The Freefall of Jesus

By Vicki Johnson

“One more step, Michael. When you’re ready, let go. I’m here. I’ll catch you.”

My husband, David, who was speaking at a summer camp, got our 6 year old to help him in a visual aid during his message. The plan was for Michael to climb up a 6’ ladder, one rung at a time, and freefall backward into his daddy’s arms. As Michael advanced to the next height, he could hear his dad’s voice behind him encouraging him to “let go” and trust. For a short time, Michael couldn’t see or hear David, but he knew what the plan was. Don’t goof off, get silly, or switch things up and there would be a happy ending. Michael was obedient and held true to the plan. His confidence in David’s trustworthiness was a wonderful example.

It’s been a long time since I thought of this story.

Three things stand out to me:

  1. Michael and David knew the plan from the beginning.
  2. Michael took the steps needed to fulfill the plan.
  3. Michael finished the plan, relinquishing all control for the final outcome to David.

When the world began, a Father and a Son knew a plan. The Son took the steps needed to fulfill the plan. The Son finished the plan, relinquishing all control for the final outcome to His Father. Jesus Christ, fully divine and fully human, came into this sin-sick world and lived a life of perfect trust in His Heavenly Father. There was never a time when Jesus would be out of fellowship with his Dad, except for the cross. On the cross, Jesus would need to experience that devastating sin-separation from the Father. There was no other way for the plan to be completed.

Jesus, nailed to a cross, is raised up for all to see. The sun is obscured. He cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He has been abandoned; left alone. Then John writes in chapter 19 verse 28, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, *said, ‘I am thirsty.’” The price is paid. The plan is complete. His parched lips are wet with sour wine and he affirms, “It is finished!”

With one last act of trust Jesus,”… crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last.” (Luke 23:46) Jesus freefell into the gracious hands of God. May I live each day in that way.

My Heavenly Father knows the plan; I can trust Him with my life.

My Savior lived a life of trust in God, the Father, to the point of death; I can also, in Jesus’ strength.

The best outcome is when I relinquish control and allow God to work in me and through me to accomplish His plan, to His praise and glory.

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Three Months Ago, Round 2

Three months ago, my mom had her first total knee replacement surgery. Three months ago, my sister-in-law had emergency surgery for a burst Meckle’s Diverticulum.

Last week, my mom had her second total knee replacement surgery. Last week, I received a text from my brother that said, “Round 2”; my sister-in-law was having another CT scan for pain in the area of her previous surgery. Today she had surgery to remove a dermoid cyst on her ovary.

Given – one of these surgeries was planned. Both times. But in all honesty, when I got that text from my brother last Friday, I couldn’t help but think, “Really? What next?” My heart was heavy and I (the one not having surgery) was tired of the unexpected.

But in the midst of my down-heartedness, I was reminded to remember. To remember the Lord’s faithfulness in the past. How, three months ago, He had taken care of my mom in that planned surgery. How her recovery went well. How grateful she is for that new knee.

I was reminded to remember how, three months ago, He had taken care of my brother and his wife in that unplanned surgery. How He was with them in the midst of the fear and uncertainty. How He provided for their every need.

There’s a verse from the Psalms that encourages me to remember these things –

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” – Psalm 37:3, NASB

But my favorite part? A footnote that says this verse could read – “feed on His faithfulness”

Our God is always faithful. Sometimes, in the midst of pain, in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of fear, it’s easy to forget. But He is indeed faithful. We simply need to look back and remember how He has proved that faithfulness in the past. How He has been present. How He has provided. How He has never left.

Back to the Basics

by Jonni Sliver

Over the last three months (yikes! Time goes so quickly!) I have loved visiting AFLC families all over the mid-west. The ideas behind these visits is that I could testify to what God is doing, one young life at a time, in the Miriam Children’s Home and at the same time thank so many loving brothers and sisters who have gone out of their way to bless the children through prayers and gifts.  But God always has a better idea than we do and I have received much more than I have given!

During a Sunday morning service in May, in Badger, MN the offering was taken and I joined in as we sang:

“We give Thee but Thine own, whate’er the gift may be: All that we have is Thine alone, a trust, O Lord, from Thee.”

It had been so long since I had sung the offertory that I made a mistake. The last line became:

“All that we have is thine alone, a gift, O Lord, from Thee.”

