The mouse-deer I want to be

The Malaysian mouse-deer.  Exquisite.  Frightened.  Almost unbelievably beautiful.

Mouse Deer Permission

From Simonandfinn.com

The mouse-deer reminds me of God’s goodness and who I am to be before God.

The delicacy of the bones, the fragility of the life, and humility in the expression of the creature draws my heart to remember God’s heart for me and who I can be in Him.

A metaphor for how I feel about the inner vulnerability of the heart.

The secret heart.  The part of my heart and your heart that, if it was exposed to anything but the tenderest touch, would gush raw blood.  The part that is not even possible or accessible to share with our closest family or friends, not even if we wanted.

Mouse Deer 2 Creative Commons

The mouse-deer in me.  The fragile dreams.  The realization that I am a short-living and easily humiliated creature.  The hidden, inner trembling because I know I am small and breakable.

The fearful hope the mouse-deer represents of exquisite, fragile beauty.

This is who I want to be before God.

I want God to see me as a little mouse-deer.  I want to show God every one of my straw-like bones, and I want to touch my tiny and fearful nose to His palm.  I want to take huge mouthfuls of the fruit He has laid out in baskets for me, very aware that, if this is a trick, I can never escape in time.  The faint, uncertain pitter-patter of my heart as I trust no trap awaits me and I taste the moments of my life He’s given me.

Mouse Deer 4 Creative Commons

Only God sees the mouse-deer within my heart.  Not even I can really view the vulnerability and beauty of myself before Him.  There is no mirror in the wilderness where He meets me.  But He sees me.  And that is enough.

I trust only Him to reveal the frailty and marvel of the new person that He has breathed to life within me.  I trust only Him to tenderly care for the secret me.

I trust only Him to see the mouse-deer within me.  I spend time either straining to see myself or fleeing from the vulnerability of myself during this delicate heart-working, this delicate heart-working of who I am in Him.

Mouse Deer 3 Creative Commons

As God knit me once in my mother’s womb, so He knits my dainty, exquisite, pride-less, beautiful inner being for His eternal Kingdom.

The clunkiness of sin, the weight of guilt, the carnivorous desires inside me all veil the deer-mouse I fear to become and yet desperately want to be.  But they none of them have power over God’s work within me.  No feature of who I used to be has the ability to mutate the new creation God is knitting every moment since my salvation.

Only God can see all the features within me that do not match what He wants my delicate heart to become and forgive me.  Anyone else would run in terror, jeer in amusement, or condemn in wrath.  Only God through His Son can lift the heaviness of the burden that I, in my sin nature, am the predator . . and only through His Son can He create in me the new birth of the exquisite.

Mouse Deer Creative Commons

.                         .                         .                         .                         .

The little deer-mouse longs to tiptoe on tiny hooves up to the Presence of God.  The weak-hearted, tiny deer-mouse aches to trust Him enough to approach the baskets of fruit He has for her.  Not to scarf them down with eyes wandering violently from side to side in search of predators, but to delight in every mouthful of fruit He has for her, fruit of many colors that represent the many moments left of her dwindling and fragile life.

The little deer-mouse fears to think what might happen tomorrow, when the jowls of an alligator snap shut on her or a net buried in the leaves cinches up around her or her feeble heart simply stops.  There is humility in knowing she has brought this on herself by her own sin; there is a reason she comes tail tucked and head bowed.

The little deer-mouse is afraid to think about eternity, or of a time when she must yield her failing heart to God in trust that He will give her the next heartbeat as soon as she crosses into eternity.  The trust of really believing He has already knit for her an eternity with Him; the faith to believe that He will keep her everlasting heart beating even as the ugly body of her old self . . who she was . . rots away with all the other forgotten corpses in the wilderness.

To the outsiders, her corpse will be just another expected occurrence in the inferior and easily forgotten life of wilderness living.  She must trust her Creator to remember her.  She must trust her Creator was really sincere when He promised her He was knitting a new self for her inside her old one.  She must trust that her Savior really did pay for every regret in the dead body . . that she really can leave it behind and become who God is longing for her to be . . who God has surprised her with becoming on the inside.

She must believe the invisible will become visible, the hidden secret of the knitting will become the reality of who she now will be.

Afraid of the humongous, humongous fruit basket that eternity represents . . braving both overwhelmingly fearful and overwhelmingly delighted glimpses at it . . peeping at the basket with bashful blinking eyes.

But the little-deer mouse still trots on shy hooves up to the Presence of God.  A God who is gaspingly huge and unnervingly fearsome and unimaginably powerful.  A God who the deer-mouse would find impossible to visit, was it not that this very God became the most exposed, the most vulnerable of all in His substitutionary death for her.

