God's Homeless People

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I should wait until this whole process is over to post…

This has been the thought pervading my mind in regards to this very post. Many times, when I consider writing or posting something, I like to write from a more knowledgeable perspective. I don’t like writing about an experience or a life event as it’s happening. It makes me feel like I don’t have control. It makes me feel incomplete. It makes me feel like I’m not qualified to talk about said experience since I haven’t finished living it yet.

I think that’s the point.

My Housing Struggle

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of stress and activity. We have been looking for a new home for our family amidst the owners of our current (my in-laws) house selling the one we’re in now. Two separate families operating on two different timelines isn’t exactly a walk in the park. While we’re packing our stuff, we’re also trying to help get the house ready for sale: cleaning, fixing, adding, removing. It has not been an easy few weeks.

Amidst all this were some health complications and crazy children on top of it all, and it has honestly brought me to my knees on more than one occasion. God, what are you doing! I cry. You see, I do not enjoy feeling helpless. I struggle with confidence mainly because I don’t want other people to think I don’t know how to do something, or think that I’m incapable of doing something on my own. I like to be self-sustaining. Ironically, God does not like me to be self-sustaining.

God has brought me through the last few years at Missio Dei, and has retooled my heart with a desire for community and transparency. As elders, though we make many mistakes, we do try to lead from this perspective as well. In my discipleship circles, I’ve learned to share almost anything, from the mundane to the extravagant with them. It truly is the, perhaps overused, phrase doing life together. All that to say, I’m honestly not quite sure why I’m having trouble sharing with you today all that I’m about to tell you. I mean, I do know why, and it’s for all the reasons I listed at the beginning. But when I sit down and just think about it, I know I have no reason to neglect sharing these things with you. You all know how broken I am. I certainly don’t need to pretend like I have it all together.

God’s Homeless People

I’m currently reading Exodus for Lent from with the website He Reads Truth. The past week or so, God’s been giving Moses detailed instructions for the construction of the Temple, along with all that goes with it. The courtyard. The relics and silverware for the interior. The Ark of the Covenant. The High Priestly garments. Reading chapter after chapter of instructions on how to build these things, the length, width and height of these things, the color of these things, the material of these things all needed to be exactly as God commanded…or else.

Moses chose skilled craftsmen of every trade to get the work done, and done well, and they built God’s house in the wilderness.

Ever since the exodus from Egypt, God made his people to be mobile. They had to pack and transport the tent during the entirety of their travels, what would be over 40 years in the wilderness prior to their settling down in Israel. Throughout that time, God provided everything the Israelites needed in spite of their own grumbling, complaining, and profaning God and His love for His people. He sent manna for them to eat, water for them to drink, and guided them with pillars of cloud and fire. While they were living in a time of uncertainty, forced to live day after day of not knowing where they were going next, God provided for them in their homelessness.

Can you imagine if God had commanded Moses to build a permanent tabernacle as he charged King Solomon years later? That thing was not built for daily tear-down and set-up! Even in the construction of God’s own house (the tabernacle), He made it mobile and ready to move.

Let’s not miss the significance of this: God made his own house and dwelling place mobile so He could always dwell in the midst of His people and provide their needs on a daily basis.

Conclusion

So here I am. In the midst of weeks of daily turmoil and uncertainty, reading through Exodus, not actually learning and gleaning the true significance and application to my own life until I finish the whole book. God is with His people through daily uncertainty and turmoil. Truly, He will never leave me or forsake me (Deut 31:6; Heb 13:5) and so I don’t need to worry (Phil 4:6) or be afraid (Ps 118:6; Heb 13:6). God has been faithful to His people since day one, and His character certainly hasn’t changed since then.

So even in uncertainty, I can still trust in my God, that, though I can’t see, and though I think I have a better plan, He’s directing my life, and this was for a certain reason and, surely, His plan is better than mine.

Toys and the Redefinition of Childhood

 Edited Photo by  Markus Spiske  on  Unsplash

Edited Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

This morning as I was waiting for the water to boil for my tea, I threw on the daily podcast The Briefing by Al Mohler. This is one of my go-to podcasts for engaging culture with a Christian worldview, and Mohler is a master at teasing out worldview themes in headlines from around the world.

There was one headline Mohler respun that caught my attention this morning: The Redefinition of Childhood as Sales of Lego Products Decline. The original headline reads Lego Will Cut 1,400 Jobs as Profit Dips, Despite Big-Screen Heroics.

I wanted to highlight Mohler’s headline because it got me thinking of my own childhood. What toys did I play with as a kid, and did it really make a difference in who I am today?

Even though I find myself designing almost all of what you see at Missio Dei, I do not consider myself to be a creative person. I cannot seem to picture something in my head and make it happen like my wonderful wife can. She is an artist from a family of artists who can make even a stick figure look life-like. My brain can’t do that, but it can rearrange shapes and patterns and colors into something like what you see here at MD. Some might consider that an “artistic style” or that I don’t give myself enough credit, but whatever. I just don’t see it in the same light.

I don’t have a terribly vivid memory of my childhood, but when I hone in on what I played with and what I liked to do, it does actually lead to some interesting correlations to my likes, interests, and passions today.

To put it bluntly, I can’t play with LEGOs for my life. I mean, I can follow directions for a model (I have fond memories of building the Millenium Falcon on my shore house table one morning), but I can’t create like other people can. However, I did like to play with action figures with various outfits and gadgets, toy cars would go zooming on the kitchen floor, and many many books would be read. However, I also grew up when console gaming was really taking off. I remember owning a PS1 and PS2 and even now in my adulthood, I’ve owned both a PS3 and PS4. I immersed myself in the gaming world probably just as much as I did in the real world. I played by myself, then, when online gaming was a reality, with a worldwide community online. Hours and hours of storylines, action fighting, puzzle solving, and exploration.

