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Turmoil, Part 1

March 9, 2011

There is a small kind of turmoil setting roots in my heart tonight.

I’ve been sitting here, lost in the glow of a blank screen, cupping a mug of tea in my hands long enough for the vapor to retire and the water to grow cold, trying to figure out how to put it in words. Or if I even should.

I came home Friday evening with a small stack of books that a friend gave me. The idea of a whole Sabbath with a pot of coffee and a stack of very promising new books was the most welcome engagement I’ve had in a long time, so I started coffee as soon as I’d taken Husband to work and returned home.

But I only touched one book all day.

I had plenty of time to take in at least half of another one, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just sat with that book in my hands and talked to the Father.

That book was The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom. It’s probably old news to most of you. I first heard about it years ago, but just never got to it for one reason or another.

If you’re not familiar with the book, Corrie ten Boom was a Christian woman in Holland during both World Wars. She and her family were part of the underground resistance during WWII until their home was raided and they were all arrested. The story is electrifying from beginning to end.

About a month ago I found The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun – whose real name I neither remember nor have handy as the book has been leant to a friend – at a resale store. Eighty cents and two days later I’d been run over by his story.

Here is where that little seed of turmoil started to break open. I surveyed the small stack of books I had eagerly brought home the night before with a new kind of wonder: one on forgiveness, one on passion, one on the last days, and one on the sermon on the mount that – as my friend had explained – discusses actually, and practically, living the sermon on the mount.

I started at them in disbelief.

Why do we need these?

Brother Yun doesn’t need these. Corrie ten Boom didn’t need these.

How many believers all over the world, today, are praying for the strength and love to forgive their persecutors, and discovering the joy and freedom in doing so? How many of them are living sermon-on-the-mount lifestyles without any idea that those three chapters in Matthew are called, “the sermon on the mount” by Christian scholars? How many have even read it?

Do Chinese Christians need books and sermons on maintaining passion for Jesus? Do they need convincing that we’re living in the last days? Do they care about the mountain of evidence that we comb through?

Or do they just read the Bible – or hear it preached or quoted – take it at face value, and do what it says?

Why can’t we do the same thing? Why are there shelves and shelves of Christian books in libraries and bookstores? Why do we need so many ideas and opinions and interpretations? Why do we need the same thing said over and over, with countless metaphors and examples and hypothetical scenarios?

The gospel is pretty simple. And it’s pretty powerful in it’s simplicity.

Are we bored with the gospel?

If so, is it because we’ve attempted to study and analyze it when it was never meant to be treated so? Is discipleship supposed to be a four-year program, or a lifestyle? Is it supposed to be something we understand, or something we do even though we don’t always understand it completely?

Are these stacks of books helping us become better disciples of Christ, or are they distracting us from being disciples of Christ?

Or are we really living in a different kind of mission field? Paul knew nothing but Christ and him crucified to the beginners at Corinth, but wrote the greatest masterpiece of theology to the scholars in Rome. Are we the church of Rome, today in the West, and we need this kind of knowledge like Brother Yun’s students need to know how to jump from second-story windows without breaking their legs?

Or is that a cop-out? Because it sounds good, but sometimes it also seems like the kingdom of God is growing faster (and deeper) in China than in the U.S. Are we the Church of Cop-Outs?

The fact that I will spend – literally – an eternity with these people chills me to the bone sometimes. What will I say? What will my story be? You walked out of a maximum-security prison with two broken legs in the middle of the day so you could start a ministry that would train people to take the gospel into the hardest places on earth? You headed up an underground network comprised of hundreds of people who never knew each other to shuttle scores of God’s people away from the Nazi concentration camps based on the gentle leading of the Holy Spirit? I played drums on Sunday mornings and got frustrated when teenagers followed my dispassionate example too closely.

Mercy.

I love theology. I love the hidden treasures that finally show themselves after a 20th reading. I love the beautiful complexity hidden in each simple story. I love that there’s always another layer waiting to be peeled back.

But is this what He asks of me? …

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2011 11:31 am

    Wow. I’m speechless. I feel it too. I find myself in awe at people who will give up their entire lives for Christ while I have been known to not wear a cross to a job interview.

    And it doesn’t “seem as if” China’s Christian church is growing faster than the US, it is. So is Africa’s, and Latin America and all of Asia. Pretty much any and all developing countries are growing faster than the developed ones. It is a sad state.

    • Lex permalink
      March 9, 2011 4:15 pm

      Elisabeth – I can’t believe you read that whole thing. :) And ya … ya.

  2. Munya permalink
    March 25, 2011 12:29 pm

    ” Is discipleship supposed to be a four-year program, or a lifestyle?”
    I think this is one of the most ignored question the church in America.
    We can barely remember the scriptures nowadays…and we nit pick the word so much that it doesn’t make sense anymore. My heart cries out that we are slowly becoming agnostic/universalistic Christians.

    Love the passion. Keep on keeping on!!

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