The deer-mouse is frightened, but the deer-mouse cowers up to the Presence of God.  The all-mighty hand of God rests on the tiny creature, and the deer-mouse begins to understand . . this is not the least-preferable way to come to God.  This is the only way for her to come to God.

_____________________________________

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves.We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:3-7, NLT)

_____________________________________

Photograph of Mouse Deer 1 by SimonandFinn.com, website allows permission to share with credit

Photograph of Mouse Deer 2 by Just Chaos (Jean), profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/7326810@N08/

Photograph of Mouse Deer 3 by Peter Gordon, profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/superwebdeveloper/  See MartialArtsNomad.com

Photograph of Mouse Deer 4 by Eden Pictures, profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/edenpictures/

Photograph of Mouse Deer 5 by Bjorn Christian Torrisen, http://bjornfree.com/galleries.html

Photographs 2-5 licensed under Creative Commons License.

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Spell check

Working with little children, one tool we use for writing is called a “word book”.  If they need a word spelled, they at times can raise their hand, and I’ll come by and write the word (they have to find the correct first letter and turn to that page in their word book).

One little girl raised her hand to ask how to spell “Oklahoma”.  I noticed she was on the A page, and turned to the O.  She immediately corrected me.  The following dialogue is an approximation of our very unfruitful conversation.  🙂

“I thought Oklahoma was spelled with an A,” she said.

“No, honey,” I said.  “It’s spelled with an O.”

“I saw Oklahoma on a sign when we were visiting,” she said.  “It’s spelled with an A.”

“No, honey,” I said.  “It’s spelled with an O.”

“I saw a sign where it was spelled with an A,” she insisted, because she was sure she was right, not trying to be stubborn.

“Even if you did see it on a sign,” I said, “the sign was wrong.  It’s spelled with an O.”

I’ve never had that kind of persistent argument writing a word in a word book before!  Most children just trust me, although there is a little surprise for words like awesome, hour, one, and knock.  I’m used to a chuckle as children discover the oddness of spelling some very common English words.

I’ve never been accused of intolerance for teaching children how to spell words correctly.  I’ve never even heard of a lawsuit that the spell check programs on computers are bias towards certain spellings over others!

Why?  Because we instinctively know, there is a correct way to spell a word.  I can’t spell Oklahoma any way I feel like it.  Somebody might understand what I’m saying if I spell the word incorrectly (elementary teachers become masters at reading poorly spelled words), but that doesn’t make the spelling right.  It means someone has kindly overlooked communication mistakes to try to understand the message.

God is very much this way with us.  He is very kind to invite us to come into a relationship with Him however we are.  A drunkard doesn’t have to wait to have graduated AA, and a junkie doesn’t have to have kicked his cocaine habit.  We don’t have to fix our issues with rage, lust, idolatry, gossiping, selfishness or any other sin that controls us.  We can come before God in the very moment we’re in, however He finds us, and He will receive us because He does so through the merit of His Son, not by our right standing with Him.

That part seems more easy for our culture to understand.  The next part is what has often been lost in our society.

Even though God allows us to communicate to Him despite our sin, and He receives us into relationship with Him by the surrogate of His Son, He doesn’t let us stay in our sins without movement.

I don’t want my second grade students to enter third grade spelling was as wus and went as wint and get as git and should as shud.  I don’t desire this for them, because I want them to be successful in school and in their careers.  If fifteen or so years from now they fill out a job application with common words misspelled, I know that a lot of places will be disinclined to hire them.  I also know they’ll be more likely to be hired at lower paying jobs where language skills aren’t needed.  I don’t want them to be limited by their inability to use the correct English language.

In something like the same way, God doesn’t desire for us to be wounded by sin for the rest of our lives.  He wants us to live correct (holy) lives.  His requirements and expectations might sound uncomfortable for us.  But we need to trust Him that He means them for our flourishing, not for destroying us.  We have all the evidence we need to believe in His good heart, not just through the beauty in the created world before we unleashed sin into it, but most of all through His Son, who He gave to us as the most unfathomable gift of extravagant love of all.

Some times I have children correct misspelled words that they need to start getting right.  If I don’t have them ever go back and fix their mistakes, many of them will naturally resist spelling correctly.  It’s much easier to go with their comfortable spellings.  I at times have children react with tears, frustration, unkind comments, or angrily-erased-and-torn paper when I expect them to go back and fix the basic words.

