Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Focused or Distracted?

I really like coffee and I like trying new coffee shops.  I prefer the Indy coffee houses around town but in my section of burbs, there really aren't that many.  I seem to be stuck with Starbucks, Coffee Bean and It's a Grind type joints or Indy Bagel shops that really don't do anything but blah coffee.  So last week, a couple of friends where coming into town from Globe Arizona, a small town outside of Phoenix, to pick up some folks from the airport.  They contacted me to see if I had some time to hang out with them.  Now my friends happen to work at a coffee house in Globe (Vida e Caffe) so I immediately suggested we hang out at a coffee house.  I searched the internet for an Indy coffee house close to the airport and found Drip Coffee Lounge.  It was a really cool sort of retro small coffee house so I thought I would meet my friends there for coffee and lunch.  

I arrived early, had some conversation with the owner, ordered a Latte and wow was it good.  Great micro foam and all.  As my friends arrived, we ordered lunch and proceeded to sit outside.  It was a bright warm early spring day in Phoenix so sitting outside was an easy choice.  The Drip Coffee Lounge had great coffee, good food and a nice central location but it was on a busy commercial street that saw constant heavy traffic.  I could tell that concentrating on conversation would be difficult with large trucks whizzing by and constant road noise in our ears.  

As we talked about life, loving people, church, Jesus and pain, I kept thinking that I so enjoy being with these friends from Globe that the environment of noise on the street really didn't matter.  I had to lean in more, concentrate and focus more, but the engagement was so precious that the distractions were losing the battle for my attention.  I knew I was suppose to be with these friends while drinking good coffee and mutually encouraging one another in the race that God had placed us in.  

Today, many people find it difficult to stay focused on the path of life that God has placed them.  The noise pollution is so loud that their attention and focus quietly shift to easier, less noisy paths.  Many these days talk of shifts in their in careers, addresses and relationships.  With a tough economy and building stress, the noise of life captures their attention and then a strong pull to escape creeps in.  As I sat outside on that warm early spring day, sipping coffee and having wonderful conversation, a voice did seem to whisper in my ear, inviting me to go inside where there were less distractions and clearer hearing, but I resisted.  Something about the whizzing of the cars passing by and the horns honking reminded me of the people who need the touch and message of Jesus.

As I recalled my lunch time meeting at Drip Coffee Lounge, I thought about a couple of of Jesus' conversations with His disciples in Matthew 9 and Luke 10.  In these sections of the Bible, we find Jesus sending His disciples into the cities that He Himself was about to go.  The cities were, as they are today, bustling centers of commerce.  Cities are where Jesus spent much of His time.  Cities are where most of the people are.  Cities are where there is much pollution, dirt, crime and crowds.  Jesus loves cities.

I learned a valuable lesson that day at the Drip Coffee Lounge.  I learned that when I focus on the purpose or mission that God has sent me, my surroundings are not that important or distracting.  When I focus on my surroundings and the distractions it brings, escape is typically my first thought.  Yeah, I too would like to be in a less crowded location.  For me a beach with palm trees, waves lapping at the shore and a warm tropical breeze in my face is perfect, but then I wouldn't be in the midst of people and I think in the midst of people is where Jesus would have me.  

Wherever you find yourself in life, make sure you are not being distracted by the pull of escape and isolation.  Escape is coming, in the form of forever with Jesus in a place we can only begin to imagine.  For now, we must fight to focus on the mission and task of loving God and loving people with power and love that is already at work in us (Philippians 2:13 & Colossians 1:29).  Staying focused on Christ and His mission for us, will cause the distractions to fade away.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Imitating Jesus' Life

Many believers truly want to be more and more like Jesus.  After reading that sentence, your heart may have felt a surge of agreement that you too want to be more like Him.  This is a healthy desire placed in your soul by God Himself so rejoice!  Though we want to imitate Jesus and His way of life, we must begin by learning what those ways are.  Jesus warned those who wanted to follow Him that the path would be difficult (Luke 14:25-35).  What did Jesus do and how do we imitate those ways today?

What did Jesus do?

He had a close relationship with the Father.
"After He sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray;  and when it was evening, He was there alone."  Matthew 14:23

"In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there."  Mark 1:35

Jesus' prayer to the Father just before He was arrested and sentenced to die (John 17).

This close relationship with the Father caused Him to be constantly reaching out to others.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of the sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed and to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."  Luke 4:18-19

"So Jesus, being wearied from His journey was sitting thus by the well...There came a woman of Samaria to draw water.  Jesus said to her, 'Give Me a drink.'"  John 4:5 & 7  This leads to a long conversation with the woman.  Jesus stayed there a few days before continuing His journey.

Jesus had close relationship with a few.
We know Jesus did interact with the multitudes (Mark 3:7, Luke 1:10), but not that much.  We see another group of about 120 (Acts 1:15) that Jesus impacted and a group of 70 (Luke 10:1ff) that Jesus had interacted with as well.  Then, there was His 12 disciples and finally there were Peter, James and John who seemed to be the closest to Jesus.  Jesus spent the bulk of his time with the 12 and the 3, pouring into them all that He had so that they would become more like Him.

Jesus taught his close friends to love one another well.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:34-35

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:35-36

Many today are really only out for their own agenda and way of doing things.  Loving one another well is to lay down your agenda to seek the will of the Father in the community of saints where He has placed you.  Loving one another must entail an honest conversation when differences arise so that unity can be achieved.  Loving on another is hard, not easy, messy not clean and therefore is noticed by those who observe your behavior.  To follow Jesus' example, we do the harder thing and love others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3).

Jesus often tried to hide from the crowds.
"There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.  Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.  After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray..."  Matthew 14:21-23

"But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray."  Luke 5:14-15

"Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves."  Matthew 17:1

Today people and leaders seek crowds in their worship experience and spend little time alone with God to learn and be with Him.  Jesus set a different example of spending time with His Father and time with those closest to Him.  

Jesus sent people out in small bands to do important missional work.
"Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness."  Matthew 10:1

"Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others and set them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come."  Luke 10:1

"As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.  And He did not let him, but He said to him, 'Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord ahas done for you, and how He had mercy on you.'  And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed."  Mark 5:18-20

Jesus entrusts new believers with the good news and has them share it...and they had great success!

Jesus' last instructions were to His kids about keeping a missional focus in life.
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  Matthew 28:19

"You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth."  Acts 1:8

"As the Father has sent me, so send I you."  John 20:21

Jesus desires to multiply communicators of His good news to the world He created to receive it.

How do we imitate Jesus' ways of living?
How are we to imitate this way of living today?  I think I'll suggest that you take some time with Jesus and ask Him to show you how He wants you to respond.