Tag Archives: Missions

Whatever You Ask

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other. (Jn 15:16-17 NLT)

When Beth and I accepted our call into missions and a subsequent appointment to TWR we chose this verse for our very first prayer card. There is a lot of great theology in these two verses to apply daily in our lives. There is also a possibility of misunderstanding. Such a simple, profound statement can open venues in our Christian walk and, if we’re not careful can put stumbling blocks on our path.

I find five astounding facts impacting my relationship with God and the world in these two short verses. The first, and perhaps the most humbling of all, is that we did not choose God. Instead, the second fact, God chose us, not the other way around. Yes, I believe in free will to accept the gift of salvation purchased through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

On the other hand I believe God calls certain individuals to special tasks. In this case He is the one who chooses us for the task. When we decide and tell God what task we should be doing I think we’re getting a little too big for our britches, as my Momma would say.

Beth and I did not choose mission work. In fact I was avoiding it for many years. It was only as God worked in and through our lives that we became aware of His special choice. My choice would have been much different. But we obeyed, pressed on and God has been guiding our steps year after year.

In our calling God appointed us to go and produce lasting fruit, the third fact. When God makes a special choice for our lives there is a purpose, there will be fruit. Thanks to God working in our lives we’ve be able to help enable the global distribution of the Gospel message.

We’ve heard from many who listened and responded to God’s marvelous offer of eternal life. Lasting fruit was produced not by us but by God. The interesting offshoot of obeying God’s choice is that the Father will give us whatever we ask in His name, the fourth fact.

I don’t think this is an unlimited credit card allowing us to fulfill every whim and desire that pops up in our minds. That would be selfishness and greedy on our part. I think He is saying that in the midst of obedience God provides everything we ask in order to accomplish the calling He has made in our lives. God doesn’t toss us into a ministry without providing the necessary tools to accomplish his purposes. It’s in His name and for His purpose, like a combination lock, that we can ask for anything and trust God will provide.

The last fact, one that permeates scripture from beginning to end, is the command to love each another. I always find it thrilling and a challenge that the command to love each other never contains qualifiers. Love, Jesus tells us, is the universal demonstration of a follower of Christ. Without love we are just noise in a world filled with noise. With love, we are like that candle on the hill shinning, in the darkness to guide others through the shadows into the light and love of God.

Have we chosen our work for God or allowed God to choose us for His work? In the work He chooses for us are we fruitful and relying on God’s provision to accomplish the work? Are we loving each other?

Let’s place our lives fully in God’s hands. I can assure you from my personal experience He knows much better what I should do than I. And I’m glad to let him take control.

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Taking Aim

(NLT) Romans 14:19 “So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

When I was a young boy my father purchased a .22 calibre rifle just for fun. We would go out to a safe area, put up some cans and see how long it took until we could hit them. I wasn’t very good at it. In fact I was terrible. I could blame it on the size of the rifle (not big by any means) and my small stature at the time. Regardless, the entire event was fun and fascinating.

In the following years, even though I thought sharp shooting would be good, I never owned a gun or took up shooting except for the occasional BB gun.

It wasn’t until I was much older, over sixty, that I picked up a weapon and pointed it at something else. A target in this case. I was visiting one of my sons and I knew he and his wife enjoyed target shooting now and again. I casually mentioned I had never fired a pistol in my life so he offered to take me to the range. I was thrilled. This was a new adventure.

He carefully pulled out the secure gun cases and showed me all the bits and pieces of the pistols. He had two sizes, large and small, the same calibre, but the smaller one was great for his wife. We drove down to the closest shooting range, picked up safety glasses and ear protection from the desk and entered the target room.

My son hung the target and pushed the button to whisk it about twenty feet away. It was the common human outline you see a lot in police movies. I was going to practice like a policeman. Cool beans!

Just then the one other fellow in the room, a few stalls down the line started shooting. I hadn’t donned my ear protection and it was loud. I jumped at the sound and quickly covered my ears. With my aversion to loud noises this might not be such a good idea.