Because I am merciful, and I have an idea of where they are in their spelling, I don’t have them fix every word.  If we’re writing about porcupines and I’m working with a struggling student, I don’t have him go back and fix porcupines and quills and predators.  But I might have him fix words like because and should.

God doesn’t work with us on everything at once–and we need to remember this when we see something that personally annoys us about a brother or sister in Christ!

God does, however, consistently and persistently work on us.  He is not content to let us be anything less than perfect, because He is a good Father.  He continues to work on us in this life to get us ready for our lives in Heaven.  We call this sanctification sometimes.  It’s making us more holy (correct) like He is.

God is intolerant of sin.  As His children, He does expect us to learn the correct (holy) way to live.  He doesn’t leave us ignorant or in comfortable pockets of sin.  Resisting God’s work may bring very unpleasant results, as He is more willing to let us experience misery than to let us indulge in sin.

However, God is always gracious in how He deals with us and He never treats His children as we deserve.  I think it’s helpful to know and remember that, unlike earthly fathers, the only reason God will ever punish us as our Father is for the purpose of holiness (correctness).  He doesn’t punish us for personal satisfaction.

I am often reminded of what God desires for us when I look at the little children I teach.  Most often, their hearts are eager to learn.  Even when something doesn’t make sense to them–like why we spell ‘enuf’ as enough–they usually trust me.  And you know what?  At seven years of age, that makes things a whole lot simpler.  I can’t always explain to a seven year old how different languages impacted English, but I can help them learn to spell correctly, if they will simply remember what I write in their book.

Which of you is a wise and well-instructed man? Let him prove it by a right life with conduct guided by a wisely teachable spirit. (James 3:13, Weymouth NT)

Music

I want the melody of my heart to be for You, God. I want the moments of my life to be music notes for you.  I want my soul to be a stanza in the symphony of Your work, not another abrupt noise in the cacophony of Satan’s work. I want my life to be music You hear most and best, like a daughter playing her instrument in a room empty except for her father.

 

Published in: on June 26, 2013 at 10:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Location, location

Location matters every moment of our day and night.  If my car breaks down on the side of the road, I hope I’m on a well-lit city road and not a rural country drive!

If I’m hungry, I don’t go to the nearest library to pick up food.  And when I wake up in the morning, I expected to find myself in my bed rather than in a swamp swarming with alligators.

  • Location distinguishes where we are, and what could happen to us there.

An astronaut isn’t going to be attacked by a bear while visiting the moon.

An oil refiner isn’t going to die of heat stroke in Antarctica.

A whale isn’t going to swim in the desert.

A cake isn’t going to bake in the freezer.

A prisoner isn’t going to find a Ferris wheel in a maximum security prison.

Location matters.

When Jesus was here on earth, He talked about location.  He talked about the most important location of all:

where we will go when we die.

I don’t know about you, but I for one am very interested in where I go after I die.  I have no idea how long I’ll live on earth, or if I’ll even make it through today.  Rarely does anyone have the opportunity of advance notice on the date they’ll die.  Even if I have a great lifespan, and I live to be a hundred, hey, I’m already almost thirty.  That’s only seventy more years.  That’s not very much time.

I hear people talk about estate planning, but I’m not nearly so interested in who gets my house and stuff after I die as I am in planning for where my posthumous estate will be!

What I want to know is where I’m going.  Where’s my location going to be?

According to Jesus, there are only two places I could wind up:

Heaven or Hell.

Jesus gave us descriptions and word pictures of what both places are like.  And He made it clear that our souls will go to one place or the other, and there’s no in-between.

Jesus wanted us to know where we are going if we die without Him, and what we can expected when we get there.  If Jesus had just stopped there, His purpose would have been to cause us terror, grief, and fatalism.  But Jesus didn’t stop there.  He told us how we could avoid Hell.

People who think Jesus was mean to talk about Hell are not really thinking it through.  If Jesus had told us we were doomed for Hell and that was it, He still wouldn’t have been mean, because that is, sadly, what we deserve.  But this is not what Jesus did!  Jesus warned us about Hell so we would NOT have to go there!

The way we don’t go to Hell switches our focus from location to Person.  Although we deserve to be in Hell like a guilty criminal deserves to be in prison, Someone already took our place of punishment.  Jesus endured true Hell on earth so that we wouldn’t have to.

Since we are finite, we would have to pay the consequences for our infinite sin  in an infinite amount of time.  But here’s a cool fact: since Jesus is infinite, He was able to pay the consequences for our infinite sin in a finite amount of time.

Jesus takes our focus from location to Person.  The best part of Heaven isn’t our rescue from the location of Hell, but that our new location will be with the Person of Christ.  We will be with our Rescuer day and night, without end.

