Sunday, January 27, 2008

LiftMaster and LifeMaster

Allow me to begin by stating that I began the afternoon thinking that LiftMaster was hardly an appropriate name for the garage door opener in my garage. I couldn't figure out why the door kept coming back up when it hit the ground. Well, after trying to fix it on my own (with advice from a few friends), I took out the manual - and what do you know? When you follow the steps it gives, you can very easily fix the problem! After arriving late at school on Tuesday, and going through the motions of manually lifting/closing the door all week (not like that makes me hard done by - I actually appreciate the luxury more now!), I pulled out the ladder this afternoon and fixed my door. Ah. Feels good.

Round 2. The LifeMaster.
I was having a discussion with some friends this afternoon and felt myself struggling with the question of motive.

The topic in question was how we live our lives between the "trees" - i.e. - between Genesis and Revelation, which is really right now.

I guess I'm not sure of all the theology behind it.
I know that the Bible says to store up treasures in heaven.
I know that it also says that we will be judged.
I know, too, that it says we will be rewarded.
On a side note - I had another theological discussion with someone the other day that who believes that we really don't deserve punishment and that we deserve God's love because we are trying our hardest to live a life of love as per the example of Jesus.

But that's another story.
This question seems to be contradicted in two parables:
the one where a man entrusted money to 3 men - one did nothing with it, one invested it in small amounts and one invested it in big amounts - it challenges me to think about what I do with the gifts God has given me. And, I believe, it tells me that God blesses us when we use our gifts for the service of His kingdom.

The second is the parable where workers are hired at different times of the day to work until the same finishing time. Each is paid the same total amount, no matter how long they worked.

So my question is, are there better rewards to be earned in heaven?

My answer to that question is no.
Not sure on the theology.
But here's my thinking.
Rom. 6 says that the gift of God is eternal life.
How does it get better than that?
How does someone experience better wholeness in Christ than someone else in a perfect new Jerusalem where there is no sadness - pain is taken away.
Is there really ranking and levels of blessing?
In our discussion, there was disagreement on that one.

My take on the first parable has a lot to do with understanding that the kingdom of heaven is alive and real right here on earth. I believe that our reward for using our gifts and blessings to the service of others and the furthering of God's kingdom brings us great joy and peace here on earth. I think the joy of serving and seeing someone else delight in a gift I am able to share with them is great reward.
This, too, was different from some others in our group.
Some very strongly believe that God will give better and greater crowns based on our earthly commitment and service to Him.
Maybe there's a reason the disciples argued over who would get to sit at Jesus' right hand in heaven.

Maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe we will be so perfect and un-human that we won't become envious of our neighbour's crown, but will delight completely in each other's successes.
But I want to think that eternity with Christ is enough.

Maybe the point of our argument was wrong.
I felt like there was motivation to do good because it would earn greater rewards in heaven.
I'll be honest.
I'm not comfortable with that idea at all.
When I serve or love or forgive,
I want to believe that I do it because Christ did all of those things for me first.
I want to believe that my heart wants so much to recognize God's grace in my life,
that I love and serve and forgive because I want my life to reflect the gratitude in my heart for the gift of Christ.

Maybe there are rewards.
Maybe that's where the judgment comes in.
But I'd rather not do them for fear of judgment or anticipation of reward.

May the LifeMaster be my LifeMaster because He is.
Not because I'm afraid of how He'll punish me
or because I am seeking a reward that I feel I deserve.
And may I gratefully seek to serve Him
because He loves me unconditionally
and I owe Him my life.

Even if my theology is a little off.

"...I will show Him my faith by what I do." - James

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Follow the Star...

I have been particularly struck by the story of the wisemen this Christmas season.
Thoughts about how these men picked up and left everything they had and knew
to follow a light that was brighter than the others.
Can you imagine what kind of flack they would get today?
Hop on a camel -
granted that was the current day mode of transportation -
but, really, it wasn't a two year dune buggy ride across the desert.

One of the parts that got me this year
was someone describing the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem.
Be reminded that Jesus was about 2 years old at this point.
It wasn't the same craziness of the census -
people everywhere, animals and travelers taking over the town.
It was 2 years later.
The original excitement of the shepherds and the angels had died down.
The meetings with and prophecies from Simeon and Anna long since past.

Imagine a quiet day in Bethlehem.
Mary had been working in her home all morning while Jesus toddled about
landing hard once or twice as he tried to run along the uneven dirt floor of their small home.
Joseph had been home for a lunch of stew and freshly baked bread,
but had returned to his carpentry shed out back.
With lunch finished, Mary had put Jesus down for an afternoon nap before they would visit the neighbour down the road to share some vegetables from her small garden.

And then it happened.

There was a noise coming from out the window.
Men speaking a language she was unfamiliar with.
And before she knew it there was a knock at the door.
And so she opened it.
Can you imagine the sight?

Men dressed in robes and jewels,
riding camels,
carry gifts.

Can you imagine the talk amongst the neighbours at the arrival of these out-of-towners?

The men started to explain their story.
A star.
A king.

And Mary un-packed the treasures she had buried in her heart and knew this was just another unbelievable moment in her story as the mother of the Messiah.

She invited them in.
And ran to get Joseph from out back.
She hurried back to the house and lifted Jesus out of his finely crafted cradle.
He fussed a bit as his sleep was disturbed.
She tried to quiet Him,
explaining that He had special visitors.

All the while the neighbours peaked through the windows in their tiny homes.
Who where these foreigners?
And why were they visiting this family that had only moved into town a short while ago.

Can you imagine?

Our service this morning centred on the visit of the Magi.
Our children's message talked about the invitation to the Magi as they saw something spectacular and decided to follow it, trusting that it would lead them to a king.

And what a King they found!

I had to ask myself if my faith is such that I would follow that invitation to put so many things aside to truly seek after the King. It often seems that my time and energy for directly and intently seeking after the King get put somewhere else.

The prayer that followed struck a chord with me -
"Lord, forgive our poor sense of direction..."
(for those who don't know, getting lost and asking for directions could easily top my list of gifts and talents...)
We know the way.
We know where the star leads.
And yet it seems at times that we are incredibly mis-guided.
Maybe a new year is a time to roll out the map again.
To take out the compass and do a direction check.
And when I see the needle pointing west when I know I've been called north,
what difference will it make?
What difference should it make?

"Lord, forgive my poor sense of direction."