Monthly Archives: May 2012
- I had to share this link with y’all because it’s dead on with the conversation we’ve been having these past few weeks about appreciation and eternal rewards. In fact, it’s part of the key issue. We worship, serve, and are actively, uniquely loved by a personal God. He know sour troubles, He sees our struggle, He knows our pain, He’s suffered for our wrongs, and He’s watching… waiting… to reward us in eternity with treasures, accolades, even crowns.
- Even though it’s not officially Monday, here in America most of us have a four day work week this week because of the Memorial Day Holiday. So, I took yesteraday “off” (for part of the day) and have dubbed today a de facto Monday. But, since I read such a great (and short) post last week by Darryl Dash, I thought it would be a great change for such an odd “Monday Morning” post. I haven’t checked out Darryl’s background, know much about his theology, nor can I vouch for him personally – I just think he’s dead on with this post.
- Cristine and I meet with a lot of people that are dealing with trial, struggle, and the big “a” word – anxiety. Since our oldest daughter is going through such a hard time with this herself right now, it’s another great reason for us to look to the scriptures for two really great words teased out in Dash’s post: Have a great week.
He Cares – Darryl Dash
Don’t you just love the red letters? I mean, think about it – if you’re a theist or a deist, you don’t believe in a personal god who is active and involved in the life of His creation. But, if you’re a disciple of Christ, you have pages and pages of ancient manuscripts that have been preserved and protected over centuries that contain the words of the God who not only invented the universe, but also came to earth as one of us to teach, reach, and die for us.
I’m off topic. My bad.
The point of today is to further look into what happens today and how it effects eternity. Jesus is on a roll with His teaching ministry in Matthew 6 and sets the record straight on prayer and piety:
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven… I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (Mt. 6.2,5b)”
Salvation is by faith in Christ alone. But, eternal rewards are a different story. Works we do here effect our eternal reward. God promises to reward us for everything we do while here “in the body” (2 Cor 5:10), but here gives us exception clauses as a warning. For the deists & theists out there, this flies in the face of your theology, big time: a personal God is watching you, recording your every move, with a great desire to reward you in eternity for the good you have done. How is that “uninvolved”? Further, and to the point, He also promises to deny us reward for actions done with a selfish motive, i.e. public kudos.
For those of us in public, vocational ministry, especially the small, Mom-and-Pop type like Seasons of Life, this presents an interesting challenge: how does one report appropriately to “update” the public without sacrificing eternal rewards for bragging about ones’ works like the Pharisees did? Prayerfully and only to the glory of God. Et tu? How do you share your story, your testimony, the things God is using you for without sacrificing eternal rewards?
Check your heart.
What I really wanted to blog about this morning is the previous chapter – in Matthew 5:8, Jesus tells the crowds that when our hearts are clean and uncontaminated by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, (roll over to see also Luke 8:14 and Jas 1:27), we have a clear, unobstructed view of who God really is and what He is up to in the world. So, how’s your heart? Is it contaminated by worries over the things of this world? Mine isn’t. I’ve got to sit down right after I hit “publish” and “get to confessin”: I’m laden down this morning with what’s ahead in my day, some things I’m waiting to hear back on, some fundraising stuff that “might” go through, etc., etc., etc.
We’re never more than one prayer away from access to the full resources of Heaven. We’re never more than one prayer away from true repentance and a fully clean heart: it just takes honesty before God that we’re being controlled, run, “stained” [as James says] by motives other than pleasing God. Do you seek public accolades? Do you seek the desires of your heart independent of a “delight in the Lord” (Ps 37:4)?
Dump your heart. Repent of the sin of worry. Receive right motives. And, step forward in grace, empowered by the Spirit. It ain’t complicated. Hard, sometimes – I’ll give you that – but simple. Momentum.
|Our amazing, growing, wild-about-God child, Brianna.|
A few weeks ago, many of you saw our oldest daughter’s photo on Facebook – she had run away from home one morning and we were in a desperate search on her behalf. It was the longest 7 hours of our life – deputies, detectives, K-9s, etc. Yet, it was filled with prayer, community, and comfort as only God could deliver it.
