Every so often, maybe once every ten or fifteen years, it seems that God redirects a person’s life–that there is a turning point of considerable significance. Some of those turning points might include graduation from high school, the choice of a career, a wedding, the birth of a child, a life-changing illness, one’s own first retirement, or the loss of a loved one. Other turning points are those which are of a different nature: a conversion to faith in Jesus Christ, a decision to tithe, a sense of calling to a new area of service, or a sincere humbling of the heart by the Lord. It appears that I am in the midst of such a turning point.
I returned from Asia nearly three weeks ago, and I am profoundly aware that my foundations have shifted. No, that is not the right way to say it: Jesus is my one foundation, the rock upon which I seek to build my house. So my foundation remains the same–though I rejoice that I have a renewed and greater appreciation of His grace in my life, of His hand on my life, and of the person, the God that He is who is in my life. So rather than saying the “foundations have shifted”, per chance I should say the beams or the rafters have been moved and that there is a rather major work of renovation going on in my life.
In part, I know it because it has been three weeks, and only now am I beginning to blog about my trip. The renovation is still underway: I can give you a travelogue of my adventure: 13 cities and villages in country in 10 days, three planes to get there, three planes to get home. New friendships begun; new opportunities seen; and indeed plans and prayers already begun for this next year. We met and surpassed all of our expectations–and the four of us did well as a team.
But here, I want to give God thanks and praise for remodeling and renovating my heart. I ask your prayers that I would allow Him to complete what He has begun and to trust Him wherever He leads. And again, I am speaking of the heart. I have a renewed sense of the urgency and wonder of the Gospel: I do not want to “play Church”.
When I went to Asia for the first time in 1983, I imagined that for most of my lifetime, there would be very limited access to the Gospel and only carefully defined roles for Westerners. Wow! Today, I rejoice that the Gospel is spreading, that there are opportunities for Westerners to engage in ministry, and that our Asian brothers and sisters are bold in their witness. And I expect that the impact of the Gospel will be redoubled in the next ten or fifteen years.
It is so easy to lament the state of the Church in the United States and to quietly wonder where is the power of the Spirit where is the fruit of the Word of God. But I can tell you that I rejoice to see the impact of the Lord Jesus these last 29 years. Forgive me Lord for my doubts when I have focused on the churning waves underfoot instead of keeping my eyes on you. Lord, I want to walk on water, I want to hear your voice, I want to get out of the boat, and to step out into the adventure of your calling.
The adventure of missions, especially among the least evangelized, is two-fold: to participate with God on the edge of His kingdom, and to be stirred up to dig deeper at home. My time in Asia could become an escape, an emotional high, and a fantasy world. Rather my prayer is that I would bring home with me the joy in the Lord that was renewed there, and apply it to the work here–to engage what I see the Lord doing there so that my doubting heart is strengthened and my wandering eyes focus on the face of Jesus. If I bring it home, then I will grasp the opportunities here, not with tentative hopes for improvement, but with confidence that God is accomplishing His purposes here.
If God can shake up the darkness that I encountered 29 years ago and release His light, even if it is not yet the noon day brightness, then certainly, His light can dispel the darkness that is creeping into America and give hope, justice and grace to those who are weighed down chasing vain illusions of life. A few of my readers might say I have said similar things in the past, and at one level they would be correct. I have not said that Jesus has knocked down the old house to build a new one–but rather that He has shifted the beams to renovate and remodel. He has and is shaking things up; the hammers are pounding, the saws are rasping, and the Carpenter is saying, “A little more, a little more…”