An Open Letter to My Sons
Do not forget who our God is. (Deut 8:11, Job 38) Ours is the God of the impossible. (Luke 18:27) Ours is a God who makes the knowledge of “wise” men foolish. (Isaiah 29:14, Isaiah 44:23, 1 Corinthians 1:20). Our God has chosen the foolish things of the world to work through. He chooses the weak things. He works amazing things through that which the world calls weak, foolish, and unprepared.
You will be surrounded by many who profess to love the Lord and yet choose a safe and comfortable life rather than this radical life you have been shown. It will be important for you to remember who our God is if you pursue the radical life, Tracey and I have demonstrated (1 Cor 11:1;4:16) for you and trained you in (Deut 6:7, Deut 11:19, Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4). This will be surprising for you because many of these will be godly men, teachers, preachers, pastors, and elders. They will be your friends, your brothers, and in many cases your leaders.
Because they choose a safe and comfortable Christian Lifestyle, they will be confused by your radical lifestyle. You will consistently hear them counsel you that you are taking on too much, that you are not prepared for the challenge, that you should not risk your life and your wife and your children in such a lifestyle. You are not mature enough. The thing is too hard. They will be genuinely worried for you. They love you and are concerned for you. Some are responsible for you before God and will be trying to shepherd you. They will want to shepherd you into a nice safe pen where they can control the situation instead of into the wilderness amongst the wolves.
We do not believe that they sin in this. Perhaps they are living the life God called them to and their parents raised them to live. It is not our way. We are a people who defy conventional wisdom in pursuit of God, and folks are ever confused by our radical love, sacrifice, and suffering. It is what we are called to do, it is what you have been raised to do. The choice is ever before you, to listen to the counsel of these men who live no radical life and chose the safe church; or to live a life that exults in your weakness (1 Corinthians 12:9-10) to glorify God.
Conventional wisdom does not deem it wise to:
- deliver the world through a drunkard (Noah)
- give birth to a nation by a 100-year-old adulterer and his wife (Abraham)
- free all the slaves in a nation through a stuttering old man that doesn’t want the job (Moses)
- send a kid with a slingshot to kill a giant that the entire army was afraid of (David)
- make an adulterer and murderer a king (David)
- use a guy who runs away from the job to deliver an entire city from destruction (Jonah)
- take a guy whose primary goal in life was to murder every Christian and make him the greatest missionary to the world and author of much of the bible (Paul)
In our own experience, your mother and I have regularly been faced with opposition to our lifestyle by those who love us the most. We know they love us and do not comprehend why we do what we do the way we do it. So we love them back. Do not argue, fight, or quarrel (1 Timothy 2:23-24). We have not often done this well. Often we are grieved by what we hear and observe. That grief can become anger and bitterness toward those that we believe should be more mature and we find them less mature.
Forgive them (Matthew 6:14), do not allow bitterness to take root (Hebrews 12:15). That will harm your ministry as quickly as anything else might. Do not look to others and say to yourself, “Well, he is a pastor and an elder and he has chosen a safe life for himself and his family! Why must I live radically?” Look to your own responsibilities. (Galatians 6:4-6)
You know the good you ought to do, it is sin for you not to do it. (James 4:17) So they chose words and speech, but you must live a life of actions and truth (1 John 3:18). Be generous to the poor (Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 28:27) when those around you argue that the very poor you are generous to are taking advantage of you. Do not neglect to do good and share what you have (Hebrews 13:16) when those closest to you in faith would not sacrifice the comfort of their family to do so.
Work hard so that you may give it all away (Acts 20:35, Matthew 19:21) to help the weak and marginalized, while men around you seek to work hard so that they can have more (Luke 12:33-34, 2 Corinthians 9:6). Those you worship with will have the world’s goods, and see a brother in need, and close their heart against him (1 John 3:17), but you must let the love of God abide in you.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews 13:2), feed the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house (Isaiah 58:7, Job 31:32). Exercise no restraint, but pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted (Isaiah 58:10) that your light might shine (Matthew 5:16).
When you see the choice, one opportunity to glorify God without risking your life and another opportunity to glorify God by risking your life, choose the option with the greater risk (1 John 3:16) because you are surrounded by those who will serve by taking the less risky option. Stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Be sure of your calling (2 Peter 1:10) and convictions (1 Thessalonians 1:5) in this, so that when you are challenged you might rightfully stand with the disciples (Acts 4:19) in your response, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for I cannot but do as I have been commanded.” Do not seek the approval of men (Galatians 1:10), but be a servant of Christ.
There are times it will seem hopeless. You will be emotionally drained, physically exhausted, and mentally disturbed. You will perhaps join with Elijah, Moses, Job, and Jeremiah in desiring to die, contemplating suicide, and begging God to just let you die. You will, like Job (Job 6:11), say, “I just can’t take it anymore. I have no hope, I give up.” But then, we do not give up, do we?
The Veterans Association has determined that I am 60% disabled for mental issues. Despite that, you have seen your mother and I seek to live a God glorifying, counter cultural, radical life despite the darkness, depression, madness and suicidal thoughts. For years, you have regularly heard your mother ask me, “Are you going to make it?” You know my response, “Yes. It is what I am called to do. I make it, despite everything. We will make it.”
Do not listen to the whispers of those who love you and would you tempt you to a safer more comfortable life. We trained you and raised you in Christ to live a radical life and make it too.
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