Categories
Beauty Choices Contempt Journey Motives Rejection

Behind the Times

I’m a bit behind the times I know. I could use the excuse of living overseas but with the advent of the internet, that excuse really can’t get me too far. At the touch of a key on my wireless keyboard, I have the world and endless search engines at my fingertips (literally). I can study just about any subject in any field, read news from the farthest corner of the earth (not to mention space news from NASA and beyond) and almost correctly diagnose any ailment (much to the chagrin of physicians worldwide). No, I have no excuse to remain disconnected from the rest of the world, except for the times that the power goes out and then I digress, I have an excuse, albeit a temporary one.

Yet, I somehow missed one of the past “things” that made the rounds online and in books called the “Enneagram.” The Enneagram is simply another method to discover different personalities. On the Enneagram, I came to discover that I am a 2w1 personality. This makes me someone who feels deeply and can read emotions and situations with surprising clarity. Twos (as we are known) are helpers and at their core, they want to be recognized for helping, they actively seek love and approval of others by what they do.

The spiritual journey a Two has to take is one of giving beyond investment expecting a return to giving simply without expectation of anything in return; that’s what we call true love.

This is perhaps why I relate with Leah of the Bible. Not only do we (almost) share a name, but we seem to share some of the same characteristics making me wonder if Leah of the book of Genesis was a Two on the Enneagram.

Leah was married, underhandedly by her father, to Jacob. Jacob expected his love, Rachel, to be the one under the wedding veil but was disappointed when his father-in-law gave him Leah instead. As the story goes, Jacob did manage to marry Rachel, but was bound first to Leah, who knew she was unloved.

As time went by and Leah began to bear children, she named them accordingly:

1. Gen. 29:32 – Reuben was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”

2. Gen. 29:33 – Simeon was born and Leah said, “Because the Lord heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.”

3. Gen. 29:34 – Levi was born and Leah said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”

Each time, Leah’s disappointment in being “unloved” was further cemented into her conscience. Jacob must have made his utter contempt towards her clear in his treatment of her (this is another subject for another day) and Leah, due to the time and culture, was bound to continue serving. She hoped her actions would sway the love of her husband towards her, but it was to no avail.

The fourth time Leah, again I’m quite sure she was my fellow Two, learned a lesson vital to the spiritual growth of a Two, she learned to love and trust without expecting love from anyone – except the Lord.

Gen. 29:35 “‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.”

What helped Leah cope through the rest of her life feeling unloved and rejected by her husband? How did Leah manage to juggle the responsibilities of her household when everyone knew no matter what she did, Rachel would be her husband’s real love?

She learned there was only One Whose love was unfailing and whatever she did for Him wouldn’t go unrecognized. She simply learned to praise the Lord.

There are a few times in scripture we read of Leah stumbling again into her past patterns of seeking approval (much like we all do even though we know better). But those times were few; I imagine each time she stumbled the pain she felt reminded her to return to the One Whose love never fails, never has strings attached to it.

_________________________

For more on The Enneagram, I recommend:

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Back-You-Enneagram-Self-Discovery/dp/0830846190

Categories
Choices Destiny God's call Missionary Missions Offense Rejection

Balancing Accounts

I wasn’t a very good bank teller.

Early in life as I tried to find my way, I decided to apply for a job as a bank teller. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to think that I would do well as a bank teller. You see, when I was in 5th grade, I had to take extra math classes over the summer break to pass into 6th grade. Nevertheless, I bravely took the plunge and passed the entrance exam and became an official bank teller.

I was assigned to a supervisor who taught me the ins and outs of bank telling. One of the skills I learned was how to balance all transactions at the end of every work day. While I felt initimidated by all of the math I faced daily, I managed to do well and slowly settled into the mundane work of counting and balancing.

One day, after a particularly long day of counting, I went to balance my transactions. The goal was for all transactions to come out evenly which I managed to do by this point on a regular basis. However, on this day I came up $10,000.00 short of the amount that I should have had in the drawer. My heart began to race and I called my supervisor who said, “Don’t worry, these things happen, you will find the error in a day or two as you continue to work.”

