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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Kick in the Pants

Today, I preached a commissioning service for a team going to Brazil and my text was 2 Timothy 2:1-10. As many of you already know, this text has three vivid pictures of what the Christian life on mission is to be like. It was written by none other than the greatest missionary who ever lived, inspired by the Holy Spirit who directed all of his missionary travels (Acts 20:23). I took the pictures he provided in this text - the soldier, athlete, and the farmer - and juxtaposed them with the pictures provided by America. "What is the essence of life according to America?" I asked myself. Some would say that life is like Disneyland where fun and games bring entertainment and thrill to life; others would say that life is a shopping mall where all our lists of things ever wanted or needed can be found. Some live for the weekend (cheering T.G.I.F.); others for the week vacation to the beech soaking up rays while the water laps on their feet; still other lives for the day where they no longer have to work, full retired, kicking back on the rocker on the back porch, sipping on some home-made lemonade. Whatever picture these may be, there are undoubtedly pictures of life according to America. With those on the one hand, I then proceeded to look at the life of a man whom God used to change the world. The portrait provided in these illustrations were personified in the life of Paul, who fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Three statements kept ringing in my head: "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21), "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8), and "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself . . ." (Acts 20:24). Here was a man totally abandoned to God, whose life was summed up in sacrifice, suffering, and singularity of mind to glorify God in all things. There was no price to high to pay, no difficulty to great to overcome, no battle too great to fight, no race too hard to win . . . Then I come to myself. The picture of my life. What does it portray? Today, I hung my head in shame. I felt most unworthy to preach such a passage. Often I feel that the messages I preach cause me to be the one at the altar weeping, not the one receiving folks, but this time it was especially hard. Maybe it is because of the pulse of missions that beats in my heart, maybe because of the American life of commodity I have bought stock into, maybe because I have become a soldier in "civilian affairs" . . . My life does not seem to weight in at the scales of eternity has having been costly, possibility because I have not count it as any value to me (but dung). I live in relative ease. Casual and comfortable, and worse I fear, compromising. I haven't been doing the "hard thing", and the "excellencies of Christ" seem to be on the shelf collecting dust. My fatigues are cleanly pressed without a hint of warfare within radar proximity. My fields have become fallow rather than fertile, with only weeds to account for any life. My legs are drooping from the things that weigh me down, and I daily fear that I may drop the baton. And he I stand in the heart of Disneyland with cotton candy in my hand . . . Yet I hear the words with gentle force telling me, "You, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." Again, "My grace is sufficient for you." And I realize that whatever I am in this life, it is by the grace of God. What made Paul great was not that the portraits displayed him as a physical specimen, a great orator or gifted communicator, good looking, etc., but a man who was strong in the grace of God. "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is within me" (1 Corinthians 15:10). Everything done in Paul's life was empowered by the grace of God which mightily worked within him (Colossians 1:29). Radical dependence. Unflinching courage. Insatiable passion. Unrelenting pursuit. Unconditionally faithful. This was the gallery of grace in the life of Paul. So I pray that repentance sings the melodies of my heart in a minor key, a little bit out of tune with the world, but a joyful noise to my King. There must be a cost that I shall pay, and there be the reward of the resurrection on that great day. I wave up the white flag in my heart of total surrender, and know it is Jesus Christ who I must remember (2 Timothy 2:8). For it he in whose strength I take my stand, and my goal is to please him in every command. And in this portrait I want the world to see, the beautiful hope of glory - Christ within me.

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