Thursday, November 21, 2013

Poland update

After much prayer, and talking with other mature Christian leaders, we do not see that we are able to pursue going to Poland in January.

You have no idea how hard that is for me to write.  In fact, it makes me very sad (understatement) to say that.

We always hear about people who "attempt great things for God" (William Carey) and how they overcome incredible odds to get to where they think they need to be (Gladys Aylward).  We hear preachers talking about asking God for "something bigger than you can do on your own" so that you have no doubt that if it happens, you know that it came from God.  And all of these things can be good and true.  There is something to be said for seeing things through the eyes of faith.

But for every Gladys Aylward that made her way to China, there are thousands who wanted to, but did not.  Were they wrong or out of God's Will?  Were they walking by faith and not by sight?  Did they not have the eyes of faith to get them there?

Seeing through the eyes of faith is important (Heb.11:1) However, that is not the only lens to use.  We must also see things through the eyes of circumstance.

I have no problem asking God for big things.  But how do I see it?  What can I expect to happen?  When will I receive my answer?  Well, as best as I can determine, God is sovereign and in His providence He allows things to happen and can prevent things from happening.  And the best and most sure way to know if something is in God's Will is to see if it's happening.

(Of course there are different ways we think of the will of God. Here, I am speaking of His decretive/sovereign will. This is a good link to read regarding the different wills of God:

I can't know it's God's Will in this sense, until it happens because "the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever." 

I can pray for a million bucks to fall on my head right now believing it with my eyes of faith.  But when nothing falls down, I must interpret that as my answer.  I must see the circumstances around me to see what God is actually doing.  I cannot force my plans to happen for "His ways are higher than my ways".  And He "knows the plans HE has for me" and He tells me to "lean NOT on my own understanding".

So if I ask Him for $15,000 to go and it's not there, then I don't go.  What if that IS how He is answering me?  Maybe it's a "no", maybe it's a "not yet".  Either way, it clearly is not there.  So do I lament my lack of faith?  Or, do I see things through the eyes of circumstance?  Do I look at what is actually happening and say, "if He wanted me to go, it would have happened".  So the answer to me going right now is definitely a "no".

Now as sad as that makes me, my challenge is to move forward from here and see His "No" as good and right.  I can trust God because He is the Alpha and the Omega.  I can trust His vision for my life.  I can rest in knowing that Jesus Christ loves me and will use me however He wishes.  It might be painful, uncomfortable, confusing, or even contradictory to what I think I should be doing, but I know that it is right because "He is the light and in Him there is no darkness".

We can see both the unseen (faith) and the seen (circumstance) and know that God is sovereign over them both.  He teaches us to trust and He teaches us to submit.  So in pursuing Poland for January, I submit.  I submit to a kind and benevolent God who seeks my good and His glory.

Again, the money simply isn't there.  And that is not to guilt anyone.  That is to praise God for making it clear.

Does this mean I will never ask for big things again.  C'mon, you know me better than that!  God is still able!
He is able to do His holy will.  Nothing can stop Him!  I am stoppable, He is unstoppable!  And when He stops me from something it IS part of His unstoppable plan to bring glory to Himself.

I love Jesus!  I will continue to pray for Poland.  If you pledged anything and still want to use it for the furtherance of the Gospel in Poland, I urge you to let me know.  There are many brothers and sisters I know who are there doing the work of sharing the Gospel and they would surely use these funds for the glory of God in reaching the Polish people.

As for me, I am here.  Through the eyes of faith, I want to see the circumstances around me as opportunities to glorify Jesus in all that I do.  And I will do what I know to do from God's preceptive will, because in His Will of Disposition, He desires that all men be saved.  Even in Gallatin, TN.

I love you guys and thank you so much for your support and willingness to pray for me and my family. Praise God for the right answer!

(If my thinking on this is incorrect, I pray that it would not influence you in any way and that the Lord would give you sweet forgetfulness.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sending the Richardsons to Poland

Isaiah 6:8, "And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here I am! Send me."

"Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible." — C.T. Studd

Let's get this out of the way first and I'll come back to it soon...I am going to ask you to financially and/or prayerfully support us so that we can go to Poland and share the Gospel. There...nothing like broken china around my hooves!

38 million people are trapped under a boulder and I want to move it. Must be a HUGE boulder! Although my rippling biceps might fool you, the problem is that I can't move it. And no matter how many of you I get to help me lift, that boulder still won't budge. So what are we to do about this?

