Monday, April 12, 2010

Should We Stay or Should We Go?

This post is brought to you by the Radical Series.

"Do you want us to go, God?"

That's what we're asking....for the first time in our lives.

That's where we've been for about a month.

One thing is for sure....things have to change.

Big changes.

After listening to the Radical Series our hearts are broken...angry...sick...sad...repenting.

Like I said, we've claimed to follow Jesus, and yet we don't really live the way He did or care about the things He loves.

Besides knowing all the right things to say, our lives do not really look much like Jesus'. We are the picture perfect family for the poster that is American Christianity...but when I look at Jesus...when I hear His heart in His Word about life...about living for heaven...I am painfully aware that there are some huge discrepancies between who Jesus is, and who I'm striving to be.

Aaron and I can throw down words like grace, truth, sovereignty, and gospel like the best of them, but our life as a family...the way we actually spend our money, spend our time and love this world do not look much different from people who do not know Jesus. We certainly don't live like the widow that Jesus commends. I guess a lot of great, Bible things are stuck in our heads, but not making a way into how we live our every day, real-life, lives.

We spend most of our money on ourselves every month. How awesome of us, right? Even if we were generous with some of our money, our bank statement does not lie. It says we spend a gigantic percentage of our income on ourselves. It says we live in absolute extravagance...while people suffer around us.

Even though God says to share, to care for the poor, the orphan, to send out missionaries, we have somehow justified spending most of our money on our own family, buying ourselves tons of fun, unnecessary items while 24,000 children die every day of preventable diseases.

Regardless of whether or not God says "go" or "stay" big change is definitely coming our way. We want to share this part of our journey here, but my greatest fear is that you would think we're awesome for doing some of the things we may be doing soon (after Jesus pours a big fat, jumbo size portion of faith into our lives...cause we need it). We're not awesome. I hope we've established that. And for the first time in my life I don't think people who sacrifice for the gospel, live for heaven, spend their lives caring for the orphan and the poor are super stars. I think they know Jesus. I think they actually obey Him. I think they are living out basic Christianity.

I also think the converse may be true. I think scripture makes a pretty clear argument for people who live like my family has been living, hear Jesus teach and then continue living the same way they have always lived. Like the rich, young ruler, those people will walk away from Jesus sad.

We want to love Jesus. Really love Him. We want to listen to Him instead of hearing what He says and then blowing Him off or giving His clear instructions new meaning. We want him to tear away our earthly loves (which is extremely painful, by the way).

We're reevaluating our lives in a few specific categories...the poor...the orphan...our money...and missions.

For now, we're talking about missions....

In the Bible, Jesus says to "GO." Go make disciples of every nation.

We're trying to take our lives...look at them...and then figure out if we're being obedient to the Jesus we say we love.

Since we're not uber holy, always-been-fanatical-about-missions kind of people we had to start with some research.

Here are a ton of questions we're asking the Lord...

Do we need to go, God?

Where are we most needed?

Should we be here in the US making an American sized salary and sending it to other gospel-centered, needs meeting organizations and missionaries in other countries?

Should our family be the ones who go while others here send us?

Do more people need to leave the US and be the goers?

Do more people need to stay in the US and be the senders?

We're asking God which of those categories of people our family should fall into.

I've heard it said...many times (and ignored it)...

There are only two ways to live when it comes to missions and living out the great commission:

As people who go.

As people who send.

Any other category is called DISOBEDIENCE.

That's the category where we've made our home for years. We are asking God to lift us out of this dark pit...this cave that is self-absorption and show us clearly if He wants us to go or send.

This has been a time of many firsts for us as a couple.

The first time we're hearing Jesus speak and trying to quit ignoring Him.

The first time we're evaluating our lives in light of the great commission.

The first time we're asking God to help us to live for heaven.

The first time we're getting a real glimpse of how hard it is to live for something you cannot see with your eyes.

I don't want to live for this kingdom, but I do live for it. That's the only way to explain the size of our home, our flippant view of missions, and all the other ways we refuse to live generously and sacrificially. We aren't generous or sacrificial givers, because in order to be, we'd have to be convinced that this kingdom is not our reward. Our reward is waiting in heaven. In order to go, to send, to give in a way where we felt it as a family, we'd have to actually have faith. A faith that is alive, is meaningful and shaping every decision we make.

We want to be people whose greatest investment is in heaven...not in this earthly kingdom.

We need Jesus to grow our faith. We're asking Him to grow it.

I want to believe Jesus isn't a liar when He says:

Matthew 19:21-30
Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.


Grace Family said...

I think it's important to remember that you can be the one who sends AND the one who goes. That is something I didn't realize until recently.

