Friday, February 24, 2006

Another Good Question

Recently, I was listening to a radio program — Family Life Today. They were discussing conflict, and their guest Tara Barthel answered Dennis Rainey's question, "How can you know if a relationship is an idol?," with an astute observation.

She said,

"I think it is Elyse Fitzpatrick who says the way to identifying [an] idol is will I sin to get it or will I sin if I don't get it? I think if you ask those questions, that's going to show you a lot of things."

That is a good question. What am I willing to sin for to get? What am I willing to sin for if I don't get it?

But more importantly, what am I willing to sin for to keep?

These questions are important and challenging, because inherent in them is a clear choice: Do I sin against God for this? If I do, it is an idol. I can not have two masters. I will hate the one, and love the other. I must choose, or it will be chosen for me.

I know in our society we keep the question of idolatry at a safe distance from ourselves. We sometimes reassure ourselves. "Well, modern idolatry is simply greed. I am not really greedy. But if I am, I struggle against it, because I give to the church and to the poor. Besides, I am not really rich, like those corrupt CEO's."

Sometimes we may see idolatry as a minor struggle with temptation. "Yeah, I struggle with my desire for chocolate. So I can't even look at a commercial for chocolate and not want some." And sometimes we may even justify our idolatry. "I need food to eat. I need a man/woman in my life. I just have needs."

But this question cuts through all the justifications. Am I willing to sin to get it, to keep it, or to sin if I don't get it? For it is in the sinning that we place worth on the object of our desire. We declare, "This thing is worth more than God."

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Question That Changed My Life

There are times in my life where epiphanies happen in casual situations. When someone says something rather mundane, yet is profound, is an example of those casual epiphany moments.

I am remembering a time when my mom asked a question that has set a new course for my life, my ministry, and what I believe about service in the Kingdom of God. It came at a time when I was heavily involved with service projects at church. I decided to get involved in different ministries, because I really wanted to serve God, show Him my love, and make a difference in this world. So, I became very busy. I was involved in bible study leaders training, leadership training, evangelism efforts, church ushering duties, and community service; along with Sunday morning worship meetings, Sunday night worship meetings, Wednesday night worship meetings, mid-week Bible study groups, and Friday devotional group meetings. (Whew!)

That Day

I remember that day. The day when I changed my mind about ministry and service.

I was involved in a community service ministry that involved visiting the elderly in nursing homes. It was tiring, but I felt I was doing something important. Then came a time when I had the time to visit my folks. My mom asked what I was up to. I tried to explain, but it was so complicated. I went into all the important work I was involved in, like the elderly visitations. After all my talking, my mom asked a simple question: "That's all good. But what about visiting your own grandmother? Isn't that good?"

"Well. Why yes." I thought. But all I could say is, "I guess so." But it got me thinking on many levels. What if God is more pleased that I visit my grandmother and family than visiting strangers? What if God wants my love to be sincere, more than demonstrating love in action? Yes, it is good to practice, but maybe I've got the reasons all wrong. Maybe God wants sincere love above trying hard.

That day changed the way I see service. Even today, I judge my service against the goal of sincerity and a sober self-esteem, rather than activity level or measured impacts. I am more keen about looking for fruit that comes from godly living, than the fruit of man (position, power, and influence). And serving God is really not a burden. When it becomes a burden, I always ask myself what I am believing. Because that is where sincere service and evil desires stem from — what I believe.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Where True Hope Resides

After re-reading my last post, I think it was sort of weird. I was in a funky mood. I am not sure it makes much sense. Anyway, I was just thinking about death and feeling sad that my friend is experiencing a lot of pain. Then in a stream of consciousness I wondered why I believe some people are less worthy of death than others. My belief often revolves around me. People I know personally, or who I witness the most pain as a result of their death are less worthy than people I don't know personally, or whom I don't like very much. But that is common to mankind. We all care more about those closest to us than those who are strangers, or foreigners to us.

Should it not be that way? Or (maybe the right question is) should I care that it is that way?

When I look at Jesus, I see God in human flesh. God the Father cares about everyone because He has the capacity to do so. Even if I wanted to, I really don't have the RAM to handle it. (For those who don't know, it is a computer analogy.) But Jesus as a human being, didn't concern himself on this earth about everybody's individual needs like I would be tempted to do. Instead, he worked within the limits set for him. He cared wherever he was. He provided whatever he could — or wanted to — whenever reasonable to do so. He provided what some people didn't expect, and what some people didn't request or desire. He even said "no" when the time wasn't right. But ultimately he trusted God with all of problems of humanity, even to the point of willingly dying a horrible death to redeem them.

God the Father, has a plan to redeem this world. He has a plan to provide a way for all of mankind to no longer experience death (at least like the rest of the world does). So my job is not to end physical death, end suffering per se, or to save anybody from ultimate death. I can only point to God's Way of salvation — Jesus. And even when I do so, I do so with the help of the Holy Spirit — whom does the real work of convincing. However, I can be ready with an answer for the hope that I have. (1 Peter 3:15-16)