Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Desiring More

We were blessed to help our friends Mark and Laura move to Budapest, Hungary to become missionaries there. Please do take a minute to check out their site.

I read the hardcopy of their newsletter this evening and somehow it all began to truly resonate with me. I tried to imagine picking up stakes and moving my family to an Eastern European country like that. I can't get my mind around it! Amanda and I visited Italy last May and that was great. But it was not that hard because just about everyone spoke English and Amanda and I both took Romance languages back in high school. Hungarian is supposedly one of the most difficult languages to learn and yet Mark and Laura decided to immerse themselves in it! Not to mention their 3 boys!

Seeing this kind of faith and courage makes me want more. Here I am doing what I do every day. I don't want to diminsh what I do in my ministry because I believe it is important. I hope that every now and again I make some positive impact in a friend's or coworker's life. But seeing this kind of faith just makes me want to do so much more for the kingdom of God.

Would you please join me in praying for Mark and Laura? Their specific requests are:

- Pray that God would give them a supernatural ability to learn the language
- Pray that their friend Kristof would be open to spiritual things
- Pray that they could connect with their friend Szabolcs
- Pray that they would have wisdom as they prepare for the summer camp programs
- Pray for their 4 year-old Seth as he adjusts to language and culture in his preschool

Do Not Touch

Remember the old Far Side cartoon with 4 panels of menacing-looking things? There was a fish with spikes, a porcupine (I think), something else, and then a man with an inflatable swim ducky around his waist holding a gun. The caption reads, "How nature says, 'Do Not Touch'".

A good friend of mine has a walk that says the same thing. I learned this when we worked together several years ago. To properly do this, you cock your head to the right about 15 degrees. You hunch over ever so slightly. You walk real slowly and get a look on your face that is a combination of wry smile and palpable anger. I found myself doing this around the office one day about a year or so ago and a coworker picked up on it. He actually stopped to ask me if I was OK because he thought I didn't look good. Mission accomplished.

I had a roommate in college who was a complete sluggard about getting out of bed. That was yet another reason he didn't like me, a morning person. I do remember a memorable quote of his, "The worst thing about a nap is that you have to get up twice in the same day." For me, the worst part of going out of the office at lunchtime is that you have to come into the building twice in the same day. And then I find myself automatically going into the "Do not touch" walk.

I know that I can get out of myself with this and be OK. My flesh cries out for me to remain introspective and miserable. God tells me to look to Him and live. I think He has a better way.

Friday, February 17, 2006


I got to enjoy the company of a few coworkers today over a glass of excellent beer at Horniblows Tavern. I don't do this very often anymore as I do what I can to be a good husband and father. Given how hard my wife works all day I figure the least I can do is be home as soon as possible. But my wife graciously wanted me to have a good time with friends today and I went out.

The funny thing is that one of my coworkers was absolutely shocked to hear that I would go out for a drink. It's strange to see how people perceive you. The thing I can't decide if this is good or bad.

It's good I guess that I seem to live an upright, clean-cut lifestyle. That's the kind of witness I want to have. But it's bad in that I'm not seen at all like a regular guy. I don't really want to be perceived as just another guy who pounds a six pack of beer every Friday night, gorges himself on wings, and ends up at the club. But if I'm not at least somewhat approachable how can I talk to people about Jesus?

Thursday, February 16, 2006


A few years back a lot of people wore bracelets that read "WWJD" for "What would Jesus Do?" This is a great question. After all, our lives should be all about looking more like Him today than we did yesterday. Being sinless, we know that whatever He would do is the right thing. He shows us how to live.

But what would Jesus vote? There seems to be an implied understanding in the United States that any good, Bible-believing Christian would vote Republican without thinking twice. And, given the issue of the millions of unborn killed in this country, this seems to be sound on the surface. But is this so cut & dried?

I saw a bumper sticker one day that read "Jesus is not a Republican". At first I blanched. But as I got to thinking about it, I'm pretty sure that's right. I don't think He's a Democrat either. In fact, I think He'd be sickened by the whole mess of our government that we try to call "God-ordained". He certainly wouldn't want to protect "reproductive rights". But I also think that He'd want to do a lot more for the poor. Not from the government, most likely, but as a society.

