Tag Archives: Missions

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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Digital Selection

Sometimes I feel young at heart even though I’m getting older. When it comes to modern technology I usually feel ancient. Although working with modern computer systems and knowing more about the systems than most people I meet I’m still like a dinosaur when it comes to using these devices in the modern social media inundated digital age. I’m into Facebook (to keep tabs on my children and grandchildren), email (a dinosaur), texting (formerly SMS), cloud storage, and a host of modern technological marvels which attempt to improve my life. I think I’ve got it figured out until I start interacting with the next generation’s immersive lifestyle of technology.

My wife coined a great phrase, “Digital Selection.” It started when some young upstart commented that finding such and such on the ministry’s home page was simple and intuitive. It was then we decided their definition of simple and intuitive was different than ours. I figured with my extensive background in computers, web page design, and the like, I could find what we were looking for. No success. I’ve become a victim of Digital Selection.

What is Digital Selection you might ask? It isn’t using a search engine to find the cheapest price for a new tablet or notebook or to decide the proper resolution for your new high definition television. It’s when the ability to easily wade through modern technology to the desired destination is hampered by an aging understanding of how things work in the digital world. We’ve been Digitally Selected to be out of touch with the younger generation. Beth says, “They’re going to put us on an iceberg and float us out to sea.”

Originally electronics and computers were purely logical. That I can understand. Unfortunately, with the proliferation of social media infecting the mental growth and processes of the next generation what used to follow rules has been reprogrammed to follow the circuitous pathway of the younger mind in a media saturated generation. Pure computer logic has given way to what can appear as random chaos similar to a planned life-giving way to going with the flow. In my mind, the algorithm of the program isn’t easily discovered, almost like the perfect security cypher.

For those raised in such an environment it makes perfect sense. All the pieces fit together smoothly in their concept of the digital age. Unfortunately, it leaves the older generation confused trying to put the square pegs into the round holes. Sometimes we just don’t see the connection. We are therefore Digital Selected to be relegated to the outer circle of fellowship and communication. While I poke fun at this the centuries have demonstrated the division of one generation from another almost proportionally related to the advancement in technology.

When I was young the use of electric guitars, electronic pianos and electronic organs started insinuating themselves into the fabric of modern rock and roll music as well as creeping into bastion of the classic orchestra and even, gasp, into church music. This confused parents who were familiar with the smooth tones of classical wind and string instruments, pianos and pipe organs. It was a new sound and while some parents embraced the changes many of their generation relegated it to the deepest depths of degradation and evil. There’s was an error of Electronic Selection threatening to drive a wedge between two generations.

Other things have separated the ages. Changes in cultural beliefs and activities, the redirection of skills from rural to urban work spaces, and any technological advancement from the steam engine to the multicore processor have created segments of selection. Often the selective nature of these advances isn’t perceived as a change by the generation in which they develop but as the norm. The concept that the older generation might not comprehend this shift doesn’t seem to motivate the new generation to understand the change and work towards an effective stitching together of the two worlds. So, it falls on the ousted to decipher the recent technology and introduce it to their lives in a way which will once again connect them with the new generation.

Things move forward. I’m sure there is more ahead of me to learn than I dealt with in the past. I just hope I have the where-with-all to comprehend and make use of the advances which become so ingrained in our lives. I don’t want to be Digitally Selected forever. In the church, we must be careful not to Digitally Select (exclude) those interested in helping because we have some new high-tech sign up site which appeals to the young and confounds the less young.

As a Christian, I’m glad God doesn’t use a Digital Selection scale for eternity. I’m looking forward to simplifying things and reducing my digital footprint. I figure if I’m in the presence of God I don’t think there’s a need for a Facebook status for Him to know what I’m doing. But for now, . . . I guess this is the season of the tablet, phablet, smartphone, social media and whatchamacallit and I better keep up with my skills to avoid Digital Selection.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 WEB)

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Oblivious

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, WEB) 

I can be oblivious at times. As Beth will attest, it’s usually when I’ve got my thoughts deeply imbedded in a particularly difficult conundrum trying to unravel the pieces of a complex problem to create an elegant and simple solution. At other times I’m just tired from resolving the aforementioned puzzle and my brain goes into the oft ridiculed “nothing” box which every male keeps handy for escape and relaxation. But, there are many areas of life where I endeavor to be very observant. Sometimes for safety reasons and other times to insure I’m behaving appropriately for the sake of those around me.