Oops! The difference between a “trust” and “gift” struck me so strongly. When I receive a gift it is mine and I can do what I want with it. I can choose to give it away, to use it wisely or to lock it away for safe keeping, because it is mine. A trust is different – it doesn’t belong to me, I am holding it for the owner, using as I have been instructed. I don’t have the right to do what I want with it because it isn’t mine.

It starts really early, one of the first words out of our mouths as babies is “MINE!” and we go on thinking that all of life is about what is ours, about what our rights are, all about us. Right now, while I am visiting churches I have been driving a lovely Dodge Grand Caravan, lent to me by World Missions. Can you guess how long it took for me to refer to it as “my car”? It even has a name (Gert – which may be changed by the next driver).  As I sang the offertory incorrectly I had a wonderful chance to think about every single thing that really isn’t mine, everything God has allowed me to hold for Him. Life, resources, ministry, they’re His, all His!

I have noticed that the habit of singing the offertory is more common in our smaller, rural churches than it is in the bigger urban areas. I wonder if that might, in part, be because there is something in the rural culture that reminds us every day that everything we have comes by God’s grace.  This is an easy year to see it. My heart goes out to the farmers who waited all of last year for the rains to come and waited all this spring for the crops to dry! But every farmer I’ve talked to has said that this is the life of the farmer – they have no control over the rain or the sun or pests that can affect the fields. I think that makes it easier for them to understand their dependence on the Living God who trusts them with His fields!

It is good to be reminded of the basics!

A Slippery Spring

by Jonni Sliver

I apologize to all of those with sore backs, aching shoulders or just plain blues because of our extended winter; I’m afraid it might be my fault!

I am pretty sure you all understand that leaving Brazil caused a lot of mixed emotions. Two years isn’t very long to be on the field and in some ways it feels like I just got in the groove and it was time to request a new visa. It was hard leaving the children in the Miriam Home, especially knowing that many (or all) of them could be gone by the time I get back. The Miriam Home team is small in numbers and I feel I left them shorthanded. On the other hand, it is wonderful to be home, it is a treat to visit as many of the AFLC families as possible, and the WMF women who have so richly embraced the Miriam Home. AND to make those visits in a beautiful Minnesota spring – what could be better!

I love the idea of escaping a Minnesota winter – not the cold (a good Norwegian sweater and some wool socks and you’re set), and certainly not the incredible fairy land scenery of coated trees, but the roads. I hate driving on slippery, slushy roads. And when you arrive the beginning of April, you expect showers, not flakes. But not this year!

The first three weeks of April have looked an awful lot like January, and though my visits to churches and WMF Rallies have nicely fallen between snowstorms last Thursday I was not so fortunate. Returning to the Twin Cities I started out in an icy rain, turning into sleet. Heading down Interstate 694 the sleet turned to slush. I found car after car passing me; they obviously felt more confident than I did. Then, just past Maple Grove we saw the first car on the shoulder of the road. Within the next three miles there were five more cars on the sides, facing in the wrong directions – suddenly I wasn’t the only car driving 50 mph on the freeway!

I made it safe and sound to Bloomington, arriving with a  reminder of a couple of things I already knew. First, we were not made for fear. There are moments when fear is a real blessing – it keeps us from petting lions or walking in the middle of the street. But in general, making decisions based on fear will keep us from hearing God’s voice and following it. Second, God knows our weak points and He is loving enough to put us in places where we can choose to trust Him. Like on I-694 in the “Spring”.

Resting in God’s Perfect Way

by Sarah Nelson

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. ”  Psalm 18:30

Recently my oldest son returned to the U.S. after a six month adventure in Europe that included backpacking for three months and serving as an intern with the Josiah Venture ministry.   During the days of his return travel, I kept in touch with his friend and fellow traveler’s mother to keep track of where our sons were and how they were doing.   Relief was shared by both of us upon confirmation that our sons’ feet were back on familiar ground.

Over twenty-five years ago, my parents were on the sending end as I ventured out across the country, and eventually over seas.  My mother gave  the gift of sending me off with her blessing and encouragement.  She never once tied me down with the “what ifs” or worries that would be so understandable on the part of a parent.  She realized the truth of the quote that the “safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”   Her example of sending me out knowing that I was under God’s protection provided a wonderful model for me when it came time for me to  do the same with my children.

