Saturday, October 30, 2010

Paying Attention

Just received an update from Kevin and Helen, missionary friends from New Zealand.  They oversee a number of projects for Bright Hope World in Asia and Africa.  You can follow their exploits at

I’m always struck by their observations of people and the lands they travel.  Having spent a week with them in the bush of Uganda I know of their commitment to the poorest of the poor.  They live out the gospel in incredible ways looking for ways to encourage local Christians and to seed worthwhile projects that will help provide a healthy economic framework for familes and entire neighborhoods/villages.  They have a very wholistic way of looking at Scriptrue.

I’m struck, at times, with how stuck we are in our approach to God’s word.  We read it, at times, in such a pietistic way that we miss out on the social dimensions of God’s intent. Others, of course, do quite the opposite, missing out on ‘being’ in that personal relationship with a God who loves them like crazy.

Tomorrow I start teaching a class at our church called “Justice and the Everyday Christian”.  My original title was “Glenn Beck is Wrong” but was considered a bit too inflammatory. Although with just three people currently registered I think the first title might have packed the room.

What does doing justice really mean in an ordinary life?  That’s the question isn’t it.  Certainly it means being ‘just’ in the way we live, where we currently are.  Surely we are intended to bloom where we’re planted.  But leading a life of justice also requires asking tougher questions.  Perhaps we’re planted in the wrong place and our gifts and talents can be used elsewhere.  Self-satisfaction can keep us from having our heart break over the same things that break the heart of God.

We’re getting better at seeing the world I think.  We make modest attempts to ‘fair trade’ our purchases and to give more generously.  Some trek like I did to Africa  to see first hand what God is doing in those place.  Others regularly invest in inner city neighborhoods partnering with ministries who work with people on the edges of the American dream. More than a few are using power and influence to help dismantle or at least challenge ongoing systemic injustices. This is all good. I think I’m part of this crowd. I’m aware, active, and growing in my understanding. And unfortunately I want to pat myself on the back for that.

There’s another part of me, however, that is almost afraid to ask God ‘what more is required of me’. I like making modest attempts at things.  Could God be asking me or you for greater sacrifice and/or investment?  That’s a huge question isn’t it?  It’s not for the faint hearted.

Throughout Scripture God asks people to do difficult things.  He asks for bold devotion and almost heroic contribution.  He demands heart commitment and extra mile compassion. God asks for more than a sinners prayer.  He asks for a life well lived.  When we live well we pay attention.

Maybe that’s it.  Maybe the ongoing habit  for anyone who wants to live wholistically  in today’s world as a follower of Christ is to keep on paying attention.  And to pay attention not just to what’s convenient and self-serving but also to those things that are inconvenient, requiring selflessness.  Maybe that’s at the heart of being a Christ follower.

My friends Helen and Kevin pay attention.  God sends them on adventures, often heart breaking ones in some of the ugliest places in the world to meet some of God’s most precious people. .  I know people who are extraordinarily kind.  Because they pay attention God blesses them by putting people in their path who need tender kindnesses lavished on them. 

And I know people who don’t pay attention and they try to find meaning in the clothes racks at Nordstroms or in caffeine rush of Starbucks.  That’s not where the heart of God resides no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves of that. 

Tomorrow I will teach on ‘justice and the everyday Christian’.  I’m thankful for the people who will show up.  I’m betting they are listening to the stirring of God in their heart.  Why else would they want to explore such a topic?  And I will tell them that the #1 rule for people who want to live justly is that they must ‘pay attention’.  And when they do they must listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They can’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit asks ‘even more of them’. And then they must step into the adventure of faith in a bold new way.

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