He Was A Missionary

We are at the end of 2017. One could say it’s the end of an era; at least an era lasting a whole 12 months.  Every year I find myself saying the same thing, “I can’t believe another year has gone by” and while it feels like a tedious saying, it’s nevertheless true.

It is nearly 2018 and I don’t know where the days went, how 12 months could tick by so quickly. The year has been full of activity and I hope most of it was productive. The older I get the more I wonder how much of what I’ve devoted myself to was really what mattered.

Did it matter that the power went off? Oh, the power did go off a lot in the past year but we’re still here.

Did it matter that the water went off? It was very inconvenient and smelly, but we’re still here.

Did it matter that our Blantyre church still meets in a tent? The floor is dirt and money to build is still in realms of prayer, but we’re still meeting.

What have we done that mattered his year? What have we accomplished that held any eternal value in the face of an ever-complicated world situation?

I find myself asking these questions and understand a bit more every year that what matters most isn’t encompassed by what we would naturally consider valuable or important.

In my devotions, I have come across the story of Jonah. The book of Jonah is one of my favorite books in the Bible because Jonah resembles me in so many ways: he’s sent to a country not his own, he’s not a “qualified” prophet, and the circumstances he faces causes him to have a bit of an attitude. Now, I know no one else reading this ever has attitude problems, but I find myself battling them daily as I walk on this road of life.

Jonah, as many of us know him, was a runaway prophet. The city of Nineveh was a city that was a fierce enemy of Israel, Jonah’s nation. They were well known for pillaging Israel at every chance they got – but God had called Jonah to prophecy to them, to give them a chance to turn and repent.

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As the story goes, Jonah runs from his call, gets swallowed by a fish, begs for mercy in the fish, is himself delivered, and brings God’s message to Nineveh. The people collectively repented and God’s wrath was held back. This turn of events angered Jonah; when you read the story, you could initially be dumbfounded by Jonah’s reaction. Why would Jonah resist God’s command to the point of running away and facing all of the consequences that he did?

I wonder if the Ninevites, in their pillaging of Israel, didn’t touch Jonah’s life? Had he lost property or loved ones in the raids? Surely, he was effected somehow, if not even himself directly. It was no wonder he struggled to obey God’s call to the Ninevites, his enemy.

Even after his infamous stay in the fish, Jonah grudgingly preaches God’s message. He was so angry when God’s wrath was held back; he seemed to have wanted the people to suffer at God’s hand:

Jonah 4:1-3 NKJV“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

Jonah, if we were to take him at his word, would’ve preferred to die than seeing God show mercy on his enemies, people who he felt didn’t deserve God’s mercy. What Jonah didn’t understand was that God had a greater understanding of the people; they weren’t even what today’s Christians would call “God’s people” but God loved them and said to Jonah:

Jonah 4:11 NKJV“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left…”

God saw something that Jonah didn’t see; He saw the hearts of people. He knew the people’s hearts were ready for a change and He was willing to offer them the change He knew they were ready for. He also knew the condition of Jonah’s heart and knew the only remedy for Jonah’s bitterness was to be sent on this mission of mercy to those who had no right to it. What Jonah didn’t see was the condition of his own heart that, without the same mercy, would also have been deserving of God’s judgment.

As I consider the goings-on of the year, and the hiccups that came along with the year’s events, I hope my attitude hasn’t been like Jonah’s of times past. It would be easy, if I listened to the loud rhetoric being sent across the airwaves and internet to judge others less than worthy of God’s goodness – but thank God, He is not that way. He was not that way with me, I therefore, cannot be that way with others whether or not I understand God’s love for them.

What mattered this year is if I honestly represented my Lord and His Mission as I went about my days, if I reached out with mercy and grace, even when I’ve not been offered that same courtesy.

My prayer as I look forward to 2018 is that I might value what God values and be true to The Mission of extending mercy where it is undeserved – and that understanding starts with me.

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A Year of Breakthroughs

It’s been a year of everything from great highs to some pretty deep lows, but God has brought us through. We’ve seen everything from new church plants to torn tents – but here we are!

Please click on the YouTube link below for a video update and teaser of a new nation that may be opening to us in the near future.

May your Christmas and New Year be amazing!

Blessings!

Best Before

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How did this happen?