You see, I used to be underneath a HUGE boulder myself. Truth be told, I was born under it. It didn't take long for me to get used to it either. After a while, I even enjoyed being there. Sick, huh? I didn't know anything existed anywhere else because my whole world was under that rock with me.

One day, someone was standing on top of the boulder and told me that I was being crushed to death. I examined what she said, looked at my surroundings, and realized she was right. I begged for help for someone to move the boulder. But instead of the boulder moving, my prayer was answered in a different way. Someone gave that lady a shovel. She dug a hole around me and pulled me out. I was weak, so she had to teach me how to strengthen my legs. And when I began to walk, she was gone. But the boulder remained.

Today, I stand on a boulder with 38 million people under it. I want to start digging but I must wait for a shovel because the ground around these people is so hard I cannot possibly dig with my hands. I, myself, bear the scars of living under a boulder on my own back so I know what it's like to finally be free from it's constraints.

You would think there's only one boulder trapping people. Truth be told, there are many all over this world. A couple of them even have a billion people underneath them! So why am I at this boulder?

Well, when I look at all of the other boulders, I see many people digging around them. There's a LOT of digging to do! Enough to last a lifetime! But this boulder I'm on only has a handful of weary diggers. So that's where I want to go.

Of course I'm talking about Poland. I have wanted to go there for years now on a longer term basis (I've been 3 times for a couple of weeks at a time). Finally I applied for a job with Worldwide Tentmakers after providentially meeting David Nunnery at a Teach Them Diligently homeschool conference where he told me of a work they were starting in Poland a couple of years ago (David leads this mission and also helped start the conference).

After not hearing back for many weeks, I actually said this to Michelle, "I really think it's not going to happen, so I need to just move on." The next week, I find out that David wants me and my family to serve at a preschool teaching English to children and their parents using the Bible and sharing the Gospel. Catch is, this position is needing to be filled for the start of January.

And I just want to be as wide open and transparent as I possibly can so that you (the Body of Christ) can advise me, share Scriptures with me, encourage me, rebuke me if needs be, and most of all to pray for me. The shovels that my family wants to dig with can only come from God. But the means God uses might be you.

Here are some facts for you to consider (and I can and will provide more info to anyone who's interested):
  • There are 7 of us who would go. 
  • This is initially for 12-18 months. I hope it can turn into something more permanent, but this is the initial agreement. 
  • We are willing to sell whatever we have. Sadly, our total assets might buy us a couple of plane tickets. 
  • We are all in perfect agreement about wanting to serve in this way. 
  • Our current church is very supportive (yet small), and we would place ourselves underneath their leadership. 
  • I would be paid $500/month through the school. 
  • I'm meeting with David on Monday, Nov.18th in Knoxville to pray and to hash out more details. 

Here is a rudimentary budget we came up with (these are our best guesses as of today based off of conversations with 3 American missionary families we know who are currently in Poland):
Up front money needed:
  • Passports (for 6 of the family)=$660 
  • Visas (within a few months time)=$1050 
  • Translation of birth certificates=$200 
  • Plane tickets=$7000 
  • Furniture (depending on if an apt we find has any furnishings)=$2500 (mainly beds,mattresses, dressers) 
  • Winter clothes for everybody=$2000 (this might be a little high, but since we would spend a lot of time outside and walking in below-freezing temps, we want to make sure everyone has enough clothes) 
  • Washing Machine (we understand that some apts come with this and that almost all Polish people don't have dryers)=$300 
  • First/Last month rent (we have no idea how much it would be to rent a place in Jaworzno, Poland and could use a lot of help in this area, but this is based off of rent for an 800sq ft, 3 br apt in Krakow)=$2200 

Monthly needed:
  • Rent=$1100 (again, this is only based off of what our friends with 2 kids paid in Krakow and Gdansk). We are not having much success looking online for places in Jaworzno. 
  • Utilities=$400 
  • Food=$800 
  • Insurance=$370 (Samaritans Ministries insures overseas missionaries. This is their family rate) 
  • Transportation=$120 (monthly bus passes for everyone) 

So as you can see, we are trying to grab the impossible.

