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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Deep Waters

From the pen of Lilias Trotter, a late 19th/early 20th century missionary to Muslims in Algiers for over 38 years... a single, older woman with a weak heart. Mission boards rejected her... so she and two friends went on their own! She was a prolific artist, close friends with John Ruskin, in fact, as well as a writer. I look forward to reading more of her work!

She writes...
"I am come into deep waters" took on a new meaning this morning... It dawned that shallow waters were a place where you can neither sink nor swim. In deep waters it is either the one or the other... Swimming is the intensest, most strenuous form of motion. All of you is involved in it, and yet every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up. 'We rest on Thee and in Thy name we go.'

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lest We Forget...

"Every so often I’ve contemplated what a Saturday Night Live type of variety program might look like if the topic was “Christendom.” There’s definitely enough material. One of the recurring skits would involve some Christians from the 1400’s about to be burned at the stake. They would be visited by contemporary Christians who would thank them for their sacrifice and tell them how such a great sacrifice gained later Christians ________. You could fill in the blank with all sorts of things. “Your sacrifice has helped give us a world in which our children can learn theology from talking vegetables. Your suffering will all seem worth it when a handsome Texan with a great smile can renovate a sports stadium and broadcast feel-good, gospel-free theology to all the world. Thank you for your noble sacrifice, brother.” Tyndale might have been willing to face the stake for the sake of the Bible, but would he have faced it for a Bible-zine for girls that looks and reads like Cosmo?

I’m a writer, not a comedian, so perhaps it’s not that funny. But the point is that real people died real deaths to pass to us a heritage of the gospel. They were serious, dead serious, and weren’t in the business of printing silly bumper stickers. We evangelicals have long done a remarkable job of trivializing that heritage. Maybe this is what happens when the danger of persecution passes and we enjoy a time of safety, a time of freedom. Or maybe this is what happens when we lose sight of the seriousness of the gospel and the countless sacrifices that made it available to us, when we begin to replace theology with something else, something less."

[from, June 14, 2010]

Saturday, June 12, 2010

You DON'T Highlight Fiction?

Many of you seemed surprised to learn that I highlight fiction, and some questioned why I would do that. I thought I'd give you a peek at the most important thing I take note of in every piece of fiction I read... namely, "What is the author's worldview?" That's a crucial question to ask if you want to become a discerning reader.

I made a bookmark I use to remind myself of 5 basic questions I want to ask in order to determine a particular author's worldview. As I read, I look for the answers, HIGHLIGHTING and writing notes in the column of the book as I find evidences in the text.

1. What is the author's view of Reality? [e.g. Atheistic? Deistic? Pantheistic? Biblical?]

2. What does he/she believe is the nature of the external world? [e.g. ordered or chaotic? material or spiritual?]

3. What is his/her view of human nature? [Are men viewed as basically good? As victims of their environment? As captive to their emotions? What happens after death?]

4. What are the ethics of the author? What is their basis of morality? [e.g. What is "good"? What is "evil"? Are there consequences to immoral decisions or is the author pragmatic, leading you to "root" for the sinner?]

5. What does he/she believe is the basis for history? [e.g. Cyclical? Progressive? Chance? Design?]

Why don't you write these five questions onto an index card and tuck it into the next work of fiction you read. You may be surprised to find yourself a more discerning reader by the end of the book!

[Gleaned from James Sires' The Joy of Reading; his updated version is How to Read Slowly]
[Related Post: How to Become a Better Reader]

Monday, June 07, 2010

Don't Let Me "Get Over It"

There are high and low points in the spiritual walk of every Christian. There are times we rejoice seeing God work through us... and times when we burn with shame over missed opportunity: We didn't speak for God when we should have...We suddenly realize how selfish we've been with our God-given resources, oblivious to the suffering of others...We come to the realization that we've placed other things in life above our love for God. Two short-term missions groups, as well as two members who have been working in Haiti, recently returned to FBC. They all had opportunity to see the world through God's eyes. I would guess each one of these men and women came away with a desire to reflect Christ's love and compassion to a lost world, to prioritize their personal lives and make life decisions in a manner which would glorify their Lord and Savior. They don't want to ever "get over" the experience God has given them.

Tim Challies' blog today touches upon what a struggle it can be to maintain that kind of view in our ever distracted, overly busy, "there's always tomorrow" lives. He looks back upon the loss of a former co-worker, a man of similar age and family situation, who was about to succumb to leukemia. Deeply regretting his lost opportunity to clearly present the gospel to this man, Challies vowed to use the experience as a perpetual reminder. Here is an excerpt...

"So now I sit here at the time when it is too late, wondering why I did not do more. Sure I told the family that I was praying for them and asked if I could pray with them. And sure I tried to get Mike to think about preparing for eternity. But I did so in such a pathetic way. Such a half-hearted way. I burn with shame as I write these words thinking of all I didn’t do and didn’t say. I feel burdened with guilt that Mike is days or maybe even hours away from standing before God, and that I did not make one clear, strong presentation of the gospel. I failed him. And I failed God.

Do you know what may be even worse? The likelihood that I’ll get over it. Two days from now I probably won’t even think of Mike. I’ll get busy with my life and the guilt will ease away. In a week or two I guess I’ll attend his funeral and feel this guilt again, but a few days after that I’ll conveniently put Mike out of my mind and go back to life. But you know what? I don’t want to get over it!

Truly I don’t.

This burden I feel right now—why can’t I feel this same burden for the lost all the time? Why is it a burden birthed from guilt rather than from a desire to see the lost be saved? I’ve asked God to tell me why. The only answer I find is the hardness of my own heart.

Still, with hope in my heart I pray for Mike, that maybe, just maybe, there will be someone in that hospital who can reach out to him with the message I failed to bring. Maybe God will bring to Mike’s mind some fragment of Scripture he heard as a child, or some words I shared with him years ago. Maybe. Hopefully.

With hopeful sadness I pray for Mike’s family, that somehow God would use this awful situation to draw them to Himself. That somehow God would make His presence felt and provide meaning through the pain.

And then with tears I pray for myself, that God would not allow this burden to disappear, but that He would use my shortcomings to teach me how I can do better next time, not simply to avoid this crushing, burning guilt, but to use the opportunities He provides.

Because I just don’t want to get over it. Oh God, please don’t let me get over it!"

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