Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finally HOME...After 16 Months


I have just wanted to cry tears of joy several times today. Honestly, we cannot begin to communicate how thankful we are for this day, but I will try in this post.


Today we moved into a home of our own after living in one room as a family for over a year. It was 16 months ago that we moved out of our home in Maryland (we rented our house 30 days after the Lord called us to South Africa).  You can read that story in full HERE.  We have lived in about 7 different "rooms/homes" in this time period. As can probably imagine, living like nomads for 16 months has not been easy.  You can read some of what that was like by clicking HERE.  Tricia, Davis and I have all learned tremendous life lessons in the last year and a half. Too many to write tonight, so I won't start. 


A little about our place...we are renting a fully furnished duplex/condo joint (not sure what you'd call it in the USA).  It is about 3 kilometers from Masi & All Nations.  This place is a cozy gift from God!  Tricia loves it and that's all that matters. If Mama aint happy, aint nobody happy. Luckily, Davis and I like it too.  The Lord opened this door for us way back in February.  The owner is heading to Asia to do missions work. He leaves in 2 weeks. So, check this out...our partners support us, we pay rent here, and that rent goes to support another missionary in Asia!  LOVE IT! All Kingdom stuff.  


One last word about the significance of today.  We have felt the amazing grace and lavish love of God today in so many ways.

  • The guy who we are renting from in awesome!
  • The place is all we could ever need. 
  • We had a friend help us clean every square inch of the place.
  • Had another friend helping me with other things.
  • The Reber family stopped by with a housewarming gift and lots of hugs welcoming us to the neighborhood.
  • The Fercho family dropped by, brought lunch and took Davis out to the park with their kids.
  • The George's (owners and managers of Silver Palms, the guesthouse we have been living at for 7 months) came by with a beautiful painting for the wall.
  • The Hain family brought us dinner (yummy balsmic chicken) and helped with other things.
  • The Malherbe's stopped by to visit this evening.


If that is not enough...

  • The house is immaclate.
  • We are all moved in.
  • We have fast internet.
  • And Davis is asleep in his OWN BED in his OWN ROOM!


Just had to share our joy with you tonight.  God is so good and we long to give Him all the glory in all things. Days like today are a healing balm to the hard days and losses that come along with leaving home and moving across the world. 


(This is the only pic I took today.  More later.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Story About Our Car

After one month of being out of commission, we got our car back today. It had a blown engine.  Here is a cool testimony:


When we originally took the car in and had it looked at, the estimate to rebuild the engine was R34,000 ($5,000 US)!  That is half of what we paid for the car!  Cars and everything to do with them are really expensive here!  And you really must have one where we live. Needless to say, we were devestated about this news.  We just did not have that money! But, we had this strange sense of peace because we knew that God would pay for it.


So, we asked our prayer team to pray with us in 3 specific ways:

  1. That we could somehow find a place to repair the car for less money.
  2. That God would provide the money to repair the car.
  3. That we would somehow have a vehicle to drive until ours was repaired. 


Well, today I would like to report on exactly how God answered those prayers:

  1. We were referred to a local guy that specializes in our make of car (Opel).  He quoted us R22,000 ($3,250) to rebuild the engine. So, we decided to remove the car from the dealer.  We owed them R926 ($130) for the disasembly and diagnosis they did.  When I tried to pay the guy, he refused payment and said "Happy Birthday"! Yes, it was my birthday that day. So, we got the car towed to local dude.  Oh, and the tow was free as well.  All God!
  2. That weekend, Pastor Nelson and our home church, Capital Christian Fellowship, surprised us and invited us to skype into the Sunday service and share our need.  They took up an offering of R20,000, almost exactly what we needed to repair the car!!! Others gave as well, covering every rand of the repairs! All God!
  3. We drove a loaner car from the dealer for 1 week---free!  We drove some friend's car for 2 weeks---free! And we drove our mechanics car this last week---free!  We did not experience ONE hour of carlessness in the month our car was out of commission! All God!


God answered every specific prayer we prayed in a specific and powerful way!  And I just felt that I had to share this story.  It does not always happen this way, but it did this time....and we are giving the Lord the glory for it. Thank you to all of you who gave, prayed or cared!  We are on the road again!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why I'm Here...

