Tag Archives: USA

United We Stand

The United States of America was formed by a group of citizens united in their response, united in their purpose and united in their defense of their beliefs. Woodrow Wilson once said, “We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end.” Even Benjamin Franklin realized cohesion was necessary when he declared, “We must hang together or assuredly we shall hand separately.” Americans are famous for sayings such as G. P. Morgan’s “United we stand, divided we fall.” Even naming our country embodies a reliance on one another for survival. What happened?

The church was united in beliefs, purpose and goals. As Jesus disappeared into the clouds from the Mount of Olives, the disciples remembered His reminder to be unified in their witness to Jerusalem, Judea and the ends of the earth. Together they returned to Jerusalem to share, as one, the greatest message the world would ever hear. What happened?

No sooner had the early church organized than dissension arose. Why do believers, seeking the same Savior, yearning for the same heaven, proclaiming the same Gospel continue to chip away at unity? Who cares? God cares. Lets look at this ubiquitous word and see how deep the implications dig into our theological stances.

First we need to understand the prefix “uni.” Webster defines this as simple “uni-prefix: one: single.” (Uni, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, G&C Merriam Company, 1979.) Nothing complicated, nothing debatable, just a single unit. Logically we would assume all words built on this prefix contain a sense of one, not multiple. As believers we are called to unity in the church. John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan Corporation, 1989. All scripture quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

What does it mean to be in complete unity? Simple, we are to be working together toward the same goal. We are to be striving as one unit, complex in structure, to proclaim the Gospel and encourage one another. An old Aesop’s Fable stated, “In union there is strength.” As the church presses toward another century of service we need strength. God provides strength and also expects us to work with one another for strength.

The NIV Bible Dictionary describes unity: Used in the O.T. in the sense of togetherness of persons (Genesis 13:6), fellowship (Judges 19:6), and praise (Psalm 34:3). Isaiah 11:6-7 tells of a future time when there will be a togetherness among animals. The NT word speaks of the unit of faith that binds together the people of God (Ephesians 4:13). (Bible Source NIV Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, M.C. Tenny eds, Zondervan Corporation, 1989.)

In Chronicles, during Hezekiah’s reform the people of Israel turned back to God. Hezekiah sought God and serve as a King seeking God. He reopened the temple and encouraged the people to return to God. God provided the unity of purpose to accomplish this reform. 1 Chronicles 30:12 Also in Judah the hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered, following the word of the LORD.

The psalmist reminds us of the good effects from unity. Psalm 133:1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! God is pleased when we get along. I’m reminded of a pleasant aroma which rises to God and how that might be seen in this statement.

As Christians we have a pressing need to seek unity with one another. Our relationship to one another has a direct, perceptible impact on our witness to the world. John 17:23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Unity is a sign of God’s work in our lives. When we are splintered we present the wrong message to the world. This reminds me of Paul’s admonition. Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

How do we accomplish such unity? Our frailties make us prone to stand up for our point of view. We want to be right at all costs. Often we create division, not by design but as a result of our desire to be seen and accepted as correct. Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. Paul recognizes we cannot achieve the peace and unity called for by God. It’s only when we rely on God and rest in His hands and allow Him to do the work that peace and unity will actually come to bear in our lives.

It’s difficult for us to be humble and humility is the starting point for unity. We don’t like to give in to another point of view. Saint Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” A good passage to contemplate and memorize is Philippians 2:1-4. When we can live this passage with one another we will have unity.

Will we always see what we are convinced is correct come to be? No. There are many Biblical Imperatives which cannot be soiled with compromise. There are many more Personal Convictions which need to be weighed carefully before being applied to others. Liberty in Christ is one of the most difficult concepts for us to understand and live.

Are you unified with your brothers and sisters to proclaim the Gospel or are you at odds on how to proclaim the Gospel? Are you unified with fellow believers in discipling new believers or arguing over the proper methodology? Are you on a tangent or on target with the body of Christ?

Let us work together. Let us consider more than one point of view. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus as the goal of our life. Let us bring unity back to the church.

Colossians 2:2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.

