The Weeds

It is so easy to become distracted. I used to live my life as that third seed in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower Matt 13, you know the one, it that grew up as a plant that had a root but still never produced any fruit because it was choked by the weeds. The weeds we are told by Jesus are the deceitfulness of wealth and the cares of this world. It is still, even after, I know better, easy to become entangled by all of the stuff that comes my way. I mean, come on man, do you not see that I am trying to pay my bills in a global recession? My portfolio is is insipid, my house has lost much of its value and the cost of gas and the groceries are getting to be ridiculous! How do you not get choked out by it all?

There are, I am sure, a seminar full of possible answers to that question. For me the key to sanity in Christ while living in a world seemingly bent on challenging that sanity is simple. It is just this, do for others less blessed than yourself. I told you it was simple. The real problem with doing for others is, that it is hardest to do when you need to do it the most. When your job is in jeopardy, when you are feeling old, when a critical relationship is troubled. Or on the other side of the weeds, when everything is going really well and the acquistion of the new house, or the vacation house is beckoning to you, or the boat or the sports car or… you fill in the blank. It is at those times when our souls turn inward and away from God. It seems like it is our turn to be paid attention to. And if others won’t do it [and we really wish they would] we will just have to do it ourselves. So where is the middle ground?

In proverbs 30:8 and 9 we have the words of Agur who was trying to find the right balance for his life and so he prayed to the Lord, “…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Agur recognized that at either end of the spectrum his soul would turn inward which he judges as, “disowning or dishonoring God”. Have you ever looked at the act of focusing on yourself as disowning or dishonoring God?

I have found, in my life that we can only honor God with Hesed, that state of being that puts others ahead of ourselves. Turning outward rather than succumb to the temptation to turn inward. We then look like the Son of God, who came to be the servant of all men. That is our calling as Christians and that is where, we really do feel the most satisfied with the state of our lives. For me that translates into missions, whether it is building churches or looking after the needs of widows and orphans in their time of distress. It is only “out there” where I feel I am in balance and weed free. So many of our team members have humbled me with their willingness to greatly sacrifice themselves in order to go and do for others. As I said, I must go. It is my way of weeding the garden. What is yours?

Called [?]

What if I don’t feel “called” to the mission field? Should I still go, or should I just wait to be really sure it is God’s will for my life? I mean it is not like trying out a different flavor of ice cream this would be a serious, life altering, hard to explain to my family and friends, event. Isn’t it just plain prudent to wait for an angel or a couple of prophets [everybody knows that you can’t trust just one prophet] to tell me when where and how. In fact isn’t it itself a “sign” that because there has been an absence of such”signs” in my life that I am safe in saying that I am one of those “not called” to go out there… somewhere.

I am reminded of a luncheon that my wife and I were invited to a few years back. The husband/host, we’ll call him Jack, told me when the subject of overseas missions came up [as it usually does when I am around] that he believed his “mission” was to his unsaved next door neighbor. “Great” I said, “How is that going?” “Well nothing yet.”Jack said. Jack went on to explain that he tried to speak with the man about Jesus as often as they saw each other, as in when they were both outside taking out the trash. This had been going on for ten years. Jack took it ill when I suggested that the neighbor’s salvation [or continuing lack thereof] however important, might not be the end of Jack’s mission as a Christian. I also suggested that it might be time to move on to other richer harvest fields. Unfortunately it was the last time I was ever invited to Jack’s house.

What if Jack had been actually present just before his Lord ascended into heaven. And actually heard in his own ears the words, “…and you [Jack] will be my witness [alternate translation is martyr] in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” or if he had heard, “Therefore [Jack] go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you [Jack]” would he have then felt “called” to be obedient to the command of his Savior to “Go”?

The question really is, for whom who were the words of Jesus written down? The apostles who were the immediate witnesses didn’t need to read what they heard and acted on, dying nearly to a man far away from their homes in obedience to the command of their master to “Go”. So, is the bible just a history of other men’s encounters with God or is it relevant to you? If you say that it is of course, relevant to you, then I caution you that Jesus also said that, “If you love me you, will do what I command” John 14:15

Therefore my conclusion is that if I love him I am compelled by his word to go into all the world. My love for him is my calling. His word is my command. How about you?

What is your bet?

