Don’t accept God’s will so easily.

 

We’re supposed to accept God’s will, right?  I mean, if we’re good Christians and all.  Isn’t it the hallmark of being a “good Christian” that we fairly easily accept the will of God when bad things happen in our lives?

“God provideth.  And God taketh away.”

This is what wise people say when tragedy strikes.

And I think, much of the time, this is good.  But is it possible to take this acceptance of God’s will too far?  I think so.  Just as with anything else.  This one is a bit hard to explain without getting myself into a lot of trouble, but I’ll try.

Ultimately we’re talking about this incredible question of why God allows bad things to happen.  This is tough stuff, and we’re ultimately not answering that large question here.  But only a small part of it.  Why would God allow a woman to be raped when he is ultimately in control?  There are a lot of theories.  And in this post, I’m not talking about large events like this.  Huge events that cause us to question humanity and God itself.  And I’m certainly not suggesting that getting raped is somehow discipline from God.  So let’s not lose focus and dive off into that.  Let’s have a good conversation about something that matters.  But that is not quite at that level.

I’m talking about small issues.  The loss of a job.  Foreclosure.  Car accident without major loss.  Break-ups.  Even possibly divorce.  Should we just simply shrug our shoulders in these cases and say, “Well, I suppose losing this house is God’s will.”

I don’t think so.  I think we should get pissed off.  And angry.  Even if it means being angry at God.  Because there are times when God needs to do crazy things to get our attention.  So if we just toe the line and act like good Christians who never complain about God’s will, we may be missing out on the very lesson that God is pushing us to accept.

Question: If God allows a foreclosure to come into your life, are you being tested to see how passive you’ll be in the light of his will?  Or is God intentionally trying to get you so pissed off that you finally root something out of your life that he wants rooted out of your life?  See, I’m not so convinced that God wants us to just be fully passive and just lay down at every tragedy.

Look at David in the Psalms.  A third (I’m guessing here) of the Psalms are about David being pissed off at God about one thing or another.  And letting God know it.  And what about Jacob with getting his hip dislocated.  Jacob didn’t enter into this fight with God, or an angel (depending on the scholars you listen to) and simply say, “God is fighting with me so he wins.”  No.  He fought.  And fought.  Until God literally dislocated his hip.  He was the opposite of passive.  And from there on his name was Israel.

What if Zechariah had simply folded up shop and never tried to speak again, and then never raised his son John with the strength of a man who had been afflicted by God for months without the ability to speak?  Can you think of someone more rebellious than John (other than Christ himself of course).  How pissed off do you think Zechariah was at God?  At himself?  How much did that anger fester and build until he was at a boiling point where he could hear the words, “His name is John” and finally speak them.

The Bible is a lot of things.  But a guidebook on how to live a quiet, keep-to-yourself passive life taking whatever comes your way isn’t one of them.

I am not convinced that we should so easily accept God’s will but should become angry, become self-examining, become God-examining, even possibly fight.  Because it is often through these very struggles that we become who we are meant to be.  We are the Jacob who becomes Israel.  Perhaps these minor tragedies that affect our lives are meant to press us to a point of breaking, with the knowledge that God will see to it that the pieces fall in a way that was better than when they were whole.

If you are struggling, perhaps take a break from praying for your struggle to end and pray for guidance on the change God is seeking in your life.  Pray for guidance on how to push through this tragedy as opposed to walking away from it.  Pray for the strength God is desperately hoping you will realize he has given you.  Pray for the eyes to see the discipline God is seeking to infuse into your life.

Again, this is not a simple matter.  And perhaps your struggle has nothing to do with a change God wants to see in your life.  Maybe it’s just a struggle.  Sometimes things suck.  Sometimes things are tragic.  But my encouragement to you is to be less passive in the face of God’s will and accept the challenge that the struggle presents you.  Feel the anger it makes you feel.  Feel the sadness it makes you suffer.  Get angry with God and tell him you are angry.

But don’t take the risk of missing the very breakthrough you may need because you read somewhere that no matter what, everything bad should just be accepted.  You must accept God’s will.  But don’t assume it is his will that you stop fighting at the first sign of struggle.

JDV

Now… go be amazing.  It’s how you were built.

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God’s will: I’ve had it backwards all this time.

