Saturday, September 10, 2011

Discipleship Part 3: More on denying myself

previous post: Discipleship Part 2

We are talking about self-denial from Matthew 16 when we see what we must do to follow (or be a disciple) of Jesus. He said we must do what He did, deny himself.

So to find out what self denial really means, lets look at how Christ exercised self-denial.
Philippians 2:3-8 says that we should
     "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, I do anything with the hope that someone will notice? Do I do anything desiring praise for a job well done? Do I get frustrated if someone else gets the total credit for something I worked and slaved to do/make? Do I crave recognition or get down if I don't get it?  YES! I do all of those thing!!  THAT IS SELFISH AMBITION AND VAIN CONCEIT!
but in humility consider others better than yourselves".  Ok...So when I think in my head things like "I don't deserve to get treated that way" or "who does he think he is" or when I consider my own needs as priority over Brandon's or my neighbors'.  Or when I think...Oh, they might need such and such, but I just have to take care of me first.  All of those things mean I'm not considering others better than me.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  This needs no explanation.  But who are those others? The "jerk" on the highway that is trying to cut me off? What about his interests? The friend or extended family member that loves to come over but wears everyone out when they arrive because they are an emotional black hole?  What about their needs? The dirty, crazy looking homeless guy, or the homosexual co-worker, or the creepy neighbor kid?  Anyway.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, Wow.  Wow.  So, His status, His "rights", His recognition, His position, His power...laid it all aside.  Became nothing.  Pointed only to the Father, never to Himself.  Forsook all that he had.  I take some sort of pride in my education.  My nationality, my gits, talents, my wonderful kids, my wonderful marriage.  I take pride in my critical thinking skills, in my "right standing" with God, as if I had something to do with that.  I don't habitually forget myself.  I don't habitually lay down everything that I feel makes me "me."  I don't EVER make myself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant...He humbled Himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross.  Who/what am I obedient to?  This is more than I can comprehend right now.

In reading My Utmost For His Highest the other day I was reminded of 2 things: The work of God in my life is less a product of my own efforts than the submission of my entire being to the Source: He who works in me.

And also that submission is a continuous act of the will in denying myself, (my desires, my ambitions, my sense of personal injustices, offences against me, my self-righteous attitudes, my personal freedoms, what I am "owed", my lofty (or poor) self-image, my cravings, to name a few)  but even that act requires the grace of God in my life.

Therefore, I want to fellowship with, and get to know better, the Creator and rely on the grace of His Son to submit my life to Him that He may produce change in me.

Discipleship Part 2: Denying myself

For the first half of this discussion, go here.

Christ said:  "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24 (also in Mark 8 and Luke 9)

This morning I wanted to write about the denying yourself part.  I have been wondering for a while what exactly that looks like.  I feel like the Lord has been calling me to self denial, and I, in total ignorance of what that really means, flippantly have said "sure, Lord! Sounds good."  I mean I really do WANT to be a serious, hardcore, sold out disciple of Him.  I don't see the point in sort of walking around with this faith and not really experiencing the abundant life promised me.  It has been my desire for a long time to be extreme for Jesus!  But what does that denying oneself have to do with my day to day?

I asked this question on facebook (Do you deny yourself) and I got some fantastic responses.  All about putting other's needs first, serving one another, things like that.  And although I wholeheartedly believe that that is a part of this denying concept, I think that keeping my self-denial to serving my family is missing one of the other vital and rewarding parts.

I also have delved into the notion that denying myself means that I deny myself some wants/desires as a life habit.  I realized that I was living my life satisfying almost all of my immediate desires.  Thank God none of those desires were for anything sinful in themselves (wasn't desiring to look at porn or anything) but I wasn't exercising self discipline.  I wanted that flavored coffee creamer, so I bought it.  I wanted to try that new kind of cracker so I bought it.  I didn't want to eat what was on the menu that night, so I changed it!  I thought such and such toy would be fun for the kids so I got it for them.  I was spoiling myself and my children and leading them to believe that if you want it, that is reason enough to have it.  (SIDE BAR: Not being able to afford something did keep me from buying or getting things to a certain extent.  I wasn't a spend-aholic or anything, just spoiled)  So, when I realized this about myself, I stopped!  I realized that practicing self-denial in this way is an excellent practice in self discipline.  That my wants of each moment are not priority and don't have to be satisfied in the immediate.  That to truly trust the Lord with what I have and need, I should not take it upon myself to instantly gratify each whim.  Or each whim of my children.  It was a great practice, but again, after all of that, I realized that this is only another aspect of this greater concept of self-denial.  Something grander is still missing.  (This goes into another life lesson of contentment, which I am going to blog about soon!)

