Friday, December 19, 2008

Walking in GRACE

OK, I want to continue what I began the last time, contrasting walking in the spirit (WITS) with walking in the flesh (WITF). For brevity sake, I'll just use S for WITS and F for WITF. Thanks to Linda and Rosie who added their own versions!
Here's a few more of mine:

F: Wages S: Grace
F: Works S: Faith
F: Doing S: Being
F: I can S: I can't
F: Focus on sin S: Focus on the cross
F: I will be pleasing to God S: I am pleasing to God.
F: About me S: About Jesus
F: I am strong S: I am weak
F: Have to S: Get to
F: Duty S: Privilege
F: Obey him S: Love him
F: Just tell me what to do. S: Just tell me who I am.
F: Cross plus.... S: Cross. Period
F: Stuck in a bad marriage S: Dead to the law, free to marry Christ

The sad and amazing thing we see in churches today is how subtle the gospel of works has crept into our thinking. What Sunday school teacher wouldn't be glad if little Johnny said he was going to try real hard not to do bad things so he could win a gold star? But trying not to do bad things will only find Johnny in the midst of Romans 7. Holding up the law only seems to stimulate our desire to fall. Lift-yourself-up-by-the bootstraps mentality just won't cut it in the long haul. Only grace can bring about real heart transformation.

The way to beat bitterness, anxiety, lust or pride isn't by trying harder, making a list and checking it twice. It's by making Christ our focus, and falling in love with him.

Perhaps, because of the season, I should add one more. How about this contrast? Works gospel: Santa! True Gospel of Grace: Jesus. Remember, Santa rewards niceness and watches for naughtiness, doesn't he? That's just one more example of a works gospel creeping into our thinking.

If I don't get another blog in before the holiday, have a merry Christmas!

One more thing: A local newspaper had an interesting typo regarding a book-signing that I am doing at our local Barnes and Noble: It said, "Harry Kraus will be singing his book, "Perfect."

Me singing: That would be a sure way to run customers out of the store!

Hmmm. I'd better warm up with a few scales, huh?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I don't have any boots!

Wow. My whirlwind trip to Kenya and back is over. In many ways, it felt like a homecoming. I was back in Kijabe, where I served as a missionary surgeon for four years. Seeing old friends and making a few new ones was an undeserved joy.

Undeserved joy. The essence of grace. Which, of course, brings me back to the topic of my message series: GRACE!

It was so much fun to nudge fellow believers to recognize the grace of God. And so needed. Because western Christians seem hardwired to default to the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality.

Why is it so hard to believe that God won't like me just a little more if I perform well on a test? Maybe it's because we like ourselves a little more.

But in God's economy, the cross is all that matters. I've become his righteousness. Christ became sin for me.

I love what Pastor Mark Driscoll ( says about the things we do to try to remedy our own sin problem. Anything we do to try and make ourselves acceptable to God is living out of a false gospel. False gospels, Driscoll says, always elevate self. The true gospel elevates the cross. False gospels says, "pick yourself up by your bootstraps." The true gospel says, "You don't have any boots!"

I want to deserve God's love. But on my own, I don't. Without boots, I'm completely incapable of lifting myself up to God.

I've started a list to compare the true gospel with our number one default gospel, working hard to make yourself presentable to God. The heading of one column is "Walking in the Spirit," the other, "Walking in the flesh."

I'll get us started and I'll ask you to fill in your own. For example, under "Walking in the flesh," I enter, "pick yourself up by your bootstraps." Under "Walking in the Spirit," I write: "No boots!" Under WITF, I write, "works". Under WITS, "faith." Under WITF, "doing." WITS: "Being." Under WITF: Fruit-oriented. WITS: root-oriented. WITF: behavior modification. WITS: heart-transformation.

You get the idea. Let me see your comparisons. Next time, I'll give you my whole list.

Grace, Harry

Monday, December 1, 2008


Thanksgiving has come and gone and my boys are heading back to school. I'm off on an adventure myself, leaving this morning for a quick trip to Kenya, back to Kijabe, my home for most of the last five years. I'm officially on a trip to give a series of talks on GRACE (based on my book, "Breathing Grace: What You Need More Than Your Next Breath"), but the fun will be reconnecting with so many great friends.

Could I ask you to cover my back? (Pray!) Desires: safety in travel, health and adjustment for time difference, clarity of thought and presentation, and that I could be keenly aware of God's grace as I present the wonderful principles of living a life of grace saturation.

The one thing that I'm keenly aware of is how little (NOTHING) I can throw my shoulders back and take credit for....when I'm talking about grace, it is antithetical to feel responsible for any of this! Every breath I've been loaned on this earth is one more example of undeserved divine favor. I don't deserve it. Didn't earn it. Can't take credit for it.

My realization of grace is a good one...if I'm tempted to feel unworthy ("I can't teach about this. Just look at my life!"), it only serves to help me sit in the right attitude for grace reception!

I'll be back in one week. I'm off to the airport!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How to be thankful CONTINUOUSLY

It's a great day for me, folks. I love this time of year. The leaves are changing. There is a briskness to the air that stirs body and soul. I particularly love this time of year because my sons and family are home for a short visit, and with them come friends and a full house, busting at the appropriate setting for thanksgiving. I awoke this morning to the wonderful smell of Thanksgiving food preparation. Kris had risen early to get the bird in the oven and the aroma was enough to prompt great memories and gratitude. Giving thanks today is easy.

But what about when it's not so easy? The Bible is full of reminders that thanksgiving is to be a part of my life experience...continuously. We read in 1Thes. "Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS. In EVERYTHING give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus..." Wow. Always. In everything. The writer of Hebrews says that (chapter 13) we are to bring the sacrifice of praise to God continuously and defines it as the "fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name."

So how can it be done?

I'll make two suggestions. Gratitude is a natural overflow from a heart established in grace. First, we will never be grateful for things we have earned or deserve, so we have to remind ourselves that we are loved in spite of our failings. That's what makes grace grace and not wages. I need a constant reminder that I need him. I can't do it on my own and whenever I've slipped into a works-gospel (believing that God will find me a bit more acceptable if I behave properly), I need to face the truth that walking in self-sufficiency will only bring me closer to myself and closes off the flow of God's grace.

Secondly, I need continuous grace awareness. Everything. EVERYTHING I receive is an act of God's grace. Every breath I take is evidence of grace. What I deserve for sin is hell. What I've been given because of the gospel of grace is right-standing with God. When I walk in continuous grace awareness, the natural result is overflow in gratitude (in addition to grace flowing out of my life to those around me).

