Monday, January 9, 2012

Jake's Ghana Trip Journal ~ Day 1

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

I don’t feel like writing at this moment. I have been on and off airplanes for the past 8 hours and we still have 7 hours and 15 minutes left before we touch down in Accra, Ghana. However, God is bugging me to begin writing about another journey He has me on. I have so many thoughts, emotions, ideas, and fears in my mind. Over the next 10 days during my 10th trip to Ghana I am going to begin writing about the cool things that God will do through us in a land 6000 miles away from everything that feels comfortable.

This is one of the few times in the last twelve years that I have been alone. Yes we have eight others on this trip to Ghana, but my wife and kids are at home. There is a comfort you receive when your family is with you. I think God is up to something on this trip and I am not sure what it is, but I think God is going to do mighty things in the lives of others on this trip and I think He will be doing mighty things in my life on this trip as well. For the next ten days I will be alone with God and I am excited to find out what He will teach me. For the next 10 days it is going to be me and my Lord. I am scared and excited all at the same time. My emotions contradict themselves minute by minute. I wish I could reach over to the seat next to me and grab my wife’s hand, but she is not there. I wish I could hear JJ ask me who I am going for in some bowl game only He has heard of. I wish I could see Justice’s gigantic smile and hear his booming voice, and of course I wish had some sweet kisses and hugs from Jayla.

Instead God has me on yet another adventure. However, I don’t think this adventure has anything to do with building something, coaching someone, discipling someone, or going to some unknown place. I think this adventure is going to be the adventure of me getting to know God at a deeper level over these next ten days. Who knows what that means, but I am sure God will reveal himself in mighty ways during this upcoming trip.

As I received my boarding pass today and gave everyone a hug and JJ hugged me and told me he can’t wait to see me next Thursday with a big tear in his eye I almost lost all emotional control. I wanted to so badly walk out of the airport and spend the next ten days with my family during one of the rare parts of the year that provides me some downtime.

However, as has happened over and over and over the past three and half years I heard God’s voice telling me to go. My mind is thinking for what? I am wondering ~ What God do You want to accomplish on this trip to Ghana and why have You called me to this far off land? I don’t necessarily have the answers; other than I know my God is calling me back to Ghana for His purposes. Despite the emotions of leaving my family for the next ten days tugging at me; I am filled with absolute joy and excitement to be heading back to a place that truly feels like home to me. I know the emotions contradict each other and are hard to explain, but when you are a heading to place on the other side of the ocean to share and demonstrate the love of Christ there is an absolute and complete joy that fills my entire being.

As I wrestled with the emotions of leaving my family for ten days and the call of God I wondered how many people actually put their family ahead of God. Many people think all of this is foolish. Many wonder why risk so much when God has been so good to me right here in Iowa. Others may even believe that God’s primary purpose for a Godly man is to ensure his house is in order and that it is not wise to take such unnecessary risk to fly across the ocean and leave one’s family behind for ten days.

Every day I hear reasons from very godly men about why they can’t open their house to a stranger, why they can’t take a financial risk for God, and why they can’t travel to a far off land because it is not wise for their own household. The more I study God’s word and learn about his true character the more I understand that the most dangerous thing to do is to put one’s own household above the one true God. As a man I actually think God wants us to go. God wants us to live a life that shows the love we have for Christ. God calls us to do “crazy” things for Him that may look foolish to the world around us. God calls us to go to the ends of the earth for Him. God calls us to throw all worldly wisdom out and rely on faith and the wisdom of His Word. Through a life that puts Christ at the center and above all other things is a life that will ultimately reward your entire family that we all are responsible for caring for.

God constantly tells us that we can’t love anything more than Him. This includes our wives, our children, our houses, our cars, our lake houses, our activities, our sporting events, our TV’s, and our comfort and security. Please don’t misunderstand me when I say these things. I love nothing more on earth than my wife and children, but I am simply called to love Christ more than them. When all the parts of my flesh say that I am foolish; God’s love tells me to take that next step. When I want to crawl up in a ball and cry because I miss them so bad and my 10 day journey is just starting; God ensures me that this is what he meant by a man leading his family.

Leading is not just taking your children to church and attempting to read your bible with them each week. I believe God wants more from men who are leading their families in the way of Christ. I believe He wants us to show our children what John meant when he said the Word became flesh. Yes, in context John was talking about Jesus coming alive to die on a cross for all of our sin. But, I also believe he was encouraging all of those who would believe in Christ to live the same way. God wants all of us to take what we read in God’s word – the Bible - and bring it to life. God, is not content with us just reading His word, studying it, memorizing it, pondering it, singing about it, and then not actually doing it because we are scared of what might happen to our families. Maybe we are just scared of losing all control of our lives and having to completely rely on God’s power alone. I am not sure the answer why we don’t allow the word to become flesh in many of our lives, but I am very confident it is what God wants more than anything else from those who call him Father.

A couple of weeks ago I heard a sermon by Francis Chan at a family conference. He titled his sermon “Don’t Focus on the Family.” The primary verse he taught over was 1 Corinthians 7:29 which reads ~ Dear brothers the time is short, so men that have wives live as though you have none. Does this verse not seem kind of weird? Especially since this is the same Paul who told men to love their wives as Christ loved the church? Now he is telling us men to live as though we don’t have wives. What could he possibly mean?

I have wrestled with the passage daily for the past few weeks since hearing the sermon and preparing to head to Africa for ten days without my wife and children. I am a very simple person and have a tendency to take the things of the Bible in very literal terms. So, every time God puts that verse in my head I try to decipher what in the world I am supposed to do with it.

I think He is making it clear in my life that what a husband and father following Christ is supposed to do is to live out Christ in his flesh. I believe it means that when my children ask my wife, over the next ten days; “Where is Daddy?” and she says, “Africa,” and they ask, “Why?” and she says, “Because of Jesus,” that it will begin to make an indentation on their heart by seeing their Dad live out Christ in the flesh.

I believe that God has designed men to be risk-takers for Christ. When you look at the men of the Bible whether it is the disciples, or Saul, Moses, Abraham, Nehemiah, or Daniel they all took great risks for Christ. We as men are called to live similar lives. I believe that today many men following after Christ have categorized leading their family by doing a family bible study or two each week. Those things are important and we need to all lead in those ways as well. But, there are times when God wants us to say yes to God for our families. There are times God wants us to go in order to demonstrate Christ for our families.

It is hard and it is scary. The flesh is torn to pieces when we are called to go somewhere for the sake of Christ, but it is what we must do. God gave us all so many examples in the Bible to follow and as I sit on this plane right now my flesh desires to be snuggled up on the couch in the safety of my house with my family, but God calls me to lead and I must follow His leading by heading back to Ghana, Africa once more.

Who knows what God has planned but without question it will be another great adventure.

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