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Trust: How I Go, How I Come

March 26, 2015 Leave a comment

Without exception, every time I’ve spent extended time with a long-term missionary I’ve left saying, “I want to be like them.” I see their courage, their realness, their heart, their faith…and I want it for myself. The tough part of admitting that however, is that I don’t want their life. Their life is hard. They operate at an entirely different level of stress, they face so many losses and goodbyes, they suffer physically, their children face unique challenges – the list goes on and on. I’ve only had a taste of it from my time in Singapore. Yet, multiple times I’ve wondered how I’d be able to operate under even more traumatic conditions. I don’t have a comprehensive checklist. But, I have learned that there are two essential truths about God that must be held hand-in-hand if the going is to ever be worth it. God’s worthiness, which ensures my allegiance. And His love, which compels me to trust Him.

Both truths are so essential for this kind of life. When I left for Singapore, I was very one-sided with my way of thinking: “God is God, I am man – obviously God deserves my obedience. So go!”  I’m so glad that I revere Christ like this, but it can be problematic. Jesus isn’t only my King…He is also my Brother, Friend, & Savior. You see, viewing God in this one dimension put a lot of pressure on me. It made me think that I can’t fail or disappoint God. It made me question His goodness when life in Singapore was truly miserable. Yes, it made me serve, surrender, and go – but it also brought a lopsided approach to my Christian walk. I didn’t realize this issue until April 2014 (Yes, over a year into life in Singapore).

Retreat GroundsI was at my first Silent Retreat. The theme was Romans 12:1-2 which says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Immediately, I felt bothered by our theme. I wasn’t sure why, but at least I noticed how ugly of a reaction I had to the passage. That night, I discovered the reason for my angst. I didn’t like someone telling me to be a sacrifice again. I didn’t like the idea of doing God’s “perfect will”. I’ve obeyed this passage already – many times in fact – and I couldn’t see much good come from it. That night, I sorrowfully wrote in my journal, “I don’t trust God.

The next day I was reading Psalm 84. The final verse says…

O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

I was really confused as to why the Psalmist would conclude with that statement. It didn’t seem necessary. The whole Psalm is rather happily written. It about enjoying the presence of God; about loving the place that God is at. Nothing bad seems to be happening…so why is trust so important here? Wisdom came after some meditation. You see, my walk with God had changed a lot since college days. I went from having a daily time of studying God’s word to studying it once a month. I went from praying daily to crying because I simply had no words to say to God. I went from experiencing authentic, regular fellowship to being alone (even when I was around people). It didn’t happen over night, but it all snowballed after only a couple of months into life in Singapore. I had been telling myself that I just needed a routine – that I just needed discipline and then I’d be back to normal. But, what I really needed was to believe that God was good and that God loved me.

(v2) My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord

(v4) Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise

(v10) For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere

These are just a few of the verses in Psalm 84. What a contrast to my current life. If I trusted God, then I would come to Him. Nobody longs to take refuge in a place that isn’t safe. The same is true for us and God. For the first time I saw that trust is not only required for taking steps of faith. It’s required for the simple, daily, secret times too. 

God is worthy of my life, of my sacrifices. He is especially worthy, however, of those tender moments when there is nothing to offer except my trust. One thing I am sure of is that those vulnerable, at times awkward minutes and hours of just coming before God are a powerful statement of faith.

With trust I go out for Him; with trust I come before Him til’ the end of my days. 

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Societal Structures V.S. God’s Call on Our Lives

November 8, 2012 2 comments

My Lord has been doing some amazing work in my life the past few weeks. He has been bringing my mind to “seeking the things that are above, where Christ is” (Col. 3:1) and He has been revealing idols in my life. More so, God has revealed these idols before I set myself up to live in daily temptation of them. He has shown me that Jesus is greater than my culture & that His Great Commission may require me to forsake dreams and hopes that I have. For, His Calling is greater than my Culture. Thus, I hope to expose societal structures that keep us from “giving it our all” for the Lord.

Common American Phases of Life

The American way of life is quite different than most other countries. But, still each country has a culture or multiple cultures that create a type of order to a person’s life.  In America, it goes something like this :

We are born and  begin learning everything we know from our family. Once kindergarten hits, we begin receiving all of our education from a school system (whether public, private, or through homeschooling). The goal of this stage is to prepare us to be self-sufficient individuals in the next stage. Once we graduate twelfth grade, we are encourage to either work a job and make money or go to college in order to make even more money and be even more successful someday. So, for the next few years we prepare ourselves for our future employment that we hope will provide financial stability. Then, once we graduate we seek to excel at our career and be promoted until we consider ourselves “successful”. Once we are satisfied with this we tend to “settle down” by getting married and starting a family. At this point, we struggle for the next 20 years to juggle this career, our children, our elderly parents, and our marriage. Erickson’s Psychosocial Stages explains that that as we move into our 40’s we are wanting “to create or nurture things that will outlast us.” Once we believe we have accomplished this, we begin to retire at about age 65 so that we can no longer be involved in the world – for that’s what we deserve. Right?

