Sunday, January 29, 2012

Acknowledging that the Most High is sovereign. And He invites us into His story.

Tim, my husband, leads the College small group on Wednesday nights, and his lesson last week has been on my mind a lot this week. I thought I’d share with you.

He read some from Daniel 4 about King Nebuchadnezzar. He was a king with a palace, content and prosperous. He had a dream that made him afraid, so he had all the wise men of Babylon to come before him and interpret his dream, but none of them could interpret his dream. Finally Daniel (also known as Beltechazzar) came to the king. King Nebuchadnezzar was aware that Daniel had in him the spirit of the holy God, and he told Daniel his dream. In the dream, King Nebuchadnezzar saw a great and tall tree that touched the sky. It was abundant in fruit, the beasts of the earth found shelter under it, and the birds lived in its branches. From the tree, every creature was fed. Then he saw a messanger come down from heavan and told him to strip down and cut off the tree, leaving only the stump to be drenched, and let him live with the animals and among the plants.

Daniel was greatly perplexed and confused, for the dream terrified him. Daniel told the king “You, oh king, are that tree! You have become great and strong and your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky and your dominion extends to the distant parts of the earth. The messanger, a holy one, said to cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, let him be drenched with dew of heaven, let him live like the wild animals until seven times pass by for him until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign.”  Daniel told the king to renounce his sins by doing what is right, and renounce his wickedness by being king for the oppressed. 

Only a year later, King Nebuchadnezzar walked around his palace saying “I have built this Babylon as my royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty.” Then a voice came from heaven and said “Your royal authority has been taken from you, you will be driven away and live with the animals until seven times pass by and you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Immediately, this was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

At the end of that time, Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes toward heaven and his understanding was restored and he praised the Most High. And this is what he said:
“His dominion is an eternal dominion;
His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
With the powers of heaven
And the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
Or say to him “What have you done?””

At that time, the kingdom was returned to Nebuchadnezzar. He was restored and became greater than before. “Now, I, King Nebuchadnezzar praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right all his ways are just. Those who walk in pride, He is able to make humble.”

This is not our story. It is God’s story. We can not invite Him into our plans or our story. This is His story. And He invites us to be a part of it. He invites us into His life and His plans. We can't create our own plans and leave God out, and we can't even make up our own plans and ask God to come into them. Our part is to be obedient to His plans! We need to acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign, ruler of all, independent, self governing, supreme, superior, the Most High, our Lord of Lords, and our Savior. Tim heard a story from one of Francis Chan’s videos. There was a girl getting ready to speak, and she was really nervous saying, “God please show up when I’m speaking, show up in that room, God please”, then the thought occurred to her,  God is saying, “Hey, this is My party, and I invited you.” Francis said “I know I’m always saying God please show up , and God’s saying “No, I'm already here. Don't you know that this is my party, not yours, you should be glad that I invited you into it. I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do, and you should be thankful that I invited you to be a piece of that.” We’ve got to realize that He is so sovereign, He is in control of everything, He already has plans, and he just invites us into them, and we are called to simply be obedient!  Really amazing, huh?

Then we go to Isaiah 40. (Hang in there, this is good.) This is long but please read through it.
Starting at verse 6 (Emphasis added)
“A voice says “Cry out”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
   “All people are like grass,
   and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
   because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
   Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
   but the word of our God endures forever.”
 9 You who bring good news to Zion,
   go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,[c]
   lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid; 

   say to the towns of Judah,
   “Here is your God!”
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
   and he rules with a mighty arm.

See, his reward is with him,
   and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
   He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;

   he gently leads those that have young.
 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
   or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
   or weighed the mountains on the scales
   and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit[d] of the LORD,
   or instruct the LORD as his counselor?
14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
   and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
   or showed him the path of understanding?
 15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
   they are regarded as dust on the scales;
   he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.

16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
   nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
   they are regarded by him as worthless
   and less than nothing.
 18 With whom, then, will you compare God?
   To what image will you liken him?
19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
   and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
   and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A person too poor to present such an offering
   selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
   to set up an idol that will not topple.
 21 Do you not know?
   Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
   Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
   and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
   and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
   and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

24 No sooner are they planted,
   no sooner are they sown,
   no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither
   and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
 25 “To whom will you compare me?
   Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
   Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
   and calls forth each of them by name.

