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!

Brookton Mission Week

You know you’re in a different place when the warning you get before driving home is, “Watch out for kangaroos.”  After spending the day in Brookton, this was said to us very seriously multiple times as we prepared to drive back to the city last night after the fun quiz evening.  Although we wish we could have spent all week out in Brookton, it was wonderful to be able to take the day and see what the Brookton mission team is accomplishing by pouring into the local kids and community.

Ryan and I feel privileged to have work like this going before us that will continue to pave the way for future opportunities.  Hopefully next year we will be able to fully take part in this week of God-centered fun.  But for now it was encouraging to just get to know people better, see friends from the community and finally get that little feeling that we’ve arrived where we should be.  I’m looking forward to driving out Sunday for the large church gathering.  It will be a great celebration!

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.”

Remembering to Rest

I struggle with taking breaks.  I struggle with relaxing.  I struggle with taking time off when there is so much that still needs to be done.  And if I do take a break and/or relax, I then struggle with feeling guilty.  I know I’m not the only one with this mindset.  But knowing that I am not alone is not enough to completely remove the anxiety.  So mornings like this one are good for me, despite my very real struggle yesterday with whether or not I could “give up” the time to attend a breakfast with friends.  I went, enjoyed the fellowship, enjoyed the food and left with a very thankful heart.screen-shot-2016-12-03-at-1-41-38-pmToday reminded me three truths that I already know but still need to remember often as I continue to navigate how I spend my time.

1. God created us for fellowship.  Being with people is important and it’s ministry.  Our fellowship and conversations can build us up, encourage us and give us strength.  We are stronger when we share each other’s joys and burdens.

2. Face to face relationships are important.  As much as I am thankful for social media when I am far away, I need to take advantage of the time I do have with people now.  This in person time is precious.

3.  Rest encourages productivity.  We can only do so much.  We only have so much time.  And we all know that burning the candle at both ends only lasts for so long.  I need to be recharged and for me, that means time with people.  These times of rest allow me to work better and push through when I need to.

It’s nice to slow down every once in awhile and remember simple truths.  This morning that was done at a table surrounded by new and old friends sharing a meal and stories of God’s faithfulness.  “God is Great.  God is Good.  & We Thank Him For This Food.  Amen”

The Spirit is Still Moving

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, Ryan and I have a lot to be thankful for.  One of the best ways for us to count our blessings is to look back and see what God has already done.  Today in my Facebook memories, my November newsletter from 3 years ago came up.  It was an update on the first missions conference we ever attended together before we were even engaged.  The Spirit was moving then and the we’re seeing the Spirit continue to move.screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-2-19-26-pmWe’re thankful for the ways we’ve seen the Holy Spirit influence and guide us over these past few years.  Just one more thing to be thankful for during this season of thankfulness.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  May the Spirit continue to move in your life.

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.”