Friday, January 25, 2008
The masses simply shake their head. "That's too bad," some say and then casually move on with the business of their own lives.
"How could he do such a thing?" ask others, in disgust, perhaps secretly delighting in the newest, juiciest gossip.
Meanwhile, in each case, the ripples of pain filter out to spouse, family, friends, and all those who ever loved and admired him. He is the victim of Satan's plot, and the cruel victimizer of those he should love best.
He is the adulterer.
I have found myself caught in a vice of grief this week as I have been reminded of a series of dynamic Christian men who have fallen prey to sexual sin. Some are dear friends whom I love and admire, others are only acquaintances who gave birth to great ministries that still bless many here in Hungary and other parts of the world.
And yet somewhere along the way -- long, long, before the fateful act -- these men began drifting away.
Hebrews 2:1 states, "We must pay careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away."
Drifting is a subtle thing -- hardly noticeable at first. And by the time it is noticeable, it is often too late. It is the result of not being actively anchored -- a physical effort occurring every moment of everyday.
All of the men I am thinking of were pastors or missionaries or both. They read their Bibles everyday. Some even preached a couple times a week. And yet, in all that they did that was right, they still managed to leave some critical aspect of their lives unanchored.
It had been actively anchored once, and perhaps they believed at the time that was enough. But soon it had drifted all too far away to recapture. And now everything has shattered, and they and their families are left with nothing but countless jagged pieces -- razor sharp shards of what used to be.
The pain of their sin radiates like festering sores on the flesh of humanity. And such deep rooted infections do not heal with the simple words of "I'm sorry."
Hell is having a heyday as godly men fall, and all we do is sit around and say, "That's too bad."
When will it become real to us? How many have to fall before we take up the battle?
Through Christ we are equipped to take strategic and effective action in the spiritual realm -- but it requires that we humble ourselves and invest time on our knees.
Let's make today the day we take up this battle -- Pray for your pastor, missionaries, spiritual leaders and for your own family. If you hold any belief in the power of prayer, then take up this fight and pray that none of us allow any aspect of our lives to drift away.
Friday, January 18, 2008
But if you look closely you'll note that I artfully avoided answering it myself. I find it more comfortable to stand on the brink, pondering that question, than actually answering it.
Perfection requires pain. My chapter for the week has been Hebrews 2. And although I tried to move on without answering the question, the theme arose again: "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering."(verse 10).
If Christ being perfect in nature needed the experience of suffering to complete his perfection, what would it take for me? It is a frightening thought.
I have been working on a book lately that requires me to connect with people who have truly suffered. And as I weave the words to portray that pain I become somehow intimately involved in the grief, despondency, and misery they have endured. I am witness to the ways in which they have been perfected by their pain. And as a result, they become my heroes.
I see how it works. I like the end product. But still, I remain silent before the question: Do I want to be perfected?
It may seem terribly unspiritual and horribly inappropriate for a missionary to admit. But maybe the reason I hesitate to answer, perhaps why I prefer to leave the question rhetorical .... is because my answer, I am ashamed to say is "no."
Everyday I see suffering. Orphaned teen girls for whom abortion is way of life as they desperately seek someone to love them. Kids who have tragically lost parents and siblings, or worse yet, have been abandoned by them, pursue self destructive behavior in a desperate attempt to alleviate the pain. And much, much more.
I don't want to have to hurt. I don't want to suffer. But perhaps the biggest issue is that I do not value the end product (perfection) the way I should. If I did I could look past the temporal pain and simply say, "Yes, Lord. Whatever it takes, perfect me."
But I am not there.
So I answer the question from the place where I am. I'll neither say "yes"with naive enthusiasm, nor "no" with shame.
Instead, I will simply say, "Nevertheless, not my will, dear God, but Yours."
I wish I could boldly pursue perfection. But I am not there. So I will leave it in His hands and submit to what He leads me through -- when he leads me through it.
Friday, January 11, 2008
“Don’t you just hate Christians whose lives have always been so happy?” a friend said to me some years ago. “I have no interest in hearing their testimony and little interest in hearing them teach, because I cannot relate to that.”
I thought it was an odd thing to say. At the time, I believed that if I always sought God in every aspect of my life, committed to being obedient to Him, then everything would always work out all right. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…”(Romans 8:28).
But then I faced a crisis where everything did not turn out all right. I sought God and earnestly believed He had led me to marry a man who loved Him. Five years later the marriage disintegrated. Still I believed that if I prayed hard enough or fasted long enough, this marriage could not end in divorce. But then it did. And where was God?
Hebrews 5:7-9 says, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of his reverent submission. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what he suffered, and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.”
Knowing what was coming, Christ begged God in utter desperation to deliver Him from this fate, and He was heard – but being heard did not change what God had called Him to do. Even though Christ was already perfect by nature, there were apparently some things that even He could only learn by experience. Christ learned the full meaning of obedience through His suffering. And through this experience of suffering there occurred a completion of His perfect nature – the kind of completion that connects him to us in the most intimate, empathetic ways.
Christianity is all about relationship -- our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
It is not our all-too-happy Christian lives that draw us most deeply into relationship with others – but rather it is our pain. The honest pain that testifies, “Yes, I have been there and I know it’s hard and it hurts.” It is in these tender places that our lives can most powerfully testify to Christ and His Gospel – not that He will rush in like a superhero and remove the pain, but that He is faithful to walk with us regardless of what He asks us to walk through. For in those places of pain, He is most poignantly there.
Do we really want to be perfected? It is a question not to be taken lightly. If Christ, being perfect in nature had to suffer to learn obedience and experience a completion of his perfection, we can only speculate what it would take to complete our own sanctification.