I always have heard to ask God for big things, that He is able. I tremble even writing this. Everything in me wants to do this myself. But the goal is just too big for me to tackle on my own. I need the rest of the Body. If God wants us to go now, He is perfectly able to make the way for us. But He uses means to accomplish His will, one of which is the Church.

It would not just be my sacrifice, but it would be yours as well. One thing I know, my life seems to have led me to this point: moving around, acquiring few possessions, training at seminary. We have handed out tracts and preached on the streets (even the kids).

“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes; and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35).

"If the Christian is truly obedient to the Great Commission, he will give his life to go down into the mine or to hold the rope for those who go down (William Carey). Either way, the rope will be burned into his hands. The depth of the scars will demonstrate or prove the extent of the obedience. Have you surrendered your life to go to the lost peoples of the world, or have you surrendered your life to support those who go? What has the Great Commission cost you? Where are your scars?" (From Paul Washer's HeartCry Missionary Society's website)

We are supposed to go down and dig people out from underneath this boulder. But we need some shovels. Please reply to this message if you will commit to either give or pray for us, both are needed. And please let us know if you can give, what the Lord is leading you to do.

Also, please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested in partnering with us.

Thanks for your time in reading such a long post. And thank you for your prayers.

Biting off more than I can chew for the glory of God,

Jay Richardson

Monday, November 11, 2013

Here we are, send us!!!

Be looking for my first post tomorrow describing what we are asking the Lord for so that we can get to Poland and share the gospel.

Monday, August 26, 2013

5 minutes of desperation

In 5 short minutes the Richardson's went from a calm and happy family to the most desperate and frightened family at the Wilson County Fair.

It all started about 4 or so years ago at the Florida State Fair.  On that day, Michelle and I were walking along with Rebekah, Ben, and Hannah looking around at all of the sights, sounds, and people.  I wrongly assumed that Michelle was pushing Hannah in the stroller and she wrongly assumed that I was holding her hand.  In one instant, Hannah (then about 2) had completely vanished.  We took off in each direction running through a mass of people who were walking in every direction.  In about 60 seconds, I spotted her standing alone inside of an exhibit.  60 seconds is a long time to live in regret and hopelessness!

Now fast forward to Saturday.  And let me set the stage to demonstrate how easily complacency can kick in.  Walking into the fair (and if you've never been to the Wilson County Fair, let me just say it is HUGE, maybe as big as the Florida State Fair!) we were all aware of our previous incident in losing Hannah.  So much so, that we made a point to verbally remind one another to stay together and especially to keep an eye on Hannah.

For some reason, Hannah is our dawdler.  She likes to walk slow and she likes to walk directly behind me, thereby escaping my peripheral vision.  And since I usually bring up the back of the pack, I'm always reminding her to stay with us.  In fact, because of this tendency, I find myself saying multiple times a day, "Where's Hannah?"  And as I say this, I usually do a quick 360 spin to make sure she is with us.

Walking into the fair, we knew this, we prepared for this, we experienced this as I did a few 360 spins throughout the day.

But complacency doesn't take long to kick in.  You know it too.  Things can sneak up on you, even when you think you're prepared for it.  Tax day, important meetings, balloon payments, work deadlines, even death.  We all assume we're always ready for anything.  Are you?

To further show you how easy it is to be lulled into complacency, even if for just a few seconds, we went to a vendor to buy some sweet tea.  She said these actual words to us, "How many kids do you have?  You look so calm and peaceful.  I don't know how you do it."  While deflecting this praise because deep down we know the whole truth, still something probably stroked my ego a little and I could imagine myself quoting this lady and putting it on my Facebook status for the world to see.

And why not?  After all, we just walked by another family whose kids were fighting and running wild, we walked by older women who were scantily clad thinking that they could recapture their youth, we walked by a vendor who was selling thong underwear with the rebel flag on it, and we walked by numerous people with evil things printed on their clothes and skin.  If that's my competition, then you better believe we're doing a great job!  But that's not my measure, is it?

At one point, I saw another dad with his kid on a leash who would barely unhook his kid so that he could ride the little race cars around in circles.  Somewhere deep inside I smirked and arrogantly dismissed him as a rookie.

So there you see, the scene was set for complacency.  I was doing my job.  I was aware and made my whole family aware to keep an eye on Hannah.  Others were noticing our orderliness and calm.  Compared to others around me, I was on my toes.  And everything was set up just right......for God to demonstrate that He alone is our Rock!

