Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Church

A group of men in the snow for five hours, hanging lighted Christmas balls from enormous oak trees.

A sanctuary transformed into a banquet hall with centerpieces and white table cloths.

Volunteers standing in the snow to greet guests and wheel grocery carts of food down slushy sidewalks.

Turkeys and hams by the dozen. Vats of green beans, corn, and macaroni and cheese.

Families enjoying dinner together; proud parents beaming.

Servers with reindeer antlers and elf hats, table hosts with warm hearts.

A slide show worked on until 5 in the morning due to a computer crash.

Dance teams doing tap and hip-hop to music that honors God; a group of boys beat-boxing and moonwalking.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” led by a teaching pastor channeling his Young Life days.

A testimony of the Word of God transforming a life of brokenness and poverty. A mime performance inviting us to give our all to God.

Brightly colored lights glowing outside a darkened sanctuary.

Sunday School teachers greeting children, hoping that they will come to church in the coming weeks.

Tables removed, trash thrown out, chairs reset for Sunday morning.

In the next building, 15 women are sheltered, warm, and safe instead of on the streets.

A volunteer arriving at 9:00 pm with his sleeping bag to stay overnight at the shelter.

Christ honored.

The Church.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Too Small a Gospel

Luke 16:16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.” The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Lk 16:16). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

It doesn’t seem to me that people are forcing their way into the Kingdom these days. People aren’t packing out the churches, clamoring for more of the truth and love of God’s Word. Even Christians seem to be content with a so-so life with Christ.

Yet Jesus said that there was something so compelling about the Kingdom of God coming that people were forcing their way into it. Why not now?

I think it’s because the Church is peddling a “too small gospel”. The good news according to most Christians is that we had a problem (sin), God was concerned for us, Jesus came and died on the cross for our problem, and we can go to heaven when it’s all said and done. This is a gospel about us. We had the problem, God fixed it for us, and the end goal was that we could go to heaven.

But the gospel is much bigger than that, and it is most certainly not about us at all. Jesus died for our sins and rose with all power not so that we might be saved and have a happy life, but so that we might be qualified to partake in the Kingdom of God. The goal of the cross was not simply our salvation but that the Kingdom of God might come into the hearts and lives of all people, and that we might join God in the mission of transformation and restoration and shalom – things being the way God intended.

When we invite people into a religion (or a relationship with God) that is all about them, it’s too small a story. Too many men think that their mission from God is to be good and moral, to stop looking at porn, to show up at church, and to be nice to their neighbors. Too many Christians think that the story of God is for us to have a sanitized moral life.

There is no adventure in that story. There is no mystery in that story. And there is no Kingdom Come in that story.

If our salvation story is simply about us, that is not the good news that Jesus proclaimed. Jesus’ good news was that, in Him, the Kingdom of God had arrived and was advancing, and regular people, ordinary sinners, could be transformed in extraordinary children of God, ambassadors of the King, filled with life and purpose that  comes from being caught up in a story that is larger than our simple lives. I think if we taught and lived that story, the Kingdom would be advancing and people would be clamoring to get in.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Welcome to the Family, “Big Chris”

Yesterday my oldest baby sister, Julie, married Chris Dye, who’s been a part of our family for about 3 or 4 years now. Having recently been ordained, I had the honor of being one of the officiating ministers, and I appreciated them having enough trust to bring a rookie out of the pen in such an important moment. Below is my homily, and I hope that it might encourage you in your marriages as well.

Homily

Julie and Chris – I remember standing here 10 years ago; Julie you were right over there in the bridesmaid’s line. And I remember thinking in the days leading up to the wedding, “I’m not sure I have what it takes to live up to these promises.” I wanted to, but I felt the weight of what Diane and I were saying. The vows you are about to say are weighty to say the least. And they should be – marriage is one of the most precious and wonderful gifts, but it takes much work and commitment, and these vows are meant to be an anchor and a reminder of this day for years to come.

Now, it may seem that when you are saying them, gazing into each other’s eyes with all sincerity and love, that it is going to be easy to keep these. “Of course I will love you in joy and sorrow, plenty and want, sickness and health.” But there will be a day when they will be far from your heart and mind. You won’t fulfill these promises that you have made, and loving this amazing person will seem more work than wonderful.

If in these moments you think that it’s all up to you to keep it together. If you think that the answer is to try harder or to fix one another or to just shut down and do your own thing for a while, fight this tendency. Remember, you are not in this alone. Don’t fall to the temptation that tells you it’s all up to you, sink or swim.

You are getting married in a church for a reason. This moment is not just about you two, because God is present here. God is being worshipped here. And your coming together is sealed and protected by God. You are promising to love each other and in the midst of that promise, God enters in and promises, too, to stand with you and by you. And mysteriously, because God is in the midst of us, you move from being two to being one. You are no longer simply Julie and Chris, but one in the eyes of God.

Why would God do that, commit Himself to your union? Because your love for each other is an opportunity for God to receive glory. As you love each other well, God is honored. When you make choices that reflect the reality that you are no longer two but one, God’s love is shown.

So Chris, when you choose to set aside a night with the guys to take Julie on a date and really listen to her, God is honored. Julie, when Chris wounds you, even by accident, and you choose to share your heart with him rather than shutting him out, God is honored. When you all work together to have a marriage of trust and communication and sacrifice for each other, God is honored.

Now, as I said earlier, these promises are weighty, and on our own, these are really hard to keep. But here’s the Good News is it’s not up to you!

The Good News, the Gospel, says that while none of us has lived a life that is pleasing to God, when we trust Christ’s life and forgiveness He gives us righteousness and eternal life that we could never earn or deserve. And the Good News, the Gospel, also says that Christ’s life and forgiveness are not simply a means of getting to heaven one day, but they are also the means of having true and full life right now.

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Christ has all the love, faithfulness, and forgiveness that you need to have marriage that glorifies God and brings you joy.

Remembering this truth, and learning how to live this God-dependent-life takes work and time. It takes regular worship, regular times of prayer and Scripture. But even as you are learning and growing, know that God has given you all that you need in Himself, and He is standing with you in these commitments, that your marriage might result in His glory.

