I have been trying out this whole “tent making” deal lately. I have some really marketable skills thanks to years of destroying my body day after day pounding nails, welding steel and stacking blocks. Nine years in the Air Force as a Structural Craftsman with two deployments to the Middle East helped round off these skills as we had to constantly “make it work” with limited resources as we maintained an Air Force base in Kuwait.
God is preparing me, today, for a tomorrow that I can’t see yet.
I have some awesome friends who are more than willing to throw me a side job here and there in between sessions of Prayer Resolution. It’s a great way to make a buck, stay in shape and keep my skills honed. All the while God has been very clear to me that He has called me to be a missionary, not a carpenter (a very godly trade, I might add).
I have some friends who are a part of our discipleship community who have recently moved into a new house where they are practicing some really cool community living. They asked me to come in and build a custom desk for them in their study. I drew up a draft of it on an amazing (free) program called SketchUp and showed up Saturday morning ready to roll. It always amazes me how many tools are needed for one project like this. In spite of the very cold rain that interrupted me at midday, here’s the final result:
That night I sent them a receipt for the labor and material. I had put 10 hours of work into it from design to completion. As I was going to bed, however, I started getting the impression (Michelle helped me figure this out) that God was saying, “Don’t charge them for labor.” In fact, as I slept that night I kept waking up thinking about it. At one point I even wondered if I should just get up and send the email already so that I could finally get some sleep without God waking me up every other hour!
By the morning I felt like God had not only said, “Don’t charge for labor,” but also, “I will pay you for the labor.” So I sent the email. I wasn’t sure that it was God. It was mostly just an impression or vague thought that didn’t want to go away. But, I’ve learned to trust that nudging. In the end, God isn’t going to fail to provide for me because I was too darn generous and willing to help some people out in my community. God’s resources are unlimited! I’m always as rich as all the promises of God.
Don’t lose heart when you see the numbers. There’s no measure for the faith we bring.
-Josh Garrels, “Rise”
So, I stood on the fact that my Heavenly Daddy is really good at taking care of His kids (me and my family).
Later that day while at the Sunday morning service at my church, Substance, I was talking to a guy who was interested in joining Immerse and reached into my bag to grab a brochure for him. There I found an envelope addressed to Michelle and I:
As you could probably guess, knowing my Royal Daddy, it was a quite a bit more than I would have made from charging for labor for the desk. My God is alive and well. He knows my needs and will not fail to take care of His kids. He hears prayers and is powerful to respond.
I don’t know how long that envelope had been in my bag, it could have been a few weeks, but it’s it just like Him to time it that way? (I hope whoever gave us that money reads this and is encouraged! You are being used by God. You are hearing correctly and He is really leading you.)
I’m starting to learn how to trust Him.
In the last few years God has been teaching me to take His promises at face value.
If Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils…” (John 6:27) maybe he meant it.
If he said, “Don’t be concerned about what to eat or drink. Don’t worry about that stuff. All that jazz dominates the minds of people who don’t see the bigger picture. Your Daddy knows when you’re hungry, and He’s a good Dad! You just worry about playing your part in your Daddy’s business and He’ll worry about feeding you.” (John 12:29-31 NBV) maybe he meant it.
I love when Jesus makes promises about our Father taking care of us.
Today, I was convicted. Do I love it when Jesus makes commands? Do I take those at face value?
When Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give to those in need…” (John 12:33) maybe he meant it.
When Jesus said, “Give to those who ask…” (Matt 5:42) maybe he meant it.
I have a tendency to explain away commands like I used to explain away the promises. “That homeless dude isn’t really in need… He probably makes $100 an hour doing that… I don’t know how he is going to spend it.” But, am I really a follower of Jesus if I’m not actually following His teachings? (Not questioning my salvation here, FYI) He said, “Give” and I interpret it to mean, “Give after you have fully investigated how your money is going to be used and have thus verified that it will be used in a God-honoring way.”
When I look at the context of that verse in Matthew 5, it doesn’t seem like Jesus’ primary concern is how the recipient of your “giving” is going to steward your money. Read it.
What if my responsibility is not for the outcome, but the obedience? How does that play in to the fact that we have so many “charities” that are hurting people more than actually helping them by giving unwisely? I don’t know.
What if the promises and commands go hand-in-hand?
What if I can actually take the promises of scripture at face value as I act on the commands of scripture at face value?
I have this feeling that we explain things away too often. Maybe we’re too smart for our own good.
Do you mean that we should all quit our jobs and do full-time missions work?! Who would support us if none of us have jobs?!
Maybe we should… and my Father is loaded.
Do you mean that I should always give money to every homeless person I see? What if they’re using it on drugs and it’s just going to help destroy their lives?!
Maybe we should… and Jesus knew what he was talking about.
More important than those questions is this question:
Is everything in my life on the negotiation table or am I not willing to “go there” when Jesus starts talking to me about that.
My primary concern is to follow Jesus. If He is actually directing my life as my CEO (aka, Lord) then its possible for me to follow Him and trust that He knows what He’s doing when He gives me directions.
Our heavenly Father see his children. El Roi is the name that Hagar gave God after she ran away from an abusive situation and when God told her she was pregnant. It means “You are the God who sees me.” God told her to name her son Ishmael, which means, “God hears.”
Hudson Taylor eventually became one of the most influential missionaries to China. He embraced the culture fully, even dressing like them and speaking their language constantly. After establishing the China Inland Mission (now OMF) and nearing his second trip to China he was told by skeptics:
“You will be forgotten. With no committee to represent you at home you will be lost sight of in that distant land. Claims are many nowadays. Before long you may find yourselves without even the necessities of life!”
Living off of faith does not feel like a sure thing. There is risk. You are not in control. Scripture teaches followers of Jesus to have self-control, not situational-control or other-person-control. Be in control of how you act, respond, and believe. Trust God with the “other.”
Nothing before, nothing behind;
The steps of faith
Fall on the seeming void, and find
The Rock beneath.
-John Greenleaf Whittier
This evening while Michelle and I were in bed together and our 1 month old son was having supper I picked up Hudson Taylor’s Biography which I have been reading for some time now. I was so struck by Hudson’s response to the critique above that I read it out loud to Michelle.
I am taking my children with me, and I have noticed that it is not difficult for me to remember that the little ones need breakfast in the morning, dinner at midday, and something before they go to bed at night. Indeed, I could not forget it. And I find it impossible to suppose that our heavenly Father is less tender or mindful than I.
Within a minute of reading this, my phone started ringing. Frustrated that I would have to stop reading a book I thoroughly enjoy, I answered. It was my good friend Tim. He said he had something he wanted to drop off. A few minutes later after borrowing (Minnesotan for “lending”) him a book and returning a putty knife he had forgotten at our house while helping me paint yesterday he told me he needed help bringing “it” in. He said that God had put us on his heart and he is in the practice of obeying impressions like that faithfully. In the back of his truck was this:
Matthew Chapter 6:
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifeb?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
God’s promises are secure and we can bank on it with our entire lives. He is faithful.