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3/20/2006

PURITY OF HEART

Soren Kierkegard believed purity of heart was to "will one thing." The pure of heart are those whose hands and mouth and heart are in agreement. One.

I've explained purity of heart dozens of times over the last nine months that White Flag, my album based around the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) has been on store shelves. I've written articles and wrestled the writing of a book about these eight blessings of Jesus' too. I've understood intellectually what it means to be pure. I can explain what a pure mind and spirit unhindered, undivided, allegiant to God alone over nation, family, my desire for fame, fortune, approval, comfort or happiness looks like. I even taught purity of heart to a group of women this morning gathered for a weekly bible study my wife attends every Monday. They asked me to teach them about the beatitudes and I did so confident that while I don't have the beatitudes mastered yet I have purity down pat. I thought I did.

Many weeks ago a friend of mine, a mentor, asked me to join him and his family in Rome - to be a missionary there with him. I pondered it and felt confident that it wasn't the right move for me. There was too much I questioned about the methods and philosophy of the movement he wanted me to join. I didn't think the plan he was following would work.

Tonight he and his wife and kids came for a visit. They're in town meeting with people who will fund them, pray for them and advise them when they move to Rome in a few months. Over heaping helpings of Tex-Mex, with our kids destroying everything in the next room, we talked. And the questions and concerns I'd had weeks ago evaporated one by one. So many pieces began fitting for me: There's strategic need for musicians and artists who can teach. I have a degree in music composition with an emphasis in world music. They need house church pastors to lead small groups of Christians primarily ages 18-25. I've been pastoring 18-25 year olds for the last couple years at ikon. The emphasis of my friend's strategy has shifted away from proclamation evangelism to relational organic discipleship. That's what I believe in as well and am good at. I've been drawn back for a few years now toward a model of church that more closely resembles the almost commune-like small church of the first two centuries. That's what my friend is planting.

I believe the church changed for the worse when Rome began making her over in it's government's image in 325AD under the leadership of Constantine and that this happened because she's a strategic important city to Christianity. Rome is strategic today because it is the home to tens of thousands of university students from around the world. It is a tourism hot spot. It has the largest mosque and one of the densest Muslim populations in the world. It is a gateway city to Northern Africa also dominated by Islam and home to a large population in tremendous physical and spiritual need.

And I'm suddenly aware of my impurity, of the divided loyalty of my heart. If Rome turns out to be what's next for me and mine I won't hesitate because of my love for my home or comfort or America. But people, my best friends, will keep me here. It's my love for friends that divides me; not debt (it's all gone), not career (I can do what I do anywhere), not extended family (planes fly from Italy to Texas I think), not fear of having to learn a language (if it's on a CD I can learn it). Friends have my allegiance, not God. I think I need to be seeing these people every day, to have my kids play with theirs and to have them to laugh with and talk to and just be comfortable together. My love for friends has me willing two things and not one: to be obedient to God and to stay put right here just down the street from the best friends I may have ever had.

If God showed up at your kitchen table tomorrow, I mean with the white beard and the booming baritone voice and the toga, and He gave you orders to do the daring, move to the ends of the earth or just the middle of Italy, what would anchor you to your kitchen chair? What divides your heart? What keeps you from willing one thing: obedience to God?

I guess we never really know until He shows up over a plate of Tex-Mex. (Make that two things dividing my heart: I'm almost positive Rome has bad Mexican food.)

7 Comments:

Blogger Amy said...

thank you for this post. Please promise me that should you move to Rome, you will still shlog! :-)

Leaving people is the hardest thing in the world. Knowing that people are irreplaceble has had me holding onto situations long after i believe I was meant to let them go. For the sake of the friendship. For the sake of the joy of that hard earned and hard to find intimacy. It has never been worth it.

3/21/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

wow, what a tough decision. I remember when my Dad picked his family up, followed what he felt as God's leading and moved his wife kids to Kentucky, with no Job in sight, just faith and seminary. I was hard for him to hear us crying at night for the first few weeks but i remember us all feeling that we would still follow our dad anywhere because we trusted him because we loved him and we knew he was following God. I am forever grateful for that faith.

We'll be praying for you guys.

Seth and Amber

3/21/2006  
Blogger Michael Stone said...

Nice Kierkegaard reference...more believers should read him.

3/21/2006  
Blogger stephen said...

I would say that the single biggest obstacle to obedience to God is love of self. In Romans 8, Paul talks about how people choose to live their lives based on what desires they have their minds set on. And I think it's real difficult for humans to shake selfish desires.

And as great as the state of Texas is, I do have to tell you that they still actually don't provide planes that will fly to FCO. So those friends and family might have to connect, heaven forbid, in New York. Or London.

3/21/2006  
Blogger NerdMom said...

People are hard to leave but you never know what God has in the future. We left our best friends but it ended up only being for a time. We were unexpectedly brought back. It was totally God and wonderful. Oh, I love someone who can quote Kierkegaard;).

3/21/2006  
Anonymous DC said...

This was such an encouragement to read. I lived and worked as a missionary for 3 months in Rome. My heart and passion is there, but my school debt is keeping me here. To see that someone else has recognized the need, heard the call, and is willing to go (and try to get others to do the same)is an answer to prayer. Thank you for sharing.

3/22/2006  
Anonymous carolyn long said...

hmmm

In April of last year, I felt a call to leave where I was, to go where I did not know. I kind of took it as a suggestion and let God know I'd get back with Him on that, but I was presently comfortable in my surroundings, and I was kind of busy singing where I was too(as if He didn't know that). So, I continued doing what I was doing in the company of those I loved. This past November, the call became more of an angry bellow and the words I heard were unmistakable, "How long will you put your commitment to others above your commmitment to Me?" Needless to say, I left my place of comfort. Still awaiting His directive for my next step. Sounds like yours is clear. Is it really your friend that wants you to go along or are your steps being ordered? Be encouraged! He must trust in the faith He's grown within you, and you do have that universal language of love and laughter down pat!

3/22/2006  

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