i will not take these things for granted

thoughts on this and that in an attempt to live reflectively

My Photo
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Flying Squirrel

Weekend before last, all seven members of our mission team went to a cabin on Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas. Christie's aunt and uncle own the cabin; her parents spent the weekend with us, providing great food, drivers for the boat, and good company. It was great to be together and to relax a bit before starting up the semester. We skied, played games, ate crab cakes, and, well, took turns sprinting down the dock and jumping onto a round inflatable island. What you see in the picture is what Graham coined 'The Flying Squirrel.' All four of the guys on the team got involved in the fray; you can see more pictures in our mission team's photo gallery.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

It's Official!

So I met with the elders at Pleasant Valley (my church in Little Rock) again on Sunday afternoon, and on Sunday night they announced that they are going to support my work in the Czech Republic!!! Wow, what a blessing and what a victory for our team! May God continue to provide the blessings we need to get to Olomouc to spread his amazing love.

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. 2 Peter 1:3

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Add a Pinch of Suffering

This summer during my internship with Christ Journey we visited several new churches in the Fort Worth area. They are wonderful churches and many of them are growing quickly. And we have learned a lot from their successes.

But it seems like the one thing that is absent from these and many other seeker-sensitive churches is a theology of suffering. In an effort to attract others, we water down what it means to be a disciple, leaving out the hard truth that it’s not always easy. The center of the gospel is not that in accepting Jesus we receive health and wealth, but that we receive the company of the one who suffered for us and who still suffers with us. Jesus warns us that the world will hate us and that we will face many trials. He doesn’t say, accept me as Lord and watch your portfolio grow.

In reaching out to spiritual seekers, we must never leave out Jesus’ recommendation to count the cost of following him before making the decision to do so. Jesus’ journey to heaven first required a visit to the cross, and so does ours (and it's worth it, in this life and the next). You know, the whole "take up your cross and follow me" thing.

Not only is it unwise theologically to leave out this truth, it is unwise practically. Okay, perhaps we will draw in more people at the beginning, but in doing so we are only setting them up for a fall—when things don’t turn out quite as they expected. It seems better to be honest up front, the result being that those who do decide to follow Christ will be more committed and more aware of what they might face.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s more attractive to talk about suffering than an easy life—because it just makes more sense. It is true to what we see happening around us and what we experience in our own lives. I would rather expect to suffer and know that Jesus would support me throughout it, than to expect to prosper and then become disillusioned with Jesus when things don’t go my way.

(To hear an excellent sermon on a theology of suffering based on Job, download Billy Gurley’s “Job Security.” Billy, who I met this summer during my internship, is the singles minister at the Richland Hills Church of Christ. He has dreams of doing inner city church planting in the near future. Keep him in your prayers.)

Am I making sense? I am not saying that God never blesses his children in the areas of finance and health. To say that he doesn't would be, based on my own experience, to snub God, who has blessed me immensely more than I deserve. Neither I am saying that all we should talk about is suffering. No, I'm just saying that we can't demand things from God and that if we talked about suffering a bit more than we currently do we'd be closer to the biblical portrayal of the normal life of a believer. Here it is in a nutshell: Job teaches us that whatever happens to us in this life, good or bad, God is almighty and is worthy of our praise, and Hebrews teaches us that he is with us in our suffering.

(And this is me in a nutshell: "Help, help, how did I get into this nutshell? What kind of a nut has a shell this big?")