25 June 2007

What a Royal Waste!

Here's a devotional I got in an email. I thought this was worth sharing.

As the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus, a woman entered the room where he reclined at the table for dinner, broke a jar of costly ointment, and poured it on his head - a gesture recognized in that culture as conveying great honor and respect. The disciples were dismayed, perceiving this to be a waste when there was so much need around them. The ointment could have been sold and the money used to feed the poor. Jesus responded by demanding that they straighten out their priorities: "Why do you trouble this woman? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me" (Mt 26:10-11).

This rebuke to the disciples seems unfair, especially since it immediately follows Jesus' teaching that those who will inherit the kingdom prepared for them will be those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the prisoner (Mt 25:31-45). He had just said that serving needs is the way disciples show their care for him: "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me" (Mt 25:45). Aren't the disciples responding appropriately to the woman's wastefulness in the face of all the need around them? Wouldn't a follower of Jesus be expected to use such a resource to care for the needs of others?

Jesus' teaching about the costly ointment points us again to why we serve. We serve not just because the need is there, but because we love Jesus and want to communicate that love. Our service is to be motivated by our love of Christ, not just by the needs of our communities. The disciples had missed the point. They could serve Jesus directly as a sign of their ultimate loyalty and love. Later, they would serve the poor and the powerless as SIGNS OF THEIR COMMITMENT TO CHRIST. We serve through ministry with those who represent him in our midst - hurting and oppressed people. We are driven to serve by our mission, not simply by their needs. If we start with a focus on the need, then like the disciples, we will miss the point. If we serve only because the need is there, we will become discouraged and burn out, because the needs are so extensive. There will ALWAYS be family violence and divorce and inadequate parenting in this world; no mattter how hard and effectively we work, we will not make it all go away. We must stay connected to the source of our service, the vine of which we are branches (Jn 15:1-11). We serve because we love Jesus, and if we stay connected to that loving relationship, then we will not be overwhelmed by the enormous needs around us.

Jesus' description of himself as the vine, God as the vine-grower, and us as branches captures what happens if we forget that we are merely branches of Christ, expressions of Christ's love. We must "abide in the vine," otherwise we cannot bear fruit. When we lose focus on our connection to Christ and our service as expressions of that connection, we become disconnected: "Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned" (Jn 15:6). What a picture of burnout!

24 June 2007

The Greatest Fool

I just had some thoughts only a moment ago that might be worth sharing. I noticed a pattern in my life. When, say my wife, isn't putting her full confidence in, say my health expertise, I get hurt or angry or depressed. Or it might happen while driving. She says, "Where are you going? This is the long way." Then I say, "Trust me," or "Why don't you just trust me?" trying to coerce my wife to admit that I am right about my road judgments. It is difficult for me to entrust myself to others, yet I cannot accept it when they do not entrust themselves to my judgment or control. It seems foolish to trust someone else's judgment over my own. It seems irresponsible to entrust myself to the criticism and possible ridicule of others.

"A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others." (Mark 12; cf Matthew 21; Luke 20)

Is God the greatest fool? I don't comprehend how or why God's son took on flesh. God entrusted himself to untrustworthy human beings. The world that should have cried out in worship to him tore him apart and killed him. How backward I am! When God would trust the untrustable, I would demand that other untrustables trust me.

The end of the matter for me is that I can't trust myself. I must die to myself. I GET to die to myself. It's better off for me this way. It's better off for the world this way. I'm going to try to put this into practice this week, but I have a feeling it will be a constant battle with me trying to make others trust my judgment and advice rather than entrusting myself to them. I assume that God is pleased when I try to learn from and imitate him in this respect. If I am wrong in this assumption, please try to stop me. ;-)

21 June 2007

Trillion Dollar Health Scandal

Drug Plan Fiasco vs. God

After you read my comments, click on the title above ("Trillion Dollar Health Scandal") to read a brief summary and/or watch a 15-minute excerpt from 60 Minutes. I take the news piece as yet another sign that God will expose the powers of this dark world for what they are. I rest confident knowing that all creation looks forward not only to this exposing of drug lords, but also to the revelation of the children of God. I get a little excited when I see the foreshadowing of rulers and authorities getting their just desserts. What do you think? Anyway, that's why I liked watching the news piece via Dr. Mercola. By the way this is a portion of a quote from the 60 Minutes presentation: " . . . it has been one example of the incestuous relationship between Congress and the [Pharmaceutical] Industry . . ."

What is the point of sharing this information?

1. It's true. Truth is a valuable commodity for life.
2. Knowing about these kinds of evils in high places may encourage us to turn to God and trust the wisdom that comes from him.
3. Many people are enslaved by prescription and non-prescription drugs; at least they might be encouraged when they see the illegitimacy of their cruel master.
4. Accept your health and fitness as a gift from God and, ultimately, your responsibility--not your doctors or your drugs. Eat fresh! Exercise! Go, and trust pharmaceutical products no more!

Please note: Getting off addictions is tricky. Some people will die if they suddenly stop taking medications that they've been taking for years. Consider carefully how you can get off drugs and if it is possible for you. It's certainly easier to avoid drugs than to stop taking them. I don't know how people can stop, but there are lots of doctors (believe it or not) who know how. For example, my second cousin's grandson was having seizures from birth to about age five. The parents found "the right doctor" finally, who slowly removed the drugs and put the child on a strict, but fun, diet. The child hasn't had a seizure since and his brain has recovered remarkably. That is testimony to the power of God and goodness of the creation that he made!

One day I may take some kind of pharm product. I might be in desperation for comfort without the patience to endure. I may want to live longer (even if in slavery) so I'll take something to keep me hanging on. Still, I will hope in God's new creation that beats the hell out of the effects (and side effects) of drugs. And I will laugh when the rulers of this dark world fall.

04 June 2007

Memphis Workcamp

Above is a picture from last year's Memphis Workcamp. This is what Nicole and I will be up to this week. We'll be driving a big white van pulling a trailer with ladders, paint, and other supplies. Tonight there'll be dinner, orientation, and a praise service. Then, Nicole and I will spend the night with her friend (and mine, too), Kari Neiman closer to the meeting place for the kids we'll be driving to the supply tent everyday. This is the 19th annual Memphis workcamp. Last year, the 500th house was scraped and painted. We don't know yet our house or our work crew, but we'll learn of both tonight. I'm a little nervous even though this is my third year. I'm not nervous about the neighborhood, just about leading/serving a crew. They are the best of the best, volunteering like $60 not to mention free and cheerful labor. Keep us in your prayers.

Also, please pray for your neighbor whom we just met Saturday evening. Her nickname is "Pooky". She's an older woman and has a lot of cancer. She's taking 9 pills a day. Some of them are anti-depressents. She doesn't seem to like being treated like she is mentally ill (they put her in a mental hospital at one point because she considered not taking the chemotherapy anymore). Personally, I would consider giving up on the chemotherapy as well if it made me feel that bad (which the anti-depressent doesn't change). I think if I am feeling excruciating pain, it's only right to count the cost of dying. Anyway, Pooky really encouraged us and appreciates our prayers. It's good to make new friends.

Anyway, have a good week. :-)