Sunday, December 8, 2013

Abundance & Poverty

Woohoo it's Christmas time! Where life is merry and jolly and bright. I'm going to be honest I love the Christmas decorations and songs just as must as the next person. The Lord has brought me to a precious time in my life lately. It's been 6 months since I've been back in America and my time has been a mixed emotion of joy and deep conviction. My mom will probably roll her eyes if she reads this because I've talked to her about it so much, and it just so happens that the Sunday message covered this very conviction. The conviction of just how difficult it is to live in a culture of abundance.

"I believe that God is in control, yes, but I also believe I have a choice: I can follow Him or I can turn my back on Him. I can say yes to Him, or I can say no. I can go to the hard places or I can remain comfortable. And if I remain comfortable, God who loves us unconditionally will continue to love me anyway. I may still see His glory revealed in my life and recognize His blessings, but not like I could have." - Katie Davis

Disobedience plagues our culture, stuff clouds our ability to hear the voice of God. Sure the Lord will still be with us, He will walk with us down the path that we chose, but our disobedience can still cause us to miss out on the incredible life we could have had if we had chosen God's best for us and not our best for us.

I have been called to be a vocational missionary. I know it. I think I've known it for awhile now, but for a time I tried to negotiate with God. I tried to combine my desires with God's desires, a sort of half-obedience if you will..."Well, maybe I could still live in America and just work for a missions organization." "Well, I mean I still want to utilize my education right? I should build up my savings first." "Well, I'll go once I'm married and once I have life figured out (ha! as if that's even possible)." If you've ever hung out with me you have most likely heard me say something like this at some point. I wanted to justify my selfish desires. I wanted to gain the approval of friends and family who want to see me find "success" (whatever that means). I wanted to follow this American dream and timeline that I often feel pressured to follow. I wanted to trust God with the big picture but take the small details into my own hands.

So I had to stop and I had to remember that God is above it all - He's above this timeline I've placed on my life, He's above this American dream, He's even above my friends and family (though you know I love y'all). I first felt called to ministry and missions three years ago when I was humbled to a point of complete surrender. God had brought me to my breaking point. I had fallen away and I was just done. In that place, my humility and brokenness finally opened my mind and body for God's Spirit to enter in and use me.

"Humble yourselves in the Lord's presence. Then He will give you a high position" James 4:10 

I don't think it's any coincidence that God repeatedly chose the most humble and unexpected people to do His work. Moses - a murderer turned lowly shepherd, Jonah - an ordinary fisherman, Mary - a peasant girl, Rahab - a prostitute. God didn't just choose these people to shock everyone (though it did), He chose them because it is in a place of humility that we can come to surrender to God's power and His will and His words and actions which can move mountains through us. I would be weary of a pastor who claims to have it all together - because it's not the prideful that the Lord can equip. Pride acts as one of the greatest barriers to the Holy Spirit. Are you comfortable? Secure? Confident in what you've got to offer? Clap, clap, clap...

Okay that might sound harsh but it's only because I do desperately want others to see that the very things the world applauds are the very things that stand in the way of us experiencing God to the fullest and experiencing HIS best for us! This is a hard world to live in. I know. Scripture warns us of that. We are to expect that. But I believe the things that are tough in the world are not all the things we acknowledge to be tough - like poverty, war, corruption, terrorism... no, even non-believers can see that these things are bad.

No, I believe what is worse are the the things that are not as clearly identified or openly talked about. The very things that keep us spiritually impoverished and separate us from experiencing the fullness of a saving God. Things like envy - staring at a computer and wanting what others have; greed - not just want of fortune but even want of security - 401k, retirement plans, all our money tucked away in savings to keep us secure and safe while millions suffer from malnutrition and limited access to healthcare. We want to save all of our money so we can enjoy long vacations and be worry free. We want to keep OUR right of OUR money, OUR control of OUR money. But it's not our money is it? It's God's money. You know this right? Are you acting as if it's not your own? Or is it mostly going towards things for you? I'm sorry if I seem to be guilt-tripping, but you know what...I am. Because well America needs to be guilt-tripped. You can hold onto your material wealth and experience spiritual poverty OR give your resources for Kingdom work and experience the very heart of God. You choose. But I'm not going to choose to pretend that it's okay. That the abundance of our nation and the spiritual death we're experiencing is okay. Because, well, it's just not.

OKAY, so to extend some grace here I can imagine that if you have been in a place where all you know is comfort of material wealth then I can see how difficult it would be to make a decision to devote more of your finances to Kingdom work and less to personal stuff. I get it. It would be scary. But Scripture says repeatedly "Do not fear." You think God says that to encourage those who are comfortable? That just makes no sense. No, He says it because He knows that His children who truly follow Him will indeed face situations that evoke fear. It's in those places that He meets us. I 100% promise that intimacy with God - I mean a real, all-consuming relationship with Jesus, almost always requires us to sacrifice and to be in a place of discomfort; but IT IS WORTH IT. The half-intimacy with God that we settle for - the lifestyle that we try to compromise, to have both God and the world, both comfort and the blessings of God; will eventually break down our soul, and it's really just not worth it to hold onto things that are guaranteed to fade away. You will miss out on the best God has for you. Oh he'll still met you there, will still love and forgive you by His kindness...but you will miss out.

All that being said, I know that God has again brought me to a place of brokenness and humility to bring me back to the best He has for me. Three years ago I was there, I said "God take it all, use me because I am no good without you." Then slowly I began to justify, I made excuses because of my fears, built up pride that came even in ministry (oh yeah, that happens). Then it all came crashing down and I was reminded of truth. I was brought back to a place of surrender: "God take it all, use me because I am no good without you." Not to say that mission work is the highest calling. I believe God's best for you can be a variety of jobs and fields. Do I believe you must be called to be a vocational missionary? Yes. Do I believe many more are called than are actually going? Yes.

"...Yet you don't know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:14-15

Life is tough. Stuff distracts us. We face envy and pride and want of security - dangers which keep us from spiritual intimacy with the one true God. If God hasn't brought you to a place of complete brokenness to see the things that keep you from His best for you, I pray that He will. I'm going to pray that He allows for circumstances in your life that will bring you to your knees and will help you realize you are nothing without God. That you will be brought to a place where all you want is the best that He has for you - no matter what that means and whatever changes that means for your life. That is the kind of life that will bring God glory, not you, not me, but Him. And that's where the glory belongs.

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