What do you think of this article?

Process Spirituality:Being Versus Doing

By: Kenneth Boa Th.M.; Ph.D.; D.Phil. (Bio)
Ministry: Reflections Ministries

Perhaps the greatest threat to applying these truths about process spirituality is the busyness that stems from the way we define ourselves in terms of achievements and accomplishments. We live in a future-oriented culture that relates time largely to efficiency and productivity. We are more inclined than ever to use time to accomplish results than to enhance relationships.

The Problem of Busyness

The civil religion of America worships the god of progress and inspires us to compete, achieve, and win for the sake of competing, achieving, and winning. Life for many people in the business world has been colorfully described as a matter of “blowing & going, plotting & planning, ducking & diving, running & gunning, slamming & jamming, moving & shaking, shucking & jiving.”

Longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, “We are warned not to waste time, but we are brought up to waste our lives.” This is evident in the tragedy of many people who in the first half of their lives spend their health looking for wealth, and in the last half spend their wealth looking for health.

My associate Len Sykes relates the problem of busyness to five areas:

In our home. We miss out on relational opportunities when we are dominated by excessive activities. Consider taking an inventory of activities like television, children’s lessons and sports, meetings, time on the computer, etc., and see how some of these can and should be pared down. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 exhorts parents to know and love God and to teach their children about Him “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” God intended the home to be a sanctuary for spiritual and personal development in a relational setting of love and acceptance. This requires an ongoing process involving both formal and spontaneous times together.

In our work. The mistake of looking to work rather than God for security and significance coupled with the pressured quest for more of this world’s goods—these are forces that drive us to the idolatry of materialism and busyness. If we don’t have enough time to cultivate a quality relationship with God, our spouse, and our children, we are working too long and too hard. As Gordon Dahl put it, “Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship.”

In our recreation. Hard-charging approaches to recreation and vacations can devitalize us and keep us from enjoying personal and relational renewal. The Sabbath principle of restoration through “being-time” provides a balanced rhythm of work and rest.

In our church work/ministry. This can become another arena of busyness and frustration, especially when we take on activities and responsibilities in order to please people and meet their expectations. Not every need and request is a calling from God.

In our walk with God. Excessive activity draws us away from the time it takes to cultivate intimacy with God. We are often inclined to define our relationship with God in terms of doing things for Him rather than spending time with Him.

Here are just a few suggestions that will enhance the daily process of living before the Lord:

  • Like Jesus, you must develop a clear sense of your mission so that you can invest your time with God’s calling in mind. You should also develop an understanding of your limits so that you will budget time with the Father for restoring your inner resources. There are many good things you could do, but the good can become the enemy of the best.
  • Free yourself from bondage to the opinions, agendas, and expectations of others. Learn to say no to invitations and requests that may flatter you but could drain your time and energy.
  • Seek a balance between rest and work, recharging and discharging, depth and breadth, inward and outward, reflection and practice, thinking and application, contentment and accomplishment.
  • Ask yourself how much is enough. Unbridled wants kill contentment and drive us to greater busyness.
  • Resist the temptation to allow work to invade rest.
  • Look for ways to reduce your commitments so that you will not do a shoddy job on numerous tasks instead of an excellent job on a few. There is a tension between the desires to please God and to pursue success, and we will be tempted to resolve this tension by putting a spiritual veneer over the quest for success. It is better to pursue excellence in what we do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) rather than success to receive honor from people.
  • Realize that rest requires faith, because it seems non-productive from the world’s point of view. Since you cannot measure the “product” of time spent in developing your relationships with God and people, it takes a risk to invest a significant amount of time in these ways.
  • Budget time in advance for the important things that could get swept away in the daily grind. If you do not learn to make the urgent things flow around the important, the important will be overwhelmed by the urgent.
  • Be aware of the human tendency to avoid an honest examination of ourselves in the presence of God. Many people seek diversions, distractions, and busyness to elude this encounter.
  • Try to live from moment to moment and hold a looser grip on your long-term plans. “Our great business in life is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand” (Thomas Carlyle).
  • Be aware of the distinction between chronos (chronological, everyday events) and kairos (special opportunities and occurrences). Seek to be available to make the most of the opportunities or kairos moments God providentially gives you (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5), since the most significant thing you do in the course of a day may not be in your daily calendar. Be ready “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2) to redeem the special moments God sends your way. Seek to manage time loosely enough to enhance relationships rather than tightly to accomplish results.
  • “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt any situation you believe to be the will of God” (Jim Elliott).

