Monday, February 28, 2011

A Really Big Idea

I am someone who believes that God can take a mess that you've made and turn it into something amazing.  Well, I have made a huge mess!  About 335 pounds to be exact!  That is my weight and I am so tired of it.  Watching my kids grow up and my waistline expand scares me to be honest with you.  I know that there is a consequence to my sin of overeating.  And I need help!

Now, before I go on, I want to inform you ahead of time that I am going to be asking you for specific help.  Help that can possibly save my life and simultaneously save the life of a boy named Peyton.  And this help that I want you to pray about and consider is financial.  With that caveat, let me continue....

Here I am, up at 2:30am on Feb.28th, 2011.  I am never up at this time!  My mind is racing with this singular thought and I'm wondering if there's any traction to it.  I'm wondering if this is my big thing, my moment to finally turn God loose in all of my life. 

You see, I lost my job as a pastor a few weeks ago and in so doing, I have had time to reflect on some things in my life.  Where I want to go?  What I want to do?  Who I want to be?  Where I have been?  And this is such a frightening time for me as a man, a father, a provider.  Because I was in this same position a couple of years ago.  During that time, I was out of work for 8 months.  Absolutely no money coming in.  But I also saw something quite clearly in that season of my life.  Something so big and huge and comforting that I'll never forget it.....the Hand of God.

He provided money for us to live off of, a place to stay, vehicles to drive, and eventually a job.  He taught me what it means to trust Him.  And our cup never ran dry.  In fact, it runneth over and over. 

And here I am again, out of work.  And guess what?  Our cup still runneth over.  God has provided miraculously for us through so many of His people!  How can I help but stand in awe of my Jehovah Jireh! 

But during this time, I have reflected on other things besides money.  Mainly, the stewardship of my body.  I am fat......REALLY fat!  And it is time to change that.  I want to lose 100 pounds before my birthday on Nov.15.  However, in this area of my life, I am SO WEAK!  I have all I need in Christ, being indwelt by His Spirit and He is sufficient.  But He gives us others to walk with us on some of life's toughest roads.  And I'm asking you to walk with me now.  I am dying faster than I know.  This fat is literally killing me.

I saw a show one time about people who wanted to lose weight.  The producers came up with the idea to externally motivate these people.  They did it by taking pictures of them in their swimwear and saying they would show these pictures on television if they did not lose the weight before the deadline.  Amazingly, almost all of them did!  They were motivated perhaps by wrong motives, but it helped them anyway.

Now, I'm not threatening to blind you with speedo pics of myself.  What I am motivated by is glorifying God.  And like I said in the 1st sentence, God loves to bring beauty out of the ashes.  Could it be that God can use my disobedient fat to still bring glory to Himself?  Could it be possible that my fat can be turned into hope and life? 

Money.  That's what this whole thing boils down to.  I propose to lose 100 pounds by Nov.15th of this year and I'm asking you to consider pledging money for every pound that I lose.  If I don't lose the 100 pounds, don't send ANYTHING!  Where will the money go? 

That's where Peyton comes in.  He is a special needs boy waiting to be adopted by a specific family whose biggest hurdle is the money it will cost to bring him home.  I don't know the boy at all, or his family.  Crazy, huh?  I was talking to my wife about doing something like this and she mentioned a website called Reece's Rainbow.  This organization helps to raise money for loving families to adopt special needs children.  And I'd really love to see the hand of God surprise the Wilson family, too, as they seek to bring Peyton home!

These international children are often raised in orphanages and transferred to institutions if they are not adopted by age 5.  Once there, 80% of them die in the first year.  Basically, their lives are in danger.

My life is in danger, too.  What if God can help me receive the accountability, motivation, and encouragement I need through His people to help a boy I don't even know to live?  That's what is keeping me up.  Why not?  And He can use you to help save my life AND Peyton's. 

I don't know how to go about this.  I don't know where to start.  I don't know what my first step is.  But I think I've found a purpose in the midst of the blessing of my unemployment.  And I'm asking you to consider "going there" with me.  I never do things like this, but I believe this can really work! 

Would you be willing to pledge 25 cents/pound?  50 cents?  A dollar? 
Would you be willing to encourage me to do this?  I need you!  My kids need you!  My wife needs you!

Would you help to save my life and start Peyton's?

Let me direct you to the blog of the family I don't know yet so you can see their journey and their heart.  And don't forget to check out the beautiful children at Reece's Rainbow....

If you will go on this journey with me, I believe that together we will see the hand of God move.  Today, I start without knowing if I'll even get one pledge, but trusting that this is something that I'm supposed to do.....Save my life and Peyton's.

This is a scary thing to me.  Basically, I'm asking everyone I know to hold me to this.  You all are invited to motivate me and hold me accountable. 

