Tuesday, February 28, 2012

God of this City

The smell of pot filled the late night air. The parking lot was dark and filled with guys, who all looked rough and well-cultured to the city. Being a young white caucasian girl, I was definitely in the minority. I stood with two other girls by the entrance to the liquor store, waiting for two young women who we had seen walk in. As we waited in the cold Chicago winter air, I watched as two guys pulled up towards us in their car. One was smoking pot. The other stepped out to check his tire, which looked completely fine to me. I stood there, realizing with every part of me that I was in a dangerous area of the city. My mind knew it. And yet my heart felt something completely different. My heart knew a peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), a peace that reminded me that I am safe in His arms.

As the two women walked out of the liquor store, we stopped them and simply asked them if we could bless them with a rose. We handed them each a beautiful red rose and asked if we could pray with them. In the middle of the parking lot, surrounded by the darkness of drugs, alcohol, and brokenness, we formed a small circle and placed our hands on these two dear women as we lifted them up to the Lord.

I have been told that the light of the world lives inside of me. I have been told that this light was not meant to just be around other light. I have been told to shine that light in the darkest places of the world.

And so I went. I saw a young woman stand on a street corner and get picked up by a guy. I saw two semi trucks, in which the men were "doing business" with the young women. I smelled the weed and the pot and the "purple haze". I saw the streets lined up with police cars responding to a tragedy. I walked into a restaraunt and saw a country of the world represented right here in this city where I now live. I saw light be brought to a dark place as our prayers were lifted up.

I was with a ministry who does this every week. When I mentioned that I find this ministry amazing, the woman laughed and said, "Oh really? I guess I am just used to it."

Shouldn't I be used to it? The Lord has sent me to this city for a bigger reason than just to study the Bible at Moody Bible Institute. I remember visiting the city with my dad last year, before I had decided to come to Moody. I remember the moment that I looked outside the window of the tall building that I was in and my heart just broke. I was burdened as I saw people walking throughout the streets, so many of whom I knew were lost and in need of the hope that I have. While being here at Moody is a huge part of why God sent me here, there is an even bigger world out there. It's a world filled with lost people, a city whose people represent so many countries of the world. At times, the Lord has sent me to the people of the world. This time, the Lord has sent them to me.

"Seeking the lost is not about our abilities. It is really just all about our obedience. We need to just go. We have lost out there who need to know about Jesus. And we must do all that we can to seek them."
-Professor Yuan

I should be used to this. Evangelism is not just for those with the gift of evangelism. We are all called to evangelize. Maybe we are living with "tunnel vision", getting to where we need to go and not even seeing the people around us. Maybe we have given in to apathy, not expressing with words that we do not care about the lost people around us, but expressing it with our actions when we do nothing about seeking them. Or maybe we have given in to fear, another of the Enemy's tactics to prevent us from doing what the Lord has called us to do. But fear of what? Rejection? Why do we fear rejection when we do not even personally know many of the people that we come into contact with every day? I have come to find that most people are wanting to know of the hope that we have. There are so many people around us who are so lost, broken, and feeling purposeless that they are yearning to know how they can have hope. That hope is within us.

There is something freeing about stepping outside of the "bubble" of safety and comfort that I stay in most of my everyday life. It feels good to adventure into the dangerous unknown to reach out to the lost people who live in it every single day of their lives. There is a sort of peace about walking the streets with Jesus, stepping outside of the "American Christian" lifestyle that I have grown up in all of my life. There is so much more to this life than living in comfort, in safety, in luxury, and in selfish ambition. Why do we hold on to that which we have no hold to anyway?

We are living for eternity - for "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:4-5).

Our inheritance is in heaven. This earth and everything in it are temporary - everything except our souls. The souls of those who I walk the streets with every day are eternal and it should break my heart to know that some of them are going to an eternity in hell because they do not know of the hope that I have in Jesus Christ. That should burden me. It should overwhelm me. It should spurn me on to action... to just go.

I should be used to this - to living life as the adventure that it was meant to be, to going out into dark places... for that is where the light of Jesus can shine the brightest.

Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours. Burden me with an overwhelming passion for the people of this city who walk these streets every single day, broken and hopeless and in need of You. Give me the courage and the strength to bring them this hope that I have in You. Keep me from selfishness, from keeping this hope to myself. For if I did not know that You were my atoning sacrifice, I would also be without hope. Continue to burden me and break me and give me the strength to obey You, for I am reminded that if I love You, that is exactly what I will do (John 14:15). Amen.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dreams & Desires

So, I've always considered myself a dreamer. A visionary. One who sees things as they are, dreams up the impossible, and desires to change things into the way that they should be.

