Just Wondering…

WonderingI’m back at my desk after thirteen overflowing days at a conference with approximately 5,000 people who are committed to Christ and the calls of His Kingdom. While a variety of theological “fine points” were represented, fundamental biblical truths were agreed upon and affirmed. Some participants were exhausted from draining ministry or grieving over loss, others were exuberant with indescribable enthusiasm at seeing God work miracles in their lives and the lives of others. While ethnic, gender and generational diversity was evident, God’s heart for more—always more—was craved by many, encouraged for all.

Sitting for hours with my brothers and sisters in the cavernous Moby Arena at Colorado State University, I was moved by this army of men and women committed to “see Christ more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly…”*

“But,” I wondered, “what if this same commitment, enthusiasm, heart-ripping obedience to love others according to Christ’s example and command were possessed and practiced by every Christian, of every age, from every economic strata, from every denomination, of every color…

…what if each of us cried out as did Old Testament Caleb: ‘Give me this mountain!’

…what if we prayed as did martyred Jim Eliot: ‘Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.’

…what if we begged as did Spurgeon, “…if they (sinners) will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay.’

…what if we chose to be radically obedient until our last breath to the call of God, agreeing with David Platt: ‘Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.’”**

Just wondering…

*Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 3 April 1253

**David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

It All Takes Time

So many palate pleasing foods take time: aged cheese and wine, crusty bread, caramelized onions. Building a house is a never ending stream of time consuming decisions: choose the plan, hire contractors, decide on paint colors. Or watch a small child gazing at the garden where she planted seeds two days earlier: “But where are the carrots?” is her plaintive cry.

If we’re aware of the time necessary for all this, why does it surprise us when growing in the Christian life takes so much longer than desired or expected? We want instant disciples, fully formed at birth, ready to win the world, ingrained habits having evaporated into wispy memories. Why are we taken aback when expectations are unmet?

Friends and I recently walked together through the New Testament book of Luke, especially noting how Jesus lived, how he related to his Father, to his friends, his enemies, to the half hearted and the fully devoted. Of all our discoveries, what struck me most was how Luke emphasizes these time-oriented words in connection with Jesus’ life: then, when, at daybreak, one day, while, yet, one Sabbath, after this, as, meanwhile and many others. Luke records success and stalemate, followers and failures, rejoicing and repenting. Jesus relentlessly, confidently follows his quest to shape twelve men–and many other men and women just outside that inner circle–into world changers, God followers, reflections of his own love.

It’s not wrong to develop and use plans like Twelve Steps to Christian Maturity or The Seven Steps to Discipleship, but I believe we are foolish to believe that completing a course, filling in the blanks, even memorizing a set number of Bible verses will produce men and women who follow hard after the Savior.

In his book Called, Mark Labberton writes, There is waiting and uncertainty. There can be blight and disease. Fruit growing is no simple business organically, nor is it spiritually. Growing fruit that looks like Jesus is a process that takes time, seems slow and can be uncertain. Its full maturity internally takes longer than its external appearance may suggest.

As he prepared to leave their physical presence, did Jesus remind those bewildered, faithless, fearful disciples–now only eleven–and those women and men gathered with them, of his pre-cross words? As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. As you keep my commands, you will remain in my love… Love each other as I have loved you… I chose you so that you might bear fruit… My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name…

These are words unbound by time, yet magnified, even produced, by time. The psalmic poet wrote, Taste and see that the Lord is good. Such tasting is a lifelong process. Don’t hurry it, but always expect the slow satisfaction that comes from God’s rich food.

Prayer for the Fourth of July 2015

Thank you for the flag rippling in the breeze.
Forgive me disrespecting the flags of equally proud nations.

Thank you for freedom to worship.
Break my heart when I see burned churches in South Carolina and bombed churches in Iraq.

Thank you for our quest for racial, gender, social equality.
Open my eyes to the millions of little girls not allowed in schoolrooms or sold for their bodies; to women hiding behind locked doors; to mothers afraid for their black sons on my country’s playgrounds.

Thank you for freedom of movement and travel.
Help me give more to those needing blankets and food and clothing because they move not from desire or opportunity but from fear of an invading enemy.

Thank you for blessing my country.
Forgive me for assuming we are good and thus deserve such blessing, for not generously sharing my blessing to others, for placing my United States citizenship above my Kingdom of God citizenship.

Thank you for the freedom to earn a living.
Forgive me for shutting my heart to those who must beg because of caste systems, for five-year-olds dipping water out of germ-infested ditches to slake their families’ thirst.

Thank you for government—though flawed by sin—that seeks to provide freedom.
Convict the despots who rule with guns, the oppressors who steal from the poor to fill their own coffers. Bring even to these the light of your salvation.

Thank you for men and women who fight and die to protect us.
Forgive me for placing my protection above the protection of others, for assuming that might is right.

Forgive us for working harder for ourselves and our country than for you and your Kingdom.

Forgive us for protecting our so-called freedom more than protecting the least
in the world who have never tasted freedom.

Teach us how to faithfully, creatively, bravely, lovingly, gracefully
walk like Jesus as exiles in this country until we reach your Promised Land.