My proudest moment

This morning I sat on my sofa feeling good about myself. I mean, really good… That kind of good that has you sitting back, oblivious to all that is around you just grinning, head thrown back, eyes closed… And actually even now as I’m writing this, I’m still carrying this inane grin.

I guess someone, somewhere might be interested to know why?

Because I cracked it. Yup. I cracked the secret to all my problems. One minute I had been sitting and pondering all my failings, and in a single moment I discovered the solution.

Which is…

Wait for it…

Cue drumroll…

And wait a little longer as I have to get this over the fold of the page…

And now a little longer as I’m just having fun here…

Ok last time I promise….

And just one more time because I’m really annoying like that (seriously, just ask my wife)…

Me.

You? Are you sure it isn’t God or something a little holier? 

I hear voices in heads writing me off as a heretic. (But hey, you’re the ones with voices in your heads, so think about that before you wag the finger…)

No, it really is me. 

I am the solution to all of my failings/problems.

I guess I better explain myself before too many of my 4 followers hit the ‘unfollow’ button…

The turning point was when I was reading this paraphrase of 2 Cor:

‘I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.’ Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities.

– 2 Cor 12:9-10

So Paul cracked it too… And yes, God is slightly more involved than I originally let on. But Paul was proud of himself too, to the point of boasting about it! 

So to follow Paul’s example, this is my moment, with pride in my heart and tears in my eyes, here is my boast for all to see…

I AM WEAK, and I feel like I totally suck at half the jobs God has asked me to do.

But yet, for some reason God chose weak old me to stand in the places he has put me in and to delight in my weakness so He can show His strength. 

I am the solution to my problems, because until I acknowledge that God chose me to be where He put me, in all my weakness, I’m denying His strength to take that weakness and make something out of it.

I am the solution because nobody else can stand up for me joyfully rather than holing myself away and getting depressed about my many failings.

I am the solution because there is no other husband in my home to pour out praises, support and encouragement to my wife. There is no other father in my home to bring stability and create an atmosphere of safety and joy, even if none of these things come naturally to me.

I’ve had a tough week learning just how weak I am, learning just how little human reserves I have to do things that other people do so naturally – from having patience with kids to learning when to keep my mouth shut with S. (more about that another day). 

To be blunt, I’ve learnt that in many ways as a husband and dad… I stink. 

But today, with a grin on my face and joy in my heart I realise that when I boast about that horrific stench I have the capacity to make, the Holy Spirit comes along and somehow produces bottles and bottles of fine fragrance. 

But only when I submit my weakness to Him.

Picture a little boy, handing over his lunchbox, knowing full well that it wasn’t enough, utterly gobsmacked when he realises he’s just fed an entire mountainside packed with people.

He takes our little and makes it much. He takes our weakness and makes it strong. 

None of us ‘have it’. If we think we do, we’re kidding ourselves. But we do have Him, and that’s worth an inane grin or two.

– 2 Cor 12, Matt 14

Don’t Promote me…

I’ve spent a good deal of time recently pondering how I can be ‘more visible’ – whether it’s in my church, my work, online or in any other space… Deep down, however much I deny it, there is an inbuilt human desire in me to be seen, to be noticed, to be valued and to be heard by others...

In fact, these were the very human sensibilities that Satan played to with Jesus in the desert – the very things from which he was able to resist temptation.

It’s totally natural: when we do a good job – we want someone to say ‘well done!’, when we are faithful at work – we want to be given more responsibility, when we feel we have something to say – we want people to listen…

For me, it has been a frustration in following God’s call to a new country, to go to church in another language, one that I understand but probably can’t quite teach in yet – so from being an ‘up and coming leader’ back at home, for the last 6 years now, I have no ‘public voice’ and therefore no ‘status/recognition’ within the body like I may have done before… (No, I’m not from Russia!)

So now picture the scene… Here I am, vacuuming my house, talking to God (nope, I wasn’t on my face or in any particularly holy place), asking Him to give me room to speak and share what was on my heart in my congregation, asking for space to share the things He was sharing with me, asking Him to give me a platform for ministry, asking Him to let my voice be heard, to give me status & recognition…

And while I may have spun it in ‘Godly’ terms, while I may have thought I had good reasons for it, what I was actually praying was:

God – make me visible!

Validate me through the eyes of other humans!

Give me status!

My security in You isn’t enough – I want to be heard!

Not unsurprisingly, this prayer wasn’t answered, but instead some other words dropped into my heart, a paraphrase of Matt 6:33

Whose Kingdom are you seeking with all those prayers – yours or mine?

This was a tough one to hear. I had to (and daily keep having to) let go of my natural desire to be seen, my human nature, and truly “seek first the Kingdom of God”, and all that this entails… And do you know what?

This was the most releasing prayer I could pray! 

