(This post is a follow up to Bonni Mace's thoughts before she left on her first international mission trip. If you didn't read it yet, catch up here!) Well, I’m back in Maryland after a wonderful warm nine days in the Caribbean! Before I left I shared a post about the things that made me...
Just as your physical eye cannot see all the spectrums of light, you cannot see, without faith, all the possibilities of God! So why settle just for what you can see? Why not live for so much more? The mystery is that there is more to life than what we can see. There are more...
In Matthew 13:33 Jesus told a parable: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."Jesus has told us what The Kingdom is like and you and I need to make sure that what we're experiencing with what we call...
Can I invite you to think? Sometimes we act like if we're going to believe, we have to turn off our brains. No, your brain is part of the image of God! Your curiosity, your imagination, everything inside of you, all of your faculties need to be brought fully to bear in seeking first the Kingdom...
What I want you to do, more than anything else, is to 'Think Kingdom.' To live kingdom, you have to think kingdom. The reality is that when we ignore what Jesus says, we miss what Jesus gives! It sounds so simple to say, "We need to pay attention to what Jesus says." Right? But the truth is...
You've heard me say that we're not ever going to refer to this "building" as the church. I want us, as a church, to begin new lives together seeking the kingdom of God and understanding that we are called far beyond religion - we are called to be a kingdom people!In Matthew 6:33, the Scripture...
Religion is a counterfeit presence. It is God - controlled. Religion is a cheap substitute for the real presence of God in relationship. It somehow morphs into substituting appearances, control, judgement and rules for the graceful presence of an invisible God! But religion feels "good."...
I want you for just one second to picture yourself as the greatest success that you can imagine. What does that look like? I want to suggest that God has a different picture than whatever your vision is. God has a different picture of what you, at your most successful, looks like. I believe...
(This post is a follow up to Bonni Mace's thoughts before she left on her first international mission trip. If you didn't read it yet, catch up here!)
Well, I’m back in Maryland after a wonderful warm nine days in the Caribbean! Before I left I shared a post about the things that made me nervous to go and meet our friends in another nation. This is the follow up.
Let’s jump right in.
A Foreign Language
So this one was pretty challenging but right off the bat I felt like I would be okay. At our first Sunday service in Consuelo, we were given in-ear translation devices and our guide, Tom, translated every word of the service for us. Soon after the service we met our next translator, Dioleica, who would hang out with us all week. A few days later we met Yissel who also translated. Between all these brilliant minds and broken Spanish I did alright communicating, but that’s not the best part. Many of you who know me know that I am terrible with names! I forget them almost immediately. While we were in the DR God graced me with something my mind never does which was remembering the names of each person I met and worked with. Even though I couldn’t say much I learned how to say “Great job!” in Spanish. I could tack on the name to the end of my one phrase and say enough. God transcends language friends!
Different Food and Water
This one I can straight up thank each of you who read my post and prayed for me while I was gone. Not once did I encounter indigestion and I didn’t accidentally drink the water (even though I had to throw away a toothbrush). God graced me with a clear mind and settled stomach for the entire trip. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was because of prayer! Thank you!
Fun fact: I was right about everyone on our trip, they were all awesome. In Consuelo I got to room with the one-and-only Patrice Lyle. She sang me to sleep every night. Ok, just kidding, she didn’t do that but she was still an amazing roommate and in her many bags she had everything I didn’t have. Even better, she shared with me.
Once we got to Santo Domingo, my roommates doubled and Patrice and I were joined by Vicki DeLair and Adrienne Castle. Though I had to scale the ladder of the world’s tallest bunkbed that swayed like a rocking horse, my roommates and I never tripped over one another in the bathroom nor fought over anything so that was cool. Our cozy nest of night owls was a harmonious place full of fun connections, laughter and crazy morning hair.
Being Away From My Family
My husband and I are so lucky to have parents who want to be involved in our son’s life. So while I was gone my mother-in-law came up from Texas to spend time with Marc and Caleb. While she was there I don’t think they even realized I was gone. Thanks to FaceTime and busy days, the time went quickly. While we all did miss one another, but I know it's an experience I was meant to have. Before I left my goofy toddler was holding out on saying “Momma” because he thought it was a funny joke when I begged him to say it. Well now he's saying “mom" all the time, so I will take that whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing this time.
This can only be described as God’s timing, but it’s kind of a long story so bear with me.
Our first partner church, IBCC, already had plans to repaint classrooms so I was pretty comfortable with that project. Once we got started I learned that they also wanted murals which was intimidating, but it was for little kids so I thought my sketchy painting skills could handle that well enough. Once the mural day got started, we immediately hatched a plan to have lettering extraordinaire, Bekah Twardowski, start the school’s theme verse. I was going to try to figure out what my limited drawing skills could handle when Kim Roane piped up, “Oh I love painting, I have an Art degree from MICA!” AWESOME! Thanks to Bekah's and Kim’s structure work and vision and our other team members’ ability to paint by numbers, we had two beautiful classrooms as the project wrapped.
