Risk & Faith: Core Values of Fearless Christianity

“How could we ever think the Christian faith would be safe when its central metaphor is an instrument of death? It is not a coincidence that baptism is a water grave depicting death and resurrection.” This observation, written by Erwin McManus in his book, The Barbarian Way, illustrates well the Core Value I’m highlighting in this blog: Risk & Faith~ Fearless Christianity.

Core values are fundamental beliefs that form the foundation of our lives and become the guiding principles for both thinking and behaving. Christianity’s core values when embraced, transform our entire way of life and when lived outward, can release Heaven’s influence to the world around us.

Here are a few worth mentioning: A Value for the Presence of God, Joyful Hope, A Passion for the Word of God, Empowering Grace, Living from the Unseen Realm of Heaven’s Reality, Salvation and saving souls, Family and the Goodness of God. One of the values however, that has impacted my life since I have been on this journey, has been Faith and Risk; living this Christian life without the limitations of fear.

This core value is reflected throughout the history of God recorded in the Bible. From the earliest pages we read of God’s invitation to a reckless, fearless faith. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”  Hebrews 11:8.

It is even said that the willingness to take risks and living by faith, delights the heart of God so much that He rewards fearless Christianity when He sees it. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

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When Abraham had to leave Ur, he wasn’t leaving a desert wasteland. When we don’t understand the beauty and comfort of Ur, we’re stuck in thinking that God is calling Abram to move from one part of the desert to another, maybe one slightly nicer. When God calls Abram to leave his land and go tow

ards Palestine,it’s a pretty big deal. When we find our stories in the pages of His-Story, we can relate and apply principles to our lives. When I knew I had to leave the comfort of my home to venture into an “unknown”, it was helpful to know God often requires risk for those pursuing their High Call.

When Abraham was told to “leave his Father’s house”, he was called forth into his destiny. So how could this apply to us today? Too often family & long time friends see you as you were in your past & in your present. They see you in terms of your history, not your future. They may have difficulty expanding their viewpoint to include your potential & development into new endeavors & capabilities. They may be focused more on your limitations than your potential. If they are threatened by your growth & expansion, and compare themselves, they may become a source of criticism & frustrate your forward momentum. In order to be reshaped and transformed, we often must separate from those familiar with us. Many times, we sink into routines and habits that stunt our growth and quiet the dreams in our heart.

We must often take risks to take our next step of our destiny. We want our lives to writing a good story. And, as Donald Miller puts it, “And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”

So what does it mean to be a “Follower of Jesus,” anyway? In my younger days,  I mistakenly held to a belief that being a follower was being a weakling or it was for people with “serious issues”. To be a Christian was to be passive and well behaved; neither fit my profile. But Jesus, as John Eldredge suggested, is more like following William Wallace than he is a bearded Mr. Rogers. We aren’t only called to be really nice guys strolling nice neighbors as do-gooders. We are invited to bear the image of God and that includes the “Wild Heart” of God. We are called out into adventure, to take risks and discover the greatness of our hearts and the great call that is upon our lives.

You see, We “were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth” notes Eldredge. The story is told in the book of Isaiah about the fall of the Archangel, Lucifer. Once his ill-fated coup attempt failed, Satan and his minion hordes of demons now roam the earth to thwart the image of God in us, and destroy our hope and potential… in effect, destroy our hearts. “How you are fallen from heaven,
 O Lucifer, son of the morning!
 How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!” Isaiah 14:12

Make no mistake: Christianity is a religion of warfare, or as C. S. Lewis referred to it in Mere Christianity, “a fighting religion.”  This of course isn’t to confuse Christianity with Militant Islam, but the point is, faith and risk-taking are a part of the arsenal required to live this life of adventure and obedience.

In an attempt to summarize the need to embrace the core value of Risk and Faith, it is important to note the call of the Founder of Christianity. Jesus, as he prepares to welcome his first recruits to “boot camp”. Hequotes the prophet Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)

Standing up in that synagogue and taking that scroll, he draws a line in the sand: “This is who I am; this is what I came to do.” Jesus is here, and he is in no mood for negotiations. He is here to release prisoners of war! And he has called us into that same battle. The Great Commission is not so much a call to see how many commitment cards we can get signed at a revival, however important that may be. Instead, the Great Commission is a call to make disciples –literally those who do what the Master was doing.

It still seems strange, foreign, and perhaps even somewhat heretical to look at our faith in the context of war. Hasn’t Jesus already won the battle? Besides, what would we have to offer? Quite honestly, my life would be simpler without this whole fighting thing. Further, we certainly don’t want to give the Devil any more glory than he already has.