You are making a Covenant today. A covenant is deeper than a promise, more than a legal transaction. This is a work done by God. You are making a covenant not simply before God, and He stands to the side nodding His approval, but with God. God joins you together, and God delights to see you live in the freedom and goodness of this marriage covenant. He is with you. He is for you. And He will see you through as you depend on Him. Take heart! You can’t keep these promises, but there is One who can keep you and enable you to love one another. He is here today, and He goes with you as you leave. Amen!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ticklin’ your ears

I have had three albums stuck on my playlist for quite some time now, and I wanted to commend them to my readers.

First is  Song Up in Her Head by Sarah Jarosz. I had never heard of this girl until facebook told me her album was for sale for $2.99 on Amazon for one week. Seeing that she was a bluegrass artist, I moseyed over to Amazon to check her out and have been blown away. Only 18 when this album was released in 2009, she has become my favorite bluegrass artist with songs that really stick with you. Beautiful harmonies and some tunes that are haunting, I love every track on this CD.

Next is Wake Up Love by Melanie Penn. I found her while surfing The Rabbit Room site, and figured that if Andrew Peterson digs her music, I most likely would, too. Again, I was blown away when I listened to this album. She is a very quirky song writer – one of the songs is written from the perspective of a star longing to be noticed; another is from the perspective of the Holy Spirit, reminding us of God’s presence in every moment. She is honest and real with her lyrics, and musically the album is one that you can listen to over and over again.

And finally we have Counting Stars by Andrew Peterson. Andrew has long been my favorite recording artist because of his honest, witty lyrics, and his longing to live transparently for and with Christ. His first track released from this album was The Reckoning. In this song he asks God how long will we have to see the struggles of this world, feeling the longing for home and for justice. Many times as I listen to this song, I either rejoice with the hope of God setting things right or I weep with the longing for God’s Kingdom to come more fully. Andrew mixes banjo and mandolin in with his acoustic guitar and sings about real life, family and friends and what it looks like to seek after Jesus in the mess and muddle of daily living. Other tracks that I love on this CD are Many Roads, Fool With a Fancy Guitar, and God of My Fathers.

*** Andrew will be playing a Christmas concert on his Behold the Lamb tour at Church of the Good Shepherd  in Durham, NC on December 2, and I plan on being there – I promise that if you go, you will love it. (Tickets available September 20th at their web site). There will be about 5 other artists with Andrew and they perform about 4 songs each before playing through the entire Behold the Lamb album.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Getting the right narrative and hearing the call

Our lives are directed and dominated by the narratives or stories that we believe. If we live in the narrative that God is against us or that we are not lovable or valuable, our choices in life will reflect that. If we live in the narrative that God is good and that our lives are of great value, we will choose a path that reflects that belief, following God’s voice.

James Bryan Smith has written a book that has quickly become one of my all-time favorites, The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God that Jesus Knows . It was sent to me for free by IV Press since I am on staff with InterVarsity, and a friend highly recommended it. I read it, and then turned around and read it again.Each chapter of the book focuses on a different aspect of God’s character (God is Good, God is Love, God is Holy) and talks about the false narratives that we believe about  God in that area. He then writes what Jesus said and revealed about God, the true story of who God is, and encourages us to live in that truth.The writing is clear, gracious, and packed with truth.  Chapter 8, which deals with the Believer’s identity in Christ, is worth the price of the book. (I am now in the middle of his next book in the series, The Good and Beautiful Life which teaches about the Kingdom of God from the Sermon on the Mount).

I have also recently finished The Call by Os Guiness.  In the midst of feeling very unsettled in Glenwood, I was looking for some direction in hearing from the Lord and a friend commended this book to me. Os is old school – he tells it like it is in the vein of Oswald Chambers and J. Oswald Sanders (what is it with guys named Oswald), and the book is not a formula for figuring out life, but rather a reorientation to who God is and what it is we are called to. We are called TO God alone, and then He directs our specific responses to that call. We are responsible TO God alone, and we are not responsible FOR anyone else. If we live response-able to God, responding to His voice, all else is just details. We are called to live our lives to an audience of One, the One who directs our paths. Each chapter has follow up questions, and then it says, “Listen to Jesus of Nazareth, answer His call.” Over and over that message is repeated. At the end of the book I did not have life all figured out, but I did have a heart that was more tuned to listening for God’s voice and more willing to follow His call.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Possibly the best book on leadership that I have read

It took me months to read all 790 pages (in part because I read very little during GUPY), but I finally finished Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This was an amazing biography that focused on Lincoln’s relationships with his cabinet, a group composed of men that he had defeated for the presidency.

As a leader, Lincoln was one of the best because of his ability to listen to people and understand the heart behind their words. He was slow to speak, even when angry, and had tremendous discernment about when to act and when to lay back. Often he would simply allow his enemies enough time and leeway to shoot themselves in the foot, and when they did, he was always gracious and forgiving to them on the other side of conflict. It was fascinating to watch his conviction about abolition of slavery grow and change over time; at first he was a bit ambivalent about it, but by his second term, he was convinced that this was an evil that had to go. Frederick Douglas was one of Lincoln’s early critics, but Lincoln developed a real friendship and relationship with him and welcomed Douglas freely to the White House and counted him a friend. This was very unusual at that time.

I learned from Lincoln how to make your point plain enough for everyone to understand – one of the marks of a good preacher is that everyone can see the truths of Scripture clearly, from the youngest to the oldest. Lincoln was intentional about putting political concepts and his heart’s passions into images and analogies that his audience could readily understand, and he practiced doing this even as a young boy. I also learned that forgiveness and openhandedness with enemies is essential in conflict. Lincoln never burned bridges, and he kept the good of the American people as his highest priority, over and above his reputation and his rights to be right. He won people’s hearts with humor and kindness, and he was beloved by the Union soldiers because he did not stand off from them. He would visit them in the front lines and in the hospitals, shaking hands and giving encouragement. A leader who led from the front.

It was also interesting to watch his faith evolve and deepen during the course of the Civil War, a war that wore him down physically and emotionally. He clung more and more to the truths of the Bible, and while Kearns painted Lincoln as more of an agnostic than a Christian, the evidence I see from his letters and speeches tells me differently.

I grew to love Lincoln over the course of the book, and as it drew to a close and I knew what was coming, I began to feel very sad, and when he died, I wept.

