Killing Community

I'm frustrated with organizations and others who spend so much time tearing down others rather than just focusing on what they can be doing to make things better.

Your family. Your town. Your church. Your school. Every organization you know can become fragmented and lose steam from an individual unleashing malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander (see 1 Peter 2:1). And it’s contagious. Once one starts behaving inappropriately others just join in creating a downward spiral that leads to destruction and death rather than life and freedom.

Malice. The thought of wishing ill on someone. A secret desire that the opposition will fail. Doesn’t seem all that bad, does it? But it’s the start. Once we allow ourselves to root for evil in the life of another, we have allowed evil to enter into our lives.

Deceit. Being fake with the intention of tricking. At its worst, it is like the lure in a trap when hunting. It offers food for the prey, and then traps them. You see this in debates a lot. We are not to be that way. We are to be truthful and frank bringing peace and joy. We are to say what we mean and mean what we say while leaving the debating tricks to those who want to win debates rather than build a better tomorrow.

Hypocrisy. The acting of a theater performer. Instead of changing to be who God wants them to be, a hypocrite is like a chameleon. They change depending on the crowd they are currently in with the hope, sometimes unrecognized, to manipulate others into giving them what they want. At their worst, they will be your friend to your face and attack you behind your back.

Envy. Similar to malice except that an envious person doesn’t want the other person to be blessed. Instead of desiring the best for those around them, an envious person demands to have the best. Envy will always try to creep in and tell you that you deserve more than others, especially those who have wronged you. You can tell when you have truly forgiven someone for a wrong they have done to you when you are rooting for them to be blessed rather than frustrated at their blessings.

Slander. The sin of the small town. Back-biting and speaking negatively about others behind their back. It is the snake that slithers in and squeezes out all unity and life.

These are common sins that destroy relationships rather than draw people together. They dismantle rather than assemble. They burn bridges rather than build them. Tomorrow can be better than today in our family, town, church, and every other group we are part of if we remove from ourselves all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.

Is it any wonder that America is in the state it is? Our political scene is inundated with one attack after another. Instead, let us offer up an alternative. Not just in the political arena – although that is welcomed – but in our daily lives. Let us long for truth and spirituality that will spur us toward living the life God has called us to live. Let us look at what we can do to improve the life of those around us rather than obsessing over attacking others. We are called to be people of worship. Self-sacrifice, like Jesus modeled and Paul taught, is one of greatest acts of worship.

The world will never be changed by those who are obsessed about tearing others down. It will only be changed by those who deny themselves, invest in others, and build something better. That’s true in our families. That’s true in our towns. That’s true in our churches. Let us build a better tomorrow. I know of a good foundation.

A Response to Claims of Atheistic Persecution

I was recently sent the article Persecution of christians?? Oh, really??. In it, meterologist Chuck Doswell, attempts to make the point that atheists are being persecuted in America like Christians claim to be. Below is my response.

Atheists can have tax exempt status if they file as a non-profit. And since most of us already agree that atheism (once it is practiced) is a religion, they could also start an atheistic church. I know atheists don't like being considered a religion, but they are not the ones who get to decide. Most Christians would also like to say they aren't a religion. Both stances are fairly ludicrous and discussion devolves into a game of semantics.

Doswell also misreads the right-wing politicians. They aren't trying to force their religion on people. They are trying to pass laws that would express their moral convictions, and a rational person cannot separate their moral convictions from what they believe. Just like Doswell would want laws that spring out of what he believes, these politicans want laws that spring out of what they believe. The disagreement comes in the realm of beliefs. Even though I have no love politically for the politicians he mentioned, I think he misunderstands what they are trying to do. They don't want to become the pastor-in-chief. They wouldn't make Christianity America's state religion. They just want laws that are an outgrowth of their beliefs. This isn't evil. It is all anyone wants.

Christians do use the word persecution too much. There is a great difference between persecution and discrimination.

Doswell seems to think that the majority of American are believing Christians while most of them are just Christians in name only.

We are free from persecution here in the United States. Most of the time.  However, a radical Christian receives similar "persecution" as he describes atheists receiving. I can recall real, unquotationed marked  persecution directed toward atheist and Christian conscientious objectors during World War II. During that time, many Christians stood up for the rights of the atheists. And we will again if another situation arises.

