Because the Haystack Rock — the free-standing stone on the coast of Cannon Beach, Oregon — is so huge, I had greatly underestimated my walk along the beach. I was taking pictures, playing in the frigid surf, enjoying the smell of the fresh salt breeze, listening to the call of gulls, and enjoying the clear and warm sunny morning. I had lost track of time in addition to under-estimating distance.

As the minutes rolled into hours, I grew tired and my destination back up the beach was still a long walk. However, I couldn’t help but stop at an elaborate sandcastle on the immense beach. The sandcastle lined up perfectly with the great free-standing stone hundreds of yards behind. (See the full size Scripture graphic.) I knew that as the surf reached high tide across this huge sand flat, the sandcastle would be dissolved and obliterated; its former place undetectable after the tide receded once again. Haystack, however, had stood the test of centuries as the surf relentlessly battered against its hard rock surface. This stone was home to sea and air creatures of all kinds. It was a living sanctuary teeming with aquatic life and hope to thousands of birds.

As I took the picture, I immediately thought of Jesus’ parable about the foolish man who built his house upon the sand and the wise man who built his house upon the rock. Jesus told his followers the following story:

Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won't collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash. (Matthew 7:24-27 NLT Ed. 1)

Both the wise and foolish knew the words of Jesus. What was the difference between "won't collapse" and "a mighty crash"? The wise person acts on Jesus words — that person literally does what Jesus says — while the foolish person hears Jesus' words but does nothing to integrate them into daily life.

In another place and time, we called the behavior of the wise person, obedience. While that word may have fallen out of vogue in recent times, words like "real," "genuine," "authentic" and "true" are also biblical terms for the same concept and elements of life most in demand today. So many non-Christians hear the Christian rhetoric today and see it as irrelevant because of the corruption of TV preachers, the detachment of churches they know from any socially redemptive work, and the hypocrisy they see in those who claim to be Christians.

They are not wrong in their skepticism. We have to acknowledge this truth when surveys continue to show evangelical Christians don't have lifestyles or behaviors that are significantly more moral than their non-Christian counterparts. (See Ron Sider's interview.) In other words, lots of folks claiming to be Christians are building houses on the sand.

In the interesting little primer on the ABC's of postmodern emerging culture and faith, "A is for Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church", the authors talk about being obedient, real, and authentic in terms of beauty:

Perhaps, then, the most effective apologetic for today is beauty, and not just beauty of the arts, but also beauty of open-book relationships. Along with the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the NT (New Testament), postmodern seekers want to see the beauty of the Gospel According to You (the Gospel's continuing story in you) in YT (Your Testament — a life well-lived) and the YG (Your Gospel), the Fifth Gospel. ("A is for Abductive" p. 40.)

At first glance, we could dismiss this assessment as more social babble and modern relativism. It is not. We must realize that the world is looking for a faith that is willing to be stunningly counter-cultural, passionately lived, and rigorously embraced in daily life. They may not adopt such a faith, but they will at least admire the courage of those who live it rather than dismissing it as insignificant, irrelevant, and hypocritical. The question is whether you and I are willing to build our houses on rock or the sand.

Why is it so hard for us to be obedient?
Am I willing to obey what Jesus says rather than explain it away?

Am I willing to put my life where my mouth is?

Will I walk the walk or will I just keep on with the same ol' religious talk?

So rather than challenging us to diagnose what is wrong in the general overall lack of obedience in the greater Christian community, I'd like to challenge you — and myself as well — to determine where it is that you are having the most trouble living up to the call of Jesus.

Is it in the way you treat the poor or the way you speak to others or live up to your marriage vows or you handle matters of integrity at the office or what you do with your thought world while on the Internet or ...?

Why is it so hard for us to be obedient, to be real, to live authentically, to be genuine in our faith as followers of Jesus? I'd like to hear from you and see what you think. You can respond by replying on my blog! The blog address is