Trusting her advice, I went home with my heart in my throat, believing that the next day I would find the error. Unfortunately as the week unfolded, I was unable to pinpoint my mistake, much to the chagrin of my supervisor who called me to her office one afternoon and made it clear that I needed to find the $10,000.00 quickly.

The day after my meeting with my supervisor, I stayed at my desk after my shift was done, determined to fix the problem. Thankfully, after pouring through piles of papers and receipts for what seemed like hours, I found where I had added some figures twice. I shouted, “I found it!” Cheers went up from those around me and then and there I decided bank telling wasn’t for me; I gave my two-week notice a few days later.

While my bank-telling career was short-lived, I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. Deep inside I knew that my life would pan out very differently than what most people would think was normal; I knew the trajectory of my life would shoot me far from my homeland to where I’m now serving, Africa.

I knew who I was.

I was an unlikely candidate for missions work; I didn’t have a ministry pedigree or any kind of background one would expect that would be needed to qualify to work overseas. Those close to me wondered aloud (in as nice a way that they could of course) what special talent did I have that I could use overseas? What did I have to offer that others couldn’t do better?

That call, however, couldn’t be shaken and all these years later, as average as I may be, I’m still answering the call to go (Isaiah 6:8). I’ve found that those answering the call often look less like the obvious choice; we often don’t appear to be the best suited for the job. Certainly there are smarter, stronger, richer, and more popular individuals who could do what I get to do here – but whoever they are never answered the call, so here I am.

Jesus had the opposite problem – He was overqualified for His call. He spent His life in obscurity, comparing to the glory He was accustomed to in heaven, rejected as unqualified by those He came to save. Yet He never took His eye off the prize: you and I.

When it came time for Jesus to balance His transactions for the day, He made no error, His figures were perfect, but those around Him couldn’t believe Him. They simply couldn’t accept someone like Him could be the one they were waiting for.

But He knew Who He was.

In Luke 4:1-21 we find Jesus, who had just begun His ministry in areas outside His home region where people knew Him, standing up and quoting Isaiah’s proclamation of what the work of the Messiah was to be:

Isaiah 61:1-3 MEV  The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to preserve those who mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty
for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,
that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lordthat He might be glorified.”

After reading this passage, Jesus went on to say in Luke 4:21 MEV “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” The people listening became enraged, how could someone they knew, someone they had seen grow up, make such a bold delcaration? They weren’t ready for their preconceived ideas of how the Messiah would come to be challenged; surely He wouldn’t come as the son of a carpenter. The crowd quickly decided to take matters in their own hands:

Luke 4:28-30 MEV All those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath. They rose up and thrust Him out of the city and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”

The end of the day hadn’t yet come for Jesus, He wasn’t meant to die at that point and He kept on working, He kept on counting.

Finally, after three years of pouring Himself out, Jesus’ time to balance His accounts came. He poured over the receipts, you and I, He agonized over each and every transaction before Him: the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and those who mourn. His calling, His anointing, wasn’t meant to do anything but bring those He loved to Himself.

Qualifying for God’s call simply means accepting what we are anointed for: to gather others to the Father by whatever means necessary.

So, who will be next to go?

 

Categories
Choices Love Misfit Missionary Rejection Serving

The Chips Will Fall

It’s hard to live out our convictions in an increasingly hostile world – and I’m not only talking about the hostility we see on the news or internet. In our personal, day-to-day lives it’s not uncommon to come face-to-face with intense rejection any time we choose to go against the grain of what is “the norm.” In this atmosphere, it’s difficult to know what “the norm” is at any given point in time; it feels as if we are walking on eggshells trying to keep everyone happy. The problem resulting from working as hard as we do not to rock the boat is the incessant gnawing in our souls of not living authentically before the world (see 1 John 2:10).