Location matters.  Eternally.  But the most important news isn’t about a location at all.  It’s about a Person!

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” (Revelation 21:3, NLT)

two choices

Always before me are two choices.

Two hands held cupped, each filled to the brim.

One brims over with desire, desire of the present.  The what I want now.  The other brims with hope, hope for the future.  The what I want for eternity.

One brims over with the instant; the other with the ‘not yet’.

One with the mortal existence; the other with the immortal ever-after.

The challenge before me every moment is strikingly similar to the choice of Eden: the forbidden now, or the everlasting life with God later.

Satan’s fall seems to have been pride.

Our fall?  Impatience.

Eve couldn’t wait to ask God if she should listen to the serpent.  She couldn’t wait one morning to consult God that afternoon when He came for His daily walk with Adam.  She wanted to taste the forbidden, and on impulse she did.

Ever since then, we are a people driven by impulse.

It is the temptation of the age.

Will I snatch up the instant gratification of a moment with sin . . or will I wait for the arrival of God’s Kingdom?

Will I succumb to the right-into-the-bloodstream high of sin . . or will I wait for the soul-coursing life of God?

Will I taste, right now, the bread of earth, or will I hold out for the bread of Heaven?

Two choices, held out.  Not held out that I may choose one and have an end to it, but held out that, every moment for all of my life, I may choose either the temporal or the everlasting.

Temporal or everlasting.  Temporal or everlasting.  Temporal or everlasting.  Like the secondhand on a clock, the choices held before my face are ever current.

It is the mighty temptation of our world, yes, but it is also the incredible gift of this age.  For every moment, every day, I have the choice to say,

Yes, Jesus, I love you more.

Yes, Jesus, You are worth waiting for.

Yes, Jesus, by Your power and Your grace, I can and I will give up the fleeting for the everlasting.

Reading the book of Daniel yesterday, I was awestruck by the reality of eternity with God.

Eternity with God.  That’s what I want.  That’s what this heart is seeking.

My safety in Christ, my learning of total trust in Him, is not a ticket in my pocket I’ll pull out when the time is right.

No.

My safety in Christ, my learning of total trust in Him, is the thrill of the moment that says,

Yes.  I want this moment to be for You, Jesus.  I want this moment to count for all eternity.  Give me more time, Father.  I want to enter Your Presence, I want to come into Your royalty, I want to kneel at Your throne, with more than at present I have to give You.  Let me collect more moments, Lord.  More moments of denying myself for You.

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Jesus, quoted in Mark 8:34b, NLT)

 I continued watching in the night visions,

and I saw One like a son of man
coming with the clouds of heaven.
He approached the Ancient of Days
and was escorted before Him.
He was given authority to rule,
and glory, and a kingdom;
so that those of every people,
nation, and language
should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that will not pass away,
and His kingdom is one
that will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14, HCSB)

Love Extravagant

Last Spring, Teej introduced me to a children’s book called Consider Love by Sandra Boynton. The part that sticks with me is “There’s love that’s shallow, love that’s deep, love extravagant, and love… well, cheap.” That last was accompanied by a picture of a gorilla offering his love an empty banana peel. But before that was an elephant holding an uprooted apple tree. This picture reminds me that I want to have a “love extravagant” not a “love, well, cheap.”

Teej has the gift of giving. I saw that the first time I met her when she had filled an entire suitcase with gifts for the little girl she was visiting. I’ve seen it many times since when she has bought gifts for me or others.

She is not only generous with material gifts, but also gifts of time and service. I’ve had a busy and tiring couple of weeks (don’t get me wrong, it’s been a wonderful time, but packed full). Last night was my first chance in a while to relax and get some work done on my computer. So what did my lovely fiancée do? She made me dinner. I thought that was generous. But she didn’t stop there. She served me, and continued serving me, a meal in four courses while I worked. That was extravagant.

If Teej gives generously, how much more generous are the gifts of God. If Teej loves me with a love extravagant, how much more extravagant is the love of God.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?” – Jesus, in Matthew 7:9-11

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory…” Ephesians 3:17-21

When God created man and woman in the garden, that was generous. When they rebelled and He chose not to destroy them immediately, that was extravagant.

When Jesus came to Earth to teach us how to live, that was generous. When He bore the penalty our crimes deserved, that was extravagant.

When the Shepherd saves His sheep from Hell, that is generous. When He ushers them into Heaven, that is extravagant.

When the Spirit sanctifies us and teaches us how to live a life pleasing to Him, that’s generous. When He showers us with gifts in this life, that is extravagant.