We can ALL send. We ALL have money that we are wasting on things each day/week/month.

I think we all get scared about the GO because we think it must mean to literally pack up and leave home. Well it does for some, but until God answers that question for you, you can GO right where you are... 5 minutes from your home there are homeless, poor people that are in real need of so much. We have done some asking around just in our local community and have learned that there are THOUSANDS of homeless people here in Conroe, living in tent cities IN THE WOODS! Yes, they just survived the coldest winter we've ever had, living in a TENT! And, there are organizations, LOCAL ones, that need our help serving these needy people. We found places that serve and minister to the homeless EVERY DAY of the week, but they need helping hands... and that's something you can bring your children to, show them that people right here in our backyard don't have food to eat and will show up by the hundreds to receive a free meal. Talk about eye opening!!! With the things you see on tv, there is no denying that there are needy people on the other side of the world, but really, right here in my backyard??? Wow, what God has showed us!

Same thing with adoption... is the need big in other countries, yes!! BUT, is it big here too? YES!

There are so many things that can cause someone to wait or can hold someone back from being a foreign missionary, but we truly have no excuse not to become LOCAL ones right now!

Just trying to encourage you! Love reading all about this and feeling motivated by what you're hearing too!

Hendrick Family said...

That's incredible Jessica!

Such a good point.

Yes...all of us (even in the midst of trying to figure out big things and making big changes) can be doing what God commands.

There are orphans here.

There are poor people here.

There are people who need to hear the gospel and know the love of Jesus here.

So no matter what, we can all...right living out God's heart.

After doing a little research, we have found that while there is definitely a need here there is a GIGANTIC need in other countries.

So obviously, like you said...some of us are going to have to go!

More of us are going to have to send.

Thrilled you are walking through this with us!


The Williams Family said...

This missions thing is something that has been in my face since Bobs funeral. He had just resigned as youth pastor to be able to minister more in areas that I refuse to go, the places I call "the dark side", the places that someone that looked like Bob would fit in and places that I would not, the places I wouldn't feel safe letting my children drive through. Lots of thoughts b/c now that Bobs not with us who will go into those area? Who will Want to go into those areas? Who will obey and go to those people? That's something I've figured out...I've forgotten that those are people, people that God loves, that He wants me to love, that Bob actually loved and I just talked about loving...

Brock & Megs Birkenfeld said...

This is something we have been talking a lot about too.

No matter what, if we stay or go, we should be living the same way. I feel like so many peoples fear about foreign missions is the way they would have to live, or atleast it was mine. But the thing is that whether we go or stay we are to be on mission. Therefore the only thing that should look different is the scenery.

So, the question we are asking ourselves is, "If we were to pack up and move to Haiti tomorrow what would we pack or ship over on a container?" We have been convicted that whatever we would not take we need to get rid of. My flesh should not want to stay here just as bad as I don't want to leave because either way we should be sacrificing lots and looking way different. If staying here seems easier than packing up and leaving something is probably wrong.

With that being said nothing has left our house yet, except going to the garage. This is hard.

Diane said...

Oh to be willing, to be open to His call, to follow Him where ever He leads...That is what God wants for believers who open their hearts and lifes for Him. But we must follow His plan for our lifes, not others plans for us but His plans. Bob's call was for his life. Should we stay or should we go? The question maybe where do you want me to go God? Look unto the fields for they are ripe unto harvest, your neighbor,where you shop,your town, your county, state. Where ever you go (where ever you walk/talk) God has called you. Praying for His Word to be revealed more to Aaron and you.

Hendrick Family said...

Oh man, Megan...

So true. So true. Why do we have all this stuff?

I wanted to point out that our church has done a top notch job of teaching us to live mission minded here in our community.

I feel like, to the best of our ability, our family has seen our neighborhood, our activities, all those things as a mission field. I'm not saying we do the right thing all the time, but we do see our lives as being "on mission" with God.

So the new part for us is being open to considering that God may want us to GO somewhere besides right here in the comfortable US or live differently, like Megan said, as if this place is not our home (even if we own a home here).

God has already done a big work in our lives over the last decade about teaching us to be gospel minded, waiting and praying for opportunities to share the gospel wherever God has us for the day.

The hard part is, when it comes to our stuff and the things we prize, we know we don't look like Jesus. We know we're not obeying Him when it comes to considering missions, going, sending and caring for the orphan, the widow and the poor.

We need to grow! We need more faith!!


Jeanie said...

I call it static. All of those things in our life - possessions, relationships, habits, etc. that get in the way of our communication with God. Actually, His communication with us. It's so much easier if we just fill up our air space with clutter and that way we don't have to hear and do what He says or feel disobedient.

