March 02, 2008

Secret Service I turned 30 today. I feel like my soul has aged so much this past year, I’ve been waiting for my age to catch up. Through all the unexpected turns and difficult roads we’ve traveled on, the last year and a half have become moments of intense learning. One lesson fresh on my mind as I begin my thirties is on the desire to make a difference. When I wrote about making a difference with our lives in Butterfly in Brazil I concluded that for all the small, local, and gradual change we give our lives to, success by Heaven’s yardstick is all about obedience to God. I am beginning to understand not only how true that is, but how that truth ought to change my approach to service. Here is the gut-level question: is my service really about my fulfillment? In other words, do I serve so I can feel like I am significant, accomplishing my destiny, doing what I was made to do? Is my service driven by a sense of my purpose in life? If that feels uncomfortable and you find yourself reaching for denial, consider how obsessed we are with discovering our strengths, mapping out our personalities, and identifying our spiritual gifts. I have done all of that. And I have found it very helpful. It’s helped me work better and in more healthy way with others. But those self-discoveries can wrongfully become the thing that drives my desire to serve. I can find myself wanting to serve in a certain arena because it maximizes my spiritual potential. What’s more subtle than the desire to serve as a means of achieving self-actualization is the infatuation with “making a difference.” David Goetz in his insightful and satirizing book Death by Suburb warns of this approach. If we...
The Least Read Best-Seller, Pt. 1 of 3 Most Christians I talk with say the have a desire to be closer to God, to know God more, and to generally become a better person. But when the conversation drifts to something more tangible, like, say, Bible reading, things take a turn for the worse. “Well, I’d like to, but I just don’t have time.” One person was honest enough to admit that he didn’t care that much about it. It was all too confusing and difficult anyway. The sad truth is that most American Christians are fine with going to church and tipping God with their tithe, but aren’t willing to do much more to make their faith personal or alive. To be fair, it’s not all their fault. Our church culture has trained people to look for the shortcuts to knowing God, the message with “handles”, the ones with the bullet points and five steps to a successful career, a great marriage, and a burgeoning 401K. It’s no surprise, then, that when a well-intentioned, church-going Christian decides to open the pages of his shiny new leather-bound Bible, she is appalled by the ghastly tales of violent murder or the insufferably boring lists of genealogies or the intricate rules of hygiene and diet. Where is the simple secret for a happy life? Where is that chapter and verse? Eugene Peterson says that we have often turned to Scripture for academic study, practical tips, or personal inspiration. We want only the informative, useful bits, or the verses on joy and peace. Of course, the Bible contains all these things and is certainly useful. But Scripture is more than informational, practical, and inspirational. It is relational. And it is transformational. Peterson borrows the phrase the Lord used with both Ezekiel and John in the book of Revelation to guide our...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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