That’s Not Why I Rode

One of my favorite movies in my youth was “The Man From Snowy River.”  Set in the 1800s in Australia it’s a coming of age story of Jim, a young man from the mountains who, after his father’s death, is forced to go work in the lowlands to prove he can look after himself.  He goes to work for wealthy cattleman Harrison and faces all the adversity of fitting in and proving himself to the other ranch hands and his boss.  And, of course, there’s Harrison’s pretty daughter.

 The story climaxes when Jim is falsely accused of setting loose Harrison’s extremely expensive colt allowing it to join the “Brumbies”; the wild horse herd.  Harrison calls together all the locals and offers a reward for the colt’s recovery.  And the chase begins through the spectacular scenery of the Snowy River Mountains.

It abruptly ends when “the mob” escapes down an unbelievably steep incline forcing all the riders to stop – all except Jim who, with a crack of his whip launches in slow-motion over the embankment and down the hill.

The rest of the riders all assume the Brumbies are lost and so head back to the ranch. But a while later they are astonished (spoiler alert) to see Jim single-handedly bringing in the herd. (Yes, it’s kind-of campy and somewhat far-fetched, but non-the-less…)

The scene that I wanted to get to is this. Once the horses are all in Harrison comes to Jim with a wad of cash saying “Here’s the reward as promised.”  Jim gives him a look of scorn and replies “That’s not why I rode. “

I was reminded of that scene in reading the account of Abraham after he rescued his nephew and many others from a raiding kingdom.  After the rescue the king of Sodom tries to give Abraham a reward for the return of his people and goods.  But Abraham refuses wanting no one to assume this king had made Abraham rich. Instead he gives a tithe to one identified as a Priest of God.

Abraham is, in essence saying “that’s not why I rode.” Wealth, status, comfort, accolades, power was not Abraham’s focus and motivation in life.  Rather, as Hebrew 11 says, he was looking for a better country, a heavenly one and God was not ashamed to be called his God.

What’s your reason for riding in life?  Are you riding for an immediate temporary reward? Do you realise you have been created and called for a greater, far more noble purpose?  God has called you to share in building his eternal kingdom.  That’s why I ride.

Mow Down The Saskatoons

Part of my job at the farm is to mow a ten foot perimeter around the crops.  Because it’s registered seed the inspectors require that space to insure against cross contamination from other crops, as well as minimizing the weeds that are always prevalent on the edges of fields.

One of the other benefits of this practice is that I’m able to push back the ingrowth of trees and bush that creep in on the fields. I pull a five foot Schulte mower with a five foot wing behind the tractor. It’s amazing what that mower will eat.  I’ve been told that the factory tests their mowers endurance by lowering them at full throttle onto a metal post fixed in a concrete pad.  I can easily take down a three inch sapling leaving not much more than splinters.

Now when I’m obliterating those giant weeds called poplars I don’t feel the least twinge of regret.  But when I’m about to mow down a Saskatoon bush, especially one that’s heavy with big, juicy berries I have to admit I’m sorely tempted to pull out just a little and take down some of the crop instead. Or at least stop and eat the berries before I maul the bush.

But instead I remind myself, this is a seed farm not a berry farm.  (Ok, I did stop a couple of times when the berries were exceptionally plump and juicy.) The berries don’t make us any money, and likely nobody will pick them anyway.  It hurts, but I gotta do it.

Life is kind of like that sometimes.  It can be so easy to sacrifice the important for the immediate; to chase after things that bring temporary satisfaction at the expense of what is truly valuable.

Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and again, “do not store up your treasure on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.”

Someone has said that nobody ever came to the end of their lives and wished they had spent more time in the office or the shop.  But many, many have longed for the opportunity to spend one more day with their spouse or children.  Many more in the final days have realised the futility of all they have accumulated or the thrills of this life they have pursued while ignoring the One who gave his life for them.

It might be worth your while to examine your life and see if you’ve been mowing crop to save a few berries.

What You Do Matters

Do you feel like what you do matters?  Whether you’re in the corner office or in a cubicle, management or menial labour, at home with the kids or out in the field, all of us long to know that our lives are making a difference in the world.  But from my observation many at least occasionally wonder, if not outright despair that they’re doing anything of any real value.