Now onto the incident:  We all get hungry and stop to eat pizza.  After eating, we get up to walk towards another less ADHD part of the fair.  We've got 2 kids in the stroller, 2 big kids in the front with mom, and me in the back with Hannah.  We walk along the path for about 5 minutes and I notice that Hannah is not in my periphery so I do my 360 move with a quick, "Where's Hannah?"  I had already done this many times this day, but this time as everyone turned around to verify that Hannah was right behind me, all of our faces dropped when she was nowhere to be found.

First thought....Is this real?  2 seconds later....Surely she's just a few steps away from us.  10 seconds later.....You know there are a lot of people here heading in different directions and it would not take long for an adult to get lost, let alone a 6 yr old.  I tell Michelle to wait and take off retracing my route, slightly panicked but somewhat confident that she will be within eye or earshot of this route.  I make it all the way back to the table we ate at and ....NO HANNAH!!!

Now I'm completely scared, paranoid, helpless, frantic, and unsure of what to do.  I run back to Michelle and she's fully expecting me to have Hannah, but when I return without her, I see her motherly eyes well up with tears and panic.  Michelle takes off to look in one direction and I go the other, leaving the big kids in a central spot.  All I could think to do was to alert every fair worker there that my daughter is missing.

Only they don't seem to grasp my sense of urgency.  They ask me all kinds of questions that I don't know, like what was she wearing.  Thankfully, my son remembers every detail (he has been blessed with a great memory).  So a few of them start off to look and I again go a different direction.

Now I'm thinking, "no kid can get that lost THAT fast.  If she wandered away, she wouldn't go THAT far.  She might have been taken!"  I could never forgive myself if that were the case.

Then, I start to yell Hannah's name everywhere I run.  I am cognizant of people looking at me knowing that they know that I've lost my child.  And I am somewhat resentful that they are not jumping up to help, but are rather content to watch me panic as they eat their fried food on a stick.  It's almost like I'm part of the entertainment.

And the biggest regret I have and the thing I wonder most, even to this moment is, WHY DIDN'T I YELL AT THE VERY TOP OF MY LUNGS!!!  I mean, really!  If there ever was a time to throw caution to the wind and belt it out, it was now.  And yet, I didn't.  I ran and yelled for her, but not as I should have.  I am completely ashamed that my voice didn't turn every single head there!

Finally, I see a woman on a cart having a conversation with another man.  And I unapologetically interrupt them and ask her to drive me around so that I can look for my daughter faster. As we start to go, I see one of the workers walking towards my big kids with the sweetest little sad package I ever received.  It was Hannah, with her fingers in her mouth and tears streaming down her face!  My baby!  Soon, her mom finds us and we cover her with kisses and hugs.

The people around us are still watching the show, sitting on benches and eating their fried oreos, watching as if we were a sitcom that just wrapped up with a happy ending.  And I was resentful at their complacency.  And I was angry at my complacency.  Why didn't I yell louder?!!!!  I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.  That question still haunts me.

Complacency can take many forms and it doesn't take long to anesthetize you.  You assume everything is fine and will stay fine.  You assume you can control everything.  You assume you don't really need God.  Oh yes, He is a fine accessory to bring with you, but I only will bring him into my family whenever something drastic happens.

Well, you know what?  There's an attribute of His I desired at that moment...Omnipresence.  I wanted to be everywhere and see everything, yet I couldn't.  I was helpless.  But He never is!  I am grateful that my kind and loving omnipresent Father watched this whole thing and chose to bring her back to me.  I am grateful that a stranger at the fair saw a crying little girl and asked her if she was ok.  And that he led her to one of the workers.  And the worker brought her back to me.  But this was not all a coincidence.  It was orchestrated!  And what did the Conductor teach me through this scary and melancholy song?

