Under God

Saint Paul's Cathedral

I’ve been reading the book With by Skye Jethani. I have not finished it yet, but just the first few chapters have been keenly insightful to my relationship with God.

Jethani talks about how many times we view ourselves in an “Under God” relationship with our Heavenly Father. This view rightly acknowledges Him as the Creator who is over us, who has the right set the moral rules and laws in this world. The problem comes when we try to manipulate God into blessing us by being morally good. Have you ever heard someone say, “How could God let this happen to me? I’ve always gone to church!” Or, “How could so-and-so be dying of cancer, they have done so many good works for God.”
This view, which started out so well, quickly turns into nothing different than that of the heathens of old, who offered sacrifices so that the rains would come, the locusts would stop or their flocks and herds would grow.
As C.S. Lewis describes, God “isn’t safe, but He is good.” We cannot manipulate Him into giving us good grades, a new car, health, wealth, or salvation. Jesus Christ didn’t save us because we were morally good, but because we could never be good enough to earn anything from God except eternal separation.
Let’s live like God really is who He says He is and that He does what He says He will do. Stop trying to manipulate Him into giving you what you want and being offended at Him when it doesn’t work. Realize that in Christ He has blessed us not because of how good we are, but only because of how good He is!

Relationships That Last

Last week, Karen and I finally returned home from VOICE and other travels. The same day we returned, we were delighted to have a visitor who stayed with us for two nights. It was Robin Hsu, a VOICE student from my team in 2005. It has been at least a year or two since we’ve seen or talked, but it was just like old times. We had great conversation about what is happening in each others’ lives, about God and how to live in a way that displays Christ’s presence. Karen and I had fun showing him around Oklahoma City (when he came to VOICE, it was held in a different city – Flint, MI), and overall, it was just wonderful catching up and amazing how easy it was to hang out again.

I think most of us don’t make many friends like that, but VOICE gives us the opportunity to – if we will seize it. Being friends with Robin has challenged me to be the kind of friend that it’s worth stopping to see when you’re traveling far from home – or even scheduling a special trip for. What kind of friend would that be? Well, I try to be interesting, to understand him and his life, ask questions about what he’s doing…but most of all, just be concerned for him. That’s something that we can’t force in our own life: but we can do things that will help to develop it over time. Here’s some ideas:

  • VOICE brings people together from very different places and lives. Stay in touch with people who you met, and keep learning more about them. Visit them and do things together.
  • VOICE challenges you to focus in on the things that are really important in life: God’s things. Value these in your life, talk about them with your VOICE friends, and learn how they are valuing God in their lives.
  • You need other people. It is prideful to think that you will first make yourself comfortable, then pursue friendships. If you have to sacrifice to build relationships, you have to see the value. It’s not that other people need to know you; it’s that you need to know them.

It’s great to see so much enthusiasm by the newest VOICE class for keeping in touch. Remember that these relationships can last a long time. Be the friend who is worth being pursued. And be the friend who is pursuing others.