Today’s Quote

Most of the time when I read stats about the condition of our world, the numbers are so incomprehensibly large that my eyes merely glaze over.  These stats, however, convicted me:

The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children, and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases, and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions, and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children.  And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians.

The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.

~Katie Davis, Kisses from Katie (2011, p. 91-92)

Only 8 percent.  Eight percent!!  Suddenly, that is a number I can understand.  That is a number that even seems possible.

Here in the U.S. we’ve heard a lot in the past year about the wealthiest 1% versus the 99% of “ordinary Americans”.  Protestors rally carrying signs that proclaim “We are the 99.”  I’d like to propose a new question.  Not, are we part of the 99, but are we part of the 92?

Or are we part of that 8% that is following Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves?

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”  The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  (John 21:15-17)

Thought of the Day

Paraphrase from Professor Timothy B. Shutt:

If we aren’t careful, we can make a god out of our idea of God.

Certainly made me stop and think.  Perhaps all those times God is not acting how we expect, He is simply smashing idols.

I am who I am… You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 3:14, 20:3)

Something More

My dog does not understand how I can sit for hours flipping pages in a book.  I hold it out to her, but she sniffs it disdainfully and walks away.  Where I see another whole world, she sees only ink and paper.  My book is utter foolishness to her who cannot read.

As I’m thinking about this, I am reminded of a similar sentiment Paul wrote to the Corinthians.  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).  Indeed, where some see only wood, others see so much more.

I am reminded of this again, when the tables are turned, and I am dragging my dog away from some ordinary clump of grass that she is sniffing intently.  It is only blades of grass to me, but it is clearly something more to her.  There is another whole world I cannot see, except to watch her enter into it.

I think of the book, and the grass, and the cross.  It is hard to imagine, but it is not impossible to believe: beyond what I know here, there could be something more.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Today’s Quote

“It is often said the church is a crutch.  Of course it’s a crutch.  What makes you think you’re not limping?”

This quote is originally attributed to William Sloane Coffin, and was used by my pastor this Sunday during his sermon.  It made me think: how often do we shy away from derisive comments because we are afraid of the truth they may contain?  What do hard comments really say about us?  About our God?    When someone says “The church is a crutch!” my knee-jerk reaction is to exclaim, “No it’s not!”  even when part of me fears that it is.

But fear is a devil’s ploy.  Because when we face the hard questions, we are rewarded with an even greater truth.

How brilliant this response is in it’s simplicity.  How foolish I was to fear it.  “Of course the church is a crutch.”  Thank God.

 

Emotional Trust

Sometimes I wonder: If I have faith in God, why do I still feel afraid or angry or overwhelmed… or all three? Shouldn’t faith mitigate all these negative emotions?

My impulse is to think of such emotions as bad, as though my faith must be weak if I am scared or sad. But when I look to the Bible, I see that many of the most faithful also exhibited the most heart-rending range of emotions. Faith is clearly not exclusive of emotions. In fact, such gut-wrenching emotions may actually be a sign of trust.

Yes, trust.  If this sounds backwards to you, consider this: How much do you have to trust someone to share with them how you really feel? How much do you have to trust someone to – heaven forbid – cry in front of them? For me at least, the answer is: a whole lot.

The Bible says God knows our inmost being (Psalm 139), but it is still human nature to “put up a good front.” Sometimes emotions are God’s way of getting us to be honest with Him. When we trust Him enough to admit what we really feel, He never casts us away. He pulls up a chair and listens.  God is the friend we can trust with our darkest emotions.  And when we turn to him with what we feel – even when we think we shouldn’t be feeling it – the result is not a weaker faith, but a stronger one.

Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord (Lamentations 2:19).

Mystery Rental

Don’t you hate it when you’re walking across a giant parking lot and suddenly realize you have no idea what your rental car looks like?

Or does that just happen to me?

Ironically enough, I was just listening to a story on the radio about the world memory champion who secured his second straight title by quickly memorizing two shuffled decks of cards. I was trying to decide how many cards I could memorize just flipping through a deck. (Three, maybe?) Perhaps if I had been paying more attention to the vehicle I was piloting than an imaginary deck of cards, I would not have found myself in this predicament a few hours later.

Fortunately, God had the foresight to have someone invent the key fob, which also doubles as an “Are you my rental car?” emergency button. (Really? My car is red? I could have sworn it was black.)

Not all challenges in life are quite so easily remedied, but no matter what the situation is, we do always have a panic button at our disposal. We can call to God and he will respond to our cries for help any time of the day or night. Even though it sometimes feels like we are hopelessly lost, and don’t even know what we’re looking for, He will guide us to the right spot. We just need to keep asking. Keep pushing the button. Keep searching.

I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from his holy mountain (Psalm 3:4).

God’s Letter to Me

I wrote a similar idea on the new resources page, but I keep thinking about it.  And thinking for me is one step short of writing.  Which brings me here.  (Lucky you.) 

One of the habits I try to uphold is to read something Christian every night before I go to bed: the Bible, a devotional, an apologetic or theological book, a Christian biography.  Some nights I read chapters; some nights, a single verse.  It’s a habit I highly recommend.  But it is also a habit I have to be careful of.  Because sometimes I can spend too many nights reading the biographies and devotionals and apologetics, and not enough nights reading the Bible. 

Christian reading is good.  It gives me different perspectives and causes me to think about scripture passages in ways I might not otherwise think of them.  It is also inspiring to read about the lives and struggles and triumphs of some of the leaders of our faith.  But I need to always remember that none of this is a substitute for actually reading the Bible.  Reading only Christian books would be a bit like talking to someone about a mutual friend when there is a letter from that friend sitting unopened on my table.  Why on earth would I do that?  Letters are meant to be read.  And re-read.  (And in this day of electronic communication, probably framed and hung on the wall to be gazed upon with awe.) 

The Bible is God’s letter to me – and to you.  Hearing second-hand perspectives from others can be helpful, but it should never stop us from reading what God has to say directly to us.  We should never leave God’s letter sitting unopened and gathering dust. 

Take some time today to read what He has to say to you.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Rotten Bananas

My apartment currently smells like bananas.  This is because I have a banana languishing on my counter encased in an increasingly brown skin.  It has passed the point where I actually want to eat it, but it is not quite so far gone as to be demoted to the compost bin.  What it really needs is for someone to turn it into banana bread.  And by someone, of course, I mean me.

And therein lays the problem.

Because turning a banana into banana bread is not like Jesus turning water into wine (John 2).  Making banana bread actually takes… work.  Not that I’m particular averse to work.  It’s just that sometimes, like right now, I’d rather be lazy.  But while pondering this rather forlorn looking banana, I came to think about one translation of Paul’s note to the Romans:  “All things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). 

Paul didn’t say, “All good things will be handed on a silver platter to those who love God.”  He said: “All things will work.”

So here’s a pleasant thought for a Monday morning: life takes work.  Whatever kind of week you’re staring into, buckle down and get to it.  Because sometimes good things come… not to those who wait, but to those who work

After all, those who work get banana bread.  Those who wait just get rotten bananas.

We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).