In seeing the movie “Inception” last night, I found one of the most remarkable and insightful points of the movie made at one of the most “insignificant” times of the movie. Don’t worry, I am not going to spoil anything for you. If you don’t know the movie is about dreams… well, I am sorry you missed the last round of previews released by Legacy Pictures and Warner Brothers.
The most significant line (I think) of the movie happened in the middle when a room full of men were sleeping, entering in to a chemically induced “shared dream”. When asked, “why do these men come here to sleep”, it was simply answered, (paraphrased) they come here because their dreams have become their life.
This is phenomenal. The dream has become the treasure! What does this have to do with the church and life lived here and now?
We have been hearing a lot recently about churches being “on mission.” Lest we get lulled in to another round of simply using quasi-christian buzzwords as a means of sounding knowledgeable, it would do us well to put in to perspective what some of the potential obstacles of living a “missional” life here in the states would be.
The New Testament teaches us that whether or not our treasure is really in heaven is most clearly seen when it costs us our earthly treasures in order to obtain it. But American Christians live in the most prosperous nation in world history and the one in which it costs the least to be a Christian.
This environment can be deadly to faith. It allows false faith to masquerade as real very easily. And its power to dissipate zeal and energy and mission-focus and willingness to risk is extraordinary because it doesn’t come to us with a whip and a threat. It comes to us with a pillow and a promise of comfort for us and our children. The former makes us desperate for God. The latter robs our sense of desperation.
And it’s the lack of a sense of desperation for God that is so deadly. If we don’t feel desperate for God, we don’t tend to cry out to him. Love for this present world sets in subtly, like a spiritual leprosy, damaging spiritual nerve endings so that we don’t feel the erosion and decay happening until it’s too late.
Jon Bloom, via God, Make Us Desperate! :: Desiring God.
Thinking that I can already hear the objections, let me be clear: before I quoted Jon, I said simply that we would need to look closely at some of the things that might become “potential obstacles” in our faith. And for each person, that might be different. The point is this: the challenges faced by Christians in the west, specifically in America, is that a slow, dull, insidious sapping of passion, zeal, and verve for the Kingdom of God is persistently and perpetually around us.
How can we stir one another today to live on mission? What needs to change to awake our churches from slumber? How can we continue to put before one another this grand vision of a Kingdom that is worth everything, where our hearts can be content with saying “no” to this world because the King of the universe has said “yes” to us?
I know I need to be reminded of this today.
There has been a spot on resurgence in Christian circles of late that has brought us back to the essential biblical truth of the “communal” nature of the Gospel and of the Church. However, just as is true with anything, extremes can be taken, where truth is distorted or misappropriated.
Think of the last time you expected something of your spouse, co-worker, or fellow parishioner. What were you really looking for? And what was your reaction when they did not deliver? Look at what Henri Nouwen writes:
We constantly feel tempted to want more from those around us than they can give. We relate to our neighbors with the hope and the supposition that they are able to fulfill most of our deepest needs, and then we find ourselves disillusioned, angry, and frustrated when they do not. We know that when we expect a friend or lover to take away our deepest pain, we expect from him or her something that cannot be given by another human being. We have heard that no human being can understand us fully, or give us unconditional love, or offer constant affection that enters into the core of our being and heals our deepest brokenness. We know this in our heads but our loneliness pushes us to expect it anyway. When we forget this profound truth and expect of others more than they can give, we are quickly disillusioned and we easily become resentful, bitter, revengeful, and even violent.
Henri Nouwen, Clowning in Rome: Reflections on Solitude, Celibacy, Prayer, and Contemplation, pp. 39-40
All of the end results of misappropriating people in our lives lead to the same reaction, in various degrees. When people cannot deliver to us that which we would desire of them, we lash out in fear and frustration.
It is in this void that the gospel must speak loudly. Community does not exist around us to replace Christ, but rather to point us to Christ. We must not look to anyone else in our lives to be what they were not designed to be, give what they inherently cannot give, and do what they are incapable of doing (at the level and depth to which our souls need).
How have you found yourself expecting the unachievable and impossible from those around you?
According to legal observers, these two issues guide Christian response to the growing number of mosques and facilities for other religions popping up in towns all over America. Certainly, a new mosque is no cause for celebration from Christians who believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone. Yet the costs to opposing new mosques are high.
“If we do not treat a mosque the same as a synagogue or church then the church will be next,” said Bruce Strom, executive director for Administer Justice, based in Elgin, Illinois, outside Chicago. “In fact, the church is often attacked on some of the same grounds, not wanting a particular race to be in a particular area, [such as] Koreans on the North Shore, Hispanics in the western suburbs, and African Americans in the near South Side.”
Certainly, there are many issues that are raised in this blog entry over at my friends at The Gospel Coalition, and great care should be taken in reading the whole article before responding… but an unnecessary persecution of other faith traditions could have tragic repercussions for the global cause for Christ, and certainly have dire impacts here in the US.
Are these thoughts warranted?
As believers, we are necessarilly going to have a lot of distance between us and those who don’t follow Christ. We live differently, love differntly, hope differntely. We’re citizens of a different country.
But it might be helpful if we limit the distance between us and the world in a lot of other ways. We don’t have to flaunt our lack of a TV and be weird and preachy about grinding your own grain. That only serves to put unnecessary distance between us and the people we’re trying to reach. Instead, we should try to engage the world around us, know what our neighbors care about, and try to inhabit the same universe they do.
If they are going to persecute us, let us at least be for things that really have something to do with being a Christian.
What do you think? What are some ways that we unnecessarily distance ourselves from the world?
Something miraculous happened this morning. No, it wasn’t finding a Starbucks accidentally in a Kroger shopping center in Aiken, SC. And it certainly wasn’t me actually finding a parking spot this morning at the hospital. No, it was actually that God answered prayer, and our baby is still in Momma, which means that we have officially entered Week 25.
There are other things that I am learning as well… for the convenience of the reader I’ve placed it in a bulleted list.
- New Medical Terms: Chorioangioma, Perinatal, Neonatologist. Oh yes, and what a hospital defines as “bedrest”.
- New patterns of existing: Hospital, Home, and Hospitality. Hanging out in the hospital room with Jen, driving back home, and staying with family… having to become OK with not knowing where I am going to be from one moment to the next.
- New levels of dependence: I am out of control. Now, let’s be clear, I never really was in control, but at home we at least had some level of ignorance. Now that we are here in the hospital, we are aware of more of what is going on than we ever were before, and have heard more scary what-if possibility’s than we have before. Each day is a cause to rejoice, and a reason to celebrate. But each day comes with its own necessity to rest and rely on the Lord’s provision for our son as each day he develops more and more.
So much of daily comfort comes from circumstances making sense…But waiting takes you beyond your wisdom, understanding & ability.
Waiting. Rejoicing? Yes. But waiting… that is where we are. We aren’t waiting for an impersonal force in the universe to simply “reveal our fate”, but we are waiting on the Lord, and journeying with him in the Veil of the Valley. We join our voice and our prayers with the Psalmist, who says:
[40:1] I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:1-3 ESV)
So, the journey continues. We walk with the Lord as we wait on His will. Thanks for laboring in prayer for us. We rejoice that God has sustained us thus far, and will continue to do so.