About Christin A. Wolff

I am an Emergency Manager by profession and a Christian Writer by calling. I have a passion for the Church to understand and live out the Great Commission and to "Be the Glove" wherever the Lord has placed them in this world. God wants to touch everyone with His compassionate love and He wants to use us to deliver that love. We are to be the glove on His hand.

Go and Do Likewise

image1On my recent trip to New York I made a new friend.  Her name is Dorothée.  She is the co-owner of the bed & breakfast I stayed at and was my hostess for the week.  I’ll admit I had an agenda going into the trip.  I really wanted to make a connection with some of the people in the town where I hope to retire.  So little did Dorothée know when she took my reservation that I was looking for more than just a room and some delicious breakfasts… I was hoping to make a friend.  And she didn’t disappoint.

I was only there a few short days but I felt like I left with a friend for life.  We had some wonderful opportunities to share and visit and although I know we barely scratched the surface in getting to know each other, I’m confident this is only the beginning.

We were open to each other.  She shared her Inn, which is delightfully decorated with the antiques that her and her business partner have collected.  She shared her phenomenal, gourmet breakfasts with me, her only guest for the week.  She shared her love for connecting with people and creating spaces for others to connect with each other.  And she shared her two dogs and cat with me.  I shared my desire to move to that area.  I shared my passion for writing and my faith.  I talked about what I believe God is showing me about what it means to live with His Spirit within me.  The conversations were deep and meaningful.  It was wonderful!

Although I don’t know very many details about Dorothée, I am sure there are many things we do not have in common.  I know that we were not born in the same country.  (She’s from France.)  I suspect we  don’t share the same political views.  We may not share the same faith.  And there are probably countless other things that we differ on.  But during that short week we had together, none of that mattered.  We openly shared what we were comfortable sharing with each other.  There was no judgment, no prejudice.  We were both just open to each other and looked for the things we had in common rather than our differences.

It was while I was at the airport on my way home that I began reflecting on how the week could have been different.  I was convicted by the fact that too often I put people into categories before even getting to know them.  I have my implicit biases that quickly sift people into one category or another.  Will they agree with me or disagree with me?  If I had done that with Dorothée there may never have been a connection, or certainly not one that would have lasted.

It’s a bad habit.  Personally, I chalk it up to social media.  I don’t scroll through my feed thinking about the people behind those posts.  I scroll through my feed looking for those I agree with, those whose posts I can “like.”  I swipe past those I disagree with, those that trigger that stress reaction in the pit of my stomach.  Or worse, I engage and start crafting my outrage to post in reply.  The power of opinion is like a drug, and it’s a dangerous one.  I believe our society is punch drunk with the importance of our almighty opinions and we are forgetting not only how to connect with one another but the importance of it. The truth is, we’ve always had differing opinions.  The difference was, our opinions were never more important than our connection to one another.

We’re not alone in this.  Jesus actually addressed this problem in His day too.  Although the cause wasn’t social media at the time, He did address the problem with people not recognizing who their neighbor was.  The story is commonly known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)

As in all of His parables, Jesus chose His characters carefully.  First off, He gave His audience the setting.  It was the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  Historically it was known as “the bloody way.”  Picture the most violent and crime-ridden street or alley in your community.  That was the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and everybody knew how dangerous it was.  Still, in the parable, a man takes his chances on that road and gets beat up by thugs.  All of his money and clothes are stolen and he’s left there to die.

There are three people who encounter the beaten man.  The first two are a priest and a Levite.  The priest was someone who served in the Temple.  He was a religious man, someone you would expect to have a lot of compassion and care for another human being.  The second was a Levite.  All priests came from the tribe of Levi but not all Levites became priests.  But again, for Jesus’ audience and even for us today, one would assume that these would be some of the most compassionate people around.  The expectation of them would be that they would stop for someone who needed help.

