Sunday, December 30, 2007

madisson and the voice of jesus

Posted by: Kerrie

A few months ago our family decided to spend Christmas morning giving out wrapped presents to the homeless. We asked the kids what type of gifts they would like to buy and discussed different ideas as a family. We mostly decided on jackets, travel pillows, electronic pocket games and snacks. Madisson however wanted to something a little different. The following is her journal entry about her Christmas morning experience, she is 10yrs old.  These are her exact words.

David (a guy sitting at a bus stop)

 
*Before this, when we had decided to give presents to homeless people, I had said I wanted to give a backpack with a blanket, pillow, a game, and a Bible. My dad told me no, that we really wanted to give out seperate gifts. My mom protested and told my dad to let me do it - it might be God telling it to me. Dad then agreed. She was right...

On Christmas morning, the first person we met was David. It was cold and rainy. We parked and Dad, Jake and Brooke got out of the car. Mom and I stayed in the car. Dad, Jake and Brooke took a Christmas present to him. The present held a shirt/jacket. One of the first things David said was, "Well yeah I'd like a Christmas present, I just got robbed last night. They took my backpack and everything I owned was in it." My dad was shocked, and said, "Well...we have a backpack!" David was excited and said, "You do!" Dad ran to the car and whispered, "Madi, Madi, he needs a backpack!" I reached behind and grabbed the backpack and we all got out and I gave it to David. He was very excited and said he had had one almost the same as the one I gave him. The backpack was black and gray, with the word Rebok on the front. Inside we put gum, granola bars and packs of peanuts. I also put a black and gray fleece jacket, a pillow and a pocket poker game. We talked and prayed with him and then we all hugged him. At first I didn't want to hug him. But Brooke and then Jake hugged him. It would be weird if I didn't hug him, so I hugged him and then we left. After we left we drove around looking for more homeless people. We got to see him while we drove and the first time we saw him, he had put on the black and gray fleece jacket and was holding up the first present we gave him, another jacket/shirt. The second time we drove by and saw him he had put on both jackets and was playing poker. That shows his thankfullness. Then we were driving and saw him walking to the salvation army. He had told us that on cold nights they let you sleep there. When we first saw David, he had a mustache and a beard and didn't have many layers on. He looked cold.

God talked to me...he told me to get a backpack. Then we met David and God showed me why. That was a miracle.

Friday, December 14, 2007

safety

“I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.” Phil. 3:10 The Message

Webster’s defines safety as “the avoiding of risk, danger, injury, or loss.”

Ever since I shared what God is doing in the lives of our home, the most common response has been different versions of: “what about the safety of your kids?” or “how could you do that to your children?” or “I am concerned about the safety of your family.”

In almost every case, this comment has come from a position of love - genuine love and concern for our well being. I am appreciative of that, and it is a true blessing to be loved by so many people.

And because so many people have caringly emphasized their concern for our safety, I began seeking God on the issue. He has been so good to reveal so much. I continue to be amazed at how loud he speaks when we come to him with a seeking heart! This specific time of seeking has been eye opening, uplifting, frightening, empowering, and humbling all at the same time. Here are a few things I am learning.

According to God, the modern day concept of security is a complete myth. Our security and/or safety are simply not real. It does not exist. We can easily get mislead into a lifestyle that actually thinks we control our own destiny, our own financial security, and our own physical safety. But God can squash that in an instant. In many cases, until a tragedy of great magnitude comes along, we presume the best thing to do is to follow the world’s pursuit of comfort/safety/security. In doing so, we effectively choose to ignore the story Jesus tells in Luke 12:12-34. The man who considered it wise to plan out his own future gets his life taken from him that very night for doing so. Jesus basically says “how dare you.” And in James 4:13-15 Jesus reminds us again that our careful planning for our own tomorrow is a joke. Even for those of us who don’t necessarily “ignore” these passages, we tend to explain them away with savvy interpretive (justification) blab.

No Excuses
I believe a world without God loves it when we choose lives of total comfort and safety. I think the enemy cleverly tricks by using “good things” to keep us from being relentless Christians devoted to the cause of Christ. We use our children, careers, financial status, upcoming changes, attachment to family, retirement planning, the love of our home, etc, etc…all as justification to never risk anything for God. At one point in time, Christians were the most passionate, outrageous, uncivilized, tenacious advancers of the gospel. They rejected the status quo, went into the darkness, and loved others sacrificially and irrationally. They had faith that parted seas, stoned giants, danced in fire, destroyed armies, and muzzled hungry lions. And the 12 that walked with Jesus - they went on to lives of courageous and selfless love, inspired by the example of the One and Only.

Somewhere along the way, especially in our Western culture, things changed. Christians moved from the radical faith of the early church, and are now associated with words like: “prosperity”, “safe environment”, “programs”, “great sermons”, “family first”, “great facilities”, “awesome music”, and “seeker sensitive.” Just today I heard my local Christian radio station use the catch phrase: “safe for the entire family.” Now, I understand the other side of this point just fine. But I’d prefer my family experience Jesus, and the advancement of his name, for what it really is – and it’s anything but safe.

Jesus on Safety
Jesus never preached safety. He never called us to pursue comfort or security in this life. In fact, his call for us could not have been more dramatically the opposite. He never softened his message to suggest waiting “until the kid’s are grown” or “until you’re more financially stable.” His teaching was so intentionally the opposite of that. Literally – the opposite! A man came up to Jesus once and said “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus did not respond “Oh, that is great! Go find a good job, start a perfect family, build a great house in a neighborhood with great schools, get ‘plugged in’ at your local church, try not to miss any Sundays, and you’re all set!” Instead, he warned the man about the hugeness of his statement by letting him know that he, the Son of God, did not even have a place to call home. In other words, “if you mean what you say, your life is not going to be comfortable and secure.”

