Be Small: A Guide for Self-Insufficient Living

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children." (Matthew 11:25)

 

 

“That’s it? What does it mean?”

“Small and well cared-for.” 

It was tradition. Every year at the end of our day in Duluth, each Majeski searches the shores of Lake Superior to find a rock that expresses their heart on that day. This year I picked a tiny one that was buffeted by hundreds of years of waves, ice and neighbors to be remarkably smooth and round. It was an accurate expression of my soul after some days “off the grid” bow hunting and sightseeing in Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

Small and well cared-for

It took a while to get there. The first week we were gone, it was hard to slow down and settle in. I felt a pressure to make the most of the time and hold on to the transcendent moments. I guess I just wanted to fill up a jar with vacation manna and take it home. That pressure and the looming sense that one day our vacation would end left me anxious and, frankly, unpleasant. 

Thankfully, God goes to football games. Yeah, homecoming games in small towns. Halfway through our vacation, the Majeski family attended the homecoming football game of the Pirates of Grantsburg, Wisconsin. Most of the town of roughly 1,300 people were there – along with the Holy Spirit.  

The atmosphere of the game stood in stark contrast to our life in Fort Collins. Certainly, these salt-of-the-earth folks had their problems, but they weren’t clamoring for perfection. And I felt God’s Spirit bringing to mind all that I had recently been reading in Matthew’s Gospel. God was not less pleased with these people because they live peaceful lives in a remote town. God didn’t disdain their lack of prominence. In fact, if anything, it is cause for His special attention. And God’s favor would not be secured by making a  “big” splash.

But I was living that way.

Being exposed is painful, yet it’s also a way God shows us His grace. In one sentence, my life stood in the spotlight of God’s revelation. I had assumed the role of the all-self-sufficient one and was wound so tight in my own efforts that here, in my favorite place in the world, I couldn’t unwind. God, my careful Father, was graciously helping me see. Kermit the Frog’s famous phrase came to mind: “It’s not easy being green.” Yes, Kermit, and it’s not easy being big, either. By design, it’s impossible.

 


There is only one self-sufficient One. And, because of this, He came to serve not to be served (Mark 10:45). The basis of my significance (which is, simply, His pleasure in me) is not my achievements or prominence but the righteous life and atoning death of His Son (2 Cor. 5:21). It has always been so and will always be. 

The first order of business for every child of God every day is to be a “little” child. Accept your needs. Be small. Be thankful for today’s manna and trust it will be there tomorrow. Gratefully receive your place as one small and well cared-for. It is an essential precursor to the joy of the Lord, which is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

 

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

 

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6–7)

Free to Love Once and For All

If you haven’t heard the song “Farther Along” by Josh Garrels, you definitely should.
 


It’s catchy, filled with a lot of truth and imagery and is worth listening to a couple times over, in my opinion. If you still have time to read my post after that, this one happens also to relate to a line in the song:
 
“Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall and I’m free to love once and for all.”

This line alludes to the joy of our salvation in knowing God. I have been chewing on what it is to be “free to love”. Freeing would not be the word I would typically use to describe my love for others; stingy is a much more accurate description. Don’t get me wrong. I am great at loving people, just so long as they love me back in the exact way I would want them to. But if they seem to snub me a little or say something that I perceive as being a little condescending, I get very defensive or pouty and I think twice before investing much more in that relationship. I make them earn my love back, because after all, love is a costly thing and I can’t just go spending it on any ordinary person.

When I think like this, I have completely forgotten the gospel.
 
The truth is that there is a God who should never have loved me, whom I had sneered at and mocked and deliberately disobeyed and in my pride, which He hated, I had told Him I didn’t really need Him. What was His response? This God chose to love me and it was not with a selfish love. It was not a love that changed depending on how well I responded to it. If that were the case, He never would have loved me because I had responded pitifully. No, God loved me even when I was dead in my trespasses. When I had nothing but filth to offer Him, that’s when He chose to step down and display the ultimate act of love by choosing to bear my filth to its wrath-filled destruction. This was not a half-hearted, “I’m going to love you this once and then you better get your act together” kind of love. God lavished His love on me. Knowingly, willingly, to His pleasure, God chose to love me, even knowing how often I would take complete advantage of His love. There is nothing like Him.
 
If this is really true, I am no longer constrained to respond to others in accordance to how they respond to me. I have the God of the entire universe, the Maker of all that is good, the Holder of time, the Breather of Life, filling me with His infinite love. What a freedom to love others! If they hate me, I remember a God I used to hate and how He didn’t hold back an ounce of His limitless love in response to me. 

When I am looking at myself and responding out of fear to what others think of me, I am very unable to truly love. How can I? I am a slave to their opinions of me and will only “love” if they have made me secure enough in myself to do so. When I look to God and His extravagant grace toward me when I was so undeserving, I am in the right place to love others regardless of how they may react. God has made me secure forever in His love for me. Freely I have received; freely I can give in accordance with the abundance with which God has blessed me.

A Blizzard from 30,000 Feet, or Why We Go to Church

The blizzard hit on Thursday and it snowed hard through Saturday night. By early Sunday morning it was obvious we weren't going anywhere – in our Chevy Blazer, that is.  