She had a lot of explaining to do when she returned and the core issues that drove her to running would not be fully exposed that day or even in the days to come. Brianna, like most of us, was struggling with her identity and sense of self worth.
Do You Remember the Time?
Many of you reading this can recall a time in your teenage or even college years when life just seemed confusing, disappointing, and unbearable. Without a clear sense of who we are (in Christ), we are dangerously vulnerable to being “tossed back and forth by the wind” of circumstance. Anxiety, disappointment, and sadness can coalesce into hopelessness.
That’s precisely where Brie had found herself. By the grace of God, she has overcome many obstacles and is currently staying at a residential “behavioral health facility” that helps kids regain their balance in the midst of a chaotic time. It’s not faith based, so we have to bring our own notes to the table when we visit her each week. As parents, we are deeply prayerful on her behalf as well as thoroughly engaged in the “stabilization process”.
I recently reminded Brie how Mommy & I live a very public life and asked her how public she wanted us to be about her journey. She smirked and said “you can tell them everything, as long as it helps”. Wow. Big, brave girl! Below, you’ll find a few action items for yourself and links to articles that may help you if you are/have experienced what she’s gone through or are ministering to someone who’s been through anxiety, depression, cutting, etc.
In truth, it seems much wiser to wait until Brie is on steadier footing before we go any deeper. It’s her story to tell. But, for the sake of all who are asking, we will let a few generalities out – see below. Thank you, all for honoring her in your prayers and for allowing her the space to tell her story at the appropriate time. In short, she does want other teenage girls to know that depression is real, running away has immediate consequences, and self harm can have long term consequences. The way out is “through”.
To Parents of Teens:
In the past two months, this series of events has brought me to the table with no less than a dozen parents who are either going through similar circumstances (two of them the same week as Brianna) and we’ve learned a thing or seven. I’m assuming before this list you consider the fact that helping your teen gain grounding in who they are in Christ is paramount in your plan. Otherwise, they’re relegated to what the rest of the world does – finding their identity in clothes, cliques, and popular culture – a much smaller package than God designed for them to walk in.
- Be nosy – if your kid’s grades drop suddenly, it’s not because they just don’t like their biology and math teachers. Despite all we asked, Brie assured us (after the fact) that she felt the need to make everyone think she was okay even when she wasn’t. Most kids don’t want the label “drama queen/drama king”, so they will learn to put on a front both in public and private if it means “avoiding a scene”. Know their unlock code for their phone – if a child runs away without their phone, you’ll likely need to enlist the help of every friend in their contact list to find and bring them home safely.
- Surround your teen with godly adults who can influence where you can’t. – This has been the hardest thing for us to do. Jesus told the disciples “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” – those closest to you often reject your advice and counsel because of the law of familiarity. When you do discipleship as a full-time job, you’ll often find yourself scratching your head wondering why your kid doesn’t get it. Yet, I’ve spoken with three ministry leaders this month alone whose kids have ignored sound advice because it was given by their parents. Godly outsiders can be a great asset to your teen. Find some.
- There’s a difference between solitude and isolation – if your teen is self isolating, there’s more at play and much more at stake. See #1 at this point.
- Read up on self harm and cutting – Nancy Alcorn reports that 10 years ago 6% of her ministry was to women who identify as self-harmers. Today, it’s over 67%. It’s rampant and requires intervention.
- Get into their shoes, or at least their brain – If you’re a real stickler for details, Google “prefrontal cortex and adolescence” to get a better understanding of what your teen is going through.
Last, don’t minimize their pain, doubt, fear, or struggles. Their world is very real to them, though perceived only in part and obscured by raging hormones and the loss of some of their brain cells (see PBS’s Frontline article). The prefrontal cortex of the brain handles
“planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making and moderating social behavior (Wikipedia)”.