I've always defended voting Republican by the fact that I'd rather give my money to my church and my local rescue mission than to the government. Chances are, I'll keep voting Republican. But to call the GOP the clear Christian choice seems a little flawed to me. I don't follow politics too closely, but I do know about the whole business with Tom DeLay when he was indicted. Per an ethics policy originated by the GOP, he should have had to step down. But they decided they weren't going to do that. Need some touch-ups on that wall's whitewash?

My mom likes to tell the story of my Grandma Chamberlain who was a staunch Republican all her life. At the end of Nixon's final press conference as President she said, resignedly, "Well, I guess he had to do it." Of course he did! How could anyone not want him to step down after what he did? It doesn't invalidate the great things he did in office, but he still had to resign.

In other words, I don't see this as simple as black & white or red & blue. I see good and bad in both parties and we have to decide where we fall on the spectrum. I guess I'm still red and I feel like it's my duty to vote, but I'm not about to instantly say that all the Republicans do is good while all the Democrats do is bad.

Fat, Dumb, and Happy in Cary

My first instinct is to complain further about my comfort. But as I think about it I see how absurd that is. I think it dishonors God not to be thankful for how He blesses my family. Here we are in one of the top-rated communities in the country and I want to complain? Again, this is absurd!

My complaint is that I don't want to turn into King David. He fell hard when he became most complacent. I can see that happening. And what I also see is that my complacency breeds laziness. I'm pretty comfortable with my lot in life. Sure, my job doesn't do a lot for me, but it does pay the bills. My marriage is sound. My daughter is a daily challenge, but she certainly blesses us. I enjoy my role in my ministry.

But I still crave more somehow. And I think it's time that I eat my own dog food, so to speak. It's easy for me to tell students that they will find all their satisfaction at the cross. But am I finding mine there? Sure, I don't necessarily have habitual sin in my life anymore, but I know that I could spend more time sitting at the feet of Jesus.

I'm slowly learning that I'm better at doing than being. I think I need to work more on just abiding in Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Complaints about a good salary

So here I am at work. I have what most people in the world would consider a great job. I don't have to really lift anything heavy or put myself at physical risk. I get to walk around my office fairly often and talk to people. All I really do is make sure that computer systems keep working and, when possible, see what I can do to make them work better. Great job, right?

The problem is that I don't particularly care about what I can do. I'm always amazed at comments like, "But you're good at it, why would you want to leave it?" Yes, I'm pretty good at what I do when I do it and don't spend my time reading or writing blogs. I just have a longing for more.

If you're reading this you likely know that I serve at a ministry called Setting Captives Free. We exist to provide Christ-centered hope and freedom to people in bondage to habitual sins such as pornography and masturbation, gluttony and laziness, gambling, drunkenness, and greed. We do this knowing that God is glorified when He sets people free. I've served in this ministry for three years and find that I really have a passion for it. I feel like I'm gifted to do it effectively and those in leadership saw fit to put me in a position of leadership as well.

So am I the only one in America complaining about making as much money as I do? I look for other doors to open and they just don't. I have a sense that God has me here for a reason. And as I think about it I have some ideas why.

First of all, it's obvious that God meets our needs. I have a wife and daughter that appreciate a warm house in the winter and food on the table. We also have the honor to support a couple of people in college ministry monthly. If I made less money we couldn't do that. We also were able to give to our new church's building fund and that certainly is a blessing.

I suppose that there are plenty of missionaries out there that would like to have our problems. But I also would not mind having a much simpler life and focusing exclusively on ministry and doing what it takes to win souls for Christ.

However, in the end, I see how pastors and missionaries burn out. And I see how people in the corporate world burn out. What I realize is that I can't expect to find fulfillment in my work. I can't expect to find it in my ministry. I can't expect to find it in my family. I can only find it at the cross. So what it really boils down to is that I must obey the command to:

Colossians 3:22-24 ESV
(22) Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
(23) Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,
(24) knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

This must be my focus.