Google+ Followers

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 6

Back at school after a couple of days of rest! We had a great time with my wife's in-laws in Northern Minnesota. We had the joy of taking our daughter through the 'Underwater' world at the Mall of America. This is one of the most impressive displays of fish, turtles, and rays that I have ever seen! They have numerous displays that are built for little kids to walk up and see fish at their level, or "fishies!' as Alyssa would exclaim when a big one swam by. This adventure is spendy, but worth the cost if you really appreciate nature and God's ingenuity in the aquatic world.

The second round of classes has begun, and the topic for the week is hermeneutics, which is a fancy word for 'interpreting the Bible.' One meaningful thing to me today is the thought that the Bible does more than just communicate to us. When we read books, magazines, or the newspaper, information is communicated and we choose what to do with it. The Bible contains more than just information; it truly contains transformation. As we come in contact with God's Word and humble ourselves underneath it, we are changed and shaped by the transferred information. This is why reading the Bible is so vital to our faith and our walk with Christ. We don't read the Bible just to learn the stories and hear about God; we actually come in contact with God and power of His Spirit as we surrender our lives to His Word. As you approach God's truth this week, realize you hold something entirely different in your hands. If you want to follow Christ, give to Him the rights to decide how you handle that information. When we see truth in God's Word, we seek to live it and not just acknowledge it.

May you discover life-transformation in the pages of His Word this week.

Journey on with Him.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 5

Well, one week of class is now done and I get a weekend to recover before the next one. My wife and daughter arrived last night and are at my in-laws, so I am headed up to be with them for the next few days.

Today, I'll just leave a thought that has been on my heart lately. We learned a new song this past weekend that had the line, "Mountains bow down, all the oceans roar, to the Lord of hosts." I've climbed numerous high peaks in my life and each time, I am deeply impacted by their imposing heights, their sheer rock cliffs, and the astounding views from the top. From this perspective, mountains are incredibly powerful. I can tell you from first-hand experience that you feel small and insignificant on the slopes of one of these giants. Throughout the Bible, we read about creation, the mountains and the seas, worshipping the Creator. My thought has been that if the mountains of such incredible power and size bow before the Lord, who am I not to worship? If the heights of creation and the expanses of the ocean shout His praise, how much more should I? I have been given a voice, and a life, with which I can magnify and worship my Creator. To not worship would be a high form of arrogance.

May your life be lived as an act of worship to the Creator. It's the only way for His creation to live.

Journey on, fellow traveler.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 4

We've heard some interesting updates from China today- reports of lives being changed, churches being started, and the dead being raised, spiritually and physically. Can you imagine having the privilege of living in a place where God is still waking people from their coffins? One Chinese pastor recently told a group of Americans, "Please don't pray for deliverance from political persecution; pray that Jesus finds the lost." The Chinese believers truly see their persecution as positive- that God has used it to refine, strengthen, and grow His church. A student in our class chimed in and said that believers in China are praying that the church in America will face persecution, believing that through persecution the American church will be wakened from her slumber. I can't disagree with the need to wake our churches, but I guess I hope it won't take an extreme time of difficulty. Yet in the horrid times of suffering and pain, the Chinese people have seen the light and beauty of Jesus and turned to Him. We could learn a great deal from these Asian friends.

May you be able to see the beauty of Jesus today.

Journey on.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Where Will Your Light Shine?

A compelling quote from today...

I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light– John Keith Falconer

The Bethel Experience- Day 3

Whew- halfway through week 1. This class has been tough- I'm in a cinder block room with no windows, sitting in a little desk just like in high school. At 3:30 in the afternoon, some fresh air would be like, well, a breath of fresh air!

We've spent a great deal of time discussing Muslims today. This has been a fascinating subject as we've looked at the numerous ways that Islamic belief borders on Christian belief. Also, it's compelling to realize that within the Muslim world are the greatest number of unreached people groups, while western churches send fewer missionaries to those countries than anywhere else. I am impressed by groups like Frontiers (the group Robert Mitchell is with, for those who know him) who are committed wholly to going to unreached "frontier" countries where a vast majority of the people are Muslim. God is making some inroads into these places and bringing people to the truth of Jesus Christ. I realize now why the CMA is so focused at this time on redistributing our resources (missionaries) to get people who are working in "reached" countries (Ecuador, Hong Kong, etc.) into countries that are not reached (the Middle East, Northern Africa, India, etc.). Did you know that within the country of India there are over 4,000 DIFFERENT people groups, and the majority of those groups have no significant witness to Christ? It's time we renew our commitment to taking the Good News to every nation. (Note: nation is not a geographical word in the New Testament; it refers to distinct people groups.)

The Muslims know so much about Jesus, but they miss His power and relevance at a crucial point. They deny the death (and therefore resurrection) of Jesus Christ, believing that he was too "special" to God to be allowed to die. Yet we believe that it is just because Jesus is so special to God that he was able to die for us and redeem us from an empty way of life. As missionaries attempt to dialogue with Muslims, they try to keep the focus off of the religious difference and stay focused on who is Jesus and what did he come to do. As we recognize the reality of Jesus' death and resurrection, our faith takes shape. The hinge point of our faith always has been and always will be the resurrected Christ who draws us to himself. Draw near to Him today, and pray for the eyes of the lost to be opened to His plan for salvation.