I’m working my way through a good book titled Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung, and it’s all about his unconventional methodology behind discerning God’s will for your life.  SWEET!  I really want to know God’s will for my life, and I REALLY like things that are unconventional.  So I saddled up and started reading.  And what a HUGE disappointment!  There is no magic bullet in discerning God’s will.  In fact, I’ve been going about it all wrong all these years.  Well, “backward” would be more accurate than “wrong.”

I’ve always felt like the smaller details of my life would fall into place once I finally grasped my major life calling from God.  I don’t really struggle with the huge things in life.  My struggle is in the daily details.  My sins, my rebellions, are in the small daily diversions which are so available to us these days.  And I am a sucker for all of them.  I won’t stand before God with three or four major life rebellions to account for.  I’ll stand before Him with a list of thousands of things I either did or didn’t do that were sinful.  But every one of them on their own seemed genuinely inconsequential.

But once I receive my calling from God, that will all be over.  Because then my life will be in alignment and these things which draw my attention away from God will lose their luster, their magnetic power over me.  In other words, once the BIG thing is in place… all the little things will take care of themselves.

So apparently I needed this book Just Do Something to finally realize how completely insane this perspective is.  Trust me, even as I write this it sounds nuts to put these words on screen.  But literally until about twenty minutes ago, this was my thinking.  If only the huge driving force that I’m supposed to adhere to in life would simply be revealed, then my minor rebellions, my little failures to walk with God, will be no longer.  I’ll be so frickin’ inspired that my struggles will simply dissolve!  My near addiction to these little rebellions will be overpowered by a passion that consumes me… the passion to pursue my newly discovered WILL OF GOD IN MY LIFE!  (Read that last part with a dramatic booming voice, okay?)

Is this how anything works?  Of course not.  It makes so  MUCH MORE SENSE for God to say, “I will be patient and wait for you to follow me in all of these little things you do before I reveal to you the main purpose for which you’ve been created.”  Of course that makes more sense!  So much more sense that I’m literally embarrassed to have had to write the paragraphs preceding this one.

Why on earth would God send me on the very largest mission for which I’ve been created when I can’t string together 70 solid minutes of obedience to Him in the smallest details of my life?  Why would I expect Him to, either?  And isn’t there a MASSIVE sense of arrogance and entitlement in my prior understanding?  “Hey God, I know I basically ignore you at every opportunity I get… but that’s kinda on you, isn’t it?  Hook me up with a sweet calling and then I’ll stop treating you like a doormat.  Bueno?  Great.  Now hop to it pal.  Jeopardy is on soon.”

Wow.  That’s an only slightly exaggerated version of the inside of my head until about a half hour ago.  It’s shameful.  Thank God (literally) that he loves us as much as He does.

I spend the last couple of weeks of each year praying and asking for a single word to guide me through the coming year. It’s something I picked up from Brian Hardin of the One Year Daily Audio Bible years ago.  The word I got this year is, “Execute.”  I’m an idea guy.  But in my process of coming up with huge ideas, I really don’t execute on the basics that are the foundation of any genuinely meaningful life.  Last year my word was, “Achieve” and I ran the Chicago Marathon.  It almost killed me.  But I did it.  However, I did it in the worst possible way.  I failed to train properly.  I failed to eat properly.  I did what I usually do: I winged it.  I half-assed it.  And through sheer will and determination I finished that marathon.  I injured my left ankle and both feet doing so, though, due to my lack of preparation.  So my word for this year is, “Execute.”

How do you execute?  There are a hundred things happening in my life that point to the fact that execution is about the daily little things that add up to a major accomplishment.  These daily disciplines are missing from my life.  I am not going to understand the will of God in my life that I might receive SOMEDAY until I respect Him enough to execute on the small daily things He has ALREADY told me to do.

No, I don’t know if God wants me to quit my job and become a pastor.  I haven’t received that major life direction yet from God.  But God did speak to me about the smaller things.  He spoke to you too.  Through scripture.  It’s easy to forget, as we’re waiting for the loud booming voice from heaven, that the voice of God is probably sitting on a shelf in our living room right now.  Real, tangible, useful direction from God on how to answer his calling in our lives.  We call them spiritual disciplines.  Prayer.  Worship.  Sacrifice.  Charity.  And the Bible is full of them.  Have you ever seen one of those funny billboards, “If you’ve been waiting for a sign… this is a sign.”  Well similarly, if you’ve been waiting to “hear from God” on how to live your life, then why not go ahead and read the book He gave on how to live our lives?