The third person was a Samaritan.  Jews and Samaritans were bitter rivals.  The Jews would never consider a Samaritan to be their “neighbor.”  In fact, they only reserved that designation for other Jews.  So it is purposeful that Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the hero of this story especially when posed with the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

The Samaritan didn’t look upon the man and base his response on the man’s nationality, race, religion, or political preference.  He looked upon him with compassion and saw him as a fellow human being in need of help.  He thought of the man first and himself second.

Jesus turned the question asked by the expert of the law back to him as He ended this parable.  “Which of the three do you think was his neighbor?”  Notice that the expert of the law couldn’t even bring himself to say the word, “Samaritan,” but instead said, “the one who showed him mercy.”  And Jesus’ words to him are the same that they are to us, “Go and do likewise.”

We could easily say, “Okay, Lord, next time I come across a guy whose beat up in a dark alley I’ll help him out,” knowing full well we have no intention of ever going down that dark alley in our community if we can help it.  But if that is our only response I think we are missing the point of this parable.  Jesus’ audience then was no different than His audience today.  We have to stop categorizing people and sifting them in terms of whether they agree or disagree with us.  We have to stop looking at people’s opinions as their defining traits, as though that is all that there is to them.  There is more.  There is a soul in need in every human being.

In researching this parable I came upon the following quote:

“It is a convenience, and perhaps a necessity, of human life, that the great mass of humanity should be broken up in to fragments, sections, with differing customs, languages, and names. It gives to the world the stimulus of competition and helpful rivalries. But these distinctions are superficial, temporary, and beneath this diversity of speech and thought there is the deeper unity of soul. We emphasize our differences; we pride ourselves upon them; but how little does Heaven make of them! Heaven does not even see them.”

Revrend H. Burton wrote that sometime in 1889-1890 and it is exactly what the Lord convicted me of in that airport.  God does not see us in terms of our political views, our race, or whether we lean left or right.  He’s sees us as humanity in need of a Savior.  “For God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him may never perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)  If He doesn’t see us through the superficial categories of the world, why do we insist on seeing others through them?

My life verse is 1 John 4:12 but let me give you that verse in context.

“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.”  (1 John 4:11-13 – NIV)

God doesn’t love us because we vote for a particular candidate, go to a particular church, or follow a particular rule.  God loved us before we ever knew who He was and long before we ever chose to love Him back.  We know this brand of love.  We’ve experienced this brand of love and we’ve been saved by it.  John is reminding us of our responsibility now that we have God’s love and His Spirit within us.

We as believers have the opportunity to show God to others who don’t know Him and who have never encountered Him.  “No one has ever seen God; BUT if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”  (verse 12).  They will see Him through us!  God becomes visible because He lives in us.  His love becomes complete through us!  If that does not excite you, I don’t know what will.  People who don’t know God’s love can encounter that same great love that saved you and me through the Spirit that lives inside us.  That is not religion.  That is a calling.  That is our life’s purpose!

When we fall into the system of the world, categorizing and sifting others based on our almighty opinion we are not only misrepresenting what it means to be a follower of Jesus, we are missing the opportunity for God to be visible to someone who doesn’t know Him.  He is asking for our openness so that His Spirit and His love can do for others what it did for you and I.  We are not only to see others as souls in need. We are to see ourselves as carriers of the only One who can meet their need.

Our job as believers is not to manufacture our own love for others hoping that will point them in the direction of Jesus.  It is rather for us to be open to allowing the power of God’s love to flow through us, to allow the Spirit of God who lives in us to touch others through our skin, our smile, our kind words, our eyes.  When our love coinsides with the Lord’s the experience is even greater and frankly, I believe, God’s gift to us.  But our love is not a requirement.  It’s His love that will change a person’s life.  It is His Spirit that will draw them to their Savior.

