Sunday, October 1, 2017

I'll betcha a thousand bucks

There are some things I only say when my beautiful wife is absent from the room. Little did she know that she had married an impulsive grownup child whose game of choice on the playground was to place bets with the other kids about the most simple things. I preached this morning at the Casa Bernabe church and felt great passion to share about the reality of seeking God on a daily basis and seeing Him respond in experiential ways. As I began to speak, my wife slipped down the stairwell in pursuit of our precious 3-year old twin-tornadoes mouthing "I love you" as she gracefully sidestepped down the stairs. Sometimes as I stand privileged with a microphone before these amazing lives the convictions that coat my soul find their way out of my mouth in unexpected ways. And in the presence of dozens of teenagers I made a promise to deal out a wack of cash if they could prove my conviction was wrong. God's response to sincere prayers and humble hearts is definitely biblical, but I am longing for them to see just how true it can be in their own lives.

This past week I had a conversation with a young man that I had the privilege of taking care of for a number of years before his unfortunate exit from the orphanage 2 years ago. I haven't talked to him much since, but have been pained by his sporadic Facebook posts doused with  alcohol, droopy eyes and terrible decisions. As we began to chat, he told of his recent change of heart and lifestyle saying that he had managed a full 180 and was currently living a rather "blessed life". Sometimes those two words tend to make me squirm, yet his ensuing sentence left me with my mouth wide open. He said he had recently decided to give his life to God and since doing so, everything in his life turned around. He was back living with a once disillusioned family member and was seeking God in abundant ways in the midst of material scarcity and tumultuous uncertainty. Years ago I remember praying for this then scrawny 13-year old, uniting my desire to his, pleading with God that He would allow for his biological father to be brought back into the picture. Now, 6 years later this prayer was triumphantly answered and a once fragile and intellectual acquaintance with God has transformed into a visceral relationship threaded together with profound faith and now very personal points of reference. God had been completely faithful and came through in unexpected ways to surprise the soul of one of His dear sons; uniting him with his earthly father so that his heart could be lifted up and restored by his Heavenly Father. And He does it every time.

So what was the bet for $1000? As I neared the end of the message, this story strolled through my working memory and I felt the deepest confidence to dare these youth to seek God every day and that in ten year's time if any one of them could honestly say that they had tried but God had failed, then I would proceed to painfully pull out a pen and write them a reluctant check. Over the years, I have seen that the stories of restoration begin as simple seeds of faith and are brewed to perfection through pain and scorching sacrifice. God brings to fruition those deep processes that were birthed in sincere prayers in the back row of a youth group service on an ordinary Friday night. It's the same hope I have for the youth that sat in those same plastic chairs today. I saw glimmers of hope in the eyes of a few young men and women today and I pray that they heed the advice to take the time to intentionally quiet the obnoxious voice of their teenage pride just long enough to seek God out with a needy and humble heart. I'll bet you a thousand bucks He will respond.

Monday, September 11, 2017

How much do you love?

