Monthly Archives: August 2012

All we like wifi have gone astray…

Standard

You know, the Bible was written by men from the East who lived in an agricultural society.  (Now, it IS inspired by God and he does open our hearts and minds to understand it better.)  But because it’s an Eastern book, there are a lot of illustrations and phrases and word pictures that go right over my head.  I’ve had to LEARN how to understand the message.

For example, I’ve never worked in a vineyard.  So when Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a vine with a foreign species grafted in, I have to go learn something about grafting a vine to understand that the Gentiles were the foreign species and the Israelites were there original vine.  Basically you make a cut in both vines, join them together and wrap it up.  Then as the vine heals, it becomes one and the new branch is a part of the main vine.  I had to learn that to understand this illustration, but the original hearers would have captured the word picture right away.

Another common Biblical illustration that goes over my head is when Jesus talks about sheep.  I imagine that he is sitting on a hillside with a group of eager listeners around him.  He looks down the slope and sees a herd of sheep, hears them bleating and chewing, maybe sees the shepherd sitting on a rock a little distance from the group.  And he says, “Look over there, all people are like sheep who constantly wander off if someone isn’t taking care of them.”

“Ahhhh!  We know what that’s like!” Everyone smiles and nods, some nudge their neighbor, “That same thing happened to your sheep last week!”

And here’s me, the modern reader in a Western country who has only seen sheep in a pen at the State Fair, “Oh, do sheep wander off a lot?”  Maybe if the Bible would have been written in my context the illustration would have sounded like this:

All people are as committed as a lousy wifi connection in a third world country.

Then I would have chuckled and nodded, “Yep, I gotcha.  Fifty percent of the time it’s slow and the other 50% it’s just not connecting.”  I get it, we’re sporadic and unfocused.  That’s the kind of illustration that would capture my attention.

So when people say you must STUDY the Bible, part of what you must study is how things used to be done. (Want to learn more about sheep behaviors?  click here) History and archaeology will help.  A little knowledge of Middle Eastern customs and culture will help.  And the Holy Spirit will help too.  Ask God to help you understand what you are reading.  Without his illumination, you will feel like I do sometimes.  You’ll feel like you’re missing something that made sense to the original audience.

Ask God to help you understand, and he will.

“All we, like sheep, have gone astray.  Each of us has turned to our own way…” Isaiah 53:6a

Advertisements

How Francis Chan Rescued My Husband from a River

Standard

Once upon a time, before we were missionaries, we were in youth ministry.  We have some lingering side effects of having spent so many years with teenagers, and one of them is that we are always on the look-out for great sermon illustrations and object lessons.  Kids remember stories and illustrations more than anything.

So one day I was surfing around on youtube for good illustrations and I found a simple, but profound illustration by author and preacher Francis Chan.  In this illustration, Francis uses a really long rope.  One end of the rope has about 6 inches of red tape wrapped around the end.  Holding up the red tape, Francis begins to talk about our time on Earth.  He lists all the things that tend to occupy our thoughts and concerns as we pass through our brief time on Earth.

This red part of the rope represents our time here on Earth.  And all the rest of the rope represents eternity.  We have a very brief moment called “Time” and we spend the majority of our energies concentrating on the things that are only relative to this little section called Time.  Comparatively speaking, we spend a very small amount of time and energy thinking about things that relate to eternity.  This is a profound and shocking illustration… and it actually saved my husband’s life.

When Josh and the team from California went to the tribe and got caught on the wrong side of the flash-flooded river, my husband happened to have the rope from this illustration in the back of his car!  When the water level rose from knee height to arm pit height in a matter of minutes and loose bolders and trees pounded their way downstream, the missionaries strung the rope across the river and tied each end to one car on each bank.  Using the rope, the last members of the team and Josh were able to cross the river in the nick of time.  So I like to say that Francis Chan saved my husband’s life with his rope illustration.  A good illustration can be worth more than we realize!

This is a 6 minute illustration… a POWERFUL 6 minute illustration… that just might change your life today and your eternity forever.  Watch it!

