Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Quilt Pieces

I've been learning a lot about quilting lately.

Not that I'm a quilter - those who know me best realize that sewing of any sort is not my forte. But as part of an assignment, I've been spending time with a neighbor who quilts. One of the things she showed me is her "design wall". A simple piece of flannel tacked onto the wall allows her to position and reposition fabric to determine which design layout she wants to use.

Now, you may know more about this than I did but I assumed that if a quilt was a star pattern, the adept quilter sewed every star together, then pieced the star "squares" together to make a large quilt. Not so! Actually, each piece of a design - a star, an oval, a square, or some other figure - is a different element and can be laid out differently to create different patterns or variations of a design. In a way I never realized, a quilt truly is a reflection of its designer.

While my practical mind would think it easier to simply create the design and sew them together, quilters find joy in the process of deciding what the design will look like and how it will be uniquely put together. Each quilter has a unique signature that is included in all her quilts; no two quilt patterns will produced an identical quilt.

What a beautiful picture of God's work in our lives! We long for him to simply "make the design" in us, but He instead is focused on the process - laying each element out and putting the various pieces together to create a beautiful pattern, which is then lovingly woven together with His signature. The overall work - and each piece within it - is truly a reflection of the designer.

We are being made to look like Jesus. The church is being made into a pure bride. We must remember that He isn't making cookie cutter patterns. He's making unique creations - mini-quilts, if you will - that He will sew together into a beautiful mosaic quilt that will have an overall unity, because His signature in the center will be His Son on the cross.

Be encouraged today that God is at work in the process of your life! May this anonymous poem be a blessing to you, as it has so often with me:

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me
I do not choose the colors
He works so steadily.
Often He chooses sorrow
And I, in foolish pride,
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside.

Not 'til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God roll back the canvas
And unveil the reasons why
the dark threads are as needful
In the Master's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

Monday, October 29, 2007


"God with us." That's the meaning of the name of Jesus "Emmanuel". In light of last night's post, this is significant because He is not "up there" in a distant sense, but "down here" in the sense of being with us. Through the Holy Spirit, we experience what I've heard called the "withness" of God.

The stuff of life. That's where His "withness" is expressed and experienced most profoundly. We expect Him to show up at church (at least we should - a whole other story :) ). But have we quit expecting Him to show up in the stuff of life?

This is especially a challenge to those of us in a western setting, where naturalistic explanations and human solutions abound for almost every conceivable problem. But in your settings I know you too face this challenge, because it is a struggle that hits at the heart of faith itself - trusting God to be for us in the stuff of life.

Abraham Kuyper captured this idea with these unforgettable words: "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

My prayer for you today is simple: David said it long ago in Psalm 20, and it is incredibly practical. May you experience His "withness" today.

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!

May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!
Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
He will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The God of Now

We know it's going to turn out all right in the end.

Walking by faith, we trust that God will, in the end, right all wrongs, make the world anew, enact perfect justice, and reveal things as they really are.

Even in our temporal view, we believe with all our hearts Romans 8:28 - that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him.

For most of us, it's not the long-term issues of faith that give us the greatest struggles. Instead, we are challenged to trust God not for the long-term, but for today. As John Piper says in Future Grace, we live between the verses of "Amazing Grace":

And grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

We trust that God's grace saved us. We trust His grace for the end. But what about today?

What about the struggles with the insurance company? What about the surgery we are facing? What about the apathy of our church? What about the run-down neighborhood, where even the residents don't care to fix things up? What about the vote in Congress that could alter our life as we know it, because of the repercussions halfway around the world? What about our loved one who has walked away from God? What about today? Must we wait until we stand in eternity to see God work?