But what does that mean? Does it mean anything?

The article explains how LEGO is going to increase their efforts in smartphone and other digital technologies to keep up in the digital age, but Mohler argues that spatial, three-dimensional play helps wire the brain with spatial knowledge, and “That’s simply not going to happen on a smartphone.” That’s not just his opinion. It’s a well-researched fact that the way that children, even infants, interact with the physical world is vital to their growth and development. So it would seem that LEGOs first profit loss in 13 years might actually have implications in the way our children are growing up. What will the adults of the future look like?

Ultimately, it’s a great question and one we need to consider as we continue to grow older and change life stages. I do think there are benefits of technology that can and do help our children learn and grow, but I also agree with Mohler that three-dimensional play is crucial to their growth and development.

R E S P O N D

What do you think? Will more screens = better children? Or does playing with actual physical toys promote better growth and development? What biblical principles can help guide a parent’s decision-making in these areas? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!

Doing What the Church Does

I was done, and nothing was going to change that for me. Not prayer, not Scripture reading, not anything. Life was too hard. The kids were too disobedient. Work was too stressful. I was too impatient. And the all those factors mixed up did not make anything that resembled holiness or piety for me. 

Now, I know how writing works. This paragraph is usually the one that explains at what point in my life this was (far in the past of course) and what biblical truths have brought me through this season in some sort of life-changing way. But writing has never been my strongest strength.

All these factors of stress, difficulty, and frazzledness did not take place long ago. These took place last night, in the middle of Community Group. 

Yes, that time of the week I usually enjoy as one of the high points became a time of shutting down and frustration for me. A time where I could find solace and rest in my brothers and sisters in Christ became a time where I marched angrily upstairs to help Hannah try to bathe our crazy kids. Truth be told, I wanted to be upstairs. I didn't want to be like that in front of my friends! I'm an elder for gosh sakes! I should bear a more accurate representation of Christ-likeness than this, shouldn't I?

Shouldn't I?

How Quickly I Forget

Not 3 days ago from this writing, I sat down with a group of about 10 guys and we dove into a new MD|men study on ministry and the body of Christ. The first session highlighted our neediness. It described ministry in the body of Christ in such beautiful terms. The author painted the picture of a gaggle of his grandkids all wrestling, playing, and comforting one another in a mangled up ball of limbs on his bed one morning. He points out that it was "One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen." He goes on to mention that often we think of ministry as walking side by side with somebody down a straight, beautiful garden path, but that's not often how life actually pans out. It's more like that moving body of limbs, shouts, laughter, and tears. 

This teaching was very impactful to me (and what I assume was the rest of the group judging by the lively discussion we entertained for quite some time after). It comforted me to know that we are all to be transparent and needy with one another because it is our neediness before Christ that is the beginning point of the Gospel. Without our need, there is no Cross, no Resurrection. It is central to what we believe and central to how we are to live life together.

But I forgot all this last night. I felt compelled by my pride to pretend like I had it all together, and when that failed I wanted nothing to do with the people (my friends) in my living room. I wanted to be alone. 

God's Perfect Timing

Eventually, I carried my fussy 7-month-old downstairs to try to re-engage. Can you imagine how that went? Not well. My internals were still at a boiling point. I made no eye contact. I really wasn't even paying attention to what my friends were talking about at that time. Still shut down. They asked me if I was alright and if there was anything they could do to help. I told them no, I was not ok, and no there was nothing you can do. Perhaps I've been reading too much of Job recently, but I figured God would deliver me from all this when He saw fit. No need to fight it. 

It was then a dear brother invited the room to pray for me. "Great," I thought. "This is not what I want to do right now."

But they prayed. And I listened. And I was still angry. Nothing changed. I guess God answered "No" to that one. I got up and went into the kitchen to start cleaning up the mess from dinner. Almost immediately I was joined by the rest of Community Group. "We're going to clean your kitchen dude. Take a break." Normally, I'd resist, but I honestly didn't have it in me. I marched back upstairs to help put my screaming kids to bed.

The Whole Point

Perhaps you're wondering why I'm killing your buzz, telling you the depth of struggle and depravity in my own heart. You've got your own problems, right? You don't need to hear mine. Perhaps that's true. You noticed I titled the last section "God's Perfect Timing" but you don't get it. There was no redemption. No finality. No end to the story. What's the point?

The point is this. When I walked down the stairs this morning, I didn't feel much better. Nothing had changed for me. Sometimes, like in Job, suffering persists. But when I walked into my kitchen this morning, and saw the completed work, the fruits of my brothers and sisters in Christ, it uplifted my heart.

I'm not talking about "it made me feel happy" because that's a little too simplistic compared to what happened. I saw the work they did. I thought about their question last night. "Is there anything we can do to help?" I thought about my dismissive answer. Then, to think they didn't care. They didn't care that I didn't want help. They didn't think to just go about discussing the sermon from Sunday and leave things the way they were. They didn't excuse themselves quietly from the awkward tensions of my home last night. They thought to do something. They entered into the messiness to minister to a brother and sister who really had no idea what help even looked like.

And that's the point. It's the church doing what the church does. Entering into the tangled up ball of limbs, tears, and struggles to love and comfort one another. The helpers helping the helpless. And it is the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time.