Koalified in Christ

There is comfort, security and strength in being Totally Koalified in Christ (Colossians 1:9-14).  This meme was posted to my husband’s Facebook page this week.  It is a good reminder for us in the middle of so many things that seem out of our expertise and control.  It’s not that we aren’t qualified in any way but even the qualifications we have are gifts from God.  I’m thankful for this gentle reminder that I do not need to rely on my personal achievements, abilities or supposedly self-won qualifications.  Jesus walks with me and gives me what I need.  Indeed anything I could boast about is only because of the strength of the Lord.screen-shot-2017-02-20-at-9-51-42-am

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 states this in confident yet humbling words.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

 

God’s Glory in a Loaf of Hands

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 15:5-6Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 7.15.54 PM.pngA few weeks ago our team sat around a large round table, all together for the first time ever.  6 couples, uniquely gifted and wonderfully diverse, gathered in Australia for the sake of the gospel.  We are thankful to have such an amazing group of people surrounding us and walking through this transition with us.  It is not by accident that we are here.  May God use these hands for His glory!

American Politics in Australia

I’m an American, a citizen of the United States and unless something unexpected or drastic happens, that’s not changing anytime soon.  However, I’m living in a very multicultural city in Australia and meeting new people every day.  It doesn’t seem to matter what their background, pretty much everyone has some sort of interest in US politics.  I couldn’t escape the conversations if I tried, so I don’t try to avoid them, I listen.  Listening allows me to hear what others think and also gives me input to continually reexamine and check my own attitudes and assumptions as well as values and beliefs.  I am generally encouraged by these conversations and my personal convictions are strengthened, although I am often challenged to look deeper into certain issues and policies.  Screen Shot 2017-01-31 at 1.59.50 PM.pngConversations aside, I do realize that I am somewhat removed from US current events.  Although, the news here covers the main issues and my Facebook feed is an ever present reminder.  But I’m not in the US so, even if I wanted to, I can’t join the marches and protests.  I am not around to be a part of certain US organizations that are on the frontline when it comes to refugee resettlement.  I don’t have the time or the energy to devote to writing to US political leaders or to organize something more substantial.  Even if I was still in my safe, insulated US community, I would probably find it difficult to engage appropriately with the current policies that I agree or disagree with.  This is what, in my experience, often leads to apathy.  I can’t be the only one who recognizes something should be done but then doesn’t have the time, energy, resources and/or knowledge to do anything that might be deemed worthwhile.  So what are our options?

  1. Pray – Pray for wisdom (James 1:5).  Pray for your leaders (I Timothy 2:1,2).  Pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44).  Pray for those who agree with you.  Pray for those who disagree with you.  Pray.
  2. Read the Bible- Justice (Isaiah 1:17), mercy (Micah 6:8), love (Leviticus 19:18), compassion (Matthew 25:25-37), all of this and more is addressed in the pages of scripture.  I didn’t struggle to find verses here, the struggle was to choose just a few.  The Bible is an amazingly rich and holy resource.
  3. Love your Neighbor-  I mean your neighbor in the broader sense of Luke 10 (the parable of the Good Samaritan).  Your neighbors are those people you come into contact with during your daily life.  This can be as simple as loving and serving your family in your home, the person across the street, the man or woman who is driving next to you on the road, the person bagging your groceries, serving your meal at a restaurant, etc.
  4. Do What You Can- There are a lot of important issues that we can advocate for and be passionate about but refugees are close to my heart.  World Relief, one organization that I have worked with and respect just posted this to their blog: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Show Support for Refugees.  There are probably simple things to do online or in your community for almost every social cause that needs attention.

As divided as my Facebook feed is at the moment, I am generally encouraged by the real discussions that are happening, the hypocrisy that is being confronted across the board and those who are rising up to the challenge of practicing what they are preaching.  I can not fight every battle and shout from the mountain tops over every important issue.  But I can pray, I can read my Bible, I can love my neighbor and I can do what I can to live justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with my God.

Linus Explains The True Meaning of Christmas

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-8-34-25-pm“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 8.40.07 PM.pngMerry Christmas from our family to yours!

Does it Matter Which Word We Use?

