Archive | January, 2010

Obedience tastes sweet.

30 Jan

Last night, Travis and I went to a going-away party for a guy from Travis’ work. We drove down where the party was with our friends Ahren and Lauren (Ahren works with Travis too).

Just to give you a little background, Ahren and Lauren are fun to hang out with. We get along well and enjoy the same activities: hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, etc. But they are not believers. They go to mass and consider themselves Catholic, though they don’t believe everything the Catholic religion believes. They like to party (aka get drunk) but usually with us, they just chill and have a few.

Because I have been convicted of sharing my faith more earnestly, I have been praying and looking for opportunities to bring up the gospel. I had thought about calling Lauren up and asking her out to coffee, since I only ever hang out with her in group settings. And I still might do that. We’ll see.

So last night, when we were on our way to the party, we happened to drive past the Denver Seminary. Ahren said that he didn’t know Denver had a seminary, and that he didn’t even know what a seminary was. We got on the subject of priests and how many new ones we thought there had been in the past couple of years (not many). And I felt the Spirit prompting that this was my chance.

The question that popped into my head was “What do you think about heaven?” There was a lull in the conversation and it would’ve been the perfect time but I was so scared to bring it up that I kept my mouth shut. Then Travis said something else and the conversation got off topic so I thought I was out my chance. I could feel my skin burning, the way it does when I have been really, really, really nervous and am finally let off the hook.

But as we continued driving (this place was about a 30 minute drive away), I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If I truly believe that they’re going to hell because they don’t believe in Christ, I can’t just shrug the conversation off like “it just wasn’t the right time.” It is always the right time, whether it’s awkward or not.

So I just blurted it out: “What do Catholics believe about heaven?”

Ahren asked if I was asked about anything specific in regards to heaven and I said no, I just didn’t know much about the Catholic faith. He said that they do believe that there’s a heaven and that you get there by asking for forgiveness (or by living exactly the way they want you to, which both Ahren and Lauren admitted was impossible… so at least there’s that). I confirmed that they believed forgiveness was the way you get to heaven. They said yes, that and confession. You’re supposed to go every week. I asked if they do that. Both of them said that they hadn’t gone to confession in years.

“So you’re just banking on asking for forgiveness before you die?” I asked.

“Something like that,” they replied.

“Do you believe in Jesus?”

“Yes, we do. We believe that he was the Messiah,” Ahren said. They said something else after this about Jesus and one religion not being for everyone but I can’t remember exactly what it was. But it prompted me to ask,

“Do you think Jesus is the only way to heaven?” They didn’t.

Then I quoted to them Jesus’ saying, “I am the way, the truth, the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.”

“Hmmmmm,” Ahren said.

“There’s a book called More Than a Carpenter,” I said.

“I’ve heard of that book!” Lauren said.

“In it, it says that Jesus was either a lunatic, liar, or Lord. So he’s either crazy, lying about everything, or he’s actually God. If he is God, then we have to believe everything he says because God is perfect.”

“Hmmmmm,” Ahren said again.

“He also says that we have to born again to be saved, that we get to heaven by putting our trust in Christ. That it’s not about how good we are, how we live, what we do with our lives, but about putting our trust in Him. He came to earth and lived a perfect life (it says in Hebrews that he didn’t sin), then died on the cross for our sins (he could do that because he was fully God and fully man), and we go to heaven by putting our faith in Him alone.”

“Hmmmm,” Ahren said.

At this point, we were reading the directions and trying to figure out where to turn so the conversation got a little distracting. But I didn’t want to lose the chance to share the gospel so I just pushed ahead.

Ahren started to say, “We do believe in the crucifixion, that Jesus died for our sins…” But then we found the place and the conversation was over. But Travis has a great starting point now the next Ahren and he go out to lunch to ask Ahren what he thought about what we talked about the other night.

I asked Travis later in the night what he thought of the conversation. He said that it was pretty awkward but that he thought it was good and that it might have always been awkward. It would be interesting to know what those kinds of conversations feel like on the other side. Maybe they just feel awkward to us because we’re the ones who are telling the gospel.

But I finally obeyed the Spirit! There have been other times when I thought about sharing the gospel (not necessarily with Ahren and Lauren) but I’ve kept my mouth shut because of somehow rationalizing the reason why I didn’t have to or shouldn’t share the gospel at that moment. I was able to convince myself that it wasn’t really the Spirit’s prompting, it was just an idea I had on my own. Not so! The guilt I felt after those missed opportunities showed me that it was the Spirit leading me, and I had disobeyed. Now I know from experience that instead of guilt, obedience tastes sweet.