The reality is that we are in a war, whether we like it or not. In the enormously popular movie The Matrix, Neo, as he is just beginning to recognize the reality of the story behind the story, is given a choice by Morpheus. Either take the blue pill and continue to live in ignorance of what is really happening around you, or take the red pill and enter into the world of the Matrix, the world of fighting for your life.  Satan has been feeding us the blue pill for centuries, blinding our eyes to the truth.

The truth is that there is much more going on here than meets the eye. We have been anesthetized and caught up in a spell. It is time to wake up. We are being offered the red pill. We are invited to explore this great deception and reveal our Enemy for who he really is, while we learn to follow our Commander into the heart of this battle.

One last thing worthy to note, in the words of Kris Valloton“The war has already been won and the only thing that remains is to fight the battles that enforce the victory. The devil has already been defeated. Jesus knocked his teeth out of his mouth. What is he going to do to you, gum you to death?”

So for me, the core values of Risk and Faith are the dynamic duo for living and thriving in Fearless Christianity!

 

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Is God Really Good?

I am wondering if much of our internal wrangling can be distilled into a question? It sounds like, “Is God really good and can He be trusted with our lives?”  Seriously, there is alot of bad stuff going on in the world. I would elaborate but my wrangling about the issue of bad stuff happening to good people has left me weary. One only has to open AOL homepage to be bombarded with a barrage of bad news. Its everywhere!

I don’t like how life unfolds for some people. My friend, who has made a living singing for God,  because of his cancer, is facing the recommendation of having his stomach refashioned into an esophagus. Yes, he has prayed for healing and for years traveled with “Healing Evangelists“. He is a good man but Is God good? Prayers go unanswered. Is God listening? I have watched people hang their heads in shame and walk away slumped shouldered after yet another prayer is offered for their healing. Disappointments. Shattered dreams. Sh*t happens you know.

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I recently found out that my dad knew his cancer would eventually do him in. He was told by his doctor that he had 3 to 5 years but he chose to never speak of it. When he was living in the sixth year beyond this disclosure, I really wish he talked to me about what was on his heart. I felt robbed of treasured moments with my dad and the blessing of my father.

So how does all this relate to God? Can you see how important it is to decide how you are going to believe? If God is Really Good, then there is meaning to be discovered in the midst of our suffering. We can trust that even in the midst of our storms we will find our bearing when tossed on a turbulent emotional sea. There is hope that we will be led eventually to safe harbor. But what if God isn’t good? What if He is inconsistent? What if He has evil intent? What if He is so pissed at all of us selfish human clods that He is plotting ways to get even? Then we are all in serious trouble!

This morning, after a brief wrestling match between my heart and my logic, I chose, once again,  to conclude God is Really Good. Since I am not a parrot, my heart takes no solace in chirping the words of another. I must discover truth in my experience.  I only need to look to my history with God, He has been very good. And I look at Jesus.

It has been said that Jesus is “Perfect Theology.” He came to show us the Father (God). The fact that He revealed the Creator of Everything as “Father” is significant. This truth speaks directly into the heart of an orphaned planet. We need to know we belong… and that we are cared for.

It is also observed that everything that happened before Jesus revealed the need of mankind, and everything that came after Jesus revealed the answer. So every situation we face offers us the opportunity to see God’s goodness. But we must settle this question in our hearts.

I made a decision that I wasn’t going to buy into the Good God Bad God theology. By refusing to lower my expectations of God, I don’t have to shrink the vastness of His power and beauty into my limited experience like trying to pack too many clothes into a handbag. My choice to believe allows me to expand. Maybe my current perspective needs to be transformed because what God wants to reveal to me is beyond my perceptions.

Jesus only did good things. He healed the sick, EVERY sick person, who came to him. He cast out evil spirits from tormented souls. He forgave the sinful while lifting them from the dirt. He partied with outcasts. He was long-suffering with the questioning, slow-to-believe disciples. He gave people back their dreams. He gave them purpose and hope. He showed us the heart of God and it was good.

So, the choice is ours. It’s a matter of making a decision. Will we curse God and die? Or will we choose to believe God is good even when life seems bad? Will we find peace in an ever-expanding view of God in this wild and wonderful reality called “living”?

Is God really Good? Yes, I believe He really is. My heart knows this. I realize my weariness slowly transitions into peace. The heaviness of my heart begins to be infused with joyful stregth. And all this, because of a choice to believe. God is good… all the time!