Our entire family will travel to Kenya this year and minister along-side our dear friends Josh and Maggie Ghrist with Lighthouse for Christ. What an answer to prayer that I can write that statement! It was a year ago that we began praying, almost nightly, as a family, asking the Lord if He would provide for the 5 of us to go. We have purchased the tickets and the reality of it is sinking in.
Yes, there’s the reality of the check-list of items I/we need to do – immunization shots for the kids, luggage to replace, item to purchase, etc. Those just follow on the heels of my regular list of laundry, meal prep and light bulb replacements. The Lord is also “reality checking” my heart and throwing out any old, torn luggage ‘cuse me, baggage, with His unused, endured through eternity, truth.
Here’s an example for you – “Julie, you don’t earn your value with me.” But Lord, you must love those who travel across the great oceans more! “I love those who obey me. If you love me, you’ll obey me.”
Traveling to Kenya alone doesn’t make me obedient. Listening to the Holy Spirit, every day, wherever I am, makes me obedient. I don’t have to travel to Kenya to be obedient, but then again, I might.
Have you ever looked up to those believers in the foreign mission field? It’s easy to do. They daily risk their lives, have left behind beloved family members and sacrifice American comforts, so God must love them more. And, yes, when I share with people that our family is heading there, my flesh wants you to put me (us) on that same pedestal –that we have this whole faith and relationship with God figured out – but my Spirit screams, “NO! Don’t do it – we don’t!”
In the book of Galatians, the author Paul spends 4 chapters pleading with the people of Galatia not to put any value in (here’s the C word) circumcision. They had been fooled into thinking if they circumcised their son (or themselves), as the Law instructed, they secured their salvation. Problem is, they didn’t start out thinking this way. Here’s Paul’s own words… (3:1-5)
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”
Those words in verse 3 stand out to me so much –
“Julie, after beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”
“Yes, Lord,” is usually my reply. Please change that! I want you to complete this! I don’t just need a big push from you to get me started. I need your help – you to do – the whole thing. Help me believe what I have heard!
Humbling and freeing in the same breath. The Word says if we seek justification [ a fancy way of saying “just-as-if-i-had-never-sinned” by God’s standard] by any other means but Christ, we have alienated ourselves from Christ. We have chosen to walk away from Grace and accept to follow the whole law instead.
But the book of Galatians encourages us, instead, to seek hope in Christ through faith. Chapter 5:5-6 says:
“But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
In the words of Martin Luther, “The world may judge certain things to be ever so good; without Christ they are all wrong.”
In my own words – For in Christ Jesus, neither good people, foreign missionaries, or weekly, faithful church attenders in and of themselves have any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. All of the above things are good but must be done not to earn anything, but instead be an outpouring of the love you have received in Christ.
For in Christ, we already possess value! Just like our family doesn’t need to earn the money for our plane tickets anymore – we already have them and the tickets are purchased! In the same way, in Christ, instead of earning my standing with God, I am free to extend love, forgiveness, kindness and mercy to my brother because I have received it from God. And guess what the best part is? We can fulfill that – ANYWHERE! Yes, in Kenya and yes, right HERE!
Believe it or not, the Steck family is heading to Kenya!
But, please, I beg of you – don’t look up to our family or any other person across the globe whose walk of faith and obedience leads them somewhere other than the U.S.
Instead, may their love for the Lord encourage you to consider how you might express your faith through love to those around you right where you are. Then if God does ask you to expand you borders, and put you in a new environment (maybe Austin, TX or Mombasa, Kenya) you will do the same thing there you did at home.
Jesus loves you my friend – I hope you walk today in the knowledge, love and freedom that brings!