Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Announcement...

Recent events in my life have necessitated a temporary break from blogging, and there will be no updates for a time. I hope to get back to it eventually, but for right now I cannot put one more thing into my nearly overflowing life. God's placed many new things in my path these last two weeks, and until my life settles into a little more of a routine, you won't be seeing much of me. Lord willing, I'll be back in a couple weeks with the continuation of YBS, and hopefully some other things that have been recently laid on my heart. Till then, God bless you all!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Victory

"Let us view every new attack of Satan with joy, knowing that it is but one more opportunity to prove the faithfulness and conquering power of Jesus Christ. "

Thursday, October 19, 2006

On waiting...

"God is never in a hurry, but spends long years with those whom He expects to use greatly, and never thinks the days of preperation too long, or too dull. When He permits delay, He is not inactive. He is getting ready His instruments, ripening their powers; and at the appointed moment they shall arise equal to their tasks"

-Phillip Brooks

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mission Bible School - Sep. 25th Concluded

As mentioned before, Luke's first two sessions were from the seminar, 'Cat and Dog Theology,' but his last three lectures centered on another aspect of UnveilinGLORY's ministry. What he taught on Monday afternoon is from 'The Story of the Bible,' and Unveiled at Last, also available at this link. Top and Bottom Line Theology focused on the thread woven throughout the entire Bible of God's heart concerning missions.

Luke started with the question, "How does God get the greatest glory He could ever have through our lives?" He replied with the answer that people from all nations brought to Christ will bring Him the greatest glory. God gets greater glory when He unites that which is diverse and that is why He wants to redeem people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. Luke took us on a walk through the Bible, showing us from Scripture what he had just stated.

God first brings out His heart for His glory to be shown to all nations in the Abrahamic covenant. The "Top Line" of the Covenant is the fact that God wants to bless Abraham. With that comes the "Bottom Line" responsibility: Abraham in turn is to reach out to all the peoples of the face of the earth. Here in Genesis is the beginning of the Great Comission theme. God never intended that His blessings be reserved solely for His children. We are to be channels through which they flow, not buckets hoarding them to ourselves.

As I shared in my last post, Luke explained that Cat Christians selectively read their Bible, and the result is that many times they focus so much on the blessings and promises that they miss God's heart and desire in giving them to us. Here's an example to explain what he was getting at. He asked us to finish this verse, "Be still and....." Of course we all quoted the part that said, "... know that I am God." It's a beautiful verse that most of us have memorized. But he proved to us that we only know the first third of the verse. Did you know that the rest says..."I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Ps. 46:10 There's God's heart in blessing His children right there - so that His name will be glorified.

As I've been reading lately, it's absolutely amazing how many "top and bottom line" passages there are. The Bible is full of them! The few that I have written down that were covered at YBS is three pages worth! God's glory being shown to every kindred, tongue, and nation is the very heartbeat of the Bible, and yet it's so easy to gloss over that aspect and selectively pick out the blessings God has for us in those passages. We are blessed to be a blessing, not to live a comfortable, easy, happy, trouble-free life.

unfortunately, many Christians view Christianity as a "bookshelf" with lots of areas to become involved in. Usually, missions is only one small thin paperback among the "giants," and is treated as something for those special "called" ones instead of getting the priority of being what is closest to God's heart.

That is, in a very condensed sort of way, an overview of Luke's five sessions. Even being there was, as he described, trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant. We felt so full and I personally could have gone home right then and there and been completely satisfied.

Supper was late that evening, so Phil took the opportunity to talk to us young people before dismissing us. There's no way I can even come close to describing the conviction we were all under by that evening, and the ways God applied these truths to our own individual hearts, but suffice it to say that the Spirit of God was heavy upon all of us. Phil spent 45 minutes just personally sharing with us what God had been speaking to him about, and ended by inviting whoever was interested to meet for prayer upstairs after supper and just have a time of seeking the Lord together. He intentionally left every evening free to allow the Lord to lead, and that facet of YBS was one of my favorites.

