Reflections on our life and lessons in uganda
I was having a “hard” week two weeks ago. There were things just weighing on me (from hard ministry, to car troubles etc.) and I just was not in a place of being content. So by Friday night I was ready to burst. So you know what God did? He sent a bee to the pit latrine while I was using it, and I got chased around the pit latrine by an angry bee. I can only imagine the look on my face when I got back to the banda. I burst into tears as I told Jon what had just happened, and he stared at me for a second, and then just laughed. I was crying and laughing and realized how silly I was being by letting these non-issues get me down.
Let me tell you about this week. We went and visited Edisa and her family again. We had found two cheap stuffed animals and small Bible story books at another missionary’s moving sale. Two stuffed animals and two books cost us about $1.50 (that sounds like nothing to us right?) Well we took those small things to the kiddos as a sort of parting gift from us and Joe. I have never been so excited about a gift as those kids were for a small toy and book. Wille (the boy) was so stunned at first that he couldn’t even seem to understand. But once he did he was dancing and hugging us and his book. Kayesu (the little girl) was so excited she actually hugged us (that is a first). Two reasons for me telling you this story: 1- to say thank you to all of our supporters for making moments like this possible; 2- because it was an eye opening moment.
I have met folks here who have gone through things I couldn’t imagine, and they are smiling and celebrating life. We can fall out of being contented SO easily. And I have found that the less Jon and I own, the more I enjoy the little things in life. I don’t know that I can say it has anything (really) to do with material wealth or not, but with the fact that if I don’t have it all, I can’t rely on myself. If my mind isn’t consumed with the next iwatch (is that what it’s called?), my morning double super soy non-fat non-sugar vanilla chocomocha frappe, the nicest clothes, newest car, or best job, then what WILL I be consumed with? Why not Jesus? Why not His Word? Why not the lost souls walking around me each and every second? Why not the small blessings that I take for granted? If all I am doing is staring at my cellphone, I am going to miss the opportunity to comfort a crying child, or to hug a new friend, or to bless the security guy walking down the street.
God moved me to Africa for so many reasons, but I think one was to show me the joy of simplicity. In a world where we can have it all, it is easy to think we NEED it all. But I am learning that it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t have, except for the nearness of Jesus. If Jesus is my center then I can be as happy about a stuffed toy and a book as I could a new Porsche. I think this is what Paul understood when he said, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13). What does it matter what STUFF I have if we have Jesus? It was all the same to Paul so long as he could share the gospel with those around him.
1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” It is so easy to see this verse and be like ‘yea, the poor should be content’ or to see this verse in the context of trials, but it is hard to apply to me. Because I can say ‘I am content’ as I get rid of a perfectly good whatever for the upgraded whatever. But godliness with contentment means that we are content in Jesus, whether we are abased or abound, wealthy or poor. It means that I don’t need the next whatever just because I CAN have it. What if we as the church simplified and found as much joy in feeding the hungry as we do in the newest tech? Or in sitting with the downtrodden as we do watching movies? Or the feel of holding the hand of the sick as we do new leather seats? Whether we are being chased around a pit latrine by a bee or staying at a 5 star hotel, Jesus is enough. Jesus is all. And our hearts being in synch with His will bring true joy and contentment.
Ps- we finally got a good picture of Edisa! (She's one in the green dress) :)
This post is a few days late because the Internet has been put.
Happy Mother’s Day. I have wonderful mothers in my life: my mom, my sister, my grandmothers, women at church etc. My own mother always did a wonderful job of raising us. She was always supportive, nurturing, encouraging, loving, and so much more.
We have been talking a lot about what Godly womanhood and manhood entail in class, the role of fatherhood\motherhood, the family and so on. Now most of you know Jon and I have no children and don’t intend to have any in the near future (if ever).
Now, another story for you, we went to see Edisa this week. Her sister-in-law (who is married to Edisa’s brother) began to tell us some of their family’s troubles while I was drawing in the dirt with her kids. The brother and his wife are both HIV positive, and he is now refusing to take his medications. He seems to be depressed and not want to live, but it is hard to talk to him because not only do I not speak Luganda, but he is mute. So we talked with them on those things. His wife is ready to leave, but has no way to get out. She begged us for prayer and asked me what she should do repeatedly. Partway into the conversation, a new girl showed up who is around 11 or 12 years old. We found out after the talk that this girl’s twin brother had recently been bitten by a dog and had died of rabies. She had lived with her father and step-mother, but her step-mother was incredibly abusive toward her; so she ran away and is staying with Edisa’s family now. That was a heavy Wednesday.