I’ve written about this subject many times approaching it from many different angles and why the tempation to please people holds us as it does instead of living truthfully, continues to evade me. One simply has to experience the pain of rejection once to learn the lesson: living for the approval of others will ultimately drain us of our of joy and energy. However, instead of learning this lesson, we work harder to fit in, to make sure everyone knows we are just like them – and this further complicates extricating ourselves from the complicated world of peer pressure.

When I was a teenager, I thought peer pressure was something that would fade away as an adult – was I wrong! Peer pressure (I know that’s the old fashioned term) grows from a trickling stream in our childhood into a raging river in adulthood. Unfortunately for many, fearing rejection prevent us from daring to live out loud. The importance of living authentically is often put off until later in life when one finally tires of the unreliable opinions of their peers.

The pressures of living authentically differ radically from living to please others. When I chose to live truthfully before the world, it did (and does) create waves. It has taken time for me to allow the “chips to fall” where they may – but the truth of the matter is that I am not living to make anyone besides God happy. I’m not even living to please myself because like my peers, my emotions and opinions are unreliable and can change from one moment to the next. The only unchanging opinion belongs to God; He is consistent, reliable, loving, patient, kind, and always has my best interests at heart and this puts Him in a category all by Himself.

I will face pressure no matter which way I choose, but I’d rather live in the Truth I’ve found than in the shadows of fearing rejection.

As a misfit, see my entry Musings of a Misfit Missionary for a bit of background, I understand the pain of being misunderstood and rejected. I’ve been told that I’m selfish, short-sighted, irresponsible, and “the worst parent” in the world (the full account of “the worst parent” comment is told in our book, No Retreat – No Regrets which will be re-released this year). It’s very hard to face those kinds of words without giving in to the opinions of those hurling them at me, but I’m thankful to have had the overwhelming grace to stay the course and continue living the truth of what God has called me to be: a misfit missionary.

Living truthfully doesn’t give me license to live ugly and confrontational towards those who don’t understand. On the contrary, it gives me license to love more, give more, and serve more. It may be that living the truth in love might give those who don’t understand a greater understanding of the love of a Father Whose interests for them far outweigh the opinions and ultimate rejection of their peers.

Imagine this: there’s Someone Who really cares, really wants the best for you, and died for you to make it happen. That’s the kind of person Whose opinion has won me over.

Jeremiah 31:3 NASB I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

Categories
God's call Missions Rejection Supposing

A Mayonnaise-less Existence

I suppose I can do this.

My thoughts exactly when I first tried to make mayonnaise. I know there are those who can expertly make mayonnaise without stressing but that’s not my makeup.

The recipe I had didn’t call for many ingredients: oil, egg, salt, a dash of mustard, and vinegar. What I wasn’t told about mayonnaise is that the oil must be added slowly as it’s being blended and also it has to be very clear to get the best result and where I lived at the time (1987 Kalemie, Zaire) clear oil was scarce. It could be found but it took some searching. The most common oil was a brand, “Oki” that was a bit cloudy, making one wonder of its makeup – but I tried not to wonder too much.

Time and again I followed the directions given to me and time and again I failed having an oily mess in the kitchen. By my umpteenth attempt, I dissolved in tears and resigned myself to a mayonnaise-less existence until Shirley, our senior missionary, came and talked me through the process. I was making two errors: the oil was cloudy and I wasn’t adding the oil properly. She brought a clear bottle of oil to my kitchen and demonstrated the process. **Remember this was years before the advent of YouTube and internet where I could’ve gotten a video tutorial!**

  • Add all ingredients to the blender, except some ¾ of the oil.
  • Blend.
  • Trickle clear oil into the blender as it’s running and slowly the mayonnaise will emulsify.

That night we had sandwiches with mayonnaise on the bread I had just baked. Yes, I could make mayonnaise, but supposing I could do it without knowing the process was messy and expensive as oil wasn’t cheap and I wasted a lot in the process of learning.

