“Love your neighbor, unless he’s Syrian. Then, by all means keep him off your lawn.” - Luke 10:29
Things the Bible does not say.
I am a pipe smoker. I have shared that before, but it’s an important detail for the rest of this.
I am a pipe smoker, and as such, I have often fiddled with my existing pipes. If you don’t smoke a pipe, you probably don’t know that a slightly larger hole in the shank of the pipe makes for a much better pipe-smoking experience (in my, and other’s, opinion). In fiddling with reshaping and re-drilling, I found out about the world of pipe making and relatively early on I became interested in the idea of one day having a lathe to make pipes of my own.
Now, as you know if you read this blog, I spent most of the last decade in China with my four children in apartments barely big enough to hold my pipes. Actually, the apartments were too small for my pipes, but my wife was insanely accommodating and allowed me to store pipes at home despite the small-ness of our apartments. The idea of ever keeping a lathe in our apartment, however (no garage, often on the 6th floor or higher), was pure foolishness. So I just always assumed I would never own a lathe.
Fast forward to today, I live in relatively-suburban America (it’s been a huge adjustment, trust me), and I have an oversized garage where my pipe collection fits just fine. A few months ago my Uncle sold his house of 35 years and moved in to a small apartment. In his old house, he housed a metal lathe originally belonging to my grandfather who passed away about 15 years ago. He called me, when cleaning out his basement, and asked if I wanted a lathe. My father was even willing to drive it out from my Uncle’s place to my new place.
I do not need a lathe.
I always figured it would be nice to play with one a few times, but then I’d probably make a pipe or two and decide I wasn’t really in to it.
But, now I have a lathe. In fact, tonight I turned my 5th pipe on that lathe. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in learning, and I have a long ways to go, but I really enjoy standing out in my garage and working on a pipe. I don’t need a lathe. I figured I’d never have a lathe. Lathes like this one cost about $1500+. I got his lathe for free.
Tonight as I turned this pipe (the first one I’m really pretty proud of), I was standing there thinking about how good the Lord is to me. He knows I don’t need a lathe, but he found a way, without my digging around, to get one to me for free. And I’m thoroughly blessed by it, the immense space in my garage for it, the fact that I ever have time to play on it, etc…
This is an example of the Lord just blessing me above and beyond. It is an unnecessary desire of my heart, but it’s been a desire for a long time. Getting a lathe for free is only and just a big blessing—that is all.
I was standing in my garage thanking the Lord for it tonight, thinking, “The Lord has provided this home, this place in America, this oversized garage, and even a lathe to boot. Goodness He has taken care of me. Thank you Lord for taking care of a job, a life and home for my wife and kids (things I truly care about and have fought for), and even a toy above and beyond that. The Lord really can and does take good care of me.”
Then immediately after this, I thought, “Oh no. I’m thankful for this right now only because God is about to take my job away from me and I’ll need to remember how He provides for a job, a home, a life, and even unnecessary toys, just so I don’t panic when it’s time to look for a new job.”
That’s ridiculous, but somewhat portrays something I think many of us think about God. We think, “Yes he does take care of us, but He might take it all away just to remind us He’s in control and we’re not.”
But I think that’s a terrible misconception. God does not see us a foolish to whom He wants to teach a lesson. Now we are foolish, and He does teach us. But He loves and delights in us, He even wants to (and does) see us as His children.
I hope I can accept the Lord’s delight, without fearing it’s conditional or only there temporarily to teach me a lesson of some sort. I want to delight in His unnecessary but much appreciated gift, and His care of all my other things.
Lord, help me to delight in you. To trust you, and to trust you aren’t out just to take things away so you can teach me a lesson. And thank you for providing, above and beyond what I could have imagined.
What does it mean to be an artist and a Christian.
Almost by mere nature of being in the art world, you are seeking fame. Your name must be well known whether you are a writer, potter, painter, musician or sculptor. Well, in theory you don’t have to be well known, but if you want to make a living doing what you love then you sure as well need to be.
