The one with a trip to India

This summer we were blessed with  tremendous opportunity to go to India.
For me it was a trip to my homeland, though it is not really a place i feel is home, it is my heritage.

Thus, I wanted Soo to know the place and hopefully get a better understanding of me and my family. I wanted the kids to gain a better understanding of themselves, be surrounded by people who look like them and get to know some of their family – since our family here in the states is relatively small.
Plus, India was a place Soo wanted to go to- and i wanted to take her, even if it wouldn’t be a vacation.

More so, i hoped we would bless the family we would see there and bless my parents. (Though often my thought is just about myself, I wanted to be intentional to think of blessing others)

The kids may not be able to enjoy all of it now, however i wanted to go with my parents so they could help take us around.

In the end we were incredibly blessed. We ate a lot of curry and met lots of people – that is we ate a lot of good food and met a lot of good people.

The trip wasn’t easy. It took us a long time to get there and involved a few scares along the way. We left on Weds morning at 8am and arrived in India at 3pm on Thursday afternoon. The flight home was even longer. We had one 4 hour flight, followed by a 16 hour flight – 16 hours! Our kids have spent more time on a plane this year than some people will their entire lives!
Complicating things was that they served peanuts on the plane and Josiah began to react to the smell… a lot of the food in country included cashews so we had to be careful. And we traveled a lot.

All things considered the kids did very well. They were up in the middle of the night keeping me awake a few times, but they liked the food most of the time and met lots of people.
They didn’t really appreciate the Taj Mahal, but they loved the monkeys and all the animals all over the place… however Halle was upset she didn’t get to touch a monkey or ride an elephant, thought she got close to each…

Mostly however, they enjoyed being with their uncle and spending time with their (2nd) cousins (who live in the states as well).
These were 2 of my biggest desires for the trip, so i am very thankful.
We come from a large family- my dad is the 10th of 11 kids. Yet, there is not much family here. My kids have no 1st cousins. And a lot of family live far away. So, very grateful to be with family.

We did ok too. Suprisingly, it is actually hotter in Indiana than in India!
Soo & the kids got sick the last 3 days, so we missed out a little bit- but the kids may have enjoyed that more- as they got a break and got to watch nick jr…

We had some difficulties, but God was faithful.
He answered a bunch of prayers… it wasn’t too hot, the rain never ruined plans, the food never made us sick, we didn’t get bit by too many bugs, there weren’t any big incidents, we got a nice day when we went to the Taj Mahal…

And we were blessed to
1. see the Taj Mahal
2. take a ride on a house boat on the backwaters
3. eat a lot of delicious food
4. see a beautiful country (this means we have been in the largest 3 countries in the world in the last 13 months).
5. see elephants, monkeys, lizzards in the wild
6. see a lot of family
+ my dad paid for everything, and so many family members came out of their way to see us and and serve us.
– and the difficulties, anxieties etc- served to push us more toward God and become more like Christ…

Sometimes life seems hard, but God is good.

 

Here are some photos:

 

Advertisements

The one when Prayer doesn’t work

Have you ever wondered if prayer actually works?

You pray and pray and see no fruit, no results. You’re still sick, you still don’t have a job, your child still isn’t married, you’re still single, still infertile, your friend still died…

You pray and pray and pray. You keep a prayer journal. You try striking deals. You fast. You beg, you cry, you are earnest.

Nothing.

Does it matter? I mean this world is full of trouble everywhere. And it seems to be getting worse.

Perhaps God is angry with us. Maybe He is too busy with other things to worry about my meager needs. Or maybe I am not doing enough, not praying hard enough, long enough.

Or maybe, maybe prayer just doesn’t work.

 

That may be right. Maybe prayer doesn’t work. I prayed for my sister to get better, and she still died from cancer. I pray for support to come in, and we still need a lot more. We pray for Josiah’s allergies, and he still can’t eat anything. We’ve been praying about health issues and it seems like God can’t do anything about it- the only solution is more drugs. We pray for laborers, and we get a few people, but not many. We pray for people to come to Christ, but only a few believe. Does prayer work?

Look at story of Elijah.

23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention (I Kings 18:23-29).

They pray, they plead, they cut themselves. And nothing happens.

Still like this today. In Tibet they spin wheels- big wheels, and small wheels in efforts to pray, to earn favor. They bow and prostrate themselves in effort to beg & plead.

Some places people dance, and scream and make huge gestures towards the sky.

And in corners of rooms, in churches across America- people offer penance.

Some think by their many words they will be heard- if they make it glamerous, say the right phrase- prayers will be answered.