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It’s not an uncommon problem we have, supposing we, and others, understand. Life is full of supposing moments but when we suppose, or assume, something we are reaching into an unknown realm. When we suppose or assume something, we take that assumption on as truth rather than possibility.

I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating to make mention of Moses and his experience with supposing in Acts 7:23-25 NASB “…it entered his mind to visit his brethren…and he supposed his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.”

Moses apparently knew he was a Hebrew since “it entered his mind to visit his brethren.” At the same time he was a member of Pharaoh’s household and apparently walked in some level of authority. He supposed, assumed, that the people would understand that with his status he was the deliverer. He knew he was chosen but he didn’t know the One Who chose him – he assumed he would do the job himself in a way that he understood.

He supposed wrong.

As the account goes, Moses ended up escaping to Midian after he killed an Egyptian. There he stayed for 40 years, married, had children, was a shepherd, and the dream of deliverance was long-forgotten. Until one day when God appeared to him and Moses knew Him Who would deliver the people.

Acts 7:35 NASB “This Moses whom they disowned, saying ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush.”

Once Moses knew Who God was, he was sent to be the deliverer of the Hebrews. The difference was when Moses went back to Egypt, he knew he wasn’t doing the work in himself, God was working through him.

In addition to supposing I could make mayonnaise, I’ve been guilty of supposing about other weightier things: supposing people understand us, who we are, why we do what we do, why we church plant, why we willingly separate ourselves from our families, and this has cost me, and those lessons have been expensive.

When we suppose or assume that others know how God will work or what He has called us to do, we are guilty of placing unfair expectations on them. Even in supposing we know how to do something ourselves before bathing it in prayer, puts us under an unreasonable amount of pressure to get it right.

God wants to work through us but before we can see the miraculous, we have to know Him of the burning bush – the One Who delivers – because there’s no way we can work for Him without having Him work in us first. Otherwise, our lives become like cloudy mayonnaise where the power of God hasn’t emulsified and become united with us to the point where we can’t tell where we end and God begins. This blending comes with a great expense: misunderstanding and rejection by those around us (sometimes by the ones we love) because our lives make absolutely no sense.

No, it doesn’t make sense to others but it makes perfect sense to me.

Like a perfect batch of mayonnaise.

 

 

Categories
Faith Familiarity Fasting God's Word Ignorance Kingdom New Year Fast Perspective Rejection

However

My daughter has an amazing imagination; she’s easily moved by things she sees and hears. I have to be watchful about what books, TV shows, and media she is exposed to as she will often have dreams (good and bad) about what she’s read or watched. More times than I can remember, she has come to my room in the middle of the night and cuddled next to me because of a bad dream she has had.

My mother-in-law rocked all of her grandchildren to sleep, and is now rocking all of her great-grandchildren so far, by singing the song, “Be Careful Little Eyes.” There’s more truth to that little song that we need to cling to than most of us understand. There are only 2 doors of entry into anyone’s thoughts and that is through what is seen and heard.

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Rocking chairs are the best places to fall asleep.

Unfortunately we tend to desensitize ourselves throughout our lifetimes by allowing ourselves to be exposed to things that do little to build us or help us grow. Indeed, we need to be informed of what is going on in the world – but how much do we need to listen to in order to be informed?

Ephesians 1:15b-20 NLT “…I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”

It would seem that what we need to know is not the wisdom of this world but rather God’s wisdom that we find in knowing Him. We know God more when we spend more time with Him. I have a suspicion that many of us know more about politics, health trends, celebrities, and fashion than we know about our Savior.

The person that I know best in this world is the one I spend the most time with: my husband. I’ve worked side-by-side with him nearly all of our married lives. It’s not always been easy but the more we work together, the better we get to know one another, and the better our working relationship becomes. Sure we’ve had to learn to give and take; sometimes I give more, sometimes he gives more but in the end we get things done.

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Climbing Mount Heha in Burundi with our daughter Andreya.

