For the Fourth of July, I thought it fitting to revisit the final words of the greatest leader our Republic has ever seen. In the current political climate, we find ourselves in his words are particularly instructive. Here are a few things I found from George Washington’s farewell speech that if we apply we will be better citizens our great union.
1. George Washington was a man of great humility and honor.
In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it…..
2. Washington saw that public union was far more important that party affiliation. We must be more concerned with not alienating any portion of our society. It’s ok to dislike Trump or Clinton but when you think of the other as your enemy our nation is weakened.
I love the United States, but one of the things I have come to notice through spending time in other countries is we are obsessed with extra-large everything. Nothing is exempt from our obsession, from sodas to cars to the homes we live in, we are hypnotized by truth we hear seemly all around us Bigger is always better. But is it really?
In all my years of kids ministry, I have always been so amazed at the wonder kids have. I have been equally amazed at how uncomfortable I can be and many adults can be with the idea of wonder itself. Here is the problem with wonder. You can’t explain it. You can’t reason with it. It is what it is.
I try my best to keep wonder alive in my kids. My three year old loves the color pink. I ask her every time she says she loves pink and it’s her favorite color “Baby, who made the color pink?” She says “Daddy, God did” I say “That’s right He did because He loves you so much”
I want my kids to grow up with no box to put Jesus in. We start off as kids thinking Jesus can do anything because he can. We then spend our entire life trying to fit Jesus into our carry-on luggage. Something we successfully do with every pat answer we are given and we give others. I love what C.S. Lewis says in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe “He is not a safe lion but he’s good” I can think of no quote that sums up how we must always view Christ to maintain that heart of wonder. A few years ago I begin a journey that I believe has lead to the greatest tool in keeping wonder alive. In rediscovering the gospel much of my striving turned to grace-filled wonder. I moved from trying to earn my father’s love to grace-filled gratitude for his love he demonstrated to me in Christ Jesus.
How does the gospel keep wonder alive?
1. The gospel address our sinfulness and His sufficiency. It makes no attempt to solve every mystery. The gospel is good news. It’s a declaration, not a doctrinal dissertation. Should we search things out? Yes. Does Theology matter. Absolutely. But if we think have an answer to every question of the human heart will help us we are mistaken. The surest way to kill wonder is to believe you have an answer to every question.
2. Bring everything back to Jesus. – There are few things that I have found that have brought me to a place of wonder more than the meditation on scripture. When you start to think and speak of the greatness of the majesty of who Jesus is and the power of what He has done you are overcome with wonder because the grace of God is truly wondrously amazing.
3. Wonder springs from the a place of passion – I believe law kills wonder because you are so worried about do what is right, about being good enough, about trying harder. When you really believe that there is a God who loved you enough to send his one and only son into the world because He thought you and I were worth saving. It creates wonder. It instills passion.
4. When you start to understand the power of the gospel you see the sovereignty of God at work. The more aware I because of the sovereign work of God in my life and in lives of others I am filled with worship and wonder because I am constantly reminded He is God and I am not.
As we celebrate Easter let your mind drift to the wonder of His grace.
One of the expectations of being a pastor is that you always know what to say, when to say it and how it should be said. The is even more true when the person who you are ministering to is hurting. In nearly 20 years of pastoral ministry to the same church family I have learned that when someone is hurting all they need is for you to “Just show up.”
When I was younger I would avoid painful situations and people who were hurting because I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing. I was afraid what I would say would only push them further into despair. The older I got, and the more people I went to see, the more I realized how wrong I was. I was reminded of the power of showing up when I asked one of the kids who grew up in our churches kids ministry what he remembered most about kids church when he was younger. I would have guessed he would say “the fun events” or “the powerful services.” You know what he said? “You came to see me in the hospital and gave me a video game when I got my tonsils out.” He didn’t remember what I said, he remembered that I showed up. I didn’t even remember doing that, and the video game I got him was a soccer video game – he played baseball. I didn’t do or say everything just right but I showed up.
One of the most powerful illustrations of this truth is seen in C.S. Lewis story of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” Eustace a very frustrating boy who through the greediness of his own heart fell asleep on a treasure and was turned into a dragon. This caused tremendous amounts of pain and frustration for him and those who were traveling with him. Throughout the voyage a mouse named Reepicheep would call out Eustace when he would act selfish or unseemly, much to Eustace’s frustration. In this part of the story Eustace in the form of a dragon is in a deep despair as he feels that he will never be a boy again. Here is what Lewis says:
Love this clip. Carrey address the problem with our morally relativistic culture as only he can. We strive for permanence for significance for “enough” in a world we insist that there be no absolutes. The result is we drive ourselves into a frenzy of madness trying to prove ourselves to ourselves because we don’t see that we are enough because Jesus on the cross said “enough.”
It’s easy to pick on actors because it’s so blatantly obvious. But what about you ministry leader. What is enough? When you have 5000 people in your church, when you get invited to speak or when you are offered a book deal. The question for all of us is this “Is Jesus enough?”