The language the Bible uses to describe this amazing switch (my sin for Christ's righteousness) is particularly interesting and not something I'll pretend to understand. In Corinthians it says that Christ "became sin." Not died for sin. Not paid for sin. Became sin. And then it says that the result is that I will become the righteousness of Christ. Not have it, obtain it or that God will apply Christ's righteousness on my ledger to make up for my sin. It says that I will actually become the righteousness of Christ. That, I don't fully understand. Fortunately, getting it isn't necessary to promote thankfulness.

When you find yourself slipping into the complacency of ingratitude, remind yourself of the truth of the Gospel. Realize that God's grace wasn't applied once to your life at salvation. It is the ongoing, sustaining, sanctifying force that will hold us throughout life. God's grace determines his posture towards us as his children and it touches my life every moment.

This means that God's grace is touching your life as a believer when times are good, and when times are hard. Yes, God's grace is what prevents tragedy such as a car accident. But it is also God's grace when he allows tragedy to touch our lives. Sometimes grace wears a cloak of suffering. Car accidents. Cancer. The loss of love. The death of a friend. For the believer, all are evidences of grace. It is a recognition that God's grace is a constant, that it governs every action of God towards us, that allows us to react with a will to thank him in all circumstances.

Awareness of that grace is key to a life of thanksgiving. Today and year-round!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Walking in the Spirit-2: Winning the battle over sin

In reading Romans eight, we gain more insight into just what Paul means by walking according to the Spirit. He says,

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8:5-6

It all works together. Considering ourselves dead and setting our mind on the things of the Spirit assist us in our fight for freedom.
If we keep our minds fixed on beating the problem (fulfilling the law), we fail. If we fix our minds on Christ, we find the victory we seek. Remember the sins that cling so closely? The writer of the book of Hebrews gives the same advice to win over clingy sins (addictions):

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2

Paul links the two (setting our mind on Christ and being crucified) when he states,

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:2-3

In the book of Galatians, Paul rebukes the believers for trying to complete by the law, that which was begun by the Spirit (by grace). I love the way Eugene Petersen says it in his paraphrase, The Message.

“You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the Cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?”
Galatians 3:1-3

An answer to our sin dilemma is coming into focus. We can’t beat sin by determining to keep the law. Winning comes when we begin to accept the gospel of grace as powerful and adequate enough to keep us from sin.
Perhaps contrasting the two methods will help us understand how walking in grace (the spirit) works:
If I battle according to the flesh, I concentrate on the law. If I battle according to the Spirit, I concentrate on grace. In the flesh, the emphasis is on me conquering sin. In the Spirit, the emphasis is on Christ in me conquering sin. In the flesh, I work. In the Spirit, God works. In the flesh, sin is central. In the Spirit, the cross is central. In the flesh, I’m seeking justification by works. In the Spirit, I accept the work of the cross as sufficient, a work of grace. In the flesh, I concentrate on me. In the Spirit, my eyes are on Christ.
Have you ever tried to not think a thought? The very act of not trying to think of something forces you to fail! This is a big part of the problem in trying to not sin. The very act of trying not to sin places sin in focus and we are ensnared by the temptation.
So what, do I just ignore sin?
Not exactly. Walking in the Spirit isn’t passive. It’s active with the focus on the Cross. And guess what happens when my thoughts are set on the things of the Spirit? Gratitude. Wonder. Jesus and his cross grow.
The good news about concentrating on Christ is that as he becomes my focus, my desire for sin falls away. I’ve beaten the addiction not by shear strength of my will, but by falling in love with Jesus.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Walking in the Spirit-1

I've been preparing a series of lectures on grace and wanted to put a few of my thoughts out here on the net for my readers. Walking in grace is all about walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit: Oh great, another phrase that we’ve spiritualized until no one seems sure what Paul was talking about. What is walking by the Spirit? We envision a holy-man of sorts, eyes fixed on the clouds, walking in a zombie-like trance.
I think Paul meant something much more practical. Within the context of the whole book of Galatians, Paul is talking about walking in grace. He’s telling us that in order to win the battle over the flesh, we can’t do it by the law. We have to do it by grace!

“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
Galatians 3:3

Let’s go back and review a basic concept. How were we saved? By grace, right?
So right at salvation, a huge victory was won over our sins, and it had nothing to do with us. It had everything to do with the cross, with who God is and what he does. Grace is the avenue. Grace is the divine quality whereby God freely loves, forgives and exalts sinners into sonship. Grace frames every interaction that God has with his children. We were saved by grace and by grace God moves us on towards the image of his son.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son….”
Romans 8:29a

But most of us have accepted the part of salvation by grace, but we’ve left the altar and decided to carry on in our own strength. We fail and feel guilty and so we’re reluctant to approach God for help. That’s why addictions are so difficult to combat. Because, not only do we try to fight them in our own strength, we shrink away from grace because of our guilt.
Paul taught that when we were crucified with Christ so that we could find freedom from our enslavement to sin.
Some of you are thinking, That’s exactly what my addiction is like. I’m a slave. It says jump and I say, “how high?”
So just what does being crucified with Christ mean? First, Paul says we know this to be true. That’s something that the Holy Spirit settles in our hearts.

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”
Romans 6:6

A few verses later, Paul says we must consider this so. This is what the King James Version refers to as “reckoning.”

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 6:11

Paul likens being put to death with Christ so we will understand personally that a debt has been paid on our behalf. Christ died for our sins. In effect, we died, because that was what was required to pay off our debt. But Paul’s metaphor of dying works on another level. We’ve died to the law, our marriage partner, so in effect, we are free from its stranglehold on our souls to marry another, Christ, the personification of grace.
So walking in the Spirit and being crucified with Christ are both equated in the scripture to overcoming enslavement to sin.
But what does it mean?
I believe the answer comes as we begin to experience the freedom of grace.

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”
Romans 6:14

This is the secret to overcoming addiction: grace.
Paul makes it clear through Romans six and seven that the law is powerless to help us live the life we desire. Concentrating on the law only seems to stimulate a desire within us to break the law. So in my efforts to win over addiction (habitual sin), by holding up my determination not to break the law…I fall.
In reading Romans eight, we gain more insight into just what Paul means by walking according to the Spirit. He says,

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8:5-6

It all works together. Considering ourselves dead and setting our mind on the things of the Spirit assist us in our fight for freedom.
If we keep our minds fixed on beating the problem (fulfilling the law), we fail. If we fix our minds on Christ, we find the victory we seek.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Bridge...awesome!

