Today’s post is longer than a minute. I won’t apologize. If you take the break required to watch the linked video and still read the whole post, we’re into about 7 or 8 minutes. If you only have a minute today, bookmark this and come back to it when you have four more minutes to watch and three more to read.
Normally the week leading up to Christmas, I notice how cheery people are. Even some who wouldn’t consider themselves “church people” are wishing others well and forgiving things they’d otherwise harp on for days. It’s around that time I wish what you probably wish – “can’t we have the Christmas Spirit all year long?”
But, we forget. Don’t we?
We forget so quickly, that even a day after Veteran’s Day or Mother’s Day, we’re back to ignoring the vets or taking the Moms for granted again. This year, I’m going to prolong Father’s Day not because I’m a father, but because there is something about the Lord we need to remember “all year long”:
He invites us to call Him “Father”… not for a day, but for always.
I’ve got no verse for you today. Just read the Old Testament. Look at how many times “remember” and “Lord” appear together.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate this.
A son is wheelchair bound. Cerebral palsy – can’t talk, walk, etc., but through technology, can communicate via computer. Google “Team Hoyt” or “Rick & Dick Hoyt” when you can.
The point for today is this: the son can’t run, bike, or swim, but His dad can – and at his son’s urging, went into training in his late 50s to do a 5K, and eventually a triathlon. This means he puts his crippled son in a raft and swims with son in tow, gets out of the water and onto a bike carrying his son in a seat on the bike, then runs, pushing a wheelchair that carries his son. For an Iron Man race, it’s a 2.5 mile swim, a 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run – hard enough for one man to do on his own, but somehow this dad does them all for two.
Father’s Day is a week behind us. Christmas is months away. Both can call us to reflect on our relationship with God in a unique and personal way. I’m not here to bother the single guys with thoughts of what it will be like, or isn’t yet like, to be a dad. I’m not here to challenge dads to “try harder”. My hope is that you’ll watch the video above and meditate on a couple of questions:
Q: What does the son really bring to the table when it comes to running an Iron Man Triathlon?
A: Could it be the same thing that you and I bring to the table when it comes to living righteously?
It’s been said that the only thing we bring to the equation of our salvation is our need for a Savior. What do you think? Some of us suffer from the “liability of ability”: the more gifted we are the more we think we made it all happen. This only leads to self reliance. Smaller package than what God desires for us.
In reality, we’re beggars telling other beggars where to get some bread. We’re quadriplegics being dragged, carried and pushed across the finish line of life. My favorite moment in this video is toward the end of the run where the son appears to be egging the crowd on as if to say “Look at my Dad! Give it up for my Dad!!!” His dad carried himself and his son through every mile of the race. What has God carried you through?
Humbled… How about you?
What if it can be Father’s Day everyday, beneath the wings of the Father of all creation who loves us enough to reach out to us even we are enemies of the cross? For the rest of the year, can we do better than the “Christmas Spirit”? Can we have the Father’s Day Spirit all year long? Can we all, everyday, just shout “Look at my Dad!”?
Mark 3:2 reads:
“Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.”
Some people are just never satisfied.
But, should we be surprised by the actions of the Pharisees? Their eyes, being so trained on the law that they gave up worshipping the law-Giver to worship the law, how could we expect them to recognize the God of grace standing before them performing deeds of true righteousness? He didn’t match the headline they expected in the Jerusalem Times:
“Warrior King Liberates Israel from Roman Oppression”
How often do we get into that match with God – the Comparison Game? Have you been disappointed by how things have turned out? Have you ever found yourself, like me, wrapped around the axel of “God owes me” when He never promised you what you were expecting in the first place?
The two most powerful words in the entire bible are not “Jesus wept.” In my opinion, (as was mentioned last week) they “but ” and “God”, as used in “but… God, who is rich in mercy made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. (Eph 2:4-5)” When we look at what we have in light of what we deserve [judgment], it is all blessing. The danger for us is taking the gospel for granted and falling back into “but, God didn’t”___. Fill in the blank – “save my grandmother from cancer”, “deliver my dad from addiction”, “give me the job I wanted and was qualified for…”
When did God promise you those things? What does He really owe you?
Every one of us has something coming our way in the form of blessing. For all of us in Christ, it is transformation. For all of us in Christ, it is perfection. For all of us in Christ, it is a glorified body and eternal inheritance. For many of us in Christ, it includes crowns in heaven that we will lay at His feet. The only thing that can truly set us free from the comparison game is knowing that God is not constrained by our profile, our headlines, our expectation.
Thank God for that.
He is so much greater than the box we’ve put Him in. He is the “author and perfecter of our faith” and is capable and caring. Sometimes, He says no. Sometimes, He says “no” for a lonnnng time. But, He’s got His reasons, His plan, His headline which will blow us all away when we see it face to face:
“Glory to God”
People used to ask me two questions pretty often –
- So, how do you find the people you minister to?