You and Aaron are couragious. You are listening. And God will speak to you. And it will change your way of living and your life. It will change the lives of others. If you are obedient.

You are likely to lose friends or the closeness of friends who think you have gone off the deep end or feel too close to your obedience for their comfort. You are likely to lose some of your own comfort, physical and emotional. You will lose your way of life. And you will lose some sin and disobedience and defiance along the way.

But what you lose personally will be for the gain of His Kingdom. And that is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Hey Heather,
Have you heard of a course called Perspectives? It is taught by missionaries around the world and really helps people figure out their role in what God is already doing around the world. It helps people who are struggling with the same questions you have. I know there has been one in College Station in the past. I know we don't need more knowledge and passion with no action, but this is one class that tries to tie all of that together. It also lets you know of strategic ways we can take part in the world christian movement. You are right, you are a goer or a sender, but you can also be a prayer warrior, and a mobilizer as well. We need people to mobilize those who would otherwise never consider going, another important part of playing a role in the kingdom. I think that throughtout our lives we can play a part in each of these areas. We may go for a season, we may send for a season, we may mobilize a season, and we can always pray. The major movements in the spread of the gospel throughout time have typically been preceeded by major prayer movements as well. Keep seeking His Kingdom and He will let you know the next steps for your family.

Megan Fletcher said...

Interesting post Heather. It will be neat to see where God takes you--spiritually but also physically.

I don't like this post in some ways because it makes me uncomfortable--which usually means I need to hear it. I want to say "don't be unreasonable" and give you several reasons that your thoughts are such. But, the reality is that unreasonable to our flesh is usually EXACTLY where God wants us to be.

I'm reading a book called Consider Your Call by Gisela Yohannan (Bro KP's wife). Some of these same things have been stinging my heart as I read.

My family serves on staff with Gospel for Asia. We are missionaries here in Texas serving on staff to mobilize the national missionaries we have on the field. There are days I stand amazed that our lives are connected with the huge things God is doing in Asia. But, I still live in a suburb of Dallas, have a decent car, own a house, and have too much STUFF.

I think this is a constant evaluation. Honestly, it sounds to me like God is stirring and getting ready to give you redirect and He's preparing you for it. When we get restless with what we've become accustomed to it usually means God is at work and is getting us ready. I think of the verse that says He will give us the desires of our heart as we delight in Him. He changes those desires as we continually seek Him first. I don't think it necessarily means that your desires were wrong for the last however many years but that He's changing it.

Even as I'm convicted, uncomfortable and want to ask God if I should change right along with you, I want to be careful not to condemn others who haven't come to the same convictions. That's a whole other subject I'm learning about right now.

Piper says "Go, send, or disobey." Good quote to ponder.

Karen said...

Heather (and comment-ers), I have enjoyed this series, as well as the many insightful comments posted. May I humbly add my own?

Jesus' entire interaction with the Rich Young Ruler (and all the observing disciples) was meant to point out one thing: no one can get to heaven without Jesus, rich or poor, obedient or disobedient. That is why Jesus answered the rich young ruler's question of "what must I do..." with "keep the commandments." In my mind, that is the WORST answer (I'm thinking, "Come to Me...Be born again..." Anything but 'keep the commandments!') He knows that it's impossible and wants to point it out to the rich ruler. Jesus always meets us where we are at and knew that his riches were his weakness, his idol. And that is why the disciples whispered amongst themselves, "Who then can be saved?!!"

Indeed, who then can be saved? If the rich (who were at the time deemed more righteous because God had "obviously blessed them" financially) cannot be saved. If the man who even LOOKS at a woman with lust isn't good enough.

Where is our hope? In Jesus Christ alone.

My major issue with the Radical Series is that it can look a bit works-based from the outside. And as a recovering works-based Christian, I am a bit sensitive to this. Whatever we do in our own strength or by our own requirements gets us no closer to heaven than the rich young ruler. "If I give all my money to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but I have not love, it profits me nothing." And that "love" is the supernatural kind that can only come through a working Holy Spirit. Apart from Jesus, a poor man is just as hopeless as the rich, young ruler. It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for ANY man, rich or poor, to reach Heaven.

For me, the issue is self-effort. If I adopt out of self-effort, if we give all of our money away out of self-promotion, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

I love the questions, the challenges of this series. I'm resting in my Savior's perfect calling of us, our family. And your family too. His perfect grace didn't just save us at the moment we accepted Him, it also guides us as we allow Him to move in and through us in our specific callings. I am praying for your family as you are walking through this fun, scary, exciting, terrible walk of faith.