You have to watch this video. Be prepared to cry.
Look at the faces of those who were saved....and they knew nothing of the sacrifice that bought their safety.
Amazing and heart warming:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Read this before voting for Mr. Obama

OK, this election really seems to be whipping up the emotions, doesn't it?
For many Christians, the issues surrounding the fundamental right to life is paramount. Yet I hear of Christians who are willing to cast a vote for Obama and I am puzzled. How can we compromise on this issue and sacrifice the innocent in the womb? It is clear that God knows us and loves us even before birth. When we turn our eyes away from the slaughter of innocents and cast a vote for a pro-abortion candidate, we are cheapening life for all of us.
For this reason, I urge anyone contemplating a vote for Mr. Obama to read this short article before entering the voting booth. All I can say in response is, "amen."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Choosing death over life

A drowning sailor claws at the surface of the water, gasping, fearful, crying out for help. A life line is deployed and is within easy reach, but the sailor turns away, preferring to fight on his own. Exhausted, he slips into the hungry darkness of the ocean.
Starving, a man is escorted to a banquet table laden with food. With life-saving nutrition within easy reach, he willfully and apparently happily, wastes away, dying with a concentration-camp physique, skin a translucent covering over sharp bone.
A woman parched with thirst, faints in the desert heat rather than sip from the cool water in her hand.
A prisoner on death row chooses to stay in solitary confinement, turning down a President’s pardon.
A cancer victim turns away from a guaranteed cure.
Survivors (and I am in their midst) stand on the sidelines, aghast at the deathly choices of the masses.

Imagine an offer so amazing that to walk away would be damnable. Inexcusably crazy.
But this is what is happening every day. Every second.
Our generation chooses to die. Yes, they freely choose death over life. Hell over heaven. Pain over everlasting joy.
To me, this is nearly unbelievable, and it points to huge problems facing today’s church.
My search for an adequate simile pales in light of reality. Is the perception of Christ and his church, rather than the reality of Christ, responsible for this understated tragedy?

As a church, we hold a treasure of inestimable worth. We serve an indescribably powerful God who launched a loving rescue plan.
Yet the world looks on in revulsion. I’ll never join the ranks of those hypocrites. If that’s what being a Christian means, count me out! They scoff at our offer, joking their way into eternity. I’d rather be in hell with my friends…
The drowning sailor prefers to fight on his own. The starving and thirsty turn away from food and water. The prisoner willfully chooses to stay in his cell, wearing sunglasses of damnable delusion. Freedom is here, he thinks, within these walls.


I've got my theories, but I want to hear yours. I spent several hours in a mall asking non-christians why they were not Christians. The answers may surprise you. But what do you think? Why aren't unbelievers flocking to our doors because of the good news?

Comment below or e-mail me from my contact page.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Check this out!

Just wanted to let my readers know about an interview that has appeared on Crossway Books' blog site. It's all about my newest non-fiction book, "The Cure." Check out this address:

Happy surfing!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Christian writers: What is our calling?

I was listening to a Christian teacher a few weeks ago. "Why did Jesus come?"

Many answers were given. "To save us." "To seek and save the lost." "To free those in bondage to sin."

All of these answers and more were rejected. They were good answers, to be sure, but not exactly what the teacher was getting at. The specific answer is found in Jesus comment to Pilate recorded in John 18:37:

"...For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth..."

Honestly, that wasn't the first thing that popped into my head as I attempted to answer the question. But as I considered it, and thought about the truth that Jesus came to testify about, I understood. And I considered that our calling as Christian writers can be distilled down to this important element: a testimony to the truth.

Jesus is inseparably linked to the word and to the truth. We understand from John 1 that Jesus is one with his message. He is called "the word." He is God. He is the message. He is the truth. (Remember, "I am the way, the truth, and the life...").

Not a truth. The truth.

In our post-modern culture, truth is under attack. Absolutes have given way to relativism. What is true for me may not be true for you. Is not this the beginning of a downward slide into an anything-goes lawlessness?

I was privileged to attend the Desiring God national convention this past week in Minneapolis. The theme was the Power of Words and the Wonder of God. It was an awesome time to soak up great teaching from John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Sinclair Ferguson, Bob Kauflin, and Paul Tripp. I was particularly interested in the way Mark Driscoll (teaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle) broke down the ministry calling of today's communicators:
1. Feed the sheep (the Christians).
2. Rebuke the swine (Christians who are not following the narrow path).
3. Shoot the wolves (he noted that pastors who stumble into the philosophy of loving everyone, not creating controversy will end up loving even the wolves and that the wolves will take over their congregations).
4. Bark at the dogs (these are the "religious" people who are legalists, threatening the gospel by their false teaching. Mark is busy calling sinners to repent of their sin and the religious people of our day to repent of their religions.
5. Pray for the shepherds. This is critical so they can distinguish the sheep from the swine/wolves/dogs.

I believe our calling as Christian writers is a clear presentation of truth (Jesus). No, I don't mean that each novel has to be laced with the four spiritual laws or the Roman's road to salvation or even have a conversion within the covers. But in some way, there have to be distinctions that set our writings apart. A spiritual message cannot be tacked on. It has to be woven into the story in such a fashion that to remove it will cause the whole theme to unravel. The truths that we present may come as an encouragement to the sheep.

Or they may come as a rebuke to the swine. Or as a sniper to the wolves.

When we present the truth, we are giving our readers a glimpse into some aspect of God. Faced with an image of God, three things happen. I've adapted this from a presentation called "The Truth Project" a seminar sponsored by Focus on the Family. Read Isaiah 6:1-8 When Isaiah saw the Lord, there were three results (and can we not predict that a presentation of truth would have a similar response along these three lines?): 1. He was exposed ("I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.") 2. Our culture is exposed ("I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips...") and 3. We become world changers ("Here am I, send me.").

