As I drove away, I began to cry. Not because I had been called so many terrible names, but because God had answered my very recent prayer—which was that He would allow me to see people as He sees them, not as I see them.
Let that be my prayer, too.
Read the whole post here
Faith is being able to stare facts in the face and still believe there’s something more, something beautiful, being orchestrated behind the scene of what you can see.
The best gifts are said to be the ones that keep giving. In order for a gift to keep giving, I must come to realize that the gift is not for me. In a world of “me first” mentality, that’s a difficult concept.
If something is given to me, common sense says, “it’s mine. For my enjoyment.” Often, a big question is enough to unravel common sense. So instead of the default response, I’m choosing to ask “how can I use this gift to empower, encourage, or equip others?”
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”
Francis of Assisi
Time flies. People don’t.
Alas, the older I get, the quicker time passes. And the more I realize how finite I am. Unlike ever-passing time, I am clearly unable to fly.
Sometimes flying sounds easier than living by faith. I mean, think about the view from above when flying. A bird’s eye view. A broad overview of the world below.
Yet, I choose to live by faith. I hide myself in the wings of the One who is faithful. I choose to put my faith in the One who is always faithful. Always good. Always watching over me and protecting me. May His flight path be mine.
Psalm 91:4 – “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
Each Monday, I am posting bits of wisdom that I encountered during the previous week. I recently came across a great piece about waiting by Chuck Swindoll. I hope you are challenged by it.
Trusting God in the Shadows
by Charles R. Swindoll
I want to dispense a fresh supply of hope. To help accomplish that, let me suggest four principles. They may mean more to you later than now—in a time when God leads you to wait in the shadows.
First, when God prepares us for effective ministry, He includes what we would rather omit—a period of waiting. That cultivates patience. As I write these words, it occurs to me that I’ve never met anyone young and patient. (To be honest, I’ve not met many old and patient folks either.) We’re all in a hurry. We don’t like to miss one panel of a revolving door. Patience comes hard in a hurry-up society. Yet, it’s an essential quality, cultivated only in extended periods of waiting.
Second, as God makes us wait, hiding us in His shadow, He shows us we’re not indispensable. That makes us humble. One major reason the Lord removes us and has us wait in His shadow is to remind us we’re not the star attraction. We’re not indispensable. That realization cultivates genuine humility. I’m convinced Paul never once questioned God for having His hand on Peter and Barnabas, rather than on him. In a time when most gifted individuals would have been volunteering at the revival headquarters, Paul willingly remained behind the scenes. All the while waiting for his time—correction, God’s time.
Third, while God hides us away, He reveals new dimensions of Himself and new insights regarding ministry. That makes us deep. What we need today is not smarter people or busier people. A far greater need is deeper people. Deep people will always have a ministry. Always. God deepens us through time spent waiting on Him.
Fourth, when God finally chooses to use us, it comes at a time least expected, when we feel the least qualified. That makes us effective. The perfect set-up for a long-lasting, effective ministry begins with surprise. “Me? You sure You don’t want that other person? She’s got great qualifications and obvious gifts. You may want to talk to her.” That’s the idea. It’s refreshing, in this highly efficient age, to find a few who are still amazed at the way God is using them.
Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
This morning I managed to catch 2 decent size small mouth bass. I woke up early and was the first one to my spot — lets just say many other anglers call it “my spot” too so it is best to arrive early. I had a prime spot, as far as access to bass is concerned. It was one of those spots where you’d end up in the water if you took even the slightest misstep.
As I fished, a crew of other fishermen arrived. They were the real deal – one of them set up a camping cook area and lit the propane grill. Every time the four fishermen caught something, a runner would grab the net and bring the fish to the cooking station where another guy cleaned, skinned, and grilled on site. It was quite the setup.
Though they had their fishing down to a near robotic system, they were still able to have fun. It was hard not to chuckle along with all their hooting and hollering.
The laughter was uplifting to hear. Seeing grown men share belly laughs was awesome.
I had to laugh at some points too – not at what they were laughing at, but at my misfortune. Bass fishing from shore means lots of casts around banks, weeds, etc. Therefore, this type of bass fishing nearly guarantees at least a snag or two. Or ten…. and at least one lost lure.
Before going fishing, I picked up a new crankbait from the 24-hour supermarket. I caught both fish on it. It wasn’t a super expensive purchase – $6 and some change – and it worked well.
Until my last cast.
