Apr 23, 2012

Taking Another's Credit

"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'" Luke 17:15-19

Have you ever had someone take your idea and run with it? Or perhaps a boss/supervisor take credit for your ideas and work? I have. It is so frustrating. Perhaps you've labored for another's behalf, for their good without receiving so much as a thank you. Maybe like me, if you think about it too long, a twinge of bitterness unfolds within.

I think of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Not only did he heal them from sickness, but he delivered them from insults hurled at them, from begging, from societal shame. Once they were considered nobodies, pariahs, by those around them. Daily dehumanization. Now, because of Jesus' touch, they were normal. They treasured normal. Normal meant they could now work to provide for themselves and family. Normal meant they could go wherever they wanted--from the village market, to the temple, to visit family without having to yell, "Unclean! Unclean!"

Only one, a Samaritan at that, returned to heap thanks and praise upon Jesus. Jesus notices him and publicly applauds his act of faith.

Recently, when I was overlooked, I thought to myself, "Well really Lord, the glory is supposed to go to you. Really." But I still didn't like being overlooked. Not one bit.

I thought about what God says. I remembered that he notices what we do in secret. I also remembered Colossians 3 where Paul admonishes us to do all for the glory of God, not for our own glory. And God sees us. God sees, even if no one else does. It should be enough for us to get our reward in heaven, even if we don't get it in this life. Should be. That's a truth we have to work hard to digest. And many who get acknowledgment in this life--if they've done acts of righteousness for the wrong motives--may not get acknowledgment in the life to come.

And if our obedience and love bring him joy and glory, let us be content that one day we'll get acknowledgment, we'll get a "A well done good and faithful servant, I saw you. I am the God who sees." This is what we must tell ourselves for it is true and it will squelch bitterness--eventually. It takes a while to get over our own constant focus of  being overlooked--but as we take our thoughts captive, bitterness no longer captivates us.

Updated repost from 4/2011

Apr 17, 2012

What Gets You Down Sometimes Reveals Your Idols

I've been struggling with a certain disappointment the last few days. It could be real or imagined. I am not sure yet. Struggling enough that it has bent my view of the world. I am seeing the whole world through this dark lens of perceived disappointment; I can't appreciate the good. I feel incompetent and like a failure. I've talked to the Lord about it; it is still hassling me, poking at me and mocking me. However, I am better today and expect that shortly it'll be a thing of the past.

But as I asked the Lord about it again tonight, he sort of gently pointed out that maybe this severe disappointment is due to an idol being crushed in my life. Now, I am not saying that all disappointments are the result of idolatry.

Still, I thought I was beyond this. But idols like to feign resurrection. It's not that they were dead and are now coming to life; it's that they were never dead.

So I am going to wrap this up and say that I will practice the spiritual discipline of considering this thing I believe to be an idol (An idol I thought was dead) as dead. I'll practice the discipline of relinquishment. And boy do I need to practice!

Pray for me. I'll  remember you too--even if I don't know who you are. I often pray for those who stumble across this site.

Apr 13, 2012

Why Should Christians Care About Trayvon Martin?

These are the words of Dr. Jeff Cook of Cedarville University. I thought he was spot on. I transcribed his reflection to the best of my ability:

Dr. Jeff Cook: Why Should We Care About the Trayvon Martin Case? 4-12-2012.

Satan gets more mileage out of race issues more than any other issue in our culture. We’re not here to debate facts about the case…there’s a place for that…the court
We should care because of who God is: If God is a God of justice, and we are created in his image and we are to reflect his character, then in some sense we need to engage the kinds of things that are important to God. Quoting Sammy Rodrigruez Cook said, 'There are vertical and horizontal aspects to the gospel message. There are vertical aspects of reconciliation to God, but there are horizontal/social aspects....'

