Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

What the heck am I doing here?

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Every once in a while I go through a “What the heck am I doing here?” phase.  Other missionaries might relate to this feeling.  I look at the things that consume my time every day, and I feel like very little that I do has spiritual significance.  I sweep and mop floors, I fold laundry, I teach ordinary school subjects to fifth graders, I make dinner, I pack lunches, I pick up toys, I walk to the grocery store to buy bread… I do all the ordinary daily life tasks.  However, here it takes me twice as long to do most things with twice the effort that it would in America.  All that to say, daily life kicks my butt most of the time!

kitchen-sinkI start thinking about how easy it is to live in America, how I could do twice as much in half the time and still have time left over to minister to people.  I wonder why I’m here.  How can THIS be considered Kingdom work?  I imagined being a missionary to be more like living on a missions trip!  But it’s not.  Daily life becomes daily no matter where you live.  I DO love when teams come down on trips because I get a taste of what drew me to missions in the first place… but that’s not how I live every day.

It’s a part of my personality package to search for significance and meaning in my life.  I would be happy and fulfilled if every detail of my life had spiritual implications, but I just can’t reconcile washing the dishes for the Kingdom of God.  That doesn’t equate in my mind.  If I were the apostle Paul, I would want to spend all my time preaching and none of it making tents.  But the bills must be paid- so I teach school.  Dinner must be made- so I go grocery shopping and prepare meals.  Children must be cleaned- so I do laundry and bathe the kids and teach them to brush their teeth, etc.

I start to feel like a fake when I call myself a missionary and the next question is, “well how many people have you gotten saved?”  It’s as if my life is being weighed in a balance and I come up short.  I am worthy of my calling only if X number of souls have come into the Kingdom.  When that’s not how the Kingdom works at all.  God’s Kingdom is not mathematical.  If it were, then the worker who worked all day long would receive more wages than the ones who arrived on the job in the last hour or two of the day.  But in that parable, Jesus said all the workers get paid the same regardless of how long they worked.  That’s neither fair, nor logical, nor mathematical.  If that’s not proof enough of the inefficiency of the Kingdom, then just look at the life of the missionary for more evidence.

woman-washing-dishesIf God were interested in the efficiency of numbers and equations then He wouldn’t ask a foreigner to go to a strange country, learn a new language, and speak to people with child-like simplicity and painful inaccuracy of pronunciation and grammar.  That just doesn’t make sense.  But He does.  This is how He works- mysteriously and sovereignly.  But I still think he could do this thing quicker and cleaner if he called and equipped locals only.  Why throw the messiness of missions into the pot?

When I am deep into my “what the heck” phase, I see all the messiness of missions.  You can’t bring cultures into close proximity without both of them being changed- and not always for the better.  Early missionaries brought sicknesses and diseases that the natives didn’t have the immunity to fight off.  Imperialism was a blight on early missions efforts- and this deadly fungus is still infecting the image of missions to this day.  Modern technology literally destroys simpler and older ways of life, often creating new problems even as it solves others.  Nothing we do is clean cut and free of the tarnish of human motivations.  Everything we touch becomes tainted, and God asks us to put our hands all over every detail of this life.  “How could he WANT it this way?” I question.

I don’t have any answers to this question.  I muddle through my own feelings of uselessness and futility even as I long for purpose and meaning.  I long to be useful.  Yet the only thing within my power is my own obedience.  I wish missions were clean and tidy.  I wish obedience was simple and easy.  But it’s not. It’s daily.  It’s messy.  It’s complicated.  It is impossible to sound the depths of the human heart and it is impossible to write up a how-to manual for building the Kingdom of God.  It can’t be done.

Photo credits:

Kitchen sink, Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeangenie/178780382/”>jeangenie</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</>

washing dishes in Honduras Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lonqueta/3532526536/”>Lon&Queta</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com/People/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

The Check is in the Mail

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A friend of mine named Anna is a teacher at a language school here.  Most of her students are missionaries of various denominational flavors.  Once, about 5 years ago, one of her students expressed his gratitude to her as a teacher.  He said, “I am so thankful that you have patiently worked to teach me Spanish.  How can I repay you?”

Anna was not sure if he meant to give her a gift or what.  She wisely replied, “When you preach in Spanish and someone gets saved, that will be my pay check.”  She saw her ministry continuing through HIS future ministry.  She saw with Kingdom Eyes that we are all interconnected when we work for the Kingdom of God.  She kept up contact with this student through email over the next year.  He went on to El Salvador to be a missionary.

One day Anna got an email that said, “Here’s your check.  This weekend I preached in Spanish for the first time.  I asked if anyone wanted to ask the Lord to forgive their sins and to come into their heart.  Three people got saved!!”  Anna wiped away the tears when she told us how honored she felt to be a part of something bigger than herself.  Her ministry reached to El Salvador because she was diligent, her student was persistent, and God was Faithful.

My English student Leticia.  I'm so proud of her!

My English student Leticia. I’m so proud of her!

