Posted in Holy Spirit, Missions, New Year, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

I Got It All Wrong

A little over a year ago, just for fun really and because I thought we could contribute something interesting and useful in the area of working overseas in missions, I started a podcast. It really didn’t enter into my mind whether or not there was a special technique involved. “It’s so easy to start a podcast” was the message out there and I felt encouraged to soldier on into a new world of communication. I knew ours would be a simple endeavor considering my setting (we live in Burundi, Africa). I read up on the basics of podcasting: how to submit your podcast to iTunes, adding it on to social media accounts, among other things, and simply got started.

Of course I’ve been told I’ve “gotten it all wrong” because “everyone else does it this way” i.e., translated a way other than what I was doing. Had someone said this to me when I was much younger, it would’ve bothered me quite a bit. You see, one of the benefits of growing older is learning to let go of any negative effect that the opinions of others have on us. I’ve learned to listen, make corrections, and even ignore comments made that have no bearing at all on what I’m trying to achieve.

I’ve gotten so many things wrong according to what “they” say – but each and every time I’ve fallen for what “they” have said instead of allowing God to weigh in with His say, I’ve ended up miserable. Through that wonderful school of hard knocks called “life,” I’m finally at the place in my walk with the Lord where I know without a shadow of a doubt that what God wants from me is far more important than what anyone else would like to see me be or become.

So our podcast is so very simple; some may call it “dumbed down” to nothing. I don’t have any intro music, nor do I have facy fade-ins or fade-outs. I’m not against giving it a bit of polish but considering where we are and what we have technology-wise, having one as simple as ours is a victory!

As our world becomes increasingly desensitized to God’s voice in its pursuit of all the bells and whistles of remaining relevant, we risk being swept away in the current of sacrificing the message for the sake of being relevant. In this place of pressing to be accepted and current in society, things like prayer for those who need Jesus gets pushed farther and farther into more secluded areas in order to keep people comfortable. The Holy Spirit has become a ghostly phantom rather than a powerful presence. We slowly get lulled into a spiritual slumber thinking that if we draw bigger crowds then we are surely becoming more successful.

Jesus spends most of Luke 12 warning those following Him of the dangers of flowing with the crowd and allowing even a little bit of the world’s “yeast” to enter into our lives. That little bit of compromise, that little bit of trying to please everyone and not sound crazy might lead us somewhere we would have never dreamed of going.

**On a side note I’d say a lot of what we see in society today is itself pretty crazy so those saying we’re crazy don’t have much to talk about but that’s another entry for another day.

Luke 12: 51-53 MEV “Do you suppose that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For there will be from now on five divided in one house, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, and mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” 

Jesus’ desire isn’t for people to be in conflict, but in stating that His message would bring division seems to be in conflict with the “Peace on Earth” message (Luke 2:14) we’ve just come from celebrating during Christmas. Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) so how can a Prince of Peace cause division? He knew that people would not readily lay down their own ideas in exchange for His. He knew that people would reject His message that results in ultimate peace. He knew His message would run cross-grain to all cultures all over the world throughout many millenia. This is largely a result of our desire to be in charge; after all, we know better than anyone else what works in our culture, right?

Matthew 11:28-30 MEV Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

What everyone all over the world have in common is that they labor, they are heavily burdened. What those labors and burdens look like from country to country vary; in Africa the majority of the population labor simply to have enough money to feed themselves and their children. In the developed world people labor to maintain what they have accumulated. No matter what the labor – it is labor and it burdens us and causes us to work, sometimes frantically, to ease the burden we bear.

True rest comes from letting go of our own opinions in exchange for His.

This year I want to rest and that will look like I’m getting it all wrong – and that’s fine by me.

Posted in Comfort, Eternity, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

Best Before

old-letters-1082299_1920

I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation of typewriters, handwritten notes and telephone calls. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was new, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Have I become out of style myself? Am I past my “best before” date?

In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, my best before date falling many years into the future.

The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report on a store in Europe that uses these items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families. The savings passed on to those in society who are more vulnerable has been remarkable.

While groceries can go out of date, truth doesn’t expire. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required.

What appears to be forgotten in the static that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth can be as damaging as rejecting it for without exposure, truth won’t be understood by the hearers and when it is spoken, it sounds foreign.

1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”

The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods that are fallible, it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down:

Proverbs 27:6 NKJ“Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.

2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?…” 

People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding; they won’t like the way its packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right, in the face of truth (whose message seems to be irrelevant to the current crowd). The problem with questioning the truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with the changes making truth relative instead of absolute.

Truth is what gives us security and safety. My children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.

Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided end up themselves rejecting God’s truth for they have not experienced the unconditional truth of God’s love.

Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church – and the church has, by and large, succumbed to the whims of what is relevant, popular, and will “draw the crowds.”

natural-2923242_1920

It may be that the frustration we feel, however, is after winning the crowds we fail to keep them or, if we do keep them, see them become active participants in what we know has given us purpose. While appealing to the culture of our surroundings is necessary to speak communicate the message of God’s love to those around us, appealing to culture will not keep a hungry soul.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Hidden in the heart of everyone, God has placed a sensitivity for things eternal. If what we offer to those we are called to appeals only to the surface, the longing of eternity will drive those people to find what their hearts long for: a connection with the Maker Himself. For the sake of keeping the harvest of souls God gives us, we have a responsibility to bring them beyond appealing to the culture but to address the longing for eternity.

Posted in God's Word, Rejection, Relevance, Relevant

Best Before

shopping-1232944_1920

How did this happen?

I’ve somehow gotten grouped into the “older” generation. It wasn’t that long ago that I was on the other side of the generational curve telling everyone else what was fashionable, what was the newest trend. I don’t find this new reality that I’m facing, my own mortality, comfortable. Am I out of style? Am I past my “best before” date?
In the grocery store, there are “best before” dates stamped on the products lining the aisles. Some have longer “best before” dates than others; there are even some products whose dates are 2-3 years in the future from the day they are purchased. That’s the kind of product I want to be, best before many years into the future!
The reality is that many of the things we reject in the store because their “best before” date is either close or even past, but the items are still usable. I watched a news report about a grocery store in Europe that uses items that have been rejected because their “best before” dates have passed to help lower income families.
Truth is never out of date, it never expires. It may come with different wrappings from generation to generation but at its core, it remains constant. What was attractive wrapping 50 years ago, wrappings that helped people understand what was being said, doesn’t necessarily speak the same to those receiving the message today. A different wrapping might be required to help today’s generation understand what is being said.
What appears to be forgotten in the noise that we produce in our attempts to have an acceptable presentation to society, is that our attempts to “be acceptable” may very well steer us away from sharing the truth openly. Neglecting to speak the truth openly can be as bad, or worse than, rejecting it for without being spoken, truth won’t be understood by the hearers; it will sound foreign.
The truth is trustworthy, unlike methods to present it that are fallible; it remains constant. Trying to wrap truth in a way that is acceptable or presentable to the masses is impossible for the truth oftentimes hurts before it heals. Truth is like that “faithful friend” who won’t let us down.
Proverbs 27:6 NKJ “Faithful are the wounds of a friend. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Rejecting the truth for cultural acceptance is nothing new – there’s “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). From the time of the church’s inception, there were those attempting to keep the truth hidden because it was past its “best before” date.
2 Peter 3:1-9 NKJ 
vs. 2-4a “…be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His Coming?’…” 
People will always question the truth for their lack of understanding it; they won’t like the way it’s packaged and will buck against it in order to appear to be in the right. The problem with forming truth according to the ebbs and flows of society is that truth then ebbs and flows with those changes making truth relative instead of absolute.
Absolute truth is what gives us security and safety. For example, my children know for a fact that I love them unconditionally. No matter what they might do, no matter what the consequences they face due to their actions; I will always love them. They can rest in that fact and never question whether or not they are loved.
Truth that changes with the seasons of society gives no standard or security to those hoping to live by it. Children whose parents base their love and acceptance on performance offer their children no solid foundation on which to base their lives. These children who failed to reach the standards provided will ever be searching, striving, and working for approval by all who they connect with. They want to prove they are worthy of love and acceptance.
Today, instead of being solid, truth has become fluid – it can easily change shape much like freezing water to make ice. If indeed this is what truth has become to us as believers, where is our hope of His coming? Where is our assurance of His grace in the face of our sin? Society reacts to these questions by creating its own truth that has crept into the church under the guise of relevance (see “The Problem With Being Relevant” by Patrick Schatzline).
Relevance has become a buzzword in the church world to the point of potentially exchanging the truth for a comfortable compromise of an outline of truth that has been colored in with relevance; have we actually sacrificed a real encounter with God for the sake of the “cool factor?”
The “cool factor” we crave is actually a poor substitute for the real “cool factor” found in the truth of God and His Word that, while old, is always new and always works.
1 John 2:7,8a TLB“Dear brothers I am not writing out a new rule for you to obey, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the start. You have heard it all before. Yet it is always new and works for you…”
The quick fixes of today, the self-improvement courses and how-to guides, seminars and endless “must have” lists will all fade and be forgotten – but God’s Words are never irrelevant for they go beyond what’s cool. They are eternal, they never expire, and they are always fresh from day-to-day, year-to-year, and generation-to-generation.
Psalm 119:160 NKJV The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”
Posted in Choices, Courage, Destiny, Kingdom, Missions, Offense, Relevant

You Don’t Have to Wear the Panty Hose

pantyhose-gold-text-black-background-d-rendered-royalty-free-stock-picture-image-can-be-used-online-website-banner-87915139

I’ve been traveling for the past several weeks with my husband Jamie and our youngest daughter Andreya doing what missionaries do when not on the field: visiting churches and supporters, giving reports of what is happening with the work overseas. It’s been a great time of renewing friendships and meeting new friends.

