Friday, April 8, 2011

I See that You are Starving

Humanness is incompatible with self-sufficiency. This is not something I like to think about—in fact, I would prefer to fight the idea tooth and nail to the bitter end. However, in my own mind and also to you, I am bound to intellectual honesty.

Our inability as people to secure and retain independence is inarguably self-evident.

Nature itself is testimony enough; infants, the elderly, and the sick or wounded have no capability of ensuring their own survival. In addition, phenomena such as the widespread influence of peer pressure, a generally systemic desire for love and belonging, and the tendency of humans to form groups and bonds all throughout life, etc. confirm again and again that the homo sapiens is a socially oriented species. Some would credit this to mere evolutionary biology but that would be an intellectual farce. Love isn’t necessary for continuation of the species. Nothing is necessary for effective procreation beyond the mere mechanics of intercourse, and the same sort of relatively pacifistic instinct shared by animals of the same species, which ensures they won’t eradicate themselves. Why do humans need more? Other human relationships (besides those of a romantic nature) are equally useless from an evolutionary perspective.

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival." –C.S. Lewis (“The Four Loves”)

The only explanation for the human drive toward relationship is that mankind was created by God to require and enjoy community.

Believe me when I say that I take absolutely no pleasure in spelling out exactly what this means. For me it is the epitome of inconvenient truth. It is, to my mind, revoltingly inconvenient that we cannot simply continue to live our lives in an either defiant or indifferent blindness to this reality—but the reason we cannot (in case anyone missed my emphasis) is because the idea that humans need each other is inconveniently true. Truth by its own nature is indispensable. Stubbornly permanent. Incontrovertible. Therefore, we either accept and accommodate it—or we knowingly die to our own integrity.

So what exactly it means when I say, “Humanness is incompatible with self-sufficiency” is this: There are some things we need that we are unable to give ourselves. In order to obtain them, we must look to others.

Physically the case is again self-evident; all of us are factually aware that when we were newborns we were incapable of self-nourishment. None of us would have survived if someone else hadn’t intervened on our behalf and taken care of us when we were unable to care for ourselves. Spiritual self-inadequacy functions in somewhat the same way, except that it’s not limited to spiritual ‘infants.’ Our state of spiritual dependence on others can’t be expressed merely in terms of metaphorical age but rather in terms of our participation in the human condition (which is, of course, constant) or in terms of our acceptance of God’s ordering of life. Put another way, one may say our interdependence is our compliance with His definition of humanness, and this submission is an expression of our worship.

Now, when I speak of spiritual self-inadequacy, there are two “levels” I would like to distinguish between and the first is self- inadequacy for spiritual health. The idea is that while three rice bowls a week (for example) may technically be enough energy to sustain the basic vital needs of a human being, it is not enough to ensure the health of that person; he or she will not be functioning well at all—in fact, he or she will probably be ill. Spiritually, the parallel is that we won’t function well without certain prescriptions of love and truth that are applied in somewhat specific ways, taking the form of perhaps encouragement, accountability, constructive criticism, discipline, etc. And these must be received directly from the “hands” of others; we are unable to prescribe them to ourselves.

The second more basic level is spiritual self-inadequacy for survival. This is the scenario in which a human who consumes no rice at all will not continue to exist. Love and truth compose the spiritual food; love and truth are found always, only in and through Christ. Salvation is truth and love; it is the spiritual food necessary for survival. ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Romans 10:13) In this case as well, many times the “food” must be received from others. Let there be no mistake—God is absolutely sovereign. His power alone saves. Life is in the food and hands are the mere distributors.

And now we have come to the crux of everything! Why have I bothered to ramble on about this? For one reason and one reason only, my friend:

Because I see that you are starving. Your wasted soul is sharply visible in front of my face. I see that you won’t feed yourself; you don’t feel hungry, I know. The situation doesn’t seem urgent. You don’t recognize any cause for concern.

Consider this.

“Loneliness is like starvation: you don’t realize how hungry you are until you begin to eat.” –Joyce Carole Oates

Whether inconvenient for you or for me, the truth in this situation is this: If you don’t eat, you will die. If you do… life is in the food. It’s very simple.


I wrote this note as a response to a somewhat vague burden. I am praying over who reads it and would truly love the opportunity to talk to anyone. For those who may be interested in more scriptural references on the necessity of community, I’ve included a few of many.