It’s the part of the brain that prevents us from making irrational, teenage decisions… yet, it’s not fully developed until we reach 25 years old! Throughout her recent exposure to the behavioral health system, we’ve constantly reassured our daughter that she’s not crazy – she’s merely reacting normally to a crazy situation, with a developing brain. By God’s grace, she’ll be convinced of that.
What Can You Do?
As far as us? We’re good. We don’t need sympathy right now. No, really – since this began, God has honored our prayers and shown us that while this is not His perfect will, He is sovereign over us and will use this time of testing to shape and galvanize Brie’s character, testimony, and ministry (not to mention ours).
Put your sympathy card away and get your kneepads on – to pray for Brianna as she “digs in” to do the hard work of introspection, emotional excavation, and claiming her identity in Christ for the first time. We are so proud of her and incredibly blessed to see her faith thriving in the midst of all that has gone on. Clearly, the Lord is ushering her through the valley. She will emerge victoriously and with greater assurance of both His love for her and her identity as His child.
Pray for her to continue to engage with her counselor, her Lord, and her work. God is molding her character in the best ways possible right now and we (and she) are thrilled with her growth. Long term, she wants to enroll in a deeper, faith based program that will help her grow in a deeper understanding of her identity in Christ.
As far as you? Take care of your kid. Or, someone else’s if you don’t have any. Invest all you can into their first decade and be fully present, safe, and available for them during that time. Teach them the value of prayer and leave the rest up to God. Volunteer for your church’s children’s ministries or even for middle school or high school. But, most of all – pray. Love God, thank Jesus for grace, and dig in to the Word.
Huge thanks to the many who have rallied around us, especially the many sitters required to care for the three youngest while we’ve made countless trips to hospitals and “Doctor Camps” for visits and group sessions with Brie. Also, great thanks to Dr. Bob Montes, who has helped us stay grounded in a fully biblical approach to this situation. Thank you, for all of your cards, prayers, and fellowship. Continue to pray that Brie grows more sensitive to the voice of God within her and that He continues to reveal His great nature to her as healer, comforter, redeemer, and lover of her soul.
AP & CP
Yesterday’s family session was incredibly tense, but I walk away from it “oddly optimistic”. Brianna displayed oppositional behavior and let a lot of anger out over the course of several rants throughout the conversation. However, this may well be an important step forward since it was the first session she was off any and all prescription meds. As a friend of mine put it – it was “just Brie” with no crutches, forced to walk through the discussion on her own for the first time. To use this analogy, she “fell down” a few times in the discussion, but at least kept walking to a point. It was not an easy conversation for either Cristine nor I, but I am encouraged to know that this was a maiden voyage, with many more to come.
Thank you, all for your prayers for her:
God is up to something.
Author’s note & pet peccadillo:
Today, apart from being incredibly grateful to Ray Ortlund for His obedience to God in writing such a timely post as we’ll dive briefly into, I also can’t resist the temptation to play Spelling Nazi. Kelly Talamo named the environment “Men Step Up”, because in his words “lives change when men ‘step up’ to the Truth”.
I can’t tell you how many times I hear people ask “Hey, are you going to Men’s Step Up this week?” Okay, I can, I’ll just wind up gritting my teeth into dust… You get the point… I’ll step down off the soap box and put away my red pen. It’s not like I don’t occasionally invent my own words or brutally murder a rule or two of decent, English grammar…
Spurring One Another On…
|What happens at the tables never
stays at the tables. Praise God!
This past Friday morning, I had the opportunity to “bring it” at Men Step Up, Gwinnett. Essentially that means I was tasked with standing up in front of a crowd of guys, (many of whom intimidate the heck out of me from a spiritual standpoint), and “provoking” them toward a discussion that would take place at their tables.
These weekly discussions are proctored by a table leader and outlined by about 4 or 5 questions on the front of an index card (see picture, right). The back side of the card will normally have a lie on it that many of us have either bought into, wrestled with in real life, or both, as well as a few select lines from scripture that either individually or collectively debunk the lie.
|Men Step Up is a gathering where the lies of the enemy collide with the truth of God’s word. For more information,
go to http://www.menstepupgwinnett.com/.
