Thursday, January 16, 2014

On the Day I Committed These Feet to Go Anywhere

By the fourth day, my brain seemed to have reached its capacity. I was sure I couldn't possibly pack away one more page of notes to take home and soak in. The room was packed full and my hair was in a ponytail. I went for a run during the lunch break that day, just begging the Lord for several miles to allow this flood to sink in. I asked Him to just show me what in the world all of this means for me?

Going into this missions conference, I knew very well what would likely happen. God would stir up my love for the nations and it would boil over with me boarding an airplane and heading off to the next place where people need to hear, tomorrow preferably. And surely, I wouldn't come back. I knew it would lead to my withdrawal from nursing school and an early termination of my lease. The night before the conference, I cried at the thought of giving up my little dog.

For about three years now, I believe God has been moving my heart towards the nations.

Opening up the conference, Piper asked "Is it God's worth or man's rescue driving you here? God's glory or man's soul?" He explained that the catechism should use the word IN instead of AND. That the chief end of missions should be the supremacy of God IN the joy of all peoples," as he re-phrased it. "And becomes in because you dare not choose between the two," he concluded.

And it opened up an area of my heart that I didn't know existed.

It's always been about the souls for me. It's been about faces and names and hell forever. Or not. A simple choice between life and death, one that I knew about. One that I needed to tell about, in hopes that a life might be spared eternally. And it's legitimate, of course. And yet, it has been much more dependent upon me then the Lord. Me needing to go, me needing to speak the language, me needing to give up a whole lot, me needing to win over the souls to avoid everlasting death for that smiling face which I had come to love.

But that's not really accurate. It's so much bigger. And it's nothing of me.

As one South African pastor shared, "The big problem here isn't translation of bibles. The problem is the wrath of God against us." Or as Kevin DeYoung said, "People who haven't heard the gospel ever, aren't condemned because God is bad...they're only condemned because they're sinners and the wrath of God wrests on them."

I don't often enough praise Jesus for standing between me and the wrath of an almighty God (that I deserve). And I offer freedom from sin in the gospel conversations I get to have, but often neglect discussion of his wrath upon that individual apart from the intervening of Christ.

I had never experienced a particular draw to the 6,000 unreached people groups in this world prior to this conference. But as God continues, even now, to guide me, I can honestly say I would go anywhere for Him.

"...I make my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, but as it is already written, 'Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand...'" (Rom. 15:18-25)

Is it me wanting to save the world or God's glory? 

The speakers continued to bring up areas of Calvinism that might detour us away from missions. Some might think "well, if God has already chosen who will be saved and who will not, what's the point of going to share the gospel?"

But then I ask, why would you go UNLESS some HAD been chosen by God? 

Kevin DeYoung put it best in saying, "Election gives you confidence in the sufficiency of God to do the work. Definite atonement is in fact better news for bigger glory!"

Man's rescue or God's worth?

And then the Lord began to tie some strands together for me. These people, these men and women are out there. Right now. Set apart before they were born! And if I trusted Him to save ME, then how could I not trust Him to lead me? Even if it means resting in the great commission...

"And the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matt 24:14)

David Platt concluded the conference on the last night. He commented that there are two billion people whose knowledge of God is only sufficient to damn them to hell. They've never heard of Jesus, Savior. He walked through Acts 13 talking about Paul's missionary journeys. He reminded us of the importance of a home body of supporters, the value of the goers, and the promises of God that alone sustain the stayers. He showed a map of the reached areas on each of Paul's journeys. And then one of modern day. The impact of this one man, hundreds of years later is unreal.

I thought right away, Lord just make me like Paul.

But then I remembered what Paul says to the church at Corinth for example, "When I came to you brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you expect Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

And it was sitting in this dark room with thousands of my peers, as Romans one to eight was being read off, and God was speaking to me, that I knew undoubtedly for the first time that His glory was driving me to commit my life to making the gospel known, wherever.

So at the end of the hour, as he had promised in the opening, Platt asked anyone in the room who knew God had begun this work in their hearts to be a stayer overseas to stand up. There was no hesitation for me. I stood with a few hundred others and was prayed over, encouraged, and challenged to go back to my church family and share what God was doing.

This past Sunday I got to stand up before my church family. They prayed and we worshipped. I praise Jesus for these people. The way they come around me and intercede on my behalf. The excitement they have shared in getting to send me. It is such a gift.

I pray that one day I can share with some college student contemplating God's calling of them to the mission field, of all the glory he has received as He's allowed me to spend years knowing nothing but Him wherever He might send me.

