A "Radical" Life
Striving to live a life less-ordinary.

a matter of life & death

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Why must it take death to wake us up to what we have; to the finality of life; to what matters and what doesn't?
Sadly, I tend to see everything differently when confronted with death.  I want to be hold my wife and kids all day long.  I let stuff go that would normally get me all worked up because, well, it usually doesn't matter.  I am much, much more patient with my kids and just plain nicer to them.  I feel an urgency I don't usually feel to tell people about the hope and peace they can have in by trusting in Jesus.  I soak up relationships and conversations instead of sports and Facebook.  
Why?  Because I'm reminded of the Truth.  It's something I always know, technically speaking, but life just goes so fast and I get so distracted that somehow I just lose sight.  Anybody else with me here?  Death makes me see more clearly.  What matters in life is not your bank account or the awkward situation at school or work.  God did not place you on this planet to freak out about who will win American Idol or the Super Bowl.
We are here for two reasons:  God & people.  Everything else is meaningless; a chasing after the wind.
How do you remember this truth without waiting for a confrontation with death to smack you in the face?  I think the best thing you can do is slow down and make the time to think and pray on a daily basis.  Don't tell me you don't have time.  This stuff is just too important (Is anything more important?  Really?)  Pray daily for Gods Spirit to help you see clearly.  Beg Him to help you understand his grace better, to help you fall more in love with Him, and to help you see people the way He sees people.  
God matters.  And His people matter.  You can relax about the rest.
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Christian?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We have reduced the idea of a good Christian to someone who believes in Jesus, loves his or her family, and attends church regularly. Others will label you a good Christian even though your life has no semblance to the way Christ spent His days on earth. 


Try to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself right now. Is the following true of you?:


You passionately love Jesus, but you don't really want to be like Him. You admire His humility, but you don't want to be THAT humble. You think it's beautiful that He washed the feet of the disciples, but that's not exactly the direction your life is headed. You're thankful He was spit upon and abused, but you would never let that happen to you. You praise Him for loving you enough to suffer during His whole time on earth, but you're going to do everything within your power to make sure you enjoy your time down here.


The American church has abandoned the most simple and obvious truth of what it means to follow Jesus: You actually follow His pattern of life. I pray for those who read this article- that we don't become cynical or negative toward the church. Instead, let's make a personal decision to stop talking so much and begin living like Jesus. Then we can say as the apostle Paul, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). My guess is that you've never had someone say that to you, and you've never said it to anyone else. Why Not?


- Francis Chan
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my goal

Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! - Paul (1 Cor 9:19-23 - The Message)
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Shrugging Off Sin

Thursday, April 12, 2012
The truth is, God's standards are way too high for me to live up to.  He demands perfection.  After all, He's perfect.  But...

He took the punishment for me not living up to His standards on Himself.  In fact, He allowed Himself to be murdered for it.  And then He conquered death & sin, therefore redeeming me and making it possible for me to be made right with Him once again.

The average Christian reading these words is probably nodding along in agreement by now.  We all believe these things to be true, of course, because it's the very foundation for our faith.  But in my experience as a pastor, there is much confusion about what happens next.  

RESPONSE 1:  Some still don't get the concept of grace and therefore try to win points with God by doing all the right things and avoiding the bad ones.  Quite the impossible feat.  Jesus had a lot to say about this because it was a prevalent way of thinking in that culture too.  Frankly, we're sinners through and through. Try as we might, we'll still fall short and then proceed to beat ourselves up about it only to start to process over again, and again, and again.  Not exactly the "freedom" Christ promised.  All Christians know this is not the appropriate response...but we fall into the trap none-the-less.

RESPONSE 2: Others shrug off their shortcomings.  Because they believe in God's unmerited grace and don't do any of the "major" sins, they feel pretty good about all the "minor" sins.  Okay, maybe they don't feel "good" about them.  They just don't feel much of anything about them. They don't see these "minor" sins as a big deal and so they aren't making any big efforts to change.  No, they may not be doing everything exactly the way Jesus said, but compared to everyone else, they feel pretty good about how things are going.  Sure, they know they should stop doing this one particular thing and that they probably should be doing more good things.  But hey...they're good people and they know God has forgiven them.  What more do you want?  Why kill yourself trying to be perfect?  You can't be perfect, and God's grace covers you anyway.

