Being a Beggar

“I cannot humble myself if I don’t understand that brokenness and suffering are gifts” and that the pathway to humility and ultimately hope is to take on the very same attitudes of Christ.  

What was the attitude of Christ? Humility (Philippians 2)

The story is told that on his death bed, Martin Luther expressed the following thought: “We are all beggars.” This thought is quite transformative in not only the way we should approach our own lives but the way we approach others and the hope we have of building true Biblical community. The only way I can truly express this thought of embracing humility and knowing hope is to see “the gospel as one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”.

There are many themes at work in this thought. We see the one beggar as owning nothing, carrying little, and yet having a great treasure to share: the location of bread. We see in the midst of this seeming poverty something entirely different than what we would expect – generosity, joy, and hope. And why? Because in his brokenness and humility he wants to share the joy of knowing where the bread is.  His current condition does not define him; it is the bread itself that does.  Knowing where the bread is doesn’t change his condition, but it does give him hope and reliance upon the one who supplies him the bread.  

A beggar without hope and pride hoards his treasure. He does not believe his store will be replenished and growls at anyone who would beg from him a crumb. He resents anyone who also finds the bread.

And yet this generous beggar shares because this beggar is one who has confronted his own brokenness and responded in humility. He knows he is not his own, and in finding a deep well of hope, wants to share it with others. He has found a bread that will never run out.

Daily Bread

Sharing the hope of the Gospel is not telling other beggars where I found the bread once. It’s where I continue to find the bread. Once a beggar, always a beggar. And the challenge for those of us who have found the bread (Jesus Christ), is that the bread cart keeps moving. If I want to know the joy and satisfaction and the hope of the Living Bread, I have to daily pursue the bread cart. I must acknowledge my need (my brokenness) on a daily basis.

In Exodus 16, we are given the story of the manna and quail that the Lord sent to the Israelites to feed them. That food was only supplied for the day (and for two days the day before the Sabbath). If people tried to gather food for more than that day, it spoiled and turned bad and was full of bugs. Each day they had to wait upon the Lord to supply their needs. And He did not fail.

Nothing in Scripture describes this thought better than 2 Corinthians 4:5-10, 13-18.  I have put my thoughts in the parenthesis to help give context to this line of thinking:

“You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. (HUMILITY) We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord (THE GOSPEL), and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake (BEGGARS). For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ (GOSPEL). We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves (BEGGARS). We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies” (BROKENNESS).…

But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke (BEGGARS). We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.  All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory (BEGGARS OF HOPE). That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day (BROKENNESS TO HOPE). For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever (HUMILITY TO HOPE)! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (KNOW HOPE).

I pray that we would take on the heart of a beggar.  Each day we have an opportunity to care for those who are broken and hurting. Let’s share through our words and actions where we find our hope.  

How Great is our God

How Great is our God…
And All will see how Great,
How Great is our God

This song played on January 26th, 2007 at 5:29am, the moment my daughter , Emily, came into this world. I can guarantee I would have never known had the midwife not mentioned it’s perfect timing and started singing along. It had been a hard week for Roy and me as we found ourselves in the middle of huge changes; ones we weren’t ready for. It wasn’t Emily’s birth, but our whole life, our work, our home, and our family.

At a time that should have been full of joy, we found ourselves devastated in our circumstances and crippled by the uncertainty of our future. Yet the birth of our 3rd child, a moment frozen in time, brought great joy and peace. What a blessing she became that night, as she continues to be in our lives. 

How Great is our God

It’s funny how, in the fall of 2006, Roy had somehow programmed our phones to play this worship song whenever someone called. I was always conscious of it, as I knew we probably paid an extra charge every time it rang!!!


But over time it proved to be a way for God to speak directly to us, as though He was constantly reminding us that He was in control of our circumstances and that He truly was a Great God.

And All will see How Great is our God

As our life began to unfold and we began our journey, we quickly fell to our knees. Our prayer for years now has been that God would receive all the glory in every part of our lives. During those months we didn’t know where he wanted us to be, where we would call home, or even where Roy would find work. There were many days where we failed to see God’s plan in our lives, and there were days we felt a lack of hope. 

But God took care of us. 

When one of us was down, the other always seemed to have the stamina to pray and encourage. God sent so many people in our path who prayed with us, shared meals with us, cried with us, and just loved us. So many of our kids from our nine years at Milton Hershey School called, wrote, or visited, sometimes without even knowing our situation. Our family, of course, stood beside us through it all. Our church pastors and staff, and many friends from within our church became a family to us in a way we can’t even begin to share. Roy and I could only give God glory for using so many people to show us His love. 