These are the hard questions of the Christ-centered life. These are the stumbling blocks that derail many souls. And yet it is here, in the muck and mud of life, that God chose to make His greatest statement:

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth". (John 1:14)

The Incarnation is God's great "now" statement. God could have saved us in some super-spiritual manner, that didn't involve getting down in the middle of it with us. But instead, He chose to take on flesh and walk with us - showing us that He, the Word made flesh, knew what it was like to walk in our shoes. Hebrews 2 tells us:

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

On this earth Jesus met people's physical as well as spiritual needs. He provided food out of compassion for the crowds; He raised a boy from the dead out of compassion for his grieving mother (without any sense of super-spirituality about the better home in heaven). He was completely evangelistic yet incredibly practical.

Does He care about your day today - the needs that you face, where you desperately need to see Him in the Now?? Absolutely. The incarnation proves He is the God of NOW.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

New Post on "The Big Picture"

Hello all - I have a new post on my other blog ( If you're new here - this other blog is where I post summaries from my studies in the World Christian Foundations program through William Carey International University. Blessings to you!

On the day of adversity

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Prov. 24:10-12)

Too often, American evangelicals focus only on the evangelistic interpretation of passages like these. We rightly parallel the need to rescue people from spiritual death and hold back those who are heading that way. But Scripture is filled with practical examples, and when you lay passages like these against Matt. 25 and the book of James, we see that Jesus doesn't give us a pass on the natural element.

On the "day of adversity", we are faced with a choice: faint, or help others. We are far more likely to faint when we focus on ourselves, so God really speaks wisdom here: as we help others in need, we can gain strength, and reflect His love and glory to a world in need. Like the Samaritan who stopped to help the wounded traveler, we can demonstrate love for our neighbor in significant practical ways.

My husband is a former police officer and he tells me that in police academy they were taught "In stress, revert to training". Consistently helping others is "training" for that day of adversity. My prayer is that I will become so attuned to the needs of others than helping them will be a habit to me that will carry over when I'm in adversity myself. So many of you live in regions where adversity is a daily reality, or the threat of it hovers constantly. But you're already doing what this Scripture exhorts: you are helping others in need. Know that God will use that, both now and in any "day of adversity" you may face.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Place to Call Home

It's been said that cross-cultural workers often feel most at home on the plane, flying from one beloved homeland to another.

Because of the changes you've experienced from being in another cultural, you don't view your land of origin quite like a native anymore. And because you have the background of being from another country, you see your land of service differently than the natives there. Sometimes, this cultural disconnect can leave you feeling like people without a home, much like the proverbial "man without a country" featured in the movie by that name. When coupled with feelings that the church back "home" doesn't understand your struggles and the people you serve sometimes seem to take more than they give, it's easy to feel homeless.

Beloved, never let those struggles cause you to lose sight of the truth that in Christ, we always have a place to call home. In John 14:2, Jesus tells us that He goes ahead to prepare a "place" for us. Interestingly, the Greek word is the same as that used later in verse 23: "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."

The parallel of these words is significant. Jesus is going to make an eternal home for us, but He tells us that when we obey Him in love, His home is with us - NOW. When Jesus walked this earth, Scripture tells us He had no place to lay His head ... yet He prepared a people whose hearts would be His dwelling place, and promises that He is making a home for us.

John 15 continues the theme: Abiding in Christ simply means dwelling in Him. If we are "at home" in Him, and His Word is "at home" in us, we have fullness of joy, answered prayers, and incredible intimacy with God and others.

Bottom line: you are His home, and He is yours. No child of God is ever homeless! Let the longings of your heart remind you of the precious truth of abiding in Christ and having His Spirit dwell in you!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Trusting God with the Little Things

Sometimes we find it easier to trust God with the big stuff than with the little stuff.

When something is completely beyond our reach - when it's obviously God-sized - then we trust Him because He is our only hope. Natural disasters, surprise physical illnesses, overwhelming financial struggles due to an economic downturn, societal change -- all are things that are largely out of our hands. We can control our response, but realize that pretty much everything else is up to God.

But what about the little things? If you're like me, you struggle with those things you can do something about. The refund you're owed for a damaged package that could be hastened by a bit of insistent pressure applied in the right place. The computer that could easily be fixed by plopping down a credit card. The job you can get by calling the right people who know the right people. And so on.

