Food for Thought
On September 11, 2001 I was in Tema, Ghana.
It was the end of an international missions conference and as I arrived for the final session that evening I immediately knew something was wrong. Instead of being inside the meeting hall several of my American friends were sitting outside on the steps, talking, crying, and praying. The next few hours were a whirlwind of conflicting information about what was really going on back home in the United States.
The ensuing three days in Ghana would consist of watching the international news from my hotel and emailing friends and loved ones. With plans changed (my original plans had me going to Lebanon from Ghana) and many questions still unanswered, I boarded a plane on September 14 in hopes of going back home.
Arriving at Heathrow Airport from Ghana I had no idea how long I might be there. Some people had been stranded in the airport for three days and while the packed terminals resembled something more like a refugee camp there was also a strange calm. After several conversations with exhausted airport personnel I found an empty corner and sat down to wait.
A short time later I heard an announcement over the airport intercom system inviting people to an interdenominational chapel service hosted in a nearby terminal. Curious about what a chapel service in an airport might look like, I went.
I don’t remember what scripture was shared or song was sung but I remember the people. In this small chapel room in the airport, people from different denominational backgrounds, countries, and cultures had all gathered together. In that moment there was a sense that we all had the same central desire – to focus on the hope that only God can bring in a time of crisis.
I’ll never forget this sense of belonging and unity as we prayed together and shared our stories. To this day that little chapel gathering in Heathrow airport was one of the most powerful – yet simple – church gatherings I’ve ever been a part of. I will never forget the lives lost on 9/11 but I will also never forget the hope that only God can bring when his people look to him in times of crisis.
Part 1: “What’s your Burning Bush?”
One of life’s most frequently asked questions is, “Lord, what do you want me to do with my life?” The following questions usually ensue: “Are these ideas from you Lord, or from me? What are my giftings and where do I fit in with the scheme of doing ‘great things’ for God?”
A decade ago a good friend of mine asked me the question: “What’s your burning-bush?” The context for this question is Exodus 3:1-4; here we find Moses tending a flock of sheep (not even his own) when he comes upon the burning bush.
1Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
Factors Surrounding the Bush
Moses saw the “bush” and through that encounter received his calling for the rest of his life—40 more years. Here are some factors surrounding this event that I hope will speak to you, challenge you, and encourage you.
1. God knew who Moses was.
Moses was called by name, twice. Think about this… did Moses know God at this moment? Unlikely. Raised as an Egyptian, fled from his own people, married the daughter of a (most likely at the time) pagan priest. 40 years later… 80-year old Moses encounters the bush
Did God know Moses? Absolutely. He called Him by name twice.
2. God knew where Moses was.
He knew his physical location on the mountain (He knew where to find him). He knew his age, He knew his fears, He knew his history and testimony, his successes and failures (He was aware of his identity questions.
3. God knew how to get Moses’ attention!
For Moses it was a bush that was burning, without burning up.
4. It was Moses’ response, that drew a response from God.
Read the first part of verse 4… “Moses saw it and then turned aside. When God saw this…”
Forget Moses… What About You?!
My point is this: What is YOUR burning bush? What is it that you notice as you go to work, to school, to church, when you lie in bed at night dreaming? What is in your make-up and design that is attracted to specific things? Do you want to heal the sick and lame that you see—in body, mind or spirit? Is it a word of knowledge to reach someone? Is it the homeless, or the elderly, or the children, who always seem so obvious to you, yet not to others? Do you find yourself thinking about new businesses or new ministry opportunities before they exist?
Don’t assume that everyone else notices the things that you notice: they don’t! You may walk the same street as another person yet see completely different things. In fact, this is a strategy I often use with my own outreach teams or during ministry to help reveal gifts, calling and God-inspired opportunities. God could be trying to get your attention in a way specific to you, so stop trying to find Him the way other people have; turn aside to what He is showing you Himself. For example, He probably won’t bring you to a plant that is on fire yet not burning up!
3 Questions to Consider:
- Do you recognize what it could be that God is using to get your attention? Your heart, your vision, your desire, passion, or those ‘unique-to-you’ ideas?
- Are you looking for it?
- Will you turn aside to investigate?
One final word… Even 80 years isn’t too late. Moses was 80 years old when he saw his burning bush, and he had been through a lot of “stuff”. It’s never too late for anyone with God; He hasn’t forgotten your name.
What is your burning bush?
Read Part 2 HERE.
