Tag Archives: legacy

Crave

Standard

Is there anything that you cannot live without?  Something that, were you to lose it or not have it, your life would feel hollow?  Something that, once you have experienced it and lived with it, you simply cannot give up?  What is so intrinsic to who you are that you absolutely need it in order to live your life?

Selflessness – now that I have tasted it, I can’t forget it; I crave it.  The longing to be selfless, to serve, and to minister to others is what drives me.  I desire to live for something lasting, something bigger than myself, bringing the culture of heaven to the earth and revealing the kindness of the Father’s heart.  I have learned it, lived it, and loved it.  Wherever I can go, whatever I can do – I want to take every opportunity to serve.  Compelled by love – it feels as natural as breathing (2 Cor. 5:14-19).  It is not easy; sometimes passion hurts.  But through it all the craving remains.  Living in Africa, being a missionary kid and a pastor’s daughter, being head-over-heels in love with Jesus – I am ruined for life and so ready for the here-and-now of eternity, the fullness of heaven invading the earth.  Nothing else will satisfy.  Crave.

Merely existing cannot satisfy; our souls crave MORE.

Merely existing cannot satisfy; our souls crave MORE. What is your MORE?

Caught in the Westernized idea of Christianity that often (though perhaps unintentionally) advocates a go-big-or-go-home lifestyle, I used to believe that ministry and service had to create sweeping change.  I used to believe that I had to do something “big” and that only something big could be worthwhile in God’s kingdom.  It wasn’t that I consciously believed it; it was more like a disquiet deep within my spirit about the value and nature of ministry – but no more.  Now I am content to be the one who makes “little” change, one person at a time – and each of those lives will touch another life, and each of those yet another – until a cycle of change becomes sustainable at the deepest levels.  Crave.  Every person who is blessed by my writing, who hears the voice of God and feels His presence through my words and actions – it is both more than enough and only the beginning.  Crave.

Every moment there are possibilities, choices, and opportunities, and I long to live a life that takes full advantage of all of those moments.  I desire to live a life of selfless service. Crave.  I want my passion for God and for people to be part of my legacy – and legacies begin in the quiet, “little” moments.  Legacies aren’t something that simply happen after you die; legacies are built as you take the day-to-day opportunities to make the right choice.  Crave.  I want to seek out and eagerly embrace opportunities to serve, whether they are menial, prestigious, or just plain difficult.  Why?  Because I don’t know how to live any other way.  I can’t resist the craving for a life that is more than myself, more than the comfort of the moment.  Life is most beautiful when it is lived selflessly.  Crave.

I’d like to say I take every opportunity to serve – I don’t always do that, but I’d like to.  As I mentioned in “Open My Eyes,” ministry is seeing needs and meeting them.  It is a way of viewing life that allows you to see ministry opportunities to bring Truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ into any and every situation.  I know that not every will agree with my simple definition of ministry; I know all the arguments about definitions, duties, and ministry as a vocation.  I know that it is important to consider the specific gifts and dreams that God has placed within me.  But when I look at the life of Jesus Christ, I see a Man who poured out the relentless love of our Heavenly Father by noticing and meeting needs, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional. The ministry of Jesus sparked that cycle of sustainable, soul-deep change that we often strive to begin on our own.  The truth is that we don’t need to create change; we need to spread change by serving selflessly, leaving the rest to God’s Holy Spirit, who dwells within us and leads us to repentance.  Crave.  

Service is not about “doing more,” earning grace or recognition, or completing a duty.  It is about living wholeheartedly. Selflessness is not something you merely “do,” like reading a book or taking a shower.  Rather, it is a way you live your life that becomes a part of who you are.  That’s when the craving happens.  As the selfless love of Christ is indelibly etched into your soul, you come to the point where you can’t imagine living your life in any other way.  Crave.  I throw myself fully into everything I do because I only know how to live whole-heartedly.  To live as Christ lived is to live selflessly:

crossLet each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” — Philip. 2:4-8 ESV

Over the holidays I spent lots of time hanging out with good friends.  As we gathered after ice skating one night, we found that one of our group was missing.  When someone questioned where he was, my brother pointed and said, “Oh, he’s over there praying for someone.  That’s just how he is – he’s cool like that.”  When the craving runs deep, the loving and serving come naturally. Crave.  Is that “just how we are”?  Is that the lifestyle we pursue?  Are those the people we choose to build relationships with, people who crave nothing more than to live whole-heartedly, fully abandoned in the love of Christ?  That is the kind of woman I want to be, and those are the kind of friends I want to have around me.  Crave.

