Archive for the ‘Renew and Refuel’ Category

Cooking our religion

April 3, 2011

Cooking the books – def. to make the books look right while covering up bad accounting or fraud.

Cooking drugs – to make drugs – either to use them and relieve oneself of the current reality, or to sell them and make money off of other people’s need for escape.

Are we making up our own religion, or are we taking God as He is, learning to be the people He created us to be?

What are the signs of a cooked religion?

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How to keep going when you can’t feel God

March 8, 2011

The disciples were in a boat.  They had been rowing for hours.

Then somebody shows up – out for a Sunday afternoon stroll (at 3am) – on a sea of raging water.  Freaky!

They were so scared.

When we are exhausted, God does show up – sometimes His presence doesn’t look right.  Sometimes it scares us.  Always it challenges us and shows us what can be.

Peter, an obvious early adapter, grasped the concept of walking on the water quickly.  “Hey Jesus, if that is you, ask me to join you!” For all his bravado, Peter realized the most important point – if you are going to get out of the boat, don’t go because you think it would be cool.  Don’t go because you hope God will call you.  Don’t get out of the boat until you have heard God’s voice.  On the flip side, when you hear God’s voice, JUMP.  Don’t think, don’t speculate, ACT.

Peter got out of the boat.  He was walking on the water.  He was following Jesus in the wild, wild world.

Now, some have a code, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” This sometimes sneaks into our theology.  It sounds something like this: “If I follow God, He will make sure I am comfortable.”  Surely Peter had the right for some expectation.  After all, Jesus had called him.  He hadn’t jumped out of the boat, he waited until he heard God’s voice, and then, as soon as he heard, he followed.

Yet, a few steps into his stroll, wave swells grew.   Pretty soon, he could no longer even see Jesus walking on the other side of the waves. (My supposition.)  Sometimes, when you follow God, as soon as you say ‘yes’, the terrain seems to morph.  Nothing looks the same.  Where is God?

Peter, full of faith, was distracted by the waves.   When you walk on a balance beam, it is important to focus.  If you loose focus, even for a millisecond, a flip can become very dangerous.  Walking in faith is equally demanding.  When you choose to follow Jesus, you have to discipline your mind, focus your thinking, feed your faith.  You have to keep your mind’s eye focused on where God called you to.  Otherwise, like Peter, you will find yourself sinking below rush of life.

If you are human, you will occasionally reach that point of overwhelm.  Peter had Jesus, in the flesh, out there on the sea with him.  Those waves seemed so high that he lost his concentration.  Then, he did what you and I need to do – he asked for help.

Jesus, help me!

When you can’t feel God, you cry out.   A good friend of mine calls this “carpet eating prayer.”

Faith is that point of concentration and focus.  You keep your mind focused on God, and continue to walk where He told you, even when the waves are so large you can’t see two feet ahead.  If you lose that point of concentration, you do whatever it takes to get it back.  You dig deep into spiritual disciplines, and wait.  God will show up.

Saints throughout the years have taught us spiritual disciplines. The whole point is to help us walk straight – not by our power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. Are you feeling swept away? Let me know – leave a comment or email me – I’d love to be in prayer with you.

What is sin?

August 8, 2010

Sin is living without letting God into the equation.

Ever since the Fall, (Genesis 3, not the season with colored leaves and Indian summers), humans live without the concept of God.  We consider ourselves to be the beginning and the end – we live by what we feel and see instead of a deeper reality based on the Spirit.

To err truly is human – but the definition of “err” isn’t really ‘to make a mistake’.  It is to try to do things without God.

Paul wrote, in Ephesians 2, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts.”  We are designed to live in communion with God.  When we don’t live as we were designed, we live like dead people – living like there is nothing more to life than what we see and feel.

However, God made us to live in communion with Him.  When the original design was messed up by sin, God sent Jesus to pay the price and open the doorway so that He could walk with us again.  Just like God raised Jesus from the dead, He makes us alive in Him.  This means that we don’t have to live by what we see and feel.  We can live with God in our equation.

What are addictions?  What are jealousy and anger?  They are us, responding to fill a need.  When we sin, we are trying to fix the world as we see and feel it.  If we are to overcome sin, we must live as Paul describes – we must know that we are seated in the heavenly realms with God.

Whatever you need, as you are being and doing what God has called you to, is yours.  (John 14:12-14)

You were created for great things.  If you are living without adversity, you aren’t being strengthened.  You aren’t growing.  When people are cranky to us, we have a choice – let God into the equation, or try to do it on our own.  These new brain pathways are developed by repeating the same adversity over and over until we learn to let God be in the equation.  When we learn to let God into the equation, then we have overcome the adversity.

