Archive for October, 2008

When Little Becomes Much

October 30, 2008

The boy with five loaves and two fish gave a seemingly insignificant gift, which Jesus turned into a major miracle.  The increase off of the 7 pieces of food ended up feeding over 5000 men as well as women and children.  Each gospel records a take on this story (see Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6).  The other story is also interesting because it includes the gentiles, although there were only 4000 men this time (Matthew 15, Mark 8).

After Jesus performs these two miracles, He warns the disciples to be beware of the yeast of the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees.  The disciples, literal to the core because they thought they were going to war eventually for the kingdom of God, began to discuss not bringing any bread, which means they thought He was telling them not to buy food from these “enemies” because it was tainted.  But Jesus immediately corrects their thinking by saying (in Matthew 16:8-12),  “You of little faith, why are talking among yourselves about having no bread?  Do you still not understand?  Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?  Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?  How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?  But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  Then they understood that He was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The teaching of both turned the heart away from trust in God.  One did so by cynically disowning the spirit world, after life and many of the promises of God (the Sadducees), while the other disowned God’s grace by adding stringent laws around God’s simple commands (the Pharisees), which meant both depended on themselves for the “clarity” of understanding God.

Basically Jesus warns us all about unbelief.  His pointing to the miracles for the 5000 and 4000 demanded they understand that they didn’t need to worry about bread but their hearts.  Like us (or we are like them since they came first) they focused on all the wrong things and served up survival tactics more than a change of heart.  All man’s efforts go to struggling to survive, whereas Jesus came to bring us back to Eden’s garden of plenty where we didn’t plant or cultivate anything for our provision to be supplied.

A boy gives his five loaves and two fish and these little offerings fed several thousand people with twelve baskets full of left overs.  Pause for a minute and think about this fact.  Now remember how many baskets were left over after the 4000–seven!  Both numbers are complete pictures of God’s perfect provision because the number 12 points to His family (12 tribes) then His chosen disciples–12 again!  If you play with the numbers for fun you realize they are interconnected by two numbers–3 and 4.  3+4=7; 3×4=12.  Three points to the trinity, which is an example of unified purpose and heart, four points to the boundaries of God’s creation, I believe, because it is always used in the context of the four corners of the earth.

OK, may be this equation thing has no real significance but it’s interesting that they both use the most rudimentary numbers available to get to the sum/product.

Anyway, the point is that we don’t have to worry about food for God can rain manna down if needed and make a big meal out of a small one.  Our main concern always is to be like Jesus, to listen to His teachings and let the change of heart be seen as a witness to others who ache for light.

Yet what got me thinking about this stuff is how God can take our little, seemingly insignificant and wholly inconsequential (in other people’s view) offerings and make them feed many–much more than we could anticipate or imagine or is even logical by looking at the supply and demand equation.  Our little becomes much when combined with the miraculous hand of God.  Everything we do in the bounds of Christ becomes multiplied a hundred times.  It’s His promise and guarantee….for Life!

Giving Up What We cannot Gain

October 29, 2008

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?  Matthew 16:26.

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose of forfeit his very self?  Luke 9:25.

Both passages go on to demonstrate how a person can give up their soul or self to gain that which is temporary at best and unattainable at worst.  We who have lived through at least three or four recessions will understand by experience how greed runs the marketplace for the most part, how the fear that we now see running the show grows out of the self-deception about our motives.  People who took great risks with other people’s futures refuse to do so with their own nest egg–even though they were quite willing to lose nearly two trillion dollars in the process.  I’m not saying those in charge willingly gave up all that money but watch how they work the market and the reluctance of those who have to lend to those who don’t–in many cases even with guaranteed returns.

I don’t want to focus on this current crisis, though, because my main point is not about the volatility of the market but more to point out that nothing we own currently or thought we owned in the past was secure.  Everything takes a measure of faith–either in the basic goodness of humanity or God.  As I’ve seen even the best humans fall, including myself, from their pedastals of public good opinion, I’ll stick with God.

What do we consider a good exchange rate for our very self?  I mean Jesus asks the question in order to get us to think about our value, knowing all along the price of a soul would be His life.  So then, when we sell ourselves for earthly security and temporary happiness, we sell ourselves short–way short!  Our value can only be calculated when we consider it in the light of the cross.