When I was first seeking God, part of my prayer was that I would make a friend at church. That would’ve been generous. I’ve lost count of the friends I’ve met there. That’s extravagant.

When I went to Guatemala last summer, I asked that God would change my outlook through the experience. That would’ve been generous. He introduced me to Teej. That was extravagant.

Many times, I asked God to send me someone who would share my dreams and support me as I tried to achieve them. That would’ve been generous. But through Teej, He showed my that my dreams were small and there are much better things to reach for. That was extravagant.

So many times I have asked God for something I thought I wanted, and been disappointed when I didn’t get it. But what He has given is always far, far better than what I think I want.

God’s love is truly a love extravagant.

Jenga

If I stage this right, I can make it look like the blocks fell on Ben’s turn and not on mine . .
Jenga Ben 7

Jenga 3 Do you ever feel like life is toppling down around you like a game of Jenga? Sometimes, I certainly feel like the tower’s wobbling. I’ve even had the “big lollapalooza crash” before. Uh, more than once.

There’s this stereotype out there that Christians pretend this doesn’t happen to them, or that they’ve got it all together . . hey, no way. To be a Christian is to identify yourself as a toppled-over mess in need of Christ! When my tower falls down (and it still does), or when it’s tilting precariously . . I get scared, too. And when the pieces of my life tumble to the ground . . I’m disappointed and angry, too.

I don’t have a magic wand that stacks the pieces back up perfectly, or a faith that never trembles. But what I do have is a God who sees, and loves me anyway. It’s really cool and very unexpected, but who does the Angel of the LORD appear first to in the Old Testament?

Abraham? Nope.

Hagar. Hagar, a slave who in that time was pretty much seen as worthless.

To make matters worse, she was a runaway slave. To make matters even worse, she was pregnant and in the desert.

Where was she going to go? What was she going to do? Her tower had gone KAPLASH right on the ground.

And who should show up but the Angel of the LORD? He spoke to her, and revealed that God knew her and had a plan for her baby. He promised her countless descendents.

Now, there were a lot of ‘important people’ God could have sent the Angel of the LORD to. But He sent His Angel to a ‘nobody’ in the middle of a desert.

That’s just like God, isn’t it? He cares about our toppled towers, even if we’re ‘nobodies’. He notices when our support is trembling, and He sees when we can’t hold the pieces of our lives together anymore.

And there’s more. God doesn’t just watch; He acts. He moves in to pick up our pieces and restore our souls. This is the movement of Jesus Christ. His life, piece by piece, is the perfect Tower. He built Himself as the one solidly righteous, the one without the slightest quiver of sin.

Yet, He let sin topple His life–OUR sin. Why? Because He didn’t want Hell to do that for you and me. He didn’t want the consequences of our bad choices to demolish us. He didn’t want us to end our life in shambles.

Whenever my tower shakes, or the pieces fall splatter helter-skelter all over the place, I see a) my frailty, b) my sin, c) the devastating state of the world after sin, and d) hope of restoration through Jesus Christ.

I know that, as God saw this ‘insignificant’ slave woman who otherwise would have been erased from the memory of history . . God sees me. And as God intervened through the Angel of the LORD to give hope to Hagar, God intervened through Jesus Christ to give eternal hope to the world.

Today, right now, and this century, my tower still trembles. My tower still shakes. And my tower still falls. But one day, in eternity, I will be perfectly set upright, NOT because I pulled it altogether in this life, but because I am built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

I did nothing to earn it, and nothing to work for it . . but my soul rests on ROCK. The chaos of this life and my struggle through it will cause temporary crashes, but my eternity is locked in Jesus Christ.

Do you know Him? Or is your eternity still looking like a mess?

Jenga Ben 1

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

Housebuilders

In Jesus’ parable about two housebuilders, one man discovered that his life mattered . . and the other man discovered that his life didn’t.  One man found his faith solid in the worst time of trial he’d faced.  The other man found his faith eroded in the same trial.

One man had his faith in the real save.  The other man had his faith in the false save.

Here’s how it went down:

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great! ”(Matthew 7:24-27, HCSB)

There is no man in this parable who didn’t hear the words of Jesus.

The two men in the parable heard the same message from Christ.

They had the same opportunity for salvation.

They both made decisions.

And then they both continued on with life.

But this is where their commonality ends.