 With laws like those mentioned under "real persecution", it seems like atheists have bigger fish to fry than going after people praying at school sporting events or nativity scenes in the public courtyards. They would have my support in trying to take down laws that prohibit atheists from serving in public office. I wonder why they don't focus on the "real persecutions." Maybe it is because there isn't any? Those laws wouldn't be enforced. If they were, they would be overturned. I could be wrong. If so, please show me a news story that shows a recent prohibition of an atheist serving in public office due to one of the states' Constitutions.

By the end of the article, Doswell does what he accuses Christians of doing in the beginning. He tries to paint a picture of persecution when I don't think anyone is really persecuted here in the United States. (Except maybe for some Muslims who are being held in a prison without a trial.) Don't confuse persecution with discrimination.

Wesley Korir - Strength From The Lord

In college, Wesley Korir started running at Murray State before transferring to the Louisville Cardinals. He had a good but not stellar college career. He was Conference USA Freshman runner of the year in 2004 and earned All-Region honors in 2005 & 2006.

Growing up in Sudan, Korir would run twenty miles ever day for school. Five miles to school. Ten miles for lunch and back. And then five more home.

In 2007, Korir needed to renew his Visa. During his stay in Sudan, they had elections and things went crazy. Riots and killings. In one of the mobs Korir was caught up in, he saw one of Kenyans running Olympians, Lucas Sang, killed. He eventually fled to Uganda.

Back in the States, he worked as a maintenance man at the University of Louisville. His coach encouaraged him to run in the 2008 Chicago Marathon. In the Chicago marathon, like most major marathons, they have an official marathon with the elite runners (in this case twenty runners) and then they let everyone else who wants to participate run behind them. Korir had to run in the pack with all the normal runners, yet caught up with and passed fifteen of the elite runners finishing fourth overall and winning the non-elite marathon.

A few months later, he went to Los Angeles and ran in the Los Angeles marathon, which he won in the fastest time in Los Angeles marathon history. 2 hours 8 minutes 24 seconds. Then in 2010, he won again becoming the first back-to-back winner. And in 2012, Korir won the Boston Marathon.

How I love the story of Korir rising from the poverty of Sudan to an above average college runner to the best runner in the world. If only we could bottle whatever he drinks and consume that same thing in our life. Maybe we can.

Most of the elite runners have special laboratory made concoctions designed specifically for them to nourish their body during the run. Korir only drinks water. He claims, “I don’t want my strength to come from any concoction; I want it to come from the Lord.”

Oh, how we long for a magical concoction rather than continually striving every moment to be who God wants us to be. The Lord's Supper is a reminder that we want to survive on the Lord, but it isn't a magical potion.

Transformation isn’t that easy. We can’t just drink something and change; it takes time. The Lord’s Supper isn’t a magical serum that will make us more like Jesus. It’s like a reset button that puts our life back into perspective. Being like Jesus takes work. It takes dedication.  It’s not a quick fix.  We come and take the Lord’s Supper every week, but if we don’t mean it – if we are just going through the physical motions, then it is meaningless.

The Lord’s Supper is not relevant if we just partake on Sunday but then forget about Jesus on Monday.  We should stop taking it if that is the case.

Instead, let us always remember that when we come to the Lord’s table that Jesus is the source of our life.  When we are thinking whether we need to love that neighbor who is a jerk at times, remember that Jesus is our life. When we are frustrated with that person that makes all the wrong decisions, remember that Jesus is our life. When we are tempted to slack off at work and just slide by for a while, remember that Jesus is our life. Jesus, Our life. That is what we celebrate when we take the Lord’s Supper.

When we take the bread and the cup, it’s a commitment to let the source of our life be Jesus, to let him work in every area of our life with the help of the Holy Spirit. Every day. Every moment. Like the runner Wesley Korir, we need to let Jesus to be the source of our life.  We will fail, and that is the reason we need Jesus to be our Passover sacrifice.

Appleing Away

There is a view in Christianity that leads to a false sense of security. Thankfully, not everyone who has that view actually lives it out in practice although they will adamantly defend it. We’ll get to that view later, but let’s begin with dealing with a false sense of security.

In 1976, two young guys had developed a personal computer that they thought people would be interested in buying. All they wanted to do was pursue making more, selling them, and developing the concept further.

