the old chair

Category : different, live for the eternal

 

I was thinking about something today, and it’s not exactly theology, so humor me for a bit.  As much as I’ve tried to escape the reality of age, I am finally coming to the depressing conclusion I’m getting older.  I have reached that stage of my life where my body simply doesn’t respond like it once did.  (And it never returns my phone calls.)

Some of you know what I’m talking about.  Others of you are just waiting for me to discuss walking uphill both ways in the snow.  (By the way, I did this when I was going to high school – there was a valley between my house and the HS.)  As my body changes, the way I think about things is also changing.  You see, sitting here typing this is causing me physical pain because I have an old chair.

Until recently I had never given any consideration to my posture, how I sit, or certainly not what I sit on.  But that’s changing.  The obvious solution is to buy a new chair.  And that would be great, if I hadn’t just resigned from my job.  So right now I can’t afford to buy some fancy, comfortable, ergonomically correct chair. 

When I chose to resign I knew there would be sacrifice involved.  Although this wasn’t exactly what I expected! 

As I sit here thinking about my chair, my job, and my back I can’t help but realize I’m still in better financial shape than 99% of the world’s population.  At least I have a chair to sit on.  This is forcing me to think about the so-called “less fortunate.”  Have I ever stopped to consider the physical pain they go through because they can’t afford new clothes, a warm bed, or even a car to get to work?  Have I stopped to wonder what random issues they have because they don’t have the money they need?

For the first time I think I’m starting to understand that suffering sometimes happens just because we can’t afford to “upgrade” the things we have.  That it’s not simply about “not having” but also about not have the right things.  Owning a pair of shoes doesn’t do you any good if they are a size too small. 

Like I said, this isn’t exactly theological in nature.  Just an observation about the weird ways life (and God) teaches you important lessons.

impatience

Category : faith, hope, live for the eternal

 

The economy is tough right now.  It seems like every day I hear about another friend losing their job.  Or gas prices rising.  And let’s not even talk about the housing market.  Frankly it feels as if nothing will ever change; that we’ll be stuck in this economy forever, with no hope of improvement. 

And yet, it wasn’t that long ago I remember wondering if the economy would ever slow down.  It seemed as if the stock market always went up, and new homes were bought just as fast as they were made. 

Funny how that is.

Why do we get so caught up in The Moment™ that we convince ourselves that nothing is going to change?  Peter felt that way the night they came to take Jesus to his death.  He felt so strongly that things weren’t going to change that he declared nothing would shake his faith in Jesus (Mark 14: 27-31). 

I think we get caught up in the moment because we lose sight of our true goal - a relationship with God that lasts forever.  When we shift our focus to other places, no matter how well intentioned, we get distracted.  True joy, true hope, and true happiness will never come from an economy – good or bad.   

Of course I’m no better at this than anyone else.  The reality is, it takes work to stay focused.  Some days it’s easy.  But more often than not it takes sheer will power.  In the end though, reminding myself to “focus on the eternal” keeps me moving towards God.  And that perspective helps me be a little more patient when life doesn’t work out the way I want.   

suffering for faith

2

Category : Acts, Paul, bible, hope, live for the eternal, sharing faith, taking action

 

Sometimes I think it would be fun to be Paul.  (not this Paul)

This was a guy who traveled the world talking about God.  He was bold, action-oriented, and totally committed to God.  He was someone who lived his life to the fullest.  

But then I read stories about Paul’s experience in a city called Lystra. 

When Paul first arrived there, everything went well.  He was able to talk about God, people were listening, and some even started to believe.  But as time went on, people began to change their minds.  They began to no longer accept Paul’s teaching.  So they did what comes naturally to any crowd after a lecture they don’t like – they picked up rocks and threw them at Paul.  In fact, the crowd was so confident in their aim, they drug his body outside of town thinking he was dead. 

Days like this make me want to reconsider my plan to be more like Paul.

But as Monty Python might say, “he’s not quite dead yet.”  And so Paul got up and went back into town. 

I don’t know about you, but heading back into the town where people threw blunt objects at me would not be high on my ‘To Do’ list.  But for Paul, that’s just who he was.  So after returning to town, he and his friend Barnabas moved on to a different city.  Presumably to do the whole thing over again.