__________________________________________________________

Since the one man—we’ll call him Bill–made a decision to follow Christ, his entire life’s work changed.  He moved land plots.  Rather than building a house in the ever-popular neighborhoods of Career Cul-de-Sac, Rebel Road, Acheivement Alley, Lust Lane, Popularity Park, Family Farm Road, Amusement Avenue, Indulgence Isle, Materialistic Mile, or any of the other popular real estate plots, he picked up and left all these places for the Rock of Christ.  It wasn’t a very popular place, and he wasn’t sure his family would join him, or that his friends would ever pay him another visit, but he moved there anyway.  He was sure about where he needed to build.  He’d listened to the words of Christ and he believed.

In the meantime, since the other man—we’ll call him Joe–made a decision to passively listen to the words of Christ, maybe even respect Christ and feel sentimental about the preaching he’d heard, but not really let the message penetrate him, he didn’t move from where he was already building.  After all, he had a lot of time and resources tied up in that house.  He didn’t understand why Bill had abandoned his prime real estate.  It looked like a lot of wasted effort and inefficient use of resources to Joe.  And besides, hadn’t the real estate agent promised that the property would triple, even quadruple in value in the next fifty years?

Joe did what everybody said was the smart thing.  He stayed steady and true to the home he was already building.  His children loved him, his wife adored him, and he had cookouts every weekend.

Bill did what everybody said was the stupid thing.  The halfway built house he’d started before his new life in Christ crumbled over time.  The foundation cracked, and spiders and snakes and foxes lived among the ruins.  Bill’s wife had left him to start a house on prime real estate property with somebody else.  He got to see his children every other weekend.  Most of his old friends never answered the phone when his name came up on the caller id, and nobody ever came to his house for a cookout.

Bill only had a few neighbors, and they were all broke like him, buying strange building supplies that nobody else used and following building plans that none of the engineers in town understood.  The Rock of Christ seemed like a lonely place, and the real estate agent had warned everyone who built there that it would never go up in value and was worthless.  Some did wonder if the agent said this just because there was no money to be made on the property–it was free to Bill and anyone else who built there.  Others never stopped to think about it, and made fun of Bill whenever they saw him out and about.

Then one day, fifty years to the date the two men had heard the teaching of Christ, something happened.  Something neither man was expecting.

They both died.

Bill was driving home from work when he got in a car accident.  Nobody was too clear on the details, just that a young driver had accidentally hit him head-on.  He died instantly, the paramedics said.

Joe, on the very same day, had a heart attack.  Nobody even knew he had heart trouble, although the doctor had warned him about high cholesterol.  Although he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, the damage was just too massive.

Both men’s funerals were on the same day.

Bill’s friends from the district of the Rock of Christ came.  His children were there–one even decided to build his own home in the same neighborhood where his father had lived.  Even though it was well-attended, there was only a small service since Bill never had much money and his friends didn’t have much to donate.

Joe had a bunch of coworkers come to his funeral.  He’d been really successful at work, and he had a lot of acquaintances who showed up out of respect.  His family was there, and there was a beautiful ceremony.  Everyone said it was very professionally done.  There was even a few police officers to direct traffic when the service was over.

Twenty years went by, and not many friends were left who had known Bill or Joe.  Their children remembered them, of course, and their spouses (or in Bill’s case, ex-spouse).

Another fifty years went by, and a few of Bill’s descendents took an interest in ancestry.  They did some research on the internet and found out his name, but they didn’t really know anything about him.  One of Joe’s great-great-great-great grandchildren did a family tree project.  She found Joe’s name in an old photo album and included it on the tree.

Even though Bill and Joe had faded away from the history of the town, there was a memorial to each of them.  No, it wasn’t their gravestones.  Bill never afforded one and Joe’s gravestone, though it was a mighty monument, only got flowers on Memorial Day when the dutiful boy scouts came by.

Yet, there was something of theirs that had remained in town.  Something the townspeople passed by every day.  Though they didn’t know who the houses belonged to, there wasn’t a person in town who hadn’t walked or driven to at least one of their houses.

Bill’s house–well, it wasn’t known as Bill’s house anymore.  Currently, it was Jim and Kate’s house–they’d moved in with their four kids after elderly Mr. and Mrs. Rogue had died.  Before that there’d been newlyweds Paul and Christine, and, let’s see, before that there was Jamar and the backyard club he’d started.  It’s hard to really remember everybody who, when they decided to build on the Rock of Christ, build an addition onto Bill’s house.  Of course, they didn’t know whose house it was, but, over the years, the small house had become one of the marvels of the neighborhood.

