Monday, January 30, 2006

The Darnedest Things

I teach piano lessons. I have a really funny mixture of kids who love piano, kids who feel like it's a punishment, kids who never practice and don't understand why that's bad, kids who don't really care one way or the's fun though. The most amusing part of teaching this mosaic of personalites is the excuses kids come up with.

My favorite so far:

I have a boy in the 2nd grade who doesn't really care too much for piano but doesn't hate it either. Pretty indifferent. I have all the beginners count out loud while they're playing. This boy kept forgetting, so I kept reminding. He was getting pretty annoyed with himself and me and finally came up with an awesome excuse. I should've known. The real reason that he wasn't "remembering" to count is that his lip hurt. You see, he was playing tag at recess and his friend stepped on his lip. Wow. Stepped on his lip. Now that takes talent. Buddy, I totally believe you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The question of suffering

I’m reading The Case for Faith. It’s very good. It goes through the eight most common questions that keep people from believing in God. The author, Lee Strobel, interviews experts on each subject to try to answer these huge stumbling blocks to faith. The first one he tackles is this: If God is good and loving, how can evil and suffering exist?

The guy that Stroble interviews gives such a great answer. Actually, it was a two-part answer. First of all, God could either make free beings with a choice, or he could maintain control over everything. But, he wanted to make us free so that we could choose whether or not to follow and love him. It wouldn’t be love if we couldn’t choose. So, in order for choice to exist, God cannot keep evil from affecting us and the world. That’s a very reasonable and logical answer. But, the next part is even better.

Just because God can’t manipulate what goes on, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about our suffering. And, it also doesn’t mean that he didn’t do something about it. Actually, he became suffering. He joined in our suffering. But, he didn’t just join, he suffered more than anyone will ever suffer on earth. He took on all the sin of the world and all of the burden of evil, experienced it, and conquered it. So, when we look at the horrible pictures of starving children, we don’t need to ask, “Where is God? Why doesn’t he do something?” The truth is that God is right there in the picture suffering alongside, and he has already accomplished their way to hope.

The interviewee brought up a very interesting point. The people who are asking, “Where is God? Why doesn’t he do something?” are usually the people who aren’t experiencing that suffering. It’s we in the U.S. who look at those pictures and become enraged at God. But, I’m sure that many of those suffering people have more joy and hope in God than we do. The interviewee also shared an interesting cartoon that he has posted on his door. It’s two turtles talking to each other. One says to the other, “Sometimes I’d like to ask why God allows poverty, famine, and injustice when he could do something about it.” The other turtle replies, “I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.”

Monday, January 23, 2006

To live is Christ, to die is gain

On Friday, Rob and I went to see the movie The End of the Spear. It was really good. I was very surprised. Usually, I watch a movie like that and want to go overseas the next day. This time I was able to watch the movie and enjoy it without needing to enter it. Although, that's probably because it told the story of five very extreme missionaries and their families, one of them being the more famous Elliot family (Jim and Elizabeth Elliot). Maybe that extreme of ministry isn't the thing I envy. The movie was about how they went to an unreached tribe in Ecuador to give them the good news of God's Son. But, this wasn't just any tribe; it was the most violent tribe recorded by anthropologists. They killed for anything. They even killed their own people for little reason.

I don't know the whole story, like why they were drawn to that tribe. I don't know if Rob and I missed that part because we walked in a bit late. But, obviously God just wanted that tribe to know about him and knew that those five families would be the ones who would be crazy enough to do it. As much as I want to, I'm not going to give the whole story away since you all will hopefully go see it. There was one line that stood out and has made me think a lot differently about myself, my safety, others, and eternity.

Right before the men are about to make face to face contact for the first time, Nate Saint's young son asks him, "If they attack you, will you shoot them?" Nate answers, "No, we won't shoot them. They're not ready for heaven yet. We are." To not defend yourself when you have every right to do so is simply not common sense. It's not even common sense for a Christian. But, I'm realizing that that's only common sense because U.S. law would allow an attacked person to defend himself with violence or even killing. Maybe that's not true, and I've just watched too many movies, but that's my understanding. Anyway, our culture has taught us that's ok. If you would've asked me four days ago if I'd shoot someone who's attacking me, I'd say yes. Why not? It's not my fault they're attacking me. I'm just defending myself.....But they're not ready for heaven. I am.