Possibly the best book on leadership that I have read

It took me months to read all 790 pages (in part because I read very little during GUPY), but I finally finished Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This was an amazing biography that focused on Lincoln’s relationships with his cabinet, a group composed of men that he had defeated for the presidency.

As a leader, Lincoln was one of the best because of his ability to listen to people and understand the heart behind their words. He was slow to speak, even when angry, and had tremendous discernment about when to act and when to lay back. Often he would simply allow his enemies enough time and leeway to shoot themselves in the foot, and when they did, he was always gracious and forgiving to them on the other side of conflict. It was fascinating to watch his conviction about abolition of slavery grow and change over time; at first he was a bit ambivalent about it, but by his second term, he was convinced that this was an evil that had to go. Frederick Douglas was one of Lincoln’s early critics, but Lincoln developed a real friendship and relationship with him and welcomed Douglas freely to the White House and counted him a friend. This was very unusual at that time.

I learned from Lincoln how to make your point plain enough for everyone to understand – one of the marks of a good preacher is that everyone can see the truths of Scripture clearly, from the youngest to the oldest. Lincoln was intentional about putting political concepts and his heart’s passions into images and analogies that his audience could readily understand, and he practiced doing this even as a young boy. I also learned that forgiveness and openhandedness with enemies is essential in conflict. Lincoln never burned bridges, and he kept the good of the American people as his highest priority, over and above his reputation and his rights to be right. He won people’s hearts with humor and kindness, and he was beloved by the Union soldiers because he did not stand off from them. He would visit them in the front lines and in the hospitals, shaking hands and giving encouragement. A leader who led from the front.

It was also interesting to watch his faith evolve and deepen during the course of the Civil War, a war that wore him down physically and emotionally. He clung more and more to the truths of the Bible, and while Kearns painted Lincoln as more of an agnostic than a Christian, the evidence I see from his letters and speeches tells me differently.

I grew to love Lincoln over the course of the book, and as it drew to a close and I knew what was coming, I began to feel very sad, and when he died, I wept.

Friday, August 27, 2010

In Defense of Double Rainbow Guy

We are a culture who loves to laugh and mock, and I have joined millions of people in laughing at the "Double Rainbow Guy" (DRG) on YouTube for a few weeks now. I’ve been laughing at his excitement over the rainbow, wondering if he was high, laughing that anyone could be that excited about something so simple.

But this past week our church leaders studied Psalm 19, which begins with, “The heavens declare the glory of God. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language in which their voice is not heard.”

I don’t think that DRG is a Christian, but I he is responding to the God of creation. He rejoices, he even seems to weep, and he asks, “What does it mean?” Creation and beauty are meant to point us to God, to seek Him, to wonder at our place in this vast world.

But the Psalm goes on to say that we can know God even more fully. We can learn not just that God makes pretty things in the sky but that He wants us to know His ways and to rejoice in His character and heart and commands. The secret to even more fullness of joy than even creation can provide is to read and respond to God’s written revelation in the Bible.

I, frankly, wish I were more like DRG, able to wonder at the beauty all around me and not move on quickly to the next appointment or beeping gadget. And I hope that in his search for “what it means” he finds the God who was calling his name through the beauty of creation.

(Click below to see an interview with DRG on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE)

Double Rainbow Guy "Bear" Vasquez on Jimmy Kimmel Live PART 1

Double Rainbow Guy "Bear" Vasquez on Jimmy Kimmel Live PART 2

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

HALT

There is an acronym that is really helpful in understanding why children are misbehaving– HALT. Often times, acting out comes because they are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, and getting to the root helps you treat the cause of the behavior instead of the behavior itself. Sometimes my kids need a nap more than a spanking.

I find HALT to be very accurate and helpful for me, too. I remember in college when I was having a grumpy day, my IV staff worker would say, “When’s the last time you ate?” Usually she was right on the money in seeing that I needed to eat.

The past few weeks, I have been at a full HALT, and I have not been interested in turning to the Lord with it. I have been hungry, both physically (due to strep) and spiritually (due to not spending time in Scripture). I have felt lonely, missing the GUPY students. I have been tired. And I have been angry, feeling like the visible results of our labors in Glenwood are very hard to see.

Thankfully, God by His grace has begun to renew my heart and my will to spend time with Him. Simply reading through the Gospels and soaking in the life and words of Jesus has been getting me moving again. My soul is being fed, and I am willing to trust God with what I cannot see, easing my anger. I am connecting with Diane and the kids and remembering the friends that God has given me, easing the loneliness. And I am slowly remembering to rest and go at a pace that is less than breakneck.

It’s been refreshing and encouraging to see that God’s Word really does bring life, really does restore my soul, and I feel that I am on the road to health.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One Step at a Time

We met “Tracy” this summer, a new woman walking the block of our neighborhood. She would be around for a few days, then gone for weeks. Last night she stopped by the backyard, and as  I talked with her, I learned that she worked the streets to feed her addiction and to feed her kids. She said that was why we didn’t see her for a while, because she would go home to her kids.

She asked us for some food, and I have to admit she had picked a great night to stop by and ask for a plate, because Diane had me grilling a London broil. Not wanting to give her a plate “to go” when we could possibly spend some time talking with her, I asked her if she would come in and eat with us, but she said she was high right then and didn’t want to be around our kids while she was in that state.

So she ate her steak on our porch and then was back on the streets, not ready for the change that we offered to help her make. My hope is that this small interaction will spur me and Diane to prayer, and that Tracy will know that there is a place to find help and meal, and ultimately the love of God. I also hope that my readers who are pray-ers will pray for her as well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Weary

I can’t express how much I enjoyed the 2010 GUPY interns. They loved me, my family, and our neighborhood in really wonderful ways, and became a part of our lives and a part of our home. Having them leave at the end of July was like losing 9 partners in ministry, and Diane and I are still a little sad that they are gone.

At the same time, our summer has taken a toll on us. Regular rhythms of Sabbath and prayer, of exercise and rest, were replaced by the opportunity for constant fellowship and ministry. I have been out of my own bed for 25 of the past 63 nights. I think that spiritual warfare increases during GUPY, while sadly my prayer life and times with the Lord, just me and Him, decreased.