If I think all the social and racial issues were solved in the sixties, we’re not paying attention. The fact of the matter is that God’s concern for justice leaps out of every chapter of the Bible. That is a description of his character—that God is just. God doesn’t play favorites. When Israel was on the receiving end of injustice, God acted. When they were the instigators of injustice, God acted…. As followers of Jesus we are concerned for justice about everyone, including George Zimmerman.  As Christians we call for justice for George Zimmerman. But not only justice for George, but for Trayvon  also and all the other Trayvons that got up this morning to a world that is a little different than ours. The fact of the matter is that as Christians, it should grieve us that to be a young black male is a high risk for a violent death. You don’t have to be a gang banger for that to be true, you don’t have to be slinging dope for that to be true. And if I am not aware of that, then I am not paying attention. You’re more likely to be a victim of violence and more likely to be blamed for causing it. If you follow the news reports you know that people are quick to jump on the issue, 'What about black on black crime, that’s a whole lot higher than this issue.' As followers of Jesus we’d say we grieve about that as well. For any young black male, you don’t have to go to Florida to get shot…if you’re a young black male in the city you’re more likely to be a victim of black on black crime or police brutality. In the suburbs, you’re more likely to be a victim of white on black crime. But here’s the deal (if you’re a young black male) there’s nowhere to run. Where are you going to go? A gated community? We all have natural concerns  and dreams for our children (gave an example of a couple he married who just had a son),  but it’s nothing like the concerns of the parents of a black or brown son who from day one recognizes that, that beautiful young boy is at a much greater risk for violence and they face the burden that it will be on their family and community to prove when that happens that he didn’t somehow deserve it. We as followers of Jesus grieve over that. One of the things that we do today is cry out to God over that. Wasn’t it Dr. King who said that, 'an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everwhere?' So we grieve over the high risk of a violent death of young black men. And as Christians also, don’t we grieve that it took forty-five days and a national outcry to move the justice system from a position that Zimmerman had done nothing wrong  (that’s why they released him) and it took forty-five days just to get to the point that maybe we should let a court decide that. A big part of why this issue has mobilized so many across the nation, especially in communities of color, is because there is an identification with him. A big part of why majority culture and much of majority church has been on the sidelines is because we don’t identify with him. I would argue that is why we should be concerned, not only because God is a God of justice but secondly because of who we are as the family of God who champions the dignity and value of all people—even the people who don’t believe that some people are worth more than others. The fact of the matter is, I am not suspicious for walking down the street in a gated community in a hoodie. Most of you are not suspicious for walking down the street in a gated community in a hoodie. But that’s not true of everybody. As followers of Jesus, as a community of brothers and sisters, as the family of God, as the body, we are deeply aware that in the body of Christ that when one part hurts , we all hurt. That is a normal functioning body. It is a dysfunctional body that feels no pain when another part of the body is hurting. So when I see Trayvon as my son, as my brother, as my sibling, as a young man who was loved by his mother, loved by his father, loved by his extended family who will miss him at the Thanksgiving table, who had a future like any seventeen-year-old kid, when I view him as that, when we view him as that because of who we are, then we stand in unity as a family of God and grieve. And we pray. We pray for families, for all the families involved. The Martins as well as the Zimmermans and all the things that go on. We need to pray for us and the church, for this campus. Because if you’re paying attention, you don’t have to bump people really hard to find out there some racial issues going on under the surface. Not only should we pray vertically, but  as we talk to each other, can we think before we speak, before we post on FB? There have been deeply wounding things that have been written and said. To speak redemptively, to be peacemakers, to be reconcilers, to speak on behalf of Jesus instead of being agitators--that’s the call of God, that’s the call on the family, that’s the call of God on us. So why should we be paying attention? Because God is a God of justice and we are the family of Christ who values people.

Apr 10, 2012

From What Vantage Point Do You Want to See Jesus?

Do you want to see Jesus? Do you really want to? Well then it’s very likely that it’ll cost you your life—at least the life you’ve always imagined. In our gospel reading today, Phillip and Andrew approach Jesus on the heels of his death with a request. Some Greeks who were in town for the Passover Feast are interested in seeing him. I’ve always been fascinated by Jesus’s answer.  It seems as if he doesn’t even acknowledge the request—like he completely skirts the issue and ignores the Greeks and their desire to see him. He doesn’t say, “Yes, send them unto me” or “No, I cannot right now.”  Instead his answer seems rather cryptic.

