Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Word for Today - Daily Office

1 John 2:15-17 Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. (THE MESSAGE)

COMMENT: Peterson wrote years ago in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: "An old tradition sorts the difficulties we face in thelife of faith into the categories of world, flesh, and devil. We are, for the most part, well warned of the perils of the flesh and the wiles of the devil. Their temptations have a definable shape and maintain an historical continuity. That doesn't make them any easier to resist; it does makke them easier to recognize... The world, though, is protean: each generation has the world to deal with in a new form. World is an atmosphere, a mood. It is nearly as hard for [us] to recognize the world's temptations as it is for a fish to discover impurities in the water. There is a sense, a feeling, that things aren't right, that the environment is not whole, but just what it is eludes analysis."

The text from 1 John, chapter 2, does give some help in identifying just how the "world" does its insidious work in our hearts - wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important...The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out... This incessant wanting is so much a part of our "American" world. It is the essence of the Madison Avenue message of acquisition... It is part of the baby boomer culture into which I was baptized (my parents, having gone through the Great Depression, were determined that our lives would be better = have more stuff). But when you come to the premature end of a career (as has recently happened to me) and you are faced with the very real possibility of losing your home and the stuff you have accumulated, you also begin to realize how unsatisfying it is to gain and acquire more and more stuff. This is simply not what life is all about!

I have seen this reality before -in the biblical story of Jesus (who had no place to lay his head) and in Paul's testimony of the Macedonian church (who in severe poverty were extremely generous and joyful - see 2Corinthians 8:1-2). But I have also seen it first hand, on the mission field - in the Dominican Republic, and especially in Guatemala - where we lived and worked among people who were poor by the world's standards, but rich in faith. I will never forget the villagers of Guatemala - the shacks in which they lived, the sacrifices they made, the outdoor kitchen in which they prepared a meal for us gringos (making tamales from scratch and killing and cooking the only available chicken to fill their guests' tamales with meat, while they did without), how they prayed and worshiped (even on mud floors), and how thier life was rich with friendship, generosity, joy, and peace. In fact, we brought a computer and DVD for the kids (something they had never seen) and I thought as the kids sat, fascinated by North American technology, "Lord, are we ruining these kids, by exposing them to this "stuff" that we suppose they are missing out on (stuff that we and our kids simply can't live without)?"

In these later (and, hopefully more mature) years that God gives me to live, serve, and testify, I pray that God will keep me more aware of this "atmosphere" called "world" and the ways that it has held me captive in my imagination and desires. I pray that my desires will be shifted, as 1 John 2:17 hopes, so that I will want what God wants... my sole desire to "glorify God and enjoy God (God's world, God's will, God's work, and God's ways) forever!

Soli Deo gloria

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