Walking without sight

for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7)

This verse’s context is awaiting our eternity; until we die the first death, we must walk by faith and not sight.

This has been a theme for me as I have studied Deuteronomy again in preparation for teaching it this month. It is also a theme God has been stretching me in. But the good news, for those of us walking with God, is found in verse 5 of this passage:

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. (2 Cor 5:5).

The Spirit is our guarantee of the life that is to come. He is also the One that enables us to walk without stumbling during this short season of blindness. It is His voice that must be our guide – even when it goes against all our natural instincts and human understanding.

The Spirit guides us along the path God has for us. God gives us some further helps as well, which are strongly reflected in the book of Deuteronomy. Here are a few of the gems He is giving me from Deuteronomy:

  • Trust in God’s character plays a large part in walking by faith. The Word of God is our guide to God’s character and then personal experience cements our understanding of His worthiness of our trust.
  • Understanding of God’s character leads us to love Him and it is from love that obedience flows most successfully. It is easy to obey a loving Father.
  • Remembrance of God’s past faithfulness also increases our faith in Him and breeds further trust and reliance on God.

This year God has stretched our faith in Him to provide on time. In fact, throughout my life walking by faith God has always perfectly matched provision to need. This past season He has deepened the lesson that we can afford to give hilariously (2 Cor 9:7 – cheerful can be rendered “hilarious”) where He leads us because it isn’t our money, but His, and He has plenty more in His storehouse for our needs! We have had several large provisional breakthroughs this year; all supernatural and all on the back of obeying His call to give in an extravagant manner (for our personal income and possessions) that had us laughing with incredulity!

He had also had us step out in faithful obedience to chase a ministry vision that is impossible without God’s input. Remembering Him doing the same in my life when calling me to co-found Redefined Ministries DRCongo and pioneer YWAMs Bible School in Rwanda is a good example of remembrance building future faith. I hold on to how these two ministries have grown since their birth when I am discouraged by lack of  (perceived) momentum in this current season. Again, Glenn and I are walking by faith and not sight in this area as we put money into converting our home into a mission hub, able to host visiting mission teams.

Walk by faith in God

It seems that God hasn’t finished with my lesson in this area yet. We fly out on a mission trip Thursday, but are still awaiting a passport to arrive. We both have peace not to change flights or make other plans, yet it is stretching us! Walking by sight would be allowing anxiety to creep in, change flights, or make alternative plans. Waking by faith means holding firm to the peace God has placed in our hearts that Thursday is our flying date. Again, remembering past lessons helps somewhat. I am racking up quite a few last minute miracle stories, but two memorable ones include:

  1. My first Rwandan visa coming through so last minute that I had taken a flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg without it and had to run to my gate with my check-in luggage on my person.
  2. My son’s visa for a trip last year coming 10 minutes after the close of business day on the last business day before we flew.

I hope this post is an encouragement to some of you who might be trusting God for things that seem impossible by the physics or understanding of this world. Let’s keep in step with the Spirit, walking by faith and not sight!

 

As an addition (02/10/2018):

God came through with the passport and we are all set to go.

Last night and this morning He challenged me with these questions: “What is your understanding of Me and My character? Am I the Living God? Am I a God who keeps His Word? Have I not promised you it will come? Will you trust in Me and My word?” Yes, I trust Him and His word.

It was no longer a question of whether or not I should go; God had spoken to me that I should go on this trip. It had become a question of trust and – I felt God saying that, because I had written the blog post – it had also become a matter of His faithfulness to His Word. It had become about His character, not whether I had heard Him correctly. And, as we see, He is a God who keeps His Word. He is the Living God! 

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Storehouses of treasure

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ 

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)

I am finding so much joy reading through the Gospel of Luke at the moment – the Gospel that focuses on the least in society. This is really where God is challenging me at the moment – to be His hands and feet to the poor. 

Glenn and I constantly reminded not to store up earthly treasure for ourselves. Whatever we have is His to be used in the Kingdom. For all you businessmen out there – keeping building wealth, but make sure you’re investing it back into His Kingdom!

But what about you and your family? What if you are faithful to be rich towards god? Read on dear one:

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:29-34)

What a beautiful promise – we can give freely, knowing that we are storing up treasure bags in heaven! Surely our reward will be great. This leads to a removal of fear around giving to and working with the poor. We can go out and care for the least, just as Christ did, knowing that we are building eternal wealth.

Who do you know that is poor? Who do you minister to that is needy?

Operation Christmas Child is a great example of ministry to the least. I’ve been blessed to pack a box, and also see some distributed in Zambia.

Putting first things first

Entry into parenthood can be a tough transition. It certainly takes a mind shift. I have a little human with me all the time; one who is totally dependent on me. He needs me to eat, sleep, and keep warm and clean. He needs me to show him the world, stimulate his brain, and soothe him emotionally. He needs me to love him, calm him, respond to him, and interact with him. It can be a hard task. I can understand why some parents can’t wait to get back to work; they love their little ones, but they need a breather.