Referring back to another entry in this blog, I would like to point out again that at the very center of the Bible it says,  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.   And the verse just after that takes it a step further to drive the point home:  It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.  Psalm 118: 8, 9.

Our refuge in good times is reliance on our routine, which suggests our job, cars, houses, bi-monthly or whatever salary, and our health.  Touch any one of these things with disaster or even subtract one of them from the equation and our security goes down with the roof on our heads.  You might think I’m speaking out of my backside when I say this but look at it as a theorem:  If a job = house + cars + food + education + family = security, then (-)job = (-)security.  Or lose the car in this equation or the ability to transport oneself to and from the job and the results equal the same insecurity.  Trusting in our boss will result in a let down eventually because the volatility of the market may bring him/her down and then we’re back to insecurity.

Now someone might come upon this blog by chance, which means they don’t know my life or testimony and wonder where I get the audacity to write about trusting in God no matter what.  So I’ll let you in on the reason I can write like this with authority:  I have no earthly security.  In fact, my livelihood is completely unpredictable by human standards because I can’t advertise or build the business by standard methods.  But one thing I’ve seen constantly in the last several years is that God continues to provide for me.  I can testify personally to the truth of Psalm 37:25, 26 when it says,  I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.  They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.   Now one thing this passage doesn’t promise is earthly security in the current or past worldview.  What it does guarantee without equivocation is that God will take care of His own.

I must troubleshoot some exclusive thinking here though.  God doesn’t take care of those who are His own out of privilege but because they are submitted–another word for open–to Him.  A person who submits his/her life to God opens their life and heart up for God to work in, through and for them.  A person closed off to God will receive only what general windfalls bring their way or happenstance drops in their lap–e.g. rain, crops and wealth.  God established the authorities and methodologies we practice.  This doesn’t mean that every president or king is God’s chosen one but that the actual position of authority has been established by God.  The person in that position might just be incidental.

Trust in humans will result in a let down.

So what we cannot gain on earth is security, which means what we give up for God is our search for something that basically doesn’t exist.  Taken a step further, we realize that our hope in earthly security is futile, imaginary and wishful thinking, since no one can be counted on completely–either by nature or the unpredictable nature of circumstances.  The only one we can count on completely to keep His word is God, the best investment known to mankind.

The Benefit of Silence

October 27, 2008

I will be following the experiences of a friend learning the blessing of silence.  It’s one of the many things I am not good at.  I know I need it because the Spirit of God has been drawing me toward a more prayerful, listening life.

I will get there, I pray, but it takes surrender, which is another thing I’m not good at…

As Christ Accepted You

October 26, 2008

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  Romans 15:7.

How does Christ accept us?

That’s a great question with what I consider a fascinating answer.  Read on:

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8.

I think that answers the question pretty succinctly about how God views us, yet what does it actually tell us by inference of how we should accept one another?  I think the apostle John clarifies this issue quite well, so I’m gonna’ pick out the hi-lites and you can read the context.  All the following quotes are taken from 1 John.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness.  2:9.

Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in Him.  3:15.

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because He first loved us.  If anyone says,  “I love God,”  yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And he has given us this command:  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.  4:18-21.

There’s more in this little letter of John’s about the subject of love which creates the big picture with all its finer details but I think these will suffice for our point here.  One side note I would like to add:  In the statement and you know that no murderer has eternal life in Him John is talking about one who continues in that sin, not a repentent sinner.

Here’s the reality in Jesus:  If we hate or fear anyone, it means we have not been perfected in love and walk around in darkness, blinded by our own choice.  And if someone is going to ask the question,  “Who is my brother?”, I think Jesus answered that question in the parable of the good Samaritan, although He used the word “neighbor” instead.  If we are to treat those who don’t believe like us as if they are our neighbors, then how should we treat our fellow believers?  This means, for the sake of driving the point home and dispelling all doubt about what I’m saying, that if a person of one race treats a person of another race less than God’s command to love one another, the first person has no part with Christ and is considered a murderer in heart.  Hate comes from the evil one not from God so we can subtract prejudice from our relationship equations right now.  Let me say this again boldly:  If we hate or fear a person of another race, creed or status because of these things, we have not been perfected in God’s love and have subtracted ourselves from God’s grace.