Christian writers, what is our calling? To testify to the truth!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Domesticated Jesus

“DJ.” I might as well call him this, because effectively I’ve reduced the creator and master of the universe down into a concept so small I’ve nicknamed him. Domesticated Jesus. It’s a horrible name really, and my use of it hardly reflects his worth. But to say it, to write it here is so shocking that perhaps that’s the point after all. What we’re doing, unconsciously to a large part, is to bring down what is huge, wild and untamable and repackage him so that we can function.
To come to grips with reality will mean I’ve got to change, open my eyes and come to terms not only with his greatness, but also my smallness and that’s the grind. Sin has done this to me, landed me in this spot and so I’m vowing forever to fight this ironic switch, the one that’s been with mankind since a snake convinced my ancestors that they could be like God. That switch, of course, is the essence of sin: anything that makes a big God small and makes my small self big.
And in the process, I’ve domesticated the Almighty.
Tamed him. Advised him.
Put him in a box. Fenced him into a safe pasture.
Expected him to function like a divine vending machine.
I like that because I get to be in control or at least sit on a deluded cushion of mental comfort where I’ve convinced myself that I’m in the driver’s seat. The truth is, every time I come face to face with just a fraction of the reality of who Jesus is, I realize just how horribly weak my version of him has become.
And that sickens me. Shocks me.
And it should.
I told my wife the title of this blog and she didn't hesitate. “I don’t like it. It makes Jesus sound effeminate.”
I don’t like it either, and that’s the point.
To even associate the name above all other names with a word like domesticated is offensive to the delicate Christian ear.
If this offends you, good. It should. I hope that my use of this distasteful title will shock me (and you) into a healthy pondering of just what we’re doing in this life we’ve identified (perhaps too generously) as Christian.
So how have I come to associate a word like domestic with Jesus?
I’ll state the obvious. Domestic. Tame. The unruly is gone. Away with unpredictable behavior. Wildness is only used in the past tense here.
The first animals that were domesticated were done so for milk. Mmmm. Keep those cows contained. Train them to stay in line. Hold still…and give me just what I want. Everyday. Twice a day in most cases.
If an animal is domesticated, it is here to serve me. My needs are central. Of course this may not always appear to be the case at first glance. I once heard someone ask what an alien would think after landing on earth for the first time in the center of an American city park. Dog owners leading around their little precious fur-bearing gems and picking up after their every little indiscretion. The alien might ask, “Who has domesticated whom?”
I’m going to ask you a favor. Indulge me while I seek to explore the ways that I have domesticated Christ. Yes, yes, I can hear your protests and believe me, they are my own. Jesus Christ cannot be domesticated!
I understand that. And my point is simple. While Christ cannot be tamed, I have effectively done just that, but only in my head. I domesticate him in the way I think about him, letting him into my life, but only so far until my control is threatened, and in effect, I send him back to his room.
When you domesticate an animal, you place limits on its location. You fence it in so that it can serve you. Have I not done this in my attitudes about Christ? Have I not invited the most holy, powerful, creative entity in the universe into my life and then relegated him into a slot so that he can participate in my life when it is most convenient to me or when I am hungry?
Some of you are offended all ready. It is not my purpose to spit on the image of Christ. My purpose is honorable; it is to exalt him, to find him as the grand treasure that his is and to challenge myself (and you along the way) to see him every day, to a greater extent, in reality.
To do that, I must peel away, layer by layer, the belittling mental images that have clouded my vision like a mature cataract blocking away the brightness of the sun’s rays. I promise to step on my toes first and if I tramp on the feet of God’s family it is with the hope that we may discover and savor the wonder of all that Jesus is.
This is the essence of my working definition. I am domesticating Christ any time my behavior reflects my belief in a saving Christ who is too small to handle my day-to-day problems of worry or anxiety. I am domesticating him anytime I wallow in guilt because, in essence, the power of the cross has been diminished in my thoughts. It has become insufficient to soothe my conscience.
Domesticating Jesus is so much more than just not recognizing his infinite power and falling on our faces in awe. He obviously doesn’t reveal himself in his glory, at least not in his full glory or I promise, I’d never get out of a facedown posture (of course, I wouldn’t survive a millisecond of his revealed glory, so even that statement is ludicrous). But these essays are about how I domesticate him everyday in so many ways, in the little things like doubt, anxiety or fear about the future.
I seek freshness. Honesty. Transparency.
Maybe if I use this approach, we can link hands so to speak, and make a baby step or two along a path towards a true Christianity. A Christian faith one notch purer to the one we started with.

Monday, September 8, 2008

How will I be remembered?

Mary DeMuth is a wonderful Christian writer and speaker. She recently told this story to our writer's group and I wanted to share it with you here. I've changed the names (other than Mary's) to preserve the family's privacy.

A few hours ago, I heard of a friend's passing. He was a little over my age.
From the time he was diagnosed with cancer until the time of his death was a
few days shy of two months. When I heard the news of his death, I painted a
picture, my way of getting my grief on the page, of picturing the glory he¹s
experiencing now. My friend adored Jesus and wanted to be a full-time
missionary alongside his wife and two children. They sold their larger house
and got out of debt so they could go at any moment¹s notice. When he heard
we were headed to France, he was pumped for us. And he prayed. And when he
heard the news about the stage four cancer in nearly every organ in his
body, he prayed God would get all the glory. He felt his cancer was his
mission field.

He asked me to write a story about his life for our church¹s magazine. In
doing so, I was changed. And even as I type this now, I¹m profoundly
challenged by his life. Suddenly my petty insecurities seem terribly small.
And my worries about life's stress. And my fretting about the writing

I asked him how he wanted to be remembered. His response: "I'd like to be
remembered by each individual in the way that gives God the most glory,"
Bob said. "So, if someone remembers me as a great family man and that
inspires him to be more of a family man, then so be it. Or, if it's being
remembered as someone passionate about missions, then so be it."

That's my question for myself. Am I willing to be remembered in the way that
God gets the absolute most glory? Am I willing to be broken and spilled out
for the sake of His Name? Have I placed my career over His renown?

Bob's passing shocked me back to reality, made me long again for that
simple and pure faith, the kind of holy acts that are often unseen and
unheralded. Ecclesiastes 7:2 reminded me today: "It is better to go to a
house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting. Because that is the end
of every man, and the living takes it to heart."

I am taking it to heart, praising God for a man who lived well, who longed
to see God's kingdom expand. And I pray that I'll be the kind of
Christ-follower who will take up the baton, abandon myself afresh to His
call, and lay those things I try to take back to myself on the altar once
again. I'm clay-footed, needy, and foolish, but I'm constantly astounded
that God would stoop to earth, find me, and choose to use me anyway. What a
privilege. What a responsibility. What an amazing God.

Thanks for letting me process this as I type,
Mary DeMuth

Mary, thanks for sharing this with my readers. Any of you who want to know more about Mary or her books, please visit

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Politics unusual

This week we've seen some politics as usual and also some of the unusual. Senator McCaine's surprise pick for his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin was little known outside Alaska, but is making a huge splash across the US.

I'll let you make up your own mind, but I have been prompted to pray for Sarah Palin. I believe she is a Christian: please see this video of her speaking at the Assembly of God Church that she grew up in:

Gov. Palin will face an onslaught of pressure from the media. Her family has all ready felt some of the negative effects from being at the center of attention.