On Christmas we see many depictions of the nativity scene and most of them are beautiful, clean and etherial.  I love these scenes that give me a visual of the Biblical stories of Mary and Jospeh traveling to Bethlehem and Mary giving birth to the Light of the World.  However, I realize that they are a cleaned up, sanitized version of what really happened.  The following story from Bob Creson, Wycliffe USA’s President and his communication assistant, Carol Schatz, gave Ryan and me a new perspective on this story that we know very well.  I hope you enjoy it and see the beautiful humility of Christ this Christmas season.screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-12-18-30-pmAs the Mbe translation team in Nigeria was translating the Gospel of Luke, they came to chapter 2, verse 7: “She [Mary] gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

The translators took time to ponder how to translate some of the words, but not “manger.” They immediately used the word “ókpáng.”

The “What’s an ókpáng?” asked their consultant, John Watters. “Tell me what it looks like.” One of the translators drew a picture on the whiteboard. It was essentially a cradle hung by ropes so that the newborn would be laid in it and swung.

“Read the Translator’s Notes again,” John suggested. “What do the notes say about the manger?” (“Translators Notes” is a series of commentaries in non-technical English that are especially helpful for Bible translators for whom English is a second language.)

The Mbe translators read the notes and saw that “manger” referred to an animal feeding trough. Even as the Mbe team read the notes, they objected. “We have always used the word ókpáng. We have used it for years, and that’s what we should use.”

John pointed out to them that it wasn’t just a matter of tradition. God expects us to find the words that express the original meaning as accurately as possible. Furthermore, this word tells us something profound about God. “When he came to live among us and bring salvation to us, he came in the lowliest way possible. He did not come and sleep in a nice ókpáng like every Mbe mother wants for her newborn. Instead, he showed us his unbelievable humility,” John told them. “So we need to find your best word for an animal feeding trough.”

Suddenly the one who had argued most loudly for the traditional term offered, “We feed our animals out of an old worn-out basket that is not usable anymore except to fee the animals. We call it ‘ɛdzábrí.’”

“Then try that term,” said John. “Put it in your rough draft and test it with Mbe speakers.”

“As the Mbe people listened, they were visibly moved. Picturing the newborn baby lying in the animals’ feeding basket, they recognized in a new way that Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to reach them. As an adult, he would humble himself by washing the disciples’ feet and then by dying on the cross. And this humility started right from birth, when he was born to a young peasant woman under questionable social conditions and laid in an animal feeding trough.

“No word in Scripture is too unimportant to translate carefully and accurately. And no language community is too unimportant to merit the Scriptures in the language they best understand. John Watters says, “Translation in the heart language respects the people who speak it, and through the process it frees them to have a relationship with God in their own words and terms.”

The Return of the Prodigal Son

I love that I can read passages in the Bible that I know well and still learn something new or have something revealed in the text that has never occurred to me before.  I appreciate listening to a sermon and hearing a Biblical perspective that reorients how I look at a story that I would otherwise gloss over because I am “too” familiar with the words.  The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen gave me a fresh, introspective view into the story found in Luke 15:11-32.  the-return-of-the-prodigal-sonThis heavy, thoughtful, beautifully written book contains Nouwen’s reflections on the three main people portrayed in Rembrant’s famous painting titled The Return of the Prodigal Son.  Nouwen takes a nuanced look at the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son and finally the Father.  He teases out the differences between the Biblical account and the painting and he goes under the surface into how he sees himself in each of the main subjects.  Needless to say, his conclusions run deeper than the typical Sunday school lesson.

I find it easy to see how I have been like the Prodigal Son and the Elder son at various stages of my life.  I don’t have to search hard to find my own arrogance, selfishness and brokenness.  But I have never thought of myself as being able to identify with the Father.   In light of us moving to Perth and my desire to daily live out Romans 12:12, I sincerely appreciate Nouwen’s thoughtful look into the Father.  He reminds us that in Luke 6:36 we are told to, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”  And Nouwen gently works through some of the ways that he himself has learned to identify with the Father.  He writes, “Grief, forgiveness, and generosity are, then, the three ways by which the image of the Father can grow in me.”  As I read through how these characteristics can be shown in our lives, I saw what I wanted to have displayed in my life and my ministry.  And Lord willing, as I continue to grow in my faith, these aspects of the Father will show themselves more and more in my life.

