Thursday, December 15, 2011

Everything I Ever Wanted

"You are stronger. You are stronger. Sin is broken, You have saved me. It is written, Christ is risen. Jesus, You are Lord of all."

This is the song that was lifted up by hundreds of voices at Moody Bible Institute's dedication ceremony in August. Among all of the students, parents, and faculty stood my family and I as we tried to fight back tears of finality, trying to dispel all thoughts of the good-byes that were coming. I stood there, biting my lip and trying my hardest to fight back the tears that I knew would come. My little sister clung to me, and I broke. She looked up at me, looked down, and immediately looked back up at me again in surprise as she saw the tears flow. She began to cry, loudly this time, and I wasn't sure how I was going to endure the "good-byes" or the long months away from these people that I love so much. As the voices rose up to the One who had brought each and every one of us to this place, I was overwhelmed. Not by fear, not by doubt, not by sadness; no, I was overwhelmed with a peace that came only from the Lord; this God who is stronger, so much stronger and bigger than my doubts and fears. This God, who is Lord of all; He is Lord of my life and every moment of my life. Immediately, a peace overwhelmed me. It was a peace of knowing assurance that I was standing exactly in the place where the Lord wanted me to be. This is a peace that repels all doubts. This is a peace that enveloped my heart in a warm reassurance. This is a peace that passes all understanding.

This was back in August, four months ago. Looking back, it feels like it could have been a year ago as I ponder all that the Lord has done in my life and in my heart, all that He has taught me, and all the challenges that He has brought me through. In tutoring refugee children, persevering long days in the library writing 15 page Old Testament papers, investing hours of studying for tests and finals, searching for a "home" church without my family, adapting to life in the city, planning and team-teaching a class, making new friends, and starting a new life 676 miles and three states away from all that I knew and loved, the Lord has taught me and grown me more than I could have ever possibly imagined.

The Lord has sent me to this place. He has lovingly and providentially guided me to this place in my life, for such a time as this. I believe with all my heart that this was in His Plan for me before I ever sent in one college application. I had been so set - so set in my own way of going to a different college, one closer to "home". I almost did not follow the Lord to this place in my life; and if I hadn't, I would have missed out on all that He has for me here. I can hardly imagine it now. I can hardly imagine how I ever considered other places, how I almost rejected my acceptance letter, how I wanted to turn around and go back once I got here.

I am convinced more now than I ever was before that the Devil wants to steal my life away from me. He is constantly throwing darts of fear and doubt and discontent at me that cause me to want to turn around and turn away from all that the Lord has set before me. He has done it so many times before and each time it has been so strong that I literally almost turned around and ran away from what the Lord had asked of me. By God's grace, and only by His grace, I took a step forward in the direction the Lord was leading me in and I have never regretted doing so. I am resting in His arms. God is so sovereign and mighty... He is love... He is beauty... He is justice... I can rest my life in Him. I can turn away from all of my fears, worries, and doubts and look toward the face of Jesus and breathe out a big sigh of relief because in His arms, I am safe. I am loved. I am right where I was created to be when I rest my life in the arms of Christ. And I am blessed... So, so very blessed. This life He has given me is one that I have always wanted but never knew how to ask for, never knew how to put in words to pray for.

I cannot settle. I cannot ever settle for anything other than what He has for me. It is so freeing - so completely freeing - to be able to live out my passion for the Lord. I do not ever need to settle for anything less than the passions that He has placed in my heart. I should not settle for anything less than what He has placed on my heart to do for His Kingdom.

No, it's not easy. Yes, it is very challenging. But I am convinced more now than ever before that it is worth it. Why give in to fear for a moment, when that one moment can change your life forever? That one moment of giving in to fear can change one's entire life course. It almost changed mine.

"You are stronger. You are stronger. Sin is broken, You have saved me. It is written, Christ is risen. Jesus, You are Lord of all."