To give freely, serve joyfully, obey willingly, and love fully – I crave to live out the culture of heaven on the earth.  I admit, I am addicted.  The craving is what gets me up in the mornings with a song in my heart.  It’s what makes me want to spend hours listening to and laughing with the girls in my dorm.  It’s what gets me up in the night to tend to sick friends or care for my little sister.  It’s why I carried someone else’s luggage in addition to my own the entire length of a train when I saw she was weary.  It’s why I weep with longing for Africa, my heart breaking with desire to go back to the place my heart loves.  It’s what makes me eagerly seek out opportunities to serve and do ministry – to meet any need I can.  It’s why I’m sitting here late at night, writing when my heart is overflowing with words that I don’t want to lose.  I want every part of my life to reflect the nature of my God.  In the craving are depths of passion and the love of the Father’s heart that I have only just begun to discover.  Crave.  This is why I do what I do and why I am who I am.  When the craving becomes part of who you are, other ways of living become hollow until, eventually, they fade into nothingness.  When we allow the culture of heaven to define our lifestyle, the selfishness of our sin nature that once bound us no longer has any authority to control us.  Through the precious blood of Christ we are empowered to live selflessly – but more than that, we are empowered to live selflessly with joy.

And so, my dear friends, what do you crave?  Are you ready to respond to His call to live whole-heartedly?  Are you ready for Him to wreck your life with the craving for the kingdom-culture of heaven?

“For though I am free from men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more…I have become all things to all men, that by all means I might save some.  Now this I do for the gospel’s sake….” — 1 Cor. 9:19, 23 NKJV

Embrace the craving -- run wild in the precious freedom of a life lived selflessly.

Embrace the craving — run wild in the precious freedom of a life lived selflessly.

The Nehemiah Life

Standard

For many years now, I’ve wanted to live as a Nehemiah.  Not in the sense that I am having an identity crisis and want to change my name, but in the sense that I want to be a leader like the Nehemiah of the Bible.  The book of Nehemiah is really quite an epic tale of God raising up a leader and miraculously working through His people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  This little book really packs a punch, but the thing I want to focus on is visionary leadership – the legacy of Nehemiah.

I connect well to the portrayal of Nehemiah – talk about a man who carried a big God-vision!  I am a very visionary, “big-picture” person – I am bursting with passion and plans and dreams.  I tend to live with my head in the future and my feet in the present.  Often I struggle to enjoy the present because I am so excited for the future.  I have a hard time balancing what is with what will be and should be.

Back-to-the-FutureThis is both a blessing and a curse for me.  It’s like a Back to the Future version of wanderlust – I simply can’t restrict myself to looking at this moment.  Sometimes I feel crushed by the weight of the passion, the dreams – and wonder why others don’t seem to feel the burden.  Why can’t people just get it?  Why isn’t everyone excited about what the future holds and what God is doing?  Then I get frustrated.  But, as will most things in life, there must be balance.  Nehemiah found that balance – the balance of living as a vision-carrier for God.

Leadership is not something one does on a lark.  Leadership is not always fun or glamorous; in fact, it is rarely either of those things.  People do not always cooperate, expectations are not always met, and it is all too easy for leaders to get burnt out.  In these moments, it is the God-vision, fueled by God’s Holy Spirit, that prevents “burnout” — that gets you going and fills you with passion.

The literal definition of the word “vision” is “the ability to see.”  This is what I mean by “vision,” except I am applying it more broadly.  You see, visionary leadership isn’t just the ability to see what is now and the things that are present; it is the ability to look forward to the future and to dream and plan boldly about what will happen next.

This forward-looking perspective must be coupled with the ability to share the vision with others.  Vision paints a passionate picture of hope, giving specific goals and directions.  Visionary leaders help others catch hold of and pursue the vision.  Of course, vision is clearest and most powerful when it comes from God.  This is what Nehemiah’s role was as a leader: to carry the vision.  This is actually what it means to be an apostle in the Biblical sense: carrying, sharing, and initiating the vision amongst people.  To be an apostle is to look at the “big picture” and help others do the same.

