Thursday, May 3, 2012

We Love Him

Because He FIRST Loved Us


Pam and me with Hands4Uganda Team
From time to time people have asked me why I ended up in Africa.  My answer was simple: God loves me.  I've discovered that I need Africa more than Africa needs me.  I would explain, but it would turn this blog into a chapter for a book.  So let me try to sum it up.

Jesus offers this invitation to anyone:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  (Luke 9:23)
Coming after Jesus ... pursuing Him ... is an invitation. This invitation is not an obligation.  It is not a duty.  A relationship with Jesus was never meant to be a routine of biblical religious behaviors.  It is meant to be a passionate pursuit of love between Jesus and us.  Love is the best motive for a relationship with Jesus.  Love will trump behavior management every time.  Love surpasses the motivation of fear ... or ANY other motive.

I've been married to my girlfriend for almost 44 years.  I am not only committed to her, but I fell passionately in love with her in my second year of college.  Though she had no initial attraction to me, I pursued her.  I did everything I could to communicate my desire to be with her; to spend the rest of my life with her in a unique covenant relationship.  It is the closest thing I can think of to demonstrate what our love for Jesus is to look like.  In 1964 the Righteous Brothers sang a song titled, "Lost that Lovin' Feeling."  Every love relationship runs that risk ... whether my relationship with my wife, Pam, or my relationship with Jesus.  It's what happened to the church of Ephesus and prompted Jesus to write to them about forsaking their first love in Revelation 2:4-5.

Josh Robinson
What amazes me is that the love of God for us is not a once in a life time pursuit by Him.  It is continual.  God does so many things to provide us with the opportunity to continue and increase our passion for Him.  He is always taking the first step. We may only become aware of his initiative after looking over our shoulder.  We can find ourselves in a situation where we get a fresh glimpse of His immense and intense love us and we find ourselves loving Him back.

Uganda has been a love letter from God for me.  He has a lifelong desire for me to stay passionately in love with Him ... He wants it MORE than I want it!  He has proven it over and over and over.  When I came here to Africa 11 years ago I encountered God in a way that I never had before and it moved me emotionally, spiritually, volitionally, materially, relationally, and physically.  I've never been the same.

AND ... this is the primary explanation for why I invite as many people from America to come and spend some time here.  When the Samaritan woman at the well attempted to share what her encounter with Jesus was like, she ran out of words.  She just beg those listening to "come and see."  I want others to experience God in a way they never have before.  Something huge just may happen in their life that directs or redirects them, energizes them, comforts them, heals them, or fixes them.

Josh and wife Jennifer on their first Island visit
Our last short term mission team was not even from one location so they didn't know each other before making their journey to Uganda..  One member was from North Carolina, one was from Alaska, and four were from Idaho.  Even those from Idaho didn't know each other.  But, God orchestrated the forming of their team and brought them to our guest house here in Uganda for 10 days

Short term missionaries sometimes get surprised by God doing something unexpected in their life. While most come with a passionate purpose to DO something for God while they are here, God often ends up doing something huge in them.

This happened to one of the team members who also happened to be an associate pastor from Idaho. I requested and received permission from Josh Robinson to republish the OPEN LETTER he posted on his Facebook page shortly after his return to Idaho.  It speaks for itself.  This is one of the reasons you are invited to come to Uganda and see what God is doing here.  It just might be a new experience of God loving you so that you will love Him in return.

THIS IS AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS! Over the course of the last 2 weeks in Uganda my heart has been laid open and experienced God in the purest way I have ever known. I’m getting ahead of myself though because first I need to begin my humble apologizing to so many of you for the broken and imperfect man I have been over the last several years and this last year particularly. Several years ago some events took place that shattered by world and understanding of myself and instead of stopping and letting create something new I have spent the last several years trying to piece together a broken man. I have tried to cover up my insecurity with building physical strength. I have tried to numb my hurt, both physical and emotional, with medicine. I have tried everything I can think of to keep myself together and present to the world that I am strong, I am good, I am worthy of loving and I have grown so very weary of protecting an image of myself that is at best a lie. I have refused God access to some many areas of my hurt and heart buying into so many lies of the enemy of unworthiness, failure, and shame. I have become so focused on my brokenness that I have not even seen the life and world around me. I have missed relationships, skipped by opportunities, and become so very selfish. I owe my wife the largest debt for I have placed so much undue weight upon her shoulders, rather than being her strength I have forced her to carry me. I’m sorry Jen, and I stand in awe of the love you have shown in what must have been a very lonely and trying time. I apologize to you my family and friends and humbly seek your forgiveness for not embracing your hearts, for not hearing your needs, and for not being there when you were in need. 

Josh freely dances on his last visit to the Island
--  On a Saturday night in Uganda, during an impromptu prayer session with 18 other believers, I was called out into the center of the room and a native Ugandan who I had never met began to tell the story of my life and speak to my broken in heart in a way that only God would be able to speak. They laid hands upon Jen and I and prayed. Not the typical American circle type of prayer but together in one accord everyone called upon the Lord on our behalf and in that moment something happened, something deep within me was finally broken and I found the freedom to finally release the broken false self I had been holding onto for years. It has taken me a week to even begin to process what happened that evening and what I have come to realize is I found God in his purest form and the power, grace, and love blew through all of my defenses. I find myself ready to finally be made into a new creation, without any input as to how that must look, but with a simple and pure desire to be remade. Since my return I have dreamt of Africa every night and I just realized it is not Africa my heart is calling to in my unconscious hours but it is the pure and untamed Jesus I encountered there. So now I am starting new, not having a rough edge taken away but starting as a brand new piece of clay whose final shape only He knows. I am practicing what scripture teaches in that I am acknowledging my past, asking forgiveness of God and you, and I am forgetting what lies behind and pressing forward to what lies ahead. New uncharted territory with a world of opportunities before me and if I see you along the way let us not greet as old friends but rather meet each other anew and start a fresh relationship in and through Jesus.


Made New,
Josh 


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