My greatest fear about this Coronavirus is not catching it. Nor is it a crashed economy, losing my retirement savings or government over-reach. I suppose any of those things could happen with powerful consequences. But my greatest fear is that at the end of this extraordinary time of disruption I will not have experienced the full transformation God is trying to work in me.
Just as the prodigal son was changed by his social isolation among the pigs, I believe God wants to change us during these difficult days: challenging our assumptions, exposing our passivity, and supercharging our impact upon the world. In the distant land the wayward son awakened to his sorry condition, remembered his father’s kindness, and realized that he was squandering his life in a dead-end routine among pigs.
We were born to change the world; every one of us, or perhaps more precisely to make a Kingdom difference in the little portion of the world around us. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Enemy occupied territory, that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed… and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” (Or… if you prefer Kanye West, “We were born into a broken world, and we are the cleanup crew.”)
The question I keep returning to day-after-isolating-day is, “What am I doing at this moment to make a difference in the world?” These exceptional times are not for treading water or entertaining ourselves until the coffeeshops, churches and restaurants open again. These long hours are God’s gift to us; a “time out” to consider our ways, our purpose, and the imprint we could be leaving upon the world.
It pains me to think I’ve had a slow start in coming fully on board, but I’m engaging this morning in what may be the latter days of our confinement, hoping I’ve not squandered too much precious time.
Updating this blog is one response I’m making this morning. What are some of the actions God is calling you to?
Awakening to the news of last Sunday’s terrorist attack in Orlando, I felt awash with grief, alarm, and dread: Grief for the lives that were cut short, alarm that ISIS had struck again within our borders, and dread for the divisiveness that religious-political narratives would almost certainly generate on social media and the airwaves. But I determined to withhold my thoughts until my head was clear enough to hear from God’s broken heart.
There were two very different responses from the so-called evangelical community. (I say “so-called” because the word “evangelical” connotes one with a message of “good news”, and not all evangelicals actually proclaim good news). One small minority jumped into poisonous judgments towards those who have lost their way in darkness. They impugned the name of Jesus by the hateful and callous statements they made in his name.
But a totally opposite response came from the Orlando Chik fil-A restaurants who fired up their kitchens on Sunday afternoon to feed the lines of people waiting to give blood for the victims.
Religion and the Kingdom almost always end up in conflict. You can see this in full display in the gospel of Luke, when a group of Samaritans, (a people already condemned for their pagan beliefs and practices), reject Jesus himself as he entered their village. The (religious) disciples were indignant: “Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them”, they asked? But their very question almost seems to have confused Jesus. “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56).
Did you catch that? The Son of God himself resisted the way of judgment. And so should we.
The distinguishing mark of a true disciple is not the purity of his doctrine, nor the passion of his judgments, but the fullness of his love. “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” 1 John 4:16-17
I have a confession to make about this blog: It frightens me. I’m afraid of being wrong, afraid of being boring, and afraid of offending people. And that’s just for starters. But fearful writers don’t connect. Playing it safe, they’re too timid to inspire or to speak the truth. And so I wrestle for courage every time I post.
The other day God reminded me about playing on seesaws when I was a kid. I was scrawny in those days, and my happy seesaw-memories often crash-landed with some bully on the other end talking smack about bumping my boney butt to the ground. And so I hung there, disabled and distressed.
Fear is a bully on the other end of the board who leaves us dangling, steals our joy, and intimidates us into silence. Having only two weapons in his toolbox, when a child of God refuses to open the front door to Satan’s lies, he sneaks around to the back door to threaten us with fear. I’ve been learning to reject the lies for awhile now, and so I regularly get badgered at the backdoor.
But faith is no lightweight on the seesaw. With the full gravity of Reality backing it up, faith sees from God’s perspective and leaves fear dangling and defenseless. “I sought the Lord and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him and were lightened.” (Psalm 34:4-5 KJV)
These are fearful days. It’s easy to allow our popular godless culture to intimidate us into silence, shaking in our shoes when we ought to be shouting in assurance. “When the son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
The daily challenge to stand our ground is not rocket science. It’s as simple as making the choice to believe God in the presence of the bully. For me this morning, that means clicking on the “Publish This Post” button.
(I couldn’t find any copyright information on the photo above, but it was too good to pass up!)
Mark 6:52 is such a sad verse: “For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, for their heart was hardened.”
One of the great benefits I’ve discovered in writing this blog is that it requires me to live with my eyes open. If I drift through the days with a dull heart, I will have nothing to say. (And lets be honest, there are great chunks of time when I fail to update for that very reason).
One of the best, most powerful “prophetic words” I ever received was when I was about to leave for my YWAM training in 1994, and a friend from church locked his gaze on me and said, “Pay attention!” Those two words became lodged in my heart and over the years have come rushing back into my mind in airports, gardens, classrooms and conversations. Annie Dillard, the insightful author of A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek has said “A writer is a professional observer”, and I would add “so is a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
How sad that these disciples had a front row seat for the miracle of the loaves and fish, and yet never actually saw what happened. Their heart – that miraculous holy place within us – had become hardened. May God spare us from that fate and give us eyes to see. Perhaps this is why Paul’s prayer for his Ephesian friends was “That the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” This has been my prayer for many years now, both for the church and for myself, because I have a secret fear: that sitting in the front row, I may still miss the show.
John Piper has said “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.” So in the words of my friend, lets “Pay attention!”