The relationship we have with God is much the same – the more time we spend with Him, the better we get to know Him. You may think I’m only referring to time spent reading His Word and praying, and yes that is an extremely important part of getting to know Him, but I’m also referring to spending time with Him in other ways. We can be with God when we spend time with other believers, because when 2 or 3 of us gather, He is with us (see Matt. 18:20). We also can spend time with God in worship, alone or with others (see Ps. 22:3). We simply need to be a bit more aware of what we are doing in order for us to connect with Him wherever we are – because He is always with us (see Ps. 139:7).

I dare go further and say that we will filter what we hear God saying to us through a filter of what we know better: Him or this world.

Luke 8:18 AMP “So be careful how you listen; for whoever has a teachable heart, to him more undersanding will be given; and whoever does not have a longing for truth, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”

Perhaps the most important quality we can possess is being teachable; having the ability to absorb truths that God is trying to communicate to us. We can’t take His truths in, however, if we are better acquainted with the world’s system than we are with God’s because we will naturally reject things He is saying because they “don’t make sense.”

God’s way of doing things run cross-grain to this world; He won’t be influenced in any way by popular opinion or reason.

Luke 8:40-56 gives the account of Jesus’ healing of not only a woman who had a long-standing hemorrhage, but also of Jairus’ daughter who died before Jesus could get to her side. In verses 51-53, Jesus enters Jairus’ house and found a crowd of mourners that had gathered “lamenting for her.” Jesus told them to stop crying as the girl was only asleep and He was summarily mocked – because everyone knew the girl was dead, what more could be done?

What follows the laughter of the crowd can easily be missed as it is only 1 short phrase in length: vs 54, “He, however.” Not minding the crowd, Jesus moved ahead and moved against common sense: the girl was dead. Indeed, she was dead, but that did not matter because “He, however” had other plans.

This year and beyond I want to live in “however” and I can only live in “however” when I know Him better than I know my natural circumstances. Getting closer to Him will help me walk by the crowds into “however.”

______________________________________________________

O Be Careful Little Eyes

Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes, what you see.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in love,
So be careful little eyes, what you see.

Be careful little ears what you hear
Oh, be careful little ears, what you hear.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in Love,
So be careful little ears, what you hear.

Be careful little mouth what you say
Oh, be careful little mouth, what you say.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little mouth, what you say.

Be careful little hands, what you touch
Oh, be careful little hands, what you touch.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little hands, what you touch.

Be careful little feet, where you go
Oh, be careful little feet, what you go.
There’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love,
So be careful little feet, what you go.

Author: Unknown

Categories
Choices Church planting Courage Cross God's call Inadequacy Kingdom Leadership Loss Missions Obedience Popularity Rejection The Call of God

The Hashtag

hashtag-1120301_1920

In this new world of social media, blogging, vlogging, podcasting, Facebooking, Twittering, texting, and other forms virtual contact that I am surely not aware of, there has arisen an unlikely hero on our keyboards: the hashtag, aka #. I don’t even know how to punctuate that in a sentence!

On my keyboard, prior to its recent popularity, the hashtag sat mostly unused above the number 3. I would occasionally use it as a number sign but for the most part, I could’ve easily lived life without a hashtag. Until the advent of the #hashtag movement, this humble symbol went largely unnoticed.

I didn’t really understand the reasoning behind, what appeared to me at the time, the arbitrary use of the symbol until one day when I saw this posted beneath a meme (a picture or image with a piece of relevant text added to it):

thestruggleisreal

#thestruggleisreal

The meaning of the hashtag finally had dawned on the horizon of my understanding. The humble hashtag, when followed by a word or several words connected without spaces, is meant to connect people to the subject at hand and communicate a short truth such as #thestruggleisreal. I finally got it and I saw that hashtag (#thestruggleisreal) fall into place many times over the subsequent months and years.

The truth of the matter is that the struggle really is real, the hashtag has meaning. There are some things we’re going through that have no explanation, no easy way out, no shortcuts to their resolution. The only way to see them through is through the struggle, and that struggle is real. Bishop T.D. Jakes puts it so well in saying, “You have to pay full price.”

