Narcissism and the Great Commission

Ebola outbreak. Christian genocide in Iraq. Gaza and Israel. Mark Driscoll and his church Mars Hill removed from the Acts29 network.

My mind is swimming in an overwhelming sea of outrageous news and current events.
What is this world coming to?
What the heck is Obama doing?
Why isn’t the US doing anything?

These seem to be some of the general questions being asked by the many people disturbed about the most recent breaking news. They are rather intense, even scary events that merit our concern. But I also know just how easy it is for us to quickly dismiss these topics, after agreeing on how horrid they are, simply because we are not personally acquainted with them. Interesting, isn’t it, that unless it affects us directly we can easily cast it aside and worry more about things that cause us personal distress like the flu that hijacks our health, stress at work, or the frustration when things in our life are not going as planned.

I just recently read an article by Dr. Albert Mohler addressing Ann Coulter’s most recent opinion piece, “Ebola Doc’s Condition Downgraded to ‘Idiotic.” To put it simply, Ann Coulter is convinced that this missionary doctor, Kent Brantly has foolishly wasted time, effort, and money on mere humanitarian services in a third world country. She believes Dr. Brantly would have had greater, worldwide impact if he would have remained inside the US providing medical healthcare to people in positions of power. She poses this question, “Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?”

From an outside glance that question seems harmless. And I will agree with Ann that in order to see any substantial change, a sure fire way is to start from the top and work your way down. Converting the king will inevitably convert the kingdom.

But Ann Coulter believes that the reason for why some American Christians go on mission trips to disease ridden cesspools is because they’re tired of fighting the culture war in the the United States. Instead, they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works. She then goes on to say, “Christians need to buck up, serve their own country, and remind themselves every day of Christ’s words: ‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.’ There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.”

And this is where I lose any possible concurrence I might have had with Ann and firmly stand with Dr. Albert Mohler as he writes in response, “American evangelical Christians did not come up with the Great Commission because we were frustrated with losses in (against) the culture war. American Christians are not ‘slinking off’ to foreign countries in order to escape the United States; they are going in obedience to the command of Christ.”

My dear friends, your “calling” is of upmost importance. All Christians in all the world have one general calling and purpose: to make disciples. Now I ask you, have you been called? To where have you been called: here or there, to stay or to go? Have you been obedient to that calling?

You may have a special calling to be a doctor or to be a teacher, but that is merely the means to help you fulfill God’s very specific call of making disciples. Are you burdened by the Great Commission, are you driven by God’s extremely personal command on your life?

I believe that any Christian that is not impassioned by their calling to the Great Commission is found quite guilty of narcissism.

If Ebola, the genocide in Iraq, Gaza, Mark Drischoll, and former mega pastor Bob Coy’s moral failure do not aggressively motivate christians all the more to advance the gospel and make disciples, then that, my friends, is narcissism at its finest.

Our Restless Hearts

A stunning view, an ocean breeze, and a Hindu altar can mean only one thing: we are in Bali. And as if it wasn’t good enough to just be in Bali, my in-laws (or “Chief” and “Duckie” as my children call them) have come from the other side of the world just to be with us here.

Greg, the boys, and I arrived here two weeks ago. Our first week was filled with company meetings, but the second week was purely relaxation and restoration with our beloved Chief and Duckie. How welcomed this week has been after 9 months of pressing hard in learning language.

We’ve rented a lovely coastal house and just happen to be sitting in plush bean bag chairs under the outside gazebo surrounded by beauty on every side. Chief just got up to make his famous coffee for the 5th time today. And his coffee is quite famous in this family, famous for its strong bitterness. That stuff is so strong it’ll grow hair on your chest. And I have absolutely no interest in that. Word to the wise: drink with caution or TONS of cream.

Duckie just brought out what’s left of my 28th birthday cake for our late afternoon snack. Outside of wishing my own family here, there is nothing more that I could ask for, that is of course, outside of Pull & Peel twizzlers or a Heath Bar. My heart is full.

