Learning How to Overcome a Creative Block

I am a firm believer that every person is creative.  It is a gift of God.

Problem is, you can experience a creative block.  There are two types:  (1)  Long-term & (2) Short-term.  Long term creative block traces back to the days of your youth.  You have not experienced a creative breakthrough for such a extensive period that you can’t recall the last time you felt creative.  Due to this prolonged period of creative silence, you no longer consider yourself a creative person.  Short term starts happening in your adult years.  As an adult, you’ve grown confident in your creative capacity.  All of sudden, you somehow seem to lose it.  It’s gone.  It’s like someone flipped a switch.  Luckily, it doesn’t last forever.  Eventually, you find your way out of the dry spell.

It can be confusing which creative block you are experiencing.  Your mind plays tricks on you.  It may start out as short-term.  If it lingers too long, the creative part of your brain goes into shock.  You might call it “creative amnesia.”  You forget all of the creative moments you’ve had.  As a result, you self-diagnose as a non-creative person.

Either way, you can learn how to overcome a creative block.  At least, I feel like I’m learning how to overcome it.  A children’s book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds offers an invaluable perspective.

The story begins with a student grumpily pouting at her school desk after art class lets out.    She couldn’t come up with anything to draw.  Her teacher takes a peak at the page, only to make a joke about “a polar bear in a snow storm.”  Not amused, the student vehemently replies, “I just can’t draw!”  

Having experienced such creative blocks before with other students, the teacher advises her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.”  The student obnoxiously makes a single dot on the page.  She hands it to the teacher.  The teacher’s response is to say, “sign it.”  

The next week when the student walks into class, she finds her little dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk.  Whether through embarrassment or a sense of challenge, I’m not sure, the student commits to making a better dot.  She did.  She made several other dots.  It became her thing.  She even made a dot in the negative space of other dots.  She became so good at creating dots that the school made a special display for her at the art show.

The story ends with a little boy approaching the now famous art student with a comment, “I wish I could draw.”  She encourages him to try.  He replies, “I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.”  She hands him a blank piece of white paper and says, “show me.”  He draws a squiggly line and hands it back.  She says to him, “Please…sign it.”  

Amazing story, right?  If you haven’t picked up on it, here’s what I gain from it.  You can overcome creative block by:

  1. Starting with what you can do and see where it takes you.  Start with what you know, even if it doesn’t seem like much.  It won’t seem so great at first.  Build on it, play with it, re-imagine it, incubate it, combine it with other ideas, and let it take on a life of its own.  God created you to be creative.  You were born with a talent, a passion, an experience, a gift, a skill, or an intellect that can be only be expressed through your unique perspective.
  2. Claiming your creative gift.  Put your name on it.  Claim it as your own.  Be proud of what you can do.  God gave it to you.  All you need to do is accept it.
  3. Finding a person who believes in you.  It can be a teacher, a colleague, a mentor, a boss, a friend, or a family member.  It is someone believes in your creative potential.  You will know them by the way they encourage you to pursue your own creativity.  God’s Spirit will bring these people into your life.

God created you to be creative.  Blocks will come.  You can overcome them.  I am praying this gives you a good start.  

If you are interested in reading The Dot with illustrations, you can find it on Here.

    

Learning Grace Can Replace Your Guilt

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Highland Park Church is in our third week of a series called BASIC.  The topic for this weekend is “God is grace.”  As I’ve been preparing the message for Saturday night, my mind and heart are swirling around idea guilt and grace.

Guilt is heavy.  It is a load to carry.  It can crush you.

Most of us bear the burden of guilt.  I can’t imagine anyone who could be immune.  By the adult age (18 years old), you’ve had plenty of time to pass through experiences that produce guilt.  On some occasions, you are guilty of making a wrong choice.  The onus is on you.  On different occasions, others have piled undue guilt on your spirit and psyche.  It’s not your fault.  Someone else has put the millstone around your neck.

I imagine the majority have a mixed bag.  Your load is filled with internal and external sources of guilt.  Some are true.  Some are false  None are simple to discard.

Imagine what life would be like if you weren’t carrying guilt.  What type of past could you leave behind?  How much self-deprecating talk would dissipate from your life?  How much negativity could be loosed in your spirit?  Who could you become?  What could you accomplish?  How free would you be to live with confidence?

Grace can replace your guilt. 

Grace subverts the power of guilt.  It forgives any wrongs.  It undermines the wrongful pressure of others.  It calls you beloved.

