Thursday, April 10, 2014

"If anyone wishes to come after Me.."

My daily Bible reading early this week was Matthew 16:21-28, the passage where Peter rebukes Jesus, telling Him, essentially, No, You're not going to die.  Jesus responds with, "Get behind me, satan!"

My thoughts:
Peter didn't want Jesus to suffer and die.  He thought that wasn't right, wasn't fair, and shouldn't happen.  The literal translation of verse 22 is, "God be merciful to You, Lord! This shall never be to You!"
It occurs to me that this is the attitude of many of us Americans toward the persecution and suffering of missionaries, and of Christians in general.  We say:

"They don't deserve that!"
"If they're suffering so much, they must not be in God's will."
"They should get out of there and not put themselves in danger."

But Jesus has a rebuttal to Peter's well-intended plea: "You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but of man" (v. 22).  Then He goes on to say that if we desire to truly follow Him, we are required to lay down our lives and our own interests -- to "die daily," as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:31.  And not just say we're willing to...but actually do it when called.

Yesterday I read a passage in Acts 21 that echoed this same subject -- "When we heard [that Paul would be persecuted], we...began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am willing, not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'  And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, 'The will of the Lord be done.'" (v.12-14)

For Christians today, it might not always look like being nailed to a cross or burned at the stake or thrown in prison.  Sometimes it looks like moving far from home, giving up worldly comforts, or enduring ridicule.  But in truly following Jesus, some degree of sacrifice, and even persecution, will come.  We will be required to lay down our life in some way -- "for the name of the Lord Jesus."  And others will say it's not worth it...but it is.  Following Him always is.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fourteen Days.

It's exactly two weeks from today that I fly from Tennessee to Seattle, Washington, and then the next day, on to Alaska to stay for the next 6 months.  Two weeks from today.  I can't even comprehend that!

It seems like just yesterday that I got home from Alaska.  In fact, I distinctly remember the day that was two weeks after getting back.  I wrote this in my journal that day:

October 9, 2013
Realized today that it's been exactly 2 weeks since I returned to TN.  Just 14 days.  That's not a long time, compared to how long I was there and how life-changing it was.  Some would say, 2 weeks is long enough to recuperate, now get on with life.  Maybe they'd be right.  But realizing it's only been 2 weeks somehow also gives me a little space and permission to breathe, to know I'm still processing and adjusting, and that's okay.  There's a lot to process.  And not just things that happened there, past-tense, but what is continuing.  What God was doing in me there didn't end when I got on the plane and left.  It's still going.  And yet some things did end and get left behind, like the beauty, the atmosphere, the friends, and the ministry, and those things I ache and long for.  So I'm working through the mess.  I don't know if I can expect to ever feel like I'm 'back to normal,' because I'm changed.  The old normal isn't normal anymore, and that's good.

(What a beautiful mess re-entry is.  If you've ever been on a life-altering mission trip, you understand.  It's good and terrible at the same time...but kinda mostly terrible...with good results, hopefully.)

So I remember very clearly those few weeks of re-entry woes, followed by what was kind of a difficult winter personally and a busy one.... and now I'm here, today, and it's spring, and I'm 14 days from going back to Alaska again, and I can't even believe that it all went by so quickly!  Didn't I just write that journal entry last month?  Nope.  Six months ago.  How in the world did that happen?!

I'm trying to pace myself through these next two weeks while getting everything done -- visiting with family and friends, saying goodbyes, shopping, packing, and yes, excitedly counting down the days until I'm back in the place that stole my heart last year.

Two weeks.  That's so crazy.