Contact me asap if you are on board with me.  If just 10 people pledged $1/pound and I lost 100 pounds, that's $1000 for the Wilson family to bring Peyton home.  If 20 people pledged 50 cents/pound, that's still $1000 for Peyton.  The total amount they need is about $25,000 and I'd love to help put a dent in it.

I don't know how little or how much we can raise together, but it could change our lives forever.  Walk with me as I walk with God and let's see where He takes us.

Feb.28th, 2011=335 pounds.  Come see where I am at next week, my loss is Peyton's gain. 

I must be out of my mind to actually post this, but in the words of the slain missionary Jim Elliot, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."

Your friend,
Jay Richardson

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Good Thing

Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (ESV).  This might not seem like it’s a true statement for some who live day to day with the reality of another Proverb, 27:15, which states, “A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike.”  But, as I have found mercy and forgiveness for my sinful and wretched life through Christ, I have been privileged to absorb the same love and grace modeled to a down and dirty and sometimes ugly sinner like myself, through my “good thing”, Michelle Richardson.
            Not many people, not ANY people, have shaped me and lifted me higher than my wife.  This is probably because she was fashioned by God in such a unique way.  Not ever having much in life, the daughter of a single mother, Michelle was in a constant battle with life from day 1.  These battles included: abuse, neglect, alcoholism, being shunned and betrayed, and constantly pleading with God for escape.  But what has carried her through is the marrow of her bones.  Early on, she realized how out-of control, like a swing whose chain breaks, her life was.  And this realization dragged her as low as any human can go.  But it also brought her higher than any person can fly as she turned to Jesus Christ to lift her.  Lift her away from her sins, her situation in life, and eventually herself.
            She gave up the world’s idea of success and the notion that she had to please people all of the time and exchanged it for a new life focused on pleasing God first.  This new life was unlike her old.  Her old life was filled with bitterness, despair, and fear.  But her new life is full of hope, strength, and purpose.  One day, she bowed as low as she could, pleading for forgiveness and mercy.  And that same day, her chin was lifted off the ground, pointing her eyes to what life is really all about-serving God.  And that day, she gave the keys of her life to the best driver the world has ever seen-Jesus Christ.
            As we have reflected on our lives together, we realize that it was the exact same year that God changed both of us.  One in Tennessee, the other in California.  And these 2 broken and unlovable people were put back together and combined, from thousands of miles apart, to provide a sneak peak into what heaven must be like.  And ever since, I have ridden on the clouds.  Whether they were stormy or bright, I’ve lived higher than I ever could with my “good thing” by my side the whole way.
            What makes her so incredibly attractive to me is the sheer power her faith has on me and our children.  She is as close to Jesus in the flesh as I have ever been near.  She sees the most disgusting, smelly, hidden, and vile catacombs of my life and yet when asked who she looks up to, she said it was me.  Me?  Nobody with the eyes of the world could say that.  She has the eyes of Jesus. 
            Being in ministry, I have moved our family to 7 states in our 13 years of marriage.  Ask me how this woman complained?  Ask me how she fought against it?  Ask me how she made me feel bad for not giving her a house to call her own?  All you will hear is the crickets chirping because you won’t hear any answer from me.  Why?  Because she never complained.  Amazingly, she saw each step as a step forward while I felt like I was falling down the whole flight.  Nobody with the eyes of the world could see that.  But she has the eyes of Jesus.
            Now, she would be quick to tell you how imperfect she is, as I ramble on and on about her.  But she cannot convince me!  She will not convince me!  I’ve seen too much Jesus in her!  When she was weeping over the table her homeless father died on, she wept like Jesus.  When she was singing hymns to her children at night before bed, every single night, she sang like Jesus.  When she prayed over her daughter’s biopsy results, she prayed like Jesus.  And when she forgave the ones who brought abuse to her and her children, she imaged Him perfectly. 
I can never be deceived into thinking my life is lived under the curse of God as long as my “good thing” is near.  She is the best gift, the best Savior could have given His most undeserving creature.  My “good thing” is so good!  Why?  Because my “Great One” lives in her!  Bellissima!  Now, go get your own “good thing”, this one’s taken.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Trip Through Church History with Zsa Zsa Gabor