In John 8, a woman encounters grace.  Barring the outside pressure of religious zealots, she had enough reason to feel guilt.  She was an adulteress.  In  a culture where adultery was punishable by death, this must have been a mammoth burden to bear.  I can’t imagine she wan’t experiencing some level of guilt.

To make matters worse, a group of religious leaders bent on defaming Jesus catch her in  the act.  They take her into their custody.  Like cargo, they cart her off to the temple where Jesus is teaching.  They shove her before the crowd as a public display.  They decry her guilty status.  They demand from Jesus her just penalty:  stoning.

Now, she is bearing two forms of guilt.  (1)  Her own internal self-reproach, and  (2)  An external  condemnation from the religious authorities.  There is seemingly nothing that could prevent her from being crushed by this weight.

Then, Jesus offers her grace.  First, he undermines the wrongful pressure of others.  He protects her from the guilt they tried to pile on.  He says to the religious leaders, “You want to stone her.  Okay, but make sure you are without sin before you assault her with the first rock.”  With their heads down, all of the men walk away.  The woman is released from their guilt.

Second, Jesus forgives her reasons for internal guilt.  With no one else around, he says to her, “I do not condemn you.  You are free to go.  Choose to live in that freedom.”  

Without grace in that moment, the woman would have had no other choice but to become the victim of guilt.  Her own and others.  Instead, she was given the opportunity for something  other than guilt to define her.  It is grace.

Grace can replace guilt in your life, too.  

 

 

Learning What Bluegrass, BBQ, and Backpacks Have in Common

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 8.47.43 AMEvery Friday morning students are called to the guidance counselor’s office at the end of the school day.  They take their backpack with them, ready to go home for the weekend.  It’s their little secret what happens next.  I’ll let you in on it.

A single food pack containing seven meals is inconspicuously placed in their backpack.  Why?  They can’t expect food to be waiting for them when they get home.  Their home life isn’t typical.  A permanent residence isn’t a luxury their family can afford.  They might be living in a shelter or a car or sleeping on the couch at a friend’s house.  Stability is tough to come by.

So, that’s the story on backpacks.  What about Bluegrass and BBQ?

If you know anything about either, you know they are like beans and cornbread.  If that analogy doesn’t jive with you, try one of these:  they are like peas and carrots or Jekyll and Hyde or Batman and Robin.  Bluegrass and BBQ just go together.  There’s really no reason to have one without the other.  Because, if you have one, your senses will crave the other.

Highland Park Church is keeping Bluegrass and BBQ together.  We are honoring their relationship.  On Friday, October 2 at 6pm we are hosting the best Bluegrass and BBQ you will experience anywhere for 2,000 miles.  Award-winning BBQ’ers will be preparing a meal you can’t buy at a restaurant. Iron Horse bluegrass band will be joined by special guest Crossfire to bring the house down with foot-stomping music.

As much fun as it will be, it’s about more than satisfying your senses.  We believe Bluegrass and BBQ should have one more thing in common:  Backpacks.  Bonding a relationship between all three can serve a greater purpose.  Our purpose:  feed as many hungry local children as possible by supporting kidsPACK with the proceeds.

Please join us.

Tickets are $25 online and $30 at the door.  Purchase them at www.hplakeland.com

Sponsor tables are $1000 and $500.  For more information on sponsoring a table, email coylindsey@gmail.co

Sponsor a table for your business.  Buy a whole table for your friends (8 people).  Bring your entire family.  Let’s fill more backpacks.

 

 

Learning You are Uniquely Positioned to “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters”

Justice MovementIf you are reading this, then you are uniquely positioned to fulfill the prophetic words of Amos 5:24:  “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Why?  Well, I guess it may not be true of 100% of you.  My conjecture is based on two assumptions about you.  First, you are a follower of Christ.  Second, you believe the Church is the hope of the world.

If what I am assuming about you is true, then you hold the potential to lead the greatest movement of justice our world has ever experienced.  You are in a unique position to do it.

I realize you may not feel like this is true in the moment.  You may feel limited in your abilities.  Or, you may go to church but not really feel like you fit in.  You’ve tried to serve with the Church before, but disappointment has been your dominant experience.  Now, you think or say things like:  “It takes too long.  There aren’t enough resources.  Nobody cares.  Most of the people are too old to start something new.”  