These two men, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.'

And Atari said, “No.”

So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, who Wozniak was working for at the time, and HP said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"

Atari and HP missed opportunities because they had a false sense of security. They thought they were heading in the right direction and didn’t need this new approach. As of Friday, April 13, HP is worth 5.84 billion dollars and Atari is worth 38.05 million dollars while Apple, the company they both refused to take on, is worth 580.65 billion dollars.

A false sense of security that is the result of success can cause us to miss opportunities because we think things are just fine. False security can drown out our sense of adventure.

Let’s flash forward to the present time. Apple is now the heavyweight of the computer field, worth more than twice the value Microsoft. And they are invulnerable to malicious programs, or so they try to make us think. Right on their website they state, “With virtually no effort on your part, OS X defends against viruses and other malicious applications, or malware.” Lulling their users into a false sense of security.

Thanks to Apple’s marketing, many Apple users think they are invulnerable to malicious software. But just the other week over 600,000 Apple computers were infected with the Flashback Trojan. Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher at Kaspersky Lab, a leading antivirus software company, who has analyzed the malware said, “Mac users have been led to believe they’re safe and turned off their paranoia filter. There is a lot of easy prey out there.”

A false sense of security that is the result of pride and complacency can cause us to compromise ourselves by doing things we shouldn’t do.

This leads us back to our view on the subject at hand. Many Christians have a false sense of eternal security that leads them to miss opportunities for what Jesus wants them to do and compromise their convictions in do things they shouldn’t do.

I can’t do a thorough Bible study in this article, but I will give you some of the key verses. Read the context around them to get a better picture because Scripture isn’t intended to be read in little bites like this.

“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Rev 3:5 ESV). One’s name would not need to be blotted out if it could not be removed.

“Have fallen away” (Heb 6:6 ESV). This section in Hebrews talks about the impossibility of restoring one who has fallen away. The phrase “fallen away” implies that one can leave.

“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13 ESV). The writer of Hebrews would not give a warning if becoming hardened by sin was not possible.

“If you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:2 ESV). The Bible is full of instructions to hold fast, continue on, and remain in the teaching they originally received. These instructions would be unnecessary if those in the faith were guaranteed to never stray out of it.

As for the verses that seem to emphasize that nothing can pluck us from God’s hand. They’re right. Nothing can pluck us from God’s hand. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t flee God’s presence. The early church was going through a lot of trials and persecution. These verses emphasized to them that they could not be removed from the presence of God’s presence nor from receiving His gracious, saving grace.

Nothing in this world has the power in itself to damage our spiritual relationship with God. Our spirit is invulnerable to the physical unless we allow the bad situations we go through to create doubts in us that we allow to fester into inaction or sin.

So when the world is telling us to compromise, we don’t because no amount of suffering or pleasure is worth giving up God’s grace and calling. When circumstances attempt to deceive us into being inactive, we will refuse because we know that God’s work is not done here yet.

Thankfully, most Christians who disagree on the big, theological concept still agree on the practical ways to live it out. And in that, we can continue on bringing about the will of the Lord on earth as it is in heaven while we rest assured that nothing in this world can remove us from God’s grace - except for ourselves.

As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “God save you from the werewolf and from your heart's desire.”

Hands and Feet

We are to be Jesus’ hands and feet. That takes a different tone on Good Friday.

Your faith in Jesus was made real to you by others. The only way that the people in your neighborhood are going to have a faith made real in their life is because you choose or someone else chooses to be that other to them. We need to be that person in their life who is proclaiming a different way to live. We must surrender ourselves and become that other to others that someone once was to you. We must become Jesus’ hands and feet.

Just over a month ago, I was in Liberia on a short-term mission trip. Our neighborhoods are not going to be the recipient of missionaries. When was the last time you saw a church started in your neighborhood by missionaries? When was the last time you saw a missionary meeting the needs of your neighbors and sharing the Gospel? Probably never.

Unless we realize that we are missionaries.

The reason that God has put us where we are is to be the missionaries to our neighbors, our co-workers, and our friends. The reason God has placed our churches where they are is to further His Kingdom in our neighborhoods. We are to be Jesus’ hands and feet right where we are.

