2020 is here and so is Vision

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Vision is on my mind. It could be because it’s the year 2020 and every pastor I can imagine is preaching on that subject. “20/20 Vision,” “Set your Vision for the Year!” “Have the Vision of Jesus!” Notice the theme? It’s hard to not at least consider what “my” vision is. 

Vision has always been this broad and almost unattainable topic for me. I want to have vision. And I want to be productive and make a difference for God. But too often, I feel like no matter how many books I read, how many conferences I go to or how many Ted Talks I listen to… I will never fully understand it. It seems to me that every leadership guru has their own definition and method to tackle this monumental challenge of coming up with a vision. 

Simon Sinek says about vision, 

Great leaders must have two things: a vision of the world that does not exist and the ability to communicate that vision clearly.

John Maxwell says, 

If your vision doesn’t cost you something, it’s a daydream.

And Helen Keller boldly writes:

The only thing worse then being blind is having sight but no vision.

Vision seems hard

I find myself overwhelmed with all there is to know and do regarding vision. But the Bible makes it simple Habakkuk 2:2 says: “Then the LORD replied: ‘Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.'” The first step is simply write down the vision. What has God called you to do? It could be as simple as being a mother, a husband or business owner.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

1 Corinthanis 10:31

The first thing anyone needs to do is write down their vision and make it plane. It needs to be clear enough to articulate to others. With a clear goal and vision with end up just wondering around never achieving anything or the Kingdom. God’s desire is to use His people is magnificent ways! Let Him and be open

What happens without vision

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Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Proverbs 29:18

When there is no vision people parish. Without vision we have no guide post or direction. This overwhelming topic is made simple through the Scripture. God inspires and gives vision. He is always speaking and we need only to listen. We often want to read the latest books and go to the newest conferences about leadership and vision however, God’s word will always stand to be the truth. There is nothing new under the sun.

All new news is old news happening to new people

Malcolm Muggeridge

Two questions I leave with you:

  1. What are you called to? Who is Christ calling you to be?
  2. What will it take to get there? What must change in you?

Why Pain?

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There are a lot of things we don’t see coming. I wish I could say I was prepared for anything. But that is sadly not the case. My life is nothing like I expected it would be. In this year alone, I have experienced more loss than I ever thought possible. And for what? What has been the purpose of it all?

What is the purpose of pain? And why do some people appear to suffer more than others?

“The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I agree with C.S. Lewis. I compare my pain to others. My blood doesn’t boil at the reality of pain and suffering in my life. Rather it frustrates me when I see people that seem to not have any pain whatsoever! Most frustrating are the people that appear to have no faith in Jesus Christ but they seem to have little to no hardships. Living in ignorance of Truth does have its advantages.

Of course I know none this is true. Living my life for Jesus has never produced so much joy and satisfaction. Every one suffers. Either we suffer for the sake of Christ or we suffer because of our own sin. Some people are just better at hiding their struggles. Suffering for Christ on a daily basis seems to be the “MO” of the Christian life.

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C.s Lewis

We can’t ignore pain

Like C.S. Lewis said, it’s easy to ignore pleasure. But pain and suffering persist and nag at us until we do something about it. We must face pain at some point. Either we face it on our own time and choosing or the pain resurfaces when we least expect it. I’ve swung between both ends of this pendulum. I have freely chosen to deal with my pain while other times, I’ve consciously decided to mask the pain, thinking that it would “just go away.” It didn’t.

Pain and and suffering is a great equalizer. Everyone has suffered in some way. So why do so many of us try and hide it? Trying to hide pain is a like trying to hide a bleeding cut. If you don’t stop the bleeding and clean the wound, it will eventually bleed through the bandage and cause an infection. Pain must be dealt with. It will either be dealt with on our time and our choosing, or it will ooze out unexpectedly.

Unfortunately, the pain must be felt and experienced. We must experience pain in order for God to begin the healing process.

What’s the Point?

If I knew the purpose in all my pain, I sure wouldn’t be writing blogs! I don’t know the exact reason for every tear I have shed or every bit of anger I’ve felt. But I do know the God who does. And I know that He has a lot to say about pain in His Word.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

Pain produces perseverance and perseverance character and that character produces hope. So says the Bible… When I am in the middle of a battle, this is hardly the mindset I have. My default is to compartmentalize difficult feelings and not deal. I don’t like to feel pain or even tell others that I am in pain.

So why suffer? For Christians enduring this fallen world and suffering has two purposes: God’s glory and our good.

God’s Glory

When we respond to suffering well, we practically demonstrate to the unbelieving world that Christ is more glorious and precious to us than any pain and difficulty we might endure. We have the opportunity to show where and in whom we find our true treasure. By placing our ultimate hope in Christ rather than in the temporary things of this world, God receives the glory.