These points of contention certainly feel valid because sometimes they are true.  God wants to change your mind.  I want to change your mind.  Whatever story is playing out in your brain, God wants to write a new one.

Your engagement with the Church is the force that can change the injustices in our world.  It is what sets you apart and make you unique.  The Church will not only have your passions and abilities, but it has Jesus’ passion and God’s divine abilities.  Think about it.  If followers of Christ everywhere played this role, it would create a collaboration of millions of people tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit to redeem what’s broken.  The transformation of entire communities, cities, and even countries becomes possible.

The Church is the hope of the world.  You are the hope of the church.  All that’s left is for you to believe it and act on it.

If you are ready to “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” a good place to start is joining the Justice Movement.  The Justice Movement is a collaboration of Jesus followers around the world serving together to build bridges and break cycles.  It is a voice for compassion and justice in the world.  It amplifies the voice of the weak and responds to their needs.  It’s an education.  It’s an event.  It’s a celebration of liberating power of Jesus in our world.

It doesn’t matter when you start.  It only matters that you do.  But, why wait any longer? Join today by clicking HERE.

Learning to Remove Roadblocks, NOT People

Our natural tendency is to blame problems on people.  When your way is blocked, you think to remove people.  I’m learning, this is often the wrong approach.

I do hate roadblocks.  They are so frustrating.  You know what it feels like to take your normal route only to be redirected.  Your blood pressure rises as soon you see those huge, ugly, orange metal signs with the words “Road Closed.”  It always happens whenever you are in hurry or running late.

Roadblocks are a problem for me, I have to admit.  They bring out the rebel in me.  Nearly every time, I want to drive around them.  Sometimes I do, if I can see the road I need to take.  When that’s not possible, I start complaining about the work being done.  The longer I start complaining about the work project, I eventually find myself complaining about the people doing the job.  All of sudden, the problem shifts from the roadblock to the people.  Now, the people are the problem.

If the people are the problem blocking my way, then the solution is simple:  remove the people.  But, seriously, what a ridiculous thought, right?  You can tell the people to get lost, but don’t expect them to take the roadblocks with them.  Why would they?  There is still a big hole in the road that needs repaired.  They won’t take responsibility for you crashing your car into it.  Plus, they were sent to help the problem, not exacerbate it.

Here’s the deal.  You will face problems at work, at home, in relationships, or any area of your life where you are working toward a future destination.  You know exactly where you want to end up.  You have planned out your way, carefully.  You’ve even been down some of the roads before, so you are familiar with the terrain.  All are wise choices for anyone with a desire to reach your goal.  Still, you will face problems that stand in your way.

I like to call them “Roadblocks.”  That’s what they are.  They are obstacles standing in my (our) way.  The majority of the time, a person or people are not the roadblock.  The roadblock is the roadblock.  In order for it to be removed, I need other people to help move it out of the way.

So, I’m learning to remove roadblocks, not people.  Together, we can ask:  What roadblocks do you see?  How can we work together to move them out of the way?  

Praying God helps me keep my focus on removing roadblocks, instead of being quick to remove people.  Thanking God that the Holy Spirit helps remove roadblocks to transformation rather than removing me. 

 

Learning to Act as if Then is Now

In a leadership talk, Andy Stanley makes reference to an phrase he encourages his team to work by: “act as if then is now.”  It is a gentle nudging to work ahead of the curve.  Don’t wait to make changes when you get there because by then it will be too late.  Whatever you can imagine for the future, do what is required to make it happen right now.

He speaks of the phrase in the context of work, whether corporate or church.  I see the potential value for both worlds.  I will even implement it in my own work as a pastor.  But then, I heard echo of this concept in the Bible.

Philip is the wrong kind of Jew.  He belongs to the group of Jews called Hellenists.  Hellenists are second-rate Jews in relation to the Hebrews.  Hellenists grew up outside of Palestine.  The Hebrews living in Palestine believed themselves to be better Jews.

As you can imagine, conflicts easily broke-out.  One such case was the equal distribution of food to widows.  The Hellenists’ widows were being neglected.  So, in Acts 6:1-7, the decision is made to appoint seven men to overseer the matter.  All seven were Hellenists, one of which was Philip.

Philip was chosen by the apostles to serve this one task, so they could focus their attention toward prayer and scripture.  Preaching was not in the job description.  God had other plans.

God’s calling on Philip’s life transcended a food pantry.  The Holy Spirit moved Philip to preach the good news of Jesus in Samaria.  Many believed and the Church was born in Samaria.