Journey on, friend. I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 2

What are we selling?

Day 2 of seminary has already been much better- I'm starting it with 8 hours of sleep!

Today in class we are discussing and debating what it means to reach people for Christ, especially in a culture different from our own. The emphasis so far is that too often we are guilty of trying to "sell" people Christianity, and they reject that because it doesn't fit their way of living. We have been called to "sell" people on the love, grace, and truth of Jesus Christ. Especially in America, following Christ has taken on a certain "church" look, and I think many of our friends and family members are rejecting Christ because they reject the image of church culture and American Christianity behind it. As you seek to be a light for Christ, consider hard whether you are calling people to Christ, or to a church culture that may or may not glorify Christ. People's greatest need has always been and always will be to know Jesus Christ. Yes- participating in a community of believers is essential to following after Christ, but this is not the first step. Let's help people find Jesus, and then from that perspective, encourage them to consider what it looks like for them to follow him. It's sad to think that millions of people in our own country are not following Christ because they have rejected Christianity, when if they only knew what it was all about, they'd turn their lives to him. I encourage you- be a person who's committed to preaching Christ, and not our own individual understanding of Christianity. I heard someone say once that the longer the word gets, the more confusing it becomes: Christianity, Christian, and Christ. Let's not be about Christianity. Let's be about Christ.

UPDATE: The missionary couple whom I asked you to pray for has made it safely to the northern part of Lebanon. They were definitely protected by God's power, as a gas station they were stuck at for awhile was bombed a few hours later, and a bridge they were headed to was bombed only minutes prior to their arrival. Had they differed their schedule by much in either direction and they may not have made it. Praise God for his protection!

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Bethel Experience- Day 1

My day started early. More accurately, my Sunday never ended! I landed here in Minneapolis at 5:40 AM, and the temperature was already at 85 degrees. A frined met me at the airport and we went out for a fresh cup of Caribou Coffee. (If you're ever in Minnesota, I highly recommend it!) Do you remember what I was saying yesterday about friends? This friend willingly got up at 5:00AM, drove to the airport, took me to the university, and then headed home so he could catch his car pool to work. He did this without a hint of resentment or the "you owe me" attitude so common in our culture today. He blessed me with his attitude and his servant's heart today.

My first class is on Global and Contextual Ministry. Our main focus is missions and God's activity around the world. Our professor is actually living in Jordan and has just flown over for our week together. He began class with some compelling stories of what is happening in Lebanon. He oversees two teams of people that are currently bedded down in the midst of the conflict there with bombs exploding just blocks away from them. If you would, be praying for Dennis and Brenda Heath and their teammates who are earnestly seeking God's will. The dangers are great if they stay, and equally great if they attempt to leave. Pray that God will have his hand in this tense and volitile area. I think ultimately, especially in a confusing situation like the Middle East, we are called to pray that God would make himself known and reveal His glory through all that happens. Pray that this conflict will somehow draw more people to his throne.

If you live in America, you are a blessed person. The world around us wrestles with so much that we never have to worry about. What responsibility does this give us? Are we not people who have been given much, and from whom much will be required? I pray that we all learn to use well all that God has given us, including our wealth and stability of a healthy nation. Throughout history, God blesses people not for their benefit, but so that they can turn around and be a blessing to someone else. Who could you bless today?

Journey on.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

T-minus 1: The Bethel Experience

Do you know how it feels when you only have a few hours before you leave on a long trip? The "to do before I go" list keeps growing longer and longer as the hours get shorter and shorter. I'm feeling that in a big way today. The lawn needs mowed. The suitcase needs packed. Laundry needs to be done. Details at work need to be wrapped up. Calls need to be returned. Errands need to be run. I'll quit typing out my list before I acquire some sort of migraine.

You may be asking by now, "Why on earth are you taking time to type this post?" Well, I think sometimes we need to remember our feelings in the middle of tough times, not just when we look back. Today I am realizing why this "pre-trip" stress isn't growing too great; because honestly I feel pretty good. Why? Well, I know that at home I have good neighbors and kind friends who will watch the house, check the mail, and keep things in order. At work, I have awesome co-workers who can do the job better than I can. Sometimes I just need to let go (or go away :-) ) in order to give them time and space to really shine. I know they'll excel and the church will benefit from their leadership. And I know that at my side I have a close, caring partner who will help me make sure I don't forget anything important. I couldn't do things like this without her- my wife.

This brings me to my point, or perhaps more accurately my prayer. I wish for each of you a circle of friends and a community on whom you can depend and from whom you can draw real strength. If you have this network around you, be sure to thank them and express as often as you can your appreciation for them. If you look around yourself and feel that this support is not strong for you, let me encourage you; do whatever you can to develop it. Invest in the people around you and commit yourself to the most important thing in this world: our relationships. Time spent growing closer to others is always time well spent, and the investment will be returned. It's not that we develop friendships for what they will bring us, but there certainly is a benefit to be had. We are not meant to live in isolation, but in community.

And in all things at all times, may you know the friend who is closer than a brother. May the Prince of peace surround you this week and always.

Journey on, friends!