- How do you raise the money to run the ministry?
To both questions, I had two responses:
- I used to say all kinds of stuff – formulas, graphs, projections, plans, statistics, would come barreling out of my mouth like some slickly packaged network marketing life coach.
but now, a little grayer, a little broken by the Lover of my soul…
- I just stick to the wiser truth that’s been beaten into my head dozens of times over the past 4-1/2 years with a spiritual 2″x4″ by the loving God who has called us to do this work:
“I… Don’t… Know.”
God Doesn’t Need Our Help
It’s the best and smartest answer I can come up with sometimes. God brings people our way who need what He is all about: love and truth for those He created and ultimate glory to Him. He encourages me from time to time to make known the ministry’s material needs and connects the dots with the givers. Yet, I so often try to “help” Him out.
Recently, my friend Dan Diaddigo published on of his incredibly cogent and insightful newsletters where he notes:
“Inside normal men are gods. Because inside normal we can manage events and predict our outcomes. A wise man knows that life is not normal and that he is not God.”
See, in the past, when I’ve answered either of those questions, my answer came from a veiled arrogance fueled by a need to prove myself competent to wiser men. All the while, I was showing myself to be a fool to those who’ve ever answered the call to “walk by faith, not by sight”. Humbling.
Today, I published a brief story about a local family in need. I did it out of a sense of knee-jerk desperation because… well… more than 12 hours had gone by since my first post and fundraising wasn’t going according to my plan. You know, “managing events and predicting outcomes…” What’s annoying about this is I’ve done this kind of thing before. What’s amazing about this is that God has answered my prayers often within hours of me “helping Him out”, reminding me that it is He who is God and not me, He who is provider, not me, He who holds outcomes in His hands… not me.
Is this a pity party? No! It’s a humble “Go, God!” party. I can’t imagine the article was up for more than 10 minutes before the $140 need we had made known was satisfied in full by one donation made by a friend who we haven’t seen personally in at least a year. God, in His mercy, used someone I’d never have written a support letter to, never have texted or inboxed on Facebook to answer a call for this family in need. So, party on you awesome lover of Christ – and thank you, publicly and anonymously for your hair trigger obedience to God’s prompting to give. Thank you, for Speaking Life to a family in need of a little sunlight on their leaves. And, party on, God – You who made the heavens and earth and see the depths of my heart, yet love me the same.
For those who read the story – the family in need will now have a roof over their head for the next week, maybe even more. We can still use a gas card or two to keep them on the road to their jobs, but the matching gift has been met. If you read their story and still feel compelled to help them or Seasons of Life Ministries, we welcome you to support now or anytime at http://bit.ly/solmsupport.
Praise God, for His amazing faithfulness, mercy, and grace.
humbled in His shadow,
This morning, our young daughter, Presleigh, went outside with Mommy to water some flowers in our yard and tend the garden growing in several 18 gallon plastic bins we’ve planted. When I followed up on their work, I noticed there were a few leaves on a sweet potato plant that were turning yellow. Not cool. However, with just a single lifted finger, I was able to move the soil off the leaf and expose it to the sun again. Tomorrow, I expect to see that leaf thriving and in a few more weeks, producing.
After several phone calls and a bit of prayer, I finally got to meet “Alex”. He called us yesterday after searching the internet for ministries in this part of town. Frankly, I was skeptical even getting the call, as we’ve never had someone just “look us up” on the web like that. After his wife, had suffered a hernia, she
missed a lot of work and found themselves in a very hard place. About a week ago, they found help from St. Vincent’s. He and his family of 3 had been put up at a local extended stay hotel for the week while they tried to get back on their feet. He seemed a little frantic when he called, explained his story, and asked if we could help.
I did a little asking. He did some more explaining. They had been covered by the soil of circumstance and turning a bit yellow, like my sweet potato leaves. But, there was still life in them. They still had hope – in the Lord, in the work they were already doing, and in the belief that with a few fingers lifted on their behalf, they would again see the same vibrant life my flimsy sweet potato plant is destined to produce.
They’re both employed right now, her here in Cumming and him about 20 miles away at a fast food restaurant. With a 6 year old son, they alternate work while the other is watching him. But, because of her physical limitations and his time taking care of her while she was injured, their checks for this past week were about $60 each after taxes. Alex had already begun looking for work that would lower their gas consumption. For now, he’s remained faithful to his employer while battling the uncertainty of “how” God would bridge the gap between now and next paycheck.
