Worth It

I can still remember where I was on September 11th, 2001, as I’m sure you can. I remember a lot of things about that day: the stunningly beautiful, clear blue cloudless skies, how I discovered it happened, prayer at church at noon, being glued to the radio at work listening, and then, later, the TV watching in horror and disbelief. It was a day that changed the world, to be sure… and that’s an understatement.

I also can still remember my reaction. Folks were debating how the United States should respond. Strike back immediately, carpet-bombing, plan a war, institute sanctions, etc. There were voices coming from everywhere, and I’m sure the choices that then-President George W. Bush made were excruciatingly tough. We know the decisions that were made and events that ensued. But I wasn’t so sure that was right course.

Don’t get me wrong: I am so thankful for our military men and women who serve selflessly to protect our freedom and way of life around the world. Thousands have paid the ultimate price. Thousands more are still paying the price from the wounds they suffered. “Thank you” is not enough.

It is a hard thing to love. It is especially hard to love those who don’t love me back, or who, in fact, hate me back. It is hard to love those who don’t even say, “Thank you.” It is hard to love those who don’t even pay attention to me. I tend to love only those who love me in return, or at least pay attention to me. Maybe it all boils down to the fact that I tend to love only those who think I’m worth something.

That is how loving others begins: by assigning worth to them. The sobering thought is that they (whoever “they” are) are worth as much as I am. That includes the guy standing by the offramp, looking for a handout. That includes the homeless guy up in Washington D.C. asleep on a park bench with a newspaper over his face. That includes the pedophile I heard about on the 6 o’clock news. And that includes those that inflict damage and horror in my life and in others’ lives, either by the words they say, the things they do, or even the bombs they set off.

Jesus thinks they are worth dying for. Jesus thinks I am worth dying for. Jesus thinks you are worth dying for. They are, I am, and you are treasures to Jesus. That is how love and service begins for me: by trying to develop the eyesight of Jesus and seeing the beauty and worth of the lives around me, and then putting that love into action by serving them. Love isn’t love unless it is accompanied by service.

But I can’t do this. I simply can’t. Without God’s help, that is. And I fail at this. Every. Day. I fail. I need more of Jesus.

The world needs more of Jesus.

Upside-down

Listen to this Puritan prayer by Arthur Bennett:

Let me learn by paradox
that the way up is the way down
that to be low is to be high
that the broken heart is the healed heart
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul
that to have nothing is possessing all
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown
that to give is to receive
that the valley is the place of vision.

And I’ll add: Where death brings life.

God’s upside-down Kingdom. Good thoughts to ponder today.

Formation for Mission

I’ve mentioned the three books our church is working its way through many times. I only do so because God used these books to change me: the way I look at myself, the way I look at the things happening around me and my role, and the purpose you I have in the Kingdom.

The church has been on a nine-month journey through…

The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows
The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ
The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Showing Love

The books are designed to help each person focus on spiritual formation, growing in grace, and living out their faith to make an impact on the world around them, even if that world is just their family and the families in their cul-de-sac.

They are not just Bible-studies. They are spiritual formation with a mission.

This should really be the point of growing in Christ. We don’t do it for ourselves. We don’t even do it for God. We do it for the world around us… to be Jesus to the folks around us and bring more into this Unshakeable Kingdom.

Take the next 3:30 to watch this video. It sums it up nicely.

Is there life BEFORE death?

“God, how can I make you more known?”

That’s a question I’ve been dwelling on for several days. Since March 13th, in fact. I wrote it down in my journal on that day.

Some people have told me privately that my writings each morning have helped them. That’s certainly one way I can answer the question at the top of the page. But in what other ways can I answer that question? And there are a couple of questions that accompany the main one.

Like, “Why is it that the first question I ask myself each day ISN’T that question? Why don’t I think of ways to make you more known? Why isn’t that my goal? I seem to want to make MYSELF more well-known. Why is that?”

Okay, that’s more than a couple of questions.

But as I write each day, that is a question I feel compelled to ask. Because if I write and post it somewhere, I must have the motivation of making God more known. If that’s not my motivation, then it is self-indulgent dribble. It serves no one but me. If it doesn’t make someone know God just a little bit better or a little bit more or is not redemptive, as God is redemptive, then it should be tossed into the garbage.

In fact, I need to be asking the question at the top of the page each day as I wake up and start my day. If my actions, motives, words, and behaviors don’t attempt to make God more known, and then each day has been no more than self-indulgent dribble… a waste of energy… a waste of… life.

I know that sounds harsh, and you may say, “God wants us to enjoy our life, too. What’s wrong with living life to the fullest?” My reply would be, “Who says that can’t be done by making God more known in the process? In fact, I would say that enjoying life and living life to the fullest comes from making God more known.”

In fact, I believe that Jesus words about “abundant life” in John 10:10 were all about living for God and others. I believe that the abundant, fulfilling life in which Jesus shows us is a life which channels God’s living water into the lives of everyone around them. This can happen in so many ways, whether it’s sitting by the bedside of a sick friend, feeding the hungry, adopting a child, a smile and a hug to someone who needs it, or typing words on a page. It can be loving your spouse as God intends it, or raising a godly family, or working with integrity on your job.

When Jesus said these words…

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

… He wasn’t just talking about life after death. Shane Claiborne writes about this when he says, “Few people are interested in a religion that has nothing to say to the world and offers them only life after death, when what people are really wondering is whether there is life before death.”

Making God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, justice, hope, healing, friendship, wholeness, acceptance, victory, freedom more known brings life… true life.

So my day begins with the question: God, how can I make you more known?