Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Rescued From Myself

I work at my church. Doing music stuff. And some desktop publishing.

Yesterday, at our weekly staff meeting, we read 2 Timothy 2. Paul is encouraging Timothy to stay focused and persevere in his work for Christ. In verse 23, Paul says, "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels."

After the reading, I commented that the crux was defining "foolish and stupid argument" because no one thinks their viewpoint is foolish or stupid.

My friend Jim pointed out that according to the context of the verses following, foolish and stupid arguments referred to arguments against Christ made by unsaved people (see vv. 25-26).

My mind wandered away from our round table as I pondered: if no one thinks their viewpoint is foolish or stupid, then most unsaved people don't think their view of Christ is foolish or stupid. People who follow false religions don't think their religions are foolish or stupid. They die believing lies. In many cases, they willingly lay down their lives for the lies they believe.

I looked around the table at those with me. All faith heroes. Five people sold out for Christ, willing to lay down their lives for the truth we believe.

Debbie, a missionary for as long as I can remember, who daily takes up her cross by helping her ailing mom, who trains the women of our church to lead other women, who flies to Romania in a few days to do the same thing there.

Bonnie, who serves wordlessly and tirelessly for Christ cleaning the toilets of her local church late into life when she could be at home ordering her descendants to wait upon her hand and foot.

David and Jim, who have found the heart still beating inside our cantankerous, settled, arthritic congregation, who lead the body of Christ at Laurel forward one laborious baby step at a time, who inspire person after person to see beyond themselves to the lost and dying world a mere stone's throw away from our building.

Kim, who cries for you when you can't cry for yourself, who efficiently manages the church office by loving every person she comes into contact with, who always stops whatever she's doing to listen and care, who loves with the love of Christ.

And me. Who is totally and completely focused on...me. (Well, not completely. Jeff says on a scale of one to ten, one being selfless and ten being an egomaniac, I score a seven. But he said it very nicely. And only because I asked.)

Me, who is so often cranky and snippety.

Me, whose first thought is how any given tragedy will distrupt my life.

Me, whose mind is unchangeable once it's made up, no matter how erroneous my conclusion.

Me, with a million foolish and stupid viewpoints.

I stared across the office, mindlessly focused on a picture of Rome taken during David's 13 years of missionary work in Italy. And I realized something.

Had it not been for one pivotal circumstance in my existence, my stubborn self would not be at that round table at that moment, soaking up the truth of 2 Timothy with five faith heroes.

Several people in our church recently completed personality and gifting surveys. I scored as a Technician. The apt description delivered forth about me was this: "Once a Technician has made a decision, they will tend to stick to it, even stubbornly, because much time has gone into the decision-making process. They have a hard time saying no, and they seek peace at almost any cost. Avoiding conflict, they tend to internalize their feelings. A Technician will adopt a tenacious attitude, even in tough times; and can be relied upon to stay true through it all. But beware of mistaking their desire for peace as weakness; once you have pushed them to their limit - they are immovable."

The point is this: God knew that immovable me would cling tenaciously to whatever concept I settled on, so He rescued me from that hell by inundating me with truth before I knew there was any alternative.

The pivotal circumstance in my existence that sent me to that staff meeting yesterday was God's first act of grace to me. The grace of being born the daughter of Tim & Karolyn Baker.

Tim & Karolyn Baker, who chose a life of service to Christ long before I existed. Who have gladly sacrificed innumerable creature comforts to follow the Lord together for nearly 40 years. Who never give up on those they love. Who have lost dear friends and family for the sake of Christ. Who, in the midst of these things, explained to me with confidence, boldness and complete abandon when I was four years old that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And that the wages of sin is death. But that the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, my Lord. (Romans 3:23, 6:23)

Drifting back to the staff meeting at hand, I sat completely immobilized at that round table as God's grace washed over me yet again. Were it not for His grace, I would be one of the stubborn, immovable followers of a false religion, carrying my foolish and stupid arguments against Christ to my grave.

But God claimed me for His own before He formed me in my mother's womb. And He has held tightly to me from the moment of my birth, shaping my life in such a way that the concept I would cling tenaciously to is the truth of His grace.

"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
Romans 11:33-36