Food from Ravens and Taxes from Fish

Standard

Elijah the prophet had obeyed God and ordered it to stop raining on Israel.  This really pissed off that wicked king Ahab, husband of Jezebel.  Then God told Elijah, “Get out of here, fast.  Head east and hide out at the Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River.  You can drink fresh water from the brook; I’ve ordered the ravens to feed you.” (1 Kings 17).

OK, pause the story.

Ravens?  God, don’t you remember that Ravens are an unclean bird according to your OWN law?  If you can command birds to bring your servant food, then why did you choose an unclean bird?  Why not a dove?  You seem to like doves.

Times are going to keep getting tougher.  The financial crisis is just the beginning, I believe.  The world is going to get so desperate that they are going to be willing to accept very drastic measures to balance the books and to ensure peace between warring nations.    Things are not going to get better.  Brace yourselves.

BUT there is good news.  Amazing news!!  God is your Provider.  Obama is right about this point, “you didn’t build that”… that’s right, God did.  Every bite of food you enjoy comes from God.  Every penny in your bank account comes from God.  Every drop of rain that falls from the sky onto thirsty farm land and fire ravaged forests comes from God.  He is your Provider.

In America things could get a whole lot worse.  We still have a lot of belt tightening that could happen.  So when things start getting scary, I want you to remember Elijah and the Ravens.  If God could feed his prophet by having birds bring him food, he can miraculously provide for you too.  If God can provide manna from Heaven and water from a rock for his people wandering in the wilderness, then he can meet your daily needs too.  If Jesus can multiply a child’s sack lunch to feed thousands of men, women and children, then he can feed you and your family too.  If Jesus can order Peter to catch a fish and scoop out the coin in his mouth to pay for their taxes, then God can supply your needs financially as well.  (Matthew 17:27)

Yes, I’m sure you have places where your excess needs to be trimmed, but when you start to see the signs of very scary times coming, YOU ARE NOT TO FEAR.  You are to run to God and trust him to provide for you.  If God provided before he can do it again.  Fear not.  (Matthew 6:25-34)

When God Drags Me

Standard

This is a funny comic that has been circulating on Facebook for a few days now and I admit, I snorted in laughter when I first read it.  Yeah, I get it.  Sometimes “Life’s a drag” (wah-wah-wah).  I’ve had times in my life when I’ve felt like God was dragging me along.  I dug in my heels, refused to budge, and God used circumstances to drag me forward in whatever He wanted for my life.

Hosea was commanded by God to marry the prostitute Gomer and to have children with her.  Their dysfunctional marriage became a tangible picture to the people of Israel of how they were being unfaithful to their covenant with God.  Like a prostitute, the people of God were lusting after other gods and throwing themselves at other lovers.

So Hosea the prophet warns Israel of God’s punishment of their rebellion with these words:

“She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’  Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes.  I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.  She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them.  Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'”  Hosea 2:5-7.

God used a hedge of circumstances to drive unfaithful Israel back into his arms.

God also uses hedges for our protection.  In the book of Job, Satan complains that God has put a hedge around Job, his household and everything he owned so Satan couldn’t touch Job (Job 1:10).  So in order to prove Job’s dedication through trials, God removed the hedge and allowed Satan to take away comfort and health and all that God had blessed Job with.  Job withstood the trial and refused to curse God.  In this, we get another picture of how God uses hedges to protect us.

So it comes down to this.  You can’t fight God.  God does what He wants with our lives.  If you dig in your heels, He’ll just drag you along.  If you’re wandering away from Him, He’ll throw thorn bushes in your path to turn you around.  And when you find your pleasure in Him, He will shelter you with a hedge of protection.

God will have His way, no matter what.  He may throw you over his shoulder and carry you when you’re weak and tired, or He may drag you along until you stand on your own two feet and obediently follow His leading.  God is God and you are not.  God does what He wants in the way He wants to do it.  And no one can challenge Him.  He is the God of the Universe and He will have His way.

Real Men don’t wear Skinny Jeans

Standard

One day, preacher and author Francis Chan asked his little girl, “Who’s the best Dad in the World?” obviously fishing for a compliment.

