The God of the Nations

So, count the cost brothers and sisters. This is not an invitation to an easy life. For 2000 years, thousands and thousands of missionaries, the unnamed-no biographies written about them, just unnamed people of whom the world is not worthy, have counted the cost and put their lives at risk and reached the lost with the only message of salvation. -John Piper

anewthing

I was talking to a new friend last night about my heart for evangelism, internationals and for missions. She looked at me and said, “You’re heart is there. Go for it.” So simple if I hadn’t just sat through a service that spoke to my heart about letting go of everything and allowing the Lord to lead my life.

You see, I’ve been bouncing around America getting to see some amazing people, but also hoping that the Lord would just open a door to go back on the mission field to the unreached. If that’s in a church in America focusing on women’s discipleship and evangelism, or training students in the UK, or working at a Refugee center, I’m ready. I have been frantically searching online for missions organizations that work with Muslims/Arabs, considered applying for jobs in Seattle and the UK, and I even talked with a Missions team in Popenguine, Senegal. I have been so ready to be doing something for the kingdom that involves internationals. And that’s where the Lord checked my heart.

Mary, surrender it all to me. You can’t manipulate yourself into my will. Trust that I’ll lead you. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other to keep you from doing the things you want to… the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”

I feel like this has been a sweet reminder that when I’m being anxious, that is a work of the flesh. It opposes peace. Peace comes from having trust in a trustworthy God. Anxiousness comes from trying to find rest in what I can do, what job I can find, who I can network with. He is trustworthy. I can follow Him and know that He will lead me in His calling for my life. I can have joy knowing that He is faithful not only to me, but to the nations that don’t yet know Him. He is working; He doesn’t need us but He sure does delight in using us.

I wrestled with the Lord a little bit last night thinking, “Okay God, is this burden I have for the nations normal? I feel like a freak. Is this me that made this up? Is this idolatry towards global missions in my heart? Is this your vision that you casted for me that I get to be a part of?”

This morning I shared a little bit about what God did in Senegal this past year at a church in Cleveland, Tennessee. [Y’all, bless my heart. Public speaking without having 3 cups of coffee is so not my thing.] I shared two verses that have been giving me hope. Here’s one of those verses from Revelation 21 about the New Heaven and the New Earth.

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.. meaning Heaven isn’t full of people who look and sound like me. It isn’t going to be full of people who speak English. There will be people there who have never heard of Starbucks. There will be people who have seen and experienced very different things on this Earth than westerners. The nations will be represented in Heaven because God created each and every one of them and loves them. There is hope for the unreached, the lost, the hard hearted, the church goer who has played the good Christian role their whole lives without truly having life-altering faith in Christ. There is hope for each and every one. And all of us will be there because Christ died for our sins. We have faith in Him because someone shared the great news with us. Faith comes through hearing. I want challenge you with this, “The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” -Carl F.H. Henry. Are we praying, supporting or going? Are we a part of this? Is the gospel good news to us? Do we know what the gospel is? Is this just our mindset on global missions or do we even apply it to the lost in our area?

One of the sweet things the Lord has reminded me of this morning was that it doesn’t matter where we are physically. The lost are everywhere. And one of the sweet things He showed me was that I live in a country full of internationals. The two bus boys at a restaurant I ate at were from Tanzania and Nigeria. As I was walking out of the restaurant, I hear in a very distinctly Irish accent, “So, have you ever preached in Northern Ireland?” I whipped my head around so fast that I wasn’t quite sure that my body could catch up and exclaimed, “Whaaaaaaaat!?”

Three nations represented in little ol’ Cleveland within 3 minutes. Seriously, the Lord confirmed that He does want me to have a heart for the nations. He wants me praying for the Muslims at the Mosques in Senegal. He wants me supporting people going to the hard to reach nations. But He also has me here for a season too. There are so many different nationalities here that I can’t ignore the need here just because I want to go. I am “going” it just looks different than the Irish countryside I’d hoped for. 😉

The Lord was so sweet this morning to remind me that missions here matters. He just happened to use two bus boys and a group of Irish believers to catch my attention.

