Are you a risktaker?

Futures, stocks & bonds require a certain amount of risk, don't they? Some readers may be willing to take a risk on a relationship, on picking an exciting paint for a room or on riding an attraction at some theme park. . . You get the point.

What about God, though?

Are you willing to take a risk - any risk - for God? In the world of investments, a certain amount of risks are taken as being necessary for the sake of the possible returns an investor may yield, gain, etc. With relationships, the old axiom, "what if", tends to boggle the mind and encourages people to make decisions that may - in fact - turn out to be wonderful for the risktaker, but in some cases, risks mean certain death - HIV, for instance. You may have found an exciting photograph in a magazine that inspired you to go to your local "do-it-yourself" store and buy daring hues of paint to add spunk and "new life" to a rather dreary and shabby looking room. Theme parks are filled with risk-taking possibilities - many of those opportunities are recorded on camera & ready for purchase at the exit of the ride. These "stare-death-in-the-face" moments become priceless moments for families & friends.

Jesus asks us to count the costs before we embark on following Him. His life and ministry are the prospectus that we are to pray about as we discern investing every shred of our spiritual, physical, mental and emotional capital into a life - that according to the world's pundits, with some notable exceptions (and these are becoming rarer and rarer over time), will not yield any worthwhile dividends.

This leads to the next issue - relationships. . .

What are the "expectations" you have about having a relationship with God? Does God need to satisfy you? What are your expectations for yourself toward sustaining a relationship with God? Do you have any?

Funny thing that I've often heard women and men talk about having an "ideal" person in mind when it comes to a relationship. What's your "ideal" god like? The Bible teaches us that we are to divest ourselves of these pretensions and self-serving attitudes, but they are present and they do influence are choices and actions. So, instead of acting as if we don't have these expectations for God, let's face up to them and ask how do they measure up to the God of Abraham, Ruth, Elijah & Deborah, for instance?

As words like sacrifice, suffering, humility, forgiveness and reconciliation continue to become more and more offensive and to demonstrate a measure of vulnerability most people are not willing to entertain for anyone (or for God, for that matter); words like b!$%h, f*&k;, s$#t and other crude vulgarity become commonplace vernacular demonstrating individualism and defiant attitudes apt for song lyrics, primetime TV & video games. This new "liberating", "in-your-face" & "whatever" diction is even used by some teachers addressing their students and for some parents addressing their kids.

It's no wonder we grow more violent as a society, less altruistic as a community and surely less willing to experience vulnerability in relationships.

As all things work against loving one another, we find more and more examples of how we should do things for "ME" rather than for someone else. We begin to reconfigure and "paint" the town with a new sense of being and purpose that is singluar, rooted in individuality and unwilling to bend for others - unless it benefits us. The selfless life of faith in God doesn't seem too attractive or - even worse - FUN. This is especially true when we consider Brittany Spears lyrics, ". . .livin' in sin is the new thing . . ." Where has she been? Consider a 9-year-old singing "3" by Spears… get the picture?

Our masks, our attitude and our beliefs, are the paint we use to present ourselves; our masks before society - and in vain we choose to do the same before God. We seek to veil our shame, guilt, insecurities and feelings of emptiness, just to name a few.

So, as we stare this reality squarely in the face, and take time to acknowledge the nature of our mortality - what risks are we really willing to take? Are we going to risk focusing on ourselves alone and remain estranged from God? Are we going to risk only what we can control and manage? Are we seeking a god we can control? A god that agrees with us and serves our ends?

Will we concentrate on making memories that will ultimately cause us to reflect on a stagnant and selfish existence? How far are we really willing to go to love without conditions or expectations? Do we have limits to forgiveness?

Only God and you know the answers to these questions. The tragedy also lies in the fact that not only are these questions directed to non-church goers but to believers as well.

I challenge you to divest yourself of as many pretenses as possible. Ask the Holy Spirit to take total control of your life and to convict you to do away with the "me first" attitude. Ask God to bind all those thoughts that suck the life of your prayers and passions for God. And if you happen to not have passion for God, ask the Spirit to engulf you in holy flames for Him. Risk your life for God's life in you. As you die to self, the Lord will save you from spiritual.

Speak to anyone who seeks love in clubs and in the world. An honest conversation will surely unveil the emptiness and desire to find something better. What limits the possibilities for so many are the assumptions that most have that the Church is morally and spiritually bankrupt. Consequently, there really isn't any other way to survive in this world . . . so, . . . You do your best, try to live a "good" life, don't hurt anyone . . . Have you heard this before? How many people do you know who have this so-called "philosophy"? Have you had a cup of coffee with them? You may want to. Ultimately - a theme and a pattern will become more familiar to you as you have more and more of these cups of coffee with others - discouragement.

Risk everything for God. Everything. Ask others to tell you what their lives are like and then ask yourself if you agree that living for anything other than God is really living at all.