God wants us to trust Him in ALL things. Colossians says He is "all in all" and that our very lives are hid with Christ in Him. When we only trust Him for the big things, and handle the small things ourselves, we've inadvertently created a "gap" and minimized who He truly is. Yes, He's big enough for cancer - but He's also big enough for a parking spot at Wal-Mart on a rainy night.

Trust Him with all your frustrations today. Nothing is outside His realm of authority - and when your focus is His glory, He will delight to show you just how involved He can be in the details of your life!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Through the Fire

1 But now thus says the Lord,he who created you, O Jacob,he who formed you, O Israel:“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;I have called you by name, you are mine.2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,and the flame shall not consume you.3 For I am the Lord your God,the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.I give Egypt as your ransom,Cush and Seba in exchange for you.4 Because you are precious in my eyes,and honored, and I love you,I give men in return for you,peoples in exchange for your life.5 Fear not, for I am with you;I will bring your offspring from the east,and from the west I will gather you.6 I will say to the north, Give up,and to the south, Do not withhold;bring my sons from afarand my daughters from the end of the earth,7 everyone who is called by my name,whom I created for my glory,whom I formed and made.” (Isa. 42:1-7)

Southern California is on fire this morning.

Over a million people have been evacuated - the largest mandatory evacuation in the US since the Civil War, according to CNN. 12,000 have taken refuge in QualComm Stadium. The firefighters and government officials openly acknowledge that the fire is 0% contained, won't stop until it hits the ocean, and that there is nothing they can do. No one even knows how many homes have been destroyed.

At a time like this, it's easy to focus on personal safety, even at the expense of others. Yet it is in such settings that Christians have a chance to really shine. When the barbarians invaded the Roman Empire, and all the other religious systems went into an "every man for himself" mindset, the Christians were set apart by their care and concern for others. That's what we can pray for our brothers and sisters in Southern California today.

Isa. 42:1-7 is also valid for you facing your own fires. As believers in a fallen world we face the reality of danger - whether it be natural disasters, violence in the workplace, or terrorist attacks. There are untold reasons to fear. But God's promise is sure: He will be with us in the fire. It's that assurance that can keep us in the fire, serving others, rather than joining the world in an "every man for himself" mindset. Even when we flee, we can do so with an attitude of service rather than selfishness ... because God Himself is with us.

Pray for Southern California today - that God will show Himself through believers. And I pray as you are on the field doing what you do today, that He will show Himself through you!

Monday, October 22, 2007

What are you seeking?

Before I can find something, I have to clearly know what I'm looking for - what I'm seeking. It's a simple principle, and one we apply without thinking in our natural lives. When my glasses are missing, I might mention that I need to find them so that my husband can help. When I've misplaced my favorite plate or can't find the brownie spatula, I clearly define what I'm seeking. I'm willing to bet that you're the same way. You probably never say, "I need help finding something" and then not describe it, or give a list of 20 things you're looking for. If you did, you might find a topsy-turvy mess on your hands as people turned out drawers and cabinets because something has to be in there somewhere!

So why do we miss this principle in our spiritual lives? So many of us are incredibly spiritually busy - we are seeking holiness, purity, righteousness, love, truth, discipline, unity in the body of Christ, a kingdom mindset, the salvation of a certain people group, a growing ministry - it gets tiring just thinking about all we're looking for ... about all we're doing to create a topsy-turvy mess for ourselves.

Jesus taught Mary & Martha that out of all the busy-ness, only one thing was needed - sitting at His feet. Without condemning Martha's busy-ness, He challenged her to FOCUS ... to define what she needed to seek. The answer was HIM.

I'm convinced that one reason that Jesus was so insistent on the needfulness of just being with Him is a principle found in 2 Cor. 3: 18-19: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." Beholding leads to becoming. As we behold Him ... as we sit at His feet ... we will be transformed into His image. If we desire Christlikeness - purity, holiness, righteousness, a heart for the kingdom of God, love for His people - the absolute most important thing we can do is be with Him and behold Him.