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Dear Future STINTers,

Many of you who might be reading this blog might not even be considering doing a Short-Term Internship (STINT) with the organization I work for. Even if you aren’t, please bear with me and read this post. I think we could all use a little encouragement in setting a fire in our hearts for evangelism and also lighting a fire under our feet to move us into action in going forth to all nations with the hope of our Lord.

This past week we had our annual mid-year conference in Nerja, Spain. Let me just show you a picture of the scenery so that you can get a glimpse of how refreshing this past week was:

Malaga, Spain

Nice, huh?

At this conference, over 200 STINTers from all over the world gathered to debrief hard things, be encouraged by staff, encourage other teams by what God is doing within their ministry, and come into Christian community. I was so encouraged to hear about amazing things God is doing in countries I had never even heard of before STINT. How faithful is He?! This week I was encouraged by many other teams that are working in locations like ours, that God is beginning a movement in Senegal. That’s what we are there for: to develop a fully student led evangelistic ministry on our college campus.

What God has been doing in Senegal: We’ve seen weekly evangelism with students initiating and sharing the gospel, many for the first time. One of our students, Israel, has a new nickname: Soul Winner. Literally every time he shares the gospel, someone gets saved. Our student meetings (much like Thursday nights for you UTC/Lee people) is almost 100% student led. Last week, one of our students, Kante, led the message on humility! And Israel and Stanislass led worship. Amazing things are happening in this country that is known for being super hard to the gospel. 95% of the people in my country do not know Christ. They do not have forgiveness of sins. They do not have assurance of salvation or hope. But, God is faithful. We’re beginning to see steps towards a movement of around 10 students taking the gospel out to a campus of 65,000. Slowly but surely! or in Wolof, Ndanka danka moy jappo golly ci ney (Little by little we will catch the monkey in the forest). I mean totally applicable in your context, right….

Really, what I’m wanting to say is that we are praying for you.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are being prayed for by hundreds of STINTers and international staff from all over the world. There are people in the regional offices who are praying for you. There are people who don’t know Christ in countries I can’t even name who are crying out to God for people to share with them who Jesus is. You are being prayed for.

The last session at our conference was taught by a man who had lived in an unnamed country for 12 years. He had this to say (paraphrase of course):

Building a movement in a foreign land takes blood, sweat, tears, energy, and sacrifice. If you don’t believe me, look at Jesus’ ministry. Right now there are 8,000 unreached people groups. Unreached doesn’t mean your neighbor who has never been to church. Unreached is where people do not have access to hearing about God for whatever reason (living conditions, government control, etc). People who will not have access to information about Christ unless people are sent.

Here’s the great news: movements are launching in places where there have never been Christian movements before. Think Senegal. God uses college students in most of the significant movements worldwide. Revivals that lead to missions starts a lot of the time with college students. I think you guys are the most daring. Way to go! You are unique. There’s only 1 out of every 50,000 college students that would STINT. I wish there were more, but as of right now, that’s it.

And the last thing he mentioned:

“We need you. If you don’t do it, who will? There aren’t 1000s of people lining up to do this… We want to invite you into that, but the Lord has to lead you.”

I love that so much. Again, I wish that there were 1000s of people lining up to follow Christ to the end of the world, to share the gospel, to build up believers, and to send them out with the same mission. That isn’t the case. But I don’t believe it’s due to people being selfish. I think it’s because no one has ever presented the opportunity to go to the nations. Maybe you’ve never been encouraged to pursue that. Maybe you wouldn’t know how to. Please, talk to me about STINT. If you’re in college and there are Cru staff at your campus, talk to them about possibilities of STINTing.

I want to let you know that I am not perfect. I am not holier than anyone else because I’m a STINTer. I’ve been redeemed with the same blood you have. When God looks at you, He sees the same Christ that He sees in me. There’s no difference. So, if you’re thinking, “I’m not good enough…” or whatever those phrases in your head are, you’re right. You’re not good enough. But Christ is. And good news, Christ is in you. He’s the only one who can change hearts and bring His lost home. He wants to use you to do that.