I must say that I’m not in a hurry to get away from my little guy. I am the mother who feels their boy is growing up all too quickly – and he’s only 5 months old! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult at times; I often feel that I’ve gained another limb, so attached is he to me. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t need Glenn’s loving affirmation I’m doing a good job, that I’m a good mother, and that I’m still being a good wife to him during the transition (Thanks Love!).

So where am I going with this? I was reflecting back on the initial days with our boy. I felt the call to motherhood fiercely. I felt completely content in motherhood. I had amazing times of connectivity with God. I had nothing on my agenda aside from worshipping God and loving my family. Since then, however, I’ve been pulled in different directions.

Glenn and I have moved to a new community and are helping with a church plant. We now co-lead a home group (even if it mostly falls on Glenn) and I’ve also been blessed by the opportunity to preach. I’ve finished up an editing project and am working on another writing project. I have a job interview coming up to teach English on-line for a few hours a week. Life continues, and it continues to be busy.

Life is always going to pull us in different directions. Glenn and I are trying to be pulled by the Holy Spirit, and not by any wind that comes along. And as I have been taking time to reflect on my call, I’m reminded of my primary calls in life: love God, love Glenn, love my children.  I am called to intimacy with my heavenly Father before my family. I am called to serve my family before others.

I do feel called to be a stay at home mum and to home school my children down the line, but I equally know that others do not have this call or inclination. But just because we may not be at home all the time as parents, does not mean that our primary call transitions from our family. Too often, family gets put behind work, finance, school commitments, and even church and church meetings.

God requires us to be faithful stewards in the area of family.

In the Old Testament, we find Scriptures, such as:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

We also see godly men with messed up families, because they were absent fathers:

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. (1 Samuel 2:12)
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. (1 Samuel 2:22)

And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” (2 Samuel 13:4)
But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:32)
Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” (2 Samuel 15:14)

And in contrast, godly children where parents have prioritized their children:

And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11)
Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man. (1 Samuel 2:26)

Is this left behind in the New Testament? No, I don’t think so. Otherwise we would not have Paul commanding that Elders and Deacons must:

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, . . . Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. (1 Timothy 3:4, 12)

. . . if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. (Titus 1:6)

We also wouldn’t have Paul commanding husbands to love their wives (what wife doesn’t want to come first?), wives to respect their husbands (what husband doesn’t want to be served first?), and fathers to love their children (what child cares that his father isn’t promoted if his father is available to spend time with him?).

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

And, of course, we have our beloved Christ, who set the example for us to value little ones:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. (Mark 1:13-14)

Yes, we all have been given different gifts of the Spirit. Yes, we are all in different seasons regarding our marriage and parenting. But we are all called to love God first, and then provide for our spouse and children.

Are you pursuing God with all your heart? How about with all your soul, with all your might, and with all your strength?

Are you honouring your husband or wife with your time, thoughts, emotions, and finance? Are you putting them above your job, ministry, social activities, sports, and friends? Do you faithfully pray for your spouse and take time to pray with them?

Are you spending time with your children? Do you know their unique personalities, their interests, their goals and their friends? Are you teaching them about God, His ways, and His Word? Are you modelling godly living to them so that they can follow in your footsteps?

Shhh … private work going on

This morning I was replying to a board members email for the Congo project (Redefined Ministries International). As I wrote I found myself struck by a range of thoughts including: pride in the hard working individuals on the ground and sorrow for them that more people do not know what they are achieving. I found myself wishing I was better (ie not terrible) at promotional work to bring them recognition, and fundraising to bring them resources. I found myself wishing I was business-minded so that I could have personal finance to throw into the project. And then God placed Matthew 6:1-4 into my heart for our ground crew:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

The best rewards come not from human acknowledgement, but from our heavenly Father. It can be hard not receiving acknowledgement for our own works, but often it is harder watching deserving people and projects around us go unnoticed. At such times, let us bring them before our Father. Let us hold them and their needs before him in prayer. Let us trust God to provide for them and may we be encouraged knowing He will reward them with treasure that will not perish.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Existing medical clinic and reception hut.

Existing medical clinic and reception hut.

Locals working hard to construct a maternity ward at the same time the tailoring workshop.

Locals working hard to construct a maternity ward and a tailoring workshop.

No fool

Glenn and I have been talking about the cost and sacrifice of following a call into full time ministry. Of course there are positions that contain financial security in “traditional” ministry, just as there are jobs outside of ministry that do not hold security. But, for the majority of missionaries, it remains a giant step of faith – trusting God to provide, trusting God with our children’s health, giving up the “extras”, and “counting the cost”.

It seems like a tough call, right? I’ve been lucky not to have to raise much of my support for my time in missions, having worked before each season in the field. But even now we know we are giving up considerable financial security, despite having investments to sustain us, as we re-enter traditional ministry. We also know that we will be giving up a lot of comforts. For one, we live in a beautiful part of the world, in a rural area,  in a large house, with plenty of peace and quiet. This suits us both. Giving up our home to return to suburbia is not appealing, but this is a small cost compared to what some people give. There are the missionaries who, with multiple children and a paid off house, sell all their possessions to follow God’s call.