Every day, every moment of every day you make decisions. You evaluate, you choose. Mostly, if not universally, you make your plans and base your judgments on what will benefit you. It is normal and for the most part completely natural. It is not as if what matters to God holds no importance to you. Would you be reading this if God didn’t matter to you? Surely not. And certainly you give to God something of yourself and some of your possessions. And God can’t expect it all, how would you live? And so the natural, albeit unspoken, conclusion which is the basis of all of those daily decisions is; “Me and mine first” [minus perhaps a tithe] and then a portion to God out of your discretionary balance. After all, isn’t it God’s job to bless you? If He really wanted more from you He should have given you more, so that you would have had more left over for charitable pursuits.  So you give God something– because you would feel guilty if you gave Him nothing,– and secretly you blame Him–He could have provided you with more to give. “All He has to do is make those loto numbers come through for me and then…”

But what if you have been wrong? What if giving God your “leftovers” is not what He demands of you. And yes I said “demands” What if He wants it all? What if  He wants to be, not just a consideration in your decisions? What if He wants instead to be the central focus of all that you do, all that you have, and all that you are? What if He wants you to see your life not as yours to live at all, but rather for you to see your life as an extension of His life?  [Question; How did Jesus live the life the Father gave him?]

Do you daily make the bet that what you have done thus far with the new life that you have been given through Christ, is enough to please God? Remember that you what want to hear is, “Welcome good and faithful servant” not “Welcome lukewarm believer” [Question; Is such a “welcome” even possible?]

What is your bet? Do you really believe that a holy God will be interested in the lukewarm leftovers of your busy self centered life? Just think, if you were God, the creator of the universe, if you were the father that had crucified His own son for the sins of men, would you be satisfied with a lack luster devotion from those that had been redeemed by your son’s blood? Do you really think He will say, “Well at least they gave me something of themselves.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out my mouth.”          Rev. 3:15,16

My friend, seek only the narrow road carrying the cross that God has individually prepared in advance, just for you. And remember that the righteous ones, the authentic children of Father God, do not carry a cross for themselves they, like Jesus, carry it for others.  In short, God doesn’t ask for a large part of your life, He demands it all!

All is what He gave to you. Are you betting you can talk Him out of His expectation of receiving all of your life in return? I wouldn’t bet my [eternal] life on it.

What is your “sacred cow” worth?

Bishop Samuel Mkisi from Malawi is currently in America visiting with Dianna and I. At some point we were talking about agriculture in Malawi when Samuel revealed that he used to have eight dairy cows, but now he has three. It turns out that in order for him to get to America he had to sell five of his cows for the plane fare.

The revelation that this humble man of God would part with a large portion of his wealth just to be here at my house stunned and humbled me. I couldn’t help but wonder; how many of us would have sold the majority of our accumulated wealth to go on a mission trip? Before you answer know that Samuel and I had never met, there had been no offers of financial help nor were they even hinted at. Know also that days before Samuel got on the first of many planes that would bring him to me, Samuel’s children were sent home from school because their fees were not paid. Samuel’s church we learned, is made from tree bark and the roof leaks. The new church they are trying to build is only up to the windows, where it has been for years, as they are out of money. But somehow there was room in his one suitcase for large presents for Dianna and me. 

Samuel only knew that the Holy Spirit had told him to go to America to see Steve. And so, in faith and whatever the cost was to himself, his large family, or his church, Samuel followed his personal “Great Commission” to go out into the world, to a place where the Lord led him. Led him to me, and by extension to my family and to my friends. Overwhelmed, and sure that I don’t deserve such consideration, it brings tears to my eyes as I write this to you. 

We have all been humbled to meet Samuel. It makes me examine, what are my “sacred cows” what is so valuable to me, that I would hesitate to “Go”? Would I be as willing, to do as much, give as much, and risk as much, as my new friend Samuel, to follow my old friend, Jesus. Could I be, as Samuel undoubtedly is, as Abraham was, trusted by our Lord, to go to a land that He would show me.

Pastor Andrew’s Church as it is now.

For those who want to see what Pastor Andrew’s church looked like in February when Dianna and I were there check out the YouTube video below.

Notice the lack of windows or doors and just a tarp for a roof. But also notice the joy of the Lord!

Pastor Andrew is a selfless worker and bishop with 30 pastors under him in the Ugandan Elim Fellowship . Pastor Andrew’s church has no floor, no windows, no doors, has a tarp for a roof and is only half the size that it should be!  We have been tasked by God to double the size of Pastor Andrew’s church and finish the structure as it should be. The new church will have a concrete floor, real windows and doors, and yes, a real roof! There is still time to help with this project either through a financial contribution and/or join the team!