Finish the Mission

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Desiring God National Conference in the twin cities with Rebekah. The theme this year was Finish the Mission: For the Joy of All Peoples, Bringing the Gospel to the Unreached and Unengaged.

It was an incredibly eye-opening, convicting, encouraging, and edifying time!

When we go to missions conferences or hear missionaries speak, we hear statistics like this: There are over 2.8 billion people who belong to unreached people groups. Of these, 50,000 die daily.

I don’t know about you, but these statistics make me feel hopeless, desperate, and overwhelmingly sad. Tens of thousands of people come to the end of their lives every day without ever having heard of the Savior. What can we do in response to a problem this monumental? What can anyone do?

When looking at this, it helps to go back to the foundation of our faith. The best thing about this conference was that every speaker, without fail, put his emphasis first and foremost on the greatness and glory of our God. On Friday night, Louie Giglio spoke about “The Galactic God who gives the Great Commission”. He used scripture, facts from astronomy, and pictures of far away galaxies to show just how enormous this universe is – and by extension, just how magnificent is the God who created it all “by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6).

David Platt spoke from Isaiah 6 and Psalm 148 on the “Glory of God, the Lostness of Man, and the Gospel of Christ”. Leaders come and go. Kings come and go. Presidents come and go. But there is one King who will never pass away, who always has been and always will be. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, he is continually being praised by his creation and by the seraphs around his throne. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!”

God is perfect, but we – mankind – are utterly lost.

“We have spurned God’s authority and despised his word. Our sin before an infinitely holy God warrants infinitely horrifying judgment. Our problem was not just that we made bad decisions, but that we were lost, cut off, condemned, destined for hell.” – David Platt

But God looks at us, rebels and sinners, and says, “You are innocent.” He shows both his holy hatred for sinners and his holy love for sinners in the cross of Jesus Christ. He ended with this:

“We have an indescribably urgent mission.  Here are three reasons why it’s urgent we go to them:

  1. Because there are 2.5 billion people in the world who have only enough knowledge of God to damn them to hell,
  2. because the gospel of God is powerful enough to save them forever.
  3. because the glory of God is good enough to satisfy them forever.

There was so, so much more to each of these messages and to the rest of the conference. Men who have given their lives to be missionaries in places like Japan, Papua New Guinea, and the Middle East shared first hand accounts of the work God is accomplishing around the globe.

 There are so many soul-numbing things in this life; so many distractions, substitutes, and preoccupations. My heart was warmed and my soul was refreshed by these reminders of the indescribable, unfathomable majesty and greatness of God. He is the reason for it all. He deserves the praise of every tribe and people and nation and tongue. And while he has given us the seemingly impossible task of making disciples of all nations, he has given us this promise:

I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

p.s. Listen to these messages!

http://tiny.cc/8wtf7

http://tiny.cc/dp8vw

p.p.s. (I took the statistics from DG ministries).

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Monday Morning

I am thankful…

For this new morning,

that I have a job and an LPN license, but also days off (like today).

for the Psalms,

for my purple scarf and mittens,

for my second cup of coffee,

for a quiet place to study in the library,

for people who love Jesus more than I do.

For books,

for journals,

For the beauty of all the everyday things that God has made.

for music,

for songs that can express a tiny bit of how awesome God is.

for my pastors and my church family.

for people who love each other and get married,

for the “pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth.”

for the unbreakable promise “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

for the Love that will not let me go.

For my beautiful sisters and my quirky brothers,

for my mom and my dad,

for God who makes all things new.

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In All Things, Give Thanks

Today I am thankful for…

  • Running water.
  • A safe place to live, where I can go running around my neighborhood without fear of getting mugged!
  • Legs and lungs that work.
  • Technology that allows me to communicate with friends and family who are hundreds of miles away.
  • A steady job, that is challenging and where I’m learning a lot (and also making money)
  • Books (!)
  • Education.
  • Coffee.
  • My family.
  • Friends who love the Lord and encourage me in the faith, and “stir up one another to love and good works.” (Heb 10:24)
  • That I have access to the Bible wherever I am!
  • That I am not alone, but I have the Holy Spirit as a counselor, comforter, helper, and guide.
  • Knowing that whatever happens, God is good all the time. And even if the very worst should happen to me here on earth, “These light and momentary afflictions are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor. 4:17).
  • That God did not leave me in my sin, but paid my debt and made me clean. That as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed my transgressions from me.
  • That his love can never fail.
God is good, all the time.
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Civilian Pursuits.

