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13 June, 2013

The most important thing . . . .

Early on in my adult life I discovered I am a task-oriented person. I enjoy being assigned or finding a task that needs to be done and accomplishing it. These tasks may be around home, in an office, in the lives of others and/or in the ministries God has called me to here in Africa. I love accomplishing tasks. During the many years at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, I was privileged to accomplish many tasks relating to the implementation and maintenance of the hospital information technology systems. This past year I have been involved in accomplishing tasks which included language study, learning a new culture and tasks associated with our ministry in the community and church.  

During the last few years, I have been pondering, reflecting on an answer to the question, “What is the most important thing I can accomplish in life?”  Is it about finishing tasks?  Is it about doing all the “right” things?  Is it about being a missionary in Africa?   What is the most important thing God wants from me? 

Recently, I was reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in Luke10:38-42.  In this passage Jesus is visiting Bethany, a town near Jerusalem. He was invited into the home of Martha and her sister Mary. In the story we find Martha focused on her tasks, her work in serving others, her work in serving Jesus himself.  Meanwhile, Mary sat at Jesus’s feet to hear what he had to say. Martha and Mary are two people responding differently to the visit of Jesus. 

Three times when Mary is referred to in Scripture we read she is in the same place, at the feet of Jesus.  
  • John 11:32, Mary “fell at His feet and shared her woe”,
  • John 12:3 , Mary “came to His feet and poured out her worship”
  • Luke 10:39, Mary “sat at His feet and listened to His Word”
 
Mary experienced true intimacy with Jesus by being with him, by being in His presence.  Mary came, fell and sat in the presence of her friend, her King.  Martha was doing “good” things to honor and provide for Jesus out of love and respect for him. She was offering her works, her usefulness as a hostess to Jesus.  When Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me?”  Jesus responded with “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”   Mary chose the “good part” to offer herself, to sit in His presence, to experience intimacy with Him.  

Intimacy takes stepping away from the tasks, the life the world so easily makes a priority and recognizing our greatest priority needs to be the intimacy with our Jesus, the son of our God, our father.  It takes a conscious choice and intentional effort. It often takes sacrifice to make it happen.  It may mean sacrifice of good or great things in order to do the best thing. It often involves sacrifice of our schedule, desires, wants, physical and professional passions to focus on a spiritual passion for Christ.    

We talk about passions we have for life, for work, for helping others, and for ministry.  But, the most important thing is demonstrating in our lives a passion for (and maybe sacrifices too) experiencing intimacy with Jesus.   In their book Captivating, John and Stasi Eldridge have written.  "When we offer our unguarded presence, we live like Jesus.  And we invite others to do the same."

For me the most important thing is to live with a passion for Jesus, a passion for His presence (but not by doing). I want to live out my passion for Jesus by entering into and remaining in His presence, for worship, for opportunities to hear and respond to His voice.

I desire to choose the “good” thing just as Mary did. But, as a follower of Jesus, I desire to help others develop this same passion for and demonstrating the presence of Jesus in their lives. 

Living in His presence,

Jeff

04 June, 2013

Follow Me . . . .


Sunday we listened to a podcast sermon. The title was, “Follow Me.” Jesus invites us. When we accept His invitation we move with Him, following and learning. Before too long we will be invited to go deeper, to participate with Him. He then says, “Help Me.” Christ’s model for us was simple. He went about preaching the gospel of the kingdom (His) and healing. And as He did this, “seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”  (Matthew 9:36, NASB) When He invites us to help Him, He expects us to be wholistic in our helping, following His example. So we can choose to go deeper, to move from following to helping as we follow.  He reminds us that He desires compassion and not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13).

I chose to go deeper. I chose to follow Him to Kenya. I had opportunities help Him there. I felt such compassion for the patients that came to the hospital. I felt great compassion on our nursing students. I saw Him in them. My heart was deeply moved for them. I knew His affirmation. I followed. I helped. I loved it.

He spoke again. “Follow Me.” I chose to follow, all the way to Kampala, Uganda. I have been following, studying, learning. But in all honesty, I continued to wish I wasn’t in the city. Sometimes I have actually longed to be in the village again, experiencing the freedom of life there. Even so, I have been following Him as per His invitation. I am serving my team, helping wherever I can, glad to lighten the load and love lavishly. I find great joy in this following with helping.

But now the ones I have been serving the most often are leaving for their months in the U.S. I wonder where my following will lead now. I sit on my veranda, looking out over a small part of this city and listen. What is He saying? I hear birdsong, dogs whining, people laughing, gates clanking, construction banging, vehicles humming and horns honking. But what is He saying?  Can I even hear Him in this city? Even while listening I am inwardly praying for “staying grace” as teammates leave this city. What is He saying?  Can I even hear Him while I am asking?

Then He speaks through a song. I hear Him. “Help Me. It’s all about Me. But I don’t just want your sacrifice of staying in the city. I want compassion. Help Me.”

                “God of This City,” by Chris Tomlin (click here to listen)
                                You’re the God of this city.
                                You’re the King of these people.
                                You’re the Lord of this nation.

                                You are.

                                You’re the Light in this darkness.
                                You’re the Hope to the hopeless.
                                You’re the Peace to the restless.

                                You are.

                                There is no one like our God.
                                There is no one like our God.
               
                                Greater things have yet to come
                                And greater things are still to be done
                                In this city.

                                Greater things have yet to come
                                And great things are still to be done here.

I hear Him. Here in this city I hear Him. He is the God of this city.  He is the King of these people. He is the Lord of this nation. And I hear Him saying, “Help Me.”

“Help Me be the Light. Help Me be the Hope. Help Me be the Peace.  Greater things are yet to come. Greater things are still to be done here. Help Me.  But truly, don’t help as a sacrifice. Forget that idea. It is no sacrifice to stay in this city. You are here at My invitation. Help Me. But do so out of compassion. Respond with compassion in this city, with these people, in this nation. Respond with compassion when you come into the darkness, when you encounter the hopeless, when you notice the restless. I Am, and I ask you to help Me. Be compassionate.”

Today I look out from my veranda viewpoint and I see this small part of the city. I pray for Light to come into the darkness, weeping for the slaves in bondage to sin to be set free. I pray for the hopeless ones walking the streets, pleading for even the tiniest spark of hope to once again be ignited within them. I pray the restless will find their peace in Christ alone and rest tonight. My heart cries with gratitude that I get to help, connecting people to the One who is their God, King and Lord….their Light, Hope and Peace. I feel so privileged to be here, in this city, with these people, in this nation. I am following and helping as I know how, and I discover all over again that I love it!

Christine