Revrend H. Burton said it well:

“It was because the Samaritan forgot himself that all the world has remembered and applauded him. …Discipline your heart that you may see in man everywhere a brother, whose keeper you are. Let fraternity be, not a theory only, by a realized fact, and then a factor of your life. Train your eye to watch for others’ needs, to read another’s woe. Train your soul to sympathy, and your hand to helpfulness; for in our world there is room enough for both.”

 Now join me and let us, go and do likewise.

Thank you, Father, for loving us first!  Thank you for the power of your love and the gift of your Spirit living inside of us.  Forgive me, Lord, for the countless times I have sifted people and categorized them by my opinions and bias.  Make me open to others, so that they may encounter You and come to know Your Son as their Savior.  Thank you for the example of the Good Samaritan.  Use me as you see fit to love and care for those souls in need.  In Your Son’s precious name, amen.

Burton, H. (n.d.). St. Luke. In Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Third Series). Rev. W. Robertson Nicoll, (Series Ed). Retrieved from: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/expositors/luke/10.htm.

 

 

 

Be a Melchizedek

bobsnedakerHave you had the experience?  You meet someone for the first time, but somehow you already feel connected to them.  Or maybe they are a person that you only see once in a while but when you’re reunited it seems like no time has passed at all.   They are people who may not know your life story, nor you theirs, yet somehow they make you feel “known” by them.

Bob Snedaker is one of those people for me.  He’s the owner of Simpler Life, a company that specializes in emergency preparedness products.  I met him through my line of work as an Emergency Manager and we became instantly connected.  I soon learned why… Bob is also a Christian and he is not shy about his faith.  We always talk about emergency preparedness when we see each other, but it doesn’t take long to learn what – or should I say Who – we are most passionate about, our Lord Jesus Christ.

When our conversation turns to the Lord, we both light up.  We share what He is doing in our lives and how He is leading us.  We talk about what He’s teaching us, both through our failures and successes.  It’s energizing.  It’s inspiring.  It’s a beautiful connection each and every time.  Bob is always so sweet to end our time together by praying over me and for me.  It is so special and I am always blessed.  He is a beautiful man.  Our brief encounters are precious.

There is a brief encounter recorded in Genesis 14 (v.17-20) that reminds me of my special moments with Bob and other fellow believers like him.  The story is of Abram (before God changed his name to Abraham).  Abram had learned that his nephew Lot, Lot’s family, and all of their possessions had been taken captive by a group of kings.  These kings had joined forces and had defeated another group of kings that included Lot’s ruler, the King of Sodom.  When Abram heard this, he rallied his men and they went to war against that victorious group of kings.  Abram’s men defeated the kings, rescued Lot and his family along with all the others taken captive.  As they were returning home, the King of Sodom went out to meet Abram.  He brought with him Melchizedek, the King of Salem who was also described as, “The priest of the Most High God.”

Melchizedek is an interesting and somewhat mysterious character of the Bible. The author of Hebrews talks about him in Hebrews 7.   His name means “King of righteousness” and he ruled over Salem, which means “the peace.”  So he was the king of righteousness who ruled over peace.  Sound like any “One” you know?  There is no lineage mentioned of him which has made some believe that he might have been eternal with no beginning or end. Theologians have pondered for centuries over who he really was but what we do know is what the writer of Hebrews says about him.  That is, he was one who “resembled the Son of God.”  (Hebrews 7:3)   Melchizedek alone could be the subject of many blog posts, but what I don’t want to miss from these few short verses is the amazing encounter this must have been, particularly for Abram.

When we talk about the God of Israel He is often referred to, especially in Genesis, as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God’s people started with a promise to Abraham – well, Abram to be exact – that through him, God would produce a nation.  Imagine, God started the nation of Israel by having a personal encounter with just one man, this fellow, Abram.  Abram didn’t have a synagogue to go to on a weekly basis to learn about this God and connect with other believers who knew Him. He didn’t have a Bible he could pick up to read inspiring stories about other followers of God who endured difficult times.  All Abram had was a handful of very unique, life-changing, individual encounters with God.  It must have been lonely. He must have at times struggled with doubt especially early on.  It had to be difficult to be what seemed like the only believer on the planet!