I've tried both ways of thinking and I can tell you that neither works.  One leaves you desperately attempting to do the impossible and the other leaves you obviously happier, but ultimately unsatisfied and living well-short of what God intends.

WHAT'S THE PROPER RESPONSE?  Well, I'm certainly no brilliant scholar or great theologian, but I think Jesus made it pretty clear that even though His grace is unmerited and paid for, He will not take second place.  He's to be first.  In everything.  That following Him means absolute commitment and devotion, and therefore every sin (major or minor) cannot be brushed under the rug as if it's no big deal.  We're to scour the passionate (and sometimes harsh) words of Jesus and examine honestly whether or not we're really following Him, regardless of whether or not we believe we're saved.

To me, it's not about points OR grace.  It's about God. And it's about loving Him so much that the very idea of continuing to do something you know He isn't okay with makes you sick to your stomach...as does continuing to not do the things you know He wants you to do.  It's a love that doesn't allow you to shrug it off.

Yes, you will still fall short.
Yes, God's grace still covers you.

But if you really love Him, you will not shrug it off.  Your shortcomings, even though they're covered, are still a big deal.  "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" - John 14:15
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Word to the Wise

Monday, January 23, 2012
It would help if I were smarter.  

Or is it, "...was smarter"?  (Just in case your'e curious, I looked it up...both are technically correct).  Either way, intelligence sure would come in handy.  "Knowledge is power," after all.  Don't believe me?  Maybe it's just because you don't know better.

But knowledge isn't everything.  I could learn twelve languages, but still not understand the ways of God.  I could study my brains out to learn everything that math, science, history and art have to offer, and it would probably help me a lot in life...but it wouldn't help me understand my purpose for life.

Nope.  I'd much rather be wise than smart, thank you very much (this is a really good thing, since I'm pretty ignorant about most of life).  After all, both the wise and the smart still end up in the grave, but only one will be prepared for what comes next (relatively speaking).

But what can I do about it?  How can I "gain wisdom"?  If I wanted to be smarter, I'd study more.  But where does wisdom come from?

Job 28
“...do people know where to find wisdom?
Where can they find understanding?
No one knows where to find it,
for it is not found among the living.
It is not here,’ says the ocean.
‘Nor is it here,’ says the sea.
It cannot be bought with gold.
It cannot be purchased with silver.

“...do people know where to find wisdom?
Where can they find understanding?
It is hidden from the eyes of all humanity.
Even the sharp-eyed birds in the sky cannot discover it.
Destruction and Death say,
‘We’ve heard only rumors of where wisdom can be found.’

“God alone understands the way to wisdom;
he knows where it can be found,

for he looks throughout the whole earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
He decided how hard the winds should blow
and how much rain should fall.
He made the laws for the rain
and laid out a path for the lightning."

Wisdom comes from God.  
So if your looking for answers to life, ask Him.  
You won't find it in a book...unless it was written by Him.

"Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!  Though it cost all that you have, get understanding. (Prov 4:7)
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Win or Lose, God is God

Saturday, January 14, 2012
IT DOES NOT MATTER whether Tim Tebow and the Broncos win or lose tonight.

Don't get me wrong, I want them to win...badly...especially since they're playing the dreaded Patriots!  It would give me great satisfaction!  I promise that I will be jumping up and down, celebrating such a victory if it happens!

But here's the problem.  If they lose, all the anti-Tebowers will rejoice and some will even go so far as to say, "See...there's no God helping him win," or "God doesn't care about football," and they'll feel somehow vindicated and relieved.  If they win, some over-zealous Christians will start analyzing it to death, as if the improbable victory proves once and for all that God exists.

Here's what I think (not that it really matters):

  • I think the football game tomorrow has zero bearing on God's existence.  
  • I think that God can do whatever He wants.  And if He wants to use football to point people to Him, He'll do it (even if you think it's stupid).
  • I think that despite what your perspective is on the whole thing, literally millions of people googled "John 3:16" after last weeks win.  People are reading about the love of Christ because of this.
  • I think that Tebow understands that the game isn't what matters most (even if his fans don't).  He wants to win, of course, but he knows that football is just a game - God and people are what really matter.
  • I also think that Tebow knows full well that he has an incredible platform to point people to Christ and help people...and he's using it for just that.
Maybe God is helping him win.
Maybe He's not.
I'm honestly not sure which it is.

