14 November 2007

Listen Up Neighborhood, Jesus Loves You!

My daughter Elizabeth, who just turned 4, has spent this afternoon in the backyard on the trampoline shouting every song she knows about Jesus. She has especially spent time shouting the words to the song “Shout To The North & The South . . . . Jesus is Savior to all, Lord of heaven & earth“. She stopped at one point and came inside to ask me if it was bad manners to be shouting so loud in the backyard. I told her she could be as loud as she wanted to outside. I also added that maybe others in the neighborhood would enjoy hearing her sing songs about God, and that certainly God enjoyed it. She then went outside and shouted the above title, "Listen up neighborhood, Jesus loves you!". She sang a little for the possible invisible audience of our neighborhood, and then resumed singing just to God.

So simple is the faith of our children. We could learn so much from them. We complicate things and analyze things to the minute detail (when “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” I Cor. 1:25) . . . but that Jesus loves us, that it's joyfully fulfilling to praise Him and that God loves everyone else too are the most profound of truths that we have. I watched her and I recalled David - - praising God amongst the sheep and then dancing before the Lord as the Ark was led back into Jerusalem. God is glorified and we are edified by our adoration of Him . . . and our praising Him is a testimony.

May our adoration of our precious Lord be perpetual . . . and when it is not, may we be convicted into a right perspective once again.

two more joining in the chorus
left to right: Elizabeth, Joseph & Katherine

10 November 2007

Cracked Pots

We have much that lies ahead of us. The area to which we currently think God is leading us (South Asia) is an area which we will not be bringing anything but us and our clothes. So we would have ahead of us the liquidation of everything!

No matter where we go, ahead of us as well are the interviews, conferences and training with the IMB, the sharing of our being called to full-time missions with our church, of which Robert is the pastor, and the goodbyes to our beloved family.

We have ahead of us the learning of another language and another culture.

Our hearts are eager to do what God is calling us to do. Parts of it will be very hard . . . but our hearts are thrilled with His directing us to a particular region of the world that He wants us to go to.

We embrace all the changes that lie ahead, knowing that many of them will be difficult for us and those we love. We embrace whatever degree of sacrifice God is calling us to as well, knowing that it may possibly be more than we ever imagined. We are humbled and privileged by His conditioning our hearts to obey the Great Commission and go where He directs us. How can we not obey God?

(An important aside: We are no greater than any other Christian who is following God. I am personally so afraid of being elevated in the eyes of others. We want God to receive all the glory. It belongs to Him. He is the One who accomplishes great things, according to His purposes through us. We are all just the cracked pots He graciously shines His Light through. We are sinners saved by the amazing grace of God, just like every other believer. We have no calling different or higher than the calling to every other believer. It's only the location of where God is leading us that may be different.)

Since God's revealing His will for us in August of this year we have learned much . . . we have grown much. We've been encouraged through God's Word and through the stories of others following God as well.

There is one family in particular (the Phams) who have given me the okay of putting a link to their blog, which is a journal of their journey of God's leading them to Lima, Peru. I think the entries on their blog may be a help to those loved ones who would like a more knowledgeable glimpse into many of the things that lie ahead in the leaving of this culture and going to another. They are currently in Costa Rica at a language school. Although our destinations are most likely different parts of the world, there are many similarities between our family and theirs. I hope you are encouraged as we have been by what you find on their blog. And I hope that you will find yourself in prayer for them and their ministry. I've listed their blog in the margin under “Favorite Blogs”.

If you don't have or take the time to acquaint yourselves with our new e-friends, the Phams, please do at least view their slideshow. It gives a great picture of where God is leading them!

08 November 2007

IMB News

International Mission Board News worth checking out:

82 new missionaries appointed by the International Mission Board Nov. 7

See story

New budget, successes and goals after the November meeting of the IMB

See story

06 November 2007

Pecan Gathering & Tractor Riding

We went to my parents house Sunday afternoon for the best steak on the planet (my dad is very gifted in grilling steaks, chicken, sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, hot dogs, WHATEVER to complete perfection. It is a gift, I'm sure of it!). We also gathered pecans from under their pecan trees. And each of the kids got a turn with pop on his little tractor (a riding lawn mower, but a tractor to my kids!) It was wonderful fun. Some pictures I wish I would have gotten: Robert up a pecan tree shaking it to get more pecans to fall, my kids getting to be up in the tree with Robert one at a time, and my mom picking up pecans with my kids. But here's some pictures I did get:

Robert and the girls cracking & shelling pecans on the porch.

Pop with Katherine & then Joseph!

Pop with Elizabeth & then Samuel!

05 November 2007

Calvinism in the SBC

What's all the hullabaloo in the SBC convention about Calvinism? Don't take the word “hullabaloo” and assume I don't know anything about Calvinism, or Armenianism for that matter. I've studied the two. But what I know for certain is this: These are non-essentials.