On the field you face many of the same challenges I do here, but you also face the distraction of expectations. So many think you have "arrived" at a goal of "being a field worker" ... when the fact is, you are still seeking like the rest of us. In the busy-ness of your work, with the expectations of the church and your supporters, it's easy to find yourself turning things topsy-turvy to look for the wrong thing.

What are you looking for that is distracting you from seeking Him? Behold Him ... behold Him in the Gospel portraits. Behold Him in His Word. Behold Him in His heart reflected through others. Fix your gaze on Him, and watch how you develop a heart and become the very thing you are looking for!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Goal or process?

At Bible study this week, and again at my monthly women's group, we discussed God's plan for our lives as a goal vs. a process. As a typical American, I am of course goal-oriented. Like Santa Claus, I make my list and check it twice - and love to cross things off.

But God isn't like that. Sure, He does have ultimate goals. Scripture tells us that history has a sure conclusion: The summing up of all things in Christ, things on earth and things in heaven (Eph. 1:8-10). His church - made up of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation - will be presented to God without spot or blemish (Eph. 5:27). But goals in the sense that we think of them - a 5 year plan, a 10 year plan, specific numbers of converts - are not consistent with God's character.

Instead, He seems to be process-oriented. By that, I mean He is interested in our pursuit of Him and what He is making of us in the process. He is terribly concerned with what we are becoming (Christlike). One of the most fundamental New Testament terms for believers is "walk" and it indicates an ongoing action, not a one-time event.

One of my favorite examples is my daily quiet time. God doesn't want me to be so focused on the goal - finishing my quiet time, checking off all those boxes for prayer categories and Bible studies - as what He is showing me in that time. We've all had those times of irritation when our quiet time is interrupted (at least, I hope it's not just me). When I see God as process-oriented, I realize that He may actually be more concerned with my reaction to the interruption than whether or not I finish my Bible study.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not against structure, and sometimes we can be too easily distracted. All I'm saying is that when it looks like our plans are going awry, perhaps God has a different plan! Perhaps the process is the priority. A story I heard this week of a missionary who died his first night in the Andes underscores the truth that God works in ways very different than we do. If something Biblical, God-centered, and kingdom-oriented "interrupts" your plans - consider that God might be rearranging your goals to better fit His process!

Bottom line, God's work gets done, in spite of us! As Kenneth Latourette writes of the "decline" of Christianity during the Dark Ages, "If its future depended upon the kind of power embodied in the earthly city and its affiliated cultures, the outlook for Christianity was grim". But God was still at work in the process ... and the revival that later came was tremendous!

What "failed" goal are you grieving over tonight? Consider what God is doing in the process. Trust Him that He is steering you toward His ultimate goal ... and enjoy the scenery on the way!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Keeping it Real

I think one of the best things about women's small group studies - when they're done right - is the opportunity to be real with each other. In the small group study I attend on Thursday nights, I'm blessed to be around a group of women committed to keeping it real.

Last week we discussed Christology - the deep doctrines of the person of Christ, what it means that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him, bodily. Such a deep, spiritual group, right? Well, tonight we discussed cleaning under the refrigerator - or rather, our lack of doing so.

The context was Paul's admonition to the Colossians that they are already complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). We talked about the struggles we have as women to be all, do all. We discussed the challenges that working outside the home places on us - and the reality that we don't automatically feel nurturing. And we talked about the dirt under the refrigerator! We were trying to keep it real.

And it makes me think of you ... out there, trying to keep it real. Trying sometimes to hold it together, not sure how to say that you really, really need a break before you break something. Trying to be spiritual, not just look spiritual. Trying to give us a glimpse of your world, but wondering if you even see it anymore.