Either way, I'm pretty convinced that He's at least using all this for His purposes.  

And either way, people need to get off his back and root for the guy.  I know many of you are tired of hearing about him (and yes, some of the articles written about him are ridiculous).  But we're not talking about football here.  We're talking about a good guy who is serving those in desperate need on a weekly basis, and who is making a BIG difference in many lives.  Why on earth would you not applaud that?

As for my fellow Christ-followers who are reading this...please understand that Tim Tebow is NOT Jesus.  I promise, he screws up a lot, just like the rest of us.  Don't put him on such a pedestal that your faith is determined by his life.  Perhaps we should spend our efforts praying for the guy to not collapse under the pressure that comes with being a star athlete.

Tebow is going to win some games and lose some games.  Win or lose, God is God.  

In the meantime, I say ROOT FOR THE GUY...not for his football skills, but for the example he's displaying.
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asking God to break your heart

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The most powerful bridge of any song I know is in the middle of a Brooke Fraser song called "Hosanna":  

"Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdoms cause
as I walk from earth into eternity"

My son, Elijah, is especially obsessed with this song...to the point where, some days, he asks us to play it every 30 seconds...literally.  Frankly, it gets annoying.  We're often saying, "NO Elijah.  No more for today, okay buddy?"  We sing it to him before putting him to bed every night.  But hey, at least it's a song we love!

I've gone from singing it repeatedly just to get him to go to sleep, to actually worshipping as I hold him.  It's a pretty sweet deal to hold your child and worship the God who put him in your arms at the same time.  The song has become a nightly prayer for me.

When you pray for God to break your heart for what breaks His, or to see people the way He sees them...watch out.  It will cause friction in your life.  It will require change.  It will get uncomfortable and require sacrifice.  And people will probably think you're misguided, too emotional, or just plain crazy.  Probably all three.

Erin and I began praying for these things a few years back, and He responded.  He began opening our eyes to see people the way He sees them, and it wrecked us.  He pointed out several passages of Scripture we had conveniently ignored or reasoned away, because they required too much.  And we made some seemingly significant changes in response.  But, as we often do, we fell back into our old habits.  After all, it was a lot easier the old way.  We got sucked back in to complacency and justifying, of comparing ourselves with others instead of Christ.

Thankfully, God has been not-so-gently reminding us lately of what He once laid on our hearts.  

At the end of Schindler's List, you see Oskar Schindler breaking down, wishing he had done more.   Here's the dialogue from the movie:

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don't know. If I'd just... I could have got more. 
Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them. 
Oskar Schindler: If I'd made more money... I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I'd just... 
Itzhak Stern: There will be generations because of what you did. 
Oskar Schindler: I didn't do enough! 
Itzhak Stern: You did so much. 
[Schindler looks at his car] 
Oskar Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. 
[removing Nazi pin from lapel] 
Oskar Schindler: This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this. [sobbing] 
Oskar Schindler: I could have gotten one more person... and I didn't! And I... I didn't! 

That's a pretty good way to describe how Erin and I feel right now.  Some, who don't know better, tell us we've given up plenty.  While we have made some very small sacrifices, we still have far more than we need.  The rub for us comes not from feeling like it's wrong to have those things, but from knowing that we could help more people if we were willing to live without them.

Please hear me on this:  It's not that I think it's wrong to have nice things, as if it's some sort of sin.  It's just that I can't bring myself to do it anymore.  This newfound love for others won't let me, daggonit!  It's not a result of feeling guilty.  I'd just rather help someone else instead of helping myself.  It's simply a response to the grace and love He's shown me.

1 John 3:16-18 says this: "...we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

The ugly truth is, I have seen my brother in need.  And I have material possessions that could be used or sold to help him.  And I haven't done it.  Which begs the hard question: Then how can the love of God be in me?  May sound harsh, I know.  But hey...not my words.  That's just what the passage says.  Besides, how can I really argue with it?  I know it's true.  If I have chosen "things" instead of "people"...well, that's not exactly a replica of the way God loves, is it?

