Monday, November 26, 2012

Sharing Our Thankfulness In This World

Our pastor's great discussions in recent sermons on the tension of being in but not of this world have reminded me of another dimension of this tension: All of the created universe is both good and evil.

God created all things, and he created them good. Because God sustains all matter and life, this goodness persists, and it cannot help but be seen and heard by those with open eyes and ears. We share this in common with the world. We were all designed to enjoy the goodness of God's creation, in myriad ways, and that design is apparent at the root of all sensual pleasures (meaning of the senses, not merely sexual). This the argument against the extreme of removing ourselves from the world to avoid being tempted by our senses - God designed us to enjoy this world!

On the other hand, sin entered this world and has permeated all of the created universe. In spite of the goodness that we can sense in everything, it is all tainted by evil, to varying degrees. Our fallen flesh, the fallen world, and the fallen devil have all taken advantage of God's created goodness - tempting, twisting, and perverting - anything to draw our devotion away from the one true source of all goodness. This is the basis of the argument against the extreme of taking part in all that this world has to offer - It has all been twisted to pull us away from the only one who can heal us.

So how do we Christians live in this tension? In knowledge the depth of this world's and our own brokenness, and in knowledge of the Good News, God's plan-in-progress for the redemption of our true selves and the rest of this universe. We share this in common with the world. We all feel the wrongness of this world and long for it all to be made right. The difference is that we know the reason for our hope and have surrendered ourselves to God's design. Our Creator, Savior, and Healer are one and the same, and have all the power to bring their plan for ultimate redemption to completion as we submit to and join in that work, both in us and around us.

That is Good News to be thankful for! Am I sharing it like I believe it?
Like you, I struggle with that...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Today at the supermarket, I stopped by the eggs. They weren't on my list, but I counted how many I thought were in the carton at home.

While I surveyed the cage-free options – TWO out of two-dozen options - two women walked from the opposite direction. They split up; one going past for mozzarella, the other picking up a standard dozen eggs, the cheapest carton available.

She made her choice so nonchalantly, so automatically, hardly weighing the options. 
(I hemmed and hawed for more than a minute.) How does she choose? 

I observed one habit. She decided once, which color package to buy. And now buys it repeatedly, no evaluating necessary. Easy.

But there is another habit – avoidance. It is easier to look at those bland cartons and imagine happy hens. I want them to be happy and healthy. And so I imagine, looking away from the reality that one egg from one happy hen must cost more than 0.12 cents. Is that egg from a hen that has even stood on its own feet?

I do this – this looking away – all the time. Sometimes it's the only way I can cope in this broken world:

I turn my head, look straight past the homeless man that has nowhere else to go.
I tune out the number of Washington orphans waiting for homes.
I deafen my ears to the environment's screams.
I shield my heart from community that doesn't value my contribution.
I look away from the dog down the street, left tied up, alone.
I switch off the news and retreat to my quiet garden: digging, planting, weeding, anything for hours, trying to imagine there's no conflicts, no pain...

I can only handle so much – alone. But, over time my relationship with Jesus builds up my tolerance. He looked straight at the hurting, the broken, the rejected, the lost in this life and touched them, listened to them, gave them what He could.

Because of His mercy, now I can look at the abuse, the slavery of today and say – NO – I will respond. 
I will partner with others who help bring light into the darkness, freedom for the captives, good news to the poor.
I will keep praying for needs that remain for decades, for the impossible to come in the hearts of those consumed by anger and fear.
And I will spend my dollars in full view of the One who paid for me. I will focus on what He says is valuable.

So, I choose to see and acknowledge the hardness of Life and I Refuse to give up. But not by my own power. I wouldn't last one day alone.

Friday, December 09, 2011


In reflecting on where David Platt has taken me on the journey through Radical, my thought-they-were-already-enlightened eyes have been opened. What is sticking with me is: "The key is realizing - and believing - that this world is not your home." (p179)

I feel this fact often, as I collide with the fallenness of this world. I live this fact often, as my own fallenness leaks out through my pores and into my actions (and inaction). Yet my survival instinct gains the upper hand, and I build my little nest, made of the comforts available to me. The Lord is my refuge, as Psalm 91 proclaims and He provides solace in the midst of the world's brokenness and blessings sweet enough to tantalize our imaginations of heaven - but to what end?. 

His blessings are to give us strength to live out our created purpose. Instead of huddling in bubbles of escape from the harm suffered by others, He gives us His boldness to go to people that convention has abandoned. Instead of words of violence in defense of institutions whose founder needs none, He gives us His Word of truth, grace, and hope to speak in a world devoid of each. Instead of grasping hands clinging to this world's fading comforts, He gives us His healing hands to extend into a deeply wounded world.

Lord of the universe and of my life, I surrender it once again - not that You might bless me, but that You might use me to bless this world that needs You more than anything.

Friday, December 02, 2011


People today don't (maybe never did) like to receive pointed personal convictions. When we're told what to do or not to do, our natural (fallen) reaction is defiance. This holds true for the people in the church at large, for people in our church, and for me specifically.

