Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Here am I Lord! (...I think?)

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.'" -Isaiah 6:8

      This is a common verse that I hear quoted a lot concerning Missions/Missionaries. I always thought I understood it's meaning, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how significant it is and how little I had actually understood it. Have you ever stopped to consider what it would mean if it you offered yourself to God like Isaiah did in this verse?

    I was talking to someone about this verse recently and they told me they always considered this verse to be a sort of farewell prayer that is only prayed by "missionaries." As if by praying "Here am I, send me" instantaneously seals your fate that you'll be headed out to Africa, Asia, Russia or wherever else. Almost making this prayer something to be avoided, in fear God may tell you to leave your comforts of life here in the US. I wonder if our modern day mindset of what it means to be "sent out" is false? Sent to Africa, sent to Asia, South America, India, Europe, Mexico, Canada, anywhere as long as it's not in the US; this is the most common viewpoint I've come across of what it means to be "sent out" and be a "missionary." If you're "sent" to any other country outside the US, (no matter what you're doing there), you're, more than likely, defined and stamped as being a missionary. Would if the Lord sent someone out to California, Texas or Florida? Would we recognize them as a missionary? Are missionaries really only needed outside the US? Would if the Lord wanted to "send" you out to your neighbor's house, on the streets of your city, another city a couple hours away, or the next State over? What would that make you? Does simply being in another country confirm you are truly a missionary?  

These thoughts have been running through my mind the past couple years. There are times when I am hesitant to use the word "missionary" when referring to a desire I have to serve the Lord in another country where the good news of Jesus has never been proclaimed yet. I've wanted to be a "missionary" since I've been 13 years old and I've always told people this when they asked me what my ambition for life was, but I noticed when I said that, Christians would tend to treat me like I was something special and praise me for wanting to be "sacrificial," so since then, I try to not use that word whenever possible, whether referring to myself or other believers serving the Lord. I believe if every laborer in the Lord's work I know of could speak here, they would be the first ones to say there is nothing special about themselves, and would shutter at the thought of anyone thinking anything greater of them than that. They would say ALL the glory is due His Name and not their own. They don't want to be up on the pedestal, so why do we so often put them up there? I'll admit I'm guilty of this sometimes, too. So often we like to adore the vessel rather than the Maker - but may we always see Christ in our brothers and sisters and only hold Christ up on a pedestal!

Yes, some believers may temporarily sacrifice things of this life to serve the Lord, but those who do that are only following the lead of One greater than ourselves. The Lord Jesus Christ knows the true meaning of sacrifice, because He lived it and was it; the absolute least we can do is offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, and I don't mean to say that lightly. Only a conviction from the Holy Spirit could spur a believer to live such a life, but it is something we should all strive to gain. Simply being called a disciple of Christ is sufficient enough to press onward in living a committed life for God, and we know that all who belong to Christ have the privilege of being called His disciple. Where that will bring you is up to the Lord, but the question we should ask ourselves is if we are even willing to go wherever He would send us? Often times I saw Christianity as a ladder, and I thought being a "glorious" missionary was at the top, so I wanted to get there. Problem was...I kept falling short. It took years for the Lord to break me and set me free from these twisted ideas I was deceived into believing and had been entangled in.

    Christ is our standard to live up to - He is at the top of the ladder in fact, He IS the ladder. He had it ALL, but gave it up to be a bondservant, of no reputation, humiliated, in lowliness and gentleness forgave those who tortured and shamed Him, loved, showed mercy, served the lowest so He could become the lowest, was just, but suffered by the hands of the unjust, died.     Darkness.    Separated from Him whose bosom He was in from eternity. Carried the unimaginable weight of our sins, took it to our grave, alone. It is the least we can do to declare to Him, "Here am I send me."