Why do you think Jesus had "no place to lay his head"?  (Matt 8:20)  Or that he mentioned that fact in response to a disciple telling him he'd follow him wherever he went?

Why did Jesus tell us the story of the "sheep and the goats" in Matthew 25?  "For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me...I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me...Then they will go away to eternal punishment."  It's pretty hard to argue that Jesus didn't mean that literally.

Why does Isaiah 58 tells us that if we want for God to hear our prayers, we need to "loose the chains of injustice...to set the oppressed free...share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him...spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed..."

Oh, I could go on and on.  I don't claim to have it all figured out, and I certainly don't judge anyone who thinks differently than me.  Erin and I are just desperately trying to figure out what we're supposed to do with all this, because we're pretty comfortable and pretty bad about showing love to those around us (as opposed to just saying we love them).

The bottom line for us is that we must do something.  Something more than what we're currently doing.

We asked God to break our heart for what breaks His and to see people the way He sees them.  And as a result, we simply can't continue to just give a list of reasons as to why it's "okay" to have things that have zero kingdom significance.  Of course we could justify it all away...and maybe even use Scripture to back it up!  That's not the point.  He has opened our eyes to see the needs of those around us.  Plain and simple:  Either we respond to those needs by making some "sacrifices," or we continue to ignore them.

The "love your neighbor as yourself" commandment means loving everyone.  We're to love the rich, the poor, and all in-between.  We're to love old people and young people, white and black, believers and unbelievers, good looking and ugly, brilliant and mentally handicapped.  All.  The way God loves us.  And loving them means more than just saying we love them, but showing we love them ("not with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth").  We're not too bad at showing love to the people who are like us; who we relate to the best.  But what about the rest?

I challenge you to earnestly and consistently start praying for God to break your heart for what breaks His and to help you love others the way He loves.  See for yourself.
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picking yourself up

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
If I'm honest, I'd have to admit that I'm a lousy follower of Jesus.  "Inconsistent" doesn't even begin to describe me.  One week, I'll be so fired-up and confident and passionate about all that God has done and is doing in me, and two weeks later I'll have become so bogged down with "life" and busyness that I'll be feeling distant from God and worn out, trudging through life.

There have been multiple occasions in my life where I have felt as if, in that moment, I am becoming a true follower of Christ for the first time.  Crazy, I know.  After all, I grew up in a Christian home.  I was baptized when I was 12.  I was a leader in our church youth group, went to a Bible college, earned a degree in youth/music ministry, and have now been in ministry for about 13 years (yeesh...is that right?...wow).  You'd think I'd have a pretty good grasp on the whole God thing.

And yet, I have these moments (like today) where suddenly, things click, almost as if it's for the first time.  It's all so clear.  The story of God and, more specifically, Jesus, makes more sense than ever.  It's a "aha!" moment that translates into a deeper, more mature and much more bold faith.  A faith that radically alters my prayer life.  My family life.  My ministry.  My relationships with others.  My finances.  My possessions.  Everything.

So things are great right now.  The reason?  God continues to pursue and wreck me, even when I push Him to the side.  That, and I refuse to stay in such a place of dry place.  When I'm there, I feel as if I've been hit by a linebacker in the chest, and I'm lying on the ground gasping for air.  I have a choice in that moment to keep lying there, hoping for the best, or to fight to pick myself off the ground.  Allowing God to be anything but central to my life leaves me feeling weak and lost, wandering around like a lost puppy. I lose all sense of direction and purpose, and I HATE it.

So lately, I've been taking more time to study and think and pray, even if I haven't felt like doing it.  And this morning, I took about 3 hours to shut up and listen.  I got away from the noise and stared solely at Gods creation and didn't say hardly a word.  Turns out, God wanted to talk.

It's inevitable that if you pursue God, you'll find Him, because He's pursuing you too.  It's not as if you start chasing Him and He runs the other direction.  If you're bogged down with life right now, start fighting to get back up.  Change some priorities.  Create some time to breathe and think.  Pursue God...He won't ignore you.
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thanks, mom & dad

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In many ways, my life has followed a common path. Grow up. Go to college. Get married. Get a job. Have kids. But I, like you, have a unique story within the common story.