  1. That He is good.  He can be trusted to do what's right with my daughter, even if I'm not there.  
  2. That He is able.  He never panicked.  He knew exactly where Hannah was and exactly how long to keep her away from me so that I would cling to Him as my kind and loving Father even tighter.  
  3. That He seeks.  Remember the prodigal son?  The father in that parable represents how God seeks us when we're lost and how He runs towards us to embrace us.  I relate to that love more now.  God says that "while we were sinners, Christ died for us".  Not only does He run towards us in love, but He pursues us even while we don't acknowledge that we've wandered away.  We stray farther and farther from Him and God pursues and seeks and saves that which was lost.  Hannah's tears alerted a stranger that she knew she needed help.  In much the same way, our tears of repentance flow and they agree with God (confess) that we too need to be saved.  
  4. Give it all to God....YELL!!!!!  This was a lesson of discipline for me.  I should have yelled louder.  God brought her back anyway and wasn't dependent on my volume.  But in reflection, He continues to show me that the times we live in are perilous.  And people are walking around this earth with a death sentence.  They will die today.  They will die tomorrow.  They are near me and you every day.  YELL!!!!!!  Yell as if their life depended on does!  They need to hear the Gospel call.  They need to be awakened from their slumber.  They need something to counteract the anesthesia of sin.  They need to break with the law!  They need God to grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.  Then they need to see the lights of the Gospel leading them out of their darkness and into the glorious light!  YELL!!!!!  YELL!!!! YELL!!!!!!   Precious seconds are ticking away!!!!!
And when this life is over, and your voice is hoarse, and you are spent from running to and fro seeking the lost.  He will say, "Well done my good and faithful servant.  Come and enter your rest.  You will never....CAN never be lost again!"

Thank you God for my Hannah!  Thank you God for my Jesus!  Kill my complacency more every day!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Reflections on my 24th home

Counting it up in my head, I have moved 23 times (tomorrow will be number 24), in 9 different states during the course of my 38 years of life.  That averages to roughly one move every 1.65 years, a new state every 4.22 years.  No, I am not a military brat either (although my dad was in the Navy, however, he got out before my first move). 

You would think that leaving things behind gets easier.  In a way it does and in a way it doesn't.  It never feels good to leave the familiar.  Things are always left behind and memories flood through your mind of times you have had in places you have lived. 

But in the same way, the exact same byproducts are a gift. 

Leaving the familiar prepares you to arrive at the new and breathtakingly fascinating.  The things that are left behind no longer entangle you (Hebrews 12:1).  Leaving furniture on the side of the road or watching your possessions carted away for nothing relieves me of the burden of constantly carrying extra weight around.  This can be a reminder that the sin that once pervaded every facet of my being is gone too!  The chains of sin have fallen off of me because Jesus Christ put them on Himself to pay for my transgressions.  And like Christian in John Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress, when the burden comes off of my back, I find true freedom and joy. 

And with each new place I've lived has come a certain excitement to explore my new surroundings for treasures I have never seen.  Oh, but there IS a pearl of great price (Mt 13:46) I would sell everything to be near.  Psalm 27:4 says, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple."  His beauty will fulfill me for an eternity! 

C.S. Lewis once said, "If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."  All of my desires in this world are fleeting and ultimately unsatisfying.  But to be with Jesus, dwelling in His house, will keep me enthralled for an eternity.  There will be no such word as "wander", for there is nothing more satisfying to wander to. 

And the memories that flood through your mind, as beautiful as they may be, are but a shadow of the everlasting joy that awaits us.  As I get older, my memories fade and I don't remember the details as I desire to relive wonderful times in my mind.  But those fleeting moments of happiness in life point to a time when true joy will never cease.  I will not long for a better time, past or future.  Every moment with Jesus in heaven IS a better time!  1 Cor 2:9, "But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”.

Moving only reinforces God's Word that says this is not my home.  Philippians 3:20 says, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ". 

So tomorrow as we again stick our lives in a truck and drive to another box to park at, I will rejoice that my temporary dwelling points me to my eternal home with my Savior. 

Now stop reading this and help me grab that couch, will ya?!!!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quick thought on anonymous gifts

There is a special beauty of an anonymous gift that the giver(s) themselves are probably unaware of, and it is this.....

The receiver of the gift has no choice but to praise God alone for the gift!!!!

Thank you to my anonymous friend for pointing me to the Solas. 

Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Captain Neat-O Man must die!!!!

Captain Neat-O Man will never die!!! 

You wouldn't know it to look at the distinguished gentleman I am now, but a little over a decade ago, on a beautiful fall night, you could have wandered into the Trahern building at Austin Peay State University and found me dressed up as a superhero, tights and all (think Jack Black in Nacho Libre), as I acted in a one-act play called Captain Neat-O man.  I'll never live it down. 