So here we are to the now.  What is left? How can I deny myself, that first step in being a true follower (disciple) of Jesus?

When Christ was giving instructions to His disciples and said what he said about what you must do to follow him, he was stating something obvious that I had missed until now.  When He said  "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."   What did Christ Himself do?  He denied Himself.  What???  He is the Creator of the Universe with skin on! Then, He took up His cross.  We all know what that is referring to.  He was stating (and I feel foolish for not seeing it in exactly these terms before) that in order to be a disciple of Christ, we must do what He did.

To continue the discussion, go to Discipleship Part 3

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Family and Ministry Balance

This is something that I struggle with a lot.  I am a missionary living in a foreign country.  I moved here to be a missionary, and not just to be married to a missionary.  I came to give the gospel, to help train, to meet physical needs, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  So what am I doing?  (after reading over this before I posted, I realized that I do all of those things with my children.  That is actually pretty cool)

Home schooling.  Teaching Sunday school.  Raising 3 children.  Doing laundry. Cooking.  Grocery shopping. Organizing and managing my home.

Isn't that exactly what I would be doing if I lived in the states?
Here is the question:
How do I balance family ministry with external (leave the kids at home) ministry?  I can't take all the kiddos with me when I take food out to poor families.  It is a logistical nightmare. I can't take them with me when I do a women's health class because there is no one to watch them and they get into things.  I can't take them to VBS because I just don't have the stamina to carry around a wriggly 20mo. old who is dying to get down and put every hazardous material in his mouth.  And there is no one to keep my 3yr old daughter from walking out the front door.

So.  If I take the time to do those things, and we will stick with the above list just to make it simpler, I must leave the kiddos with another caretaker.  That can be Brandon, but he has a job.  He can't just hang out and watch the kids for hours on end.  So it can be Gladys.  She is our housekeeper and she is awesome, but she is not their parent.  She doesn't discipline or teach them.

This is why many missionary families in the past and even now, send their children to boarding schools.  Or start the children in full time school when they are 4 or 5.  You know, I don't see an issue sending kids to school so that the mom can do "other" things.  I may do that someday.

Brandon and I feel that it is our job to disciple and educate our children, not that of the church or government.  I fully realize that that is not an option (or a desire) for all families and I respect that.  I am in no way critical of families and individuals that make a different choice than we have made.  But for our part, that means that I am at home taking care of them.  Teaching them.  I eventually would like the kids to be a part of the ministry that goes on here, as BoyD already has, but for at least the next 3-4 years, I will have a very small one around to watch.

So, although I do some ministry where I leave the kids at home and either Brandon or Gladys watches them, I wonder if I am doing enough.  Or if I am doing too much.

My  first ministry is to my husband and children.  There is no doubt.
Does that mean that it can be my only real ministry while my children are young?
I know that if I am truly forsaking that ministry to have a ministry outside of the home, then I am doing too much. (like if I sent them to boarding school so that I could be "free").
So what about the in between.  I mean, I desire to teach a women's Bible study in Spanish.  And for me, I would love to have one in English (with other missionary friends and such).  I also would like to do some more Bible Study Methods training with women teaching them to teach the material.  And I also want to continue a once a month feeding ministry.  Man, wouldn't it be fantastic if we could get a ministry started that took hot meals to the people working and begging in the street?  And build a relationship with them and share the gospel with them?  There is also a feeding ministry to street kids that Brandon and I would LOVE to be a part of!  

But alas, in order to do any of those things, that would require more time away from my family and my children. I don't want that.

Maybe I just need to be more creative.  Maybe I need to change my expectations.  Maybe I am in this season in my life and there will come a time when I will have all the time in the world.

(I must say that it is irritating to me to see people with so much free time do so little.)

So this is my dilemma.  I am not freaking out about it, but I am not entirely comfortable with it all either.