Let's keep her in our prayers: wisdom, faithfulness, and the ability to stand up under scrutiny.

I love the phrase from the book of Esther: "for such a time as this..." Perhaps we are seeing an application of that phrase in Palin's life. Where is God taking her?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Transition back from Kenya

We're back in the US, but where do I belong?

It's a tough question, but only one of the difficulties facing returning missionaries.

We find few people who understood the world we came from. They mean well, but their questions reveal how little they know about Kenya and the people.

And I find that even though I've made this transition a few times, some things strike me as so wonderful....and so horrible about my own home culture. It's so wonderful.... have smooth roads, orderly traffic, and (mostly) considerate drivers behind the wheel. have modern conveniences, easy access to news, and FAST internet. have a home with air-conditioning, nice furniture, and a comfortable bed. have the convenience of Walmart down the street. Everything I need within a few minutes and not an hour away. have orderly trash pick-up and a society that esteems cleanliness and order. have quick access to all of my sons by phone.

It's so horrible.... face the drivel of western TV. face ungratefulness of a society with "everything." be reminded at every turn that we are obsessed with "who is at fault" and victims, rather than understanding God's sovereignty. face the temptation of having Walmart down the street.

I miss my friends in Kenya, the fellowship of the "trenches" of cross-cultural mission work in the hospital, sweet mangos, and the seeing the sunsets over the Great Rift Valley. I miss the simplicity of shopping at the local duka, walking to work in three minutes, and the expanse of the Kenyan sky. I miss helping desperate patients, the daily challenge of surgery on advanced disease, and patients who say thank you with a flat of eggs or a bag of tea. Mostly, I miss being consumed by something larger than myself and focusing on helping someone else.

Thanks to those of you who pray for your missionaries, whether they are "on the field" or struggling to fit in back at home again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Jesus Vaccine

Most of you are familiar with the concept of vaccination. You give an altered, maybe even dead version of a virus to a person so that they will develop immunity (virus protection) in the form of antibodies. That way when the person is exposed to the real virus, the antibodies attack and they repel the real invader. Well, I've been thinking about a new concept, the "Jesus Vaccine."

Some people seem to be immune to our message of grace and hope.

This has puzzled me. The Gospel is the most wonderful news of all. Why wouldn't anyone want to be a Christian?

The answer to that, I believe, has to do with being vaccinated against our message. People get a little exposure to a lesser, altered or deadened form of the Gospel and then reject the real thing when it comes along. Essentially, they've received a "Jesus Vaccine."

It sounds a bit crazy, but I thinking of it in this way may be able to help us understand how to overcome their "immune" response.

In immunology, or the study of our own host defenses, we use the term "antigenicity" when referring to how big of an antibody response is generated. If something is highly antigenic (or has high antigenicity), the immune response will be strong, and many antibodies will be formed. If something is only weakly antigenic, the response will be lesser.

I'm sure that in my life, there are times when I've been a Jesus Vaccine rather than "infectious" or contagious for Jesus. My behavior will either be antigenic ("I don't want to be a Christian if that's what it's all about") or contagious ("I want to know why he can have peace and hope during a difficult time"). In terms of Christianity's history, the crusades stand out as a period of mass Jesus vaccination. What a turn off to the truth of the gospel!

I Googled, "Why I'm not a Christian" and the results were revealing. There are lots of blogs are out there with people sharing why they can't believe. There are a myriad of reasons people give, but almost all of them have been exposed to a lesser gospel or a weakened, twisted form of the truth. In nearly all cases, they have been exposed to Jesus without love.

Someone said, "Build a bridge of love strong enough to carry the message you want to give." The gospel is wonderful news. But there are aspects of the gospel message that are hard for people to swallow. Sacrifice. Taking up the cross. Suffering.
Unless we've built a bridge of love into their lives, our efforts might look more like a vaccine than we'd like.

I believe love is contagious. Perhaps my tendency to rely on false gospels such as legalism (If I work harder, God will love me more...what a joke!) is a Jesus vaccine to the world.

A bridge of love...That's what medicine has been for me....a way to build a bride of love into the hearts of my patients. It's one reason that I'm so outspoken on the value of medicine as a spearhead for the gospel. I've said it many times: "Love is the language of the Great Commission." If that is true, then medicine is the dialect of that message that I speak.

My prayer is that my actions are more contagious than antigenic for the gospel!

Some of you are wondering about my transition back into life in the USA from Africa. I'm still processing that one. I'll give you an update in my next post. Transitions are the bane of missionary life!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

worship with a Kleenex

I attended a memorial service for Ben yesterday, a service that served both as a worship event and a time to reflect on the extraordinary life of young Ben Entwistle. I'm having trouble dislodging an image from the service from my mind. It's something that I will cherish for some time.

As we sang, a woman a few rows ahead of me lifted her hand in a gesture of worship. In her hand was a crumpled facial tissue.

Our posture in this life was captured in this image. We worship. We recognize God's worth. Yet (often at the same time) we cry.

We sorrow, but we have hope in the sovereign grace of God. We are never very far from pain, but we can rejoice in the hands of a savior whose hands also bear the marks of pain.

We worship....anyway.

We cry.....but not as those who have no hope. We have a savior who joined us in our suffering and we worship in response. But often, in our hands we hold the evidence of our own struggle.

Our hearts were heavy for the loss of our dear friend and for the void left in the hearts of his family. We cry, wondering why things could not have been easier another way. But we rejoice in our Savior, thanking him for a life lived without reservation, one who obviously touched and inspired so many.

When we finally surrender and worship from a platform of pain, we may find new strength from the suffering hands of our God.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tribute to Ben Entwistle

I wrote about Ben in my book "Breathing Grace" telling the story of Ben's struggle with endocarditis in 2003. Ben was a rising junior at Covenant college, a member of the varsity soccer team. We remember Ben as a sensitive, caring young man with an infectious zeal for life. I watched him play rugby at the RVA alumni game two weekends ago and Ben never gave less than 100%.

Ben died this week after suffering complications of a second bout of fulminant endocarditis (heart valve infection).

In wake of this tragedy, we ask God, "why?"

This is adapted from "Breathing Grace."