While I was quite the thespian in college, also acting in Our Town and Noises Off, this was my starring role.  These were one-act plays written by budding playwrights at the university who needed actors to make the pages come to life.  And I was ready to pour my heart into that beautiful spotlight as it shined all over me.  [Side note to future thespians (especially the broke college ones)....When appearing in a high-energy, slapstick type of play, it is best not to sell your plasma shortly before the production.  I NEED your plasma!!!]

Well, despite my somewhat spasmodic and slightly wobbly performance, the play went off fine.  The only problem was there was less of an audience for it than my other plays.  And while I starred in Captain Neat-O Man, I enjoyed being in Our Town and Noises Off much more.  Turns out the spotlight wasn't as fulfilling as I thought it would be. 

Oftentimes, you may hear the phrase "there are no small parts, only small actors".  I found this to be very true.  It is the story that people come to see at the theatre (that's THEEEEE ATE ER to my southern friends), not actors.  People want to be momentarily detached from their own lives and swallowed up by the action on the stage.  And the actor's job is to help make the play an inviting place for an audience member's heart and mind to vacation for a couple of hours. 

For this to happen effectively, the story must be bigger than the actors.  And for that to happen, the actor's ego must die.  (Imagine a play where everyone who has a part tries to make theirs the biggest scene-stealer.  It would be a disaster!!!  You know, like every episode of Hee Haw EVER!!!) 

The death of the actor's ego is the life of the story.

In much the same way, I am watching God do this in my real, non-tights wearing, life.  But in this case, it is not so much the story that deserves the spotlight, as the Storyteller. 

This is the truth I'm seeing unfold right before my eyes.  This is the money phrase that echoes in my heart.......Moving down in the world helps me to worship God who raises me up in Christ.

You see, I've got a LOT of ego to kill.  I've got a lot of craving for the spotlight.  I love to hear the applause.  I love to soak in the adulation.  Tell me how good I am and I will listen to you for hours, baby!!!

Me, me, me, me.  But enough about me, what do YOU think of ME?  Whoooo Boy, I can listen to me all day long. 

It feeds old Jay and gives him strength.  But new creation, raised with Christ Jay is part of a different plot line than old Jay.  Old Jay lived to jump around in spandex and hear 200 people in the audience clap for him.  New Jay lives just for One (1 Cor 10:31).  In fact, from Him and through Him and to Him is new Jay's story line.  New Jay is consumed by the story that the Storyteller is telling about the most beautiful thing a person can even fathom, God Himself.

And new Jay wants everyone else to see the beauty of God.  But it's hard to focus one spotlight on 2 things.  Either it points at me or it points at Jesus.  And when it points at Jesus, I find myself STILL wanting to jump in it and get some praise for myself. 

So knowing this about me, God has shown me the rightness and goodness of moving down in the world.

This week, we are moving out of our $1000/month rental house on the river to a $575/month overgrown refrigerator of a mobile home in a trailer park out in the middle of nowhere.  To accomplish the task of squeezing 7 humans in a space the size of a couple of parking spots, we have been forced to sell much of our belongings.  Hearts have been broken as precious theology books, "Lost" DVD's, beloved microwave stands, and Elvis dolls have slipped through our fingers for the same amount of money as one would spend on a date at Taco Bell.  (And that's not to mention the near escape of a cherished scooter friend of a 5 year old girl as big sister stepped in at the last minute to stop grandma from exiling the Barbie scooter to the lands of the north.)

OK, why did I write the previous paragraph?  To evoke sympathy?  To receive compliments for my descriptive phraseology?  To get someone to buy me a house?  The answer is.....maybe!  See?  That's how easy it is to try to put the spotlight back on yourself.  Every moment is a battle to make less of me and more of God. 

But I digress, the point is that the Lord is graciously showing us the pull of the created on our hearts rather than the role of the created to point to the Creator. 

Romans 1:25 says, "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!" 

You ever hear the old story of how African tribesmen catch monkeys?  Supposedly, they hollow out one end of a coconut ,just big enough for a monkey's hand to squeeze through, tie it to a string and put some peanuts inside of it.  When the monkey sticks its hand in, it grabs the peanuts but cannot pull its hand back out because it is now in the shape of a fist and is too big to slide back through the opening.  The natives then pull the monkey towards them and whacks it on the head for some nice Indiana Jones style Monkey Brain soup. 

But the ironic part of the story is that all the monkey has to do is let the peanuts go to escape.  It is too greedy and selfish to let go and dies in its pursuit of the peanuts. 

