Saturday, April 11, 2015

Doing Hard Things

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The other week, after spending a hefty amount of money on shots for my trip to Ghana because insurance doesn't cover international vaccines, I was irritated. The thought crossed my mind, "Why am I spending so much money on a trip that may not even be that fun?" It will be hot. There will be bugs. I hate bugs. It will be rainy. Who knows what kind of food we will be eating. We will take bucket showers...for seven weeks. There won't be much indoor plumbing. Am I crazy? I could probably be much happier if I just stayed in Birmingham.

A few days after I was having those thoughts, my dad shared with me a blog post from Brain Cane, called "I Hate Running, and I Run Marathons...WHY?". In the article, Cane speaks of delayed gratification, of doing something hard not for the sake of doing it, but for the reward that comes after it. The article affected me on several levels. First, it made me want to get into shape! But it also reminded me of the bigger picture.

1 Corinthians 15:9 "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." What does this mean? I think it means we should be living in a way now that costs us. Christ has been raised. Therefore we have eternal pleasure. So if we miss out on some pleasure here on earth, that's okay. We already have the pearl of great price. We already have everything.

Praise God that Jesus didn't live for temporary pleasure! If He did, there would be no cross. But that doesn't mean there is no joy. There is...the very best kind. It's just in the "not yet" realm.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross...Consider that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:2-3).

We wouldn't be given this word if there wasn't a possibility we would grow weary. We wouldn't grow weary if life wasn't hard.

But we don't do hard things just for the sake of doing them. We do them for the joy set before us. Just like Jesus.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday, the Air Force Force Academy, and the Willingness to Give It All

On this Good Friday morning I sat with my dad outside a small bakery eating my first hot cross bun and drinking an iced coffee.

He started telling me about another baseball coach who recently played Air Force. The coach was struck by the military school. If you were to walk into their hotel on an away trip at 5:30 in the morning, you would find them in two's, each player with his accountability partner, studying. This is the schedule they must follow in order to accomplish all of their responsibilities--baseball, military training, and their studies (And to think I complained about school when I was in college!).

The coach reported that when the national anthem was played before the game, Air Force's team was called to attention and stood with their salute. Air Force's coach spoke to my dad's friend about the future some of these men would face. He takes seriously his job to prepare them for that future. Some of them could give their lives defending their country.

My dad teared up as he recounted this to me. Tears sprang to my eyes too. "It's right for us to feel this way," I said. It stirs our hearts when we see people living for something bigger than themselves to the point that they are willing to die for that something. I believe it stirs us because it echoes what is written on our hearts--what we are called to do (1 Corinthians 5:15).

It's why I cry every time I watch the movie Valkyrie. It's why I loved reading Through the Gates of Splendor and Bonhoeffer and why I wept as I watched today Do You Believe?.

This day marks history's ultimate example of sacrifice. I think stories move us because they reflect the Great Story.

Jesus, Son of God, in obedience to the Father, lay down His life, bore God's wrath, and faced death head-on. He drank the full cup. What love.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command." John 15:13 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Living for Something Larger Than Ourselves

"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." 2 Corinthians 5:15

"The way I see it, we ought to be expendable. In the military, we were taught that to obtain our objectives we had to be willing to be expendable. Missionaries must face that same expendability." - Nate Saint

"Such fatigues and hardship as these serve to wean me more from the earth; and, I trust, will make 

heaven the sweeter. Formerly, when I was thus exposed to cold, rain, etc., I was ready to please 

myself with the thoughts of enjoying a comfortable house, a warm fire, and other outward comforts; 

but now these have less place in my heart (through the grace of God) and my eye is more to God for 

comfort." - David Brainerd

These past few days I've seen a weakness in myself. I love comfort. That's not the weakness though. Where I find my comfort is. I look to circumstances--physical location, my schedule, my resources--to provide my feeling of comfort. Comfort is a good thing. But we need to go to the right place for our comfort. 

I've lived what some would call a charmed life. Why I've been so blessed, I'm not totally sure. I want to be grateful for those blessings. But I don't want to depend on them more than I depend on the One who gives them. 

I'm starting to see that my blessings should be a means to glorify God. God blessed Abraham so that he would be a blessing and so that ultimately, the nations may give glory to God (Genesis 12:1-3). If I see my blessings that way, then I won't be offended when they are taken away. Because, just as my "plenty" is meant to glorify God, so is my "lacking." I want to have the courage to bear both. I want to be so dependent on God that neither fears nor sorrow, nor pleasures have sway on my soul. 

I'm not there yet. 

I keep praying to know the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:19), because I believe only then, when I am rooted in His love, will I have the trust to sustain me. 

I love Bethel's song, "Brave." Notice how most of the song describes God's love and character. It is only after the foundation of knowing Him is laid that bravery follows. 

The funny thing about all this, is that it's upside down. You'd think that chasing bravery would be a scary thing. You'd think that facing the prospect of losing material comforts would cause chills (and sometimes it does!). But the apostle Paul didn't see it that way. Paul saw it as a gift. "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." Jesus's death freed us from the bondage of living for ourselves. In Him, we are offered something much greater, much sweeter. We are offered the privilege of living for Him...Wow. 

Lord, let my heart be enraptured by the greatness of that reality.