Causes Versus Christ

All of us have a built-in hunger for security, significance, and satisfaction, but our world teaches us to pursue these things in the wrong places. It should come as no surprise, then, that the dreams and goals promoted by the culture have also infected our whole approach to the spiritual life. There are Christian books, seminars, and churches that have baptized the media agenda of self-orientation, success, and ambition with a spiritual veneer. Many believers are encouraged to set their heart on goals that actually distance them from Christ. By contrast, Scripture teaches that our meaning is not found in a quest for self, but in a calling to know God.

Intimacy Versus Activity

Any dead fish can float downstream—to swim against the current of our times, we must be spiritually alive. As the New Testament portrays it, real life in Christ is countercultural. The world defines who we are by what we do, but the Word centers on who we are in Christ and tells us to express that new identity in what we do. Being and doing are clearly interrelated, but the biblical order is critical: what we do should flow out of who we are, not the other way around. Otherwise, our worth and identity are determined by achievements and accomplishments, and when we stop performing, we cease to be valuable. When people answer the question “Who are you?” by what they do, the world has a way of responding, “So what have you done lately?”

In Christ we have a secure and stable basis for worth and dignity, because these are founded on what God Himself has done for us and in us. Having been re-created and incorporated into the glorified life of the ascended Christ, God has penetrated to the very roots of our being and given us a new nature. Thus, being should have priority over doing, but it should also be expressed in doing. This balanced interplay would be lost if we disconnected the two. My friend Skip Kazmarek warns against this disjunction and illustrates this concern with a cartoon that shows a man laying on a couch, with a “Gangster Psychologist” (according to the diploma on the wall) sitting next to him. The psychologist says, “Well, just because you rob, murder, and rape doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.” We are not disjointed, disconnected, severed entities. Mind, body, and spirit exist in an integrated whole. How we act affects how we think, and how we think affects our relationship with God. There is a very dangerous construct that we sometimes serve up in which we can think of ourselves as “being” one way, while we continue to “do” exactly the opposite.

Thus, external action should be derived from internal reality, and this requires a rhythm of solitude and engagement, restoration and application, intimacy with Christ and activity in the world. The life of Jesus illustrates this pattern of seeking significant amount of time to be alone with the Father (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35; 6:31) so that He would have the inner power and poise to deal with the outward pressures imposed upon Him by His friends and enemies. People who work and minister without adequate restoration through prayer and meditation do not have the interior resources to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in a stress-filled world. It is during the quiet times of the devotional life that we gain the perspective and power we need to live with character and composure in the context of daily demands. “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

Being

Doing

Intimacy with Christ

Activity in the World

Solitude

Engagement

Abiding

Serving

Interior

Exterior

Relational calling

Dominion calling

Calling

Character

Invisible

Visible

Real Life

Reflected Life

Restoration of Spiritual Energy

Application of Spiritual Energy

Perspective

Practice

Rest

Work

In this chart, the real life of the left column should energize the reflected life of the right. The problem is that people typically approach the spiritual life in terms of the right column, supposing that their actions and service will lead to intimacy in their relationship with God. While the greatest commandment exhorts us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), we tend to reverse the order, thinking we can go from the outside-in rather than the inside-out. Instead of ministry flowing out of our relationship with God, many people suppose, in effect, that ministry will determine their relationship with God.

The perennial problems of perfectionism and legalism stem from this vision of the spiritual life as a series of duties and tasks to be accomplished. Legalism is a spiritual disease that has afflicted the church since its inception. I cannot recall having met a legalistic Christian who is characterized by deep joy. This is because legalists attempt to achieve, through their own efforts, an externally imposed standard of performance in the hope that this will somehow earn them merit in the sight of God and others. This produces insecurity, frustration, denial, and failure for several reasons:

The Scriptures tell us that there is nothing we can do to earn favor before God, since all of our own efforts fall short of His character and righteousness (Romans 3:23; Titus 3:5-7).

