contagious

I made it until I was about 11 until I had chicken pox. Itchy, splotchy and nasty. I contracted it through my extremely contagious little brother, who conveniently had it at a young age since he is 9 years younger than me. Thanks, bro. (sarcasm intended)

We learn about contagious things from our childhood. Wash your hands. Use sanitizer. Don’t cough on me. Don’t wipe that there. Don’t touch that. No, you can’t share my drink…I don’t want to catch what you have!

With all of those negative commands about things that are contagious, and the order to stay away from them, what happens when we want someone to catch what we have? When we want our passion to be contagious for a mission? A ministry? A country? For our Savior…

It’s no secret that I am a Paul junkie…if I’d lived in Bible times, there’s no doubt I would have been one of his groupies. Of course, only after I got over the fact he wasn’t killing Christians anymore. But you see, that’s the story. The contagious part. He was a transformed man on that road to Damascus, and his words came out of that transformation.

Then they couldn’t get him to shut up.

Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn’t he come here to do the same thing—arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?” But their suspicions didn’t slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah. [Acts 9:19-22 MSG]

Now somewhere there is an old-school, cynical believer who would think, “That’s how it always happens with ‘new believers’ they catch that Gospel fire and won’t ever let up. It fades eventually.”

I remember getting told that when I was a new believer. And it pissed me off.

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As I sit here writing this…I find myself confronted by that young woman who was so passionate about her Savior that she made some radical choices to follow him. She definitely made some choices that didn’t sit well with people in her life. And the sad part? I think she’d sit across this desk from me and say, ‘What the hell is wrong with you? Do I need to come give you a kick in the ass? What the hell are you fighting for? We have more fight than this…’

Then the 14-years-older version of me says, ‘You are going to get worn out. Eventually too many people get into your head…and then you start giving credence to some of those voices that you probably shouldn’t.”

When the only voice you should be listening to is that of the One who created you. The One who calls you. The One who you answer to.

The same Paul they couldn’t get to shut up wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:13, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.”

Here are the contagious truths I am choosing to believe and speak…

God’s word should be contagious. Be in it. If your Bible has a layer of dust, there’s a problem. Get started now, and no one will notice you had a layer of dust.

God’s story should be contagious. Tell it. If you don’t know how to talk about God’s story, start practicing. His message was spread by the disciples only because they were passionate about telling what they had LEARNED from Jesus and what they had SEEN in him. Tell those around you how your story merges with God’s story. If you don’t know, figure it out, because I guarantee it merges.

God’s community should be contagious. I once heard Michael Frost talk about movie trailers and Christianity. How in the theatre, before the actual movie starts there are these teasers. By the reaction of those around you to the trailer you know immediately if they ‘HAVE TO GO SEE THAT MOVIE’ or ‘wouldn’t be caught dead seeing that.’ Which version of Christian community do others see in you, your family & the people you are with?

God’s people should be contagious. This is where we all need to channel a bit of that new believer enthusiasm, and not be afraid of it. Do you love others with that newborn Spirit-filled love? Does your voice inflection channel wonder and excitement for who God is? Do your words speak to the heart of God, or do they berate, belittle and judge those around you? People are not drawn to  judgers…but they do want to be around those handing out God’s unconditional love, mercy and grace.

People are drawn to the purest form of the Gospel…we just tend to dilute it and unintentionally make it ugly through our own sin. Shame on us.

Every single one of these makes God something that others want to catch and be infected with. And before you know it…you are spreading the Gospel in ways that you never imagined. Go be contagious…in a good, non-hand sanitizer way.

acts

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A photo I snapped March 21 in Utah.

I can’t help it. It has been rattling around my brain all day. I wish I could shut it off, because it would be easier. But no…

I am addicted to Lent.

There I said it. Now what?

This Lent season I committed to writing a blog every day and today all I can think about is…I don’t HAVE to write anything. I can let it go.

Maybe I just found a good outlet for my thoughts here and I don’t want to lose that freedom. But I sense there is more going on…

I can’t let the practices I picked up during Lent go. I loved meditating on scripture, or the word of the day or mulling over what angle I would take on something. Or what everyone else would write. I’ve never had this problem before, and am at a loss to explain it. Maybe there is something God wanted me to learn from this Lenten season I haven’t learned yet. Maybe he was just trying to change me…mold me.

However, I also can’t bring myself to hit up Mumford & Sons, Lumineers or Imagine Dragons. I really want to…really want to…but even as I type, I’m still worshipping.

I’m going to waste it all on you, I’m going to pour my hearts’ perfume, I don’t care if I’m called a fool, I’m wasting it all on you… [Kim Walker, ‘Waste It All’]

As I reflect on the Bible story after Jesus was risen…I have always been intoxicated by the disciples and how they spread the Gospel.

After I became a Christian in college God ignited a thirst for scripture in me, but I’d never hit Acts. I’ll never forget the first time I read it. I started it about a week after I got back from spending a summer doing mission work in China, and it just felt like the right time. Once I got to the end, my friends and I were at a fall conference with Intervarsity so I asked one of the staff there why Acts just stopped so suddenly.

I’d written this in my Bible: ’10-21-01, I finished this book today and it is the first book I’ve read that I turned the page and was HUGELY disappointed that there was no more. I do not want to move on to another book – I want this one…I love Paul!’  Needless to say, Acts is my favorite book of the Bible…but that’s about 5 different blog posts.

Next to my notes I’d also written the IV staffer’s response: ‘Steve Lind says this book is still being written.’