Giving up the easy life to follow God's call

Giving up the easy life for God

Why do such a crazy thing? And I have been called crazy many times in my life. I’ve also been told to “get a real job” and asked when I’ll return to the “real world” – by people in the church! Gone are the days when missionaries set sail from home with their coffins packed (literally) because they didn’t expect to come home alive! We have become a church that likes security and comfort.

So I return to the question – why? Why live by faith? Why give up financial security? Why put children at risk by going to third world countries? Why is it worth the cost?

I want to phrase it another way. Rather than looking at the cost . . . why don’t we look at the gain? Why not look at the riches we are storing up?

Let’s consider what Christ said:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

One of my favourite quotes in this season is by Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot gave up his life at the age of twenty eight to go to Ecuador’s Quechua Indians. He knew the cost and the risk, but he also knew the reward. (This quote, whilst in Elliot’s diary, is also attributed to Matthew Henry’s father, Philip: “He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose”.)

Count the reward higher than the cost and hit the road again

Count the reward higher than the cost and hit the road again

You see, we have Christ. We have eternal security. We have eternal riches. We also have life now with the Everlasting Father. What matter to lose our lives for eternal gain?

I know this post has mainly focused on traditional missions, but I firmly believe that every Christian has a part in it. We are all called to make Him known and to lay down our lives for Him. Are you counting the cost as too high? Perhaps it is time to start looking at the reward and stop counting the cost.

Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:20-22).
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26).

At home

One of God’s main words for me the last 12 months have been: “it starts at home“.

First and foremost this has meant putting Him first in the home environment. We cannot minister to others if He has not ministered to us. We cannot introduce the Holy Spirit to others if He is not evident in our lives.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  1 Thessalonians 1:4-7

As we set up home there is always something to do – planting an orchard, establishing the garden, planting vegetables and herbs, looking after animals, and renovating the house – it has been a challenge to lay aside the busyness of the day to start and end it with God. When I focus in on Him at the start, I am more aware of Him throughout the day and can work with a heart of worship. When I rush into the work, I often become grumpy and easily frustrated.

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. Luke 5:15-16

Secondly, this has been lived out through learning to put Glenn second only to God. It isn’t so hard to put him before others, but it can be very hard to put him before myself some days. We’ve been sharpening one another as Proverbs says:

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 12:17

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. Proverbs 31:10-11

Walking in covenant

Walking in covenant

Thirdly, He has begun to prepare my heart for motherhood. A large part of this has been learning to be okay “accomplishing less” in a work sense, in order to meet the new demands of my body. I know that this is just the lead up to greater sacrifices of time and energy once our first precious gift arrives. It has also meant rewiring my thinking to see ministry as a family call, not an individual one. And, of course, a large part of this will be keeping my family as my first ministry.

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments . . . Psalm 78:4-7

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Psalm 127:3

An excellent wife who can find?  . . . She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Proverbs 31:10a, 27-28

Next level of trust

In these months leading up to motherhood, I find myself challenged by the need to put my child into God’s care. I have become used to trusting my life into God’s hands and going where He sends me regardless of personal fears or worldly opinions. It has become much harder since becoming pregnant. Now I have to trust another into His care.

It’s only natural to want to protect our children. It is also a godly principle to care for the ones He places under our protection. Yet we are still called to faithful obedience – despite any fear or concerns. We are not wittingly to put our family in danger, but what if God sends us to a risky place or tells us to go where we’d rather not with a family? I have always admired the obedience and faith of friends who have had such a call as a family, and have said I would go likewise if He called my family. But practice is harder than theory.

My first taste of this new barrier to obedience was a ministry trip to Rwanda. Glenn and I both felt peace about the trip and felt it was from God. At first that was enough, but then the fears and doubt began to creep in: What about malaria? What about Zika virus? What about typhoid? (I feel safer on Rwandan roads then South African so that wasn’t a fear!).

I began to doubt whether I was making the right decision. What if something happens? How could I possibly defend God sending me somewhere my child was at risk? I began fearing for God’s reputation as much as my own! I know well enough that the One who sends us is faithful, but that doesn’t always mean physical protection – just consider the original readers of Hebrews, one of the very books I was going up to teach. Those believers were at risk of torturous death for their beliefs – as were the lives of their children – and yet the author challenged them to look to Christ and persevere. Hmmm.

Ministering with baby

Ministering with baby

I have been and returned from Rwanda safely. My time there was a wonderful period of fellowship, catching up with friends, and teaching the Word of God. The teachings definitely took more out of me with my little one inside, but were very rewarding. It was a blessing to be back in that environment.

This is definitely a new season, and I know that this will likely be an on-going lesson as I learn to not only trust myself to God, but my family too. I am sure the next time He sends me to minister where I have fears for my child I will face the exact same doubts, but I pray that I will have the courage to walk in continual obedience.

Bible students completing a group activity

Bible students completing a group activity

Please see: http://www.sbsinternational.org/ for more information about the SBS.

Please see: http://www.ywamrwanda.com/ for more information about the Kigali YWAM base.