Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hanging out with Kingdom Workers

I think everyone should hang out with kingdom workers.

I was thinking today how my life has been impacted by my relationships with each of you. The reports and newsletters are nice, but it's been through "hanging out" - through the stuff of life - that I have learned and been impacted the most.

Because you've allowed me to live vicariously in your worlds, I view my world differently. I find myself responding differently, wondering how this decision will impact your corner of the world or seeing opportunities where previously I only saw obstacles. Increasingly, I 'get' that we are all connected in the body of Christ, in a way that cannot be described. Even my personal struggles are put into perspective - complaining about an unbalanced washing machine feels selfish when I think of one of you who washes clothes for 4 kids and a husband by hand!

If you are reading this and you're not a cross-cultural field worker - please, get to know at least one. Dangerous prayer: "Lord, send me a friend who ministers over there." In 1998 God starting surrounding me with those sorts of people, and life hasn't been the same - thankfully!

And for those of you who are field workers - please, keep those relationships with the rest of us. I know it's hard, because you often hear from those who don't "get it." It's easier and probably more fun to hang out with those from your organization who understand your struggles. And you need that, desperately.

But we need you. Every day I realize increasingly just how much we need what you offer the Body. Keep the reports and updates coming. But even more than that, be our friends.

Only God knows what fruit those relationships will bear!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Refusing to Settle

My monthly women's group just concluded, and while I thoroughly trust God's sovereignty, I refuse to settle for less that all He wants for us.

You see, we have about a dozen ladies, and every month, a few are unable to attend. Sometimes it's because of God-given higher priorities - a mission trip, a family event. Often, though, it's because of what they describe as "last-minute" distractions, obstacles, or spiritual attacks. Even the high gas cost has been a prohibitive factor. Lately the number who have to miss exceed the number who make it.

And I'm not going to take it sitting down. I've decided the position from which to address this is on my knees. I'm not going to settle - I'm going to fight.

So today, we prayed for the group, for God's purpose and people. We prayed against obstacles and distractions and attacks. We even prayed that God would stretch gas money and increase their mileage so more can attend. We agreed in spirit and in prayer - God hasn't indicated an end to this group. He hasn't indicated that we should be laissez-faire about the roadblocks some of them have shared that have kept people away. We are fighting for their ability to attend, and will continue to fight in prayer.

One of the preparations God gave me for this morning - that I was going to share with the group, but instead found to be for myself - is this brief essay. It reminds me that it's okay to not settle in my prayer life. It reminds me that God honors persistence! Most of all, it reminds me that desperation is a good place to be.

Many of you may be discouraged. You may be thinking you should give in and settle for less of an impact than you were hoping for in your corner of the world. You may be facing a change of service area, and wondering if you should give up on those you left behind. You may be seeking God's will in a matter and wondering if you're expecting too much.

I can't address every situation - but one thing I can say is don't settle. Seek desperation!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Living Out Life in His Presence

I love reading through the Bible in a new translation. Familiar passages leap off the page when presented in a new "language". My current read-through utilizes the NET Bible, a translator's Bible that gives tons of alternate renderings for words and explains the choices made by the translation team.

In Gen. 17 yesterday I read the familiar covenantal condition to Abram: "Walk before me...". The translator's note clarifies the sense of the phrase in Hebrew: "Live out your life in My presence".

WOW. Understanding that makes the second half of the condition more understandable: "and be blameless." One possible way of understanding the connection is that walking before God - living all of life in His presence - has the purpose or result of the individual being blameless, or righteous.

Unfortunately this principle has been taught in some ways that generate fear and legalism. "God is watching, so you'd better be good" is the message we get. Like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", we think that we'd "better watch out, better not shout" because "He knows when you've been bad or good" and of course, what's in our stocking depends on being good!

But becoming more aware of His presence in the minutae of life has to do with more than our sanctification. This covenant is immediately followed by God appearing to Abraham with two angels in Gen. 18. This chapter illustrates what it means to walk before God. Living life in His presence looks like this: worship, interaction, giving, receiving, interceding. It's relational, not legalistic. It's faith, not fear.

So my prayer this week is that I will consistently live out my life in God's presence - becoming increasingly aware of His presence in the minutae of life. I want to know Him more so, like Abraham, I can intercede better. I want to know that I can trust His no's, like Abram did when He gave him an emphatic "no" about Ishmael. I want to see Him come through time after time after time, year after year after year. I want to know that the blamelessness is because of His change in me, not because of my fear or legalism. And I want to interact with Him in intimacy and relationship and constant dialogue.

I know you do as well. So tonight, this is my prayer for you: That you will increasingly live out your life in His presence. And that together we will learn just what that means!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fleas and Warfare

OK, confession time. We have a dog, and this summer, that means like everyone else in our area with a pet, we have fleas. We've never had them before in 12 years of pet ownership, and so we've been learning a lot!

For example, did you know that fleas have 4 stages in the life cycle - and at one of the stages, larvae, the flea can survive for months without a food source (i.e., blood). Flea eggs can live after the fleas that laid them are dead, and to my horror, one flea can lay billions of eggs.

All of this means that our approach has had to attack the flea at all stages of development. It means we've had to treat our dog, our yard, our house, and even our car. We've used a variety of tools in the treatment. And in the process, I've learned a lot about warfare.

Sin is a lot like the fleas we've been fighting. It's a greedy parasite that can lay dormant for an extended time. That's why some of the lessons I've learned fighting fleas can help me spiritually as well.

