Ascend

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Today it is easier than ever for your presence to be seen by large groups of people, many you may never meet. With just a few strategic keyboard clicks (either by you or someone else) instant notoriety–positive or negative –can be yours. Like most people, I believe social media can be a tremendous tool, allowing us to connect to others we otherwise wouldn’t.

Perhaps you or someone you know of has been suddenly thrust into the limelight. Like most things, a good thing can become a bad thing if we’re not careful. The distance between these two opposites is often a very thin line or a subtle shift. This leads me to the true focus of this post: self-ascension.

As you may know, I have been on one of the most incredible journeys, as I have asked God to use my life for his purposes, and I see him doing just that.

He has led me to places and people I never would have imagined meeting. He has given me a platform to share about His truths to others across the world. He allows me to be his “hands and feet.” He led me to forming a non-profit and writing a book about this journey that is soon to be published. While that seems like a lot, in my spirit, I sense that God is preparing me for something else, something even more public than now. To be honest, while the thought of being used further by God is exhilarating, the thought of becoming anything close to a “public figure” is terrifying. My introverted, behind-the-scenes-preferring-self would rather remain in obscurity.

If my ability and opportunities to speak and teach about the goodness of God ascends, the only way I want that to happen is if God himself orchestrates that ascent. Of course, right? But not so fast. There is a trend happening today in the area of self-ascension and I am trying very hard not to step into that current. There are many genuine, devoted and sincere Christ followers who are being used to do great work and using social media to share about it. When they do, you see their humility and that they have not lost sight of who it is they are to serve and glorify. To these, I say bravo! Well done! May God receive all due glory.

But friends, it also seems as if there is a viral trend occurring in which others are working very hard to build a platform of notoriety while using God to get there. This should not be, and it grieves me to my core.

The Bible is full of stories of people who went off the rails in this way. A most remarkable example is Satan himself. Perhaps you know that Satan did not start out bad. In fact, in Isaiah 14:12, we get a glimpse of how he was known when he was good. Check this out:

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!”

Morning star? Son of the dawn? One who once “laid low the nations?” Wow! These are extremely significant attributes, speaking of how much responsibility and power had been placed into Satan’s hands. But this verse tells us there was a problem. What was it? Satan had fallen from heaven. So what happened?

Let’s read on in the passage to see what happened in verses 13 and 14:

“You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

There it is…do you see it? Satan got so full of himself, losing sight of the very one who raised him up to begin with. Good grief, he even wanted to ascend above and be like the Most High! Said another way, Satan lost any sense of humility and started believing his own press.

Satan wanted to increase his platform, using his knowledge of God to do it. If Satan had social media at his disposal, he would likely have been using it to post things just as society seemed to want them, using imagery, fonts, colors and words that society would find most appealing. He would most certainly be driven by the motivation to get the most reaction…likes…followers. Yikes.

In essence, scripture tells us that in his heart, Satan had begun to build his own agenda for his life. When he did this, he fell subject to something we’re still vulnerable to today, self-ascension. Slipping into this mindset, one can forget an important truth:

“If God wants us exalted to a place of public prominence, He will make that happen.”

There is really only one thing we need to do. Be ready. We don’t need to present everything as society wants it. We don’t need to make things all neat and pretty. We don’t need to do anything but one thing…seek him fully so that if he chooses for us to ascend, we will be ready. Friends, this is my sole soul desire. And just like anyone else, I have to keep myself in check so that I don’t start believing my own press. For this reason, I have several trusted people that I’ve given permission to also keep me in check. My prayer to God about any platform or ascension remains this: if what I do for you ever becomes about me, remove it from me.

As God has led me through these past years in Kenya, there has developed a sort of notoriety that makes me uneasy. I often feel like a celebrity might feel, relatively speaking of course. I have been swarmed by clamoring and adoring children, publicly celebrated with songs and dancing and even had Sunday church pulpits given over to me to speak. I count all of these moments as precious.

The moments themselves are not the issue. The issue is that I am not the one they or anyone else ultimately needs. Trust me, on my very best day, I will still disappoint. The one we all need is Jesus. Jesus…the one who saved me from the deepest pit of hopelessness and despair. Jesus…the one who died to cancel out my sin debt and gift me with the assurance of eternity in Heaven. Jesus…the one continues to love me, refine me and show me who I was created to be.

To be good stewards of our gifting may at times require that we market ourselves or our work. For example, with an upcoming book launch, I know that to increase the likelihood of the story God has given me to be read, I need to do my part to ensure people know about it. Whatever I do, the results are his. I have no way to know what might be coming my way in the days ahead. Nor do you. If God wants to give someone a more public platform, he can make this happen. What a glorious thing if he does, especially if you can rest assured knowing you are standing there because he wanted you there, not because of anything you did to build your platform of notoriety while using God to get there.

