Friday, June 12, 2015

Your hundred year plan

(I'm standing on the left. My brother Tim on the right.)

When I was two, my family moved to Malawi, a small African country that was extremely poor, and even today is not well known. My dad was determined to be as effective as possible in spreading the gospel and establishing churches there, and he learned the language fluently. He wanted to reach the hearts and souls of the people for Jesus, even if it meant spending a day or two sleeping in mud huts in the villages, eating and drinking whatever was offered to him by the humble and open people there—fried ants, homemade fermented corn brew, stewed goat and sima, the starchy cornmeal mash that all the Africans ate. He would preach in open-air churches with benches made of rough logs, and all four of us kids grew to love that country as our own.  

But as much as we loved our home in Africa, one thing was very evident. We belonged to another country, another world. We weren’t Malawians, even though Malawi was the world we knew best. We knew that someday we’d leave and go back to where we really came from. Back to the US to finish our educations, back to the land of our birth. In our tiny remote town in Africa, Mom would serve up good Southern cooking, we’d sing old American hymns, and we’d read books that my grandparents had sent us from Indiana or Florida. (TV didn’t exist yet in Malawi, so we were avid readers.) There was a comfort in that knowledge that we were citizens of another place. If ever a war or rebellion were to break out, we could rely on the US consulate to evacuate us. Our home country had an obligation to protect us, while unfortunately the Malawians would have to endure whatever tragedies or hardships came their way.  

This is a small-scale picture of what life should be for us. If we belong to heaven, this place is not our home. Someday the house that you invested so much blood, sweat and tears in, the one with all the family memories—is going to disappear and you’ll have to let it go. Your marriage will no longer exist, nor will being a dad or a mom or a grandparent because the quality of relationships we’ll have when we reach our real home will be much deeper, richer and far more beautiful than the superficial ties we have now. We’ll love each other more, in a purer way.

So if nothing that we have now is going to last, aside from our faith in and love for God, why are so many Christians fearful of letting them go? If God challenges you to make some type of sacrifice or offering now, it’s to remind you of the world where you really belong. Giving up your control and greed relaxes your grip on this world and cancels out the power of the devil and demons in your life. Satan knows that when you cling to it, you in effect renounce your citizenship in heaven and choose a world headed for destruction instead. He knows that the more you feel at home in this world, the more blind you are to the things of God, and the more power he has over you. The citizens of this earth have little protection when the “terrible day of the Lord” comes (Joel 2:31), but for the citizens of heaven, that day will be the most exhilarating and joyful day they’ve ever known when they get to see His face. Don’t forget that you are an eternal being. Don’t obsess so much about your plans for the next ten years. Instead think about your plans for the next hundred or thousand or ten thousand years.

As side note, I am so thankful for the many men and women of faith who now fill our churches in Malawi—they are citizens of the same home that I am, and need no consulate to save them from disaster because they have the authority and protection of our King!

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 3:20 HCSB)

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