And his daughter replied, “Charles Ingalls,”  the father from Little House on the Prairie.  I get this because my daughter is a huge Little House fan.  Pa was the Man!  That was a bit of a shocker for her Dad, but then he started thinking about what it means to be a real man.

This is a clip from the sermon where Francis Chan tells men to Suck it up and be a man!  This segment was from about 14 minutes to 18 minutes.  Below I’ve transcribed the parts that grabbed my attention.

1 Cor. 16:13  “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith.  Act like men, be strong.  (NASB)

“When do you ever hear, in our culture, a message that says ‘Act like a man’?  We’re living in a day and age when everyone is trying to get rid of all the male and female distinctions and say we’re all just the same.  God didn’t uniquely design us.  There are no differences.  It’s politically incorrect to say ‘Act like a man’.  When’s the last time you heard someone say that?

“You get this barrage of messages telling you the opposite.  Find your feminine side, look deep inside, express yourself.  It’s all this trying to feminize manhood.  Then you hear someone say, ‘Act like a Man, the Bible commands you to.’  I’d never heard that before… (and I would personally add, Real Men don’t wear skinny jeans!  Act like a man!  Of course Mr. Chan did not say that, but take it from me, I’m a woman and I think skinny jeans are girly.  But back to the real message…)

“Suck it up and act like a man.  When do you hear that?  All the messages today are like, It’s not your fault, come here and I’ll hug you, you poor victim.  So for a man to stand on a platform and say ‘Suck it up and act like a man’ was like, wow!  I’ve never heard these words.  We don’t preach this anymore.  But they are the exact words that Paul uses here.

“He uses these military terms in 1 Corinthians 16.  He says, I’m speaking to some soldiers here.  We’re actually in a war here.  There’s a battle for your soul, your mind, your family, your conscious.  You’ve gotta fight.  So he uses these military phrases.  He says, ‘Be on the Alert’, be watchful looking for the enemy.  He says, ‘Men you’re in a war here.  You were born for this battle.  You’re in a war, so start acting like it.’

“Stand firm in your faith.  It means don’t retreat.  The enemy is coming for you.  But you stand your ground, stand strong in your faith.  You don’t go running away to cry in the corner.  No, you stand your ground, it’s an order… You’re going to feel like so many things are flying at you, temptations and problems.  And the world will be telling you to run away, but Paul says, ‘act like a man’.  Stand your ground, stand firm in your faith.  You’re in a war, what did you expect?

“Act like men and be strong.  That defines what a man is… a man is defined by his strength.  It’s not just about physical strength… it’s about this mental toughness that doesn’t back down.  There are times when you will feel overwhelmed and you’ll want to give up, but these words will ring in your mind and you’ll think, ‘No, I’m a man!  I don’t run.  I stand up and God is going to give me the strength.’  A man’s just gotta do what a man’s gotta do, no matter if it’s not popular or people will hate you for it.  God’s called you to be strong.”

From the Sermon entitled “Suck it up and Be a Man” by Francis Chan

Kingdom of Comfort

Standard

Kingdom of Comfort by Delirious?

Save me.  Save me, From the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king, From my unhealthy lust of material things.

I built myself a happy home, in my palace on my own.  My castle falling in the sand.  Pull me out, please grab my hand!  I just forgot where I came from.

Save me.  Save me, From the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king, From my unhealthy lust of material things.

I rob myself of innocence, with the poison of indifference.  I buy my stuff at any cost, a couple of clicks and I pay the price, Coz’ what I gain is someone else’s loss.

Save me.  Save me, From the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king, From my unhealthy lust of material things.

Save me.  Save me, From the Kingdom of Comfort where I am king.  To this Kingdom of Heaven where You are King.

Purity is Better than Poop

Standard

A friend of mine posted a great little story on Facebook the other day and I thought I’d share it with you.  He couldn’t remember where he first read it, so if it was in your book… I’m not stealing your work.  I’d be happy to give credit where credit is due.  My friend wrote:

I can’t remember what book it was in, but some time ago my wife and I read about this man having a teachable momment with his kids.

