Friday, March 19, 2010

A Census of the Soul

Originally posted at Caffeinated Thoughts.

The other night I was reading Psalm 40. Anytime I read this particular Psalm I can’t help but think of the group U2. They sing a song called “40” which is on their 1983 album, War. The song, appropriately titled, is a modification of Psalm 40. Consequently, I started humming the tune as I continued to read.

You can listen to it below.

While reading the Psalm, verses 9-10 caught my attention:
I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O LORD. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.

As I read this I pictured the Psalmist, David, making a case for himself before God. I see him bowing humbly before Almighty God while pouring out his heart. In the previous verses David already acknowledged that God had heard his cry and raised him up from the muddy pit of despair. He recognizes his own sin and God’s goodness. He now says, in essence, “God I stand for you. I haven’t made my belief in you a secret. In fact, it’s plain for everyone to see. You are my salvation, and I want everyone to know your love and truth. I will be counted as one who belongs to you.”

I continued to think about the boldness with which David shared his faith even as I read through to the end of the Psalm. Finishing up I searched the front of my Bible for a bookmark to hold my place and came across our unopened 2010 Census Form. As I held it in my hands I considered the millions of people who would be filling out this same form (reluctantly or otherwise) in the coming days in an effort to be counted.

Governments everywhere demand an accounting of individual citizens for varied reasons including representation, taxes, and provision of public services. In the New Testament we read that the census is what brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.

Believe me – this is not an effort to give you warm fuzzies about filling out your census form. The truth is there is another far more important census taking place. It’s not a questionnaire that you need to fill out or a blog post you need to respond to. It is a census that takes an accounting of each heart. It asks, “Where do you stand? What do you believe, and who do you live for?” These questions are a great deal more personal that the ones you will be marking down on a black and white piece of paper.

But in contrast to the frustration we might feel toward our own government and its census this heavenly kingdom that deals with our hearts is governed by God and has eternal benefits and consequences. We must all decide for ourselves if we will stand up and be counted as a citizen of this kingdom.

Hebrews tells us that this is not an optional census. One day we will each give an account of our lives:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

God created everything we see. Nothing that we have done or will do comes as a surprise to him. He knows our weaknesses before we even begin to list them. So even though we will give an accounting, we won’t measure up to God’s perfect standard without giving our hearts and lives to Jesus and accepting his sacrifice for our sins.

Whether we choose to live for Jesus or not Paul tells us in Philipians 2:10-11:
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In Revelation John writes:
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"

This passage speaks of events that will occur in the future. It references every part of creation giving praise to God. The U2 video here demonstrates that people have a desire to worship and will give their praise to someone or something. Regardless of the other things we choose to give our attention to here on earth eventually we will all bow before Jesus.

The question at hand is, “Are we willing to stand up and be counted for Christ now – at home, at school, and at work?” The decision we make here establishes where we will spend eternity. David determined that he would stand and proclaim God’s salvation and truth to everyone within earshot. How will you respond?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Beyond Africa - A Book Review

After fifteen years in the States, twenty-two-year-old Lilly has returned to Africa as a nurse and a missionary. She is confident that this is where she belongs – where God wants her to be, but what she didn’t bank on was Case McCord, the handsome American pilot, strangely interested in her well-being, or Sam, the precious two-year-old Congolese boy, who has attached himself to her hip and stolen her heart.

Each week brings new refugees to the mission along with new concerns. As conflict draws nearer uneasiness settles over the camp. The Democratic Republic of Congo is flush with militants who are encroaching upon Lilly’s safe-haven. Though she finds herself in a war zone, the Congo is Lilly’s adopted home, the place she grew up as a child of missionaries. But now this land is filled with strife, fading memories of a happier time, and a gnawing pain.

Lilly’s fear and faith rise to the surface as she is forced to deal with the effects of civil war, the anguish of losing of her mom and dad as a child, and confront her own uncertain future. What further purpose could there be in the bewildering presence of Case, the exasperating yet altogether likeable pilot? What of the children and the mission – are miracles even possible in this war torn, seemingly, God-forsaken land? Why would she or anyone stay? Surprisingly, nothing could make her leave, until…

Beyond Africa is the first published work by author, Carie Lawson. Lawson appears a veteran as she masterfully weaves faith and storytelling together with captivating detail and compelling characters. The book sustains a series of wonderful paradoxes and draws its reader in through clever dialogue, the harsh realities of poverty and war, and a sense of impending romance.

As this fantastic world unfolds, Ms. Lawson triumphs in sharing her heroine’s faith in a miraculous and loving God without forcing the issue or becoming preachy. She further explores the emotional stress involved when feelings of attraction and faith collide. What does one do when heart, soul and mind are competing for attention?

Destined for success Lawson has done an excellent job of capturing the reader’s imagination and keeping her interest. While enjoying this book, I have come to know and appreciate the intriguing characters with their many facets. Even now, my mind drifts to Lilly and little Sam as my own little hip hugger cuddles up next to me.

Fortunately we have much more to look forward to from Carie Lawson. This book is just the first in a series of four soon to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing. Thank you, Desert Breeze, for such an auspicious introduction.

So what will become of the conflict raging within the African Congo and that stirring within Lilly’s heart? I hope you will take the time to read on and find out.

Beyond Africa is currently available as an E-book through online book retailers. You can purchase and download your own copy, by visiting,, or

To learn more about Carie Lawson and future projects please visit her at