“‘I’ Trouble” – by Randy
That “great theologian” Toby Keith once wrote:
I want to talk about me
Want to talk about I
Want to talk about number one
Oh my me my
One of the sins of Evangelicalism is our obsession with individualism. The first-person pronoun (I, me, my, mine) reigns in our thinking. Nearly everything in our world is seen only as it relates to me. This is true, even in our prayers. Many of our prayers fail to take into account the Biblical emphasis on the corporate character of prayer. One of our greatest problems and deficiencies in prayer is that we begin with our concerns and our own petitions without regard for anyone else or even the One to whom we are praying. We must remember the pattern of The Lord’s Prayer and recall not only the words used by Jesus, but also the words He didn’t use. The first-person singular (I, me, my, mine) is completely absent from the Lord’s Prayer. Evidently, prayer should not center on me.
When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, He emphasizes from the very outset that we are part of a corporate people called the church. God is not merely “my Father.” He is “our Father” – the Father of all believers with whom I identify and with whom I pray. We must never lose sight of the fact that even when we pray by ourselves, we must pray with an eye toward Christ’s church.
We must remember G.K. Chesterton’s famous answer to a question put forth by a major London newspaper, “What is the problem with the world?” Many who responded wrote long tomes covering many issues. G.K. wrote: “I am. Sincerely yours, Chesterton.”
“Finding Purpose” by Dan
Warning: If you are offended and/or grossed out by tiny rodents, feel free to skip down to the second paragraph. Recently, we had an interesting little adventure at home. It began when we noticed a tiny little squeaking noise that we couldn’t identify sounding like it was coming from somewhere inside of the hall bathroom that our girls use. Thinking that a little toy may have somehow gotten stuck or lost underneath the sink, I emptied out the cabinet to find nothing at all. The noise persisted, so Meagan managed to wedge her phone underneath the bottom cabinet and take a picture with flash. The photo revealed a mouse standing on its hind legs in the back corner of the space under the cabinet. Assuming that since the mouse got itself under the cabinet it would be able to find its way out, we set out a mouse trap, barricaded the bathroom, and waited to claim our prize. The next morning the squeaking had stopped, but the trap was still set. Another phone picture revealed that our little friend was now deceased. It was, in fact, not able to get itself unstuck from underneath the vanity and now we had the unenviable task of attempting to remove it. Using a bent-wire clothes-hanger I was rather quickly able to get it from the back of the cabinet to the front, but the problem was that the opening in the front of the cabinet was barely large enough to get a couple of fingers through and— due to the design— there was only a few inches of room above it as well. Running out of ideas, I asked my two “big” girls which of them would like to help daddy by reaching under the cabinet to pick up a dead mouse. They both ran across the house and eagerly wanted to be the one to help complete Operation No More Mouse.
While neither of them was ultimately successful, what struck me was how eager they were to help. Then I started thinking back on how all three of our young girls have always wanted to help out their parents, especially with “big” jobs or chores. From experience, I know that this probably won’t last as they grow older, but I believe that their desire and willingness to help me when I need them reveals quite a bit about the relationship that Christians are called to have with God.
Christianity is often perceived by unbelievers—and sadly sometimes believers—as being nothing more than a system of rules, a list of dos and don’ts. The thinking goes that once you become a Christian you are no longer allowed to have any fun and have to spend all your time following a bunch of boring busy-body rules in order to please God. But scripture tells us that’s not the case at all. In Ephesians 2:8-10 the apostle Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” While most of us are familiar with the concept of being saved by grace, we sometimes miss the complementary idea that God also allows us to work with and for him by grace.
Now, this work isn’t just to keep us busy and away from doing bad things. Also, it’s not as if God “needs” you or me or anybody in particular to accomplish his work. Instead, by the grace of God, he invites those who he has saved by faith to join him in his work in this world. If we properly understand this, we see that it’s a privilege to participate with God. In fact, this work is for our benefit—it brings us fulfillment because we’re created specifically to do what God wants us to do! Not only that, but we also realize that our time reading and listening to the Word and our time spent in prayer is all about getting to know God better, growing in our relationship with him, and becoming more like our Heavenly Father when we walk in obedience. It’s not that we “have” to obey God because he says so, but we “get” to be a part of what he is doing in the world. Our greatest joy and fulfillment in life is found then by believing, trusting, and walking with God each day.
Just like my girls helping their dad by reaching through the vanity cabinet in an attempt to extract a dead mouse, our Father has special work for us to do. He has roles for each of us to play that he actually prepared for us—and prepared us for—ahead of time that serve the purpose of advancing his kingdom. God’s vision for our lives is so much bigger and better than we could envision for ourselves, so let’s go to work.
“EGGNORDOG” by Loren
As many of you know, my Uncle Larry passed away last month and I thought it fitting to share some of his quirky yet profound wisdom – he wasn’t the type to hoard it for himself. “EGGNORDOG” was Larry’s life motto. More accurately, it was an acronym of Larry’s motto which was “Engage God Genuinely, Nurture Ourselves Rightly, and Do Others Good.”
Engage God Genuinely. I had the privilege of spending some one-on-one time with Larry this time last year – a few months after he was told he had just months to live. We were in his office (the screened-in back porch) discussing how God’s signature was in everything in creation from the birds nibbling on seed a few feet away from us to the logical intricacies laden in pure mathematics. Larry had a knack and a passion for finding God everywhere, and his way of engaging God genuinely was to discover Him in everything and everyone.
Nurture Ourselves Rightly. Perhaps the most underrated section of the triad, Larry understood the importance of self-care. Given how he sought and found God in everything, he devoted himself to praying continually, studying Scripture, and seeking God’s will in everything. He was aware that he could do nothing and know nothing without God’s blessing and help.
Do Others Good. Larry was famous for his “alternative” Spring Breaks where he and whomever he could gather would spend a week serving in a community somewhere in the U.S. They’d volunteer in any capacity (feeding the homeless, restoring houses, ministering to the imprisoned, etc.,) to best serve the community that hosted them. In house and on campus, he was also famous for his waffles that he’d make for family and student gatherings. His posture towards others was that of service – doing what he could to honor his God by taking care of His people in whatever situation he found himself.
There’s not really a singular takeaway message; no moral-to-the-story, just an acronym that accompanied a life well-lived.