According to You!

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What’s your experience with Jesus?

Is it defined by church? By one hour a week in a clean, air-conditioned building? Is he someone you briefly acknowledge a couple of times a year – when the holidays come, school is out and the crowds verge on chaos?

Maybe he’s more than that for you. Maybe he is someone you have come to know. Someone you could talk about for hours; someone whose life you have studied and whose motives you have admired.

Possibly you find the question hard to answer. Could it be, you have multiple experiences that come together in a strange collage? Experiences with people who call themselves, “Christian.” Experiences in various worship gatherings we call, “Church.” And experiences with the “character” of Jesus, we find in the biblical text. I have to admit, reconciling these things has, at times, been difficult for me. The words, “Jesus, Christian,” & “Church” are not always appropriate synonyms.

In response, we can easily lose sight of the question. We can find ourselves struggling with things that honestly have nothing to do with Jesus. So, I ask the question again…

What’s your experience with Jesus?

Have you ever invited him to hang out with you on your day off? Have you ever sat with him in a local coffee shop? Or paddled down the river with him in a kayak? Have you ever shared with him your greatest dreams and fears over lunch?

Have you invited him into your home? Are you comfortable with him moving in? Is it OK if he wants to rearrange more than the furniture? Really…

What’s your experience with Jesus?

If you sat down with someone who had never heard his name, what would you say? What stories would you tell? Of his life? Of yours? How would you describe his heart and what he has done to yours?


At Journey, we have  started a new series entitled, “According to Mark.” It’s a look at the heart of Jesus through his life and mission as told by Mark. It’s not an abstract retelling of Jesus’ life. It is a life changing story written by someone whose life Jesus changed.

Take a look…pick up a Bible and spend an hour with the “Gospel of Mark.” As you read, ask:

1. What’s God’s heart in this story (as revealed by Jesus)?

2. How can I express his heart in the world around me?

No matter what your previous experience with Jesus has been – it will change. You will come to know him with new eyes. And his story just might begin to be told…

According to You!

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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?

A Word About Life

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For those of us who follow Jesus…

– who long for a more authentic expression of life

– who reach for something more than religion

– who want our faith to be more than a belief system

– who submit to a God we have never seen

– who have experienced a change that is undeniable

– who recklessly follow the way of love…

For you, I want to remind you, encourage you and challenge you with a life altering word.

READY?

Here goes…

“It’s not about you!”

I know, this may startle you. It may sound harsh or cold or insensitive. It may bring up all kinds of arguments or theological rebuttals and if it does, that’s OK. But it’s true none-the-less.

Question: Have you ever paused long enough to move beyond dealing with what you were saved from in order to ask, “What was I saved for?”

Really, what’s the point of our freedom from brokenness, struggle, guilt, conflict and death? To move into healing, freedom, confidence, peace and life – right? But life for what?

Deep down, we know that this authentic expression of life is much deeper than what we find our dreams, our failures, our desires and our successes. When we have moments of clarity, we know that true life can be found in the midst of all of this. It obviously involves us but somehow, it’s not limited to our external experiences.

So what’s it really about? What’s this new life for? As we question, listen to the following simple truth from Jesus’ prayer in John 17:

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

You see, the further we follow Jesus, the clearer the view becomes. We begin to see life as it was intended, not as it has been twisted. As we encounter this truer life more and more, we see the one for whom life was made and for whom life was given. We see Jesus – the very heart of the Creator.

When our eyes are fixed clearly on him, we realize that he is the center of the story. It is about him. His love. His gifts. His dreams. His forgiveness. His hope for a new and better life – a life remade by him and a life defined by relationship with him.

We are brought from death to life so that he might wholly and completely know us and love us. This is his heart, his nature, his overwhelming passion – that he might be express himself fully to us, the object of his desire. That he might once again be free to shower his love on us.

It is in the midst of this love that everything changes for us. Our hearts are healed, our dreams are rebuilt, our pursuits are altered, our relationships are mended and our successes are redefined. And somewhere, throughout this transformation, it hits us. The truth of Jesus comes flooding our hearts demanding us to die so his life may fully take hold and the Spirit reminds us with the words of Christ himself, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”

It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about what we want or what we would choose. It’s about him and us being brought closer to him. Period. This is all that really matters.

Once we get this, the story changes. Our selfish pursuits become selfless offerings and instantly we are moved into partnership with our God. Moved into the front of his battle against what threatens to destroy his children. Moved to become extensions of the love of God. It is here that our gift of life finds full meaning.