I think it was Harriet, who’d first owned the house after Bill had died (she was Bill’s daughter, and she’d come to Christ at her father’s funeral) , who’d expanded the kitchen.  It was her husband, Peter, who re-shingled the roof.  Their children, Tom and Larry, mowed the grass every week until they went off to college.  When Harriet and Peter died, Tom moved in with his wife April, and they’re the ones who cultivated the garden out back.  They didn’t have any children, but a boy they’d mentored–that was Azad, I think, built the sun room on when he moved in.

Over the years, families kept building onto that house.  The kitchen was updated, the living room refurnished, the walls repainted, the fireplace converted from wood-burning to electric when that was the phase, and then back to wood-burning when it came back in–but the foundation was never touched.  Extra rooms were built on–including that extra big living room Jamar added for the college kids to have their Bible study.  Mr. and Mrs. Rogue took out the skee-ball machine and sold most of the board games at a garage sale, and they added carpet and paintings of flowers and turned the room into a Bible study for widowed women.

Yes, the house went through change after change as each new generation added something to Bill’s home, but there was one thing no one ever, never once, had to change.  That was the foundation.  Even hundreds of years later, the house stayed as strong as it had been the day it was built.  Whenever any of the kids or younger couples in the neighborhood worry about termites or earthquakes or wildfires or, worst of all, the bad flooding that came through the valley every now and again, the older residents will reassure them they have nothing to worry about.  It is, after all, the Rock of Christ.

People are influenced by Joe’s building, too, but not in the same way.  The year after Joe died, there was a terrible flood, and the house completely collapsed.  No one in the neighborhood said they’d ever seen anything like it.  The real estate agent apologized, but said the other houses were better built than Joe’s had been.

But Joe’s house–or, really, the lack thereof–is still effecting people.  People scavenged his demolished house for a while.  He’d been a rich man, and he had lots of nice nicknacks.  But since they’d gotten soaked in the flood, only vagrants ever took off with them.

Kids used to walk through the ruins as a shortcut on their way to school.  The ground eroded so many times, it became terribly unsafe.  Nobody seemed to notice until a first-grader fell into a surprise sinkhole.  If his brother hadn’t gotten ahold of his arm in time, it would have been too late.  Since then, there’s barbed wire around the old place.  That hasn’t stopped ne’er-do-wells from dumping their trash there, of course.  I’ve heard all manner of unsavory animals live their now.  The city council was trying to figure out what to do with the old lot until the wildfire came through and left a mass of charcoal and scrap metal in its path.  Now the council’s voting on what to do with the scrap metal.  And I think they’re planning to put a concrete wall up, to keep children out.

__________________________________________________________

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great! ”(Matthew 7:24-27, HCSB)

Overrated, Underrated

Lust is overrated.

Joy is underrated.

Financial stability is overrated.

Peace is underrated.

Rights are overrated.

Sacrifice is underrated.

Feelings are overrated.

Loyalty is underrated.

Entertainment is overrated.

Goodness is underrated.

Popularity is overrated.

Humility is underrated.

Image is overrated.

Truth is underrated.

Stuff is overrated.

Souls are underrated.

Selfishness is overrated.

Thoughtfulness is underrated.

Greed is overrated.

Generosity is underrated.

Happiness is overrated.

Freedom is underrated.

Individuality is overrated.

Value is underrated.

Boasting is overrated.

Redemption is underrated.

Revenge is overrated.

Forgiveness is underrated.

Impulsivity is overrated.

Thoughtfulness is underrated.

Excuses are overrated.

Restitution is underrated.

Coveting is overrated.

Thankfulness is underrated.

Believers, can you think of more to add?  Add them in the “comment” box.  🙂

Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ.  For in Christ the fullness of God lives in a human body,  and you are complete through your union with Christ. He is the Lord over every ruler and authority in the universe. (Colossians 2:8-10, NLT)

And he wasn’t no fun after that.

I was either a teen or not far off from becoming one when I read a book that was something like a modern retelling of Brer Rabbit, only the main character was a human boy who delighted in tricking family, friends, classmates, and teachers.  He did atrocious things and figured out ways to do them always with a loophole so that he wouldn’t get punished.  He exacted revenge on those he didn’t like, outsmarted adults, and even figured out a way to con poor children out of what little money they had.

He was set up to be the villainous hero of the book.  His younger brother, who narrated the story, clearly had tremendous admiration for him and his schemes.  Suddenly, the book ended in an abrupt way, and the ending seemed to come out of nowhere.  The gist, told from the younger brother’s perspective, went something like this:

–He was a genius schemer and I guess he would of stayed that way, and the fun we had would of never ended, but that summer he went away to Christian camp, and he became a Christian.  He came home all changed.  He didn’t trick people no more and he started bein’ nice to everybody and he wasn’t no fun after that.–

The sudden ending couldn’t have been more than a page long, and I doubt it was that.  The whole book had been about the brilliant sins of boy who could get away with just about anything, and the ending was set up to be both anti-climatic and a clear poke at Christianity.  Tongue-in-cheek, the message was, Have all your fun now; become a Christian later.

