by Shelby Rhea
Waiting. No one likes it; waiting in line, waiting for a delivery, waiting in traffic… it’s perfectly packaged in a negative connotation with a big bow of annoyance on top. In this perfectly impatient world, we find waiting a waste of time; that if everything was planned out perfectly, our lives would be more efficient.
But have you ever thought of waiting as a blessing?
Before this summer, I belonged to the collective “we” against waiting. I expected answers in a timely matter otherwise I’d force the answers I wanted to hear. However, God truly revolutionized my heart and altered my perspective – here’s how:
Within a week or two of returning home from Africa, I eagerly emailed the COH director concerning next year’s trip application. I knew I had to go back. I couldn’t bear the thought of not going back, not hearing so many precious voices praising Jesus in Chichewa or seeing my mischievous little Esther; of not feeling the African sun on my cheeks again or washing the taint of red off my dusty feet. I was obdurate. For weeks I prayed. I began planning out a strict budget to afford the plane ticket. Then one day, mid-prayer, the word “no” appeared before my closed eyes, and ceased my moving lips. Slowly, the tears began to roll down my cheeks. I resumed my prayer in efforts to pray away the “no” with sheer force and determination. Again, the word “no” appeared, in a louder, stern fashion. The tears came more quickly and fell heavily. Then, once more the word “no”, but this time I felt the word inside my heart. My chest caved in, my face fell down, and my body shuddered as I wept.
Over the next few days, prayer after prayer danced off my lips. It was the same prayer on repeat, “why?” I was desperate, relentless, somber, confused, and so angry. However, His response was silence. Two weeks later, the anger and sadness that enveloped my question turned to surrender and trust. I asked once more, “why?” and this time he answered. I was told to wait, save, and pay off my debts. Naturally, His answer brought more questions.
How long will I wait? Where will I go? When will I go? How much do I save? What am I saving for?
So, I waited. I prayed. I read my bible. I worshipped. I listened. I surrendered my soul and sought Him in every way possible to draw closer to Him. I just wanted to hear His voice again. I’d seen Him work and felt His presence at times, and for that I was truly thankful, but His voice had been absent.
Five months have passed since I was told to wait. Since then, I’ve been attempting to save money and pay off my debts, but my efforts proved futile. No matter my attempts, extra expenses kept piling up. However, mid-breakdown on a Sunday afternoon, God opened a door for me. Though I didn’t hear His voice, He provided me with the opportunity to accomplish what He tasked me with in this season of waiting. When I realized His solution was the only option for me, that there was no other way I could rely on myself or no other plan I could construct, an overwhelming peace waged war against the internal panic. The peace undoubtedly derived from the sense that God was taking care of me. The panic stemmed from my complete lack of control over the situation. My life changed in a matter of hours and the word “failure” hung over my head as I felt my life take a step backwards. However, a wise person told me “it’s not a step backwards, just a step to the side before you reach your goal”. That night as I processed that conversation and bowed down before Jesus, I could feel my fear, stress, and pride being stripped away, leaving nothing but raw, blind trust.
This season of waiting has taken its toll on me and it’s been a mere 5 months. Each day I’m provided with the choice: to rest in Him and seek ways to glorify Him in this waiting, or to rebel and force my own course. At times the temptation of taking back control nearly swayed my heart. In those moments of doubt, I look down to my cross to remind me why I should look up. This ordinary symbol of such extraordinary love reminds me daily of why I surrender; why I trust; why I wait when I want all the answers.
Something better than knowing all the answers is knowing and trusting the one who does know and will never forsake us. Through trusting in His plan, I’ve discovered that waiting on God often reveals the latent idolatries in one’s heart. For me it was control, and I have to relinquish it daily. The call to wait on God is daunting, nerve-wracking, and intimidating. There’s so much left unknown, but the call to wait on God is also precious. It’s a personal invitation to trust and hope, and trusting when He is silent purifies us, strengthens us. It brought me closer to God in ways I couldn’t have fathomed. If I had attempted to control the situations I’d been placed in this summer, I would have missed out on His many, many blessings. I would not have realized that waiting is a blessing as well.