We cry in our pain, demanding answers and God closes the heavens. We believe answers exist, but for much of our suffering, God’s answers seem hidden, his love remote.
Trust only on sunny days is not trust.
Faith is moving forward at midnight when the sun is hidden from view.
We search the book of Job, looking for the answers for our pain. How could God in His love have allowed such catastrophe and suffering?
We read, searching with Job, the answer to the why question. Why am I suffering? But the answer never comes, at least not the answer we want. Not even when God speaks from the whirlwind. Look at God’s answer and count the number of questions God returns to Job. I did and lost count after sixty.
The bottom line? God is God. I am not. He wants my trust in the midst of my pain. He gets to be the one to ask the questions. Not me.
For us, He does not promise relief. Instead, He gives His presence.
He does not often answer why. Instead He asks us, “Who is God?”
God wants to deepen, stretch, and strengthen our faith. Unfortunately for us, deepening involves exposure to dredging tools, stretching involves tension, and strengthening means painful exercise.
Why is a question without a definitive answer for my parents or anyone else experiencing catastrophic loss. We can gather explanations into a blanket around us, but ultimately, we will find comforting warmth only in a faith that says, “I will trust without knowing.” For my parents, why-answers offer some comfort, but in the end, there are no good explanations for the death of a child. The only real comfort comes with releasing the need to know. We find comfort only when knowing that God knows is enough.
A theology that masquerades as a gospel of grace, but doesn’t deal with the difficulty of suffering isn’t only inadequate. It’s dangerous. Proponents of prosperity doctrine build unsteady scaffolding around gullible believers. The scaffolding collapses when the winds of adversity rise. When pain occurs, those taken in by this teaching are left feeling guilty and wondering where their faith has failed. They question God’s love, not understanding that God’s love was hidden in the pain.

The journey to the Promised Land doesn’t end with deliverance from bondage and neither should our theology.

The deception inherent in the masquerade is exactly because it’s what we want to believe. We cling with veracity to teaching which promises health and riches. We would like to believe that the story of Exodus ends with the celebration on the Red Sea shore. Out of bondage! But that’s only chapter fifteen. There was desert ahead: trails, suffering, longing for the good old days, and forty years of wilderness.

Mountain climbers discipline their bodies with vigorous exercise in preparation for summiting the earth’s highest peaks. After months of training, they make their assent in stages, stopping for time to acclimate to the thin air with reduced oxygen.
Times of suffering are tantamount to spiritual mountain climbing. We need to prepare for these times with the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and time spent in solitude with the Savior.

Here's to Ben, walking by sight. Face to face with Jesus July 15, 2008.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rift Valley Academy Commencement Message

OK, I was invited to give a challenge to the graduating seniors at RVA on July 12 and this is what I said:
I’d like to welcome our guests, RVA staff and administration, families of our graduates. Mortals from the class of 2008, congratulations. You made it.

A story is told of two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What is water?"

At some point in everyone’s life, thunderclouds roll in. A crisis looms. The bottom falls out. Pain happens. For some of you, it happened yesterday. For others, it might not be today, tomorrow or even next week, but sooner or later outside RVA life is going to hit hard and fast. I’m not talking about missing a bus or failing a test. I’m talking about a crisis of soul-crushing, God-questioning agony. In those times, I need you to remember two things, two things that will help you survive out there in the great big ocean.

Two facts. They may sound simple, but I’ve spent my whole Christian life, grappling with these two basic truths. And I expect that I will continue to struggle with these two, every day. And when I finally get it, I’ll be whole. Now, this isn’t a doom and gloom message—dealing only with the times when life is filled with hurt. It’s far bigger than that. Knowing these two things is the beginning of getting the whole Christianity and abundant life thing.

I’ve made this simple because I know that after high school at RVA, a few of you are sensing that your brain is full. I get that. So this will be straightforward.

Point number one: You (and I) are small. Little. Small fish in a vast ocean. That’s it? That’s the first profound truth that’s going to help me when the bottom falls out and life hurts? That’s it? I’m small?
Yes. That’s exactly it. We’re little. Let me see if I can get this to resonate with you. In a way, all of the blessings of God hinge on this: our understanding that we are needy creatures. Not seeing our smallness is the essence of pride and that is at the center of our sin problem. We want to operate in self-sufficiency, outside the reach of God. We’re small, yes, insignificant, NO WAY. God loves us and that validates us, even though we are small. The problem is, we bristle against smallness. From the very beginning of life, we want to be, and in many ways view ourselves as the center of the universe.

Let me tell you a story. When our second son, Evan, our graduating senior, was three years old, he participated in a small Christmas play put on by the children in our congregation back in Mt. Crawford, Virginia. He was an “extra,” a part of the angelic host. He was assigned a supporting role. You parents know what I’m talking about. If you don’t get to be Mary or Joseph, a shepherd, or at least a wise man, you get relegated to the angelic host or even worse, made to crawl around on all fours with some sheep wool on your back as a part of the animal-supporting cast.
But Evan didn’t understand his role as lesser. He didn’t see it that way at all. As the children acted out the manger scene, instead of staying off to the side, stage left with the rest of the extras, Evan quickly manipulated his way front and center right behind Baby Jesus. There, he happily observed the inner sanctum of the blessed family. This was new: Joseph, Mary, Jesus…and Evan. Imagine a new slant on the nativity set…you’ve got a little Joseph, Mary, baby-Jesus and angel Evan. There he was, Evan and baby Jesus. Like this: tight. Had he even heard the story? He was too young to read the script, but I’m sure I’d read him the Christmas story a few dozen times by then, so he should have known. There is no mention of an extra angel inside the animal shed. It was so typical of his self-confidence. Why shouldn’t he be in the center? After all, he had the cool white angel outfit complete with cardboard wings, didn’t he? He looked good. He couldn’t have imagined that his place should be anywhere but right in the middle of the action with Joseph, Mary and the Godchild, Jesus himself.
But soon, as the play continued, Evan made a second strategic move. He walked to the very front of the stage facing the audience, filling his lungs to make a proclamation. Now, he was in front of all the action, upstaging even the holy family who quietly acted out the scene behind him. This was a director’s worse nightmare. As an actor, Evan had gone rogue. This was an impromptu takeover and the director was going to have to move quickly to take him out. The only angel with a speaking part was Gabriel and he didn’t just pop in during the manger scene. This was a disaster. Evan was trying to rewrite the story, the events surrounding the biggest happening in history with him playing a lead role.

Isn’t he just like all of us? We bristle against being small. No one wants to be an extra.
Just then Evan raised his voice loud enough for us to hear near the back of the building. “I just want my mom!”
With that, he launched himself off the stage and ran back the aisle to plop his angelic backside on his mother’s lap!
Evan went from center-stage confident to needing his mommy in warp-speed.
Silly? Not for a three-year-old.