Because of his great power and mighty strength,
   not one of them is missing.
 27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
   Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
   my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
   Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
   and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
   and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
   and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint.

Wow. Did you read that? AMAZING! God, who has all authority, who holds the world in the palm of his hand, placed the stars in the sky in perfect position, he sees us as little bitty grasshoppers, or like a small blade of grass that withers when his breath blows on us,  he holds the dust of the earth in a basket, the nations are like a drop in a bucket. He is sovereign, he is power, his ways pass up all our understanding, he does not grow tired or weary. He can merely blow on any of us, and we wither. The rulers with too much pride or power, he can blow on them and they wither, just like Nebuchadnezzar. The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms and gives them to anyone he wishes. He is God. And he has all authority. No one can hold back his hand. He is sovereign.

And yet… he holds little bitty nothingness us in his arms and keeps us close to his heart. We are so weak, but he gives us strength. He keeps us from stumbling and falling. Any ounce of power we have, he gives it to us. And he can take it away, just as we saw with Nebuchadnezzar. And he restores us and humbles us, and we will recognize him as the Most High. He is sovereign. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

This has changed my prayer life recently. Often, some of my prayers sound like this, “God, please show up today in service,” or “give me the words to say and boldness to say it.” My perspective has changed. Remember? This is not our story. It is God’s story. We can not invite Him into our our plans or our story. This is His story. And He invites us into it. He invites us to have a part of His plans. My prayer should be more about just giving Him glory, whatever it takes, and praying that I will walk in obedience. When I hear that little whisper to go tell someone about his grace and love, or to speak to me today in the service… I just have to be obedient and walk down the narrow path he has laid out long before me, I just have to have my heart and my ears open to his word and his voice. 

And lastly, Matthew 28. There is a new twist to it that I know I haven’t picked up on before until Tim pointed it out. Starting with verse 18:

“ Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

ALL AUTHORITY. All of it. All that authority that we just talked about, was given to Jesus. He is sovereign, ruler of all, independent, self-governing, self-sufficient, supreme, superior, paramount, the Most High, he is our Lord. This is His story, His plans, and He has all authority…. And gives us a command, He gives little bitty me, a single blade of grass, a little weak lamb that he holds near to his heart...He gives me a command?

With all of His authority, He says
Go. Make disciples of all nations.
Teach them everything I have commanded you.

And He is with us, always, to the very end of the age. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

His plans, not mine

Isaiah 48:17
This is what the LORD says—
   your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God,
   who teaches you what is best for you,
   who directs you in the way you should go.
 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
   your peace would have been like a river,
   your well-being like the waves of the sea.
Your descendants would have been like the sand,
   your children like its numberless grains;
their name would never be blotted out
   nor destroyed from before me.”

Heard on the radio today about plans. How often times we make plans in which we know we can carry out on our own. But sometimes maybe that is robbing God of His glory. He might have definitely has different, bigger, so amazing and marvelous plans.

I believe God plants ideas in our hearts and minds and I know I often grab them and think “OHH GOOD IDEA!” and then turn around and try to figure out how to do it… and eventually I alter, squash, compress, and minimize the plans God has. So now, I am able to accomplish this task God has put in front of me. But now it’s not His, I’ve made it mine, and it’s a lot different and not so good anymore.  So maybe it was never mine to start with! Of course it wasn’t!!!!....It was HIS. And it would have been so amazing if I hadn't changed everything. And I would have seen His hands move, and I would have grown closer to Him through seeking His will and becoming dependant on Him. It becomes easy for us to underestimate His power. We have become so dependent on ourselves and shove God to the backburner in our lives until we think we need Him. I wonder what it would be like to step back and let God shape the plans and for us to just simply walk in obedience… to “walk down the path that God has laid out right in front of us.” Instead, I am straying from the path, no, it’s more like running wild away from His direction, lost in the woods, and then I fall into a raging river and then I realize… “Ooops, this isn’t quite right.” I should let His seemingly impossible plans just be… be as He intended. And we can't do it on our own, to carry out those plans, to accomplish His goals. But isn't that the point!? I think what He wants is for me to just look to Him, let Him lead the way, and just follow and praise Him.  Praise Him for allowing me to have a small part of His plans, to be used as His hands and feet, but mostly to just see His work, to feel His sweet spirit, to see lives changes, and to magnify and glorify His great name. I want to watch HIM put the pieces together, and I will know, and I will see, that it was His hands and I will praise Him! I will know that it was all His doing, and not mine. His plans will result in such magnificent and beautiful things that the only thing I can do is step back in look in awe of what He's done and praise Him. All the honor and glory will go straight to Him. Yes. I want to see His plans, not mine. It's all about you, Jesus. 

