Abide

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This incident took place over 15 years ago, and yet, I remember it clearly.  In the buzz of daily life, it is easy to get caught up in the carelessness of the checklists, and forget the intentionality of abiding in Him.

I remember how frantic I was once at or late deadline and how frustrated I was at all the problems we were having in getting the program together.  We’d all kinds of equipment failure throughout the day and I was going to have to drive the program across town to get it uploaded to the satellite.  It was already 7 pm and the babysitter was calling me every 10 minutes.

Then, I got a call from a lady with a gentle Creole accent. She told me, “I felt led to call you and pray with you.”  I SO didn’t want to talk to this lady, wasn’t interested in being prayed over, and really just wanted to leave to get this program fed and pick my 2-year old up.  I was impatient when I responded to her.  Rather than take insult from what was probably a curt rebuff,  she just said , “Wow. You REALLY need the peace of our heavenly Father on your heart right now.”

And…she burst out in song.   Now I’m wondering why I’m on the phone with this crazy lady, and then she prayed through the worship song and then rolled right into praying for me, for my distress, for the things I thought I needed to do…and prayed that I would be still and listen, that my heart would be quiet long enough to remember the awe of God, and that the joy would come back to my heart as we produced MNN…

The more she prayed, the more convicted I grew and I realized I was caught up in the ‘do’ and not the ‘be’…and THEN she pulled out the big guns: the story of Mary and Martha.

Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV)

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

She ended our conversation with, “Sometimes, it’s ok to be Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.  Stuff will still be there to do. It will eventually get done.  But the lasting investment is remembering to sit and BE at the feet of Jesus.”

It was a much needed gentle rebuke along with a little encouragement from an unknown sister in Christ that I still remember to this day…thousands of productions later.   What we do is important…but not at the risk of forgetting to abide in Christ.

Koinonia

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Koinonia (Koy-no-nee’-ah) is a Greek word, occurring 20 times in the Bible, which means “fellowship” or “brotherly love.”
It carries with it the meaning of a committed, trustworthy, and dependable relationship. Such a relationship can be experienced through participation, sharing, giving, and contributing.
The first occurrence of koinonia is Acts 2:42 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
But the rest of the passage reads:  “ 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
 Christian fellowship is a key aspect of the Christian life. Believers in Christ are to come together in love, faith, and encouragement.
The essence of koinonia: “one another”.
 Scripture commands us to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), honor one another (Romans 12:10), live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16; 1 Peter 3:8), accept one another (Romans 15:7), serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13), spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24), offer hospitality (1 Peter 4:9), and love one another (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7; 4:11-12).
Koinonia is translated many different ways in English Bibles:
-fellowship (koinonia), to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
-contribution (koinonia) for them and for all others.” Paul writes to the believers in Philippi: “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share (koinonia) his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil 3:10).
– Christian living– the dynamic whole of it. It describes an interactive relationship between God and believers who are sharing new life through Christ.  It captures the entirety of this relationship. It involves active participation in Christian community: sharing in spiritual blessings and giving material blessings.
How does this idea fit into the theology of ‘And’?
Acts 1:8—it empowers us with the chisomo—the grace to DO—the all-inclusive–
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And they will know you by your love.  (John 13:35)   “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Covenant

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Isaiah 54:10  Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
There is something of music in the very sound of these words.

The thought that lies below them, sweeping as it does through the whole creation, and parting all things into the transient and eternal, the mortal and immortal, is still greater than the music of the words.

‘These’ are removed; ‘this’ abides.

The thing in God which abides is all-gentle tenderness, that strange love mightier than all the powers of Deity beside, permanent with the permanence of His changeless heart.
‘My loving kindness and the covenant of My peace,’ outlast everything else. The antithesis of what passes and what abides is mind-boggling.
 ‘all things are in a state of flux’—it’s a basic tenant of physical science…and yet it seems as unchanging as anything we know…it’s the shape of the box…and yet,  if we had nothing abiding beyond this universe, what would be the point?
There’s an unspoken  ‘But’  here–  in that vacuum, the Great Spirit moves all the material universe, Himself unmoved, undiminished by creation, or by said vacuum.  The Unknowable whose name means ‘breath’ is YHWH—who comes to us in man-form to help the created move toward and abide in this presence.
I’m sort of blown away by how big this passage paints God…and blown away that we are His children…and that we able to abide because of Christ…that our part in glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever comes in walking alongside a global family and telling their stories.  Insignificant, by itself, but being used as a tool to help others abide and recognize the mercy and grace of this big Abba.
We can touch the face of God…because He calls us to Himself.