What do these two things have to do with each other? Well, my heart broke on Wednesday. The hurt and sorrow of that family left me almost unable to breath. And I know that in a similar way to how my heart felt for that girl and her loss, my mother’s heart broke for every hurt and pain I’ve ever felt. This is God’s heart toward us. God is the perfect Father, but He also shares a mother’s heart toward us.
God just really kept pressing on my heart this week the need to be a mother. I’m not saying that I suddenly have a desire for children of my own. I am saying that God showed so clearly the need for women to step up. I have heard so many times the call for men in the church to be spiritual fathers, even if they aren’t biologically fathers. But that same call is needed for mothers. Women in the church, we are to be mothers. I am to have a mother’s heart as I walk beside Edisa’s family in hard time and in the laughs we share. I am to have a mother’s heart for the 80% of the Ugandan church that are CHILDREN. For the 50% of the population in this country that are under the age of 15. For my nieces and nephews, for the other women in my life. Last week I made the claim that if suffering doesn’t move us to action, then we don’t understand the cross of Christ. But I would also say that if suffering doesn’t move us to action, we don’t have a mother’s heart.
Titus 2 also gives the call for spiritual mothers in the church. Verses 3-6 are a call for older women to train the younger, to disciple them. What is a mother if not someone who disciples those entrusted to them? We need women willing to walk alongside the younger and train them up.
So to the mother’s out there who are loving your kids and raising them up, thank you. But my prayer is that I may have, we may have, a mother’s heart for those around us who aren’t our kids. That we would share God’s adoptive heart toward the lost and broken around us. That we would take on the challenge of training up our sisters in the church and build toward the Kingdom of God. Pray for Edisa and her family. And let’s love one another as Christ has loved us.
Ok. I just want to give a warning that this blogpost is radical and extreme. There is a part of me that really doesn’t want to post this blog. But we will get into that a bit farther down.
We are discussing suffering this week in class, the theology of pain as it were. And the Lord spoke to my heart as we discussed our responses to suffering.(Here comes radical claim #1). If the suffering of others does not prompt us to action, we do not understand the cross of Christ. Even as I type that, my hand hesitates. Why? Because it is offensive and confronting. But I beg Christ to confront and offend my flesh, even when I hate it. And the ‘Murican in me HATES the idea that suffering is my problem.
But Jesus made suffering His problem. That is the point of the cross. He loved you, me, us enough to take our punishment, our suffering, and bleed and die for us. He made MY suffering HIS problem.
We were reading the interview between Lee Strobel and Dr. Templeton (a self-proclaimed agnostic who had previously been in the ministry) in the Case for Faith. Dr. Templeton had cited a picture of an African mother holding her dead infant as a result of drought, and said ‘all she needed was a little rain, so how could a loving God not give it?’ (that’s a paraphrase). He then goes on to describe his love for Jesus and His ‘care for the oppressed’ and His great morality. Now, Dr. Templeton would not say Jesus is God, but I do. But these two comments gripped my heart. All the woman needed to save her child was a little rain, this is true. But in a world filled with people claiming the name for Jesus, this woman’s child died for lack of water. Jesus made my suffering His problem, but I refuse to make this mother’s suffering mine. I think the number one argument I have heard against believing God runs along the same lines. ‘If God is loving, how can x, y, or z happen?’
Radical claim number two: Perhaps the world wouldn’t have such a problem with a loving God, if HIS church fought against the suffering of others. If we don’t weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15), the world will never believe in a God who does. If the Church is truly the body of Christ, then how is it that we drudge along in apathy thanking God that the suffering around us is kept at bay by our affluence. Oh, how guilty I am of this! It is so easy to see suffering around me and hurriedly say ‘thanks for keeping me from that, God, thanks for blessing ME’ and move on. Or to quickly say ‘man, God, you should help them’. What?! Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So how do we love like Jesus loved? He gave all He had and died for us, to take our suffering. Isaiah 53:4, “Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted.” Did Jesus stand afar off, afraid to get dirty, and ‘feel for me’. No, He got in the muck, took my sorrow and gave me hope. He bore my griefs and carried my sorrows!