Prayer doesn’t work.

IT is not our efforts, not our words that change things.
In fact is not even our sincerity and good intentions. It is God who changes things. It is God who works.
Prayer is a tool. God is the one who works.

I use a phone to talk to someone. But it is not the phone I connect with, it is the person on the other side. The walkie talkie allows me to communicate to my commander to someone who can help me. But it is not the walkie talkie that saved me- it is the person on the other side who delivers.
We are thankful for phones & walkie talkies, but careful not to love it.

The important thing is who we pray to. Not what we pray about or how we pray.
Prayer doesn’t work. God does. Perhaps it seems like semantics, but I think it can have tremendous impact on our heart, our faith, and on the world.

If we are praying to a false god, or praying to a god we make up, or to/for ourselves- nothing will happen. It is not about our intentions or sincerity. It is not our effort in prayer. It is about God.

God is not a genie who must act according to our whims. He is free. He is sovereign.
So prayer is not a magic formula or incantation. It’s not like we have to pray first or our meeting/planning is not blessed. Perhaps we can & should pray- but we still need to rely on God, not ourselves, not our prayers. Let us rely not on prayer, but on God.
Since it is God who works, then we can not and do not need to rely on our efforts in prayer, but simply plead with God. I don’t need to fear if I am too sinful, or not praying right. I don’t need to work harder in prayer.

When we pray then – we beg; we plead. God is the one who works. We communicate with Him as with a person. And we wait on Him.

Yet, since it is God who works- we can have confidence.

God knows what He is doing.
God is wise.
God is powerful
God has a plan.
God is faithful.

We pray trusting God. Trusting He will do what is best. Trusting He can do something about a problem. God will work all things for good, for His purposes, for His glory.

 

And so when we ask something and it doesn’t happen- what do we do?

  1. We thank God for His wisdom and goodness
  2. We seek to know God, seek His glory.
  3. We ask for understanding and direction.
  4. We keep praying, until we can’t anymore

 

Elijah prayed- and God answered

James tells us He prayed and it did not rain, he prayed again and it did.

Who was Elijah?
Bible describes him as Elijah the tishbite.
Not Elijah the prophet, the great man, the holy man, the spiritual giant.
Elijah was a man like us.
And the effective prayer of a rightesous man availeth much.
God works thru prayer.
He has designed us to pray

  • To show His faithfulness, power, glory
  • To build dependence on Him
  • To build our relationship with Him

And because of Jesus, we can come into His presence.

See,  in some ways it makes sense all the things the Baal worshippers did, that the Tibetans do now. I mean, how can we come into the presence of an Almighty God? How can we ask God to intervene?

Jesus paid the price with His blood, so we can enter His presence. Jesus intercedes on our behalf. And the Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray now.

What should our response be?

To pray

… even when we doubt or unsure
… even if we don’t know how
… even if we have prayed a long time already

We pray to a God

… who is all-powerful
… who exists outside of time
… who is sovereign over everything
… who hears our prayers
… who delights in us
… who is faithful
… who is good and loves us

Let’s Pray for

… for forgiveness
… for healing and help
… for laborers
… for God’s glory
… for God’s will|
… for the miraculous

  • Not just what we have seen
  • Not just for what we can do ourselves
  • Not just what we think possible
  • Not just what we can imagine

Pray for God to move & God to act.

This world needs help. I need help. You need help. God can help, so let’s pray, and ask him to work!

If God is Sovereign & Jesus is King, then what should we have to do with politics?

Back when I started walking with God I read a book called the Jesus I Never Knew. The author Philip Yancy noted how Jesus never seemed to care much about politics but about people knowing Him. He was not interested in an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one.

And with that,  I never cared about politics.
…Not that I cared for it much before that.

This year more than any other – perhaps because of social media, perhaps because of my age- politics seems to be more center stage.

Much is made about the religious right and then how you don’t need to be republican to follow Jesus… politics seems to be a big issue.

At other points many Christians have called upon others to vote – that is until the Christians voted for a candidate or policy they didn’t like…

And perhaps when things don’t seem to go right you hear people say,  Jesus is King. Or God is sovereign.

And that’s true. No matter who the president is, Jesus is still King. And no matter what happens- God is sovereign.

So if God is sovereign- does that mean it doesn’t matter? We don’t need to vote or we don’t need to care?

If Jesus is King, does it matter who president is?