The crankbait got snagged on some vegetation on a nearby outcropping of rocks. I attempted to retrieve it, until I realized how steep and jagged the rocks were betwern me and the crankbait.
I paid 6 bucks for it… but was that $6 worth my trouble? At once my pastoral brain kicked in and began weaving a parable about how valuable we are to God and how He would do anything to retrieve us.
I found rest in that thought. And freedom.
I chose to free myself from the pressure to retrieve the crankbait. Because, after all, I’m not God.
But, I am valuable to God.
Even when I give up on the crankbait.
Each Friday, I will post a brief thought about living by faith. Short, sweet, and not immersed in Christianese.
#1 – Faith is not letting your current circumstances dictate your next steps.
Stay tuned for #2 next week!
Enjoy your weekend. I’m heading out fishing tomorrow morning so check back for another round of “thoughts while fishing.”
ThatBenGuy.com has been around in some form since early 2005. Here’s one of my posts from 2006, it’s one of my favorite stories from my time serving as a youth pastor in rural Oregon.
Being in full-time ministry puts me in an awkward position. I challenge those I minister to live deeply, fully, and passionately. To step out of their comfort zones and experience God in new ways. Yet, I often find myself living shallow, doing enough to make it through the day, and not living fully impassioned. Serving in full-time ministry serves as a point of accountability for me — am I living the way I am challenging my youth to live? If not, should I really be calling them to something that even I am not participating in?
Today was a defining moment in my pursuit of living fully alive. I woke up around 8am with the biggest headache and feeling like I had hardly even slept the night before — even though I had slept close to 9 hours. This has been my busiest week in ministry here in Oregon… and I could definitely feel the effects. I decided to take the morning off and head to church after lunch.
Creating youth group directory… getting copies of parent info packets… planning for youth group… planning events… reviewing events… All of these items were on my list to get done today. I didn’t get to any of them. Before I even got to my office, I stopped in the copy room (where the church answering machine is) and noticed there was 1 new message on the answering machine. Essentially, it went like this…
“Hi, this is Ginger Buckley, I’m trying to get ahold of my father-in-law who lives on Warthen Road, a few miles down the street from your church. He doesn’t have a phone, and I need someone to tell him that his son & daughter-in-law are coming to visit him. If you get this message in the next hour, please call me back and let me know if you can help. Thanks.”
(name changed for confidentiality)
I played the message at least 5 times, telling myself I simply heard wrong and they had gotten the wrong number. Recollections of my words I spoke to the church on Sunday night started playing back in my head — “what would happen if as Christians we took time every day to show our love for others by helping out, showing God through our actions? Giving a hand when someone was in need of a favor?” … I questioned my sanity and thought to myself, Man, was I on crack when I said those words?? That is no easy task!
After 15 minutes of fighting with myself and replaying the message over and over, I hopped in my car and made the 4 mile trek to this man’s house. Delivered the message, and headed for home… until I realized my gas tank was on empty. I decided to head to the gas station.
As I pulled into the station, I saw a woman “flying her sign,” asking for assistance from those who passed by. I hate cardboard signs. I wish nobody would ever have to fly them like that. I drove to the station and filled up, thinking in the back of my mind, “Hmm… I really don’t have much going on right now. I suppose I could give this lady a hand.”
Have you ever been in a situation where you told God, “Hey, maybe next time, Big Guy. I’m kinda busy with something right now. But I promise, the next time, I’ll do it.” Well, I muttered those same words last week as I drove by a hitch-hiker, at the same intersection as this woman I was considering assisting. As I waited for my tank to fill, I questioned whether my desire to help was just my way of “making things right with God,” as a way of saying to Him, “See, Big Guy, I told you ‘d help out.” A chore.. not an outpouring of love from deep within my soul.
As my tank filled with gas, I realized that God had filled my heart with love so that I could authentically share it with others. I left the station and stopped by the woman, and asked her where she was headed. She said, “Brookings! Its the last city along 101 before you get to California!” I was appalled by what the words that came from my lips … “I just filled up my tank! I can take you! Let me help you get your bags.” To which she replied, with a huge grin that spread between each worn and sunburned cheek, “Why thank you!! Let me call my son over, he’ll be delighted to hear we’re getting there today!”
As I moved my car to a better loading location in the parking lot, I was faced with a choice. I could either go with what my big mouth just said, or I could quickly zip out of that parking lot as fast as I could and head home. As appealing as the latter option was — California is a good 5 hours away — I somehow mustered up the courage to go with my offer.