I have said things like this before and the response I usually get is ‘yea, but having things isn’t bad’ or ‘yea, but I give 10% to the church so the rest I can spend’ or ‘yea, but I gotta have something to give/leave my kids’ or ‘it isn’t wrong that I like my coffee, clothes, comfort, WHATEVER’. Radical claim number 3: Those statements are technically true, but not really. What if Jesus heart for you and me had been that? I would still be dead in my sins, damned to hell. Jesus’ heart toward me has never been ‘how much can I keep for myself?’ so why is this my heart so often? Why ISN’T my question ‘how much can I give for Jesus’? Luke 14:33, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” I won’t explain this verse away in my life any longer. Exodus 22:22-24, “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword, your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.” Isaiah 35:3-4, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees, say to those who are fearful-hearted ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Psalm 82:3, “Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.” Matthew 10:38-39, “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 25:35,40, “For was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me a drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in… And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body what does it profit?”
Now I am not saying to sell all you have and give to the needy. But I feel strongly convicted in my own life and my love of comfort as I search Scripture. I truly believe that if I see the suffering of another and merely tell them Jesus loves them and move on, I am misrepresenting Jesus. Jesus felt compassion for the sick and lost, He healed and fed, He died to Himself. So my prayer is that God gives me the heart not to do as little as possible to be comfy and cozy, but to really cleanse me of myself and give me more of Him. I pray that God would teach me to depend on Him daily, rather than on my savings. That He would use me to show His love to others in the tangible, real gospel. But He will not if I am not willing. I will never see the miraculous provision of God if I am too busy providing for myself.
How can a loving God not do something about suffering? Radical claim number 4: He did do something. He sent His Son. His Son sent His Church, and we have been given the call to die to ourselves, and care for others. I am so thankful for the gift of repentance and that God is gracious. He not only calls us to this, but then gives us JOY AND DELIGHT in it. It is a leap of faith to take the suffering of others upon ourselves and make it our problem; but we serve the King who gives us His heart and His love for others.
If we are in a war then everyday is a battle, but where is the enemy?
Since I come from a background of solid Bible study and knowledge in the Word, I sometimes feel like this is an easy answer; the world, the flesh, and the devil. I’ve even taught it just like that before. We all know about our three fold enemy, the Bible is very clear on the matter, and anyone who can do just a little bit of Biblical exposition can come to the same conclusion.
The world is always working against us, it surrounds us with things that look so appealing, and most of them aren't even bad things. Sure, there is sin all around us and as Christians, we are in the world but not of it, and so we flee from sin by the power of Jesus and the grace of God. So what then do we do about the things that aren't sin of their own right? For example, video games on their own are not bad, and yet how many people have had their lives ruined because of addiction (making them an idol in their lives.) I’ve even had friends in the past who lost a job because they skipped work to play World of Warcraft. Even the good things of the world can be turned bad as soon as we allow them to turn us away from God; as soon as they go from being a hobby to being idolatry.
The devil seeks to see us tripped up, the sneakiest trick of the devil is not to get us to turn to him. He knows that man was created for relationship, that is for worship, and yet it's not a matter of worshipping either God or Satan. Not, satan’s trick is not to get us to worship him, but to get our eyes focused on anything besides God, and usually that means ourselves. We are all so prone to self-worship already, at least for me, all the enemy has to do is put something in front of me to be prideful about, and my eyes are on myself and not on God in no time at all.
And our flesh. I see my flesh really as a team mate to the other two enemies. When the world comes along with a temptation, it's my flesh that says, “Hey, what a great idea!” When the devil comes along with pride and arrogance for me, it's my flesh that says, “You know, I am pretty great!” My flesh seeks to go with the flow, it desires to not have any responsibility, and it lies and says that my actions will not have negative consequences.
