July 2009


anxietyIt’s a classic passage, whose familiarity unfortunately lessens its profundity.  Jesus tells us to not worry about what we will eat or drink or what we’ll wear.  Rather, He tells us to “seek His kingdom and these things will be given to you as well” (Lk. 12:22-34).

Practically, what does that mean for me?

We already know that these earthly things will not last.  We know that God promises to take care of our needs as we intently pursue Him.  And we’ve heard these admonitions again and again.  Live for God and nothing else.  Take the next step in your pursuit of God, regardless of whether you know how the details will work out (food, money, clothing all included as details to following God’s call!…see past posts).

But, for me, what does this really mean?

For some around me, it means serving God in Brazil and Argentina without knowing where the money will come from, or how to raise a child in a foreign culture, or even when they’ll finally be supported enough to leave.  But they know God is calling them there and that “these things will be given to you as well.”

For others around me, it means writing a book without a publisher, having a hard discussion with a co-worker without knowing the results, and finishing a partially completed degree without knowing how God will open the doors to get back into the program.

But what about me?  Where am I focusing on life’s details rather than the Giver of life Himself?  What am I pursuing and with what am I allowing my heart to be wrapped around?

As I’ve written about in the past, I am wrestling with preparing to further my education.  I’m wrestling with it because God’s call to it hasn’t been as clear as it was to go to seminary…yet it seems to those who know me well and to myself that He may be calling me back to school anyway.  I wrestle with it because just to get in is extremely competitive and requires much work through reading many books, taking tests, building relationships with prospective professors. 

I wrestle with it because I don’t know where the money would come from.  And I would have to move.  And I’m not really the classic academic type anyway.  And I would have to undertake an incredible school workload, including learning two new languages that I have no interest in learning.

All this to pursue God’s probable call?

Jesus says don’t anxious about those two big preceeding paragraphs.  He says to me that if God is calling me there, that He’ll take care of the details.  My job is to obey.  To wrap my heart around Him and not the unknowns.  He reminds me that God knows what I need and will provide as long as I am following Him.

He doesn’t promise it’ll be easy or clear cut.  But He promises to take care of me anyway.

I must believe Him.  I must trust Him.  And step.

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hypcriteJesus finishes criticizing the Pharisees and the Scribes for pretending to be holy in public when in reality they are completely missing the point.  And then He turns to His disciples and tells them to not be hypocrites.

He tells them that what is now spoken of in private will go public in the future (Lk. 12:1-3).

I think Jesus is warning His disciples to not do the opposite, yet just as hypocritical, sin of the Pharisees and Scribes.

His disciples knew the Truth.  In private (and many times in public!), Jesus taught His disciples how to really live and what it means to be human.  The danger for the disciples was not particularly to try to appear more holy than they actually were, but to intentionally appear ignorant when they were taught Truth by God Himself.

Their hypocrisy would exist in publicly denying Truth, but privately teaching it.  A sort of “reversed hypocrisy” of the Pharisees and Scribes.

Jesus then goes on to warn them to not fear the earthly consequences of going public with Truth, with really living the life they’d be taught.  Rather, He warns them to fear the eternal consequences of NOT going public…of being hypocrites.

We all know the immense persecution the following years would bring to the disciples.  As a result of going public, most of them would die a criminal’s death.

I can’t say that I face anywhere near the same persecution as the early Church.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t face the daily conscious decision of whether or not to be a hypocrite, even if the word “hypocrite” doesn’t come to mind.

How do I make myself appear at work?  Too often I give the appearance of not taking Truth seriously, especially in the little things…by the jokes I laugh at, or the comments I make or don’t make.  I fear coming off as “holier than thou”  and “out of touch” if I live what Jesus taught at work…and that would make me unapproachable.  It is easier to live a sort of split-life…the serious Christian in private and on Sunday mornings, but “just one of the guys” in public.

But Jesus tells me that I’m being hypocritical.

Or at home.  I know the truth that I need to be more selfless.  I exhort our community to do the same.  But what next steps do I actually take to live this Truth?  I must learn to be intentionally more selfless with my wife.  Even when I’m tired, especially when I’m tired, to serve her rather than expecting to be served.

Otherwise, Jesus tells me I’m a hypocrite.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Do I really want to push deeper?

This does not mean that if we are not perfect, then we are hypocrites.  But it does mean that every time we intentionally live below the standards of real life, we are hypocrites.

Thankfully, Jesus also promises us aid (Lk. 12:12).  The Holy Spirit is the power we desperately need to actually do any of this, and He’s just waiting to help us live Truth publicly.  To help us lift our foot, push it forward, and bring it back down again within new territory, within a deeper and more unified relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Intentionally.  In public.

grassThe passing of life came into sharp focus on Sunday as we literally counted the number of days we have left, given the average American lifespan of 78 years.

About 17,850 days left for me, if I live that long.