As for words like predestination, free-will, foreknowledge . . . these words are certainly in the Bible. We should study them and discuss them, and hopefully grow from our discussion of them. But let's also realize that these are non-essentials. There are in fact ramifications of both Calvinistic and Arminian positions that can be very hazardous to us as believers and to the perception of who God is. My plea is for us, as a family of believers, to stay focused on who God IS and engaged in culturally relevant ministry . . . careful to know God's Word and always keep it in context. Let's not waste time and effort on taking sides, drawing lines and adamantly defending positions against one another.

First, let's consider God. And let me start this with my favorite phrase: “God is God, and we are not.” Free will and election are His to give or not give to whatever extent He desires, and His sovereignty is not dependent on either. The same of His foreknowledge. All of these are His alone, and our hypothesis about any of it makes no difference. The Bible addresses both free will and election, and when an honest, contextual look is taken, good arguments can be made for both sides. For a Scripturally based glance of the two positions, go here. (This is from a church named Xenos up in Ohio somewhere that usually has some pretty good resources. This particular series of pages is very good in my opinion and worthwhile for review.)

To the Calvinist I would ask the following: If the Spirit prompts every heart (which, according to the Bible is true, ie:“all men are without excuse”Rom.1:20, “it is not God's will that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance”2 Peter 3:9; "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL men to Myself." John 12:32) and it is up to the individual to accept or reject according to a God given free will, how does that diminish God's sovereignty? Just because free will in our minds limits God's sovereignty doesn't mean that it actually does. Catch my drift here? We are not God, and we cannot figure Him out. If we could, He certainly wouldn't be my God. Isn't God big enough to give us complete free will and remain completely sovereign at the same time? Really chew on that one for a while. It may be a bigger concept of God than you have ever considered!!

My concern also is that the position of Calvinism can lead to spiritual arrogance, self-centeredness and complacency. Bear with me here as I explain this. 1. Arrogance comes from the idea that I am chosen and “you” (whomever that may be) are not, to be God's child. Which would have to mean: the Bible says Christ died for all, but not really . . . He died for the salvation of the elect and the damnation of the rest. YIKES! 2. Complacency is also a real danger for this theology because “everyone God calls is going to heaven no matter what I do.” - - so why “do”? Although I do not see many signs of this one in the Calvinists that I know, it is still a logical concern. 3. Self-centeredness is a bedfellow to complacency because if the focus is not on reaching the lost, than individual, personal discipleship is what matters most, which would feed the consumer mentality already so prevalent in our churches. I see this just about everywhere I look. Let me be quick to say that our relationship with God and our spiritual growth should be paramount to each of us. But there has to be a fervent desire, ardent prayer life and impassioned sharing of our faith in hopes that ALL will come to know the Lord as Savior. Calvinism itself does not teach or promote
these ideals directly (arrogance, complacency & self-centeredness). But the logical following of this theology can have these results. I'm not making a presumption here. I have first hand knowledge of this. I also have Calvinist friends and acquaintances who are plagued by this in their spiritual lives as well as confessions I've read from former Calvinists.

Secondly there's the problem with double-predestination. If God appointed certain people to Heaven, then the natural following is that God has appointed certain people to hell as well. Ask yourself if this fits with the God of the New Testament and the dispensation of grace in which we are living.

Moving to the other side, there are problems with Arminianism as well. Total depravity, conditional election, unlimited atonement and resistible grace are all biblical. However, the Arminian theology can sometimes lead to a diminished perception of God's sovereignty. This is tragic. However, as I addressed in my second paragraph, if someone has a correct view of God and an understanding that our finite and fallen wisdom cannot begin to grasp the extent of His sovereignty, then this wrong perception of God's sovereignty can be avoided. Gods granting freedom of choice in the area of salvation does not mean freedom of choice in all areas of life. The Bible clearly teaches God's sovereign choice of nations for specific roles (Ezek.38:4; Ps. 33:10; Ps. 2:1-6), and even of individuals for the roles they play in His national strategy (Isa. 45:1; Dan. 4:32,34-35). Other passages clearly teach that God sovereignly decides what spiritual gifts we get (1 Cor. 12:11), and our specific ministry callings (Gal. 1:15,16). (excerpt from the page I linked to above with the word "here")

Second, Arminians can easily put too much personal pressure on their act of service in witnessing to others . . . looking only to results and forgetting the important part that the Spirit has in the timing and drawing of the lost to Christ. The POWER is in the gospel message . . . not in the presentation of it. So the focus for all Arminians has to be sharing, not results. The results are in the realm of the person to whom the Gospel is presented to and God.

And last, the final point of Arminianism (present assurance of salvation) is neither biblical nor logical. Many Arminians, Arminius himself and even John Wesley did not believe in eternal security. However, eternal security is a biblical fact.