So many times, I’ve taught about our three-fold enemy. I’ve taught that we are to keep our eyes open to ways of the world, the flesh and the devil in order to combat them in our lives. Now, I don’t want to take back that teaching, it is correct and there is power to be had in knowing our enemy, but at the end of the day, it is incomplete. You see, at the core of this teaching is bad news, bad news, and bad news, but the way that God reveals his word to us is not all bad news, yes there’s bad news, but the good news is better!
Here’s what God says about these enemies of ours. First in Hebrews 11:25 when looking at the faith of Moses we see that sin is pleasurable but only for a season, “choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” We find the lies of our enemies so attractive because (and God doesn’t lie to us, He says it plainly) it is pleasurable, but that will pass and when it does we will find ourselves and our families ravaged by sin’s deceitfulness.
Regarding the world, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
Regarding the flesh, Paul writes, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:2-3.
Regarding the devil, we know from the prophecy at the fall, Gen 3:15, that satan’s head was crushed at the cross. But specifically we see his defeat in Revelation 20:7-10, “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations….and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
The world is overcome, the flesh is dead, and the devil is defeated. So where then is our enemy? I believe that as Christians today, we spend so much time fighting the wrong war; the war that is over. It’s like we are still playing a game of risk after the whole board has been won. We are already victorious! And God has given us the ability to believe in that victory and to walk in that victory, FAITH and OBEDIENCE!
If we are free from that fight, then we must ask why. Jesus last words before ascending to heaven give us the answer. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8. When we are not preoccupied with a battle that is already won, we are set free to be as we ought; set free to set others free. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
As some of you know, we went back to the village church outside of Kabubu today (the same one Jon preached at the other Sunday). A little girl, probably 3 or so, ended up on the bench next to me. She was dressed in a torn up, dirt stained skirt and a track jacket that was coming apart at every seam. She was clearly sick (as she continually used her skirt as a tissue). She hadn’t been bathed in a long time, and was covered in a layer of dirt from head to toe. She probably had a few critters living on her. And she was so adorable. She was also really sleepy. She was sitting next to me and I noticed she was swaying. She dozed off during the sermon and almost fell off the bench and into the concrete wall twice before I finally scooted her over near me.
She fell asleep on my arm and stayed there for about 10 minutes before my arm shook so badly that I couldn’t hold her up. So I scooped her onto my lap. She snuggled in and fell asleep (so sound asleep that she drooled on both of us). She stayed that way through all of service and the rest of the announcements and didn’t want to be put down when it was time for me to leave with the rest of the crew. But why tell you this story?
I tell this story because the Lord spoke to my heart in the moment where she nestled in to sleep in my arms. See, we get weird looks here a lot, because Jon and I love to hang out with the dirty kids, but culturally kids need to be clean to be held. I certainly got a few sidelong glances and giggles when I used my shirt to wipe drool off of the little one’s face. And I couldn’t care less because of the sweetness of that moment. I don’t say this to give myself accolades or make you think I am some great humanitarian. I say it because in that moment, Jesus said to me ‘that’s us’.
If the little one had been more awake she might have been to shy to sit close to Jon and I. She probably would have been very aware of the fact that she was ‘dirty’. But instead, she just trusted completely as I held her, and put herself fully in my arms to rest. I spend so much of my time so aware of the filth that covers me. The religion in my heart tells me that I need to clean myself up before I snuggle into the arms of Jesus. It’s such nonsense. Just like the last thought on my mind today was if that little girl was clean or not; Jesus doesn’t call us to get clean before we run to Him! He delights when we throw ourselves upon Him and just rest. He invites us to come to Him just as we are, filthy and gross and ashamed. And because of His blood, He doesn’t see those things. He DELIGHTS in having His children run into His arms to nestle in.
I can be so quick to forget the deep love and joy that Jesus has in fellowship with me as a daughter of His. But when I obsess over the grime of my own sin, I miss the chance to just rest in Him. Matthew 11:28 is our invitation, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘clean up, get right, be perfect and come and I will make it hard,’ it just says come and He gives. I can’t earn Jesus’ love, but He offers it freely if I will but come to Him in faith. Then I can sleep soundly resting in His arms.