Just as none of our actions will make God love us more, it is equally true that there is nothing we can think, say, or do that will make God love us less than He does (Romans 5:6-10).

Spiritual growth is accomplished by Christ’s life in us, not by our own attempts to create life. Our responsibility is to walk in the power of the Spirit and not in dependence on the flesh (Galatians 2:20; 5:16-25).

The focus of the Christian life should not be deeds and actions, but a relationship; it is not centered on a product, but on a Person. It is a matter of abiding in Christ Jesus (John 15:1-10) rather than fulfilling a set of religious formulae.

The New Testament teaches that allegiance to Christ has displaced devotion to a code (Romans 7:3-4), but there is a human tendency to avoid God through religious substitutes. Many miss the point that while intimacy with Christ leads to holiness, attempts to be holy do not necessarily lead to intimacy. Sanctification is not generated by moral behavior but by the grace of a relationship with Christ. If we miss this, we will be driven to causes rather than called to Christ, and activity will take precedence over intimacy. People who are driven eventually burn out. “If I am devoted to the cause of humanity only, I will soon be exhausted and come to the place where my love will falter; but if I love Jesus Christ personally and passionately, I can serve humanity though men treat me as a door-mat.” (Oswald Chambers).

Joshua and Joash

The lives of Joshua and Joash poignantly illustrate the contrast between being called and being driven. Four scenes from the life of Joshua capture the heart of this faithful man. In the first scene, Joshua is present with Moses at the tent of meeting. When Moses entered this tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance to the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses (Exodus 33:7-10). The key to the life of Joshua is revealed in Exodus 33:11: “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” Joshua remained in the tent of meeting because he had a passion to know and be with God. This personal knowledge of God served him well in the second scene when he and Caleb were two of the twelve spies who were sent from Kadesh to view the land of Canaan (Numbers 13-14). Although all twelve spies saw the same things, ten of them interpreted what they saw from a human perspective and were overwhelmed by the size and number of the people. Only Joshua and Caleb saw the opposition through a divine perspective, and they encouraged the people to trust in the Lord: “Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them” (Numbers 14:9). Tragically, the people believed the fearful conclusions of the majority of the spies, and the Israelites were consigned to wander in the wilderness, literally killing time for 38 years until the generation of the exodus perished in the wilderness.

In the third scene, the Lord prepares Joshua to lead the generation of the conquest into the land of Canaan. In Joshua 1:1-9, the Lord encourages him to be a courageous and obedient man of the Word who meditates on it day and night. Because he knew and loved God and renewed his mind with the book of God’s law, Joshua finished well. In the fourth scene, Joshua is nearing the end of his earthly sojourn when he gathers and exhorts the people of Israel to serve the Lord only and to put away all forms of idolatry. He concludes his exhortation with this famous stance: “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). As Bob Warren puts it, “Because [Joshua] spent more time being a friend to God than a friend to others he avoided the pitfall of becoming enslaved to unproductive activity. But because he understood the necessity of intimacy over activity, his activity was energized beyond anything he could have imagined.”

By contrast, King Joash (2 Chronicles 22:10-24:27) was a man who appeared to start well but finished poorly. He was the only one of the royal offspring of the house of Judah who escaped Athaliah’s murderous plot to take the throne for herself. After Joash was protected and raised in the temple by Jehoiada the priest, Athaliah was put to death and the seven-year-old Joash became Judah’s king. “Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2), and he championed the project of restoring the temple in Jerusalem. But when Jehoiada died, Joash listened to foolish counsel, abandoned the house of the Lord, and gave himself over to idolatry. He even murdered Jehoiada’s son when he rebuked him for forsaking the Lord.

Joash was involved with “religious” activities (the temple restoration project), but he never developed a relationship with the God of Jehoiada. He was driven by causes, but avoided the more fundamental calling to know the Lord. Because the “godly activity” of his younger years was never energized by intimacy with the Lord, he failed miserably in the end.

It is easy to become more concerned with good causes than with knowing Christ. As Oswald Chambers notes, “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ. . . . The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him. . . . We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to Him, not what we do for Him. . . . The one aim of the call of God is the satisfaction of God, not a call to do something for Him.” Our primary purpose is not to do something for Christ, but to know Him; our activities and abilities are useless for the kingdom unless He energizes them, and this will not happen if they take precedence over intimacy with Him. We become weary and exhausted when we attempt more public ministry than we can cover in private growth.