On top of all this, one of God’s first instructions to Abram is to, “Go.”  (Genesis 12) God didn’t tell him where he was going, He just told him to go.  He left his family (except for Lot).  He left everything he knew and settled in a foreign land.  God promised to make him a great nation in this new place but He didn’t say anything about there being other believers there. Remember, he’s it… this new nation is going to begin with him.  As far as he would have known, there were no other believers.

So here he is in a foreign land on his way home from having defeated four kings who had just defeated five kings.   He’s rescued his family members and all those taken captive.  I’m sure the victory was sweet.   But, even a sweet victory doesn’t change the fact that he is in a foreign land at the request of a God he barely knows in fulfillment of a promise he doesn’t see coming to fruition.  Even in this amazing rescue mission there must have been a bit of bewilderment.  Now what?

Then he sees, these two kings coming out to meet him, to congratulate him in his victory, a victory they were unable to obtain for themselves.  All we know from that encounter is that Melchizedek is not only a king but he is also a priest of the God Most High.  I just imagine Abram’s eyes lighting up when he is introduced to this king.  I can see a smile break across his battle-wearied face.  God Most High… you know HIM?  Surely, this had to be the same God that was speaking to Abram.  There really is someone else who has heard His voice?  Someone else who is following the direction of this God?  Imagine that encounter, that realization.  Imagine that feeling of connection.  Brother!  I can almost hear Abram shriek.

This priest gives Abram and his men a beautiful and meaningful gift, bread and wine. Of course as Christians we immediately see the significance of this gift. We relate it to the communion we partake in as a church on a regular basis. Although Abram wouldn’t know the future significance of those two items, it had to be refreshing to have this priest desire to share a meal with him. He could have brought him gold, or fine robes, or lambs, or camels, or grain. But he brought him a meal. Something to eat and drink and perhaps even invited them to enjoy it together with him – so intimate an encounter.  I love that God included that detail for us to see how blessed we are to share bread and wine together with fellow believers.  How easy it is to take that for granted Sunday after Sunday.  But for Abram, this was a first.  He was finally connected to another who believed as he did and this momentous occasion was celebrated with bread and wine.

Then, to remove any doubt that may have been lingering, this priest imparted a blessing to Abram.  He said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth.” (v. 19)  He was not only a priest of this Most High God, but he was affirming for Abram that Abram belonged to that same God, and that God was blessing Abram.  He then gave God the glory for Abram’s victory by saying, “and blessed, praised and glorified be God Most High, who has given your enemies into your hand.” (v. 19-20a) Again, he was affirming that Abram and he served the same God, a God who gives victory to those whom He is with.  It was like Melchizedek was saying back to Abram, Yep, we’re brothers, pal.  Make no mistake, we are connected by God Most High.  And that God just gave you a huge victory. Let’s celebrate!

And how did Abram respond to all of this?  Another biblical reference for us believers, “Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”  (v. 20b)  Abram gave Melchizedek a tithe, 10% of his spoils.  This is the very first reference we have in scripture about the tithe and it is long before the law about tithing is ever given.  The point is, Abram wanted to give back to God.  He recognized, like Melchizedek did, that the victory was not his, it was God’s.  And his first response was to give back.  Again, there is power in this connection between these two fellow believers.  They are pointing each other back to their Creator, honoring Him, glorifying Him in what He has done for them.  Their words are meant to not only bless each other but to bring glory to God.  Can you feel the synergy between these two believers?  It’s palpable.

Look at the contrast we see in the King of Sodom’s words to Abram in the next verse.   “The king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.’” (v. 21)   WHOOSH… right over his head.   He’s missing it!  He is not connecting with these two brothers in the Lord.  He is watching it unfold in front of him but he doesn’t see it.  He doesn’t get it.  He can’t relate.  He wants his share of the spoils and Abram can keep the rest.  Simple as that.  He oblivious to the deep encounter these two are having.

