Monday, January 03, 2005

i dare you

my life has been crazy full and yet fulfilling over the last week. i spent a number of days at a conference, where i had the opportunity to serve my brothers and sisters from around the country through teaching, listening, encouraging and loving.

i have to say there were times when people made request of my gifts, time and energy, when i felt i had no more energy or creativity. but as i examined each request, i sensed that God wanted me to say yes to many of them, even though i felt i was at the end of my rope. and in the nick of time God came through in ways that amazed me.

after i came home, i needed to prepare for a message. i studied all day on new years day and waited on God to give me an outline or approach to the text. in time he did, but i didn't finish my message until 4:30 a.m. i got up about 7:30 to prepare myself for the day. the time when well. i thought i would have the afternoon to nap, but God had different plans. some visitors were in town and i really felt a desire to host them and extend hospitality.

finally today, i was able to catch up with much needed sleep, and this is my first time in a week that i have had a chance to breathe and record some of my thoughts.

as i took some time over the last couple of days to reflect on this new year, the one thought that has been coming to my mind over and over again was how the apostle paul on a couple of occassions talked about pouring out his life for others like a drink offering. it is a picture of faith that i desire to imitate more and more this coming year, for i believe it is when we give our life away that we find life.

a passage that i memorized very early in my life as a christ follower that has always stayed with me and has greatly shaped how i think, behave and approach ministry come from the lips of jesus. He said, "Anyone who wishes to come after me must deny himself and pick up his cross daily and follow me, for whoever wishes to save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the sake of the gospel, will save it."

this thought is so contrary to what the world teaches us. the world teaches us to look out for ourselves, to consider ourselves the most important. the world teaches us to give of ourselves our lives and gifts cautiously, for you never know who might take advantage of them. but i have found that following jesus and paul is much more rewarding than living life cautiously.

can you imagine if jesus in the garden started to think, "well, i don't think i am going to go through with this, after all, i'm not sure if these people appreciate me for who i am. it seems to me that they just want me around in order to get a few miracles for themselves. forget the cross, forget these people, i just don't think they appreciate me."

of course that was not the attitude of jesus. while he may have been tempted to think like that in his humanity, he decided to go down the hard road of the cross. it was a tough and agnozing road, but in the end, it was a rewarding one.

i believe paul followed in jesus footsteps, and that is why when he got to the end of his life he was able to say, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, i have finished the race, i have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous juddge will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

as i enter a new year, i am asking the Lord to help me continue to live by faith and to pour my life out to others like a drink offering unto God. i do that, because i have a profound sense of christ's sacrificial love for me. and because i understand his amazing love, i desire to love others in return. to love others no matter what their response to me is. for my source of love is not dependent on people, but God. if it were on people and their responses, i would have run out of love a long time ago.

so, are you going to tap into God's love this year and join me in pouring out your life to others? in light of what Christ has done for you, are you willing to give yourself as a living sacrifice to Him? while it is a rough road filled with hardships and challenges and some sleepless nights, i dare you to show me a better road. i double dare you!


At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I wanted to say thanks for your telling of the Christmas story at the conference last week. As someone who holds a lot of cynicism toward Christmas and a lot of the aspects of Christian "culture" (as opposed to the faith) and also as someone who was seriously struggling with deep doubts about his faith, it was good to hear a more real (and more powerful) telling of the story.

Could you reccomend some sources for this information you get? I heard a lot of it at a fall retreat you did a while back for University of Illinois and Illinois State.

Well thanks again. It's a tough challenge you give, even if you know that it's worth it.



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