I was about eight years old living in Evergreen, Colorado. Our little Baptist church was several miles away by road, but just a mile cross-country. My sister and I were bundled up and donning our cross-country skis, and through about four feet of snow made the traverse to church.

I love my dad's heart in how he led my family to church that day. It is true that we could have taken a day off and God wouldn't have thought less of us. But when the "hurdle" of the blizzard loomed in his way, my dad immediately decided to jump it rather than allow it to stop us. I have no idea what we did in church that day, but my dad's leadership left a firm impression on my heart that church is of great importance.  

But why is it important? To answer this question, I'd like you to come with me to look at life from the 30,000-foot view.

Up here at 30,000 feet, we see a battle between two kingdoms. We are born into the “domain of darkness” (Colossians 1:13). When we are converted, we are transferred into the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Two kingdoms – that of darkness and that of Jesus Christ – are at war with each other. 1 John 5:19 states that we (Christians) are from God, but the whole world lies in the power of the evil one, Satan.  

Let’s swoop up just a little higher in this big picture. Someday you and I will be dead. When the reality of an eternity of life with God or death apart from him smacks you in the face, what of this life will matter? I sometimes wonder if at that moment I'll experience some sadness at the realization of the sheer magnitude of time I squandered in meaningless pursuits of comfort and pleasure.  

Most of our lives look like this:






We separate our time and resources into categories, and we proudly display God as the biggest one! The problem is that this lifestyle fails to account for the war we're in. Our travel circle or our work circles don’t have too much to do with God. 

Does your life reflect the fact that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one? That everywhere we go two kingdoms are at war? Satan prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) looking for someone to devour. He is extremely opposed to the advancement of the Gospel. 

I wrote in my last post that we all worship something. Whatever we long for most, desire to talk about the most, that is what we worship. We must engage our whole selves in declaring God is greater than anything else. The enemy is violently opposed to us making that declaration. He will do anything to get us to compartmentalize our lives and dilute the message.

Life should only have one compartment; everything else is just a subset:






In this life, God calls us out of our comfort zones and onto the front lines of war. Don’t misunderstand, though. I’m not talking about being at a church building 24/7 or everyone becoming pastors and full-time relief workers. The battle rages all around us, not just in the unreached people groups across the world. 

The front line of the war is in the heart of every single person. 

At work, it may take the form of a war between integrity and dishonesty, or laziness and diligence. With your neighbors the battle might be covetousness vs. generosity. Are you selfless in your home? Are you merciful? Are you humble when you play sports, or do people see arrogance and pride?

God put you exactly where you are, and your chief occupation in this war is to make much of Jesus. Place your value on pointing everyone straight to Him as you joyfully declare that He is greater than anything else in your life. Everything you do should make Him look awesome to those around you!

In this world we will have trouble, but take heart! Jesus has overcome the world! He has chosen to show his strength in the unlikely, broken, misfit group of weak failures called the Church. We fight in this war by surrendering our whole lives to him; by resting in the fact that we have been redeemed, and by seeing the Gospel for the good news that it really is: that God loved us so much he conquered death on the cross so that we could be rescued into an amazing and full life with Him.

My dad understood this war the morning we strapped our skis on and went to church. That day he magnified Jesus in the front-line battleground of my eight-year-old soul.

I don't go to church because it's the right thing to do, or because it makes me feel good. I show up on Sunday morning because that's where my army battalion is. I show up every week because my struggle isn't against flesh and blood, but against the powers of the dark world and spiritual forces of evil. On Sunday morning I get to stand in the ranks of God's army, wearing the armor of God, together standing our ground against the flaming arrows of the evil one.

I'll leave you with a "big picture" thought that captivates my heart: "Little children . . . He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

Confessions of a Reluctant Extrovert

 

One thing that I am learning about myself, often painfully and reluctantly, is that I just might be an extrovert. This is only notable because I have considered myself an introvert for as long as I can remember.

The thing that I don’t often let people know is that I am a “hopeless romantic.” I am not completely sure what is always meant by this term, but for me it means that there is something appealing about deep emotional battles and even deep pain is acceptable, should it reveal something good and right. Poetry speaks to me very vividly. The irony is that I am not very prone to show great emotional response or excitement, even though it simmers under the surface. For me, this always meant that I must be an introvert: I am most genuine in my own thoughts and in those times alone with God. 

As long as I have considered these things, I always thought that when I had a long day, the best thing for me, the thing that would bring me the most encouragement, would be time alone to “decompress,” as my wife and I are fond of saying. The problem is that as I am alone with my thoughts, all the struggles of the day seem to compress into those simmering emotions all the more. My attempt to respond to life, as a good introvert should, seemed to lead to very strange cases of melancholy. What could an introvert do? Maybe it’s not that simple.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews encourages the saints to not “neglect” meeting together as is the habit of some in the church (10:24-25). For the introvert it is easy to “neglect” meeting with fellow saints. When my identity becomes a narrowly defined personality trait or tendency, it is easy to neglect the richness of the life God has called me to. These labels for the way that we tend to be can often excuse our sin, and become the basis for so much of our pride and self-righteousness. We relish our unique personality traits rather than looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Instead I look to Chris the introverted, intuitive, abstract thinker, enemy of God before he was reconciled by the blood of the cross.