This short clip illustrates it well:

When we send a missionary overseas, we expect them to share the gospel. But we also expect them to live sacrificially and meet the needs of their neighborhood. Over there, among the “lost,” we expect them to live like the guy who jumped in front of the oncoming Subway train to save a stranger. To be Jesus' hands and feet, we must be willing to die.

Our neighbors, our worklplaces, our families, and our churches can be better. They have to be better. But it must start with us. We are to be Jesus’ hands and feet bringing His will into reality.

Who reading this wants to commit their life to being a missionary to their neighbor or to their workplace? If you claim to be a Christian, then you have already made a commitment to such crazy endeavors. You have already said that you want to be his sacrificial hands and feet.

Our churches are filled with people who live as if making more disciples can't happen. Our churches have some people who won’t allow changes to facilitate that happening. Don’t be one of those people. Actually, ignore those people. The mission that Jesus has placed us on. The mission of being the lifeline to our community is way too important to get it cluttered with doing church rather than being church.

Unfortunately, at times…
…we care more about buildings than we do making disciples.
…we care more about music than we do about living a life of worship.
…we care more about programs than we do reaching out.
…we care more about our own selfish needs than we do about living the calling that God has placed on us.
…we care more about receiving blessings from God than we do about about being His hands and feet.

And because of those bad priorities, we get bad results. In the town I minister in, less than 20% of the people went to church on March 25. That is compared to a national average of 35%. Maybe your neighborhood is doing better than that, but none of our neighborhoods are exactly where God wants them to be. They can always use more people moving and acting like Jesus' feet and hands.

If we actually believe that our neighborhood could be what God intended it to be and began working toward it, that which many view as impossible would become reality. It’s not going to come easily; it’s going to take us being His hands and feet, going where others say those hands and feet shouldn't go.

Dr. Dionysius Lardner, who was a prominent scientist and economist in the early 1800s, is famous for being wrong. He couldn't see the new ordinary. Once he argued, “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” Today, people will regularly travel at 268 mph on the Shanghai Maglev Train. There are no known reports of passengers dying of asphyxia. At that speed, if a similar high-speed rail were in place here, we would be able to get to Chicago from Ft. Wayne in around thirty-six minutes. Or for you Yankee fans, from Ft. Wayne to New York in two hours and twenty-four minutes. 268 mph is a speed that is way beyond what Dr. Lardner thought would kill humans is now routinely in use every day in China. Things thought impossible can become reality.

Wilbur Wright, in a speech to the Aero Club in France on November 5, 1908, said, “I confess that in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years.” Two years later, the two Wright brothers were flying their first airplane at Kitty Hawk. The impossible became reality.

All around us, what was once thought impossible is reality.

Unfortunately, spiritually speaking, the impossible, when it comes to church, has not become reality in our neighborhoods. Paul wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13 ESV). Yet we languish as if there is no way we can live a selfless life following Jesus here on earth. We subsist, enslaved to the same old sins that others have overcome. We spiritually endure life without experiencing the power of God.

Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian, wrote a parable entitled Tame Geese: A Revivalistic Meditation. It is the story of a community of talking geese who would gather together on Sundays for their religious services. “The essential content of the sermon was: what a lofty destiny the geese had, what a high goal the Creator (and every time this word was mentioned the geese curtsied and the ganders bowed the head) had set before the geese; by the aid of wings they could fly away to distant regions, blessed climes, where properly they were at home, for here they were only strangers.” The geese were made to fly, yet after hearing the goose-changing message, the geese would all get out of their seats and waddle home. Kierkegaard concluded the story with the phrase, “Man also has wings, he has an imagination.” Yet we continue to waddle.

Let’s stop waddling. Let’s start flying. It’s amazing what these hands and feet can do.

This is part of a series that I wrote showing the mission trip I took to Liberia.
I divided the subjects into individual pages, for ease of use.

Here are a few articles that I wrote upon my return:
One Drop

Reaction to Andrew Sullivan's Christianity in Crisis

Andrew Sullivan: Christianity in Crisis

Saying "Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists" is like saying that it once was better, as if there was a golden age of glorious Christianity at some point in the past. Was that golden age in the 80s when our most prominent spokespeople were Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Jim Bakker? Or the 60s, when a girl would get pregnant and be shipped out of town? Or the 40s, when we imprisoned those who couldn't fight in the war without destroying their conscience? And we can go even further back and find terrible atrocities.

