Reflections on the Sacrifices

struggle_is_realContinued from here.

While my last blog entry connected the dots of the ways God clearly led me to where I now serve in professional ministry, this journey came with cost and sacrifice. I was searching for professional ministry positions (in obedience to God) while working full-time in a position where I had excelled for several years. I had worked for this company in Corporate America for over 8.5 years, and this was where my family got its health insurance. This was my longest place of employment on my resume.

To make a very long story short, this company fired me in August 2017 for refusing to engage in activity that I believe is both unethical and illegal. My family lost my income, health insurance, and other corporate benefits. In addition, I incurred a “black mark” on my resume – I will never again be able to truthfully answer “No” when asked if I have ever been fired from a job. I didn’t have to be fired: I could have simply gone along with what management wanted and participated in the unethical & illegal behavior. But I could not participate in fraud, and I paid the price for standing up for what is right.

God brought me to my current position exactly two months after the firing, and I thoroughly enjoy what I do now. However, this also came with a cost. My hourly rate is literally half what I was making at my Corporate America job, and this job comes with no benefits. Losing my prior position and following God to where I am now came at a heavy cost when you add up the lost income, lost benefits, and lost professional reputation.

If not for trusting God throughout the past year, my professional life would look like a train wreck. I’m pushing 50, which is not the ideal time to make a career change or be cavalier about getting fired by my employer of over 8.5 years. It makes no sense to earn a new degree – and one in ministry, of all things – at this stage in my life. Why invest thousands of dollars toward a degree for a career that pays much less than the careers that my law degree can provide? Following God over the past year has been costly.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace frowning by the words, “The Struggle is Real.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Dead to Self: Alive in Christ

passionContinued from here.

Sacrificing yourself – your entire life, will, ambition, and everything else – is the key to experiencing God’s joy and peace. We cannot have it both ways: experiencing God’s joy and peace while expending our energy on selfish pursuits. As Floyd McClung said in his article entitled Apostolic Passion from Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Perspectives),

There are too many over-fed, under-motivated Christians hiding behind the excuse that God has not spoken to them. They are waiting to hear voices or see dreams—all the while living to make money, to provide for their future, to dress well and have fun.”

We must choose who we are going to serve: God or ourselves. If we choose to serve God, this comes with sacrifice, but you’ll experience more joy and peace than you ever imagined! The year 2017 was filled with sacrifice for me, including sacrificing a lucrative job to go where God wanted me, paying literally half the hourly rate I was making. But you know what? I’m having a great time and seeing God’s hand at work. I have already witnessed two miracles in my 2-1/2 months on the job, and God has met all my needs. Nothing about my professional decisions in 2017 make logical sense, but I am exactly where God wants me. I sacrificed my professional ambitions and received so much more than I could have dreamed, even though from a worldly perspective, most people think I have lost my mind!

When I sacrificed my job, I found passion for Christ in a way I had never experienced before. You can experience this passion as well. You don’t have to stay miserable in your profession out of fear for security. God knows what you need and will provide for you. Don’t be afraid to ask where God wants you and to follow Him there. He really does know what he is doing!

McClung encourages us to sacrifice our “gifts, vocations and talents” to God. He then states:

If you have apostolic passion, you are one of the most dangerous people on the planet. The world no longer rules your heart. You are no longer seduced by getting and gaining … You live as a pilgrim, unattached to the cares of this world. You are not afraid of loss… Your Father’s passions have become your passions. You find satisfaction and significance in Him.”

This can be your reality, but it comes with sacrifice. This the natural byproduct of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace being pulled upward into a shower of hearts. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Sacrifice Required to Reap the Harvest

new_year_new_meContinued from here.

As if that one epiphany on sacrifice was not enough, Floyd McClung’s article entitled Apostolic Passion from Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Perspectives) had even more to teach me. McClung made another astute observation:

Too many people want the fruit of Paul’s ministry without paying the price that Paul paid. He died. He died to everything. He died daily. He was crucified with Christ. This strong-willing, opinionated man knew that he must die to self. He knew that in his flesh, he couldn’t generate the revelation of Jesus; he couldn’t sustain the heart of Christ. So he died. He abandoned his life. He abandoned himself.”

Reading this convicted me and profoundly changed my outlook. I deeply desire to do God’s will and accomplish all he has planned for me to do. However, I didn’t want to sacrifice to do it … at least not during my most vulnerable time of the year when I had been ailing for a month, and nobody seemed to notice or care how much I was sacrificing. Notice all of the “I’s” and “my’s” in that last sentence. I realized that I was not dying to self as long as I was focused on myself, and that was the reason for my lack of joy. So, I boldly prayed the prayer that McClung encouraged me to pray, which he promised God would answer quickly:

Lord, be ruthless with me in revealing my selfish ambition and my lack of willingness to die to myself.”

One of my struggles with God is that His timetable typically runs much slower than mine. However, McClung with right. Within an hour, I was restored to the joy that had eluded me for a month. Death to self is the key to joy in God!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace saying, “New Year – New Me!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Passion for Christ Requires Sacrifice of Comfort

Continued from here.