And so I hit the middle of August depleted in every way. I’ve lost about 10 pounds that I don’t have to give (thanks to Costa Rica, a erratic schedule, and strep throat), and I’ve lost some of my regular spiritual disciplines. I’ve not been to my favorite coffee shop in weeks and weeks . I have not been in my church office in three weeks, and waiting on me is a transition to a new position, heading up small group and discipleship at our church. Diane also went to Costa Rica, and since we have been home, has been single-handing it around the house thanks to my having IV team meeting and then my being sick.

It’s hard in the midst of weariness to remain hopeful. In fact, it’s at this precise time that the Enemy attacks, showing me all that “isn’t” and belittling all that “is.” Yet I need to remember that I didn’t get weary overnight, and neither will I recover by tomorrow morning. It takes time to reestablish good rhythms of work and rest, and it takes time to rebuild my soul and body. But the really good news is that my standing with God has not budged a bit through all of this. No matter my feelings of doubt and fear, no matter my lack of intentional times in the Bible, I have remained His Son. I can not be more “in Christ” than “in Christ.” And that is the start of refreshing my soul.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Not my summer poem

I chuckled when I read this poem about the lazy days of summer.  It sure does not describe my last 6 weeks.

    Let Me Live Grace-fully   by Ted Loder

Thank you, Lord,

for this season

     of sun and slow motion,

          of games and porch sitting,

               of picnics and light green fireflies

                    on heavy purple evenings;

and praise for slight breezes.

It's good, God,

as the first long days of your creation.

Let this season be for me

     a time of gathering together the pieces

          into which by busyness has broken me.

O God, enable me now

     to grow wise through reflection,

          peaceful through the song of the cricket,

               recreated through the laughter of play.

Most of all, Lord,

let me live easily and grace-fully for a spell,

     so that I may see other souls deeply,

          share in a silence unhurried,

               listen to the sound of sunlight and shadows,

                    explore barefoot the land of forgotten dreams and shy hopes,

                         and find the right words to tell another who I am.

Copyright © 1981 Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1981), p 131.

A place to call home (away from home)

This week my family had the gift of staying a couple of nights in the mountains at a home belonging to some friends from church. I can’t put into words how much I love the NC mountains, especially the Boone area, and it has been so nice to sit in the cool and quiet. The girls and I took a hike along a river, and it thrilled me to see how much they love discovering rocks and mushrooms and all sorts of plants. Our friends’ home was perfect for us, and we loved relaxing in it.

I don’t want to set my heart on the wrong things, but there is a longing to have a small place in the mountains, a home away from home, where I don’t have to ask permission  to use it when my family and I need to retreat. A simple place where the pantry is already stocked when you arrive, and where after a day of hiking and exploring, we can put our feet up and enjoy the quiet. For me, the mountains are food for my soul. The worries of life seem to be absorbed into the green, the heat of ministry is cooled by the slower pace and refreshing breezes.

At the end of a long and full summer, my soul feels in need of rest and retreat more than ever, and I’d love to have a regular rhythm of leaving Greensboro behind to recharge. It’s hard to justify wanting another home for something that seems so trivial as rest when many that I know and love in Greensboro have no home at all. And yet the longing is there, and I wonder if/how to pursue that as God leads.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The tension of home missions

For the past seven summers Diane and I have had the privilege of  hosting college students in our home and/or neighborhood for the Greensboro Urban Project. For the first five editions of GUPY, I was working full-time for InterVarsity, and that meant that when my summer work kicked in, my campus-related work typically lay dormant. Then as GUPY ended, campus work picked up again, and it made for a nice rhythm.

But for the past two years, I’ve been employed full-time by my church and only part-time by InterVarsity, and so when GUPY begins, my “regular” job with the church doesn’t lay dormant. The church goes on meeting each week, and the areas that I am responsible for continue to operate. Vision for ministry and ongoing responsibilities and relationships continue. While I don’t feel pressure from my supervisors at church to continue my same church pace during GUPY, I do realize that this work and this community that I am devoting much of my life to is still going even during the summer. I also have friendships that I feel get put on “pause” during GUPY.

For some reason it seems like this whole balancing act is made more difficult because GUPY takes place in my home town. Everything is pretty much the same in Greensboro as it was before June 23rd, and the people that I love and am invested in are still here. But I am not available in the same way during these six weeks; the whole dynamic of my life is altered by GUPY. It feels sometimes like it would be easier to just take a group to Africa for six weeks, even though that would mean giving up the comforts of home, because I could be totally focused on one thing instead of feeling pulled in many directions.

All this is not to complain. I really do count it a privilege to lead GUPY and to know the students that God is bringing. It’s just to say that navigating this state of “everything around me being the same but my availability being entirely different” is still very hard.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Navigating the “meh” days of GUPY

GUPY starts with a bang –students have a lot to learn, everything is new, and we typically are headed to Glenwood Camp within three days of hte GUPYs’ arrival. GUPY typically ends with a flurry – we head out of the country for a week, have a wrap up time with kids from the neighborhood and say goodbye as a team.

But I think that middle weeks, the “meh” times where it doesn’t seem very exciting and where it’s hard to tell what, if anything, is happening, are some of the most useful times for the GUPYs.

As the program has developed, we have become less and less structured, giving students lots of “white space” in the schedule to build relationships and figure out how to form relationships without them being produced by a program. That’s not easy. The typical college student on a missions trip feels the need to be productive. Sitting on the front porch with the neighbors and their kids does not feel like Kingdom work. Sitting in the park wondering how to meet new kids and families does not feel like a good use of time.

Yet life is more often “meh” than spectacular. The work of Kingdom building is slow and steady, often unseen and beneath the surface. Relationships happen over time and they require trust to be built. The work of prayer and waiting seems like not doing work at all, yet it is deeply important.