So I suppose I actually have received my calling from God.  It’s written in the dozens of books of the Bible that I’ve read over and over… but haven’t really followed.  I look forward to spending the next year executing on these small daily things that God has already called me to do.  Execute on these little daily things.  Subject my life to God in all these little ways.  All this time I’ve been praying about surrendering to God and haven’t even taken the smallest of steps like changing up my morning routine.  “Oh… you mean surrendering to God is more than just a passionate well-spoken prayer?  I actually have to change tangible things in my daily life?  Who knew??”

So that’s how my 2017 started.  It’s amazing what happens when you take a few hours away from TV and internet.

God bless you all!  And Happy New Year.

J

We’re cheap crappy mulch. And that’s good.

Something snapped in my head this morning. The current Christian church is hammering away at how God loves you even though you’re a mess, even though you’re broken, even though you’re not perfect.

And that’s all true. But crap, dude, I’m sick of hearing about it. Listen, if you’re in a place where you think you’re too big of a mess for God to love you, you’re wrong. It’s as simple as that. Just get over it. God loves you. And he’s got some crap he needs you to take care of, so just… GRRR. Get over it.

And then it started hitting me. God created all of us. And I operate under the belief that he’s not an idiot and doesn’t screw up. So why are we all so broken? Okay, bust out the theology about the original sin, and blah blah blah my eyes roll back into my head and I want to take a nap.

My thought turned to this: What if God didn’t screw up? What if we’re NOT broken? Well that doesn’t work perfectly. There’s some crap about me that is definitely broken. Okay, what else? What is this thought trying to creep up to the top of my head?

And then it hit me. We’re mulch. We’re cheap, low level, throw-away mulch. And it’s AWESOME! Let me explain.

We used to garden a lot. And we saw this video a guy did on his garden and how shockingly productive and beautiful it was. No watering system. No fertilization. No pesticides. But amazing results. This dude had organic farmers travelling in to see how he did it. No one could figure it out.

His secret was mulch. Lots of it. He just laid down a new layer of mulch every year and it broke down over time and held in water, fended off pests, acted as fertilizer as it broke down. Mulch. That was it. And it was all free. He worked out a deal with the electric company to dump all their grindings on his property every time they went out tree trimming. And they went tree trimming a lot. He had lots of free mulch.

So as is always the case, other people tried it. And one dude in particular really bought into this system. He ordered up a giant load of the best quality mulch. It was expensive. And it didn’t work. At all.

What? What happened?

The problem was that his mulch was perfect. It was perfectly consistent in size. It was only one type of wood. No leaves. No spare twigs here and there. It was perfect. Perfectly useless.

It turns out the free crappy mulch has tons of junk in there that isn’t pretty, but is the backbone of feeding this guy’s garden. And he didn’t even know it.

So I’m mulch. And so are you. And the good news is that we’re the cheap crappy kind with all sorts of odd looking things stuck inside that look bad but work great. We’re not pretty on the outside. But here’s the thing: We work. We’re USEFUL.

So yeah I suppose this is just one more post about it being okay to be broken. But I’m trying to take it a step further than that. Maybe what we call “broken” isn’t broken. Right?  But being constantly told we’re broken kinda sucks the life out of you after a while.  You get to a place where you’re like, “Well I’m really broken and I suck and I’m a mess.  But at least God loves me.”  Dude.  That’s frickin’ depressing.  I don’t think God wired us up to feel like that all the time.

Maybe all this mess is what breaks down over time into something that can feed the starving around us. This mess will produce something that is beautiful, nourishing, and naturally fends off those who would seek to do us harm. Maybe instead of finally accepting that we’re broken, we should look in the mirror and realize this thing you’re seeking is just as jacked up and messy and you think it is. And that it is for that very reason… unbroken.

I’m not saying we don’t owe God everything for the grace he shows us every day.  But perhaps we’ve lulled ourselves into inaction by constantly drilling into our own heads how “broken” we are and God’s up there like, “Get over dudes.  Broken means you can’t function.  You ain’t broken.  I’m kinda waiting for you to, like, start working.  Ya know?”

