Sunday, January 27, 2013

Urbana 2012 #U12 Lessons: #1

*long post alert*

As some of you know, via facebook, twitter and heavily through instagram (thank God for social media), I spent the last days of the year 2012 at the Student Missions Conference, called Urbana. This was my second time going. As opposed to the first time, I had a relatively better idea of what to expect. I knew the intense energy that would be present, the convictions that would follow, and of course the sweeping and overwhelming presence and work of God that would be at display. I think a part of me didn’t think I would have so much to learn - on a certain level, I think I felt some pride. Pride that of course I have been here before, there is probably not much more I can learn... Pride that it wouldn’t apply to me, I cannot leave my current location and go be a missionary in Mozambique or Italy etc. So, what I did pray for going in was for God to show me what he wants me to learn... I was scared of my pride blinding the room for expanding growth God could have in store for me.
As with all things associated with God, He met me in ways that were much bigger than I could have ever expected. So over the next few posts or so, I’ll be chronicling lessons learnt from this conference. I will try my best to be as articulate and open as possible. And I really pray, something speaks to you from it.

Lesson 1: Jesus comes with a life alteration (*gasp*).

“If it’s not good enough for local consumption, then it’s not good enough for export” - Calisto Odede.

The passage I’m reflecting from is Luke 4:14-30.

Before this passage and for the purposes of context, we have a series of humanly impossible and very strange events occur - a virgin conceives, an old couple conceives, an old man told of his son’s birth goes mute and only speaks at the birth of his son, shepherds and angels come to worship a baby born at a manger... Crazy events. Chapter 4 starts with the temptation of this same immaculately conceived baby now grown into a man who is tempted by the devil, and doesn’t succumb to any of the temptations. Up until now, all of these happenings have been more on a need-to-know basis. Maybe if you were close to this man and/or his family, you would have known about the mystery surrounding his birth, his cousin’s birth and the prophecies that have been said about him... or even the words he has spoken. This need-to-know ordeal comes to an end when we get to this passage.
This immaculately conceived baby that has grown into a man, officially named as Jesus, gets up to speak amongst his own people in the synagogue. Note that this was in Nazareth, where he grew up (please keep this point in mind, we’ll return to it later). He gets up, reads from the old testament - a popular passage as I’m sure to the Israelites at that time, as it was read in reference to the fulfillment of the messiah that would free them from Roman rule:

18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Luke 4 (ESV)

If he had just read that passage and ended it there, all would have been well. However, history has it that he didn’t. He spoke further:
    21 And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

He says more things to them that can be found at the end of this passage (I know you are dying to know the end of the passage, so I’ll redirect you to read Luke 4:18-30)

The first point that spoke to me from this passage was what the speaker quoted above said: “If it isn’t good enough for local consumption, it isn’t good enough for export.” Jesus didn’t start his ministry by going to Asia... He started right where he was, in his current position, at his hometown. I can’t even begin to explain how much of a blow that was to me. Several times during the week, one can catch my thoughts or vocalizations spewing on how I would like to live my life as the person I imagine in my head. It’s quite large, because in my head, I’m the girl who runs marathons to raise money for people suffering from neurodegenerative disorders, I’m the girl who gives her weekends away at soup kitchens or spends time with old people - I’m the one who gives herself away trying to save the world. In reality, I spend 60 something odd hours every week in lab (doing some mad scientist stuff - coolest job description in the world)... and on the weekends, I’m stuck in bed watching netflix or thinking of something interesting to say on social media (don’t judge me). If my life is to be modeled as Christ's life was... then what does that mean for me in the context of this passage?  In my 60 something odd hours spent in lab, can those individuals I spend time with testify of God’s fruit in my life? Can my cohort mates speak of Jesus’ work in my life? How about my roommate or the people or even my family that I talk to on almost a daily basis - do they know of God’s hand in my life? Can they see it? What is the point of trying to live up to this girl I want to be (ready to zoom off for exportation), if I can’t show anything for it in my immediate environs (not even consumable at the local level)?

Can I stand up and live out God’s good news in my local environment?

And what of the crazy promises that this bold Man speaks to these people, that He claims is fulfilled in their lives on that very day???
“To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor...” … Sight to the blind, freedom to the captives, good news to the poor, the end of oppression? A lot of times, I’ve read this passage, as some story that happened long ago that can just possibly never happen again. But isn’t it happening now... and when it does, don't we chose to ascribe to chance or luck? Isn’t God still healing broken hearts? Isn’t He still setting the captives free? Are the poor in heart not still the getting good news?

Or has God stopped working amongst us?
It seems that the year of the Lord’s favor comes with an alteration. A covert operation from Christ that echos till this day, that His good news still rings sound and sure - He is our only hope, He is our total satisfaction, He is our God... our everything.

Our acceptance of Him turns everything upside down, with a demand to trust that He is good and only wants our good!

What does this mean for me?
A whole lot of processing and a reassessment of my life. In what ways have I limited God’s work in my life? In what ways have I limited the power of the Holy Spirit in my life? God’s power is the same today as it was thousands of years ago... and all these disciples I read of in the Bible were human as I was - same flaws, same frailty, same fears... What’s different?
I think it’s my unwillingness to to give everything to Him, my unwillingness to lay everything down... to trust that He is who He says He is. He is not just a carpenter’s son that stood up to read a passage and went away at the wrath of His people. He is not just some figment of an imagination or some conjured conspiracy passed down through the centuries by some select old people that wanted to control the masses. He is real. As real as I am. As real as my typing fingers on this keyboard... As real as the light falling on your retina being transduced to neural signals and relayed to the rest of your brain.
And for me to accept His reality is for me to stop giving Him the boundaries that I think He ought to stay within in my life. He is a life-changer... a life-alterer... and I must continue to let Him be that... To continue to heal this broken heart... to continue to give good news to this poverty-stricken soul... to continue to free this oppressed life... and continue to give sight to these blind eyes...

What does this mean for you?
I pray that the Holy Spirit reveals Himself to you, that God becomes more real to you than He is now. I pray that you give Him an inch... all He needs is a willingness and the rest is a done-deal. I pray that you experience the year of the Lord’s favor :)

Have a magnificent week filled with beautiful wanderings!

Mwajim Al.


  1. “If it isn’t good enough for local consumption, it isn’t good enough for export.” That spoke volumes to me. The firs half of your post is a good reminder to be as I watched a similar messsage by Joyce Meyer recently. I watched. I hope that others around me- neighbours, colleagues and strangers see the God in me.