What is it worth, though, if it is not said with sincerity? Perhaps if we changed our mindset of what it means to serve the Lord, it would change our willingness to do what He calls us to do. Right now I live in the US, and I am thankful for that, and thankful for the freedoms we have here to worship the Lord. But...just because we have this freedom does not mean everyone who lives here is free. Many here are in the dark bondage of sin; do they not need a missionary to come to them and tell them the good news of Christ? These are our neighbors, classmates and co-workers. We may call this home, but it is temporary and we are mere pilgrims and sojourners...have we forgotten our true home is in heaven? Even thinking of Paul and Barnabas is quite amazing and unusually different than the normal pattern we see today in preparation for missions. We go through all sorts of training, fundraising, and short term missions trips to "test the waters" or see if we are "fit for it." But if you look at Paul and Barnabas, man, they had no time to prepare! There was no "testing the waters" for them; it was just about trusting the Lord, submitting to the Lord, and then obeying the Lord. And I'm not saying there isn't a place for preparation, but what is all the preparation in the world worth if one isn't fully submitted to the Lord and ready to serve Him whenever He sends you?

I've been thinking a lot about Jesus' words in Matthew 9:37, "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." Is the harvest only found in Africa? In Asia? Is the harvest only found in third world countries? Is the US really such a "Christian Nation" that we wouldn't consider it to be the harvest? What would America really look like today if every Christian in the US considered himself to be a "missionary?" If we all  shared the gospel with the lost, instead of leaving the evangelizing to the missionaries? If we were to sacrifice our comforts for the sake of the gospel? If we were to live by faith? Really...what would the Church here in the US look like?

   If God asked you to go to your neighbor's house, would you go? And if He asked you to go to your co-workers cubicle, would you go? To the "unsafe" part of town, would you go? To a homeless mans shelter, would you go? Across town, would you go? Across the State, would you go? To North Dakota, would you go? To England, would you go? To the deserts of the Middle East, would you go? To the deep dark jungles of Papua New Guinea, would you go? If He asked you to go the ends of the earth...would you go? He may have not told you specifically where on this earth to go, but He has already asked us to go and make disciples of all nations. The truth is, we have already been sent, and this is the fact we quite often completely miss. Hasn't He already called us to go then? To go to the people closest to you? And then if He chooses to set you aside and send you somewhere else, will you be ready to lovingly obey? "Do not be afraid, only believe!"

     This entire earth is the harvest field, and the good news of Jesus is needed wherever there are people, this I believe to be true. BUT...I don't want to belittle the great need of those in dire need, both physically and spiritually, in third world countries. I know I don't need to mention how great we have it here in the US, but I will: we have it great here in the US and literally have everything we need and want, while humans in other lands are drowning in the darkness of evil and sin where people are suffering from hunger, diseases, suffering, hatred, and death. They so, so desperately need the gospel and love of Jesus. I am praying all the time for them and am always encouraging young people here to also consider and pray for them, with an open heart that the Spirit may set them aside to go one day. I think of all the orphans that have no one to love them, take care of them or tell them about God, then I think of all my love and Jesus' love I would love to absolutely pour out on them...and my heart absolutely melts within me. But, what am I to do? My hands are tied. I cannot go, no matter how badly I want to, unless the Holy Spirit sets me aside and sends me. So...I will go and serve Him where I am now, and should that one day lead to another country, I'll happily keep following Him wherever He goes. Perhaps the question we should ask ourselves is not where we will serve the Lord, but when? Will you serve Him right now where you are today while it is still called today? Are you available  to the Lord to be sent across the street or across the ocean?

I've found that true joy and fulfillment come from simply serving Him and simply being in Him. Together, let's live our fullest for Him in this present day, wherever we are on earth!

Let's not worry about tomorrow. Open your eyes to the needs already surrounding you - to the plentiful harvest. We have already been bought at a precious price, we are already in the harvest, we are already the laborers, and we have already been called. Can you declare to the Lord today, "Here am I, send me"?

"whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men" 
Colossians 3:23