Because He First Loved Us…

IMG_1064

IMG_1360

IMG_1494Remember those faces?

You got on a plane in a big Pennsylvania airport and landed hours later in a tiny Belize airport (maybe with a stop in between?), bags loaded with clothes and games and VBS curriculum… hearts ready to embrace whatever God brought your way.

A few adults and a some crazy kids greeted you as you walked out of the building into the oppressive heat and humidity.  The kids smothered you with hugs and touched your bags and gave big smiles.  Two little girls ran circles around you in their effort to make me chase them.  Then around came the big school bus, and we all loaded up and started the long drive back to the base.

You remember, don’t you?  The heat, the sweat, the kids, the excitement, the stories and laughter and singing and dancing.  Meals together in the dining room and basketball games on the concrete slab.  A VBS program that shared the Name of Jesus with a hundred kids and late night games in the empty church.

I remember.  I remember picking you all up at the airport and talking with two of your girls on our way back, quickly realizing that your team was tight and the love was thick.  I remember laughing at your stories and asking question after question to try to get to know you all better.  I remember watching and hearing about the progress you made on both houses — the one painted and the one constructed, and the sheer joy each of you emanated as you served another.  I remember the trips to get ice cream, smiling as everyone got used to riding “Belize-style” (aka: in the beds of a couple pickups).  I remember dedicating the house and praying over another sweet family as you handed them the keys and watched their faces burst with happiness.

I am sitting here reading over the notes you wrote me and left in the paper bag.  I’ve read them many, many times and can’t finish without damp eyes.  You each blessed me, and I’m so grateful.  And I realize not all of you are going back to Belize this year {sixteen days!!}.  But for those of you who are…

Be.  Be open, be ready.  Be real; love on the kids and give them the [disciplined] attention they need.  Be encouraged, and be encouragement.  Be faithful in the little and the much; be willing to do what God asks of you.  Be listening to what He has to say.  Be watchful for all that He is doing; find Him and jump in.

Short-term missions is difficult.  The relationships you build in a week may not be able to be sustained beyond your departure — and that hurts.  So find the things that really last, and do them.  Say them.  Meet people where they are, see them as humans, help them where they need it and allow them to help you.

You probably know the verses:  “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).  That’s it.  Love on people.  Love Jesus, and let that love shine through.  Fit in to the people and the culture and the setting as seamlessly as you can, and just be.  Soak it up, pour it out.

I love you and can’t wait to hear your stories.  (Just maybe not the super gross ones.  Haha.)

Worship: We See God Too Small

Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
Psalm 34:4

Worship rises or falls in any church altogether depending upon the attitude we take toward God, whether we see God big or whether we see Him little. Most of us see God too small; our God is too little. David said, “O magnify the Lord with me,” and “magnify” doesn’t mean to make God big. You can’t make God big. But you can see Him big.

Worship, I say, rises or falls with our concept of God; that is why I do not believe in these half converted cowboys who call God the Man Upstairs. I do not think they worship at all because their concept of God is unworthy of God and unworthy of them. And if there is one terrible disease in the Church of Christ, it is that we do not see God as great as He is. We’re too familiar with God.

*Taken from A. W. Tozer’s Worship: The Missing Jewel, 21.

When Satan Needs a Stomping…John 10:10

“Too many of us try to discharge our obligations to God Almighty in one day—usually one trip to church.  Sometimes, nobly, we make it two trips to church, but it’s all on the same day when we have nothing else to do—and that’s supposed to be worship.  I grant you, sir, that it can be true worship, provided that on Monday and Tuesday and the other days you also experience the blessings of true worship.
I do not say that you must be at church all of the time—how could you be?

You can worship God at your desk, on an elevated train, or driving in traffic.  You can worship God washing dishes or ironing clothes.  You can worship God in school, on the basketball court.  You can worship God in whatever is legitimate and right and good.”   -A.W. Tozer

God’s timing is perfect.  The past few months have been busy and tiring, and I’ve found that sometimes my place of worship is only church on Sunday mornings.  Actually, that’s not even completely true — I work at the church during the first service, and often head home as the second service starts so that I can have some “down time” before the craziness begins all over again on Monday.

I’m not particularly proud of that.  I know that God wants me in fellowship with other believers, worshiping and learning with them.  We’re a community, and it’s a lot about unity, after all.

The above quote came to my inbox a couple days ago and has meshed wonderfully with all that the Lord has been telling me lately.  While I need the worship and fellowship on Sunday mornings, I need to be worshiping every day.  I need to be in constant communion with my Father and, as Tozer said, “experience the blessings of true worship.”

Over time, I certainly have gotten better at worshiping throughout the week.  Talking with Jesus, listening to the Spirit, stopping to look up a Scripture verse… I want to be able to say that when I’m not communicating with a human, I’m communicating with the Lord.  And even if I’m communicating with a human, I can be communicating with the Lord.

Obviously Satan doesn’t like any of that.  He doesn’t want us to worship every day of the week, to say “I need Thee every hour.”  One of his most clever tactics is busyness.  He uses it on me all the time, but I think he’s in for it now because of what God has been revealing to me.

Let me clarify, first: busyness is not inherently bad.  And work certainly is not bad.  God tells us to work, and not to be lazy.  The busyness I’m talking about is the busyness that is all-consuming.  The busyness that won’t let you sleep at night, that brings continual stress and anxiety, that leaves no time for flexibility or some spur-of-the-moment decisions.  The busyness that binds you.

Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  And he uses busyness to do it.  He’ll steal your time, kill your passion, destroy your joy.  He’ll steal your resources, kill your love, and destroy your family.  It happens; you’ve probably seen him do it more than once.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.  He wants us to be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks for everything.  We can have and do those things amidst every season, surely.  He wants us to enjoy life.

There is a balance.  I haven’t yet found it, but God will get me there.  He wants us to work hard and not be lazy, but He also wants us to relax and always be at peace.  He gave us this world so that we could enjoy it.  I realized that I’ve been working and stressing so much that I haven’t enjoyed it.  And people have told me that I can still enjoy work and release the stress — and that’s true.  But I need to loosen up overall for that to happen; meaning that simply continuing in what I’m doing and trying to adjust my attitude is not going to cut it.  Satan can get me far too easily that way.

Earlier this week I found a fabulous idea:

http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/summer-solstice-microadventure-challenge/

I have asked two of my friends to join me, so I will likely be doing it twice within the next couple months.  I’m stoked.  And I see that it’s little things like this, getting away or just doing something different and fun, that will make a difference.  I’m trusting that as I work to enjoy life and maintain a balance, I’ll experience the blessings of the worship with my Father and draw closer and closer to Him.

I pray you can learn from what God has taught me.  And if there are pieces I haven’t mentioned that the Lord has taught you, would you share them?  We serve a mighty and loving God.

P.S.  I am hoping to take pictures and document my microadventure(s).  Stay tuned.  :)