Theology one week, housecleaning advice the next...both part of the tough work of the Christ-centered life for me. For you, endless administrative meetings and lingering conversations over tea might be the two extremes where you seek to live out your faith. For our theology must always meet our reality somewhere down the line if we are going to keep it real.

I pray that God will guide you to believers where you feel the freedom to lay out those struggles ... to people who will be in the trenches with you, battling for the victory of God's kingdom advance. And I pray that you will find that you truly are complete in Him, even if (like me) you never clean under the refrigerator :)

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled [made complete] in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Col. 2:9-10)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The radical, "out-there" life

Tonight I just want to thank you for being so radical!

You are living the kingdom-oriented life "out there" where it makes a difference daily. I'm reminded just how radical you are when I see our commercials and interviews on daily shows - when I hear of people saying that Americans "deserve to be pampered". You, of all people, know that is a lie.

I'm sorry for the people and churches here that believe that lie. I sincerely apologize to you for all the times you've been let down by building programs and fancy luncheons, instead of kingdom giving. I believe - at least I hope sincerely - that you have experienced more appreciation and support than a lack of it ... but I know that the times you're let down have been tough.

But faults and all, we're all in this together, and the body of Christ needs you out there, "doing the thing", to remind us that no, we don't deserve to be pampered. That we are blessed to be a blessing ... that the 1 billion people who live in nations that are developing backward (undeveloping?) or the 4 billion in the semi-developed world have needs ... that a child with a distended belly doesn't consider 3 meals a day being pampered ... that there are people who hide their faith behind a veil ... that a day when no one is killed by a land mine is a very good day indeed.

Keep reminding us. Please, make us very, very uncomfortable. Teach us what a radical lifestyle really means. Help us get "out there" with you.

And know that some of us are in the trenches with you, fighting in prayer for the battles you face daily.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On a Roll

We couldn't get our car window rolled up tonight. The rains were coming, and our power window was being quite stubborn.

We tried all the usual fixes - rolling it down again, trying to give it a jump start with our hands. It inched up a tad, then froze. Finally, we gave up and came inside for supper. Bob tried again right after supper - it inched up a tad more, then froze. He came in for dessert and then went out again to try once more before dark. We committed the matter to prayer but were getting tempted to just cover it up with cardboard.

When he came in a few minutes later, he reported that the window was up - and that he had put duct tape over the control so we don't get in that fix again :). The window had inched up a little more, and he was able to coax it the rest of the way.

So, what's the point?

Sometimes the trials that you are facing may not respond to the usual fixes. You may revisit a problem repeatedly. Perhaps you are even feeling tempted to take a temporary fix that will barely keep the rain out. Let me encourage you to keep bringing it before the Lord! Try once more ... and once more ... even if the progress only seems to be "inching" along. You never know when He might bring the solution on that "one last try".
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. (Luke 18:1)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Don't buy the lies!

Rev. 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God."

Don't buy Satan's lies. Never forget that he is the accuser of the brethren (and, I might add, the sistren :) ).

Sometimes I watch something that drives home a spiritual truth so strongly that I can hardly focus on the show itself. Tonight, that happened with an episode, of all things, of Little House on the Prairie (season 3, "The Music Box", if you are a follower). In the episode, Nellie (the villain) is being her usual evil self. But this time, she has something on Laura - the theft of a music box. She convinces Laura that she will "tell" if Laura doesn't meet her demands - which includes being cruel to a friend who stutters. Nellie holds this threat over Laura's head and even tells her brother. Laura's nightmares and fears were far too familiar to me, as one who has allowed satan to hold things over my head! It soon becomes apparent that Nellie is going to hold this over Laura's head and even turn against her if Laura does everything Nellie demands. Ultimately, Laura confesses to her parents and, freed from the guilt, enjoys peace in her relationship with the friend she had betrayed.

