Friday, October 22, 2010

The Math of Heaven

Ten years later, our third child is here. Someone wiser and funnier than me said: "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans." She is our little surprise gift from God and my latest lesson from Him, too.

I'm human, really really human. And I''ve admitted more than once that I'm a stupid human at that. Some of you say "Amen" and I understand. It seems pretty stupid now, but just a matter of hours ago, something down deep in this stupid human wondered: "Can I possibly love another child the way I love the two I've had for 9 and 12 years respectively?" I think I asked the same question 9 years ago about my second child, my son, but I guess I'd forgotten the answer or at least the certainty of it. But that all changed when I saw Anna Grace. Then I heard her cry. Then I touched her skin. Then I held her. I loved her, like she'd always been here. I loved her like I had never not loved her. We all did. And we always will.

This was another opportunity for God to teach me an important lesson that applies to more than just loving and parenting our newest addition to the family. This is a lesson that I need to understand for every kind of relationship I might ever have. I think it's probably one that everyone who reads this can use, too.

We sometimes fear new relationships, fail to initiate them, or fail to fully engage in them because we are under the mistaken impression that in order to "add" love toward someone we will have to "subtract" it from somewhere else. Love operates by the math of heaven, not the math of men. It multiplies! It is not function of addition and subtraction!

I'm grateful that God gave me a new opportunity to love. I'm grateful that he gave me the same opportunity to BE LOVED! God had a Son already, yet he sent His Son so that we might become Sons too. Galatians 4:4-7 ESV says:

4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

First, God multiplied His love toward me by giving His child for me in order to make me his child too. Wow! And now God multiplied His love toward me today by giving me another child to love! Wow! Thank you Lord!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Ripple Effect Reaches Across the Globe

As we prepared to leave at 5am this morning for the village, one of our team members handed me a copy of a national Indian newspaper. Emblazoned in bold print was the following headline:

"US Koran Burnings Spark Violence in the (Kashmiri) Valley"
There are so many things that came to mind as I read that headline. Here are the ones that burn hot in me.
  1. Why do some American Christians feel so proud of themselves for trading THE mission of helping others to see the truth of Christ for thumping their chests and thumbing their noses at those who don't believe in Jesus by doing things that just scream "I'm right"? Mind you, I'm convinced we are right about Jesus being the way and Islam not being the way, but is it my job to go around instigating a fight? Or is it my job to speak the truth in love? If people are offended by the Gospel, there's nothing I can do about that. But if they are kept from the Gospel because of my being arrogant, belligerent, or provocative, then their blood is on my hands before God.
  2. Though it was truly a stupid thing for this pastor in Florida to threaten or hold a Koran burning and for others to copy the idea, was it really news worthy to report it? This is another example of the media making a story rather than reporting one. Shouldn't the media bare responsibility for knowing when it is wise or not wise to report something? Trust me, I believe in freedom of the press. I just don't think freedom has to preclude wisdom. The news media made a Mt. Everest out of a pimple.
  3. Since I believe the Pastor bears the first responsibility in the whole matter, let me go back to him for all of our benefit. He should have considered that the smallest of actions, taken up by the enemy of God (Satan), can create huge ripple effects. If he had taken the time to think of the doors his actions would close for Gospel witness, would he have done it? I hope not. But he didn't think. We often suffer with this disease of underestimating the effects of small decisions and actions and/or of not thinking things through before we do them.
I am quite literally on the other side of the globe from the eastern US state of Florida. I am immersed among a billion people whose language I do not speak and most of whom do not understand English. Most importantly, it is a nation shrouded in spiritual darkness and whose people worship the millions of Hindu gods, the god of Islam, etc. and have not for the most part heard of the truth Himself, the one true God and savior of all people everywhere, Jesus Christ. This morning at 5am I found that many of them have been pushed a step farther from, not closer to the Gospel. By the actions of an obscure man on the other side of the globe whose name they do not know, whose language they don't understand and whose God they have not met, they have been offended--not by the Gospel, but by one who claims to represent it. We need to get clear on what our mission is, think about how best to carry it out, and consider our actions carefully before we open our mouths. Our earthly actions are meddling with eternity.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Touched Any Lepers Lately?