Ephesians 4:16, Genesis 2:18, 1 Corinthians 12:12-25, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, 1 Corinthians 10:24, Matthew 18:15, 1 Peter 4:9, Galatians 6:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, Acts 2:42, 2:45-46, Matthew 22:39, Matthew 5:13-16, Hebrews 10:24-25, Romans 12, (in its entirety but particularly verse 5) Mark 1:17

Sunday, September 12, 2010


In a favorite book of mine, called "The Relentless Pursuit," Phil Strout suggests that there are four essential items tied to the reality of missional life. I would like to post them here and perhaps think on them more, so here they are. (These are direct quotes from the book)

1. Desire. Is there a desire in your heart to see God work in your life? The Lord is looking for able-bodied Christians who are willing to serve in order to advance His Kingdom. Even if you do not desire to participate in what God is doing, He remains ready to help you. "For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure." -Philippians 2:13 Our desire determines, to some degree, how much we will be involved in God's mission.

2. Expectancy. Do you believe God is really at work around you? Are you ever expectant that God is going to work through you and around you? If we do not expect God to work, it may sometimes take a dramatic wake-up call for us to see what He is doing. However, when we live in a constant state of expectancy, excited about His next move around us, we will be able to more easily see and hear what He is doing.

3. Staying filled. While you may have experienced an encounter with the Holy Spirit where you yielded your life to the work of the Lord, are you living daily in the power of the Holy Spirit? Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus to "be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). Are you being filled anew each day with the Holy Spirit's power? I don't know how many times throughout my years in ministry that I've heard people say, "I got the baptism many years ago." It's great that they have had an experience, but are they walking in that power each day? Before your feet hit the floor each morning, do you have an attitude that says, "I want to live a life committed to You, Lord. I want to see what You are doing. I know You are involved in my life. Give me eyes to see what You are doing today."

4. A secret life. Do you make a point to spend time alone with God each day? Throughout the book of Luke, we see over and over Jesus' dependency upon the Father. Oftentimes, Jesus rose early in the morning and disappeared into the wilderness to spend time with God. "When day came, Jesus left and went to a secluded place; and the crowds were searching for Him, and came to Him and tried to keep Him from getting away from them" (Luke 4:42). However, Jesus knew that in order to give the people what they needed, He must first spend time with God.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Tonight I am asking myself some very difficult questions. Mostly concerning servitude and how far I am willing to go in order to make it known, and proved, that I live in one capacity only: As a servant to my Master. In Christ I live, and move, and have my being.

My life still looks like a kaleidoscope to me, most of the time. Brilliantly colored, for sure. Interesting. Perhaps even pretty on occasion, especially when the light hits it just so... but otherwise about as mixed-up as it can possibly be; no picture or concrete shape can really be seen. Also like a kaleidoscope, it seems to be constantly re-aligning itself. Re-arranging itself. And there are way too many pieces. Some of them seem arbitrary.

There are a few knowns, however. One of them is that my Master has dreamed a dream for my life. Sometimes I think of it as my destiny, although maybe that's just a little bit of my overzealous wanna-be heroine coming out. But then, of course I was meant to be a heroine. Of course we all were-- (or heroes, depending on who's reading) God is the Sovereign Ruler (~King) and He's asked us to be part of His church, His bride... in short, part of the Queen. I think He meant for me to be queenly. Regal. He's asked me to rule with Him. Not in a power-seeking/domineering kind of way, and not without being re-born in the Spirit... rather in a sweetly accepting sort of way, a way in which I've first been transformed by my love for Him and my acknowledgment of Him, and my union with His heart and mind--and afterward, been graced (however unworthily) with a scepter and crown and glorious dress of my own, or a fast horse and mini-Spirit-sword of my own, (we might say, light) so that I may go out into the world with it, and bear witness of the Master... bear witness of my Love... bear witness of His open desire for all people--to be part of His Church, His love, His bride, His (Spirit-born; that is, through the Spirit) equal and co-heir (with Christ) to the Kingdom.

This is the destiny of 1 Corinthians 3:9. And, the rest of the Bible :) (Gospels and Acts maybe especially) on top of it.

All of this is part of one of my "knowns." An essential, generalized, huge part... but even more specifically, (for me personally) I know He has some kind of work for me, that will be VERY involved with His presence among the (largely, or so it seems) unevangelized nations. All the peoples of the earth... to the ends of it on all sides. I have known this for a very, very long time... if there is such a thing as a "life calling," I understand it.

And quite frankly, I have spent the last five years (especially) doubting it, calling it into question on every possible account, suspending and ignoring it, being petrified of it, running away from it, (Jonah really strikes a chord with me) and trying to be unswervingly faithful to it, (consciously or unconsciously by my own strength) and miserably failing. And finally, at this point... I am really starting to see that it isn't going to go away, no matter how much I wish it either would or wouldn't... or no matter how much I try to sabotage it. Wow!! The dream doesn't hinge itself on my humility! It doesn't fall apart because of my pride!! My unfaithfulness doesn't break it, yet my faithfulness doesn't validate its existence!! WOW! Imagine... It's indestructible and untouchable, because it ISN'T MY DREAM... it is His dream and His alone, yet a dream He has set apart FOR me. How freeing!!! Or... (how terrifying...) But there is the glory in it.