If you’ve been reading the blog at all last week (Part 1, Part 2), you know we’ve been talking about the context for current struggle, trial, aggravation, etc. as a lead up to that event. I had planned to present this morning’s post as a combined update/devotional on the topic. However, it seems the day after I spoke, Ray Ortlund posted an article that capped off our discussion perfectly in a mere 20 sentences.
So, here it is in its entirety with a brief send off from me at the end:
The fact that Ray & I have never met and yet he wrote the perfect synopsis of what we were talking about on the very same day, he’s dead on point here. In last week’s post and our discussion at Men Step Up, we concluded that eternal rewards are the context for current suffering, that current rewards are no indicator of eternal and Godly appreciation, and that when it comes to rewards, we have a three tiered “compensation plan”:
- One time paycheck: “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary, a la Matt. 6:2, Matt 6:5, Matt 6:16)
- Royalties only: “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (see Rev. 2 & 3) or
- Earthly Reward and Eternal 401K: “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)”, “Enjoy life… (Ecc. 9:8)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”
I was amazed at how pertinent this message was for the guys in attendance, at that moment. It may well be pertinent to you right now. Regardless of its relevance in your current season of life, this is a topic neither you nor I will fully grasp in a handful of blog posts or even conversations with godly men and women – this is one of those things that requires the illuminative power of the Holy Spirit to make clear and present in our everyday mindset. It may also require diligent and thirsty searching of the scriptures.
Be encouraged, be spurred on, and be aware: That Day is coming when we will all receive rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. May your inheritance be great and may you enjoy this life and the one to come.
|Want one of these in your 401K?|
Context is King.
But, Jesus is the King of Kings and He offers not only salvation for those who believe, but also some desperately needed context for our worldview.
Trials and troubles and annoyances and tragedies exist. No getting around that in a Genesis 3 world. So, Jesus gave us a heads-up – “In this life, you will have troubles.” But, what is the context in which we are to interpret these troubles? In chapter 15 of John’s gospel, Jesus has just spent a bunch of time telling his disciples some bad news: the world is going to hate them “for no reason (John 15:25)”. Then He moves forward into the “you will have trouble” part of the speech. As if the “they’re going to hate you” part wasn’t bad enough, He explains two things:
- “I’m telling you this so you won’t get freaked out when it happens. I’m giving you a heads-up now that I’m on my way out.” (John 16:1 – paraphrased)
- “It’s going to be so bad, people are going to try to kill you because of me, thinking by killing you they’re serving Me.” (John 16:2-4 – paraphrased) “So, what do you guys want for dessert?”
Can we skip to the end of the story? For some context?
The End That Satisfies the Means
Here’s why “the end of a matter is better than its beginning… (Ecc 7:8)”: At the “end of the story” – Revelation 2 & 3, where God dictates seven letters for John to address to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus reminds them who He is. “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (v. 23)… To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations (v. 26)” At the Bema seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5.10), believers in Christ will receive their eternal rewards, including many crowns promised throughout scripture.
Bottom line – in a world where trouble is the everyday landscape of our walk, everything you and I do [within God’s will for us and that’s not done with selfish motive (Mt. 6:2, Mt. 6:5, Mt. 6:16)] will be repaid with eternal reward.
So, here’s the compensation structure when it comes to persevering under trial:
- Get paid now – “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary)
- Get paid in eternity – “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” or
- Both – “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”
We’ve been warned. We’ve been told it won’t be easy, but given the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and protect us. We’ve been given the context of our trials, persecution, and our eternal rewards. We can take the recognition from men now or we can take a rain check in our eternal 401K. What would you prefer, a compliment that lasts a little while or a portfolio that lasts forever?
If you’re a man within 30 minutes of California Dreaming in Duluth, GA – do whatever you have to do to get there tomorrow morning (Friday, 05.11.2012) at 6:30 for Men Step Up. There, we’ll be thinking out loud about the lies of the enemy and the truth that sets men free, specifically this stuff. Hope to see you there!