What is most amazing, even scary, is that in a moment like this when my heart is full my spirit is still found wanting. There is something deep within me that remains in a state of unrest. In the secret recesses of my being I have an insatiable yearning that I can’t seem to satisfy. I have incredible blessing upon blessing in the palms of my hands yet I live with this sense of unfulfilled longing.

“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” St. Augustine of Hippo

Truly my soul is unsatisfied because it craves to be with that which it was made for and that which it was meant for: for God Almighty. And until the moment I am united with Him face to face my soul will continue to groan with longing.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:19,23

The challenge is trying not to fill my hungry spirit with lesser things like hopes or dreams, ideas or ideals. Because achieving our language goal, finally settling into a home, nesting, having enough money, planning the next vacation, or trying for a baby girl seems like pretty satisfying options for my forever groaning heart. And in no way am I saying those things are wrong, just empty if I am hoping to find complete satisfaction in them.

Each beautiful gift we receive from God is precious in its season. But that’s just it, they last only a season. Everything this side of heaven is temporal; life is but a breath, time is but a moment. Today is bliss, but tomorrow may usher in sorrow, and when sorrow rolls in, waves of doubt and faithlessness tend to accompany our woes.

I believe; help my unbelief! Mark 9:24

But glory to God that when we are faithless, He still remains faithful. Let that grace and truth wash over us. Let us satisfy our souls with God himself in Christ Jesus through intimate fellowship with His Spirit who dwells within us. For God alone quenches us like an overflowing spring of water welled up within our dry and weary being.

The Darkest Night

It’s after 10pm as I write this, Greg’s been out for the past 6 hours and our power has been out for the last 3 hours. I’m not sure why the power went out except that maybe the foreign music and a foreign voice currently blaring over loud speakers for some kind of party that’s unfortunately reverberating through my dark and quiet home blew out everyone’s power but their own. What’s more unfortunate is that I don’t think our power is coming back on until sometime tomorrow morn. Just another reminder that I don’t live in America.

Three hours ago Max (almost 4), Charlie (2 and a half) and I were flying our paper airplanes through the house when everything went dark. And I mean I can’t see my hand 2 inches from my face kind of dark. I happened to be standing next to our front door so I quickly opened it expecting the moonlight to spill in but nothing appeared. Hmm, must be cloudy or smoggy out tonight.

As insignificant as this may seem, not two hours earlier I was helping Max look for a toy when I happened to find our only flashlight, which went missing months ago, hidden underneath the boys’ dresser. I grabbed it and put it in my husband’s little wooden box atop our dresser and went back about my business of locating this little toy Max was begging me to find. So sweet to me the thought of God’s love towards me that He orchestrated this incident of finding the flashlight to prepare me for tonight. I’m still in wonder over the fact that God was in this little detail.

At this point Charlie was getting hysterical, my little Max stayed calm the entire time. Man, what a little stud. My brain managed to stay calm enough to think clearly probably because I’m a mom now (but that definitely wasn’t the case pre children). I grabbed both boys’ hands and I walked them to my bedroom and then to the dresser. Relief flooded over Charlie, and, truth be told, came over me as well. I don’t like complete darkness. I suppose it would have eventually dawned on me at some point to retrieve the boys iPad from their bedroom to use as a source of light.

Interestingly enough, I was studying with my language teacher earlier today and we were discussing Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want….”. He asked me if I’ve ever experienced the “valley” of darkness or the “valley of the shadow of death”. I paused to think for a moment. How could I explain to him all the valleys of darkness I had been through since we have two major barriers separating us from fully understanding each other: language and culture. Would he be able to make sense of my broken Indonesian along with my very different upbringing and way of life?

I wasn’t sure where to start so I just I began my best to try and explain how I have had a tendency with every one of my pregnancies to sink into a depression for the duration of my first trimester. My body would become ill, my motivation would wane, and my soul would become dark. I’d have no interest in reading the bible so wouldn’t and then I’d be eaten up by guilt. Hope seemed to slip away from me and I would literally be such a mess for Greg.