Jeremy West has been on staff with Youth With A Mission since 1995. He teaches and runs training programs globally in the fields of discipleship and leadership development.
By Guest Blogger: Jan Martinez
Editor’s Note: Jan Martinez is the founder and Director of Christ Kitchen in Spokane, Washington. Christ Kitchen seeks to ‘love women out of poverty’ by providing employment opportunities as a means to discipleship. Jan’s book titled ‘Christ Kitchen’ releases this week.
I’d never witnessed a beating. To this day I shudder when I remember it. I had been reading in my car before a doctor’s appointment and happened to notice a young woman leaving the hospital. She was maybe 25 years old, very thin, pale complexion, worried eyes. She wore tired jeans and a loose fitting blue and white t-shirt. Her sandal had a broken strap and slapped awkwardly on the cement walk. As she hooked her purse over her shoulder, I watched her look around anxiously scanning the parking lot. Perhaps that is what caught my attention – her apprehension attracting mine. Her body shook slightly and I saw that she was crying. As she walked toward me, the pain on her face displayed untold miseries as if she carried a horrible burden.
My heart went out to her. Had she just lost a loved one, received bad news, a fatal diagnosis? It made me ponder what my face looked like after learning I had breast cancer. Curious what we think about when viewing another’s pain. Screeching brakes startled me out of my reflections as an older model sedan came skidding to a stop behind my car. “Get in!” screamed a clearly enraged man to the woman. Her crying stopped immediately when she saw him. In that moment, I interpreted her immediate calm as relief, like finally she had someone to share her burden, her sorrow. Now I imagine that it was actually certain fear of what would follow.
As soon as she got in the car, that huge, muscled man lit into her like a prizefighter on a punching bag. He struck her again and again – powerful, closed-fist blows to her face and belly. “Who’s (smack!) baby (smack!) is it?” the maniac bellowed as her body absorbed the blows and ricocheted off the window and seat.
I screamed. A deadly, guttural, hate-filled roar welled up in me. Instinctively, I jumped out of my car spilling my book and purse onto the pavement. What did I think I was going to do? Rip her out of a moving car in Hollywood cop-story style? Save her from the clutches of a mad man? I simply screamed. I screamed at him to stop. I doubt he even heard me as he put his car in gear and drove his bleeding baby’s mother away.
Did I get his license plate and report the assault to the police? Did I check at the hospital to find out who she was and make a report to Child Protective Services? I’m ashamed to say those ideas only occurred to me later. What I did was sit down on the curb as if I’d been punched in the stomach; a groan escaping me in sympathy with hers. And then I sobbed. I cried for that woman’s beaten body, for the possibility that he had killed the life within her, for their future, for my impotence, for the violence that’s hidden in a third of all relationships in our country.
I now carry my business cards in an easily accessible pocket or wallet. These perky little marketing tools advertising Christ Kitchen gift baskets and catered fare as well as my contact information are hardly a worthy defense against bullies or crazed offenders. But under our Christ Kitchen logo it says, a place of hope for women in poverty and I pray fervently for beaten souls to find hope. I hand these cards out to women in trouble, practicing for the time I am once again up against devastating odds. I pressed one into the hand of an overwrought mom in Target who was yelling at her crying baby. “Come see us,” I offered after she let me hold her child while she shopped. I jumped out of my car downtown and slipped a card into the shirt pocket of an inebriated woman slumped beside a building, hoping she might follow my prayers for her to our ministry.
If anything, the woman in the blue and white t-shirt taught me to be ready, intentional. My mentor, Jill Briscoe, always says, “The mission field is between your two feet.” At times it comes screeching to a halt interrupting our solitude and at others we have to act on simple clues God sets right in front of us. This must be what Paul meant when he wrote Timothy, “Be ready, in season and out of season, to preach the Word.”
“Be the Word,” my Lord comforts me when this violent world assaults my sweet life with powerful blows as I watch the evening news or drive through my neighborhood. “Be hope to my lost world.”
When I think of the things I learned from my parents as a child, there were certainly things that were explicitly and directly taught to me but the things I learned that were most deeply imprinted on me as a young child were caught, not taught. What I means is there was a culture and a feeling in our household that communicated and demonstrated specific values louder than any words could. It was this family culture that impacted me far more in my upbringing than any teaching or command to obey.
Proverbs 22:6 says,
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
If you’re a parent then you know the great privilege and fear that comes with raising your children. You also know that what you say is really only as powerful and influential as what you do.