As I watched I couldn't help think of Corrie ten Boom's illustration of this Scripture. She stated that she always wanted to walk in such closeness with God that she would beat the accuser to the throne room. She wanted to confess her sin, then have satan 5 minutes later go to God with his accusations - upon which time Jesus would say, "Oh, that? Corrie has already been here, and it's forgiven." That is my desire too - one I've learned saves me a lot of negotiations with the enemy, and a lot of heartache of being in his traps. In the show, Laura tells her Pa, "I wanted to try to fix it on my own." Boy, do I know that mistake. The problem is - we can't. Only Jesus can.

This doctrine is so relevant to you on the field. If satan can hold something over your heads, you become more focused on the sin you are accused of than the ministry you are called to. Like Laura, you forget the wounded people whom satan wants to turn you against. Live close to the throne room. Whatever you are trying to cover or hide, or fix it on your own, the enemy is winning. When you run to God, and confess to others, his true colors are shown -- and the Gospel shines through in vivid color!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Prayer for you Tonight

Sometimes, it just takes a simple reminder of truth to encourage us.

When circumstances are overwhelming ... when we know we don't have the answers we're expected to have ... when we know that we are beyond the end of our rope ... then it is so refreshing to know that there are truths that are unchanging, truths that are simple and yet profound. Truths that have to be spiritually discerned.

That was Paul's prayer for the Colossians. He wrote to them:

Col. 1:9-14 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The Colossians were in a confusing environment. Gnostic teachers claimed that people needed a "special revelation" to be truly spiritual - and that this was only available to a few. Legalists expected obedience to special days and feasts and seasons. The city, a trade center, was filled with pagan worship. And individuals faced their own personal struggles, as they do in every generation and place. Yet Paul laid out just some basics:

God's will - discerned spiritually and resulting in a pleasing walk. Strength, endurance, patience, thankfulness. And oh, the precious truth that we have been transferred from a kingdom of darkness to one of light.

Those are key thoughts for us all tonight - for you personally, I hope. Set aside the confusion and look at the simplicity of the message again. Are you trying to make a decision in line with God's will? Hear the reminder that it comes through spiritual knowledge and understanding - not natural! Do you struggle with whether your walk is pleasing to Him? Trust the promise that when you discern His will, He will lead you in a walk pleasing to Him. Take up His guarantee of strength, endurance, patience, and thankfulness. And remember tonight the basic gospel: He transferred you from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light! Can anything be more difficult than that miraculous transaction?

He is for you. Hear that tonight in Paul's reminders to the Colossians. He doesn't make it hard, He makes it simple. He is for you.

New Post on WCF Blog

I've posted my weekly lesson on my WCF blog:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Prayer Request Close to your Hearts

I received the most awesome phone call tonight.

I know that older women are supposed to teach the younger, according to Titus 2, but tonight I was definitely the student. I pass the story along because I know this prayer request will hit close to your hearts.

A college student who is very dear called me tonight. She is called to long-term field service like you are doing, and is in a ministry program at a denominational university to prepare. She called tonight to request prayer from me and others about a summer opportunity working with an orphanage in Kenya. Sarah is considering serving there for most of the summer. She has been assured that this is a true "working" opportunity - her role would be to serve wherever needed in the orphanage. She is really praying about this as a possibility. Sarah has a clear call for the kingdom and has a passion for orphans, but isn't sure if this is God's plan for her summer or not. Please join me in praying for Sarah to have very clear guidance about God's plan for how she spends her summer.

I know you will rejoice as I did when I tell you that Sarah told me her summer isn't her time, it's God's time. She also has been convicted that God doesn't want her to spend her Christmas break "vegging" but instead to offer herself in service to her church.

What a powerful lesson! I think of what I hear on one of my praise and worship CDs ... a live version of "I wanna see Jesus lifted high" ... the worship leader says "This is not a youth movement ... this is the church." Folks, if Sarah represents the heart of the future of the church, then we have a lot to look forward to!