For Our Good

Yet while we can maybe see how suffering well gives glory to God, we find it hard to imagine how suffering can possibly be for our good. The body sick with cancer, the paycheck that didn’t quite cover our expenses, the grief over an unsaved family member, the late night phone call that changes our life forever. The list of trials and sufferings many of us will endure is extensive. It may seem unimaginable, yet even as we ask God for deliverance, suffering as a Christian serves several purposes for our ultimate good.

Suffering sanctifies and purifies us. When earthly pleasures, things, and people are stripped out of our lives, it reveals where we have mistakenly placed our hope. Suffering draws us closer to Christ, because we don’t have the worldly comforts to rely on. The Lord knows that we have no greater good than to gaze firmly upon him and not the things of the world. So do not waste your suffering! Instead of throwing yourself a pity party (although I have thrown and attended several grand ones for myself), seek the Lord’s glory for your good in seasons of trials.

Is Every Missionary the Same?

Growing up I fantasized about living the “missionary life.” I longed to be like the people who gave up everything to follow Jesus. They are the real deal! The people that sell all their belongings and live in a hut in Africa for the sake of the Kingdom, yes they are the heroes of the faith! The saints going door-to-door in the 10/40 window I admired and also envied. Why did I not have the faith of those believers? More importantly, did my faith even make a difference in for the Kingdom?

People tell me so…

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Trusted friends and mentors unanimously tell me, “Rachel you’re a missionary.”

Sometimes I wish could I believe that myself . My insecurities usually plague me late at night. The enemy tells me that I will be nothing more than “average.” But what does God and His word say?

Is “Missionary” even Biblical?

Some have said that the word “missionary” is not in the Bible, but that isn’t quite true. We derive words like missionary and missions from the Latin missio, which simply means sending. The Greek equivalent is apostelló, from which the word apostle comes. While there were only twelve Apostles—“sent ones”—commissioned by Jesus to lay the foundation of the church, in a broader sense, anyone who is “sent” carrying the gospel message is a similar type of missionary ambassador.

We would think, then, that a missionary is simply sent to win as many converts as possible. But that wasn’t the Apostle Paul’s job description. It isn’t the missionary’s aim, necessarily, to see every single individual won to faith. Rather, a missionary is one who serves in a culture long enough to see a healthy church form, full of converts capable of evangelizing the rest of their people. Paul established churches as beachheads to ensure that the gospel would spread. 

As much as I idolized the work of a missionary, the definition of a missionary used in scripture is much different than my imagination. Although the specific term is not used in scripture, the work of a missionary is still needed and valid. Jesus’ final command in Matthew 28:19 was: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” The term missionary is an extra-biblical term. But the work of a missionary is clear: Go and make disciples. 

Can Everyone be a Missionary?

According to the Biblical definition, A missionary isn’t just an adventurous, free spirit stirred by a noble social cause. A missionary preaches the gospel with the aim of starting churches that can reach people groups among whom Jesus isn’t yet known and worshiped.

From this definition, it’s clear that not everyone can be a missionary. But everyone can have a part in the bigger task—by going, sending, supporting, or mobilizing others. What is your role?

I personally have been unaware of the true definition of a missionary. And with that I’ve felt pressure to put myself into a certain missionary box. Box has been what the American culture believes a missionary should be.

Should Every Missionary be the Same?

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Throughout my travels I’ve encountered a number of different missionaries. I’ve seen single people that are full-time missionaries. In other words, their lively hood is completely supported by donors. I’ve seen families that have started ministries in other countries and serve seasonly in those countries. In some of those instances the couple is supported by funding. While other times, one partner works while the other devotes their attention to the ministry. I’ve come across the “typical cross-cultural missionary.” In other words, the family or single person living abroad and serving the local people and is supported by funding.

This is just a small amount of the myriad of people i have encountered serving the Lord around the world. If we can’t put God in a box, then why have I been trying to put the work of a missionary into a box? I agree that missionaries should have the aim at reaching the unreached and planting churches. But because people are different, each ministry will look different.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age

Matthew 28:19

As believers, we are called to spread God’s word throughout the world – whether that is just outside our door or across the globe.

So am I a missionary?

I don’t know if I consider myself a missionary or not. But one thing I do know is that I love God and I will do whatever it takes to make His name known among the nations.

What’s Next?

There are times I wish I could have more solutions.But other times, I wish I lived in more ignorance. Then I wouldn’t have so much responsibility to the Kingdom.

Follow God anywhere?

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These past years I’ve felt like Gideon fighting with only 300 men. The battle continues to come but I am dangerously outmatched. 

Following God puts me in positions where I feel crazy and ill-equipped.Everything God calls me to do is so out of my comfort zone. And I’m embarrassed to say that I fight each prompting kicking and screaming. I feel outmatched and scared.

