I’m Done Wasting My Life; Time to Lose It

Yesterday I finished reading John Piper’s Risk is Right. It’s not a huge book, but I took my time with it, as due to the circumstances in which I received it, I felt it worth savoring slowly. I received it about a week prior, the afternoon after I quit my job. It was sent in the mail to me as a gift from two very close friends back in Omaha. For the three weeks leading up to leaving my job I battled constantly the idea of risk vs. wisdom. I have been feeling the call of God to start inching my way towards ministry again (He may or may not want me to be inching along, but currently that is my pace).

I left full time ministry 10 years ago and until last January never looked back. Based on prodding from my mentor in Seattle, the thought and opportunity to come back into church service has begun to bud. Even though I came very close to a job offer at our church in Seattle, it was not to be, and God led Nita and I down to south Florida. It was there he brought me to Cape Alliance. On our first day of visiting, they announced that was the last day of their Associate Pastor whom would not be replaced by paid staff. One of his main duties was the youth group. God spoke and here we are leading an entire youth group.

Upon our arrival to Fort Myers, both Nita and I graciously landed jobs quickly so that we could get our feet set. It is now seven months later and I am back in the job hunting mode again. At least this time we have no intention of moving. This is not a story about what happened at the job, and though it had a lot to do with circumstances surrounding working there, my battles over the last month have been about taking the next step in my faith. Maybe that meant moving a few inches at once, maybe just one, but it has certainly been a battle.

Conventional wisdom taught me to never quit a job without another one lined up. That has only been magnified under the current economic stress. But I felt a continuing nod to end my career in sales and open myself back to the world of giving, whether in church or at least non-profit service. With building pressure on every side, I became forced to make a decision: either stay where I am and close my heart to God’s pull or step out in faith. I have always desired control, even more so over myself. God kept tugging on me to let Him supply our needs and live on faith. One easy way to try that would be to give up an income…

Thus, last week I either did the stupidest thing ever or made one of my biggest leaps of faith. That said, I am being responsible and job hunting with fervor, but I have noticed that my faith and desire to trust in God’s leading for the next step is growing. There is where the book comes in. Arriving at the perfect time from friends that I trust with my life and who know on infinite levels more than me what it means to live on faith, I opened the pages and was impacted with the nature and power of risk immediately. The story of Joab and Abishai in 2 Samuel 10 was particularly convicting.

“Joab saw that there were battle lines in front of him and behind him; so he selected some of the best troops in Israel and deployed them against the Arameans. He put the rest of the men under the command of Abishai his brother and deployed them against the Ammonites. Joab said, ‘If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you are to come to my rescue; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come to rescue you. Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight.'” (2 Samuel 10:9-12)

We are called to do our absolute best with the talents, knowledge and strength given to us, but the lesson here is that God controls the outcome. The LORD will do what is good in His sight. I do not know what will happen, but I know that Nita and I have placed our lives in the center of His hands and am confident He has a good plan for us…granted, that plan may not be on this side of heaven. We’ll just have to travel on this journey and see where it goes.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

In case anyone is curious, though I am fully confident in God, do not be misled. The only times my knees are not shaking is when I am on them praying. Which, at this point, is often. Lastly, let me send a shout out to my friends Lee and Chelsea, the ones who sent me this book. They live on risk daily as they are paid by faith support through their college ministry, Cru. Follow the link to learn more about them and consider supporting them. Their first child is only a few months old and they are adopting 3 more children this summer. I’m afraid Nita and I still have a lot to learn…

riskisright

When Life Sucks…Use a Straw

On a personal level, these past few weeks been quite trying. A few things that really looked as if they were going to turn out positively spoiled at the last second, I was thrown multiple curve balls, and during the brightest spot of the week (yes, I got to go to Universal Studios for a few days and that was AWESOME), I ended up hurting myself which caused a major damper on my softball game Friday night. For whatever reason, my wife and have been at each other’s throats, and I have just generally been annoyed all the time. If you are in anyway unsure of the reason for this particular rant, it is because I am COMPLANING! Yes, I am.

One of the things that I have always found interesting in life is how your life lessons tend to mirror your particular experiences of that time period. It becomes even more noticeable as a teacher; in this case, a youth group leader planning a lesson for Sunday morning youth worship. I suppose I should have known what would happen when I decided to teach on 1 Kings 19, which is a lovely story in which Elijah the prophet wants to kill himself. Don’t let anyone say that the Bible doesn’t cover the hard topics.

Reading through this particular chapter, it is truly amazing to see the difficulty of life through Elijah’s eyes. In the previous chapter, Elijah had won his biggest battle which included insulting Baal and Asherah—this is one of my all-time favorite stories, because Elijah actually mocks the other gods’ prophets by asking where their god is. “Is he sleeping? Or maybe on the toilet?”—along with the killing of each of the 850 prophets after God shows up licking up the entire area with fire. It’s the perfect chapter for movie treatment. Major obstacles, an angry and hateful king, a harlot queen, and a man confident enough in his mission to bring it all down would make an amazing silver screen spectacle. The problem is, though, that you can’t leave the story half-way finished. Coming down from that incredible mountaintop experience, Elijah has to run for his life from Jezebel (the harlot queen), which is a chase that leads him to destitution at that mouth of a distant cave somewhere.

He hasn’t slept, eaten, relaxed, or talked with a friend in who knows how long. He is alone, starving, and frustrated. That’s when he lets it out. “God, let me die!” He screams his pain into the night air. It’s fairly easy to picture. Elijah finally was able to sit down and take care of his feet that had beaten up and down while on the run. Blisters the size of quarters were compounded on each other, the result of broken sandals not able to hold up to the vicious pace of his gait. Standing must have felt like murder. His blood sugar was most likely crashing, as that can happen to anyone who burns too many carbs without replenishment. Shaking, not just from the cold, he had nothing but a jagged rock on which to lay his head. ‘This sucks’ (or the Hebrew equivalent) must have raced through his head a thousand times. It is at this point, the still, small voice of God begins to act.

Funny, though; God doesn’t fix Elijah’s problems. One of the godliest men in history prayed and prayed for an answer, yet God did not accept his request to die, nor did He change Elijah’s situation. What God did was much more intimate. First, he helped Elijah fall into a deep sleep to regain some strength. Then, He fed Elijah with manna from Heaven. After a few rounds of eating and sleeping, God opened Himself to Elijah through an experience of power. He showed Elijah a windstorm, earthquake, and other powerful storms, yet those God was not in (funny, He was in the fire storm on Mt. Carmel). He was in the still small voice that flew on the gentle breeze. God is who you need Him to be every time you connect with Him. Sometimes it’s the mighty power of a fire storm, or a pillar of cloud to follow. Other times it’s a still, small voice. The key is, He is who you need Him to be.

Lastly, he commands Elijah to go connect with other people and give them instructions – in other words, go back to work. The last command, however, is more than just his next assignment. God has Elijah go find Elisha and start preparing him to be the successor. In other words, God gave Elisha to Elijah to keep him company; build his community. Now he has some support to lean on. It was also the light at the end of the tunnel.

You see, God never promises an easy life. He doesn’t even not promise that we won’t face difficult times on occasion. He goes all the way to promise that we WILL have them! “All those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Yet, inside the chaos he offers three things: chicken (NOT literally), connection with Him, and community support. God won’t let us die until our job on earth is over. He will give you the resources you need to accomplish the work he has for you. That doesn’t mean you’ll be rich and happy; it means your needs will be met until He decides to call you home. You may not always be comfortable, but at least you know He will provide. Suck it all in; His water does quench.