The temptation to rely on our own understanding will be there as long as we are in our bodies as they now are.  The ability to trust God comes through training ourselves to rely on Him instead of us.  Thankfully, Jesus made another promise.  We don’t have to train ourselves alone.  He sends us the Holy Spirit to walk with us – to teach, guide and comfort us.  To turn our focus on God’s perspective.

How are you doing in this process?  Some days, I think I’m doing great – and then a bad attitude creeps in…

Daily Routines

July 30, 2010

Jesus sat on a hillside with 5000 men plus their families all listening to his teaching.  About supper time, the disciples realized these people would be hungry.  I imagine the cranky children tipped them off.

“How are we going to feed all these people?” The disciples asked Jesus.

“You give them something to eat.” Jesus answered.

Then, Jesus directed the disciples to have the people sit down in groups.  Each of the disciples had a basket.  Jesus filled the baskets with bread and fish, then the disciples took their basket out and distributed the food.  Back and forth they traveled – giving all of their provisions, then returning to Jesus for replenishment.  Out to minister, in to gather resources.

All evening the disciples worked, giving out what Jesus gave to them.  When they were done, they discovered that five loaves and two fish had morphed into enough food for all the people with 12 basketfuls left over.  Can you imagine how tired they were at the end of the day?

Sometimes God has us in ‘training mode’.  We go through life doing the same activity over and over, feeling like things aren’t changing.  However, God is training us.  He wants us to learn to rely on Him.  He is our source.  We take what He gives us, and give it away, then we return for more.

Learning new things

July 30, 2010

Every moment that you are alive, you are learning new things.  The interesting thing is that our brain doesn’t seem to like to learn and change.  When we encounter new situations, we try to understand them based on information extrapolated from prior experiences.  This seems to be because our brain is locked into a physiological mechanism that requires work.

Romans 12:2 says:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

This means that we can’t just ‘change’, instead, we have to train our brain.  We  have to develop new ways of interpreting data.  Out of this renewal, comes a new way of being, doing and understanding.

Running on the Train Tracks

June 28, 2010

running on train tracks

Last week, my train hit a 14 year old girl who was playing on the train tracks with her family.  Thankfully, she suffered only minor damage.  Her family ended up jumping into Puget Sound to avoid the train.

The wierd thing about the accident was that it was on the straightest part of our trip.  You can see the train coming for a long way.  The train was able to see her, and blew it’s horn for at least 20+ seconds.  Yet, she couldn’t get out of the way in time.

I wonder just how many of us have things in our life that we are sure we will be able to ‘jump to safety’ at just the right time?  I can think of three types of flirting with danger:

1.  Engaging in sin, believing you can manage your relationships with God, family, friends.

2.  Walking as close to the line as possible, because of course, we live in freedom.

3.  Having a hard heart – it doesn’t matter how right you are, if you don’t love people and love God, you are missing the point.

We need to focus on our Creator.  He loves us so much that He longs to talk with us, be a friend to us.  Where is your focus?  Is it on managing the balance?  Is it on the ‘line’?  Is it on your own view of the world?  With the Holy Spirit to teach, guide and direct us, we have every opportunity to enjoy the ‘play’ spaces of life without getting trapped on the train tracks.

Here is my challenge to you – take time to ask God to reveal your heart to you.  Then ask Him to refocus your thoughts and energy on loving Him and loving others.  You will be amazed.

Solitude and Silence – Why?

May 20, 2010

Wheat in the quiet of Central OR

Up until my senior year of high school, I lived on a farm in Central Oregon.  With rare exceptions, my friends were a long-distance phone call away, so during the summer and school holidays, solitude (with the exception of my immediate family) was my constant companion.

What can one learn from solitude?  From silence?

When you are alone, you learn to hear your own voice.  It is my opinion that the ability to hear one’s own voice helps us discern God’s voice when He speaks.

Solitude shows us our fallibility.  If my kids are any indication, people have a natural propensity to argue – or maybe it’s just our gene line.  In solitude, you have no one to argue with but yourself.  Have you ever listened to yourself think?  Have you ever contemplated whether you are really right, or if there might be another approach?

Solitude and the resounding silence leave room for wonder and imagination.  God is much bigger than you or I.  His perspective is completely foreign to us.  In silence, we are able to reach beyond the noise in our own head and imagine.  We expand our thinking and make room for God’s perspective.  We hear His voice and consider His ways.

Silence teaches us the power of words.  I know that I have a natural tendency to yammer.  My friends tell me this isn’t the case – but they don’t hear the conversation in my head – they just hear the edited version that exits my mouth.  This self editing is a skill that is learned through silence.  Words have power.  We can let them flow, fully diluted, or we can use them selectively and have maximum impact.