Read the passages above in 1 John again and you’ll see there’s no other take on the subject of relationships in the church, for God is no respecter of person’s since He died for all so that all might be equally saved.

If we are to get technical about it, anyone not of the Jewish race is lesser in value by a racist’s view of life because they are the chosen people, which means those of the caucasion race are less than Jews in the kingdom of God–that is if we accept certain races being better than others.  But God leveled the playing field at the cross and though the Jews are still considered the elder brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, they are not valued more or less than the younger brother as family.  God gives specific jobs to specific people not for the sake of value but due to ability–which is a form of value, to be sure, but please consider that God gave the ability in the first place so no one can get big headed about their abilities.

This means that we are as valuable as an apostle in the kingdom of God, an apostle is as valuable as we are and no one is meaningless in God’s eyes.  The guy who shovels out stalls is equal in value to the one who builds skyscrapers and visa versa.  No one is above another in value, each has their place and each one’s ability is vital to the working of the world.

This is the God we serve.  Beautiful isn’t He.

Being A Man All the Time

October 25, 2008

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Men sometimes get themselves twisted up in knots about what is manly and what is not. For instance, in the last forty years or so we have struggled to understand what being a man is because the women’s movement condemned so many of our past failures–and rightly so in some cases. Men who liked rough and tumble, though, were condemned along side the violent and told they were not men, just animals.  Our more physical natures define us in real as well as imagined ways.

There’s a definite difference between being able to take hard work, tough conditons, strenuous pursuits, and a host of other interests we have and our hardness of heart.  Being tough in stressful situations, whether physical or circumstantial, doesn’t mean we are hardened to the needs of those around us.  That said, I believe the rough and tumble of a man’s nature even as a boy is natural because they do it without actually being told this is what boys do.

So where we stand right now is at the crossroads of understanding what a man is–and by default discovering that we can understand women a little better.

Solomon claimed there was a season for everything in life. In Ecclesiastes 3 he lists them. The seasons in our lives make room for planting, birth, death, all the in betweens that come with being alive. A strong man must not be overly confident in his strength because there will come a day when that strength is dwindled and someone else will take his place. The hope a strong man has against that day is that he has cultivated enough good relationships so in his weakness the one to follow cares for him. All of us will become weak in our old age or illness so there is nothing to be done but develop good relationships with our families and friends.

A man who shuns community fails to see the vital nature relationships play in any human’s life. We are not islands as some have claimed but spirits within a physical construct interweaving and interacting on many levels. Those who limit themselves to just the physical, atrophy their spirit, thereby destroying their ability to be whole.

Maturity is the ability to make the appropriate response and take responsibility for our choices.  A man is one who sees his responsibility to both his dependants and himself.  He makes decisons based on the best information he has available to work with what life throws at his community.

Yet there is a season for all emotions and reactions/responses.  I find those who feel that we should be stoic through pain quite annoying because this is obviously foolish.  If I’m worried about something, why not express it?  Of course, there is a time and place for every activity, but we need to be able to express our fun side while not ignoring our sad times.

I guess what I’m pushing myself to say is:  For a man to be whole he must be able to express everything that is natural to his psyche.  To have to suppress mourning just because others might think him weak is utterly foolish to me.  Now that doesn’t mean I cried a lot at my mother’s funeral because I didn’t–but not because I wasn’t sad about her passing.  The truth is I just didn’t feel it and couldn’t really let it go at that time.  I didn’t weep for my parents for months until one day something just hit and it all came boiling out.

What helped me in this ability to express grief was David’s ability to mourn.  Here was a man’s man, a guy not afraid to fight a giant yet sensitive enough to be weep when a friend, family member or important countryman died.  To me this is being whole not hiding for fear we might be weak.

In fact I believe it takes strength to face up to our emotions as men.  A person who hides the truth from even themselves is afraid of appearing vulnerable.  Yet the facts are that everyone becomes weak and vulnerable sometime in their lives.  No one is exempt from being beaten at the game of life no matter how many successes they experience.

Being real with our setting takes guts and an ability to cut through the bull to get to the truth.  Now do I like a guy who blubbers and whines?  Absolutely not!  But I don’t like a woman to do this either and I don’t think that is necessary anyway.  What I’m talking about is being able to be sad when circumstances warrant it, when the situation’s demand such a response, and being courageous through fear and not pretending to lack it.  I would rather know that the guy next to me in a foxhole is afraid but determined to stick it out than to have an idiot who doesn’t know the meaning of danger get everyone killed out of foolishness.