I have been battling with the tension between living out my faith and being intentional about sharing my faith. I think that we are called to live out our faith always, even in the midst of sharing our faith. But we are also called to share our faith with unbelievers with words and intentionality. And I am so glad that I did that last night. Selfishly, I am also happy that it didn’t make things awkward between us but I’d rather it be awkward for them to come to know Christ than to maintain the peace and settle for being “friends” with people who we know are going to hell. (How can we be friends with them and be ok with that, is what I want to know? We need to remind ourselves that, like C.S. Lewis says, “There are no mere mortals.” Everyone we see is going to either heaven or hell. Greg Stier said that he always imagined people with “Bound for Hell” stamped across their foreheads to give him motivation to share the gospel. He even to the malls on the weekends when he was in high school to do cold evangelism.)

Anyway, I will pray for Ahren and Lauren, that God will plant a seed in them. I will also pray for Travis, that he has the boldness and opportunity to bring it up again with Ahren.

Something that has helped me is to remind myself while I’m talking to other people about the gospel that I have staked my life on this. This is what has shaped my entire being, values, daily activity, friends, etc. I am just sharing what I believe with others, not trying to cram it down their throats. I honestly what to dialogue about the gospel with people. If they don’t believe, that’s God’s business. But if they do, what an amazing thing to behold (it hasn’t happened to me yet but I’m hoping it will as I start/continue to share my faith!)

What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?

23 Jan

I have started to re-read We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession and while the whole book is utterly fantastic, this part put into words what I have been muttering in my soul for… a long time.

“To concentrate on service and activity for God may often actively thwart our attaining of the true goal, God Himself. At first sight it seems heroic to fling our lives away in the service of God and of our fellows. We feel it is bound to mean more to Him than our experience of Him. Service seems so unselfish, whereas concentrating on our walk with God seems selfish and self-centered. But it is the very reverse. The things that God is most concerned about are our coldness of heart towards Himself and our proud, unbroken natures. Christian service of itself can, and so often does, leave our self-centred nature untouched. That is why there is scarcely a church, a mission station, or a committee undertaking a special piece of service, that is without an unresolved problem of personal relationships eating out its heart and thwarting its progress. This is because Christian service often gives us opportunities of leadership and position that we could not attain in the secular world, and we quickly fall into pride, self-seeking and ambition. With those things hidden in our hearts, we have only to work alongside others, and we find resentment, hardness, criticism, jealousy, and frustration issuing from our hearts. We think we are working for God, but the test of how little of our service is for Him is revealed by our resentment or self-pity, when the actions of others, or circumstances, or ill-health take it from us!

“In this condition we are trying to give to others an answer which we have not truly and deeply found for ourselves. The tragedy is that much of the vast network of Christian activity and service is bent on propagating an answer for people’s needs and problems which few of those propagating it are finding adequate in their own lives. We need to leave our lusting for ever-larger spheres of Christian service and concentrate on seeing God for ourselves and finding the deep answer for life in Him. Then, even if we are located in the most obscure corner of the globe, the world will make a road to our door to get that answer. Our service of help to our fellows then becomes incidental to our vision of God, and the direct consequence of it.” (emphasis mine)

Wow. This is exactly what I needed to hear. This is exactly what I have been feeling, though I couldn’t voice it – that concentrating on my relationship with God was selfish and that I needed to be about other people. My fear is that if I let go of my felt need to serve and instead concentrate on God, then I won’t ever serve. That is the devil trying to keep me from growing closer to God!

I recommend this book to everyone but especially those who don’t feel close to God, or don’t completely understand the purpose of life.

Just another little snippet that is also wonderful:

“Grace permits us to come (nay, demands that we come) as empty sinners to be blessed, empty of right feelings, good character, and satisfactory record, with nothing to commend ourselves but our deep need, fully and frankly acknowledged. Then grace, being what it is, is drawn by that need to satisfy it, just as water is drawn to depth that it might fill it. This means that when at last we are content to find no merit nor procuring cause in ourselves, and are willing to admit the full extent of our sinfulness, then there is no limit to what God will do for the poor who look to Him in their nothingness.”

It is mind-boggling to me that God accepts, and actually requires, that I acknowledge my complete lack and His complete abundance. I don’t have to bring anything to the table. I don’t have to have any redeeming qualities in myself. I can come as a empty, weak, wretched sinner and God’s grace reaches out generously to bless me.

“Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.”

“What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.” (Psalm 116:12-13).

Instead of praying to be a vessel that God uses as He wills, I have been taking it upon myself to be of service to God. I have felt the responsibility and guilt of making my life worthwhile and meaningful. That is God’s job! I am the clay; He is the potter. He knows I want to be used. He wants to use me. He may not use me in the way I want to be or think I should be used but He will use me in His own way. It is insofaras I am walking closely with God that I will see the path and purpose for my life.


Kids

19 Jan

I know its an exaggeration but it seriously feels like everyone in the world is having kids except for me and Travis. At first, it was just all of our church friends. But now, all of our friends from MN are having kids too! It’s craziness!