Again, my son showed me the pieces of the weapon, how to hold it and not lose some skin, and when and where to point. I faced the target and took up what I thought was an appropriate stance. I lifted the pistol up. I pointed at the target and pulled the trigger. It was loud, it was exciting, and . . . I hit the target! Granted at that distance I think anyone could hit the target. I was just to the right of center and the following shots were grouped in the same area. At least I was consistent.

I’d like to think my son was a little impressed at my consistency and accuracy. Not bad for a first timer. I haven’t done any target shooting since then but remember the excitement and downright fun taking proper aim at the target.

I often wonder what I’m aiming at in life. I get up. I go the the ministry office. I work with computers. My aim is to enable the gospel message to reach as many people as possible through any avenue available. Judging by the listener responses our aim is pretty good. I’m constantly correcting and adjusting my aim to be more effective.

When it comes to my relationships in the body of Christ, I hope my aim is to build up others. As the verse above notes I want to work towards harmony. In any local church, much more in the global body of Christ, there is a wide diversity of opinion on many subjects.

I don’t want everyone to think or agree with all my interpretations or applications, but I want there to be harmony in all things. Granted there are some theological points I stand firm on but many of the things we argue about are just personal applications and not to be universally applied. Like sharp shooting I constantly make adjustments to my aim so I can better encourage others and bring harmony in the body.

As we interact with the body of Christ, the local church, and the world let’s consider what are we aiming to accomplish? Do we seek to foster harmony to build up others or inject disharmonious ideas and actions tearing down others?

I think Paul is encouraging us to build up not tear down. Let’s focus our aim, get out our gloves, pitch in and build up one another in harmony.

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X is for Xenodochy

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. (Hebrews 13:1-2 ESV)

Did you know there are no words that begin with the letter “X” in the English bible? At least I couldn’t find one. So, I was stymied until I ran across the word, xenodochy. If you know the meaning of this word, I congratulate you. I had no idea until I looked it up. Thankfully it fits right in this alphabetic look at Christian theology.

This word, which I think is great to slip into a conversation, is a 17th century word for hospitality. A xenodochial person likes to extend hospitality to others and entertain strangers. I think this readily describes my wife. She loves to entertain both friends and strangers. In our years of ministry, we’ve entertained many strangers. Once we entertained them, we got to know them, and then they were no longer strangers.

Since I was young, I’ve always been fascinated with the above verse In Hebrews. To consider the possibility that I, mostly with my wife’s excellent talents, may have entertained an angel boggles my mind. Only because we were willing to entertain someone could this happen. I suspect if I’d known so-and-so was an angel I might have behaved differently and “put on the dog” to properly demonstrate my exceeding and humble graciousness. That just wouldn’t do.

Hospitality is something we’re called to extend as faithful followers of Christ. Peter reminds us to, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9 ESV) It’s fascinating that Peter tags on those last two words, “without grumbling.” I can be found guilty of grumbling over the intrusion of another guest in our home. It takes effort to show hospitality. It takes grace to bring someone into your home and extend hospitality to them.

But what exactly is hospitality? According to dictionary.com hospitality is, “The quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.” It isn’t “putting on airs” in an attempt to impress your visitor. It’s the ability to make someone feel at home and comfortable with you. I love it when I go into someone’s home, whether they’re known or a stranger, and I quickly feel like I’m home. It’s disarming and allows me to relax and be my true self.

Spending time in the home of strangers around the world I’ve experienced this comfortable acceptance. Even in places where the host and I didn’t speak the same language, and relied on an intermediary to translate, I’ve felt the gracious hand of hospitality extended my way. Granted, I’m not an angel in disguise but I’d like to think I was able to bring encouragement and comfort to those who took me in while traveling. I think it’s important to let a hospitable host know how much I appreciate their efforts in accepting me into their home.

Paul, while writing to the Romans, inserted this encouraging note, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13 ESV) While in Hebrews we’re encouraged to show hospitality because it might be an angel in disguise and we don’t want to miss that opportunity, in Romans hospitality is encourage to fellow believers. Between these two I think God is trying to tell us to always show hospitality. Always make people around us feel comfortable. And, always do this without grumbling because it should be a privilege and joy, not a burden.