This verse is a true reflection of what we’ve tried to live up to. When times of misfortune come our way, we will still give God praise. God used that time to refine us. 

Our full dependence on God was all we had. And once we completely surrendered ourselves to Him, He began to work in mighty ways. We knew He allowed us to be stripped of everything we found comfort in so that we could find comfort only in Him. 

It’s amazing to me how this song has become our life song. In some of our darkest moments our phone would ring, an offertory would be played, and my three year old daughter, as loud as possible, would sing:

HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!

“Healing rain comes with fire, so let it fall and make us higher. 

Michael W. Smith

How Great is He?

On July 31st, 2007 (Exactly 6 months after our final day at Milton Hershey School), Roy had a job interview with Northwest Human Services. On August 1st, he spoke at a diversity conference at a local college (sharing his group dynamics and bullying training). On August 2nd he was offered a job as a supervisor of therapeutic foster care in Harrisburg, specifically in charge of recruiting, training, and retraining foster care parents and case workers. That same day he was asked to be a keynote speaker at a bullying conference in the area because of the response from his training the day before. On August 5th, we signed a contract to buy our first home. On August 6th, Roy began working. 

In 6 months time, God was often quiet when we pleaded for direction. At times we thought He was taking us to places as far away as Utah and Georgia (which he would someday do), but every “perfect” door was slammed shut, and we were left waiting. We knew it meant He had something better, and though at times we couldn’t imagine it, we knew we had to have faith in that. Within ONE WEEK, He gave us ‘the desires of our heart’ and allowed us to stay in what had become home for our family. This only tells bits and pieces of our journey, and there are so many other amazing ways He has proven Himself to us. His faithfulness in our lives is something beyond comprehension, and we often are in awe of what He has done and how our number one prayer was answered….

We can only give Him the Glory.

What are You Known for?

Before I came to Christian Heritage, I had seen the best and worst life had to offer many families and kids. My path from Edwin Gould Academy to Milton Hershey School to Focus on the Family to Monadnock Christian Ministries has shown me a great deal about the pain and brokenness of the breakdown of the family. During our summer and winter camps at Monadnock I often wondered if we were a camp or an emotional “triage unit.”

The pain and brokenness that many teens and adults had experienced, whether of their own decisions and choices or the impact others had on them, defined them. The decisions and choices we make every day flow from these identities and they begin to define our future. They reveal what we believe about ourselves and our worthiness for love—both to give and receive it. It also reveals what we believe about God.

What Would People Say of You

If I were to interview your family or your closest friends and I ask them, “What phrase or words would you use to describe ______ (your name)?” what would they say?

“He loves his family!”

“She loves her husband!”

“She loves to give to others!”

“He is committed to his job!”

“He loves to drink and party!”

“She loves to shop!”

“She is a straight A student!”

“He loves God.”

What are you known for?

A few years ago Karen decided to give out our Valentine’s Day candy a little differently to our family. She placed a basket of candy in the middle of our dining room table after dinner and said, “You can grab a piece of candy but you need to give it to another person and then tell them something you love about them.” Our kids’ hands dived into the basket.

As we sat there going around the table I loved seeing the interaction. Then Emily said something that surprised me. She said, “Daddy, the way you love mommy!” Huh??? She loves me for loving her mom. I was shocked by her response.

Isn’t it amazing what our kids see? Now, I confess I don’t always get it right. I often feel like I fall short as a husband and dad. But this is the point….people are constantly watching. People can see, especially our family, those things that have grabbed the attention of our hearts and time. I am glad that at that moment my wife made the list of what is most important to me and my kids noticed.

You see, all of us are known for something. Maybe it’s our way of having a good time and letting off steam, maybe it’s the way we express our anger, maybe it’s the way we express love. Maybe for some of us we are known differently depending on who we are around.

As the new CEO for Christian Heritage, I have been asking this question as well as many other questions of our staff: “What are we known for?” “What problem or problems are we trying to solve?”

My prayer is that people, especially the children and referral agencies we work with, would see Christian Heritage (staff and foster/adoptive parents) the same way Paul described his longings for the church in Colossae. Paul writes, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

As we strive to live up to our calling and mission in life, my prayer is that we would be known by those same virtues as Paul describes. I would also pray that they would be evident to my wife and kids, my friends and extended family. That is how I would like to be known.

One word of caution: Don’t let your busyness and schedule define your value; your schedule simply lets you know what you are pursuing. A quick way to find out about what is defining you is to pull your calendar from the past week. What have you spent the most time on? What does your activities say about your pursuits and identity. It might be time to re-prioritize. “The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” ― Brandon Sanderson, “The Allow of Law”

How about you? What qualities would you like to be known for and are you actively pursuing them? 

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