Archives For sacrifice

Lazarus, Come Forth

randomlychad  —  September 21, 2016 — Leave a comment
deesisPanel2_lazarus from Flickr via Wylio

© 2012 Tim, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Today, I woke with thoughts of Lazarus in my head. To my knowledge, I myself have never been, you know, dead. The neurons are still firing up in my head. At least I’d like to think so. We’ll leave that for you, gentle reader, to decide.

“Lazarus, come forth.” It wasn’t a suggestion, but a command. This was clearly a miracle performed to show those in Bethany (where Jesus had spent so much time) that the Lord had power death. We understand that. We also understand the grief, the sense of loss, Mary, Martha, and Jesus himself felt over Lazarus’s demise. Yet this also was a command which would not have been necessary had Jesus come sooner, had healed Lazarus as he’d healed so many others.

Yet he didn’t.

Dare we impugn Lazarus? Was he lacking in faith? He knew the Lord–saw him–in ways we ourselves do not, and cannot, now know him. Yes, he lives inside. Lazarus knew him, ate with him, laughed with him, loved him.

Yet Jesus let him die.

What a letdown this was for everybody. Mary, Martha, their family, friends, the people of Bethany who knew what Jesus could do, what he had done. They knew, they saw. And yet here was one of his closest friends laid in a tomb, mouldering after three days (“I’m a servant of the Lord! Look what it’s done for me!”).

And if Lazarus, beloved of Jesus, was allowed to die what does this say of us? It seems that, rather than our best lives now, often the beloved of the Lord suffer great hardships, great losses, even die, before the miracles happen. The Christian life is, and this is not original to me, about death:

Jesus’s death on the cross, our respective deaths to ourselves. For it is in dying that we live. The lesson of Lazarus then is that while, yes, God can (and does) heal He doesn’t always. We don’t know why, except that we know him, have experienced his character–that he is good. So the lesson is that even (and sometimes especially) death can be redeemed. Somehow out of death–death to ourselves, expectations, plans–life arises.

Death often precedes the miraculous, the numinous, intruding into the courses of our everyday lives. Why is this? Only God knows.

All that we can do is lay down the gift (life) which God has given each of us back at his feet from whence it originated.

Only then can we truly live. And like Lazarus, we will live again.

Believest thou this?

I’m not one for lists, formulas, ten steps to this, ten steps to that. But there is one secret to success that, in our quest for shortcuts, glory, viral fame, we overlook.
 
 Why?
 
 Because it’s not sexy. It doesn’t sell books, promise riches, cure cancer, or even make life easier.
 
 What is this secret?
 
 Sure you’re ready?
 
 Here it is:
 
 Show up, and do the work.
 
 Told you it wasn’t sexy. It’s not what itching ears want to hear. Let me put it this way: if even the Bible says “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” what does that say about the rest of life, and the things that are worth doing?
 
 They’re not going to come easy. There are no shortcuts.
 
 I don’t care if you’re a writer, a bodybuilder, a homemaker, a husband, a wife, a student, an employee. The secret to success in any of those things is: show up, and do the work. Whoever said that love isn’t work, that doing what we love isn’t work, lied. Nothing ever worth doing comes easily.
 
 We know this. We all know this, but we want instant success. Conversations are the currency of any relationship; show up, and listen. Extend mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Do the hard work of humbling yourself when you’re wrong.
 
 Words are the currency of the writer; continue putting them down on the page–even if no one will ever see them. Show up; don’t give up.
 
 Iron is the currency of the bodybuilder; to grow, one must lift–and continue lifting.
 
 What do these all have in common? Grit.
 
 Grit, determination, and self-discipline.
 
 See? I told you it wasn’t sexy. But it’s true. And hard truths always and everywhere trump sexy lies. I don’t need to tell you that this requires sacrifice, a giving up of the things we like to pursue what we love.
 
 So show up, and do the work.
 
 
 

Just Come

randomlychad  —  October 6, 2015 — Leave a comment

My wife and I participate in a small group study. Lately, we’ve been looking at how to share the Gospel. As a part of that process, I’ve been tasked with answering a couple of common objections:

The exclusivity of the message of Jesus, and the plethora of world religions. I may have bitten off more than I can chew here, but intend to give it the old college try.

The world as we see and experience certainly establishes a prima facie case against the existence of God. There is much suffering, atrocities, and evil. Why would a good God allow such things to transpire? On the other hand, there is much about this world which is beautiful, lovely, and sublime in way which surpasses our poor power to express it. There is an order to the universe, and a precision in the way in which it operates that certainly at the least implies design. Atheists will say that’s all it is, implied design. But according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is often the correct one, e.g., the universe appears designed because it is designed. In other words, and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “if the universe were without meaning we should never have discovered that it was without meaning.”