Different people have different reactions when confronted with the possible number of their remaining days.  For me, it’s depressing and a bit scary.

One day, I’ll die.  And that day keeps getting nearer.

There is so much I want to accomplish in my life.  I want to be involved in big things, do work that will change the world.  I want to give all that I have for a God-given cause, to be expended for something so much greater than myself.

But I’m already 29 years and 49 days old.  To me, that’s getting too close to mid-life.  And I thought that by now I would be more “on my way” to the “big things.”  Or at least I’d have an idea of the “big thing” God would be calling me to.

So, 17,850 days doesn’t seem like a lot of time to really get after it.  I don’t want to waste any of them.  Yet I’m just as lazy as the next guy.  I battle where I find my worth, how I engage life while staying true to my heart and its deepest God-given passions, and finding value in my daily grind. 

I’ve blogged a fair amount about the significance of our daily lives, about being called to battle the complacency right here and now.  About the role of these things comprising “real life.”  Yet this question still haunts me, continually: When will “real life” begin?

When do we actually start living it?

The answer, ironically, is at least partially embedded in my many past blogs.  I’m studing, writing, and wrestling with it.  Past saints and scholars have taught about it.  And the Bible, the “answer book,” after all, is centrally concerned with ‘real life.’   But that doesn’t make the question go away.  And it doesn’t make it “feel” any different.

Someday I’ll be dead.  Maybe in 17,850 days.  Maybe sooner.  Maybe later.  But I’ll be gone.  In the imagery of Psalm 90, we’re like grass that springs up in the morning, and then withers and is gone by the evening.

But right now we’re still “springing.”  And we have a relationship with the only Source of true worth and significance.  With the only Source who can calm our fears and give our lives deep meaning.  My questions begin to grow quiet before Him.  They pale in comparison with His glory. 

Sure, the questions will come back.  And the God of the universe can help us deal with them.

I pray that He would give us the discernment and wisdom to make sense of life and our passions.  That He would grant us the patience we need, the conviction for our direction, and the courage to take the next step.

On our own, we’re nothing more than a passing mist.

May our work during our short lives be of value.  May it matter.  Psalm 90 ends this way, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands”

nepalOur friend Calvin was back for a visit after following God’s call to serve in Nepal.  He’ll be going back for another two years.

What is so striking to me about Calvin is not particularly his love for the poor and disenfranchised, nor his work in Nepal, but his courage to go where God called him.  In his case, Nepal.

Surely to leave friends, family, and the comfort of America in order to serve the poor in a  strange third-world country, where your financial is support is whatever you could raise back home beforehand, takes much courage and conviction.  It takes obedience and self-surrender.  It takes love in action, both for God and neighbor.

God called and is calling Calvin to Nepal.

The question that is haunting me is whether I have enough courage, conviction, obedience, self-surrender, and love to follow God where He calls me.  Do I?  And do I have a sense of where God is calling me?

The  majority of us will not be called overseas.  Our calls may seem less dramatic, or maybe even less important.  It is helpful for me if I remember that the essence of God’s call on all of our lives is to love Him and others.  It is the HOW that changes from person to person, and community to community.

Calvin’s HOW at this point in his life was to go to Nepal.  That’s how God concretely and specifically is working out His call upon Calvin to love Him and others.

But what about me?

At times I wish that I could leave everything here in America behind and immerse myself in a strange and hard culture without the material comforts I so cherish, serving God in seemingly more tangible and real ways.  This fantasy suggests that maybe I wouldn’t have to battle complacency so hard.  That maybe I would really better understand what it means to live, and that it would come more naturally due to the circumstances of such a life.

But my heart tells me those fantasies, at least for me, are in part a desire to escape the hard realities of being a disciple of Christ in America.  They are searching for an easier road of discipleship, one void of the common American pitfalls.

But God isn’t calling me to escape, as my fantasy would have it.

It seems to me that God is calling me to the hard, seemingly impossible, battles facing American disciples of Jesus.  The battles of sorting out what life is really about and then spending our time, energy, and resources accordingly.  The battles of forcing out complacency and welcoming in deep life in its stead. 

These battles are overwhelming.  And more often than not, it seems I lose…both in my own life and in the lives of those around me.

Yet if God is calling me to this, then it will have to be by His grace and power that any head way is made anyway.  The HOW God seems to see fit for me for now are apparently the normal things like The Gathering, our garden, my job, my hopeful pursuit of going back to school, my friends and family, my choice of leisure activities…

My HOW is a frustrating how.  It means I can’t indulge my fantasy and escape.  My HOW is composed of the details of American life and the important communities of which I am a part.

It doesn’t seem very exciting.  Or adventurous.

But if God is working here…in my HOW…then nothing could be more thrilling.

My HOW will take much courage and conviction.  It will take obedience and self-surrender.  It will take love in action, both for God and neighbor.

The question still lingers: Do I have the courage to step deeper into my God-given HOW?