Friday, November 20, 2009

Lessons from an Amoeba

Dying vs Thriving
Author John Ortberg talks about a scientific experiment where tiny little amoebas (as opposed to the jumbo-sized amoebas) were put in a controlled environment that was perfectly suited for their survival, in theory. It was the ideal temperature, with the ideal amount of moisture and food. They should have done well. One problem – they all died. When the scientists changed one of the variables in the equation by making the amount of food slightly less, or the temperature slightly higher, etc, guess what happened. The amoebas thrived. Their conclusion was that organisms seem to need a challenge to survive. Enough to think about there alone.

Why we Gravitate Toward Negativity
But let’s turn a corner. It has often been lamented that humans seem to be infatuated with the negative and with bad news. We cannot get enough news about the latest Hollywood breakup, the swine flu, the tanking economy or the deadly bombing in some middle-eastern country. I find that blog posts of mine that are most read are those that highlight some wrong, some injustice, something that is not the way it should be. Those that I see as more uplifting seem to go largely ignored.

My own theory is that blog readers, and consumers of news in general, like the negative precisely because it makes them feel alive. They have something to overcome, even if it is only a mental or emotional exercise. So they gravitate in their hearts and minds toward the negative. Could it be that we do this because dealing with the negative in culture is so much easier than dealing with our own broken and fallen nature? There are all kinds of theological implications here as well.

Why we Need Problems and Threats
Just think of one of the larger implications in this regard. Could it be that we human animals need a certain degree of evil to exist in order to survive? Could it be that a real honest-to-goodness-Utopia would be the end of us all? Could it be that we need for something to be wrong or something to fight against – not with weapons like those of the purveyors of evil and wrongdoing – but with the weapons of faith, hope and love? Could it be that the best place to start is with ourselves?

Running into the Fight
If this is true, maybe running from the fight is the only way to guarantee that we lose, and running into the fight is the only way to win. Maybe Jesus was right when he said, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it." May you be one who always runs into the battle with an irrepressible you in your heart!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On The Turning Away

Following Jesus teaches you something about yourself. I’m not talking about the lessons learned as an immediate result of the study of Scripture or time spent in prayer. But there are little awakenings that occur in one’s life as he /she examines that life in light of the nature and character of the one we follow.

23 Then (Jesus) said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?

Jesus could say this because he had already surrendered his life by coming to us for the purpose of showing us that the way to the Father is the way of the cross. It is the way of giving your life for the sake of others.

So what does this teach me about myself? If I am ruthlessly honest, it exposes how incredibly selfish I really am. I want things to go my way. I want people to defer to my point of view or to my desired course of action. I want my family to serve me and appreciate how fortunate they are to have me in their lives. I want to be served. I want my diet soft drink and the remote. I want … I want … I want.

Twenty-two years ago, Pink Floyd lamented the tragedy of turning away from the needs of our fellow humans in a wonderful song called On The Turning Away. But long before that, Jesus spoke of another, yet obviously related kind of turning away. Jesus says to turn from my selfish ways and follow him. That’s because his way and my way – as much as I’d like to think otherwise – are not the same thing. The closer I get to Jesus, and the more I follow his way, the more corrupt and depraved my way is exposed to be.

This is not an exercise in beating myself up. This is a waking up.  This is grace. This is sanity. This is being able to breathe deeply, smile broadly, give freely and love recklessly. This makes the right kind of turning away and the saving of my life possible.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Courage for What?

A friend recently posted a Facebook status update with the following verse.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

As I reflected on this, something struck me. Joshua hears these words as he is about to fight a very large battle entering into the Promised Land. So he hears what you might expect - be strong and have courage. But he is told to be strong and courageous for reasons that seem to have no direct connection to the battle.

He is told to be strong and courageous so that he might be obedient to the law - the commands and the ways of God (vv7-8). That is how success is defined.

Another reminder that while the battle is important, the kind of person entering the battle, to God, is at least as important.