What are we to do?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers or to have researched this topic extensively, but here are some thoughts

 

  1. Place hope in God
  2. People are more important than policies (or opinions)
  3. Pray
  4. Prepare yourself to make wise decisions
  5. Personally work to bring about change

Place your Hope in God

Jesus is King and God is sovereign. He is our Savior, our shield, our shelter, our strong tower. He is our help, our hope.

He really is the only one we can trust – in the sense of His trustworthiness, honesty & faithfulness – as well as in his ability to deliver.

Peter, addressing a group of exiles – people who were facing opposition because of the government and living in a culture that was not helping them writes this

set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Set your hope FULLY on the Coming King, on the Kingdom HE is going to establish.

If we’re honest we hope in many other things. We hope for many other things. We hope for relief from our trials. We hope in money or policies or our plans or ideas. We need to hope in Jesus and for Jesus.

He is the one we need to rely on, and look to.
This means we need to find our peace in Him and joy in Him.
And this means the thing we should be talking about most, pointing others to most, campaigning for is Christ.

There is Good News for us living in a broken world – Jesus.

This may seem like mere words, or at worst can lead to ignorance & uninvolvement. However, it is important for us to remember and constantly fix our eyes on Jesus. We need this to be foundational to who we are and how we live and act amongst others.

People are more important than policies and our opinions

We may think we know the answers, the solutions to our problems- but when we allow policies to be more important than people, we are neglecting God’s command to love others.

I’m not saying not to have opinions, but watch how we think of others or treat others.
If someone has a different opinion than you, do you seek to convince them they are wrong or to understand them?

Someone’s view on politics is a great opportunity to ask questions, to seek to understand. Why do they feel that way? Why do they want that policy?

As we consider policies, we must consider why do I want this policy? Is it to benefit simply myself or am I thinking of others?

We naturally will think about ourselves, and think what benefits me benefits others- but we are quick to assume often.

What assumptions are we making about others who hold a different opinion than myself?
Do we assume young people are lazy? Do we assume some people are greedy? Do we assume people are judgmental?

How can we love people?
I never want my opinions to become an obstacle to the Gospel or a hindrance to loving someone.
This helps also as we consider our values and our vote.

 

Pray

We are commanded to pray for kings and rulers. How often do we do that? We are more apt to complain about our government leaders than pray for them- even the ones we like.

Now there may be some we didn’t vote for. We may even consider them enemies of the Gospel – still we should pray for them. Jesus said to pray for our enemies. Even if we consider them enemies we need to pray for them. Pray for Christ to work in their heart, pray for them to turn to God.

More so we should pray for them as they lead our country. Since God is sovereign, they are there by His choice. They could not be in power if God did not allow it. So we should pray for them, that they have wisdom.

We should pray for wisdom ourselves as we vote as well.

God truly is sovereign, so that allows us to pray for our government. He has the power to change things. He is working things out for good beyond what we can see or understand. He may do things in our time that will utterly astound us- like He told Habakkuk or many of the other OT prophets. That does not mean God is not sovereign, that God is not good.

God truly is our only hope- so we should pray to Him to work for His glory.

Jesus said to pray Thy Kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Pray for God’s Kingdom. Pray for God’s glory.

Prepare yourself to make wise decisions

I once wrote that I not only have the right to vote but also the right to not vote. And I do think if I am not prepared, then I am not sure if I should be voting.

While I don’t think politics is the most important thing in the world, it does influence our world- so we would be wise to consider the effects of politics. We would be wise to consider different policies and different candidates.

We don’t want to just vote how someone else told us to vote. Or based on a couple sound bites. Or our upbringing. Or even just one policy.

We may not make the perfect decision, but since God is sovereign (and we hope in Him) and has given us a mind, we can use that mind to make a wise decision and trust He will do the right thing.

In the end, since we hope in Him, even if what we wanted does not come to pass, we can be content in Him. We can care for people and live in peacable ways. And we can pray for those in authority over us.

Personally work to produce change

Be the person who brings change.

We can talk a big game, but do we follow up our talk? Do we walk the walk?

We say we are pro-life- how do we demonstrate that? How do we show we value human life?

We say we love others & care for the poor- how do we demonstrate kindness? What are we giving to? How are we helping and serving others?

James says

 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, [o]be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (James 2:16)

And John tells us

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his [g]heart[h]against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (I John 3:16-18)

We say we are for traditional marriage – but what is our marriage like? How are we promoting healthy marriages?

The church used to be known as a place that took care of the poor. The Romans were astonished by how Christians took care of the needy. Christians founded places like the Red Cross of the YMCA.

The church should be a place where people feel loved and cared for and come to for advice or help, for sympathy, compassion and empathy. Is it?