Every miracle of Jesus--like all the other things He did or said--tells us something about His heart that should be and will be reflected in the people who love and follow Him. Notice that Jesus' heart is reflected in what he did. Most church people, church leaders, and most churches could learn from that fact alone. My favorite of all of Jesus' miracles is recorded in Mark 1:40-45. Here's part of the story:

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." 41Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, "I will; be clean." 42And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

This encounter with the leper speaks volumes about the heart of our Lord. I'm afraid it may tell us just as much about our own hearts, too. But what it tells us may not be good.

Notice that in this story, there is no necessity for Jesus to touch the leper. In fact, to do so was not only going to be potentially yucky for him, it could be terribly inconvenient. This is because technically it was supposed to then make Jesus unclean, and this would quarantine and ostracize him from everyone. Jesus could just as easily have healed the leper by saying what he said without touching the man. BUT HE DIDN'T DO THAT. Jesus touched an unclean man, not because he had to, BUT BECAUSE HE WANTED TO. Do you think the leper didn't realize this? I do.

The problem with so many modern day so-called Christians, Christian leaders, and churches is that many are not willing to get their hands dirty, to inconvenience themselves, to sacrifice anything of significance in order to be used by God to impact someone in a life-changing way. Think about that. Can you describe Jesus this way? Thankfully, no! Jesus got his hands dirty with people's junk--even pierced and bloody. He inconvenienced Himself--left heaven, was born in a manger, lived as a poor carpenter, touched lepers, ate & hung out with screw-ups like us, etc.. He sacrificed everything--Hello! Remember the Cross? HE DIDN'T JUST HAVE TO DO THESE THINGS; HE WANTED TO!

If we are going to see God move in and through us, we have to be like Jesus. If we are going to be used powerfully to impact people whose lives are messy (& after all, ours were &/or are too!), we have to get our hands dirty, inconvenience ourselves, and sacrifice significantly. Even if we didn't have to, if we're at all like Jesus, shouldn't we / wouldn't we want to.

We say we want to see God work powerfully in our time. Some of us say that we want God to work through us, to use us powerfully. But do we really? I don't know who it was who said: "We need not pray for God to use us, rather that he would make us useful." The implication of course is that if we are useful, then God would be able to use us all he wants. God make us useful. Lord, if necessary, start by showing us how unlike you we really are.

More lessons from the leper later . . .

Thursday, January 7, 2010

There can be only one!

So many times I've heard preachers quote the phrase "touch not the Lord's anointed" applying it to themselves as the anointed one. I've done it, at least in my mind. We make this application hoping to discourage/warn people against messing with us unfairly (since we see ourselves as leaders in the work of God's agenda). After all, the thought goes, it would be foolish to risk experiencing God's retaliatory justice on our behalf. There is some sense in which such an application might be extrapolated from God's word. But not as flippantly as we are prone to use it.

In 1 Chronicles 12, I believe there is a great reminder to every Christian leader who is quick to spout "touch not the Lord's anointed" in his own defense. Verses 16-22 caught my attention within the context of the whole chapter. Men came to David whom God had anointed KING while Saul was still technically in that office. They came from every tribe of Israel (even from the tribe of Saul himself) and from peoples outside Israel to "help" David and even from beyond the people of Israel. They did so because they could see that God's hand was on him and with him (v.18, etc.). They came over time "until there was a great army, like an army of God" (v.22).

As I journalled through this passage today, several things struck me:

  • God built an army to help his anointed (v.22)
  • This army was a diverse and heterogeneous group
  • I couldn't help but see a connection to Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said: "I will build my church" (emphasis mine).
  • The people of this growing army were loyal to God's anointed KING (v.18)
  • These people joined with David because they were motivated by the clear evidence of a movement of God (v.18)
But what struck me more than anything was the stark realization that I AM NOT THE LORD'S ANOINTED. I AM NOT A/THE KING. There is only one of those. The anointed was and still is God's King. Who is that? The same one for whom David is a mere foreshadowing. JESUS IS THE LORD'S ANOINTED KING. He is also the Lord of the church. My job is not to build an army of God or even an assembly (church) for Him. My job is to be loyal to Jesus, and like the mighty men who joined David, to see myself as one of his "helpers" (v.18) with him "to help him" (v.22).

No matter what position you occupy in the church, let's agree that there is only one "anointed one" and we ain't HIM!