Well, this is Andrew again, sooo I guess, expect a lot of words and very little pictures, hah. Don’t worry, the blog queen will be posting again soon, I just like to throw some thoughts out there every once and a while.
Does it surprise you that I have been thinking about some stuff lately? Well, I have. Here is what has been on my mind lately. Obedience. There are several reasons why this has been on my mind lately, but mostly it has to do with our future. Here is the problem, surprisingly… I don’t know what the future holds. I know it is hard to believe. I have spent many hours trying to determine what the future holds for both our family and for The Raining Season aaaaand I have no clue. OK, so what do we do now? There are some big things going on right now on both of these fronts where knowing the future would be extremely beneficial. I know it sounds stupid because you think I would grasp that knowing where God is headed in all this is almost impossible so I should just deal with it, but I can’t seem to get it off my mind. So let me tell you what I have learned recently.
We have found that since we have lived in Sierra Leone there are many times when we have to stop and refocus. Why are we here? What is our main purpose? Is this stress really that big of a deal? Just a time to take the Nintendo game out of your mind, blow inside it, push reset, and pop it back in. (I don’t know why I decided to use that analogy, it works for me, ok). I will admit it, there are wonderful days here, and there are really tough days here. I once had someone tell me, “Don’t doubt in the darkness what you came to know in the light”. Some days our future in Sierra Leone is so exciting my heart starts racing just thinking about it. Sometime the future seems like such a heavy burden that I want to run away. So I had a tough day not too long ago. It was a long day of meetings, dealing with heavy things, and big decisions. I was drained on my way home and honestly couldn’t wait to get home, get my kids in the bed, and have a nice quiet sit down with a good book (is that terrible?). When I walked in the house Heather greeted me and said, “ the kids have been stir crazy today and I think it would be really helpful if you took any that want to go back up to the center tonight for bed time prayers.” NOT what I wanted to do and I think I had a pretty terrible attitude hiking back up the hill with kids in tow. The children at the center have bedtime prayers every night in their rooms except for Wednesdays and Sundays when they have a general worship time in one of the big rooms. Tonight was general worship. Last time I went to general worship, I was asked on the spur of the moment to bring the lesson (mini-sermon). I REALLY was not in the mood to do any preaching this day. I mean, I was really weighed down and struggling. I was relieved to see that Pastor Daniel was ready to bring the message and I was free to hide in a corner and try to keep kids from climbing all over me. I found the most secluded corner I could find and was relieved when Abubakkar, Melvin, and Auntie Hawa (holding Sarah) sat down around me. I like these people, but at that moment I mainly liked them because I knew they wouldn’t climb all over me. Maybe, I reveal a little too much about myself on these dumb blogs.
Ok, I am sitting there during the service and one of those moments when God punches you right in the nose happened again. Do you remember Sarah? She is the little girl I blogged about last time that had the burned face/throat, stick thin limbs, and was extremely scared of me. Well, she is doing a lot better, she is doing a WHOLE lot better. I was sitting there in my funk and looked over and started watching Auntie Hawa playing with Sarah. At this moment I witnessed the love of Christ first hand. This wasn’t just an Auntie doing her job of keeping Sarah busy, this was genuine love for this little cast-off girl. Auntie Hawa was laughing hysterically and get this…Sarah was laughing hysterically. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. At that moment Christ spoke to me. He said, “THIS is what I do. I am the Restorer. I bring good news to the poor, I bind up the broken hearted, I set the captives free.” It was restoration right before my eyes. Ok, I was watching this and God punched me in the nose about my attitude; then he decided to slap me around a little bit more. Sarah, who was previously very alarmed when I came near her, looked over at me and saw me laughing at her and she gets up and comes and sits in my lap. I was a little surprised to say the least. She then started playing with my fingers and the most mysterious other play thing according to EVERY kid at the center….my arm hair. After a minute or so she looked up at me and laughed, then got up and went back to playing with Auntie Hawa. At that moment, whatever the future holds seemed so small and easy to carry. My lesson from God didn’t end there (maybe it will never end). This last Sunday I was sitting in church with none other than Sarah bouncing to the music on my lap. I looked down at her and saw her watching the worship leader with a HUGE smile on her face. I looked up to see who was leading this song and it was Auntie Hawa. That, my friends, is discipleship. That is showing the love of Christ to the broken. That is a Christ like relationship. It doesn’t stop there. It is everywhere at TRS. These children are being restored physically, yes, but they are also being restored spiritually. I see uncles playing soccer with the kids and then helping them memorize their scriptures for their upcoming contest. I see Aunties disciplining these twerpy 5 and 6 year old boys and then praying with them at night. I see our Finance Officer crunching numbers all day and then preaching God’s truth to the kids on Sunday. I see our teams going to serve malnourished babies at a local hospital and taking TRS kids along with them to teach them to serve those in need. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Go and make disciples….
So, back to my depressed self, hiding in the corner of the room. God chose that moment to remind me what I am here for. I am not here to do cost analysis, interviews, program development, meetings, etc., all that is just how God is using my training to build his orphan ministry here. I am here to be a discipler. To these children, to the community, to my own children, to my wife.