17 out of the 23 stayed, and we had two wonderful hours of praying together, sharing how the Lord was convicting our own hearts, and praying for each other, all interspersed by Phil's encouragement and challenges to our life. The transparency and openness God blessed our group with (all of us practically strangers to each other) was incredible. The heart sharing, confession, brokeness, and corporate prayer for one another was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. I really believe this evening paved the way for the blessings God showered on our group the rest of the week. We thought we were coming for missionary training, (which we got) but first, God had to deal with the pride in our heart and show us the very foundation stone of missions - desiring the glory of God above all else. Our ambitions, our plans, our desires, and our goals went out the door as we again laid our life down to be used in whatever way would most glorify Him.

We left that evening, tired, but overflowing with joy at what the Lord did. We were rejoicing and marveling over the unity and singlehearted focus God gave to our group, and we could hardly wait to see what the Lord wanted to teach us the rest of the week. He did a lot, believe me! More about that next time!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Make Me a Leaf"

"Dear Father, help me to learn to be a leaf in the wind for your glory. Carried whithersoever Your Spirit desires, and not concerned about the "weather" of my life."

A leaf has no emotions to become worried about an approaching storm or a fellow leaf's actions. He does not become hurt in the midst of a fierce storm which batters him. He carries no load of agonizing over which direction to go nor does he strive to make 'God's will' happen. The rest and peace which the leaf enjoys is that of the branch abiding in the Vine. No care or task but simply to abide.

The leaf has no care or task but to be a leaf, available for God's wind to do whatever it wants with it. Sometimes on the wings of that wind, a leaf soars joyfully above the earth and its distresses. Sometimes that wind carries it away; away from all the other leaves and all that is known to some small crevice in a rock to work there all alone. Sometimes that wind takes it down to the ground to be trampled on by thoughtless feet or to be enjoyed by playful children.

Still other times that leaf is taken from the ground to a burning pile to be burned by those who would destroy it. But it doesn't fret or cry out and in the flames it glows and sparkles as the fire moves along every fiber of it's being. Even in its end, it rejoices and is made glorious by the very thing meant to harm it!

"Lord, make me a leaf!"

-R.L.N ~1999


P.S. YBS post coming hopefully soon.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Life giving hunger...

"You can never give another person that which you have found (spiritually), but you can make him homesick for what you have."
-Oswald Chambers

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mission Bible School - Sep. 25th Part 1

Monday morning started out at 9:00 with a short song service, and then Phil's announcement that Luke Kuepfer's schedule had changed, and instead of giving us a lecture every one of the weekdays, we were going to get all five lectures that day. Luke and his family are in the US for a furlough from their work in Thailand with Global Tribes Outreach, and are currently living in CO. We chuckled a bit when he told us he was going to be teaching on Cat and Dog Theology, and I think all of us wondered a bit what we had got ourselves into. :-)

Our chuckles soon turn into awe as Luke dove right into his subject by reading Genesis 1. Granted, the awe did not come immediately, as we were all wondering why in the world he was reading to us about creation. I think all of us were trying to figure out where he was planning on going after this, and we somewhat spaced off these familiar words and impatiently wished he would just get on with things. When he finished, he looked around, and to our chagrin, asked for an honest raise of hands of those of us who were bored. I think just about every hand went up in the room. He went on to explain that most Christians are bored with this passage because it has nothing to do with us, it is all about God and what He did. We tend to view the Bible from a people-centered view, and therefore most of us don't get excited until Genesis 3. Why? We now have something to relate to! Sin has entered the world, and thus the glorious message of salvation! The Bible now talks about us and we see something worth living for!

He explained that when most of us are asked what the Bible is all about, we will answer 'God,' but we live and act as if it was all about us. This is the very center of Cat and Dog Theology, and without getting too long winded, I'll try to cover some of the things that spoke the most to me.