Philip receives word from God to journey down a specific road.  While on the path, he encounters an Ethiopian Eunuch reading the scriptures.  At the Spirit’s leading, Philip strikes up a conversation with the Ethiopian Eunuch.  An opportunity opened for Philip to share the good news about Jesus.  As a result, the Ethiopian Eunuch asked to be baptized.  Right there, right then, Philip baptized him.

Here’s the deal.  The law of Israel strictly forbade a eunuch from becoming a convert to Judaism (Deuteronomy 23:1).  The Ethiopian Eunuch must have known this, as well as Philip.  They both also must have been aware of the promise found only three chapters beyond wha the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading.  It is written:

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.”  For thus says the Lord:  To the Eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.  Isaiah 56:3-5 (NRSV)

By baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch, Philip is declaring the day of the fulfillment of this promise.  He is acting as if then is now.  The future promise in Isaiah is that someday eunuchs will be included with everyone else who loves and obeys God.  In the meantime, everyone is waiting for that day.  Philip doesn’t wait.  He acts as if the promised future is in effect now.  He doesn’t wait to get there.  He brings there, here.

In the Bible, you find promises of a new day.  A day when the poor are made rich.  A day when prisoners are released, blind receive sight, oppressed go free, and our world is made whole.  Jesus declares, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21, NRSV).

Heaven is a beautiful image for tomorrow that Jesus initiates in the now.  The expectation isn’t for us to wait until we die to experience its reality.  You bring it into the present by “acting as if then is now.”

Learning to act as if then is now changes the way you think, communicate, act, live,  and love.  It will seem strange to many.  Few will be disappointed in the transformation it creates.  Praying we all can learn together.

Learning to Allow God to Give You Everything You Need

Who would you like to be in the story?  Choose your character:  (1)  A robber, (2) A beaten down, half-dead man, (3) An employee of the church, (4)  A hero.

I will assume you chose “hero.”  None of us would choose the “beaten down, half-dead man.”  I guess you might choose it if it meant you were Iron Man and you just saved the world.  An employee of the church?  Uhh, maybe.  It would depend on which church and what position.  I hope no one would choose to be a “robber.”  Though, I imagine there is a context where it would seem appropriate or even justified.

Reality is, most of us want to be the “hero” but identify with the “employee of the church.”  You see yourself as the one who should know how to save the day.  You hold the right beliefs.  You have morals. You know right from wrong.  Problem is, you don’t always follow through on your convictions.  You get it wrong sometimes.

The Reverend Dr. Sam Wells challenges you to see yourself as the “beaten down, half-dead man.”

Let me give you context.  The story goes like this:

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  Luke 10:30-35 (NRSV)
The shocking part of this story, as told by Jesus, is the “hero.”  Jesus is throwing quite a zinger out there.  He’s calling some people out.  You would expect at least one of the two “employees of the church” to rescue the man.  They didn’t even acknowledge him.  They treated him like he had cooties, like a dead animal on the side of the road all swollen from maggots and smelling of death.
Feeling the impact of the shock in the story, you and I read it thinking about the role of “hero.”  You want to be the hero.  So, you check yourself.  Do I act like the priest and the Levite?  Do I walk past people who need me in their life?  How do I act more like the Samaritan?
With Dr. Wells, I think most of us would agree “We are not the Samaritan!”  The challenge comes in the character he suggests we are.  He writes:

 

We are the man beaten and bruised by the side of the road. We lack resources, we lack security, we lack everything we need to get to Jericho. We assume the priest and the Levite will give us whatever we need. They have their place, but they’re no use to us on this occasion. The one who offers us salvation is the Samaritan – the stranger, the enemy, the one we assume is out to get us, the one we look down on, the one we wouldn’t dream of living next to, the one we’ve never in our lives eaten a meal with let alone touched, the one who claims to worship the same God but whose religion we despise and whose race we regard as inferior.

This then is the context of engagement. It is not that we’re the affluent priest or Levite driving through the dodgy byways of our local downtown. As long as we read the story that way we will continue to find ever more elaborate methods to pass by the strangers who litter our path. The point is that we’re the man by the road. We’re the needy one who finds God gives us everything we need through the person whom our society, our economy, our culture, and even some of our churches have taught us to patronize, feel guilty about, ignore, or even despise. The gospel is not to scurry around busily making up for the scarcity Jesus so carelessly left behind when making a botched job of the kingdom of God. The gospel is to receive the abundance God has to give us through those the world sees only for what they lack, and thus to allow God to give us everything we need.  –The Nazareth Manifesto 

God gives us what we need.  The problem is, “we do not understand or use the ways God makes the abundance of grace available to us.”  God offers it to us in the lives of others, many of whom are overlooked by society.