Even worthy causes—raising godly children, building a company for Christ, knowing the Scriptures, leading people to the Lord, discipleship ministry—will not sustain us if we are not cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus. Many believers fall into the trap of striving for goals that are inferior to their purpose of knowing and enjoying God. When this happens, we attempt to do God’s work in our own power and get on the treadmill of outward activities without an interior life.

It is crucial for us to form the habit of holy leisure, of quiet places and times alone with the Lord, so that we will restore our passion and intimacy with Christ. In this way, service will flow out of our life with Him and our activities and abilities will be animated by dependence upon His indwelling power. This restoration and renewal is especially important after periods of intense activity. When we seek and treasure God’s intentions and calling, our personal knowledge of Him (knowing) shapes our character (being) and conduct (doing). Although we are more inclined to follow Jesus into service than into solitude, it is really the time we spend in “secluded places” with Him (Mark 1:35; 6:31) that will energize our outward service.

Practicing His Presence

Our times of solitude with Jesus should not be limited to secluded places—we can choose to enjoy solitude with Him even in the midst of the outward activities of everyday living. Private prayer consists of mental prayer (meditation and contemplation; discussed in devotional spirituality), colloquy (conversational prayer with God; discussed in disciplined spirituality), and the prayer of recollection (practicing the presence of God). This recollection of God can be habitual or actual. Habitual recollection is analogous to a man’s or a woman’s love for a spouse or children, and does not require an ongoing consciousness. Just as we can form a habitual identity as being a husband, a wife, or a parent, so we can ask for the grace to form a habitual state of mind as a follower of Jesus Christ. Actual recollection involves the developing habit of turning to God at regular times throughout the course of the day. This is more along the lines of what Brother Lawrence, Frank Laubach, and Thomas Kelly pursued in their quest for a more conscious awareness of God in the routines of everyday life.

Note the process imagery in Scripture that stresses an ongoing awareness of the presence of Christ: abide in Jesus and let His words abide in you (John 15:4-7); set your mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5-6); walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25); keep seeking the things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1-2); rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18); run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). The spiritual life is not a measurable product, but a dynamic process.

Here are some suggestions for practicing the presence of Jesus:

  • Send up “flash prayers” at various times during the day. These are very brief prayers or mental notes that acknowledge God’s presence or lift up others. They can be offered when waking, sitting down for a meal, walking, driving, waiting, listening, and so forth.
  • Try using the same short prayer throughout the course of a day, such as the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) or another brief prayer (e.g., “I love You, Lord”; “I thank You in all things”; “By Your grace, Lord”; “Thank You, Jesus”).
  • Pray and work (ora et labora). Do your work with a listening ear that is cocked to the voice of God. When you combine prayer and action, even trivial tasks can be spiritualized through a divine orientation. Invite the Lord to animate your work so that the ordinary is translated into the eternal.
  • Play to an Audience of One; live coram deo (before the heart of God). Seek obscurity and anonymity rather than public accolades so that you will desire to please God rather than impress people.
  • Ask Jesus to energize your activities and cultivate an attitude of dependence on Him, even in areas where you have knowledge and skill.
  • Monitor your temptations as they arise (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life) and turn these moments into opportunities to turn your eyes to Jesus. We do not overcome sin by trying to avoid it, but by focusing on Jesus.
  • Experiment with prayer. For instance, try praying for strangers you see while you are walking or waiting or driving. Ask the Lord to direct your prayers and listen for His promptings and impressions. Reach beyond your own concerns and become a channel of God’s grace and mercy to others.
  • Develop an eye that looks for God’s beauty and handiwork in nature when you are walking and driving: plants, flowers, birds, trees, the wind, clouds, the color of the sky, and so forth. Learn to savor the wonders of the created order, since they point beyond themselves to the presence and awesome mind of the Creator.
  • Turn the other pleasures of this life (times with close friends, enjoyment of great music and food, etc.) into sources of adoration for the One who made these things possible. Cultivate a sense of gratitude for the goodness of life and the tender mercies of God that are often overlooked.
  • Ask for the grace to see every person you meet and every circumstance you face today as a gift of God. Whether these experiences are bitter or sweet, acknowledge them as coming from His hand for a purpose. Look for the sacred in all things, and notice the unlovely and those who are usually overlooked. Remember that the EGRs (extra grace required) in our lives are there for a purpose.
  • Since we tend to live ahead of ourselves by dwelling in the future, try occasional time-stopping exercises by standing in and relishing the present moment. Realize that Jesus is with you and in you at this very moment and thank Him for never leaving or forsaking you even in the smallest of things (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).