God created us as a package.  Everyone expresses that package differently so it’s ok if one is naturally more reticent than another.  Yet the one who is less expressive should never condemn the one who is and visa versa.  We men must learn to experience, express and be honest with everything we are or we live a lie.

The balance is the key to understanding.

A man can be tough as nails but soft and gentle with a baby.  I watched my dad demonstrate this time and again for he was a man’s man but when it came time to do the dishes, he helped my mom clean up till it was done.  He fed the babies, read us stories in his halting style (he had to quit school in the 3rd grade to support his family when his dad got sick), and held us on his knees.  At the same time this was a man who could take a small block Chevy engine and turn it over by himself work on the other side.  He softened more as he got older but remained strong in many important ways.

From my understanding of Scripture and experience a stong man is one who is unafraid of being real with gladness or sadness.

We can be men all the time in every situation without fear of being less than.  It just takes understanding of who and what that might be.

The Secret to Endurance…

October 23, 2008

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15:4.

I’ve learned from history that people forget history pretty fast.  We forget last week pretty fast. 

Ok, may be that’s just me, but most people struggle to remember last month let alone a century or two ago.

I don’t know if it’s just a trend that’s been around since Adam ate the fruit or if it’s a modern phenomena, but it seems to me that most people are less aware of the past than when I was younger.  It’s like they don’t care about learning lessons from our history, or something, because we keep repeating the same mistakes, forgetting to be the people who have advanced beyond petty feuds into enlightened thinking and civilized attitudes.

Our key passage above tells us the secret to endurance and being encouraged:  the writings of the past found in Scripture.  These writings are there to teach us to endure all that life can throw at us, thereby giving us courage and encouraging us to press on through the best and worst.  Take the word “encourage” apart and you have it’s prefix “en” and then the word “courage”.  So if we use this new view of the word to understand what Paul meant by the Scriptures being encouraging, we grasp the idea that he believed the Scriptures gave us courage to endure.  For something to give us courage it has to show us lessons from illustrations, such as stories, which serve to inspire us to keep on with the growth in Jesus.

Now look at the concept here again:  All that was written in the past, meaning the OT books (Paul was in the process of writing the NT along with others), should inspire courage within us to endure.  This comes as a surprise to many because they see nothing but judgment and condemnation in the OT.  But, again, this is a matter of where we put our emphasis not necessarily the message itself.  If our guilty consciences focus on the judgment, there must be a reason why this happens, wouldn’t you say?  Possibly (and most probably) we have been taught to focus on the negatives rather than the positives.  This doesn’t subtract the negatives from the message rather it shows them in light of the desire of God’s heart:  Salvation from death and sin to all.

For example, in the book of Judges we see story after story about men and women who made horrible mistakes which cost everyone involved dearly.  But if we read Hebrews 11, we see God’s view of these people in contrast to those who might focus on the negative.  God calls many of the most fallen (I’m thinking of Samson, Gideon, Jephthah to name a few) heroes of faith.  What kind of God corrects a man’s failures then turns right around and celebrates his one success by honoring him as a hero?  A very merciful, forgiving and loving God, that’s who.

Proverbs tells us:  The name of the LORD is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.  (18:10)

When we think about God, most of us think about getting prayers answered, miracles and the like, but rarely do we think of refuge.  If we take this proverb apart (in order to understand it not critique), we see the place of refuge is the name of the LORD.  Now exactly how could the name of the Lord be a strong tower?–and we must here think of times past when a tower would resist all attempts to get at the people or goods inside it.

There’s a saying that goes,  If we claim the name, we must live up to it.

This is the means by which we find refuge.  If the God’s name speaks of His glory (reputation), then taking on His name means we will live up to that glory and that very choice will protect us from every attack an enemy can throw at us.  On the one hand we have His Holy Spirit giving us the will and means to do His good purpose, on the other our lives which we conform to Jesus’ nature being submitted every day to His teachings.  The same teachings that Paul spoke about above.