"So even to old age and gray hairs, O God do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come!" (Ps. 71:18)

God used these four days at CrossCon to solidify that working which only His holy spirit could muster, and I am so thankful. And don't worry, I'm not leaving tomorrow. And Winston isn't up for grabs just yet either.
After the final night, exhausted and thankful

I never, ever would have imagined I would get the privilege of saying yes. I never planned it out. I never even dreamed it. He is just doing it. And all I can do is trust His leading and promise Him I'll follow Him anywhere for the sake of such glory which belongs to Him anyway.

I've loved Jesus for seven years now. But I don't think it is until now that I have really counted death gain. (Phil. 1:21) And it is setting me free from fear of anything. He is what I want. It's ALL grace.

Though most of my Arkansas family has gotten to share in this excitement, I wanted to share with the rest of my friends and family as well!

So practically, what does this look like? For me, right now--it looks like a whole lotta studying and a whole lotta long hours in the hospital learning how to be a nurse. The Lord used five different people in four days to confirm the desire He gave me to pursue my nursing degree. I am praying that if the Lord would lead me to a closed country, the nursing degree will be my ticket in. I am also trusting that He could allow me to use it to sustain myself financially overseas in the future. And lastly, that such studying and acquired skills would be a blessing to any people group He leads me to. And of course, precious time to share the gospel while stitching up wounds!  

Please join me in praying three things:
1.)  That He would provide an awesome, bible-teaching, missions-minded church in St. Louis where I can plug in, be equipped, and eventually sent!
2.)  That as some of this "high" fades and day-to-day life kicks in, I would continue to find great joy in His presence.
3.) That as my time in Arkansas comes to a close, I would get spirit-led opportunities to continue sharing in Jesus and relationships with my international friends--and that I would be able to leave well.

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed  And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Rom. 10:14-15)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On Level Ground & My Dad

I saw him this Christmas and it never became this big deal. It's been a couple years since we've stepped into a room together and I am not the same. He's been sober for awhile now and for that I do rejoice (after I question that this could really be true, of course).

A few people have asked lately, so I started to think about it.

I don't really think about him much anymore, my dad that is. Sometimes I will wonder about all the could haves and would haves long lost. I catch myself dreaming up the past all pretty and perfect. I stop myself  because it's a silly waste of a future, I think. And more often I dream of my wedding day, but it is never him there beside me.

And it's okay. 

God has made Himself known to me. We're walking this thing out and my eyes don't see Him so skewed any more. He has offered up a handful of faithful fatherly figures who take great intention with my life, and I know the love more today then I ever have. And I need it less. What grace, ya'll. What unfathomable grace. 

It's okay to be free, right? To not doubt or fear or condemn?

Because over these years, I pictured this dramatic slow-mo scene of me running into his arms. I think there were daisies too. And green grass. And the sun, the blue sky of course. But in reality, it was frigid and dark outside as I wondered up the sidewalk with an armload of presents. It was Christmas Eve and the whole fam was gathered. I didn't see him at first. And he didn't rush right in for an embrace.

I got situated and then made the rounds. I hugged him and he trailed behind much of the night, asking for glimpses into what has been my life and where it is headed. It got a bit frustrating at one point, so I plopped down between sisters on the couch and soaked it all up.

Here we are celebrating this God birthed into flesh and knowing Him more greatly then the father of my own flesh had indeed set me free. Glory to God alone, for He really has molded my heart to love and trust Him most. And in the process, He's put pieces once shattered back together. He has redeemed.  He still is!

This has just been a season of level ground concerning these daddy issues and I don't quite know what to do with it. The past decade or so has certainly been a roller coaster of mountains so high and valleys so deep. Straight and narrow suddenly doesn't seem nearly as enticing. 

Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path.

That's been a life verse that's finally taking on flesh and I'm praying for joy to follow. He promises it will in Him. 

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

We wrestle in these completely unbearable (apart from that little detail of grace) and unfair circumstances, and we claim He is fighting and our faith becomes our eyes and its the hardest thing ever but we put one foot in front of the other and claim the victory. Some days thats enough. Others we wallow and wait and beg Jesus to show Himself and whisk us away already. These last years have brought majority of the latter.

Today, I am thankful for a Lord who redeems and repairs and makes me new--and for level ground.

And a brief side note---I am so incredibly thankful for and blessed by my brothers (and bro-in-law) who have sought after, confronted, directed, cared for and loved the heck outa our dad through these past several years. What a sweet blessing from the Lord that He would position these men to intercede for me and bear the brunt of the burden of our dad for me (and my sister) as I just needed time and space--and Jesus.

And by His grace, they actually showed me all three.

In Him alone is great joy found.