Intimacy and activity, solitude and engagement, interior and exterior, calling and character, rest and work—both sides of each of these spectra are important. A balanced life of being and doing will nourish both restoration and application.

Advertisements

Gift Giving II

The purpose of most gifts isn’t to show-off how faithful we are or to raise money with them for others. They’re a tool for strengthening the church, that is, the body of all believers in Christ.
 
1 Corinthians 12:4-11, ” 4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
 
7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”
 
Believe it or not, this is a critical time of us Christians. In America we may be the free-est of all, but we don’t believe as our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world do. We’ve seen the surveys that tells us that not even we believe that Jesus is the only way to God. Now more than half of us believe that God isn’t the only way to Heaven. Perhaps this is why we don’t see gifts as much as we could. Why should there be many gifts among us when most of us don’t believe the truth from the giver of the gifts?
 
Worst of all, churches can’t agree on the Holy Spirit. Some don’t acknowledge Him and therefore don’t acknowledge gifts from Him. Others seem to make up the difference and are out of their minds (to outsiders) with gifts of tongues without any balance or order or building up of the church. They make it the measure of how Christian you are based on your use of the gift. According to that, then, many of us are unChristian. We can’t get the full power of God in our lives if we only worship two thirds of Him.
 
1 Corinthians 12:27-31, “27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
      And now I will show you the most excellent way.”

Gift Giving I

Mangal – Romans 12:3-8, “3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

I know that people sometimes put out those “discover your spiritual gifts” surveys out of an honest want to help others. I also know that some people do it out of an honest want to aquire money for themselves. When it comes down to it though, these surveys aren’t the answer. Think of it this way, you happen to have a birthday and you have a big gift. Would you ask what everybody else had given you to determine if it could be big enough to fit in that big gift’s box? Or would you go to the giver of that gift to ask what was in there?

Then there are those that argue that these gifts aren’t necessary (some of them) and that they haven’t existed (some of them) since the Apostles recieved them. It seems that there is a correlation between these gifts and our faith. Our faith must be at an all-time low if there isn’t much interaction between them and us. Then again, the conditions in America are against us when it comes to growing faith. Until recently we could provide anything we needed for ourselves and had no need to cultivate our faith in God.

Have you ever really wanted a gift that wasn’t suited for you or you for it? That is the danger when it comes to these spiritual gifts. So many times we would think, “If I could just prophesy, I could get my whole family out of this mess.” or “If I could only heal, then I could save my best friend’s life.” Noble sentiments, but now is the time when encouraging, serving, and even teaching are just as beneficial. You might already have some gifts you hadn’t thought were gifts. The gifts we recieve are given to us by God’s will. He doesn’t mismatch them or us as we might.

Giving Glory

MS Serif – I was thinking about how we give God the glory. You see, at the end of the day, we worked for the money we make to pay for the houses we live while saving for a house to build. We drive our cars to sports games and concerts to reward ourselves for all that work. When other people look at us they see the relationship between our work and our possessions. There is also another kind of work. The helping the poor, watching over children, visiting widows, and all around doing good. The sort of stuff that really points to God and what he’s up to in your life. When other people see this work they should see that we couldn’t really do these things without God.

Four meanings of Glory:

1. Renown – Exodus 14:4, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So the Israelites did this.”
2. Magnificence – Exodus 24:17, “To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.”
3. Eternity – 1 Peter 5:10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
4. Praise – Exodus 15:11, “”Who among the gods is like you, O LORD ? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”

How do we give God the renown He deserves, show His magnificence, point to Him in eternity and praise Him every day? Could we do a better job of it if we thought of it in these terms? Think of the old hymn, “To God be the glory, great things he hath done…” I think of it the same way in my life, for none of it would be without Him.