Those are my slightly disorganized thoughts for the day. Later all.

Stop quoting the Bible!!

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I recently put up a quick post about what makes you nervous when it comes to sharing your faith. I got a great answer from Linda and she said she doesn’t know the Bible as well as she would like. She doesn’t have that instant ability to quote the right Bible passage at just the right moment. My response? GOOD!

Those of us about the business of making disciples often fall into the trap of quoting the Bible all the time under the mistaken impression that it will bring people to Christ. It doesn’t. There is something funny about people who truly are genuine Biblical experts. They don’t run around tossing out Bible verses all the time. Especially when they are first meeting someone. Instead they focus on forming a relationship, listening, having actual conversation that leaves behind the goal-oriented half-listening of a person looking to drop the perfect Bible passage and show off their skills.

Where did these lunatics get such an idea?? Perhaps from Jesus Christ? Look at the times in the New Testament that Christ quotes scripture. More often than not, he is quoting it to refute the so-called scriptural experts. When approached by a blind man, he was surrounded by people quoting a load of scripture and reaching the very reasonable conclusion that this man’s parents must have been sinners. Then they all did a round of fist bumps because they were such experts in scripture.

Jesus didn’t quote scripture. He just gave the man sight and asked for nothing in return.

Scripture is important. But it’s best function is to help us MATURE as Christians. It is often not what initially MAKES us seek Christ. What truly makes disciples is your story. It is easy to forget what life was like before you entered into a life of faith. But it probably didn’t happen because someone was an expert on the Bible and started spitting out Bible verses at you.

So Linda, read your Bible and build your relationship with Christ through the study of scripture. It’s what we’re supposed to do and it’s awesome. But never be afraid to tell someone your story. And if they start drilling you on your Bible knowledge… a great answer is, “I don’t know.” And even better answer is, “I don’t know… but let’s check it out.” Then grab a Bible, and probably a little help from Google, and dive in.

We were built to be heroes. And it’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo credit: gwilmore (I HATE THE NEW LAYOUT!) / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Load of Garbage 4: I’m too chicken!

I almost can’t title this post “Load of Garbage” even though it’s part of that series because struggling with witnessing is normal. It’s NOT a load of garbage to say you have a hard time talking about Christ. On the one hand, good witnessing Christians will make you feel guilty for not being as bold as they are. The Bible refers to them as “Judgmental Know-it-All A-holes.”  I think that’s in Proverbs 29.  Not sure.  And on the other hand, your non-Christian friends will make you think you are a weirdo.  Can we take step one?  You are a weirdo.  So let’s be done with that.  If you feel like a weirdo, that’s how you know you’re doing it right.  The trick is not to figure out a way to witness without feeling weird.  The trick is to get to where you are okay with feeling weird.

One of the greatest contributors to this blog recently asked me about this. He asked for practical information about how to witness when you’re nervous about doing it. He mentioned being in a small group discussion with non-believers and was upset he didn’t chime in and witness his faith. He chickened out.  Yeah. BEEN THERE! Ever turn down the Christian song you were blasting because you realized you were at a stoplight and people might hear it?? I’ve done that too. Here was my answer, and I thought it might be helpful to everyone:
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Dude. YOU HAVE A BLOG!! Start there, bro. It is so much easier to first proclaim your faith on an anonymous internet. At first mine was completely anonymous. I had a blog titled “So Long Self” after the Mercy Me song. And you would never have known it was me. Now here I am blogging the crud out of the Bible every day with my personal email address and even phone number out there for the world. Everyone at work knows it, and trust me, my family knows it and is probably about heard enough of it.

Start small. Take that small group, for example. Maybe that was too much for a start. We think that witnessing is the process of converting people from hostile non-believer to believer in a single conversation. It’s rarely that. Perhaps never that. These are people who have literally seen faith, checked it out, and said, “No thanks.” I will work on them later. You witness to the hurting. To the empty. To those who society has forgotten. That includes the divorced or soon to be divorced. Those buried in debt. The homeless. The mentally challenged. The depressed. The single mom.  The EVERYONE! Right?