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Giggles, Grins and Grands

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. (Proverbs 17:6 NIV)

We lived many years overseas serving the Lord wherever He placed us. No regrets but plenty of praises for God’s provision. In the last few years away from our homeland we enjoyed the benefits of modern technology including video conferences with our grown children and our growing brood of grandchildren. They thought we lived in a box and were awakened as simply as starting a video game but that’s better than waiting for weeks on snail mail for updates and photos.

Then the call came from the Lord to move our ministry back into our homeland. It’s the same ministry, the same work, just from another location. The greatest thing about God leading clearly is the joy of serving Him. There are many benefits from His leading and this one included being closer to our grandchildren.

Part of the clan in one place for celebration.So, for the first time since God started blessing us with grandchildren we were able to host a Thanksgiving celebration in our home. Not everyone could come due to work, school, or other obligations, but a majority made the trip. It was great. There were giggles and grins throughout the day. There was plenty of food, snacks, and drink.

As many have already discovered it’s delightful to watch a couple two year old granddaughters discover each other and figure out how to share the few toys they can find at Opa and Oma’s house. Off to the sideline an adorable five month old grandson giggles and laughs at his sister and cousin’s antics. You just never know what to expect.

We weren’t disappointed with the floor show. It went amazingly well and even sharing favorite dolls didn’t escalate into a feud. Maybe we can get the folks at all the peace tables around the world to take a few lessons from two year olds. But that wasn’t even the best part.

The best part was when one of them decided Oma, and especially Opa (me) needed a hug or kiss or that their lap was the perfect vantage point for watching something. There’s nothing like it. It doesn’t last long before they’re off to another imagined adventure but that’s long enough. These gestures of love toward grandparents can come unexpectedly anywhere in the house, any time of day. Bring it on.

I always wondered what it would be like to get older and have grandchildren. Now I know. It’s great. I also know why God gives little ones to us when we’re young. A two year old has much more stamina that I do these days. But the exhaustion at the end of the day is worth the love you receive from these little additions to the family.

I’m looking forward to future invasions of our home or invading their homes. It’s encouraging to watch our children raise their children and be able to see that God did a great job with them. We’re proud of our children and grandchildren. It’ll be exciting to see how God works in our grandchildren’s lives in the years to come. I can’t wait for another hug or kiss just because they love their Opa. They have their tizzies and fits and get tired and cranky, just like Opa, but I still love them.

There’s nothing like walking along the road with my arm stretched down so little fingers can clasp a couple of my fingers and feel safe while they point out every new thing they see. I’m not sure who enjoys it more but I think I do. Teaching my grandchildren to skip rocks on a pond or stir up the fall leaves with their feet gives me a feeling things are going along just fine in God’s world.

I hope God is proud of me. I think He is. I mess up enough and still He cares for me. It’s astonishes me each and every day. I’m looking forward to the day I can put my arms around my Savior’s neck and let Him know how much I love Him.

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Pieces of Christmas

Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 NET)

Once we moved overseas it was 25 years before we were again in the USA for Christmas. That was quite a while. During most of those years we had children at home to celebrate the incarnation, the fun, the songs, and the family time.  Over the years, the children have grown up, left home and established their own homes in the USA. Along with their new homes and families, our children are married and have their own traditions.

I love family traditions, especially for holidays. There are good traditions like candy and presents I think everyone enjoys. There are the “not so good” traditions such as one of the children being sick every holiday season. Christmas probably has more traditions than any other season. I love special decorations which bring back enjoyably memories. I love the smell of Christmas cookies baking. I love the smell and look of a “real” and perfectly decorated Christmas tree. I love to throw tinsel at the tree while the family tells me to stop.

Our first Christmas on furlough in the USA with our children married and grandchildren was an exercise in diplomacy, bartering, and great joy. Just about every Christmas I remember someone was sick. That year was no different. I don’t remember who was under the holiday weather but someone was. Maybe it was me. Nah.

Diplomacy was the first skill to be exercised. Now that Mom and Dad, those missionaries who lived overseas, were in town the routine of spending the holidays with the “other” in-laws was in jeopardy. Who would go where, when and with whom so no one was left out or hurt that the “norm” was being interrupted. This worked out just fine with a little shifting of our children’s holiday routines to squeeze us in.