Cat and Dog Theology came from the well-known incredible differences between cats and dogs. Many of you have probably heard the joke that centers on the different thought processes between cats and dogs. Cats think of their masters this way...."You love me, you feed me, you shelter me, you pet me - I must be god!!" Dogs think..."You love me, you feed me, you shelter me, you pet me - you must be god!" In Luke's parallel, these are two different kinds of Christians. The one type of Christian walks through life looking for how many blessings they can get from God, and the other type seeks God's honor and glory as their ultimate goal. As a result, cat Christians begin to think that life is all about them. Because of this, they make a foundational shift in their theology. Their focus goes off of God glorifying Himself through blessing them, and instead focuses on receiving the blessings from God. Subsequently, they become primary and God's glory becomes secondary.

Humanism has it's root in this thinking, and is manifest in two forms.
  1. Liberal humanism states "The chief end of existence is the happiness of man while they are alive." Out of this is born the "health and wealth gospel"
  2. Evangelical Humanism says, "The reason for Christianity is the happiness of mankind after they die (i.e. making sure people don't go to hell).
That is cat and dog theology in a nutshell. The applications are endless, but the ones that really spoke to me were on 'selective application' and the 'winner's circle.'

In selective application, Luke brought out the point the many times we only apply those passages of Scripture which make us "feel good." Rarely are we reading (much less memorizing) passages which deal with God's desire to glorify Himself through trials and the tough times in life....

Why aren't we taught lessons like...
  • God wants you to live, breathe, eat and die in slavery to teach future generations a lesson?
  • Your siblings are going to sell you off as a slave so God can use you in a foreign land?
  • You are to be a prophet to the church, be jailed, and see no fruit for the majority of your years of ministry?
  • God may want you thrown into a blazing fire to show His power?
  • God may want you in jail to share your faith with others?
and many more.....

The 'winner's circle' mentality is very similar. When Cats read their Bible, they always focus on the major characters of the story, never the minor characters. Why don't we ever relate to: Job's children? The 70,000 fighting men who died because David sinned? David and Bathsheba's firstborn? The firstborn of all Egyptians who died? Korah's wife and children? And many more....

Luke brought out that these people were just as important to God, and were used just as much by Him as those who we lift up as the hero's in the Bible. For myself personally, it's often been a challenge to feel useful and fulfilled where God has placed me, simply because I am comparing the fruit I see or don't see in my life with that of the great hero's of the faith. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am where God wants me right now, but to my shame, my attitude has been one of doubt and disbelief that God can really be glorified through these simple things my life is made up of.

God really brought this lesson close to my heart while observing Christian Lapp's life. Granted, he did not choose that his mother would be on drugs and alcohol while he was in the womb, and he had no say about the doctor's care of him while he was a baby, but his life nevertheless is living proof that God can be glorified through complete helplessness and dependence on others. Desiring God's glory above all else is a willingness to be used however, and wherever by God, no matter what the personal sacrifice to ourself, just to see His name lifted up and honored.

For those of you who have heard the famous sermon by Paris Reidhead, 'Ten Shekels and a Shirt', what I've shared will probably make a lot more sense to you. Luke's sessions were a huge expansion on this sermon, and I don't feel as if I've hardly touched on what he shared. If he's ever in your area and you have the opportunity, I would really encourage you to hear Luke yourself. There are also many materials available from UnveilinGLORY's bookstore, both in book, audio and powerpoint/DVD form. The principles he teaches truly have the potential to change your whole perspective on life and missions!

Well, I see right now I'm not going to get through all of Monday, so that will have to wait for my next post. There, I'll try to recap what he taught us about 'Top and Bottom Line Principles,' and how many of us only read half our Bibles. I'll also share about the wonderful blessing God closed our evening with and how it changed many of our attitudes towards the whole week!

Till next time, God bless!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mission Bible School - Sep. 23rd-24th

Saturday, Sep. 23rd dawned bright and early for my parents and I as we headed to the airport around 5:00. Life had been so busy the previous few weeks I hadn't had time to get excited, but now that we were finally on our way I could hardly contain myself. Not only was I flying to CO, but I had mom and dad all to myself for a couple hours - a rather rare occurrence in our family.

