I Am Him, And He Is Me

This year I have endeavored to read through the Bible chronologically, and so far so good! This week I’ve been in 1 Kings, and today I came to the story of the great prophet Elijah. Chapter 17 opens with Elijah predicting three years of no rain, and the Lord telling Elijah to go out and hide himself from King Ahab. From there we read incredible accounts of God’s provision and faithfulness not only to Elijah (being fed by ravens) but also to others such as the widow who had enough oil and flour to make one last cake before she and her son were going to die (God continued to provide oil and flour for them until the drought ended).

The climax comes in chapter 18, when Elijah challenges King Ahab to see whose God the people will follow, YHWH or Baal. Preparations are made to build stone altars, with firewood laid on top, and then a bull on top of that. The Baal prophets go first, and work themselves in a frenzy to see if Baal will bring down fire to burn their offering. Nothing. Silence. Elijah mocks them, telling them they should cry louder as maybe Baal is going to the bathroom or is asleep and can’t hear them.  So they cry even louder and “cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.” (18:28) And still nothing.

Then it’s Elijah’s turn. Not only does he prepare his altar with the same stones, wood, and bull, he also digs a trench around it and douses the whole thing with water.  And not just one with time with water, but three times! 1 Kings 18:36-38 records what happens next.

‘And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.’

Not only was everything consumed, Elijah then takes the prophets of Baal down to a brook and slaughters them all that day. Immediately after that, God sends rain, after having withheld it for the past three years.

Victory! Elation! Fear! What? After seeing the incredible display of God’s power, King Ahab’s wife Jezebel threatens to do to him what he just did to their false prophets. Elijah flees to the wilderness, and basically tells God he’s done. He wants to die. But even there in the wilderness God continues to provide food and water for him.

God then asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah goes into this spiel about how he has been very jealous for God. The people of Israel have forsaken God’s covenant, killed God’s prophets, and thrown down His altars, and he Elijah, is the only one left, and now his life is being sought to be killed.

God then sends a strong wind storm, and then an earthquake, and then a fire. But the Lord was not in any of those things. Next came a whisper, in which God tells him that there are still 7000 men who have not bowed the knee to Baal, and that he is to go back to Damascus, and take care of some business, which Elijah does.

I can relate to Elijah. Yes, this incredible prophet of the Holy God of Israel, the one who was with JESUS on the Mount of Transfiguration, is just like me. Or, I’m like him. Either way, we’re the same.

I’ve not been happy to wait to go to the mission field. In my heart, I’ve even said to God, “Don’t you see what we’ve given up? We’ve given up owning a home, having nice cars, and a steady income!” I have basically said to God much like Elijah did, “you owe me!”

But now, just like then, God doesn’t answer my pride with force (ie. fire, wind, earthquake). No, he answers us in the stillness. He says to Elijah, to me, and to you, “Obey Me.” Whatever dreams and aspirations we may have for our future, He continually reminds us to obey Him in that moment. Not to worry about what the future may bring.

Jesus gives the same message to the Apostle Peter in John 22:21. After having had an intimate conversation with Jesus in verses 15-19, Peter notices the Apostle John following them. Peter immediately asks, ‘”Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”‘

OUCH! If friends are buying houses to put down roots here, I’m to follow Him still. If fellow missionaries raise 100% of their support within six months, I’m to wait and follow Him. If friends and family can afford nice vacations but we can’t, I need to be content with His provisions for us, and follow Him.

So, I will set my heart to obey Him, and leave the timing of things to Him. I know, so much easier said than done. But I can guarantee we will never regret obeying Him. No matter what comes next.

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Waiting = Worship?

Most Christians that I know are well aware that waiting on the Lord is a large component of being a believer. Yet when it happens to us, when we’re forced to wait, we’re somehow taken aback by this unexpected intrusion of not getting to do what we wanted to (for the Lord of course!), or go where we think He wants us to go.

Many of us know well, stories in the Bible of characters who had to not only wait, but some never even saw promises fulfilled that God had made to them. Moses waiting for 40 years in the desert to go into the promised land, and then not being allowed to go in; Joseph waiting as a servant and then as a prisoner before God elevated him to great status in Egypt, yet not making it back alive to his homeland; David waiting many years between being anointed as king and actually reigning as king; and the list goes on. 

If great saints in the Bible had to wait, what makes us think we won’t have to?
One reason we have found it so difficult to wait is simply that we live in a culture where we don’t have to wait for hardly anything. And then if we do come across something where we are forced to wait, we simply make a fuss and then we get what we want. We have drive through restaurants, dry-cleaners, banks, pharmacie; we rarely truly wait for anything. No wonder we Western believers are so bad at waiting. Our culture completely caters to our lack of being able to wait.

But yet here my family waits. It would not be a stretch to say these past three years of waiting to go to Paraguay have not been easy. We may have comfort in terms of housing, food, clothes, etc…but our hearts are quite restless as we long to go to Paraguay.  This waiting has not been of our own making. At least not that we can see.

Right after finishing our training, one of Bill’s retina detached, forcing a 9-month medical delay. Our support-raising has been slow but when we reached the 75% of needed support, we had the green light that we could leave, only to find out that I need to get my citizenship, forcing another 6+ month delay. There is no need to ask why the delays. We know God is sovereign in orchestrating these delays, and what He is asking us to do in the delay is trust Him deeper. But honestly I’m not liking it. I find I’m floundering from time to time. I’ll have weeks where I’m on task, enjoying my time in His Word, content with where He has us at this time, seeing my need to depend on Him for clarity. And then at other times, well, I’m the opposite of what I just said.

Right now I’m in the season of the latter. Not liking where we are, discontent in our circumstance, cloudy in vision.

