Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Passions, Memoirs of Discerning the Lord's Will


Over dinner, Cindy shared her story of how God struck her heart. She was riding an NYC subway, glanced around at the passengers, and realized, “I’m the only person with blue eyes on this train. Most of the world has brown eyes.” She continued to explain how God used that moment to grip her passion for NYC. This city represented literally all parts of the world. She wanted to share God’s love with the world, and the world was in her midst!
After dinner, while we walked the streets of Manhattan to Rockefeller Center, Cindy shared more of how her life and ministry in the city (now 20+ years) has always and still does, incline her heart to worship the Lord. She said that many of her friends are drawn to worship when they are outdoors—seeing the beauty of the sky or the expanse of the ocean,  but for her, the sea of people draws her to worship. She expounded on this: People are made in the image of God, and to see so many different types of people—beautiful, diverse, unique—together in one place at one time—well, that, to Cindy, was/is a cause for awestruck wonder. God has given Cindy a passion for the city.

Passion can be contagious. God uses the passions of others to grow my compassion. For instance, I knew for years that the Bible says to love and care for orphans, but it was through the adoption journeys of my friends, family members, and even acquaintances on Facebook that I began to be intentional in caring for orphans. My heart is gripped! And now, Karl and I rarely turn down an opportunity to help—donations, prayer, support. We have talked about adopting one day ourselves. We have been open to it for several years, have chatted about it with friends and family, and have gone to a seminar for more information. This all was birthed by witnessing the Biblical passions of others. In the same way, God uses the passions He has given us to impact the world around us.

So in a time of decision, we evaluate our passions. 

  • Are there new passions that God is developing within us? 
  • Where can we best impact others with our passions? 
  • Are there long-time passions that have been stifled by environment or circumstances, and is this the time for God to resurface them and bring them to fruition?
  • Are there passions that we need to set aside so that others can take center stage?

For Cindy, God gave her a such a profound moment that it sparked a passion that has rooted her entire adult life and ministry. Her marriage, her children, homeschooling—God orchestrated it all, and allowed it to work simultaneously and for the long term.

For Karl, his passion has been the same for years: He wants to tell students about the love of Jesus, about how Jesus has changed his life and can do the same for them, about how there are so many false explanations of the world that leave unanswered holes, and how the Bible explains those holes and fits perfectly with history, science, and the human experience. It has mattered little to him what location we live in while he lives out this passion. We have taken our passion all over the continental U.S. And then in 2005, he visited Italy, and realized that NO ONE ELSE was fulfilling this role in that country. He looked at me teary-eyed and said, “We have to go.” And I, holding our 2 month old daughter, looked back at him and said, “We JUST had a baby.” (I didn’t have to state, “A baby that never sleeps.” This was obvious to both parties). We agreed that while many people move overseas as missionaries with infants, that this was not God’s timing for us. Over the next several years, we allowed the passion for Italy to grow, and we served Italy by giving, sharing the vision with others, and most of all praying. Also in that time, we had 2 more babies (who also didn’t sleep. Remember, limits are valid!). In 2012, when our kids were 6, 4, and 2, we received a phone call asking Karl to lead a group of college students for a 6 week stay in Italy to share the true love of Jesus with them. We agreed, knowing that the time with such young children would be challenging, but not impossible, especially since everyone, for the most part, was sleeping at night. God used the invitation to serve as an indicator of when the timing would be good for us.

I remember a rare moment of me and Karl in the kitchen together-- I said to him, “I know you’ve had a passion for Italy since you went 6 years ago. I know you’ve always wanted us to go not just for the summer, but to live. And I think, that now, I am finally ready to talk about that.”

He looked at me, same compassionate eyes, and said, “I prayed specifically this morning that if God was leading us to move to Italy, that He would have you mention it to me. Because I don’t want to be someone who drags you and the kids there.”

It was our moment. Like Cindy’s moment on the train. The one where passion meets conviction to change course. We went to Italy for the summer of 2012, and in Autumn 2014, we moved there.

Reflection:

Matthew 9:35-38
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Beseech the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

  • In this passage of scripture, Jesus is doing many types of work. What are they? (Hint: look at the action words).  
  • He did all of these things because of his compassion for people. He was moved deep within Himself for people who were separated from God. He desired for them to be reunited. He wasn't motivated to tour the villages because he enjoyed traveling. He didn't care for the sick because it brought in the biggest paycheck. He didn't proclaim before the crowds because he liked attention and wanted to have the most followers on Twitter. His motivations were selfless. As Christians we are called "to have the mind of Christ." This is not the case of "Jesus can have His passions, and my passion can be something different." We are all to have compassion for the lost, to be thinking about others so much that it drives our actions. Even vocationally, we should be thinking, "How can I build the kingdom through my job?" That doesn't mean that every person has to be a paid minister, but every person should be a minister while they are getting paid. How do you want to live out this calling?
  • What job/role would allow you the most opportunity for intentional Kingdom work? Opportunities can come in the forms of people in your influence, emotional energy, financial resources. What types of things do you need in place so that you can live out your Christ-like passion?
  • Jesus was so moved by his passion, that he invited others to join him. How are you including others in your passion? 
  • Jesus was so moved by his passion, that He spent time praying, begging, God to move. What can you pray specifically? 
  • Jesus put Himself in front of the very thing that moved His spirit to compassion--the crowds. Is your passion weak or strong? What can you do to keep your passion in front of you (is it move to the city, like Cindy)? What is needed so that your drive and perseverance doesn't wane?
  • Are you not sure what your passions are? Spend the next month reading the book of Matthew Read one chapter a day and before reading, ask God to give you passion like Christ. He won't disappoint!