As a parent it’s easy to fall into the ‘when they’re older’ trap. We think, “I’ll teach that value or this habit when they’re older.” But right now is the best time to plant those seeds of faith, to instill a heart of generosity, or even a challenge of leadership. If we fall into the ‘when they’re older’ mentality we’ve already waited to long. The values that you teach and demonstrate your children today have the power to affect the rest of their life. Scary, I know. But also an amazing privilege.
Check out this video about how one young girl had an idea to help those in need. As you watch imagine the seeds of faith that were planted in her life as a result of her action and her parents support and what affect that may have on the rest of her life.
Video via ilikegiving
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I have a lot of memories of time spent at the beach. On one particular stretch of coastline where I grew up the sand arched down steeply to the crashing waves. I have a memory from when I was young seeing my Mom walking along that shoreline and from my (very young) perspective it looked as if the towering waves would crash over her. It looked so real that I was scared for her. Once I got closer and my perspective of the shoreline changed, I realized she was never really in danger.
Life often has moments similar to the one that I experienced as a young boy. Sometimes our experiences cause us to react wrongly and often times the reason we react wrongly is often because we have the wrong perspective.
God sees things not as they appear but as they are. If you’ve ever been to a beach and felt the sand between your toes you can confidently say you know what sand looks like, right? But in reality you don’t really know what it looks like because your perspective is limited. Here’s a picture of what beach sand looks like when magnified:
(Used with permission: sandgrains.com)
God’s perspective is not just different in regards to a vantage point but it’s also different in terms of time. Think of someone like Nick Vujicic who was born with no legs and no arms. The world sees someone like that as hopeless. What could he accomplish? What would he have to live for? But God’s perspective is different. When Nick was born, God saw both the helpless baby and the man he would become; a husband, a father, and someone who would have a global ministry that would bring the Gospel of hope to thousands.
Whether we were born into a difficult situation or not the odds are good that we’ll experience hardships at some point in our life. The Apostle Paul certainly had experienced tough times when he wrote:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
What is he talking about? He’s talking about having a right perspective. Faith in Jesus compels us to not just look at physical but also spiritual realities. This viewpoint changes everything and stretches our perspective to be long-term and even eternal. The Bible makes it clear that the world in its current state won’t last forever and so the dimension of the unseen is actually more real than what we can see.
When we allow God to change our perspective we have faith. Faith that the God who made us sees us as we currently are and also who we will be. When we get God’s perspective we also have hope. Hope that our current situation which seems impossible can be overcome. Getting God’s perspective isn’t just important it’s essential. It influences how we parent, choose our career, relate to others, spend money and so much more. When we start to see the world as God sees it we not only endure tough circumstances, we overcome them.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.“
-Jesus as recorded in John 16:33
And so one of the most powerful and challenging prayers we can pray is not for a situation to be changed but for the vision to see it how God sees it. Perspective changes everything.
In what areas of your life has God changed your perspective?
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
- 1 Corinthians 12:14-20
I recently had the privilege to spend a week speaking at a Christian High School Summer camp. Hundreds of students from various churches across the state gathered together for a week of dynamic worship, fun games, teaching, and the experience of retreating to a beautiful spot in God’s creation. If you’ve ever been to a camp or retreat before then you know how meaningful and powerful it is to be in an environment that is wholly focused on Jesus.
One afternoon while talking with a camp staffer, the above scripture came to mind. What we were seeing at this camp was an amazing demonstration of the Body of Christ in action. As I thought thru all of the various roles needed for the camp to be successful, no role was less important than another to the success of the whole vision and purpose of the week.
While certain elements of a camp seem to have more of a spotlight than others what would a Summer camp look like without clean dishes? How would the games be without well taken care of facilities? How effective would the whole week be without proper administration? All of these are essential parts and when they function together, are an amazing demonstration of the Body of Christ in action!
It’s easy to see this illustration in action at a place like a Summer Camp but the same is true for the local church. While certain elements may have more of a focus during a Sunday morning gathering, each part of the body is just as important, even if it’s a bit more hidden.
So what is it that God has given you a passion for? Recognizing that all parts are equally important how has he called you to serve and be a part of the Body of Christ?
The other question that is important to ask (especially if you’re a leader) is, do we really believe that every part is equally important and how is that belief reflected in our church culture?
Take some time this week to thank someone who is using their gifts and passions to build up the Body of Christ. As Paul goes on to say in verse 26,” If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” The Body of Christ is an amazing thing and when Jesus is the head of the church, and all the parts are working together, God is glorified and lives are changed.