I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was fashionable, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Am I out of style? Am I past my “best before” date?
In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years in the future from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, best before many years into the future!
The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report about a grocery store in Europe that uses items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families.
Truth is never out of date, it never expires. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, wrappings that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required to help today’s generation understand what is being said.
What appears to be forgotten in the noise that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, is that our attempts to “be acceptable” may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth openly can be as bad, or worse than, rejecting it for without being spoken, truth won’t be understood by the hearers; it will sound foreign.
The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods to present it that are fallible; it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable or presentable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down.
Proverbs 27:6 NKJ “Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.
2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ 
vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?’…” 
People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding it; they won’t like the way it’s packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right. The problem with forming truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with those changes making truth relative instead of absolute.
Absolute truth is what gives us security and safety. For example, my children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.
Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided will ever be searching, striving, and working for approval by all who they connect with. They want to prove they are worthy of love and acceptance.
Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church under the guise of relevance (see “The Problem With Being Relevant” by Patrick Schatzline).
Relevance has become a buzzword in the church world to the point of potentially exchanging the truth for a comfortable compromise of an outline of truth that has been colored in with relevance; have we actually sacrificed a real encounter with God for the sake of the “cool factor?”
The “cool factor” we crave is actually a poor substitute for the real “cool factor” found in the truth of God and His Word that, while old, is always new and always works.
1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”
The quick fixes of today, the self-improvement courses and how-to guides, seminars and endless “must have” lists will all fade and be forgotten – but God’s Words are never irrelevant for they go beyond what’s cool. They are eternal, they never expire, and they are always fresh from day-to-day, year-to-year, and generation-to-generation.
Psalm 119:160 NKJV The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”

The Cards Are On The Table

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I’ve recently started a podcast (click here to follow) and what’s been stirring in my heart has been God’s call on our lives; how to follow when the masses are trying to steer us elsewhere. All of us who love Jesus have an assignment on our lives and how we get from point A to point B is where we often stumble.

I have experienced hearing God’s call to missions, to Africa, and answering that call. Following God’s voice  can be likened to following a deep inner desire. While I did, as a child, actually have a vision of the continent of Africa, that vision alone wasn’t enough to keep me going daily in my trek to follow God’s call. It was more of a diving board that God used to launch me in to trusting Him with my life. Jamie (my husband) didn’t have the kind of experience I had as a child; he only felt a strong and irretrievable desire to go to Africa. When we met and married, following God’s path together came naturally and we walked in tandem on His path together. It has been that way for us ever since – neither of us wants to veer off this blessed path that we are on. It has been a journey that has led us to the greatest of heights where God’s power has been on full display for all to see as well as leading us to places of deep darkness where His Word led us sometimes moment by moment when no one was looking.

God’s Word to us, His assignment on our lives, is not only one that requires a daily trust in His wisdom, but also one that will be tested. It is as if you’ll hear, “Did God really say?” whispered into your ears time and again.

Psalm 105:17-20 NKJV  He sent a man before them—
Joseph—who was sold as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
 Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.
The king sent and released him,
The ruler of the people let him go free.”

The above is referring to Joseph; he had been falsely accused and was sent to languish in the prison. Joseph had a dream from childhood that he would become a leader, yet he found himself (and the Word God had given him) being tested in prison. It’s often at this juncture of being tested in prison, when the Word God has given to us is being tried, that we are sorely tempted to give in.

I’m sure Joseph went through a great deal of emotional stress sitting in prison, I’m sure he wasn’t doing a dance when his feet were being bound in shackles. While I am sure he had emotional stress during this time, what I don’t see written in this story is Joseph verbalizing to a great extent his frustration and questioning God’s Word, God’s call. In time, after the testing was complete, Joseph did indeed rise to the calling God had placed on his life. God was true to His Word – He was faithful.

Whether or not Joseph was going to fulfill the call was up to him – the call was there, God’s offer, so to speak, was on the table. Joseph had to accept it no matter what he had to lay down. Think of it, the call cost Joseph everything – he lost everything he owned, he even lost his freedom when he was imprisoned. Still, the call remained and he trusted the word of the Lord.

It may be that you feel you’re “in prison” today; that the call is so far from where you are that it’s an impossible thing to reach. If that’s the case, then keep hanging on. You’re closer than you think. It may just be that the Word God spoke to your heart is being tested and you’re having to live out your own “Joseph experience,” in a prison of sorts.

God is faithful, His Word is true and He is looking for those who will lay everything on the table – for this is the cost of the call. The cards are on the table, it’s all or nothing! The beauty of the call is this: God always gives back much more than we offered to Him. It will come with a price, sometimes that price involves persecution, misunderstanding, traversing dark places, loneliness, and more – but the price we are called to pay, the cards that we lay down, are never greater than the grace He gives us in the process.

God isn’t bluffing – He laid His cards down, now it’s our turn.

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