Innocent As Doves

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The Scriptures
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Matthew 10:16-20
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Today, it’s just been on my mind to bring our attention back to the armor of God and the fact we need to be wise like serpents, innocent as doves.
I want to speak to the first part, being wise like serpents. Going to Malta helped bring to my attention how much I don’t know about my own country’s politics, the refugee crisis, trusting God, and even God’s word. I feel like I’m doing “better than the average U.S. citizen.” But, in reality, I don’t know very much. And I’ve realized when it comes to engaging in conversation with others, it’s important to have a handle on topics like these.
I.e., talking with my dad about refugees. Having facts and knowing the what the constitution says helps me to better articulate and defend my stance culturally and based by our country’s laws. Knowing about the situation with refugees abroad also helps and is a tool in dispelling the fear which the current administration seems to use to get support to make the calls it’s trying to make both about refugees and immigrants in general.
The second part, being innocent like doves…that’s a hard one for me because I’ve thought in the past it means to be naive. I don’t want to be naïve. But being innocent doesn’t mean you’re naïve. I think it means we guard our hearts and take our thoughts captive. What we put into our minds affects the lens through which we see the world and view the Bible—and it has the power to jade us.
I.e., rape. I know rape is in the world. I know it is destructive. I’ve seen it damage lives. And I’ve seen God redeem. But, what I don’t need to do is read the part of a book or watch a TV series which details a situation of rape. I don’t need to invite that in my mind to “know” about rape. I’m thinking of a book one of my youth group girls was reading. I haven’t read it, but I see how she struggles with her sexuality, her relationship with God, and for a period even suicide. I also see how her parents are okay with exposing her to things that are a bit mature for her age.
Compared to another one of our girls who is aware of what happens in the world, but her parents are careful to protect her from exposure to things which are dark, damaging, fracture her relationship with God. She’s being taught to be innocent, not naïve (or judgmental), and to take her thoughts captive.
Both of these girls come from solid Christian homes. I can’t say for sure that what each of these girls has or hasn’t been exposed to has been the big factor in who they are today, but I think it’s clear it has played a role. No barely 12-year-old girl should be reading intimate details about sex or rape. And while I may think not allowing your 12-year-old to watch Harry Potter could be a little excessive, I see how this other young girl is being shaped to cast her thoughts on what is good and to pursue God in all things.
Which leads me to the Armor of God. If we are sheep among wolves, if we are God’s people aware of the spiritual battle around us, we need the armor of God. We need our faith, especially when we don’t have answers to why God is still good in hard situations, but know that he is. We need the encouragement of salvation when doubt comes into our minds if we are truly loved by God. We need to know the scriptures, not just where to find them in the Bible, but to really be so in-tuned we can recite them when necessary. We need the breastplate of righteousness because frankly, the world is watching.
And with the armor of God and I think it’s important to ask, do we believe in spiritual warfare? Do we believe the world we live in isn’t just made up of cold, hard facts or only what we can see?
When I was talking about spiritual warfare with my friend who’s in Ecuador, she mentioned how we leave ourselves open to it. Every morning we can either be aware that it’s there and pray, or we can disregard it and leave ourselves open. Praying against spiritual warfare isn’t just for the days when we can sense it, but even when we don’t suspect it.
With all of this said, I want to encourage each of us to really grab hold of the scriptures, of God, and for what it means to put on God’s armor as well as to be wise like serpents, but innocent as doves.
Bible, flickr