Seems that quite often I have these moments in Masi where I simply sit back and say..."ah, that is why I moved across the world...this is why I'm here!"  Sunday, I had one of those moments.


We were gathered for church Sunday morning with a group of guys.  Several of us on the bed, several on the floor of one small room.  While sharing about our week, one of the guys (Shawn, who we thought was Muslim) says this:


When I met you guys, it was like I was locked in a dark room.  I feel like you all took a stick and poked a hole in the roof and I could see a little bit of light shining through.  Then, you gave me the stick to hold myself.  And for the last few months, I have been working on the hole and making it even bigger, and now my life is full of light.  I think that the stick and the light are Jesus. Ever since I gave my body and my spirit to Jesus, my life has totally changed! 


There just are not words to explain the joy I feel when I see a changed life like this. This is not the first time that I have heard a profession of faith like this.  It is so stinking cool when people surrender to Jesus and share out of that surrender instead of us walking them through a "sinner's prayer".  This is the best type of sinner's prayer ever--one that flows out of their real experience. These men are finding Jesus and He's showing up and showing off in their lives. 


It's moments like these when I know...THIS is why I'm here.  Pray for Shawn.  He's the one in the picture next to me with his hands folded.  I meet alone with him Thursday night to start to walk with him in a deeper way. 



Sunday, July 17, 2011

Submit, Woman!

Now that I have you attention with that highly charged and totally inappropriate expression...


I want to share a theology I hold to. A theology of marital submission, if you will. It is formed from the crazy passage in Ephesians 5. However, before I continue-- let me say that Rob Bell stole my theology! Ok, maybe not. But, I have held and shared this theology of Ephesians 5 for years. But, he wrote it in a book in the same terms I have always shared it. And he is popular and has an audience. I don't. Oh well. I will share it with you. Here is the gist according to Rob Bell and I…


To submit is to place the needs of another above yourself. Ephesians 5:23 basically says "look like Jesus- Give yourself up for her!" Christ's headship comes in giving himself up for the church. His sacrifice. His surrender. His death. Whatever authority the word "head" carries with it is rooted in the sacrifice of Christ, and therefore the sacrifice of the Husband.


So, she submits to him, and he lays it all down for her, and it's all submission, and it's all out reverence to Christ! Good stuff, huh?


So how does this play out? Oftentimes the stereotype seems to put men over women making it clear that they "call the shots". The more I see this the more I look at my own relationship with Tricia. I am not calling any shots!! We are calling them together. And as soon as I act like I'm the only one doing it, 1) I may get slapped and 2) I better be ready for all the blame when it fails!


Some would say- "That's fine now and then, but what about the tough decisions? What happens when push comes to shove and somebody has to make the tough decisions?" 

Now, think about your friendships, the closest ones. How often do you ask who is in charge? Do you ever find yourself asking "where does the buck stop?" It actually feels silly, doesn't it? Over time, you've built up reserves of trust and love, and power and control become irrelevant. The healthier and more whole the relationship is, the less you ask these types of questions. When people are truly living in what's called "mutual submission", you lose track of who's in charge.


What would happen in marriages if women were totally sure that her husband will be placing her needs above his own- dying so she could live? What if he made a habit of this? And she a habit of responding with much of the same?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Give it away!

Ephesians 4:11-13 has always been of great interest to me.

There are many things to say about it. Here is one thing that seems clear to me:

The gifts God gives to people are to be used to equip others to build up the body of Christ.

Here is what that means to me-- the gifts in this passage are for multiplication and edification, not demonstration!! They're not to be performed while others look on. Rather, they are to be reproduced.

An evangelist's true fruit is not a convert, but another evangelist. Good teachers make more teachers. Gifted Pastors notice and shape the pastoral heart in those around him. On it goes.

Sadly, what ends up actually happening is that the "specialist" teachers, evangelists, apostles, pastors, and prophets speak at the conferences, give the seminars, and instead of equipping others, they simply perform their gift making it feel even less possible for you & I "normal" people to ever operate in it.