You see, suddenly Evan realized he was little. And he needed his mommy. That’s a good place for us to start, too. We are little. Knowing that is one of the keys to walking in the power of the grace of God. If you think you’re big, you’ll miss out on grace, because grace is poured out on little folks who don’t deserve it. That’s the essence of grace. It’s love-undeserved. But if you’re full of your own bigness, you’ll never qualify as a grace-recipient.
In the book of Corinthians we read,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Said another way, “For when I am little, then I am big.” In another place he says,

“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

Wow. We have the big in the little. Don’t run away from this fact. When you go out from RVA, don’t pretend to be something you’re not. The world doesn’t need more spiritual Christians or talented Christians. What the world needs is honest Christians. Real. Transparent. In Rom 12, we read, “Let love be …” what? Polished? Showy? No, “genuine.” God doesn’t get any glory by plastic smiles or a Christian acting as if he or she has all the answers. We need to be Christians who are big enough to say, “I’m hurting,” “I don’t understand,” or “I just don’t get God.” After all, he’s beyond being “getable.”

The psalmist says,

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him?”
Psalm 8:3-4

We know from powerful telescopes that there are billions of galaxies beyond our own, each with literally millions and millions of stars. The Perfect Spiral Galaxy was so named because it lies perpendicular to our own and when viewed through a telescope, it forms a near perfect spiral. This galaxy is over thirty million light-years away. That’s a number so large, that I can’t even begin to get my brain around it. Light travels at 186,000 miles each second. Two second pause. Light just traveled 372,000 miles. Two second pause. Light just circled the earth 15 times around the equator. Do you get that? In one year, that amounts to a distance of 5.87 trillion miles, the distance of one light year. Allow light to travel at 186,000 miles per second for not just a two second pause or for one day, one week or even one year, or even for a thousand years. Let it travel 186,000 miles per second for over thirty million years and finally, it would reach the Perfect Spiral Galaxy.

The Bible tells us that

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
John 1:1-3
“…all things were created through him and for him.”
Colossians 1:16

Jesus was not only present at creation, but from these verses we know that he was involved in the creative process. Not only did he create our earth and the Milky Way galaxy, he created the Perfect Spiral Galaxy and a billion others.

So Jesus is big. That’s my second point. Point one: we are little. Point two: Jesus is big. I told you I was going to keep this simple. We tend to think of Jesus as just starting out on a cool night in Bethlehem, but he’s been around for eternity past.

Try and get this and it will absolutely blow your mind. He spoke and stars spewed forth. On the surface of each star, each sun emits so much energy that it’s like thousands of the most powerful nuclear weapons exploding each second. Over, and over and over. Continuously. And he just spoke and they happened. Does this jive with your image of Jesus?

One of the dangers of growing up at a place like RVA is that we hear of Jesus so often that we are at risk for complacency. We yawn in the presence of God. Chapel, Bible classes go from being get-tos to have-tos. Worship becomes a quiet time where I can contemplate my business rather than adoration of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Even phrases like that are threatened with emptiness. I’m hesitant sometimes to use phrases like, “Praise the Lord,” because I’ve heard it become sermon-filler rather than heartfelt expression. Amen? Praise the Lord? We’ve grown bored with majesty. Sure he knows everything, created everything. He loves me. Yawn. How dare I? How dare you?

As you leave RVA, resist that. Resist that with every fiber of your being. Because that’s what it will take. Remind yourself of his majesty. Everyday.

My prayers have gotten weird lately. It sounds a little silly, but words fail me when I think of how to talk to a God that spoke stars into existence. If he is that powerful, normal adjectives in any human language don’t cut it. And if his name represents all that he is, just saying his name is a form of worship. Jesus. And to make it personal, I just refer to him with the personal pronoun, you. “You.” That’s it. Because I can’t say anything else. But spoken in that context, the pronoun refers to the biggest, most powerful and loving force of all time. So I just whisper, “You.”

I don’t have any trouble admitting that sometimes I feel I don’t know God at all. I’m like a little fish and he’s the ocean. He’s been all around me, all my life. And yet I go about my life in oblivion of his presence and I ask, God? What’s God?
The last thing you need is for me to stand up here and acti as if I’m another Christian with the inside scoop on God. You say, “certainly you’ve got the scoop, you’re an author, you’re a missionary.” Careful. Get off of that pedestal quick. If anyone ever wants to put you on a pedestal, use it for one thing: to lift up and treasure what is truly big. Build your pedestal out of one thing: love.

Louie Giglio said something. Sin is making me big, God little. Sin is nothing more than trying to make the little big and the big little.

Think with me for a moment about a concept I’ve been developing. I call it the domestication of Jesus. We domesticate Jesus any time we bring him down in our minds and tame him, acting as if he exists to serve us rather than vice versa. That sounds ridiculous at first, but it is exactly what I do over and over, every day, when I fail to realize how big he is and how small I am.

So here we are, small and needy and we’ve invited this huge, powerful, indescribable Jesus into our lives and then what do we do? What do I do? In effect, when I go about my business without acknowledging him, perhaps only giving him a few moments of communication before I eat or a few hours on Sunday, it’s as if I’ve traded his ruling scepter for a mop or a broom. Yes, I’m content for him to clean up after my sin-mess. Forgive me…and then stand over there in the corner quietly while I go about running my life. Forgive yes, be Lord, no. In effect, many Christians have invited Jesus into their lives and then expect him to be content with a domesticated, fenced-in, predictable existence. We want divine-vending-machine Christianity. I ask. He delivers. That’s a domesticated God and I don’t want any part of serving a little God like that.

Can you imagine being privileged to be visited by the world’s most powerful person, a king or a president, and you usher him or her in and let them sit at your kitchen table and then you go about your business and don’t talk to them at all? Or worse, you talk and then cut off the conversation before he or she has a chance to express what is on their heart? OK, my comparison doesn’t make it, because God is infinitely more important, powerful, loving and gracious than a man.

I domesticate Jesus in so many ways. When I’m anxious, I’ve domesticated him. How? Because I’m acting as if he’s not big enough or powerful enough to handle my problems. When I feel guilty for my sins, I’m domesticating him because I’m not trusting that his Cross was powerful enough to erase my shame. I do it in a hundred other small ways. Every day.
Folks, this is ludicrous. I’d never invite the Lord, creator of the Universe into my life and then hand him a mop and ask him to serve me! But that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Have I forgotten who I’m dealing with here? This is Jesus, who speaks and stars happen, not some cuddly, wimpy God who only exists to kiss away my little life-boo-boos.

