Monthly Archives: December 2015
Finally got on the wait list for hip surgery, only have about a year to wait now!
My hip was hurting again. I’ve put this off long enough, I thought to myself. It was time for me to face the facts. My hip was toast, and I needed to start the process of getting a new one. 9 years of limping needed to end.
Finally after waiting in the lobby of the Walk-in clinic for to long, I got the chance to tell my story to the doctor. I have letters and MRI reports, and X-rays from years past so I was ready.
“What seems to be the trouble?” he asks.
I launch in to my story, showing him what other doctors have said over the course of nearly a decade of hip pain. He notices that the reports which affirm joint deterioration and recommend surgery are from the States.
“F***ing Americans!” He blurts out.
Huh? What? Wasn’t expecting the F-bomb in the doctors office, I’m…
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He is able to let things go — not carry grudges, not get bitter, or feel compelled to get even. He keeps no list of wrongs that people must pay him back for.Rather, he is able to continue to love people even the tough ones, continue to exercise kindness and generosity towards those that may not deserve it.
Is this not a terrible way to live? Does it not seem that this way cares nothing for Justice?
Only if this perspective is disconnected from the story out of which it comes.
The story says we are the guilty ones. We are the ones deserving punishment and yet the king of the universe has forgiven us. Only because we have been forgiven much are we able to forgive others.
Justice also is not absent from the story because the king took the necessary judgment and suffering upon himself to satisfy the need for justice on our behalf.
How is it justice when the innocent party pays for the guilty? Must not the guilty pay for it to be truly justice?
It is only justice if the innocent party is willing to pay. The story becomes Magnificently beautiful when we discover that the innocent party is willing to pay because of love for us. When Love enters the picture it satisfies justice, destroys hate and breaks the cycle of violence and revenge that so many humans are trapped in. The never ending quest for “justice” is a desert place to live. I love Malala’s honest critique of her beloved Peshtoon people in her book “I am Malala.”
They have no word in their language for forgiveness. Only justice. She laments, that the tribal warfare that has existed for millennia amoung her people, can only forever continue in this closed “justice only” system. You hurt me, justice demands that I hurt you back and so it goes forever. We in the West, don’t raid villages, chop off hands and do public executions as in Malala’s world, but we have our ways of getting even, it’s our version of a “justice only” system and it’s just as bleak. There is a better way.
Using numerous personal life stories Carl Medearis is able to share with his readers how he was able to disarm, relate to, and welcome into friendship Muslims, gay activists, and anyone else that would normally have a pretty big axe to grind against Christianity. How is Carl able to make friends out of sworn enemies so effectively? His answer is very simple: Jesus. Carl isn’t interested in turning people into Christians, he is interested in sharing Jesus.
What I liked:
Its all about Jesus: Carl has learned through personal experience, that Jesus is the only word connected to Christianity that still has a good reputation. All other words are completely sullied. In addition to all of his life experience, he further backs up this claim by sharing the results of his many anecdotal surveys. “What do you think about Christianity?” he asks 50 people on the street one day. He gets only negative responses. Then he asks 50 more people. “What do you think of Jesus?” He gets nothing but positive. Terms like Christian, missionary, evangelism, bible, religion and church are all words that are more trouble than they are worth when introducing people to Jesus. Following Jesus is not about understanding everything in the Bible, affirming complex theological truth, or pledging allegiance to a certain denominational system, it’s about learning to love Jesus. Carl is very helpful in reminding us of this.
No more “Us and Them” Thinking: “Us, Them” terminology is not helpful. Carl acknowledges that he Bible speaks regularly of the sheep and the goats, and of those who are saved and those who are not, but Carl doesn’t think we should. The “in and out” thing is God’s department, not ours. A better way is to think less about the line that determines who is in and out, and more about orientation. The goal of the follower of Jesus is to help other people orient themselves in a direction towards Jesus.
What I am not sure about:
Scripture, the words in red, matter most. He prioritizes the words of Jesus above everything else. What Jesus said, is way more important than what is said in the book of Numbers for example. Fair enough, but then he goes and shoves the words of Paul to the back of the bus with Numbers! the message is clear. Don’t listen to Paul near as much as you listen to Jesus. I understand the need to prioritize Scripture based on things like context and genre. But isn’t what God spoke through Paul or James equally important to what God spoke through John, Matthew, Mark or Luke? Carl says “No” The Jesus words that you find in your red letter edition are the ones that matter most. I’m not so sure. Is it ok to relegate certain parts of the N.T. to the back of the bus based on how many actual quotes of Jesus they contain? I hesitate to sign on. Carl is not saying that Paul’s words are unimportant, but he is saying that they are not as important. To me they are, because all of it is God’s word, and all of it points to Jesus.