“I’ve got to get to work today, but I just don’t know where the gas is going to come from to get me from Cumming to Gainesville and back…” A little soil, a little yellow, but a lot of hope on the horizon: today when we met, he was back from an interview for a second job, here in Cumming. He was completely overwhelmed and noticeably choked up when we handed him the gas card you supporters provided him. “When God does something for you [in Christ] that you can never repay, it’s just really humbling.” I was unsure whether the tears were because of what he knows in Christ or the gift he’d just received. Neither was he.
Thank you, to those who are helping.
We talked about faith, God’s ability to provide, and His amazing track record in “Alex’s” family up to now. With one eye looking up, he remembers God is faithful. But, with the other eye on the clock he knows that tomorrow morning at 11AM if he hasn’t paid for another week or even another day, they’ve got to move out of the hotel and into their minivan. Today’s interview went well – good chance he’ll get hired within the next few days. But, that doesn’t bring a paycheck in for another few weeks.
Speak Life is the part of this ministry that provides food for families like this in situations just like this one. It’s also the initiative designed to help people to recover financially, emotionally, and relationally from challenging seasons of life by bringing enough “sunlight” to their situation to help them thrive on their own again. As of this morning, Seasons of Life has about $140 in matching funds committed to raising funds to help Alex’s family get back on their feet. This means: for every dollar given to Speak Life this month up to $140, a matching dollar will go to help this family – give $10, they get $20. Give $140, they’ve got $280 – enough to buy them another week and almost enough time until their next paycheck(s) – this time, full week’s work of paychecks.
The cool part about this family is that when they discovered how deep the hole was that they were standing in, they looked up. They also “looked up” ministries and churches – members of the body of Christ that were designed to help people get up and over. They realize they can make phone calls, get interviews, fill out applications, and all the rest. But, ultimately, the outcomes and help is from the Lord.
Would you consider helping this family out on a deadline? Yes, gas cards are still a great gift to help them out. Food is taken care of. But, if you would consider them in your financial support – they would greatly appreciate it. If you or someone you know would be willing to take in a family of 3 for a few weeks or even a month, we can tell it will make a world of difference. In the meantime, we’re only $140 away from buying them the breathing room [or sunlight] of another week in their extended stay, but this is a pretty time sensitive situation. Help us keep them indoors.
To participate in this project, go to http://bit.ly/solmsupport and designate your gift “Speak Life” or “Where Needed”.
Don’t You Want “Next Level” Faith?
Recently, I saw footage of a very popular pastor telling his congregation about “taking their relationship with Jesus to the next level.” When I first heard him talk about “some very practical ways” to do this, my ears perked up. Hey, I’m a planner. I’m a big picture, progress guy – I like to see the ball move down the field. I like to see points go up on my side of the board. How about you?
With a little evaluation, though, the Galatian heresy (see Gal 3:1-6) appears to rear its head… “You’re in charge. The Gospel just needs YOUR steps of action to work its full magic.” Uh-oh… How do you come back from that? Yes, obedience matters, but does obedience begin with us? “Faith without works is dead.” But, does obedience begin with your 5 step, 3 bullet-point, 90 day action plan? Or, does it begin with what’s already been done on your behalf?
It’s easy to point to guys like Abraham and say – “Abraham put his faith into action…”all the while forgetting that there was nothing outstanding about Abram that made God choose him in the first place. Abram “stepped out in faith”, but did his faith really “activate God’s blessing in his life”? No. God does not need our help. He requires our obedience. To those who would believe that Abraham activated God’s blessing, I must humbly ask – what if Abram didn’t step out in faith? Would God’s plan to create a covenant people have failed? Clearly, God would have had a covenant people with or without Abraham.
Yes, Abraham was obedient to God. Yes, Abraham received great blessings that changed him from “exalted father” to “father of a multitude” – but this blessing was already available. The question we must ask is “what do we miss out on when we run from God and fail to step out in obedience. For some both in the Old and New Testaments – it meant death on the spot. For others, it means loss of blessings that will go do someone else.
Regardless, we must keep in mind what we bring to the table in our salvation – “need for a Savior”. This does not change once we have a Savior. Obedience is rewarded, but God is never manipulated and is no respecter of men. There is nothing we can do to take our faith to the next level – that is God’s job and He will carry on this work until the day of Christ Jesus – see Phil 1:6. Our faith does not fail to grow because of a “step” we missed in the algorithm of “success”, but when we take matters into our own hands to “help” God. 1 Thess 4:3 tells us that God is already in the business of conforming us to the image of Christ. Best advice? Get out of His way and join in the work already in progress!
If you have been chosen by God to receive sonship and adoption – you have done nothing to warrant it, so be grateful. We get to walk in obedience because we worship a God who loves us enough to call us to obedience. Experience in prayer today that God uniquely loves you and has called you according to His purposes. Now, experience it when He gives you another breath and another… and yet another.