Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Unworthy Friend

I came across this hymn today and couldn’t stop rereading the lyrics. It left me in awe of my Savior…my Lord…my Friend.

Jesus! What A Friend For Sinners!

Jesus! What a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.

The title of this song struck me. So often I think of myself as not good enough, as if I need to clean myself up for Jesus. But, no! Jesus, what a friend for sinners, ie. people who go against God all the stinkin' time! Perfect God being friends with those that go against Him constantly. Knowing how sinful that I would be, He died for me. I cannot look to another human to satisfy me, whether that be a friend or a potential husband. They will fail me. No matter what Hollywood tells me, they will not complete me. Not only will Christ not fail me, but He loves me in my failings.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! What a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

He is so much a part of my life. He has saved me from the punishment that I so deserve. He is a friend who knows the depths of my heart and is faithful to the end. His love for me can’t be described in a poem or love letter. His love for me surpasses all that I can even imagine. His faithfulness shows that He will never leave me.

Jesus! What a Strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my Strength, my victory wins.

Sometimes failing? I’d change that to “often failing”. My weaknesses are so clear to me. I can try to hide them from others but I cannot hide them from God. He knows me so completely. He knows the gifts and talents and also the struggles and temptations. When I rely on my own strength, I think that I can do it when in fact, I can’t. In my weakness, His strength shines through. In my weakness, I can take shelter in Him. Though I feel as though I lose battle after battle, it is through Him that there is ultimate victory.

Jesus! What a Help in sorrow!
While the billows over me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my Comfort, helps my soul.

There is not a doubt that sorrows have come and will continue to. When I feel as though I have cried out every tear and my heart is overwhelmed, I am not alone. No matter how lonely I may feel, the truth is that He is my help and comforter. Oh God, help me rest in that truth.

Jesus! What a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night overtakes me,
He, my Pilot, hears my cry.

My Guide. My Keeper. My Pilot. I love the imagery of this. I heard an illustration talking about how God doesn’t hold the flashlight out showing us 10 steps ahead but instead, holds it right at our feet in order that we only see the next step ahead of us. Each step He guides. Each step we walk by faith. No matter how insane my life feels or how lost I think I am, not only is He present but He is guiding me. He is flying me through the storms, never leaving my side. My problem? I'm in the co-pilot seat trying to tell the pilot where to go and trying to take over the controls. I'm a bad back seat driver.

Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.

Though He knows all of my failings and weaknesses, He chooses to forgive me. Unreal. I don’t deserve it. I can search the world over and try to find a friend like Him but I won’t find it. His faithful love is overwhelming. His personal care is unfathomable. I am His…and He is mine. I am His daughter. He is my Abba.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Hallelujah! What a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thy Brother's Blood Crieth

Years ago, long before God began guiding my heart towards missions, I came across this short story by Amy Carmichael. It broke my heart then and does so every time I reread it. It inspires me to GO. As we begin this journey of discussing short term missions, let us realize that above all, our world desperately needs Christ.  Be inspired. Let's GO.

The tom-toms thumped straight on all night, and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this:

That I stood on a grassy patch, and at my feet a ravine broke straight down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.

Then I saw forms of people moving toward the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very edge. She lifted her foot for the next step... Then, to my horror, I saw that she was blind. Before I could say anything she was over, and the children with her. Their cries pierced the air as they fell into the inky blackness of the ravine!

Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all walked straight toward the edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.

Then I wondered, with a wonder that was sheer agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I couldn't even yell; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come out.

Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals.

But the intervals were too large; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the ravine yawned like the mouth of hell.

Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees with their backs turned towards the ravine. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it was a rather crude noise. And if one of their group started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. "Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! You haven't finished your daisy chain yet. It would be really selfish," they said, "to leave us to finish the work alone."
There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries for miles and miles along the edge.

Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called, and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls. Once a child grabbed at a tuft of grass that grew at the very edge of the ravine; it clung convulsively, and it called - but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which her friends reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; "The gap would be well taken care of!", they said. And then they sang a hymn.

Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew that it was "The Cry of the Blood".

Then a voice thundered. It was the voice of the Lord, and He said, "What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground."
The tom-toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shuddered and shivered about me; I heard the yells of the devil-dancers and weird, wild shrieks of the devil-possessed just outside the gate.

What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it? God forgive us!

God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!

1 John 3:17

Paraphrased by Amy Carmichael

"But whoso hath the gospel of Jesus Christ, and seeth the heathen lost and dying in their sin, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rethinking Short Term Missions: An Introduction

I read this post by Jon Acuff today and remembered that I had mentioned one time that I was going to write a blog about the different mindsets of a short-term and long-term missions (I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seat waiting for it). I’d like to expand that more and talk about short term missions as a whole. This is something that’s been on my heart for awhile. It’s, in fact, something that I’m deeply passionate about.

Allow me to preface this by saying: I am by no means an expert in this area and would never claim to be. I may even be dead wrong in my observations. There are numerous others who have written about this that are far more qualified to talk about this subject and can put it into words better than I can. However, I learned a lot living in Uganda the past two years. I learned what an absolute idiot I was on the short term trips that I had been on before. I was reminded of that by watching other short term trips come to Uganda, being embarrassed/horrified/surprised by the things they did and then realizing how I had done all of those things before.

I’m a big fan of short term trips. God used those trips in my life to bring me to this point now (despite my seriously idiotic moments). If you’ve been able to hear me talk about Uganda in person, you’ve been able to hear how much I encourage people to come and be a part of what God is doing. I encourage these trips…but I think it’s time for some rethinking.

I went to a conference this past October with a local church. I had some great conversations with one of the pastors about short term missions. We talked about the need to revamp these trips. Honestly, his reaction to what I said surprised me. Sometimes I worry that I’m like that person Jon Acuff wrote about. I’ve tried to bite my tongue and not come across as a know-it-all, haughty and/or making blanket statements that may not be true. I don’t think that I have any earth shattering insights. Again, not an expert here. But, for him, it opened his eyes to a different side of missions. It made him rethink how his church does missions. Through that, he’s encouraged me to talk more about this. And, I figure, if this helps spread the name of Christ throughout the world, then let’s do that.

Because, really, that’s what this is all about.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)

How can we make short term trips more effective? Really, the question is: how can we help spread the name of Christ through out all nations?

I’d like to spend a few blog posts on this going over various topics such as:

-       The point of short term trips: why are we even doing these?
-       The pre-trip planning: what can you do before you even get on the plane to prepare?
-       The on-the-field time and how do make that more effective and avoid cultural gaffes.  This is probably where I’ll park for awhile.
-       Oh you know, and more topics that I’ll probably think of along the way. I’ll take topic suggestions too so…suggest and I’ll make something up or give my best answer…or ask trusted missionaries that are wiser than me.

I’m about to embark on a three month travel extravaganza. However, I’m going to really try to keep up with this. Until then, I’d like to point you to one of those people that has already approached this topic and done so excellently. Check her out (and be reminded that she totally stole my title...or I stole hers. Whichever). You just must read her posts on short term missions that she has nicely put on one page here. Seriously, read it. Or, you can wait until I write and will probably use a lot of what she says. Just kidding. Maybe…

Perhaps in rethinking how we "go" we can improve the possibility of "making disciples".

Perhaps those one-two week trips can have an impact long past when the team flies away.

Perhaps we can better "all the nations" for Christ.

Ready for the journey?