Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Cost of Staying in Touch

On a recent Sunday three of our teens shared  about their summer overseas adventures.  One served as a student ambassador in Spain, France and Italy; another worked with missionaries in Poland to up-fit an old building as a homeless shelter; the third served in the jungles of Ecuador among the indigenous people there.

Their stories were inspiring, of course.  They saw God at work around them and through them.  They all agreed that it was easier to notice God and stay in touch with God on their trips.  They saw God at work in circumstances, in people and in their own hearts.

Back home, however, they found it hard to maintain that connection with Jesus.  This seems to be a common experience for short term missionaries.

I wonder why that is.  Maybe we are just too distracted in our normal lives.  We have so much clamoring for our attention, that we lose sight of God in the fray.  The natural overtakes the supernatural.

Or maybe we pay better attention when we are out of our normal routine.  We don't know what to expect, so we count on God to take care of us.  We are constantly praying and looking for him to answer.  At home, we get complacent and imagine that we can handle life without troubling God for his help.

Now the question is:  Which way would we rather live?  Lots of people, I imagine, would rather live in touch with the supernatural. 

So the next question is:  Are we willing to rework our lives so that we pay more attention to God?  We would need to set aside our distractions (oh, let me check my email real quick...).  We might need to be less entertained and risk (dare I say it?) boredom.  In the quietness, God speaks.

We may need to vary the normal routine.  We could volunteer at the school, at the hospital, or homeless shelter.  We could take on projects that will fail unless God shows up.  We could embrace opportunities to get out of our comfort zones.

I know it is worth it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rich Thoughts

Most people know the story of Jesus and the Rich Young Man.  He asks Jesus, the "good teacher," what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus reminds him that no one is good but God, and that God wants us to keep the commandments.  The man seems to believe that he has fully kept God's commands since childhood.  He must think that he's good, even though only God is good.

Jesus then brings it home.  In love, Jesus tells him, "One thing you lack.  Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me."

Of course the man was disappointed because he did not want to get rid of his stuff.

As I read that story, I wonder why Jesus told the man to sell his possessions.  Couldn't he just give his possessions without selling them?  Why did Jesus add the extra step?  I have a few ideas.

Maybe Jesus wanted the man to see again and catalog all of his possessions.  Even before he sold anything, he could see how his abundant possessions owned him.  It would be a cathartic experience to part with the items one by one.  At the end of the process he might understand that having a relationship with God was the only thing that mattered anyway.

Maybe Jesus wanted the man to take the time to organize the sale of his worldly goods.  He would have to arrange for his rich friends to come and buy his possessions.  In planning the process, he would learn about human nature and the corrupting power of wealth.

Maybe Jesus wanted the man to witness the contrast between the rich who purchased the items and the poor to whom he gave the money.

Maybe Jesus wanted him to witness the surprise and joy of the poor who received the money.  Maybe Jesus wanted him to put a face to "the poor."  He would have to meet and make friends with the needy.

Following Jesus is not easy.  There is a lot that gets in the way.  Whoever we are, Jesus wants us to give up everything and follow him.  When we let go of our possessions, they let go of us.