I am always a little hesitant to look at some point in the past as the golden age.

I'm encouraged by the church these days. What I see in the church today is a great thing, albeit mired at times and places by confusion. Not that the church being in a good place is exclusive to our era. People are going back to the Scriptures. People are trying to following Jesus no matter how radical those teachings might be. People are recognizing that the church is more about relationships than institution. And I see many churches who are living out their witness to their community and the world together. I think we are in good times for the church. Sullivan might just need to find a different, healthy church to be part of.

This is the first time that I have encountered the idea that Jefferson mutilating his Bible and picking and choosing what passages he wanted to follow was a positive thing. That twist is new to me. But there is this fad today of only following the teachings of Jesus. It's not the worst thing in the world. But comparing Jefferson to Jesus is strange. Jefferson cannot be lifted up as nonviolent, one of the tenets of the Gospel that Sullivan keeps bringing up as a good thing. Jefferson was one the key figures in the preparations for the Revolutionary War and was the governor of Virginia during it. When he became President, he initiated the Barbary Wars, which set the tone early on for American international military excursions. Jefferson might have done a lot of great things, but he didn't live by the teachings of Jesus as Sullivan decribes them. Actually, Jefferson was a man who claimed to be a follower of Jesus and then used politics to give Jesus a bad name, just like the people that are easy to criticize from the modern era. Stumbling, bumbling, modern-day followers of Jesus are easier to criticize than Jefferson because we have not yet made them into gods.

The idea that organized religion is in trouble is an American fallacy. Some of the mainline denominations have not made the transition into the modern era and are in trouble, dwindling in numbers. But church attendance appears to be steady throughout the land. There has been a great non-denomination surge. Now, I live in an area where that attendance is lower than the national average, but the national average is pretty impressive.

Sullivan really needs to read two articles. I find it hard to believe that he doesn't already know these things. Many evangelicals, like myself, are not Santorum supporters nor do we consider ourselves Republicans. Jim Wallis wrote Defining "Evangelicals" in an Election Year. I understand when secular writers have swallowed the talking points about who evangelicals are, but Sullivan should have known better.

And my brief article talking about church attendance through the years. Obsessing Over Oddities - The Focus of a Life in Jesus and The False Assumption that Church Attendance is Declining in America.

Sullivan has swallowed some teachings that are a little off. He writes, "He [Jesus] was a celibate who, along with his followers, anticipated an imminent End of the World where reproduction was completely irrelevant." Jesus didn't expect an imminent End of the World. He expected an imminent arrival of the Kingdom. That is different than the end of the world. His followers were also not expecting an end of the world, but a resurgence of the kingdom of Israel. They didn't get what they wanted although the kingdom did arrive; it just looked and behaved differently. Now, one could argue that Paul misunderstood the imminence of the end of the world. I think that point could be made.

Sullivan also wrote, "He [Jesus] disowned his parents in public as a teen, and told his followers to abandon theirs if they wanted to follow him." Really? Jesus gave some harsh statements about family, but His "disowned" mother was there with Him at the cross and He asked John to take care of her. Doesn't sound like the type of "disowned" Sullivan is going after.

Sullivan does hit the same points that I hit. We should care more about being like Jesus than attacking homosexuality. We spend our time attacking the world rather than examining ourselves and being the light of the world. I would echo what Paul said, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you”
(1 Cor 5:12-13 ESV). But Paul is not en vogue and should apparently be discarded.

Sullivan's main point is right on. It's just convoluted getting there. "Above all: give up power over others, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence, and violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is at the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching."

And then Sullivan hits his stride when he tackles Francis (again, an illustration that the church is continually resisting the siren call of the world and its power).

"When politics is necessary, as it is, the kind of Christianity I am describing seeks always to translate religious truths into reasoned, secular arguments that can appeal to those of other faiths and none at all. But it also means, at times, renouncing Caesar in favor of the Christ to whom Jefferson, Francis, my grandmother, and countless generations of believers have selflessly devoted themselves."
Amen. Mostly. Jefferson became Caesar, so I still propose that Jefferson is not a good example of renouncing the ways of Caesar, but the point is great.