I believe that the five fold ministry is given by God to be given away- multiplication for edification!

Are you an apostle? Go make more apostles. A teacher? Teach others to teach better than you ever could. An evangelist? Go ye therefore and multiply yourself for our lost world! Got the gift of prophecy? See it in others, draw it out and affirm their gift. Is your gift set pastoral-- love to love people? Find those compassionate hearts near you and release those Shepherds!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Allow for Curiosity

One major thing that I have been learning as I work in a new place has been this: We must wait on people to gain curiosity and ask questions before pushing our agenda!!  Read that again please.


The temptation as we try to meet people in a new place and accomplish our vision of planting churches is to quickly announce why we are here and what we are doing.  When we do this, we are answering a question that is not yet being asked and possible forcing our way into soil that is not yet ready to plant in.  


People are naturally curious...if you allow them the time to get there.  Then, they ask. I think that we we press answers into people who are not yet asking the right questions, we prevent them from becoming truly curious. We actually rob them of something special.  


Jesus described himself as the water of life and the disciples as the salt of the earth.  If people eat salt, it will make them thirsty, even if they have not been thirsty before.  If people are not yet thirsty for the water of life, feed them salt. Then they will become thirsty and they will drink. 


I am finding that it is FAR more effective to wait on people to ask the questions.  That is how we know if they are hungry or not.  If they are not asking for the food, they are likely not hungry for, we can move on....because someone down the road may be starving! The missional relationships will be far more effective if you wait on them to get curious before sharing your agenda. 


Just my $0.02.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My Thoughts on Missions Trips

Becoming a long term Missionary forces you to develop your thoughts on things that used to seem normal. For me, one of those things has been short term missions.  I have spent the last 6 months trying to develop a philosophy of short term missions. Frankly, my journey into developing these thoughts was birthed out of my frustration for all the short term teams in and out of Masi!  I am not sure that it will accomplish anything to share my concerns with you, but they are numerous and still alive.  Intstead, I will tell you how I think short term missions trips CAN be healthy and fruitful:


1. The people going need to be properly prepared in the HEART!  There must be training that deals with the heart!  Why are we going and what is in our heart to accomplish for the God's Kingdom?  If there is not strong foundational understanding of key purposes and heart behind the trip BEFORE the fundraising begins, it can become a mess.  Take no one on the trip because they want to feel spiritual or scratch their travelling itch.   


2. Short term trips should be entered into with prayerful public awareness among the team that we are asking God to call one or more of us into long term work.  Discuss it up front.  Build the expectation of long term fruit into the trip from the start.  If long term workers are produced out of short term trips, they are worth every dollar!  Someone in the group may go back to stay and that is a WIN!


3. Finally, the short term trip/team MUST relaize that they are there to encourage and bless the LONG TERM people and LONG TERM work.  Sow, water, till, build and bless into the long term stuff.  Give long term servants relief, rest, encouragement and inspirtaion.  That is the goal.  Start nothing new that you cannot continue. Only sow into what is there and strengthen it. 


So, this is a non comprehensive start to some of my thoughts on how to make short term trips fruitful Kingdom initiatives. 


PS- One thing that I would like to do is to study short term teams and trips found in the New Testament. That would be fascinating.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Three Conversions

I am beginning to wonder if there aren't actually three conversions that happen in the heart of a follower of Jesus?

1. A vertical conversion-- one that brings you to a love for God, and that love transforms how you live. 2. A horizontal conversion-- now that you know Jesus, you know real love and can now love others in a transformational way. But maybe just those you already know?

3. A missional conversion-- now things deepen. Your love for Father and your love for people has changed you, and you are plunged into a deeper level where you actively seek to save the lost. I would suggest that this is a conversion that many followers of Jesus have not yet experienced.
We may also put it this way:

1. Love for God.

2. Love for others. 3. Love for the lost.
Finally, I am wondering if these three conversions may run in sync, simultaneously overlapping with each other? They are different conversions and they happen at different speeds for different people. When I look at scripture, I see that the Lord desires for us to have all three of these conversions happen in our hearts...I'm just afraid a lot of us still haven't.