Be encouraged. Be renewed in your own passion for service. Know that there are young people out there getting it right from the beginning! And please, pray for Sarah.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Commended as God's Servant

4 ... as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4b-10)
I never cease to be amazed at the Apostle Paul's example. Here, he lays out for us a way to turn even those negative aspects of ministry into a testimony!
Look at the list he lays out here - afflictions, beatings riots ... appear right alongside sleepless nights and hunger. The fruit of the Spirit is laid out as a lifestyle, alongside spiritual warfare. The contrasts he describes are profound. The bottom line for Paul is that all of these things are part of ministry - all of the struggles and efforts to respond in a godly way, all of the ways of being misunderstood - are all part of their acts as servants of God.
Nothing is too big - or too small - to be a part of your service to God. Whether you're facing blatant warfare, or a struggle to be patient at work ... whether your challenge is to endure a great calamity or a sleepless night ... whether you need endurance or are going hungry ... whatever the situation, whatever the struggle, whatever the need - it is part of your service to God. In everything, put yourself out before Him as His servant!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Power of Hope

"Ah, darling, it's Behrman's masterpiece - he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell."
closing line of "The Last Leaf" by O Henry
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick", wrote Solomon. But hope alive - can make a heart sing.
O Henry captures the power of hope beautifully in his short story, "The Last Leaf" ( An ill elderly lady, convinced she will die when the last leaf on the ivy falls to the ground, has abandoned hope and her dreams of painting the Bay of Naples. Another man in the home hears of her lack of will, and sacrifices his own health - and ultimately his own life - to paint on her window a leaf during an icy storm one night while she sleeps. She takes heart, recovers, and remembers her dream. The painter, Behrman, dies from the pneumonia he contracted while painting the leaf that gave her hope.
As I thought about this story, I considered each of you. So many of you are in spiritually dark places, with circumstances that contribute to feelings of hopelessness. When you look at the history and the "big picture", you see little reason to believe that things will change. Even in your little corner, you sometimes question whether you're making any difference at all.
I want to encourage you tonight with this thought: Jesus desires to bring worshippers from all people groups into God's throne room (as pictured in Rev. 7:9). He is the One working underneath the surface of history toward a kingdom goal, the summing up of all things in Him. He painted the leaf on the window, giving us hope in our efforts to reach some little corner of this world of ours -- and the ink he used was His own blood. As a result, as Abraham Kuyper noted, "There is not a square inchin the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"
Friends, that is Hope defined ... the hope that even your challenging regions belong to Him.
Be blessed with truth tonight!

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Elusively Simple Solution

I spent almost a day and a half on a really simple problem at work this week.

My Excel charts didn't turn out right ... and I couldn't fix the problem. I blamed all the usual suspects: new Office 2007; Microsoft (of course); the lack of response from the campus Excel "expert". I turned elsewhere for solutions and managed to get a helpful soul at Computing Services who offered to devote her afternoon to trying to solve "my" problem.

In the end, the solution was almost elusively simple. Moving column B to column C solved every chart problem I had fought for the better part of 2 days. I praised God for rescuing me, called the friendly lady at Computing Services, and finished my charts.

Isn't that how we are with God sometimes? When we were separated from Him, we looked everywhere we could for the solution to our soul-problem. We blamed everyone and everything; we turned elsewhere for solutions; we failed miserably at finding a solution because it was elusively simple: look to the cross and trust Christ alone.

But even after salvation we can be stubbornly insistent on making things harder than they have to be. The fact is, God's Word contains everything God deemed important for us to know about this thing called the Christian life. We underestimate the power in us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Really, God calls us to get out of the way so that He can make it clear that He is at work instead of us! He calls it the crucified life - death to self, living to Him (Gal. 2:20).

The book of Colossians is an eloquent reminder of the simplicity of the Gospel, the simplicity of the Christ-life. Paul elevates Christ as pre-eminent over all things, and reminds us that our role is one of a faith-walk, not a frenzied pursuit of knowledge or fastidious keeping of rules and regulations. Simply put, Paul reminds us that it's all about Jesus.