I listen to this song again, once more overwhelmed by the place where the Lord has brought me.
Looking back, I can see His providential hand faithfully guiding, providing, leading, and loving me throughout this season of my life and every one before it. The same God who was faithful to me then will be faithful to me now and forevermore. Even when I am so faithless, He was and is faithful. Praise Jesus.

Father, thank You. Thank You so much for who You are and for all that You have done and constantly do for me. I do not deserve this. Thank You for being unchanging. Thank You that I can trust You to walk me through every season of life. Thank You for loving me with a love that I can know nowhere else. Thank You for pouring out Your grace in my life every single day. May I never settle for anything other than what You have for me. May I never settle for something good when You ask me to live out Your best.
So be it. Amen.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just Do It

"If God puts something on your heart, do it."

Those are the words of a man that I met in Bolivia this past summer and they continue to speak to my heart just as they did when I heard him say them. This was a man who grew up as a "shoeshine boy" in the streets of La Paz, Bolivia. He shined the shoes of whoever would ask for his services so that he would have money to live. These shoeshine boys have a bad reputation and are constantly being looked down upon because of their status in society. Many of the boys are orphans or are left with only one parent. This man, however, found the Lord and began working with a church. Today, he has a ministry to the shoeshine boys in the city and is living his life in full-time ministy for his King and the Kingdom. When being asked what could be done to help his ministry, he simply said, "Your prayers. We need more workers." And then he said those words that captured my heart in such a way that tears sprang to my eyes, "If God puts something on your heart, do it."

I sing the popular Christian worship song by Chris Tomlin, "Follow": "Where You go, I'll go. Where You stay, I'll stay. When You move, I'll move. I will follow You." Do I really mean that? Or am I just singing the lyrics as empty words, offering an empty heart of worship up to my King? It is foolishness to make a promise to the Lord and then to not follow through with it. It is foolishness to sing worship to the Lord as words without meaning, from a heart that is not in communion with the One it is worshipping.

I look back on just six weeks ago, when I sat and told my dad that I did not want to go to Moody Bible Institute. I just did not think that I could do it because everything in me wanted to turn back. My dad looked me in the eyes and said, "Molly, you know you don't have to stay." I appreciate him telling me that because he wanted me to know that no one was pressuring me to go. And a small part of me thought, "That's right, I can still turn back." And yet, a bigger part of me knew that I had to go. I had to. To turn back would be to go against everything that the Lord had shown me, all of the things that He had provided for me, and on the Call to ministry that I knew He had placed on my life. I knew that this was where the rubber meets the road; this is where I had to make the defining decision. I remember visiting back in February, knowing with everything in me that God wanted me here. As we drove out of the city, Chris Tomlin's popular song "Follow" came on the radio. My heart echoed the words; I knew that I had to follow the Lord to where He was leading. It was so evident to me that He was leading me in a particular direction. There was a peace that literally passed my understanding because this was unlike any decision I had ever made before. This was a decision that I would have never made on my own will or choice.

And so here I am, sitting in a dorm room at Moody Bible Institute. How the Lord led me from signing the line on the acceptance letter saying that I would NOT be going to Moody Bible Institute, to erasing it and instead sending in my deposit, to sitting here at Moody is so surreal to me. I do not quite understand how this is a reality because this is unlike anything I would have ever chosen for myself. And that is why I point it all back to the Lord. He is leading. He has set the path before me and I must simply follow. And yet it is not simple. It is hard. It is so terribly hard and my heart within me sometimes pushes against it with everything. His Grace is the only reason that I am sitting here today. I am so encouraged, so amazed, so overwhelmed by the Grace of God in my life; by His provision; by His guidance; by His patience with me and His love towards me. He does not show me a step ahead of the next one; He is always showing me just one step at a time. And so it makes sense that I must take one step at a time. There is no need for me to worry about the future. There is no need for me to stress out about trying to figure out the Plans that He has for me... because He holds my future.

"If God puts something on your heart, do it." Just do it.