As a church planter I’ve experienced more than what I originally thought was my “fair share” of struggle. It seems as if every step forward is accompanied by troubles that go beyond the lines of my expertise. On a regular basis I find myself posing the same question, “Why the struggle?”

There’s a common thread weaving itself through the intertwined fingers of humanity; we’re all seeking an escape from the struggle. Try as we might, however, the struggle finds us and the fight goes on for as long as there are days we have left to live – neither is creation exempt from the struggle.

Romans 8:20-22 ESV “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

While in our day and age much is taught about the blessings of God (and rightfully so, we are blessed), little is said in comparison of the struggle we face in our futility. We struggle for the freedom we know is part of our Kingdom inheritance, we struggle in our journeying, we struggle for the answers to our prayers and come face-to-face with the reality of how real the struggle is.

Who knew?

On a warm afternoon in October 1991, I stepped off a plane with my young family and onto the tarmac at the airport in Bujumbura, Burundi. Heat rose from the runway in the distance and blurred the outlines of the trees and faraway mountains. My heart was full of hope for the future but the loneliness of our situation wasn’t lost on me. We’ve often joked about this in the past – but on the other side of our joking was the reality of our utter solitude as we began the work of planting our first church.

I can’t the number of times we’ve felt misunderstood by not only strangers but by those who are close to us. How can we go about explaining the fire in our hearts for Africa to others whose journeys are so very different from ours? What possesses us to choose this lifestyle, one so very foreign to our own? This is perhaps one of the most painful of the struggles we encounter (and we encounter it regularly). There is no logic to this call, what is worth this kind of sacrifice?

Over the years we’ve struggled with financial lack, insecurity in the countries we have lived in (not knowing from one day to the next what could happen), sickness, and leaving our children and grandchildren behind in the USA. As this cycle of struggle and loss repeats itself I find myself struggling less and looking forward more. I can’t move forward while at the same time looking back. Has my heart hardened? Am I now unaffected by the struggle? Not in the least. But I’ve learned that as real as the struggle is, the rewards of the struggle are much greater than any pain I’ll suffer in the here and now.

Philippians 3:8-10 ESV “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,”

I have little, in comparison to others, to offer God. While I’ve never gone to bed hungry or held any significant debt, my bank account alone gives testimony to my total reliance on God to meet my needs. I haven’t a great musical talent or prominent spiritual gift that can help propel me forward into the limelight. I don’t have the “pedigree” of coming from a family line of preachers. Neither do I possess any significant connection into the world of the rich and famous. What I do have to offer is this life God gave to me; He gave His all for me and I am now doing the same for Him.

And about that struggle, yes, #thestruggleisreal – but it’s only #temporary.

Categories
Courage Destiny Faith Fishing Missions Rejection The Call of God

Empty Boats

 

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Luke 5:2-6 NLT He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear!”

I have felt unnoticed before; I’m sure there have been times you have felt that way, too. I imagine these fishermen in the above account felt a bit defeated, unnoticed, for all their effort as they worked all night long and catching nothing. Their work had no measurable outcome – but they had worked hard.

I’ve worked hard over seasons and seen nothing measurable resulting from it – all that testifies of my toil is the weariness enveloping me body and soul. This weariness has a cumulative effect as the more I work, the less it seems I have to show for it. For some reason, I keep trying because I believe that God’s Word is true. It just takes time for it to come into its season.

That doesn’t make the work any easier.

That doesn’t make me feel any more noticed.

What I have learned, and this is where the beauty of experience shines through, is that I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Someone is noticing my efforts. Some of those efforts are spot-on, and others are more self-centered. The times weariness overwhelms me is when my focus shifts to my shortcomings; I then easily forget that there’s Someone watching my efforts. During those times I am found taking extra time washing my nets, instead of casting my nets another time, for the disappointment becomes too heavy to bear.

