Whose Kingdom Are We Building?


It was almost midnight as I lay in my bed that night praying. With tears in my eyes, I finally committed to God and myself to do something I had been procrastinating on for quite some time. I made a commitment to go on a mission trip. I wish I could say that I made that tearful commitment because I was burdened for the people I was going to serve, but that wouldn’t be the truth.

The truth is that I made that commitment because I needed to get away! I wanted to escape. Far away! Far away from America. Far away from the life that I had created. I felt like I was losing my mind. I had been in a dark depression for over six months, and it seemed to be getting darker. You might wonder what was going on in my life that would cause me to sink into this dark place. That’s a fair question. But the answer isn’t what you would think.

Everything in my life was perfect from the outside — literally everything. My marriage was great. My kids were healthy. We lived in a beautiful home in an upscale neighborhood. My real estate brokerage was thriving. I had over 90 agents working for me, and we were coming off a year of selling over 1000 homes. I had made more money than I had ever dreamed I would make in one year. We had gone on more vacations than I could count on one hand in the last 12 months. And to top it all, I was under 10 percent body fat! What more could I ask for?

But that was precisely the problem. I had come to this point where I realized that I had achieved all the goals I had set out to accomplish in my life, and yet I was still empty. I was more than empty. I was exhausted. I was frustrated. I was angry. I felt like I had created a life that was suffocating me. I felt trapped. I felt like I had achieved the American Dream and was now being crushed under the weight of maintaining it.

You may think I wasn’t a believer at that point. But that’s not the truth either. I had walked with God for 20 years. I even went to Bible college for two of them. That was the real problem. I knew that all I was ever truly seeking in my life was this supernatural life the scriptures speak of. I wanted the fruit! I wanted a peace that surpasses all understanding. True contentment. Is that too much to ask? Isn’t that what the book promises? I experienced none of these things. For the last twenty years, my joy, peace, and contentment were tied to the amount of money I had in the bank account, our next vacation, the amount of body fat I saw when I looked in the mirror, or whatever hobby I happened to be pursuing that week. But like the prodigal who ran out of options, I had now achieved all of those things only to realize I had no more peace, joy, or contentment than when I had first begun. I was broken and exhausted, and I couldn’t figure out where this life was that the scriptures seemed to promise.

About six weeks later, I boarded a plane for Kenya. I was on my way to visit an orphanage that I had already been financially supporting for quite some time. The orphanage was founded about five years ago by Jeff and Stephanie Bys, who lived in Texas, not far from me. They decided to uproot their entire family and move to Kenya to start it. Kenya suffers from extreme poverty, and as a result, it is filled with young children abandoned and living on the streets. What began with just one child being rescued has become an orphanage with over 100 children, a school from kindergarten through high school, and a thriving church impacting the entire local village.

My time with the Bys family in Africa was refreshing and life-changing in many ways. I remember being there and thinking, “I feel like I can breathe again.” I would get up in the morning and watch over 100 young children who had been cast out and abandoned by their parents sing worship songs at chapel. During the day, Jeff and I would bring food to the surrounding villagers and visit members of the church. In the afternoons, once school got out, the younger children would play on the playground while the older ones and I played some pretty intense games of sand volleyball.

The time at the orphanage went by way too fast. I didn’t want to leave, and even as I type this, I find myself eager to go back. Upon returning from Africa, I reflected on my time there and what I had observed — trying to figure out what God was saying to me. I reflected on the poverty and the sickness. And, of course, I reflected on all those orphaned children. But as horrible as those things were, something else was nagging at me. A question I couldn’t get out of my mind — a question that has been lurking in the shadows of my heart for nearly my entire life as a believer. As I thought about what Jeff and Stephanie were doing in that Kenyan village, I had to face the question, Have I laid down my life? Have I taken up my cross and followed Him? I had no doubt Jeff and Stephanie had. They gave up every comfort America has to offer for Him. I couldn’t get His words out of my mind.