From now on, my soul waits on the Lord.
written by Abigail Brown
A couple of years ago, my friends and I decided to dress up as a few of the characters from the animated movie Inside Out for our church’s Fall Festival. My friend Hannah played Disgust, Taylor played Joy, and I played Sadness. If you’re familiar with the movie, you probably remember the story of a girl named Riley and emotions, characterized as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Riley ends up running away from home after moving to a new school, not because there was too much Sadness, but because Sadness doubted her purpose in Riley’s life. In the end, it’s not Joy that brings Riley home in the end – it’s a good memory tinted with both Joy and Sadness.
For me, part of beginning to understand grief was first understanding joy – not the fleeting emotion as characterized in the movie, but Biblical, ever-present deep joy that comes exclusively from knowing and being known by God.
Paul’s description of joy couldn’t be farther from our human expectations:
It seems that Joy, at least for our earthly experience, is very much attached to hardship. This relationship between the two, though it certainly wasn’t present in Eden, has accompanied the world we now live in. Ours is a broken world, a fallen world, a world that need Jesus to become flesh and die for us. Sadness is now part of our world, and a significant part of the crucifixion. It is the crucifixion. Jesus’ death is the ultimate sorrow, as His life is the ultimate happiness. For believers, the joy of the resurrection is well known because the weight of the brokenness which Jesus took for us is well known. The immense loss brings to light just how colossal is His victory.
How the inner circle must’ve mourned. Even those with the hope that He would rise again – how they must’ve wept. And how much more they must’ve laughed and sang at the good news.
But what was it that sustained them after? What pushed them to suffer and eventually die for their savior? During their last meal together, Jesus made a representation of His body, broken for them, and His blood poured out for them, and commanded them to remember.
“And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’” Luke 22:19
Perhaps some level of grief is necessary to remember: to remember why we fight, why we love, Who first loved us, Who has conquered the world. (John 16:33)
Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, experienced grief, He knew full well the cup He was taking, the anguish He would experience, the separation from the Father. But in leaving the garden, He was able to face the sorrow ahead, because He knew the Father’s heart. He gave it all to God. (SCRIPTURE)
The song “Porcelain” by Tow’rs touches on loss, especially on unexpected, premature loss. This song is colored in sorrow, but also has an underlying feeling of joy – like golden memories. It’s about losing someone – losing part of your life that is not coming back – but it perseveres in the joy of the life that is lost.
When I have experienced loss, I’ve tried to cover it up, pretend life is normal, to force life’s continuance. But I’ve found the only way to healing is to fully mourn. And that sadness is okay, for a time. A season of grieving is needed before a season of healing. And especially in losing a loved one, it can make it possible to truly celebrate the lost life and time in a way that is grateful and allows growth. It can make it possible to remember, not without feeling loss, but with peace and assurance for the future.
In heaven there is no cause for sadness, as there is no cause for anger. Yet, in this world, just like anger, sadness can be just and appropriate in its season, in its time and place.
“There is an occasion for everything and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
It may seem backwards, but I have come to see great value in grief.
So how do we move forward? How do we experience grief in its true fullness and depth? And how do we take a step toward healing?
The answer has been prescribed to us already: Sabbath.
The connection between Sabbath and grief (and many things, I’m finding) is similar to the connection between our bodies and our beds. Sleep causes us to forget the small, fickle things we ought to forget, face our nightmares, dream about the things we don’t dare make plans for in our wakeful minds, and rest. Sabbath does something similar to our souls. By taking a moment to be still and remember God, He helps us let go of burdens that are not ours, shuck off the old habits that have found us again, pursue what inspires us, and rest.
In grief, God has worked through Sabbath to help me let go of the small things that don’t matter and release expectations I’ve imposed over time upon myself and those whom I love. He’s brought to light the messiest, ugliest nightmarish parts of my own heart that I’d hidden in busyness, accomplishment, and occupation. Grief hasn’t so much as caused these sore places but magnified them, brought them to my attention. God, in His goodness, meets me in the stillness of Sabbath to first reveal those places in full light, then to administer healing treatment. HE soothes, He bandages, then overtime, knits back together what has been marred.