I don't have plans. I have already found out the hard way that I cannot make any plans apart from the Will of God. His plans are so much higher than my own. I do have dreams. I do have desires. And these I want to place at the foot of His Cross, where in surrender I hand them over... because I desire for HIM to reign in my life. I desire for HIM to lead me... to lead me to His heart, to His Plans, to His life. There is no other reason to live. I desire for Him to be my single focus, for my heart to be an undivided heart, to glorify Him and to live for Him only. Yes, it is hard. There are so many challenges along the way. And yet this life is meant to glorify the King. There is great joy in living for the One who created us for His Glory.

And so I say with Paul, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An Inexcusable Heartache

I want to change the world.

No, I am not disillusioned. No, I am not prideful in making that statement. No, I am not being unrealistic when I state that this world needs the love of Jesus Christ to change it... and I want to be one of the ones who brings it to them.

I am restless. A "holy dissatisfaction", some call it. I simply call it a heartache... because my heart aches. How can it be that 143 million children have no mother or father and no one who holds them in their arms and tells them that they are loved? How can it be that three billion people on the face of this same planet that I stand on right now have never heard even the NAME of Jesus before?

How can it be that millions proclaim to be Christians and how can it be that the majority of them live in this blessed country that we live in, with all the resources we could ever ask for, and yet the facts listed above still stand?

If every Christian man and woman, boy and girl, were obedient to the call of Christ on their lives - whatever that may be or in whatever form that may be in - I do believe that there would not be 143 million orphans. I do believe that there would not be three billion people who have never heard the Name of Jesus before.

Why do I believe that?

Because Jesus has sent us out.

He has sent us out.

I can have an excuse and I can deny what I just stated above if I were ignorant to the truths in the Bible. However, I am now held responsible because I have read such verses as these:

"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves."
-Luke 10:2-3

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted from the world."
-James 1:27

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me."
-Luke 9:23

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps."
-1 Peter 2:21

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

-Matthew 28:19-20

I am responsible now. I now have no excuse. I have held the hands of orphans; I have seen skinny, malnourished women sitting on the side of the streets because they have not eaten in weeks; I have watched as babies bathe in buckets of muddy water because they have no clean water to bathe in; I have held a baby in my arms who I am not sure today if she is still nourished or even alive; I have sang songs of praise to God with 200 children who go to sleep at night with empty stomachs, without a bed or a pillow... and they are some of the most joyful children I have ever met; I have cried tears of brokenness over leaving behind countries that the Lord has taken me to, to fall in love with and share His love with... I have hugged children "see you later" with tears welling up in my eyes and my heart breaking inside of me... And I do not want any of this to have been in vain.

No, I am now held responsible because I have held them in my own arms, I have seen them with my own eyes, I have smelled the trash and the garbage along the streets, I have heard the wailing of children who are hungry, I have wept over all that is yet to be done and what little is now being done.

It is an agony - a pure tragedy - that we in America are so blessed by God and yet we are doing so little to reach out to those in the world who He has called us to love, who He has called us to share Him with.

And, of course, I am not exempt from this. I am one of them and yet the greatest tragedy of all is that I am held more responsible than any American who has never seen what I have seen or who has never read the verses in God's infallible Word that I have read.

And I do not want to just stand by my whole life in inexcusable ignorance that will end in shame when I stand before my Savior. I do not want that. And yet the selfishness of this nation, the selfishness of Christians, and most of all the selfishness of ME.... can steal my heart away from all of His purposes into a life of self-centeredness based on decisions of what I want, of what I think I need, of what will make me feel good...

NO! That is a tragedy.

He and His Kingdom purposes are all that matter in this life. I am sure of it. I am absolutely sure of it because nothing in all the world can satisfy like the love of Jesus Christ... and it must be shared with those who have never heard of it. It must be shared.

It MUST be shared.

I have a heartache... and the hardest part of all is that I have no excuse.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Knocking Down that Brick Wall...

I am so... sad. I don't know that I am ready to become the person that the Lord is asking me to become. Sometimes I am excited. Other times, like tonight, I am apprehensive... torn... doubtful... I recognize each feeling as an attack of the Enemy because feelings cannot be trusted. And I do not trust them. I am just expressing how I feel because I am very broken...