What are we saved for? We are “Redeemed to Redeem!”

Take a look at the words of a new song we are singing at Journey, that was produced by Austin Stone Music:

Redeemed to Redeem 

We have come too far, beloved

Than to sway this path we tread

We have nothing else to boast

Than the cross where Jesus bled

CHORUS:

We’ve been redeemed to redeem the world around us

We have been loved to love one another

We’ve been pursued to pursue Your kingdom

Oh, oh, redeemed to redeem, oh oh redeemed to redeem

VERSE 2:

Yes we know what is to come

A home where men no longer thirst


For our souls were made to love
 oh nothing of this passing earth,

Oh nothing of this passing earth

BRIDGE:

To You our lives, we surrender now

Our hearts are Yours, we surrender now

All for Your name, we surrender now

Oh, oh redeemed to redeem

Oh, oh redeemed to redeem

Oh, oh, redeemed to redeem, oh oh redeemed to redeem

A Great Read

Do you have a Bible? If so, how many? Do you have a favorite? Is it a thin-line Bible? A daily devotional Bible? A chronological Bible? A study Bible? A pocket Bible? Or possibly an on-line Bible?

What version do you prefer? Do you like the NIV? The New Living Translation? The Message? Or do you lean more toward the New King James? The New American Standard? The New Revised Standard?

It’s amazing how endless the possibilities are for us to access scripture. We have it on our phones. We have readings sent to our e-mail accounts. We have them in our cars, in our bedrooms, in our living rooms and even in our hotel rooms when we travel. We have literally come to the place where we could have constant access to the word of God.

And so I ask, “What’s your relationship with the Word?”

Early on, I knew the Bible to be God’s book. That he inspired over 40 different men to write his words down for us. That it is divided into two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. That it has 66 books, 39 in the Old and 27 in the New. That the Old Testament has stories about God and his people – Israel. And the New Testament has stories about Jesus and the church. I was a student of the word. I took notes in church and worked to connect all the dots. I was definitely in pursuit of more information. I wanted to know more about God, more about the church and more about what this meant for me.

Then, there was a time when I stopped reading the Bible altogether. I struggled with what appeared to be inconsistencies in scripture. And with inconsistencies in my personal experience. I stopped my pursuit of God and did my best to numb my heart.

But still he spoke to me. In the midst of my struggle, he reminded me of his love and his desire for me to be free. I heard is voice through the gentle challenges of other believers. And finally, he broke through with a word spoken deep into my heart, saying, “You have no life without me!”

When I came back home to him, I entered with a new desire. I wanted to know this God who would not give up on me. I longed to discover his heart. I wanted a real relationship with him, not predetermined religious answers. And so I searched, I questioned, I discovered and I let go.

In my pursuit of God through his word, I found Jesus. I was introduced to the Word who was God and has been with God from the beginning. Who participated in creating us for relationship with himself. Who ached as we continually choose to love ourselves more than him. Who has relentlessly chased humanity from the beginning of time. Who established the nation of Israel to represent God to the world. Who refused to give up on people. Who punished and rebuked but always followed it up with hope and provision. Who willingly gave up his place to become like us. Who came to once and for all rescue us from the enemy, from this world and from ourselves. Who stood in our place, taking our penalty…dying so we could live! Who promised that his presence will always be with us, leading us and reminding us of his way. Who will one day take us home!

When you look at your Bible, do you see him? Do you encounter his heart? Do you invite him to break through and have his way with you?

What’s your relationship with the Word?

 

Jesus is Crazy!

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Sometimes, I think Jesus is summed up best in one word…crazy! If you really watch him, listen to what he teaches and apply it to your life, you might agree with me. This man is nuts! Consider for a second one of his more famous teachings:

“Don’t resist an evil person!

If you are slapped on the right check, turn the other, too.

If you are ordered to court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too.

If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.

Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.”

What was he thinking? Does he really understand what he’s asking us to do? What are the end results of a life like this? Do I really have to allow myself to be beat up to follow Jesus? Do I really have to freely give my stuff away, without resistance — even more — does he really expect me to give more than what they are trying to take from me or to serve more than what is being required by a person in authority over me? Do I really have to live this way?

That’s what’s amazing about the way of Jesus! It doesn’t make any sense from the perspective of self-preservation. But that’s just it. That’s the complete wrong perspective.