Abram’s response is poignant.  He says, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’  I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.” (v. 22-24).  First of all, he uses the same words that Melchizedek used to describe His God.  He was now affirming back to Melchizedek that they believed in the same God Most High.  Then he tells the King of Sodom, I don’t want anything from you.  I serve God and He is the only one who will be credited for what I have.  Imagine turning down the gifts of a King!  I’m sure the King of Sodom didn’t know what to make of it all.  If he was puzzled before about this strange connection between Melchizedek and Abram he was even more puzzled now.

Haven’t you seen that in your own connections?  When you connect with a believer and have those encounters like I described with Bob, have you observed non-believers scratching their heads?  There is nothing like the connection that bonds us as believers in Jesus… nothing like it!  It is powerful.  It is inspiring.  It is iron sharpening iron.  And, it is eternal.

I am convinced these few moments for Abram must have reignited his passion, his faith, his belief in all that he was doing at the Lord’s direction.  In the very next Chapter, Chapter 15, we read, “After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’  But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’  Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’  He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’  Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.'”  (Gen. 15:1-6)

We have no way of knowing this, but what if, what if, that encounter with Melchizedek was that spark in Abram’s faith that he needed.  Abram believed the Lord and that belief was credited to him as righteousness.  Did God use Melchizedek as that nudge, that reminder that says, “YES! We believe in a God who really does exist, who really loves us with all of His heart, and Who’s promises are true.”  We won’t know for sure until we can ask the Lord in heaven, but one thing is for certain, this is a divine appointment.  And God recorded it for us to read thousands of years later so that we could see how valuable and precious those divine appointments are.

Don’t you want to be a Melchizedek to someone?  Don’t you want to be that spark that ignites in a fellow believer the love, and joy, and goodness that God is?  That is a what people like Bob do for me and I hope I do that for others.  God has connected us believers, made us a part of His family for a reason.  I believe it is for precisely what we see in this brief encounter between Abram and Melchizedek.  We are to be reminders to each other of Who God is and reflect His goodness, His love, and the faithfulness of His promises so that we may strengthen each other in our faith and be energized to carry out the plan He has for us without losing hope.  Our journey in life may be lonely at times.  It may be difficult and we may feel at times like we are the only believer on the planet!  But God has been and will continue to be faithful to unite us, connect us as a family so that we may glorify Him and draw others to His love.

Lord, thank you for those encounters You have orchestrated for us with other believers.  They are so precious.  May we never miss a one of them.  Help us to be faithful, open, and obedient to be Melchizedek’s in the lives of fellow believers.  Use us as you see fit and according to your perfect timing.  Energize us with Your Spirit and pour out Your love through us.  In Your Son’s name we pray, amen.

“I am a fan of your future.”

 

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with some teachers and coaches from my high school years.  These reunions were so special.  These five men and women played a huge role in shaping me and making me the woman I am today.  Each of them not only shared their talents and abilities with their students, they shared themselves.  They cared about us and invested themselves in us.  Although more than 30 years had passed since I had seen most of them, the connection that we shared hadn’t changed.   I was again inspired just by being with them.

Throughout my lifetime, God has blessed me with some of His best people to guide, mentor and coach me.  I am so grateful for each and every one of them.  While I just had the opportunity to spend time with five of them, there have been many, many others.  (You all know who you are.)  And I am so thankful that God continues to put mentors in my life.  Each one of them is a precious gift to me.

If any of you are a Pixar fan like I am, perhaps you saw “Cars 3,” which came out last year.  I went to see it simply because I was a fan of the first two installments of the series, but I was pleasantly surprised, as the movie unfolded, that it’s theme was about the power of mentoring.

God always finds interesting ways of speaking to me and one of His ways is through movies.  Cars 3 was no exception.  He showed me things through that movie that reminded me of the powerful gift that mentoring is.  Here are just a few highlights of what He showed me.

