Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who Do You Know?

Sometimes there are things about Christian culture that are quirky! We just returned from the annual Pastor's Appreciation Banquet with the Gideons - you know, the ones that hand out all the Bibles. It was a great evening and a guy shared a very cool testimony about how he found Christ through one of the bibles in prison. But there is something different about those meetings.

I had the same feeling when we were at the conference last month. It was a great conference and I learned a ton! But there is something funny about all of us Christians going to a conference with our coffee and our bibles and milling about in the bookstore buying Christian books. Maybe we stand out and do things differently because of our devotion to Christ. I hope that's it and it's not our devotion to "Christianness".

So, for us who are followers of Christ we are comfortable at a Gideon's banquet or a bible conference. The real question is do you know anybody who wouldn't be? Mike had read in a book somewhere that a non-Christian coming to one of our churches would be about as comfortable as me going to a gay bar. And I can tell you that would be pretty uncomfortable. Uncomfortable enough to make me want to run away and never go back!

Think about it! Do you know any non-Christians? It's so easy to get wrapped up in the "Christianness" of Christian culture that we never venture out. We don't talk to people who aren't like us. We aren't friends with people that don't have the same doctrinal theology as us.

Here are a few example from my life this past week that pointed out to me the opportunities I have to share Christ with others.

Have you ever gone to a high school football game and visited with someone you know who was already obviously sauced (that's drunk)?

Have you ever had someone at your kitchen table who sees no problem with bringing her daughter along to spend the weekend at her boyfriends house? Oh and that's why they can't make it to church right now.

Have you ever talked to a friend that believes in the Big Bang Theory? And assumes that you do too!

Have you ever listened to someone talk politics and realized you are on the opposite end of the spectrum?

If things like this never happen, then maybe we need to go to less Christian banquets and more gay bars. Ok, not literally, but we need to get out there in the world. We can't tell the lost about Jesus if we never talk to them, go to the same places as them, or listen to their talk (as crazy as it may seem). Jesus spent his time with the lowest people in society. He went places the religous establishment didn't approve of because as Mark 2:17 says: On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

I'm all for fellowship and feeding! I love worshipping with my church family and being with them is like a little taste of heaven on earth. But if we keep to ourselves we are falling down on the job God has for us here, to evangelize the lost.

So who do you know? If you can't think of anyone outside of your Christian circle, maybe it's time to get out there! Neighbors, co-workers, your kids' friends and their families, the guy at the coffee shop - the world is full of hurting people looking for hope. We have the Hope and it's not very "Christian" not to share it.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to bey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 5:14-16
"You ar the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Luke 15:2
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

Is God Bigger Than Elections?

I am soooo very tired of all the political ads on the radio, TV, the lawn signs and the arguing. I have a good idea! I think that the candidates should take all the millions of dollars they are spending on advertising and donate it to the bailout plan. Really are they changing any minds?

I plan to vote. But I get worried about a lot of Christians and Christian groups that are making politics their religion. A while ago I was reading some parts of the Old Testament. I noticed that there were good, Godly Kings and bad, evil Kings and God worked out His divine plan through it all. And I thought, is God not in control of all this no matter what the outcome? Are we trying to change people's political persuasions or their hearts?

As I was ranting about this to Mike, he emailed me this clip out of one of the commentaries he was reading.

This is from Peter Enns (NIV Application Commentary) which ties with your thoughts in recent days.
" election years in particular, it seems that there are many in the church today who do not see the behind-the-scenes God of the Exodus.
"For some, the very fate of the country depends on whether the right people are elected into office. The Spiritual character of our county (if there even is such a thing) seems to be determined more by the character of the 'new pharaoh' we elect rather than by the character of the ever-present God by whose command rulers rise and fall.
"...the reality of God's presence in the lives of Americans, Germans, Mexican, Koreans, and whomever, does not depend on politics (56)."

I never thought I would have the same thoughts as a Bible scholar! But I think maybe some of the modern Evangelical movement has its priorities in the wrong place and has lost sight of the Powerful God we serve. Nothing is out of his control!

Exodus 9:13-16
The the Lord said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues agains you and against your officials and your peope, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could ha stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

2 Kings 15:8-9
In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned six months. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his fathers had done.

2 Kings 15:17-18
In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.

2 Kings 15:23
In the fifieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned two years. Pekehiah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.

Keep reading, it goes on and on!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Trials

I'm going to post something that my friend Jenn Johnson wrote on her Caring Bridge site. Her 9 year old son has Epilepsy and a host of other health and behavioral concerns. I was very moved and appreciative of her honesty and insight on her last update and she gave me permission to share it. I'm feeling pretty sappy tonight, Love to you all!

Hello Friends and Family,
This is Jenn. Sorry it’s been a while since we’ve updated. We sort of left things on a discouraging note. To be honest… not much has changed. I have been struggling lately and didn’t feel that excited to update you all. A feeling of hopelessness overcame me for a while to the point that when someone would tell me that they were praying for Caleb or our family, etc. part of me would think, “Well, why bother?” Why bother. Caleb is still struggling with seizures. Doctors don’t have the answers. We now have to visit a cardiologist to learn about a new condition. Our family can barely spend time together because Caleb can’t function in the same room with his siblings for more than 10 minutes without causing major problems. It’s hard to have friends over because of Caleb. Joel and I feel trapped - it’s hard to leave Caleb with anyone. Homeschooling Caleb is going fine, but it makes me more aware of Caleb’s cognitive deficits. Our other three kids still have to come second to all the attention we have to spend on Caleb. Some of our dear friends and neighbors who are a huge support to us are moving to Oklahoma this week. We will miss them dearly. We don’t understand why Joel’s dad has to go through this battle with cancer. Why bother to pray about it all because nothing seems to change and in fact some new sad things have come along to rock our world even more?

