Friday, November 8, 2013

I Needed This

If you've been following me lately, you know I've had a busy 6 weeks. My senior pastor has been away, teaching in the Middle East. Don't get me wrong, I love preaching. But this schedule was full. Different things kept me going. Here's one message I needed deep into week 5 from youth ministry guru Rick Lawrence.

In case you're wondering, it's the warhorses verse I quoted until my tasks were done. Thanks Rick!

Rick Lawrence
by Rick Lawrence
You’re probably pretty darn good at your job—whether or not you hear that affirmation from your students or their parents or your supervisor. You’ve done some pretty great things under some pretty difficult circumstances—I’m pretty sure of it… And, after all, one of our tacit pursuits is “excellence”—we’re a culture that worships excellence in all of its expressions. We want excellent service at excellent restaurants so we can enjoy excellent conversation with our excellent friends.

Excellence is our holy grail.

But I’m also pretty sure that I’m less than excellent, pretty much most of the time. Ever feel so less-than-excellent that you find yourself whispering this sort of prayer under your breath?

Sorry, Lord. Sorry, sorry, sorry...

Well, I’m well-practiced in this basic lament. And the other day, in the middle of one such apology, I did something I often do—I asked God if He had anything to say to me, and then I waited… After a moment or two I “saw” Psalm 33:13-22 in my mind’s eye. So I turned there, and here’s what I read (italics are mine):

The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race.
From his throne he observes all who live on the earth.
He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.
The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you.
But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.
He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.
We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.
Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

If “warhorse” is just another way of describing our skills, abilities, and gifting, then the Psalmist is telling us a hard truth—these things are not to be counted on. Our strengths are enticing to us. We are sorely tempted to depend upon our own ability to rise to the occasion rather than throw ourselves on the mercy of Jesus and beg for His strength, His courage, and His “excellence.” How can we remind ourselves of our need for dependence, outside of circumstances that drive us to it?

When I pray, I’ve now decided to do something that’s, well, a little eccentric. But if I practice the same patterns of self-sufficiency in my life, how can I expect my basic reluctance to live dependently to change? And so here’s what I’m doing now. Whenever I pray, whether in a formal sit-down time or whispered under my breath in the chaos of my day, I start by addressing Jesus this way:
Your Excellency…

I wonder what will happen if this becomes a habit rather than an experiment for me. I wonder if I will turn to my “warhorse” far less than I do now, and turn to Jesus, in a posture of desperate dependence, far more often. All of Jesus’ best friends were desperate people. And I want to be one of His best friends…

Thanks for loving students,

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