On Severed Hands and Heroes

This past week we launched a new project called “the seenworks” to tell stories of God’s faithful servants throughout the world doing good work for His kingdom, at great sacrifice to their own.  The purpose is both to raise awareness of these works to increase involvement, but also to encourage believers to follow in their own work that God has called us all to.  I think it’s incredibly important for us to know what other brothers and sisters are doing and needing throughout the world, so we can make better sense of our own lives in relation to them, as members of one body.  We’re incredibly excited about that project, but this post isn’t only about that.

Also this past week while I was out running errands, listening to the radio, I heard a headline about baseball pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who just signed a contract for $215,000,000 over 7 years with the L.A. Dodgers, making him the highest paid pitcher in baseball history.  I don’t really follow sports, so this caught my attention. This is obviously an incredible amount of money that highlights the great value that is put on sports, and entertainment in general in our culture. So naturally I began asking some questions. What does God think about how His people use our free time, our energy and money?  Should we be involved in the same types of value and recreation as the world, and to what extent?  Is it okay for Christians to participate in industries that make heroes and millionaires out of movie, music, and sports stars?  I’m not going to answer those.  All disciples of Jesus should be asking and answering these questions in relation to our own lives, choices, and temptations.  Instead, I’m going to ask a few more.

What are the things that most delight our God?  What are the values and treasures in His Kingdom that He wants us to be pursuing?  Is there work that he has for us to do that we’re not doing? How should we respond to Matthew 24 when Jesus says to those who inherit the Kingdom of God, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me,” or when John the baptist says, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)  What did Jesus mean when he says that “whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”? (Matt.16:25)

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“For whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Matthew 16:25

Many of us are passionate about movies, sports, music, art, hobbies, etc. and we spend a great deal of money, time, and attention on them.  Is it possible that we as Christians end up inadvertently serving the same gods of wealth, power, skill, and experience as the rest of the world?  In Lystra the apostle Paul said, “…we bring you the good news (the gospel) that you should turn from these vain things to a living God…”(Acts 14:15).  We must remember too that the early Christians weren’t persecuted so much for serving Jesus as God, but for their refusal to worship other gods, including Caesar.  Paul and Silas were seized because they were a threat to the financial gain of some (Acts 16:19).  Are we as Christians a threat to anyones financial gain, or just another demographic?  I know I’ve certainly done my fair share, spending far too much time and money on movies, experiences, and music in particular.  But the past few years the Lord has really been convicting me, changing me, and helping me to understand the teaching of Jesus and what it means to live it.  I lament all of the time wasted on seemingly benign, but purely self-serving pleasures and pursuits.  It became clear that all of that had to change if I were truly to take up my cross and follow Jesus, and I hope to encourage my brothers and sisters to see that as well.

Take a moment and identify in yourself those things you celebrate and support the most with your time, money, and attention. Look at your bank statements.  Scroll through your Facebook wall.  What do you catch yourself thinking and talking about most often?  Do these things most delight God? Then ask yourself, “Do these things come at the expense of serving and loving my neighbor as myself; at the expense of clothing Him, feeding Him, and giving Him a drink?” (Matt. 25:31-46)  For me it’s been things like experiencing new foods, having great beer, and even playing music. For many it may be following sports, shopping, video games. Don’t get me wrong.  None of these things are evil in themselves.  In fact, in their proper use and context, many of them are wonderful tools used by God for His kingdom as they are intended.  But let’s also remember that Jesus never said of his true disciples “I hit a home run and you cheered.  I recorded an album and you bought it.”  We need to keep even good things in proper perspective and proportion.  Neither are right hands inherently evil, but remember what Jesus said to do with those that cause us to sin(Matt. 5:30).  If we truly want to be followers of this Messiah then we need to put the same weight on our actions as He did, examining all areas of our lives.  We need to live as servants in His upside down kingdom, where things the world values are rubbish, and the things that He values are pearls of great price, worth giving up all that we have.  Buying an album or going to a game once in a while can be great.  But I want to be defined by my love through service for God’s Kingdom come and coming on the Earth, not by my activities and experiences.  The more we allow the Spirit to work in us and bend every area of our lives towards loving obedience to Him, the more that will be true of us.

One thing I want to do with “the seenworks” is to tell and celebrate the stories of God’s faithful servants in various roles, and of the good work they do.  I want to hear these stories, I want to know their “stats” and talk about them in my free time.  Not as entertainment, but inspiration, and a reminder of what’s true and what matters; a reminder of what we as Christians are all called to do.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these were our role models? If these were the people we sacrificed for and gave our money to so they could continue their work?  What if we paid missionaries millions of dollars a year, not to be rich, but for use to further their work and do it with excellence?  What if we told these stories to our children to grow up and emulate, and dream about how they can serve the King of the World in his redeeming work? What if we joined them in the arena and cheered them on, enabled them, and sought to imitate their work in our own lives, in our own ways?  That’s what I want to do.  That’s what I want to contribute to and join in with.  When Christians turn away from vain things and serve the Living God with all that we have, then we will see and experience much more fully the power of that God living in and through us, His body.  And so will the world.

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