When dealing with strangers I’m reminded, as a Gentile, I too was a stranger to God. Paul reminds us to, “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12 ESV) But God offered us hospitality and redemption. We were strangers but thanks to Jesus we are no longer strangers because now we know him.

How are we showing hospitality? Do we grumble and complain that our home is invaded by strangers or because we “have to” show hospitality to fellow believers? I’ve been there. I think it’s part of our fallen human nature battling with the comfort we feel as Jesus welcomes us into an eternal family. But I learned. We all can learn. We want to feel comfortable in unknown situations. Perhaps we need to insure we extend that comfort to those we don’t know who enter our unknown situation.

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C is for Calling

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?( 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 NIV)

Calling is a unique subject, especially among missionaries like me. I feel that I, including my wife and family, was called into missionary service. It wasn’t my choice but God’s. My choice would’ve been a cushy job with a comfy house near family and lifelong friends. I wouldn’t have chosen to tramp around the world bringing the gospel message to billions. But I was called, clearly and unequivocally into full time ministry.

For me it was clear but it seems like a cloud in the minds of many believers. They don’t want to be called to something because they become responsible. Being responsible means taking the blame for failure along with the adulation of success. Some don’t want to be called because they are afraid God might call them to something they don’t like or feel unqualified to accomplish. Many don’t want to be called because they fear the unknown.

Fortunately we’re not all called to do all things. The bible doesn’t provide an exhaustive list of options, just some key items where we might be called. In Corinthians Paul touches on some high profile areas. But even in his list he recognizes not all ministries are for all believers. His questions are rhetorical expecting the repeated answer “no.” Look at my calling, are all called to be missionaries? The answer is “no.” So what do we do?

guam59We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8 NIV)

The key is responding to whatever you’re called to do. And whatever we do we must do with full abandon. I would add some other callings might include, motherhood, fatherhood, businessman, business woman, or just being a neighborhood example. Not all require an outgoing personality. Some are sedate and simple. Some are natural some require training and/or stepping out of our comfort zone. All require all of our effort.

Don’t let others decide your calling. That is between you and God. Preachers love to “encourage” people to find their gifts and calling. Sometimes it comes across as pushy or demanding. Don’t give in and jump into something God hasn’t called you to do just because it is needed. Wait, listen, pray, watch for signs from others, opportunities, interests and allow God to give you the answer.

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” He *said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”(Mark 1:35-38 NASB)

Jesus gives us a great example. He demonstrates that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we need to do it. He was healing people and the people were looking for him in the morning. They were expecting more miracles. Jesus wasn’t giving in to the group. He had a calling, a goal, a mission from the Father, to preach the gospel message.

How often are we distracted from our calling because we have skills that others think we can use to fix a different ministry. We give in to pressure and usually become involved not in what God wants us to do but what others want us to do. Instead, we should in most cases, keep to our ministry and demonstrate our faith and trust that God will provide the right person for the other ministry.

We need to seek our calling whether in the midst of our own home, neighborhood, the church or the world. Let’s stop trying to fulfill a calling to which we haven’t been called. Let’s rejoice in other’s calling and not categorize them by our perceived human classification putting one calling higher than another.

We all have gifts and some callings. Some are more public and high profile according to the world’s view. All are from God. All are for building up the body of Christ on earth. All are important in God’s purpose. Enjoy your gift or calling or both.

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Gray is Great

“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:32 ESV)

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. (Proverbs 16:31 ESV)

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29 ESV)

In recent years, probably longer if I pulled out the photo album, my hair has moved to gray and now to white. I’ll assume white is the proper progression skipped in biblical days since few lived that long. According to the Bible I’m now sporting a crown of glory. It’s a splendid thing in which I can glory since strength is off the table. The older I get there are fewer things in which I might glory so I’ll take what I can get.

