This ‘18-‘19 series celebrates some of my deepest values as I just turned 50 this spring. The fall series featured four “concessions” on life’s downers; this winter & spring has featured six “confessions” that drive who I am.
I will admit that I’ve been more wordy than ever in my 27-year newsletter career through this year-long column series, thanks in part to Wendy’s idea (mandate 🙂 a year ago to move to a digital newsletter format. At the same time, it’s been difficult to be succinct as I’ve tackled both solemn and supreme issues of life, faith and purpose. Having said that, I hope to bless those of you who ever read my newsletters through to the end, and I concede that even this lengthy column merely hints at the gravity of this ultimate theological topic.
The glory of God is simultaneously self-evident and a profound mystery. God receives glory through His attributes being lived out in Heaven and on Earth through His creation, His creatures, and even Himself: steadfast love, holiness, justice, mercy, faithfulness, wisdom, forgiveness, power, and creativity, just to name a few. A synonym for giving God glory could be giving Him worship, which a former pastor of mine described as giving “worth-ship” to God. This is exemplified with an awesome glimpse into the throne room of Heaven in Revelation 4:11 (ESV): “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
On an even more complicated and mysterious level, God is glorified through tragedies, atrocities, and other things we can’t explain. Romans 8:28 describes God as working together all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. “All things” can and does include tornadoes, lay-offs, cancer, rejection, burnout, and even successes. Theologian Dr. John Piper wrote, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” meaning that when one’s love for and joy in God transcends life’s circumstances, however pleasurable or painful, He gets more glory and we get more satisfaction and contentment in life.
I’ve referred to Moses many times over the years in conversations and in a few newsletter anecdotes—how I relate to him as a reluctant leader and how I aspire to be humble like he was (Numbers 12:3, James 4:6-7). In a fascinating conversation he has with the LORD in Exodus 33, Moses pleads with Him to not abandon the Israelites in the wilderness: “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (v. 15), and “Please show me your glory” (v. 18). Moses glorified God by longing for His presence and seeking His glory despite much opposition and rebellion among his people (and flaws in his own heart and actions). God is glorified when we long for Him more than we long for our own independence, autonomy, or self-sufficiency. He longs for us to long for Him and depend on Him with every fiber of our being.
Like Moses, I continue to be a reluctant leader. Like his ancient kindred, I struggle with grumbling about my circumstances. (I’ll lead the SLT in a study of margin and contentment next year.) I must be honest about that, because the high of the Juggle Jam season may give the impression that this middle-aged youth director with accolades and a good reputation has “arrived.” Well, in a sense I arrived several years ago (circa 2004) at a rhythm of life and career that is stable and mostly predictable, but I plead with the LORD on a regular basis to not let me go forward unless His presence and glory goes before me and with me. Biblically-speaking, such an attitude, however imperfect, is one vehicle by which God is glorified, because I know empirically that I can’t do this on my own. I need His help. I tell of His wonderful works lest people think I do this on my own, even with the help of Wendy, the adult staff, the SLT, and a committed network of parent volunteers and alumni supporters.
As for turning 50, I am slowing down even with divine and human help. The Levites (Moses’ tribe) were told to withdraw from serving in the Tent of Meeting (a forerunner of the Temple of God in Jerusalem) at age 50, but continue to “minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard” (Numbers 8:23-26). This isn’t a cryptic retirement announcement, but it is an acknowledgement that while I need more help than ever to effectively lead JUGHEADS, I’ll remain “keeping guard” even as my job description changes in my new decade of life.
So, my series draws to a close. If the Lord calls me Home this year or sometime soon, I like to think that I’ve left a written legacy for my core beliefs, all of which directly relate to my 27-year youth career, 26-year marriage to Wendy, and 50 years of life. If I live on even to age 70 or 80 (see James 4:15 and Psalm 90:10), I’ll build on the legacy of the Five Solas of the Reformation: grace alone through faith alone through the Word of God alone through Christ alone for the glory of God alone. “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). Now you know with a bit more detail what drives me and what undergirds this company, however subtly and without coercion or manipulation for the general membership, campers, and audience members.
From 1992-1994, I was blessed to perform monthly on a national radio variety show called SUNDAY NITE, broadcast via KTIS 98.5 FM and the Skylight Satellite Network. The host, Richard K. Allison, was a long-time mainstay leading actor of the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre and had a full-time ministry performing “music, mayhem, and some meaningful stuff too” to churches and groups around the country. During one of our Saturday morning rehearsals, just a year or so before he died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 44, Richard shared with our small cast a profound passage in a brief devotion that has stuck with me these 25 years. More applicable than merely a favorite passage from a late friend and performing mentor, this contains the five big “happenings” of my Confession Stand series: grace, faith, Bible, Jesus, and God’s glory.
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20, ESV).