In our culture, it’s so easy to become caught up in the game of appearances. What does my car say about me? What about my house? Am I perceived as successful? Smart? Or do people see me as needy? Do I look like I’ve made some bad decisions along the way or am I a success story in the eyes of my community? What about my clothes? Do they reflect my social status (or make me look even better?)
Funny how we care so much about our social standing. We love the preferred treatment. It’s nice to be able to go straight to the front of the line, sit in the green room, be recognized, be served. There’s a pecking order, and we like to be at the front of it.
It’s not hard to tell who’s at the front of the pecking order either. Celebrities receive special treatment and are often treated to complimentary you name it. The CEO gets the best parking spot, and the good-looking get the benefit of the doubt. They are the greatest in our culture, the kings and queens of western society and we play along as we work extra hours, bend the truth to sell more and motivate ourselves with GQ and Car and Driver.
Then there’s Jesus. Wham! The King of Kings, the famous one. The most influential man to ever walk the planet (after He created it). He comes along and declares a new system. In Luke 9:48 he says, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”
That’s it! We have a new standard for greatness! The least are now great. The poor are deserving of attention. The needy are to be honored and the sick are to be loved. What more needs to be said? We now have the tremendous privilege of serving those whom Jesus stuck with, stood up for, and identified with.
When you see Jesus begging today, give Him something. When you see Him in Africa, Asia, and India honor Him. When you see him sick with AIDS or living on the street, welcome Him. He’s The Greatest.
*I originally posted this on the Worldhope.us blog. A great organization helping those in extreme poverty. Check them them out at www.worldhope.us.
This year we decided to start a new family tradition. Like many families hit by economic downturn, we didn’t exactly have a ton of presents under the tree. That’s tough for a parent. We want to spoil our kids with all sorts of toys and goodies. Our three boys have been anticipating this day all year and we wanted to do it right.
Something struck me a few weeks ago, though. My work with WorldHope.us has been seriously educating me on what it means to not have much. I felt down about semi-empty stockings while people in my own community are sleeping under the bridge. And you know what? We have something so many don’t have: each other.
So, we decided to share each other this year at a local homeless shelter called King’s Harvest. In 2009, they served 27,000 meals to the poor and needy. Our objective was simply to go and be a blessing to someone during Christmas lunch. It turned out to be the best Christmas experience I’ve had in a long time.
There were so many volunteers there that they didn’t need us to serve so we found someone who was all alone and planted ourselves next to her. Her name was Shelby and she had no family. Her children all lived far away and she hasn’t heard from them in several years. Her only companion was a kitten, and he ate half of what little food she had. We had the great privilege of being her family for the next hour.
We learned that she’s lived in New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Upper Michigan just like me. She was a Farah Faucet fan and she likes Lee Majors. She finds the mountains of Albuquerque beautiful and a spiritual experience to explore. As we shared stories, laughs, and observations, I couldn’t help but notice the gradual change in her countenance. Life begun to show in her eyes, she smiled more, and she became much more demonstrative.
At one point, a homeless woman stood at the front of the room and sang “Silent Night” with incredible passion and grace. The whole room erupted in applause and then we continued our conversation. Shelby told us how she’s been so lonely and depressed and what a gift it was to spend time with us. It lifted her spirits and blessed her heart. It was a blessing to me too! Thank you Shelby, for letting us be your family for an hour!
I have to admit, it was such a blessing to be a blessing. Acts 20:35 is SO TRUE! “It is more blessed to give than to receive.“ I’ll treasure the experience (and keep going back to help some more) far longer than any of my Christmas presents will last and my boys are learning the value of giving of themselves to bless others.
So what? I’m learning that no matter how little we have, we still have enough to bless those with less. What an incredible lesson!
Cole, Forrest, and Hudson with their new friend Shelby
For a long time I’ve believed that the truly hard things in Life were the “big” things. You know, taking that missions trip, making that financial pledge, praying like crazy every day. Something really adventurous might be starting a ministry or learning a new skill. Lately I’ve come to realize that those things aren’t really that hard at all and that the things I once considered no brainers are actually quite soul-wrenching. Here are a few examples of what I mean…
Forgiving others. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to truly forgive someone? We say the words but the pain is still there. Letting go of the bitterness, anger, and feelings of betrayal can feel exhausting at times. These things are like the neighborhood cat that won’t stay away from your house! You get rid of them, and you never hear them sneak back up on you.
Letting dreams go. Eventually, we have to just let some dreams die. The truth is, there is only so much room in our lives and, if we’re going to be faithful in the position God has placed us in, we have to let some things go. Let’s face it, can we really be a good father, husband, or whatever and still pursue all our “great ideas”. That’s not to say some dreams aren’t God given and He will give them back to us, but the right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.
Trust. Do we really trust God with everything? We’ve sang about trusting, declared our dependence, and spoken confidently about giving everything to Him. The truth is, we don’t mean it. When the rubber hits the road and a real life choice is before us, we chicken out, rationalize, or make excuses. We hold on to relationships we don’t belong in, we stay in jobs that aren’t right for us, and we hold on to our money because we’ve financially overextended ourselves.
Be loved. Why is allowing ourselves to simply be loved so difficult? Here we are the very center of Abba’s affection and we won’t just let him lavish His love on us. How do we do this? I’ll tell you how…
By forgiving others, we allow God to heal the pain they’ve caused us. We release them from judgment and His love just seems to settle on us like a tailored coat.
Letting go of our dreams allows God to lead us in new directions. He longs to take us by the hand and walk with us to new places.
Trust is the truest sign of love. As we trust God with everything, I mean really truly, holding nothing back everything, we experience God’s love in a whole new way. Trusting God is like saying, “I receive your love. Let’s do life together!”
The great thing about receiving God’s love is that it makes it so much easier to love other people. It’s unselfish love because it doesn’t have to be returned or reciprocated. It doesn’t have to be returned because no love, that any person gives us, can be compared to The Father’s love.
So choose to do the hard stuff. Forgive, let go, trust, and receive His love. The rest will seem like cake!
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a young guy who occasionally attends our Friday night prayer meeting. There’s something about the kid that’s a mystery to me. I don’t know where his church home is, he walks to prayer even in bad weather, and he always has plenty to philosophize about. I’ve never seen him with any friends, he’s a bit socially awkward, and I gathered from talking to him that his parents are no longer together. It’s not unusual for him to look like he just rolled out of bed and came in the clothes he wore the day before. Brennan Manning would describe him as a genuine ragamuffin.
When I asked this young man how he was doing, his answer really penetrated me, “Jesus has been especially loving to me.” Pause. Jesus has been especially loving to me? Without a car, money, or friends and Jesus has been especially loving? Shame on me. How many times have I questioned His love while enjoying so much more? How many times have I felt distant from the savior because of self-pity and ingratitude?
The last time I saw this guy, he was worshiping his heart out. It put a huge smile on my face to watch him dance, shout, clap, and run around the room in celebration of his especially loving savior. Some might say he’s in his own little world, but it’s a world I wouldn’t mind living in to experience an especially loving Jesus.