For some of us (myself especially), it goes deeper than that. We like our consciences to be "pricked" - even need them to be in a "good sermon" - but follow up with nothing but intellectual assent and good intentions. Books like Radical, by David Platt are great reading for those like us - until we get to chapter 9, that is. It leaves us with the question, "What are we actually going to do about it?" If we've been intellectually assenting throughout the book, the appropriate response is unfortunately all too clear.

If we believe what we've read, if we believe what God reveals in his Word, we will respond - either by action or inaction. The cycle of revelation and response is all  throughout the scripture. It is the story of God working in the lives of his people. It is how God wants to work in us, in me. But in order for him to be able to work in us, to transform us into Christ-like-ness, we must respond. In action.

So what will our response be? What will my response be?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Who Do I Think I Am?

To be honest, I'm not at all comfortable with the idea that a person who does not trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord ends up in hell, regardless of whether they heard about him or not. But that's what he said. I say I believe in him. Do I really believe him? When he says things that make me uncomfortable?

Maybe the real problem is what leaves me comfortable. I'm pretty comfortable living as if those around me, even those I care for, don't really need to hear or be enlightened and transformed by this Truth called Jesus... like I do. I'm comfortable living as if they don't really need to be guided through life's questions, pitfalls, and quagmires by this Way called Jesus... like I do. I'm comfortable living as if they don't really need to be reborn, restored, and renewed into this Life called Jesus... like I do. Who do I think I am?

Lord, You have blessed me beyond my comprehension: you forgave me, you redeemed me, you healed me, you restored me, you gave me hope of new and eternal life. And I am blessed to be a blessing. Lord, please change my heart to love more like yours, my arms to reach out more like yours, and my feet to follow after yours.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How Can I Help?

The problems of poverty, sickness, and injustice present a brokenness that is overwhelmingly widespread, intricately interwoven, and hopelessly complex. If and when we get a glimpse of the whole picture, it's very difficult for us to get ourselves out of the shock-induced paralysis that results, and out of the apathy of learned helplessness.

Maybe we should reconsider how God probably sees these problems. His omniscience is fully aware of the whole picture all of the time, but I suspect he approaches it differently.

First, God takes it personally. He sees not only the mass of billions barely getting by, but also counts the hairs on the head of each forgotten child. In today's culture of global communication, it is easier than ever to get involved an assistance programs at a personal level, whether it involves local service or the support of a special child around the world.

Second, God addresses it locally. God's plan to change the world started with 12 disciples making a different where they were, growing churches that were spread wide, but deeply rooted in their communities. Again, we have unprecedented opportunities today to partner with organizations that have a long-term, sustainable presence in the communities that they serve - whether they're down the street or in another hemisphere.

Third, I think God changes from the inside out. God sacrificed himself, so that we could be reconciled to Him - but that's only the beginning of the story of restoration and transformation that he wants to write on our lives. The rest depends on our own willingness to surrender our own misguided ways and follow His with hope and perseverance. In the same way, we should aid in ways that enable, give hope, and build up others to be deeply involved in their own restoration.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Giving All You've Got

One of the struggles in stewardship (maybe the biggest hurdle for most) is that it so often seems like an all-or-nothing proposition. Frankly, that situation is even exacerbated by a superficial reading of the story of the rich young man in Mark 10:17-31. A superficial reading would naturally lead us to conclude that unless we live the life of a possession-less missionary, we're not true followers of Christ. And that's a downer that is pretty difficult to get over.

It was only studying this passage just recently that I think I might be starting to get Jesus' point - and it's right in the middle, trying to get our full attention: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Whether its wealth, or possessions, or family (I'm reading God's command of Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22:1-18 differently now), or land that we're holding on to for our security, we're doomed. God want us to cling to and put our full faith in Him, the source of anything we could possibly need, not the blessings that He so richly gives us and the rest of the world.

God isn't asking us to give up what we need in order to be utterly barren. God is asking us to let go of what we think we need in order that He can fully bless us (to be a blessing) through our faith in Him.

In light of all this, the question I'm pondering is: "What am I holding onto that might be getting in God's way?"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stuck On Myself

One thought that has stayed with me through the years is the idea that pride is not always self-elevating. My struggle is with the self-deprecating variety. It is most often evident in how I spend my time in prayer - I'm most often focused on myself: my brokenness, my need for God's transformation in my heart, my need to get my faith out of my head & mind and into my feet, hands, and mouth. These are good things. But all too often, I get no farther. I get "stuck" on myself.

This variety of pride doesn't really believe in God's all-surpassing sufficiency - in my life and in the world around me. This pride doesn't really believe in God's purpose and faithfulness to work in me as I move my life out of its comfortable box and in the direction of his nudging. This pride doesn't really believe that God's power is made perfect (and his glory shown) in my weakness, and that given history, I should expect his provision for me to do his work only after I get moving in his direction.

It's only in that posture of utter dependence that I should expect God to be able to fully bless me, and only for the purpose of being a blessing to others.