Does this mean that no illness, accident, or even death will touch us if we’re serving where and how God wants us to live for Him?  No.  We may very well encounter illness, difficulty, and trials. We will see our children and grand-children live with the realities of being born into a broken world.  What we can know and rest in is this:  Our God’s way is perfect and proven!  He is the shield of our soul, and will welcome us in to heaven because of His death and resurrection.  His victory over the grave is our assurance of life with Him, not just here, but for eternity.

May we live lives surrendered to the One who calls us His.  May we give our children and grandchildren the encouragement to trust that God is their protection from the darts of the Enemy and the woes of this world.   May we love them enough to let them go and serve the One whose plans are always perfect, trustworthy, and certain.

Don’t Touch my Knock-Off Uggs: Thoughts on Trust from a Greedy College Student

by Liz Johnson

Ever have one of those Sundays? You know, the Sunday mornings that you see the title of the message on the bulletin or hear the pastor’s intro, and instantly you know.

I got this.
I’m good on that.
I’ll sit back and enjoy my coffee or look for gum in my purse now.

I had one of those on Sunday. As soon as I heard, “Don’t love money, but be satisfied with what you have,” I settled into my chair a bit more relaxed. Money’s actually not a huge deal for me, I thought. Yeah, I think I’m good on that. I’ll sit back now and sip my gourmet coffee.

See, I think I’m okay with money – safe to say I don’t even love it all that much. I pay my bills, and I’m completely satisfied with my dented Chevy Malibu, even if the steering wheel is duct-tapped and I can’t express my frequent road rage with a horn. I wear knock-off Ugg boots, buy groceries from Aldi, and was once told that my snow-scraper looks like it was purchased from the clearance rack at Dollar Tree. The School of Hard Knocks: Pastor’s Kid Edition taught me a thing or two about being frugal with my hard-earned bills.
Before you think I’m going to plant my hands on my hips and preach from my soapbox (which is placed ever-so-precariously atop my small mountain of student debt), let me reassure you: I was wrong.

 

The more the pastor explained Hebrews 13:5-6, the more I began reconsidering my knee-jerk confidence on the money issue. Loving money, he said, is more than just wanting fancy cars (maybe an updated Malibu with airbags still inside the steering wheel?) or designer jeans. It’s being less than satisfied with what you have and looking for satisfaction and security outside of the arms of Christ. The writer of Hebrews goes on to say that we shouldn’t love money because God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

That made me think. 

No, I don’t look for my identity in money. But I do worry about it. I worry about it a lot. Sometimes it makes me so anxious that I push it away – I shove aside the budget plans and the bank statements, the gas receipts and the Dave Ramsey manuals from my parents. Even when I push it away, it’s still on my mind. I don’t necessarily want to make 6-digits someday (although please e-mail me directly if you know of a teaching job offering such a payment package), but I want to make enough. I want to assure myself of safety, security, and hopefully prosperity, too. Maybe I don’t want the Coach purse or the spring break trip to the Bahamas, but I do want control.

When I step back and look at the reality of my grip on money – and the things it can provide – I see white knuckles, clenched fists. I see my lack of trust in God for safety, security and fulfillment and see my own attempts to provide those things for myself.

Truth is, the reality of my own issues with money runs deeper and looks uglier than what I even recognize. While I sometimes feel like I’m doing a stellar job of trusting God to provide for me at this point in my life, things get dicey when He prompts me to give. I sponsor a Compassion child, isn’t that enough, Lord?

He tells me to give, and give cheerfully, willingly. My knuckles get whiter. My fists clench tighter.

I don’t want to pay for the gas to pick her up.
I should only have to pay for my meal, not her’s, too.
I just bought that sweater and it was expensive – she’ll ruin it if she borrows it.

How many times do I let my desire for self-provided security and comfort drown out God’s voice, asking me to trust him? How many times do I let fear ravage my mind, or let greed squelch out opportunities to love people with what I have? God promises to never fail me. He promises to never abandon me. Anxiety and greed are never outpourings of a heart fully trusting in the hand of God.

Trust in God is pink-knuckled (or brown knuckled, or whatever color your knuckles are when they’re not white). It’s fists unclenched. It’s palms up, arms out, full embrace of security and fulfillment in our King. His generosity is wild. He’s given us everything.

He’s given Himself.