Confronting Blissful Ignorance
“My kids are fine. My son stopped hanging out with that other boy and broke up with that girl he was seeing.” For some parents, this is where the buck stops. If the bad influences are “cut out”, their kids are back on the straight and narrow. But, what if that logic has the cart before the horse? What if a biblical worldview is to have the “heart before the course”?
10 Reasons Why Not to Attend Mothers in Prayer:
When you work hard, you expect to get paid. Maybe it’s a bonus or commission. Maybe you’re on salary and you’re hoping your effort will count toward a raise or promotion. Maybe you’re trying to win points with your spouse or significant other. Whatever you were doing, if you’re like me, you’re expecting a return on your efforts, right? But, what happens when the finish line gets moved and you’re asked to wait for your reward “a little longer”, “til next quarter”, or not at all? Worse, what happens when you do what was expected (or more than that) and you don’t get a reward at all? Instead you get reprimanded, criticized, publicly humiliated, or the recognition not only goes to someone else but you’re also dragged across the coals for all of your other faults and foibles?
Now, that’s a pain.
|Spur. Ouch. Now, THAT’LL
move you to action, won’t it!?
True statement. Men don’t like to talk about pain unless it’s a “you think that’s bad, lemme tell ya what happentaME” contest. The bible has a lot of words for this that men don’t like to discuss – heartsick, heartbreak, affliction, sorrow. Women, you’re easy, you’ll talk about your hurts, your pains, your disappointments with little or no provocation. But, this message is for you, too. I’m just picking on the guys, because… I am one and I know we men need to be prodded and “spurred”, as the bible says.
Women, (especially wives), you’re probably really good at tolerating certain “guy” things, like tools and mechanical things that make a man’s eyes light up when he walks into Home Depot. Thank you, for that. If you’re a (stereo)typical “I need my space clean.” woman, you’re a woman who can relate to a tool men might have in their toolbox: scouring tools like rasps, grinders, and sandpaper. In my kitchen, both Cristine and I go through tons of those yellow and green scrubby pads because I’m a cooker and she’s a cleaner and sometimes stuff gets STUCK on that stove.
With all the prolonged rewards in life, the toxic, critical workplace scenarios, withheld commissions, heartbreak, sorrow, etc., we all need a little perspective from time to time to carry us through the disappointment. Cristine and I were reading about it in Ecclesiastes and have been experiencing Holy Momentum as a result.
Roll over this link to read (Ecc. 7:2-6). In the midst of all the trials our 14 year old daughter has been going through (and she’s really digging in right now and doing the hard work, Praise God!), we went to the scriptures with a “God, we’ve gotta hear from you” attitude, and He popped verse 3 right off the page:
“Crying is better than laughing.
It blotches the face but it scours the heart. (MSG)”
Hey, what happens when you scour something? Doesn’t it get cleaner? I didn’t put those tires on the car so I could look at brake dust, I bought them because I wanted the tire. When I scour away the brake dust, I get to the thing I wanted in the first place – the shine, the polish, the good stuff.
One of the keys to finding purpose in the pain is not ignoring the pain, not minimizing the injustice, rather knowing that God is using pain to refine us. I know, I don’t want to hear that junk, either. But, for us, as we watch our Brie-brie dig through vague layers of superficial anger and get into more specific feelings like “anxiety”, “betrayal”, and “hurt”, we are deeply encouraged to know that the obscuring facade is being scoured away. Someday, maybe not next week or next quarter, we will see the fruit of the scrubby pad/sand paper/sadness.
In every life there is disappointment, payment withheld, kindness returned with injury. It happens like this in a Genesis 3 world. The great news is, we will all be rewarded for our perseverance in trial. God has not forgotten you or me or… them, the offenders of the faithful. He is watching and will reward us. This week, I’ll be opening up a conversation with a big bunch of burly men of God at Men Step Up, Gwinnett on this very topic. If you want to join us, we’d love to have you. Comment or email us for details and come ready to collide with the truth.