We started off the morning with breakfast at Perkins together, and I was even able to convince dad that caramel lattes were something worth bragging about! It was so nice to have the quiet, relaxed atmosphere Perkins offered, and gave us a chance for some one on one time. I wouldn't trade that start of my trip for anything!

When we got to the airport, I was dismayed to find my flight had been delayed two hours. I guess there had been some severe weather in the Midwest part of the country, and had set tons of flights back. I resigned myself to lots of time reading and journaling, and was also pleased to find a bookstore to browse through after I was past security. The store was empty except for me and the cashier, and just as I was walking out she pleasantly asked me about my headcovering. Thrilled at an opportunity to share Christ, I was surprised to find out that she was a born-again Christian and went to a Baptist church in the area. Originally from Ethiopia, she had immigrated about seven years ago, but had Mennonite relatives back in Africa. We had a very good conversation, and I think both of us were encouraged through it!

When my plane finally left the ground, I was a little disappointed to push through the clouds after about 10 minutes, but the breathtaking views and the pleasant seat companion I had soon kept me plenty involved. As I viewed the beautiful upperside of the clouds, and the shadow of the plane circled by a rainbow, I was blessed by the spiritual parallel God brought to my heart. We only see the underside of the clouds of trials God brings our way. Oftentimes they may be accompanied by storms and rain, and may bring apparent destruction and sorrows into our lives. All the time while we are asking God why and complaining of the hardness in our life, He is looking at the beautiful upper side of the clouds and rejoicing in the fruit He's working in our lives. A simple truth? Yes, but it blessed me as sometimes only simple things can!

I arrived in CO about 1:00, and had an uneventful trip from the airport to Loveland. I was blessed to find my host family a sweet older couple, and we soon got acquainted as the afternoon progressed. I was shown to my huge room with my own bathroom, and from that time forth was treated royally! :-) Later that afternoon their daughter Katie and husband Phil, the pastor of the church, came over with their son Christian. I was so inspired and blessed as I saw the work God has done through their adopted little boy. A prison baby, who's mother was on illegal drugs and alcohal, and also who had been dropped by the doctor seconds after delivery was completely dependent on his parents for the simplest tasks. Almost seven, and unable to speak or even sit up, he was the perfect picture of the lessons Phil wanted to instill upon our minds the next week of our dependency upon God. Seeing his helplessness, and Phil and Katie's dedication and love for him gave me such a picture of God's love towards us. Hearing Phil's stories of how God has used Christian in so many ways to bring spiritual truths to people's hearts, gave me a new picture of God's heart in using even the smallest, and seemingly most insignificant members of the body of Christ for His glory.

Sunday morning was a treat as I got to meet my two housemates. Naomi is a nurse in training from MA, and Anna a big sister with lots of younger siblings just like me from PA! Church was followed by a fellowship meal, and thus began the adventure of meeting all the other students!

Sunday afternoon I was so blessed to be able to visit with Cheri Cross, a very dear friend of mine from there in Loveland. Though we only had a very short hour and a half together that afternoon at Starbucks, I was very blessed and encouraged, and we left with the hope of a repeat the next weekend. Thanks so much, Cheri, for you friendship and dedication to the Lord!

Sunday evening, all of the youth were invited over the indoor horse arena of one of the young married men in the church, and we had several hours of volleyball and general "get-to-know-each-other" time. I was very grateful for this as it gave us all such a head start to Monday. The ice was broken that evening, and paved the way for some awesome blessing we received the next day. I'll make you wait for that till another time, though!

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm Back Home

After a wonderful nine days in CO, I'm back home safe and sound! The Lord blessed beyond measure, and I can't wait to be able to share it with you all. I couldn't hardly do justice to everything that happened out there and what I learned in one post, so I'll covering each day or maybe two individually. Photos will be abundant, (I have over 500 to choose from) and sessions covered in full. For now though, a picture is going to have to suffice. Hopefully I'll have time soon to work on the first post!