He’s replaced my old habits with an ambition for His own heart and consequently His people and Kingdom. And He’s given me the purest and truest Rest.
I want to point out one last thing. I’ve thought about titling this blog as “Good Grief,” but I think it is important to make a distinction. Grief is not good. Neither is brokenness, illness, loss, hardship, or temptation. But God is good, and He is mighty to use whatever He chooses to sanctify us, edify, bring us closer to each other, and bring us closer to Him.
Be encouraged. In grief there is good. And there is God.
by Abigail Tackitt
A lot of Christain believers would agree that missions are a biblical principle, but as far as application and importance, a lot of questions and uncertainty arise. There are several statistics I will share, but while reading them, take a moment and allow the numbers to settle as reality instead of flying on without having a concept of the weight of them.
Today, there are roughly 7.67 billion people in the world, and they make up 17,094 people groups, which would be defined as people who know each other. Out of that vast number, 41.6% are unreached, which is 3.19 billion people. That is 7,143 people groups that have yet to receive access to the gospel. From the Joshua Project, the definition of unreached is that these people groups do not have enough believers to evangelize and reach their own people. Around 95% of these unreached people groups are found in an area of the world called the 10/40 window.
In the world, 2,123 people groups don’t have access to the Bible in their primary language. This means 160,652,000 individuals do not have any way to read scripture in their mother tongue. In Revelation 7:9, it says there will be representatives from every tribe, people, and tongue standing before the throne and before the Lamb. You would think with the statistics that I just mentioned that everyone would be going to these unreached and unengaged areas of the world to see this verse come to life, right?
Wrong. As of now, there is a great imbalance. What does that mean? Out of every 10 missionaries, only 1 is going to an unreached area. That means 9 out of every 10 actually goes to already reached places. In order to live more like Jesus and cast vision for long term cross-cultural workers we must realize “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” and “make it (our) ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest (we) build on someone else’s foundation”(Matthew 9:37-38 and Romans 15:20).
The reason vision casting is so important is found in Matthew 24:14, “This gospel will be proclaimed unto all the earth… and then the end will come.” We see that there is still work to be done and resources to be poured out and shared for others to know about Jesus. Yet American people are more likely to spend money on dog Halloween costumes then spend money on sending people to the unreached. There is an analogy about a man going down into a coal mine and how there is another person required to hold the rope. See there must be a sacrifice, not only of those going but those holding the rope as well. There will be blisters, and pain as the wear and tear of the sacrifice seems almost impossible to bear at times. One role is not more important than the other. Someone holding the rope and someone descending are both necessary.
This is not an invitation to an easy life, the cost is great. An American couple, who counted the cost and decided Jesus was worth it all, got back by ship after decades of missionary work in Africa. On the same boat was President Teddy Roosevelt coming back from a hunting trip in Africa. When the ship arrived in New York City, a band and motorcade with a crowd had gathered to receive the President. Music and loud applause greeted the politician as his motorcade whisked him away. Shandra Oakley writes about what happened next:
Then quietly with no fanfare, no attention, and no music, the missionary couple walked arm in arm down the gangplank, taking their first steps on American soil in over 30 years. After some silence, the husband turned to his wife and said, “Honey, it doesn’t seem right that after all these years we would have nobody to greet us while that man got such a grand reception.” The wife put her arms around her husband and gently reminded him, “But honey, we’re not home yet.”
Samuel Zwemer said “the history of missions is a history of answered prayers,” and prayers are being answered even today. May this be an encouragement to live more like Jesus and to cast vision for others to partner with what God is doing!
By: Manny Bustos
“Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God.”–Ephesians 6:6 (The Message)
The heart is the very seat of our soul, our emotions, and our passions. It is the very essence of our being and that which drives our thoughts and our motives. No wonder God tells us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). The heart of a leader is the foundation of their life. It is what drives their passion for the Lord and their passion for service in the kingdom. No doubt most of us feel called to lead in a deep way from the bottom of our hearts.