This woman and her son are 2 of the most incredible people I have met in my entire life. We talked for hours as we drove. Esther (name changed for confidentiality sake) is, in all respects, a hippy. A hippy who is deeply in love with Jesus. Turns out that after 30 years of running away from God, she had given her life over to Him 9 years ago and has since committed to hitch-hiking around the country and being the hands and feet of Jesus to those she comes in contact with. Esther has been up and down the Pacific Coast, volunteering at soup kitchens and missions while living in the brush. And flying her sign, using what money she raises to help others.
Esther was recently re-united with her 18 year old son Zachariah on Sunday (name changed for confidentiality sake), and he is now traveling with her. They left Canada on Sunday, and by God’s grace arrived in Veneta Thursday morning. Their goal is to reach South America and reach out to pan-handler children and their families. They told me stories about how police are using brutality to keep begging children out of tourist areas. Ester’s eyes welled up with giant tears as she spoke of her life as a young woman, thinking she was nothing of value, letting any guy sleep with her. She now wants to reach out to such women and feed them, offer clothing, and protect the lives of their children. What an honorable pursuit.
About half-way to Brookings, we stopped by the coast.
The oceanview was so beautiful, like one of those sights you see in a movie and wonder where in the world it was filmed. There were giant rocks that came above the waterline and towered over us as we hiked down to the sandy beach. Gusts of wind nearly blew us over as we walked down the slopes that led to the water. Words like “beautiful,” “capturing,” and “glorious” barely do justice to this amazing sampling of God’s creation. Zechariah thanked me for stopping, saying he hadn’t seen anything like that in 8 years. Esther told me of how much she needed to be by that beach, and how much that experience did for her spiritually.
The rest of the drive was marked by listening to Micah McLaughlin’s CD. Esther loved it, and said that she could tell Micah and Erica were so full of love, that it resonated from their music. She was moved to tears by a couple songs, and was constantly nodding in agreement with the lyrics that challenge listeners to live deeply and fully.
I felt so alive today. And all it took was willingness to put aside my plans and reach out in love to those in need. I’ll never forget the time of prayer we had at Esther & Zechariah’s campsite. God felt so close, as if He was standing right next to us as we prayed. After praying, Esther looked me in the eye and said, “Ben, God’s hand is mightily upon you. May you experience the joy of living fully the life that He intends for you to live. Live happy. Laugh. Love, and know that God loves you. God bless.”
I walked back to my car, big tears welling up in my eyes. I hated to part from them, but I knew that God will take care of them and meet their every need. Part of me wants to go with them down to South America… but I have work to do here. I have students who need to experience this sort of love. I have students who need to learn how to share this kind of love. There are people that God has specifically called me to reach out to, people who need to hear and see and know love.
What a day. God is good.
Philippians 2:14-15 – Do all things without complaining or bickering with each other, so you will be found innocent and blameless; you are God’s children called to live without a single stain on your reputations among this perverted and crooked generation. Shine like stars across the land. (The Voice)
Complaining dims my light, causing me to look just like the rest of the world around me. On the contrary, having a spirit of thanksgiving helps maintain the light of my salvation.
Over the past two years, I have faced many challenging situations. Significant losses that had deep impact on my family, my vocation, my understanding of who I am and what God has for me to do. Through these circumstances, my response has been less than “shining like stars across the land.” What started out as a subtle, even justifiable, dissatisfaction blossomed into complacency. Complacency grew into anger and frustration. Anger and frustration then fueled regular complaining. Frustration grew as complaints flew.
I often tried to justify my complaining as “being real” about the situations facing me. As if my “authenticity” was somehow Godly because I was being honest.
But then I remembered what Hebrews says about faith. “Faith is the assurance of things you have hoped for, the absolute conviction that there are realities you’ve never seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
As a follower of Christ, there is nothing “real” or “authentic” about complaining. On the contrary, complaining DENIES faith as it traps us in seeing only the observable realities. Complaining keeps us from encountering realities we’ve never seen. Complaining kept the Israelites in the desert for 40 years. 40 years!
Only seeing what can be observed by our 5 senses is a pretty lousy way to live. Complaining about what you observe is like a double whammy – not only is your view of life short-sighted, you’re also grumbling about that short-sighted view of your life! It’s a cyclical trap that will ruin your life and steal your joy.
What are you missing because of complaining? What in your life are you trying to justify as “being real,” that is actually killing your faith?
When a complaint comes to mind, work hard to look past it. What do you have in your life to be thankful for? “Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, The Voice)