*Why would You send me so many hours away from my family, my best friends, and all that I know and love?

*Why would You ask me to go to a Bible Institute where every student is trained for ministry?

*Why would You send me alone?

I am scared. I am terrified! I am already broken over the ones I love so much whom the Lord is asking me to leave. Why? I don't understand why. What is the reason? I don't even know that.

All I know is that He is asking me to "Go" and I must Go.

All I know is that He promises that He will always be with me, that He will never leave me.

That is all I know. That is all I need to know.

It is just hard. So very, very hard. I would be inhuman if I thought it was easy... Because it is not. I do believe it is the hardest thing He's asked me to do so far in life.

It scares me to think about what this could be preparing me for... as my first mission trip to Chuuk, which I thought was so impossible, has prepared me in so many ways for leaving home to go to a Bible college far away.

Every step is a step closer. I only have one Light, and it is the Word which is a lamp unto my feet. Only as I take a step can I see any farther ahead. I must continue on in faith.

I must break down the brick wall that seems to tower over me. It is a high, thick, and wide brick wall that looms before me. It is the wall that stands between me and the destiny that God has set before me. This is where rubber meets the road. This is where I make the decision of whether I am going to go the hard way and knock down that rough brick wall, as painful as it will be... Or whether I am going to turn around and walk away from that wall, ever wondering what is beyond it... ever regretting that I turned away.

No. NO. I cannot turn away. I resolve not to turn away. I recognize the doubts, the fears, the anxieties, the bitterness, the resentment all as attacks of the Enemy on my very life... for I know that he comes to steal and kill and destroy my life and all of the blessings that the Lord intends to bestow upon it.

This life is Yours, Father... to have and to hold, to use and to mold... Forever Yours.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Call

"Michael and Gabriel were puzzled.

'Why doesn't He let us do it?' Michael asked.

They were sitting in a quiet corner of Heaven, chatting together as they watched what was happening on the small but beautiful blue and green planet called Earth.

'I know, we could do a far better job.' Gabriel sighed. 'Those human creatures He depends on so much are really quite useless. I know He loves them but they're so disobedient. Just take, for example, that little place in Africa - Burkina Faso. I don't know how many times He spoke in someone's ear about it and none of them took any notice. They sometimes seem to be too afraid to do His will. We, on the other hand, are too afraid not to do His will and we would have started to obey even while He was still speaking!'

'And it would have been such a privilege. You know, I think He made a mistake when He gave them choice and free will. If I had been creating creatures to serve me, I would have made them obey me!'

'It would certainly have got the job done more efficiently. But you know,' Gabriel went on, and his voice took on a rather wistful quality, 'I think I can understand why He did it. Have you ever seen His smile when one of those stubborn creatures does obey Him, out of love and with no compulsion?'

Michael nodded slowly, 'Yes, I've been in the Presence when that happens - it lights up Heaven. But it's just so frustrating watching them make such a mess of it all, knowing that we could do better. Even the obedient ones - they're so slow and weak and they're not very well equipped for the task. They can't fly in an instant from one place to another. It takes them ages getting anywhere in those little steel structures.'

'And it takes them even longer learning a new language,' Gabriel added. 'At least people hear us in their own language when we speak to them. All this language learning adds years on to the job. It can be hard watching them struggle with it - funny, sometimes too!'

'Of course, to be fair, we must remember that some of them have the right idea - it just takes so long.'

Gabriel smiled, 'I know what you mean. Men like Stanley and Jeremy have the vision, they can see what needs to be done..........'

'Stanley and Jeremy........ we got all excited up here about their plans. Now if only He had let us carry out those plans. You know that map of villages that Jeremy wants to evangelise? You and I could have taken a legion or two of angels and appeared to everyone in those villages to tell them the Good News. It would have been so easy, too - job done in a couple of hours.'

'The only problem with that,' Gabriel reminded Michael, 'is that we frighten those human creatures so easily. They're just not used to shining presences from Heaven speaking to them.'

