Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Plain Sight

I often tell people that there's a part of the absent minded professor in me. A lot of times, people don't believe this because I'm super organized and quite the planner. However, I think somewhere along the way I learned these abilities as a coping skill. Left to my own devices, the remote control ends up in the refrigerator, the car keys are stored in a baseball cap, and I have a hard time seeing what's right in front of me.

It's the latter phenomenon that's recently reminded me of how oblivious we can be to God. The situation was an inconsequential event; I looked into my shower like I do every day and for some reason noticed the useless, empty container for my razor. Now the container had been there for months, quite possibly years, and I don't ever remember a time when I used it for its intended purpose. From what I can recall from the original promotional packaging, it was designed to hold the razor and extra blades. Instead of fulfilling its function, it was a useless bathroom accessory - a part of my daily routine and yet without impact or utility.

As I threw the neglected container away I realize that my blinders are not limited to the accoutrement of my shower. Just like I saw that container every day, I am daily reminded of the work that God is doing, and how I should be participating in it. There are opportunities to show people grace that I abandon. There are sins that entangle me that I ignore. There are needs I turn away from even though they plainly confront me. I neglect the work of God, not because its out of sight, but because I don't perceive that I too have a function to fulfill. When I choose not to participate, I'm as useless as that forgotten container.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus said about his audience, "they will be ever seeing but not perceiving." (Matthew 13:14). This was His explanation for why He spoke in parables, for if He spoke plainly, then His audience would be accountable accordingly; in His grace, knowing that they would forsake even the plainly presented truth, He chose to veil His meaning (In his book, Faith & Life, B.B. Warfield discusses this extensively in the chapter called "Light & Shining"). While this is dreadful enough, I fear that many time Christ's revelation is plain, and yet we're just as blind. Blind caused by our willfulness ignorance not for a lack of ability to see. Similarly, the container was there and I'm sure my eyes gazed over it, yet I did not perceive it. In the same way, God gives us the opportunity to be used by Him and we stand idly by, useless.

May our sight, and our perception increase ever more so that we do not throw away opportunities to serve His purpose.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sight Unseen

When faced with difficult situations, its not uncommon for us to utter words that we know are untrue but that bring us comfort. For example, the parent tells the child that their dog didn't die, but that it is enjoying a scenic farm community. Or the coach tells the team that is brutally behind in points that they can come back and win the game. We say these things without thinking of their falseness. Our intention to bring comfort overrides are commitment to utter truth.

The same is true when our life gets tough. In Christian circles, we frequently comfort ourselves or others with the words "someday we'll understand and see why God is allowing this trial." We want to believe that we will understand why we are being challenged and stretched. Now, in the strictest sense this is true for Scripture teaches us that "then [we] will fully know" (I Corinthians 13:12) and in the light of God's glory the insignificance of our earthly trials will be demonstrably revealed. However, many times, what we mean is that we will be able to look back while on this Earth and see what God accomplished through our difficult situations. I am convinced that sometimes this is untrue. Sometimes, we go through life and do not see the the specific good that God accomplished through it. In the same vein, we often don't see the full fruits of our Christly actions either. Our commitment to persevere through a trial (James 1:12) and to follow Christ's commands (John 14:15) must not be contingent on whether we see how Christ is glorified through them. His ways are "higher than our ways" and there are times that we just might not understand.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) recently posted on Twitter - "The man God used to call me from pre-med to gospel ministry never knew it. Don't judge your life by known effects." Neither should we judge our trials by the good that we see come out of them. Instead, our we must trust that God "works all things for the good of those that love Him and have been called accordingly to His purpose" (Romans 8:28) even if the mystery of His specific purposes remain sight unseen.


Be Careful Little Fingers What You Type

As a professor, I often try to impart life lessons, as well as subject-specific lessons, to my students. Many times, I think these are the most important parts of my job. It's not uncommon for me to have a "side bar" conversation that has nothing to do with marketing or management, but that I believe will make my students better employees in their future.

One topic of conversation has been an encouragement to monitor what students write (and let others write and post about them) on social networks. This is usually brought to mind when a student will send me a "friend request" and while I am happily their friend, I am concerned with what they allow to be available to the world regarding who they are. I remind them that potential employers know how to "google" someone too, and that they want to make sure that their personal "brand" online is concurrent with what they hope to project. If they don't want potential employees to think of themselves as irresponsible partyers, its probably a good idea to remove those pictures that convey this. While it's commonly accepted that the Internet lowers people's inhibitions because there is the perception of anonymity, this facade is quickly shattered when people experience the very real damage that can come from a mismanaged online reputation.

Just like its important for my students to be aware of how they projecting themselves on the Internet, I think its critical that Christians do the same. The same perceived, but false, barriers that causes people to post picture of themselves partying online, often prompts Christians to unthinkingly engage in conversations about their Savior. Many times, I have seen a young person post something about their faith, receive a vicious reply back, and they reply with the same type of venom. Now, its true that they don't deserve the harsh response, but it's also just as true that they will probably win no one to Christ with words that don't reflect Him. This isn't to say that we should compromise the truths that Christ teach, (of course we should not!) but it does mean that when we engage in a discussion about the Ruler of the universe, we should do so in a way that reflects His grace and love, as well as His innate justice and truth.

It's also important to remember that Christ's most gentle words were reserved for nonbelievers. Again, not that He watered down His message for them, He was steadfast in His assertion that He was the only Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6) However, His most scathing words were reserved for the religious leaders who professed to portray Him and did anything but (See Matt. 3:7). Contrast the love poured out on the woman at the well (John 4:1-26), with the table-turning in the temple courts (Matt 21:12-17). To those who did not believe, He demonstrated His majesty through His grace. To those who had the truth, and acted with disregard to it, He exhibited His majesty through justice. Both were consistent with Who He is, but the anger was reserved for those who professed to know Him and yet through their actions disparaged His name.

In summary, to take off from the old Sunday School song "Be careful little fingers what you type" because the audience that you need to be concerned about is not a potential employer, but the "Father up above [who] is looking down with love." It's important that our responses to nonbelievers are as "shrewed as snakes, but as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16) Make sure your words - whether spoken, acted upon, or submitted electronically, reflect Him.


Better Things Ahead: July 2009

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