Culture, Discipleship

Putting Down the Pipe

A few weeks ago in a sermon I mentioned my grandfather and the smell of his tobacco pipe. I used it as an illustration of how you could tell you had been with Jesus, you smelled like him, just like you might if you were around my grandfather when he was smoking a pipe.

My mother reminded me afterward how my grandfather had given up his pipe out of care for his wife, my grandmother. She developed a morning cough and thinking it might be from the pipe my grandfather gave up smoking. He sacrificed something he enjoyed out of love, willingly giving up to protect someone else.

Since my mom recounted this fact to me I haven’t been able to get it out of mind and I think it is such a timely example. In fact during this moment in history we are want for those that would willingly sacrifice for others. We see it in medical professionals and other frontline workers, the ones fearlessly doing the work. But the voices we hear with increasing volume are those that are done with sacrifice and would like their lives back thank you very much.

I wonder if the church should play a bigger role here. Okay, I don’t wonder, that is me just trying to be more gentle. Christians should be the first to willingly sacrifice for others. Following governement orders to slow the spread of a disease. Caring for the elderly neighbor so they are not endangered. Generously sharing what gifts they have been given. Not prioritizing our own preference but living to be spent for others.

When we are done with the “me first” mentality of our western sensibilities we might live like we are called. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21(ESV)

Are we ready for this? Perhaps this is the moment conditions are right for it. And we will certainly have opportunity to set aside our rights for the care of others in the days ahead, even in our opinions. As Brett McCracken so poignantly stated, “little is more Christian than a posture of sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). We should embrace it with gladness.” 

What “pipe” is Jesus asking you to put down?

Culture, Discipleship

The Immediacy Of Our Moment

I enjoy occasionally reading history. Encountering just how our predecessors lived and pursued their dreams or avoided their nightmares. In contrast to our experience today, what always stands out is the lack of immediacy historically.

Letters from family would take weeks to be delivered. Journeys across seas would take months. Snap decisions appear rare. Meals took longer and the way of life was slow. Historically, for a long time in the story of humanity, slowness dominates.

The age we dwell in now is quite different. We expect immediacy. Food is fast. Letters arrive instantaneously. Crossing oceans takes hours not months. Order something from one side of the world and you can usually receive it within two days. I was struck by this over the weekend waiting for someone to respond to a text message and conversely, waiting to replay to someone else’s text.

I am thankful for the immediacy of our moment, most of the time. When I want a quick response or book from a thrift store in Texas. But I have been thinking through how the embrace of immediacy has ruined us for a pandemic. How, because we don’t seem capable to wait, we run amok with the time we have. We get restless, despondent even.

Now, I am not making a statement about schedules for the return to life as it was. I too want to meet with friends, see commerce thrive, and for the love, gather as the church! But I also want to protect my neighbors (and my children), and have determined to let my pro-life views extend to all corners.

But it is still frustrating to wait.

That frustration is teaching us something. Especially for the Christian. It is teaching us of transformation and one key area for it. Our patience.

This is the exhortation from James: “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:7–11 (ESV)

I have an old friend that says “don’t pray for patience because God will force it on you.” And it kind of has been forced on us (so which one of you was praying for patience?!) Forced or not, with our souls rooted in the future, the coming of Jesus, we are called and equipped to be patient.

Perhaps God is using this moment to teach us to slow down. To transform us into those with established hearts, trusting him with patience. Time rolls on. We will see it through. Because Jesus has seen it through.

Are there things you can “let go of” because you have lost patience in pursuit of immediacy? I have a pretty long list myself. Let’s surrender those to Jesus and be settled on him. He carries us through.