All I have to do is offer my servitude. My unconditional, absolutely trusting, safely committed servitude. I don't know what He is asking yet, exactly, or what He will ask in time, but I have to know I will say yes. I will probably be saying yes to some immensely difficult things. With the intensity of spiritual battling that has gone on in my life over the last year alone regarding this particular dream, I can only assume this will be the case. He will ask some very, very hard things of me; He has, in fact, already begun. He will do it for the sake of His kingdom, and I must respond as the queen who is entirely unified with Him and His purposes.

I am trying to give myself up completely. To abandon myself in spite of the unknown; in spite of what I am sure may be the horribly challenging, likely painful, unknown. I am trying to kill myself--at least, the parts of myself that aren't sure where exactly their allegiance lies. Regarding the dream, I am trying with everything in me to say, "Own it. Bring it to life, and take no thought to keep me safe, or happy, or comfortable... take no thought of me at all. We're both thinking of You."

In other words, please pray for me. There is a spiritual battle going on in my life right now. And I'll pray for you too, because there is probably one raging in yours as well, whether you see it or not.

Thank you in advance, to my most loved co-heirs--my true brothers and sisters--in the Lord's service.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Hmmm. So I'd like to say maybe this blog will finally start picking up, but perhaps it would be wiser to say time will tell. At any rate.

Yesterday I watched a documentary on Hulu called "Rethinking Afghanistan." While I believe the purpose of it was to (er) gently or not-so-gently critique the intelligence of maintaining U.S. troops within Afghanistan, I would like to avoid promoting any political opinion regarding the war here. Instead I would like to direct our attention to a call for prayer over the region, arising from a number of concerns related to the war:

-Although I absolutely refrain from pointing fingers or dispensing blame in the direction of any party, the documentary showed that collateral damage is very high. Many Afghan civilians are losing their homes, possessions, and even family members due to bombing and fighting between U.S. troops and resistant natives. Villages and farm plots can be destroyed, eliminating food sources and places of employment. Entire families are often forced to retreat to mass camps where it is not uncommon for starvation to ensue. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, there are at least 240,000 internally displaced persons currently within Afghanistan alone. This is an unimaginable number, and to consider something perhaps worse-- in order to avoid starvation for them and their families, many fathers and male breadwinners find themselves turning to the Taliban as the only available source of income. Toward the end I believe the documentary showed that certain organizations are beginning to notice this trend and efforts are being made in Afghanistan to provide other jobs...

Among all this, I suppose pray that God will show Himself powerfully to all the Afghan families who have been caught in the crossfire--to provide for them as He is able, and comfort them in their losses... to send helpers to them; people who will help them rebuild and aid them in obtaining food, clean water, and work outside the scope of the Taliban. Pray that there will be a great openness to Christ and the gospel among the Afghan people, and certainly for boldness, obedience, and safety for Christian missionaries in the region.

-De-stabilization in Afghanistan (and also Pakistan) remains very, very high. Politically the area is extremely disturbed, and so therefore that as the transfer of power is delicate and somewhat frenzied-- just that God's purposes will be honored-- that leaders and groups who offend His name and desires will be brought down according to His will, and that those who are chosen by His hand will be lifted up. Praise Him that He is the Sovereign Lord who watches the rise and fall of nations and rulers.

-Women still suffer widespread violence and oppression within Afghanistan's borders; in fact, rape and physical attack (beatings, etc.) have increased, as is evidenced during most times of war.

For them--just that God would be their protection and comfort, and that there would be a window cracked open from within Islam--that they could receive freedom and knowledge of their worth from Christ.

In all these things pray that we would rise up to be the Church God has called and desires for us to be--pray that the Church, as the bride of Christ, will rise up to faithfully address Afghanistan's needs.

-And finally, the United States Armed Forces (as of May 2010, according to The Telegraph) holds about 94,000 personnel within Afghan borders. As Christians I think it's critical for us to remember these men are potentially dying every day; the majority of them probably without faith. Let us intercede on their behalf--ask God to show them the same mercies He has graciously shown us, and let us pray that they would accept His gift of salvation.