So, here’s a few questions I would love for you to process through:

  • Where am I in regards to my relationship with Christ? Am I living daily by the Spirit? Am I experiencing His grace daily? Am I spending time reading His word and allowing Him to guide me in my daily life?
  • Am I willing to lay all things down at the feet of Jesus and follow Him wherever he leads (even if that’s to Omaha)? If not, what are those things? This can be hopes, dreams, hurts, etc. If I had a nickel for every time the Lord convicted me of this one….
  • What are some of my giftings that the Lord has specifically given me to further His kingdom? What are things I really enjoy doing? Is there anything that you notice that the Lord has given you that is specifically unique in regards to relationships with people outside of the church (i.e.: ability to make friends with strangers on a train)? If you don’t know, ask a friend!
  • And the last question, in ten years what would you like to be able to say you’ve accomplished in your life?

Again and again, like this man said, I want the Lord’s plans for your life. I don’t want you to feel pressured to serve internationally overseas if that’s not where the Lord is leading you. I want you to follow Him faithfully wherever that is. If it’s to Starbucks every morning, a daycare, to India, wherever! I want to follow Him and I want you to also. I do want to let you know that I had to be challenged to go on STINT otherwise I never would have considered it. So, I want to let you know I’m challenging you to go to the nations because I am so thankful someone challenged me.

My heart is for you to walk in obedience and sometimes that obedience is staying until He says go. So, just know that we (people scattered all over the world) are praying for you. You who are reading this, I’m praying right now that the Lord would give you clarity on what is next for you. I love you and let me know how else I can be praying or if you have any other questions.

Mary.Smith@uscm.org

643,234 Transitional Phases

Hey everyone!

I’m so sorry for taking an unexpected and prolonged vacation from blogging. Truly, truly I say to you, I have missed you. Here’s what’s been on our agendas as of late:

  • Our Summer Project team of 19 students and four staff members arrived about three weeks ago. We’ve been insanely busy partnering with them. It’s been such an encouragement to see them out on campus everyday sharing their faith. I love having them here!
  • Initiative Evangelism: every Thursday we have been blessed to have anywhere from 2-5 students come sharing their faith with us on campus. Last Thursday, I met with a girl named Alice. One of the guys that comes sharing with us brought her. Alice and I went for a walk around campus and then sat and talked about salvation, Jesus, and grace. At the end of our meeting, Alice prayed to receive Christ!
  • It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday. Boyz 2 Men anyone?  Us STINTers are currenly trying to wrap up this ministry year by sharing the gospel with key contacts and beginning to say goodbye to people, places and things. I know I’m coming back next year, but it has been incredibly difficult to say goodbye. I know, I know. I’m coming back in two months, but I’m saying goodbye to what this year has been and who I’ve spent it with. My team has become my family. They are some of my closest friends, and 5/8ths of them aren’t coming back next year. Read on for a seriously embarassing cry story:

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to Malika Monkeys (a ministry near Dakar). As I walked out of the front door, I felt my eyes start to overflow with tears. You know how everyone has different types of cries, but also every person has multiple kinds of cries? Okay, well, it was one of those high-pitched wimpery cries you get when you’re shocked that you’re crying, but you are slightly okay with it so you just let it go regardless of how it sounds. Of course about three minutes after said meltdown occured, I thought the sound of my cry was hilarious, so I started laughing harder than I was crying, which let me tell you was a beautiful sight. So glad about six summer project people were able to witness that… not.

All in all, the past few weeks have been amazingly challenging. I feel so revived around our Summer Project team. They are America’s future leaders, and it’s so beautiful to see them lay down their rights, pick up their crosses and follow Christ wherever He leads. I’m digging that. I’ve loved, even in this short amount of time, seeing them grow in various ways. I love seeing them trust Christ, choose joy, and push through the hard times by seeking Christ. It’s been so refreshing, encouraging and a true delight to have them with us.

The past few weeks have been challenging because we’re in the midst of transition. I genuinely just learned last week that this whole “transition stuff” never stops. It is hard, and it hurts. Saying good-bye isn’t easy nor is it fun. But, I am trusting that God is who He says He is and that He will remain constant in my life. God has good plans for me, they just happen to be layed out over 643,234 transitional phases. Luckily, His plans aren’t up to me. I just have to press into Him in the midst of what appears to be a foreign land bewildered by chaos and trust His leading. He is the good shepherd afterall!

And that’s where I’m at.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away.  I have loved you with an everlasting love;  therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.'”  (Jeremiah 31:2-3 ESV)

Thriving.

