A Bit of a Different Spin

So, up until now, Jenni has been the primary blogger. Which is wonderful, because, even though I’m slightly biased, I think she’s a fantastic writer. Her posts are full of wit, humor and insightful depth. We are spending the month of July apart as I complete my Navy Reserve duties and I thought it would be appropriate to share some of my thoughts on the goings on of the last few months and years. So, here goes.

When people ask, “Why are you moving to Nicaragua?” I have to be honest with them; this wasn’t my idea. Jenni has always had a heart for Latin American people and she was the one who was driving the bus on this for a long time. Quite honestly, she was the spiritual leader in our house for a long time as well. It wasn’t until God stripped away everything that I had been holding up as priority in my life, my safety (getting kidnapped in Mexico), my “purpose” (providing for my family by having a good, steady job) and my pride did I finally get to the point where I was ready to say, “OK God, this body, this man, they are yours.” It wasn’t until I finally made that declaration that I took the wheel from Jenni and started to lead my family the way that I should have been starting December 13th, 2003 (our wedding day).  I found that I cannot be at peace with myself as a man unless I’m at the spiritual lead, guiding, teaching and serving my family as we travel down this path that God has led us. Jenni also has said that she feels better about me and her role when I’m at the lead.

In the various “Top 10 Things Women Want From Men” surveys, security or ambition (read: money or the ability to make money in the future) are always high on the list. I have found that if you’re looking for security in your wallet, you’re not even close to finding it. Women, you’re looking for security, don’t look at his paycheck, look at how well read his bible is. Money comes and goes, the Word of the Lord is forever.

As I was reading 2 Peter this morning some thoughts jumped out at me in the first chapter. Peter uses a metaphor in 2 Peter 1:13, he calls our bodies, “tents.” I’ve read 2 Peter many times before, but this is the first time that word has jumped out at me. I’d like to share my thoughts on this imagery in light of our decision to move to Nicaragua.

By using the word “tent” (really skēnōma in the Greek, but I don’t need to get all Greeky on you) Peter is, I believe, trying to invoke some images for his readers. Here are there that popped out for me.

  1. Tents are temporary. This world is not our own and our home is somewhere else. We should be doing all that we can to make sure that as many people as possible join us on our journey to the Lord’s presence. Why? Because that’s what the Lord wants (see 2 Peter 3:9) and our heart, mind and strength should be in alignment with the Creator of the universe.
  2. Tents provide what you need, nothing more. They are a shelter from the elements. They keep you from getting wet when it rains and burnt when the sun’s hot. Riding out a storm is a lot more interesting in a tent than in a house.
  3. Tents are uncomfortable. Take that “Health and Wealth” gospel. They are cold in the winter and hot in the summer. You’re going to get your feet dirty living in a tent. When I thought about this, I thought, wait, Paul sais that our bodies are a temple in 1 and 2 Corinthians right? Temples are permanent, they are comfortable. Paul is careful to use the word for temple that refers to the Holy of Holies (Greek: Naos), the inner sanctuary of God’s temple. He doesn’t use the word that describes the building surrounding it (Greek: Hieron). So I believe it’s a different point that Paul is trying to get across. Additionally, until the time of Solomon, the Temple of the Lord WAS a tent.

So as I reflect back on our decision to move to Nicaragua and this past week that we’ve been down there I can honestly say that we moved because the Lord wanted us down there. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, I enjoy hot showers, air conditioning, interstate highway systems (though I’ll take Nicaraguan roads over California’s), flushing toilet paper and not getting bitten by mosquitos just like every other red-blooded American. But God isn’t calling us to build a permanent structure in this world. He’s calling us to be ready for action, to minister, to be uncomfortable, to get dirty, and to rely on Him for what you need. When He blesses you with more than you need, it isn’t so you can hoard it, it’s so you can minister to others and be His conduit to provide their needs (see Acts 2).

Do I want to bless Tate, Theo and all of the kids at Casa Bernabe? Yes! Do I want them to become spoiled, selfish, hoarding their toys and food and not worrying about other people and their well-being? Not on your life.

God stripped me away  of my idols. It was only then, naked, humbled and on my knees that I discovered that God wants more than the American dream for all of us. Chasing after false teachings is like searching for spring with no water (2 Peter 2:17). It won’t satisfy your thirst and in the end, it’s just a pit for you to fall into.

We put up these walls around us to protect ourselves. A good job, a house that appreciates in value, a reliable car. All of these are amoral, neither good or bad, but when they surround you and prevent you from seeing what the Lord has for you outside those walls they become idols and we cling to them as if a piece of paper we’ve told each other has value is going to really protect us in a time of true crisis. I fell into this trap and built my house for the last 15 years.

Please don’t take this post as a call for everyone to leave their job, find some third world country to go to and enter “full-time ministry” (a terrible phrase by the way, we should all be full-time ministers, Jesus didn’t call us to be part-time Christians).  We need people on the front lines just as much as we need the people supporting them. Everyone has a role. Nor is this post a call for donations to our ministry. While I’ll never turn down someone who feels led to give; God has blessed us with everything we need through our faithful supporters or by giving us the opportunity to make money. The purpose of this post is to 1, put down in writing what I’ve been struggling with over the past year and 2, challenge you to take a look at your life and ask yourself. Are you living in a tent or have you built a house?

So, why did we move to Nicaragua? That’s where God told us to set our tent up.

About mjstearns

We are Mark, Jenni, Tate and Theo Stearns. We currently live in Beaverton, Oregon, but are planning to move to Nicaragua within the next six months. We'll be serving as missionaries to Verbo Church, a non denominational church with several Nicaraguan locations. Specifically we'll be working at Casa Bernabe, an orphanage run by the church, assisting in vocational training and transition programs for the older boys.
This entry was posted in Faith, Finances, Moving, The Back story, Why. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Bit of a Different Spin

  1. Getha Tidrick says:

    Thanks Mark for your honesty. He is still working on me and I am finding the courage to let go of many of the things that I really didn’t realize had become idols. Spent the day after church today, going through boxes of photos that I had saved for years. Why? I really don ‘t know, Maybe I thought that I would forget about the event, but so many weren’t even good photos. Got rid of two good sized boxes of them. But I did save a few precious ones for participants of the event. God be with you. Hugs, Nana

  2. There is so much in Scripture that supports those who seek God’s will in their lives. One such is Psalm 121. I offer it as a benediction and prayer.

  3. Sean Durity says:

    I love hearing from Mark and being challenged to be the spiritual leader at home. Thank you!

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