To say I grew up might be a bit of a stretch. I still feel very much like a kid sometimes, and I certainly act like one. When I'm around a bunch of adults talking about adult things such as mortgages and loans and insuran
ce, I feel like I may as well still be a 12-year-old without a clue as to how such things work.

But besides that, I didn't grow up the way most people grow up. I lived in a log cabin without running water or electricity. We collected rain water to wash dishes in and take sponge baths. Seriously. And we lived in the middle of the woods up a 1/2 mile mud hill that necessitated 4-wheel drive and big tires which sometimes still weren't enough on rainy or snowy days. Living the way we did often involved hikin
g up and down multiple times in whatever crazy whether we were having, with loads of groceries or clothes or whatever else we need to get from the vehicle stuck at the bottom of the hill. Heck, before that, we lived in a camper for a few years, literally inside the fence of some friends' cow pasture. So that was different.


No, my family isn't Amish. Just a little crazy (in a good way!). My unique childhood is something I'll be forever grateful for. We had (and have) an incredibly tight-knit family due, in part, to our lack of distractions. When we got a TV, it had a 5" or 6" screen, was in black and white, and was hooked up to a car battery. We played board games together by lamp light or lanterns. We read a lot. Played in the woods. We most definitely LAUGHED together. Loudly. And vacations together were never on the table of things to cut out when money was tight. Somehow, my parents made it work, because it mattered to them for our family to have that time.

And now, here I am. 34 years old (I think...yep, that adds up). We adopted two incredible children 3 1/2 months ago. And so obviously I'm thinking a lot about how we're going to raise them. We live in good neighborhood in a nice, comfortable home complete with electricity and running water...ever air conditioning! We have cable and internet. Our fridge is stocked full of food (as opposed to the cooler we used for awhile growing up). There are distractions all over the place for our kids, especially when you consider what they came from. And we have no idea how to afford a family vacation.

But the truth is, those things only matter a little. The family I grew up in wasn't close just because of our circumstances. I didn't fall in love with Christ because I grew up in a log cabin. It definitely helped to not have all the "stuff" that comes with normal childhood, and I want to impress that on my children as well. But the real reason our family was close and I fell in love is God was because my parents made family and God priorities.

When you make God the biggest priority in your life, you're going to stick out.

My parents still stick out. Sure, they live in a way that is quite common is some respects. They live in an old farmhouse now. Mom is a nurse practitioner and dad does maintenance and groundskeeping at a church. Not all that unusual. But how they conduct themselves is actually quite rare. For instance, their home practically has a revolving door on it from the hordes of people that come to visit, eat, do Bible study, or live with them. I'm convinced that you couldn't find a more inviting place on the planet. That's because they don't just hang out with people. They invest in them. They pour into them and quite willingly delve into their messy lives, not to try to fix anyone, but because they genuinely love them and want to help if they can. Quite rare indeed.

I want to be more like mom and dad. What I do for a vocation and where I live are small pieces of the puzzle. What matters most is how I conduct myself. My general life may follow a common pattern, but I want the details to jump out. And I think that if I'm actually following the words of Christ the way my parents do, there is no alternative. In general, people do not live the way Jesus tells us to live. So to live such a life tends to force you down an uncommon path.

I get scared sometimes thinking that my life looks like everyone elses. And it does in many ways. There is still a lot I need to change. But I also am grateful that I can honestly look back at the life I've lived to this point and know that there have been many hard decisions I've made along the way that were the result of following Christ, not the crowd. That's the example my parents set for me and that's the example I want to set for my kids.

Thanks, mom and dad, for the example you continue to be for me.
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understanding God

Thursday, July 14, 2011
I'm grateful that it's only my understanding of God that changes, not God Himself.

I've been reading a lot lately on the concept of grace as well as on all the heaven / hell discussions that are going on. The weight of these subjects is great. They're topics with eternal consequences and they need to be understood to the best of our ability, not glossed over hoping it will all work out in the end. It's not at all like talking about whether drinking is okay or giving out helpful tips for a marriage. This is much more significant. Actually, that's a severe understatement. This is crucial. We must spend much of our time and energy thinking about such things. Our understanding of these topics lays the foundation for the rest of our lives and how we live them. If you don't believe in the idea of grace, it affects the decisions you make. And if believe in grace but misunderstand how it works, you live accordingly. If you believe hell to be a real place, it will show in how you live your life just as it will show if you don't believe it exists.