Along with this, of course, there are many needs in Washington. President Obama, his cabinet, and all of congress face difficult decisions regarding the war (among other issues) daily. Instead of constantly expressing distaste at either their perceived or assured blunders, perhaps we could also remember them and ask that God supplies them wisdom. May they seek His righteousness.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Recently I was thinking over John 1 and communication.

John 1:4- "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."
John 1:5- "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."

Up until this point, in chapter 1, we see that God is. In Him is everything, and everything was made for Him... but His high existence seems too mystical and foreign for the evil of mankind to understand. Light is too brilliant for darkness.

So because God's desire is to engage the world, to save the world, and to give the world meaningful new life within His kingdom-- He sends John to bear witness of the Light. (1:7) He sent John to communicate with the world--to help explain the Light to the people living in the world.

However, God didn't stop there. He came HIMSELF in John 1:14-
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory..."
What does that mean? That the Word became flesh... This is literally saying that the Son of God took human form. God became a man--but also, the Word became a man. Literally. John 1 says the Word = Christ, both as God and as man.
What is this... This is God communicating!! There was a communication problem between God and the world, and the problem was: God was too high for the world. He was unknowable. The world could not understand God because God was not on the world's terms. It would have been like trying to teach calculus to a second grader.
And God cared SO MUCH about the world's salvation that He made Himself subject to the world and with all its authorities and troubles--[[[so that man could see what God would look like if He were to live out the life of an ordinary person on earth.]]] He showed us God "in practice." Everyday form--this was it.

The life of Christ showed the glory of the gospel among fallen people. His actions and relationships were meant to explain the entirety of God in terms that made sense to worldly men--the Word became flesh so that God could be comprehended by darkness.

Communication. You know, sometimes I make up words for fun. Webster's dictionary would not recognize them--and usually I'm pretty technical about spelling and correct grammar, etc. But at some point I realized that really, the only objective of language should be communication. At the most basic level, people speak and write to relay ideas. To get information. And so--if I make up a word--but you know what I meant--then it really shouldn't matter that it's technically not "correct." We have communicated. Goal accomplished.

When I read John 1, the extent God went to.. in order to communicate with the world stuns me. It involves an unbelievable amount of contextualization. In fact, John 1 should be perhaps the most convincing chapter in the whole Bible when it comes to discussions of contextualization in missions. GOD BECAME A MAN. This is how important it was for the world to understand... this is how much God desired for the world to understand.

That had to be a pretty ridiculous culture change. Going from being surrounded by heavenly beings and all kinds of perfection... who knows--maybe seraphs with their beautiful wings and voices... to earth? But the transmission of the message was so important... God came to save the lost! He became a man because He loved the world. His desire was so strong for the world to know who He was.

I would like us to think about missions, in light of John 1, with regard to contextualization. Is there any cultural distance that is too great for us to bridge, if God can take on flesh? If God will leave heaven, is there any culture too undesirable to make ourselves part of? How can we communicate the message in a way that our audience can grasp and relate to? How can we put God's love in the terms of a given culture?

The goal is connection and understanding... successful communication.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


What is church?

Neil Cole, a pastor and speaker, offers some thoughts on the subject in an article called "Organic Church." (This article was originally written from a missiological strategist viewpoint--e.g. separating church from the influence of culture--but in this blog entry I only intended to provide thoughts on church in a general manner) Following are some excerpts from his writings.

Neil says, "I went to my peers and leaders, asking them in all sincerity, 'What is church?...' Oh sure, we all know what our traditions are. We speak as though we obviously know the answer to this question. But in reality, we found that many of us hadn't taken a moment to ask the question. Rather than starting with the question of what church is, we had been asking how to make churches bigger or better or how to start more of them. The temptation is to define 'church' according to our own experience. We think we know something because of familiarity... It is much more vital to look at scripture with honesty and courage as we try to define 'church...'"

"...I have come to understand church as this: the presence of Jesus among His people called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet. Granted, this is quite broad, but I like a broad definition of church. The Scriptures don't give a precise definition, so I'm not going to do what God has not done. I want something that captures what the Scriptures say about the Kingdom of God... His presence must be an important element of church... To a disobedient and unhealthy church, Jesus threatens to remove the lampstand (representing the church) from the presence of Jesus. The presence of Jesus is crucial to what church is. His presence is life; His absence is death. He is the most essential portion of who and what we are..."

"...We've come to refer to some of the ideals of church planting movements as an 'organic church.' By organic, I don't mean that it is pesticide free. It's a matter of churches being alive and vibrant as living organisms. [[The core reality is not how the followers are organized, discipled, or helped. The core reality is Jesus being followed, loved, and obeyed.]] (emphasis mine) Christ alive, forming spiritual families and working with them to fulfill His mission, is the living reality of the organic church. The church is really an embodiment of the risen Jesus..."

