Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The First WIll Be Last

This morning I have been wrestling with the passage where Peter asks Jesus what he and the other disciples will receive since they have left everything to follow Jesus. And Jesus tells him that everyone who has left everything to follow will receive much more in the life to come. But he also says that many who appear to be first in this life will be last in the life to come.

A couple of thoughts come to mind...

  • I don't like to think about the correlation between what I am leaving behind to the reward I will receive. I'd much rather sacrifice little and receive a lot. Why doesn't it work that way?
  • I am a very here and now kind of person. Eternal rewards are not terribly motivating for me. Most of the time, I'd rather take the temporary rewards and accolades than to hold off for the rewards later on.
  • It would be very easy for me to gain a sense of entitlement (and it seems like Peter kind of has that thinking as well). I have sacrificed...so I DESERVE to be rewarded. If the only reason I'm doing what I'm doing is in order to be rewarded and appreciated, I've already missed the point.
  • It would also be very easy for me to work very hard to appear humble and sacrificial and to make sure that I let everyone know how much I have given up so that I seem to be "last" so that eventually I can be "first". But isn't letting people know how hard I'm working for Jesus just another way of attempting to be "first", which means I've already received all of the rewards that I'm going to get.
  • In order to be truly "last" in this life, I think I have to give up any attempt or desire to be "first" or to gain rewards for my efforts. I think I have to attempt to follow Jesus simply because it is a better way and not for anything that I could gain for myself. I think I have to follow him in sacrifice and follow him in death simply out of love for God and love for others, and not in any way out of love for myself.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I love my church

My wife and I took a month off from our church this summer to refresh and reconnect as a family. In the process, one thing that we realized was that we really, really love our church. The four other churches that we visited were all great and we enjoyed our time at each in different ways. But I love the vulnerability and openness that the people at The River bring when they come to church each week.

For example, just yesterday we had someone come up to the front during our open mic sharing time to tell the church that she had decided to check into a year long treatment program (a different person than my last post by the way...). She talked about how her life has fallen apart during the last month while her boyfriend had been in jail. She talked about the help that she needed and hoped to find at Teen Challenge. I asked a few people to come forward to pray and about 25 people came to the front and surrounded her and prayed for her. It was a beautiful time where Jesus was so present, embracing and loving this young woman as she makes this difficult decision to change her life.

It's often very draining to spend time with the people that are considered outcasts by our society. It's time consuming and there are just as many failures as successes. But the good times are so good. These are the times when I remember why I do what I do.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Like a Child

This week we've been working with a 30-something year old woman who is escaping a pretty destructive lifestyle and is about to check into a year long treatment program. The process of getting her into the treatment facility has been somewhat draining as we've been providing places for her to stay so that she's away from the influence of people who will try to drag her back into the life she is trying to escape.

Yesterday, we ran out of options for her, so we ended up letting her stay at our house. We have no problem with this and, in fact, do it regularly. However, we have recently turned our spare bedroom into our five year old son Jaron's room. The conversation with Jaron where we asked him if he would give up his room for a few days was amazing...

Lori: Jaron, do you know what Jesus says we should do if someone is hungry?

Jaron: What?

Lori: Give them something to eat. What do you think Jesus says we should do if someone is thirsty?

Jaron: Give them something to drink!

Lori: And what if someone needs a place to live?

Jaron: Give them a place to live!

Lori: Right! Jaron, there is a woman that we know that doesn't have a place to live. How would you like to be the person that helps her?

Jaron: All by myself??

Lori: Yes, all by yourself. Would you let her have your room so that she can have a place to live for the next few days?

Jaron: Okay!

This was really amazing to see and it was really wonderful to see my wife taking this as an opportunity to teach Jaron how to follow Jesus.

This morning I was reading the passage about the disciples rebuking the little children for coming to Jesus and Jesus in turn rebuking the disciples. I found myself caught in this place where I am called to approach Jesus as a child and am also responsible for a child. In watching how Jaron responded to this opportunity to serve, I was so proud of his willingness and his love for people. It's sometimes hard for me to realize that Jesus sees me the same way when I respond to him in childlike faith and love. But it's also freeing and exciting to be loved and to know that Jesus is proud of me.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Starting Again

I have finally (mostly) completed my MDiv at Bethel Seminary. This is great but also terrifying. It's great because the last three years have been ridiculously insane with not nearly enough sleep, not nearly enough time with my family, and performing merely adequately at every area of life. It's great because I will now finally have the time and energy to reinvest in those parts of life that have not received enough attention. This summer has mostly been about reconnecting with my family. Our church gave us a month off to recuperate, so we took advantage of a number of free pastoral retreat sites around the country. I can't tell you how much I have missed being able to take life at a slower pace and simply enjoy the beauty of the earth and the simple joys of small children.

The terrifying part is that there is a long list of things that I have put on hold until after seminary. Today is day one of approaching that list with fear and trembling. The list includes a number of church-related issues, personal development issues, and even several long-neglected projects around the house. It is pretty overwhelming, but for now the excitement is still winning out.