I looked on the internet for a good, Biblically accurate acronym for WAIT,  and found my options wanting. So, I decided to make up my own. If there is one out there exactly like mine, it’s purely coincidental, although if anyone is a student of Scripture, it’s not a stretch to think two people could come up with the same acronym. I hope this is an encouragement to anyone else who is in a place of waiting on the Lord.

W – Worship in the Waiting

According to  Romans 12:1-2, our whole lives are to be offered up as an act of worship. This is not nullified during a period of waiting. In fact, I would say striving for this would seem even more urgent during a time of intense waiting. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

A – Acknowledge and Acceptance

My mind goes immediately to Jesus praying in the garden, before His death. Three of the Gospels record His prayer. First, Jesus acknowledges to His disciples that His soul is very sorrowful. Then He prays. It’s a simple prayer, really. Mark 14:36 “And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” It’s OK to admit that the waiting is hard for us. But if acknowledging it is all we do, we’ll end up only complaining. When acknowledging it leads to acceptance, that’s when we are free to…

I – Imitate and Intimacy

Again, Christ is our supreme example here. Many times in Scripture we find Him retreating alone to commune with His Father, whether it was to prepare Himself for the temptations Satan would throw at Him, or just to get away from the pressing crowds who wanted anything and everything from Him. Luke 5:16 says, “But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” We gain everything from imitating Christ by pursuing intimacy with God.

T – Trust in Truth

Even though we may wrestle with doubts, those of us who have trusted in Christ’s finished work on the cross can trust that what He says in His Word is true. That not only will He complete the work He has started in us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” 2 Peter 1:3

Whether you are experiencing waiting,  testing, or possibly even persecution, take heart from these words, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).

“Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

So, we will continue to worship in our waiting, acknowledging that it’s hard yet accepting it, while imitating Christ by pursuing intimacy with our Abba Father, while trusting that He is working all things for our good.

Where’s Your Citizenship?

For many of you, this will be an introduction to who I am. Briefly, I’m a wife and mother, and our family is in transition from a life in North America to being missionaries in a small country in South America.

My husband and I are in what’s called “Ministry and Partnership Development” (MPD) or more commonly known as raising support. We are working toward leaving for our first term to Paraguay and to be honest, it has been a frustrating and lonely time, filled with unknowns. It has been challenging for us to explain to current and future supporters why we’re still here, as well as trying to articulate what we’re “doing” as we work through various delays and  wait for the green light to go to Paraguay.

The latest delay for us has come as a complete surprise to me. You see, I’m a Canadian and I’ve been living in the United States with a green card for quite some time. Twenty one years to be exact. I have been content with living here under that status, and have never felt the need or urge to become an American. While I enjoy living here in the US, I am staunchly and vigorously a proud and patriotic Canadian. I mean, what’s not to love about Canada?

But late last year, it was brought to our attention that my status here might be problematic to us living overseas for an extended period of time. Without going into all the details, we have come to the decision that I should become an American citizen. And since green card holders have been in the news lately, due to our current administration, I’ve been thinking a lot about citizenship vs. being just a green card holder.

In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul shares with his readers a list of accomplishments and reasons why he might be able to boast about who he is. But then he reveals that he counts it all as rubbish and as loss, compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. A little later in the chapter he mentions our true citizenship is in heaven. In Ephesians he talks about unbelievers being aliens and strangers but when they become believers, they are now “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

Potentially losing citizenship of my home country and becoming a citizen of another country has made me think more about my heavenly citizenship. You see, as a green card holder, I enjoy all the rights and freedoms that a citizen has, such as freedom of speech, religion, assembly, etc. But I cannot participate in the responsibilities that a citizen has such as vote or serve on a jury. My green card limits me. Yet I’m reluctant to give up my citizenship, because I love my country and my heritage. I don’t want to give it up. It means a very great deal to me.

Here’s what I’m getting at: there are many in America and Canada who attend church regularly, and think they are “citizens.” They enjoy the weekly meetings, fellowship with other believers, hearing preaching from the Word, and joining in singing with the congregation. But in reality, they are only “green card holders.” They have never repented of their sin, and looked to the One who can give them true citizenship. And frankly, they don’t want to give up their earthly citizenship. It means a very great deal to them.

So, where does that leave me and where does this leave you? How should Jesus inform our minds and hearts to the earthly situation of citizenship? How does the Gospel speak to this scenario?

Well, Jesus Himself was once a full “citizen” as it were, of Heaven. He enjoyed a perfect home and culture within the Trinity, and they lacked nothing. But here on earth we were a mess, and in desperate need of a Saviour. So Jesus left His perfect home and came to earth as a baby, becoming a citizen of earth, having earthly parents and learning a culture and language. In time He grew, and through His perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father, sacrificed Himself on the cross for the sins of mankind, “bringing many sons to glory.”

So, look “…to Jesus, the Founder and Perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Christ’s perfect obedience informs me that I too can give up my earthly citizenship. In order to be free to serve in Paraguay, its better for me to give up citizenship of one country (although in my heart I will ALWAYS be Canadian) and become a citizen of another. And I can also say that for the joy set before me of seeing many come to a saving knowledge of what Christ’s perfect obedience has accomplished for us, not only in the USA but of course also in Paraguay.

I want to be able to say with Paul that “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” I want any gains I may have been given in life to count as nothing for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I want to joyfully sacrifice my citizenship of one country for another. And even though it feels like a trial as we are delayed from heading to the mission field, I want to also count that as joy. “Count the cost, count it well. Then pay it with joy. Because Jesus is worth it.” (Joe Cannon)

Join me in such an endeavor.