Sep 26, 2006

the poverty gospel - pt. 2

This past week I had the chance to meet with a local pastor whose church I had visited one Sunday back in May. The purpose behind it was that I'd felt convicted by the Holy Spirit about some ill feelings I’d unintentionally been harboring towards this pastor and his church (even though it seemed quietly justifiable in my mind). What he shared that day I was in service seemed theologically incorrect and I felt "justified" in my feelings... which means absolutely nothing.

That’s where the Holy Spirit came in.

So I called for an appointment, got one after a week or so, and was able to sit down with him last Wednesday morning... and asked for his forgiveness. Keep in mind, we don’t know each other and I’ve not created a massive campaign against this church that would logically merit such a meeting. I guess I just got to a place where I realized, “I may never overtly say anything against this church, but I will hold bitterness in my spirit that may hurt the Kingdom… even if the only place it hurts it at all is within me.”

Because sometimes even when you're the only one who knows the bitterness is there, the bitterness is there. And it will leak out, one way or another, until that poison is drained.

And so we chatted… and talked… and listened… and connected. I think ultimately we still disagree on a few matters of specific theology, but we both gathered around the Good News - even if on different sides. I believe God is good and will bless our lives at his discretion - saying yes or no according to what will benefit our faith; he believes God is good and will bless our lives based on our choices - according to how strong our faith is. Thankfully, we both planted seeds of thought with each other because perhaps both concepts are incompletely complete.

That’s the thing… even our perception of God is a gift.

The Gospel is the story of God and how he interacts with man, first creating a world that was amazingly breath-giving and then choosing to stick with us after we broke it. From day one Jesus wasn’t plan B but has always been a part of plan A, having played a key role in the original creation while always being predestined to be its redeemer. For any who would choose by their own freewill to reintegrate themselves relationally with the Triune God, he made it justly possible through the merciful shedding of his blood to offer us the grace required for fallen people to become new creations. One day his heavenly Kingdom will be reestablished and we will forever and freely experience the purest form of all the goodness in life that we currently have to labor for… in a big, big house with lots and lots of room.

In short, it’s Good News.

The reason it is lies in the irony that all of that is happening right now in a world that is c-r-a-c-k-e-d and d..r..y, devoid of recognizing any Living Water on its own. God has this amazingly covert plan to invade our hearts and souls so that the world will be changed from the inside out. Sure, we get to eternally benefit with all the aforementioned big picture blessings. In the short-term, though, life can be hard and we should expect nothing less while we pursue bringing a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven to a blind world.

But… occasionally we do get a taste of something good and gracious (in varying frequencies of occurrence). For some this happens in social ways that make them seem more blessed than others; in contrast, others may seem economically or culturally disadvantaged while still having quite a bit of intangibles to feel blessed about.

Hmm... perhaps this is why it’s often called a peace beyond all understanding.

I hesitate to share this story because it seems to be about money (which this series of posts is trying not to focus on). Hang with me, though….

One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?"

"It was great, Dad."

"Did you see how poor people li
ve?" the father asked.

"Oh yeah," said the son.

"So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father.

The son answered:

"I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.

We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."

The boy's father was speechless.

Then his son added, "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are."

That isn’t just a story about those who have many things because the same story could be turned around from the opposite angle. It's more a story of perspective - that we need to be willing to see things from all sides and look for how God is at work. Whether it is our success or our failures, they are both in our hands as a gift from the Lord... a "blessing," if you will.

Ironically, the thing about blessings is that we don't recognize them because they're all around us. To me, the sheer fact that the human race has survived all of its choices, mistakes, and errors tells me that there is more to life than what we see. The fact that we've endured humanity’s “best plans” and somehow survived even ourselves is a miracle. Is it possible Someone watching out for us despite our choices?

There are a number of people who struggle to recognize this (and I can understand because I’m one of them). It's a big conflict - when life all around us seems to be "natural" it becomes very hard to see it as supernatural. So much of what we do – even the ability to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel - can be merely seen as "ordinary."

Probably the last creatures on earth to discover water would be fish.

It's worth reexamining our lives... and then doing it again and again. We must intentionally push back from the table and look around at the people and things we see all around us. Really, what have we ever done to merit such goodness? Likewise, do we consider ourselves so entitled to blessing and success that we are beyond being humbled by life?

You may not have your job tomorrow... or you may receive a promotion. One of the most important relationships in your life may get better... or it may get worse. The bank account may suddenly increase because of a gift... or it may decrease because of identity theft. Your body may break down... or you may find that extra boost or muscle you've been hoping for.

We need our theo-

logy to get inter-


Perhaps it's time to return to some humility about how we see God and Scripture instead of throwing around phrases like "The Bible is clear about..." (when the issue isn't as clear as we'd like it to be). Could it be that we get to the place where we're okay that in the middle of lIFe there is a big IF?

Maybe we need to stop using a closed-fisted, arrogant Christianity for the things we want, be it political, social, theological, intellectual, emotional, and the like. Maybe we need to stop thinking that our conversation with the Holy Spirit trumps someone else's conversation with the same Holy Spirit. Maybe we need to instead follow Christ with empty hands and receive whatever blessing or curveball he hands us.

Empty hands of political, theological, intellectual, emotional poverty... hands that *may* be filled with a gift from a good God.

And even then... our grip must be gratefully loose lest we forget who owns it.

"...Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (Job 2:10b)

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. (Luke 12:27-31)

More to come.


Michael said...

A fish does not know wetness
A bird does not know Flight
So what is it that I
Do not know

DJG said...

Thanks Tony! I agree with you, but I need to be reminded to be aware of the many ways my days are blessed, and from whom those blessings flow (sounds like I am quoting a song book!)

bjk said...

Dont appreciate you saying this:

"I may never overtly say anything against this church, but I will hold bitterness in my spirit that may hurt the Kingdom… even if the only place it hurts it at all is within me.”

But everything you said....I think I needed to hear...

Tony Myles said...

Thanks for that thought, bjk - but I hope you caught the context of the line you didn't like. I meant that not as a place I've settled now but as a bad conclusion I'd come to prior to God convicting me on it. Even holding internal bitterness is a bad move and so that's why I went after getting an appointment in the first place.

djg - Sing it!

Michael - Holy deep thought, Robin!

bjk said...

Yes sir....THAT'S why I didn't appreciate it....

Anonymous said...

Uhmmm....I'm hurt that someone so fascinated and devoted to "the man of steel" would so flippantly through around Batman quotables. Shame on you Tony!

Hey can you email me your mailing address. I want to send you your book back.


Anonymous said...

Oops. "throw around Batman quotables", not "through around..."