Wednesday, April 25, 2012

To Live Like Ben Lived

"Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." 1 Cor. 11:1

Two years ago I sat with friends expressing a zeal and hope for revival in their little Christian school.  They longed for spiritual renewal and prayed for it.  As I sat back enjoying their enthusiasm and vision, a thought popped in my mind: revival comes with a cost.

I really wasn't sure where the thought came from and I certainly did not voice it aloud. I didn't want to put a damper on such good fellowship and vision.  I locked the odd thought away and largely forgot about it.

Until a year later when I learned that a student in that school, a bright and shining young man of faith, Ben Schoonover, had been diagnosed with cancer. My heart sunk and my mind wandered back to that strange thought.

Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting that God struck Ben with cancer because of the prayers. For God had already appointed the number of days Ben would have.I just know that God is working all things together as a tapestry: the good, the bad and the ugly.

And cancer is ugly, but not the way Ben lived it.

Under the shadow of a terrible prognosis, Ben wrote:

"My fear is not of death, I know where I'm going. My fear is that those who are watching these events and if it happens that I pass away as we all do will take this as a circumstance of God not pulling through for someone. Just because God doesn't take care of my tumor does not mean He left me. It means that my time for glorifying Him here is done and He would be taking me to a place with no suffering, no pain, no sickness. God chose to save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He may choose to save me, but He may not. But I know this is what God set in front of me for whatever reason or higher purpose, so I approach it with confidence in Him and His plan. No one should look at it any different. He plots my course and I run my race, however long or short or rocky or smooth. He put me here, and I know He will take me when the time is right." 

Yesterday around 9:30 am Central time in the US, seventeen-year-old Ben Schoonover passed away. It leaves us all with an ache deep in our innermost parts to imagine that the world can still go on after the loss of such a bright light of faith.

Ben had come to Hungary on a mission trip with his church.  We had seen God's hand upon him. He loved God. He loved others. He loved well. He was the kind of person who gave each of us hope for the next generation.

We are all left wondering, "why?" But maybe the answer is not as elusive as we think.  When Ben faced true tragedy -- a tragedy that he could not explain, he did not get bogged down in the "why?" Instead, that faith he had always talked about became almost tangible and he taught us all something in the way he lived right up until the moment he embraced his Savior.  From the people in his school to those who met him half way around the world, we are moved and changed and challenged by this young man's life and faith. Revival, indeed.

Now as we ache and hurt and miss Ben, it's our turn to avoid getting bogged down in the "why?" and truly live like the people of faith we are called to be. It's time to live like Ben.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ."  Ben could have said the same thing.  So let's follow Ben's example because he truly followed the example of Christ.

Let's live through our loss of Ben faithfully, because we know we will see him again.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spiritual Therapy

"I'm fat, dumb, and happy!" I jokingly said to my daughter as I put her to bed one night.

"You're not dumb," she replied.

I looked at her and responded, "Uh ... gee, thanks."

 As a result of her backhanded compliment, I started an exercise regiment. Nothing too serious. I am NO athlete by any stretch of the imagination. But I remembered when my father was in an car accident last year how the physical therapists had him do simple exercises for a short time everyday. It was less about the amount and more about the consistency.

An amazingly it works. People coming out of back surgeries who could hardly move were in a few months walking around.  Little movements take us in a direction and when done consistently can take us far.

Oswald Chambers said that "fifteen minutes a day makes anyone an expert" over time. So in this spirit I have begun my fifteen minute powerwalks each day. It is my physical therapy and it's moving me in the right direction.

But as I've started exercising, I've began to think about the spiritual application of this principle: Spiritual Therapy, so to speak.

What spiritual exercises am I doing each day?  Am I doing anything to move me in the proper direction?  Am I taking time apart to read and really think about His word, not just do the obligatory read a verse and run.  Am I pouring out my heart in prayer, or just saying the obligatory, habitual grace prayer over dinner and goodnight prayers with my kids.

Maybe I am in need of some good, solid spiritual therapy.  Nothing fancy, no frills ... and it may look like nothing to rest of the world, but it will set me moving in the right direction. And who knows? Maybe Oswald is right and one day I may even become an expert -- both at powerwalks and spiritual things!