Not On My Watch…

I wept today…

I wept over the Church—Jesus’ Church—for veering off the Way and taking the scenic route to heaven.

I wept because I have forgotten my role, been distracted from my small but significant part in the great Drama of God, this tragic yet redeeming play where God shows the world the true meaning of Celebrity, where God shows the world His true place as the Director, Producer, Writer, and Star of the Greatest Show in Creation.

I wept because I have competed in my heart for His role—the Leading Man—while neglecting my job as one of the global distributors of this tour-de-force of grace, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration, the most expensive motion picture masterpiece in the history of history.

I wept because I have gotten distracted by the popcorn and candy case in the glittering lobby, misusing the money that God entrusted to me, money that was supposed to be used to purchase and share movie tickets with those left out in the miserable cold, those who still have time to catch the final act, the great Curtain Call of God, if we ushers would only help them into the warmth of the theater.

I wept today…

King David, in 1 Chronicles 21:24, responded in the following way to Araunah’s generous offer to give freely and without charge to David the prime piece of real estate that would eventually become the great Temple of the LORD: David said forcefully to Araunah,

“No. I’m buying it from you [with my own money], and at the full market price. I’m not going to offer God sacrifices that are no sacrifice” (The Message).

My friends, I was crushed by the implications of David’s example here. David would not do something great for God cheaply; David would not present a gift to God that had not cost him much, that had not been expensive for him to give.

I cannot remember the last time I loved God—or others for that matter, including my dear precious family—expensively, in a way that cost me greatly.

Hear me, friends—you are probably thinking, “M.J.’s over-reacting again. Sound the siren.” No, loved ones…I have gotten skilled at loving cheaply, loving in such a way that is not very costly to me. The love might be large in amount, but it pales in comparison to the bank account, the true measure of sacrifice. “Unequal gifts, equal sacrifice”—beautifully stated by Christ Church’s Step of Faith campaign nearly four years ago. Loved ones, my love has been cheap in accordance to what God has given me—and us—through His Son Jesus…

The Gospel—the Good News—is worth trillions of trillions; so why am I merely handing out coins?…

I also wept over this…

But my tears were not of guilt;

Rather, they were tears of gratitude, hope, and renewed vigor. Gratitude for Jesus’ quickness to forgive before my apology had finished crossing my lips; Hope for the Father’s assurance that it is never too late, that we are

never too far off course to return to the highway; and Renewed Vigor for the Holy Spirit’s fresh determination and focus replenished to fulfill my role with an Oscar-caliber passion.

I am ready for extravagant, generous, and sacrificial loving that not only loves those in arms reach but that also seeks to love those separated by ocean and mountain, poverty and illness, guilt and shame…

I refuse to hoard God’s gracious love anymore, and I will not rest until I have distributed all of the Salvation Tickets entrusted to me for delivery…I’m going to make UPS look like the Pony Express…

I will stand at my post, and I will not be distracted from signaling the lost, lonely, and languishing to enter here, to receive rest and comfort now and forever through the Gate of Jesus…

I cannot neglect this great honor, not on my watch…not for popcorn and candy.

Let me close in prayer:

Father, please forgive me.

Forgive me for hoarding Your generous inheritance to me,

the Good News of Jesus, Your offer of eternal life.

Forgive me for not delivering the Spiritual Bread that you entrusted to me, that fresh and aromatic Bread of Life baked in the torturous oven of the Cross and cooled in the stony tomb, that fluffy bread that rose like flour to Life eternal, on the Way up offering that same Life to all who choose to taste and eat, to receive Jesus.

Forgive me for writing checks lavishly with my tongue on Sunday morning that often bounce the moment my hands and feet leave the building.

Forgive me for the self-preservation and maintenance of personal comfort that so often dominates my daily agenda, toil, and attention.

Forgive me for trying to serve two masters…You and myself.

Forgive me for intellectual, theological, and behavioral snobbery in my heart, for arrogantly placing my evangelicalism on my hood like some gaudy ornament…

Father, You graciously healed me twelve years ago, generously reviving my spiritual sight so that I might set my gaze upon Your beauty every moment of my day. Forgive me, my Father, for my wandering gaze that has drifted, and settled, upon the face in the mirror instead.

