Wednesday, February 4, 2015

You Have to Live It.

I know, I know. Anytime a sentence starts with the words "have to" or "should," our defenses go up and we start to ask questions like "Why is a person on the internet trying to control my life?" or "Why should I even listen to her?"

Today, I ask you to set those questions aside and move forward with an open mind. This is something I was convicted of lately, and the "have to" comes from someone far greater than me.

As you may know if you followed my fundraising project, I am leaving on a mission trip in a little over a week. It is my first real mission trip, and the first time I have been farther away from home than Canada. As I prepare to go, I am really trying to be open to the Spirit, and one thing keeps coming up.

Do I believe that God has work for me to do in India? The answer is, of course! God called me on this trip, he provided the funding, he worked out the logistics with my school, he planned who would be on the team. It is so obvious that it almost seems redundant to ask. So here is where I reply, "What are you getting at, Lord?" Then I get this follow-up question: Do I believe that God has work for me to do here at home?

That's a tougher one. Because if I believe that God designed me to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" that applies in the here and now as well as on the mission field overseas. The answer to the question is easy— the application of it is a lot trickier.

Because, honestly, it is one thing to go and share the gospel with people I don't know very well, who I won't be working with for years to come, and whose negative opinions of me have very little impact on me. But in the day to day mission field, the fear of man is a lot harder to overcome.

I gotta be honest with you — I do fear. But my fear is a little different than the one I described above. I fear making God look bad. What if they see me as harsh and judgmental and assume that God is exactly the same? What if they see me as foolish and project that perception onto God? What if they see me as a crazy religious fanatic and think that all who follow God must be off their rockers?

God has shown me recently that my perception of this is all wrong.

It is not about me.

Let me just say that again: It is not about me.

Everyone together now: It is not about me.

Isn't that freeing? My pastor said in one of his sermons about healing, "I go about it this way: God, I know that nothing I can do is going to make this person well. I ask you to heal them, and because you are the Healer, I promise to take none of the credit if you do heal, and none of the blame if you do not." I think we should take this approach to sharing Christ as well. The Holy Spirit is the only one who can turn a hear to God or change a life. We are only the vessels to share his message. So if I get tongue-tied or mess up the message, God has it under control. So I have nothing to fear.

Along with this, God has stuck me with the importance of his command to "go into all the world and preach the gospel." Time is short. We don't know how many years, days, or even minutes you or I have left on this earth. We don't know how much longer the person next to us in line at the store has to live. Your co-worker who is always late could be gone tomorrow. Your family member who doesn't believe might die tonight. Only God knows the details for each of our stories.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
I read in a commentary that in this verse, Jesus set up a standard for witnessing to take place everywhere we go. Jerusalem is your hometown. Judea is your area or state. Samaria is an area near your home that has very different culture. And the end of the earth is well, the end of the earth.  As followers of Christ we are called to share his good news. Guys, we have the greatest news in the whole world, and we need to tell everyone about it.

I have some friends from different cultures and backgrounds. There are atheists, humanists, Mormons, agnostics, and even some Jews and Muslims who come into the Y every so often. And I wonder. Many of them are passionate about their beliefs. I think of the Mormons, Jews, and Muslims— they work so hard on a daily basis to do what they think they need to do to get to God. They go on missions, they dress in order to follow certain rules, they abstain from certain foods, they even are willing to die for their beliefs. Yet, all of this will be for nothing when they find on judgement day that they were wrong, that they were not following God but only a man's invention.

It sounds harsh, doesn't it. Many don't like to think about it, and that is where we get the "all roads lead to God" theory. I think this truth of God's judgment should motivate us so much as followers of Jesus. These people are deceived, and the Devil wants to keep it that way.

Here is the deal: any of us could have been born into one of those families. Just picture yourself, born in a different place, different time, different family. You could be any one of those people. You could come from a broken home full of suffering and doubt the existence of a good and loving God. You could believe that God is only pleased with rituals and good deeds and exact adherence to rules. You could spend every day looking, waiting for a Messiah that came two thousand years ago. You might be working as hard as you can to do everything right so one day you can be a god yourself. You might.....  Fill in the blank.

Here is the question: if you were one of them, and someone had the truth about God, wouldn't you want them to tell you? Wouldn't you want to know that your hard labor for righteousness will all be for naught on the day of judgement? Wouldn't you want to know that there is a God who loves you and desires a relationship with you? Wouldn't you want to know that you can be forgiven and all your regret and guilt can be washed away?

This is what it all comes down to. Every person on this planet is precious to God, and as such they should be precious to us. May God's love be always evident in our actions and in the way we tell others about him and his amazing plan of salvation.

Wow, I am feeling really convicted right now. I wrote all this, and now I truly want to live it. But I really think that in this case, it was not me writing. I know I could not come up with all this on my own.

I really just want to close this post with a prayer, for you and for me. For all of us, who have let fear get in the way of God's awesome message.

Dear Sovereign Lord,
Please forgive me for letting fear keep me from obeying you. I thank you that you have chosen me out of the world. Would you place inside my heart a burning passion for those who don't know you? Give me a sense of urgency, and a desire to see everyone I meet in heaven one day. God, please rid me of the selfishness of keeping your salvation to myself. Let me act not only as your hands and feet, but also as your voice into the lives of those around me. And above all, let me remember that it is not about me, but it is all about you. You are the one true God. You are great and mighty in power, yet kind and loving. May your name alone be praised.