And yet, with seemingly little notice, out of our hearts can spew some of the most ungodly thoughts and attitudes – even in the midst of ministry. I can remember clearly about situations that totally unnerved me. Surely you know the feeling. I was less than thrilled with a situation (and in particular with one of my former bosses) and was just about to share from the seat of my emotions the most spirit-filled reaction to what was happening when God intervened. The person was not there for me to share with! And now I thank God for that. My spirit-filling was not coming from God; it was coming from the enemy. Even though I felt righteous in my motive, it certainly was not the best way to handle things. As leaders, we must constantly be aware that the enemy will do everything he can to render us ineffective in service to our Lord.
I had to come before the Lord and pray to him, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). “Refresh my heart in Christ” (Philemon 1:20b). God gave me his promise in response, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
To be a servant leader, sometimes we just need to keep in mind that we are servants first and leaders second. We must learn to model Christ-like servanthood in every situation. God has chosen us to lead. Not only must we be strong and do the work, we must be strong in our wholehearted devotion to him and remember whom we are working for! He is in control of every situation. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
BY: Manny Bustos
This past Sunday Pastor Lyndol continued his sermon on The Me I Want to Be with the theme of The Unstoppable Community of Love.
He kicks off the sermon by talking about some of the statistics of happiness in life in saying that, through backed up scientific research from academic journals, our “happiness quotient” isn’t about how high our IQ is or how good looking we are or how many material possessions we have for that matter, but it’s really more about the amount of rich, joy-producing, meaningful relationships we have in our lives.
Now, in the rest of the sermon Pastor Lyndol presents us with the idea that Jesus’ life of love was like three giant signs that all pointed to the love we find in community;
1-Everybody’s Welcome, 2-Nobody’s Perfect, 3-Anything is possible.
In the first sign of Everybody’s welcome, we’re given two examples about loving the least of these. The first one is a story of a pastor in a doughnut shop who overhears a group of prostitutes in conversation and hears that one of them, whose name was Agnes, had a birthday that day and with the help of the baker of the shop and her friends, end up throwing Agnes a surprise birthday party. She was so moved she began crying and saying that she didn’t want to eat the cake they made for her because she wanted to show it to her mother. The second example comes from how Christ loved others. He talked to the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf, and even prostitutes and slaves. Telling them how much He loved them and that they were healed and forgiven; giving them a second chance at life.
How awesome would it be if we lived our own lives in the same manner of these examples? Showing small gestures of kindness to our fellow man and remembering that you and I are all sinners and not to look down on someone because they happen to have made poorer choices than ourselves. That’s what Jesus was doing, loving people as much as the Father loved Him.
Sign number 2, Nobody’s Perfect; and here’s the gist of this one. Most of the time when we think about how we can serve God and others, we start to put up our own barriers of how we aren’t equipped for the task or “Hey God, I would really like to get more involved with church but right now really isn’t a good time.” Sound familiar? It does to me because I’ve had that same thought before. Jesus isn’t asking us to have our lives together before we come to Him, He wants us to come to Him as we are. He already knows the embarrassing, dirty parts about us, but that’s why He wants us to come to Him as we are because He can cleanse us of the sin that weighs us down in our lives.
Lastly, Sign number 3, anything is possible and it boils down to this; Transformation. And, not just any transformation, but one that involves you and the Holy Spirit. Pastor Lyndol talked about how the twelve disciples were a bit of motley crew, each one having their individual quirks. But Jesus, knowing this, asked them to follow Him all the same. Why though? Jesus was great enough on His own that He didn’t need anybody else’s help. He called on them because He knew of the richness of fellowship and community and that through His examples, these twelve men would have a tremendous impact for the Kingdom of God. Now the disciples could have said no and not followed Jesus and just continued doing their own thing, but through the Bible, we all know how less fulfilling their lives would have been and how different the church might look like today. That’s the transformative power of God that helps change us into the Me that we really want to Be.