For the last week I have been reading a book that at least a few of you will surely be familiar with Jesus on Leadership by C. Gene Wilkes. This book, as you could probably guess focuses on Jesus teachings on the subject specifically from the gospels and primarily about servant leadership. I wanted to share just a little bit from what I’m learning and also share how it is affecting the way I look at some things right now. Now coming from a church that stands on God’s word alone, of course none of this will really be new, but maybe it’s just a new way to look at it, and I certainly plan on diving a little bit into what I’m processing through right now, specifically on how to know when you are a servant. I probably will be quoting some parts of the book throughout, and I sure plan on quoting some scripture of course.
We are all aware that the Bible calls us to a life of servanthood, so in light of that, what needs to change? How can my life look more like Jesus’ life? That’s a question that each one of us should be asking daily, even if we don’t sit down every morning and start our day off with it, it should be at the heart of every word we say and every choice we make.
Now Jesus answers our hearts in this question all throughout His life, but one of the best and most direct answers is in Mark 10:42-44 “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Now I could go through and expositionally break down these verses, but I know that you guys and gals who read our blog are Bible scholars too, you can break it apart for yourself. The thing to note is that the hearers at the time would have thought Jesus was nutso. Being the first and being the last cannot be the same thing, and has there ever been a slave who was “first” let alone a “slave of all”. Wilkes puts it this way, “Being a servant is not one of our natural goals.” I have to also add, “and it doesn’t make sense to our natural brains.” None-the-less, that’s the instruction we’ve been given and so we have to somehow make sense of it.
So here’s the part that made me have to stop and think for a while, and to be honest I’m not totally sure I have the answer yet. I think maybe that’s why I wanted to write about it; I suppose this is my way of thinking out loud. Wilkes writes, “Greatness among God’s people begins with service, and service implies labor without accolades.” That is indeed a high calling, and one that few if none of us can attain on our own. Here’s the part that I haven’t gotten yet. How can I both desire no accolade for my service and at the same time write a newsletter about teaching in church and fixing a widows mud house? Just to be brutally honest for a moment, this is a legitimate struggle for me here. I have both the desire and responsibility to send out newsletters and Facebook updates and the like letting folks in the states, specifically those investing prayers and money in the mission, know what is going out here. And yet, every time I write about something like that it is so difficult to get my heart out of two not good positions; the first- look at all this awesome stuff I’m doing…I’m so cool, the second - look at all this awesome stuff I’m doing, send me money; neither of those is the heart of a servant.
That second one is surprisingly pervasive in the missionary community here. I’ve even been encouraged to ask our supporters for more money by some of the long-time missionaries here. At one point we were having a conversation with some friends and it came up that Kristin’s mom is a nurse, and the first question was “Do they support you?” Now, of course, I am very thankful that they do support us, but I am SOOO much more thankful that they are our family. Likewise, it is more important to me to think of my friends as my friends and not my piggy bank, my church is my church and not my source of income, my pastor is my pastor and not the guy to suck up to when I need board approval for a big purchase…you get the idea. God has given me a desire to never turn over people and shake out their pockets, yet at the same time, missions requires support, and so it has quickly become one of the hardest things to balance, how does one raise support without either turning over my friends or patting myself on the back for the things we are doing here. To be honest, the answer is just prayerful consideration and a heart check every time I hit that post button on Facebook or send out a newsletter.
That’s just a glimpse into my heart right now, and I already wasn’t planning on this being as long as it already is, so here’s a little food for thought on servanthood then I’m done, I promise.
Wilkes says, “Marriage works when you come to the place where the other’s well-being is as important as your own.” Now I’m really enjoying this book, and I totally recommend it, but I wanted to share this one because it’s the one sentence that I’ve had to correct. The truth is ANY RELATIONSHIP works when you come to the place where the other’s well-being is MORE important than your own. Philippine 2:3 “count others more significant than yourselves.”
Jesus is the ultimate example, and He put it in words in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but not to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” I’ll finish with this thought from Wilkes, “Jesus served us in our misunderstanding, our selfishness and our weakness. He saw what we needed and helped us. He knew where we needed to be and took us there - with great love and respect for us…His entire life mission was to free others, not to gain position for Himself.”
Jon and I got to go to Kampala this weekend (the capital city). We had some great experiences on our break, but there was one that had us laughing pretty hard, and it came back to me this morning.