This is a book that will find it’s place on my shelf to be read and reread as I continue to live out this internal wrestle between the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son and the Father who all reside in me.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Stop Saying Raising Finances for Missions is Hard

This post from a fellow MTW coworker came at a good time for me.  We’re towards the end of a crazy season of support raising and all I want to do is say, “This is hard.”  But each day where we have too much to do and honestly can’t possibly get it done, we have to trust that we are going where God wants us and He will make it happen in His timing.  I hope you are also encouraged and emboldened by these words from Mike Pettengill: Stop Saying Raising Finances for Missions is Hard.

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Mike Pettengill writes:  Money and the Christian faith has such a cloudy relationship in the minds of most Christians in the modern Western Church. Don’t misunderstand what you just read. God and the Bible are very clear about finances. Throughout time and in the rest of the world, other Christians have had a healthy biblical understanding of finances. However, in the modern Western Church, we turned finances into a complicated topic.

Because money is such a powerful idol in the West, raising financial support for missions is a murky topic in our churches. Contrary to popular misconception, it is God who controls all finances. Many Christians say God is sovereign and in control of everything, but their actions and attitudes toward money prove differently. Too often missionaries, churches, and congregants act like they have ultimate sway over who does and doesn’t make it to the mission field by their actions surrounding money. God controls every dollar, pound, franc, and peso. If this is true, why do missionaries view raising financial support as such a hard task?

Missionary
A missionary is not a super-Christian, simply an obedient Christian. Because of this, many missionaries enter missions with the same sinful attitudes the rest of us share about God and money. Missionaries view raising financial support not as a God-centered activity, but as a man-centered venture. Missionaries think the burden is on them to sell themselves and their ministry to individuals and churches who may or may not deem them worthy.

If God wants you on the mission field He will provide the means when He deems it appropriate. We have such a sinful attitude toward money and raising support that potential missionaries avoid missions once they learn they have to raise their own finances. Missionaries are scared to ask people for support and then feel too beholden to supporters when they receive it. We too seldom even bring God into the equation.

Individual supporter
Do a web search for “God and finances” and the articles that pop up have titles like, “Trusting God with Your Finances,” “God and Your Money,” and “10 Ways God Works Through Our Finances.” Dear gentle reader, let me be crass for a moment to provide a little clarity … YOU DON’T HAVE ANY MONEY! Our view of God and finances in the Western world is unhealthy and unbiblical. We too often act like we earned our money and it is ours. God is the owner of all money and He has seen fit to make us temporary stewards over a small part of it.

Give wildly to God and His ministries. Go crazy with God’s money. Spend the money you have, but spend it on God’s glory, not your own comfort and security. Do not view God blessing you with money as some sort of reward for your loyalty to Him or some kind of blessing to be lavished on yourself. God put you through school, provided your job, and gave you opportunities so you could more easily fund His ministries in your town and around the world. When we give our wealth and financial blessing back to God we experience His glory. If we have a perspective that says, “I just can’t afford to tithe or support missions,” we have already placed our own comfort ahead of God’s glory.

Church supporter
God has made the Christian Church that exists in the Western world today the richest, most financially blessed church in the history of the world. He did not do that so we could have softer cushions on our pews, but so we could finance the global spread of His gospel. Do you believe your church needs a more expensive building, new carpet, or another secretary while the missionaries you’ve partnered with are struggling to pay for new Bibles, translated books, or shoes for their own kids?

God’s Great Commission is a mandate given to the corporate Church to spread His gospel around the world. Yes, you are called to reach the heathen in Iowa, or Tennessee, or Illinois. Yes, the people in your town will go to the same hell as the people in the jungles of Zimbabwe, Laos, and Colombia. However, the people in your town are not more deserving of the gospel than the people around the globe. Please continue to reach the people in the town where you have been called to minister, but never forget God has mandated you to participate in His global march toward the end of days. The Great Commission is not optional.

When we act like man controls all the money, missions seems impossible. When we acknowledge God controls all the money, missions seems much easier. Too many missionaries act like raising support is a hard task, because too many Christian disciples take God out of finances. When God is in control of finances things like an economic downturn, a local factory shutting down, or a rich family leaving a church are far less relevant. When Christian disciples are focused on God controlling all finances, God will receive greater glory, and no Christian will ever again say, “Raising finances for missions is hard.”