “Christian” Reaction

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In 10 words or less, what’s your reaction when you hear the word “Christian?”

All of us – no matter who we are, where we come from or how we relate to God – we all have an immediate response to the word “Christian.” What comes to mind when you hear this word? What experiences influence your thoughts? Who are the people you see and remember? What is your overwhelming emotion?

I’m asking this, not to spark a rant or provoke a religious defense. I’m honestly not interested in either of these. Instead, I authentically want to know your personal experience and emotion. I’m up for it all. As long as it comes from your heart, this little experiment will be a journey worth taking.

So, here’s the challenge…

In 10 words or less, respond to this post and share your reaction to the word “Christian.”

What do you see?

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Have you ever really considered how you see the world? Why do you notice certain things and completely miss others? Why are you offended by some people and easily accept others by default? What causes your heart to leap in celebration? What moves you to tears? And why are these things different from some of the people around you?

It’s unbelievable how conditioned we are as people. The places we live, the parents we have, the teaching we receive and the experiences of our lives shape us deeply – often far beyond what we realize. These influences in our lives work to shape our reality. Our perception of the way things are and the way things ought to be.

What is amazing is how much of this happens below the surface. Beneath our awareness. It’s so easy to allow ourselves to simply drift through day-to-day, absorbing the ideas and values of our encounters and our culture.

But, what if we live aware, with our eyes wide open? What if we ask authentic questions about why things are the way they are? And what if we turn this vision on ourselves? To our own hearts? What would we find at the core? What have we allowed to become our center? To drive our hearts and our pursuits? What will we find there?

As a Jesus Follower, this has become a huge issue for me. You see, I want to really see! I want to experience the world with awareness and intentionality. I want to encounter people with the eyes of my God. To see them with the love and compassion he has for them. To ache for a world that is broken and to be moved to joy when they find life as it should be.

This kind of vision doesn’t come easily. It takes practice. It requires pursuing the heart of God that we find in Jesus. And it demands that when we find him, we stop and listen deeply. Authentically. Humbly. And invite him to uproot what we have known and who we have become. We will have to be honest with ourselves, often seeing our own lives and pursuits differently. It will change everything.

No, it’s not easy but wow…the indescribable beauty that is revealed when we have eyes that see!

Quieting the Noise

When was the last time you heard from God? I’m not asking about the lesson you heard in your worship gathering or in your small group discussion last week. No, I’m after something much more personal here. I’m asking about your intimate connection with the Father.

When was the last time you talked to him as you would your best friend? Do you remember the conversation? What did you say? How’d you feel while y’all spent time together? And one more question…

What did he say?

If you’re like me, honestly answering this question can be one of the most challenging things in your relationship with God. So often we come to God with our agendas, locked in our schedules, focused on our pursuits. But deep down, we know there’s more to our relationship with God than this. We know he is aching to not be talked at but to meet us in this conversation. To walk with us in our lives and to intimately guide our movements. He longs to be heard and known by us.

This kind of relationship requires something of us. Like any relationship we value, it takes work. Pursuit. Sacrifice. Intentionality. In the midst of this fast-paced world we find ourselves in, how do we make room for this with our Father?

In July 2012, I wrote a blog entry entitled, “Communicating with God.” In that entry, I discussed how social media promises unlimited connections with people but also threatens our real, deepening connections at the same time. In the year and a half since, I have experienced the danger of it. I try to set limits and live in healthy boundaries but even with this, it’s often hard to quiet the clutter.

I realize that in order for me to truly reflect the Father’s heart to people, I need to be immersed in him. Covered in his presence. Guided by his Spirit. Filled with his word. This can’t be accidental or even secondary. It must be primary. I need to pursue him with the same passion he is pursuing me!

In order to focus on this, I am initiating a 40 day media fast. I’m going to quiet my world of social media, TV, sports updates, etc. in order to be more present with the Father. I’m not checking out of the world or out of relationships. I’m simply quieting the noise so I can hear better. Truer.

