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For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Shortly after 7:30 am in August 2000, I was sitting in my office in downtown Lexington. I worked for a statewide political organization and was super happy in my fast-paced, high-energy role. I had no idea my life was about to shift dramatically. Then the phone rang.
“Beck?” said the voice on the other end.
“Hey, Gordon! What’s up?” (Southland’s executive team leader at that time, Gordon Walls, was on the line.)
“Well, we need ya. And I just need you to say yes.”
Thus began my vocational ministry career. I’d love to tell you it was an easy decision to leave my much-loved job and join Jesus in deep Kingdom endeavor. That I never hesitated in hanging up my so-called career creds. But that’d be, well, a lie. Truth is, I loved both the position and organization. It was far from a simple life, but I was fully engaged.
If I went into ministry, lots of things (and by things, I mean money) would be left on the table. Would our finances be enough? If I went into ministry, plans for a dream home would be delayed, maybe given up completely. Could we be happy where we were? If I went into ministry, the dynamics of life with a Monday-to-Friday job would definitely change. Could we make that schedule work for our family?
Still, there was a tug. A yearning in my heart to use God-given skills in service to Jesus. And a crazy husband who said, “We’re gonna pray and fast.”
At the end of the week of prayer, I came across the Jeremiah verse above. As I wrote it in my journal, I knew. We were finished running after things that don’t really matter. Our course would lead us to a simple life. A real life. One with eternal significance.
P.S. I’ve never looked backward with longing.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV)
There are risks I never plan to take. Call me a wimp. I don’t care. I’m not jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. Nor am I going to float hundreds of feet over the landscape in a wicker basket tethered to a balloon. I will also not be riding on any highway with nothing between me and the pavement but air. And you can completely rule out ever running into me in a cave … of any sort. Bats live there, people!
But there are a few risks I will endeavor every single day. I hope you will, too. Here are my risk promises:
I will risk all the days of my life to live this day for Jesus Christ. Because He exchanged His glory-filled existence to save my sin-sick life.
I will risk all that I have, to do all that I can, to ensure my children -- and my children’s children -- wind up in heaven. Because knowing Christ has changed the generations of my family.
I will risk all that I deem safe to know the security of never being snatched from the loving hand of my Savior. Because His promises are sure, I will trust Him instead of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
I will risk being thought of as weird, crazy, or not-very-bright to embrace the simple truth that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the hope of the world. Because God makes the simple wise.
I will risk rejection to tell others about the good news of the Gospel. Because it is the gift of a good, good Father who will never leave or forsake me.
I will risk losing sleep to pray deep into the night for the revival of the nations, turning the hearts of the people to the Lord and His precepts. Because He is coming soon, friends!
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways - Haggai 1:7 (NIV)
You and I live in a driven, never-enough culture. A culture in which people are actually proud of saying, “I’m a workaholic.” Or “I’m a bit of a control freak.” (By the way, if you own that you’re at least a bit of a control freak, you’re likely a full-on control freak!)
Friends, a workaholic burns out. And dies too young. Why would we put work in the number one slot in life? At the workaholic’s funeral, do you think the family will say, “Man, I wish Dad or Mom had worked just one more day”? The end of the control freak’s life just looks lonely and sad, because their need to manage everything and everyone has run them all off.
Having a strong work ethic or being a person who pays attention to details is a good thing. However, extremes like workaholism and perfectionism are actually signs of brokenness and damaged emotions. We control what we can because something or someone at some point in our life made us feel very out of control. Your sister here is a recovering workaholic and perfectionist. Day by day, I submit these tendencies to the tender care of Jesus.
Even a king like Solomon reached the end of himself. He was tired. The richest person to ever live, Solomon had it all. Money, palaces, women. Yet, toward the end of his life, Solomon surveyed his world and said these very tragic words:
...“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, NIV)
Friends, God will have to deal with our wrong priorities. The verse at the top? Here’s what preceded it.
You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” (Haggai 1:6, NIV)
What if we were to use just one “saying” to help us “give careful thought to our ways”?
Keep the main thing the main thing.
(In case you’re wondering, the main thing is Jesus.)
… And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. - Micah 6:8 (NIV)
He said some pretty cool things.
On the heels of the assassination of William McKinley, a true adventurer became the leader of the free world. Frail and sickly as a child, he followed a regimen of gymnastics and weightlifting to build up strength.
Upon graduating Harvard, he entered law school, but left after only one year to enter public service. He became Assistant Secretary of the Navy, leaving that prestigious post to become the first Colonel of the Volunteer Cavalry, known as the Rough Riders. No stranger to sadness, he lost both his wife and mother on the exact same day.
Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th and youngest (at 43 years old) President. In his life he wrote 18 books, and was perhaps the most faith-filled, mission-minded President ever to occupy that office.
Most of us, when we think of “Teddy” Roosevelt, are reminded of a person who sought out and found a life full of adventure. We don’t often link adventure and the Christian life together, do we? Yet, Jesus himself said He came to give us life and life to the full (John 10:10). In fact, you and I, as Christ-followers, are promised the greatest adventure of all. Eternal life.
I’m not sure what Teddy knew that we don’t. But I know he had a firm foundation in Christ. In eight years in the Oval Office, he had no nameplate on his desk. Just a plaque with a Scripture engraved on it: Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).
Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders. - Deuteronomy 33:12 (NIV)
As you read this, I’m in my happy place. For 30+ years, I’ve been visiting Hilton Head Island, SC. I’ve been going since about the only restaurant there was a dive called Shuckers. All-you-can-eat crab legs. We’d belly up to an outdoor table and stay until the butter dripped down to our elbows, y’all! I actually cried the year we learned Shuckers had burned down and they weren’t rebuilding. A girl needs her crab legs!
Early on in our marriage, we decided that every other year, our vacation would be 14 days instead of seven. Listen, you barely shake off the normal life-pace until about three days in, right? And then, just a couple days later, you’re packing up all your “boogets” (things, as I call them, pronounced “boo-jets”), and heading home.
At the end of that first week, when you realize you’re not headed home just yet, everything … and I mean everything … just sort of falls off you. Greg read 11 books our first two-week trip! Eleven! That second week, we’re so laid back, we barely brush our hair or teeth! (Not really, but you get the picture.)
Why is rest is so important in the Kingdom? God instituted a Sabbath right off the bat. Genesis tells us God did all His work in six days and then rested. He gave Adam and Eve a huge mission: fill the earth and rule over it. Then He said, “Now, get to work!” Right? Nope. You see, our God knows we need to work out of a place of rest … not the other way around. It’s you and I who need to get the order right.
See, when I work out of my rest, God is honored and I’m refreshed. I tap into new energy and hope fills me. So, in about 13 days, I’ll be ready to take a fresh run at life. Until then, somebody get me a Diet Coke with a little umbrella sticking out of it! See ya in a couple, friends!