 

In Nehemiah’s time, Israel had been dominated by Babylon.  Many of the people had been taken captive to Babylon, while the others had been left, destitute, to tend the land and keep it from turning to wilderness.  The city of Jerusalem had been utterly ravaged, and the walls had been torn down when the Babylonians captured the Israelites.  So the Lord settled a burden on Nehemiah’s heart, giving him a vision to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and bring back God’s people to the Promised Land.  Rebuilding these walls was not merely a practical means of protection; it was a symbol of spiritual renewal and a return to the Lord in the place of His promise.

What is your vision building?....And more importantly, who is building with you?

What is your vision building?….And more importantly, who is building with you?

Of course, just because Nehemiah had an idea from God, it does not mean that being the vision-carrier was a simple task.  As a leader, he needed to discern when to cast the vision and when to withhold it – and whom to share it with.  Rebuilding the walls was not a task Nehemiah could undertake alone; he needed the Israelites to partner with him to carry out the vision.

Herein lies the danger of being a visionary leader: you become so consumed with attaining the goal and carrying out the vision that, when you are victorious, you find there is no one left to celebrate with because you left them all behind.

Proverbs 29:18 tells us that people perish for lack of vision.  God-directed vision is a vital part of learning to walk with Him, and we must learn to nurture and not stifle the vision.  I am a very “visionary” person; and where I sense no vision, it feels as though the life is being sucked out of me.  However, being visionary (apostolic, far-sighted, and big-picture) scares others if they aren’t prepared.  This is why leaders must use discretion in casting vision.  Sometimes carrying this God-vision means that you keep it to yourself for a while, and sometimes it means that you only share a portion of what God is speaking.

The result of Nehemiah’s God-driven, apostolic leadership was that the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt (from piles of rubble!) in a mere fifty-two days (Neh. 6:15).  But realize that he didn’t start by telling the oppressed Israelites, “I’ve returned to our decimated homeland to help you rebuild the city walls and restore the land!  Oh, and we’ll do it in less than two months!  Who’s with me?!”  No.  Rather, he went and scouted out the walls; he spent time planning, praying, and preparing before he began to share the vision with the people, calling them to rebuild and restore their city.  And he did not simply tell them what they should do; he told them why they should do it and shared his testimony of God’s faithful hand at work in the situation:

‘And I told them of the hand of my God, which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.  So they said, “Let us rise up and build.”  Then they set their hands to this good work.’ – Nehemiah 2:18

This is Nehemiah’s great success: he knew when to cast the vision and when to withhold it.  Sharing a vision in poor timing is often akin to aborting it.  Just as vision itself is a necessity, so is proper timing; you cannot separate the two.  My mentor told me, “There are some things that need to be said, but don’t need to be heard.”  When you are given charge of the God-vision, there are times when you need to keep it between you and God, simply praying over the vision and nurturing it.  Like a pregnant mother, you carry something precious, but there is a right time for the birth that should not be forced or tampered with. 

I frequently pray, “Lord, make me a Nehemiah.  Nehemiah did it right, and I want to do the same.  Help me to carry Your vision with wisdom and compassion.”  I want to carry the vision well, and I want others to be around to revel in the fullness of the victory and blessing that God will bring through it.

Perhaps you don’t feel like you have any vision to share right now.  Or perhaps you have a vision already burning inside you, locked up tight and waiting to be shared.  All those things are fine.  The Lord always gives the passion and the vision in its time, and He will direct you about where, when, and how to share the vision.  Maybe right now you need to support the God-vision that someone else is casting.  Maybe right now you need to help someone else be a Nehemiah and cultivate his or her leadership abilities.  Or maybe the time has come for you to step up and be a Nehemiah, sharing the vision that the Lord has placed in your heart.  Don’t be afraid of the vision.  Simply allow the Holy Spirit to give you discernment to recognize the timing and the means.

I bless you to freely and boldly live the Nehemiah life!

For my dad, the most visionary leader I know. Even when we were unsure, you waited and continued to encourage us to step into bigger and better things. Thanks for not leaving us behind. I love you.

For my dad, the most visionary leader I know. Even when we were unsure, you waited and continued to encourage us to step into bigger and better things. Thanks for not leaving us behind. I love you.