Thursday, May 27, 2004

What do we make of the changes in our world? There is plenty to be in despair about - economic woes, moral issues, war in our world, and all the questions that these are raising. When watching these matters unfold it seems that the participants in the debate have a desire to win at all costs rather than to engage in meaningful dialogue and a search for truth. There is an intellectual tribalization occurring and a genocidal warfare being waged against opposing viewpoints. Whether is it gay marriage, Iraq, or some other subject, so much of the rhetoric on all sides is a "take no prisoners" approach to winning against the "enemy" (those with whom we share in human society, our neighbors, who think differently). That does not bode well for a culture.

However, what is God doing in the middle of all this . . . if we indeed believe that God is still acting in the human story? One stark lesson is that we should have no hope in this world. We are only in despair if we expected this world to offer anything lasting. If we are distressed over economic woes, were we depending on economic vibrancy for our happiness? If we are disillusioned by evidence of moral weakness, is it a sign that we believed too much in the evolutionary progress of fallen human society? Does world instability and terrorism reveal that we sought a peace offered by military power and political alliances?

My personal anxiety about any of these current problems reminds me that I have not found rest and peace in Christ alone. May God lead me to unrivaled security in His love.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

As we seek to participate in our life in God, one given by grace and lived through grace, we often hear a debate surface about the emotional and rational aspects of that life. Many times the discussion devolves into a competition between proponents of one or the other of these eminently human expressions of being. On one hand, some seem to associate the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit with our emotions, while other see emotions as the greatest of pitfalls, and advocate a rational approach.

Let me suggest that the debate is not between these two aspects of human personhood, but between man and God. Those who would put their trust in rationality seem to miss the declaration of God that human understanding is corrupt - they are darkened in their understanding (Eph. 4:18) and their thinking became futile (Rom. 1:21) - just to point out two passages. Those who fail to recognize that every feeling is not from God, also fail to discern adequately that fundamental sins such as pride have hefty emotional components. With so many sins being emotive in nature, no wonder rational solutions meet with failure. Knowing the right one should do is little defense against a desire to do wrong.

I believe that the true situation is that both human emotion and rational thought are corrupted and untrustworthy. The debate is not between either being emotionally centered or intellectually guided - but being human centered or divinely guided. Both human emotion and rationality are redeemable and both may be used by God to guide. We must be aware not of the dangers of either one, but of both. We must seek how God leads and guides through both. Being confident in either feelings or thoughts is flawed, but trusting in God and Him through both is a journey to being transformed.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

A truly formative part of my spiritual journey has been the eight years I spent in Tanzania, East Africa. The formation came in many different ways, but one of the greatest blessings was to see the spirituality of a non-secularized people who put their faith in Jesus. I say "non-secularized" because the Africans I was blessed to know had not adopted a western worldview that elevated human capability and relegated the spiritual to the realm of superstition. Once someone asked me if those Tanzanians believed the spiritual was just as "real" as the physical - but that question betrays our bias. In my response I avoided the whole question of "real" and using the physical as the standard, but stated that they related equally to both what is seen and unseen without thinking in terms of what is "real" and what is not. For those Africans everything is a seamless whole. For this reason, there is a robustness to their faith that shows the weakness of the faith of a thoroughly modern person whose belief is formed within the boundaries of modernity's parameters.

This last Sunday I was truly blessed to help welcome a new family that last week moved here from Africa. In spending time with them and seeing and hearing their powerful faith in God expressed in everything, I was reminded again why I learned so much from those Tanzanians. I might have gone as a missionary to share with them the Good News, but they accepted and believed it in a way surpassed my own belief.

Our African friends here have come as missionaries whose mission is to be a part of a mobilization effort. They are here to earn money to send back to support Kingdom work in Africa. As one said, God provides us three meals a day and the rest is Kingdom work.

Praise God that we have some missionaries among us whose sense of calling will undoubtedly challenge us all. God may have sent them for another reason as well - to feed a revival among American churches which have become too comfortable!