As irreverent as this book intended to be, I do have to give the author something: he did understand that genuine faith in Christ changes everything.  And the author didn’t actually do a bad job of describing what a new walk with Christ looks like, from the outside.

The perspective, written from the little brother’s vantage point, isn’t inaccurate for how a nonbeliever often views the conversion experience of a friend or family member.

But the message is like the flute of a pied piper, and the worst part is, its stanzas are written for children.  I don’t know if the author of this book came to know Christ or not, but if not, he will be eternally responsible for the leading away from never-ending joy found within the melody of his book.

His idea wasn’t original.  The concept that Christians don’t have fun didn’t spring from his book.  For hundreds of years, Christians have been accused of not having fun.

From the unbeliever’s viewpoint, the list of don’ts and do’s is often seen as worse than eternity in Hell: no sex outside of marriage, no revenge, no bouts of rage, making restitution when possible, denying the porn and gambling industry its profits, dressing modestly, no gossiping, giving sacrificially to the poor, refusing to use or participate in the use of God’s name slanderously, treating others kindly even when wronged, etc.

So is it true?  Do Christians not have fun?

I think it is true of a Christian who is whole-heartedly following Christ, but there’s something here that non-Christians don’t (and can’t) understand.  This is that, when we strip our lives of sin-nature fun, we are able to wear the joy of the LORD.

In Nehemiah’s day, God’s people were really struggling.  Nearly all of them had been killed or exiled because of their idolatry.  God graciously reveals His Law once more.  The people are heartbroken when they learn how gravely they have broken their covenant with Him.  They want to give up their idolatry (sin-nature fun).  What is God’s answer?  That they will never have “fun” again?  Instead, listen to what God reveals through Nehemiah.

“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV)

Sin-nature fun and the joy of the LORD don’t go together.  You can’t have both at the same time.  What’s more, you cannot even choose to have the joy of the LORD.  It’s a gift, a free gift, given only by God to His followers (to genuine believers).  No one could order God to give us joy, but He chose to of His own accord.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.   (Luke 2:10b-12, NIV)

 

As He sent angels to announce the birth of Jesus, and joy was poured out on all who believed the news, so He sends His Word to announce total forgiveness and grace through the sacrifice of Jesus, and joy is poured out on all who believe today.

If you aren’t willing to lay down your sin-nature fun to follow Jesus, you will not be able to receive the unspeakable joy He has to give you.

Is it fun to be a huckster?  Sure, in a sense.  Do you have the joy of the LORD as a huckster? No.

Is it fun to get revenge?  In a way, it’s fun.  If it wasn’t people probably wouldn’t do it.  But do you have the joy of the LORD when you get revenge for yourself?  Definitely not.

Is it fun to outsmart everyone around you?  For a time.  Do you have the joy of the LORD in your self-made so-called brilliance?  Not a chance.

Is it fun to be admired for your villainy?  From the vantage point of our sin nature, absolutely.  We got that trait from Satan, who seeks very hard to be admired for his.  Will you have God’s everlasting joy if the world admires (or even worships) you for your evil?  No.

Is the joy of the LORD worth giving up fun to have?  You can only know that for sure if you trust in Him and find out.  But the resounding answer from the testimony of believers around the world is yes.  Giving up fun to receive joy is like giving up gruel to receive a seven-course banquet.  Although, from the perspective of the sinner, it seems like a terrifying and costly loss, from the perspective of the redeemed, it is a delightful and astonishing bargain.

I remember a college student giving her testimony of how Christ had been working in her life.  She held out a strand of plastic pink pearls.  She explained that, as a child, she had been devoted to these beads.  She had clung to them and couldn’t imagine anything better than them.  They were like the sin in her life, the lesser dreams she had for who she could be.

When she became a believer, she at last surrendered her plastic pearls from her fisted hand.  What she had discovered–what every believer discovers when he or she does this–is that God gave her, in place of those worth-a-penny plastic wanna-bes, a beautiful, exquisite, irreplaceable pearl necklace in its place.  That is, the joy of the LORD.

An author can misrepresent and lampoon Christianity in fiction.  But the Author wrote our faith through His blood, and no make-believe can ever mar the reality of the new Life He gives us.

Is Christianity fun?

No.  Christianity is joy.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NIV)