i will not take these things for granted

thoughts on this and that in an attempt to live reflectively

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Location: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Appropriate Standards

I just came across an interesting issue that all of us on our mission team will have to deal with on the field regarding our standard of living. This comes from an article written by Bob Waldron on Mission Resource Network's website:

Prior to deciding which house they will buy or rent, or what lifestyle they will choose, [missionaries] need to ask if this choice will build or undermine trust with the people they are hoping to bring to Christ (Marvin K. Mayers, Christianity Confronts Culture: A Strategy for Cross-Cultural Evangelism. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, pp. 32ff.).

A home that is too luxurious or too shabby may equally send the wrong message and undermine their efforts to build trust relationships. Some missionary families opt for more luxury than they need, simply because they can afford it financially, but in doing so they may alienate themselves from those they are trying to reach with the gospel. Other missionaries are careful stewards of trust, seeking input from national Christians who are respected for their integrity and wisdom to help them arrive at a trust-building decision.

I know it's going to be a delicate balance to live at a level that makes sense to the Czechs in light of the fact that they know I'm an American and also that I'm a Christian who teaches that we should not be attached to or dependent on our money and possessions. What's too much to have? And what's too little? I don't think it's anything to worry over, but it is definitely an issue I want to be sensitive to.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Let Nothing Be Wasted

I've been meaning to write on our responsibility as Christians toward the environment for a while now, and I specifically intended to on Earth Day (April 22), but I was out of town. Ironically and without any intentional connection to this most revered of holidays, on Earth Day this year I visited the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens. How appropriate.

So, where to begin with a theology of responsible stewardship with this planet's life and resources? I feel like we shouldn't have to defend the need to take care of the environment; shouldn't it be obvious that Christians should be good stewards of the world around them? But, it seems (1) a good theology of creation and (2) advocacy for environmental awareness are necessary. I'll get to some theology stuff in a sec.

Okay, I know what you're thinking, "Mitch, you're such a tree hugger." Well, if that's the case, I’ll take it as a compliment, because I care about God’s green earth — and the blue and brown parts, too. It’s God’s. It’s good. And it’s our responsibility to take care of it.

Environmental awareness has been important to me since Earth Day (ED) became popular in elementary school. There were ED show's on TV one year that showed just how much we (unintentionally) waste. They showed how many gallons of water go down the drain from taking long showers (but I think it's okay to splurge from time to time) and from leaving the water running while brushing your teeth or shaving. I don't remember how many gallons they reported, but to illustrate the point, they stacked up jug after jug of water in the shower to show how water adds up with every passing minute. It was very convicting to my young heart.

The show also stated that we waste gas when we sit idling in a driveway for a few minutes; if you know you're going to be sitting there a while waiting on the friend or whatever, it's more energy efficient and environmentally friendly to turn off the engine and restart it than it is to idle for more than a couple of minutes.

We also waste electricity by leaving lights and appliances on while we're in another room or not in our house at all (though I understand leaving a light on sometimes to keep robbers away and for a sense of safety when approaching your front door — them robbers is scared of the light). Oh, and don't forget aluminum cans, glass and plastics products, styrofoam, paper, etc — how much we use, how we can reduce their usage, and how important it is to recycle what we do use.

Anyway, they were formative shows for me and I try to be conscious about my own treatment of the environment. It's a spiritual discipline of sorts. I know I'm still very wasteful but I try not to be and want to improve. I think it's the kind of attitude God wants me to have, out of respect for his artwork and out of love for my neighbor.

Again I ask, where can we go to start thinking about environmental stewardship from a theological perspective? Well, the last time I read through the Gospel of John, one statement from our Savior's lips stuck out to me:

Let nothing be wasted.

Jesus feeds the five thousand, and then, "when they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disiples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.' So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten (6:12-13)"

How cool: a springboard for a theology of leftovers! :)

Food and all of the resources of this planet are a gift, for which we rightly give thanks in prayer (see verse 11) and which we should steward responsibly.

Okay, that's about enough for today. In the future I hope to write more about:

> A theology of creation and stewardship
> What other Christians are saying and doing about the environment
> What we can do to help

Until then, I welcome thoughts from you on these issues.