Ok, so I was reflecting on this life lesson when God opened my eyes to something else. He said, “reflect on how you learned this last lesson.” I learned it through an action, through obedience, not through reading about it or having a preacher tell me. God’s sanctification process of his children is so wise and effective; I am continually amazed. He knows me so well. The Bible is full of commands for obedience even going so far as to say to love God is to be obedient to his commands.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
Not burdensome, huh? I sure felt burdened when I was worrying about everything under the sun for my family and for TRS. I was sure NOT burdened when I was watching Sarah. What was I missing before? Maybe…..obedience. You see, I spent most of my life with the mindset that I need to know everything before I do anything. I need to figure out the right path, make sure I studied all the theology behind the verse, and make sure I was mature enough to handle the obedience prior to taking the first step. But, that doesn’t match up with what I read. 1 John 2:6 “whoever says he abides in him must WALK as Jesus did.” . Jesus told his followers to lay down your nets and follow me. Obedience came prior to knowledge. I believe baptism is in place as an early part of becoming a Christ follower because it sets a pattern of obedience and submission to the King. Once again, obedience prior to knowledge. I am not looking for a theological argument here, I am just stating that I see a LOT of examples of Christ calling people to obedience prior to there being a large amount of knowledge in place. Why? This doesn’t seem like a very logical thing. Wouldn’t you end up with a lot of dummies following blindly…maybe. Maybe that is the reason for the command, so we walk without tripping over our own feet. I am learning more and more that through the obedience comes intimate knowledge of the Son and in turn, intimate knowledge of the Father. Take my sons for example…would it be very effective for me to just tell them what to do and have them study my words for a while, and then have them make the decision to do the action? It is far more effective for me to show them how to do it myself (Jesus’s ministry here on earth), and then ask them to do it for themselves with me standing right beside (great commission). Through this they learn not only the action, but more about me. Why I do the things I do, what my thinking is behind the action, life lessons through failure, how to walk with their father hand in hand. I used to think of the Bible as a book of commands. Now I see it as a path or window to know Father God better. The commands just help me know him better. His commandments are not burdensome even though my enemy tells me they are.
Ok, so fast forward a couple of weeks and I am sitting in church again. I happened to be sitting next to our newest intake, a young girl who has polio and is bound to a wheel chair. She is an incredible little girl. She is handicapped physically, but not mentally, but I tend to forget this because I focus on her outward appearance. I was standing next to her worshipping, but not singing out loud because all I wanted to hear at that moment was this little girl singing her lungs out to Jesus and doing her best to raise and clap her hands to the King. She was so excited to be sitting there singing to her Father. After the song was over I guess I was standing too long and she leaned over, punched me on the leg, and in perfect English said, “UNCLE, sit DOWN.” God, just saying to me…”see, I am still doing it. It is what I do. You go do it too and you will know me more.”
I don’t know why I felt compelled to share these lessons. I just want to encourage people through things I have learned so that others can experience Christ the way I am just now starting to. It is true life. It isn’t easy, but it is rich and filling and I don’t feel numb any more. God’s commands are not to put a burden on us, but to free us from Satan’s grasp. To be different. To join him in restoration. It is a better way. I spent so many years being told it is NOT a better way or that my OWN way is better; but that was a lie. I also had the thinking of, “ok, I am saved. Now I need to just work on not sinning and attending church for the rest of my life and I have got it made.” I was so focused on myself that I started treating my salvation as the end game and forgetting that me becoming a Christ follower is only the BEGINNING. I hate that I spent so many years in inactivity. I missed out on so much, hoping that others would want to know God by my being an “example” of “not sinning”. Hey man, don’t you want to be like Andrew? He is such a nice guy who doesn’t seem to be doing anything majorly wrong. Who was I kidding? In God is beauty, good things, true life, truth, richness, eternity. Our enemy is evil, darkness, numbness, complacency, lies, he robs us of what we were created for. Brothers and sisters, be hot or cold…..hot or cold. God plan is not in the money, the ministry, the material gifts, the time. His plan is in the sanctification, to make the givers trust him more, to make the receivers rely on him, to make those who “do” understand true life, to break the hold of the enemy, to open our eyes, and to do what he has done from the beginning…draw his people back to him. To make me more like Jesus, to make Sarah more like Jesus, to make you more like Jesus, so that we can be in communion with him. It is what we were made for. I am not talking about obedience in “not sinning” as I so long thought. I am talking about obedience to the things he says to go and DO. So I encourage you, show God your love to him through obedience, it is not burdensome.
Read these scriptures. Don’t just glance over them…
1 Tim 6:17-19
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, this storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is TRULY LIFE.
1 John 2:3-6
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in Him should walk in the same way in which Jesus walked.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Walk like he walked. Don’t sit. Show Christ’s love to the world. There is a lot of hurting people out there. Some, don’t hurt any more. Isn’t Sarah beautiful…