That seemed so benign as I was explaining that to my teacher so from there I jumped into the story of my childhood. I told him how my 3 sisters and I were raised by our single mother. Our mom only worked part time so that she could be home with us after school. That meant we didn’t have much money, we didn’t have much food, sometimes our power would go out if the bills weren’t payed, but all those times God was always with us providing for all our needs so that we were never in want-even by bringing a new father into our lives some years later.

And even this still seems so small compared to the loss others have faced greater than my own. I just met a woman whose 2 year old daughter has leukemia. I have a friend who was molested by her own grandfather, My brother-in-law had to live with his grandparents growing up because neither of his own parents were fit to nor wanted to care for him. My sister-in-law lost her dear father to cancer.

So many different happenings carry our souls into the darkest of nights. All hope seems to slip away as the sun sinks below the clouded horizon. The moonlight and twinkling stars are hidden away by the black clouds. Our sorrows descend like rain. Thunder begins to rumble and we are overcome with doubt and despair.

Darkness presses in on every side of us, but God has not left us alone. Lightning breaks forth across the sky and He makes his presence known. He is the LIGHT and He shines in the darkness and the darkness CANNOT overcome Him.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)

In our darkest hours God enables us to see His glory like the crack of a lightning bolt, if only for a moment, that we may behold Him who pierces the darkness, and that our hope may be restored.

Be anchored in the truth that God is not far off but right here with you. Praise Him whether or not you can find a reason until you see Him flash His glory across your dark sky then let that revive your hope and trust in Him for today.

It’s 4:30am and our power has just turned back on!

Motherhood

Preciousness awoke at the early morning sounds
and asked me for a bowl of cereal that drove away my tired frown.

Stubbornness opposed me with the quickest little feet
my attempt to clean the soiled tushy to anywhere they could retreat.

Beauty smiled at me with a grin from ear to ear
as we played and raced together such games that brought great cheer.

Sadness looked up at me with eyes so big and full of pain
Too swift the feet, now skinned knees, and tears that cannot be contained.

Disobedience dared defy my rule of calm down or clean up your mess
Rebellion which does not yet grasp the sin within that does progress.

Peace overcame me as I watched contrition fill the little soul
One day, I pray, they will follow Jesus who can make them whole.

Love filled me with joy so great as I was snuggled, hugged, and kissed
by the sweetest little treasures in all the world that ever did exist.

For my boys Maxwell, Charles, and Oliver.

The Whispers of God’s Call

Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, Adoniram Judson, Lottie Moon, Amy Carmichael. You may or may not be familiar with any or all of these names, but they do all have one common bond: obedience to a calling. They traversed to the ends of the earth with great fervor driven by a, “passionate passion for souls, a pity that yearns, a love that loves unto death, a fire that burns, a pure prayed-power that prevails, that pours itself out for the lost. [With] Victorious prayer, in the Conqueror’s Name, Oh, for a Pentecost.” (Amy Carmichael)

Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) lived in India for 55 years dedicating her life to reaching the Indians and never once returned back to her home. She received a letter one time from a young lady who was considering life overseas. She asked, “What is life like overseas?” Carmichael wrote back saying,

“This kind of life is simply a chance to die.”

What strength, what trust she had in God Almighty, and what love she had for the Indian people. It is stories like this that strengthen this, so often, weak soul of mine. Some days are harder than others, some days a pure joy. Three days ago I was overwhelmed with excitement and gladness because of an opportunity to share Jesus with my friend in the local language. Today I wanted to imagine that I was returning back to the States.

So many of us equate this kind of life overseas with sacrifice. And many times it is. But much more so for those being converted. Martyrdom happens, especially in difficult and volatile places, but most often one is more likely to be deported than to be killed. I’ve left my american comforts and my beloved family, but those who are coming to faith are losing spouses, children, fathers and mothers, jobs, homes, their livelihood, even their life. I’ve got iPhones and iPads with FaceTime and Skype, I haven’t sacrificed anything nearly close to these precious brothers and sisters of a different race and country.

The comforts and enticements of my homeland calls to me, but oh may the whispers of God’s call in Asia be stronger!