Mini Ministry

MS Sans Serif – The day I was sick and stayed home from church, a member walked up to microphone and announced that he had probably $150 dollars worth of aluminum cans in his van and that he would take cash it in and donate all the proceedes. It matters not where, just that he would and that he did.

 
I got to thinking about ministries and people often think that ministries are the big sort of things that you do to get people to Christ. Go and live in a village on the other side of the world. Go and preach to sold out stadiums. Yet, this man was going to do something that seemed so small and yet could have even a bigger impact.
 
What if we all took a view of ministry as not something big, but something smaller than anybody could do everyday. Think on what you could really do for people with what you have. There are needs that people go without because there is nobody to bring them a meal, a blanket, or to even keep them company. There are children who go to bed every night wondering if they’ll ever find a home and hoping they won’t end up on the streets. There are some people who went through unimaginable pain so that that red, white, and blue can fly freely of fear who are unhonored. Some people were forced into poverty because their beliefs don’t agree with those of their leaders. Sadly, somewhere, a Christian pastor is demanding fifty dollars to perform an exorcism on a child that will scar him/her physically and emotionally all his/her life.
 
So if you don’t think you’re cut out to live among a tribe that has never before seen anything like you or are too nervous to try to fill up a stadium, that’s okay. The thing God has in store for you is not only something you’d be good at, but would be blessed by. So think small and do something big for God.

Three Moments

Lucida Console – Three moments from my life that define something about me:

     The kid on the bus was showing off again. This time he had a knife in backpack. It wasn’t a plain one either, sort of daggar-like really, but what does a first-grader know of these things? It was wrong, against the rules to bring something like that to school. I said so. His big sister said that he had brought cigarettes, lighters, ammunition, and even a gun to school before and that I should just ignore it. I could not. I brought it to one of the teachers attention. I don’t know why I said the kid had found it under the merry-go-round, probably to lighten his punishment. I remember some teachers went and searched under it though. Perhaps the kid was punished harshly enough by his father. From that school I also remember my first good friend, we had met on the playground and I kept him company. The other kids thought the braces on his legs were funny. I ignored them. There was another kid whose story was much less happy. About five years later the news stations talked about how the police had raided his home after he had been absent for half the year. He was found to have been abused harshly and had died as a result. I remember one day how he walked into school, his legs all rubbery, barely able to support him. Had I only known…

I guess it was written in me to follow the rules and enforce them only when others’ disobedience was a clear threat to everybody’s safety. Was I a tattle-tale? Maybe back then, today it would be an honorable trait to turn in a student who had brought weapons to school. So many of us think that we have to forge relationships with everybody we want to see come to Christ. Let me warn you, there is no guarantee they have tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Just tell them and let God do the rest. I don’t remember the why of it, but during that summer my family moved and it became neccessary to attend a new school in that area. I don’t remember much of that school, but I don’t remember liking it either. I grew up with those students who wounded me from the second to seventh grades.

     The head cheerleader had never liked me. Perhaps it was because I was smaller than her so effortlessly. Perhaps because there was a sign on me, it marked me as reserved for something greater. Perhaps the fault wasn’t with me but with her perception that she was somehow lesser so she had to fight with me to knock me down. I don’t know. I do know that she would often cry because of a deep pain. Several months ago, we had hired her father, a stonemason, to help put windows in our brick walls. Not long afterwards, her father committed suicide. We may be enemies, but that’s no reason to take advantage of a person in pain. She made my life miserable after that, but I couldn’t be mean for the sake of meanness. She played with my friends once insisting that I couldn’t play with them because she was. She said I couldn’t be her friend while I had those other friends. Still, I never forgot the time when a handful of girls seemed to tell everybody that she was crying in the bathroom. I went to her. I asked if she was okay. Stupid question. She would never be okay. I told her I was sorry for her loss. It surprised her, after all, nobody other than her closest friends were there for her at this time, and while some girls were spreading the word how sad she was, her enemy came to her and expressed her condolences. Then again, the third-grade mind doesn’t reflect on these things as an adult’s and our feud would continue another day…

I don’t know why the Lord raises up enemies. Even King David had a fair share where the Bible states that the Lord did raise up enemies for him. The question is not the who or the why, but how you become a better person in the dealing with your enemies. Perhaps, as I had never gave up hoping, the hatred and the hatched will be buried for an even greater friendship. Of course, this first enemy wasn’t my last, but she was my best.

