Sunday, April 30, 2017

Paintball and Evangelism

Whizz.  Pop. Smack. Splat. I crawled through the dry grass on my belly, forearms crushing thistle, knees pressing me forward.  When the coast was clear, I jumped to my feet, ran and hid behind a large blue barrel. Sneaking my gun around the plastic edge, I drew a bead on the fort and fired rapid shots before withdrawing, my knuckle purple with paint, red with blood. A wince must have crossed my face, but I was more determined than ever to make it worthwhile and capture the small white flag waving up the hill. My teammates drew fire, I leaped over the fence, grabbed the pole and ran. We won. That game.

Add caption

Paintball: Slow. Fast. Furious. Painful.

My husband invited me to join him and our son a few years ago while during family camp one summer. I balked. Made excuses. Gave in. Now it's one of my favorite things to do.

You can leave a comment or refuse to read further based on your feelings about firearms and the game itself. But you would never guess that my motivation and take-away is evangelism.

If you are anti-weapon, I am not here to win you over. To my Wyoming native way of thinking, paintball is long-range "tag-you're-out." As one of few women who plays the game with young people and fun-loving family men, my goal is to win--whether it means capturing people, a chest of gold or the flag from the fort. Paintballs travel farther and faster than this old body--so the game's easier and more fun than old-fashioned tag. The  danger is superficial and temporary: a welt, bruise, or bloody knuckle.

"This is like evangelism," crept to mind as I hid behind a tree and considered the cost of rushing the offense. I stood sideways, heart thumping, chest tight. Was I willing to suffer? Yes. What was my objective? To work with the team. Had I thought it through and considered the opposition? Yes. Did I have a plan? Yes. Was I willing to pay the price of rushing the enemy? Absolutely.

As crazy as it sounds, a person I dearly love and have been praying for often comes to my mind as I wait for the game to begin or crawl from pillar to tree. That is what I'm after as I play this silly, intense game. And as I pray for them I ask, "Am I willing to suffer their insults, indignation or rejection?" Yes. "Do I have an objective?" Yes, to win them for Christ. "Have I thought it through and considered my options?"  Yes, share the gospel of Jesus and show His love or risk their eternity. "Do I have a plan?"  Yes.  Am I willing to suffer the consequences? You betcha.

I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. In sharing Christ with others, by stepping out in faith and love, I risk comfort, reputation, approval--superficial and temporary--that I may gain Christ.

“Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:26-33)


Monday, April 17, 2017

Rescuers Anonymous

12-Step Introduction: My name is Sydney Millage and I am a rescuer,
with an addition: being transformed by the power of God.

As I straightened the house and delivered items to the children's rooms, the temptation to fix this and fix that jumped out like a bogey man. Then I reminded myself that's not my job. They are responsible for their stuff. Real life and consequences are my friends (and theirs).
I'm a first-born. A fixer. I may not have the right answer, but if you ask, I always have at least one (answer, that is). I do it myself--17-grocery-bags-at-a-time-or-die-trying--when I could ask for help. I organize, give orders, and create spreadsheets.

I still do some of those things, but I see others, problems, God and myself differently than before.

You probably think of fixers and helpers as nice people. They're helpful, insightful, sensitive, caring, and self-sacrificing. The ugly beneath the surface of my heart was the desire for praise, approval, affection, wanting to be liked and wanted, even needed, by others. When others didn't give me what I thought I had earned through good intentions and sacrificial giving, evil thoughts and demands swirled in my head. I was nice on the outside, judgmental and critical on the inside. (Fear not, my friend, God uses even our sin for His good purpose. He can protect you from me--or use it for both of our sakes and His glory).

Over the years God has used various Scripture to show me that my job isn't to fix problems or people. In fact, I was the problem. By helping others, I made myself indispensable. It wasn't about them. It was really about me. I ran myself ragged helping people with black holes of demands, neglecting God-given responsibilities for nothing more than good feelings and others' praise. How sinfully selfish and prideful! I was using some people and neglecting others, calling it "good." It was no different than using dishonest weights--pouring myself out where I saw the greatest need (or immediate return on my efforts) and giving little where I didn't. (Proverbs 10:10 says, "Diverse weights and diverse measures, They are both alike, an abomination to the Lord.") In other words, I was playing God--desiring the power, control and praise that belongs to Him and Him alone.

Part of me would still rather fix and do than please God. It's an area I fight with prayer and Scripture, realizing I'm the one who needs rescued. When I try to help others without addressing my own sinful tendencies, I do nothing more than feign goodness, like the white-washed tomb of Jesus' day.

I now see how unkind it is to "help" individuals suffering the consequences of sinful or neglectful choices. Each time they are rescued from consequences and the weight of their need or sin, they are turned aside from Jesus. Temporary relief does harm, not good. Tragically, if we do not detect sin or a great need for comfort, peace, or forgiveness, God will not have us. We cannot come to God apart from our sin and our need for Jesus' substitutionary death and resurrection.

As Christians, we are called to help, love, be patient, kind and gentle, to bear one another's burdens. We are not called to remove consequences or be "the answer." There is a time and place to come alongside others and it's determined by love because "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:10)

By "staying in my lane" and trusting God to work, He receives credit and glory--all of it!

Instead of trying to change others or fix their circumstances, I have learned to cry out for help myself, with humility and dependence. And as I see God work in my life, I have the privilege of sharing with others, confident that "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved.
How long will you attack a man?
You shall be slain, all of you,
Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.
They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
They delight in lies;
They bless with their mouth,
But they curse inwardly. Selah
My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
Men of high degree are a lie;
If they are weighed on the scales,
They are altogether lighter than vapor.
Do not trust in oppression,
Nor vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase,
Do not set your heart on them.
God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.
Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
For You render to each one according to his work. (Psalm 62 NKJV)

* " For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10

Monday, March 27, 2017

When I'm Up Against the Wall

Have you ever noticed that having a lot of something--time, money, energy--gives you a sense of control and lack of concern? At least it would appear that way. Multi-millionaires don't make a fuss over tossing their card across the counter to purchase tickets, a meal (or five or ten) at a 4-start restaurant, or the door man's tip. For some of us, it costs something. Everything we buy means something we don't. The object is the same, but because of limitations, we value it differently.

God is God--not a man--but have you ever thought about how much time means to Him? The eternal, uncreated, self-sustaining God rules from eternity past to eternity future. He created time. For Him, it is not limited. He is not hurried. There is no deadline, due date or expiration. That means my crisis is not a crisis. He was there yesterday. He is in tomorrow. The future is the past.

When He wants to move nations and create leaders, He does. When He chooses to use a man, or change a man, He moves heaven and earth to accomplish His purpose.

Sometimes I get discouraged that life isn't happening according to my plan or I'm not changing as quickly as I'd like or in the areas where I struggle. That's when I'm reminded of the great men of the Bible--flawed, failing men--and God's patient, good use of trials and difficult circumstances. Pick one --Abraham, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, Paul. Pick any one of these men and plot his life. God patiently worked people and circumstances to change them and bring them to a place of giftedness and dependence. Getting to the "other side" was not the goal, change was. God used time as an instrument, a tool, a mechanism, to accomplish His good purpose and use each one for His glory.

The take away for me this morning? Stop. Slow down. Look up. Let go. Time is not the enemy--is never the enemy--but hanging on to it tightly is.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You return man to dust
    and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.

You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are brought to an end by your anger;
    by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
    or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
    and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
    Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!

(Psalm 90 A Psalm of Moses)