2009_12_21_treecookies-004We then moved to bartering. God provided a small home for us to occupy during the holiday season. Since it was normally used by families with terminally ill children in local hospitals it was a bit lacking in holiday spirit or decoration. So, we started bartering. We borrowed a tree from our daughters in law along with some decorations. We borrowed more decorations and stuff from our son’s family and Beth even picked up a few new items. In the end, we had a very “family” oriented tree decorated with stuff from everyone we were related to in town.

 Beth baked cookies with our daughters and there were plenty of goodies to go around. There were too many and I was hard pressed to eat them all. We found presents for all the children, in-laws, grandchildren at the various shops around town. And they even put some presents from themselves to us under our tree. It looked very festive.

Christmas day the traveling began. Two of our children and one of our grandchildren came to our little borrowed house in Kentucky. We opened presents, ate cookies, had fun, had a nice meal and enjoyed family.

It was great to see most of our children for the holiday. There’s a sense of relief and calmness in revisiting traditions now and then. When we arrived in town nothing was in place. We had to piece things together from family, friends, and shops to attempt building a touch of tradition while living out of suitcases. I think it worked pretty good.

Along with family holidays I find I’ve developed traditions in my Christian walk. Traditions (some call them habits) can be found in my prayer life, my study life and even how I approach worship on Sundays. I think it’s our human nature that finds comfort in things we understand and things which hold good memories. We need to take time to build our traditions, to find those places of comfort which help us press forward in our walk with Christ. Jesus grew up surrounded by traditions which impacted his earthly life. The same is true for us. What are our traditions?

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Living Legacy

Grandchildren are like a crown to the elderly, and the glory of children is their parents. (Proverbs 17:6 NET)

I remember sitting with my best friend, Doug, on the front porch stoop in Ohio. We would con20131128-thanksgiving-153-2template such deep conversations as, “Hey Doug, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know Bob, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know Doug, what do you want to do?” This could go on for hours until we gave up and actually went and did something. Occasionally we would think about other things like the changing of the century. We wondered if we’d be alive at the dawn of the new century. I’d be ancient at forty-eight. That just sounded so, so,  . . . OLD!

One year I was in the USA for furlough. Some fine folks think of it as a vacation. Since we work daily on relationships, support raising, travel a lot (13,000 miles) and share the ministry often (preaching 49 times in 12 weeks) I can’t see how this would qualify as vacation. But, that is another story. Well into my fifties, well past the turn of the century, the old conversations seemed so . . . dated. I had made it. So did Doug, by the way. And not only did forty-eight not appear so old being a grandparent required a new view on life and aging.

In our home assignment we were thrilled to see our grandson again and meet our two granddaughters for the first time. What an absolute delight to cuddle, hug and spoil my grandchildren. Near the beginning of our US assignment we, Beth and I, spent time with my Mom. My brother recently retired to the area and my other brother came to visit from the west coast. It was the first time in about 20 years we were all in the same place at the same time. A little family reunion was in progress.

Into this gathering my daughter, her husband, and their daughter came to visit. Ellice sat next to her grandmother, holding her daughter while I stood behind them for a generational photo. Four generations! I know there are families with more generations in a single photo but for me it was something new and exciting. I thought living to the turn of the century was dubious and here I was with four generations. I loved it.

Here I was looking at an example of a living legacy. My mother, and father, passed along their beliefs and views of life to me. I learned, modified and developed my own version tempered by the era which influenced my thinking. I passed them along to my daughter, plus our three sons, who modified them with into their own version tempered by the era in which they lived. And now she was starting to pass them along to her daughter.

One generation after another. As we watched our children grow, build their own families and lives, we hoped they learned the good things and not the bad. They did things differently than we did. That’s to be expected. But, regardless of differences we hoped our relationship was like the Proverb.

We knew our grandchildren were our crown as we grew older. Just think of all the photos we could share with the unsuspecting passerby. We never tired of beaming with pride as we inundate others with their cute smiles and rattled on about their adventures.

On the other hand, we hoped our children could take pride in us as their parents. We made mistakes, no argument there. We watched and prayed that the good of the Lord worked through us to shape their lives. So far, so good.

Jesus tells us eternal life is all about who you know (John 17:6). I suspect the present life is knowing your grandchildren. Watching a living legacy grow this side of heaven is what the present life is about. Thanks God for allowing me to experience this living legacy in my life.

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