My conclusion is: Our theology does not determine God's sovereignty. He's perfectly sovereign no matter what we believe. Our finite minds will never comprehend the things that are in the the realm of God. I will state once again: God is God, and we are NOT! Deuteronomy 29:29 states "The secret things belong to the Lord our God: But those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this Law." We have enough to busy us for a lifetime with the things God has revealed to us!

My plea: Stop wasting time arguing over such issues. Concentrate your energy on sharing the Good News with the lost and in prayer. There's real spiritual warfare going on right on YOUR doorstep. Our enemy probably gets great satisfaction out of seeing Christians bickering over theology rather than engaging in service to the Lord.

Harsh words? Maybe. Necessary? You bet. Let's busy ourselves with the tasks that are most glorifying to the One who has given us so great a salvation.

Now, for the lighter side of things:

03 November 2007

Don't Forget to Change Your Clocks

I absolutely abhor the end of daylight savings time every year. Everyone else I know seems to love this time change because of the hour gained. But every year from the end of daylight savings (which is now November) to start of it again (in March), it just feels wrong! (By the way, it was October to April, but a federal law passed in 2005 is in effect that makes it November to March.) My family and I really enjoy the extra hour of daylight. And when we change our clocks, my kids don't change. They will be tired at 7:00 instead of 8:00, and they will be up around 6:00 instead of 7:00. That really throws off my morning - - especially my Bible time. But time change is upon us. Next November we won't be changing our clocks. Are you interested to know what other countries utilize Daylight Savings, and when they change their clocks? Click here.

Don't forget to change your clocks!

02 November 2007

this, too, shall be made right

A news story that is heartbreaking:

Baby allegedly used as shield tests positive for meth

Lyrics to a song that is sobering:

Words and Music by Derek Webb (Song and album The Ringing Bell)

people love you most for the things you hate
and hate you for loving the things you can’t keep straight
people judge you on a curve
and tell you you’re getting what you deserve
and this, too, shall be made right

children cannot learn and children cannot eat
stack them like lumber when children cannot sleep
children dream of wishing wells
whose waters quench all the fires of hell
and this, too, shall be made right

the earth and the sky and the sea are all holding their breath
wars and abuses have nature groaning with death
we say we’re just trying to stay alive
but it looks so much more like a way to die
and this, too, shall be made right

yes there’s a time for peace, there is a time for war
there’s a time to forgive and a time to settle the score
a time for babies to lose their lives
a time for hunger and genocide
and this, too, shall be made right

oh I don’t know the suffering of people outside my front door
and I join the oppressors of those I choose to ignore
I’m trading comfort for human life
and that’s not just murder, it’s suicide
and this, too, shall be made right

oh this, too, shall be made right

(I found the above entered on anther blog)

Scripture that describes the yearning for our Lord's return:

Rom 8:19-27 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;

and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Scripture that reminds us why we are still here:

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

All of those who belong to God are missionaries . . . right now, right where we are! The Great Commission was given to us ALL!

01 November 2007

Samuel Eats Dirt

Now don't act like you haven't eaten dirt yourself . . . you have, even if you don't remember it!!!

I'm having a tough time coming up with stuff to blog about.

Some topics I've thought of: Calvinism in the SBC, Evangelism Training, and some stuff about Moses. But would anyone who reads this blog be interested in any of that?

My real purpose for this blog is to update everyone on our process of becoming IMB missionaries and to train myself to become a “blogger”. I imagine that overseas our computers will be our lifelines to family and friends here in the states. The problem is, we are in a holding pin of sorts right now. We're still awaiting preliminary medical clearance and everything is on hold until we get that.

I can share this: we are looking and looking and looking, and praying and praying and praying about job opportunities all over the globe. Some jobs in Asia seem very interesting . . . unreached people groups coupled with situations that would be optimal for our children. A few places in South America have our attention as well. God will lead us somewhere . . . it will be neat to see where. It may be a completely different part of the world than I even named here!

A blessing to add: In our quest to eliminate debt, Robert's supplemental job has offered him all the overtime he wants at overtime pay. The problem is finding the additional time!

Oh! I have other exciting news as well. Robert and I have stumbled onto the blog of some IMB missionaries (family of 6 like us, kids about all the same ages – 2 boys, 2 girls) who are in language school right now in Costa Rica. Reading their blog has given insights into the transitions we will be making, emotions that we and our children might experience, etc. But the neat part is seeing another normal family like us just following God and getting to share in their journey and pray for them. And by the way, we are normal!!! Just because God asks us to go overseas doesn't mean we're somehow different than any other Christian who is striving to follow God and share their faith with those who don't know Him. I mean look at Samuel . . . he eats dirt like every other 17 month old out there. It doesn't get any more normal than that!