JESUS OR BUST

There’s a story in the Bible that I love.  

It’s a short little story, but don’t confuse short with small. It’s not a small story.  It may not take up much space in ink and paper, but it’s worth making room for in your heart, and it’s a good place for us to start.

You can find the story in Mark chapter 12:41-44.  It’s just 4 little verses with a big message. But before we get too far, let’s rewind the tape just a little.  It turns out the context is as important as the story, because what Jesus does in those 4 verses says a lot about what He’s really up to. 

jesusorbust0a0a28heart29-fbcover.png

You see, Jesus has just come to Jerusalem a few days ago, on what we now call Palm Sunday, and for the past 2 days He’s been traveling back and forth from Bethany, where He likely stayed with His friends Mary and Martha and Lazarus.  That would be the Lazarus that He has just recently raised from the dead.  Yeah, that guy.  

Now, Jesus is traveling back and forth, teaching in the temple and confronting the religious leaders, knowing full well that He is headed on a collision course with the very people who would have him crucified in just days.  I wonder if we can imagine the burden of what was coming, the burden weighing more and more on His every step.  I wonder if we can imagine the exhaustion that had started to set in as He taught in the Temple that day. 

Which brings us to Mark 12:41, where we read that “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.”  A few quick thoughts: first, this isn’t a story about money.  You may have heard it preached about money before, and that’s fine, but I think that if you read this story as being about money, you’re missing a bunch of really cool stuff that God wants us to notice.

Second, it says Jesus sat down.  He sits down in the middle of what was called the “court of women,” which simply meant He was in the smaller of courtyards that were outside the temple buildings, where both men and women were allowed.  It was here that the boxes were placed for people to bring their offerings.  It was also in this court that most of the public transactions took place, since it was open to all Jews.  Bottom line, it was a busy place.

I imagine Jesus walking across the courtyard, where He finds a place on the stone floor, against the stone wall.  He sits down and the scripture tells us “He watched the crowd.”  Jesus is people watching.

I used to travel a lot for work.  It wasn’t uncommon for me to fly 3 or 4 times a month, and I spent a lot of time in airports.  One of my favorite things about airports are the people.  I know I lost a lot of you at “favorite things about airports,” but follow me for a minute.  I promise I’ll get somewhere worthwhile.  

I’d often sit near the gate, waiting for the plane, as people would pour past, one after another.  A mom and dad, with their two little ones pulling their Mickey Mouse carry on suitcases, headed off on their first adventure to Disney World.  An older couple, with passports in hand, leaving on a post-retirement world excursion.  Young professional men and women in business attire, hurrying here and there, with faces buried in their phones.  Each and every one had a story, and I don’t know why, but I was always captured by the idea of each unique story.

I wonder if that’s perhaps what Jesus was thinking as He sat and “watched the crowd.”  I wonder if perhaps He was thinking through each of their stories, each person He had come to save.  Each story that would change for eternity as a result of His purpose and mission here on earth.  Of course, He actually knew their stories - which is of course the point, and where it gets interesting.

As Jesus sat, He watches “many rich people” throwing in large amounts.  I wonder what He was really thinking as they make a scene of it all.  I wonder if it made Him angry, or if perhaps He was just too tired of it all.  I wonder what He was thinking as He watched so many of them miss the point.  It, of course wasn’t about the amount of money, or the show.  It was, as it always is with Jesus, about the heart.

I wonder what He was thinking, when out of the corner of His eye, He notices a quiet, elderly woman moving slowly across the courtyard towards the collection boxes.  In the midst of the busy crowd, she surely stood out.  Her gait was slower, her posture lower.  She moved deliberately, but not for show.  She makes her way to the boxes, and as she does - Jesus does something I love.

22shegave0aextravagantly0awhatshe0acouldn27tafford0ashegaveherall22-fbcover.png

In verse 43, it says that Jesus calls His disciples over.  He’s been sitting and watching along, but He doesn’t want them to miss this.  He wants to be sure they get it.  “I tell you the truth,” He says to them, “this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”  And just to clarify the point for them, I love the way He continues in the Message translation: "All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” 

When I was younger, I wanted to go to space camp.  It’s this really cool place in Huntsville, AL that kids go and learn about being an astronaut.  I used to have the brochure, and I couldn’t wait to become a space cadet. 