The GUPYs are in the “meh” week. Next week they help lead Vacation Bible School, and the next will be their last full week in the neighborhood before Costa Rica. Time will fly and they will feel more useful. But today they are in the school of faithfulness and waiting. I hope that they are taking in the lessons.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

This time of year

A vase full of buckeyes. Fourth of July fireworks and the 1812 overture. An elderly man in a stiff Atlanta Braves hat. Fresh tears on my cheeks as I realize that I still really miss my grandaddy, three years gone.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The personal side of UNCG expansion

While I believe that UNCG expansion can be a good thing for Glenwood, there is the sad reality that the house that we have worked on for 9 years may be a casualty of this expansion. Diane and I have been married for 10 years this summer, and almost all of those years have been at 828 Silver Ave in our creaky, 102-year-0ld home. The house that made us cry, literally, on our first night in it (because it was so ugly inside and we wondered if we just signed our life away to an ancient mistake), now makes Diane cry when she thinks of losing it. It’s the home that our kids have come home from the hospital to, and we weren’t planning on leaving for a bigger house.

There are about 12 other homeowners in our same position, and for us the expansion just stinks in every way. We don’t benefit from the increase in property values that will come with UNCG expansion. We lose homes that we have poured time and money into. And the best that our neighbors who live south of Haywood (the line of demarcation) can give us is a sad smile, wishing that we weren’t caught in the crossfire and at the same time relieved that they are not in our position (which I totally understand).

I know that the right answer, the one to put my hope in, is that my homes is not a white house on Silver Avenue. My hope is not in property values or equity. My purpose is greater than a quiet fenced-in yard. And on my best days, those thoughts are a great comfort. And on other days, I’m bummed and wish UNCG would just leave us alone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What is best for Glenwood?

Four years ago I wrote a post about UNCG coming to Glenwood. Now it looks like that post is going to finally become a reality, and in the midst of sadness about our home (which falls right in the proposed expansion area), comes the questions of what is really best for my neighborhood? If my home were not on the chopping block, what would I think of this proposed plan? (Our home would be on the bottom right corner of green space on page 11 of 18 in the linked document, a proposed park).

Change seems inevitable for our neighborhood – it’s too close to UNCG and property values are priced right for quick buy-ups. Right now our neighborhood is already zoned for apartments/mixed use/multifamily buildings to be put up in the area that UNCG is thinking of using. If UNCG does not develop this, what we will likely get is a hodge-podge of development that will not serve the neighborhood in any way, and the neighborhood will not have any say in how things are built. With UNCG, we have the chance to have a voice in how things go. I think that it will beautify a part of the neighborhood that needs work (in much of the proposed area). I also think that will draw more home-owners into Glenwood, which would be a good thing.

The down side is that the poor who live in this area (and in the areas within a few blocks of the development) will no longer be able to afford to live there, as property values will shoot up. I don’t know if there is time/energy available to secure a number of properties which will be affordable and available to the poor. I hope that UNCG will be persuaded to care about those members of its University community who are often unseen, yet essential, the men and women who work in the physical plant and in the cafeteria. For them to be able to live in a neighborhood like Glenwood, connected to the university, would be wonderful, and it would be a credit to UNCG to think proactively about how to make this happen.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Least Favorite Parable

Once upon a time there was a group of workers. Some workers worked 8 hours, some worked 6, and some worked only one. But they all got paid the same amount at the end of the day, which seemed grossly unfair to the ones who had worked the most. (Matthew 20:1-16, more or less)

This parable drives me crazy sometimes because it runs so contrary to my inward sense of right and wrong. People should get what they deserve, what they earn. If one person worked 8 hours, they should make more than the person who only worked one – it’s only fair. And yet Jesus said that God’s Kingdom works like this, that people are given blessings not according to merit but according to the goodness of the Father. Our standard is merit, and God’s standard is generosity.

I really get off track with the Lord when I believe that I deserve anything from Him at all. When I begin to think that my rule-keeping or faithfulness earns me more favor with God, I am leaning on my own righteousness. But the Gospel is clear that righteousness is always a gift, and anything we do is merely a response to that gift. My life should not be about counting the hours that I’ve worked compare to others, wondering why those who do less than me get more than me. Instead, my life should be spent with my eyes focused on the Lord, seeing Him as my reward, not any “stuff” that comes from His hands.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Work of Believing

I preached this past Sunday on Mark’s account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. So this week I've been spending time reading John 6, which contains John's account of the feeding of the 5,000, followed by Jesus' teaching on how He is the bread of life. In John 6:28, the people ask God, "What must we do to do the works that God requires?" And you would think that Jesus would answer with a list of things like, "Read your Bible, go to church, be a nice person, follow the 10 Commandments." But He doesn't. He says, "The work of God is this: to believe in the One that He has sent." And when we get down to it, that is so true. Most of my struggles with the life of faith, at their core, stem from a lack of belief in Jesus. Sometimes I don't believe that He really is the bread of life and that I need to be fed by Him every day. Sometimes I don't believe that God really loves me at all times, but instead that He loves me only when I am acting right. Sometimes I don't believe that God really is at work building His Kingdom and I am called to be a part of that. It takes work to believe, work to remember the hope and life of Christ in the midst life's responsibilities and brokenness. It  takes work to let God's promises and the truth of His word inform our circumstances instead of letting our circumstances shape our view of God.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Weight of Fear

My struggles with fear continue, and a few weeks ago the weight of fear was more than I could lift. While the thing I was fearing was, by and large, irrational, I couldn’t escape worrying about it. I lost sleep and it dominated my prayer life (and by dominated I mean it squelched it).

The weight of fear is loss of trust in God. When I live in fear, I lose focus on the Lord, and I hedge my bets in trusting His character and His promises. Instead of putting my hope in God’s Word being true, I let my experiences and the experiences of others lead me in mistrust.

The weight of fear is isolation. When I live in fear, I am ashamed because the things I worry about seem so silly if I say them aloud, but to my heart they are real and dangerous. And so I don’t let others in, trying to slug it out on my own instead of asking for help.

The weight of fear is control. When I live in fear I try to control my life, either by worry (which gives the illusion of control) or by ordering my life to be as safe as possible. That is exhausting.

The weight of fear is not from Jesus. He promised that His yoke is easy, that His burden is light. There is a freedom that comes from trusting God even in the face of real (and imagined) dangers.