When I was growing up my parents instilled in me certain cultural expectations and behaviors for the sake of politeness and common sense. One of those areas was driving habits. Always look out for the other driver. Don’t do anything which can distract you from the road. Always pay attention to your surroundings just in case you need an unexpected detour to escape an accident or obstruction.

Driving back from the beach one day Beth and I were enjoying some music as we cruised down the highway. Traffic was minimal but there were a few other autos peppered along he highway. We slowly passed some and others passed us. Then a big car went flying past us in the left lane. Being passed was not unusual for us. However, when I looked over at the driver he was reading. He wasn’t glancing at highway signs but held a book in his hand, in front of the steering wheel, and was reading and turning pages as he evidently exceeded the speed limit in a casual fashion.

Aghast at the apparent lack of concern for other vehicles or his personal safety it reminded me of other “modern” annoyances. I’ll admit I’ve done some stupid things and been oblivious to others around me. Still, I try to be courteous and not endanger my fellow human beings. I’m not old fashioned when it comes to technology and courtesy.

How many times have you stood in line when someone answered their cell phone? There’s normally nothing wrong with that. We carry cell phones to be available everywhere (another topic I’ll leave for another post). However, if you have to shout into the phone so loud that others stare at you then something is amiss. If your phone is that poor get a new phone. I’m convinced the person you’re talking to can hear your booming voice without the aid of the telecommunications network. Really people. Show some consideration and concern for those around you.

Back on the driving kick and cell phones, driving, and traffic lights. Is your life so hectic and important that you must text or call someone every time your car comes to a stop. And, what makes you think that suddenly driving below the speed limit on a busy road makes it safe to text or call someone? Where did common sense go?

It just seems to me people have become so self absorbed that there’s a perpetual lack of attention to anyone and anything around them. You’re so important that holding hands and spanning an entire walkway in a busy mall is OK even if other shoppers are piling up behind your show of family unity. Who cares if the waiter can’t hear your order because the person a couple tables away is shouting in their phone?

People are taking a back seat to what “I” want or the prevalent persistent attention seeking electronic devices so ubiquitously beeping and clanging not to be ignored. We’ve become too worried that we might miss something happening and thus be a social outcast because we failed to read, laugh at, and comment on some bane, self indulgent post on social media. We cannot travel 60 seconds without a conversation which is best left to our full attention.

I’m reminded of the Psalmist’s admonition to pay attention. Be still, and know that I am God the Lord proclaims. We can’t be in tune with our savior and creator if we are always focusing on the creation and the things we’ve created. When flushed with a need to tweet, text, post or otherwise interact via an impersonal piece of electronics; perhaps it’s time to pause, quiet our thoughts, still our heart, and realize God is the one in control. When we lift our eyes to focus on the God of the universe it keep us from becoming oblivious to those around us, the very ones He created just as he created us. He’ll keep our vision focused and not oblivious.

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I’m Content

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 WEB)

No matter what people may think, I’m content with my life, my family, my work and my faith; so, stop telling me I need something more. I was thinking about this while lying awake in bed one morning. When I look at things in my life and consider what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I’ve acquired (physical stuff, experiences, etc.), I’m content. Unfortunately, sometimes, when my frustration over things around me percolates to the top of my patience, I might present a temporary persona that doesn’t portray a contented soul. But that’s another subject.

One of the first things I thought about was my wonderful wife quietly asleep beside me. It’s the precise planning of God that brought us together at the right place and time to embark on an amazing busy, full and fantastic life. Two-thirds of our lives we’ve been together and I’m looking forward with anticipation to undertaking together the next 40 plus years of life and adventure God has planned. Like most married men I know; I often wonder how my love tolerated me all these years. But I’m content knowing God was gracious to me and gives her lots of patience.

