ReThinking Lent – Day 16: Earthly

I recently had a discussion with a group of people about the parable of the rich young man (Mark 10:17-24).  In a nutshell (and I’m paraphrasing), a guy asks Jesus what it’s going to take to get to heaven because he’s been really good — he’s followed the commandments…he hasn’t murdered, committed adultery, stolen anything, lied or gossiped and he’s honored his parents.  Basically, he’s wondering if that’s enough.  Jesus responds in this way (v. 21):

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

And, the guy leaves.  It’s too much to ask.

The question that everyone seems to ask is:  “Am I supposed to actually do that?”

My answer (and I’m not saying it’s right or wrong):  It depends.

I think we get too hung up on what Jesus actually told this guy to do (sell everything and give to the poor) and not what I believe to be the point:  Jesus was exposing what he was lacking in order to fully follow him.

In this guy’s case, his functional savior…the thing that he thought he couldn’t live without…was his money and possessions.  It’s what he valued.  It’s what he thought about.  It’s what made him happy.  It’s what gave him a sense of worth.  It’s the thing that “saved” him.  Jesus was telling the rich young guy that he can’t have two gods and that one had to go. And, we see what he chose.

I think this parable is asking us to look at what our functional savior is.  What is getting in the way of following Christ?  What are our earthly possessions?  What do we think we cannot live without?  What would cause us great distress to lose?  What are we NOT willing to sacrifice under any circumstances?  What are we lacking?

The bottom line is that I don’t think everyone is called to sell everything they own and give it to the poor, although I would argue that it’s probably something we need to be willing to do.  And to be clear, I absolutely believe that we are called to take care of the poor under any and all circumstances.   I don’t think that having material wealth is necessarily a bad thing.  But, if it’s what we put our faith in, that’s when it becomes a problem.  And if it causes you great discomfort to imagine giving everything you have away, it’s probably something worth praying about.

shopping_imgAnd he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
(Luke 12:15 ESV)

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ReThinking Lent – Day 15: Hear

A few years ago, I went through an interesting prayer exercise.  We were paired up with another person, whom we did not know very well, for prayer time.  We did not share our prayers and concerns — rather we sat together and prayed for each-other as the Spirit led us.  It was difficult.  I didn’t know what to pray — what to ask for — how to intercede.    I spent the first few minutes rather frustrated.  But, then I remembered that God already knew and I needed him to tell me.  After a period of time, we shared with the other person what our prayers were.  When I heard what this woman had prayed for me, I was blown away — and vice versa.  To be clear, it was not a psychic experience — we didn’t all of a sudden know the names of long lost relatives.  But, in opening up ourselves to the Spirit — and not having the filter of knowing the other person’s perceived wants and needs — we were able to pray things that were much bigger than either of us would have ever prayed for ourselves.

I think we often spend a lot of time regurgitating things we hear from others — or we have presuppositions about what the Bible says or what we think God wants for our lives (or what we want God to want for our lives).  And, they aren’t necessarily always bad things, but we forget to let the Scriptures speak for themselves.  We have conditioned ourselves to hear what we want to hear.  And that can be scary because that’s when we start taking Scripture out of context so that it fits for us.  We can also deprive ourselves from knowing God more fully because our “favorite passages” emphasize only certain attributes and characteristics.  We are in danger of having a lower view of God than we should because we don’t comprehend how big our God is — and what he is capable of doing in our world…and our lives.

I pray that we can all hear God’s words in a new and fresh way this Lenten season.

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Ganesh, family dog. Circa 1978

Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
(Isaiah 55:3 ESV)

ReThinking Lent – Day 11: Live

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Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
~Romans 12:10

This is a motley crew of people.  I like to think that we would all be friends if we’d just met randomly along the way, but we wouldn’t.  Our personal circumstances wouldn’t have allowed it.  But, because everyone in this picture loves Jesus and had a desire to build a community in our town, we were all bound together.  We truly believed that God had brought us together to form a church — and that’s what we worked toward for a couple of years.  That is not what ultimately came to pass in a literal sense, but as I look at this picture, I see a group of people (and there are more who, sadly, aren’t in this picture) who worshiped together, took communion together, baptized one another, ministered to one another and loved each other when we weren’t necessarily loveable.  Most of all, through all of that, we learned together.  We learned to live a life that wasn’t easy and built relationships that were sometimes (often times) messy.  We were learning to be missionaries in our families, our neighborhoods, our cities and our world.