I have been asked on different occasions if I could come to love the young man who was grafted into our family out of another as much as the two girls that my wife had the privilege of giving birth to. I can feel the adoptive moms and dads flaring their eyes and blood pressure rising, but I think it is a good question to ask. I think it is good because I am completely in love with the answer. The reason we have to ask the question if we can give an adopted or foster child the same amount of love as biological children is because we obviously don't fully understand what love is. It threads back to a deep world view with roots in who we think God is and what He is capable of. I used to believe that God loved us all equally; all of us on the exact same level. I must admit that this core belief sounds neat, but it certainly doesn't feel like love if you are the child. It does not begin to meet the deep need I have to be known. Love is so much deeper and higher than something we could quantify with words like "more" or "equally". Love is not like a math equation or a linear process. My sweet sister-in-law (who is currently 13 years old) would frequently ask me which of my twin daughters I loved more, and it was as if I was being asked to write a math equation instead of a love letter. Love is so much bigger than anything our minds could compare. I can say this without reservation because God made it clearly known to us that He himself is love. Any concept we have of love where we don't include God is simple plagiary. In the same way we could never begin to compare God to any created thing, we could never compare love with quantities and scales. God does not love us equally. It is better than that. It is so much more complex and rich and colourful. In the same way I could never manage to measure my love for my twin girls, putting them on a scale to see who weighs in more, I know that God does not use these methods when He looks down at us. If someone were to ask  me about how I love my baby girls, I would begin to describe who they are; explanations that would be completely intertwined with feelings starting in my belly and getting caught in my throat. I could never love them the same because they are so different. They are so unique and completely distinct representations of a facet of the image of God. God does  not love us the same, because that would mean there is a possibility that He could love something less, as what can be measured must necessarily have a beginning and an end. So when we talk about adoption, I would never tell someone that you can come to love your adopted child "as much" as your biological children. It's better than that. God allows us to experience an intimate part of who He is and love our children uniquely and individually. The moment we seek to compare or grade, we are straying from the One who is the absolute source of love. Do I love the one whose birth I didn't have the privilege to witness the same as my biological daughters? Absolutely not. I love them uniquely and utterly, regardless of the methods God used to bring them under my parental care. The moment we fall back into our humanistic interpretations as one more thing we are to measure and compare, we have taken God out of the picture and kicked over the very soap box we so confidently stand upon. Adoption is hard because we have to create a connection, bringing ourselves to accept, encourage and embrace someone who doesn't share our DNA and many times our culture and comfort. Yet, I can't think of a better representation of the immense love of God that He showed me on the cross. Bringing me into His family when I was born into another, accepting me for who I am and giving me access to everything that His "biological" son Jesus has by birthright. And I choose to swallow my pride and believe the simple words that make me uncomfortable and exposed. God loves me. There is no "more"and there is no "less". I am uniquely His and He is inseparably mine.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Distracted by the drama

As I sat in this familiar board room, with the sound of rain pouring down on the acoustic tin roof that shielded us from the storm, I could feel the tension starting to rise as many of those present rose to defend themselves while subtly lashing out in a confrontational, yet orderly waltz. It has been a few weeks since the rug was pulled out from under us with a sudden change in authorities, and most of us are still regaining our footing. And it is in this season of transition that I have come to see a new side of humanity. There is a fascinating drive to maintain status quo while keeping friends and enemies at a superficial distance that will be useful but not threatening; to be utterly distracted yet intensely focused. Government entities are set up this way, at least here in Guatemala. As quickly as one person is appointed, a movement to dethrone them is already on the way, provoking waves of uncertainty and doubt. These kinds of situations where we, as humans, feel threatened in some way, whether that be in our jobs, in our home life or on a deeply personal level, generally provoke predictable behaviours from us. Although we are quick to hide behind our degrees, declarations and diplomacy, a sense of feeling threatened lights a match to a well-know neurological  pathway whose fuse blows up in manipulative and confrontational behaviour. I have seen this as much in my two-year-olds as in the adept and accomplished lawyer who sat a few chairs down from me. We feel threatened because we don't feel safe. We don't feel safe because we don't know who to trust. All of these transition and interpersonal struggles are currently magnified by the current high profile political turmoil played out as a bureaucratic soap opera coming out with brand new episodes every day. #crisis.

I clearly recall two years ago, when the then-Guatemalan president was caught in unprecedented corruption scandals and was eventually cornered by societal outcry into a hesitant resignation. I can remember refreshing my Twitter every twenty minutes (much to my wife's dismay), as the political drama was just too important and entertaining to miss. Every conversation revolved around the news of the day and it wasn't long before I had been completely wrapped up in a battle that was not my own and distracting me from where my attention needed to be. As if the scales had suddenly fallen from my eyes, I promptly deleted my news apps and ran to a place of reflection and repentance. So now, two years later, as the drama is reborn and I find myself uncomfortably close to the action, I seek to put into practice the lessons I have learned. Instead of buying into to it, I feel capable enough to sense the threat and uncertainty and remember that my roots spread much deeper than the soil of this world. When I am tempted to replace the most important things in life with trivial tweets and posts, I am learning to speak hope into those situations and be the ambassador of Jesus I was born to be. Failure is a familiar foe, and I confess that in lieu of shining brightly this evening in that board room, several of my fellow attendees may have caught me rolling my eyes and slouching in despair. BUT. I can look back over the past two years and see how God has led me by my the hand, and guided my reluctant heart to broaden my perspective and focus my spirit. It is so easy to get caught up in the drama that life offers, but my prayer is that God would look down on His beloved children, the ones whose adoption cost Him everything, and would see hearts that aren't distracted and distraught. That He would see us remembering daily just who He is, what He has done and where the story is leading. What this world so desperately needs, whether we are currently waist high in flood waters or political turmoil, is hope. And God's plan A to bring hope to this broken world in the most desperate of situations is that we would inject Jesus into the picture, focus the frame and reach into those broken and needy lives that He was willing to give his life for. For the change I long to see in this beautiful country, and for the lives that are longing for a hope that does not fade, let us continue to walk, not distracted by the bright lights and loud music, but focused on the gentle voice that is the true source of life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

