Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not Quite Carpe Diem

"As a believer in the Lord, I get to do what I really want to do."

On the surface that statement doesn't really sound true. At a deeper level, it is very true. But at an even deeper level, it isn't entirely true.

It doesn't sound right.

I remember having a discussion with someone who was not a believer. He just didn't understand why anyone would want to be a Christian, because there are so many things you have to do. And you don't get to do what you really know you want to do. (He meant sexual exploits to be specific.)

I said that he was mistaken. As a Christian you get to do what you really want to do. He responded that that couldn't be possible. "I know you can't drink, dance, smoke, have sex with anybody you wanted to! I know that for a fact! Your god would condemn you to hell for that!"

Below the surface.

My response, "Your picture of what Christian's can and cannot do is incorrect. Actually, I desire to respect my body, and honor the Lord with it. I also desire genuine intimacy, not sex with a woman who doesn't honor me enough to commit her whole life to me. (I woman who couldn't do that isn't worthy of me.) I refuse to settle for so much less for my life. I want more than what those things offer.

"On the other hand, you are saying to me that you are willing to settle for less; that you are not worth having the best; that you are willing to trade that which is valuable for the meaningless. Is that truly wise?"

I don't know if he understood everything I said. Deep down, I knew real understanding often comes by testing to see if what I said is true. That would involve risk. The risk of being wrong about your worldview, and having to make an about-face.

Deeper problem.

However, I know from experience, and by applying the Scriptures, that I must continually renew my mind and actively choose to follow the Spirit. There are times when my flesh is in conflict with what the Spirit desires. And I don't always do what I want. (Galatians 5:16-17)

Why? Isn't doing what I really want to do, what God really wants me to do? Yes, as long as I am walking in step with the Spirit. And that, my friends, is what I really desire to do at a deeper level.

Here's an example. Suppose I really enjoy chocolate cake. I enjoy it so much I decide to eat it as my primary source of nourishment. But of course, that leads to all sorts of problems which I would rather avoid. But trying not to eat it isn't the solution. Because what I really want—to eat chocolate cake all the time—will win out over trying to avoid bad outcomes.

The solution: Something must enter that I desire more than the chocolate cake. And that something will bring about a conversion.

We experience this all the time in our lives. We may be interested in a particular TV program, until we have to visit the restroom. We can be into our favorite hobby, until we get hungry. We will actively put off or end the satisfying of a current desire to satisfy a greater desire. It is not much different than trading something of value for something of greater value.

In God's kingdom there is something about it that causes all other desires to pale in comparison. (Matthew 13:44-46) I don't mean the pursuit of desiring to desire God as our goal. I mean that something clicks within us where we actually "get it." We are actually converted. That God is so wonderful, so powerful, so great, so good, so beautiful, so all-encompassing, that we find our greatest joy in him. And we will sell everything we have to be with him, and have him in our lives.

When we get to this place. We will live lives that please him, because we really want to.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are We Better Now?

I was driving to work on the beltway going south. I was running slightly late, and the traffic wasn't helping. I remember the day was sunny around 70 degrees; blue sky, no clouds.

I turned the radio on to listen to music. But on every station the news was on. I figured something must be up, so I listened. Apparently there was a fire near the top of one of the World Trade Center towers in New York.

My mind was swirling. "Hmmm. That can't be good. It's high up there. I wonder how firefighters will try to deal with this? I wonder if my cousin is okay? He works there, I think. They said something about a plane hitting it by accident or something. Was it a Cessna or small jet?"

I finally arrived at work. The office I share was open and nobody was around. I noticed my co-worker's computer had a web page up about the World Trade Center incident. I remember thinking, "This is bigger than how I was thinking it was." I walked down the hall, and almost all my co-workers where gathered in one office watching the news on television.

Then came the report that another plane just hit the Pentagon. "What's going on?," we were all thinking. It wasn't until another plane hit the other World Trade Center tower that we knew for sure that we were under attack.

I went from bewilderment to anger. "What are we going to do about this? Someone has raged war against us by killing civilians on purpose!" Then I saw people falling from the towers to their death. Then the grim collapse of both World Trade Center buildings. There was a collective gasp from all my co-workers when this happened.

We knew we witnessed the end. The end of what, we weren't sure at that moment. But it was the end of life as usual. Our world had changed. Our nation had changed. Our perspective had changed. However, I am not sure we've changed for the better. I am not sure we picked up the right lessons from this. I am not sure we have the will to remember the way we should.

Today is the 7th anniversary of an unprecedented direct attack on the United States of America. We survived. But are we better for it?