His kids wanted to go see a movie with some friends of theirs and tried to persuade him to give them the ok. “It’s a good movie, Dad” they said. “It’s rated PG and only has a couple of swear words in it.” Dad contemplated in silence for a momment before saying: “I’ll let you go to the movie, but before you go, you have to let me bake some brownies for you and you each have to eat one.” Naturally, their faces lit with excitement. “Wow, Dad, you’re the greatest” they all agreed.

So Dad buzzed about the kitchen and whipped up a batch of brownies. When he’d finished, he called out to the kids and they all came running in anticipation of their mouthwatering treat. “Now before you take a bite,” said Dad, “there’s a small catch: When I mixed up the batter for the brownies, I added in a little bit of cat poop from the litter box. But it’s just a little bit and won’t hurt you if you eat it so go ahead.” All the kids were overcome with shock and disgust as Dad explained. “You see, kids, the movie may look like a real good movie and may even be enjoyable. But having just a little bit of swearing in it is like having just a little bit of cat poop in your brownies. It looks fine and exciting on the outside, but in the end it will put something ugly and distasteful inside of you.”

Like if you agree with raising children in purity.

Well, when you put it THAT way, yeah, purity is better than cat poop brownies any day.  As a former youth pastor’s wife, I love a good illustration.  I have at least a dozen illustrations about purity, but I hadn’t heard that one yet.

The little things can have a powerful influence!  A little yeast works it’s way through the whole loaf.  (see Matthew 13:33)  Teaching our kids to “draw the line” a good, far distance from the edge of disaster is never a wasted effort.  We are super careful about what movies we watch, what books our kids read, who they hang out with, and what they put before their eyes.  (We also don’t allow them to eat any poop.)  You know, it’s the little things that define a character.

Where do Babies come from?

Standard

We were just having an ordinary lunch at home when my 5-year-old asked a random question.  Out of the blue she says, “So, when you’re married, does God sneak up on you and put the baby in you?”

Fork suspended in mid-air between my plate and my mouth, I had to force myself to look at her with a straight face.  “Why yes, my dear, that’s exactly how it happens.”  I’m a good mom, and I didn’t want to traumatize her with more information than I thought she could handle at age 5.  After all, we still don’t use the anatomically correct names of the body parts in our household.  Imagine explaining the Birds and the Bees with vocabulary that includes “nibbies, yoo-hoo, and cheeky monkey”.  I don’t think so.

But the Apostle James wasn’t so concerned about the tender innocence of his readers when he wrote his description of how a “sin baby” is born.  In James 1:14-15 he wrote:

“The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us.  We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lusts.  Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby:  sin!  Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.” (The Message Version)

Other versions say when we are dragged off and enticed by our own evil desires, then sin is conceived.  God does not tempt us.  Satan has been around long enough, watching the human race, that he’s an expert at where to find our weaknesses.  With a little depth sounding and poking around, he quickly finds your pressure points.  That’s when he attacks… not head on, but from the side, all sly and sexy, easy and secretive.  “Did God really say you couldn’t eat of ANY fruit in the garden?”  That meanie, old God.  He doesn’t want you to have ANY fun.  Bait and hook, you’re caught.  Then he can drag you away and rape your spirit.

When, because of your lusts and desires for more, you open your mouth and swallow that hook, you are impregnated.  As a zygote turns into a baby, so a tiny lust grows into sin.

God told Cain, brother of Abel and first-born of Adam and Eve, “Sin is crouching at your door waiting to pounce on you, but you must master it!”  In Abel’s case, a bad attitude led to jealousy and hatred of his brother which led to murder.  When sin becomes an adult, it becomes a real killer.  It may kill others, but it will always kill you.

You can’t hide that Sin Baby behind your little fig leaf.  God sees all.  God knows your thoughts even before you do!  No, the only way to kill the Sin Baby is to expose it.  Throw it out from the shelter of your warm embrace.  Repentance is the only thing that can stop this deadly spiritual cycle.  “Repentance” is not a popular word, but it is the only cure for the hook you swallowed.  Tell Father God what you’ve done.  Tell him you’re sorry and ask him to forgive you.  God draws near to the broken and contrite heart.  A bruised reed he won’t break off.  Repent and He will forgive you and heal you.