Some say they don’t want government interfering with us or the church – but what are we doing? Perhaps if we were doing more to help others- the government wouldn’t need to.

Then others want the government to interfere to prevent abortion- but what are we doing to build relationships with people to care for pregnant moms? To care for abandoned kids? To love single moms? To shepherd teenagers?

Ultimately our hope is in God. Jesus is our King and our Savior. People need Jesus, then we should make it our aim to help people know Jesus by loving them, caring for them and talking much about Jesus.

 

 

The one with fools

Happy April!

I’ve been reflecting on thoughts about foolishness this Aprils fool’s day.

Isobel Kuehn a missionary to China reflected on I Corinthians 4 and wrote a book called in the arena. Her reflection as Christians we are on display for the world and look like fools has long stuck with me.

Sometimes it may appear foolish to follow Christ as we give up things that seem valuable to the world or not in line with the world’s thinking and we face much resistance and rejection. In fact, we may feel like fools.

Shadow of the Almighty is collection of Jim Elliot journal entries where he wrote “He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Jim Elliot would lose his life, martyred by those he came to serve, but his gain is far greater.
He was simply following the example of Moses who gave up the riches of Egypt for the reproach of the people of Israel for he is looking to a reward (Hebrews 11).

In fact what the bible calls a fool is one who trusts himself, looks to this world for gain- rather than trust God and seek reward in Him.

Jesus tells a parable (recorded in Luke 11) about a rich man who builds buildings for all his stuff ans says

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

According to Jesus the fool lives for this world. The fool stores up treasure on earth, instead of in heaven.

He also gives a parable of a wise man and foolish man- the wise man build his house on the rock and the foolish man builds his house on the sand.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

We can be wise or fool-  we can practice God’s Word or not.
Notice it is not enough to hear – or read- God’s Word, we must do it.

i feel like many see that and think i reading God’s Word makes me wise- well it is the information to make one wise, but only the one who does what God’s Word says is actually wise. In fact one who reads God’s Word and doesn’t do may be the most unwise. Like James says – he is like a man who looks in the mirror and forgets what he looks like  (which is me by the way- if you seen me, you know that).

If we want to be a fool- then…
… don’t listen to God
… don’t obey God’s Word
… live for this world
… live for temporal things

God’s Word is filled with verses about foolishness and wisdom. just take a gander

And over and over again it tells us the beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord, obey His word, turn from sin. We are instructed to be humble. The fool does not heed God’s Word or instruction from others. The fool is wise in his own eyes.

  • Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. Prov 28:26
  • The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Prov 12:15
  • The foolsays in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. Psalm 14:1

One thing for sure- God is not a fool, not foolish. He is wise. (The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man!).

His ways may seem foolish to us- but He has a plan, and it is a good plan – a great plan.

The pinacle of this is seen in the Cross.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. I Cor 1;18

So, though others may look down on us, or think we are fools – or we may feel like fools from time to time – certainly there cold be an easier way – we decide to continue to follow God. The reward is great.

These days that means we continue to raise support, continue to make phone calls, continue to reach out to others, and continue to pray.

The other day, I read somewhere – what do you do when you pray and God doesn’t answer? You keep praying.

Prayer may seem foolish when some may say just do something- but we want to continue to trust the lord and seek His provisions, depend on Him as we take steps of faith – and ask Him to do big things! Even if it seems foolish or feels foolish- we pray.

And even though we could try to pursue riches of this world, recognition from others – we seek instead reward in Christ.

So, don’t be a fool. Follow Jesus. Give up the things of this world and pursue a greater reward.

the one with a battlefield

A little over a year ago, I was speaking at a missions conference and one of the other new missionaries said he heard there was often a lot of team conflict and trouble on the mission field and he didn’t know why. I said I’ll tell you why:

Spiritual battle.

It’s not that they are bad people, it’s the fact there is a battle.

Yes, the mission field is a Harvest field, but it is also a battle field. When we enter the mission field, we engage in battle!

We are not at war against people, trying to convince them to believe.
We are not at war against people, they are not the true opposition of the Gospel.
We are not at war against culture, people’s parents or misconceptions or perceptions – though those may be barriers.
No, we are not against a culture. We do not seek to destroy a culture or replace it, but redeem it, and see the culture glorify God.

The battle field is not going into a different culture. The battle isn’t that we face more difficulties than anyone else. The battle is with spiritual forces.

We do not wrestle against flesh & blood
but against… cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil.

God is infinite, unlimited. But satan and his demons are limited, but still powerful! And if we begin to present the gospel, it is a full frontal attack. They will not stand for it.