Washing nets, focusing on myself and my disappointments, is easier to do than focusing on the hurting world around me. Those repeated disappointments, when I am not careful to focus on His goal and not my own, can make me feel rejected, unnoticed as it were. Dejected and exhausted, I find myself scrubbing and mending nets (licking my wounds) on the shore.

Until, that is, Jesus makes me aware fresh and new that He has noticed my empty boat. He has also noticed my efforts and He has gotten into my boat with me – and having Him with me changes everything.

“Now go out” is the call that comes to me in this new season of my life – and perhaps for you as well. It’s time to go out a little deeper; farther from the safety of shore where the only hope we have when storms arise is in Christ Himself.

When a fisherman spends more of his life on shore than in the water, his very value comes into question because fishermen are meant to fish. The kind of fish I’m after are out in the deep waters where waves and wind rise, but, I am born to fish (Matthew 4:19).

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The fish are not going to be found on the shore, they are there out deep in the water. There are some fish near the relative safety of shore, but the bigger schools of fish, the net-breaking, record-shattering ones are found where it’s deep.

Now go out.

 

 

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Church planting Endurance Faith Faithfulness Fasting God's call Kingdom Ministry Rejection

What About Lystra?

Stepping off the plane for the first time in Burundi, I seriously wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. I stood with my husband and children on the airport tarmac after our plane landed. It was warm, the sun was hot, and there was no one waiting for us. There was no air conditioning in the airport terminal, I remember being thankful for the breeze that blew through the baggage collection area. With my left hand, I held tightly to my 5 year old son’s little hand and balanced my 1 1/2 year old daughter on my right hip. We were all tired of living out of suitcases; we had spent nearly a year in France studying French prior to our arrival that day in Burundi. From France, we flew to Nairobi, Kenya and, after a short time, made our way to Burundi where the adventure of our lifetime was about to begin.

Time and again I’ve relived that same scenario; going somewhere where I’ve not been before to start a church from nothing. Where would we start? We never knew until we got there. Who would work with us? We would find them. When would we leave? When the time was right.

It took us 9 years of hard work to see the church grow to a place of maturity where we were able to leave to go plant a new church in a new nation and start the whole process all over again. Now, 18 years and a number of churches later, I have learned a few things about stepping out in faith into the unknown – and I’m still learning! In our affirmation-driven society where many in Christian circles have rarely seen the raw faith that’s required to face the world head-on for the cause of the Kingdom, they find they are ill-prepared for the reality that awaits them when they do step out. Often, they fall victim to discouragement, even despair, when the enemy meets them head-on (believe me when I say that he will seek you out the moment you say “yes” to the Kingdom’s call).

In Acts 14, we read the account of Paul ministering on a journey that had taken him through several cities. In one of the cities, Lystra, a man was healed (Acts 14:10) and the crowds went nearly crazy over the great miracle they had seen: a man who was born crippled, was healed and walked. It was amazing! Paul and his partner, Barnabas, could hardly restrain the people from making sacrifices to them, calling them gods. One would think that this great miracle would open great opportunities to the city; however, that was not what happened. Shortly after this miraculous occurrence, the same people who Paul ministered to were “stirred up” (Acts 14:19) to stone Paul. He was left for dead but, in another miracle, got up and went on to another city called Derbe where many received the Gospel and a large number of disciples were made. Later on, Paul returned to Lystra and other cities where he had preached, encouraging believers along his way.

In reading this account, I was taken by the fact that first Paul was almost worshipped as a god and then he was stoned by the same ones who wanted to worship him the day before. The emotions he felt must have been extreme. In studying Paul’s life, I’ve noticed he was someone who didn’t require a lot of maintenance; he worked to support himself by making tents and never is he seen in the scriptures asking for expensive gifts. His main focus was the Kingdom’s advance in the earth and he wouldn’t let himself get sidetracked by the peripheral things of this life.

