It seems that Sunday night marked the transition from a very full two-month season into an equally-full but more scheduled semester. It would be futile (and possibly uninteresting) to try to summarize this past season, and I don’t know that I’m quite ready to attempt a full-length, single-topic, logically-flowing post. So here are some recent thoughts, with no intentional order or theme.
- Life is more joyful and fruitful when you focus on the privileges and responsibilities of each day’s events instead of passively wallowing in weariness or mentally drifting away in a distracted and stressful anxiety about all the things you have to do next. If that sounds wise, it’s because Jesus said it (Matthew 6:34).
- My dad turned 55 on Labor Day. He has given his strength to the Lord’s service these past 35 years, and I have no reason to believe that these latter decades will be any different. We talked about a number of things in our forty-minute phone conversation last night, including (1) how I want to make the most of our Christian likemindedness and similar passions from now until either of us goes home and (2) how wonderful it must be to look back on a life of serving the Lord instead of being devastated at a wasted life. It’s not that my father has no regrets or no unmet desires — we all have regrets, and we all long to see the Lord do so much more in and through and around our lives for His sake. But my father has not wasted his life. May I say the same if I reach 55.
- I can’t imagine life ever being boring in the service of Christ, and I find this to be a great joy. Not necessarily because I long for adventure, but because I can’t imagine having nothing (or only something secondary and temporary) to live for. As it is, I don’t know the next time I’ll even dream of having nothing (or little) to do. It is truly a tremendous privilege to spend this vapor of a life in grace-fueled labor for a cause and a King that cannot fail. This exposes the senselessness and atrocity of Christian complaining.
- I woke up early and tired this morning, and I realized instantly that I had a choice. It took me a few minutes to corner my heart and persuade myself of the privileges and promises that I have in Christ, but soon the choice was clear: begin today with a self-pitying focus on my own weariness and a distracted eye on the end of the day when I can rest, or rehearse the lovingkindness of the Lord, the brevity of life, the glory and worthiness of God who gives strength and joy, and the reality that only the current moment is guaranteed to me, and then seize every moment and opportunity that God has blessed my day with. By God’s grace, it was a wonderful day. So many of these small day-by-day choices are loaded with implications for how we will live.
- Every life is made up of a billion tiny choices in the course of ten thousands of days, which means that no choice and no day is insignificant. I don’t think that this thought should paralyze us; just that it should sober us and make us mindful that we stay close to the heart of God and walk in the power and guidance of the Spirit. Those who serve kings should not think that the small things they do are small things.
- There are not many things in life that matter. There are really only a very few. I think that the most Christ-centered and fruitful people in the world are those who are so enflamed about those few things that they live tenaciously for them and funnel all the other aspects of life towards them.
- One of the many wonderful things about children is their sense of wonder about all the objects and aspects of the world that we adults have long since discovered and gotten used to. It’s not even that we’ve plumbed the depths of everything (or even most things) around us. It’s just that we’ve observed them, interpreted them, labeled them, and put them on the mental shelf. But children haven’t done that yet, which means that, to them, everything is amazing. I am growing in my conviction that giving young children lots of toys and gadgets is a disservice to their minds and imaginations. No wonder kids in America love video games and TV while the praying mantis and the water hose and the lizard wait their rare turn.
Kids don’t need many things to play with — they mainly need a loving, joyful, supportive, structured atmosphere in which their natural creativity can surge and thrive.
- Infertility is not the only reason people adopt (or want to adopt). It’s also not the main reason why adoption is a beautiful thing, though I am very happy for infertile couples for whom adoption is the best or only option. Sometimes in conversations with people we’ve met, I’ve heard the underlying assumption that the main reason you adopt is to get a child when you can’t have one yourself. I disagree, not only with the assumption that that’s why we adopted (it’s not), but with that very way of thinking. I think the main reason you adopt is to help a child (and especially an orphan). I of all people know the joy of having a happy, lively, round, dimpled, joy-multiplying ball of little boy in the family. It would be impossible for me to downplay the overwhelming happiness that Judah brings to us. And certainly we adopted because we love African children and wanted our family to include them. But there’s far more to it than that. I say this because I want people who can have biological children (or who haven’t tried yet, like us) to consider adoption. You don’t have to be infertile to adopt.
- On Sunday night I preached on “Why We Need to Suffer” from 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. During my study, I surveyed and listed all the personal sufferings that Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians. It is truly a remarkable list. My desire is not to inspire any kind of fleshly worship of suffering or sufferers but to give an example of how the gospel runs on the fuel of love-driven sacrifices.
Unbearable burdens (1:8).
Certain death (1:9).
Relational agony (2:4, 13; 7:5).
Diverse afflictions (4:8; 7:5).
Perplexing trials (4:8).
Manifold persecution (4:9).
Daily cross-bearing (4:10-12).
Physical weakness (4:16).
Numerous and assorted beatings (6:5; 11:23-24).
Multiple imprisonments (6:5; 11:23).
Tumultuous responses to preaching (such as city-wide riots) (6:5).
Exhausting labor (6:5; 11:23, 27).
Sleepless nights (6:5; 11:27).
Extreme hunger and thirst (6:5; 11:27).
Destroyed reputation (6:8).
Constant punishment (6:9).
Consistent threat of death (11:23).
Several shipwrecks (11:25).
Lengthy and strenuous journeys (11:26).
Dangers associated with nature (11:26).
Dangers associated with criminals (11:26).
Dangers associated with countrymen (11:26).
Dangers associated with Gentiles (11:26).
Dangers associated with false believers (11:26).
Dangers in cities (11:26).
Dangers in the wilderness (11:26).
Dangers in the seas (11:26).
Dehabilitating cold and exposure to the elements (11:27).
Daily pressures of pastoral and church-planting work (11:28).
Devastating “thorn in the flesh” (12:7-8).
Perhaps we understand terms like “Christianity” and “missionary” and “evangelism” and “cross-bearing” less than we think.
- I could write a tenth thought here, but perhaps some of you might comment with a thought of your own. It’s always good to hear what others are thinking and learning, whether related or not.
My loose goal is to write three times per week this semester, but I’m not making any promises to myself because sometimes priorities change from week to week and season to season. I will try, though, out of hopes that it might be a blessing to some. Press on.