“The heart of missions is bringing God’s glory to the nations. John Piper has states emphatically that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Missions, then, is about bringing God glory by freeing Satan’s captives of all nations to find their satisfaction exclusively in Him. God receives great glory when passion for Him replaces devotion to idols and material possessions, aspirations of power and fame, or obsession with personal peace and affluence.”-STINT Playbook, Thriving Overseas

Inside Out and Upside Down

Well, let me tell you something. There’s this foreign word, I think it originated from China, called “laundry.” Laundry, pronounced lawn-dree, is as Michelle would say “character building.” Doing laundry in a second-world/developing country is very different than doing laundry in America. In fact when I told our landlord, Sueleman (we call him Sillyman), that I had never seen laundry being hand washed, he was amazed. And then he proceeded to tell me the days that his maid does laundry on our roof and told me to go watch her and learn. Basically here’s the Senegalese translation for that, “You would make an awful Senegalese wife. Go learn how to do laundry for your husband.”

So here’s a few things I have gotten to experience and learn whilst doing laundry in Senegal. The list will be short because we’ve only been here 2 weeks. I’m sure more character will be built the larger the loads get.

1. Clothes get very dirty here. I can promise you that for the most part, we don’t roll around in dirt. I inherited a skirt and a pair of gauchos from a previous missionary who I swear might have had a part time job as a Senegalese mud-wrestler. In general, we’re pretty “clean.” After washing 1 pair of pants, the tub that was full of soapy water had turned black. Okay. Drain. Start all over again. One skirt and two shirts later, black water again. Seriously? Okay. Drain. Start all over again.

Gospel parallel: We think we are “pretty clean” before God. Our mindset is, “We might sweat a little, get a few stains on us, but trust me I’m not as bad as that person.” It’s not long before we realize the lie in that. One pair of pants turned the clean water black. Even one sin makes us unholy and unable to stand before the Holy of holies. Our active rebellion turns our hearts black. We need Jesus to cleanse us and reconcile us into a right relationship with God. Christ can present us as holy and blameless before God and wash us by the cleansing of God’s word. Amazing!

2. There’s something to say about washing clothes to get them clean versus washing them just so they smell good. I started out strong; I promise I did. I scrubbed my clothes together and even swooshed them around in a cyclical pattern like an american washer would. After the second set of clothes, I was just ready to have my laundry done. It was slightly pathetic. I imagined myself as a frustrated kid, leaning over the tub with his chin on the side, dabbling in the mirky water. Defeated.

Gospel Parallel: How often do I try to cover up sin with the scent of goodness rather than repentance? Matt Chandler, a pastor in Dallas, Texas, would say that a sign of Christian maturity is when you screw up and rather than running from God and attempting to clean yourself up, you run to God because you know that’s where mercy. grace, and forgiveness lies. Whoops. Sometimes I’m obedient, quick to repent, and eager to grasp His forgiveness. Other times though, I try to mask the dirt with a quick cleanse. This generally leaves me figuratively leaning over the tub dabbling in the water while my Father calls me to Himself. “Mary, my grace is sufficient even for you.”

3. You must line dry your clothes inside out and upside down to prevent stretching and color fading. One of the things about living in a foreign country that I “love” is how inside out and upside down I am here. “Naanga Def?”-stranger speaking Wolof. “Pardon me? I mean… Pardon moi?”-Mary speaking franglish. Oy veh! By the way, the correct response to Naanga def is Maangi fi. Stepping back from this situation, the language barrier thing isn’t a big deal. Too bad I’m not five feet from my “conversations” with the Senegalese (which most are bilingual, but no anglais). I’m right in the middle of it. I’m learning how my worst character traits are over-magnified here in the high stress situations. Grace, good, great, grace; How aware I am becoming of my need for you!

Gospel Parallel: We never “arrive.” And if we do, we’re dead. And praise the Lord for the day when I am able to stand before Him as holy and blameless in my new glorified body. But, that day has not yet come. I’m still battling the flesh and constantly learning how much I fall short of God’s beautiful standard. I’m being stretched in ways I’d never imagined. I’m learning how to be acclimated into another culture and still be me. But at the same time I’m learning how much I need to become less, so that He can become greater. It has been interesting to say the least. I am thankful that although I am far from perfect, God is in constant pursuit of me. He loves me with a steadfast love that abounds to all nations.

