A year ago I spent 10 days training pastors and visiting orphans in Uganda. Before I left people treated me like it was 1968 and I dropped out of college to fight in Vietnam. One guy even told me that he was glad that I went so that he didn’t have to. I have no idea what that means.
This year my wife went to the same part of Uganda. You can imagine the increased concern on this one. If it’s crazy to sign up for something like this then it must be borderline criminal to let your wife do it.
My friend Keith hears all of this on an even higher level. My wife and I just went to Africa for a few days but he’s moving his entire family to the Czech Republic. This is no short-term missions trip. It’s an uprooting. My wife and I had to deal with passports and who would take care of our kids. Keith and his crew are more concerned with visas and permanent housing. And to make it even worse, they are taking their kids with them. Someone should contact DFACS.
There’s a lot to all of the strange looks and even stranger comments but I think a major driving force is fear.
People set off bombs in other countries.
Al-qaeda might come after you.
These fears are silly but I understand them. I understand them because I have them. I spent most of my childhood living in this kind of fear.
When I was a kid my mom would load us up in the station wagon every few months and we would all ride down to see my grandparents. This was before the days when children under the age of 32 were required to ride in a car seat so that meant that the back of the station wagon was all mine. When that got old, I would just climb over into the backseat without the car ever stopping.
I lived on the edge.
After one visit, we were loading back up in the family wagon to head home. My mom and sister assumed their normal seats and I climbed back to my area in the back so I could give awkward stares to the drivers behind us on the interstate. But as I was making my way back to my area the sermon began.
My grandfather began a long story about some kid a few counties over that was riding back there and got killed when the car wrecked.
Thanks for the send-off, grandpa!
My area was now ruined. What was once my own miniature Chuck E. Cheese on wheels was now a deathtrap. I’ll bet there was even led paint and DDT somewhere back there.
Looking back, it’s interesting that the man who spent a few years fighting in the south Pacific during World War 2 and came back in one piece was concerned about my area of the station wagon. But the seeds were planted.
I was afraid of what might happen.
My default mode is to allow that same type of fear to keep me from obeying Jesus.
It really is safer over here so maybe I should leave international matters to others while I focus on my own nation.
But even our country is pretty crazy right now. Something could go terribly wrong so maybe I should just focus on my own community.
But the areas of our community that need the gospel the most are also the most dangerous. I’ll just focus on my own church.
But someone could walk into our sanctuary or even on stage while I’m preaching and do something terrible. Maybe I should just focus on my own family.
But then I’ll get really attached to them and what if something were to happen to them. I would be devastated.
So it looks like the only rational thing for me to do is to sit at home, isolated from everyone and watch the news where all of my fears can be reinforced.
I’m sure that Jesus is very pleased by that kind of “careful planning” and “alertness”.
Thankfully, there is another option and Jesus shared it with a church in a place called Sardis. This church had a great reputation but Jesus saw beyond that to their reality. What he saw was death that resulted from incomplete works (Revelation 3:1-2). To the few from this church who cared about obeying him, Jesus gives a great word of motivation for moving beyond the mediocre, phony discipleship that was on the rise.
“The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Revelation 3:5
Those who truly belong to Jesus Christ can go about fully obeying him in a very dangerous and unpredictable world knowing that though their bodies may be harmed, their hearts may be broken and their bank accounts emptied their souls cannot be touched.
“I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”
As it turns out, my wife made it back from Uganda unharmed. I asked her if she saw any riots in the streets where kids pushed police officers off of motorcycles and cops were called in wearing riot gear.
She said no.
I asked her if she saw any cars get run off the road by armed men demanding money.
She said no.
Just before she left and while she was away, those things happened here. Right here in our allegedly safe neck of the woods.
You’re not as safe as you think you are.
But if you’ve surrendered your life to Jesus, you’re more secure than you can possibly imagine.
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John 10:28-29