My next class in earning my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry is on global missions. One of the textbooks is Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Perspectives), which is a compilation of numerous articles with varying perspectives on global missions. I was particularly drawn to an article entitled Apostolic Passion by Floyd McClung, who has these wise words to say about passion:

Passion means whatever a person is willing to suffer for…It is what you hunger for so intensely that you will sacrifice anything to have it…If you will not suffer and sacrifice for something, you are not passionate about it.”

Take a minute to process this truth and then ask yourself some tough questions: Are you passionate about Christ? What are you willing to sacrifice for Christ? Are you willing to sacrifice your money? Your time? Your comfort? Are you willing to say yes to a ministry opportunity that falls outside your comfort zone? Or are you only willing to follow where God leads as long as you are comfortable doing so?

When I read this article, I was feeling sorry for myself. I had been physically ill for a month and had made many sacrifices during that month as I pushed through my illness to work, take care of my family, and do 90% of the work needed to make the holiday celebrations happen for my extended. From my self-centered perspective, I had not received much in return, and I was angry about it.

This article hit me right between the eyes. How much did Jesus sacrifice for me and for everyone else in the world, knowing that the vast majority would reject his sacrifice? How much of his time did he spend whining about not getting what he wanted? If Jesus, who was God incarnate, asked for and expected nothing as he served sacrificially while he was on this earth, why was I viewing myself as deserving more than my own master received?

I immediately repented of my selfishness and asked God to give me a passion for him, willing to endure any sacrifice. And you know what happened? The joy that had eluded me for most of the month of December returned. By choosing to focus on myself, I was rejecting joy. As soon as I centered my focus on Jesus again, that same joy was almost instantly restored!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Perspectives)Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Humility: The Sacrifice of Pride

Continued from here.

On her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer has shared that her lowest-selling book is one on humility. It’s not that her books don’t sell well – they certainly do! The problem is that people are selfish. We would much rather spend our time learning how to receive God’s blessings than on making sacrifices for God, and developing humility requires us to sacrifice our self-focus. As I have shared on other blog entries about humility, God actually knows what He is doing. The less your fill with yourself, the more room becomes available to fill with God, which brings joy and peace. Thus, when we resist developing humility, we choose to miss out on the joy and peace that God has available for us.

Paul tells us to be completely humble, so why would a book on humility be Meyers’ lowest seller? The answer is a reluctance to sacrifice … in this case, the sacrifice of pride. We want to read books that build up our pride: How can **I** experience joy? How can **I** experience peace? How can **I** experience healing? Please don’t think I am excluding myself from this statement – that’s my natural state as well, which is why my natural state is also anxious and unhappy.

And yet, Christianity isn’t about us: it’s about God! When we choose to spend our time figuring out what we can get out of our faith, we keep our minds focused on ourselves, rather than God. Jesus gave us two “great commandments,” and neither one has ourselves as the focus:

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matt. 22:36-40

It comes easily to all of us to keep our minds focused on ourselves – on what we want, making it a sacrifice to focus on God and others. But this is what must do to become disciples of Christ.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Testing Your Level of Humility. Courtesy Amazon. ]

 

My Lesson from 2017: Value of Sacrifice

happy_2018Happy New Year, everyone!

It’s great to be back to blogging again. I apologize for my two-week absence. The entire month of a December was one long, painful blur of a cold that morphed into a sinus infection that required two rounds of antibiotics and a round of Prednisone to treat. I am immensely grateful to be on the mend as we start a new year.

I am not one for setting New Year’s Resolutions, which I never seem to be able to keep. However, I am a fan of reflecting upon what I have learned over the past year in the hopes of carrying that life lesson with me as I advance into the new year and beyond. The theme of 2017 for me was learning the value of sacrifice.

Sacrifice is not a topic that anyone, even Christians, typically wants to hear. Thankfully, our military appreciate the value of sacrifice … otherwise, they would not put their lives on the line for the pay they receive. Other occupations require sacrifice as well, such as police, firefighters, and nurses. I recently learned that prison chaplains frequently sacrifice spending Christmas with their families because of the needs of inmates on Christmas day. So, there are certainly people in society who recognize the value of sacrifice … or are at least willing to make it. Interestingly, none of the occupations I identified pay particularly well when compared with other higher-paying occupations that don’t require the sacrifice of holiday time with family, so monetary gain is unlikely to be the motive.

While we admire sacrifice in others, most of us are unwilling to choose it for ourselves, particularly when it involves long-term suffering. Even a large number of Christians are functionally no different from the rest of the world when it comes to choosing sacrifice. We might warm a pew on Sunday, but when we have the opportunity to sacrifice our time, money, or comfort, we say no. Why is that? If we really appreciated the value of sacrifice, we might be more inclined to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus, no matter the cost.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling, holding up her arms, and saying, Happy 2018!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]