That rocks me and gives me a new sense of security all at the same time. Yeah, I don't want to die. But, if I have the choice of a murderer dying or me dying, it better be me because I'm ready and he's not. Wow. That's revolutionary.

Go see the movie. It's an amazing story of God's work in unlikely places. Also, go see it to give the entertainment industry the message that movies like this are worth putting in mainstream theaters. An even bigger incentive: half of the profit for the movie goes to help tribes like the one depicted in the movie.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Abandoned to God

For a long time now there's been this dull realization that comes with my time with God. I say dull because I kinda know it's there but don't really want to acknowledge it for what it is, so it sits over me like a fog I'm trying to ignore. Today for the first time, I looked it straight in the eyes, gave it words, and nailed down my problem. I'm not excited about my problem at all because I don't know what to do about it. I'm stuck.

So many times when I'm spending time with God, I just want to be completely abandoned to him. I want to be as on fire for him as possible. I want to be an empty vessel for him to fill. You get the picture. But, despite my good desires, there's something that keeps me from being completely abandoned. It stinks to realize it and say out loud. What keeps me from taking that final step of abandon is that I don't want to. On one hand, my deepest desire is to completely live for Christ and every moment be doing what he wants even if it's crazy. But, at the same time I don't want to do that at all because what if God tells me that I need to witness to every single person I meet, for example. Now, that seems like something that every Christian should want to do, right? And, I'm not even saying that God would ask me to do that. But, what if he does?...that's what's keeping me from giving that last piece of myself (not the evangelizing thing specifically, that's just an example of crazy stuff that God might want me to do).

I think it's not just that I don't want to do those things that he might ask me to do. It's also that I'm afraid that if I do completely abandon myself to him, he'll ask me to do something crazy, I won't want to do it, and then I'll be disobeying and therefore not being completely abandoned like I thought I was. People always say that they're glad that God didn't make us robots and that he gave us choice. Well, at this moment I'm really not liking the whole choice thing. I would much rather God just completely take over and make me pleasing to himself and make me want to do anything and everything for him. I want him to take over my mind so that I have no control whatsoever. I know, I know, I can give him all those things so that he is in control, but that's where my will comes in. That's my problem in the first place.

Truly, I do want to give that last bit that I'm holding onto, but at the same time I don't want to. I asked God to take over and make it happen. I don't know what he thinks about that, so we'll see what he has in mind.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Great Divide

This last week Rob and I had the privilege of going to the Campus Crusade for Christ Christmas Conference with our church’s worship band. It was amazing for many reasons. For me, it was a life-altering experience. I didn’t expect it to be anything more than a whole lot of playing, but it ended up being the means that God used to give me another chance to be on fire for him.

On the Tuesday before the conference, I read this in My Utmost for His Highest:

Every now and then, not often, but sometimes, God brings us to a point of climax. That is the Great Divide in the life; from that point we either go towards a more and more dilatory and useless type of Christian life, or we become more and more ablaze for the glory of God—My Utmost for his Highest!

When I read that, I thought back to other times that I think God might have brought me to points of climax. Looking at how I had decided and also where am I at this point leads me to believe that I chose the “more dilatory and useless type of Christian life.” So, after reading it, I felt bad but also wondered when God would give me another chance to be ablaze for his glory. Oswald did say that God brings those points every now and then.

On Thursday night I was reflecting on the many amazing things that God was showing me through the speaker at the conference. I was so excited and so ready to change and be dangerous for God. I decided to read a little Oswald before going to bed and the title of that same entry caught my eye: “Where the Battle’s Lost and Won.” I read it totally not remembering what I just read a couple days before. Then I got to the part about those times of Great Divide. It was so cool. God had given me another chance just when I was wondering when it would come along again. This past week was definitely a call for decision where I could either take what was presented to me and become more and more ablaze or I could become more and more useless a.k.a complacent.

I’m pumped. I don’t want to take a single step backward. That same night I also read this in My Utmost: “If there is one standard in the New Testament revealed by the light of God and you do not come up to it, and do not feel inclined to come up to it, that is the beginning of backsliding because it means your conscience does not answer to the truth.” These are good things to be aware of as I seek to continue growing.