Father, twelve years ago You healed and revived the battered and broken bones of my spirit, but I didn’t let You set them to mend properly. I utilized the first wobbly steps of my new life in Your Son to try and heal myself; like a living sacrifice I wiggled and crawled off Your altar. Now my new bones have been growing crooked, and I am not walking as well, as sturdy, as gracefully, and as powerfully as I could. I am crawling when I could be shuffling, shuffling when I could be walking, walking when I could be jogging, jogging when I could be running, and running when I could be leaping like a deer, bounding across the dangerous and desolate savannas of the world leading the agonizing multitudes to Jesus, the Great Physician. Break these bones again, Father, and re-set them, that they would heal completely and grow strong and straight. Break me down to build me up again, that I might be that royal deer, that bounding buck. Break me down and build me up again, that I might become that graceful gazelle whose steps and strides leap for You, bringing the crows’ feet to Your eyes and a toothy smile to Your glorious face.

Forgive me for settling for and being satisfied with a limp when You have healed me to leap…

Holy Spirit, You have been rebuilding this house of my body and soul, rebuilding it so that You could live in me personally…and You moved in even before this house had done anything to clean itself up, moved in to

supervise and oversee the remodeling Personally, despite the mess, for You are the only Architect and Remodeler Who can restore me according to the Father’s original blueprints.

Forgive me, Holy Spirit, for the cluttered closets, dusty floors, cobwebbed corners, leaky roof, moldy basement, and piled sink. Forgive me for the termites of selfishness and self-interest, those voracious termites that eat away at these walls You have labored to restore. Tear this house down, Spirit of God, but leave the everlasting foundation of active faith in the Savior Jesus, that foundation of the Father’s unearned love that no termite can ever damage. Tear me down and rebuild me, Great Counselor, that I might be a home andTemplefit for the King, a home and Temple You excitedly come home to after Your day of working

in the world, for the world, and in spite of the world.

Jesus, thank You for Your love and patience, a love and patience tempered by Your true understanding of the difficulty of loving You in this world. Help me, please, to really love, to love as You loved: sacrificially, expensively, generously, freely, unconditionally, mercifully, consistently, gracefully, powerfully, publicly, and truthfully, that all may see my meager efforts and marvel at Your ability to play the beautiful music of unearned forgiveness, unconditional love, and eternal adoption through imperfect instruments.

Please help me to practice what I preach and to follow where You lead.

Please help me to comfort the hurting,
to support the brokenhearted,
to touch the untouched,
to respect the disrespected,
to protect the abused,
to embrace the weary,
to share with the needy,
to guide the wandering,
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to warn those in danger,
to forgive the offensive,
and to go out of my way to do so.

And help me to do this with You, because of You, and for You, not as repayment for Your love I cannot afford, but as gratitude for Your love I cannot afford to pass up.

Help me, Jesus…

Help us, all of us who claim to know You, love You, and follow You. Provide the underwriting gold for the papered currency of our professions, guarantee the loans our words so freely and rashly distribute. Provide the tread and traction for the tires of our faith in Your creed, that we might race down the highway of Your Way with the throaty roar of Your engine of forgiveness, picking up hitchhikers on Your road to salvation1 and traveling with them like the Family we are as Your brothers and sisters, Your Body and Bride, en route to the great wedding feast.

Help us Jesus…

Help us to be focused like the ants, who despite long odds and great adversity work together with unity of purpose—unselfishly working together to build the anthills and bring back food for the long, upcoming Winter. Help us to be like the ants, those hearty ants who reach their potential and do what You designed them to do, carrying loads of food for others far beyond their own weight and strength. Help us to overachieve in Your strength, searching for and bringing back all those who desire to know You but don’t quite know the Way.

Help us, Jesus…We need You…We can’t do this without You…The need is too great, the suffering too intense, and our efforts too insufficient. May we choose each day to walk with You—to leap for You—on this great adventure. Help us to be in awe of You, and

help us to show others how awesome You are…

Thank You, Father, for already seeing as perfect those who have asked and accepted Your forgiveness through Jesus. Thank You for this—now help us to stop trying to prove our perfection to You, to earn Your gift of perfection through Jesus. We are already perfect in Your sight;

help us now to show it.

Thank You, Father; Thank You, Jesus; Thank You, Holy Spirit…

I’ve said it…

…please help me now to do it.