And once again, after making a great point, Sullivan muddies it with more Jefferson and reason:
"I have no concrete idea how Christianity will wrestle free of its current crisis, of its distractions and temptations, and above all its enmeshment with the things of this world. But I do know it won’t happen by even more furious denunciations of others, by focusing on politics rather than prayer, by concerning ourselves with the sex lives and heretical thoughts of others rather than with the constant struggle to liberate ourselves from what keeps us from God. What Jefferson saw in Jesus of Nazareth was utterly compatible with reason and with the future; what Saint Francis trusted in was the simple, terrifying love of God for Creation itself. That never ends."
This whole talk of Jesus being reasonalbe goes somewhere I wouldn't want to go. I would much rather follow Francis' life of self-sacrifice and refuse a pillow. Might be completely unreasonable, but there is something beautiful in it.

Christianity is in crisis. But this is nothing new. It has been in crisis as early as the conference in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15. Throughout the letters of Paul, we see him dealing with crisis after crisis that the church faced at that time. I would avoid discarding everything except the teachings of Jesus, for then we will eventually have a different crisis on our hands. But I would also avoid making complex systematic theologies that get us so focused on doctrine that we ignore the clear and simple teachings of Jesus.

Let's love the story of God. Let's live the story of God. Let's not imagine that it is contained only in the Gospels. Let's let it overflow from our lives.

Transplant Me

 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:3-9 (ESV)

The story about the four soils is obviously about the sower. “The sower went out to sow.” The sower is responsible to share the message of the gospel, but he is not responsible for the reception of that message.

It reminds me of God’s calling on Ezekiel. God told Ezekiel that he wanted him to be a watchman. We live in pretty safe places in a relatively peaceful time, so the idea of the watchman might seem foreign to us. Our towns don’t have watchmen standing watch and warning us of danger. In those times, the watchman would stand in a watchtower and carefully observe the area around for danger. A watchman would be vigilant to danger and sound the alarm at the first signs of it. This would allow the people working in the vulnerable places to get to safety. If the people ignored the watchman’s warning, the watchman was not at fault for whatever might happen. He did his job and sounded the alarm. If the watchman missed the danger and did not sound the warning, then the watchman would be guilty for the harm done to the people as if he had done it himself (Ezekiel 3:16-27, 33:1-9).

We, those who are followers of Jesus, are called to be God’s watchmen, sowing seed wherever we go. Some of those seeds will multiply; others will never grow. Some will give us hope as we see growth and then quickly die. Oh what terrible heartbreak we feel in those cases. At other times people will let the bad influences around them destroy them. I can think of friends who went this route and am reminded of the sorrow.

It is useful to stop obsessing over everyone else and indulge in a little introspection. What soil am I in? Am I in that fertile soil, being used by God to multiple faithful followers for the kingdom? Or am I overshadowed by thorns, living in the darkness of others trying to block out what God wants to do in my life? Discouraging words stop me from radically following. Direct attacks on the things God is trying to do in my life make me question Him and His plan. Or am I quickly growing only to wither at the struggles of the world? The tragedies of life rocks my faith. Legalism causes my faith to crumble like an improperly constructed wall.

Wherever I find myself, God is in the transplanting business.

Gardeners and arborists are really good at transplanting plants and trees. They gently remove the plant from the bad soil. They apply the appropriate amount of fertilizer. They appropriately water the plant and make sure that it gets just the right amount of fertilizer. They give the care needed to insure the survival of the transplant. If we can be successful in transplanting plants, how much more successfully will God be in transplant lives. He wants us in the good soil. And He will move us there if that is what we want.

To our detriment, we often like being in the bad soil. We find the momentary pleasure of too much sunlight exhilarating, ignoring that it will scorch us in the end. We find the company of thorns enjoyable, oblivious that their darkness squelches our growth. We don’t want to leave the path because everyone is there. We come up with all sorts of justifications to stay out of the soil God wants us in.

But God doesn’t give up on us. He is in the multiplication business. He wants to use us to further His work here on earth, just like He used someone else to touch each one of us for His kingdom.

Transplant me. Water me. Use me. I’ll be a sower. I’ll be a watchman. I want to join in the cry of those before me who longed to be in the good soil, multiplying and bringing God’s will into this world.