Putting the EMPASIS on the WRONG Syllable
As of today we have been in the Oklahoma Church Planting Residency for a month. There have been many conversations, whiteboards, updates, and coffee. We have tried to keep you “in the loop”, but I am afraid I may have drawn your attention to the wrong things. Without intending to, I have overemphasized some of the difficulties, so let’s reset our focus.
There has been loss. It has not been easy and yet God has met us in these moments and. We trust He will continue to do so. Let me take a moment to testify of just a few.
- We have officially stepped out of our comfort zones. In countless ways and numerous circumstances we are having to leap into areas of discomfort. Exiting the norm is always scary and (truthfully) never gets easy. As a family we have been praying for the Lord to expand our comfort zone until we can’t even see the borders. God has so gently sent people to wrap us up, encourage us along the way, and lift our eyes and arms as we press on. In particular, my girls have been receiving hand-written notes on a regular basis. These notes have ministered to their hearts and to those of their parents.
- Stepping away from a known income presents its own heartaches. Doing this days before school starts, with three girls, simply amplifies everything. Many purchases were “adjusted”. Others were simply put on hold. That iPad is going to have to wait… Our girls have been amazing! They have had to “die” to some things. Specifically, the purchase of school clothes was approached from a different perspective this year. And yet, multiple bags of brand new clothes were delivered to our house. Apparently, someone knows a “fashion blogger” who gets all of this stuff sent to her. From these bags our girls found new clothes for the school year, and miracle of miracles, jeans which fit!
- The bills keep coming of course. Several of you have asked us if we are crazy and most of you have at least thought it. We have a mortgage, two kids in braces, and the rest of life’s expenses. Stepping out has been a spiritual boot camp in trusting God. We have been praying for God to amaze us, to bless an entire community, to “wonderously show His steadfast love”, and to meet our needs. We believe He will do these things and have already seen God doing what only He could do. He has provided at just the right time in huge ways and in small, in the proverbial “billboards” and in bread. As a family we have been praying our hearts would be just as amazed by the Manna as those things which are clearly miraculous.
What do all of these things have in common? We would have never experienced these blessings had we not died in some small ways.
“And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” — John 12:23–26
But the promise of scripture is that it is through the DEATH we get the RESURRECTION.
I have done a poor job of sharing the life-giving aspects of this journey. I am afraid I have put the emphasis on the wrong syllable. The Lord has been so good to take our offering (our little deaths) and raise us to new works, new normals, and new fields.
Jesus went to the cross so He could be raised. Our hope is in this alone, that He died and He was raised. He went away, so we could have Him even closer. John 14:16–19 says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” It is through the death we get the resurrection.
The Apostle Paul said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as LOSS because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:7–8. That’s the death, right? But look where he goes… “that I may know him and the power of his RESURRECTION…” Philippians 3:10a.
“As Christ’s rejection and death are the first steps in the order of redemption, so our rejection and death to things and self are the first steps in the order of true and growing spirituality. As there could be no next step in the order of Christ’s redemption until the step of death was taken, so in the Christian there can be no further step until these first two steps are faced — not in theory only, but at least in some practical practice. Rejected, slain.” — Francis Schaeffer “True Spirituality”
We speak this language of death to life when we go to the table for the Lord’s Supper. We take His body in remembrance of the death while living out the fact He is risen. We proclaim his risen-ness through baptism, through the picture of “buried with Christ and raised to walk”.
So, let me apologize for setting the focus on the dying to things part of this launching and not on the miraculous raised to life aspects of what God is doing. He has met all our needs as He did for the Israelites. Daily He is providing enough and leading us to trust Him for tomorrow. He has led us into opportunity after opportunity to share what He is doing to people who (as one man told me) are “scared of church”. God is wondrously showing His steadfast love in His daily provisions as we have died to dreams, to some wants, and even to some things we thought we needed. And He is wondrously showing His steadfast love in moving obstacles which would be impossible for us to manage.
Had we not laid down some things we would not have experienced the wonders of what He is doing through these small deaths. Praise Him for all of it.