But Paul wasn’t done with Lystra. 

After visiting a few more cities Paul came back to encourage the Christians who lived there.  But he didn’t say, “don’t worry everything’s okay” or “believe in God and everything will go smoothly.”  Paul actually said, ”It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God.”  (Acts 14: 22

Ouch.  This being-like-Paul-thing sounds less fun all the time!

In a world that values comfort over all, this is hard to swallow.  How can suffering be a part of God’s Kingdom?  But the truth is the closer we get to God’s will the more dangerous it can become.  Just look at Paul’s life.  Even Jesus, someone who probably knew what God wanted, died a horrible death.

Now if suffering was all there was, this would be bad news.  Fortunately we don’t suffer because God enjoys it, or because it’s an initiation.  We suffer because sharing God’s message often means being in direct conflict with the world’s message.  And we suffer because this world is broken.

The people in Lystra went from thinking Paul was a god to trying to kill him.  Why?  Because Paul didn’t stop talking about who God was when they thought he was a god.  He kept teaching and explaining.  And eventually they decided they didn’t like his message anymore.  But if Paul had stopped teaching, no one would have learned about God.  And no one would have been saved.

That’s why Paul could be so bold and passionate when he knew some people might try to kill him for his beliefs.  Paul knew that sometimes to accomplish a bigger goal sacrifices personal have to be made.

the end game

Category : God, different, fear, hope, live for the eternal

       

Sometimes life throws you unexpected twists.  And it’s been my experience that these not only show up unexpectedly, but right after you have everything planned.  For me one of those twists was a sudden and overwhelming fear of blogging.  Perhaps I’m the first case of blogophobia.

I hope they’ll name it after me.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t really a fear of blogging.  But I had a sudden realization that “holy cow there are people reading my blog!”  And yes, I occasionally use words like “holy cow.”  As R3 has gained popularity, I’ve had to deal with what that means. 

It’s not easy, and it probably never will be easy, for me to sit here and talk about how God has changed me.  It makes me feel vulnerable.  It makes me miss the anonymity of the internet.  Plus, who wants to look like an idiot? 

Funny how these things never come up when you are planning!

But as I’ve pondered this issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s something more important than looking like an idiot in front of strangers: it’s what we do with our lives.

We’re given one shot.  And during that time God calls us to make a difference.  He calls on us to literally change the world.  So despite my hesitations I press onward.  It’s not bravery, or overcoming fear, or something like that.  I simply want God to be part of my life more than I care to have my privacy. 

But this isn’t really about blogging.  It’s about so much more! 

It’s about how we live our lives. 

It’s about the purpose of our lives.

I want to live my life looking forward, advancing the Kingdom in bold ways.  And that means always reminding myself that while I may look like an idiot today, what counts is down the road.  And if me looking like an idiot is what makes God “click” for them, than I’m all in favor of looking like one.

When I die, which hopefully will be many years away, I want to look back on my life and see the impact I made.  But not just in their worldly lives.  I want to say I made a difference in someone’s eternal future.

And when I meet them again, after death, I look forward to that knowing nod between two friends.

take courage!

1

Category : Acts, Jesus, Paul, live for the eternal, mission

      

Take courage!  As you have testified about me in Jerusalem,
so you must also testify in Rome.
(Acts 23: 11)

Let me get this straight; Paul has been arrested, beaten, put in chains, nearly flogged, held in prison (twice), and was just nearly torn apart by a mob (for the second time in as many days).  And Jesus’ message to him is, “Take courage!”  Not because he’s going to be set free.  Not because he’s going to be given an easier job.  But because he’s being sent to Rome to do the whole thing over again!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find that to be very encouraging.

But that’s because I’m looking at this from an earth-bound perspective.  If my goal is to live to old age, have nice things, and take an easy path, then what Jesus is telling Paul sounds horrible.  It sounds as if Paul did something wrong and is being punished.

But if I look at it from an eternal perspective, everything changes.  Suddenly Paul is being rewarded for his faith by being given a harder task.  Now he’s to take God’s message to the center of the world.  Only because Paul was faithful in the little things (Jerusalem) is he able to go and do the big things (Rome).

It’s funny how a little perspective changes things.