Friday, September 7, 2007

First Post

OK, so this is my first post ever. I guess I'll get started by sharing with you my working mission statement. Over the summer, I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I was really impressed. In seminary I developed a Rule of Life, but it was pretty long and way too detailed. This summer I decided to develop a personal mission statement which can help guide my everyday choices in life.

In July, I went on a spiritual retreat to a Catholic retreat house up in the mountains (near YangYang and Seorak San, the biggest mountain in mainland South Korea). This place is beautiful. It really reminds me of my grandparents old place in the hills/mountains of north Arkansas.

Anyway, while I was on the retreat, my spiritual director - a Catholic priest - recommended that I read the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying (Luke 18:9-14).

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

As soon as I started reading that, God cut into my heart and convicted me of my pride. Father Peter gave me good advice. He said that if God is speaking to me through that text, I should just stay with it and go down deep into it to hear everything God wants to say.

Well, God really cut me up. The first verse says that Jesus told this story to those "who were confident in their own righteousness." Immediately, I realized that was me (but shouldn't be). I began to understand that I am a Pharisee, a modern day Nazarene Pharisee. (And I think lots of us are.)

I also began to understand that this is the worst kind of sin - being a Pharisee, thinking we don't have any sin, and looking down on others who have obvious sin. In the past, when I read Paul's comments that he was the worst of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15-16), I never really identified with that. I thought, "Man, there are a lot worse sinners than me. Sure, I'm a sinner, but I'm not like Paul who persecuted the church and murdered people in God's name. I haven't done lots of terrible things." Sound anything like verse 11? I realized that I am a full-blown Pharisee, in living flesh. I am a Pharisee, and I like and I hate it at the same time. Part of me likes being able to look down on others. Part of me hates this dark side of hypocrisy and pride.

I'm not too sure what to do with all of this, but I find hope in the first 3 of the 12 steps. 1. Admit that we are powerless over our addiction (or issues) and that our lives have become unmanageable. 2. Believe that a Power greater than us can restore us to sanity. 3. Turn over our will and our lives to the care of God as we understand God. That sounds like a recipe for healing to me, so that's what I'm trying to live.

Needless to say, in the midst of all of this, I began to feel like a basic component of following Jesus (and hence my mission in life) is humility.

Anyway, this has all been a roundabout way of getting to my mission - or my working mission, because I'm very open to advice or comments. After much ado, here it is:

My mission is to love like Jesus through humility, honesty, and hospitality.

My greatest hope is that those around me will:
- feel my love for them
- feel God's love for them
- believe in their own potential to change the world
- live out their own God-given dreams.
Therefore, I will:
- listen well
- see possibilities
- speak toward the future
- empower others.

I guess this is part of why I chose the title for my blog: "Humble Future." I think we, in the church especially, have been filled with pride. I'm confused about postmodernism and the emerging church, but one thing that seems clear to me is that we are going to have to imagine a way to be genuinely humble. Our future is going to have to be different from our past in this. We will all have to become like little children before God, learning the ways of Jesus again, and more importantly actually doing the way of Jesus. All of this will require great humility on our part, but it will lead to an incredible future in which we -and all the world with us - are changed for the better.
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