Your life on the field is filled with challenging problems. Issues of contextualization, administrative details, theological questions I can only imagine, political dilemmas - all can press upon you to make it seem like the problems are overwhelming. Tonight, remember the simplicity of the answer: Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Col. 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Peace in the Storm

Our pets are scared of storms.

If left alone in a room during a storm, our 81-pound dog George will whimper, moan, even howl. He's been known to butt open a door with his head in order to get to us. More than once I've awakened during the night with his head under my hand, alerting me to a storm going on outside. Our bird, Petey, will screech and flap his wings frantically during a storm, especially if he's left near a window.

So we have developed the habit of bringing Petey's cage into our bedroom on potentially stormy nights. George already has gained the privilege of his 11 dog years to sleep in our room every night, so on stormy nights Bob and I lay in bed with George on the floor on my side and Petey at the end of the bed in his cage.

What's amazing is that no matter how bad the storm, if they are in our room they are calm, peaceful, and restful. Their sleep isn't affected by thunder and lightning even when, at times, mine is!

Last night as I lay in bed listening to the storm and thinking about the contrast between our peaceful pets and their reactions when they are not with us, I realized that this is the "peace in the storm" that God wants us to have.

Life is full of storms. Even if we enjoy a brief lull, usually the stormclouds rise, the lightning flashes, and something occurs to shake us. But Jesus tells us not to be anxious; the Apostle Paul elaborates with the command to be anxious for nothing.

The fact is, God wants us to be as much at peace with Him in the storms of life as our pets are with us. More so, actually. He wants us to make a willful choice to rest in Him, to allow His peace to pass all understanding.

What storms are keeping you awake at night? What thunder and lightning cause your peace to be rattled? Are you acting like George and Petey when we're not around - or are you surrendering to the peace of your Father's presence like they do when they're with us during a storm?

I pray that God will encourage you to see the reality of His presence in your storm tonight. May the words of this song minister to your spirit.

Sometimes He Calms the Storm
song lyrics written by Tony Wood and Kevin Stokes

All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong

Suddenly fear is like white water
Pounding on the soul
Still we sail on knowing
That our Lord is in control

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered "Peace be still"
He can settle any sea
But it doesn't mean He will

Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

He has a reason for each trial
That we pass through in life
And though we're shaken
We cannot be pulled apart from Christ

No matter how the driving rain beats down
On those who hold to faith
A heart of trust will always
Be a quiet peaceful place


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Underneath the Surface

So often we live life at surface level. We get caught up in the concerns, fears, and frustrations of daily life. Political races, tribal conflicts, the exchange rate, logistics of travel, even the fight for survival, can cause us to focus on what we see. Even as we look at 'the big picture' we often see the historical challenges that are still part of that surface level.

But if we look just a little deeper ... if we dig into the heart and soul of our people, often we see something underneath the surface that cries out "never give up". That speaks of hope and future.

Christopher Dawson, in Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, highlights for us how the Apostle Paul's experience in Europe and Asia effected such a subterranean change that the world hardly saw it coming:

When St. Paul...came to Philippi in Macedonia, he did more to change the course of history that the great battle that had decided the fate of the Roman Empire on the same spot nearly a century earlier, for he brought to Europe the seed of a new life which was ultimately destined to create a new world. All this took place underneath the surface of history, so that it was unrecognized by the leaders of contemporary culture....a new principle had been introduced into the static civilization of the Roman world that contained infinite possibilities of change. (p. 27; emphasis mine)

"Infinite possibilities of change" ... isn't that what you long for? Isn't that what you pray for? I know that is my prayer for you, for your people! Yet look how Dawson says it happened ... "underneath the surface of history" - unrecognized by the "leaders" of the day!

Fight the tendency to see things on the surface. For goodness' sake, ignore the media! How I pray that we will have God's eyes - that we will see where the "new principle" of the Gospel is taking root, bringing with it infinite possibilities of change - of turning the world upside down!

"...These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also..." (Acts 17:6)