You are no sheep of mine

Imagine the feeling of having dedicated your life to what you firmly believed was the correct and righteous thing to do, only to be confronted with the immaculate beauty of Jesus as He looks deep down into your eyes and says, “You don’t belong with me”. I was reading through the gospel of John the other day in the Amplified Bible and stumbled upon some words that really frightened me. Jesus was walking through a parable that I have known for decades, however in this version the text portrays Jesus standing in front of some inquisitive Jews and says to them "You are no sheep of mine". These men were committed religious gurus who had dedicate their lives to following Jesus' Father, but there was an abysmal disconnect between what they were preaching and the lives they were living. How easy it is for me to sit back in my chair, read these words and think, "Poor guys, they really missed the mark". Yet, I couldn't help but envision the day I will stand before Jesus and imagine Him uttering these very words to me. Frightening. Yes, you became a missionary at a young age and were actively involved in ministry and helped some kids, but YOU are no sheep of mine.  I am not usually frightened by what I read in the bible, but this time I could feel my eyes open wide and my heart beat fast as I thought about the monumental moment when I will see Jesus face to face. Will I, like the Jews, believe I am doing everything right and dedicating my entire life to following Him without actually doing what He says?


It's one of our most intrinsic human needs; to belong to something greater than ourselves,  to find our purpose for existence in the context of a community with a nurturing authority figure who singles you out as precious and worthy. But imagine standing before the greatest being who has ever lived, the one who thoughtfully created those very needs and desires we all have, and to have Him say that you are not one of His. Following Jesus is so much more important than I thought it was. Truly following Him has such an incredible eternal impact and the enemy wants nothing less than for me to be in the group of sheep that doesn’t belong.  This echoes another verse that has haunted me for decades, in Luke 6:46 where Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do what I say?” Jesus offered wide open invitations to follow him but with very real and specific instructions. Following Him would look different than following Cesar or the elite Jews of the day. I am freshly intrigued by the comparison of Jesus being our shepherd and that we are to simply follow and obey Him because it is the best thing for us. So, the question remains: are you truly following Jesus or just doing a good job at looking like you do? If he asks you to stop criticizing your government or move to another country or enter into a season of rest and uncertainty, would you follow? Jesus' desire is that we would belong to Him and find our security and identity wrapped up in who He is, but I need to take Him at His word. So I choose to surrender. More than anything I choose to live intentionally, trusting that God looks down at me through the lens of Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection and confidently says, "This one's mine." The Good Shepherd had to lay his own life down for this to happen and if that's the kind of God we are talking about, then I definitely choose to follow. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Battle We Cannot Lose

My life has changed rather dramatically over the past few months, marked by a significant change in work life and daily routines. I admit that my gravitational pull is to an attitude of indifference towards life if I am not careful in pursuing perspective and intentionally fostering a sense of purpose and significance. There are so many different levels of struggle and fighting going on ranging from the deepest parts of who I am warring within me up to the heavenly dimensions where the kingdom is breaking through into earthly territories in incredible ways. Though I am aware of this context of war and struggle, I still cherish a childish belief that following Jesus should look a lot more like peace, comfort and ease when compared to my chaotic pre-gospel existence. In spite of knowing the truth, I act as if I don't. Romans 7 bounces around my head reaffirming that I am not alone in this carnal struggle to fight for the "real me" that has since been redeemed and rescued however, my flesh is like the elephant in the room that doesn't seem to be leaving any time soon. I have recently been so amazed by God's favour and provision as He has opened doors and hearts in places and people I had never dreamed of. I have sat at tables, received phone calls and met people that brings me to a place of complete awe of what God is doing in Guatemala and for some reason choosing me to take part in. Yet, instead of shamefully walking out of the room with his tail between his legs, this elephant, that is my flesh, seems to quietly take a seat, kick back and make himself at home. I heard a sermon this week saying that when we decide to follow Christ we are transferred from fighting a battle that we could never win to one in which we can never lose. I see this new battle as being two-fold; one in which my redeemed self, now found in Christ and being renewed daily is frustrated by my persisting flesh. The second battle is in the kingdom that I now belong to as it forcefully pushes back the forces of darkness and breaks through the satanic structures that have plagued us since Adam. In one case, my salvation could never depend on any of my works or efforts, yet in the other, what I do today could potentially resonate throughout all of eternity.