You want to be the hero?  You may need to become the “beaten down, half-dead man” first.  Without the ability to embrace your place as one in need of others, you will not be in a position to receive what God wants to give.  You are looking for it in the wrong place, i.e. yourself, the powerful, the elite, the rich.  All sorts of unlikely heroes are waiting for the opportunity to offer you what you need.

Here’s the question:  If you are the “beaten down, half-dead man,” who is your hero?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning How Prayer Leads to Justice: Sophia’s Story

A statement was recently made to me that “prayer changes things.”  

To be honest, I sometimes struggle with phrases like this one.  It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of prayer.  I do.  Praying isn’t a vain act.  God hears our cries and responds with grace and mercy.  My concern is less about God’s response to our prayers and more about about our response to God.

For me, prayer is an exercise in bringing our requests to God with the expectation that God can change things.  Prayer is also a conversation with God in which you exercise the humility to listen.  You speak with a desire to change things.  God speaks with a desire to change you, which oftentimes changes things.

Sophia prayed for change.  She listened to God.  God used her to change things by doing justice.

It is a story of a first-year high school student who attends a Nazarene Church.  It is her journey to drastically change the lives of mothers and their newborn babies.  It starts like this:

Hospitals in Ghana will allow pregnant mothers to have their babies and give any necessary medical care, even when the mothers come to the hospital without cash. But the hospitals have come up with various ways to retrieve money for medications used and other bills. The unfortunate part is that in many hospitals in Ghana North, the newborn babies are detained at the hospital until the parent is able to pay the expenses.

Irresponsible husbands put their pregnant wives in this hard situation by never showing up to the hospital to clear the bills. Sometimes young girls are impregnated by men who refuse responsibility. Such girls sometimes find it difficult to pay bills after delivering at the hospital, and their babies are detained until the family or mother is able to raise funds to clear the debt.

One day Sophia, a first-year high school student and a member of the Dusbuliga Church of the Nazarene, visited the hospital to pray with the sick people as she usually does every Sunday after church….

To read the rest of the story, click on the link NCN News.

Sophia’s story teaches us How Prayer Leads to Justice.  She prayed for change.  She listened to God.  She let God use her life to change wrongs to right.

Thank you Nazarene Compassionate Ministries for sharing stories like Sophia’s.  May our prayers lead us to do more justice in our world.

 

Learning the Power of Looking Past What You Can See

What you can see has the ability to blind you from glimpsing what’s lies beyond your immediate view.

What you can see might be something good.  As one who loves to surf (which doesn’t make me a surfer by the way), I’m constantly in search of a good wave.  Thanks to movies like “Endless Summer,” it is incessant longing for a “perfect” wave.  Along the way, I’ve seen some pretty good waves.  That is, relatively speaking.  To me they were good.

When I find a good wave, I want to stay there.  I sense no need to go anywhere else.  I don’t want to chance missing what is right in front of me.  What’s on the other side of the mountain isn’t worth it at this point.  It might be better, or could be worse.  I’ll take my chances with what I see.

The reverse is also true sometimes.  I’ll see the waves at the first beach I check out and think, “Wow, these waves stink.  I wonder how it is breaking at the other spots?”  I drive a few miles to another beach.  I check it, see the same disappointing sight, and get back in the car.  I might do this three or four times expending 30-45 minutes simply deciding where to surf.  When all is said and done, the first place I stopped may have been the best.  By this point, though, I am not getting in the car again.

In both cases, what I see determines what I do.  On the one hand, I miss what might be out there.  On the other hand, I miss what is right in front of me.  Either way, I am blinded by what I see.  I’ve lost any imagination other than what is materialized right in front of me.

2 Corinthians helps you learn the power of looking past what you can see.

Paul used to be Saul.  As Saul, he was a religious extremist.  He believed in his form of religion to the point that he headhunted any dissenters.  He would arrest, beat, and even kill them.  His primary victims were Jesus followers.