Yes, I've always considered myself to be a dreamer. And, yet, I've never allowed myself to dream.

I remember days in Chuuk when I would stand and throw a frisbee with a little girl, my little LeAnne. As she laughed and ran to catch the frisbee that I had thrown to her, I remember feeling right at home... surrounded by children who simply need the love of Christ and being able to show it to them.

I remember days in Haiti, surrounded by swarms of children who were simply excited to be loved, to be held, to be smiled at, to be talked to, and to be given attention to. And that's exactly what I did. It's in the moments of being in the intense heat of the sun, surrounded by a swarm of sweaty children, holding a child, trying to please the three children who were trying to hold my two hands... It's in these moments that I felt more joy than I could ever remember feeling.

I remember days in Bolivia. Well, one in particular, really. I felt so utterly and completely helpless and lost on the trails of the Andes Mountains when my team got split up. And, yet, the Lord's hand guided me and gave me a peace that truly passes all understanding. He is faithful. It's in these moments that I felt the closest to God, for it's in these moments that I realize my great and dependant need of Him.

Through these experiences, I have not only been able to realize dreams of mine, but my mind has come up with all sorts of dreams. Big dreams. Dreams that I would still love to realize one day. However, I have realized that I have thought so much into the future that it has caused me to not enjoy today and, even more than that, it has caused me to not realize the desires that the Lord has placed in my heart.

Dreams come from the heart. Ideas come from the mind. I have never allowed my heart to dream for fear that my dreams would not be God's dreams for my life. Instead, I let the logic of my mind overrule the desires of my heart. While I understand that if I want to live my life in complete surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, which I have commited to do, then I cannot simply do whatever it is that my heart desires to do. I must guard my heart, as Proverbs 4:23 instructs me to do. I must offer myself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord, as Romans 12:1 commands me to do. However, I am also instructed to delight myself in the Lord, "and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).

This is a verse that I have always usually highly disregarded out of skepticism and fear that my desires would not be His desires. Yet, I have come to find that if I am delighting myself in the Lord (Psalm 37:4) and abiding in Him (John 15:7), His desires for my life will become my desires. As I grow deeper and deeper in intimacy with the Lord, my heart's desires will become those desires that HE wants for my life. This does not mean that what He desires is going to be something that I am going to initially want for my life. Oftentimes, what He asks is hard. Uncomfortable. Terrifying. Yet, when I am delighting in Him and abiding in Him, I will obey Him because I love Him (John 14:15).

I have experienced this over and over again in my life. Being here at Moody Bible Institute has been a huge part of this, because Moody was never in my plans for my life. Moody was never in the logical dreams that came from ideas out of my head. The life that I am living here is a result of delighting myself in the Lord, of abiding in Him, and of Him giving me the desires of my heart - some of which I never knew that I had.

Some of the desires of my heart have never happened because the Lord did not see them as best. Others have turned into realities beyond what I could have ever logically thought of in my own mind. Still others are desires that I never knew that I had, but as I have learned to delight myself in the Lord and abide myself in Him, He has changed my heart into more of His.

Out of the legalism of my past and the life of control that I have tried to live, I have come to realize that God wants my heart. He wants my heart. This heart, that has been scared to dream out of fear that it would not dream His dreams. This heart, that desires to become more and more like His heart, so that I will live out His desires for my life. This heart, that is so full of dreams. Some are even illogical. Some have not even been His desires for my life, but as I have drawn nearer to Him and nearer to the Cross in surrender, He has exchanged my futile dreams for His big dreams.

My heart is full. It is not full of tiny, logical "dreams" which can only stem from the mind. No, my heart is finally full of big dreams, envisioning a renewal and a revival that only the Lord can accomplish. It is full of the fruit of fulfilled dreams, some of which have been dreams that I never knew that I had, but when they were fulfilled I knew that there could be nothing better. It is full of anticipated dreams, some of which are so illogical and impossible that only the Lord could accomplish them if they are in His Will. And it is full of dreams that I already see happening, unfolding right before my very eyes.

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." -John 15:7

"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." -Psalm 37:4

These verses are not to be taken out of context. However, I can take Jesus at His Word and know that if my heart is connected to His heart and if I am delighting in Him and His Kingdom purposes, then my dreams will not simply be my dreams - they will be His. And He will see His dreams to fulfillment for His Kingdom purposes. And that is what we are here for.

So, dream on.