Saturday, March 17, 2018

In A Pit With A Lion...

Yes, the weeks have been flying by again.  Our city is still in the grip of winter and we're nearing a record 200 inches of snow for this season.  You know, there's something exciting about breaking a record--even if it is for the largest amount of snow.

I'm reading a book this morning by Mark Batterson: In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day.  I'm only two chapters in but I recently read a sermon by Ray Stedman on the same subject.  It's based on the story in 1 Chronicles 11:22-24 about how David's bodyguard, Benaiah, took great risks for God and had amazing victories--even killing a lion in a pit on a snowy day.

As I read about people who have overcome fear and trusted our big God to do amazing things I'm thinking of our packing party journey. God graciously knows my weak faith and has only led us in this journey step by step--each year allowing us to do a bit more.

I'm thinking of this year's upcoming packing party where God's led us to trust Him for 30,000 boxes. Sometime in the past couple of years an acquaintance referred to our packing party in a Facebook post and said 'they pack like 30,000 boxes'.  I laughed because I believe we'd actually packed around 25,000 boxes at that time--and 30,000 seemed, well, laughable.

Last year, by God's grace, we packed 28,032 boxes, and I always try to raise our goal by at least 500 boxes each year.  A nice modest, incremental goal.

A few months back when I met with Amanda and Pam for some preliminary talks about our 2018 packing party, Amanda suggested we should make our goal 30,000 boxes.  Pam and I looked at each other, and I said, "Umm, that's a pretty big jump."  Nothing more was said, but over the days and weeks, because of Amanda's faith-filled suggestion, that number of 30,000 started to settle into our hearts.

 Two months ago when our area team coordinators met we prayerfully decided to trust God for that "big jump" of 30,000 boxes.

And now the work of faith continues.  On February 14th we got the shipping window dates from Operation Christmas Child headquarters and were told arrangements had to be submitted by March 29th.  We made a request that day to use the church building for a packing party on September 15th, thinking we'd know pretty quickly whether our request would be granted.

Unfortunately, the church calendar runs from September to August so the church had not scheduled their own events for fall and were unable to confirm our request.  We kept praying as the weeks rolled by without an answer.  More and more people joined us in prayer.  I began to ask God if He was calling us out to another venue and spent some time thinking about alternative locations.  Then, day before yesterday we got that long-awaited go-ahead to hold our packing party on September 15th at our usual location--Grace Church.

Also, over the past weeks we've been praying and seeing God answer with needed items for the boxes. We prayed for 50,000 pencils and two weeks ago God answered and we were able to get the price down to a manageable level and order them.  He also allowed us to get a lower price on thousands of small plastic toys for filler items.

Meanwhile, we were blessed last Monday when a mission team of students from the Chi Alpha college ministry at a college in Texas worked to put together some of our jump ropes.

They completed well over 2,000 that night so we may have about 4,000 completed now with another 23,000 or so to go.

Last weekend Amanda, Pam and I drove to Baltimore for the Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference.  God answered prayer again by giving us a safe drive despite the snow in our area.  I have some good notes from the conference but am waiting to post them until after the Phoenix conference next weekend.  So stay tuned for those.

In his book, Mark Batterson says, "Our biggest problems can be traced back to an inadequate understanding of who God is...The issue is this: How big is your God?"

This week as I was praying again for a confirmation on our packing party date, I read Joel 5:8,9 and just had to memorize it. "As for me, I would seek God and to God would I commit my cause, Who does great things and unsearchable wondrous things without number."

We serve a transcendent God who is like nothing we can begin to imagine. He wants to do great, unsearchable, marvelous things in us that only He can do--things like truly loving people who irritate us or serving when we don't feel like it or maybe even packing 30,000 shoeboxes.  There's nothing in life as exciting as watching in amazement as God does what you know only HE can do!

Batterson writes, "I've got to think that nothing brings God greater joy then when one of His children defies the odds...Lion chasers defy the odds--and make their Father proud."

If God goes with me (and He promises He will) I'm ready.  Let's go chase a lion!

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