Over the years, my understanding of how God works has solidified greatly. Don't get me wrong. God is INFINITELY bigger than me. His ways and thoughts are ridiculously higher than mine, so I will never have God completely figured out. Not even CLOSE. There is a lot about God and how He works that we simply can't fathom, but there is also much that God has made clear and wants us to understand. There are sooooo many very strong opinions out there of how it all works, and all sides can be quite convincing. If you don't know Scripture, you don't know what to believe. So if someone gives you a convincing argument, you just end up saying, "Oh. Okay." You may think it sounds good or sounds weird, but you don't really have any reason for it beyond what feels right or what you've always been taught. Believe it or not, the pastor at your local church isn't the final word on the subject. On any subject. Neither is anyone else. Just God.

I've debated whether to share my thoughts on this for fear of controversy, and then I thought, "Well, that's stupid!" God has a BEAUTIFUL and perfect plan in place. Why would I not share it? But I will reserve those thoughts for another post, because I don't want to take away from the heart of the message that's already been laid out.

There are some topics we can't afford to be lazy on. If you're not sure what to make of "Jesus," it's beyond crucial for you to figure it out. If you only have a "general idea" of how grace works or why we need it in the first place, you need to dig deeper and grow some roots. If you like the idea of heaven but aren't sure a loving God would send people to hell, you'd better be able to back it up with Scripture, because the consequences of being wrong are eternal.

Yes, it takes work to get there. It takes a lot of brain power and time to read. Don't you think it's worth it?
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things that matter

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I'm always surprised to find that there are people who actually read this blog. I feel highly inadequate to compose anything worth reading. I make a ton of mistakes in my spiritual walk and I don't feel like I'm very good with words.

But I get reports that say that quite a few people are, in fact, reading these ramblings of mine. And for whatever reason, I think God wants me to keep doing it. After all, if He can use all the screwed up people we read about in Scripture to accomplish the unimaginable, it seems that He might just want to use my little 'ol inadequate self too. But trust me, if these words somehow affect you for the better, it's only the result of HIS movement to draw you into a deeper relationship with Him.

I must confess that I've let the busyness of adjusting to a life with kids affect my spiritual life. My mornings by the water before work are very difficult to squeeze in (I think I've done it twice since returning from Africa). And once the kids are in bed, I'm pretty wiped out and usually check out and go to be early to keep from getting too exhausted...because it's hard to connect with God very well when you're exhausted all the time.

In the past, my best times to really think and pray and read and focus have been first thing in the morning and before bed. Those times have been erased. The result? I've been left feeling spiritually dry. I'm yearning to return to the place I once was. I'm hungry for the deep intimacy I've known before. It's not a crisis in the sense of losing ones faith, but once you've tasted the goodness of constant communion with the Creator, it certainly feels like a crisis.

The truth is, it has nothing to do with our kids. Ellie and Elijah are INCREDIBLE and gifts from God, given out of pure grace. If anything, they should inspire me all the more to bow before Him. The heart of the problem is really a problem with the heart. I'm trying to come to grips with the simple truth that I have not made Him the main priority. Sure, He's been a priority, but one of many.

It makes me sick to my stomach to confess that to you. But I'm sure you can relate.

A lot of you reading this have kids and have hidden behind that excuse for far too long. I get it. It's HARD. You're spiritually dry, but what are you supposed to do? How can you find time for solitude and prayer and reading and serving when you have kids pulling at your legs, needing your attention from sun-up to sun-down with work in-between and a house that needs taken care of and bills that need paid?

You adjust. You refocus. You re-prioritize.

What will matter most in the end is not your kids. Hear me out on this and keep reading before you write me off. I'm not saying they're not important. Of COURSE they are. They matter more than almost anything else. All I'm saying is that what will matter the most in the end is Jesus. Not your kids. There can only be one thing that matters the "most" and I'm sorry, but your kids do not trump God. You cannot serve both God and your kids. When you're standing before Him, it will be much more clear to you than it may be right now. But I promise, in the end there won't be any doubt as to what you should have built your life around. Make your kids a priority, but make Him the priority. And in turn, your kids will learn what matters most from the example you've set.