According to Leviticus young folks should be standing when I enter a room and showing me honor thanks to my hair color. This might be a warning to others my age who hide their fading color in Grecian formula. If you cover that prominent crown of glory then the honor you are due won’t be seen or acknowledged.

I wonder what God was thinking with this rule. Can you imagine all the younger folks jumping up and down in a popular restaurant near a retirement home? It would be like whack-a-mole without the whacking but triggered by all those old people with gray and white hair coming and going.

93f27c4d-bab3-4ef1-9bfc-d4f20e4d7bed-500-000000a1987b32e6_file-1I could see myself stepping inside said restaurant and seeing all the younger dark haired patrons rising to their feet. I’d be tempted to step out and back in, over and over, just to see how long it would last. Just blame my over blown sense of humor.

Ok, so I don’t really want to see everyone younger than me jumping up and down as I navigate from shop to shop or restaurant to restaurant. But I have to admit being given some respect just because I survived this long wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Unfortunately, today’s response is often demeaning or degrading with the assumption I’m too old to know anything relevant or too feeble to do anything. When it comes to modern technology people look at my crown and assume I’m a Luddite and don’t know where the power button is located.

They are amazed when I pull out my phone to pay, or use my barcode scanner to gather more information. They start to thing something isn’t right when I tell them how to fix their own devices. But those are short term individualized events quickly forgotten when they look up and are reminded, by the splendor of my crown, that I’m one of the old generation hanging around to eat up their retirement and mired in a morass of aging concepts, old theology and ancient culture. They’re more surprised to discover I’m still working, not retired, and “gasp” working in modern technology.

I smile as they talk about my retirement and wonder what I do to fill my time. I usually stop them up short informing them I’m still working full time and designing new systems. “Don’t let the white hair fool you,” I jest.

Now that I’m in the splendor age I can see and feel the lack of respect for the older generation. I remember being taught to respect my elders. I guess that concept seldom bubbles to the top of the social media training which begins as soon as a child recognizes their fingers and discovers a touch screen device.

Maybe it’s time for us to reconsider some of the cultural norms passed along to the next generation and reinstate the concept of respect for parents, elders, the aged. They have survived the intricacies and troubles of life to get where they are. They might have learned something in their life which proves efficacious to something which the younger generation struggles to resolve. Why not start a discussion and both ask and listen to someone whose been through it before.

If younger folks, anyone under 64 from my current perspective, would open their eyes and listen with their ears first, they might find a well of experience and expertise hiding in the white and gray crowns. You just might learn something to save you from disaster as you walk the paths of life. Your might encourage the old guy to pause and listen to your new and exciting ideas. Somewhere in the middle is fertile ground for both to learn. We’ll never know until we try to converse young and old.

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:7 ESV)

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44 UPS & Downs

Forty-four, a strange number. However this week my wife and I will celebrate 44 years of marriage. I’m not sure what we will do all day, I took a day off, but I’m sure we’ll find something fun and a good restaurant. Why do all celebrations involve a meal? That’s another blog for another time.

When we mention 44 years to folks younger than us we’re often confronted with a quizzical look or amazement we’ve been together that long. I suppose in today’s ever changing culture that seems like an unobtainable goal. But it isn’t that hard.

In truth we’ve had our ups and downs during those years. There have been great days and some rip-roaring battles (mostly because of my stubborn nature). It wasn’t always easy but we’re committed to one another before God. Thankfully God always works with our hearts to keep us on track.

Overall, there are mostly ups in our relationship and family. We’re proud of our four children, their spouses and our ten grandchildren. I’m not talking sinful pride but thrilled at their relationship to us and to God. Overshadowing the down days is a larger number of up days.

Our Wedding Day

How did we get here you might ask, so I’ll tell you. We started young in college. Beth was 19 and I was 20 when we wed. Younger than most but older than many others we’ve met. We both worked and went to school for the next seven years and our first child arrived near the end of school days. Then we worked a few years and after 9 years of marriage went to the mission field living on Guam. We’ve been with TWR every since. 14 years in Asia and 14 years in Europe and now 7 here in the USA.