Tonight I have a lot on my mind. I’ve known for quite awhile that I want to go on a short term “mission” or volunteering of some sort. But this week it struck me that I have less than a year to figure out what. So I read basically everything on the Mission to the World (MTW) website, and contacted their recruiter. I talked with her for half an hour about their different opportunities, and whether I should do a summer internship, or a 1-3 year short term mission. They have missionaries and programs all over the globe, most of whom have a need for people to do anything from teaching English, nursing work, office stuff, helping with youth outreach, mercy ministries, and bible schools for kids.

So, I’m filling out the application for the 1-3 year commitment to cover my bases, since the deadline is Tuesday. But my parents are much more in favor of me doing a summer internship, so as not to bite off more than I can chew, and to be sure this really is the direction I should go. I’m going to Haiti in December for a 10 days, and that should give me some idea if I want to pursue medical missions/mercy ministries, or something else.

Here’s what I’m thinking. I don’t know if this is what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. These verses come to mind:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. – James 4
The heart of man plans his way,but the LORD establishes his steps.

I don’t want to boast in arrogance, claiming I know what the years ahead will bring. And even 19 short years has taught me that the surest way to make God laugh is to tell him your “plans” :) But this is something I truly feel that God has placed on my heart and mind. I feel like this is something I need to do.

All of this isn’t even really to the point, it’s just clarifying I suppose. What I’ve been thinking is this: I am so easily preoccupied and consumed by relatively meaningless things. I get all stressed about not being experienced at my job, or that I need to lose ten pounds, or that I’m upset at this or that person, or obsessed with this tv series, or I’m having a bad hair day. And, sure, these are all things (except TV maybe ) have their place and need to be dealt with accordingly. But what is my overarching purpose? What am I waking up for every morning? And when I start my day, am I looking to serve myself, or others? Am I trying to get glory for me, or for the Lord? I so, so easily slip into the “peacetime mentality”. I feel like no spectacular struggle or huge problem is going on, so it’s not a big deal if I skipped my bible reading and prayer time today.

False!

Every day, we have an enemy who relentlessly pursues us, and sin that rages from within (however insidiously and deceitfully), and it will never let up until the day we die. When we think everything is hunky dory, when we think maybe we have a ceasefire going on and we can just coast for a little while, that’s when we stumble. As John Owen said “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” Every day, we are either gaining ground or losing it.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. – 1 Cor. 10:12

To quote John Piper:

“Life is war. That’s not all it is. But it is always that. Our weakness in prayer is largely owing to our neglect of this truth.. Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief. It is not suprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den.”

Life is war.

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. – 2 Tim. 2:4

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Tim. 6:12

 
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.   – Eph. 6:13

Now, being a good Presbyterian, I know that some of this might sounds like it’s all about works and what we have to do. But really, it’s just recognizing truths of scripture – and exhortations given us in scripture! And most of all, recognizing our total, absolute, and profound dependence on our God. Apart from him we can do no good thing. So, in my mind, it’s the opposite. It’s seeing that we are helpless in and of ourselves, and so our only recourse is to lean on him.

In summary, we’re commanded to fight. To strive to enter that rest (Heb 4:11). To run so as to obtain the prize (1 Cor. 9:24). To wage the good warfare (1 Tim. 1:18). To strive together in prayer (Rom. 15:30). And to put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11).

I don’t want to waste my life on civilian pursuits. I want to please the one who enlisted me. Because his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.  Because those who come to him will never hunger, neither will they thirst. Because he loves us. Because he has redeemed my life from the pit, and set my feet upon the Rock. Because he has cast all my sins behind his back. Because he has made me clean. Because he works all things for the good of those who love him. Because he is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Because when we are faithless, yet he is faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Because in his presence there is fullness of joy. And because he is the only being in the universe who is altogether holy and worthy of our praise.

 

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Ju-ly.