Abraham & Lot

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Genesis 13
So Abram left Egypt and traveled north into the Negev, along with his wife and Lot and all that they owned. 2 (Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold.) 3 From the Negev, they continued traveling by stages toward Bethel, and they pitched their tents between Bethel and Ai, where they had camped before. 4 This was the same place where Abram had built the altar, and there he worshiped the Lord again.
5 Lot, who was traveling with Abram, had also become very wealthy with flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, and many tents. 6 But the land could not support both Abram and Lot with all their flocks and herds living so close together. 7 So disputes broke out between the herdsmen of Abram and Lot. (At that time Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land.)
8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 12 So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.
14 After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants[a] as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17 Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.”
18 So Abram moved his camp to Hebron and settled near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. There he built another altar to the Lord.
At this point in the story, God’s promise to Abraham of the promised land hasn’t come true yet, but good land is part of the promise
We’ve seen Abraham have faithful triumphs and failures, but this is a time when Abraham showed great faith once again
because there are SEVERAL reasons why Abraham could have taken the better land
1. movement towards God’s promise of good land anyway
2. and this is probably a more striking one to me, but culturally speaking, the older would NEVER defer to the younger. Lot, as the younger, should have deferred to Abraham the older – both in going to him to resolve the disagreement between their herdsmen and in giving him the better pick of land
But Abraham wasn’t fixated on culture and on manipulating God’s promises
Abraham’s dealings are not in seniority, but in brotherly love
and that’s what faith does. Faith resolves tension with generous self-sacrifice
Christians often say in tense situations, “Well, I’m not a doormat! I deserve not to be walked all over!”
But my pastor said something very striking to me. “Aren’t we glad Christ never said that?”
A faithful and generous person doesn’t need to manipulate or control the situation because they are resting in the promises and sovereignty of God
Faith leads to trust leads to generosity and self-sacrifice with others.

Russian commentary no empathy, no truth

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Mission Network News has learned that there is a growing conflict between Russian evangelical Christians and Ukrainian evangelical Christians. The accusations between the two sides are astounding. 

On March 9, Dr. William Yoder (no relationship to me, that I know of) wrote an article and commentary about the schism between the two. Unfortunately, he sided with the Russian pro-Putin church. 

I’ve decided to give equal time to Ukrainian evangelical church who are in the cross-hairs of Yoder. Here is the response to Yoder’s accusations. 

Ukrainian Christians believe some Russian Christians are aligning themselves with pro-Putin radicals in Russia. Russian Christians are accusing Ukrainian Christians be being ultra-nationalist revolutionaries. Dr. William Yoder, representing the interests of the Russian Baptist Union, came to the defense of Russian policy regarding Ukraine.

In his mailing on March 18th, 2014 he criticized the Ukrainian Maidan protesters and their defenders for not being democratic enough, and not waiting for the next elections, but instead seizing power and provoking the secession of the Crimea.

Additionally, Yoder compares Ukraine’s claims to the Crimea to a former spouse, who was never actually legally married, but after splitting up claims a right to the other’s belongings. Crimea was given away by Khruschev illegally in 1954, therefore no one owes Ukraine anything.

 

Justifying Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, Yoder criticizes Ukrainian church leaders who have come to the defense of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country. He corrects of the vice president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, Valery Antonyuk, and states that Kiev Protestants have no right to talk about their country’s integrity because the eastern part of the country wants to be part of Russia.

 

He also commented on the “illegal” interim government of Ukraine and acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist, who is supposedly hurting the reputation of Baptists in Russia. William Yoder defends Yanukovych’s regime from accusations of cruelty by saying, “Was Yanukovich’s administration more despicable than Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge?” It seems that all regimes any less despicable than the Khmer Rouge must be acknowledged as fully democratic.

 

But the height of cynicism from Yoder’s side was his criticism of a Christian organization for supporting the family of Alexander Khropachenko, who was killed by a sniper on the Maidan. Yoder believes that this is evidence of one-sided sympathies. Yoder suggests equal assistance for the families of police who lost their lives (who killed over 100 Maidan activists and injured hundreds more), in order to show a non-partisan and peacemaking front. And because some of the ministry’s leaders took a clear stand on the side of the unarmed protesters instead of the armed killers, Yoder accused them of criticism of Russia and anti-Russian viewpoints. However there is a distinction between disagreement between Russia’s policy, which is natural for the civilized world, and truly unacceptable Russophobia.

 

The commentary of Dr. William Yoder is a mix of naïve faith in the authority of Russia, loyalty to his employers, and lack of understanding in the sphere of politics, history, and culture. You cannot talk about peacemaking while avoiding the truth and failing to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim, right and wrong. Peace can only be achieved after truth – acknowledgement of and repentance from crimes committed. Therefore the comments of William Yoder should have begun with an acknowledgement of the obvious fact of Russian intervention, without which everything written is a manipulation of facts. But what is even more noticeable and sad is his lack of empathy and sympathy for the tragic events in Ukraine. It is a bad sign – without empathy you cannot hope to come to the truth, let alone achieve peace.