Overall we visited many countries met many wonderful people and are amazed at the life God provided. Sometimes we struggled with each other, sometimes with our children and, yes, sometimes with the ministry. But through it all it was the two of us working together seeking to follow wherever God led.

Why? Because we trust and have faith in the grace, guidance, teaching, directing and love of God. Because we love each other and accept the fact that we both have faults which rise to the surface on occasion.

We are thrilled everywhere God led us, even in the bad times or the difficult places. He has never failed us even when we failed Him. So why stop trusting and placing our trust and faith in God now? Not a chance.

I love my wife. I’m amazed she’s put up with many of my rants over the years. I’m amazed she work with me through everything we’ve experienced. And now I’m amazed at her love and care toward me as I walk through the valley. By the way, I fear no evil because God is in the valley with us every step of the way.

If you’re married or contemplating marriage be sure your life and your spouse or future spouse’s life are rooted in the one who created this beautiful world. You can then rely on God’s love and grace to work through you to walk through the ups and downs of life. Foster a sense of humor and accept we each have our own faults which unexpectedly can bubble to the surface.

Dear Beth, I love you more now than when we wed and much more than I could have ever imagined. I have a very vivid imagination so that says a lot. I look forward to the ups and downs coming along this road. I can’t say enough to thank you for your love and now and throughout our forty-four years together. I love you.

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Putting Things Together

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all. 1 Corinthians 12:7

When I was young my parents would put things together, usually around birthdays and Christmas. The box came with instructions and Dad always had the right tool. All the bits and pieces were in one nicely boxed location.

When I had children, I found myself doing the same thing the night before Christmas or birthdays for my children. It’s all part of being a parent and it’s a good part. It’s not like every item went together without much fuss. You sometimes you wondered if the guy who wrote the instructions ever tried to make them work. It was the smile and joy on your child’s face which made it all worth the effort.

I was in my office the other day working on some IT issues which help the flow of the Gospel reach into the corners of the earth when a question popped up in our small group of computer geeks. One of the guys wanted to know how he could gather specific information from our global network to help him resolve the project he was trying to complete on time. There were two of us within earshot of his question.

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 8.33.18 AMThen the most amazing thing came about. It wasn’t planned by us, but I suspect the Lord had his hands, plans and preparation in place. Two of us looked at each other and said we could use PowerShell to find the information needed. None of us knew how this would work out. None of us had the answer, just a start.

One fellow asked, “What command do I use?” He was really good at scripting things in PowerShell. Unfortunately, he never used this subset of commands. Me, I spent a lot of time with those commands. I tossed out a command and that was a start. Next, I queried the internet for some examples of resolving our command conundrum and found more details. This was a step forward.

Passing that script command information along to the master scripting fellow he went to work refining the command using other commands he knew well to retrieve the necessary information. I would watch he test the command line and interject a command I remembered into the development until it was working properly. Then we presented the final results to our fellow mission who needed the information.

It was a success. The information would allow our colleague to complete his project on time. It also provided us with a command system to pass along to other IT Geeks in our global ministry to garner the necessary information for their respective offices. All the pieces were put together to move forward in our ministry.

It seemed like a small thing. The command line wasn’t that long. It took less than an hour to provide a globally useful command line. We were all turning back to our day’s work and moving on. Then I started thinking. Dangerous at best. None of us had all the answers to the challenge.

It’s the same way in the body of Christ. None of us have all the solutions. It takes a team effort. It takes working together. It takes understanding what gift the Spirit has provided to each of us. Not one of these meets all the needs of the church. It’s the culmination of each person’s spiritual gift and God given talents which makes things work this side of the heavenly gates.

There are different gifts for the “profit of all” wrote Paul. We need to realize this and stop trying to fix everything ourselves. We need to rely on God to provide the necessary gifts through His people. We need to understand why God places certain people in certain places at certain times.

God placed the right fellows with different pieces in the right place for us to resolve the need. He does the same within the body of Christ. We just need to look around and see who is there. God has provided our gifts to complement and help us bring His salvation, grace and love to those around us.

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