Michael laughed, 'Yes, we are rather impressive, aren't we?'

Gabriel turned to him with a serious expression,
'You know I'm not sure we'll ever really understand His reasons for spreading the Gospel this way. You and I and the legions of mighty angels may be impressive and much more beautiful than the human creatures He created, but He seems to have a very special place in His heart for them. Maybe we could do a better job and do it more quickly and efficiently but He has chosen to do it through them. Somehow, seeing them serve Him, however ineffectively, brings more pleasure to Him than we ever could in an eternity of faultless service.'

'He loves them with such passion, doesn't He? It must be wonderful to be loved by Him like that......' Michael gazed down at the little planet, turning in space on its axis, and looked as though he wished that he could be one of those human creatures so beloved by Heaven's King.

'Do you think they know?' Gabriel wondered. 'Do you think they have any idea of the depth of His love?'

'They would if they could hear Him singing,' Michael smiled. 'What an amazing sound that is - when the God of Heaven rejoices over His children with singing. The hosts of heavenly choristers might sing well but even they listen with awe when the King sings...'"
-Epilogue "Angel Talk" from the book "A Place Prepared" by Gloria Kearney

I understand that this is not a true conversation between the angels in Heaven. However, I was encouraged... overwhelmed... by the message of this story. You will understand more about Stanley and Jeremy and Burkina Faso and the vision that the Lord placed on those two men's hearts if you read the book in its entirety. However, this epilogue is enough to bring across a very clear point: God loves you.

God wants to use you for His Kingdom service.

If we knew how much God loves us... if we would truly listen to His voice.... if we would obey Him because we love Him so much and we understood the honor of the task at hand... our world would be a different place. And not just OUR world - what we know and see and feel - but the whole world.

"For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With His love, He will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."
-Zephaniah 3:17

Do we really understand that? Do we really KNOW that... in our hearts? The King of Heaven delights in us with gladness... He will calm all our fears... He REJOICES over us with joyful songs!

"'While you were doing all these things,' declares the LORD, 'I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.'"
-Jeremiah 7:13

Let that not be us, as His followers... as His beloved Bride. No matter where we are in life, "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

What is He asking of you? What is He calling out to you? You do not want to miss this. We cannot afford to miss this. He is yearning for us to come into a love relationship with Him, to obey Him with everything that we have, to live our lives in total and complete surrender to Him...

Let us not be the ones who do not listen when He speaks to us. Let us not be the ones who do not answer when He calls us. Let us answer the Call...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Close to Heart

The Lord has blessed me in amazing and abundant ways. This Journey has been extraordinary.

Seven months ago I stepped onto an airplane that took me to a place beyond words. Seven months ago. Even as I write this, I cannot believe that it has been so long. And yet, it has been an eternity. No, it was just yesterday. I cannot quite wrap my mind around how long I feel that it has been, because it is in my heart every single day. All that I know is that the calendar tells me that it has been seven months. Seven months ago a small airplane took me over the ocean to a country that has been and forever will be in my heart. Seven months ago I stepped off of that same, small airplane onto unfamiliar soil. And yet my heart still leaps every time that I think of it.

Every time that someone speaks the name of the country, "Haiti", I feel as though a piece of it is mine... as I have left a piece of my heart with the people there and have replaced it with a piece of them and their country. This single heart holds the memories, the smells, the sights, the sounds, the air, the voices, the languages, and the dear people of places once far away.

Today at church I was given the challenge to draw near to God, for it is then that He draws near to me. Oh, it brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart! To know that the Savior, the Creator of ALL the universe, the KING of kings, the LORD of lords, the great GOD wants me to draw near to Him is just too much for me to handle at times. When I come to even a slight glimpse of what this means to me in my life, it is as if everything else in the whole wide world just fades away except that which is near and dear to my Father's heart, those things that mean the most to Him. And those are the things that matter.

