Beyond the Land of the Spoiled Rotten

Do you ever feel like you’re “safe” here in Midwestern suburbia?  Safe from things like famine, natural disasters, and poverty.  As in…those things happen in “other” places of the world.  Last Friday night our electricity went out for maybe an hour around midnight and I was just livid…mad at the world.  The baby woke up, we couldn’t flush the toilet, it was getting cold…I was furious.  However I tried to justify my ridiculous reaction…I…with my heated leather seats in my gas-guzzling SUV, more shoes than I can wear in a year, more food than we can eat in a month, lacking for nothing…I am spoiled rotten!

Today the Lord has laid on my heart a very familiar passage…the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20.  I grew up in a “tell it like it is” Baptist church and our mission statement was “To fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God in all we do.”  It is engrained in me.  We had countless outreach events to which we invited our friends and I saw “The Thief in the Night” movie from the 70’s like a hundred times….okay maybe not that many…but a lot.  All the while I always thought “Everyone needs Jesus, bottom line!”…it was like my own personal motto.  But growing up always lacking for nothing that Great Commission stuff was for missionaries…I certainly wasn’t going to go to “all nations”…Jesus wasn’t talking to me.  What does the rest of the world have to do with me?  I could not have been more wrong.

I woke up this morning and while I quite often think of what heaven will be like when I won’t ever again be tired or in pain and have to deal with the struggles of this life…do you know what my first thought was as I climbed out of my nice warm bed?  I thought about the other place…not heaven…but the alternative.  Where in the world did that come from?  The place I NEVER think about because I’m not going there…that terrible, awful, separated from God forever, “gnashing of teeth”, fire and brimstone…ugh.  Why did that come to mind?  I haven’t even uttered that word to our children it’s so bone-chilling wretched.  God brought it to my mind because it is real.  He doesn’t want anyone to go there.  But if I don’t tell others about Jesus…the ONLY way to avoid that place opposite of heaven…if people in “all nations” don’t hear…how will they know?  And I think no electricity is bad…talk about stone sobering perspective.

On our way to school this morning we heard about the tsunami and the earthquake in Japan and we sat in the drop-off line and prayed together for all of those people and for protection for those who will be effected later today.  I kept hearing the words “death toll hit 60” and it just struck me.  We don’t know what’s coming.  We don’t know what the future holds.  Disaster could even strike right here in our own safe little Midwestern suburbia…yes, the land of the spoiled rotten. 

I often hear Grand Rapids described as the “City of Churches”.  People joke “There’s one on every street corner.”  But people even here don’t know Jesus.  Being a missionary doesn’t always mean going to Mozambique like my wonderful mentor and friend Rika is in coming weeks..but sometimes it does.  “All nations” means just that…all nations…including our own.  People are hurting, suffering and dying right here who don’t know just like they are all over this earth.   Today in our prayer guide for lent we are challenged to pray for the people of our great city.  Ironic when just this morning we were praying for those on the other side of the world. 

This brings me back to my motto from growing up…”everyone needs Jesus, bottom line”… from China and our local Chinese restaurant….Mosabmique to Michigan and everyone in between.  But what should I do?  Does God want me to go to China or get Chinese for dinner…or go on the next short-term mission trip to Mozambique?  The very first step to listening to what God wants is for me not be so wrapped up in my own little world to realize that it’s not about me.  A little power outage is not as my rational and level-headed husband put it “the end of the world”.  I need to move beyond the land of the spoiled rotten and listen to what the Great Commission means for me…to have God’s heart for people…whether it’s around the corner or around the world.  I have a feeling God will speak…He always does!

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

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