Knowing my natural tendencies is a good thing. God has created me uniquely, and he knows me better than I know myself. But, were I to truly realize my natural tendencies, I would still be a slave to sin. The Lord has encouraged my soul, heart, and mind more in my interactions with other saints, His Body, than ever before. I have to truly consider others better than myself when I step into social situations that I would normally shy away from. That simple obedience and self-forgetfullness is truly life-giving. God wants to pierce through tidy little categories that we like to create about ourselves or others. He is the answer, not any system of social psychology that makes much of us. 

God does not call us to anything but joy in His glorious presence. Any aspect of myself that I think I am sacrificing to attain that is a welcome exchange. Oh God, that you would show us the reality of that exchange.

So sings he, charm'd with his own mind and form, 

The song magnificent-the theme a worm! 

Himself so much the source of his delight, 

His Maker has no beauty in his sight. 

See where he sits, contemplative and fix'd, 

Pleasure and wonder in his features mix'd; 

His passions tam'd, and all at his control, 

How perfect the composure of his soul! 

Complacency has breath'd a gentle gale 

O'er all his thoughts, and swell'd his easy sail: 

His books well trimm'd, and in the gayest style, 

Like regimented coxcombs, rank and file, 

Adorn his intellects as well as shelves, 

And teach him notions splendid as themselves: 

The Bible only stands neglected there- 

Though that of all most worthy of his care; 

And, like an infant, troublesome awake, 

Is left to sleep, for peace and quiet sake.

– William Cowper, “What is Man?” (excerpt)

 

 

The dearest idol I have known, 

     Whate'er that idol be; 

Help me to tear it from thy throne, 

     And worship only thee.

So shall my walk be close with GOD, 

     Calm and serene my frame; 

So purer light shall mark the road 

     That leads me to the Lamb.

– William Cowper, “Walking with God” (excerpt)


The Beautiful Hero: Seeing All I Was Meant to Be in Jesus

 

A good book and a good quiet time intersected for me last week. Summitview’s Aspire class recently read Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson, and I am going through it with a group of leaders from another church, as well. In it, Dodson speaks of the importance of delighting in God as a motivation for our Christian life, then quotes Jonathan Edwards as saying:

 

The first foundation of the delight a true saint has in God, is his own perfection; and the first foundation of the delight he has in Christ, in his own beauty; he appears in himself the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. (Gospel-Centered Discipleship, 77)

 

If Jonathan Edwards is right, and our first foundation of delight in Christ is seeing that He is altogether lovely, do we ever get to that? I'm not sure the typical Christian has the automatic response of "lovely" to his image of Jesus.

But in a recent quiet time, I read the last two thirds of the book of Judges. So many broken men leading the nation of Israel, or corrupting the nation of Israel, or both. Weakness, failure, lust, greed, ambition. There are no heroes, no clear bad guys. Just the sad state of pathetic human lives, dysfunctional families and selfish culture. Just a mess, really. And though God was at work in and through those people, their individual daily lives rarely reflected much that looked like God. And of course the book of Judges ends on a very sobering, and all-too-relevant-for-today point in Israel's history. Actually, the whole Bible is a story of broken people, broken leaders and broken nations. And all that's there looks strikingly like an honest view of my world.

Except in one life. One life in the Bible is different. Starkly different. Jesus’ life. Jesus was not only an instrument of God's will, like Gideon or Samson or Ehud, but Jesus' life looked like what I kept hoping to see in those other men, and in myself. Jesus was not broken. Jesus was good. When there were opportunities for lust, He loved instead. When there was a door for greed, He closed it and gave. When ambition and power were offered again and again, he just walked away. He was different than anyone else has ever been. He was perfect. Even in the face of death, He would not change. Everything that looked good in Jesus was good. Jesus was real.

In Jesus was Life, and that life was the light of men. He is the light of this world. Though I am nothing like Jesus, yet in Jesus I see the real me, or all that was meant to be me, but never is. In that life I see what God has made me to be. Jesus is the beauty of God made visible, the beautiful expression of all the qualities that we all were intended to shine forth. Jesus is altogether lovely. He is God, He is my Savior, and He is good. I do delight in Him.

Which makes His call to me most wonderful. He asks me to serve Him. The One who is beautiful asks me to be loyal. In light of all the other broken, foolish things I serve, my heart cries out that this Man, this good Man, deserves my allegiance. Though many turn away to serve other gods, may I not loose sight of the One who is worthy, and who invites me to follow. May I be true to the One who is true. May I always see, in all its glory, the privilege of being called to labor in His service.

When we see the life of Christ in its true contrast to all others, our heart speaks the word "beautiful.” It is a beauty that brings joy into the heart and humility deep into the soul. It truly is a profound motivation to serve and follow Him. Seeing that beauty is what must be fostered in our hearts and in our churches. We will honor what is beautiful to us.

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