The prayer below has released me to no longer keep one eye on ‘how the situation will serve me’ (when I am disciplined enough!)… I can go to my church and truly ask what the Lord wants of me, who He wants me to befriend or talk to, rather than needing to ‘cosy up’ to those in authority. I can do my job faithfully, and trust that my faithful service will be recognized when it needs to be (and actually it just was!). I can say ‘no’ to work for the sake of my family, as I know that in giving my children and S. time, I am operating according to Kingdom principles… If I place my treasure in His Kingdom, my heart will be there also

In short, with my eyes on God’s Kingdom, my visibility and recognition is in His hands. My security is in Him and Him alone. I trust that He has brought me to where I am for a reason, and if my voice is being ‘muted’ for a time, then I trust that He knows why.

So that’s why now, I daily (when I remember) have been asking God NOT to promote me… You heard right, I pray every day that God WON’T promote me, well, not on my terms anyway…

I truly believe that God has said that He will use each of us for His Kingdom as much as we’ll let Him, and for many of us faithful service in our field will lead to promotion and a gradual increase of our voice among men. For others, that will not be the case – His Kingdom might be best served in keeping us right where we are, wherever that might be, and, dare I say it, sometimes that even means moving us to a ‘lower’ place in the eyes of men.

So, whether up or down, high or low, visible or invisible, I have daily committed to praying this prayer:

Lord, don’t promote me until & unless it serves Your Kingdom…

 – Anyone want to pray this with me?

Matt 6:21-22, Matt 6:33

 

The testimony of two

This Sunday was Mother’s Day. So Saturday was a great day to spend undermining S’s ability as a mother with my words and actions…

You can imagine that when I sat down to write a card on Sunday morning, even though words normally flow from my pen quite freely, this time I couldn’t do it. Not because the words weren’t there, but because my words weren’t backed up with my actions.

What’s the point of me writing “You do such a great job at x,y,z…”, when just the day before, everything I did screamed “You’re doing it wrong, my way is better…”

John 8:17 says “In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.” Why the testimony of two? Well, I can write or say whatever I want, but unless S. bears witness to my words through my actions, that testimony is worthless. Until it is worked out and seen, it is purely words.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

– James 2:18

James is writing here about faith – but I believe this applies to love as well – our written or spoken expressions of love must be backed up by our actions. In fact, if our actions speak loud enough, we sometimes don’t even have to use words!

So here is the question I’m beginning to ask myself: How does she know? and the answer can’t be ‘because I say so’

  • How does she know that she’s valued?
  • How does she know that she is more important than my work?
  • How does she know that I respect her words?
  • How does she know that she is appreciated?
  • How does she know that I trust her words/actions/judgement?
  • How does she know that we’re on the same side?
  • How does she know that she is loved?

And the list could go on… Food for thought? I certainly have plenty of chewing to do…

 

Mary tries to kill the judgement

This is not a statement of a major theological inaccuracy, but rather my 3-year old’s version of a current worship song…

You delight in showing mercy…

…Mary tries to kill the judgement (sic)

This may have become an ongoing joke in our family, but I hope that the real punchline of that verse is not lost for us forever…

Mercy triumphs over judgement

I recently read in this book (emphasis my own):

When you judge one sin in another person you have committed seven sins yourself! You fail to love Him, fail to be merciful, you have judged, you have condemned him in your heart, you have not sought to restore him, you have disobeyed God’s Word, and you are guilty of self-righteousness and pride in raising yourself above the one you have judged. So who is in the a worse state? You need God’s mercy to remove the plank from your own eye!

— Colin Urquhart, The Lord’s Orchard

This is one I have been contemplating in my marriage, as surprise, surprise, neither my wife or I are perfect. I am acutely more and more aware each day of the grace and mercy I need from God, but like the unmerciful ruler I don’t always seem to be able to pass that mercy or grace on to those who I feel wrong me, least of all within my home and marriage (and needless to say, normally about the most mundane of issues).

The truth is that when I judge, when I fight for ‘my point’ to be heard, or when I withhold forgiveness, I am actually putting barriers in the way of reconciliation.

God built in mercy and forgiveness to the very fabric of the Jewish culture through the sacrificial system. Jesus modelled grace to the highest degree when he took death upon Himself without a single fault of His own (Is. 53:7), James said we should ‘consider it pure joy’ when we face trials – even persecution…

So again, I’m left thinking… ‘how much more should I be showing mercy in my own home?!’ if God chose to forgive the worst of sinners, if Jesus took the weight of all of our sins upon Himself, if the apostles could be joyful in the face of persecution.

Which all leads me to one conclusion:

Through God’s grace, reconciliation with mankind was made possible…

…and if mercy opens the door to reconciliation, my prayer is that God blows that door right off!