Good mentors believe in you.lightning drives into racing center

When Lightning McQueen is faced with the reality that his racing abilities can’t compete with younger, faster race cars he has a choice to make.  He can either give up racing or change the way he trains.  He decides to stay in the game and seek out a new way to become a better racer.  His sponsors recognize that they do not have the ability to take him to the next level, so they sell their company, Rust-eze, to someone who has greater resources and can make Lightning a faster race car.  When Lightning arrives at his new training center, the foyer of this state-of-the-art facility is essentially a museum dedicated to his career.  His number, 95, stands two stories high at the entrance.  He is awestruck.

As I watched this scene unfold the words that ran through my mind were, “They believe in him!”  Imagine feeling like you were washed up, a loser, barely hanging on to the only thing you know how to do and arriving at a place of last resort – a place where you would either make it or break it.  The last thing you would expect would be a foyer set up as a shrine in your honor.

Lightning McQueen, after seeing this vast display of memorabilia from his career says, “Wow.  You really are a fan.”  To which his new sponsor replies, “I am a fan of your future.”

That is what mentors are.  They don’t see our failures, they see our future.  They believe in us in spite of what our “stats” look like and in spite of our “win/lose” column.  They see us.  They see us for who we are and who we can become.  They see our potential.  They see in us what we cannot see in ourselves.  That has definitely been my experience.    And no gift can be greater than someone believing in you.

SIDE NOTE AND SPOILER ALERT:  Lightning’s new sponsor turns out to be somewhat of a villain in the story and not a mentor to him at all.  But more on true mentorship in a moment.  Read on.

Good mentors have good mentors. smokey's garage cars 3

Lightning McQueen’s mentor, Doc Hudson (The Fabulous Hudson Hornet) passed away years earlier.  But, we learn in Cars 3, that Doc Hudson himself had a mentor named, Smokey.  As Lightning longs for direction and guidance he turns to the only one who might be able to guide him like his mentor would.  He ventures out and ultimately finds his mentor’s mentor, Smokey.

I can only assume that the mentors in my life had significant people in their lives who mentored them along the way.  Their willingness to give of themselves is evidence to me that they have received from the generous love and outpouring of others.

As God gives me the opportunity to mentor others I do so with passion.  I want to give to others what I have been given.  I want to do my mentors proud by giving others what I have received.

The mentoring relationship is unique in that it’s not designed to be reciprocal.  It’s designed to be perpetual.  My mentors don’t want to receive from me what they have given me, just as I don’t want to receive from those I mentor.  But what I do hope for my mentees, is that they get the opportunity to pour into another’s life.  Because as great as it is to receive, it is even greater to give back.

Which brings me to my favorite scene in Cars 3.

There is great value for both mentor and mentee in a mentoring relationship.

In my favorite scene, Lightning talks to Smokey about how bitter his mentor, Doc Hudson, seemed to be after his racing days were over.  Lightning’s impression of Doc was that because Doc was no longer able to race he was never really happy again.  Then Smokey takes Lightning to his garage.  On the way, he too admits that Doc was bitter after being forced to give up racing.  He shares that the two of them hadn’t been in touch for many years.  But then, something changed in Doc’s life.  Smokey started getting letters from Doc and the two reconnected.  As Smokey opens the door to his garage, Lightning sees the letters that Doc shared with Smokey posted on the wall.  Every one of them was a newspaper clipping or a photo of Lightning.  Then Smokey says to Lightning,

“Racing wasn’t the best part of Doc’s life, you were.”

Feel the power in that statement.  A mentee struggling to compete, doing everything he can to stay in the game, hoping beyond hope that he can still somehow make his mentor proud, and then he hears those words.  He was the best part of his mentor’s life.

There is great value in the mentoring relationship for both mentor and mentee.  Mentoring may not be reciprocal in the sense that we receive exactly what we give out. But, mentors do receive!  This is a perfect example of that.

