Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wet Feet

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:6

“Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.” Joshua 3:8

That is how Mark Batterson opened a session last week.  When I opened my Bible to follow along I saw notes that I wrote in the margin long ago about “taking the first step” and was encouraged by the reminder he gave us that day.

In Joshua 3, the Lord gives Joshua the above message for the priests.  Even though the river was at flood stage, they were instructed to go and stand in the water.  I wonder if they had any idea what “amazing things” would happen next?  As soon as their feet touched the water’s edge the water from upstream stopped flowing and was piled up in a great heap and the water flowing down was completely cut off.  The people crossed over and the priests who carried the ark of the covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan.  In chapter four, after the priests came out of the river, the waters returned to their place and ran at flood stage once again.

God knew He was about to do something amazing, but the priests had to obey Him before they would see the miracle. 

He still wants to do that kind of work in our lives and through us.

Mark talked about a recent trip he took with his son where they went paragliding.  He thought it sounded like a great idea until he got to the top of where he would be required to run off the cliff as fast as he could so he could catch the updraft.  In a split second his thoughts turned to “This is crazy!”  But he ran as fast as he could off of the cliff, caught the updraft and looked down.  What he thought was crazy became awesome.

“If you aren’t willing to have a “this is crazy moment”, you will never get to “this is awesome.”

Years ago I sent an email to a friend that said something like, “I feel like I just jumped off of a cliff and I am free falling…”  I did not know what I was doing then and will probably always be able to admit to not always knowing what to do now.  It feels like I jump off of a cliff again every time I say yes to the Lord about something else.  And the rest of the time I am just free falling.  It is scary at times (ok…most of the time), but it is an incredibly exciting life to live.  Following Jesus is never boring.

We spend so much time asking God to move.  What if He is asking us to do the same?  What if He is telling us to just take the first step?  What if He is telling us to step into the river and get our feet wet before He parts it? 

I have heard it so many times.  “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.”

It may sound crazy (what God idea doesn’t?), but stop waiting to do what you know He is calling you to do just because you don’t know how to do it.  Don’t wait until you have the resources.  Don’t base your vision on your budget.  Don’t wait until you have enough volunteers.

If we wait until we have it all figured out we will never do anything.

All He wants is for us to say yes and to keep saying yes.

Sadly, a lot of us do not have that kind of faith.  We are too dependent on what we can do and hung up on what we cannot.  We pray hoping that our prayers will be heard and answered, but preparing ourselves for a let down just in case God doesn’t come through the way we want Him to.  I’m like that sometimes.  As recently as two months ago I was praying for a way to get to Uganda while trying to figure out how to make it happen myself just in case God didn’t provide the way.  By now I should know that because this trip was His idea, He would make sure I would be on it and He used so many people to make sure it would happen.  And when that last donation came in that put me at 100% I cried tears of joy and tears of shame because how could I doubt Him again?

In the last couple of weeks several people have talked to me about things that they believe the Lord is calling them to do.  Some of these people I have known for a long time and others I have only met in the last month or so.  Some of their passions are for local outreach and others for international missions.  A few have asked for advice on getting started in the area of ministry they feel they need to be in and even though I do not have experience in all of these areas I do have advice for getting started.

It is very simple.

Stop thinking about doing something.  Keep praying, but stop praying for things to line up according to your plan before you become willing to move.

Step into the river.  Get your feet wet.  And just watch what God does.  If you expect Him to move, be willing to move yourself.  If we consecrate ourselves to Him, amazing things will happen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Ordinary Heart

I have to give credit where credit is due even though I said I was not going to name names from the conference last week.  I won’t name names of those that disturbed me, but most were great and I can’t help but share their words.

Christine Caine is the founder of A21, a ministry with the mission of ending human trafficking.  (If there was one reason I feel like God had me at this particular conference, I am convinced it was to hear her heart because I have silently been overwhelmed and burdened by this global injustice issue for the last year at least and have had no idea what to do about it or if I should even consider tackling something other than poverty alleviation.  It is something I have been praying about for just as long.  It’s so cool when things become crystal clear.)  But her message was not about human trafficking or slavery.  (I attended a Q&A breakout session with her later that day on that topic.)  Instead she spoke about “The Ordinary Heart”.  About her heart and my heart and yours.

She began by explaining that the only reason darkness is on the earth is because there is an absence of light.  And WE are the reason for it because we allow darkness to reign in some places when we refuse to shine the light of Jesus into those areas. 

“We have hearts that lead us to do nothing.  We do not deliberately withhold compassion, but we do not think beyond our personal worlds.”

Isn’t that the truth even though it’s hard to admit?  Most people that I know are not deliberately withholding compassion and add myself to that group.  I want to love others with all of my heart.  I do not want to judge.  I don’t want to ignore a need.  And sometimes I do not.  Sometimes I am as compassionate as one can be.  But there are more times than not when I would rather not inconvenience myself and I turn away from what could be a life changing moment.  Life changing for another person and life changing for myself.

“If I am not loving my neighbor, I am not loving God.” 


“When good people do nothing, injustice strives.”

Being good is just not good enough though.  It isn’t “good enough” to get to Heaven or “good enough” to impact the world. 

“It is not the unredeemed (the rapist, the murderer), nor the broken (the abused, the poor) that do not do enough, it is the ORDINARY HEART, people like you and me, that do not do enough or nothing at all because we think that the problems are too big to solve so why do anything at all?”

