Tuesday, August 30, 2011

That which is truly life.

I love this phrase from 1Timothy 6:17-19: "that which is truly life." That's the life I want to live, the life that's mine because of my new position as a son of God. But what does it mean? Let's look at the context:

"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storying up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of THAT WHICH IS TRULY LIFE."

All of the daily "disasters" that we face, such as anxiety, anger, guilt, greed, bitterness etc. can be thought of as the fallout of a life lived in the service of self, a life lived in celebration of the gospel of a domesticated Christ (where Jesus has come to serve me, forgive me, and clean up my life rather than me serving Him). It is the "good life" where we are on the throne, material possessions promise to bring fulfillment and our future is what we make it (i.e. the "American Dream"). What God is offering us in the gospel is nothing short of freedom from a dead life and a life of self-service, a life where love is the currency, peace is the result, and our boast is the cross.

This is what Paul tells Timothy is "truly life."

The gospel of the real Jesus is perfect. It's all about him. In the real gospel, I get to confess my greed and call it the sin that it is. The central focus of the gospel of the real Jesus is the cross. Sacrifice isn't something I do to gain acceptance. The cross already did that. Sacrifice and suffering can be the avenues God uses to help us find our treasure in him.

Yes, Christ promises us abundant life, but I'm not allowed to define the ins and outs of abundance. It doesn't mean I'll drive the fastest car, live in the nicest house, and have the best job. But it does mean that God is the one who is sovereign over all these details in my life. Because of the cross, I can't claim a pain-free life, but I can know the grace that promises to sustain me no matter what the cost.

The abundance Jesus promises has to do with peace in the midst of turmoil, grace in the midst of pain. Confidene replaces fear, and hope dawns after the darkest of nights.

Because I hold the hand of the real Jesus, I don't need to be afraid of sacrifice and risk. If he's in control and I'm in hardship, then I believe he has allowed it for my good.

Because the real Jesus demands our all, the gospel will always stand juxtaposed against the American Dream. That means that the true gospel will never find itself in the "in" position in American culture.

Do my attitudes always conform to the gospel fo the real Jesus?

Sadly, no.

But that's why I'm challenging myself (along with you) to dissect below the skin of our belief structure.

Let's make sure that Christ is at the center.

Then, the fallout of the real gospel will start.

And that's where "that which is truly life" begins.



Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saying "Goodbye."

We've just arrived back in Kenya and survived our first week of unpacking, sorting, arranging, and painting.

But that's not what's on my mind. I'm thinking about saying, "Goodbye," something we who have chosen to serve far away from family and friends seem to have to do too often.

This time around, I've left two sons, my father and two sisters in addition to our friends, those we lean on for support.

Saying goodbye is tough.

Remember Hannah's story in the book of First Samuel? She struggled with infertility, wept for a son, and finally when the Lord granted her request, she raised him only to give him away (to the priest, dedicating her son to God) again.

I think about how hard it must have been for Hannah to say goodbye. Yet just after giving her son up, she prays the most beautiful and interesting prayer. Here is just a part (from "The Message"):

"I'm bursting with God-news! I'm walking on air. I'm laughing at my rivals. I'm dancing my salvation."

Really, Hannah? How can you be rejoicing when you've just given up the very one for whom you wept and prayed?

Hannah must have had a God perspective. Hannah knew that saying goodbye was really, in light of eternity, only a "see you tomorrow."

Yes, we have had to say goodbye too many times. But the one who asked us to follow Him in this endeavor is the same who gave up His only son for me.

God knows our goodbyes will be temporary. Our sacrifices are small in comparison to what has been done for us.

Lord, will you help me pray like Hannah? Fill my heart with the confidence that rests in knowing that reunions are just around the corner.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

In Love's service, only the wounded soldier can serve.

I want to be in Faith's Hall of Fame but I do not want to inherit the suffering that is my ticket in. Without pain there is no victory.

I want to bring God glory, but I don't want to submit to the dizzying effect of the Potter's wheel, the heat of the furnace, or the Carpenter's chisel.

I want to be God's voice. I want to laugh and sing. I want to be God's hands. I want to clap. I want to be God's feet. I want to run and dance.

But to be God's voice, you must be willing to cry. To be God's hands you need to be pierced. To be God's feet will find you dusty and smelly and nailed to a cross.

In Thornton Wilder's play, The Angel that Troubled the Waters, the story is told of a physician at the Pool of Bethesda hoping to be healed of his melancholy. The angel appeared and stirred the water but blocks the physician at the moment he is ready to step in and be healed.
The physician drew back as the Angel said that the moment is not for him.
The physician protested and the Angel explained, "Without your wound, where would your power be? It is your very remorse that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love's service, only the wounded soldier can serve. Draw back!"

I want to serve.

Am I willing to submit to the wheel, the furnace, or the chisel?



Monday, August 1, 2011

Reading makes people happy!

According to research done at the University of Maryland, reading makes people happy. This question appeared in a poll published in Parade magazine yesterday. 5. Question: If you're sad, which of the following is most likely to cheer you up?
[a] Watching reruns of your favorite sitcom
[b] Reading a novel
[c] Tuning in to the news
Answer: [b]. People who read often are happier than those who watch more TV, according to researchers at the University of Maryland––even if the plot of their paperback is depressing.

Wow, so even reading a depressing book can cheer you up!

It is interesting to me that what people don't want in their personal real life is exactly what makes for good fiction: CONFLICT! We love to read about other people's misery. It seems that people want a diversion from thinking about their own problems, and what better way than to read about someone else's?

There is a bit of irony in this for me. As a writer, I want to encourage people to think about their own lives. I want them to form an emotional bond with my characters, so that as my characters encounter problems and overcome them, my readers will be inspired to do the same. In other words, I want them to look at themselves! But the very reason they read fiction in the first place is as a diversion (so they won't have to think about their own lives).

Ahh, the challenges of being a writer....

At least the research shows that readers are happier.

I think I already knew that.

Have a great August. I know I will. I'm moving back to Kenya this month. More about that adventure later....