May he be heard and known by and through me as a result!

 

 

God Get Away (Part 2)

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Can you relate to the Southwest Airlines “Wanna Get Away” ad campaign? Ever feel like life just needs to slow down or maybe even come to a screeching halt? It happens to all of us but the question is, what do you do when that emotion comes? Do you fight through like a responsible adult? Or do you run? And if you run, where do you go?

I have varying responses to stress and struggle. Sometimes I fight and sometimes I find myself in flight before I even realize what’s going on. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I need to intentionally create these rhythms in my life. If I hit the release valve regularly, giving myself time to breathe, I am much stronger when everything goes sideways. When I refill my tank, even when it’s not that empty, I end up having so much more to offer everyone in my life.

So I live in a rhythm of retreat and engagement. Every Monday, I retreat. I escape the office. Drink coffee. Read scripture. Sit. Reflect. Pray. Write. Dream. And invite God to have his way. It’s incredible medicine for my heart.

In addition to this, a couple of times a year, I disappear. I step away from everything. My family. My work. My football obsession. Everything – and I escape to be alone with my God. During this time, I will often spend two or three days without saying a word to anyone. Just me and God at a beautiful ranch.

For the past several months, I’ve been reflecting on what God is doing with me and with the people at Journey. This recently brought me back to a journal entry I made at one of these retreats in May 2010. The entry was entitled, “God Get Away.” In the first part of that entry, God led me to reflect on Jesus’ prayer in John 17. The following is my entry from the following day:

I slowly and methodically read David Platt’s book, “Radical” yesterday. It was an amazing day. Everything that began stirring in my heart during my time with God as I dealt with John 17 ended up resurfacing as I read the book. It was as if God scripted the day for me. His protection and power and fatherhood and partnership with me in the advancement of his kingdom became a consuming reality for me. At one point, late into the night, I hung out with him in prayer. I can’t remember the last time I prayed like that.

I felt known and loved and accepted but also a sense of fear at the potential of being exposed to the presence of God. I’ve never known him like that. I feel like such and infant in front of him. I feel like there is so much about him that I don’t understand. But this doesn’t push me away – it draws me closer. I want more of him.

I have spoken before of a dream or a picture that God has given me about the man he created me to be. I feel him emerging in a way that I never have before. And it is not work! It is simply submission. It is a letting go. It is freedom and peace. I truly don’t know that I have ever felt what I feel now! It doesn’t even feel like a quote/unquote “spiritual high.”

I’m not afraid of coming down off the mountain top or returning to “normal” or losing this experience! I am simply being made new. And I can’t wait for what’s next. This isn’t about my call at Journey or my dreams for ministry. This is all about God. I want him more than I ever have. And what’s crazy is that I expect this longing to increase. I feel like the more I know him, the more I will want to know him and the more I will realize that he is too big to know.

Oh, the consuming greatness of my God! There is no love like this. It is for this I was made.

A God Get Away

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A “God Get Away” – that’s what the title reads in a journal entry I made from May 2010. Three and a half years ago. It doesn’t seem possible for that much time to have passed but yet so much has happened since then.

I had taken about three days to escape. Three days to quiet the world around me and listen to God. What would he say? Would he speak at all? I needed his presence. His direction. There is no way I could step into what was coming without it.

After almost a day of detoxing from the world, I began to intentionally seek him out and I found myself in John’s story of the life of Jesus – specifically in chapter 17…Jesus’ prayer in the garden.

I read. Sat. Listened. Looked out into the beauty of the ranch I was surrounded by. I marveled at the wonder of creation and at the same time checked the rocks around me to make sure there weren’t any snakes close by.

I read John 17 again. This time finding myself gravitating toward a few verses in the middle of the chapter. Verses that unpacked Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, his apprentices. Here’s what he prayed:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be sanctified.

Protected, Sanctified & Sent. That was his prayer for those who would follow him. For those who would become like him in this world. I am not historically a journaler but I was moved to record my prayer in response to this.