As I have transitioned into a government institution that I once so effortlessly judged and criticized, I realize that my minutes do indeed matter. Where I invest my time and energy is important and can be a part of God's strategic plan. This world so desperately and successfully distracts me and keeps me entranced with funny video clips, live updates and breaking news yet I am slowly learning about the importance my God-given time that I so effortlessly surrender to my social networks and other earthly abysses. In a meeting this past week, a pastor I respect greatly told me that at the end of the day, things were going to happen in these times with or without us and that we were to simply stand back, watch and "trust". I love this person, but I deeply reject their sentiment. God wants us to know that we are His exclusive design for carrying out His plan on earth and that the way He chooses to shine on planet earth is undoubtedly through us. Standing by will most definitely not do anything to bring heaven to earth and bystanders certainly won't get the prize. Though my flesh wants to weigh me down with beliefs of insignificance and pity, I want to decide to fight. The people God has placed in our sphere of influence are worth fighting for. Will we continue to be bystanders, entrenched behind our tweets and Facebook shares without engaging in the real battle? Will we justify our inaction and indifference while our unique window of opportunity steadily slips away? I need this message more than anyone. God has most definitely won the war through Christ however, as His followers He sends us out to fight the battle. We are his plan to bring light to this earth. I implore you to not simply sit back and watch. From your point of influence, and with the way you live your life, fight the fight that is before you and let us see to it that God's kingdom break through into the earth, just as it is in heaven. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Breakthrough: Light shining in the Darkness of Guatemala

On March 8th, a fire was started at a government shelter that ended up taking the lives of 40 young girls and has come to dramatically impact the lives of thousands more. Out of this crisis, our director and my personal mentor, has now become the deputy secretary of the government department responsible for child protection services in Guatemala. Out of this crisis, we received 6 children who lived at this government home. For many years the government has been answering questions that no one is asking and ignoring children that no one else in society has had the privilege to see. The response to this crisis has provoked a tidal wave of solidarity and sympathy in Guatemala that has the population in an uproar.

A month ago, I wrote about praying and fasting for a breakthrough saying that I honestly had no idea what the breakthrough was or if it even had anything to do with me. While I would never presume that my role in the kingdom of God is so significant or central, the recent events that have taken place in Guatemala have taken my faith to a deeper level. Birthed in a fatal fire in the heart of the government's children home, the walls of this fortress were literally broken through. A well guarded stronghold where judges, diplomats and authorities were denied entry suddenly received a presidential order to be vacated and closed, never again to be used for child care. At Casa Bernabe, the 6 kids that were transferred out of this shelter were presented to the Casa Bernabe family as we prayed over and blessed them. There is a spirit of gratitude that is so tangible in these kids. They are grateful for the attention, the food, the space, the structure and for the fact that they now belong. 

I sat one of these new boys down the other day and told him that he was safe and that we were here to protect him and be a family to him for as long as he needs us. As I reflected on these kids in this moment I was confronted by the poverty of my own memory, that this transfer is precisely what happened to me at a specific point in my own life. Certainly, I was once a prisoner in the kingdom of darkness and was instantly brought into the kingdom of light. I can remember the sense of freedom in my soul when I received God's healing in my life and gratitude was the only natural response. I was so aware of this contrast between darkness and light. Between orphan and adopted. Stranger and son. 