God’s word divides the dark from the light, the carnal from the spiritual and the godly from the ungodly.  Isaiah claims,  Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.  Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,  “This is the way, walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:20, 21.  God isn’t hiding the message nor the lessons we need to learn it for Jesus tells us that we will suffer if we follow Him quite plainly.  Those who do not accept Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, will reject not only the message but anyone associated with it, which means that if they are antagonistic enough, we who believe in Him will suffer at their hands.

Here is where the endurance and encouragement comes into the picture.  We need to stand firm on the foundation of Jesus without giving in to the pressure around us.  Yet our only means of standing firm is to run into the strong tower of His name to be safe.  We cannot stand alone successfully, we need the body of Christ as well as the endurance and courage found in the Scriptures to sustain our light during the dark times.

One last point.

Paul makes a statement about the “secret” of endurance in 2 Corinthians 4: 1, 2:  Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

So the gospel is to be a plain spoken hope for salvation without a person having to go into rituals or on a treasure hunt to find it.  Yet there is a certain mystery attached to the message still.  Paul goes on to make clear why the message is hidden to some, read on:  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to  those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.

That sounds like a harsh statement but in point of fact it is only harsh because it’s true.  Those who reject Christ choose blindness over light–and I’m saying this in the context of the passage above–for if Jesus is the light of the world, the only way to find truth is through Him.  Those who don’t want His Way, Truth or Life, will reject Him for a way of either their own or someone else’s making, a truth bound by the same and a life which suits their preference.  Notice, however, that it isn’t God who blinds these people but the god of this age, which could mean Satan but I take to mean the pursuit of power, pleasure, wealth and a host of other things that become more important for the moment.

The gospel shines a light on the temporary nature of our lives down here, showing these things to be neither bad or good but definitely revealing our motivation for obsessing over them.  The gospel isn’t kept a secret from anyone, but it is confusing to one who is blind to the nature of mankind and the message of the cross.  Jesus called His message a costly pearl which a person finds in their field and sells everything they have to obtain it.  This, then, is the secret to obtaining the light of the gospel.  It must be the most prized possession we have and nothing should ever interfere with our obtaining it.

Only once we find Christ as our Master and Savior will we grasp the true meaning of the Scriptures.

Jonny’s Verse for the Day

October 23, 2008

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5, 6.

Verse for the Day

October 22, 2008

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  Romans 15:7.

Manliness

October 15, 2008

Jesus demonstrates the traits of a whole man.  Men who show toughness without grace, mercy or tenderness are fractured and weak because they fear being vulnerable.  Those afraid to show gratitude fear either being taken advantage of or that they care at all.

I’ve watched very masculine men cry at weddings, funerals and when their children do something quite special.  They don’t break down and bawl but the tears flow.  I’ve seen and read about men who were tougher than I could ever imagine being weeping when the situation warranted it.

The need here is for balance–not giving emotions complete control over us but letting them be expressed at the same time.  I find it sadly amusing that so many men struggle to express love, compassion, gentleness, tenderness and warmth.  Isn’t it strange that these same men think it is manly to express hard emotions like anger, violence, coldness and harshness?

The strongest men I know show their emotions without being ruled by them.  They are unafraid to weep or laugh when it’s appropriate.

The man in Bible I keep returning to in admiration is Jesus, of course, and another one is David.  David wept for those who died when Saul killed all the priests, his first son by Bathsheba got sick and died and other times when mourning seemed appropriate.  What we know of the men of the Bible is that they never shunned open emotion or thought that avoiding self-expression was weakness.  David and Jonathan were best of friends and could show love to one another as brothers without fear of being thought wimps.  Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, even thought He knew He was going to bring him back to life, and for Jerusalem’s rejection of Him just before He rode into the city as king.

In our Americana view of strength we have neglected the expression of love considering it a weakness in men.  A tender hearted man is thought of with some derision by those who are more stoic because they think this guy is gonna’ cave in like a baby when tough times come along.  What I’ve found for myself and in others that I’ve observed who choose to express the gentle, merciful, gracious and loving side of our natures is that they are actually stronger and less likely to break down in troubled times.  A positive outlook allows a person to see hope in the middle of dark situations.

I don’t claim to be the strongest man alive, by any means, but I know that when I lost my folks–one to natural causes, the other to Alzheimer’s, love kept me positive.  Instead of dispair, anger and bitterness all I could see was how much I had appreciated their presence in my life.  When I lost my marriage, love kept me afloat and strong.  Did I weep for the loss?  Absolutely!