After worshiping out of this same text yesterday with Journey, I have been prompted to share this prayer with you here. The following is my prayer from 5/12/10:

Holy Father,

I need your protection. Without it I would be consumed and destroyed. I have come to know how helpless I am in this world without you. Without your strength, my eyes go blind. I become consumed with myself. All joy disappears. Relationships become empty and difficult.

But in your covering, all of this changes in an instant. The air becomes light. There is a spring in my step and ease in my heart. There is boldness in my speech that is defined by love and compassion. Relationships are life-giving and there is rest at night.

Protect me Father! Do not allow the evil one to rob me of one more day with you. Fill me with your presence that I may truly live. Thank you for this life you give. May I truly learn to live in it so that when we are finally together in fullness, it will be like coming home.

Teach me what it means to be your son. Define me this way. Write it on my heart. Make it as true a reality to me as it is for me to be Brady, Reagan and Brycen’s dad. May I come to know you as “Abba” – “Daddy” and not just as FAther. Cover me and hold me in your hand, Daddy.

I just stopped there. I wanted to soak in his presence. I sit in view of what I was asking. I didn’t want to “end” my prayer and go to the next thing in my retreat. I wanted him. God. And I wanted to be more his son than I ever had.

I knew he was sending me but I also knew that I would have to be completely dependent on him if that were to happen. I could do nothing without his protection and without him remaking me to look like him.

How about you?

Journey of Faith Series

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Have you ever been loved more than you deserve?

Have you ever been given more than you gave? Forgiven when you wouldn’t have forgiven if the tables were turned? Pursued when you would have run away?

If so, I’d love to hear your story. I’d love to share a cup of coffee with you and marvel at the wonder of this gift. I’d love to hear where you found yourself and who it was who offered the unimaginable. And I’d love to meet that person. To look deep in her eyes as I celebrate the heart of God I see in them.

You know that’s where this reckless love comes from, right?

It’s what we were created for. To love and be loved. To be naked and vulnerable and completely known, yet accepted and cherished and honored. It’s the way things should be – and will be again one day. In the time between now and then, life is rediscovered in the pursuit of this love.

If you’re like me, you’ve chased this kind of experience in countless ways. I’ve looked for it in romance, friendship, professional partnerships, sensuality, athletic acclaim, public approval, and on and on the list could go. All of these offer glimpses of the approval and connection we long for but in the end, they are all empty and lacking.

No one and no thing can fill that void in our lives. It doesn’t matter what we chase, it all ends up twisted, bent and out-of-place. Nothing that has been created can give this to us. It’s all idolatry – false gods!

Realizing this can set us up for a transformed life. It’s not the created but the Creator who can satisfy our hunger for love and significance. And what of the pursuit?

So often, we focus on our pursuit. But have you ever considered the idea that you and I aren’t the centerpiece of the story? We aren’t the main character. But we aren’t insignificant to it! No, we are essential to the story. We are the supporting cast – so much so that the story can’t be told without us. You see, we are the love interest of the main character.

Our’s is a story of God’s love affair and we are his lover! He is the primary pursuer, chasing us with a relentless passion that is completely beyond our understanding. It’s so much less about our pursuit of him and so much more about his pursuit of us. He is coming after us and he will never stop. The question is, will you give in to his love? Will you submit to his advances? Will you allow your heart to be caught and overcome?

If you do, it will change everything! It will fill your heart with what you were intended to have from the beginning and you will find yourself naturally extending this kind of reckless love freely. His heart will begin to just come out of you.

How about you?

Reckless Pursuit: Ch. 4 – How ‘Bout A Do Over?

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There’s my little girl, doing what she does best – entering her world of make-believe. Sometimes she’s a princess. Sometimes a tomboy. Sometimes she’s several characters at once, all having conversations with each other. She can transform herself into anything she dreams up and enter a world far from here.

This time she’s the damsel in distress. I love her imagination, creativity and the drama she brings to her environment. She’s our “Anne of Green Gables” (a movie character who seemed to continually initiate drama because of her emotional reaction to her world).

