Thursday, July 28, 2011

Learning new questions to ask.

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted this quote on his blog:

“To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell” (Thomas Merton in No Man is an Island).
Ouch! I have to admit, I hang out on that doorstep way too often. When I meet a new person, when someone proposes a new idea, when the temperature stays above 100 degrees for far too many days in a row, my natural response is to contemplate only how I am affected. The questions that normally run through my head focus on . . . well . . . me:

     What is this going to cost me?

          How much of my time is this wasting?

               What is this keeping me from doing that I want to be doing?

How different such thoughts are from the way of Christ who considered people and situations only in light of his mission of reconciliation. Paul, contemplating Christ’s willingness to pay any price for us, writes, “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” (1 Cor 5:15-16). That is, we view no one (and we might add, no situation) solely in the light of their effect upon us. We no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ. He is to be the filter through which we view the people and the circumstances in our lives.

To live this way, we need new questions as we approach each new circumstance in our lives:

     How can I live for Christ in this situation?

          How might God be redeeming this moment for his glory?

               How does God view the person in front of me? How then should I?

If you’ve lived on the doorstep of self-absorption as long as I have, it’s difficult to imagine another way of living. But it is possible to change. Not on our own, granted, but God is at work in us. The Bible promises: “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (1 Cor 5:17-18).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On birthdays...both biological and spiritual

Tomorrow, my daughter, Sophie, will turn seven years old. Five years ago to the day, Alyson, Sophie, and I stood before our current church in view of a call (That's the Baptist version of an interview Sunday).  My son, John Curtis was on the way but had not yet arrived. Day to day, you don’t notice your children growing, but growing they are. How different Sophie is today than the little toddler she was just five years ago. Then, she needed her mom and me for almost everything. Today, she still needs us, but she also has her own interest, her own books, and her own opinions. She is also, Lord willing, developing her own faith.

It was twenty-six Julys ago that I gave my young heart to the Lord as a seven-year-old boy. I don’t remember much about that day. I couldn’t tell you what the sermon was about or what the weather was like. I do remember singing the treasured hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” I also remember vividly the experience of being awakened to God’s presence for the very first time. No doubt, God had been with me since he knit me together in my mother’s womb, but on that Sunday, for the first time, I became aware that he was there. The God of my biological parents, the God of my spiritual forefathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, became the God of Taylor Sandlin.

Since that day, I have not always been as aware of the Lord’s presence as I was in that moment. Every now and then I get a glimpse of his workings, but mostly, I have to trust that like a seed in the ground or yeast in the dough, his kingdom is at work in me even if that work is difficult to discern. Jesus encourages us, that’s just the way of the kingdom. It’s small, hidden, at times, irrelevant to the world, but it’s accomplishing its purposes in you and me and all who believe, nonetheless. Someday, at the Father’s choosing, the seeds of the gospel that have taken root in this world will bear much fruit. On that day, we’ll no doubt be surprised at how much we each have grown.

And what shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough – Luke 13:20-21