When we’re young it seems that life is all about winning and losing.  It’s about our “stats” and what we accomplish. But what we get from our mentors, from those who believe in us and who we are as people, is the understanding that life is not about our performance or our abilities, our successes or our failures. It’s about our connection to others.  It’s about the value we have and can give to others, about how we can invest in them, believe in them, and remind them of their own value and worth.  Doc’s ability to give of himself to Lightning changed his bitter feelings about his own career and focused his life and his heart on what was important, his relationship with Lightning.

This is what we pass along to those we mentor:   That our true value is in who we are and our goal is to use that value to help others find theirs.

clippings doc hudson

One of the things I love about this scene, is it’s contrast to the moment when Lightning enters his sponsor’s training facility. Both moments are awe inspiring for Lightning. Both of them show Lightning his value and importance. But only one is truly genuine, deep, and based on a personal investment rather than a monetary one. Doc was so proud of being connected to Lightning that he couldn’t help but share it with the one who had poured so much into him. And Smokey was so proud of being connected to Doc, he couldn’t help but honor the relationship he got to see between Doc and Lightning by posting those clippings and articles in a place he would see them every day. The glitzy, jaw-droppingly beautiful museum in the foyer of the training facility was no comparison to sacrificial, uncompromising, unconditional love that was displayed in newspaper clippings and faded photographs in that old garage.

The best part of my life is not about what I have accomplished or not accomplished. The best part of my life are the people God has connected me to. He has connected me to others through my successes and through my failures. Those are the means through which He has made some of the most important connections in my life possible. And as I get older, I see more and more of the value I possess – not for myself, but to invest in the lives of others. I want others to know their value so they too may pass it on to others.

I am eternally grateful for the mentors in my life, the five people in the pictures above and the countless others who have poured into me.  Thank you.  You believed in me.  You saw and still see in me what I cannot see in myself.  You have given of yourselves and invested in me time, love, and attention so that I will be a better me.  Your gifts to me are priceless and I in turn am investing what I have into others so that your legacy lives on.  Thank you.  May God bless you as He has blessed me through you.

Lord, thank you for wiring all of us for connection.  Thank you for showing us the value of mentoring through the life and ministry of Your Son and through the gift of Your Spirit that lives in us and connects us as followers of You.  Father, you specifically chose people to serve as mentors to me.  Thank you for knowing who would be the perfect fit.  Bless them as you have blessed me through them.  And thank you for the opportunities you give me to mentor others.  May I be as faithful as those who have poured into me and may You be glorified through every relationship.  In Jesus’ most precious name, amen.

The Stumbling Block

 

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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

I recently heard a talk radio personality talking about his love for the word “earn.”  It is one of his favorite words in the English language.  He didn’t go into great detail about it, but the strength of his conviction was evident by his impassioned tone.  I believe many people in America share his love for that word.  We are a “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of nation.  We root for the underdog, wanting them to succeed through hard work and perseverance.  And while we value our children’s self-esteem, we are not really an “everyone gets a trophy” kind of country.  We want rewards and accomplishments to have value, to really mean something because we worked hard for them.

I share a lot of the same opinions and convictions with this radio personality but I don’t share his affinity for the word “earn.”  In fact, when he made that comment I was reminded of how much I dislike the word, “deserve.”  The words are similar.  According to Miriam Webster, the first definition for the word earn is: “to receive as return for effort and especially for work done or services rendered.”  And the second definition is nearly identical to the definition for the word deserve: “to be worthy, fit, or suitable for some reward.”  So, although this radio personality and myself both seem to have visceral reactions to these very similar words our reactions are in opposite directions.  Why is that?