I'll end with a staggering statistic on food waste in the US from Soundvision.com's page on poverty in America:

Official surveys indicate that every year more than 350 billion pounds of edible food is available for human consumption in the United States. Of that total, nearly 100 billion pounds - including fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, and grain products - are lost to waste by retailers, restaurants, and consumers.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

ID Journal :: 1 Jn 2.1-17

So this identity journal is a developing thing. I began by just taking verses from 1 Peter and now 1 John and changing them only slightly so that they are more personal (i.e. changing pronouns from third to first person). For example, here's 1 John 2:1-2 through the lens of identity:

These things are written so that I may not sin. But if I do sin, I have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for my sins, and not for mine only but also for the sins of the whole world.

I like this way because its retains more context and requires less license for interpretation. And specifically with this passage, it shows me that it's not all about me. Christ is the atoning sacrifice for my sins, yeah, but not for mine only. This logically leads to mission. I have both identity and purpose.

So, this is how I started putting (and still put) verses in my journal, but I also like distilling the verses further into more simple, pithy, straightforward statements. Thus 1 John 2:1-2 becomes:

> I have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
> He is the atoning sacrifice for my sins.

As another example, here is 2:3, first with the simple change (which switches pronouns but generally retains word order), followed by a more distilled statement:

By this I can be sure that I know him, if I obey his commandments.
> I can be sure that I know him if I obey his commandments.

Okay, now that you know what I'm up to, here are the rest of the statements I jotted down for 2:1-17, some of which will include both versions of identity statements:

If I obey his word, truly in me the love of God has reached perfection (2:5).
> God is perfecting his love in me as I obey his word.
> OR, As I obey his word, God's love is reaching perfection in me.

By this I may be sure that I am in him: if I say, “I abide in him,” I ought to walk just as he walked (2:6).
> I am in him.
> I abide in him.
> I ought to walk just as he walked.

The new commandment is true in him and in me, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining (2:8).
> The new commandment of love and light is true in him and in me.
> The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining (in me).

If I love a brother or sister I live in the light, and in me there is no cause for stumbling (2:10).
> I love others.
> I live in the light.
> In me there is no cause for stumbling.

My sins are forgiven on account of his name (2:12).

I know him who is from the beginning (2:13).

I have conquered the evil one (2:13).

I know the Father (2:14).

I am strong and the word of God abides in me, and I have overcome the evil one (2:14).
> I am strong and the word of God abides in me.
> I have overcome the evil one.

I do not love the world or the things of the world (2:15).

As one who does the will of God, I live forever (2:17).

If you would like to read 2:1-17 from the NRSV, click here.

What do y'all think? Though this journal is primarily for my personal spiritual formation, as I share it with others, I want it to be helpful. So, which of the two ways of creating identity statements above resonates most with you? Or perhaps you like having both versions together?

The thing I like about this way of reading scripture is that it makes it more personal, more autobiographical. I'm not reading to glean information or propositions but to encounter God, to learn the truth about him and me (and others), and to be transformed.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Identity Journal :: 1 John 1

Recently I had the idea to create an identity journal. I decided to type up statements about my identity according to scripture as I read through different books of the Bible. I started with 1 Peter and now I'm working my way through 1 John.

These statements describe who I am, who I can be, or who I should be. I realize this is not the best exegesis or anything. This is a simple exercise for meditative purposes. I am thankful for who God has made me and pray he continues to transform me into the kind of man he wants me to be. Here is what I typed up from the first chapter of 1 John:

I have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1:3-4).

These things were written so that my joy may be complete (1:4).

I walk in the light as he himself is in the light (1:7).

I have fellowship with others (1:7).

The blood of Jesus cleanses me from all sin (1:7).

I confess that I have sin (1:8-9).

He forgives my sins and cleanses me from all unrighteousness (1:8-9).

The truth is in me (1:8-9).

His word is in me (1:10).

Here is 1 John 1 in its entirety for those interested in reading it in context:

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Why is my identity so important? Because what I do is not simply a matter of obeying commands, it comes out of who I am in Christ. I love others not simply because God told me to, but because he is love and he loved me (see chapters 3 and 4). He is love, and because I am in him, I am love too.

I am love.

That's who I am. That's who I'm meant to be. That's what I do.