Saturday, October 29, 2016

No Turning Back

I Have Decided

Dorze, Arba Minch, Ethiopia

I've been home for three weeks, and I just now cracked open my journal from the trip.  I haven't let myself read it, because I couldn't.  It's too much.  Our days in Ethiopia were quite possibly the most intense of my life.  That's the word I use when people ask me about the trip.  Intense.  It encompasses many emotions and experiences.  Some of the intense experiences were hard.  Some were scary.  Many were exhilerating.  All were God ordained.

Hidden paradise in Arba Minch, Ethiopia

Tonight in church we sang the song Christ is Enough, and I can't hear or sing this song without remembering my Ethiopian friends.

Standing Strong in Persecution

These are people who deal with persecution every single day.  I will be the first to admit that I thought I knew what persecution was before this trip.  The Bible tells us we will be persecuted, but I had no idea what that looks like for some people.

2 Timothy 3:12 - In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

This beautiful woman thanked our team of three-my son Jax, my friend's daughter Rachel, and me-for drinking coffee and eating with her.  She said her neighbors won't come into her house, because she is a Christian.  She was so blessed that we traveled so far to be there.

Ethiopian hospitality

Can you imagine your neighbors wanting nothing to do with you because of your faith?  Can you imagine getting yelled at and shunned every time you walked by people with different beliefs?  Can you imagine getting stoned simply because you trust Jesus as your Savior?

John 15:18 - If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.

Tonight we sang the words,

"I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back.
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back."

I can't sing those words without thinking about what they mean.  These people I met, they know what it's like to choose Jesus without turning back.  They know what's it like to be all in.  There is no lukewarm.  The Bible cautions us against lukewarm faith.

Revelation 3:16 - So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Yet even with that warning, many of us still live that way.  In the villages we visited, there is no such thing as lukewarm.  You have to make a choice.  Choosing to follow Jesus means trusting His promises are true.  You can't be willing to put your life on the line if you aren't 100% confident that He is who He says He is, and He is worth giving up everything for!

Jax and me on the hike in Dorze

1 Peter 4:12-14 - Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

These people know that this persecution, this life they are living on earth is temporary, and that their hope and home are in eternity with the Lord. They have to cling to that reminder every single day to continue to stay strong in their faith.

One of the wonderful families we had the pleasure of meeting.

Staying Strong in the Day to Day

I've been home for three weeks, and I've fallen back into the busyness of my routine and our day to day life.  I don't face persecution or put my life on the line for my faith.  I don't have to worry about being accepted by my neighbors and friends.  Yet I want to live a life that demonstrates that I would.  I want to boldly declare that Christ is enough for me and live those words with my actions.  But I don't.  I let the craziness of a house full of boys and my own selfish desires and worldly priorities get in the way.

1 Peter 4:19 - So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

What does it mean to follow Christ?  What is the cost?  Am I as committed as I think I am?

I'm glad I pulled out my journal tonight.  I think one of the worst things I could do after a trip like this is bottle up those emotions and forget about them.  These people were in my life for such a short period of time, but they will be in my heart forever.  I want to remember what it's like for them to choose Christ.  I want to follow their example and live for Him with no turning back.

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