And, now…most of us are scattered all over the place.  In each of these people, I can see that they are tangibly living out the Gospel in their new contexts.  And, I realize that God was building his church.  Not in a building, but in the lives of the people who follow him.  I read Phillipians, Chapter 1 with an appreciation of the love that Paul had for the people that he served alongside…because every time I think of them, I thank God for them.  (Phil 1:3)

ReThinking Lent – Day 9: Love

It would be easy for me to post a picture of my son and husband on this day.  But, I wanted to dive deeper into the biblical meaning of the word “love”.  Basically, the bible defines love in several different ways (ready for a Greek lesson?):

  • Eros:  This term doesn’t actually exist in scripture, but the concept does.  It refers to passionate love and is found primarily in the Song of Solomon.  It is where we get the word erotic in our modern English language.
  • Storge:  This term doesn’t exist in the bible either.  But, like eros, the concept certainly does.  It means “affection” in Greek and refers to familial love — the bond that we have with our mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, etc.  It is a naturally occurring love.  There are many examples of this kind of love in scripture and God even gives us a commandment regarding it:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  (Exodus 20:12 ESV)

  • Phileo: The Greek term is Philia and it refers to the brotherly love that occurs in a close friendship.   It involves feelings of warmth and affection.  In modern terms, it’s what would make us call someone a “BFF” or describe a close friendship between men as a “bromance”.

The thing that strikes me about all of these kinds of love is that in our human view, they are conditional.  None of the terms above apply to our enemies….or to people we don’t know.  In fact, I don’t even think that all of us can claim to have a “storge” love toward all of our family members.

Fortunately for us, God loves us with a different kind of love.  He loves us with Agape love, the highest form of love there is.  There really isn’t a term for this kind of love in our modern language.  It is often described as “unconditional love”, but that doesn’t even begin to cover it.  Agape love is the love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13.  It is was is meant when scripture says that  God is love (1 John 4:8) — it is not a feeling, it is an essence.  Everything God does flows from this love.  God doesn’t love us because we are lovable.  He loves us because it is his very nature and character to do so.  This is the sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross.  It is the kind of love that we are called to.  It is a kind of love that I don’t think any of us are capable apart from Jesus.  It’s the kind of love I pray that God will grip my heart with.

nail at cross

via iStockPhoto

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
(1 John 3:16-18 ESV)

Annual cardiology appointment

Yesterday we had Jake’s annual cardiology appointment. It’s turned into a tradition to go on President’s Day since we all have the day off. I generally am in charge of doctor appointments but I don’t like to go to the cardiologist alone.

As usual, Dr. Hougen impresses the heck out of me. He is truly a wonderful doctor. He is unpretentious and has a wonderful bedside manner. He and Jake talk baseball every year and make predictions about the upcoming season.

Since Jake was 2, we’ve gotten the “see you in a year” speech. This year, things were different.

The EEG and the echocardiogram were “normal” for Jake. As with most Tetralogy of Fallot patients, he has leakage in his pulmonary valve. We’ve always been told that its possible he will have to have it replaced someday–and someday may be coming in the next several years. While there was nothing alarming in the echo, Dr. Hougen explained that he needs a cardiac MRI to really get the best look at the valve and the right ventricle. He said that they have really figured out that its really important to be pay attention to that right ventricle.

So, there’s nothing to be concerned about and certainly nothing is imminent. But it’s a reminder that even though Jake lives a normal healthy life, he has some big issues that he will always have to deal with.

It’s important to note that although Jake’s valve is leaky and there is a possibility of future surgeries, it doesn’t mean that his repair surgery wasn’t good. Quite the contrary actually. Dr. Hougen remarks every year that his repair was excellent.

I will say that I am very grateful that there is a generation of adults ahead of Jake who are living with Tetralogy of Fallot. They are paving the way for kids like Jake to live long, healthy lives.

I’ll update after the MRI.