Thankful that God used K love on the radio today to lovingly put me back on the path!

Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength

Psalm 118:8 “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your path.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Update on direction! (Accepted into WIM)

Well Tim and I have been in Texas this week meeting with a Christian missionary organization that works all around the world. We had been praying about rather to start our own non-profit organization or joining another missionary organization and God brought us here to Texas to figure it out. He connected us to them through the Brewers who are from our area in Tennessee but are missionaries living and working in Haiti. So the Brewers told us about this organization, WIM (World Indigenous Missions). We have been communicating with them for a few months and finally decided to make a trip to Texas to learn more and get to know each other and do some interviews and orientation and a taste of training, etc. The week has been busy from sun up to sun down with a truck load of information and 4 interviews a piece. Quite exhausting and just a bit overwhelming. BUT. We prayed and prayed and last night got down and prayed some more and we felt like God brought us here for a purpose. Our plans are a little different than those of most of the missionaries that work through them, but they said they hear God telling them that we are His and part of the plan here. SO, we are ACCEPTED and will eventually be full time, long-term missionaries partnered with WIM!!! :) They see the potential in us and our plans which are slowly by slowly are being revealed and shaped like clay by the Potter's hands. 

SO EXCITED!!!!  And a lot of work ahead of us! But we are so thankful that God has brought us to this point and brought us together with this organization. They show us that they really love and serve the Lord with their whole heart, and that's exactly what we want to do. So thankful.

So, the plan....
Well for now, we have some training and reading and learning to do. We have a list of books to read before going back to the field. Some more meetings and training in Texas. We have a 3 week trip to plan for this summer in Haiti for some learning and training. Then in July or August, we will return to Kenya for a 1 year apprenticeship plus language learning. We will work with other missionaries in that area learning what works, what doesn't, training, experience, and just working along side of them to learn as much as we can so that we can start on our own. I will work in a couple of hospitals and clinics as part of training in Kenya to get some experience with Kenya's common illnesses and cure/treatments, where and how to get supplies, and all the legal aspects of having a clinic. We will work with a couple of different children's homes and schools. And, We will be discipled and learn how to disciple others to be intimate in their walk with Jesus and courageous leaders in their community and in their churches.

So, our vision....
So after all that, we feel God leading us to eventually have a small clinic. Maybe with basic health care, immunizations, wound care, etc. and especially malnutrition rehabilitation and teaching. We are still praying about how we will work with the orphaned children and street kids. So many different ways to do it, for example, we could : have an orphanage, OR place them with their/a family and offer support to help them to help establish an income generating project to be able to support the family and keep them together, OR take them in and adopt OR work with an adoption agency, OR start an orphan village with small houses of 4 or 5 children with house parents or house mom to give it a more family feel, and so on. That is something we are really praying about, seeking guidance, and hope that you will join us in prayer about it also. God has placed that need on our hearts and shown us how important it is to care for those children. We'll work with different children's homes and organizations and families to try to learn the most effective, scriptural, and spirit-led way to minister to the poor living situations and orphaned children and widows. There are other things that God has placed on our hearts to do but has not revealed us much details about them yet, which is probably good!! He know what He is doing and probably doesn't want us to totally stress out! We will just take it on one step at a time as God slowly prepares us, molds us, and opens doors and reveals HIS detailed plans. 

So there's the update for now! Thank you so much for taking the time to read about what's new in our journey walking with Jesus. 

Tim and Jenni

Photos by Willis Atieno from U.H.I.O. 
orphaned children outside of Kisumu, Kenya