While I wasn’t too intimidated by IBCC’s projects, I knew ICC’s project would really be a challenge. You see, they were getting ready to demo this huge building where they plan to expand their Montessori school. They were selling a generator to finalize the funding to get started on the demo portion of the project We were showing up right on time to support them in this work. Until God said, “Not yet.”
We arrived and ICC had just learned that their buyer was trying to scam them and by God’s grace they were able to end the transaction before losing everything. But the ICC staff was discouraged, we were there to help them with this exciting new adventure and now we couldn’t. So the ICC staff purchased some paint and lumber. They then asked us to help them to build beds and refresh paint. When they learned we had three artists on our team, the ICC teachers almost lost their minds when we told them we could paint a focal wall in their school’s outdoor play space. They immediately pulled up Pinterest to show Kim their dream. Kim, Bekah, and the team were able to pull off a gorgeous tree mural for the kids to enjoy outside each day.
School leaders, Ruth and Claudinet, came out as we were finishing up and pulled out their phones to take pictures through their happy tears. When it was all said and done we had painted their outdoor area, 6 wooden locker-style shelves and a new bedroom for their homeless ministry. The carpentry team had also built 4 beds. Our team was also able to help serve lunch to nearly 60 homeless friends of ICC each day.
The Best Part Of All
I knew God was going to be up to cool things on this trip. I could sense it, which helped me overcome all of my fears about going. The most amazing part of the trip wasn’t the work we got to do, instead it was getting to hear stories of lives forever changed by Christ.
We heard stories from our Dominican brothers and sisters and we heard the stories from our Severn Run brothers and sisters. And let me tell you, our God is the same grace-filled, redemption-maker God in every country. It was amazing to see each Christ-follower embrace God’s role in changing their own lives and then God’s role through them to be the change agent in another’s life. One thing I learned from all of this story sharing is how to say “That’s how I helped bring a little Kingdom here to Earth now.” That’s how I was the hands and feet of God!
Severn Run, you are all living a beautiful God-story! God is using you to bring a bit of His Kingdom to Earth now as you follow him. Even if you feel like you’re just receiving, you are revealing. Let me explain…
At ICC, they have a medical ministry where they bring in teams of doctors from Chicago to perform minor surgeries for the homeless population that they would otherwise never get. Pastor Rafael introduced us to a man who’s leg used to be crooked and now, thanks to the team of doctors, it’s straight again. Our friend with the healed leg stood up, showed off his straight-as-an-arrow leg and gave God the glory! When he did that, he revealed Kingdom to me.
We don’t have to be some dramatic savior to reveal Jesus, friends. We just need to walk in step with Jesus daily and notice when He uses us. Sometimes He will use us by allowing us to serve, sometimes He will use us in allowing us to receive. What matters most is that we notice what He’s up to in our lives and that we tell the story of God’s amazing glory in and through our lives any chance we get!
Want to start telling your God Story? Submit it here and we will help you put it on paper!
Finally, be sure to save the date for Sunday, May 20. We are going to be practicing this idea of celebrating our God stories during each service. It’s an event we are calling “Story Sunday” and we want you to be there!
Just as your physical eye cannot see all the spectrums of light, you cannot see, without faith, all the possibilities of God! So why settle just for what you can see? Why not live for so much more?
In Matthew 13:33 Jesus told a parable: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
Jesus has told us what The Kingdom is like and you and I need to make sure that what we're experiencing with what we call 'God' is letting Jesus into every area of our life and letting Him transform. It is not religion, to where we pretend that Jesus can come into here and here but He can't come in here!
To be a follower of Jesus Christ means that He is Lord over all areas of our life! It's not about us trying hard and working at transformation - it's just about letting Him in!
The truth is, when we invite The King into our home, our home becomes His home! There's a title exchange. We trade kingdoms!
If you retain control of any area of your life, you're shutting Jesus out!
If there is an area of your life that is persistent darkness, persistent anger, persistent fear. If there is an area of your life that is persistently broken, where resentments are nurtured, where loneliness is forever consuming, where pain never becomes less -those are areas where you're not letting the Savior in and where you won't let the yeast fall. Because wherever Jesus enters into, He enters in and transforms all of it!
When we keep Christ out of parts of our life, we're really keeping Christ out of all of our lives! When we shut Him out, we shut growth out, we shut light out, we shut life out! You can't let Jesus in and keep Him out!