Graduates. Think about this as you leave this place. Just two simple facts. You’re little. Jesus is big. Things get messy when we see ourselves as big and Jesus as little.

The implication of this is HUGE. And wonderful. With the big inside the little, you become the answer for the world. What the world is looking for is hope. I like what Pastor Crumley said on Easter Sunday about hope. He quoted the verse that says now these three remain, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love. He said love might be greatest, but called hope a close second. That’s because it’s what the world is looking for. Remember what Paul said, it’s Christ in you, the hope of Glory. That’s it. Hope is what the world is looking for and you’ve got it, in the form of the greatest power, the greatest love-personified in the Universe: Jesus. In you.

That’s it. With the big inside the little, you become the answer for the world today.
Crisis will come to each of us. The bottom falls out and life hurts. If you know you’re little, you won’t rely on yourself. If you know God is big, you won’t despair because faith is birthed where our vision of Jesus is accurate, free of domesticated images. We have the big in the little. That is our hope.

At RVA you’ve experienced a little of what some have called, “the bubble.” Well today we’re here to celebrate the popping of that bubble. As you leave this shelter, I urge you to find a faith that will celebrate the bigness of God. Relish in your own smallness and therefore your own inability to get a God who is so big. Find a faith that is big enough to ask what is God? Where’s God? Find a faith that is honest enough to admit you don’t get a God like we serve.

Find an intimacy with God where words fail and all you can pray is …. “you.”

Friday, July 4, 2008

How BIG is Jesus?

I'm going to say something crazy. I think my Jesus is way too small.
Offensive statement, I know, but hear me out. I'm not talking about the real Jesus when I say he's too small, just the inadequate image of him that I'm acting as if exists.
Let's start with the facts. I know from John chapter one that Jesus ("the Word") was present from the beginning of time and was the creative force behind the Universe. "...without him was not anything made that was made. (1:3)
Consider something we know about the Universe. Thirty-two million light-years away is another galaxy (one of billions) that is perched at a beautiful 90 degrees to our own, giving us an awesome view of the "swirl" and thus our scientists call it "the perfect spiral galaxy."
Light travels at 186,000 miles a second. Take a breath and pause for two seconds. Light just traveled 372,000 miles, a distance equal to traveling around the earth 15 times at the equator. Wow. Now figure going that fast for not two seconds, two years or two thousand years or even two million years, but travel at light-speed for 32 million years and you'll finally arrive at the Perfect Spiral galaxy. I can't begin to wrap my small brain around such distance.
Yet Jesus spoke and stars and galaxies like the Perfect Spiral Galaxy just appeared!
I'm getting ready to make yet another transition from Africa to the US for furlough. Dare I get anxious over not knowing the future? What do my anxious thoughts speak to others about my concept of Jesus?
Is he smart enough, big enough to create and run the Universe? Or too small to handle my worries?
What if I feel guilty about some past sin? What does that say about my concept of Jesus?
Is he big?
Or have I underestimated him yet again?
Who is Jesus to you?
Cute little Baby in a manger?
Or Lord of the Universe, the one who spoke and stars appeared?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Blogging Ground Rules

The time has come to write the first blog for my newly designed website, so I thought I'd lay down the ground rules so there are no misunderstandings about my intentions. Maybe if you see a little bit about who I am, you'll understand where I'm coming from in this ongoing narrative and I won't have to say, "I warned you."

I'm a Christian. Might not be popular, but that's who I am. Called. Forgiven. Didn't deserve it. I'm telling you up front, 'cause if you're offended by "God-talk" you shouldn't read any farther.

That said, this blog isn't the place to go for all the answers.

It is the place to go for honest transparency. Sure, I'm a Christian. A writer. A surgeon. A missionary. But along with all of my titles comes a tendency for others to stick me on a pedestal or in a theological box and if there's one thing I don’t want is for us to let the pedestal-thing get in our way. I know me. I don't belong on a pedestal. If you want to go right on thinking that missionaries are super-spiritual, don't struggle, and can preach, pray, prophesy or fast at the drop of a hat, don't read this. If I have a recurrent theme, it's that I'm little and my God is big.

Everything I am, I am by grace.

Someone let me borrow a Louie Giglio DVD a few weeks ago. (If there is something foreign missionaries crave besides American junk food, it is exceptional Biblical teaching from home.) He said something, almost in passing, that has really made me think. It was "bottom-line" thinking that surgeon-types like me just love. Sin, he explained is essentially making the small (that is me), big, and the big (that is, God) small. I think that theme is going to resonate through my writing for a long time.

Making Jesus small in my way of thinking is the essence of domesticating Jesus. That’s an obnoxious term for a pervasive attitude that I have to fight. I see it creeping into my life in so many little ways. Domesticating Jesus is something Christians do without thinking. He created the universe, actually spoke it into being, yet sometimes we act as if he isn’t powerful enough to solve our day-to-day worries. In our anxieties, our fears and in our wallowing in guilt, we have made our Jesus and his gospel very small.

The ways in which I’ve stumbled into domesticating the Lord of the Universe will almost certainly find its way into this blog.

Maybe I should issue another warning, here, up front. I’m a surgeon. Medical themes permeate most of what I write. And most of what I see and do on a day-to-day basis in a mission hospital in Kenya is among the items banned from dinner conversation at the Kraus house. So if the mention of blood or bodily secretions makes you green, perhaps you should start skimming anytime I begin a sentence with, “You wouldn’t believe what I saw in clinic today….”

This blog is a window for my readers into my writer’s life, my surgeon-life, and inseparable from the rest, my life as a Christian. Don’t read this if you want to learn how to write fiction. I might drop a pearl or two, but there’s bound to be a better way to learn how to make up a good story.

Do read this if you want the inside scoop on missionary life sans the pedestal. Do read on if you want to know why I think medicine is an effective spearhead for the Gospel. Do read this blog if you want an honest look at life from the viewpoint of someone who thinks that having Jesus figured out is a bigger job than my little brain can handle.

Read this if you want a perspective from someone who wants to know Christ. I’ve been a Christian for nearly forty years and the longer I’ve lived this life, the more I understand that he is beyond comprehension. Foremost of my passions is my desire to understand him. His character, his heart, and his intentions for me.

So that’s it. This blog is all about God-talk, an honest inside scoop on Christian struggles, blood, surgery, keeping Jesus big and me small, the insidious and pervasive practice of domesticating
Jesus and a picture into my writer’s life.

If you can stomach all that, welcome home.