~~Does your local Christian radio station do these random acts of kindness days where you pay for the guy behind you in the drive-through and then you call in to tell about it?? Yeah. I hate those things. Is there anything less random than that? Is there anything more boastful? “Hello. Yes, I just did a really nice thing for the people in the car behind me. Aren’t I special? Please praise my generosity on your radio broadcast.” One blogger and best-selling author that I (used to) follow, quietly bought dinner in her local restaurant for a huge family, then shot a selfie showing them at the table behind her and posted it on Facebook. Ugh. We really do this. (And why we do not call this out for the sin it is, is beyond me!)
This is one of those posts I have debated for days. To write or not to write, that has been the question. I’ve sung this song before, first verse, second verse, and chorus. But it’s an issue that continues to perplex me, and because the song is on a continuous loop in my head, it’s one that I’m sure I’m not seeing clearly. You let me know.
I’m going to confuse the issue even more by trying to grab hold of those wisps of thoughts that just brush across your mind like a hair across your face, tickling and unspecific, but irksome anyway in their connectedness. Can you bear with me while I try to catch the strands and make sense of them?
First, I’m in the middle of a short but intensive look at the Tabernacle. You know, the worship center the Israelites carried on their backs for 40 years in the desert? What struck me most in my study yesterday was something Pastor Armstrong says in the second part of his Tabernacle teaching from Exodus 27/28. I’ll put it in my own less-eloquent words. It was ugly on the outside. Or at least it was very plain. But the inside! Whoa! The inside was nothing less than resplendent as far as tents go. Pastor Armstrong reminded us that this is a shadow of our Savior (as is the whole Tabernacle). It made me wonder as I tried to apply those two truths to a New Testament lesson if maybe on the outside we should be plain, but on the inside, we should be stunning! And I’m not talking biology. Nothing we can do with that hand if we’re dealt the ugly card. I’m talking about “the show”; the performance we put on for man, forgetting entirely about the one that God is watching.
So there’s that whole thing. Then there’s this. There is a new movement among young Christian women right now that I call (with all due respect, as I cautiously watch from a distance!) the movement of discontent. Here is a quote from an attendee at their latest national gathering: "I hear enough people telling me how to be a good Christian mom. I don't need that," "This is a call for revival and unity, and it lined up with what's in my heart right now."(Huffington) I wonder then if she’s as good a “Christian mom” as she can be? I wonder if what’s in her heart aligns with God’s heart? I wonder if she has forsaken her ministry at home for a “spiritual calling” that’s just a tad more glamourous and exciting than the one that she is already in the midst of. And I’m wondering if the leaders of this movement aren’t fanning the flames of her discontent? I’m just wondering.
Last night a friend copied me a link that she “knew would get me riled up”. (Gotta love friends that will poke the bear with a stick.) One of the local mega-churches is hosting the tour of a speaker who has gained international attention in recent years for his breakout book on radical service (naming no names!). The marketing material calls this a gathering that “challenges you to leverage your life in a way that counts for the kingdom.” And claims a “God-sized vision” that “awakens and empowers you to know that your life on mission matters.” My life on mission matters. My life on mission counts for the kingdom. Apparently, I’ve been asleep all this time and powerless to do anything worthwhile. Maybe that’s carrying it a bit too far, but I’m really thinking not (having read the book).
Finally, a bit closer to home, I’m reminded of a friend who left her church recently because she felt that the work she was doing for them was going unappreciated. She admittedly misses her church family there, but refuses to go back. She won’t call that pride. She won’t call it sin. She just keeps looking for a church that will give her props.
You know what? I know that we’re supposed to do good things. I know James says that faith without works is no faith at all. I know that. I get that. But I also know a barrage of other scripture too like when Jesus says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4) I’m guessing that eliminates radio broadcasts too.
I also remember Paul writing about the difference between trying to please man and God (in serving the Gospel) and about working with integrity when no one is watching, knowing that we work for God and not for man.
I remember too that Paul tells Timothy to teach “sound doctrine” (this one is gonna really get your hackles up), and goes on to say that sound doctrine includes teaching “…the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2) I guess you could call this being a good “Christian mom”, and I don’t know about any of you, but I’m not there yet!!!
And I guess therein is my complaint. Why is somewhere else so much better than here? Why doesn’t my mission at home count for the kingdom? If I focus on quietly serving my family and community, does that mean I haven’t leveraged my life effectively? If I am about my Father’s work of learning – struggling – to be obedient to His word at home, will I find a community out there that lines up with my heart? Not today, I won’t. They’re all too busy looking for their own “God-sized” vision and convincing the rest of us that we don’t matter unless we get on board and start punching our card! Or they’re waiting on hold for the radio host to answer their call so they can trumpet their good-deeding for the day.
Here’s my response. GO! Be on mission somewhere else! Take others with you and post it on social media! But don’t forget that we already have callings on our lives, and they are our first priority. We already have one Master, and He is our first stop for affirmation. Anyone can get on a plane and fly to Guatemala for a week of rocking babies in orphanages. Not everyone can do the work of serving God faithfully, obediently, day in and day out in quiet obscurity. That, my friends, is a God-sized mission the likes of which we rarely see (um…because it’s done in quiet obscurity mostly).
God has not called all of us to what the world would characterize as a “God-sized” mission, even though the work of sanctification couldn’t be called anything less. Even though raising the next generation of faithful men and women is tantamount to a miracle. Even though remaining in a committed marriage is an aberration even in the church. Even though integrity in the workplace is surprising. Even though the level of Biblical literacy in our churches is embarrassingly shallow and misinformed. Even though the evidence of unrepentant sin is on display in our ever-expanding waistbands. Even though all that…we don’t call that work a God-sized mission that leverages our life for the kingdom. That work, apparently is the slumber from which we should awaken.
Some are asking, essentially, what if God is real? (Um… “if”?!) Then what? Well, then He expects us to start doing what He told us to do where we are with what we have, not to be looking somewhere else for something better.(Who do you think put you where you are, anyway?) Maybe I have a cynical view of the Body of Christ (nahhhhhh….) but in my limited experience, the average pew-sitter knows so very little of what God wants from them every day. There is zero accountability for sin. Shoot. In my experience, most believers aren’t even aware of their own sins enough to name them. We advertise our good works all day long on every forum of social media available to us…yes, we know what garners praise…but we don’t really want to be reminded that we didn’t need to be in that drive-through lane to begin with.
I’m digressing. I guess what it all boils down to for me is this. We need to clean up our own yard before we move on to our neighbors’. What good are we doing in Guatemala rocking babies, when our own teenager is at home hanging himself in his closet? Are you really done hearing about how to be a good “Christian mom”? A good wife. A good friend. A good employee, citizen, church-member, tax payer, volunteer. Have you got all that figured out, checked the box, and booked a flight to elsewhere? If you have, well, good for you. But could you go quietly about your business and let the rest of us get there in our own time…in God’s time…without you breathing down our necks and good-deeding us to nausea on our local Christian radio station while we’re driving carpool? We’re trying to do this thing. Same as you. Only quieter.
I really got worked up there at the end. I hope I haven’t offended. But I am unapologetic if it opens a dialogue between you and God about what counts for the kingdom. It’s His kingdom, you know, not ours. Maybe it’s time for us to sit down with His book instead of everyone else’s and let Him tell us what He thinks we need to be doing and then get to work quietly doing that. There won’t be trumpets, confetti, or a parade at the end, but I’m pretty sure that our effort will please the One who matters even if we can’t write a book about it later.