So I'm adjusting my schedule. I'm not squeezing God into it. I'm building my schedule around Him. I'm listening to podcasts again. I'm reading books that motivate me. I'm praying more and taking time to think. I'm shutting off the computer more and leaving the remote untouched.

If you struggle with this, I can assure you it won't get better if you just sit there with good intentions. Act on them.
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knowing your neighbors

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I sat by the water for awhile this morning, so I could breath and think and pray. Soon after arriving, a carload of people parked next to me. Five people in their early 20's I would imagine, tumbled out of the car to fish, smoke, and drink a case of Vault. Good times. Immediately, f-bombs started flying and my concentration started waning.

But it got me thinking about my role as a follower of Christ in such a situation. What's the right thing to do?

Option 1: Sit there and ignore them.
Option 2: Walk out and say, "Hey, do you guys know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?"
Option 3: Something in the middle where I simply befriend them and see where the conversation leads.

Option 1 is easy. Doesn't require, well, anything. Of course, it doesn't produce any fruit either. But I could relax and do what I came to do, and get what I needed out of the day.

Option 2 is stupid. If I had any chance of telling them about Jesus, I just blew it by being an idiot. My chances of them listening to anything I have to say after such a statement would then diminish to approximately .7%. And I know that technically I'd be "asking" them if they knew Jesus, but really wouldn't I be saying something more like, "You're definitely not Christians because you wouldn't be talking like that if you were. Or smoking...Christians certainly don't smoke. Pretty sure it's in Scripture somewhere." In other words, they'd hear "I've decided you must be bad people and that you need me to tell you all the things you're doing wrong, because I'm far superior."

Option 3 would generally be the direction I would go. I'm a firm believer in the idea that the best way to tell people about Jesus is to build relationships. Be their friend, show them you care about THEM, and then, when the timing is right, bring the conversation around to all the God/Jesus/church stuff in a very non-foreceful and loving way. Sometimes this happens immediately, but usually, it takes more time because in our culture, people are most likely not going to listen to you until they know they can trust you.

I played the scenario out in my head and decided to stay in the car. I didn't think I could build a relationship in the situation we were in. I racked my brain for anything I could do or say after walking up to them that could possibly lead to anything helpful, and decided I could end up doing more damage than good. I probably should have at least prayed for them at the point, but I guess I'm not that spiritual.

I've given a lot of thought to this as the day has gone on though. I was reminded once again of an entirely separate culture from what I know. They're from the same town, speak English and are white just like me (okay, they weren't nearly AS white as me, but you get my point). Even though we're very similar by most definitions of "culture," we're worlds apart. We speak very differently, we likely have different values and we look and dress very differently. I would severely stick out if I hung around them. I never have any interaction with that culture any more. Why not?

So I decided that getting out of the car would be a mistake. But it got me thinking about how badly I need to get out of my bubble and make a commitment to be more intentional about building relationships with people outside of my "culture." And I've decided it needs to start with my neighbors (not figuratively speaking...literally, my next door neighbors). I want to, over the course of the summer, invite each of our 5 immediate neighbors and families over for dinner with no intentions other than to get to know them better. I'm ashamed to admit that we haven't done this already. I've made this commitment before, and failed. We know all our neighbors of course, and we talk to them fairly regularly and get along great. But honestly, it's all a bit superficial. We need to invite them into our home...and see where God takes it.

Interestingly enough, as I've sat in this coffee shop writing this, 3 of the people from the water and one of my neighbors walked in. Hmmmm...

I'm hoping that writing this inspires other followers to be more intentional about building relationships as well. We MUST stop going through the motions and live out our faith. Otherwise, our faith is dead and useless.
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Jeremiah Smith

Jeremiah Smith

WHY THE BLOG?

I'm striving to live a life less-ordinary. As followers of Christ our lives should not look like everybody elses. We should be more giving, more loving, more passionate, more sure, more...radical. But we're not. We blend in and desperately want to fit in. This blog is my journey toward to a "radical" life that doesn't look like the rest of the world.

ABOUT ME

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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
A Hoosier, a Buckeye and two Rwandans out on a mission to serve the world. Missionaries for Rwanda through AFRICA NEW LIFE MINISTRIES. We are entirely donor-supported, so if you'd like to partner with us through prayer or finances, we would LOVE to set up a time to chat!