I was totally into space, and NASA, and I remember once reading that when they were first figuring out how to send a man to the moon, there was a slogan, “to the moon or bust.”  I imagine that slogan plastered on posters, and signs, and coffee mugs and buttons, reminding people that failure was not an option.  Whatever they did, had to work, because there are no lifeboats on a rocket ship.  There was no room for a plan “b.”  

As Jesus watched that elderly widow walk across the courtyard, and put her two coins in the offering box, I think that the thing that caught His eye, was the giant button on her clothes that read “Jesus or Bust.”  You see, this elderly widow had no plan B.  It wasn’t just that she was obedient to God, that she had made Him her plan A.  She gave her all, everything she had. She held nothing back for herself - no plan B just in case God didn’t come through.

Most of us are like the wealthy people.  We make a show of our “faith,” sure to do all the right things, especially when someone is watching.  We make sure that our “faith” looks good, but in reality, it doesn’t take much faith to follow Jesus on Sunday, or at church, or when things are going great.  But if you’re a poor elderly widow with nothing… literally nothing, it takes faith to give all you have and trust that God has it under control.  It takes faith to let go, and hold nothing back.

I think this is what Jesus wanted the disciples to see.  I think this was the big picture He wanted to impress on them.  He knew that in just a few days He’d be leaving them, and while they had certainly been following Him - they had made Him plan A - He wanted to be sure they remembered the example of faith and obedience of this poor widow.  He wanted them to eliminate plan B, and live a “Jesus or bust” kind of life.

faithisn27tjust0aaboutmaking0ajesus27plana270a0ait27sabout0aeliminating0a27planb27-fbcover (1).png

I think that’s exactly what He wants for us. I know that it was easy to make Jesus my plan A, but getting rid of my own plan B was the really hard part. Letting go of my plans and my agenda is where things really get hard for me. But faith isn’t just about making Jesus plan A, it’s about eliminating plan B. It’s about living for Jesus or bust.

FAR FROM HOME

“I’m not supposed to be here.”

Maybe you know the feeling.  If you do, you know it pretty much sucks.  Maybe you’re familiar with the nauseating sensation that something is terribly wrong, and you’re supposed to be anywhere but here.  That head-spinning, gut wrenching realization that even though you aren’t quite sure where you are, or how you got here, you are not where you’re supposed to be.

farfromhome-fbcover.png

“Supposed to” is a funny phrase.  It implies that there is somewhere you should be, something you should be doing.  It implies that there’s a purpose behind life, and right now, things have gone far off track.  Somewhere along the way, you took a wrong turn, or forgot to get off at the right exit, and now you're far from home.

Maybe it’s a dead-end job that you know you should have quit a long time ago, or an addiction that has a hold of every thread of your life.  Maybe it’s a marriage that has been falling a part for far longer than you’re willing to admit.  

4910813-long-road-wallpapers.jpg

For me, the moment hit me after my world completely fell apart. You see if we had met a few years ago, you would have thought my life was, well, perfect.  Okay, maybe not perfect, but it sure looked good.  I ran two creative businesses, was respected in my industry, and had basically everything in life I could want.  I was deeply connected in our church, serving as a worship leader, creative director, and even a teaching pastor.  My wife and I had 4 beautiful children, a nice home in a good school district, and we lacked for nothing.  

And then, it all came tumbling down.  

This wasn’t a trip and skin your knee kind of fall.  This was a Humpty-Dumpty, not sure it’s ever going to go back together kind of fall.  This was the kind of humiliating, devastating, totally avoidable kind of fall that breaks you into small pieces.  The kind of broken pieces that can only be put back together by a patient, compassionate, gracious God who is willing to walk you through the worst journey of your life, to bring you out the other side. 

Let’s be clear, it was all my fault.  I was to blame, no one else. Not God, not my family,  It was my pride, selfishness, fear, and shame that drove me to make a long series of really bad decisions that led to short-cuts in my business and personal life, which led to deceit, and eventually financial ruin.  So, even though it was true that where I ended up, wasn’t where I was supposed to be, I got there all on my own. 

