Saturday, September 11, 2010

He alone is worthy of following...

Well, hello again! I have attempted to write many times over the past month but never could seem to form the words, thoughts, and emotions that have filled up my mind and heart. It is doubtful that I will have the ability to now either, but I am determined to at least give it my best shot. Around the beginning of this year, I began to hear a whisper... a gentle stirring in my Spirit of change. With increasing intensity that whisper has become a roar. The last couple of years for me have been an amazing journey with the Lord of finding restoration and hope. Somewhere within my own journey the Lord began to impress upon my heart Isaiah 58 as an incremental step in my own healing and freedom...”Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your Righteous One will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I...if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” This verse speaks to a life lived outside of oneself and for the sake of others....

I have questioned things in my life for some time now...particularly the call to be in the world but not conformed to it...the call to live a life recognizable for challenge the culture instead of being absorbed by it. My honest assessment is that my family’s life is not markedly any different from the family down the street. I desire to see that change. The Bible says that followers of Him are supposed to be a peculiar people. We are called to look differently from those around us that do not have this same hope living within. We are called to love with the kind of love that the world doesn't have the ability to offer. I have been given this gift...this treasure...of life and hope and freedom...I have personally experienced the power of the Lord to break strongholds and to radically transform and change a heart by the power of His love...As a believer I have been given this amazing opportunity to show the world what it means to know and follow Christ. It is the simple plan of redemption and spreading the good changed by Jesus, live for and follow Him, and then lead others to Him. God desires to use us to draw others unto Himself through the hope and love and light that they see living within us. Matthew 5:16 says “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” If my faith is not manifesting itself in active love and in something that helps the life of others, then does it really mean anything at all?

The opportunity to go to a different country and step back from my “normal” only confirmed my fear…I have been missing it. There is a walk with the Lord that my finite little mind can hardly comprehend. Mark 8:35 says “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and the gospel will save it.” God gave me an unbelievable opportunity to witness lives that are literally living this verse out daily and it changed something within me. The most common question I have been asked since being back home is if I have adjusted to being back. Honestly, I’d be rather disappointed in myself if I had. I do not believe the Lord took me all the way to Africa for me to just come back home and pick up my life as if nothing had changed. It didn’t take very long into my trip to realize that my life as I had known it was over. So here I am…one moment a stay at home mom living in an affluent little bubble in suburban Mississippi and the next moment a girl immersed in unbelievable suffering and death in a community dubbed the epicenter of the AIDS pandemic in South Africa. Talk about culture shock. I vividly remember the exact moment that I knew my life had just shifted. I had spent the entire day before touching the faces of the poor, the broken, the destitute and the dying…and now here I was…standing in the middle of hundreds of abandoned and neglected children…left with no parents or no one to even defend or protect them from horrific abuse...and I was overwhelmed with emotion…who am I Lord...who am I that you would allow me this privilege?” I felt as if the Lord had just dropped me straight down into the middle of Luke 16 into the story of the rich man and Lazarus and left me with the question “what will you do?”

To be completely honest, I spent the first week back home curled up in an internal fetal position. I knew that my life had to change. Proverbs 24:11-12 calls us to “Deliver those who are drawn away to death, and those who totter to the slaughter, hold them back. If you profess ignorance and say, Behold, we did not know this; does not He who weighs and ponders the heart perceive and consider it? And He who guards your life, does He not know it? And shall not He render to you and every man according to his works?” My eyes had been blasted open and I knew one day I would stand before my Maker and He would ask me what I did with what He showed me. So all those verses that speak of following Christ, taking up your cross and abandoning self became very real to me very fast…The Bible came alive to me in a new way and verses that I have always read and believed I have had to ask myself...“ I REALLY believe that?” When Jesus says….Follow me…Follow me no matter the cost…Follow me no matter what I ask you to do…Follow me no matter what I ask you to leave behind…Follow me no matter what...Lay down your own plans, your own dreams, your own wants and desires…and simply follow me. Do I REALLY believe He meant that? Honestly, I spent a couple of days just really…well…for lack of a better word…freaking out over what the Lord might ask of me. Eventually this led to something else…something way preferable to freak out…SURRENDER. You see, I love Jesus. I have no other choice but to surrender. If I want to walk with Him then I must choose to follow Him wherever He may lead or whatever He may ask. I have found life and freedom in Him and to chose anything other than following Him to me is choosing death. More important than any other reason though is the fact that JESUS IS WORTHY OF FOLLOWING....the end.

I can hear Him calling. He’s calling you too. “Follow me.” He’s calling all of us deeper into His presence...because He loves us...because He desires to use us to show others that He loves them too..because only He knows what’s best for us...because He knows that the life we so desperately want is found at the end of ourselves... and we can only find that when we intentionally choose to lay ourselves down and follow Him...Can you hear the voice of our Savior calling...such a tender voice... "Come. Follow me and find life everlasting.”

"Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness." Psalm 115:1