 

M. Kuznetsov

Leaving with lessons: my last blog post

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Today marks my final hours as a Writer for Mission Network News. It’s going to be really odd not coming in every morning, figuring out what happened over night and gathering stories from all over the world. It’s going to be odd not getting to talk to unbelievable missionaries and inspiring speakers every day. It’s going to be odd no longer writing about God’s work around the world in a news setting. But I will take with me everywhere all I’ve learned here. Before I take it though, I wanted to share a few bits of it with you. The following is a shorter list than would ever suffice as a thorough explanation of how MNN has shaped me. But here are some of the major things I have discovered:

God is doing far more around the world than I could ever imagine. 

It’s impossible to work at MNN and not have a change of perspective. Every single story we write talks about how the Gospel is spreading worldwide, yet there are millions of stories that go untold. As I write every day about God moving in Mozambique, Iran, China, Brazil I see how small my view of God’s work is. He is not just working in my life, or my church, or my family. He’s appearing in dreams to Muslims who’ve never met a Christian. He’s booming his church in nations actively persecuting his followers. He’s working in the hearts of young children, drawing them to himself, and then using them to bring their families into his kingdom as well. He’s rescuing victims of trafficking, abuse and neglect. There are amazing stories in America to be sure, but the longer I’ve been here, the more I see there are amazing stories everywhere. God’s hand is moving in every nation, and I’ve gotten to be a part of it through writing and prayer.

Prayer is not just an item to check off the list; it IS the list. 

In every single interview I’ve done, pastors, missionaries and ministry CEO’s have asked for prayer. Prayer for lights to go on in young, dark hearts. Prayer for church movement in closed nations. Prayer for dictators to rearrange their hearts. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard that “prayer is the most important thing.” I can’t say that hearing this over and over — and then hearing how God answers — has transformed my prayer life into something like Christ’s. I can say though I am at least much more likely now to get on my knees while writing a story, or more likely to remember Syrian refugees while I’m praying in the morning. I never would have thought to pray for Muslims during Ramadan if it weren’t for hearing continuously how vital that is. As Doug Hutchcraft recently told me, God says he knows our prayers before we speak them, but he doesn’t say he’ll answer them before we speak them. I guess we had better pray.

Missionaries are not unapproachable weirdos. 

To those of us not on the missions field overseas, missionaries can seem a little out there. People that voluntarily live in huts and eat local bugs? Weird. But the more I’ve talked to missionaries the more I’ve seen that they are ordinary people who have simply responded to God’s Great Commission call. What I find is that most missionaries are really easy to talk to, but often have a much deeper faith than mine. Possibly because their faith has been stretched in ways mine has yet to be. I’ve also discovered that missionaries come in every form: electricians, agriculturists, translators, teachers, grandparents, young families. The list is never ending, and there’s a need for people in every working field somewhere. You’d think God specifically planned our likes and dislikes for ministry or something…

I am often envious of the persecuted church. 

This probably sounds really strange. I don’t mean I wish I were being beaten, tortured, attacked, bombed or raided. But I have discovered many things about the persecuted church in the last four years that have made me admire those suffering for Christ more than any other believers. For one thing, an interesting phenomenon takes place worldwide: the more persecution the church faces, the more it grows. This seems to be the case about 90% of the time. As God’s people are targeted, more people seem to want to know about Christ. Take Iran, for example. It’s 5 on the World Watch List but has probably the fastest growing church in the world.

Secondly, those who have been persecuted for their faith are often strongest in their walks–even without access to Bibles or podcasts or church buildings. We have had people in the MNN office who, when asked  how we could pray for the persecution to stop, have laughed in our faces. They ask not for an end to it, but for wisdom in responding in a way that reflects the Lord, and for opportunities to share his name. It’s not that these believers enjoy persecution or want it. They just take John 15:18-25 seriously. Personally, I think if someone beat me for telling a friend what I thought about Jesus, I would be a little scared off. Believers who are not able to practice their faith in the open, who would rather face physical hardship than spiritual loss, have become the greatest examples of faith to me. I am envious of their zeal and faithfulness to the Creator.

I have a responsibility. 