I have to admit, it gets me thinking more and more about having kids of our own. I mean, how could it not? I get to see the pleasant side of things, when the baby is cute and cuddly and wearing adorable little outfits. I don’t see the a.m. feedings or sleepless nights or long stints of crying. I do though somewhat experience the new parents’ inability to do anything spontaneous and eventually, when they get older and can’t get sleep anywhere, anything past 7 p.m.

Travis keeps reminding me, the grass is always greener on the other side. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy our childless freedom right now. We just bought plane tickets for a 3-day Christmas/Valentine’s Day trip to Salt Lake City at the end of February. I am going to start training for another triathlon at the beginning of February and am still planning on training for the Twin Cities Marathon after that. Travis has already written every single date of every single hunting season for every single animal in his new planner. We couldn’t do any of that if we had a kid right now (well, I guess Travis could write the dates in his planner… but they wouldn’t amount to anything ūüôā ).

Even though I am excited to have kids, I really feel (mostly) ok with waiting. I don’t have the kind of overwhelming anticipation about having kids that I had about getting married. Not because I’m less excited but more because I am more confident that right now is not the right time for kids. When Travis and I were dating, I didn’t give a rat’s @$$ about timing because I wanted to be married. NOW. Period.

But with kids, it’s different. You can’t date a kid and get used to the feeling of being in a parent-child relationship. You’re not a parent and then you are. You’re just a married couple and then you are parents. There is no in between, no easing into it.

I think the reason why seeing other women having babies makes me want one is because I know that I will enjoy it so much. It is a new season of life and while there are trade-offs and limitations, I’m sure any new parent would tell you that they’re totally worth it. And while I am still confounded by the fact that Travis and I are old enough to be parents (!?!?!?!), I really want to start a family.

Which begs the infamous question: “So when are you thinking about having kids?” I think it will be another 2-3 years, according to the Kluthe timeline (God may have something else in mind, as He did with the Normans). We would like to have some more of our student loans paid off/down and for Travis to be done with grad school (which he expects to happen spring/summer of 2011).

All in good, and God’s, time!

In light of eternity…

12 Jan

I wish I could turn my brain off. I wish I could stop analyzing. Stop comparing. Stop condemning. Myself, that is.

You see, I walk around with this shadow of guilt sitting on my shoulder. I haven’t done anything wrong… but then, I haven’t done anything right either. I’m mediocre, stuck in the middle. One of the masses. Your average Joe…Joette?

And I want to be fine with that. I used to be fine with that. I’m not the kind of person who needs the infamy of the limelight. I am content in the background, supporting, organizing, planning.

But there’s this restlessness in my head that just won’t let me be content with my life. I keep seeing the ways I could be better, ways I’m not measuring up. Ways I should be different.

A leadership book I’m reading says I should accept myself. “How does a Christian do that?” I wonder. “Is that even a biblical principle?” I dare say it’s not…

At least not totally.

What does Paul mean when he says “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” I think he means exactly what he says. There is nothing good in him.

Does that sound like self-acceptance?

No.

Hmmm… then what? Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came so that we might have life, and to the fullest. Pray tell, where do I find that life?

Some would say the fullest life is found in self-acceptance. But I’ve tried that and found that there’s really nothing much in me worth accepting.

The trite (though true) Christian answer: the gospel.

But what does that mean?¬†The terminology is thrown around so much that I¬†think a telling head nod and eyebrow rise should go with it… you know, the gospel? ¬†What they don’t explain, though, is how does the gospel give us life and life to the fullest? Because I understand the gospel, at least in principle. But as of yet, I don’t¬†think I’ve¬†found the fullest life. At least, I can imagine a fuller one. I can imagine a lot of things. And therein lies my problem.

If you asked me why I’m discontent with my life, and what I thought I should/could do to make it “better,” my answer would be something like, “Well, I feel like I should be making a difference, more giving of my time, more generous with my money, less lazy with my evenings, more productive with my weekends, more loving toward my husband and more enjoying of my life.”

So you ask, why don’t you do those things then?

Good question.

Self, why don’t I do those things?

::Silence.::

I guess you’ll have to check back later.

But I had the insight as I was driving home from work tonight, that it’s all because of eternity. Living in light of eternity is always presented in a positive light as something Christians should do. We’re reminded about it so often because our natural tendency is to live for the present only and forget that we’re going to heaven when we die and that our actions here do matter for eternity.

But you know what,¬†I think that my initial inclination was wrong. I thought I was too concerned with eternity, so much so that I couldn’t live in the present without feeling the “weight of glory” on my shoulders, as C.S. Lewis puts it. But actually, I think that I, too, am only concerned with the present. Whereas most people’s inclination is to¬†lose touch with the fact that their present actions have eternal ramifications and they just go about their day without thinking, I can’t seem to move off of that notion. I am consumed with thinking that everyday, eternity is being written. This is my one life…

And this is how I’m spending it.

Just as I longed for the days of unanalyzed eating in the midst of my calorie counting obsession, I now long for the days of unanalyzed living.

I can’t wait for eternity.