(Obvious Sermon Illustration Alert!!!)  This is the pull that created things have on us.  They become an end in themselves.  You see, I hurt when I have to move down in size and quality of my housing.  I hurt when things I previously treasured are picked away by the circling Garage Sale Buzzards.  I hurt when I go from being a distinguished preacher who is constantly in the limelight, to a nobody telemarketer who gets cussed out every third call. 

But my question is.....Is this pain wrong?  Maybe not. 

Not that stuff, or good jobs, or nice housing is wrong in and of itself.  But when it becomes pursued, pampered, and idolized (AHHHHHH, you thought I was going old school Southern Baptist preacher, 3-point alliteration on you, didn't you?  Admit it!!), it is used to serve you instead of letting it serve or cause praise to come to the One who gave it to you.

And maybe letting go of it (even with my claw marks on it as I fought to keep it) is God's way of reorienting me to His story.  Maybe he's taking me back to the times when I acted in plays where the beauty of the story, like Our Town, was more important than the fleeting applause for playing an idiot superhero who lived with his mom. 

So as I signed the contract to rent our overgrown sideways refrigerator, I felt something unexpected.  And upon talking to Michelle, she felt the same thing.  Relief! 

Relief from the burden of keeping up with a high rent when I don't make a lot of money. 
Relief from even the attempt to keep up with the Jones' (no offense Kayla).  Because we couldn't even if we tried.
Relief from the amount of stuff which we have constantly dragged with us from house to house. 

But most importantly, relief from placing ourselves in the spotlight. 

It gets hot under those lights you know.  And it greatly impairs your vision.  You can't see anything or anyone else in the crowd.  It's all about you and you know it.  And no one can live under the spotlight for too long without missing a line, tripping over a prop, or sweating profusely as people watch your every move. 

We weren't created to withstand this constant spotlight.  We mess up.  We fail.  We sin. 

But there is One who is made for the spotlight.  Jesus Christ, the Godman, lived a perfect, sinless life so that as we repent of our sins and place our absolute trust in Him, we can rest from the glare that was never intended for us.  My favorite verse says it best.  2 Cor 5:21, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 

In Him is better than in the spotlight any day of the week.  I am safer there.  I am covered there.  I am strengthened there.  I am saved there. 

In me without Him, my path will only lead to ruin.  Oh, but in Him there is peace with God.  And that is the story He wants me to tell. 

So he moves me down.  And as He does, He lifts my eyes up to the all satisfying crucified and resurrected Savior.  My Hero, My God, My King. 

As He lowers me and empties me of my pride, He raises me and fills me with His Spirit.  Instead of the disgusting muck of sin inside, I find pristine holiness and constant comfort from the Holy Spirit, my guarantee of a future inheritance which will dwarf my collection of Lost DVD's, Elvis dolls, and even theology books. 

He moves me down in house to raise me up in mansions.
He moves me down in pride to fill me up with awe.
He moves me down in resources to capture my attention as He alone provides my manna. 

Moving down is not bad, friends.  In fact, it is the way up.

You die to raise up.  Unless Jesus returns before your death, you will slowly recede back to the dust as your once strong and upright body becomes more and more crooked until it lays on its death bed.  Every day you get closer to the ground.  But those in Christ see it as getting closer to Him. 

John 12:24 says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

Dying to yourself is necessary to become born again.

Even the posture of prayer is a beautiful example of moving down and away from the spotlight so that God alone shines. 

Just think of going to a play and the spotlight guy puts his beam on the janitor in the corner while the play is going on.  You would be outraged!  Why?  Because you would be missing the story while you watch Bubba scraping gum off the floor.   

God is so good that He won't let me miss His story.  He won't let me focus on the janitor.  And for that, I praise Him!!!! 

God's play about Himself is real.  And it, too will detach you from your troubles.  But it will last far longer than a couple of hours.  It will enthrall you for an eternity.

Our family's hymn this month is the more satisfying story.  If you fully grasp what it means, it will leave you breathless.

"And can it be, that I should gain, an interest in the Savior's blood.  Died He for me, who caused His pain, for me, who Him to death pursued?  Amazing love!  How can it be, that Thou, my God shouldst die for me?"

Let that be what this post leaves ringing in your ears!  Whatever it takes to see Him and know Him is worth it!!!