Service and Sacrifice

The other night, we had the pleasure of spending time with a dear friend, who spent last summer volunteering as a teacher in Kenya.  She remarked how odd it is to her that people view her as a "missionary" or that what she's done is viewed as a great sacrifice.  For her, she was merely doing what she loves...what God has called on her to do.  Her love for God is greater than the love she has for herself, so that what she does for Him does not feel like a sacrifice at all.  In short, her time in Africa is "true and proper worship."

In his letter to the Romans, Paul spends most of the text expounding on faith -- in short, we've done nothing to earn our salvation, which is wholly dependent on God's mercy.  Though there's nothing we can do to earn God's mercy (otherwise it wouldn't be called mercy but our just reward), Paul teaches how we're to respond to God's mercy, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."  (Rom 12:1)  In light of the knowledge that our Lord and Creator loves us enough to offer us a chance at spending eternity in His holy presence, we ought to be overwhelmed and look for ways to please and worship Him.

Lest it's misunderstood, the offering of our bodies for sacrifice does not mean the end of our lives.  Rather, the living sacrifice means that our primary motivation is to please and honor God.  Christians speak of following Jesus's footsteps in all that we do, that doesn't mean that we seek ways to turn water into wine or raise the dead back to life.  No, we're to live our lives based on answers to the question we're to ask at all times, "What is God's will?"

For our friend, her heart is aligned with God's will so that His pleasure is her pleasure.  As we serve and give, we ought to do so with the same cheerful heart.  If we don't find joy in serving and giving and merely out of obligation, then we deprive ourselves of basking in His grace and receiving his commendation.

Tragedy: How do we respond?

Over the last week, the nation has mourned and grieved over the senseless loss of innocents at Sandy Hook.  We've all responded to the grief in differing ways, I imagine.

Upon hearing the news, work seemed insignificant to me.  I wanted to embrace my loved ones and not let go (until both my kids squirmed out of my grasp with that, "What's gotten into you look" they've perfected).  For those whom I couldn't embrace, I wanted to make sure they knew that I love them.  Try as we might, we cannot always prevent or avoid tragedies.  Should this be my last day, I want no love left unexpressed.

Many people began espousing their positions over gun control.  I took that as our human tendency to assign blame or seek ways in which this could have been prevented.  My first response was to question whether it was too soon, and our emotions too raw, to have such a debate.  But I realized that, for some, this satisfied their need to grieve.  Grief, for many of us, involves the question of why and what could have been done.

As for me and my family, we pray.  Some have scoffed at this response and questioned its efficacy.  They miss the point.  The measure of successful prayer is the prayer itself.  We pray not so that we'll see specific results, though specific results have happened.  We pray for the necessary assurance and reminder that God is in control.  During tragedies, loved ones grieve together and draw closer.  That is God's desire for His children.  As we pray for peace and comfort for the families who've been devastated, we don't need to know that their hearts have been touched to measure the success of prayer.  The very act of prayer is success in itself for we've turned to our loving God for comfort.

For those who don't believe in prayer, then I agree that, for you, prayer is fruitless.  However, if you're at all interested, I'd by happy to share my thoughts (shocking, I know!).