Saturday, June 20, 2009

Therefore...Let's Go!



Jesus…suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
Hebrews 13:12-14 (emphasis added)
I don’t think the word therefore every felt mightier than it did for me when I heard John Piper read these verses in Kentucky in April of 2008 as he drew near to the end of preaching a sermon called How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice (video above). The words blasted into my heart like a lightning bolt out of heaven:

Therefore…Let’s go!

Where Lord?

I left Kentucky that day without hearing an answer to my question. But I would have my answer within a couple of weeks. I received a call from my dad the day after I got home from Kentucky informing me that his father, who lives in Kenya, had just died. And he asked me if I would accompany him to Kenya for the burial. So in May of 2008 I traveled to Kenya, the native homeland of my parents, for an unexpected and unplanned trip that lasted less than a week. I got on an airplane to Kenya for the purpose of attending my grandfather’s burial. And I flew home just a few days later having encountered God at a burning bush and having an answer to the question I had asked Him only a few weeks earlier in Kentucky.

The first sign that God was trying to get my attention came when I was sitting in my grandfather’s funeral listening to one of my distant relatives speaking about her memories of my grandfather. She was much younger than me (about 15) and was visibly moved as she communicated all the ways that grandpa taught her about the value of hard work and the importance of always doing her best in order to be successful because it always pays off. I didn’t doubt for one moment that this was true about my grandfather because, throughout my life, my father has always taught me the same thing. And my uncles have always taught me the same thing. That’s how they were able to immigrate to America. And that’s how they’ve lived their lives in America ever since. They have done so because they learned it from their father and this is what I was hearing testimony of as I sat in my grandfather’s funeral that day. For many in Kenya, America and all that it has to offer represents the greatest payoff that hard work and success can secure. Why else would a relative that I was meeting for only the first time, knowing that I was from America, ask me, “What did you bring me?”? From his perspective, if I am from America, then I must be rich and his hope is that I’ll share my wealth with him. Well, compared to all of the people I came into contact with in Kenya, I am rich and so are my parents and all my uncles and aunts who have immigrated to America from Kenya. And whenever they travel back to Kenya, my parent, uncles, and aunts always bring some of that wealth to share. As I sat there listening to this account of the legacy left by my grandfather, the Holy Spirit impressed these words of Jesus upon my heart: If you then have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches (Luke 16:11)? There are two kinds of wealth Jesus contrasts in this verse: unrighteous wealth (worldly riches) and true riches (eternal riches). In that moment, it was as though Jesus was saying to me that in Kenya everyone expects the Americans to bring the unrighteous wealth when they come. And then He left me with this question: But who’s going to bring them the true riches? In light of the legacy that my grandfather has passed on to his sons after probably having received it from his own father, I sensed Jesus asking me what I wanted my legacy to be. I could continue the pattern and pass on to the generation after me a legacy associated with unrighteous wealth or, by the grace of God, I could shatter it and begin a new pattern of passing on the legacy associated with the true riches that Jesus speaks of. To be honest, I didn’t like the implications of what I was hearing so I didn’t think much of it.

But on the last night that I spent in Kenya before leaving, God would capture my attention in an undeniable way to confirm that He was speaking to me that day at my grandfather’s funeral. I spent that last night at the home of a dear friend of mine who is an unbeliever. We spoke much about Jesus that night and he said something to me that I don’t think I’ll ever forget because I didn’t know how to respond. Though I don’t remember the exact words, it was something like this: I’ve been to church before and they talk about a lot of things but it’s not about God. Even if I wanted to know God, who is there to teach me? And I felt my heart break like Jesus’ must have when He saw the crowds that were harassed and helpless, as sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). Emotionally overwhelmed, I told my friend that I needed to spend time alone with the Lord. So he excused me to my bedroom where I began to pour out my heart to the Lord in prayer, asking Him why He was burdening my heart in this way and what He wanted me to do about it. What did He want me to do about my dear friend who was like a sheep without a shepherd that I didn’t know where to send and who I would soon be leaving? What did He want me to do about the cousin I had talked to only days earlier who told me that she didn’t know what churches and pastors she could trust since, according to her, one of the easiest ways for someone to earn a comfortable living is to open a church and exploit the congregation by collecting from them in order to fund his desired lifestyle? I don’t remember exactly how, but somehow as I prayed that night the Holy Spirit directed me to Hebrews 11:24-27, which in that moment became for me a burning bush at which I encountered the living God as He re-preached to me the message He had preached to me only a couple of weeks earlier in Kentucky.
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
Hebrews 11:24-27
It wasn’t the first time I had read these four verses. I had just heard them read and preached on in Kentucky. But in that moment the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see something in these verses that I didn’t see in Kentucky and that I had never before seen: I’m Moses. I trembled as I saw all the parallels between Moses’ life and my life that had never before occurred to me:

  • Moses was born and raised in Egypt even though he was ethnically an Israelite, having been born to two Israelite parents. I was born and raised in America even though I am ethnically Kenyan, having been born to two Kenyan parents.
  • Moses wasn’t just born and raised in Egypt. He was born and raised as an Egyptian of highest privilege, being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. I wasn’t just born and raised in America. I was born and have been raised as an American of highest privilege, being a graduate of Stanford University, receiving one of the most highly marketable degrees they offer (Computer Science), and I work for a top-tier high tech corporation making a prince’s salary.
  • Moses made these decisions as a grown up. I’m no longer living in dependence on my parents.
  • Moses joyfully chose to identify with the Israelites and leave Egypt in spite of all the comfort and pleasures that he could have enjoyed in Egypt. I…
I’m all setup to follow in the footsteps of Moses. The question is: will I? For Moses, the people of God were the Israelites because God was only the God of one nation at that time. For me, the people of God are the people of God in Kenya since God is no longer the God of one nation but is the God of all nations and continues to call to Himself those from every tribe, tongue, and people group. God’s call on my life from these verses is so clear and compelling to me not only because I see myself in these verses, but because of where I was when I first saw myself in these verses and what I had asked the Lord only weeks earlier. It’s impossible for me to convey the significance of this revelation about Kenya coming to me in Kenya other than to say that it was an encounter with God at a burning bush.

Where Lord?

Kenya.

I wept greatly that night as I thought about leaving everything I’ve ever known to come and live in Kenya, a place that I’ve spent no more than six total weeks of my life in. And I prayed that night that God wouldn’t let me wake up and think that this was all just a dream even though part of me wished that would happen. I told God that night that I was wholly surrendered to Him and I would do whatever He wanted me to do. He just needed to make the way straight by opening a door in Kenya and showing me when He wants me to come.

One year later, He’s answered part of that prayer by connecting me to a dear family that is faithfully serving His church in Kenya. I’ll be spending two weeks with them learning about their ministry and praying that God would answer the other part of my prayer by showing me when He wants me to come to Kenya and what my role will be when I come. Lord willing, I depart for Kenya on June 27th (one week from today) and will return on July 12th. I would love your prayers for me over these next several weeks:

  • That God would enable me to discern with open eyes and ears and a surrendered heart, first and foremost, if He indeed wants me to be in Kenya. Please pray for confirmation of what I feel He has been leading me in and, if so, for wisdom to discern when the right time to go is and what particular ministry He is calling me to.
  • That God would grant me great compassion for the people of Kenya and sensitivity to the needs of His church in Kenya so that I might know how to best serve and pray for them and not view them through the lens of American church culture.
  • That God would grant me sweet fellowship and oneness of heart and mind with Pastor Daniel, his son Josiah, and the rest of their family, who I will be staying with as we pray and plan and dream of seeing more gospel transformation in Kenya and among the nations for the glory of Christ.
  • That God would grant me grace to preach His Word in a way that would above all exalt Jesus while building up and encouraging His people, especially for the high school students I will have the opportunity to speak to. I’m praying for God to give them a holy ambition to make a name for Christ and that somehow my life would be undeniable evidence, if any of them seek the privilege I have been granted, that there is something more secure, more durable, more enduring, more life-giving, more joy-producing, and infinitely greater to seek after.
You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many…For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:11, 4:15
Thank you for holding me up in prayer. May our lives be spent outside the camp as we labor to bring as many with us to be with Jesus where He is.

No comments: