Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Partnering With

Being partners with something larger than yourself . . . makes you larger than yourself.

My youngest son, Daniel, scanned the newsletter from some friends of ours who foster babies* in central China.  He asked “What’s wrong with that kid?” with all the tact that 8-year-olds usually have, which is none at all.  The boy he was referring to is an orphan being cared for by our friends—in the boy’s case, he has a facial tumor that is being treated in the nearest Chinese megacity, and the article explained the cost (time and money) of treatment while asking for continued prayer for this child and the foster network.

“Who pays for [the treatment]?” Daniel asked.

“Well, the American family who wrote the newsletter does.” 

“Oh.” Silence.  “How do they get the money?”

“People give them money, and they use that money to keep living there and to help kids like the one in the picture.”


I could see him pondering the costs of the procedures, the family that was dependent on supporters, the boy who would have died but for their help.  “Dad, do we give them money?”

I paused.  We don’t keep it a secret from our kids that we support people working overseas, but I hesitated because I wanted to guard against pride—to make sure I was going to tell him from the right heart.  “Yes, we do.  When we came home from China, we set up an automatic draw from our bank account so that those people would be able to count on financial support from us.  Our family is one of the reasons they’re able to stay there and help those kids.”  I found my eyes nearly tearing up and my heart singing with pride—the right kind—at being able to be partners with the work in China.  I was SO glad to be able to tell my son “We’re part of that boy’s recovery.”

Why journal about this?  I think it’s because we all need to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  If you don’t already have something that you’re contributing to that is bigger than yourself . . . I could introduce you to my friends in China, but it’s not about these particular friends or that particular work.  Do find some way to give your life away.  Partner with people who are giving their lives away.  I don’t believe Jesus was joking when he said that whoever loses his life would gain it—he knew that’s where the real life is found, in the giving away and losing.

*These friends and their network of Chinese families foster-care babies so they don’t die in Chinese orphanages.  Sometimes the babies do die, but if so they die being held in love, which is not something they cannot expect in the orphanage.  We are honored to know these amazing people and affirm the importance of what they’re doing with the life God has given them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Saving Your Marriage--Where's Your Treasure?

Years ago in a place far away I helped convert a young man.  He and his wife had not been married very long.  They were having problems in their marriage....

So I said to the guy, "Okay, do you want to save your marriage?"


"How much?" I asked.

"It's the most important thing in the world to me."

"Then we have a chance," I said.  "Tell me about your life."

"Life is really good.  Business is booming, and I'm moving up the ladder.  I love sports and spend a lot of time playing sports with my friends," he said.

Indeed, he was a superb intercollegiate athlete; he held several records that may still be in the books for all I know. So he liked to play sports with the guys, and the plain fact of the matter is he was pretty invested in all areas of his life--but he was giving very little to his marriage.

So, given my very direct approach to marriage counseling, I said, "Okay, I think I see the problem.  Here's the problem:  Either you're a liar or Jesus is because Jesus says wherever your treasure is--wherever your investment is--that's where your heart is.  So you tell me your heart is in saving your marriage, but all of your treasure's going someplace else."

The challenge was issued and the man had to decide for himself whether he was going to go back and invest in what he said was most important to him....

Jesus says "Where's your investment?  Where's your time?  Where's your money?"

~Randy Harris, Living Jesus p111

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Every Church has a Focus

Every church has a focus.  It's unrealistic to say that your church focuses on teaching the Word, AND worship, AND prayer.

Photo Credit: Majed sultan Ali
It's much more legit to say that your church worships, teaches the Word, serves the poor, but that it really focuses on prayer.  Or you acknowledge that your church prays, and worships, and teaches, but its real focus is on evangelism.  Whatever--just get it that every church does all the elements of church but generally has a primary focus.

So what is the focus at SGF?  We worship . . . sometimes with singing . . . and we promote worship events that happen around the city, but it's not a focus.  We teach the Bible . . .  occasionally . . . but mostly we subscribe to a handful of podcasts and read faith-building books and tell each other where to find good spiritual food.  We serve the poor . . . feebly . . . but it would be impossible to pretend that it's a focus.  We support missions . . . yeah, not so much as we'd like to.  So what IS the focus?

The foyer.  We're really good at the part of church where we say "Hey, how's that situation with your mom?" or "We need to connect with you--want to come for dinner sometime this week?" or "Hey, I'm feeling down--can you pray for me real quick?" and all the meaningful and meaningless chatter that happens in the church foyer.  Sure, we do all that other stuff that churches do, and Christ is at the center of all, but we're really focused on the foyer.