To give, to pray, to do. I am not off the hook for the Great Commission just because I live in America and am not a “missionary.” If I have more than I need, I’m responsible to help fund God’s work through missionaries. I’m responsible to help those in need around me. I’m responsible to pray for those suffering as if I myself were suffering. I am not any less called to spread Christ’s name just because missions work is not my full-time occupation. As a follower of Christ, I have a responsibility to be a light–wherever I go.

Heaven is going to be filled with unbelievable people. 

Ok, I knew this before I started working here. But I’ve met some of my favorite ever Christians here. The people working at the ministries we partner with are incredible examples of dedication to Christ. I am going to miss interviewing these exceptional believers. But whenever I think about that, I stop and realize I’m going to get to spend all of eternity with Tom Doyle, Todd Nettleton, York Moore, Carl Moeller, Ron Hutchcraft, Mark Lewis, JP Sundararajan, Teresa Flores, Ruth Kramer, Greg Yoder, Sharon Felton, Lyndsey Gammage and the list goes on for pages. Praise God that I will have eternity to get to know all of these people better, to keep sharing thoughts and experiences, and to rejoice together in the work of the Lord. I would guess I’m far (relatively) from dying, but when I do leave the earth, it’s going to be a grand reunion!

 

Thank you to all who have read my stories, believed in my abilities, and responded to the call of the Lord as a result of MNN. My final plea: keep “doing” for the Lord. Let MNN be your guide in how to do that; they’re pretty good at it.

me, Me, ME

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I just finished reading the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Altogether it was convicting at times and a nice base for discussion. But the last chapter is what got me going more than anything else–and the line that struck me wasn’t even from Chan. He quoted a woman, Amy Dillard I think, saying, “How you live your days is how you live your life.” That stopped me in my tracks. “What do I do during the day?” I thought. Well, I work, I run errands, I clean, I work out, I cook, I watch TV, I spend time with my husband, I spend time with friends. Nothing really out of the ordinary from the average American, really. The problem is, the average American can be defined by one word: selfish.

Anyone at Mission Network News will tell you our jobs are pretty high-stress. We have daily deadlines, we are trying to look for news from a perspective virtually no one else has or will report on, and occasionally the stories we write can be so high-security that if a mistake is made, a life could literally be on the line. At work, it’s easy to focus on what I have to get done, and even easier to grumble (out loud or in my mind) at the work load because it may be something outside of what I want to do. (It’s a little embarrassing even discussing this when I think about the martyrs, and persecuted believers, and suffering refugees that I write about on a daily basis, but the truth is, throughout all of that, I still manage to focus on my wants and desires.) When I come home from a day of work in this kind of environment, my default is still me.  I want to veg out in front of the TV, do something mindless, and eat dinner. It’s hard to call up a friend to check in, to write a note to my sister, or to even just consider that my husband could have had a rough day too. I’m a generally caring person, but I still find myself asking more often than not, “What does Elisa feel like doing right now?”

Some people would probably justify that. My friends will sometimes tell me that since I work a high-stress job, I deserve a break. It’s nice of them I suppose, but the trouble is, I start to believe it. But where in the Bible does it say, “Work hard until you don’t feel like it, and then focus solely on yourself”? If my days reflect my life, and my days are focused on me, my life can only be about…me. And I’m not sure that’s what Christ intended when he told us to pick up our cross and follow Him.

As I read that line from Amy Dillard, at first I thought about all the significant changes I must make to have a better day-to-day, to have a better overall life. Volunteer more! Go on a mission trip! Sell my stuff! But as I read on in that last chapter, I realized that not everyone is called to the same thing. In fact, I may be called to continue an “average” American life simply with a different focus. There is nothing wrong with a life that looks average when it’s lived for the Lord. My husband’s grandfather was a man I admired more than almost any believer, but really, the story of his life was not exceptional. He was a builder who moved from Norway to the States as a teen, never finished high school and never went to college. He didn’t sit on the board of a ministry, and I don’t know if he ever went on a mission trip. But there was something so defining about this man that just radiated Christ. He had Lymphoma toward the end of his life, and it seemed like every nurse wanted to work in his room. The joy and love that he showed to everyone on a daily basis characterized his entire life. His love for the Lord defined him. Out of all the words I would use to describe him, “selfish” would not be on even the bottom-most words on the list.

So for now, I am taking baby steps. I have started to just ask God daily to open my eyes to the wants and needs of those around me, and to respond to those before I respond to myself. I realize that asking God to help me see others’ needs is a far cry from actually being a selfless person, but maybe taking this small step on a daily basis will help to make my life a reflection of a loving person and a loving God.