Let’s talk about travelators. You may be asking ‘what on earth is a travelator’? A travelator is the horrendous hybrid of an escalator and a moving sidewalk. It is a moving sidewalk (like at the airport) except on a ramp to get up or down a level. We first encountered this monster at the Nakkumatt store. We were going to the lower level from the second floor. As I stepped on the travelator it suddenly threw me forward toward a pretty steep descent with no way to catch myself. Thank God, Jon caught me before I fell. We chuckled over it and I shuffled my feet toward the bottom. As we stepped off I suddenly felt my feet shift again and was falling, AGAIN. Jon caught me and we laughed pretty hard, especially when a distinguished Ugandan man gave me a shocked look as he stepped off the travelator. Now besides showing my clumsiness, what does this story have to do with anything?
As I studied this morning, God reminded me that life is a travelator not a sidewalk. I find within myself the temptation to feel like I have arrived. I will read my Bible every day, pray consistently, encourage someone in a hard way and I will feel the temptation to pat myself on the back and say to myself, ‘well done, you.’ Then I decide that I could use a day to sleep in instead of doing devotions, I mean, haven’t I earned that? And I will pray… some. And I find myself deciding to just ignore the needs around me because I already have done so much counseling in the Word this week.
Now I used to have the terrible habit of doing as I ought for about a week, and then falling into these complacent habits for months on end. Do you find that same struggle within yourself? I think we all do at one time or another. Well if you do, remember this, life is a travelator. You can’t do as you ought for a bit and take a break and assume you will stay where you were. We are on a constantly moving, shifting platform that is flowing speedily away from God’s heart. There is no standing still in the Christian life. Either we are drawing near to God, or we are backsliding. That’s it, those are the two options. Why? Because our heart is wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and the old man wars against the spirit (Romans 7). It is because our flesh longs to flee from God and indulge itself rather than be sanctified.
So what does God say about complacency on our travelator? Proverbs 1:32 says, “For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.” Hebrews 5:12 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” Is this because the readers of Hebrews couldn’t understand or grasp hard truths? No! It is because they were not diligent in learning the Word! In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul describes the Christian life as a race where “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I should myself become disqualified (vs. 27)”. But Paul couldn’t backslide right? He’s Paul! Wrong! We are all capable of backsliding. It often isn’t a willful disobedience at first, but a complacency about how we ought to be living. Romans 12 says to be transformed, Colossians 1 tells us to continue in the faith and not to be moved away, Peter warns us in 2 Peter 3 to be steadfast and not be led away. We are either running toward Jesus with our eyes fixed on Him or we are drifting away.
So we must be diligent! We must be feeding ourselves DAILY in His Word, talking to Him through prayer, and seeking to encourage one another. Just like I needed Jon to keep me from falling on my face, we need one another. Be in a church family where people ask the hard questions. Keep an eye on your brothers and sisters and encourage one another to run as we should. Don’t believe the whispers that say ‘I’ll get up early to study tomorrow; I’ll pray later; I deserve a break,’ they are LIES. If we aren’t careful we will find that the travelator has taken us back to the place we don’t want to be.
But the great news is that in James 4:8-10 we are told, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” We must stop treating our slackness as a joke, and be serious in seeking after God. He promises to draw near, He doesn’t move. All we need is to turn from our complacency and seek Him, then we find He was waiting in the same place the whole time. If we humble ourselves, He will lift us up. He doesn’t leave us to earn our way back to Him, we couldn’t. He gives us the strength to seek Him and draw near to Him. He welcomes us with open arms to come boldly as His beloved children. But if we allow ourselves to be caught in the drift of complacency we will soon find we are where we did not want to be. So remember, life is a travelator, and we must be diligent to pursue our relationship with God. Or we will fall on our face.
Some of you may know, most of you will not know, I’m writing a book. I didn’t tell many people when I started mostly because as I started out it was something that I didn’t particularly want to do and certainly didn’t, and still don’t, feel qualified to write. And yet, this idea is something that God put on my heart. It started this last Christmas as I was looking for a gift for a friend. What I wanted to find was a hardcore discipleship-style year-long devotional with devotional lessons that accompanied a full Bible in a year plan. Turns out at every Christian bookstore in town and every online bookstore (including Amazon) there is a hole in our Christian devotional materials. And so, here I sit in the heart of Africa doing my darnedest to write what ultimately amounts to far less than a commentary, but is my prayerful attempt at an exegetical, expositional, and most importantly literal daily reading guide through scripture. Now, I don’t know if this thing I’m writing will ever amount to anything; I can’t even say it would or could be published, but I tell you all this because I want you to think about what it looks like to DO.