The world is not a safe place – the brokenness of the fall permeates every corner, and we do not have the luxury of numbering our own days. But God’s love and character and Kingdom supersede the worries and fears and brokenness. Our hope is not here. Our hope is in heaven, and I think that God continues to allow the enemy to attack me with fear to train my eyes to look up, to remember the hope of Heaven, and to trust God, not my circumstances.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The impatient gardener

Our society today is far from Jesus’ agrarian-based culture. If we want tomatoes any time of year, we go to the store and buy them. We don’t have to wait for fruit to be in season because it gets shipped to us from places that are always warm. Our thankfulness for food is limited to being thankful that we had money to buy it, but we really don’t give thanks for the process by which it was grown.

But I’ve been gardening for the past three summers, and I have discovered that fruit doesn’t come immediately like it does at the store – it takes a lot longer. And I have learned that I am not a very hopeful gardener. I plant fearfully, praying every year, “Lord, please make something grow from this.” And every year that fruit comes, I know that it’s not because I have a green thumb. Somehow when the seeds are released from the confines of their packet, when the dirt covers them and the water hits and the sun warms, they grow, and they sprout, and fruit comes. And it always amazes me because I was not sure anything was going to happen.

Not only am I not a hopeful gardener, I’m also an impatient gardener. For me gardening is not about the process, it’s about the fruit. I plant tomato plants because I want tomatoes. I plant cucumbers because I want to eat cucumbers. And so I get really impatient with my garden. I wonder why the plants aren’t growing faster, why there aren’t flowers on them yet, if they are growing at all because they don’t look any taller than they did the day before. Did I plant them right? Am I giving them enough water? Have I messed up this time?

And summer after summer it happens. Over time, the plants grow. Flowers come. And fruit follows. I can take no credit for it, and I cannot speed up the process one bit.

Recently as I was fretting over my garden and wondering if this was the year that my lack of ability was going to doom all my plants, the Lord spoke to me about my impatience. He said, “Son, you do this same thing with the people that you minister to. You think that your job is to make them grow, and you think that if you just find the right verse or if you push them more, they are going to show fruit faster. You are an impatient spiritual gardener with misplaced hope.”

When I am an impatient gardener, my hope is in me and my ability to make things grow. But John 15:1 tells us that there is already a spiritual gardener, God the Father. Jesus said, “ I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.”

This is why Jesus uses gardening so much in talking about the kingdom of God - He is teaching us about hope. We sow seed in people’s lives and then we entrust it to God’s hand because only God makes it grow. Beneath the surface, where we can’t see, God is at work, whether we are awake or asleep. And our trust and hope is in the Father, who is growing His kingdom and wants to see fruit even more than I do, yet who also delights in the growth process.

My work as a disciple is learning to be a patient, hopeful gardener, enjoying the growth process and knowing more fully the One who brings fruit.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The real work of ministry

It’s been hitting me lately that my job is not to run ministry projects or make “ministry happen.” My job is not to make sure that every Sunday there is a place called Grace Community Church for people to come to. My job is not to be the person that you can bring your belligerent non-Christian friend to and I will have all the right answers. My direct influence on the world outside the walls of Grace is very limited.

Yet there are hundreds of ministers who come to Grace every Sunday, who spend less than 3 hours each week at our church. They don’t get their paycheck from a non-profit. They are not leading Bible studies all day or preaching from a pulpit. But they are the hands and feet of Jesus all over  Greensboro. They are teachers and business owner, nurses and landscapers. They are moms and siblings, neighbors and friends. And they have been called by God to honor Jesus in each relationship and each moment of the day, whether that is filling out an expense report, fixing an after-school snack, or mopping a floor.

My role as a pastor is to point these ministers to Jesus, to help them know His love and presence in their lives. My role is to equip them to know His voice and to act on what He speaks. To teach them how to study the Scripture and how to give a good reason for the hope that they have. To remind them that they are Christ’s ambassadors from the cul-de-sac to the boardroom. It’s easy to forget that God is present in the mundane things of life and that their coworkers are more than their coworkers – they are people whom God loves very much and to whom the ministers of my church are being sent every day from 9-5.

As a pastor, I am an arrow pointed to heaven, reminding my co-laborers in the gospel to look up and remember the One that loves us, the One we serve at all times.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tears in prayer

She came to our church in need of financial assistance for rent. Unfortunately the best we could do was to refer her to a couple of local agencies that had fund to help. As she sat in the hall with her four year old, my heart went out to her. I didn’t know how she got in the situation she was in, but I knew that it must be a scary and difficult place; maybe it was her first time in need, maybe this was all too familiar. I was on my way out the door, but God prompted me to stop and pray with her, and His heart for her beautiful. It was to bless and encourage, to speak life into dark places, to remind her of hope. And when we were finished, tears were trickling down her cheeks.

This happens fairly often when I get to pray with people coming in for assistance (though I am not led to pray with every person who comes), and I have wondered at their tears since many of them are not actively pursuing a relationship with God, not involved in a church. Yet when we pray, something in them is reminded that they are not alone. Something at their core resonates with a God who loves and cares for them even more deeply than their physical needs, though He does care for those needs as well. Moments of crisis in life tend to open our spiritual ears and eyes and remind us of our need for God.

What is curious to me is that most times, those who are so moved in God’s presence during prayer don’t actively follow up on knowing that presence more deeply. We certainly offer ways for that to happen, things like Sunday worship and small groups for women, especially for those who we have relationship with through one of our ministries at church. But usually we are not taken up on those offers. I wonder if they don’t feel worthy to know the Lord intimately on their own, or if they perceive that they might not be well-received by a “rich white church.” Or, like many of us, their moments of spiritual clarity are quickly swallowed up by the cares of this world, the worries of life, and the desire for other things (Mark 4:1-20).

I hope this woman pays attention to her tears, pays attention to her longing for love and for the Lord, and that she will follow through to know Him more. He certainly knows and loves her.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In search of an anchor

I’ve been spending time lately with a number of people who are eager to know truth but reluctant to go “all in” with Christ as that truth. I can see how sincerely they want to know what is really right and good, and yet questions gnaw at them about where Jesus is that rightness and goodness. For some of them, this results in simply being blown to and fro by their emotions and desires. For others it results in confusion about life and purpose. But for all, there is no anchor or compass that is a steady point in the midst of all the changes of life.

