December 2005


The Divine Conspiracy also challenges our common conception of Matthew 7:6: “Do not give dogs sacred things to eat, nor try to get pigs to dine on pearls. For they will simply walk all over them and turn and take a bit out of you.” This is often interpreted to mean that some people are not worthy of treasures. But the coming of Christ is exactly a case of pearls before pigs as thus understood! The issue is not worthiness, but helpfulness. A dog cannot nourish itself on sacred things, nor a pig on pearls. “The point is not the waste of the pearl but that the person given the pearl is not helped.” A primer on language or macro-business strategies can be a treasure, to be sure, but neither will help me. Likewise, the Bible is a great treasure but will be of no use to someone who is starving to death, or to the mentally incapable. The beggar and retard are not unworthy, but they are unhelped by these treasures. Give instead love, food, and shelter to the beggar. Give love, care, and treatment to the retard. Give me a primer on developing human relationships or on battling pride, for example.

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Starting on page 224 of The Divine Conspiracy, Willard takes to task common perspectives on Matthew 7:3-4, about removing the plank from one’s own eye before picking the speck from your friend’s eye. We are all sinners, so we all have planks in our eye. But then, can we never judge another person’s sin? Is this the “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” routine? No! “Getting the board out is not a matter of correcting something that is wrong in our life so that we will be able to condemn our dear ones… more effectively.” The plank in our eye is condemnation, which has no place in the righteous man’s heart. We are called, however, to another kind of “judging,” more akin to a dentist’s appraisal of our gums, teeth, and dental hygiene. “He is discerning, seeing and saying what is.” The motivation for discerning how things are in others’ lives must always be love, and our immediate goal must be redemption, not condemnation. “But that is a complicated task at best: not only because we may not know how to do it… but also because those we appraise may not know how to take our appraisal in any other way than as an attack on their person.” Proverbs 9:8 reads: “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you for it.” Do you rebuke with love, or do you condemn? Do you accept rebuke as assistance toward Christlikeness, or do you take it as an attack on your person?

During the holiday season, I’ve been alternatingly “too busy” and “too lazy” for God. No wonder I feel like shit. Time to get back on track!

I grew up with a group of friends so secure in our relationships that we could say anything and nobody would be offended. I’ve been realizing that more recent friends are finding me insensetive. So, I need to remember who people are and what they may respond to. I need to be more sensetive and caring.

Chapter 31 of The Purpose Driven Life reminds me that my God-given abilities are a strong indication of how I should be serving him. “Whatever you’re good at, you should be doing for your church!” My problem is that I have too many talents that are interests (I won’t complain): computers, athletics, music, psychology, sociology, creative writing, film and several others I’ve had less time to develop.

Also, we can look at how our experiences have shaped and taught us for ministry: family experiences, education, job history, spiritual experiences, ministry experiences, and pain. As Aldous Huxley said, “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.”

Today I talked with someone about how disappointing real life is when one is surrounded by the fantasies of television and movies. I need to constantly refocus on God’s view of this world and me in order to be sustained. I also need to surrender my dreams and plans to his will. The person I was talking with about this said he’d had to drop his original dreams and plans for God, too, but that much later God had given them back to him, after he’d “grown up” in God significantly. So that was encouraging. God plants certain dreams and desires within us because he wants to fulfill them, but perhaps only when we’ve surrendered everything to him. I can live with that.

My battle for sexual purity is a tough one. Several months ago I gave up lusting after women in their presence, and survived that. Then I stopped lusting after real people altogether. But I can’t rid myself entirely of lust. Satan has too great a stronghold. The Purpose Driven Life gave me a few pointers about that in this week’s reading, though, and I’ll keep fighting.

In How Full Is Your Bucket?, Tom Rath shares how positive support from his family empowered him at a young age:

…when I was eight or nine, the bucket fillers who surrounded me noticed my entrepreneurial spirit… my grandfather suggested starting my own business. I loved the idea and decided to open a snack stand. As always, the rest of my family was thrilled to help me pursue a new passion, and they rallied around this project.

After a few months, this little enterprise was doing well. “Biz Kids” had enough business to move beyond buying from the local wholesale club, and a major candy distributor agreed to give our company a bulk rate and deliver to our location. We eventually moved beyond snacks, expanding into apparel and small merchandise. By the time I was 12, the operation employed more than 20 of my classmates, and we had made a couple thousand dollars in real profit to share among ourselves…

[snip]

They noticed that I was quite analytical and enjoyed numbers and current events, so they recommended that I spend more time studying mathematics and the social sciences. Even though I was already an A student in those areas, my family realized there would be a greater return on my education if I devoted more time to subjects or which I had a natural passion.

Unlike most of my teachers and my friends’ parents, my parents were not determined to make me well-rounded. Given that my rhythm seems to have been surgically removed at birth, they understood that pushing me to be a better musician was fruitless… As a young student, I found this quite liberating. I didn’t have to try to be good at everything. Instead, I was able to strive for greatness in my areas of natural talent.

How cool is that?

“I was so mad I could cry.” “I was so excited I wanted to jump up and down.” These imply, “But I didn’t.” After my inexplicably depressed mid-teen years, I decided to shut off all emotions. I felt nothing for a solid two years. I recently decided to let myself feel good again, and to a lesser extent, bad. But I still quash most manifestations of how I feel.

A friend of mine, on the other hand, weeps when she is sad, shakes her body in excitement, and squeals with joy. Another is not ashamed to laugh at the stupidest jokes or talk excitedly about everyday coincidences.

Some people even dance. I want to dance.

Awaken my heart again, God. Save me from pride that I am “above” “silly” emotional exhibitions. Make me geniune.

I just watched the first 3/4 of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999), and it’s so fucking good, all the time that “I just want to jump up and down.” Maybe I’ll let myself do that when I catch the last quarter later tonight.

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