I just recently finished studying through the book of Esther. If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s only 10 short chapters and is such an awesome study. I want to share with you just a little bit about what God taught me as I walked through it. Esther and Mordecai had the kind of guts that make being a missionary look like a walk in the park. In Esther 4:14 we get this memorable word from Mordecai, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” What faith in God it takes to say something like that! Here is the heart of Mordecai’s question - God WILL protect, and God WILL provide for, and God WILL save His people, do you want a part in it or not?
All throughout this book, Esther and Mordecai both did things that should not have been possible for them to do, and yet, they were nothing more than people. How can this be? How can it be possible for man to do more than man can do? ...GOD. We believe that God gives the increase in His kingdom and in our lives (1 Cor 3:6), but what exactly is He going to do in you if you can’t muster the courage to get off the couch? Nothing! And what was the reward to Mordecai for all of the courage that it took to do the things he did? Mordecai is forever remembered in God’s Word. Esther 10:3 “for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.” Shouldn’t we all long for this to be our legacy both in this world and in God’s kingdom? And so, the question must be asked, “SO WHAT?”
Here’s the “so what” - Do you wish you could love you husband or wife more than you do now? There’s nothing they will do to make it easier, it’s not their job, it’s yours. DO IT NOW! Do you want to serve more in your church? No one can make that happen but you. DO IT NOW! Do you want to break that addiction you are a slave to? No one else will do it for you. DO IT NOW! Do you desire to be in God’s word more, but you just “don't have the time”? No one is going to make the time for you except you. DO IT NOW! Do you want to “seek the welfare of others”? Don’t wait until tomorrow. DO IT NOW! AND PRAY, because it not you who gives the increase, it is God alone. Pray, pray, pray, and pray more because God has something big for you. Get off the couch and make room in your life for God to give the increase and it only comes through relationship with Him which comes through pray and His word (talking and listening, like any relationship). DO IT NOW!!!
I wanted to end this thought with something my pastor recently said in a sermon, “The catalyst for God’s will in you life is your will.”Make the choice today to have God’s will done in your life. “Father, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Since Jon and I began selling stuff to prepare to move to Uganda, one question has been pressing the back of my mind, ‘what if we fail?’. Life is full of successes and failures, right? But, we have people giving to us, counting on us, rooting for us. Here, we will have people relying on us; we may even end up having lives depending on us. And knowing all of that, I’m constantly pressed with the question: what if we fail? The last blog post I wrote was about resting in Jesus with regards to our salvation and justification. But this time I want to talk about resting in Jesus in regards to identity.
If I had just met you or been introduced, what is the first question we’d likely ask each other? ‘What do you do?’ Or if I were giving an introduction I would tell you something like, ‘I’m Kristin, I’m a nurse, I’m married to Jon, etc…’ Even over here, I tell people a lot that I am a nurse. Take a second and just think about how you identify or define yourself. (Go ahead, we’ll wait).
Now some of you probably tried to avoid using your job or career and went with something like wife, father, friend, deacon, teacher, daughter etc. (Hopefully not all of those at once). So here is my next question: what happens if all of those things go away or change?
I have begun, unintentionally, identifying\defining myself as a missionary. So what if we fail at that? What if, like many, I suddenly have health problems which require us to leave the field? What if Jon suddenly felt we are called back to the States? What if any number of things arises that would cause us to be tossed into the category of having failed? I’d have no identity. How many of us have ever felt that way; like we suddenly have no idea who we are? That is a horrible feeling that can drive us to desperation to keep whatever defines us. The mother who refuses to be there for her kids because her career demands her attention, the workaholic who can’t let the job be there so he brings it home, the teenager who MUST have a boyfriend/girlfriend, the parent in crisis because they’re suddenly an empty nester, the wife who must be always put together and appear flawless, the missionary who has a checklist of how many salvations and such they need… But I want an identity that I can’t lose based on circumstances. Is there such a thing? I can think of only one. His.
