Thursday, October 22, 2009

Painful Downsizing

DSCF2308 Currently there is a yard sale going on in our front yard. This is the third one we have held in the last five months since we have decided to downsize our lives and move to Guatemala. When we made the decision to do this, it seemed like an easy choice. Why wouldn’t we get rid of the junk that has cluttered our house and lives so long in order to make an eternal difference?

But the reality of actually letting go of the possessions that hold so many memories is actually harder than I anticipated. There are a few items that were especially difficult to see go. Already this morning I said goodbye to my first shotgun (a single shot .410) that my father bought for me when I was ten. The gun is just an object, but the man who gave it to me is a man that I loved dearly and is no longer with us. In some ways, I felt as if I sold a significant link to my dad and wondered, as I did so, if I was betraying him. That was hard. Profit: $55.00.

We also sold our wedding china. I bought it for Wanda right before our wedding. I actually bought two sets of eight because we were planning for years of ministry that would involve lots of entertaining. Of course, we never dreamed we would have ten children, leaving room for only four guests! It has traveled with us from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to four houses in Ohio. We ate many special meals off that china and entertained wonderful friends. (Previous members of our leadership teams will remember them from our yearly Christmas dinners.) It has been sold now. Profit: $150.00.

Wanda is selling her favorite childhood toy, a wooden kitchen center with cabinets, a sink, an oven, and a “window” showing a beautiful outdoors scene cut from a magazine. It was made for her by her father, and she loves it dearly. It hasn’t sold yet, but when it does it will leave with some very precious memories. Likely profit: $20.00 – 30.00.

Those are just a few of the hundreds of items to which we are saying goodbye. Birthday and Christmas gifts, lovingly made arts and crafts, my old comic book collection, and so much more. And once they leave, we can never recover or reclaim them. And it can leave me wondering if we are doing the right thing.

Then I think of Guatemala and the children who are waiting for us there. These children were created in the image of God and are so valuable to Him that He died for them. Jesus would never die for an old shotgun or china or a toy. He would not think of dying for a house or an automobile. But He would die for the sake of humanity, His greatest and most loved creation. There is no comparing the value of an object to a life. A life will always outweigh a possession on any worthwhile scale.

And I will take comfort in knowing that my dad, who now has the perfect eternal perspective, would understand and want me to sell anything and everything he gave me in order to save lives and souls. I have not betrayed him, I have honored both him and my heavenly Dad.

So, we will continue to sell our possessions, at times with a tear in our eyes. And we do it so we can get to Guatemala as quickly as possible to love the unloved and care for God’s masterpieces.  Profit: Priceless and Eternal.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shooting Bullets in the Wrong Direction

DSCF1442a Over the week I have been a listening ear to a friend of mine who has been going through struggles with a local church. I am an outsider who is hearing everything through the filter of my friend, but as best as I can determine she and her husband has been asked to leave their church because of their passion for ministering to the poor. It seems that the questions they are asking of the congregation and its leadership have made people uncomfortable, and, instead of facing those questions head-on, they are just making them go away.

I can relate to the plight of my friends. Over the last three-and-a-half years my family and I have spoken at over 100 churches across the eastern half of the US. During those times we have experienced both the best and the worst that the church has to offer, sometimes seeing both within the same congregation. We have seen people rise to the challenge of true discipleship while others became angry when confronted with a Gospel that expects life change. And during this time we have seen people who have plenty of weapons and ammunition to use for the Kingdom, but instead fire the bullets within the church instead of at their real enemies.

DSCF1309 It is the plague of near-sited Christianity. We see so clearly the needs, struggles, and faults within the walls of our churches, but are blind to a dying world that surrounds us. We focus so readily on meetings, committees, classes, programs, and budgets and begin to believe those things really matter. And when someone or something comes along that causes us to see beyond those things it is easy to feel threatened, offended, or just plain angry. It shakes the status quo and invades our comfort zones and we don’t like it. At that moment it is far easier to shoot the messenger and resume our previously scheduled lives than to put on the glasses of the Gospel and allow ourselves to be changed.

Meanwhile there is a war raging outside our doors, and instead of fighting God’s battles out there, we fight a civil war within our ranks. So the enemy continues to devour those for whom Christ died and the American church does little or nothing.

CRW_1961.CRW The real enemy of souls is seen everyday through his handiwork. He kills 26,500 children a day from poverty related illnesses. He drags entire people groups into hopelessness and despair. He devours entire countries through warlords and drug cartels. He leaves children orphaned through those same wars and diseases like AIDS. And he blinds people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is their only hope and salvation.

And the church, who is the body of the living Christ, turns its weapons on itself instead of firing its bullets right into the heart of the enemy. The church who could change this world in Jesus’ name does nothing to stand against the Devil’s schemes.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray the following:

"'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

What if we stopped seeing this as a prayer for the world and started seeing it as a prayer for God’s people? Then we would realize that it is our responsibility to bring God’s kingdom to this world by accomplishing His will through our obedience. And, when that happens, the enemy will not be able to retreat fast enough as God’s will covers the earth like a flood.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done through me on earth as it is in heaven!