Solitude is where we are transformed.  Jesus spent time alone with God.  When we spend time alone with God, we are changed.  More time alone with Him means we give Him more time to transform us into the people we were created to be.

When you are constantly in community, talking, you are producing.  Eventually, you have produced everything you have that is original.  In order to recharge, you have to step aside to a place of solitude and silence, where the breeze blows fresh perspectives and offers new insights.

Here are some intriguing quotes:

The mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community. Silence and speech have the same inner correspondence and difference as do solitude and community. One does not exist without the other. Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude, and the society of thyself. – Sir Thomas Browne

Solitude shows us what should be; society shows us what we are. – Robert Cecil

Living Free

March 24, 2010

A baby elephant is tethered with a very strong rope.  By the time the elephant is big enough to break the rope, his brain pathways have developed strong grooves and the elephant firmly believes that the rope will hold him.

From the time we are young, we are taught to fit in a system.  That system has social, mental and physical rules.

Then Jesus comes on the scene.  He came that we might have LIFE and have it to the full.  He came that our life might have more meaning that mere existence.  He came so that we could find joy when all we can see is drudgery.

The problem is that our brain has very deep grooves that tell us that we are supposed to stay within the system.

How do you change a brain pathway?  You do something different.  You learn something different.  This is the role of the Holy Spirit and of scripture.  God’s Spirit talks to our spirit, and slowly, we are changed from the inside out.  The thing is, we need to spend time talking to God.  The second part is scripture.  Reading the bible rewrites our brain pathways and helps us to see God’s way.  Let’s face it – we are finite.  We see things from a limited perspective.  God is infinite.  It would be wise of us to look for His input and ask for His help in gaining the leverage we need to live a life of freedom and joy.

The real definition of joy and freedom is living above the fray.  When we live life from God’s infinite perspective, we are able to walk in freedom:

  • to have joy when we see drudgery
  • to walk in love when we feel sorrow
  • to have an impact in the lives of others and see them for who they really are – valuable individuals created for a purpose.

So, I encourage you to join me.  I’ve been reading through the Daily Message this year and finding out what God has to say.  Today, He reminded me to live free.  What has He told you lately?

How Does It Do That?

August 23, 2009

101_0079Jesus says, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” John 6:63

He also said that although God prunes those that bear fruit, the words Jesus spoke to the disciples made it so that they were already pruned. (John 15:3)

Jesus’ words are powerful.  We need them for spirit, life, growth and fruitfulness.

We need to listen to Jesus.   What are three things you can do this week to spend time listening to Jesus.  Better yet, what are one or two of your biggest obstacles to hearing His voice?

My last question:  Jesus’ Word brings us life, pruning (and therefore) growth and fruitfulness.  How does it do that?

5 Steps For Balance

August 20, 2009

kayaker

There is a creative floor on my building.  I can tell because of the people who work there.  They wear really cool clothes, they carry cool artsy things.  Every time I’m on the elevator with them I feel…cool, like their artistry will rub off on me somehow.

Interestingly, without the rest of us (who are just as cool, btw), these artsy, beautiful people wouldn’t have a job.

In every company, there needs to be detail people so that there can be conceptual people.

In every life, there needs to be detail and conceptual – balance.  One can’t exist without the other.  Well, they can exist, but they begin to look lopsided and yucky.

Yet, we want to live life to the fullest, live it with gusto – how do you put everything you have into life and still keep balance?

  1. Don’t try to balance God.  If you make God something you are trying to balance, you’ve missed the point.  God is the only one who can bring balance to your life.  Ask Him to bring everything into balance and you will be amazed!
  2. Know which floor you belong on.  Acknowledge what comes easily to you – this is where you will be tempted to spend all of your time.  This is also where you should spend most of your time if you are to go with your strengths.
  3. Get help for the other floors.  Really – you can’t be the best at everything, so find out what you can do, and look for assistance in other things.
  4. Lists!!!  I’m really working with this one.  Especially with school starting soon, trying to go on vacation soon, soccer season in full swing and wanting to make jelly this weekend.  Make lists and start checking things off!
  5. Once a month, take a big picture look.  What does your life look like from a bird’s eye view?  Sit down with God and prayerfully look through your life for balance and imbalance.  What has God said to you lately?  Where is He challenging you?  Encouraging you?

I believe there is an artist in all of us.  We need art.  We need leaders, we need accountant, truckers, builders, housekeepers and (put your occupation in here).  When we put all the floors together, we have a very successful organization, and a very successful life.