“I want my breakfast served at eight, with ham and eggs upon my plate; a well-broiled steak I’ll eat at one, and dine again when day is done. I want an ultramodern home. And in each room a telephone; soft carpets, too, upon the floors, and pretty drapes to grace the doors. A cozy place of lovely things, like easy chairs with inner springs, and then I’ll get a small TV – Of course, ‘I’m careful’ what I see. I want my wardrobe, too, to be of neatest, finest quality, with latest style in suit and vest: why should not Christians have the best? But then the Master I can hear in no uncertain voice, so clear: ‘I bid you come and follow Me, the lowly Man of Galilee. Birds of the air have made their nest, And foxes in their holes find rest, but I can offer you no bed; no place have I to lay My head.’ In shame, I hung my head and cried. How could I spurn the Crucified? Could I forget the way He went. The sleepless nights in prayer He spent? For forty days without a bite, alone He fasted day and night; despised, rejected – on He went, and did not stop till veil He rent. A man of sorrows and of grief, no earthly friend to bring relief; ‘Smitten of God,’ the prophet said, ‘Mocked, beaten, bruised, His blood ran red.’ If He be God, and died for me, no sacrifice too great can be for me, a mortal man, to make; I’ll do it all for Jesus’ sake. yes, I will tread the path He trod, no other way will please my God; so, henceforth, this my choice shall be, my choice for all eternity.”

                                             – William “Smiling Bill” McChesney (age 28; 5′ 2″; 110 lb.; single M to the Congo; he was shoved into a truck by Simba rebels, stripped and mercilessly beaten by soldiers while suffering from malaria, imprisoned in a small cell with 40 other prisoners, he was turned over to a rioting mob armed with clubs and fists who struck him down, dead. The world was not worthy of him.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Plank In My Eye

This is quite a difficult post to write; I really have no idea where to start. I like to draw people in with something that captures their attention on the outset, but I’ve come up short. It is my heart to write about some of the things God teaches me and it is my hope to encourage other souls who read it.

Here is usually how it goes. First, I struggle; then comes discouragement; soon after I wrestle; followed by anger. I get so low until I can’t possibly pick myself up, and then comes God. Truly He is there the whole time but I would rather push Him away. Now He raises me up and speaks words of grace over me. After I am covered in His grace He speaks words of truth into my soul and my parched soul becomes refreshed.

Glorious God has made himself known to me, through His Spirit, in the midst of my storm. I went from being in the lowest valley to highest mountain peak. Joy is now my middle name.

And then I slowly begin to sink back down. Maybe with some new difficulty that blindsides me, or maybe just the same thing I initially struggled with because I’m just me and not the saint I think I am. I have never made a mistake once and learned from it. I unfortunately seem to make the same mistake over and over.

I have not arrived and every blog post is not written after a victory over sin. It is only just an exhortation and a cheering on. Forgive me for this long introduction. Follow me now to the theme of this post.

I must dispel any kind thoughts of me. Having lived in Indonesia now for 6 months, God is teaching me not to have a critical spirit. I have eagle-eyes in finding faults in others but have blind eyes in finding the blunder in myself. Don’t be surprised, for there are plenty of opportunities here to nurture a spirit of condemnation. At the root of it most times is pride, sometimes selfishness, other times something else just as ugly.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Matt 7:3

Here lies the core of my wrestling: how the heck do I get this giant 2×4 out of my face? I’ve determined that the answer is quite simple, even elementary.

Jesus.

Over and over throughout the gospels Jesus always had compassion. Sometimes He was direct, especially with the Pharisees, but never once did He criticize his disciples, not even Judas. To the woman caught in the middle of a repulsive sin He said, “Neither do I condemn you”. To the crowds who relentlessly followed Him for 3 days He was moved to compassion to feed them lest they faint on their way home. To the same crowds He cried out, “Father forgive them” when they willingly crucified Him.

Jesus is the model and grace is His method. We must earnestly pray that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead would dislodge the massive plank of wood from our eye and replace it with grace. Then can compassion abound and grace be demonstrated to each other.