The events that recently took place in Guatemala with the death of these girls and displacement of hundreds more has brought my faith to a much deeper, more organic and raw level. I am painfully aware that this story being authored by a sovereign God is so much bigger than our own personal and corporate kingdoms that we idolize and so passionately fight for. This breakthrough in Guatemala has come to break through different parts of my own heart and identity, subtly whispering to me that I was the boy rescued from jail and brought into freedom. I am the confused child that longs for protection and comfort but reflexively puts up walls and facades to make it appear that I am just fine on my own. I am the one who so often acts our of shame and pain, pretending that I prefer it this way. God has used tragedy to provoke a tidal wave of compassion and benevolence and while these responses are Godly and necessary, God is wanting more. He is wanting His children to remember that they are the salt and light, however to be quite mindful that at one time they were unquestionably not. God wants groups of His followers (ekklesias) to raise up and respond to the brokenness and despair, not in heartfelt messages on facebook, but with preconceived  and legitimate commitments to be present in the darkness. Those of us who work in orphan care before, during and after the different crises so desperately need the church. We need more extensions of God's grace and ambassadors of His presence. I pray that this tidal wave of generosity would effectively meet the immediate needs, but would also transcend and transform into lasting pools of healing and Christ-like interventions. It is in the darkness that the light is most needed. Guatemala has just exposed one of its darkest spots, and I pray that the light would shine not only as a fleeting flicker in response to the crisis, but as a lasting beam of life. 

 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When being obedient is not convenient...

Prayer. Fasting. Breakthrough. These three concepts have been like bees buzzing in my mind, converging in ways I don't quite yet understand. I have been completely convicted by the first two and a little scared of the last one. When I hear the word "breakthrough" in a spiritual context, I feel a surge of skepticism pulsing through my veins as I have heard preachers refer to an exclusively economic downpour when speaking of breakthrough. And even worse, that prayer and fasting are like our tools to pry open the tightly grasped fist of an otherwise distant God to cause his blessings to shower down.  In spite of this erroneous analysis, I can't shake that this concept is somehow for me in this season. I was reading an article today from Desiring God explaining that this kind of breakthrough comes from a military context where a specific and strategic point in the enemy's lines is broken through at one fell sweep. The author continued to explain how prayer and fasting are divine ways of provoking a breakthrough and within a biblical perspective, these ancient acts of connecting with God are necessary to form the offensive lineup in a head-on attack. I can't deny that God has purposefully led me to these three concepts for this season, but I am honestly having a really hard time with it.

Primarily, because I don't want to pray and fast. I don't have time. How do I go to work breakfasts/lunches/dinners and not eat? This past month has been one of the busiest I can remember so at what time am I supposed to pray? I apologize dear Christian brother or sister; I technically do "want" to do these things, but I also know that if I REALLY wanted to, there would be no excuses.

Secondly, I don't even know what the breakthrough is! I don't know what the strategy could be and I definitely don't know what it is supposed to look like. That said, what do I do with these divine whispers that are currently resonating in my mind? Is the breakthrough for me personally? For my family? For Guatemala? I have no idea. What I do know (in my head) is that I need to obey God's promptings, but I feel like I just need a little more information. Is that not fair? Well, I actually don't think fair has anything to do with it.

Did Yahweh let Abram and Sarai know the address of their destiny? Did He tell Daniel for what reason he was being taken captive by the king? Did He tell Joseph the purpose behind sending him to prison? I don't think so....Did God tell David McCormick that his 3 month long mission's trip to Guatemala would turn into 14 years of ministry with a beautiful family of five?

I share this with you because it is refreshing to know that weakness is a common trait among us all. I know what I am supposed to do and yet I struggle doing it. I can look back at my own life and see the incredible ways God has surprised me and surpassed my wildest dreams with such unmerited favour, impossible opportunities and beautiful people. Yet, like my kindred spirit Thomas, I feel like I need to stick my finger in it before I believe it's real. This call to prayer and fasting is definitely not because God has searched the face of the earth and found me righteous, on the contrary, it is because He knows that I need to become so much weaker and dependent. It is completely contrary to any kind of military strategy, but it is exactly the way the kingdom of God works. Just as God had to reduce Gideon's forces and equip him with household items instead of weapons, I need to be stripped of my pride and doubt to bring about the breakthrough that God is planning to do. I am completely aware that God's word continues to spread in spite of me and if I am disobedient in this, then I will be the one to miss out on the blessing of being used by God. I hope you pray for me as I choose to embark on this journey that I have been putting off and dreading for days. Who knows, this entire process and breakthrough may even be for you.

David McCormick


http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/praying-for-a-breakthrough