If he does call me into the public eye, if he calls you there, then when the spotlight comes on, may it always be Jesus who is exalted. If we serve him humbly, he will be the one who receives the credit, likes and followers. We should want it no other way.

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Ransom

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Upendo Street Orphan Ministry: a project supported by Love Without Borders, Inc

In just two weeks, I set out again for missionary work in Kenya. Nearly four months have passed since I was last there. Regardless of having witnessed the deep suffering of others, it can be common — effortless really — for the “good life” of the United States to lull one back into numb complacency. While I’m grateful this has not happened to me, being away from the front lines of Kitale has made it easier for my heart to disconnect from the depths of discontent and utter grief I felt when ministering to the homeless orphans there. But then, new images of the work we are doing there arrive — like today — and my heart again weeps. Thank you, Lord.

I’m sure that many look at my life and wonder what the heck I am doing, walking away from the security of “providing for myself” and trusting God for every little thing. From a human perspective, I agree, to do as I have done makes no logical sense. But the life lived only by human perspective is no longer mine. Why? Because I’ve chosen to live my life as a ransom, placing my trust in the most compelling leader of all times:

“For even the Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (emphasis mine)

I am not going to lie. When I look at my quickly dwindling bank account, with no income to counteract it, my self-reliance wants to kick in and start looking for a “real” job so that I can sustain my life here. But then, I remember all that God has already allowed me and others to do for Him since taking that first leap, here’s just a sampling:

  • Share the hope of God and life skills with impoverished women as the keynote speaker at a three-day women’s conference and over twenty other speaking opportunities
  • Provided a single mother of three with mentoring and financial support (ongoing) to re-establish a safe living environment and healthy life skills
  • Through awareness of my work in Kenya, both friends and strangers in the states were compelled to raise money to help
  • Enough money was raised to build our simple Upendo Home, from the ground up, in just three weeks
  • Eight young street orphans were rescued and given new hope through life in Upendo Home, where they now:
    • Eat fresh meals versus picking from the garbage
    • Sleep in warm beds versus on a cold hard street
    • Live under loving protection versus harsh vulnerability
    • Receive medical care versus suffering from untreated diseases
    • Learn in school versus lessons from the street
    • Feel the love and comfort of God versus the empty nothingness of sniffing glue

And just since returning home in November, we have:

  • Formed a 501c3 non-profit, Love Without Borders, Inc. (LWB)
  • Built a professional LWB team (all devoted volunteers)
  • Secured financial sponsors for all of our rescued children, sustaining Upendo Home
  • Received an unsolicited donation to cover my upcoming flight
  • Held an event to formally launch LWB
  • Secured a financial partner for our weekly street orphan ministry, increasing our weekly meals from ten to fifty children (today’s photos are from our recent outreach)

When I review this list, I must admit, I’m proud and I’m impressed. But not because of what my team and I have done — though we have worked very hard and feel great about our work. Rather, it’s because we’ve been equipped by God to accomplish all that we have. We rejoice with wonder over everything. I believe these accomplishments are an awesome reflection of what Jesus promises us in John 14:12:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

We are called to perform works like Christ. Love Without Borders is a compassion-based ministry, formed for this purpose. But the leader of this ministry is God, not me. Surely, a feet-on-the-street leader is needed. This is me; but I remain second in command. I want it no other way. My team and I will follow behind Him to continue to do His will. I believe in this approach, we can continue forward in confidence that we will accomplish what he has set for us to do.

God uses regular people every day as his hands and feet in this world. He will use anyone who is willing to say yes. You may not be used in the same way I have been. For example, most people I know will never be called to leave home for Kenya, and that is really okay. Rest assured, you can still be used to accomplish a great deal. If you want to serve alongside me in Kenya, you are most welcome. If you would like to partner with us in other ways, I simply ask you to begin by committing to look just beyond the good life and find ways you can help.

If you believe in the work we are doing, one easy way to help if you’re able is financial support. There continues to be more orphans to feed and care for and broken, despairing women to help. Also, my team and loved ones will really let me have it if I don’t also share that in order for me to continue to serve and give my life as a ransom as a missionary on the front lines in Kenya, I also need support. If you do support us financially, I assure you we demonstrate full accountability and solid results, as reflected above, for your investment.

Another way you can easily help is to share about what we are doing. Networking is essential and it is how we have already received much of our support. I’ll be blogging in Kenya. If you want to follow along on this next leg of the journey, just “follow” my blog and you will be notified when I post updates. If you are on Social Media, we can be found on Facebook @ LWB: Upendo Home and Instagram at LWB_Upendo_Home. PayPal donations can be sent to LoveWithoutBordersCA@gmail.com by clicking here (PayPal account not required).

Finally, we put together a video vignette about the Upendo ministry. Take a look, click here

We value your trust and we cannot do this alone. Thank you ever so much.