Jesus as a human is to be emphasized the most. Carl bemoans the fact that we as Christians have rushed to deify Jesus. He thinks we should embrace the humanity of Jesus a lot more readily. People connect to the real person of Jesus, and from the place of his humanity they grow in their allegiance to him. To make Jesus God to quickly turns people off. OK. I get that, Jesus is human. Love that truth, but John, for example, starts his gospel off making the case for the deity of Jesus — he doesn’t slowly lead into it either. Boom! “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.” Is he making a mistake by being so bold? Of course not. I think we have to hold the deity of Jesus and the humanity of Jesus with vigilant equality. More than one heresy has started with a lean to one side or the other
Love the Terrorists:
Several times he talks about Jesus’ words to love our enemies and applies them directly to our current world of terrorism. It does no good to bomb the sand out of the middle-east, Carl says. What did Jesus do with the terrorists of the day? He welcomed them into this inner circle. What does that mean? What does that look like for us today? How does this observation apply? Carl gives no answer. But I guess that is a bit like what Jesus did also.
Somalia’s civil war, not the place to be if you are white, from the west, and Christian, but that is exactly where Kentucky born, Nik Ripkin found himself in the early 90’s. He wanted to help. The overflow of his love for Jesus made it impossible for him not to try to assist this beleaguered muslim nation.
The light of Jesus must surely overcome the darkness of civil war, violence, radicalism, abuse, starvation, needless death and hopelessness right? His experiences in Somalia left him doubting the answer to that question.
For the love of power and control, feuding tribal warlords and muslim extremist’s continually thwarted anything good for their country. The cost was the death and displacement of millions of their countrymen.
To be a Somalian Christian was not possible. If you were even suspected of following Jesus you were summarily executed. The handful of Christians that Nik got to know while in Somalia were all assassinated while he was there. In part, because they knew Nik. Finally one of Nik’s sons perished from a fully preventable medical emergency had they not been in Africa.
Hearts broken and discouraged, the Ripkins headed back to America. They had so many questions: Can God truly overcome evil? Is love really more powerful than hate? How can a person maintain even a small hope in a dark place? How is it possible for faith to survive in an insane environment like Somaliland’s? Can Christianity work outside of western, dressed-up, well-ordered nations? If so how?
For the next 20 years Nik traveled the globe in search of answers to these questions.
His answer after interviewing over 700 Christian people who come from the worlds most oppressed places is “yes”. In fact, according to Niks research the light of Jesus actually shines brighter in the face of persecution. This book bears out the truth of this claim in one story after another.
- Freedom is not always so good for faith: Nik laments how the Christian Church in Russia has lost more of its fervour and zeal in it’s first 10 years of freedom than it had in nearly 100 years of persecution. It seems as though one of freedom’s unintended consequences is the depreciation of faith. Why is that?
- Persecution is a good thing: No one interviewed asked for an end to persecution, only that their joy in God might be sustained through it. These suffering saints had accepted persecution as almost a gift from God, a welcome cross to bear, in China for example, you were not even considered for a position of spiritual leadership in the house church movement, until you had done at least three years in prison. Prison was the necessary “seminary” training, without it, one’s faith was just viewed as mostly theoretical.
- The incredible power of song: Over and over again, these suffering saints from all over the world, clung to songs of faith that helped sustain them in their difficultly.
- God becomes real: The suffering of Christians Nik uncovers is almost unfathomable from our positions of comfort, ease and freedom in the west, but the dramatic ways God reveals himself to those who suffer for him is also equally unfathomable. The miracles, visions, and direct interventions from God recounted made me feel like I was reading right out of the book of Acts.
You are 18 years old, you are rich and beautiful. You like school and your boyfriend, you drive a cute sports car and wear designer clothes. You have loving parents who are supportive and kind and a wonderful network of family, friends, and neighbours. It’s really the prefect life in America. So what do you do with it?
For Katie Davis the answer was remarkable. Instead of partying, pleasure, marriage, career, travel, or the pursuit of a university education, she packs up and moves to Uganda, adopts 14 girls, starts a ministry which feeds and educates 400 children, and develops an outreach ministry which empowers women and brings desperately needed aid to poverty stricken villages, all in the name of Jesus. Wait, what? Yeah, all before her 22nd birthday.
She doesn’t want you to be impressed with her. That would be the worst thing. Katie wants you to love Jesus, and to follow him where ever He leads. She will be the first to tell you, she didn’t plan to move to Uganda, but it’s where God led her. It’s not a glamorous life. She works hard, suffering and death abound and there are real pressures and stresses that create tears and heartache for her – but she is happy. She glistens with sweat and she is covered in the read dust of Ugandan soil, but there is a joy about her that’s compelling. She is connected with the God of the universe through the love of Jesus and she follows his plans not her own. Is she exhausted each night because of an incredibly challenging life? Absolutely. Does she have a peace, a purpose, and a joy that most in the world know nothing of? Absolutely.
We read this book out loud, together as a family. It was a good call, but be warned, this book will be a direct challenge to your engrained western belief system that tells you your life must first be about your own comfort, ease, and safety.