As fun as it is to watch Reagan live out life like this – sometimes we don’t need the extra drama. Sometimes, life has plenty of it on its own.

The following is a snapshot excerpt of the upcoming book…

Reckless Pursuit: God’s Story of Relentless Love – Chapter 4: How ‘Bout A Do Over?

Immediately, my entire world was altered. What meant everything just a couple moments before now had absolutely no value at all. There are no words to describe the fear that consumed my heart. Nor, the horror of watching this scene play out in complete disbelief and yet fully knowing what the end result would be.

Have you ever been here? In the midst of your worst nightmare with no way to stop it. It’s not a dream you can wake up from. It’s not a childhood game of make-believe that can be instantly restarted with the call for a “do over.” No, this is real and terrible. It can’t be escaped no matter how much we run or hide or self-medicate.

What do we do then? Where do we turn? What options do we have? And what do we do with God?

Reckless Pursuit is currently being prepared for publishing. It will be made available to the public early this fall. Keep coming back here for more updates and teasers.

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Reckless Pursuit: Part 1 – How It Could Have Been

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Reckless Pursuit: God’s Story of Relentless Love is in its final stages of production and will be made available early this Fall. As we move toward announcing its arrival, I will be posting regular teasers straight from the content of the book. Today’s snapshot look at Reckless Pursuit comes from Part 1: How It Could Have Been.

                The phone rang. Without hesitation, I ran to pick it up, hoping I was quick enough to keep it from waking our baby boy. “Hello,” I answered in a hushed tone. On the other end was a voice I recognized. It was a mom of one of the girls in our ministry and there was a noticeable sense of desperation in her voice.

                  “Landon! I’m sorry to be calling you so late but I need your help. It’s Candice…she’s really struggling and I don’t know what to do. I hate to ask this but can you come over and talk with her right now?”

                  I glanced at Kristen and she gave me that understanding look. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the clock; it was a quarter past ten. I turned back to the phone, told the mom I’d be right there and hung up.

                  In the five minutes it took me to get to their house, my mind went a thousand different directions. The past year or so was a tremendously difficult time for our community. Our town had been hit over and over by teenage suicide and I had watched our people move from shock to despair to anger and finally to a strange and uncomfortable apathy. I came back to focus on Candice and the questions kept flying. “What could be going on with her? Why didn’t I ask more questions? Does it have anything to do with the suicides? Is she struggling herself or is she hurting for someone else? Will I have a clue what to do?” And again, “Why didn’t I ask more questions?” I found myself in the all too familiar place of the unknown and the out of control. In response, I did the only thing I knew to do…I prayed.

                  When I arrived at the house, Candice’s mom met me on the sidewalk, thanked me for coming and began to fill me in on the situation. “Landon, I just don’t know what to do. Nothing I say seems to matter. I can’t get through to her.”

                  “What’s the problem?” I replied. “What is she struggling with so much?”

                  As she was forming the answer, I could see tears begin to surface in her eyes. “Candice doesn’t know if she believes there is a God!”

Does this sound familiar? Is this how life is supposed to be? Does faith have to be so hard? Do our experiences have to be defined in struggle? Keep checking back for more from Reckless Pursuit.

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Custom Order

How do you like yours?

For me, it’s not an easy answer. Sure, I have a default…black, drip coffee. The house blend will be just fine. But this is because it’s usually not all about the taste for me. It’s about the physical presence of the cup on the table. It gives me a reason for occupying the booth for a couple of hours. It gives me something to do as I process what I’m reading and it gives me that extra little kick in the afternoon when I tend to hit the wall. I guess you could say that coffee is my security blanket.

However, there are times when it is an extremely different experience. When I am craving that perfect cup of coffee. When I want to sit and take the moment in. When I stand in line imagining the taste of the latest promotion…salted caramel mocha, peppermint latte, or duppio con panna. And so I experiment. I jump in and try something new and make an intentional effort to remember my favorites.