“The church has confused compassion with emotion.”

She spoke about how we see a video on one of the big global issues (human trafficking, extreme poverty, etc.) and it makes us sad for a moment.  We may even shed a tear or two.  We are moved, sometimes to action for a short time.  But then life goes on, we get wrapped back up in our own little worlds and we forget that there is an entire world of injustice out there.  That is not compassion.  That is emotion.  And emotion is not is what is needed to make a change.

The story of the good Samaritan is always talked about during conferences like this.  We know two passed by without caring enough to show any compassion.  They were probably in a hurry to get to the synagogue and had no time to stop to help.  Crossing the street and showing compassion to this man would have been an inconvenience.  Chris said, “Until we are willing to cross the street and be inconvenienced, nothing will ever change.”

“It is Billy Graham AND Mother Theresa.  Not either/or.”  We cannot focus on only sharing the Gospel verbally while ignoring the physical needs of others and we cannot be just humanitarians while neglecting to share the Gospel.  Jesus did both and we have to do the same.

“When we have to hold a conference like this to remind the Church to be compassionate, something is fundamentally wrong.”

Amen!  As I sat there throughout the conference I realized that it’s always the same people at these type of events.  The same pastors, the same ministry leaders, the same people from the Church that are pumped up about local and international missions.  And yet we are still having conferences to learn how to get people involved, whether within our churches or in the general public.  Something is seriously wrong.  Do we have churches full of people that are not willing to deny themselves convenience in order to show compassion to those in need?  The answer saddens me.  I have heard excuse after excuse as to why people cannot or will not become involved in local or global missions.  And that is really all it is.  Excuses.  And Christine addressed that.

“Until our hearts are engaged, we will always find an excuse as to why we cannot “cross the street.”

Why is there still so much injustice in the world?  Some blame God.  They ask why He hasn’t done something.  Why He allows it to continue.  It isn’t God’s fault.  It is ours.

“It is our silence that allows people to remain in unjust situations.”

I wonder if we will ever see an end or even a significant change in the right direction to some of the big global issues?  And I still wonder why do more people not care?  Is it because so many have not seen it first hand or because it is easy to ignore from the comfortable lives we lead?

For me, it is hard to shut off the images that race through my mind every day and I cannot possibly turn my back on those that I do not even know that are suffering injustice around the world.  The Lord created in me a heart that longs to go beyond faceless statistics and to not only know their names, but to see their lives changed both now and for eternity.  It took far too long for me to give in to the Spirit’s leading to GO.  And even now I tend to pull back and resist at every nudge to do something new or out of my comfort zone that I know will be hard and uncomfortable.  I have the God given passion, but I still have that human nature that doesn’t always want to be as compassionate as I need to be.  So I pray for myself and the rest of us, that we will remove ourselves from the equation and be willing to follow Him with every part of ourselves despite the cost.  We may be ordinary, but He created each of us to make an extraordinary impact for the Kingdom.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Country Club Church

Last week I attended a conference at a local church.  Many of the main sessions and breakout sessions related to local outreach, but a lot of it could (and should) be applied to international ministries as well.  Just like any other conference, there was good and there was bad.  There were speakers that I like(d) and those I think must be from another planet (and no, I won’t be naming names either way here).  I had no preconceived notion about some of the speakers and that made it a little easier to really pay attention to what they had to say.  (What’s the point in blogging if you can’t be honest, right?)

So on the second day of the conference I listened as a guy talked about “The Country Club Church” and I thought,sadly, “Right on, dude!”  (Because at this point we should not be having to have conferences to tell us to have compassion and to start loving like Jesus and, well, start doing what the Bible says.)

He talked about the lepers in Luke 17 and how, as they walked away from Jesus on their way to the priests, He healed them.  He didn’t require that they make it to the synagogue and sit through a sermon in order to be healed.  He saw their need and met it, right where they were.

It’s a never-ending debate in the world of ministry, I know.  And it’s something that I struggle with. 

“Bring the people to the church.”  “Grow the Church.”  You get the picture.

I know the importance of going to church and I believe in growing the Church (I’m talking about the body of Christ here).  And I absolutely believe that we should work to bring people into the fellowship that is the local church body.  But church isn’t what’s on the inside of the building.  It isn’t the pews or carpet or big screen tvs or drums and guitars or huge gyms.  It is the people.  And if we, as the Church, do not get out of our buildings and do something that is going to appear to be ridiculously bold, we aren’t going to reach anyone for the Kingdom.  And if we aren’t doing that, we have no right to call ourselves a church.

This guy said, “We’re letting demons have free reign in the alleys, in the strip clubs, etc. while we drive by on Sunday mornings trying to get to our country club church on time just to pray for them when we get there.”

DEMONS.  You know, evil.

And pray we do.  We pray that lives will be changed and souls will be saved and that we will be used to make a difference on this side of Heaven for eternity’s sake and I think that somehow we truly mean it because surely we aren’t intentionally praying for something that we do not mean, but then something happens.

God tells us to GO.

Go INTO the world.  That includes those places that we ride by on Sunday mornings on our way to church.  It includes those places that make us uncomfortable and freak us out.  It includes places in our own backyards and on the other side of the world.  He wants us to go INTO those places gripped by darkness, shine His light and help lead the people we’ve been praying for out.

It’s time to stop praying only from our pews and occasionally on our knees and start praying as we go INTO the world to reach the lost and hurting.