Mind blown. Fireworks exploding in the sky. Mouth dropped open.

And I’ve held onto that thought ever since.

Last night as I was watching The Bible series, I was remembering this coupled with a new thought. What if Paul, or any of the other disciples, hadn’t written it all down? What if I’d never had a book of Acts to read?

God would have figured it out, but in the moment my brain was digesting that thought, I was incredibly grateful for their courage to write things down in times of severe persecution. I’m sure I wouldn’t have made writing it down a priority while my brothers and sisters were getting beheaded, crucified and exiled. But they knew what was at stake. They knew they had to tell the story of the death, the resurrection and the large fact that Jesus would never die again to everyone.

As we sink into the week after Easter, and as I fumble with how to merge my Lent experience with the rest of the year, my sincere prayer is that people will ask themselves how they are living out Acts. What are they doing to proclaim that Jesus reigns? How are they spreading the Gospel message of love, hope, grace and compassion? Because the book is still being written…but will we participate in the rest of the story?

live

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe…

Breath is life for our bodies. Without it…we are nothing.

Life giving oxygen, but as much as our bodies might be living…the world is a dull grey with foggy outlines without the love of God filling our souls turning our world into vivid colors and sharpening our vision into fantastic shapes.

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. [2 Corinthians 5:14-15]

IMG_0717Living before belief should be drastically different than living after belief in Jesus. Things change. Vision shifts. Love becomes recklessly breathless.

I was hanging out with some Junior High students last Wednesday, and the question came up…how do you really live your life? LIVE it…not just taking in breath.

When I asked them, ‘How do you really LIVE your life?’ I was met with silence.

That’s a hard question for adults, and paralyzing for most teenagers who cannot see beyond the weekend. Yet a justifiable question everyone should ask themselves.

Maybe the more forward way to ask it is, how are you wasting the time you’ve been given to live, not simply exist…but to live?

Paul lived with no regrets…constantly urging his readers to live the same. But his version of ‘living’ didn’t include a bucket list or making a lot of money, and it certainly didn’t include the comfort we claim as necessity.

Paul lived an adventure. Paul lived freely the life God transformed him to live. He lived by the Spirit. More to the point…compelled by the Spirit.

 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. [Acts 20:22-24]

I fully recognize Paul lived for something unique, and for something that most consider ‘of the Bible’ not of our ‘time.’ But does that mean we completely dismiss his way of living?

Ultimately dismissing his way of living for his Savior?

I choose to live for my Savior, and while that means a lot of things…it does mean living spontaneously, sometimes even completely by the seat of my pants Holy Spirit spontaneity. It means living by radically loving others. It means people looking in confusion at choices I make. It means living with laughter that is too loud. It means living in community with others living sent lives.

Breathe in God’s life giving peace, joy, love, compassion, kindness…hope…

Breathe out God’s Kingdom breath.

evil

Evil.

Easy to despise. Easy to be put yourself on the opposing side. Easy to speak out against. Easy to hate the villain.

Also…easy to find yourself slipping into…

How many times have I said something hateful?

How many times have I done something mean?

So often I find myself amidst the struggle of more God verses more…not God.

It is easy to try and explain away…we are human and that struggle is real. It is sin, ask for forgiveness.

And the alternative gives credence to there being powers that work against us. That darkness exists in very real forms. And worse of all…that there is real evil in our world.

We want to believe everything is sunshine, rainbows and white puffy clouds.

And just to be clear, I’m not referring to the pessimists and optimists. I am talking about the guy who tempted Jesus in the desert. The one who possessed people and the disciples had to drive out. The one who convinced a disciple to betray Jesus. I hate even saying the name, but most have sensed the reality in some way.

Discernment…knowing the difference between good and evil. It is one of those gifts that is hard to explain, because if you have that gift it registers different for each person. But you sense there is something dark and ominous. Or maybe in your brightest most Holy Spirit moment…you know there is something that is working against you. To break you, and break your hold on God’s truth.

Because evil is not truth. Evil is lies.

Because evil is not good. Evil is bad.

Because evil does not want happiness for you.

It wants to destroy you simply because you love Jesus.

Paul even writes in several of his letters instructing and encouraging the believers to arm themselves. To be ready and not to give in to temptation that would tear them away from the light of God.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. [Ephesians 6:11-13]

TS2I have never felt so profoundly that I was walking with God, and there was an extreme power working against me than when I was in China for a summer. In a place than can have so much hospitality, beauty and beautiful people, we were most definitely making waves with good vs. evil. And when you think about it, God has been doing something incredible in China for many years. Missionaries have risked their lives to bring the message of truth to the Chinese who want to believe. When you look at it that way, of course the scale tips for good and evil wants to fight it.

So, how do you fight? How do you stand? Well, first you have to get seriously pissed off. Get mad that something is working so hard against the God we serve and loves us unconditionally, even when we slip and give evil a helping hand.

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Then…get on your knees. I know for a fact that prayer warriors get the job done. I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve seen change through prayer.

Then…get in God’s word. I know the power of God’s word when you are grounded in it. I just wish I was all-around good at staying in scripture without some pissed-off motivation to send me back to it.

Then…get accountability. I know for a fact that I am stronger with others fighting beside me, and holding me accountable to the Christian life I have chosen to live. God’s word says that the devil prowls around like a lion waiting to devour us. Jesus said he was sending them out like sheep amongst the wolves. When we are separated from each other, we are weak. It is a really bad choice to be alone.

Then…have faith and hope, because God wins in the end. We just have to help him fight along the way.

Here’s to you winning a battle today.