The problem is, it is the Christian’s job to make the name of Jesus great, not our own. So how do you reconcile these two?
I genuinely am asking. And if anyone has a great answer I’d love to hear it.
In everyday life, things have changed dramatically in my move from missionary to middle-class American.
Questions I used to ask: 1) Have you decided whether or not you’ll notify the government of your church’s existence? 2) Has anyone else been brought in for questioning lately? 3) Were you able to find a place to live? 4) If we need to meet secretly, and the last location is no longer safe, where should we meet this time? How can we safety notify everyone? 5) So you’ve been in ministry for a couple years now, what kinds of sin are driving you crazy?
Questions I now ask: 1) Do you have any confidence your country can be wise enough to elect a leader who isn’t a racist sociopath? 2) Are you still surviving your mind-numbingly boring job? 3) Did you get your carpet put in? Did you get your kitchen redone? How did you get your lawn so green? 4) How many services does your church have? Is the kids program any fun? Is the VBS paid or free? 5) So you’ve been in ministry for a couple years now, what kinds of sin are driving you crazy?
So, you left the mission field, and now you’re back “home” in America trying to adjust to a life most of your friends got used to in their early 20s. Suburbia has taken over as you needed parks, a yard for your kids, and decent schools. Everything is different. Things are expensive here. Recycling is something you pay for, rather than folks paying you.
You cut down a bush or a tree in your new yard (partly because it’s ugly, partly just because you can) and stack it on the street by your house but you have no idea how to dispose of what’s left. Standing on top of a pile of it, you try to tie some twine around it (you’ve seen this before), and you start to wonder what the hell you’re doing.
Anyone can care for a lawn. A 13 year old paid $15 per week can care for a lawn. But now this is your lawn. You’re used to caring about thing like talking about Jesus with your neighbors. You’re used to spending late nights in secret places with groups of people illegally talking about the gospel. But you’re not used to caring for a lawn. And you’re definitely not used to caring about a lawn.
Somehow this is your lot. Somehow this is exactly where the Lord has you. But you miss the high rises, though they were rat infested, at least you understood them.
You miss noodles, chopsticks, speaking another language, and being surrounded by broken lost people. Probably your new suburban neighbors are just as broken and lost, but they drive fancy cars and park an RV in their backyard they never use. It’s harder to have sympathy for their lost-ness. You’re not used to having to see Americans through the same eyes as the Lord.
Why the hell do you own a lawn mower? Why the hell do you pull weeds? What the hell is going on.
And somehow, this is exactly where the Lord has you.
The Lord has called you to care for this lawn. And He has even called you to care about the lawn. But goodness is this a big shift.
How many years has it been? When will this feel normal?
Everyday when I woke up as a missionary, my work (as in my actual employment) was to go out and attempt to do what I thought was the will of the Lord.
Now I work in the tech industry in white collar America. Daily I have to remind myself in prayer, “Lord, I belong to you. Not to (company).” And it’s still an adjustment. It used to be I could be completely caught up in work, and it was directly in line with what I thought the Lord wanted me doing.
Now my identity cannot be my company. Cannot be my role. Because my role (as in actual title) is no longer essentially, “servant of the Lord.” I absolutely believe the Lord has me right where he wants me, and allows me to play roles that are clearly in line with his will for me at this company, but it’s an adjustment for sure.
I’m Yours Lord. My work, my successes, my failures, and my job security are Yours. Not mine, and definitely not (company)’s.
There is a lot of strange teaching about praying with “enough” faith. For most of my life I’ve wrestled with thinking, “If I have enough faith, I’ll convince God to do this thing I really want Him to do.”
But I think faith is almost entirely for our sake, after all God does not cease to work just because we are utterly faithless (thank goodness, er… praise Jesus for that). Instead, now I think, “God, give me enough faith to believe you will do this, or if you don’t do it the way I expect, give me the faith to believe you’re at work. Give me the faith to believe the wind and the waves still know your name and obey you. This thing I’m asking for is small for the one who still commands the world He created. Give me faith to believe you are more than powerful enough, you care deeply for me—don’t let me grow disheartened.”