And here’s another tip if you’re nervous. ACT FIRST. TALK ABOUT FAITH SECOND. I spend a fair amount of time pouring into the lives of others. I give a lot. Not a lot of money. I give a lot of time. When they figure out I am a Christian, they have a context to fit that into. And the context is someone who gives all the time without ever asking for something in return. Then the resurrection makes more sense. I have given them an immeasurably small taste of the shocking level of giving of Christ engaged in when He died on the cross for us. My giving is nothing compared to His. But it is a starting point. Give first. Preach second.

So do this. Spend one hour today thinking of ways you can give selflessly this week without ever giving anyone any money. You can give some money too, but do that next week. Giving without giving cash is harder than you think. Do that. For a week. Even just a few things. Give. You will see doors open up to talk about your faith. Over time. Not ten minutes of time. Ten months of time. Jesus spent three years with his disciples and they still didn’t get it until he walked out of that tomb. Look how much giving he did during that time!

Start with giving, and report back if you don’t mind. Let us know how it goes, and if any doors opened up for you. For me, it’s been debt. I help people get out of debt and fight off collectors for free (I’m a lawyer so I know all the good tricks.) And during that months-long process I tell them how I decided to get out of debt. The Christians who poured into my life. The principals I learned before I even knew they were Biblical. That’s my thing. Find yours. Today!
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So those were my thoughts and I wanted to pass them along to everyone. But let’s do this. What are YOUR thoughts? At some point you may have been nervous about witnessing your faith. How did that change? No theories. Just nuts and bolts stuff. Leave a comment. I’d love to read about it.

We were built to be heroes. It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Load of Garbage: Part 2

“I am not a missionary.” Ummm…. what? You know the routine by now people. All together in unison:

THAT’S A LOAD OF GARBAGE!!

Yeah. You are a missionary you screwball. Let’s go.

Missionary: “A person who goes to a remote part of the world to learn a never before translated language and lives in huts and eats bugs and teaches untouched people groups about the salvation of Jesus Christ.”

True. Even the bug thing probably.

Missionary: “A person who teaches their children, who sometimes eat bugs, about the salvation of Jesus Christ.”

True.  Even the bug thing probably.  If you have boys.

Missionary: “A person who writes a book about the amount of damage that can be done to a human being, but they can still be saved by the salvation of Jesus Christ.”

True.

Have you volunteered to be a missionary?  Maybe not.  Are you a missionary?  Of course you are.  People often fail to realize that their mission field is sitting right in front of their noses every day.  This is why I wrote the post yesterday about talking about God at work.  Work is your mission field.  Here’s one for you:  YOUR KIDS ARE YOUR MISSION FIELD.  Trust me, they are NOT going to learn this stuff in public school, and to be honest, they shouldn’t.  Your home is your first and most important mission field.

A post on this blog would not be complete without me confessing some shortcomings.  The good news is that I have SO MANY shortcomings that I can post about them every day.

I did not treat my own home as a mission field until very recently.  I teach a hundred kids in Sunday School every week.  But I wasn’t teaching my own kids the same thing.  I started figuring this out when my younger daughter (6) always wanted to stay in the class I taught even though it was geared toward older kids.  She wanted to learn what I was teaching those kids.  She wanted my mission to include her.

I started to feel like a real jerk.  I was spending all this time on a mission and walking right past my own kids in the process.  We did not pray together, we did not read the Bible together, I didn’t teach them anything about what Christ has done in my life or what He can do in theirs.  What the heck dude???   Am I dumb?   Well….  you read the blog, so…

You do not have to go through a laying on of hands ceremony and church and hop on a plane to Whoknowswhereistan to be a missionary.  Now be careful… God might just call you to do that one day.  But until He does, your mission field is probably less than a hundred feet from the tip of your nose at any given moment of the day.  You had better get about the business of that mission.

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we started acting like heroes.  And missionaries.

A story so compelling, that the worship band didn’t matter…

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Our churches today have polished websites.  Lovely cafes or bookstores built into them.  I’ve been to a church that has a massive indoor waterfall.  They are visually stunning.  They are smartly located in easy-to-access locations.  They have ample parking.  They hire consultants to help them craft their image and even their message to a certain extent.  Heck, I do it myself.  I’m writing this post while taking a break from preparing a Sunday School lesson that could easily be accused of being more entertainment than Biblical education.