     By the time I reached the sixth grade I had been just about everybody’s friend and ex-friend. This I’ve talked about in detail in my past posts. Now that the school had opened its newly constructed playground everybody seemed to find a place to play. Some would walk around the track. Some would play football, use the swingsets and other toys. There was one toy they’d all avoid. The slide. It was my haunting ground. From up there I could tell you who was doing what and how they had stabbed me in the back. Sometimes kids would come ask the use of the slide, but they seemed to stay away unless they wanted to tease me. I remember it being warm, summer was going to begin soon. The wind picked up sand and carried it across the playground. The kids would rub at their eyes to get it out so they could continue playing. The slide protected me from it. I was thinking, never a wise thing to do in that school. My thoughts asked me if I would be better off not existing, not living. Then a light in those darkest of thoughts brought up a concern. My family, my church family, too. They’d need me. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t exist and doesn’t interact with us. That’s where He put me on the path to becoming His…

I always considered my salvation experience backwards. This is where I met God in my life, but it would be a long time before I would be baptized or pray the sinner’s prayer (in that order.) Then I read about the narrow gate. You have to go through the gate to get on the road. Think of it as my standing before the gate deciding if I want to be let in. These are the stories that stand out the most in my fragile memory. It’s a blessing to forget, who would want to remember every unruly classmate breaking the rules? Every wound of an enemy? Every failing of a friend? I do wish I’d remember the good things more. Things probably weren’t as bad as all that, sometimes they were worse, but the times when they were my friends weren’t that bad. Now I understand, when God put my family on my heart he put my future church family there too. There are innumerable Christians out there who really need us. I couldn’t have understood these things then.

For the Sake of Ten

Georgia – Genesis 18:16-33, “16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
 20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

 22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

 26 The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

 27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?”
      “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

 29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
      He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

 30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
      He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

 31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
      He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

 32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
      He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

 33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.”

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a famous one, in and out of holy books and popular culture alike. I found it interesting to look at the account of its trial and the carrying out of its sentence. We know that shortly after this takes place, Lot meets some angels and offers them hospitality. Lot’s neighbors surround his place and demand to meet them. Right then and there the angels know that there are fewer than ten righteous people and they tell them to leave. Lot doesn’t think he can make it that far and suggests a nearby place to hide. Then they’re off and Lot’s wife looks back on the destruction and she pays the price.

Not only were the men indecent, but We also learn from Ezekiel 16:49-50 that, “49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”

Perhaps Josephus’ account is more telling: “Now, about this time the Sodomites, overwhelmingly proud of their numbers and the extent of their wealth, showed themselves insolent to men and impious to the divinity, insomuch that they no more remembered the benefits that they had received from him, hated foreigners and avoided any contact with others. Indignant at this conduct, God accordingly resolved to chastise them for their arrogance, and not only to uproot their city, but to blast their land so completely that it should yield neither plant nor fruit whatsoever from that time forward…And the angels came to the city of the Sodomites…when the Sodomites beheld the young men, who were outstanding in beauty of appearance and who had been received into Lot’s house, they set about to do violence and outrage to their youthful beauty….Therefore, God, indignant at their bold acts, struck them with blindness, so that they were unable to find the entrance into the house, and condemned the Sodomites to destruction of the whole population…Now this country is then so sadly burnt up, that nobody cares to come to it… It was of old a most happy land, both for the fruits it bore and the riches of its cities, although it be now all burnt up. It is related how for the impiety of its inhabitants, it was burnt by lightning; in consequence of which there are still the remainders of that divine fire; and the shadows of the five cities are still to be seen, as well as the ashes growing in their fruits, which fruits have a colour as if they were fit to be eaten: but if you pluck them with your hands, they will dissolve into smoke and ashes.”

Should our nation be held accountable for it’s actions, let us remember that if there were only a few more righteous people, the whole place would have been spared. I hope that we will not find ourselves uttering the same lament.