One truth emerged through all of my turmoil, though, it takes more strength of character to continue loving, giving and being kind than it does to be vengeful, ungracious and harsh.  The latter came quite easily in harsh situations, whereas the former took every ounce of commitment and self-control (along with lots of prayer) to accomplish.

The study of Jesus’ life brings us to the place of wholeness where we can be all that we are not just a fraction of ourselves or half-hearted beings.  The man who from the cross hanging there barely able to breathe, cried out to God,  “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing!” tells me that His love was and is stronger than the hatred of those around Him; His light shown brighter in the midst of darkness.  I want this strength.  I want to be kind no matter what others do, to be grateful for what I have despite what my life looks like to others or even me, to live in the light of Christ’s character though the heavens seem to be falling on my head.

That, to me, is manliness.

Hopeless Romantic Meets Gritty Reality

October 10, 2008

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-supassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in ouir body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revelaed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.  2 Corinthians 4:7-15.

Getting into mission work sounded romantic.  Ok, not in the boy-meets-girl variety but the adventurous, brave and self-sacrificing missionary garners glory by dent of his dedication to Christ.  And by all the evidence I’ve seen, it is an adventure and takes great courage.

Yet Paul’s discussion above reveals that it is more than just an adventure for there’s real danger.  Yet many times we forget the realities of the danger and merely watch for entertainment (of a sorts) with baited breath to see if our hero comes through it alive.  Paul dealt with more than just persecution, listing several things in 2 Corinthians 11 that happened to him in the service of Jesus.  He never wavered from his goal, though I’m sure he felt lonely and afraid at times.  Still, his resolve to serve fought down his urge to act for God with human based methods.

When I hear someone begin to admire a missionary, I get cautious about what and how they speak their praise.  For the most part the church in America doesn’t get the message of suffering for Christ.  Many mistake the toaster breaking as persecution by the devil, or the fact that the light turned green as a sign of God’s favor.  I don’t know, may be they have it right for there certainly are some absurd truths in this universe of ours…but I doubt it.

The romance of service is balanced by the gritty reality of falling on one’s face in helplessness over our circumstances and fears.  Courage isn’t made perfect unless it’s accompanied by fear first, and anything resembling courage which doesn’t have fear accompanying it isn’t courage at all but foolhardy, thoughtless and totally ignorant actions on anyone’s part..

Beyond all earthly logic, I believe in Jesus.

It’s not a defiant statement or declaration rather it’s a definitive one.  Most of our lives we search for something or someone we can actually believe in and I just happen to have found one in Jesus.  I don’t believe anyone like I do Him.  Some might see it as imbalanced or out of touch, but that’s just it, I’m not out of touch with the world around me, what I am or believe.  I recognize the contrast easily enough, I see the conundrums of the Bible without shrinking from them or denial, and I’m definitely not afraid of it being a fairytale.

Of all the gods I could have chosen, this one stands out as coolest, this is why I serve in the cause of Jesus.  I don’t serve the religion as a whole because of all the factions, rather I prefer to serve Him directly.  Some might see this as arrogant, aloof or simply dillusions of grandeur, but I am not giving myself a position in the church or His religion for I hold none and chose to hold none.  I am not respected for my great insight into the Bible, theology or sinless life, so I don’t gain anything there.  Though I lead worship at a church and play at two or three others, I am not employed by them as a full time worker.

What I do have, however, is the fact that I don’t have to be any kind of superstar to His servant or serve His cause.  I am just a guitarist/worship leader who gets to bring people to the place where they can worship God.

Yet some might see being on stage as a glory thing…i.e. rock star status.  I see us not as stars but servants.  Paul showed us in the above passage that the servant of Christ didn’t get to win the lottery, become popular or live hassle free.  On the contrary, they tend to have a target on their hearts for attacks from every side.  It might sound romantic to live by faith, but the reality is much harder and less secure.

So why do it if it doesn’t guarantee fun or safety?  Peace, contentment and sense of belonging the Creator’s purpose.  I haven’t lost all my desires for fame or fortune, but I have lost the need for them.  If I’m gonna’ get one thing out of life, I want the character of Jesus to shine through my muddled humanity and be a beacon of peace for those who see it.

Life as a missionary might be romantic but the gritty reality knocks the illusions off their pedastals pretty quickly.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.