It was in May 2002 that I was sitting in my bedroom in Lilongwe, the capitol of Malawi, waiting for somebody to pick me up and bring me to church. I had traveled from Germany only a week prior and this was my second trip to Africa. This time however I had not just come for a visit, but was to stay and help my friend to pastor a church.
Busy as he was he had commitments to go on a trip to India and Switzerland and had to leave me behind after my first week in Africa with people I did not know. The church had one thousand members of which I was the only white person in the congregation. Before he left he had informed me that he really needed a youth pastor and that therefore I had just become the new youth pastor of the church.
So while sitting in on the chair in my bedroom, I was seeking God. This was my very first Sunday in the church and I was supposed to address the youth for that morning, sweeping them away with a powerful and faith filled message from the WORD of God.
Staring at my bible I did not feel very powerful or full of faith. I felt alone, afraid and overwhelmed. I was experiencing a full-on culture shock and heard the voice of performance telling me that I would fail, that I did not have it in me and that I would be completely irrelevant to the on fire youth I would encounter. Yes, I had a group of African youth I was supposed to impress.
After a couple of minutes of feeling bad for myself I decided to get up and pray to the God who had sent me to these people.
I started to cry out for God to come and help me with my preaching when suddenly the atmosphere around me shifted as HIS presence started flooding into the room.
In all honesty it took me by surprise that HE actually came to be with me. The presence was very distinct. It was the Father himself who had just entered the room.
The moment I realized what had happened I pulled out my virtual prayer list and thought: “Well, God was in the room. What better chance to present my needs and the needs of my friends and family to Him. Maybe He would answer all of them?” So I started rattling down my list when suddenly I was interrupted. Something was wrong. I looked at Him and said: “You really don’t want me to pray through my list right now? What do you want?” He looked at me and said: “Son! Let me be Father and you just be son!”
For the next few minutes God the Father poured out His love over me, into my heart and right into my fears. As I sat there receiving His love and his embrace my fear of failure, rejection and loneliness started to subside and a deep knowledge that I belonged started taking root in my heart. I suddenly knew that I was not alone and that everything would be ok.
When He left the room the fear in my heart was nearly gone and I was ready to share my first message with the youth. I told them in tears what I am sharing with you now:
There is a Father who loves us very, very much. He knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. He is Father and he always was Father. He is not just a father. He is our Father (Mathew 6:9) and even more he is YOUR Father!
His love is stronger than any fear in our lives. His love is perfect and it casts out fear by its very root.
1st John 4:18 – There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.
His love transforms us back into the image in which we were created. 2nd Corinthians 3:18 tells us that when we behold Him, when we look at God himself, instead of looking at our fears and problems, we are transformed into his image by the Spirit. When God the Father created Adam He created him with out fear. Adam and later his wife did not know what fear, shame, pain or rejection was. They only knew love – perfect love! Through their relationship with God they were connected with love itself (1st John 4:16). It was only when they listened to Satan that their relationship with God broke. Fear, shame and rejection entered their lives and therefore entered our lives too.
God has pursued mankind ever since that day, having one goal in mind. To restore us back to the original relationship we had with Him, with one another and with ourselves.
When Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees what the greatest commandment in the law was He replied, saying:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mathew 22:34-40)
Basically what Jesus was saying is that there is, was and always will be only one reason why we live on this planet. That reason is a threefold relationship:
1. Relationship with God.
As we open up our hearts and receive God’s love, as He first loved us (1st John 4:19) we are being changed and enabled to love him back.
2. Relationship with ourselves.
When we are changed by His love we are getting freed from shame and fear. This enables us to accept and love ourselves. Too many of us still don’t like ourselves, which makes it hard to love other people.
3. Relationship with others.
As the love of the Father flows through us we are enabled to go into the world and love the people around us back to life! So let us open up our hearts and receive His love, like I did in my room in Africa, so that we may be changed and bring change to our families, friends and the world around us!