Jesus has invited us to follow him, which means that we live life like him. That we watch how he talked…how he interacted with people…how he touched the untouchable…how he loved the disgraced…how he accepted the prostitute…how he forgave those who were intent on killing him. We stand at the shadow of the cross and hear his words echoing, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves take up their cross and follow me.” And from that vantage point, all rebuttals that Jesus was just talking rhetorically disappear.

Here is a radical God that is recklessly demonstrating the depth of love he has for us. It’s a love that transforms us to the very core. So much so, that it becomes who we are. It becomes what we offer. And at this point, we stop asking, “Does he really want me to do this?” and we begin asking, “Who is the next person I can share this with?” And this sharing is so much less about what we say…it’s about who we are. It’s about being willing to die so someone else might live!

Yeah, this is crazy – but what a beautiful way to live!

 

I Hate That Guy!

I have known what it is to live for myself, to choose me over those I love and to pursue every desire of my heart. I hate that part of me. I can’t stand it when that voice emerges in my head and encourages me to grab at what I want or to defend my rights. Truly, I hate that guy. I know him so well but also feel like he is an alien and a stranger in my own body. He does not belong there. And he is not welcome.

I used to invite that guy in. Knowing that he would ultimately do me harm but thinking I would enjoy his gifts. However, I have come to the place that his gifts are torture. Even the thought of them causes a physical reaction in my body. My back gets tense, my legs feel heavy and tight and I can feel my freedom beginning to slip away. I can actually feel death creeping into my heart.

As a result, my eyes dim. I walk with my shoulders a little lower. The cadence of my speech is altered. Little moments that would normally make me smile and fill my heart with joy are now lost on me or even irritate me. In my submission to the voice of that old guy, I am defeated and broken. In my pursuit of selfishness, I am actually destroying everything that I love. Yeah, I hate that guy!

But this is not the way of my Jesus. He has taught me a different way to live. One that is free. A life that is defined by comfort, intimacy and joy. A life of overwhelming love.

This is the life that dominates my heart and my thoughts. When I am living in it, I hear the voice of Jesus reminding me, encouraging me and celebrating with me constantly. I find myself smiling at young children and laughing freely with friends. I see people’s eyes and respond to what seems to be an unmistakable need, whether it be a hug or a probing question or a high five.

What’s amazing is this is a life that is not about me. I am constantly led to consider the person in front of me. To offer care and concern and challenge and love. This new life seems to be an upside down way of living. The more I think about other people, the more my heart comes alive. The more I serve my wife and my kids and my friends and the guy at the grocery store, the more my heart leaps.

It has even led me to a new way of dealing with conflict and struggle. I am reminded that the person I am dealing with has a heart that matters and I cannot be the reason for the lack of freedom in their life. That if humility and submission can serve them – then I can offer it. And I am challenged to not allow that old guy to rise up and attack both of us. Freedom is too precious for that!

The attitude of Jesus…no, I don’t always live there. But I love the days that I do!

Built To Last

The Passage finally got their foundation! After seven years of being a nomadic group of students who have moved from an off-site building five miles away, to a neighboring rental facility next door, to currently sharing space with our Journey Kidz children’s ministry…now, their long-term home is a very near reality. Our family at Journey couldn’t be more excited – not just because our youth ministry will have a place to call their own but primarily because of what they will do with it. The connections that will be made there, the hearts that will be cared for and the reckless love shared in the name of Jesus!

Last week, I stood at the edge of the construction site, watching truck after truck empty its cement into the huge trenches that crisscrossed this foundation and I was amazed at how sturdy this building would be. It’s not just a cement pad but underneath are enormous concrete beams that run several feet down into the ground. As I watched, I thought, “This is a building that is being built to last!”

And I think about Jesus.

I think about those beams supporting the foundation for a building that will house amazing moments in the near future and I think about Jesus – our cornerstone and our foundation. I think about how the name of Jesus is held up over everything else for the students in The Passage ministry and for the adults at Journey. How he is continually shown to be our hope and our life.

When we have him, we are more than secure! We are built into a structure that others will marvel at. He is our foundation of faith and supports our walk with God but he is so much more. When Jesus is truly present, he redefines everything for us. With Jesus, we have what we are looking for. With Jesus, the mystery of scripture is revealed. With Jesus, we find our true identity. With Jesus, we experience true family. With Jesus, we become a people of radical love. With Jesus, we can ignite the heart of a broken world.

I love watching this building grow!