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mathew 16:24-25)

Jeff and Stephanie seemed to take those words literally. They were taking action! What does that even look like for a married father of two in America to lay down his life for Christ? I certainly know he hasn’t called everyone to the mission field. Throughout my Christian walk, I have always been inspired by men and women like Jeff and Stephanie, who have heard the gospel’s message, taken His words literally, and decided to alter their entire lives as a result. I have been inspired by men and women who have taken actions that others consider overboard, extreme, and radical. I know these men and women are few and far between. Surely, He hasn’t called everyone to live out their faith in extreme ways, or has He? Is it possible that what most consider radical Christianity is normal Christianity? Genuine Christianity! I remembered the verse,

Small is the gate, and narrow is the path that leads to life… and few there be that find it!” (Mathew 7:14)

The questions just seemed to lead to more questions.

What does it mean to believe? Is it even possible for one to profess that they believe such a radical message as the one found in that book but not take radical action? Whose kingdom was I building? Is it possible for the American Dream and Christianity to coexist? Could it be possible that I have spent the last 20 years giving Him just enough of my life and heart to ease my conscience while building my kingdom rather than His? I thought about those words in Revelation to the lukewarm. Is that me? Am I the lukewarm? Have I found myself trying to serve two masters? Am I trying to have this world and that one, being made miserable because I’ve committed to neither of them?

And then I remembered the most terrifying verse of all, only a few sentences down from that whole “small gate-narrow road” statement where He said that many would stand before Him on that day, thinking they were believers, probably having gone to church every week and He would respond to them, “Away from me. I never knew you.” Is it possible that I have deceived myself about who I am? After all, the deceived never actually believe they are deceived.

I was finally wrestling with some of the difficult words He spoke. This period of self-examination was the most challenging season of my entire spiritual life. Yes, I found myself convicted! But that’s the life of a believer — ongoing conviction — ongoing repentance. But I also found something else, beyond conviction, present within my heart. Something greater. I found something that, I believe, must be one of the true pieces of evidence of genuine salvation. I found envy! I was envious of Jeff and Stephanie. I was envious because I knew that at the end of their lives, they would stand before their master with their heads held high, with a clear conscience, because they would know that they fought the good fight. They would likely finish the race with nothing to their name. They would hobble in from the battlefield exhausted, wounded, and bloody, but they would know that they were faithful soldiers during their short time on this earth! They would know they laid down their lives at the altar of the one who gave His life for them. They would undoubtedly hear those words, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” I was envious. That is what I wanted — to hear those words. To have something to present to Him on that day. And maybe for the first time in my Christian walk, I realized something that set me free. It wasn’t about what I was required to do for Him. It was about what I desired to do for Him. The desire of my heart was to lay down my life for Him. I knew I would never find peace, joy, and contentment until I had accomplished that desire — until I had answered the question properly. Isn’t that the love story we are all searching for? Two lovers who can look into each other’s eyes on that day, knowing they laid down their lives for each other?

So, what is the point of all of this? What have I learned? I suppose there are two things. One, the time for self-examination is now. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, to see if you are in the faith.” I believe self-examination is one of the most difficult and most fruitful things we can do. We must wrestle with the difficult things He said. On that day, it will be too late for many. But for me, maybe the more important thing I have learned is that there is no more miserable state for a Christian to be than in the middle, trying to hold onto two worlds, trying to serve two masters, trying to have this life, and that one. There is no true peace in that place. No true joy. No true contentment. Only those who are willing to die to themselves will taste the fruit of the vine.

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Partner With Mercy Home

  • Location is in Western Kenya in a small farming village called Kaya.
  • 10 miles from Bungoma and about 1 hour from the border with Uganda.
  • 103 total orphans and/or at-risk children.
  • Staff of 50 that supports the home school, and church.
  • 4,215 meals served every week.
  • 11 monthly food boxes delivered to widows and elderly in the surrounding village.
  • 283 students attending Mercy Home School.
  • 400+ church attendance each Sunday.

Follow the Journey

YouTube: “The Unlikeliest Missionaries”
Facebook: Mercy Ministries – AFM Africa
Instagram: AFM.mercy.home
To Donate: AFM.ngo/donate

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