And it seems that all the “answers” that come to mind when I think of the things that they are facing are contingent upon faith. The answers that I find to life’s questions, the hope that I have in the midst of pain or confusion, are all based on faith that what God says in the Bible is true. I’ve found that other answers, either based on people or on my own abilities, always fall short, and they tend to shift and fade depending on my mood or circumstances.

As I have thought about my friends, who I really love and care about, it makes me sad to see them without an anchor in the midst of inevitable storms. And it makes me thankful for the hope that I have in Christ. Sometimes I take the truth of God for granted, thinking that truth is good for truth’s sake and forgetting that truth is good for our sake as well.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Choosing the correct preposition

There are a lot of Christian worship songs out there expressing the desire to live for Jesus Christ, and I appreciate their intent and sentiment. The gift of forgiveness and new life is so great that our hearts long to respond and give back to God, to see ourselves as ones whose lives are abandoned to His purposes. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul says that “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” God reorients our purposes and our priorities, and when we receive the life of Christ, we also put ourselves under the authority of a new King, a new leader calling the shots.

However, there is a subtle danger in the preposition “for” when we talk about living for Jesus. We can begin to believe that this Christian life, this life of loving trust and response, becomes something that we can do on our own and something that God expects us to do for Him. But does He? Can we? I submit that the answer to both questions is, “No.”

I think that we need to replace for with from. My call as a Christian is not to live for Jesus, as though I could come up with ways that were adequate to repay all He has given. Instead, I believe that living from Jesus is not only more in line with what God wants from me, but also gives Him greater honor, the very thing that I hoped to do by living for Him.

To live from Jesus says that on my own, I am incapable of producing the life that God desires from me and that I can only receive it from Him. To live from Jesus affirms His call to for me to live in Him, abiding as a vine in the branch. (A branch doesn’t live for the vine, trying hard to produce fruit, but instead it remains connected to the vine, receiving all its life and needs from the vine, and fruit is the natural result.)

If I live from Christ, it means that my life is truly no longer my own. I am not deciding that I will do something for Him (which can lead to my patting myself on the back for my good job giving back to God); instead I am submitting myself to live from Him, meaning He has greater authority, freedom, and control of my life because He is my life.

Living from Jesus is ultimately harder than living for Him, because it eliminates my ability to pick and choose when my life is about me and when it is about God.

But it is also ultimately better because my life is no longer up to me and my ability to be good enough or to make it work, but is now founded on the promises and person of the only one who is good. Choosing the correct preposition and living in a posture of from-ness reminds me that my every moment is tied to “the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A new favorite verse

At a recent retreat I read Henri Nouwen’s The Life of the Beloved, which really blessed and challenged me. Learning to live as someone beloved by God has been really hard for me, yet I know that my belovedness is what is true and good about me.

I was searching my Bible for instances in which God calls us His beloved, and I found Deuteronomy 33:12, which says, “About Benjamin He said: Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”

What a picture of our relationship to God! Knowing that I am beloved of God allows me to rest securely; nothing to prove, nothing to earn. Just receive and rest.

And how secure am I in Christ? I rest between His shoulders. The first reading of this image made me think that we are carried by God as a shepherd carries his sheep, resting between His shoulders on His back, protected and secure. But I found through a commentary, that the Hebrew noun for shoulders is better translated as being carried not on the Lord’s back, but close to His chest. I’m honestly more comfortable with my first interpretation of this image, but being conformed to Christ means I allow Him to define and order who I am and how I relate to Him.

Shielded and secure, resting in love in the midst of all that I have to do. That is learning to live the life of the beloved.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Remembering the Long Haul

Last night my friend Mr. S shared some of his story. Five years ago he was coming to our Wednesday night dinner at our church, and he mostly came drunk and belligerent. We even had to ask him to leave for a year for how he treated one of our volunteers. I remember during that time I took him out for breakfast one morning, and we had an interesting conversation about rap music and his “aspiring” rap career. He wasn’t ready for real help at that time, but he remembered our conversation (and especially remembered the food). A couple of years ago he was constantly looking for a job,dressing up in a tie and interviewing all over town, not having any luck, but keeping his head up.

And now, he has a job that he has held for almost a year. He has joined a local church. He is engaged to be married in May and he and his fiancĂ© are going to pre-marital  counseling. They are set to get an apartment in the coming week. He is always well-groomed, peaceful in spirit, and polite on Wednesday nights.

What his story tells me is to remember that it can take a long time for someone to leave the street life and the attitudes and behaviors that accompany it. It can take tough love, even discipline, for someone to see how their attitude damages themselves and others. But all that time, God is at work. It’s easy to see the same people over and over each Wednesday and feel like they are in the same cycle and situation that they were in last year and wonder if our prayers and our time is worth it. In fact, discouragement is one of the main ways that the devil seeks rob our hope and silence our work.

But God reminds me that our faithful love and service, in His hands, is powerful.A simple meal and a short sermon once a week matter. Prayers for the same requests over and over matter. God’s transformation is not always quick, it is not always according to our understanding.

I believe that there are going to be more stories like Mr. S’s coming soon. Our numbers overall on Wednesday nights are down a little bit, but there’s a consistent spirit of expectation, an expectation that we are going to hear from God. More and more people are coming hungry for the Word, as well as for the food, and I believe that God is answering my prayer to make us into a transformational community.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Gift of Sadness

At the end of December I noticed that I had spent a number of weeks accompanied by a sobering sadness. Not an incapacitating sadness that overwhelmed me; just sort of a persistent companion. Some of it is tied to my ongoing struggle with fear, which has made me face my fear of death and accept that the number of my days is not in my own hands.

I’ve begun to realize that life here on earth doesn’t last forever. I am going to get old, my kids won’t be cute and cuddly forever, and the “mundane” things of life that I take for granted now won’t always be available to me. While I didn’t always enjoy the sadness, I grew to be thankful for its presence during that season, because it reminded me to enjoy the present and urged me to live with God’s Kingdom in mind.

I’m sad that my son won’t always say goofy, two-year-old things, and yet I make a note to treasure them in my heart. I’m sad that one day Diane and I will be parted by death, and yet I appreciate all the more these amazing years of parenting and growing together. I’m sad that Diane’s parents and my parents are getting older, yet I am thankful to get to make the four-hour drive to Georgia to see her family. The present is a treasure, especially the ordinary things.