If you’re one who ever feels that way I have some encouragement for you.  1 Corinthians 15:58 says your labour in the Lord is not in vain.  Notice it does not say your work for the Lord, but your work in the Lord is not in vain.  What does that mean?  To understand what it means to labour in the Lord we first need to understand what it means to be in the Lord or in Christ Jesus?

John Stott puts it this way; “To be “in Christ” does not mean to be inside Christ, as tools are in a box or our clothes in a closet, but to be organically united to Christ, as a limb is in the body or a branch is in the tree. It is this personal relationship with Christ that is the distinctive mark of his authentic followers.”  The term Christian is only found 3 times in the Bible.  The most common description of a follower of Jesus is the term “in Christ” or “in the Lord”.  (164 times just in Paul’s letters.)

This doesn’t mean that because I am “in Christ” automatically all my labour is “in the Lord” and therefore purposeful.  In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul, writing to those who were Jesus followers, describes their lives as building either with gold silver and costly stones, or with wood hay and stubble.

The implication being that anything I do that is motivated by and done in dependence upon my union with Christ is of value.  Even more he says that those things will last into Heaven.  Conversely the things done from self- motivation and strength are without real value and will disappear – even the seemingly really good deeds.

So here’s my encouragement to you.  Today, whether you’re cleaning up after your kids, or sweeping the floors in the shop, driving a truck or sitting at a desk, feeding people or feeding cows, whether you’re by yourself or on a team; whatever you are doing, if you are doing it in the Lord it will literally last and bring glory to God for ever!

What you do matters!

Your Most Important Achievement

I used to say that I could still keep up with the young guys but it just took me longer to recover.  These days it just takes me longer to recover.  There’s and old saying that goes “Those who can do, those who can’t coach.”  For those of you who don’t know I help coach bantam football and for me and at least one other of our coaching staff that rings all too true, but there is some good news for guys like us.

I’ve come to realize that my most significant achievement in life is not what I personally accomplish but what I equip and empower others to do.

The easy proof of this concept is in coaching.  I could, at least early in the season, go put on the pads and accomplish more in the game than most of the players.  (Remember, I’m coaching grade 8’s and 9’s, believe me this isn’t bragging.)  But I wouldn’t have achieved anything of significance.  But if instead I teach and train and discipline the kids and they go out and are successful, that’s meaningful.  To say nothing of the deeper life lessons and character that has been built along the way.

Parenting too is a good example.  My most important role in life is preparing and equipping my boys to be godly, courageous men of character and integrity in facing whatever challenges and adversity life brings.

It may sound like it’s stating the obvious, but this equipping and empowering can only happen when I enter into a relationship with someone.  Whether it’s my children, my players, or anyone else I have to make myself available, accessible, and vulnerable to effectively build into others.  I need to sacrifice my own personal interests in order to be able to give to others.

This is a pattern that God established and initiated, and it’s expressed best to us in Christ.  I’ve quoted this before, but it bears repeating: He lived his life for the well-being of others at any cost to himself, including death.

That relationship with God continues as, through his Spirit, he equips and empowers those who have submitted to him as King of their lives to take on whatever adversities come into their lives.  And he gives to them that same ministry of introducing others to the greatest “coach.”

What are you primarily living for?  Is it to achieve great things for yourself?  You’ll find far greater fulfillment and satisfaction through living your life for the well-being of others at any cost to yourself.

More Than A Moment

The professor of development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London is a fellow named Guy Standing.  I saw a picture of him sitting.  (If you have the same sort of warped sense of humor that I do you know what’s coming.) The caption read (wait for it) . . . “Guy Standing Sitting.”

Someone suggested that he was born for that moment.

Well I thought it was funny.

I think we’d all like to think that we were born for some particular moment.  Ideally more significant than a silly picture to amuse those with twisted sense of humor, but some moment or event that our whole lives have been preparing us for that will have a lasting impact and value.

The big examples we look to are sporting stars in the big game, or political leaders in times of national crisis, or a soldier’s valour in battle.  We could point to great moments in the Bible: David facing Goliath, Moses at the Red Sea, or Abraham with Isaac on the altar. I think most of us at least secretly long for an event in our lives where people might say “you were born for this moment.”