Really I realize at the root of my fears is the thought that maybe God isn’t powerful enough to do this one thing at work. Or to repair this one broken relationship. Or to save me from this one oppressive person. But he absolutely is. It’s nothing for him.
Our God is a God of patience because His people are the kind that require it.
They (we) do eventually sometimes get to where they intend to go, but often they’re bogged down in pretty overwhelmingly insignificant details. Yet the Lord can wait. He can and will wait on them.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” - 2 Peter 3:9
Martin Luther (I’ve been getting a kick out of reading his stuff lately), when writing on church says the following if you patience to read:
“The Scriptures speak of the Church quite simply, and use the term in only one sense; these men have added and brought into general use two more. The first use, according to the Scriptures, is this, that the Church is called the assembly of all the believers in Christ upon earth, just as we pray in the Creed: ”I believe in the Holy Ghost, a communion of saints.“ This community or assembly consists of all those who live in true faith, hope and love; so that the essence, life and nature of the Church is not a bodily assembly, but an assembly of hearts in one faith, as St. Paul says, Ephesians iv, ”One baptism, one faith, one Lord." [Eph. 4:5]
Thus, though they be a thousand miles apart in body, yet they are called an assembly in spirit because each one preaches, believes, hopes, loves, and lives like the other. So we sing of the Holy Ghost: “Thou, who through divers tongues gatherest together the nations in the unity of the faith.” That means in reality a spiritual unity, because of which men are called a communion of saints. And this unity is of itself sufficient to make a Church, and without it no unity, be it of place, of time, of person, of work, or of whatever else, makes a Church. On this point we must hear the word of Christ, Who, when Pilate asked Him concerning His kingdom, answered: “My kingdom is not of this world.” [John 18:36] This is indeed a dear passage, in which the Church is made separate from all temporal communities, as not being anything external.
And this blind Romanist makes of it an external community, like any other. Christ says even more clearly, Luke xvii, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here, or lo, there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17:20, 21] I am astounded, that such strong, clear words of Christ are treated as a farce by these Romanists. For by these words it is clear to every one that the kingdom of God (for so He calls His Church) is not at Rome, nor is it bound to Rome or any other place, but it is where there is faith in the heart, be a man at Rome, or here, or elsewhere. It is a nauseating lie, and Christ is made a liar when it is said that the Church, is in Rome, or is bound to Rome—or even that the head and the authority are there by divine right. Moreover, in Matthew xxiv. He foretold the gross deception which now rules under the name of the Roman Church, when He says: "Many false prophets and false Christs shall come in My name, saying: I am Christ; and shall deceive many, and show great signs, that if possible they shall deceive the very elect.
Wherefore, if they shall say unto you: Behold, in the secret chambers is Christ, believe it not; behold, He is in the desert, go not forth. Behold, I have told you before." [Matt. 24:24–26] Is this not a cruel error, when the unity of the Christian Church, separated by Christ Himself from all material and temporal cities and places, and transferred to spiritual realms, is included by these preachers of dreams in material communities, which must of necessity be bound to localities and places. How is it possible, or whose reason can grasp it, that spiritual unity and material unity should be one and the same? There are those among Christians who are in the external assembly and unity, who yet by their sins exclude themselves from the inner, spiritual unity. Therefore, whosoever maintains that an external assembly or an outward unity makes a Church, sets forth arbitrarily what is merely his own opinion, and whoever endeavors to prove it by the Scriptures, brings divine truth to the support of his lies, and makes God a false witness, just as does this miserable Romanist, who explains everything that is written concerning the Church as meaning the outward show of Roman power; and yet he cannot deny that the large majority of these people, particularly in Rome itself, because of unbelief and evil lives, is not in the spiritual unity, i. e., the true Church.
For if to be in the external Roman unity made men true Christians, there would be no sinners among them, neither would they need faith nor the grace of God to make them Christians; this external unity would be enough."
In full agreement of all said points. We’re so very confused in our understanding of the word “church”.