Aside from God himself, no one loves my children more than I do. No one loves my wife more than I do. I am confident that no one treasures their precious hearts and lives more than me. Consequently, no one is more responsible than I am to show them how to live, and who to live for. I pray that I will always have the courage to lead them to Jesus. I do not want to point them to a primarily selfish lifestyle that puts our own needs and wants above the needs of others. What a shame if, by example, I lead them into a faith with prerequisites of convenience and comfort. By leading them in the pursuit of earthly stability, I cheat them from experiencing the real living God who himself rejected that lifestyle. If God chooses to give us “stability” that is fine. But I am starting to see that I should not pursue it as if it’s mine to go get.

What Are We Doing?
Paul said if he was wrong about what he believed, he should be pitied most because he lived such a tough life. But Paul was right about what he believed! Based on that, we all must know that Paul does not regret the life he lived. (That’s why he said “if I am wrong.”) The point is this: if we really believe what we say we do...if we believe Jesus calls us to join him into a life of selflessness, faith, non-conformity, uncertainty…and if we believe this life will be over in the blink of an eye… than what are we doing? Where does our safety and comfort fit into all that?

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his own life will lose it, but whoever will lose their life for my sake will find it.” Many religious spinners have said that what Jesus really meant is that in order to be “saved” one must turn their life over to Christ. But the Greek word for “save” in this text has nothing to do with salvation. The word is “sozo” which means “to keep safe and sound; to rescue from danger.” With that in mind, reread his statement. It’s no wonder that statement immediately followed Jesus warning that in order to follow him we must take up our own crosses.

Right now, God is telling me to sacrifice our own abundance for the sake of others in the name of Christ. In doing so, it is necessary to remove my family from the myth of comfort and security. Jesus said his followers are sent like sheep among wolves. After telling his friends about his coming death, he warned them (paraphrase) “if you choose to follow me, you will also take up your cross… and if you live to save your own life, you will lose it… but if you lose your life for me, you will find it.”

I want to follow Jesus with a bold faith that gives him all the glory. That lifts his name up and reduces mine. I have poured years of my life into achieving a high profile, high income career. It was sexy, fun, exciting, challenging, and full of pleasures. But it was self serving. It fueled my own sin. And it fed my desire for attention, accolades, and success. Maybe others can balance that lifestyle beautifully – with a sincere desire to glorify Christ – but I was unable to. In hindsight, I wish we would have lived on a fourth of my salary and gave the rest to the poor. That would have been radical - and would have glorified Christ - even within the glittery business of professional sports.

True Joy
More important is my mission as a husband and father to not make the mistake of, by default, leading my family into a stale, civilized version of Christianity. According to the scriptures, I am better off leading them into a life of great risk, uncertainty, and even danger. If I can help it, my home will not be another story of “growing up in a Christian home” as opposed to a home completely sold out to the true heart of God! Instead of my children growing up to say “I grew up in a Christian home” I want them to be able to say “I grew up in a home of radical faith and we followed Jesus everywhere!” If my kid’s turn away from the Lord, they must know that they are turning from a life of faith, risk and adventure. Unfortunately when many turn away from their “Christian upbringing,” I believe it is because they are turning from a life that is boring, mundane, and ordinary. In my mind, this new step in our journey is not one of misery or despair. Much the opposite…it is a step towards true joy, fulfillment, and reward!

JBAs I have been seeking God regarding this topic of safety and security, he has revealed so many people in scripture to learn from. But the one that hits me the hardest is the example of John the Baptist. Jesus described him by saying “no greater man has ever been born from a woman.” My translation is that JB is as good as it gets, aside from Jesus himself. It’s an interesting thought because he was the epitome of bizarre. Even though his message was compelling, most were turned off because of his eccentric persona. Jesus defended him “what did you expect? a reed swaying in the wind? a man in fine clothes?”

Following a courageous life of devotion to Christ, he found himself in prison. Classic JB style, he had boldly called out the king who was having an affair with his wife’s brother. John was not only put behind bars, but he was to be executed by beheading. He sent his disciples to find Jesus – to make sure the Messiah new of his situation. Consider the message they brought back from Jesus:

"Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."

The reality of the message that Jesus sent back to John is far too radical for a watered down, comfortable, safe version of Christianity to accept. Jesus was saying “I am not coming through for you John. I am not going to save your life. You faithfully lived out your calling! And oh how you will be blessed if you do not lose faith just because I don’t save you now.”

How Can I NotI am reminded by this story that our lives are short, and our safety is a myth. I have heard it said that life on earth compared to eternity is one grain of sand on all the earth’s beaches. But this short life – this one grain of sand – is so incredibly important. It's responsibility is great, and its choices determine everything. Our only cause is to make great the name of Jesus Christ. That’s it, that is all that matters. So as I consider the question “how can you do that to your children”, I guess my most honest answer is to ask back a question: “how can I not.”

After reading the red letters (Jesus’ words) in the gospels, I am going back and considering the Webster’s definition of safety: the avoidance of risk, danger, injury, or loss. Seeking God in this area has shown me that it is true - the one who laid down his life for us had much to say to his followers about risk, danger, injury and loss.

“Anticipate it.”


"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world." I Pet. 4:12-13
Some great resources on this topic include:
The Bible, Don’t Waste Your Life (John Piper), The Barbarian Way (Erwin McManus), The Red Letters (Tom Davis), Plastic Jesus (Eric Sandras).