Nevertheless, Paul was human and I am sure at this time, and many others, he must have felt conflicted, even tempted to be depressed over the rejection – but he doesn’t even make mention of any anguish over this ordeal in the scriptures. He was simply concerned to build the Kingdom, grow the churches he planted, and be faithful to his call. Affirmation would come later in abundance simply by hearing the words, “well done.” However, until that time, he fought the fight of faith and kept his faith.

Our service to people isn’t based on their merits or their appreciation of our call to serve God. I’ve found that if I can keep this front and center in my own life, I’m not easily disappointed. However, the moment I let my focus on the Kingdom fade, that’s the moment I fall into discouragement. Whether there are people to meet me at the airport or not, I’m moving forward. Whether someone thanks me or not, my eyes are fixed on the prize. Whether what I do looks successful or not, I’m already a success in my Father’s eyes, for His approval already rests on me.

“Wherever God rules over the human heart as King, there is the Kingdom of God established.” Paul W. Harrison

Categories
God's Word Rejection Relevance Relevant

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.”
Categories
Perspective Rejection Relevance Success

Getting My Roots Done

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I was really irritated; it seemed I had just come from having my hair done and I woke to my hair rebelling and growing. It needed to be retouched and I simply can’t easily find time to keep myself sorted. I mean, looking this way doesn’t just happen by chance.

Yes, I’ve fallen as most of us have for the lie that we need to work hard to keep things at least in a satisfactory condition. I won’t stop doing my hair any time soon, although I wonder if there might come a day that I’ll opt for something simpler than having my roots done every 2 ½ months or so, but I do know that there’s a nearly invisible line that I need to keep myself from crossing in order to keep things in the right perspective.

There are many things we allow ourselves to think are important when, really, they fall under the “optional” category. Some of those things might even fall into the “unnecessary” category. Finally, there are things we may entertain with the hope of improving ourselves that fall into the “don’t do it” category.

Why have we allowed ourselves to believe we need to adjust who we are in appearance, personality, or ability to the point that we become almost unrecognizable? I wonder if we are simply trying to fill a void inside of us that only God Himself can fill for when He fills us – His satisfaction of Who He is fills us.

God isn’t in the middle of an identity crisis nor does He feel the need to change His appearance according to the eclectic whims of society’s norms.

Jeremiah  9:24b TLB “Let them boast in this alone: That they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord of justice and of righteousness whose love is steadfast; and that I love to be this way.”

When we come to know God, when He becomes our Father and Jesus becomes our Lord, His desire is for us to know Who He is and to understand that He is very secure in Who He is. He doesn’t try to make Himself out to be anyone other than Who He is – and He wants us to be just as secure in who He has made us to be.

As a parent of 4 amazing children (3 grown and one 9-year-old), there’s little that moves me to tears more than having my children believe that they aren’t “enough” as individuals. I know, and their father knows, that they’re amazing – and if someone doesn’t recognize this and tries to get them to change who they are, my heart is grieved!

I can’t imagine what our Heavenly Father feels every time we bow to the pressures of society saying,

“You’re not enough.”

“You’re too young to understand.”

“You’ve lived overseas, what do you know about America?”

“You’re now too old to make a difference.”

“You’re out of touch with what’s relevant today.”

“You take God too seriously.”

Such statements make us feel very uncomfortable and bring us to question our internal values – those values we used to hold dear. That we are the children of God, that we are redeemed, that we are loved, that we are cherished, and that He makes up for all of what we lack. He makes us to be enough for Him which astounds me.

Since when have we stopped loving who God made us to be?

God, our Heavenly Father, is the only One I can take seriously in a day and age when opinions change daily. Everything from earthly friendships to politics are subject to change moment by moment according to what is acceptable – according to what is relevant and politically correct at the moment.

So, in response to everyone who may think I’m not enough, or think that I take God too seriously I say:

Yes, indeed, I take God very seriously because He takes me very seriously and won’t discard me as I am tomorrow. When I wake up, He is with me and when I sleep, He will be there. I am His, and He is mine, and that I have found is enough.

Psalm 139:17,18 NLT “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered. I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!”

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