Do you have a favorite? My wife hates coffee but I can get her to join me by offering her an Earl Grey tea – if I remember to get a cup of ice on the side. What’s your go to drink? Are you a Frappe’ person? Maybe the traditional Cappuccino? How about a Caramel Macchiato? Are you a Mocha fan? Or are you possibly a bold coffee lover and an Iced Americano is more your speed?

It’s amazing how individualized a simple order for coffee has become. There are endless options in front of us and we all seem to have our preferences. Some like it extra hot. Some prefer decaf. Some like dark roast. Some don’t want the taste of coffee in their drink at all. We have become a culture of highly sophisticated consumers and nothing seems to display this more than the local coffee shop.

Question: How does this hyper-consumer culture we live in impact our relationship with God?

Too often, this has become our approach to church. We shop them, looking for the right set of goods to be provided – which tragically misses the point. When we do this, we turn the light of the world, the family of God, into a commercialized provider of goods. But this mentality doesn’t stop with our relationship with church. We have become so deeply consumeristic that we apply this to God as well.

How often do we approach him, expecting to be provided a service? Expecting him to reproduce a previous experience we had with him? And are we frustrated if the cup he hands us is not as hot as it was last week?

How does this mentality impact our worship experiences? Our one-on-one times alone with him? Our moments of service? Have we really gone this far? Have we become consumers of God? Are we trying to walk into his store, order what we want and anticipate our request to be filled in the next five minutes?

What do we do when our experiences are not what we ordered? Do we threaten to leave his shop? Do we go in search for a provider that promises to fill our custom order?

Have we become a people who have turned our relationship with God into a business transaction? Is he just another thing we are trying to consume? If so, what are we really consuming?

Jacob’s Dream…Our Reality!

A few years ago, Abilene Christian University commissioned this sculpture to be constructed just outside of their School of Theology building, called “Jacob’s Dream.” It depicts the dream Jacob (Abraham’s grandson) had in Genesis 28, where he saw a stairway reaching from earth to heaven and angels climbing up and down on it. It was in this moment that God reconfirmed the promises he made to Abraham…to give his descendants the land he was on…to multiply his descendants like the dust on the earth…that all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through him…and that God will not leave him.

What an incredible story! What would it do to someone to see a glimpse of the eternal so clearly? And to hear the voice of God, loving you and promising to use you to bless the entire world! How would it change the way you would think of God? See the world? See people? Could you ever go back to the way things were?

The two girls standing underneath the ladder are my daughter, Reagan, and her friend, Sidney. They were just finishing their week of camp at ACU and had to have one more look at the sculpture. They had an amazing time and shared their experiences with — well — enthusiasm. They told us about their friends and all the fun they had. Then they talked to us about God, his promise to come back and that he will recreate a place for us to live with him forever. As they talked, I couldn’t help thinking that we were, in that moment, experiencing some of God’s promises spoken during Jacob’s dream. That these two beautiful little girls have received a taste of the kingdom of God!

In the camp’s closing ceremony, they showed a camp video for the parents to enjoy. Then, in their final act of camp, they asked all the students to stand and repeat a pledge that grew out of their week. It was a tremendous site, seeing a couple hundred elementary students declaring who they intend to be as they participate in the Father’s kingdom.

Here is that pledge. As you read it, consider how different our experience in this life would be if we commit to living this way with every breath we take. If we declare that we have encountered the God of Jacob, been invited into his kingdom and there is no turning back!

Kingdom of God Pledge

Because I have been invited into the throne room of God

Because I have been adopted into the family of God

Because I want to be a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven forever

I hereby renounce any allegiance to the kingdom of earth

and any other god other than the One True God who created me and loves me.

I hereby declare that it is my heart’s desire to do God’s will on earth

just as it is done in heaven

So I will work to heal those who need healing

I will seek to know God’s will and obey it

And I will seek to fight injustice wherever I encounter it

Until God calls me home or Jesus returns to take us all home to heaven.

To the glory of God the Father. Amen.