Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Burning Heart

If you have been on a mission trip or a short-term outreach you most likely know what it means to have had a "mountain top" experience.  Beyond the cliche`, there are those times that stand out and make an indelible impression on the deepest parts of our lives.  We want that "feeling" to be with us and drive us on, always.

I was read again yesterday in My Utmost for His Highest.  Oswald Chambers was referring to Luke 24:32.  It talks about the a couple of disciples as they were walking on the road to Emmaus after having been in the presence of the resurrected Jesus.  They were reminiscing "Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"  Here was a clear opportunity these guys had to be in God's presence, see Him at work, have scripture revealed to them.  Chambers puts it this way:
     "Much of the distress we experience as Christians comes not as the result of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature.  For instance, the only test we should use to determine whether or not to allow a particular emotion to run its course in our lives is to examine what the final outcome of that emotion will be.  Think it through to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something that God would condemn, put a stop to it immediately.  But if it is an emotion that has been kindled by the Spirit of God and you don't allow it to have its way in your life, it will cause a reaction on a lower level than God intended."
By not allowing ourselves the opportunity to allow God's Spirit to work fully in our hearts and minds and souls, we can limit what God wants us to experience or even what it is that He wants to do through us.

Much like Abraham and his choice to obey God and sacrifice his only son Issac, we are presented with choices and directions from God at times.  It is not and will not be a multiple choice question.  There will be those times in our lives when we will have one choice or another, and our entire lives may hang in the balance of how we choose.  As we put ourselves out there and participate on short-term outreaches, a sense of God speaking to us is very common.  We don't want to waste those or simply let them pass by us if God is speaking something to us that could alter the rest of our lives.  It can be something where we are simply called to be more sensitive to other cultures and have a renewed sense of prayer for other people groups and difficulties that they have that are so uncommon to so many in this country.  It could be a literal call to a radical change in our lives where we move into an different culture on the other side of the world.  It could be anything in between those things.  But we must act.

Chamber's admonition to us is that we cannot live on that mountain top, but we must obey the light that we received, and we must act on it.  We must not let the "reality" of our day-to-day lives back home erode the emotions that were stirred up in our experience.  We must not at the same time rationalize and dismiss the experience as simply and "emotional" high, and mentally move back into the daily rut that we often find ourselves in.

I was stirred in my love for God and appreciation of how a chosen culture has influenced me over the centuries when I had the opportunity to visit Israel in 1990 with my father.  I have now had two opportunities to visit Tanzania, once for two weeks with our team in 2008, and once by myself for three weeks last Nov.-Dec.

The two trips to East Africa, were life changing to say the least, but they were two very different experiences in and of themselves.  All three have been life altering, emotional highs, and spiritual awakenings for me personally. There is something truly life changing, altering, if I may use those phrases again.  For me I find myself in a continual process of how my life is being changed, especially from my previous trips to Africa and in anticipation of my third trip in less than 3 months.  I am sensing a shift in my perspective of other cultures and peoples.  I have been undone in my very soul of a racism that went far deeper than just the color of someone's skin.

I am being challenged and encouraged to share what I have learned and am learning as I explore opportunities to encourage others to step out of their comfort zones and see another culture 1st hand and gain the opportunity to see beyond themselves and discover ways to make this a better world for everyone by improving cultures at grassroots level, one life at a time.

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