I remember reading “No Turning Back” by George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobalization writing: Pray for our missionaries faith.

If anyone should have strong faith I thought, it would be missionaries. But missionaries are people too. And they are actively involved in the battle. And daily they face attacks on their faith.

Furthermore, there appears to be certain places where the enemy has strongholds. Places where the Gospel is oppressed, good is twisted, God is neglected and disdained, and evil is exalted. Sometimes it appears to be fine or even good- but that is just another trick of the devil.
While God is infinite & unlimited, since the enemy is limited, there are certain places where there is more demonic presence.
And i believe where there is a strong Muslim presence or a presence of physical idols, there is often a strong demonic presence too.
(This is not to say the idols or symbols themselves have power, but to speak of the limitations of the evil one- and where we may experience more spiritual attack).

We see this as we talk with people. Men and women who seem even convinced of the Gospel, who have desire to believe Jesus, but can’t.

I had one friend from a Muslim country ask me:

“How do Christians experience so much freedom?”

We talked about what Jesus had done for us, of God’s unconditional love, and His forgiveness based on the blood of Jesus. We shared from the Bible and our own lives and experiences.

HE would say to us  “I think it is true. I believe it is right.”

But he couldn’t quite believe. As he began reading “More than a Carpenter” He sent me a message on facebook and said while he finds it very interesting and good, and he enjoys my company, he couldn’t meet with me anymore. He couldn’t shake “the feeling he was doing something wrong.”

Clearly, this was something beyond being busy or being disinterested or being difficult- it was spiritual attack.

And those on the mission field – their lives aren’t much different than others – but for those who leave their homes- it feels like it is.

When a water pipe bursts, or the electricity goes out or you get sick- that is normal- but the enemy begins feeding lies. “This wouldn’t happen if you weren’t here, if you were back home.” “This wouldn’t happen if you weren’t following God so radically.”

Lies. The enemy feeds lies. The enemy tempts. The enemy attacks.

The enemies tries to bring insecurity, force comparison. And attacks.
The enemy attacks the body of Christ, attacks your identity in Christ, attacks your personhood, attacks family- and attacks the character of God – His goodness, His love, His sovereignty, His faithfulness, His trustworthiness.

Starting at the beginning, we see the devil using temptation and attacking God’s Word and the character of God.

And Satan will continue to do it, and especially those who get on his turf.

See, not only is their every day difficulty, compounded by cultural stress- there is an enemy seeking opportunity to attack!

There are many barriers to the mission field, but once we get past those- the battle rages on.

Why are we so surprised when a spiritual leader falls to temptation? Of course the enemy will attack this person. Because it not only destroys that individual or family- but all they influence!

And then why do so many Christians then attack that person, instead of praying for them. We should not gloat or rejoice when a Christian leader falls to sin. We should be sad, sorrowful and brought to a place of humility ourselves!

Sadly many Christians, filled with envy masked as holiness, rejoice when someone falls to sin. God does not rejoice in this. He is sorrowful when one sins.

And surely the enemy will attack marriages and attack families.
God even warns those who will be spiritual leaders about this.
But instead of judging them, criticizing them- we should be helping them, praying for them, loving them!

Saw this blog, the struggle is real!

Satan will attack teams- causing division.
One summer in Turkey I remember our team constantly having conflict- as soon as we touched ground in America- we liked each other again.
When missionaries are isolated, they get into even more trouble. We need each other. We need healthy teams.

Satan attack our identity and faith- are we good enough? Maybe our support is low because God is disappointed in us. Maybe we’re not seeing fruit in ministry because we are not good enough. Maybe i am having so much difficulty because i am so sinful.

Do not discredit discouragement. Verwer writes a whole chapter on it. It may seem little, but it can have big effect.

The Battle is real. Our enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion seeking one to devour.
Satan tempted Jesus, he will tempt missionaries.

So we need to be prepared, and we need to pray for those on mission.

The Good news is Jesus has already won the war.
He is fighting for us.
Prayers our powerful, because we pray to an All-powerful God, who is not limited in any way.
And He who is in us, is greater than he who is in the world.
Jesus was tempted as we are, yet without sin.
He understands what we are going thru and empowers us in the battle.

We urge all your prayers for us, for our family, for our ministry.

When you pray for the ministry- you go ahead of us.
When you pray for us- you fight with us, along side us, cover our backs.
Paul needed people to pray for him. Even Jesus called his disciples to pray.
We need you to pray too!

We thank God for all those who partner in prayer with us
Sign up here to get more prayer updates http://eepurl.com/bLUU85