I’ve been in Namibia for a week, picking up an ordered truck and some hospital supplies and enjoying my time in a predominantly first world city (Windhoek) and wishing I was with my family in a very third world city (Lubango). Though I’ve had some delightful interactions with beautiful people here, coming here (a two day drive) makes me really appreciate the poor, harsh conditions of Angola, confirming again that this is exactly where I want to be spent.
The missionary family in Angola is obviously special and each new introduction has been a pleasure. We are pretty well settled in and have either generator or city power and running water most of the time. Our vehicles have arrived. We’re getting to know the city a little (still are pretty clueless, but receiving much help from our new friends). We’ve seen many baboons around the outside of the city (always cool for us to see).
Lubango is so dirty, so busy, so unorganized, and so expensive. There is little sense of customer service or outward friendliness or warmth. There is a general sense of insecurity, the kind that causes a person to always appear sure of themselves, without need, “right”, “together”. Though this insecurity is part of human nature everywhere, it is profoundly apparent here and quite obvious in our interactions. This prompts some thoughts this morning. Insecurity…
…one of the primary symptoms of a lonely human nature, so obvious in adolescents in their need to feel “right” and sure (when they simply can’t be), in their wild rides through depression and pursuit of pleasure, in their exhausting pursuit of achievement to “prove” themselves, and in their masks of having life totally under control. Adults are no different, and, sadly, the church looks little different than the world.
Perhaps this is because becoming a “christian” doesn’t solve the security issue. Throughout history, God’s people have both walked with Him and walked apart from Him. We, as Jesus followers, have a daily choice. We can walk closely with our Father OR we can live independently of Him, resist the light, and experience all the blindness, confusion and insecurity that darkness brings. If the fruit (result, product) of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control, etc) isn’t evident in our lives, we are not living in closeness and surrender to the only One who can manifest this fruit.
Modern day evangelical christianity (and missions) makes a grave error when communicating that to “become a christian” is to find what we long for. Theirs is a philosophy not unlike the Roman Catholic baptism tradition which they so adamantly criticise. Becoming a christian (or being baptized) simply does NOT make one whole. Life is rather found in walking in communion, closeness, and oneness with God. Our modern evangelism leads to only the first breath of life, akin to helping the delivery of a baby only to abandon him/her at birth. In contrast, Jesus said to make disciples, implying that the discipler and the disciples walk together through life. Why do we reject the mentoring, discipling, and community model that Jesus gave to us? Because of the required relational transparency and commitment required, in contrast to the “private” lives we lead in the West?
Insecurity is not a sin, but a symptom. It is a symptom of walking independently of the One who made us, the only One we can trust to direct us with care and purpose. It can be a symptom of one in God’s family as much as one outside of His family. Insecurity is sadly hugely apparent within the church. It is why we seek the approval of men, why we put God in a theological box, why we cannot walk in love with a brother who is at a different place of understanding, why we wear masks that communicate that everything is fine, why we avoid conflict, why we don’t speak the truth in love (at risk of losing relationship), why we don’t love and receive love.
Insecurity is a manifestation of fear and fear is everywhere in the church because we really don’t believe that we are cherished, protected, and valued by our Father. Love is the remedy for fear and insecurity, especially love of the One who care-fully and purposefully made each of us for one primary purpose, to walk with Him (aka Adam and Eve). Fear cannot abide with love and we have a church that talks about God’s love, but doesn’t believe it, as is evidenced by the fear and insecurity within. There is wide gulf between knowing about God’s love and believing it.
The love of God (for everyone AND for me) is the Good News, but our focus and our message has become so many other things, causing this heart-changing truth of the Kingdom to be lost. Distraction is perhaps the enemy’s greatest tool today, filling our minds and our lives in such a way that God’s love for us isn’t necessarily rejected, but rather forgotten. How consciously aware are you today of His joy in you, His profound affection for you, His devotion to you, His concerned awareness of your every circumstance and interaction?
Our message of the Kingdom in Angola is Christ crucified. The love of a gracious Father is the Gospel, demonstrated so clearly in Jesus’ life, words and death. Greater love has no one than this… Throughout history, in Jesus, at the cross, in virtually every passage of His word, and in all of creation, our Father screams this central theme. If only we will hear and bear witness to the Gospel truth, “I am loved”.
Have you met one that reeks of security in his/her Father’s love and care? One who trusts his/her Father’s purposes in their joy AND in their pain? One in whom it can be said that the joy of the Lord is their strength because they are one with their Father?
We don’t need seminaries and theology to know the Kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus emphasized the opposite. We don’t find God or grow in Him by study and knowledge. We find His kingdom when we, as a child, accept and believe what He has said is true. Period. It is so simple (a child can understand), but it is not easy (so many distractions).
We trust Him, take Him at His word and, like a child secure in the care of his/her parents, we depend entirely on our care-giver while giving little thought to our own care. We know tranquility rather than fret, we rest rather than burnout doing good things, we ask questions and listen rather than feel like we must know all the answers, we follow rather than seek our own way.
Nothing brings out insecurity in me and identifies who has my trust more than whole-scale change. Nothing is familiar in my life right now as we transition and I can find security nowhere until I lift my eyes to my Father and find inner rest. Then, soon again, I find myself walking independently of Him and I feel the confusion, the burden, the fear of failure, the anxiety… the insecurity.
Those who call themselves “born again”, or “saved” are many. Those who call themselves “christian” are many. Church-goers are many. Those walking closely with Jesus are few and the aroma about them is the same as that of their Father, because they become like Him. They love. They love their brother. They love those who disagree with them. They love those who wound them. They love the weak, the confused, the one full of tattoos and dreadlocks, full of questions and without direction. They are concerned about the lostness and pain evident in cultures unfamiliar because that is the heart of their Father. They go to the hurting, giving themselves to be spent because Jesus did the same. They live with a light burden and an easy yoke because the One they trust has broad shoulders and has the strength to bear every burden. They listen for instruction, not eating from the tree of their own wisdom/perspective, but rather looking to the only One who knows.
Will you join me in walking with Jesus today (no matter where you were with God yesterday)? He’s knocking. Let’s each go for a walk with Him, or sit quietly with Him, and unburden our hearts. Let’s share with Him our fears and struggles and humanity, knowing that NOTHING changes His profound love for us. Let’s take Him at His word again and trust in the affection and joy that He has in us. Let’s remember again that knowing Him is eternal life. Let’s know Him and be known by Him. Let’s not do our own work but listen for our Shepherd’s instruction. Let’s live as though the One we serve is alive, and follow His living Spirit, rather than live by principle and knowledge. Let’s walk in the Light. Let’s communicate to someone today how they are cherished by a Father they may or may not yet know.
I could sing of Your love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever.
Everything I once held dear
I count it all as lost…
Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross
The Lord is my shepherd (because He loves me); I have all that I need (because He loves me). He lets me rest in green meadows (because He loves me); he leads me beside peaceful streams (because He loves me). He renews my strength (because He loves me). He guides me along right paths (because He loves me), bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (because you love me). Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me (because you love me). You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies (because you love me). You honor me by anointing my head with oil (because you love me). My cup overflows with blessings (because you love me). Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life (because you love me), and I will live in the house of the Lord forever (because…).