Tired of Food

Standard

I was sitting at a cafe table in front of an ice cream shop within walking distance from our house.  It was a lovely summer evening with the long, late rays of sun painting the world golden.  I was licking away at the drips sliding down the cone of my lemon sorbet and thinking of how refreshing this was, how delightfully tangy.  But suddenly I stopped in mid lick and decided I had had enough.

My friend asked me, “Are you full already?”

I paused, thought, and responded, “No, I’m just tired of that flavor.”  My taste buds were bored already.

When I said it, I realized what a privileged and extravagant attitude that was.  I’m bored with this food.  This food no longer entertains my mouth.

Here in Costa Rica people eat rice and beans almost every day.  They joke that if you want some variety to your rice and beans, you can have beans and rice.  And if you’re really wild and crazy, you can mix the rice and beans!  I can’t imagine eating that way, eating the same foods day in and day out.  We have 4 different kinds of cereal in our cabinet because no one likes to eat the same cereal every morning!  Imagine eating something as bland as rice and beans for your whole life!

We have hosted 8 teams this summer and one of the hardest things about the logistics of team hosting is feeding them 3 times a day.  Americans don’t like to eat the same thing every day.  And Americans don’t want to repeat the same TYPE of food too many times in the week either.  We get bored with the same food all the time.  

So every day Josh and I have to think about our schedule with the team.  We think about where we are going to be when a meal time comes around.  What restaurants are around that can feed so many people at once?  What restaurants are within their budget and WHAT HAVEN’T THEY EATEN YET?  Seriously, Americans will complain if the food is repetitive.

Many years ago we took a team of our youth kids on a missions trip to Utah, traveling by car and vans.  To save money, we planned sandwiches and basic home-made lunches that we could make on the side of the road.  No joke, TEN YEARS LATER those kids still remind us of how sick and tired they were of eating sandwiches every day for lunch!!!  No one remembers any of the ministry we did, any of the sites we saw in Yellowstone National Park, or anyone who gave their life to Jesus… but they all remember the crappy lunches we ate.

We get bored with our food.  Imagine that.  The entertainment value of our food determines the quantity of food we consume while half the world goes to bed hungry every night.  That’s just not right.  And I am as guilty as you are.  When I decided I was done with my lemon sorbet, I really did look around to see if there were any starving Chinese kids standing around who I could give it to.  But there were none, so I threw it away.

But I thought about how many Moms scold their family’s wastefulness with the line, “Eat your food, there are starving children in China who would love to have what you have!”  If I ever figure out how to send ice cream to China, I’ll let you know.  But in the meantime, we should all think more about why we put food into our mouths and what is our attitude towards our food.  Are we genuinely thankful for not just our Daily Bread which Father God provides, but for the abundance of food we have access to, or are we picky and only seeking to entertain our taste buds.

Proverbs 30:8 “… Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”  Is that truly our attitude and prayer?

When God shows you his back

Standard

“Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks…”

But…

“What of all the memories where Christ seems absent?  When the bridge shakes and heaves… when we look back and see God’s back.

Wasn’t that too his way with Moses?  ‘When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.  Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back.’  (Exodus 33:22-23)

Is that it?  When it gets dark, it’s only because God has tucked me in a cleft of the rock and covered me, protected, with His hand?  In the pitch, I feel like I’m falling, sense the bridge giving way, God long absent.  In the dark, the bridge and my world shakes, crackling dreams.  But maybe this is true reality:  It is in the dark that God is passing by.  The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite:  God is passing by.  God is in the tremors.  Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by.  In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will.  Though it is black and we can’t see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us, I-beam supporting in earthquake.  The He will remove His hand.  Then we will look. Then we will look back and see His back.”

Once again Ann Voskamp blew my mind!  “One Thousand Gifts”.  Can I say anything more?  This is so simple and yet so profound.  This is going to take a while to process and apply.