So that’s it. That’s my dirty laundry. All in all, I’m just being a drama queen. Laundry was not that bad. When I completed all my dirty clothes, I felt so accomplished! I can’t wait to update you all next. Thanks so much for reading and investing in this ministry! Merci beaucoup! Jerrijeff!

Thanks for extending grace and not judging me too harshly. 😉

Col. 1:21-22 When the Gospel Comes Alive

For the past month, God has kept me in Colossians Chapter 1. There are a number of things in this chapter that I believe, but I had a hard time understanding. God’s situated this time for me to specifically dwell on the diety of Christ and what that means in relation to the gospel.

The other night I was doing my devotional study over a segment of Colossians. Here’s what I took away from Colossians 1:12-23 with special emphasis on verses 21 and 22.

Verses 15-20: Paul is explaining the preeminence and diety of Christ. He is:

  • the image of the invisible God
  • the firstborn of all creation
  • the head of the body (church)
  • the beginning
  • the firstborn of the dead
  • preeminent
  • through Him all things were made
  • everything was made for Him
  • All things hold together in Him
  • reconciliation comes through Him
  • peace is made by the blood of the cross AND
  • all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Him.
Now that we have that out of the way… Starting in verse 21:
“So you, Mary, you who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds…”
V21 This verse represents my spiritual condition before Christ. I was alienated from God. Hostile in mind which is opposite to the mind of Christ. And I was doing evil deeds. So often my heart can become calloused to the gospel. This verse is so personal and truthful to where I was at. I know all three of these attributes to be true of me.
One cool thing I noticed about this verse was the order of our condition. First, we are alienated/separated from God. That’s our inherant spiritual condition, thank you Adam. Next is that we are hostile in mind. I picture Adam and Eve before the fall being so blissfully, ignorant of the possibility of evil existing because it didn’t in their world. Then I look at CNN today. There’s so much manipulation, abuse, and crime that we are almost absolutely numb to it’s effects. Because we’re sinful and separated from God, we are hostile in our thinking. I know, even now being a daughter of the Most High, I still entertain thoughts that do not honor God. Lastly, evil deeds. Romans talks about surrendering your thoughts so that they aren’t given the opportunity to become your actions. Again, super cool.
Vs. 22 “…He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him…”
There is so much to say about this verse.
  1. Before–> alienated. Christ reconciles us to Himself through His death on the cross as payment for our sins. After–> restored! My friend and I were talking earlier this week about how God is so merciful to have given us a way to know Him. Oftentimes the argument comes up that there can’t possibly be only one way. My friend, Joel, said something that was so simple yet so profound, “Praise God there is even one way.” The wages of sin is death; we earn death from our sins. But God has reconciled us to Himself through the atonement of Christ’s death on the cross.
  2. The second part of this verse talks about us being presented as holy and blameless and above reproach before Him. So, let’s rewind. Before we were separated from God, hostile in mind, and doing evil deeds. After Christ reconciles us, we are holy, blameless, and above reproach in the eyes of God. Can I just remind myself that God is holy? I mean, shoot, He created holy!  Okay, just making that clear… for myself of course!
I love that these verses don’t deny how broken, sinful, and in need of a savior we were/are. V. 21 starts out with who you once were. These verses aren’t like, “Aw, Mary you’ve just been doing such a great job being good… (rabbit trail, who defines good?).” Paul writes (this is Mary’s interpretation similar to the Message: Remix but on RedBull), “Girl, let me tell you where you were at. Alienated. Sinful. Corrupt.”
Only God could have scripted such a beautiful and perfect redemption story. In spite of our hostile minds and evil deeds, God sent His son to die on the cross so that we could be reconciled to Him, called holy and blameless by the Most Righteous Judge. Is this not good news?
We who were once hostile in mind now are able to have the mind of Christ. We were enslaved to sin and indebted to God because our evil deeds earned us death. We are now blameless before Him. We are above reproach. Is this not amazing grace? We can stand with full confidence before the Holy of holies and be called forgiven, holy, blameless and His beloved all because of Christ’s submission to His father’s will. Praise God there is a way!
I don’t know of any other area of scripture that has more clearly given me an understanding of God’s mercy and grace. This hit me in the face and it is truly amazing.