Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tyranny of the Urgent

I read a book yesterday, entitled Tyranny of the Urgent, by Charles E. Hummel. This morning I noticed that the one I read is apparently the "revised and expanded version." Amusing, since the book is 3.5" x 5", and only 32 pages long, including the usual blank and title-related pages at the beginning and end. It makes me wonder what the original un-expanded version looked like. And isn't 32 pages a nice, small size for someone who wants to read a book with that title? At any rate, the ten minutes it took to read it were worthwhile.

Consider this, from page six.... John 17 records that on the night before Jesus died, he prayed to his Father, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." Hummel writes, "We wonder how Jesus could have talked about a completed work. His three-year ministry seemed all too short. A prostitute at Simon's banquet had found forgiveness and a new life, but many other still plied their trade. For every ten withered muscles that had flexed into health, a hundred remained impotent. The blind, maimed and diseased abounded throughout the land. Yet on that last night, with many urgent human needs unmet and useful tasks undone, the Lord had peace. He knew that he had completed the work God had given him."

There was a day recently when I had a to-do list as long as my arm, so I woke very early and headed into town so I could get plenty done before anything else had opportunity to wedge its way into my schedule. I made a brief stop along the way, and it stretched into an hour during which I accomplished absolutely nothing on my to-do list. As I left there and got into my car, I thought about how much I could have gotten done during that hour, but just briefly, because what I'd stopped to do was so much more important than what I'd stopped doing. While I wished my to-do list had somehow become shorter, I had no regrets.

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). This is scripture, and true, right? But "many of us have experienced Christ's deliverance from the penalty and power of sin in our lives. Are we also letting him free us from the tyranny of the urgent?" (Hummel). I want to live in tune with God's plan and calling for my life. That is what captures my heart today.

Monday, July 7, 2008


"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

As I've been reading through the lectionary, I've noticed that the designated passages are often short, and focus on the particularly core parts. At the same time, though, context is pretty important. I've tried to make sure I look around the lectionary passages, and not just read the verses given.

Yesterday's readings -- access them here -- include Matthew 11:25-30. I've heard Matthew 11:28-30 quoted a number of times, another of those comforting promises from an infinitely powerful God who chooses to love and care for us. And it is! But I also see it in light of the beginning of the chapter: "When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'" (Matthew 11:2-3, emphasis mine). John's physical situation was not comfortable, and he appears to have been struggling with questions about Jesus, to whom he had dedicated his entire life. Perhaps we would do well to remember, too, the events recorded just a few chapters later: "Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison.... Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people.... [Herodias] said, 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist' .... [Herod] had John beheaded in the prison" (see Matthew 14:1-12).

"My yoke is easy and my burden is light." What was the "yoke" to which Jesus referred? Farmers used yokes to attach oxen to each other and to their loads, so "yokes came to represent labor, service and submission to authority" (Quest Study Bible). Labor, service and submission are oppressive under the control of a tyrant, but even difficult situations can hold great joy when led by an excellent and honorable master and toward a worthy goal. The yoke of Jesus is not like the "good life" sometimes waved in front of us by our culture. It is not a life of ease, not a life of immediate gratification, not a life of having everything happen according to what we want. It is a life of great challenge and it requires full commitment. But we can rest and be refreshed at a soul level, even in very difficult times, as we walk with Christ.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Western Light Church of the Nazarene VBSWe stopped by Western Light Church of the Nazarene yesterday. Not to do work, but to visit. It’s where the SLC First youth group invested their time and energy on a Work & Witness trip in 1996, building the foundation of the building. Twelve years later, that congregation is thriving – worshiping with enthusiasm, helping people to follow Christ, reaching out to the surrounding community. It is exciting to see the early fruits of an investment with such obviously eternal significance.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Who Are You?

Mark and I worshiped on Sunday at Hillaby Church of the Nazarene, led by Rev. Leonce. We participated in the Sunday School class led by the pastor's wife, Thelma. She started by asking the group, "Who are you?" The responses varied, of course -- about passions, personality traits, behaviors that come naturally, changes made, changes in process, ways of thinking. One answered, "I am a sinner saved by grace."

I like that response. She did not gloss over the fact that she is a sinner. As Romans 3:23 reminds us, we all fall short of God's perfect plan and desire. She did not make the mistake of stopping her description at the sinful nature, though. She is more than a sinner; she is one saved by grace! Having no merit of her own, she has accepted God's gift of mercy.

Who am I? I am tempted to answer that in terms of what I do, what I enjoy, how I feel, what concerns me, how others perceive me. Ultimately, though, I choose the identity stated by this person whom I'd never met: I am a sinner saved by grace.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On the Mountain

(Sunday’s lectionary texts were Genesis 22:1-14, Psalm 13, Romans 6:12-23, and Matthew 10:40-42. These can be read here. For background important to the Genesis text, I would recommend starting at Genesis 12.)

“And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided’” (Genesis 22:14b). What is “it”? Seems to me “it” varies – answers, hope, material resources, understanding, guidance, wisdom, or whatever else is needed. Abraham and Isaac had three days together. I’m sure Abraham wondered. Pondered. Thought. Probably grieved. He had three days to wrestle with his thoughts before learning how God would provide in this situation. Sometimes we have to wait and walk and wonder for what feels like forever before we see God’s provision.