Tag Archives: christian service

We Were Created To Split Mountains

A tree growing in the desert.

I remember as a teenager, there was a book in our school library titled, “Nuclear War, What’s In It For Me?” Clearly it was satire, but the title made me think. My blog is usually geared toward a western audience and all of the Western pre-conceptions and paradigms about the way we think the world is and what life should be. We think the title I mentioned is ridiculous, but with how many other things can we replace “Nuclear War” and it makes perfect sense to us?  “Marriage, What’s in it for Me?”  “Faith, What’s in it for Me?”  Most of what we do and think about comes back to, “What’s in it for me?”.  It seeps into the way we think about everything. Life is about money, and comfort, and prosperity.  Life is about……..me. Even the verses we like to quote are about us. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of our favorite verses to quote. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The context and the preceding verse is conveniently omitted. This was the situation when Jeremiah prophesied those words; Israel had been carried into exile in Babylon. Their kingdom was gone, and their freedom gone along with it. They were aliens in a land not their own, and subjects of a pagan king. They longed to go back home, and false prophets were telling people that they would go home soon. Jeremiah had something entirely different to say, and it was something that came straight from God.

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Israel was complaining and asking “Why has this happened to us? When will God deliver us?” This sounds a lot like us whenever we face adversity, or when our life doesn’t look the way we want it to. We quote the verse about God wanting to prosper us, and fail to realize that He didn’t place us here for ourselves; that it’s not about us. I especially like the last part. “Seek peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  They weren’t to pray for judgement out of spite for carrying them into exile. They were to be agents of positive change where God had put them, even thought they didn’t want to be there.

Have you ever seen a tree growing on bare rock in the desert? Often it will grow where a seed found a small crack, and will start putting down a tap root that eventually splits the rock. Here’s the thing about that tree. It doesn’t complain that it was planted in such a bad place. It doesn’t envy other trees that were planted closer to water, or in a better climate. It quietly takes in sunlight and whatever water God gives it, and uses those resources in the fullest possible way for where it lives. As it splits that rock, more soil gets trapped in the crack allowing other small plants to grow there. Sometimes it reaches water that was hidden or trapped beneath the rock, and it’s able to flourish and provides shade for animals and less heat tolerant plants. Eventually, over centuries, the entire landscape can change, and if enough plants grow, even the climate changes and the desert can disappear. If a tree growing on a rock can do this, how much more are we called to as beings created in the image of God?

We were not placed here for us. We were placed here to make a difference in others, and consequently a difference in the world around us. Don’t moan about your situation and ask that God immediately remove you from the situation you’re in. Pray for the people and places around you, because if those around you prosper, so will you.

 

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Let The Dead Bury Their Dead.

I normally don’t quote mis-quotes, but there is one mis-quote commonly attributed to Henry David Thoreau that I find more truthful and complete than the original, accurate quote. The mis-quote goes, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and die with their song still inside them.” So why do men live lives of quiet desperation? The second half of this is where the mis-quote comes in, but I believe it is an attempt to complete the thought.

One of the greatest lies in western culture today is the notion that choice is freedom; the notion that if someone gives you two choices and you have the freedom to pick one, then we are empowered and life is fulfilling. Few bother to ask, “were those the only choices?”. Few bother to ask, “who gave me these choices?”  Many times, the correct choice is one that was not put before you. In economics, we have something called opportunity cost. In a nutshell, opportunity cost is the opportunity that is lost because a different opportunity was taken.  Take for example a person who takes a business opportunity rather than staying home with their kids. On one hand you have a financial gain, but on the other hand you’ve given up time with your kids that will never be regained. That is the opportunity cost of this particular situation. Secular western society gives us lots of opportunities to make money, and inevitably these are what the choices presented before us are based on. Should I go for the job that gives me the most pay, or the most benefits?  But what if God wants you to go with a third choice?  What if you’re called to a life of service? We need to weigh the opportunity cost before we blindly go with the choices put before us.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus was speaking to the crowds on one occasion, and a learned man came up to him, and said to Jesus that he wanted to follow him, but said ” Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.”  Jesus response was, “Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.”  This might sound really harsh, until you realize that it’s never said, or even implied that this man’s father was actually dead.

Let me give you a modern day equivalent.” I’ll live a life of service to God and to others, but first let me get through college.”  Then you get through college and say, “I’ll live a life of service, but first let me get married.”  Then it starts to change. “I can’t live a life of service, because I have a wife and kids to take care of. I’ll do it after the kids leave the house.”  Then it becomes, “I’ll live a life of service, but I have to wait until I retire and I can live comfortably off my investments.”  Then you retire, and it becomes, “I’d like to live a life of service, but I’m too old and tired.”  These are the opportunity costs we fail to consider. Financially speaking, most people let their income dictate the lifestyle they live. There’s a certain level of income people need to live if they live simply. Inevitably though, people making twice or three times as much, don’t have any more disposable cash than the first person. This is because people let their income dictate their lifestyle. “The more I have, the more I need,” is how it goes. If we took into account the opportunity cost of our lifestyle, we might live a vastly different, and more fulfilling life. We might not drive a new car every two or three years, but we also might live the life that God has called us to, if we were listening. After all, keeping up with the Jones’s tends to keep our ears stuffed full of other sounds. There is never a better time than now. My wife had someone very unhappy with her recently before she went to Africa. They thought she had no business going off to Africa and leaving her children behind. I understand their fear, but I believe that if she waited until the kids were out of the house, the statement would have changed to, “she has no business going off to Africa at her age.”  It’s just fear talking.  It’s just fear talking when we say, “I’ll go when such and such happens”. It’s time we acknowledged the decisions we make that are based on fear and/or greed.  Life is never secure, and anyone who tells you otherwise is likely selling something. So the time might as well be now.

If you’ve got a burden on your heart to go and do something that doesn’t fall within the bounds of “normal life”, get out and do it before that unfulfilled burden turns into the desperation that Thoreau talked about. Let the dead bury their own dead.

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