"...Our mission is to find and develop Christ followers rather than church members. There is a big difference in these two outcomes. The difference is seen in transformed lives that bring change to neighborhoods and nations. Simply gathering a group of people who subscribe to a common set of beliefs is not worthy of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us.[[ We have planted religious organizations rather than planting the powerful presence of Christ...]]" (again, emphasis mine)

As usual, I would love to hear any of your comments. More thoughts on this topic are likely to be posted at a later date.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


First of all, I really do apologize, to anyone who may happen to read my musings, for the long silence. I'm still getting used to this blogging business. Furthermore, I think my supposed readers should understand that my blog may meander from its original "intent." Most of the time it will probably pertain to culture in some way--and perhaps even a foreign culture--because the subject just holds my fascination so well. But, all things considered, maybe I should just be smart about it and say que sera, sera.

Sigh... on to bigger and better thoughts. Awhile ago a friend asked if I believe in a social gospel. Hmmmm... about the best thing I could come up with at the time was, "That is not a three-minute conversation." :) (We were a little limited on time) Perhaps I could do a bit better now though.

Do I believe in a social gospel?

Well, isn't it interesting... one time (quite a while ago)I read a book (can't remember the title or author's name right now) wherein the author observed the Bible's seemingly blase acceptance of slavery. He pointed out that this is surprising to many modern thinkers, who would have expected Jesus (and any of His disciples/current followers) to violently oppose such an obviously inhumane and unjust institution. "Humans can be the property of other humans" doesn't seem to fit with other messages in scripture. Just a couple of examples--in Galatians 3:28 Paul writes, "There is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians--you are all one in Christ Jesus." Psalm 12:5 reads, "Because of the oppression of the weak and groaning of the needy, I will now arise, says the Lord. I will protect them from those who malign them." Amos 5:22-24 addresses some people who assumed and promoted a strong religious identity but in actuality offended God by taking advantage of and oppressing the poor. It says, "Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream."

Don't those verses sound a little more like what we would anticipate from a God who claims to embody love??

A worthy question. As justified as it is, though, I think it misses the point.

The point is this: God's [primary] concern was never to emancipate man from the yoke of slavery, or to deliver man from unfair discrimination or the very real abomination of ethnic cleansing. Although it is certainly not God's desire for man to suffer under any of those circumstances, His [primary concern] was always [to save man from his sin.]

The point is that the [gospel's effective power] is such that a man's arms and legs may be locked in iron chains--while his soul is free indeed. The power of the gospel is such that men can willingly and even happily go to their tortures and deaths--because they have already died to everything but Christ. And simultaneously, in Christ [alone], they live forever.


Let's look at it from the other side of the coin though--through the lens of society. Let's say it is absolutely wrong for genocide to exist in a society. Oppression. Injustice. Apartheid--any of these things are just obviously unacceptable. Someone has to do something about this... and if God won't, men will.

One such man was Kwame Nkrumah. His entire life centered around liberating the African country of Ghana (Gold Coast) from Britain's rule--and in doing so, he hoped to generate a movement of liberation across the entire African continent, from various world powers (mainly Britain and France) whose presence had become a widespread source of disdain.

In the extremely transient climate that typifies many parts of Africa, Nkrumah was an overnight celebrity. Literally. One day he was in prison, and the next he was elected prime minister of the Gold Coast.

And I think it took me reading this to really, truly appreciate the importance of necessary order with regard to societal reform--(in other words, the gospel must come first) see, most of Africa (in addition to being continuously washed over with change) is preoccupied with spirituality. Every movement that can be perceived as good or hopeful has spiritual overtones, most of them not at all subtle. Nkrumah, in his sprint for independence, was given titles like "Man of Destiny" and "Star of Africa." People began to believe he was a prophet and that he possessed super-human abilities. Nkrumah himself was quoted saying, "Seek the political kingdom and all else will follow." Like, woah. Blatant biblical allusion, yes???

In his single-mindedness, after years of tireless work, Nkrumah received his reward. The Gold Coast was liberated from Britain's control on March 6th, 1957, and became the African nation of Ghana. It exists under the same name today. But one thing should be noted: Kwame Nkrumah made Ghana independent. [Not free.]

So once again, the point is this: History has seen many Nkrumahs. But [there is only one Christ.] Victory on the political scene cannot and does not compare to spiritual salvation.

Like a space heater radiating warmth, the gospel transforms individuals and societies from the inside out. That order is absolutely critical.

If you put the cart before the horse... well, things are just backwards. Plus. Good luck getting where you're trying to go.