So, after wrecking my business, almost destroying my family, and creating enough havoc around me to leave more than a few people with scars, God put me in the penalty box.  Literally.  A 6 x 9 box known as a prison cell, to be precise.  Yeah, that part pretty much sucked, except it might have been the most important thing that ever happened to me.

bruce-almighty-movie-clip-screenshot-give-me-a-sign_large.jpg

There’s a scene in Bruce Almighty where he keeps asking God for a sign… any sign.  He keeps asking as he drives past sign after sign, eventually leading to a wreck.  I think if we're really honest, we often live our lives like that - at least I know I did. It’s kind of absurd, as I look back, how many signs God put in front of me, how many opportunities He gave me to turn around, to slow down, to take the next exit, and avoid the chaos, pain and destruction I caused.  Instead I kept on driving, until finally I wrecked.  

That's when I finally looked around and said to myself "I'm not supposed to be here!" This was never a part of the plan.  It was never where I was "supposed" to be.  I was "supposed" to be home with my family.  I was "supposed" to be living the life I was created for, not this broken version of life I had created for myself. 

I realized something though, in the midst of the darkest moments of the journey - that God never leads us into the wilderness to leave us there.  He leads us through the wilderness to prepare us for the purpose He has for us. 

22rememberhowthe0alordyourgodledyou0ainthewilderness0atohumbleandtestyou22-fbcover.png

To say that God needed to humble me and test me is an understatement.  So He did.  For 39 months.  It wasn't quite 40 years, but it was long enough to break my heart, and put it back together the way He designed and desired.  It was long enough to recognize that God wanted to change my heart and shape it according to His purpose and plan. 

thewilderness0aisneverthe0adestination0a0ait27saplaceof0apreparation-fbcover.png

You see, sometimes it's only in the wilderness, when we're stripped of everything we have, that we recognize the only thing we really need.  Faith is recognizing that even though you have to go through this thing, God knows what He's doing.

andweknow0athatinallthings0agodworksforthe0agoodofthose0awholovehim-fbcover.png

This used to be a place where I shared about business and creativity and photography.  Now, I'm not entirely sure what it's going to be, except that I want to use it to encourage those of you who might feel far from home right now.  If you've found yourself broken, or lost, or where you're not supposed to be, maybe this story that God is writing through my life, and my family, can be an encouragement that He truly does work all things for good.  Even the broken things, the painful things, the ugly things.  

You see, God always keeps his promises.  He always keeps His word. 

Sometimes I wonder if maybe faith is simply taking God at His word.  That's my plan for now, and if I can encourage you with my story, then stick around and we'll figure this out together.

Comment

SUCCESS IS MOSTLY ABOUT FALLING DOWN

I learned something the other day.  I took our daughter Macy to her gymnastics class the other day, and my eyes were opened to something I never knew.  Gymnastics gyms are absolutely insane.  Macy is in a class with a small handful of other 4 years olds, and mostly it looks like marginally-organized chaos.  Actually, the entire gym is pretty much chaos.  There must have been close to 100 gymnasts, of all ages, working out in various groups across the gym.  As I watched what was happening, I learned a few things.

Sorry for the horrible, zoomed-in iPhone photo, but that's Macy!

Sorry for the horrible, zoomed-in iPhone photo, but that's Macy!

1. Success is mostly about falling down.

It may seem cute when you watch the 4-year-old, little people gymnastics class, but the gym where Macy has her class is no joke.  The gymnasts here are good - and they're legitimately training to be the very best.

And, apparently, the way to become the very best, is to fall on your butt - a lot.  Every time a gymnast lands on his/her butt, he or she learns to make little adjustments.  It's almost like shaving off the rough edges of your performance with each pass.  Eventually, after enough falling, you've locked it in, and you land on your feet.

2. Being really good is 90% muscle memory.

I remember when I was younger - and I took piano lessons.  I remember my piano teacher telling me that "you practice so that your fingers remember what to do."  I always thought that playing the piano well was about my brain remembering what to do, but I was wrong.  

Repetition breeds success because it teaches your muscles to do what they are supposed to do - without you having to think about it.   It's true for piano players, it's true for gymnasts, and it's true for creative businesses.

3. Having a coach really matters.  

Sure, coaches are there to help teach you the routine, and make sure you don't fall on your head when you're flying through the air, but that's not really the most important reason to have a coach.  Coaches give you an outside perspective.  They can see things you can't see, and help you make the small corrections that make all the difference.  You're never going to become an elite gymnast, or elite anything for that matter, without a coach.

This is true with running a business.  Whether you find someone you trust to "coach" you informally, or you hire someone who can help you professionally, having a coach to give you outside perspective, and hold you accountable, really does matter.

Comment