Home from Guatemala

I spent the Summer months serving Bluewater Surrender at Casa Agua Azul in Rio Dulce Guatemala. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and stayed with me throughout this journey! Since returning to the United States I’ve been on a bit of a blog sabbatical. God has sparked new dreams and visions inside me for the upcoming year. And to be quite honest, I’ve been nervous to share. 

What happened when I retuned

When I returned to Florida I didn’t know what was going to happen. As I mentioned in previous posts, I left a job that I absolutely loved. I loved going into work everyday because I could see the purpose in what I was doing. I could see the earthly and eternal purpose in my work at this job. However, upon returning home, there was no more position for me at that job. I had no job, no money and no plan for what was next,

The first two weeks after arriving home I honestly didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where I was going or what was coming next. My prayer life had never been so active though! I prayed every day that God would give me the answers. Was I supposed to get another job? Or was I really supposed to be a full-time missionary? I didn’t feel led to move to another country… I was (and still am) confused. Every person and trusted friend that I talked to said “Rachel, you are a missionary.”

God’s Provision

A few weeks after being home, I went to a Lighthouse on the Rock church. Pastor Eric Fisher, his wife and church have supported me finically and prayerfully in my mission trips over this past year. I shared about my Summer in Guatemala and thanked them for their continued support. Pastor Eric invited me to lunch with him and his family after church. During lunch he offered me a job at his Christian school that he had just started. He said he knows my first priority is missions trips so this job cold allow me that flexibility. Plus, his aim with the children in the school is first of all, discipleship. And he said “I know that I can trust you to have that goal in mind as well.”

I accepted that job. And come to find out that my supervisor’s children from my old job go to this school! I had been sad because I wouldn’t see my old boss any more. But now that her kids go to this school I will still see her every day! In addition, another woman from my church offered me flexible work hours at her art gallery. I am not making a bunch of money by any means, but it is something! And I know God provided it. 

And with what is coming this Summer, I need the flexibility. 

Waiting on God

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Do you ever wish God would tell you exactly what He wants? I do! I wish God would call me on the phone or send a text with His exact instructions for my life. I’m a typical American millennial and I like things to happen fast and efficient. As a result, waiting on God can sometimes be frustrating.

The ability to know that you are exactly where God wants you to be seems unreachable. As a Christian, making life decisions is HARD. We take into account so many variables. For instance, how will this new decision affect our: family, friends, location and our own personal desires. PLUS! we have the all important question looming: “Is this the will of God for my life or not?” My mind goes crazy trying to think about all those things.

Actively Waiting? Whhaat?

Typically when when God gives you big dreams or visions they are not for “right now.” Sometimes they are, but often God’s time-table is different then ours. And in my experience, it usually involves much maturing and refinement on our parts before these grand dreams come to fruition. With that said… In enters the time of waiting. You are probably in a situation where God has spoken something to you (a dream of some kind) and you’re wondering when that dream is going to happen. Or, you’re in a place where you are waiting on God to give you an answer for your next step. I’ve in both of those positions… And in all honestly, sometimes feel like I continually oscillate between the two.

I have often heard the phrase, “actively waiting” in regards to waiting on God for decisions. It always confused me because I didn’t know how to put this oxymoron into practice. But, because I am in an ongoing season of waiting on God, I have learned a few things about how to practically act this out.

Waiting ‘on’ God does mean do nothing ‘for’ God

Just because I am waiting for an answer from God or for provision, does not mean I do nothing. God has placed you and me in our current sphere of influence for a reason. There are people that need to know and see the love of Jesus in your life. How will they experience God if they don’t see you acting it out daily? Waiting on God does not mean that we do nothing for God. A major part of the gospel is having the peace that paces all understanding (1 Phil. 4:7). We have the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, the gives us peace no matter what season of life we are in. What gospel message are we sending to those around us if we are constantly anxious and wanting to be anywhere but where we are?

In those times of waiting continue to serve God. How? Be Jesus to those around you. Do the people you work with know that there is something different about you? If you never told your friends that you were a Christian or that you went to church, would they recognize the difference? Be the light of Christ to those God has placed right in front of you. You don’t have to volunteer at a food pantry or lead a Bible study (although those things are good). You need only to start with the people God has placed in front of you.

This is the best way I have discovered to actively wait.

Don’t get distracted

It’s very easy to get to distracted and side tracked during those times waiting on God. Keep your eyes fixed on God and remember what He spoke to you. Write down the dreams God gave you and look at them often.

Resist fretting, refrain from anger, be still, and choose patience (Psalm 37:7-8).

It’s easy to say we trust God, but our response to delays, frustrations, and difficult situations exposes where we are actually placing our hope

But, when we choose to wait quietly and trustingly, we not only honor God but encourage others to put their hope in him as well. If God has you waiting, it is for a good reason. Trust Him.