Get to the source. This means fighting a multi-front war. We couldn't just treat our dog - we had to treat all places the fleas went when they weren't on the dog. Likewise, with sin we can't just attack the symptom - such as a sharp tongue. We have to treat the underlying source - the pride, or bitterness, or selfishness, that reveal themselves in bad fruit.

Take serious action to gain the upper hand. As much as I complained about the fleas, not much happened until we started taking serious action. We had to move beyond occasionally spraying the dog to committing significant amounts of time to getting rid of fleas. Similarly, sin doesn't go away on its own, even when we recognize that it's unpleasant. We have to get serious about fighting sin, and that requires commitment that might be inconvenient but is utterly

Keep the momentum. We're at a stage now where we haven't seen fleas in a couple of days, and things seem pretty "normal". But we've made the mistake previously of quitting after a couple of rounds of treatment - not realizing that those larvae were just waiting for a blood source to walk by :). Now we know that to keep the momentum, we have to fight daily against the fleas we can no longer see. Sin is like the fleas - "crouching at your door", as God told Cain in Gen. 4. The author of Hebrews wrote of sin that "so easily entangles us" and gave us the solution: Keeping our eyes on Jesus. He shed blood for our sin, so any struggle we make against it will never go beyond what He's already done (Heb. 12:1-3). This should motivate us to keep fighting for a victory that has already been secured on our behalf. But the fight must proceed daily!

Don't fight alone. The tasks involved in "flea-proofing" our home would be overwhelming if I tackled them by myself. But because my husband and I team up, we are able to maximize our efforts and maintain a better consistency in the process. When you are actively trying to gain the upper hand against a certain sin, it's important to solicit prayer support and accountability. Find believers you trust to fight with you and help you maintain the momentum. And realize that you are not alone in the struggle! When I shared my "flea prayer request" with a friend the other night, she immediately said, "Oh, I'm having the same problem"! We realized that we were fighting the same battle. 1 Cor. 10:13 tells us that our temptations are "common to man" - whether other people mention them or not. And Jesus is our way out!

The battles you face on the field certainly involve significant outside warfare from the enemy. But I've talked to enough of you to realize that you also struggle with the same sins we face daily at "home". Keep fighting!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Detours and Clouds

We don't always get all the choices we'd prefer.

Last night was one of those times for us. Driving through Oklahoma on the way home, we missed the turn for our turnpike. By the time we figured it out, we were in a stretch 7 miles from the next exit and absolutely no way to get onto the other side of the highway. The long-awaited exit bore a sign we dreaded to see: No re-entry. In other words, keep going the wrong direction; this is going to take a while. By the time we finally had the option to exit and re-enter 13 miles later, we were halfway to an alternate route home. A 2 hour trip took almost 4, but we made it.
Life often affords unscheduled detours as well. A doctor's visit with unwelcome and unexpected news. A forced job change due to downsizing. A teenager's pregnancy. A reassignment from a sending agency. We struggle with these changes the most, I think, because we feel such a helplessness, such a lack of choice.
We fail to see that these times are like the storm system I also saw yesterday -- from the backside. Like the picture above I could tell precisely where the system ended. I marveled at how sunny it was from my perspective, and how fierce the storm must look to those underneath its massive dark clouds. When we're underneath the circumstances of our life's latest detours, we see the darkness, the storm, the whirlwind. We struggle to see the handprints of God. But when we get to the other side, we can see the beauty of the clouds. We can see the detour had a purpose.
What detour are you struggling to accept today? Pray for God to give you eyes to see the sun that will signify the end of the storm. And ask Him to reveal the beauty of the scenic route.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Changing the World

We all want to see the world changed.

Wherever we live, if we have a biblical worldview there is something we want to see changed. And yet we so frequently get discouraged - "weary in well-doing", Paul called it. We determine that changing the world is impossible, that the best we can hope to do as an individual is make a difference in othe lives of one individual at a time. If we're diligent, we think maybe we can make a different in a few dozen individuals' lives.

But we're still not satisfied - nor should we be. Because God never asked us to change the world by ourselves.

The limitations of the English language combined with a western individualistic mindset have turned a lot of the plural "you's" of the New Testament into singular ones. The church - the body of Christ, all true believers regardless of denominational attendance - has a role to play in society. The Gospel and our lives should preach the same message. And when we move to view things from a group perspective, we realize it's not just me making a difference in one's us making a difference in lots of lives!

There are so many strands that go into social change. Who "caused" slavery to crumble? The abolition movements, to be sure - but what stirred them, and how did they move from merely assessing and praying about a problem to a movement that impacted two continents? We think of the big names - Wilberforce, Brown, Sojourner Truth - but they were only strands in the rope that forced a new worldview about slavery. So often when we are one strand we feel insignificant. But when one becomes many, it matters!

That's why you must realize that "you" aren't alone. You're not singular, you're plural! You are part of a team where you are ... you are the feet for the team that sends you ... you are positioned at the head of the battering ram that is the church's offense against the gates of hell. You're not alone.

And that very fact should help you realize that it's not hopeless. Whatever the situation on the ground, whatever your personal struggles right now, the change you are longing for doesn't depend on "you". God is the one who is working all this out, and He has put an "us" behind you as part of the task.

And the victory around the throne will be oh, so sweet.

Monday, June 02, 2008

New Post on Big Picture

Hi everyone! If you're following my studies this module, there is a new post over on The Big Picture. Check it out at Thanks!