 

God’s comfort

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My family still wrestles with what feels like very fresh grief over my dad’s passing last September. There are moments where things hit us and we feel this ache of his absence.

We know that he has gone to be with his Heavenly Father and no longer suffers from the limitations of this mortal coil. It’s just that sometimes, we miss him. It’s at those times when something happens that reminds us of the hope that we have in Christ our Savior, of our purpose here as followers of Christ, as co-laborers in the Kingdom of Heaven.

These reminders serve as encouragement to fight the good fight, keeping our eyes on the prize. I was thinking of my dad today and decided to read some of the devotionals he used to write for the ministry to which he dedicated his remaining years, Transport for Christ. When his health could no longer allow him to serve onsite as a chaplain, he wrote encouragement to the truck drivers and the chaplains in service.

I can hear his voice in these words. There’s great comfort in his reminder. I share his words with you so that you may also take comfort in a greater plan, and in the hope that comes from trusting God is in control:

“Most of the time, when we grieve, we grieve over something that’s happened in our lives. But there are also times when we grieve over something that hasn’t happened or “what might have been.”

Unrealized expectations and dashed hopes can paralyze us with sadness. We mourn for what we could have had, could have done or could have experienced. We live in a fog as we struggle with our unmet goals and dreams.

Are you wrestling with accepting something in your life? Mourning a shattered dream? Instead of focusing on what might have been, try focusing on what is and what could still be. Revising your dreams isn’t bad. It’s realistic. And the sooner you do, the sooner the weight of grief will let go. The fog will lift. Hope will return.”

What’s the message from the VOM tragedy?

By | news, special reports | One Comment

Late last week I received some terrible news. It was a message from Todd Nettleton. He’s a dear friend at Voice of the Martyrs. He told me in an email that a man I have admired for a long time, Tom White,  had died. The story surrounding his death is tragic. If you haven’t heard, here’s the release on VOM’s Web site:

“April 20, 2012 The Voice of the Martyrs statement concerning the death of Tom White:

The events of the last week are tragic. On Wednesday we learned that Tom White, VOM’s executive director, had died.

Allegations were made to authorities this week that Tom had inappropriate contact with a young girl. Rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life.

None of those in leadership at VOM, including our board of directors, were aware of these allegations at the time of Tom’s death.

There is no doubt that Tom cared about his wife, his children and his grandchildren. And there’s no doubt that he cared about VOM.

We are deeply saddened by these events. Our hearts are broken.

However, the work that God has called VOM to do is bigger than any one of us. There are persecuted Christians who need our help. The legal process will go forward, and we will continue serving with our persecuted brothers and sisters.

We appreciate the many who are praying for our work, and we encourage you to join us in praying for Tom’s family during this difficult time.”

What is the message from this tragedy? I wish I had an answer. I lost a lot of sleep the night I found out about this news. If this can happen in Tom’s life, this can happen in the life of ANY Christian. I Corinthians 15:10 starts by saying, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” I can only say that we would all fail if it wasn’t for God’s grace. Apart from Him we’re nothing. Apart of Christ, we can’t help but be as pagan as anyone else in the world.

The question I have is what are we doing to protect ourselves? How are we holding each other accountable? For those in high leadership positions, who’s their accountability? For men, pornography can debilitate us. It can cripple our ministries. The sexual sins are the ones Satan will use to destroy us. If it can happen to a man after God’s own heart (King David), it can happen to anyone. As Christians we need to stay in His Word and have accountability partners who we’re not just meeting with once a week. We need people who are intimately a part of our lives, asking tough probing questions.

We’ll never know what happened in this situation. If the allegations are true, a man who I admired as a man of God who cared about persecuted Christians around the world, fell. His sin cost him his life by his own hand. It puts a ministry in the cross-hairs of the secular scrutiny.

What can we do? My suggestion is pray! Pray that God would comfort Tom White’s family. They have to be feeling so much pain. Pray for the alleged victim and her family. Pray for Voice of the Martyrs. Ask God to protect them from the fall-out from what could happen as the secular press begins talking about this tragedy.  Finally, pray God’s protection for yourselves and other Christian leaders. We need your prayers. Pray that God will protect us from attacks from the Devil, and that He would protect us from ourselves.