Today is a very special day for ME as a teacher too.  I too have been a language school teacher.  And today one of my first students will be getting on an airplane and flying from her home in Chile to her mission field in India.  I taught her English for a year, and she worked so hard!  I am so proud of my student for sticking with her dreams and seeing them through.  I worked patiently, forming and crafting her English.  She worked persistently, pushing herself to study and learn.  Then God was faithful in her fund raising efforts as well.  Now, FINALLY, she is leaving for India today.

Pray for my student-missionary Leticia as she travels alone to a country where she’s never been before.  Pray for Leticia as she works to communicate in a second language.  Pray for Leticia today.  I look forward to the day when I receive a message from her saying that she prayed in English with someone and they received the Lord into their heart.  I thank God that some day soon MY check will be in the mail, metaphorically speaking.

Life on a Paper Plate

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As I carried multiple piles of folded laundry to the various corners of the house, I passed by 3 small pictures propped up against the wall in the hallway.  We have lived in this house for 2 ½ years and I have still not hung those pictures.  As missionaries we live our lives in 4-year segments: on the field 4 years, home 1 year raising funds.  Since we only have 18 months left in this cycle, those pictures will likely stay leaning against the wall instead of being hung.

I sigh when I think about how temporary our life feels.  As a mom, nothing I do stays done permanently.  I make food; the children are hungry again 4 hours later.  All week long I clean the house; then I start over again on Monday.  I wash and fold laundry; by bedtime there is another load to wash (I’ve thought about ordering everyone to be nude for a day or two just to give me a break, but only my youngest would comply.)  Nothing stays done.

As a teacher, I can teach a whole year only to start over in the same book next year and reteach the same material.  As a missionary, we can raise funds only to have the account empty to zero each month.  We teach the basics of leadership and discipleship over and over and over again because kids keep graduating and a new batch comes along.  Nothing stays done.

One time I asked my dental hygienist what attracted her to this job (because frankly you couldn’t pay me enough to clean someone’s teeth!)  She said, “Nothing in my life stays done.  But when I clean someone’s teeth, I can look at that and say, ‘there, it’s done.’”  In my mind I was thinking, it’s only done until the guy eats his next meal, but I guess she doesn’t see that.

My point is, this feeling of life being temporary seems to be universal.  Don’t go reading Ecclesiastes when you’re in this mood.  Solomon was in a dark mood when he penned the words, “Meaningless!!  Everything under the sun is a meaningless chasing after the wind.”  And it’s true, sometimes.

Life can feel temporary and meaningless.  My dad grew up in a dysfunctional home with an alcoholic and often suicidal mother.  She served dinner on paper plates.  To this day, my dad hates eating on paper plates because it reminds him of how temporary life felt as a child.  I guess his paper plates are my unhung pictures.

And this is the very reason that I can’t imagine doing anything with my life except serving the Lord.  Only what is done for the Kingdom of God has eternal significance.  Why build another kingdom here on this temporary earth when you could be investing your energies in something that will last forever?  The Bible says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

What if “Success” isn’t the Goal?

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“For some people their apprehension about stepping out in faith is really a fear of failure.  They do not do what God has called them to because they are afraid they may not succeed.  Listen carefully.  When God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He’s calling you to obey!  The success of the calling is up to Him; the obedience is up to you.” ~David Wilkerson

The Kingdom of God has been rightfully called “The Upside-Down Kingdom”.  It’s like stepping through Alice’s Looking Glass into a place where the first are last, and the meek inherit the land, and to be the greatest you must be the servant.  Everything we know in the world is turned on its head… including the standard of Success.

Would it shock you to learn that God is not at all interested in your personal success?  Joel Osteen has it all wrong.  In this Upside-Down place, God is more interested in the Process of making you who he wants you to be than in making you a successful person.  He’s more interested in crushing and squeezing you to make you into sweet wine.  He may call you to do something which will look like failure in the eyes of the world.  He sent Joseph to Egypt as a slave.  He sent Paul to Rome in chains.  He banished John to a remote island.  Why?  Because He had a purpose which required this kind of process.

Joseph was to be the source of rescue for his family years later when a drought ravaged the land.  Paul was chained to a Roman guard so he would settle down and write the letters of the New Testament.  And John was sitting quietly in a cave when the Revelation was given to him.  All of these men had to accept what looked like failure in order to achieve the calling.

“[The call of God] has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine.  Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us.  We say, ‘If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn’t object!’  But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object.  Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom.  If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.”  ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

Kingdom of Comfort

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Kingdom of Comfort by Delirious?

Save me.  Save me, From the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king, From my unhealthy lust of material things.

I built myself a happy home, in my palace on my own.  My castle falling in the sand.  Pull me out, please grab my hand!  I just forgot where I came from.

Save me.  Save me, From the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king, From my unhealthy lust of material things.

I rob myself of innocence, with the poison of indifference.  I buy my stuff at any cost, a couple of clicks and I pay the price, Coz’ what I gain is someone else’s loss.

Save me.  Save me, From the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king, From my unhealthy lust of material things.

Save me.  Save me, From the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king.  To this Kingdom of Heaven where You are King.