I can only speak for myself but my dislike for the word “deserve” comes from my faith.  At the very core of Christianity is the concept of grace.  It is the exact opposite of earn or deserve.  My faith teaches me that I can do nothing to be saved.  All of my good works add up to, as one prophet puts it, “filthy rags.”  (Isaiah 64:6)  I cannot earn God’s favor.  I do not deserve heaven.  But, I have both because of the grace given to me as a gift by Jesus Christ.  He is the reason God sees me as one of His children.  He is the reason I will spend eternity in heaven.  It was what He did as God’s Son that makes me worthy to receive.  So, even when I hear the word attributed to things like a vacation, retirement, or splurging on an unusual purchase, I cringe.  Nothing I have is “deserved.”  God has and continues to be gracious to me.

This concept of grace does not fit with the flag-waving, red-white-and-blue, American pride I described above.  In fact, the two are quite a contrast.  As far as sin is concerned, we do not have the ability to pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and save ourselves.  We are completely unable to cleanse ourselves of our own sin thereby bridging the gap between ourselves and our perfect Creator.  If that were possible there would be no need for a Savior.

In this context, even our love for the proverbial David vs. Goliath underdog is often misplaced.  David only defeated Goliath because the Lord delivered him into his hands.  He said so himself.  “David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.’ ”  1 Samuel 17:45-46  The “David’s” of the world are not to be the object of our worship and admiration, only God who was the true source of David’s victory.

And, as Christians, we believe that Christ died for all.  His love, His forgiveness, His mercy, His grace, is for all who believe in Him.  That means that everyone IS eligible for that trophy regardless of, and often in spite of, their performance in this world.  Unlike us however, God does not award us this “trophy” of salvation to build up our self esteem.  HE is our esteem.  He is the very reason we came into being.  We reflect Him in our uniqueness.  It is in His image that we are created… not the other way around.  It is not about us.  Our “trophy” is a renewed and repaired relationship with the One who created us and it is absolutely undeserved.

These truths of our faith go against what has been ingrained in us as Americans.  This post is not meant to be a criticism of our great American pride or our nation as a whole.  Not at all!  It is instead a reminder that we as believers cannot trip over this common stumbling block.

Paul says in his letter to the Romans: “What then will we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.  Why not? Because their pursuit was not by faith, but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written:  ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’ ” (Romans 9:30-33, emphasis mine)  Paul is quoting from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16).

God knew that what He chose to do for us to reconcile man back to Himself, would be a stumbling block for us.  He knew our pride.  He knew it long before America existed.  He knew it long before Christianity existed.  He spoke about it through His prophet Isaiah in the 8th century B.C.  What He asks of us, is to lay aside our desire to earn our way to heaven.  It can’t be done anyway!  He’s asking us to stop working as if it’s even possible.

He is also asking us to recognize and acknowledge that our salvation comes from only one source, His Son, Jesus.  This too is a stumbling block for many.  Not only can we not earn our salvation, we must acknowledge that salvation can only come through Jesus.  Grace does not come through all religions.  All religions do not lead to salvation.  Jesus alone sacrificed His life, paying the price for our sin so that we could have eternal life.  He is the stumbling block in our politically correct world.  But this is not new.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter to them he said:  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’  Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

As believers it’s important that we stay alert and don’t trip over Jesus as so many in this world do.  Our faith requires us to lay down our pride and acknowledge that only by God’s grace through His Son are we saved.  This is utter foolishness to the world.  It always has been.  But to us who know God personally, it is the power and wisdom (and grace) of God.  We have to be willing to “look foolish” to the world.  We have to be willing to lay aside our desire to “earn” our way.  And we have to acknowledge that nothing we have done “deserves” the salvation we receive by faith in God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus.

Lord, make your church willing to look foolish to the world.  Thank you for the precious gift of your Son to save us from the sin that keeps us from your perfect presence.  Thank you for the fact that we cannot earn it.  Give us the humility to simply receive your grace.  May we be a witness to those who are stumbling over You.  May they see Your light in us.  Use us so that they may know with assurance that they too can have the free gift You are offering.  We love you, Lord.  In your Son’s most precious name, amen.