Augustine of Hippo. 
                Wrote his autobiographical “Confessions” late in the 4th century where he discussed how great a sinner he was, especially his sins dealing with lust.  But the contrast to his great sinfulness was the great mercy extended to him by the God he would serve the rest of his life.
                John the Baptist was another follower of Christ who endured the persecution of Herod Antipas.  John the Baptist pointed out that Herod  was embroiled in a life of licentiousness, mainly stemming from an improper and lustful relationship with his brother’s ex-wife.  For this, John’s head was placed on a platter as a gift to his stepdaughter.
Church politics.
                As a pastor in a local church, it is often that strife and dissension arise in the congregation.  As a result of this strife, it is usually the pastor who is served up as the sacrifice.  30% of pastors are fired each year.
                He was one of the last Roman emperors to persecute Christians before Constantine came into power, making Christianity a legal religion.  He was the first Roman emperor to voluntarily abdicate the throne.
Edict of Milan. 
                In 313, the emperor Constantine passed the Edict of Milan, protecting the religious freedom of all in the Roman Empire.
                The 1st amendment to the Constitution of the United States continues the theme of religious freedom.  It states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
                During World War II, 6 million Jews lost their lives because they were not granted such freedom.
The place where the Puritans gathered before sailing for the United States because the country offered a form of religious freedom which they were not receiving in England while protesting the current system of Anglicanism.
Indigenous people.
                As the first settlers began arriving in the New World of America, many indigenous people saw this as a threat to their way of life.  Some killed the newcomers while others befriended them.  Some of the newcomers killed the Native Americans while others befriended them.
                He said in the gospel of John 13:34, “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Ku Klux klan.
                An organization which claims to have a Christian foundation.  But when measuring them by the words of the One they supposedly follow, it’s hard to see a lynched black man as evidence of the love of Christ.
Love your enemies.
                Probably one of the hardest commands of Christ which He Himself demonstrated on the cross as He said, “Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing.”  Them=us.  Romans 5:10, “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son.”
Me?  An enemy.
                Hard to believe, isn’t it?  But nothing good exists in us.  We are all sinners in need of rescue.  If not, then why did Jesus have to come?  If we can get to heaven because we are good people, what’s this cross thing all about?  It’s the love and mercy of God on sinners like me, you, and Augustine. 
                The emperor of Rome who tradition says lit Christians on fire to light his garden.  He’s also said to be the one responsible for the deaths of Peter and Paul.
Osama-like apostle on the road to Damascus.
                Paul was the apostle who was one of the lead persecutors of Christians of his day.  He was traveling to Damascus to attempt to capture Christians there and throw them in jail.  But on the way, he met the risen Christ and was never the same.  God changed the heart of evil.
Pol Pot. 
                He was the leader of the Khmer Rouge, which killed 2 million people in a mass genocide in Cambodia.  I can’t see this heart of evil sitting next to Paul in heaven. 
Quick endings.
                3 weeks ago, I was pastoring a small church with no sign of trouble.  Today, I am an unemployed pastor.
Remember the Alamo.
                The famous phrase which rallied the Texans to defeat the Mexican army, as they remembered the bravery of those soldiers who gave their lives for a cause they believed in-freedom.  Even though, they were greatly outnumbered, these brave soldiers fought to the end, thereby inspiring a nation.
Saddam Hussein
                On December 13, 2003 the brutal Iraqi leader who killed many people in his quest for power was found hiding in a spider hole at a farmhouse near Tikrit. Mexican General Santa Ana was also found hiding in a marsh the day after hearing the famous battle cry, “Remember the Alamo”, at the Battle of San Jacinto. 
                I attended seminary in Fort Worth, TX.  Alongside some of the best friends of my life, we were  prepared to serve Jesus Christ, knowing that many of us would fall from leadership one day.
                These provide us a means of protection from the constant assault of a steady rain.
Victory in Jesus.
                A hymn that is sung in many Protestant churches, reminding them that even though this world might not offer our best life now, the ultimate victory in Jesus is coming and assured.  Jesus acts as our umbrella in this world.  Not taking away the rain but walking through the storm with us.
What was on his lips?!
                Pastor Schweitzer was a Lutheran minister who was accused of being a German spy and sent off to a Soviet concentration camp after World War II.  He encouraged the prisoners with his words and with his singing.  One day, a new commander of the camp told him to stop his singing.  When he didn’t, he was taken outside into the arctic night and ferociously beaten.   The next day, the prisoners came out to find a giant block of ice in the middle of the courtyard.  The old pastor was sprinkled with water all night and died frozen with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross.
One who fears foreigners.  Isn’t this what we’ve learned on our walk through church history?  Fearing man, fearing ideas that are foreign to us, fearing anything but the only One we are to fear-God?
                What do you fear?  Those unlike you?  One with a different message than you?  Or do you fear God?  The one with life and death and eternity in the palm of His hands.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
                She’s a famous actress who just turned 93, this past February 6th.  She’s about to die and see God face to face.  Suddenly, I digress, and it doesn’t matter that I’m out of a job anymore.  My freedom is found in the forgiveness of Christ.