The Maxfields

The Maxfields

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Strategic Time

We recently had three Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) groups from UCLA, Cal Berkeley and Standford on a spring mission trip. RUF is our denomination's, the Presbyterian Church in America, college ministry.

It was a really great week. These young men and women are smart, generous, courteous and fun to be around. Many have come two or three years in a row during their spring break. They could be doing almost anything and they chose to come serve on the Yakama Indian Reservation.

As I spent time with them this week I was thinking back to my college years and the decision making process of trying to determine a major, career, employer and all those strategic decisions that time in life brings.

The world would ask us to answer these questions when making these kinds of decisions.
  • Do your skills match up with the requirements of the job?
  • What type of income will you earn in this field?
  • Is this a stable career choice or will there be major changes coming?
  • Will you be able to provide for a family, buy a nice house, live in a nice neighborhood?
  • What are your friends doing?
  • Will you live up to your parent's expectations?
I think I could make the argument that all those questions are irrelevant when determining how best to serve Christ in His ever expanding Kingdom.

Unfortunately, those were the exact questions I asked when I was making these decisions.

These questions and the mindset behind them often lead to living for self, materialism and keeping up with the Joneses. It is so easy to get caught up in the "security" that a job, bank account, and a normal middle class life offer. The pursuit becomes maintaining that "security" and the "glory that comes from man." John 12:43

Ecclesiastes has much to say about this type of thing. The Preacher pursued pleasure and wisdom and ". . . became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun." Ecclesiastes 2:9-11

We pursue wealth and possessions. We are killing ourselves establishing a career and a reputation. How often do we consider why we are doing this? Are we truly serving our Master or are we serving mammon?

Should we not instead ask questions like:
  • How can I use my gifts and talents to serve God and His Kingdom?
  • I know the harvest is ripe and the laborers are few, so how can I be a laborer for Christ?
  • Does a large bank account really provide security?
  • When will my retirement account begin to look like barns built to store grain so we can say: "relax, eat, drink, be merry?" (Luke 12:19)
  • Does being a Christian in the workplace only mean seek out opportunities to share your faith with your co-workers?
  • What does it mean to love my life and to hate my life in this world so that I may keep it for eternal life? (John 12:25, Matthew 16:24-26)
  • How much do I value the glory that comes from man rather than the glory that comes from God? (John 12:43)
  • What does living a life of risk look like in the Kingdom of God?
I can't answer any of these questions on your behalf. Only you can as you pray and immerse yourself in God's Word. But I can tell you that the world is trying to deceive you.

I spent from 1993 through 2013 pursuing a career in public accounting. I had "made" it in my field. I was a partner in a CPA firm. We owned a home in a new housing development and were making more money than I ever would have expected when I started my career. I was an Elder in my PCA church and my family was following the Lord. When looking at the first set of questions as a reference point I had accomplished everything I wanted.

But then I came to the Yakama Reservation.

There is so much more to life that keeping up with the Joneses. What a waste of time, effort and life! God calls us to so much more. The Lord calls us to serve Him and He will make it clear where He wants us to be. But too often we succumb to the pressures of this world and those around us. When I look at Facebook and I see what we are spending our money on, how we spend our time and what we treasure in our hearts (Matthew 6:21), and the things that make us speak up about something -- I'm a bit sickened.

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33

I challenge you to take a risk. Risk your life that God will provide in ways you cannot imagine. Trust that Jesus is greater than the treasures of this world.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Why, O Lord?

How bold are your prayers? What are the specific things you pray for?

My prayers are often feeble. I pray for health, the next day or thank God for His provision. Honestly, I would probably be better off not praying sometimes. How often do you see David praying for his health in the Psalms?

The men of Hope Fellowship have been going through the Psalms the last several months. Rather than be comforted, I've been increasingly frustrated.

These prayers of David (mostly) are things that I increasingly think and pray:

  • "Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" 10:1
  • "Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted." 10:12
  • "How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?" 13:1,2a
  • "In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help." 18:6
Before coming to the Rez, I read all these passages and spiritualized them. If I could identify with them at all -- it is hard to identify with a person that suffers when you remove yourself from any opportunity to live life with those that suffer -- they turned into prayers about how lame my devotional life was. 

It is impossible for me to read these passages the same way now. There is much suffering in this world. Suburban America does all it can to insulate itself from suffering. But God calls us to seek out those that are suffering and show them the love of Christ: we are called to visit orphans and widows in their affliction (James 1:27). 

I see suffering now and my heart breaks. Almost daily I have the good fortune to interact with people on the Reservation that have suffered in ways I cannot imagine: children without parents, children living with whomever will take them, drug and alcohol addiction, physical, sexual and emotional abuse. I see how kids act that go through this, I see their lack of emotion, in others their anger, their mistrust. We spend a few hours with them each week and then we send them back home to trauma and chaos.

And I ask "Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"

The current theme of our youth group is "walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7). There are days I'm sick of that verse.

My hope is in the Lord. I know Christ will return to judge both the quick and the dead. I have no doubt that Christ is the All-in-All and one day, when He returns, all things will be made new.

But I want to see it. 


I want to see suffering end. I want to see families made whole. I want to see people turn to Christ and grab hold of the life saving Gospel. 

So, I'm changing the way I pray. Hebrews tells us "with confidence draw near to the throne of grace." With confidence. Other versions say "come boldly."

The Creator of the Universe wants us to come to Him boldly, bringing our cares and concerns to him. Can I pray as confidently and boldly as David?
  • "Consider and answer me, O LORD my God." Psalm 13:3
  • "Hear a just cause, O LORD, attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit! From your presence let my vindication come! Let your eyes behold the right!" Psalm 17:1-2
  • "I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me: hear my words." Psalm 17:6
Or what about Daniel? Can you imagine being this bold in prayer?

"O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have because a byword among all who are around us. Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his please for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name." Daniel 9:16-19

It is my hearts wish that my prayer might elicit the same response Daniel's did:

"While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel . . . made me understand, . . . saying, . . . "At the beginning of your please for mercy a word went out." Daniel 9:20-23 

I long for the day when the Father answers and says:
  • "'Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,' says the LORD; 'I will place him in the safety for which he longs.'" Psalms 12:5
  • "In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry." Psalm 18:6-7