Until that one day when Jesus met Saul on his walk down the long dirt road.  Jesus had already been killed, resurrected, and returned to heaven.  So his visit with Saul came in the form of a blinding light and voice from above.  Without giving all the details, suffice it to say it changed Saul’s life.  From that day forward, he was a follower of Jesus.  Oh yeah, and his name changed to Paul.

Paul carried forth the same zeal into his newfound faith.  With unparalleled passion, he spread the message of Jesus to cities all over the land.  The impending result being his own persecution.  His situation flip-flopped from perpetrator to victim.  He was arrested several times, on trial before the councils, and beaten.

All the while, he is writing letters to churches in the cities where he’s started churches.  2 Corinthians is an obvious followup to a previous letter.  By this point, he’s endured more persecution than you can imagine.  He’s been bruised and beaten.  Still, he has the fortitude to write:

We do not lose heart.  2 Corinthians 4:16 (NRSV)

He goes on.  He admits the destructive affects of enduring physical mistreatment.  His body can only take so much before it wastes away from abuse, if not from old age or sickness.  What he sees, literally, his physical self would seemed doomed to lose.  Seeing such a dire reality, you would expect him to give up.

Paul looks past what he can see.  He writes:

This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NRSV)

Paul looks toward what lies beyond the now to imagine a more excellent reality.  He isn’t blinded by what he can see.  It isn’t able to impede his ability to experience the best of what’s right in front of him or what waits for him on the other side.  What he sees doesn’t control what he does.

The power of looking beyond what he can see emboldens him to pursue the creative beauty of God’s transformation in this world with fresh resolve.  He does not lose heart.”  

I’m learning to look beyond what I can see.

 

Learning to Obey God Rather Than Human Authority

Obeying God isn’t easy.  It comes with great risk.  Plus, it’s not easy to discern the difference from submitting to human authority.

Only a courageous person will choose God.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  It requires a willingness to face the mighty beasts of this world.  At certain points along the journey, you will need to slay the ferocious monsters blocking your way.  Otherwise, you will be swallowed up or turned away.

For those who accept the challenge, epic outcomes will prevail.  You will stand on the other side of humanity, among the ones who get a taste of heaven on earth.  You will move history toward new realities.  You will stand in the line of heroes past who write God’s redemption story.

Like Peter and the apostles in the book of Acts 5, you carry forth the message of Jesus’ saving grace that changes our world.  In 5:12-16, Peter and the apostles are experiencing a high.  God is using their lives to perform “many signs and wonders…among the people” (NRSV). The people in Jerusalem and in the surrounding cities began to believe their story and hold them in “high esteem.”  It’s the type of breakthrough moment you dream of as a leader.

In Acts 5:17, the ugly head of human authority rears its head.  The religious leaders are “filled with jealousy.”  They are guarding the gate to the spirit of the people.  They will not allow this Jesus sect to upset their apple carts.  So, they arrest Peter and the apostles.  While awaiting trial in prison, God sends an angel to set them free. With the doors wide open, the angel instructs the apostles to “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life” (5:20, NRSV).

This is the point where many of us would drop out.  Sure, you would be excited to the be set free.  Who wouldn’t be?  But, to be given the instruction to return to the place of controversy by standing at that epicenter of religious authority with a raucous message, nope.  Essentially, you are being set free to put yourself at greater risk of punishment.  Who’s in?

The apostles were in.  At daybreak, they “entered the temple…and went on with their teaching” (5:21, NRSV).  As expected, the human authority heads weren’t amused.  They had them arrested again, and brought before the council.  I imagine with angered vehemency, they reiterate, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s (Jesus) blood on us” (5:28, NRSV).  Peter and the apostles response is,

We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.  Acts 5:29-32

Courageous, right?  The result was a severe beating, to which the apostles “rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name”  (Acts 5:41, NRSV).  Those are words of brave spirits whose hope is in God’s saving power.

Learning to obey God rather than human authority isn’t a piece of cake.  It is, however, the story that most of us want to tell with our lives.  Every human soul wants to be brave, courageous, and redemptive.  You imagine yourself living a life full of significance.  You dream of slaying dragons.  You long to participate in the victory of good over evil.

As a follower of Christ, you will face the scary monsters of human authority on a regular basis.  Sometimes, it will be obvious.  Other times, it will be hidden in the form of an elderly woman in need who is simply offering an apple for your pleasure.  Either way, the only path to avoid your own demise is learning to discern and follow the voice of God.

I pray for wisdom and courage and endurance for you and for me.