Now let’s look at John the Baptist.  The Bible says that people flocked into the wilderness to hear him speak and be baptized.  And the wilderness we’re reading about wasn’t a lovely forest with fawns prancing about.  This was brutal barren land.  This was no place to put on a sermon if you expected a crowd.  And the preacher?  The Bible doesn’t really mince words here.  John the Baptist pretty much looked like a lunatic.

No worship band.  No café.  No parking lot.  Terrible location.  John the Baptist did everything wrong.  but wait… the people flocked to him.  Why?

Because he told a compelling story.  An entirely irresistible story.  A captivating story.  An amazing story.  And remember, that when John was telling this story, we hadn’t even gotten to the most amazing part.  Christ was still alive.

Do we have to choose between polish and passion?  Well if we did, I’d have to say choose passion.  But the fact is that we don’t have to choose.  Keep the worship band.  Expand the parking lot.  Hire your consultants.  And then on top of it all, preach the most amazing story ever told.  Just like John the Baptist, they will flock to you.

Not a preacher?  That’s okay.  God planted something inside of you before you were even born just the way he did for John the Baptist.  Remember how John jumped in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrived?  God had planted John’s mission in him before he even saw the light of day.  He did the same for you.  It’s in there.  That purpose, that witness you’ve been searching for is already in there.

Do what John did.  Share it.  It’s amazing!  If you’ll let it be.

We were built to be heroes.  It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

I had this backwards all these years.

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I’ve been trying for decades to get the big things in my life all fixed up an in perfect alignment with God. And I’m blowing it… big time.

It has occurred to me that I will never get the big things right while I’m ignoring all the little things. My perspective on getting the big things right puts me right in the center of my own success. “Look at these big things I have figured out! I am now suitable for a relationship with God and I will look fabulous to the world when that happens.”

Nothing that comes through God glorifies man. It always glorifies God. David was not a hero. When he beat Goliath, the enemy bowed down and worshipped God, not David. What do we know about David? He did all the little things right. The small daily disciplines like prayer and worship. As a result, his relationship with God grew. And THEN he was able to do something amazing.

Yes, I am built to be amazing. That’s the whole point of this blog. But “amazing” doesn’t come FROM me, it comes THROUGH me. And I need to let God in for that to happen. And I cannot let God in by doing three or four big “Christian” things a year. I need to do small things everyday to build my relationship with God. Closer and closer and closer until someday I just might be called to take down a giant. But I can’t sit around working my own agenda and expect that I’ll get that call. I need to be saddled up right next to God every day so my relationship can build and I can be subject to His will, ready to act, and PREPARED to act, when called upon for something big.

We were built to be heroes. It’s about time we started acting like heroes.

Photo credit: lukemontague / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

This is going to get messy.

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Why do I have such a hard time with obedience to God? Why do I have such a hard time with prayer? The answer is simpler than you might think. I’m pretty happy with my life the way it is right now. I know that stricter obedience to God, and spending more time in prayer with God, will bring me closer to Him. And I know that it could get messy.

One of my readers used the term “messy abandonment” in a comment. And even though I don’t yet describe myself as obedient to God, and I don’t do a good job of staying in constant prayer, I can see that things will get messy as I continue to grow in that direction. All of the little pieces I have lined up on the shelf will be knocked around, and out of order. I’m getting closer to where I’m okay with that. I’ve actually been praying lately for the willingness to become closer to God, to have a more open heart to obey Him, and a more mindful heart to stay in constant prayer.

And I think it’s making a difference in me. I think I can feel that relationship getting closer. It’s crazy if you think about it. The creator of everything sits there with His arms open waiting for me. For me. How crazy is that? I can barely get my head around it. In reality, I should be begging for the opportunity to kneel at His feet. Instead He just waits for me to come to Him. And when I do, He welcomes me with open arms.

Raised by a woman to taught me to earn everything I ever get, this is tough to figure out. But I’m figuring it out. Slowly. And I can see that it’s gonna get messy.

We were built to be heroes. And heroes get messy when they have to.

Photo credit: Aleksi Aaltonen / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Protect the Plate: You get more than one swing.