Is it possible that both are true? That all we see around is designed, yet all is not as it should be? Pain, suffering, disease, and death certainly provide a strong argument for this. If this is so, is God to blame? Is He a cosmic sadist delighting in our struggles? Why would He go to such great lengths to create all of this only to seemingly remain hidden from His creation? Why does He allow us to flounder in the mire? Surely a loving Father would [fill in the blank]?

And there’s the rub: we’ve just gone over the line into idolatry, making a god in our image, instead of falling at the feet of the One Who is. Because the One Who is, while promising an ultimate end to evil, in the meantime chooses the much harder path of walking with His suffering creation in love. Rather than delivering us from every trial, He suffers along with us. Instead of answering our questions, our every objection, He gives Himself. This is not an answer that many are willing to hear.

So yes, the world is broken. We are broken, and our brokenness try to fill that void with whatever we think will sooth our savage breast: science, atheism, sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, education, what have you. We move from one thing to the next, never really assuaging the emptiness. And into this mess comes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems an offer too good to be true; for how can it be free? This answer to our broken selves, this broken world? Because our experience is here, in the material plane, we know that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, that we get what we pay for… Thus it is that the word squeezes us into its mold. Because there’s always strings, right? And we don’t want to be anyone’s puppet. That is ultimately what it boils down to, really; every objection to the existence of God, while purporting to be philosophical, scientific, logical, is really about this: we don’t want to give up control. All else–the prima facie case the world presents–is but a smokescreen to an underlying condition of the heart the Bible terms “sin.”

Because God made us free, we are free to either accept, or reject, this fact. In essence, in shaking our fists at the sky we are saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, God, my mind is already made up.” And then we will come up with our reasons, our justifications, of why this is so. Why we are right, and Christians are wrong. Why we’re okay. This is nothing but confirmation bias. We’re right because we’re right. I’m okay, you’re okay. Now go away.

Meanwhile Jesus is saying, “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

And that is what the Gospel is all about: rest from our striving, our brokenness, our sin.

Come to Me, He says.

Come and lay your objections down, and take up the life you were made for. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Just come.

It almost goes without saying that to affirm–to embrace–one thing is to implicitly deny another. There are only so many hours in one day, and we are but human; thus, we can’t do everything.

What we do get to do is choose. This, or that. If we choose this, chances are we can’t also do that (maybe we can, but usually not well). The funny thing is that we always seem to manage to find the time to do the things we love. Whether that’s writing, sculpting, painting, exercising, reading, praying…

The list is endless.

But because we love that thing, we are disciplined, and choose this instead of that.

We decide what our priorities are, and invest accordingly.

For myself, I’m in a season where getting up, and going to the gym, is important to me. It means that I don’t have time for morning writing for instance. However, I think that my fitness journey may indeed one day provide ample blog fodder.

The equation may be different for you, and that’s okay. What’s important is to:

Choose

Commit

Stay focused

Be disciplined

And show up

The rest is up to you.

Choose you this day.

We live in a world where it’s all too easy to blame, and cast aspersions, rather than take personal responsibility. This always works so much better, right? I’m broken, we’re broken, because of our parents, our life experiences… It’s always the other guy’s fault.

Guns, and pornography, for instance, are always hot button issues. We keep trying to legislate around them.

It’s a losing battle.

Because neither guns, nor pornography, are the problem. No, the problem is the needy beast of a thing which beats within our chests. The brokenness which compels us to shoot, the desires which bid us look.

Porn doesn’t make us look, nor do guns make us shoot.

Beyond that, what rights do we, the bond slaves of Christ, truly have? We are free in him, of a surety, but freedom apart from responsibility is mere liberality, and is a license for all manner of justifications. (I speak here from experience). 

We each of us need to look to our own hearts, and stop blaming the man, the system, the government… All are broken because we are broken. And as long as we live in this world–in Act III of history–freedoms will be abused, evils will be done. That is what free will means: we have the freedom to choose the right, or the wrong.

And the consequences of these choices unfortunately affect more than just us. Some drop like a pebble in a pond–causing ripples–and others crash like an avalanche of destruction.

Yet without this very freedom, we would not know love. Without evil, we would not know good. Without the choice betwixt the two, we are mere automatons.

Choose love today. Choose, even if hurts you–even if it takes from you something you want.

And pray with me, Maranatha! Even so, please, Lord, come.