Answering The Call is an international missions organization dedicated to reaching people in difficult to reach places.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Was God Thinking?

I remember a season in my life when I was particularly confused about God. It felt like the foundation beneath me was crumbling to pieces and I had nothing on which to place my weary feet. I knew all the right things I was supposed to say and think at a time like that; trust God; He is sovereign; all things work together for good; God knows best, etc… etc.... However, knowing what I was supposed to think and what I was really thinking were two totally different things. To put it plainly, I was having a crisis of faith, and I had nowhere to turn, except to the One in whom I had placed my faith. I had hit the bottom and I was asking God some serious questions. My primary question for God was, “WHY did you even create me? WHY did you create mankind? You knew we would sin, rebel, and have misery here on earth! So, WHAT were you thinking?” I was at an all time low and had a desperate need to make some kind of sense about what was happening in my life.

One particular day I was crying out to God. (By the way, I happen to believe God loves when we cry out to Him in our anguish, anger, disappointment, fear, hopelessness and confusion. I also believe, the louder the better! Or at least, the better it feels. I have found He is big enough to handle it.) On this particular day, I was expressing, with much intensity, my frustration at His decision to create mankind. (For all you readers, I was not only pleading my case but yours as well.) And I asked Him again, “Why did you create us!?” To my surprise He turned the question around and asked me, “Why did you have children?”

This got me to thinking. Why do people decide to have children? Why did I decide to have children? Why did I even want children? To have children was a conscious decision for David and me. We wanted little Fuller’s running around, but I had never considered WHY we wanted them and what actually drove us to have them. Pondering this question led me to some life changing conclusions about God. I knew in advance that having children was a risk. I knew that having children could cause me great heartache one day. I also knew the potential joy they would give me. I knew they could choose to rebel. I knew there was the possibility that my children could forsake me, or worse, forsake God. I knew I could lose them. I knew they could reject my love. I knew there would come a time when my children would misunderstand, or not understand, my motives and my heart towards them.

So WHY did I have them? The answer is clear.The answer is love. In some strange unexplainable way, I loved them before I ever bore them. I dreamt of them. I envisioned what they would look like and what they would be like. I wanted to hold them, kiss them, and give them my love and affection. And this was before I ever knew them. Then we had them. I never knew it was possible for my heart to actually contain the intense love it had the moment I saw them. In some way they were an expression and a completion of me and my husband. When I held them I knew, like I didn’t know before, the amount of pain they could cause me. And still, they were worth the risk.

I had asked God a question and His answer happened to lay in the answer to the question He asked me. God knew the risk He was taking when He created us. He knew He would be misunderstood, or not understood at all. He knew His heart would get broken. He knew His children would rebel. He knew we may not choose to love Him. But His love compelled Him to create us. Love must express. He loved us before He formed us. We were the object of His love and affection. And the Bible tells us that He delights over us.

Many ask, “Well why doesn’t God just make us love Him, or make us obey Him?” But I ask, “Would that really be love?” If I simply barked out commands to my children, demanding they do this or that, demanding that they love me, and were they to adhere to all of my wishes and commands, would this be love? I would not enjoy my children, nor would they enjoy me, if they had no will of their own and only did what I commanded like little robots. I wanted relationship with my children, not little robots to order around. On the other hand, I love when my children choose to obey me, even when they don’t want to or understand. It tells me that they KNOW and TRUST my love and intentions towards them. I love when my children choose to talk to me about what is going on in their lives. Relationship works best when the individuals involved choose to love rather than being forced to love. And relationship is what God wants with us.

I think the real deal is that most people don’t know the heart of God. And if we don’t know the heart of God towards us, how in the world are we going to trust Him and be in relationship with Him? You see, my children, as imperfect of a parent as I am, know my heart towards them. This is what makes real relationship possible. Trusting the heart of God is a difficult thing to get to. I know it was for me. And I am still learning, becoming more and more convinced that His heart towards me really is good. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
I am praying that God will give you the spirit of revelation on His heart towards you. It is good. It is love.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Garden of Eden: The First Mission's Assignment

I was once a part of a team whose assignment was to develop a mission’s vision for a local church. It was a fascinating process. I learned an important lesson during the course of it. At some point we were all called upon to give our definition of missions. The people on the team were from various backgrounds, and their definition of missions was reflective of their background. I was a bit startled to realize that among our group of seven, there were seven very different definitions. I still think about that process and over the years I have learned more and more about what missions really is. Obviously, the goal is to arrive at the Lord’s definition of missions. The extent to which we do that, we are able to capture His vision for what we are to do rather than just create our own system and ask for His blessing on it.

A good understanding of His definition of missions will begin with revelation of where and why missions began. We might be tempted to look to the Book of Acts and the launching out of the church for a mission starting point. Some might argue for an earlier missions launch as God instructs the nation of Israel to be a light to the Gentile nations. I am seeing something else. Missions began in the Garden of Eden and an understanding of this mission call provides definition to the call that we now have.

You may have never thought of it like this, but the first call to missions was issued in the following way, "And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion.’" There it is. Man created in the image of God and given a great spot to hang out, along with a great purpose. They lived under God’s rule, both with respect to their own lives, and the place they were to reside. In the New Testament Jesus would have called this Kingdom living. It is clear that in this place and under God’s rule, not only was life good, but they were given both authority and assignment. They were given authority, or dominion, over creation. They were also given an assignment as they were told to exercise this authority, or dominion, and subdue the earth. God’s rule was in the Garden of Eden. They were to extend His rule, or His Kingdom, as they were in un-obstructed relationship with Him, by utilizing the authority He had given them.

It’s simple really. The foundation of missions is found in the Garden of Eden and the function of missions has never changed. We now, as restored subjects of the Kingdom through the blood of Jesus, operate in relationship with God to extend here on earth the boundaries of His Kingdom. Jesus said, "The Kingdom is at hand," and invited us to join Him in the inauguration of it as we look towards the consummation of it. The Kingdom of God, according to the New Testament, is the rule of peace, joy, and righteousness. As we see the world around us, it’s not at all difficult to see opportunities for restoration of peace, joy and righteousness. Knowing we have His authority, since we are rightly related to Him, compels us to confront the kingdom of darkness. Luke records that Jesus sent 72 of His disciples out. They met with success to the extent they were surprised by it. I can almost picture the smile on Jesus’ face and the slight chuckle as He responds to their report saying, "I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy. Nothing shall hurt you. I saw satan fall like lightning." We have been given this same authority. The evil of the world’s systems are no match for Ambassadors of the Heavenly Kingdom. We are on mission. We bring peace, joy, and righteousness, invading and dispelling the kingdoms of this world.