I AM a child, daughter, friend, beloved of God. He is my Father. Try to think of our circumstances that can change that. I can’t think of one, and neither could Paul. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” But Paul, what about when I lose my job, or my family is in crisis, or we are fighting or, or, or… NO. NOTHING can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. If my confidence and identity is found in Christ a few different things will happen.
First, my relationship with Him WILL become my priority. We pour ourselves out for the things we let identify us. If my identity is in my job, where do I spend my time? But if my identity is in jesus, I will be like Mary desiring to be at His feet. (Luke 10:38-42).
Second, it gives me freedom. My identity is not found in how successful I am. That means I am not afraid to step into the impossibilities of cross-cultural ministry by His leading. Not only do I believe He will bring His will to pass, but it also won’t rock my world WHEN hard circumstances come, or WHEN I fail. I can fail and succeed with surety of step. There is so much freedom in that. Because I am GOING to fail at times; that’s just how it is. But if those failings don’t change who I am (and WHOSE I am) then I can repent and carry on and learn.
So, imagine now that the only identity that mattered to you was son/daughter of God. What would change in your life? Would any of those changes be bad? No! So why not live it out?? Be free. Dig into the Word, pray fervently for God to show you your identity rooted and grounded in Him ALONE. If you haven’t started a relationship with Jesus, why wait? Jesus came to reconcile us to our Father, all we have to do is have faith. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” This is what is offered. Freedom!
Do not submit yourself again, brothers and sisters, to the yolk of slavery of false identities. Be free to be a wife or husband rooted in Christ, a friend who loves with Christ’s love, an employee who works as unto the Lord, a minister of the gospel of peace who speaks the truth without fear, a son or daughter who honors their father and mother. The beauty of losing our identity for Christ is that He then gives it back to us as it should be. So what if I fail? What if you fail? Well, I am still beloved of God, so I can pick myself up and continue to seek His glory.
in the middle of Uganda, Subsaharan African bush. You would never find it if you don’t know where to look. It hasn’t always been a great house, in fact it’s owners had to move out because it had some mold. They pulled off the roof and gave it a new attic; redid the kitchen and both bathrooms (very nicely), and re-roofed it, so the mold should be done away with. Of course living in the heart of Africa, any house that has been through the wet season will always have some mold, it is just an inevitability of living on this side of the world.
This house can do a lot of things that most houses can't, in fact, I have a lot of friends back in the states who dream of building some of the systems on this house into their own houses. It’s fully self sustaining. It has its own solar electrical system and water collection system! It even has a well planned garden out back that has the ability to give food year round. For me, it’s a pretty great house.
We’ve been living here for a month now, and lest you think we are flushing money down the drain, this house is only costing us 150,000 shillings a month; that’s $44. I don’t think anyone could say we are getting ripped off; I believe we are getting a steal. And yet, what that money ultimately covers is the workers from New Hope that this house employs like the gardener and maintenance workers. So even in the rent that we pay to live here, we are really just supporting the ministry we are training at by keeping them from spending money on an empty house. It’s amazing how God works out every detail like that.
But even just for our ministries, this house has been invaluable. We have a discipleship group 2-3 times a week where we have seen a ton of growth in a few people already. It’s funny how being on fire for God will ignite everyone around you. We’ve had a relationship counseling session, our first ever (officially) that went really well. We have even gotten to throw a surprise party for a friend who turned 37 and has only celebrated 1 birthday his whole life. We’ve had worship days, juice squeezing parties, group homework nights, and have even gotten to offer hot showers for our friends.
The best part of this house though is when we walk through the front door, we are walking into a sanctuary. It is not just a house it is a home. Yes, because of the comforts, and that is important, with no comforts we would burn out on the mission field immediately (it is not the elephants that turn back missionaries, but the ants). But even more because we rely on each other and lean on each other, and even more than that because we rely on God with each other, and when we do He gives us peace. No matter what chaos is going on in life, in God there is always peace and rest waiting. That is what makes a house a home and what makes a home a sanctuary.
Isaiah 32:17-18 And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
If you would like to take a look at our house and I know this has been highly requested by our friends and family, take a look at the video below.