Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Mountaintops

Growing up in Nepal, the majesty of the Himalaya are deeply ingrained in my memory, so I was mesmerized by this video I found on Justin Taylor's blog.


Been absent from these pages for a few weeks.  Working on some other projects and traveling a bit.

We plan to return to Papua in about a month.  As that return date approaches, I've been reflecting a bit on this time that the Lord has given us away from the front lines.

In particular, I've been thinking a bit about how often Jesus retreated to the solitude of the mountains during his tumultuous ministry years here on earth.  Despite the fact that some of the tumult in my own ministry is of my own making, my family and I have been incredibly fortunate to have had an opportunity to do some of the mountain thing recently.  As I've noted before, by God's mercy, we've been ensconced in a cabin on a lake in Vermont for the past few months.  

It's the kind of place you never want to leave.  And yet, we know that this place is not our home, it's a way station on our journey, a mountaintop to which we've retreated.  It would be a hard thing to leave this mountaintop, except that we came up here to be with our Master--and we have met Him and enjoyed Him fully--and now it is He that is heading back down the mountain and we'd be crazy not to follow.  Jesus always comes off the mountain.  Jesus called us to simply follow...what a tragedy it would be if we stayed on the mountain after our Master had made His way back down.  Without Him up here, this mountaintop would become a cold, windy and desolate place.  

At times, I have felt far removed from the battlefield that life and ministry can feel like at times in Papua.  I've struggled to not feel guilty as my colleagues continue to fight the good fight while I have retreated from the front lines for a while.  That said, I find that if I stay in the battle too long, I lose focus...I'm still fighting, but I'm swinging blindly, ineffectively.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus showed us the "work hard - retreat deeply" model that He lived by.  It is amazing to me that God, from the very beginning--as in the second chapter of the Bible--modeled this work-rest cycle for us.  These weren't simply instructions from the Creator to the creation...the Creator followed the pattern in His own work and creativity.

It is also fascinating to me that in a perfect, pre-sin world, we were designed to work hard, then rest deeply.  Like everything else, sin screws up this perfect balance and we either end up working too much or resting too much.  

And so we'll drink deeply of the solitude, be refreshed by the beauty all around us, not as an end in itself, but as a time to be still with God, gain His perspective on the valley below, and follow Him back down the mountain, filled with joy...not just for the time on the mountain, but also for the anticipation of what the path ahead holds...because He's on it.    

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Atheist With Integrity

Mathew Parris is a former MP in the British Parliament and currently a columnist with The Times of London.  He's a professing atheist. If part of integrity is recognizing good in the opposite camp, even when it weakens your own position, then Mr. Parris demonstrates such integrity in the fascinating article below.

I first read this piece a couple of years ago, but was reminded of it today by an article in Christianity Today by the Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, Hwa Yung.  (That piece is very much worth the read: here)

Originally published in The Times in 2009, here's Parris' take on the impact of missions:
Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giving The Pagans A Run For Their Money

Jesus once said,

the pagans run after all these things
And so do we.

Doing volunteer work, I'm poorer than your average millionaire.  But, in the context of Papua, I'm much better off than most of the people that I live among.  And that is exactly not the point.  Anytime we focus on our relative economic standing, we're looking down the wrong path...and it's a shortcut to unhappiness.

I'm fortunate to rub shoulders with people from all levels of the economic strata and find that in every sector, from dirt poor to filthy rich, you'll find people who have serious cases of contentment.   And, you'll also find, across that same spectrum, others who say they are following Jesus but appear to be running full tilt after 'all these things.'

The former group of people have a passion for life.  The latter, a passion for stuff.  The contented crowd tends to be very free with whatever stuff they end up entrusted with, be it a big pile or a widow's mite.  The running crowd tend to be so focused on getting that they miss out on both the delights of what they already have...and the fun of giving some of it away.

One of the interesting things to me is that when Jesus spoke those words (Matthew 6:32), the 'things' that He observed the pagans running after weren't BMW's or, these pagans were stressing about the necessities of life.  You can sense Jesus' sadness and pity as He watches these folks sprinting after Casseroles, Cokes and Levis like panicked refugees trying to get on the last flight out of Saigon.  The wild thing is that Jesus says that God knows that we need our Casseroles, Cokes and Levis.  I can imagine Him saying to us, 

Relax.  Pursue me.  Pursue life in my invisible realm...
and I'll make sure you're fed, watered and clothed. 
Be content.

One of the greatest gifts we can ever receive is the gift of contentment, and like most good things, I'm finding it flows freely into our lives out of a connectedness to Jesus.