We’ve lived through raising four children, watching them leave the nest and start a life of their own with their own families. I like my children’s spouses. I love them all and I believe they like me. Our children are doing well in a variety of jobs. We’ve got service managers, restaurant managers, teachers and soldiers carrying on the family line. I’m proud of them all. They’ve had their problems, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as family we work through things. Thanks to them I have a number of grandchildren that I love dearly. I think they love me as well. I know why God gives us grandchildren. It’s to insure we still have that delightful spark of innocence to encourage us in life. They have good and bad days, they’re little children and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m content with my family.

I’ve spent the majority of my life serving and working with the same organization in various places around the globe. I’d like to say everything was rosy and delightful all these years but the truth is there were hard times along with good times. Still, I’m content with what God has been able to accomplish through my work around the globe. More than once I felt ill-equipped for the job. It was then I watched as God stepped in to show His grace and let me know that I can do all things through Him. I can’t say I never had doubts about what I was doing. They would raise their ugly heads now and then until I reset my vision on the one who gives me strength. I can say I never had doubts about God’s calling me to this life. I’m content in my work and ministry.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to God and asked, “Why?” Sometimes I found the answer. Some questions remain unanswered. I’ve railed at God in my frustration and anger and praised and worshipped Him at all times. Yes, even when I was furious I still worshipped God. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, some things I still don’t understand, but I trust in God in all things. I’m comforted understanding that I can come to God with praise, anger, questions and the small issues of daily life and He listens. He shows me grace, especially in my stupid times. He loves me always, even in my disobedient times. I’m content with my faith in God.

In all this I find myself wondering why I would consider not being content. I can stop and think and realize that this is a great life God has provided and like the verse above I have great gain. Sometimes people think I’m discontent because I’m frustrated with things or get angry over an encounter with massive stupidity. So I wonder if we’re not confusing contentment with emotionless living. Are they the same? I don’t think so. God gave us emotions to help us deal with life on this spinning rock. We can let them get out of hand but to dismiss them as ungodly just doesn’t ring true for me. There are some things, regardless of my godliness or contentment, which I suspect will always increase my blood pressure.

There are inconsistencies in the behavior and reliability of computers, an area I’ve worked with for over thirty years that make me want to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the device from any open window (which I have done). There are vehicle drivers who apparently didn’t attend driving school, forgot all they learned or had incompetent teachers. Some folks standing in line for ten minutes or more to pay for items wait until they reach the counter to fish through their fifty gallon purse looking for their credit card. Sometimes I just sigh and roll my eyes. Other times, for whatever reasons, I just get frustrated or angry.

Then there’s the modern church. As a faithful member of the congregation we’re never doing enough “for God.” We hear preaching about contentment and at the same time a message of “do more” which creates discontent because we’re not doing enough, in the eyes of the local church, to justify our claiming to be faithful believers. Rubbish! I’m concentrating on my walk in this world as a faithful follower of Christ. Just walking faithful with God through normal tivities of life is doing something “for God.” Where that intersects with a church ministry, such as being a full time missionary, I’m glad to go as God leads. I don’t doubt some future heavenly residents might need a little fire under their backside to get them moving but who lights the fire, God or man? Without getting into a pet peeve let me say I’m content with the ministries where God has place me and I’m not looking for more. If He gives more I’ll undertake it. Otherwise I’ll be content with the here and now.

That’s probably where contentment lies. It lies in knowing you are where God wants you to be. It’s understanding the abilities God has given for the particular task and being content that God knows what He’s doing. Does it remove all emotion so we can be like good southerners and just say, “Bless their heart” when they do something ridiculous. At times it might. At other times life boils to the top and we are reminded we are humans, designed with emotions, by a God with emotions, to live in an emotional world. I’m content to live here, with all my foibles, until He takes me to that perfect mansion. Are you content?

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