And as I think about how short life really is, it leads me to want to make mine count. I’ve been to several funerals in the past few months, two of people who died too young, one of a man who was 83 years old. And I have noticed that during funerals, people don’t bring up the bad things you did or the ways you failed. They remember the happy memories and the good things you did, and if you pay attention, you begin to wonder what your own legacy might be.

I don’t want to be remembered as a good guy who did nice things for people. Instead I want my life to count for an eternal impact, that people would be led to know God through His life expressed in me. My kids won’t remember how many hours I worked or how much money I made, but they will remember playing tickle-monster and horsie in the living room, and they will remember the ways that I showed them God’s love with my life and my words. My retirement fund won’t accompany me to heaven, but the lives that I touch for Christ’s sake will have eternal value.

I used to try and fight the sadness or ignore it. But ironically, as I allowed this sadness to speak to me, it actually led to more joy in the present, appreciating all that I have been given.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stuck on Fast-Forward

It seems that I get to the end of my weeks and I wonder where the last seven days have gone. Life feels dictated by my calendar, and a week without more than one night-time meeting or event is a rarity. And that's just work and church, not even counting kids and their school events (and our kids aren't even on any sports team). My days are planned for me before they even begin, and free time is fleeting and easily commandeered by something more urgent or important.

I think that life has been on fast-forward for a while, but I am much more aware of it having recently been on a four-day spiritual formation retreat with Diane. Time slowed to a crawl from Wednesday to Sunday, and there was space for quiet, for naps, for reading, and for simply walking in the woods. My wife and I ate every meal together, three meals a day!

A friend recently made a comment about our “jumping right back in” after the retreat, and my thought was, “What choice did we have?” As the commercial says, “Life comes at you fast.” There were commitments and events already on the calendar waiting for us, and this pace is pretty much par for the course for our family and many others like us.

It takes courage to make a different choice, to say no to the urgent and the needful and to trust that I am not significant because of my packed schedule. Busyness is a badge of importance in our culture, but it is costly in the long term. I want to get unstuck, to slow the pace of life down. But do I have the fortitude to do it?

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Beautiful Waster

Waste is not a good word these days. My daughter sings a song about not being a water-waster; there are whole companies devoted to waste management; piles of garbage collect in dumps around the world (on a recent episode of The Office, Dwight looked at a garbage dump and said with reverence, “No other animal could create this”). We are taught from an early age not to waste food, money, electricity, or time.

And so the story of Jesus' anointing at Bethany consistently jumps out at me whenever I make my way towards the end of Mark's gospel. Jesus was having dinner at the home of Simon the Leper (seemingly a waste of Jesus' social capital), and an unnamed woman comes and breaks a jar of expensive perfume and pours it on His head.

You can almost hear the gasps and whispers of indignation as those watching say, “Why this waste? The money used for that perfume could have been used to help the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

But Jesus doesn't call her gift a waste. He calls it beautiful. He calls it seeing with eyes of faith and love. And He says it is to be remembered forever. She did what she could, she offered what she had, and it was more than enough.

I find great freedom and great challenge with this passage. My heart resonates with Jesus' affirmation that “she did what she could.” What she did was enough because it was all she could do. For someone like me who feels like nothing I do is ever enough, the freedom to be at peace with doing what I can do, not what I can't, is wonderful.

The challenge is that everything in me rebels against waste. I have to invest my time, money, resources, not waste them. And pouring perfume on Jesus, which smells great for a time, but eventually fades and leaves no tangible return, seems like a wasted investment. In the same way, sometimes spending moments and hours with Jesus, just being with Him without producing for Him or asking Him to do something for me or others, seems like a wasted investment.

But I have seen the truth of Jesus' words, that we will always have the poor, the needy among us. There is always going to be another person to help, another opportunity to be busy doing a “good thing” in Jesus' name and for His sake. But to let those crowd out the beautiful gift of drawing near to Jesus and just blessing Him with the gift of our time and attention, that is very dangerous, because it puts me close to the line of gaining the world but losing my soul.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Living with an eye to the future

I’ve been struggling some with wondering why there doesn’t seem to be more Kingdom-mindedness in the Church. I long to see more people sold out for their faith, living radically and sacrificially, and it just seems that many are content to merely get by, to sporadically be excited about God and then not.
It’s so hard to live with an eye to the future; to truly believe that there is a heaven; to believe that there is this thing called “the Kingdom of God” that is both here already and at the same time is not yet here. Everything in our culture, and in our natural instincts, tells us that the way to have the best life is to do what is best for you and for your family and to give the leftovers (if there are any) to others. We tend to live in fear of not having enough, whether that is not enough significance, money, respect, rest, etc., and so we spend much of our time with making sure that we don’t lack in any area.
And yet this life on earth is a mere blink of an eye; the Bible calls it a breath. Christians believe that we will spend eternity with God in perfect peace and happiness and love, and our theology says that the most important thing about a person is whether or not they are a member of God’s family, recreated as His child through the life of Christ. But at the same time, heaven seems so abstract, and the idea of being under the reign of a King and Kingdom just doesn’t compute in our democratic mindset. And so the future that we live for tends to involve our 401K more than the treasures Jesus urges us to store up in heaven.
How do we shift our mindset; how do we learn to live as though this life is temporal, the Kingdom eternal? John tells us how in chapter 13 of His gospel when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. In verses 3-4, John says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; SO (emphasis mine) He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing…. and began to wash His disciples’ feet.”
Jesus knew some things that are critical for living a life of sacrificial love, a life with the Kingdom in view. He knew who He was. He was God’s son and all things were His. He knew where He had come from. And He knew where He was going. Those things freed him in the present from having to grab significance for Himself and led Him instead to serve others.
Too many Christians do not know who we are or whose we are. We do not live like we know where we are going. We need to remember that we are sons of the King and partners in His Kingdom building, bringing the shalom of God more and more fully on earth. We are beloved by God and have been brought to fullness in Christ, and we have fullness to give away to others. And we have an eternity of rest, joy, and peace awaiting us, a home that we will not have to work to upkeep. I pray that we would more and more learn our identity and our final destination, so that we might take up the basin and towel in the present, not withholding our time, money, or love from God and others.