Practically all of these stages are setting us up to live a more comfortable  & accomplished lifestyle than the one before it.

Interesting, huh? We all seem to fit this mold no matter how “radical” or “unique” we hope we are. This is because, from birth we are taught what the appropriate timeline is for our life. Sure, we all have different stories. Not everyone will get married & have children at the same age. And there are definitely gender roles, values, and economical challenges that have and will continue to cause this timeline to change. But, overwhelmingly we all divide our lives into these categories or phases.

How God Changed my Thinking

This recently began to frighten me a lot. Why? Because, I really don’t see God’s calling on my life fitting into this cultural structure that we have deemed “right”. In two months Danny and I will be in Southeast Asia. As we get closer and closer I’ve seen God expose lies that I’ve been believing and truth that I must cling to. I have been debating for a while as to whether or not I should write this blog, simply because I figured most people would deem me unqualified to speak on this topic. And, to an extent I am. But, God has been pounding me over and over and it would be wrong to keep it to myself. Through Kathleen Neilson’s Colossian’s Study, conversations with Danny and other people, podcast sermons such as the Biography of Bill Piper, current life examples such as The Flora’s Family, and personal reflection I have found that having children, a nice home, & retirement are not excuses to cease living sacrificially as a missionary. And if you don’t want to listen to me, maybe you will listen to their stories.

Having Children & Living Against the Current

Since time ticks closer to our departure I have heard more and more, “It’s so good that you’re doing this while your still young & without children.” Or I’ve heard, “How great that you are serving like this while you still can, before you have children.” (This is the part that made me hesitant to write this, because I don’t have children & can’t speak from that standpoint.) After long contemplation though, I have discerned that children definitely change your schedule, priorities, energy & thoughts, but they do not necessarily change your calling. Why do we think that children keep us from serving as a missionary? Are we so bold as to think that God’s calling must fit into our American methods of raising children? There are so many factors that I have wrestled with. I hate the thought of my children not having regular visits with their grandparents or not being raised in their native land (America). And I understand the value and beauty in faithfully discipling our children.  But, all of those good things don’t negate that God has called each and every believer (with children or not) to participate in the Great Commission. Having children is just one of many stages of life that I’m realizing I must surrender to my Lord to, rather than to pleasing people or even myself.

Building Up Comforts VS Living Sacrificially

But the more and more I say the phrase, “Well, Danny, when we settle down I’d like to live in X city, with Y type of house..” I realize that as of now, God has not called me to “settle down”. And even if He does, who says that I am called to settle down in Georgia, or even in America? Why are you living where you’re living? Why are you working where you work? It’s tough. In a land of opportunities, I’ve found that just because we can move somewhere, doesn’t mean we should.

It’s tough, because this is not our home. And the Lord brought me to tears at this thought. I like comfort – it is a major idol for me. I realized that I kind of want this to be my home & that often times I believe it is. I hardly ever remind myself of my true citizenship that is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). So, recently the Lord broke me. And He was so sweet to show me that if I feed into to having a nice home, and everything else that comes along with the American dream – I will forget, again. I’ll build up comfort after comfort -no matter how subtle or obvious they may be- and before long I will have put my energy, money, & thoughts towards maintaining a lifestyle that God never called me to in the first place.

My New Great Aim

But whatever gain I had, I count as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. – Philippians 3:7-8

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – (Jesus) Matthew 6:19-21

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it – (Jesus) Matthew 10:37-39

These are just three of hundreds of verses that speak about the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. We are to live for Jesus only. And thank God, that he exposed an idol of comfort and misconceptions of relative societal methods that will seek to lure me from “giving it my all”. My new aim: To assume that God’s will would have me make costly sacrifices instead of being comfortable in this life. And therefore, repent of compartmentalizing my surrender to the Lord Jesus. 

Please comment with wisdom and lessons learned from your experience in parenting, living as a missionary, and fighting the cultural structures that pull you from Jesus rather than to Him. How can we remain faithful to the spreading of the gospel and faithful to our families if we are not called to local missions?