Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Do You Navigate?

This week has not been a normal team week for me. Usually when there is a team here, I am with them all of the time. I eat with them, work with them and drive them where they are going. This week started with me being separate from them for the first two days during their work time. Monday, I needed to take Patricia and her friend Joan to Zapote. they needed to visit our projects along with the Church and school and I had a couple of small projects to complete there. Tuesday, I needed to take Joan to the airport while they were out working in Membrillal.Both of these days had me driving more than working but I am here to do whatever they need.

While I was driving, I was thinking about how navigating here is different than at home. In Illinois, most of our roads and city streets are laid out on a grid.Navigation is usually pretty straightforward and does not require a lot of thought. Here, nothing is straight. I am often a landmark navigator. I turn at this building. I need to be in the right lane when I go past this spot to be prepared for the lane split ahead. Often, I determine my position by where I am in relation to a certain volcano or mountain. 

Yesterday there was a detour on the highway. The detour is actually the route that I usually take but because the main road was closed there was long delays. Because of the delays, I decided to take a route that I did not know. I knew that the Agua Volcano was south of Antigua and that I needed to go east until I was almost past it and hen go north. As we went through narrow streets in towns that I was not familiar with, I questioned my decisions several times until I started seeing familiar things. Even though I was not sure exactly where I was, I kept following the things I knew. After about 15 minutes, the same amount of time it would have taken without a detour, I would up where I thought I would.

This led me to ask: How does God lead me as I navigate through life? Is His word stored away so that I can call it up at the time I need it for a particular situation? Have I spent focused quiet time becoming familiar with the still small voice that the Holy Spirit usually uses?  Am I familiar enough with the way that I think to know the difference between my thoughts and Spirit inspired thinking? How many ways have I allowed God to develop in me so that I can discern where He is leading?

Just like I need to learn different ways of navigation that require different skills in Illinois and Guatemala, I need to allow God to develop different skills of discerning His will in me. Knowing and understanding Scripture is important. It is the basis for all discernment. Without sound Biblical understanding, we cannot trust anything else that we may here. We need to develop good Biblical knowledge just like we need to study a map before we go to a place and get lost. We also need to learn to distinguish the Holy Spirit speaking to us in thought, song, audible voice, impression or through others. If we do not learn and allow God to develop these things in us, we will frequently be wandering around trying to figure out the next step in life. If we develop these things, we can confidently take just the step that is in front of us at the moment, knowing that God will give us what we need after that when it is time. We no longer need to stress. We can rest in the leading of God and continue on until He tells us it is time to turn.

How are you navigating life today?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Lost World

Lately, I have been asking why there is so much work going into the proclamation of the Gospel and yet there is often little fruit. The Good News of the Kingdom of God should transform everything that it touches. There is no better word than that Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost. Not only that but He came bringing a Spirit of adoption so we could be restored to our rightful place as children of God. It seems like our societies are not only not being transformed but they are becoming more openly hostile to this Good News. Are we doing something wrong?

The first thing that came to me is that we are not pursuing unity. I am often comfortable with Christians that agree with me but have little fellowship with those who come from a different tradition or understanding than me. I tend to hold to what I have been taught and cling to the limited revelation that I have without allowing myself to see that others may have a different understanding of something than me and they may be the one that is right. I am not advocating abandoning truth but rather being open to the idea that God may not reveal all truth to any one person or group. Someone else may be given a revelation of something that I may not have received. If I don't acknowledge, honor and learn from them, I will have a more limited view of the truth of God. He created us to need one another.

You might ask how this hinders our proclamation of the Gospel. First,they see us as hypocrites and phonies. Because we do not work together in spite of our differences, They believe we are not following the one true God. The rift that exists because of our different understandings keeps the world from seeing past us to the see the God we serve. When the disciples approached Jesus about those who were speaking about Him but were not with them, Jesus said that whoever was not against Him was for Him. How could they speak against Him if they were doing miracles in His name. We need to adopt this attitude in the body. Even if someone is not in our fellowship or tradition, we need to publicly bless them because there is One Lord over all of us.

Secondly, they do not see love from us toward our brothers and sisters when we do not get past our differences to proclaim His truth corporately. When we look for reasons to be divided, the lost world will pick up on  that. They already experience enough separation and rejection. Why would they want to be part of a body that claims to love Jesus yet cannot get along with one another. The world has enough strife without the Church adding to it. This theme is repeated in almost every chapter of 1 John. We need to take it to heart.

The other thing that has really struck me is how devoid of emotion much of my Christian walk is. I know the truth of God on an intellectual level. I study His word and know that it is true but I am unwilling to let my senses be overwhelmed by His majesty, glory, might, beauty or even terror. God is so much more than my finite mind can comprehend but yet He wants me to experience Him fully. Emotions and senses are to be as much a part of our Christian walk as intellect. His Spirit in me wants to work through all of these areas. How can God possess all of me if I do not allow these things to be involved in my walk with Him. The world needs to hear truth but they also need to see people overwhelmed by the bigness of God and not ashamed to let it be seen. Surrendering all of me means that God gets to reveal Himself to the world through every aspect of the life He has given me. 

We are between teams this week and this is what I have been thinking about the last few days. I have started to write this a few times but have to start over because I realized that my tone was one of accusation and that is the exact opposite of my desire. If you read this and you feel accused, I pray that you will know it is not my intention. What I am writing is born out of a conviction that God has placed in me over the last few days and months. If this causes you to question, I hope you do not feel condemned but rather, you come away with a feeling of hope for where God is leading.

Together as one in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hard Work

There are many things that people think of when they think of missions. Often you have an image of sharing the Gospel through a translator, doing music and skits, preaching, and other similar things. These are part of missions, a very important part. What is overlooked though is that there are a lot of other things that go into missions that are just hard work or maybe a lot of down time.

Over the course of the last week, I have spend several days working in a town where the temperature flirts with the 100 degree mark daily, torn down a roach infested house, built two new houses, made 3 trips to the airport and one to the emergency room with a sick team member and spent a day in Antigua waiting while team members shopped in a market that I have been to countless times. These are all part of an ordinary week. sometimes, the only time that I share the Gospel is in conversations that I have with team members.

You might ask why those things are important or why am I wasting so much time with such little impact. The answer is because a lot goes into to preparing the way for the Gospel to be shared. Sometimes you have to build trust with people so that they will listen to what you have to say. Other times, people want to know that you love them before you can have any influence in their lives. You always have to help the people look after the people that come to help you out. None of these things is what you typically think of when the word missions is said.

Just like everything in life, missions is suppose to be about bringing glory to God above all and secondarily about helping Him bring people into His kingdom. If my goal is to accomplish a certain task, I will be frustrated often. My goal has become to ask God to show me how to do everything for His glory and to do it in a way that allows people to see Him in me. I am sometimes tired, sore, or bored but I have learned that I can have joy in the midst of it all. My job is to position myself in a place that Jesus can work through me. Do the things He gives me to do without complaining and do it to the best of my ability. If I can keep my eyes focused on Jesus, anything I do will build His kingdom.