Take a close look at that photo.  That’s a foul ball he’s hitting.  This is not the “hit a grand slam for Christ” post you may have been looking for.  This post is about protecting the plate.  In baseball, when you’re two strikes down, you keep fouling off the ball until you get the pitch you need.  It means accepting that you don’t need to hit a grand slam on the first pitch.  It’s called “protecting the plate” and we can learn something from it whether we like baseball or not.

We like to think about hitting the home run.  We go to church and hear about missionaries and people inserting themselves into the lives of the local homeless.  We read about Richard Stearns leaving a cushy corporate job to be the CEO of World Vision and we see massive impact.  We see the Charlie Rose interview with Bono and hear about Bill Gates taking on a mission to literally end poverty.

Wow.  Talk about knocking it out of the park.  We quietly think to ourselves, “I can’t wait to knock it out of the park like that someday.  Can’t wait to get that chance.”  We build this amazing vision and put it so high up on a pedestal that it actually becomes unattainable.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love big dreams.  I need big dreams.  But the dream of knocking it out of the park never happens if you don’t step up to the plate and start swinging.

I recently had breakfast with an amazing guy.  It took some convincing to even get him to be open minded about how amazing he is, even though everyone around him seems to see it.  We were talking about a big opportunity he had sitting in his lap, but there was concern that he would need to ditch his life to pursue it, quit his job, the whole bit.  Ironically, this was about twelve hours after I wrote my last post “Cliff Diving.”  His wife was, understandably, concerned.  Would they be able to pay the bills?  Would they lose the house?  But she told him to pursue it if needed to.  He has the support of his family, friends, and church.  But he was worried.  What if he stepped up to the plate, took that pitch, and blew it?

He’s a huge baseball fan.  He lives the game.  I asked him, “Do you know what you just described?”  I explained that he had his smartest runners on base and his best hitter standing at the plate as the go ahead run.  All of the pieces in his life had been put perfectly into position.  This is something that happens so rarely in baseball and in life that you just don’t pass it up.  You don’t want to blow it.  You fear blowing it.  You freeze.

“The guy at the plate is you, brother.  And you’re the best man for the job.”  He started quietly fighting back tears.  His calling, his mission, were welling up inside of him.  Drawn to the surface and fighting to get out.

“You know what God and everyone around you is saying right now?”  His face fell and his shoulders dropped almost as in defeat.  “Don’t strike out?”  His answer captures perfectly the source of paralysis of our church today.  He was convinced that this was his one shot, that he needed to knock that first pitch out the park or he was a failure.

God doesn’t set us up for failure like that.

I got excited.  I saw hope where he saw fear.  With a beaming smile I said, “No!  The whole crowd is telling you to swing!  You get three pitches.  Stop putting the weight of the world on the first pitch!  If you make your first move, and it fails, what happens?  What actual real-world disaster happens?”  After he thought about it for a while, there wasn’t one.  There was at least a year of preparation work that needed to be done on this new opportunity before leaving his job would even be on the radar.  He needed to step up to the plate and start swinging today, without worrying about whether that first swing was going to win the game.  If he missed, he would swing again.  Human mistakes don’t derail God’s plans.

We all do this.  I do this.  We step back in fear of an opportunity because we put so much weight on the first swing.  If we don’t knock that first pitch out of the park then we have blown the most amazing opportunity we’ll ever get.  So our natural response is to simply walk away from that amazing opportunity.

Stop shutting down your life of service because you’re afraid of what will happen when that first pitch comes across the plate.  Resolve yourself today to get up to bat and stay there as long as you need to, swing after swing, until you get that pitch you need.  Don’t sit on the bench terrified of what you would do with your first swing, worrying about what would happen if you missed.  Stare down that pitcher and make one thing perfectly clear: You have no intention of walking back to the bench.

Here I am.  I’m swinging.  I’m writing posts.  Again and again.  Sometimes I  connect.  Other times I’m just fouling it off.  But I’m at this plate and I’m not leaving.  I’m not going to let my need to be perfect win out over God’s need for me to be heard.  What first step can you take to get up to the plate and take your first swing?  Today.  And ask yourself honestly, all grand visions aside: What happens if you swing and miss?  It’s not the disaster you’ve built it up to be in your mind.  So get up there.  Start swinging.  Miss a few times.  But stay at the plate.  I’m in the stands cheering you on.

We were built to be heroes.

It’s about time we started acting like heroes.