So like I said this is where I was at. No huge event happened that brought me out of that sad state, but slowly, lovingly God whispered His truth to me. The first truth I clung to was that David, Job, and many other people in the Bible wrestled, struggled, and questioned God at times and God was okay with that. The second truth was that God does want us to come to Him, talk to Him, and give Him our burdens. He will give rest. So I became okay with other people praying for us, but I was still not sure that God should be trusted. Finally a whisper kept telling me that I was believing a lie. What lie? I think the core lie was that God is not trustworthy. How can I trust a God that isn’t taking better care of me and my family? I felt like I can clearly see what needs to be healed so why doesn’t God do that? Why doesn’t God do what I want? After thinking some about who else there is to trust with things of life like myself, other religions, or other people I came back to the fact that deep in my soul I do believe that God created the world, the sun, moon, and stars. He is in control and He does care. The God of the universe has precious thoughts about me - more than the grains of sand - not just the sand in my sandbox or the sand on one beach but the sand in the whole world. Precious thoughts - not cruel or judgmental thoughts. He created me and He knows my name. The God who created the universe and is infinite compared to my finite life can and should be trusted to step with me each and every step of my journey.

God may never choose in His infinite wisdom to reveal to me the reasons that He allowed certain pain and hurt in my life. Like the man in the Bible who said, “Lord I believe. Help me with my unbelief.” (paraphrased) I feel like saying to God, “Lord I trust you. Help me trust you more.”

Thanks again to all of you for praying and walking through this journey with us. We are always amazed at how many of you still check in on us and keep up with our updates.

Before I wrap this update up let me share that Caleb has an appointment on October 20th in Madison to see the cardiologist. We have been in a holding pattern with all meds until we can see him and get more information on the arrhythmia. As always… we’ll keep you posted. God Bless.
Jenn (and Joel)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Real Life Adventures

Who says being a Mom is dull? Last week Grant fell off his bike and got a concussion. This week after teaching the preschool Sunday School about the stoning of Stephen (How do you tell a bunch of 3 year olds about that one????) we tried to sit in church. Maren and Annie were trying to escape through the side door. When I brought them back, Maren made her displeasure known very loudly. We went out to the back. Maren found the cookies and dumped them all over the floor. While I was cleaning that up, Annie was climbing the stair railing, knocked over the missions display and set the globe sailing.

We left early to get ready for the Sunday School kids to come over for lunch and a trip to the Corn Maze next door. It was kind of crazy and there were a lot of people. The phone rang and it was the Sheriff's office asking if everything was ok. Well, apparently it was Fire Safety week in school and Abby decided to try calling 9-1-1. As I was profusely apologizing to the lady on the phone, the squad car pulled up. He told us when he saw all the cars he figured someone else would have called if there was really something wrong. He was really gracious and we offered him a hot dog, which he declined. What on earth was she thinking?

We walked to the Corn Maze and the kids ran around and had fun. They visited the sheep, goat and horses. The kids ate and went to bed.

We had a difficult confrontation situation later on that evening. I hate conflict and it makes me sick to my stomach but I know it had to be done. How was your day?

These are the adventures of a real life Mommy Missionary!

Does Wall Street Hold Your Treasure?

I'm sure everyone knows by now that we are in a financial crisis! I guess it's time to PANIC! I don't have any interests on Wall Street and it is good to see the price of gas coming down. But really when the economy is in trouble, nothing is good. If people don't have money in their pockets they are not happy. Truth be told, I'm not too happy when I don't have money in my pocket either! I'm trying to decide if this whole thing is bigger than maybe it would be if we weren't so close to a Presidential election.

Mike went to visit a guy who is in the "financial" business this week. He is just a wreck about what's going on, not only for his customers but because his income comes from what his customers make. I was thinking about that during church this week. We had a family that lost a two year old granddaughter last month, a man with four kids who lost their wife and mother to cancer last winter and a women who was widowed just last week worshiping with us. When you think about feeling hurt over the money you lost or don't have in comparison to that kind of hurt it just seems foolish!

I have a friend from my high school youth group whose parents house burned to the ground this week. They lost everything except what they had packed for a trip they were about to take. Her dad owned a successful business and was very generous in giving jobs. He helped a lot of people with what God gave him. They have a lot of earthly wealth and I'm sure they had a lovely home. But if that's all they were living for or cared about, their hearts and hope would be at the bottom of that fire.

Jesus has a lot to say in Matthew about being focused on earthly possessions. Matthew 6:19-21 says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I'm trying to make this point to my kids. They are normal and feel frustrated when we can't buy everything they want or go out and do things all the time. Just as I am learning the lessons of Matthew 6, so are they. Our kids can learn to rely on God and stay focused on Him, not things. I hope they are realizing there are a lot more important things in life and bigger problems than wanting a new stuffed animal or going to see the new movie that came out.

Sometimes it is frustrating to not have very much. But it sure makes it easier to weather financial storms when you don't have much to lose. I know that focusing on God and His daily provisions for us and on the mission he's given us on earth to tell others about His amazing grace and sacrifice for us pays more than the stock market ever could.

It also makes it easier to look forward to eternity and not hold on to the things of this world. I mean I might be sad to leave a Jaguar behind, but an old full-size van - not so much!

Matthew 6:33-34
"But seek fist his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."