When Jesus comes in like yeast in the dough, there's an effect! It's not a magic wand and it's not instant, but when we open up our life to Jesus Christ, He comes into our life. We don't have to do anything other than let Him in and refuse to keep Him out! He begins to do the change, He begins to do the transformation by His power and His work in us. He will absolutely change and transform everything! That's the work of a living God --it's not us!
You see, if Jesus isn't in it all, is He in at all? We gotta ask the question!
Religion let's you compartmentalize life. The Kingdom of Heaven is not like religion that leaves you in control of this area of life and that area of life. The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast and when it is sprinkled into your life, it will work it into every area of your life and it will have its transforming effect!
The Kingdom of God coming inside of you and rising up and making you great in the eyes of God is not going to be what you think it will be - so let it be different! If you've had religion in your life, understand that what you need is Jesus. All the dough had to do was receive the yeast! -Dr. Drew Shofner
Can I invite you to think? Sometimes we act like if we're going to believe, we have to turn off our brains. No, your brain is part of the image of God! Your curiosity, your imagination, everything inside of you, all of your faculties need to be brought fully to bear in seeking first the Kingdom of God! And if you're not yet a believer, I want to challenge you to think and to question and to explore in a seeking journey!
In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus tells a parable:
"The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed..." - It's small.
Now think about that in terms of your life on earth. Some of you are discouraged because God isn't bigger in the world and bigger in your life and there's pain and hurt and sorrow, but you have to understand somethings about big and small:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” -Matthew 13:31-32
What Jesus is doing is giving us an invitation to imagine mystery and to explore through curiosity what this unseen Kingdom is like. He says it looks like it starts small. It looks insignificant often in the moment, but if you will receive it and if you will plant it in your life, let it grow and give it time, you will find that it absolutely astonishes you!
It will be more than you ever would've imagined it would have been in the beginning --that's what the Kingdom of God is like!
I want you to understand that you and I as sinful, broken people-- and all of us are sinful--we have all substituted our will for the will of God. We think we know more than we really do and our confusion about big and small is really huge!
I want to share with you that in this broken world, broken people die confusing big and small. When we stand before God at the judgement, the essential mistake that will have been made by billions is that they missed the bigness of the love of God!
It seemed small and insignificant at the time, so many other things going on in life! So many priorities and pursuits going on that this 'God Story' just seemed like a nothing and yet this tiny little seed will prove to be the biggest thing in all of eternity. We are the people who experience the kingdom and must spread it to others! -Dr. Drew Shofner
What I want you to do, more than anything else, is to 'Think Kingdom.' To live kingdom, you have to think kingdom. The reality is that when we ignore what Jesus says, we miss what Jesus gives! It sounds so simple to say, "We need to pay attention to what Jesus says." Right?
But the truth is that I find, in my own life, that I often don't listen deeply. I feel like often times, God looks at me and says "Drew, you're not listening." So, I really want to develop in us, as a community, this very sense of listening deeply to what Jesus says in a real world kind of way. Because it's the only way we can receive what Jesus wants to give us!
In Luke 12:32, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid little flock..." Don't let fear dominate your living. Don't let it make you small and shrink back from the challenges of overcoming a broken world. Don't let fear kill you. Why? "...for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom."
Most of us hear that and we say "I know that." But I don't think we understand what those words mean; that we have received a Kingdom!
Jesus died to bring an eternal kingdom into your life! You and I live in the kingdom of the world; the kingdom of earth. The reality is that they are kingdoms in conflict! There is a conflict between the kingdom of earth and its values and visions and the values of the Kingdom of God. They are two different realms!
What is the Kingdom of God? Well, it is not merely a place and it is not in the future. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are interchangeable terms. The Kingdom of God is the realm where God's worth, His authority and His sovereignty are recognized and His will is joyfully lived in love!
Jesus came to reveal a Kingdom and over and over in His conversations, Jesus worked to reveal what the Kingdom of God was like to us. But most of us and most of the church lives as if the Kingdom of God does not exist on earth. We don't think about it, we don't talk about it, we don't use Kingdom language, but if we are not thinking 'kingdom' conscientiously , then we are unconsciously thinking 'world' and there's no in-between!
We need to train ourselves to "Think Kingdom First!"
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus gave a command: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." It's not nice moral advice, and it's not a Hallmark happy thought of the day. It is the command of God! It is the way of life for those who would truly live life connected to God. It is a practice that we must do in every area of our lives, in our relationships, in our longings, our pain and our woundedness.
In everything in life, in this world, Jesus said we are to seek first His Kingdom!
What Jesus came to do is to deliver us from the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of earth, and to move us into the kingdom of light, the Kingdom of God!
When you and I yield our way to the way of God, when you and I say yes to God and no to ourselves, and when you and I actually see the ugliness of our willful brokenness and we reach for the beauty of God's love --the Kingdom comes and the Kingdom flows out through us! -Dr. Drew Shofner