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Maybe Jesus apparently ignored them because their interest in getting a sneak peek at him wasn’t so much a desire to get to know him and what he was about but a desire to say they’d see him. That they’d seen this popular rabbi everyone in the world was talking about and looking for and wanting to get a piece of, this rabbi that the authorities wanted to get rid of. Maybe they wanted to see for themselves just what “all the fuss was about.”

But Jesus wouldn’t be treated like a piece of meat or some kind of freak show or circus clown act. He was not some tourist destination or attraction or trap. He wasn’t on display, there to entertain and sign autographs like celebrities or characters at Disney World.

The more and more I thought about it this week, the more I thought that he did grant their request—just not in that moment or in the way that they or anyone else expected. I have a sneaking, though unconfirmed suspicion, that they did end up seeing him. Maybe, just maybe, they saw him put to death on the cross—crushed yet high and lifted up.  If so, they had a lot more to think or gossip about – a story to consider. Perhaps in the end they believed he turned out to be nothing at all but a common and cursed criminal. I don’t know.

Perhaps we’ve desired to see Jesus and have even prayed fervently to see him. I believe the Lord will grant our requests. But we must remember that God doesn’t always allow us to choose the vantage points from which we see him. We don’t always call the shots of when and where we’ll see him, aside from creation. And his presence and the mystery of creation is enough to keep us perpetually awestruck. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes, “Earth is crammed with heaven and every bush aflame with God, But only those who see take off their shoes.”

Truth be told, if God gave us a sneak peek into how he would grant our request to see him, to see Jesus, many of us might just respond like the rich young ruler and walk away quite downcast and down trodden.

Apr 6, 2012

Apr 4, 2012

Disillusioned With God?

There are things we don't understand in this life, like seemingly senseless pain and suffering. Each one of us goes through hardships. And some hardships are indeed more debilitating than others.

What makes us disillusioned with God? It's different for each one. Today, or tonight in the wee hours of Eastern Standard Time in the US, I think of Judas. Judas was disillusioned with Jesus because Jesus didn't turn out to be who Judas thought he was. In his disappointment and despair, in his disillusionment, he betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

We've all betrayed Jesus, we've traded in life for what we thought was life only to despair when we're left empty. When Judas realized what he had done, he despaired and committed suicide. I still wonder if God would've given Judas a chance if he had, like Peter, repented--even though Jesus had said it'd be better for him (Judas) if he'd never been born.

We need to remember Judas--for our disillusionment with God, even if  it is temporary, can lead us to do great harm to ourselves and others. Like with other maladies of the soul, we need to remain in the body of Christ. This is true whether we are in sickness or in health.

We doubt and bring forth our disillusionment in a safe place (a safe part of Christ's body). Maybe we can't believe. Maybe we're just plain tired or even burnt out from serving God or from enduring much tribulation. What if Judas had shared his doubts, his disillusionment with the other disciples? What if he'd gone back to them after betraying Jesus? Jesus still had to die for our sins so that we might be saved. So maybe I am getting into too deep of waters too early in the morning hours.

I guess all I am trying to say is that we all become disillusioned with God when who he actually is flies in the face of who we think he is or think he should be. Whenever God dethrones the graven images of himself that we've erected, we are disillusioned. We become disillusioned also when life doesn't turn out the way we think it should and we blame God.

My encouragement for our disillusionment is to go to people we trust within the body of Christ. Even if we can't believe or accept what they say in love, we can accept the love they show to us. We can ask that God would have mercy on us. We can rest like Elijah did in the wilderness after having confronted the prophets of Baal. After one of his most spectacular moments, he became depressed and disillusioned. God took care of him. Elijah had to do nothing but rely on God and God's provision.

If you are disillusioned with God or life, I pray that you will not take drastic actions at this time. This is the time where you need to rest and allow God to take care of you. Pray for him to send some "ravens" into your life to care for you. Reach out and tell others (you can trust or think you can trust) about where you are at. Don't give up until you find a good wise soul.

God has not left you alone nor abandoned even though everything in you screams that he has. I pray for you as you read this. I pray that the turbulence inside of you would be calmed and that you would find rest for your souls as you take Jesus's yoke, or teaching, upon you.