But what if our moment never comes?  Or maybe worse, for those who have had such a moment how do they find purpose in the rest of life?

I’ve discovered a verse where God himself defines what that “moment” is – except it’s much more than a moment.  In Genesis 18:19 God says it’s to “direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just”  He’s speaking of Abraham here, but it’s applicable for all of us.

What this tells me is that as I live my life in submission to God’s plan and purpose and power, every moment is preparing me for the next in order that in those big moments, but especially in the ordinary, everyday routine moments my life counts by showing others the grace and glory of God.

Here’s the really good news, it’s never too late to start living this.  Even if you feel you’re life has had little value and impact to this point, today you can begin to live with a real purpose.  And as long as you draw breath you’ll have significance.

Sermon Lesson From a Four Year Old

One of the more mundane yet very important parts of a church service that, for obvious reasons, I don’t usually get to have a hand in is passing around the offering plate. But one of the beautiful things about a small town church is occasionally something unexpected happens and someone just needs to step in and help. This week that someone ended up being me, and when I did I was in position to witness one of the cutest and most poignant lessons I’ve seen in a while.

In our church we usually give our offering right after the worship in music and I often emphasise how the giving of financial gifts is just a continuation of worship.  Amelia, a sweet, brown curly headed four year old, had been drawing a picture on a coloured piece of paper about the size of a dollar bill.  As the plate went past her something clicked in her mind but too late as the plate was already past.  So, much to the amusement of those around her, she jumped up on the pew and turned around and stretched as far as she could to put her picture in the plate as it was passed down the bench behind her.

When a child wants to give her mother a Mother’s Day present to say that she loves her often she’ll draw a picture.  I remember getting various crafts and arts for Father’s Day from the boys over the years, a few pieces I still have.  Does it have any value?  Not to anyone else but it sure does to me.  It’s an expression of love; a visible, tangible piece my child’s heart and soul.

That’s what Amelia gave to God. Now I’m sure she didn’t grasp the full impact of what she was doing, and undoubtedly part of it was imitation of what she saw the adults doing, but still it was a precious moment of worship and a lesson in it for us.

When we place our cheques or cash in the offering plate, we’re not just paying the pastor’s salary and keeping the lights burning in the church.  It should be an expression of our worship and adoration of God; a declaration that all that I am and all that I have doesn’t belong to me but is from God.  It’s a visible demonstration of faith that says I trust God to provide for all my needs even as he uses me to help provide for the needs of others.

Thank you, Amelia, for leading me to worship.

Recycled Weakness

It had been about eight months that I had been preaching. Though I had been to Bible School, I had not really been trained as a preacher, and what training I’d had was many years before. So when my buddy Greg said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “You should have it easy now, you’ve been preaching long enough that you can just recycle your sermons; none of us remember what you said back then anyway,” I seriously considered it.

On that note I have a confession to make. Some of the articles that I have submitted to Danny (the publisher of the Western Star, a local paper out here) for publication have been recycled from earlier post. I know, this must come as a terrible shock to some of you, and you’ll never be able to read one of these the same again. But there is a bright side.

From time to time someone will stop me in the store, or give me a phone call, or I’ll hear second hand from a friend how one of these articles met that particular person right where they were at and was something they needed to hear as though it were written just for them.

What’s amazing is that some of the most significant feedback has been from some of those recycled posts. I’ll come to Sunday afternoon when I normally write the column, and for whatever reason I’m just empty. Nothing is coming and I don’t even know where to start. So I ask God “is it ok if I re-use an old one?” If I receive his peace about it, I’ll go through the files and find one that resonates with where I’m at, maybe tweak it a little, and send it off. I can’t tell you how often it’s those articles that really connect with someone.

I’m telling you this because in those occasions especially the truth of God’s strength in my weakness becomes evident. Paul says to the Corinthian church “I will gladly boast about my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest upon me.” My goal is to always write from that dependence but in those it becomes particularly obvious that it’s not my great skill or wisdom or anything else from me that has met a need in someone else. It’s God.

The challenge to me and my challenge to you is to enter every situation from that position of weakness and dependence. Then I can genuinely “for Christ’s sake, delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:10

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no I didn’t follow Greg’s suggestion.


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