GOD - the King of kings - did not just tell me that He loves me. He did not just say, "For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16), He sent His Son to die so that I could be forgiven. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
-Romans 5:8

God did not just tell me that He loves me. No, He demonstrated it by sending His Son Jesus to the earth while we were still sinners and He died for me. Does that ever hit you? Does it ever strike you as absolutely amazing, that Christ died for us - for you and for me? No "god" of any other religion dare step down that low to become like us so that He could die in our place.

"I love Him." I do. I love Jesus. And yet those are just words, and those words when simply written in ink do not mean a thing. Nothing at all. Anyone can say anything, whether they truly mean it or not. God is not dumb. It may be obvious, but I think that we forget. He is all-knowing; He knows that we are good with our lips and not so good with carrying out what we say with our lips. He says:

"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me."
-Isaiah 29:13

"If you love Me, keep my commands... Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me."
-John 14:15, 21

Ah, there it is. This is how I can demonstrate to the Lord Jesus Christ how I love Him. This is how I am able to make my words more than just words. This is how I show Him that I do, in fact, love Him.
If I love Him, I will obey Him.

Even when it is hard.
Even when it goes against everything and everyone around me.
Even when it seems impossible.
Even when it means that I must give up something "valuable" to me.
Even when it means that I do not get my way.
Even when it means that I must lose everything so that I may gain all of Him.

Yes, surely if I love Him, I will obey Him.

Seven months ago I followed Him on a part of this Journey that broke me in ways that I can never truly describe. Pieces of it seemed impossible at times, and yet the Lord's strength broke through at just the right moment, every single moment. Sometimes I did not understand some things, but that did not matter because the peace that the Lord gave me outweighed any and all doubts that may have been swirling around in my oh-so-human mind. And that is exactly why I am sharing this. I do not share this to say that I am perfect or that I have in any way arrived. I share this as a reminder, as much to me as to any one else, that when one obeys the Lord, blessings follow. He always leads, always loves, always provides.

He does not ask me to obey Him and then leave me there, hanging off of the cliff. No, He gives me the resources to climb up the mountain and do what He has asked me to do, to carry out the task that He has set before me. Always. It has never failed in my life. He has never failed me. Maybe I have not understood some circumstances or situations and yes, there have even been those times when I was completely broken and could not comprehend why the Lord would allow such a thing to happen. And yet every single time, He overwhelms me with His peace. And He reminds me that He has a Plan. A very, very Perfect and Profound Plan.

"If you love me, keep My commands." What is it that the Lord is asking me to do next? Will I do what the Enemy tempts me to do and walk away from it, because the task seems too big? Will I go the other direction, thinking that my way is the best way? Will I shy away from it, seeing it as something bigger than myself and definitely never something that the Lord would ask ME to do?!

No. No. No! I cannot. I look back on all that the Lord has done in my life and I cannot. I cannot disobey my Lord. All that matters is Him. That is it. It is not about me. No way is it ever about me. I cannot even take my next breath without the Lord allowing my heart to beat again. No. I must obey Him, with everything... everything... No matter what.

Seven months ago I stepped off of a small airplane onto once unfamiliar soil. Two weeks later I stepped back onto that airplane, forever changed. Tired, yes. Having been stretched beyond my comforts, yes. Having faced fear a number of times, yes. Did the Lord give me strength? Every single moment. Did He grow me through the moments that I was stretched beyond my "comfort zone"? Oh, yes. Did He give me a peace "which transcends all understanding" (Philippians 4:7)? Yes, yes, yes!

Will I obey Him with my next step? Moment-by-moment, day-by-day?

One of these moments I am going to be face-to-face with my Savior, or perhaps face down because of His great splendor and glory and holiness. I want to hear Him say, "Well done." I want to know Him. I want to have obeyed Him with every ounce of myself here on earth, to be stretched and used by the King of kings - for His service and for His Kingdom. There is no greater Purpose in all of life, no where and in nothing else.

One purpose. One mission. When I am focused on Him, everything else simply falls away, drops away...

Will I show Him that I love Him? Will I obey Him?