I have a lot on my mind tonight. But first, a quick update. I went to Bible Bowl Nationals with the Chamberlains and 5 excessively energetic and loud, but cute 12 &13 year olds. It was quite the trip! We went to Cincinnati (where, incidentally, I had my first bible bowl nationals at age 12). It was wonderful to see my friends from across the U.S., most of whom I hadn’t seen since last July. It was also great to spend time with the Chamberlains, Tracey in particular. He’s invested a lot in my life, and he will always be one of my favorite people. The trip had its ups and downs (stresses with dealing with the kids, being my emotional self, etc) but it was overall pretty great and definitely a learning experience.

And now, I’ve working. I’ve had a grand total of 2 days off (including today) since we got back on the 9th. I’m working in the rehab unit at Comforcare, so patients there need more acute care than in a regular long term care setting. I’ve had two patients die on my shift (both were more or less expected) and had to send two more in to the ER. I’ve learned a lot, and have a lot more to learn. And I am so thankful to have a job! I got a call from another nurse last night around midnight, asking if I would switch this saturday for the next one, so today was an unexpected day off. Since I worked 15 hours yesterday, it was truly a blessing to be able to sleep in, relax, catch up on some reading, and just give my mind and body a break.

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Bitterness, Love, and Forgivness: More Thoughts & Ramblings

“31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31&32

Forgiveness can be cognitive – purely in the realm of our mind. We can intelectually pardon a person for how they’ve wronged us, but that doesn’t mean that we look at them with any fondness or affection.

But God calls us to be tenderhearted toward one another.

To be tenderhearted is to be “easily moved to love, pity, or sorrow”. I’ve realized that the way I “forgive” some people is to harden myself and block any emotion toward them. I can’t feel anger or resentment if I don’t feel anything towards them, right? But obviously, that’s not what God wants. He calls us to more than that.

God commands us to love.

Love is the motivator of forgiveness. Why else would we do something so costly to us? It’s a cause/effect sort of relationship. If we have that that compassionate, tenderhearted, loving spirit towards our brothers and sisters, forgiveness flows naturally! I guess it goes back to “The greatest of these is love.”

So, I’m praying for a loving heart. Apparently, it’s the fruit of the Spirit, or something.

 

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Forgiveness and the Ungrateful Servant

I’ve been thinking about the parable of the ungrateful servant in Matthew 18. In this parable, the king graciously and completely pardoned one servant’s debt of 10,000 talents because he couldn’t pay it – an enormous amount. But then the first servant goes and threatens one of his peers because he owes a few hundred denarii. The first servant goes so far as to have him thrown in prison! Even though his huge debt has just been canceled, he still holds this little trifle against his fellow servant.

Obviously, we are the first servant, and God is the gracious king. This parable so clearly illustrates how ridiculous and hard-hearted it is for us to refuse forgiveness to those who have wronged us. It’s downright petty. We have sinned horribly and grossly against the holy God of the universe. We’ve been ungrateful after he has given us everything. We’ve not even paid attention to the one who created us. We love everything he hates. We’ve mocked him to his face by what we do. We’ve killed his only Son.

And yet, he forgave us this monumental debt! That is amazing. And it’s not as if God says, “Oh well, we all make mistakes. After all, I’ve done bad and hurtful things too, so I suppose I should forgive.” No! God doesn’t do anything wrong. He doesn’t “need” to forgive us to prevent himself from being a hypocrite. In fact, he would be perfectly just not to forgive us. But, he does. And even though I lose sight of it, I should live in continual wonder and thankfulness for that fact.

So, back to our relationships to other people. Here’s the thing: no matter how horribly someone hurts us, it will never even begin to compare to the magnitude to which we’ve offended God. For one thing, in human relationships, there’s a give-and-take. Someone may hurt me, but chances are I’ve done something to hurt them as well. Whereas God has never wronged us, and only shown us goodness.

This is a pretty ramble-y note. But this is what it boils down to: there is never any case where it is right for me to withhold forgiveness from one of my brothers or sisters. To keep a record of these wrongs is the worst kind of hypocrisy. It’s sinful and it’s petty.

God has been convicting me lately of my unforgiveness and bitterness – things that I didn’t even realize where there! But the more I see of my own heart, the more I realize how deep this sin goes. It will take the work of the Holy Spirit and a conscious battle every day to not let bitterness take root in my heart. But our God is faithful, and he supplies us with every good thing for doing his will. And his will is that we be sanctified, and be more like Jesus! And that is an encouraging thought.

 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

       Colossians 3:12-14

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