Nevertheless, traveling so much has given me the unique opportunity to catch up with what’s trendy and new. I have to say, one of the coolest “new” things I have seen has been ordering food online and having it delivered to whatever address is entered into the proper fields. It’s possible to order a complicated burrito without speaking to a human being!

Another crazy new trend is the “virtual assistant” craze. A virtual assistant (or VA) is someone who offers administrative support that can range from making phone calls and writing emails to marketing online. This is something I’ve never even imagined but as I think of it, I can see how in today’s fast-paced society that having a virtual assistant could be a great benefit for certain people.

With the spread of the internet now reaching far and wide, people are able to upload ideas at an amazing speed and, with the right people reading those ideas, they can grow into “viral” trends in what seems to be the blink of an eye.

There’s a medical term, “social jet lag” that refers to the condition of falling victim to erratic sleep patterns causing exhaustion and a litany of other symptoms. This definition hails from the jet lag one experiences when travelling across time zones (a condition that I am well-versed in). However, I have begun to see social jet lag in another light. I define it as “the condition one succumbs to when trying to keep up with all of society’s trends.” I’m not sure if my definition will reach the heights of the online masses, but when I try to keep up with all of the trends in society today I feel socially jet lagged!

I remember when all the rage was to keep your roots colored; every 4-6 weeks women would flock to their local beautician to get their roots done so they wouldn’t have the dreaded line of “roots” showing. Fast-forward to a few years ago and the “ombre” look became all the rage. “Ombre” is having the longer parts of the hair colored a different color from the roots. Those of us who have been struggling to cover those roots for years became seriously confused. I still don’t know whether to color or not – am I in or am I out???

I remember when having a perm was all the rage – I sure hope it doesn’t come back any time soon. I was so relieved when I no longer had to perm my hair! Give me a hair straightener any day.

I remember when all the rage was to wear panty hose. They had many styles: sheer, control top, ultra-control top, sheer toe, reinforced toe, not to mention the rainbow of colors that were available.  These were to be put on by rolling them up and beginning at the toe, you rolled it up over your legs up to your waist. Either the hose would pull up seemingly to your chin or hang uncomfortably near your knees. If they were control top, they served as what felt like a corset (you couldn’t breathe too well wearing them).

Suddenly, after years of  wearing hose, that often came in cool egg-shaped containers, someone decided it was time to throw them away. Women everywhere struggled to adjust (and shave their legs more regularly) and some, like me, rejoiced thinking that we would never have to wear hose ever again.

Until someone invented leggings, jeggings, and skinny jeans.

Now women everywhere who had been liberated from the form-altering panty hose flood stores looking for the newest legging, jegging, and skinny jeans.

Aren’t these items simply panty hose with no feet?

Social jet lag, I feel it. I can’t keep up. I can’t be relevant at the pace with which society dictates I keep up.

Thankfully, I’m no longer 25 for when I was 25 I worried far too much about what was in and what was out what people did and didn’t like. I’ve learned as time has passed that it’s impossible to please everyone. In fact, it is very difficult to please more than 1 or 2 people at a time, if even that many.

Pile on top of my inability to keep up with the trends, the fact that I’m a missionary Jesus-lover. What would cause me to leave my own children, grandchildren, extended family, friends, and country? This is a question that is really very simple to answer and is not a very politically correct one: my life is not my own and I live to please Him Who gave Himself for me. I was a case before I came to Him and was on a road whose destination led nowhere but to sadness, but now that I know Him, every day is filled with hope and an expectation for something better. I don’t have all the answers as to how this change came, but I know Him Who changed me and that is answer enough.

This fact pushes me to live for Him and not myself. Don’t get me wrong, it stings to be away and I’m not sure I even fully understand this pull I have with my husband to work in Africa. I cry just like everyone else when saying goodbye; I miss my children and now grandchildren. Yet, I wonder how helpful living here would be for them when God has called their father and I to serve Him elsewhere. What kind of example would that be in the end? What would that teach them?

All of us, in different ways, have been called to serve the King and be part of His Kingdom. This call is not popular nor is it in any way relevant. The Gospel at its core confronts people with their need for a Savior, and this is not a popular message. We definitely need to use culture to appeal to those around us, but we must be aware of the fact that we cannot mute the voice of the Gospel that calls everyone everywhere to surrender to the King and His will.

Paul, when preaching at Athens in Acts 17, he studied the culture of the people (vs. 22,23) and appealed to them through using what he learned. Once he had their attention, he gave them the full download of truth from heaven that included confronting the parts of their culture that displeased God. I wonder how well we would receive Paul’s message today in our approval-driven society.

As approval-driven we are, we might project some of that onto our relationship with God and risk having the loving relationship He wants to have with us. God’s approval of us is not based on what we do; it is based on what He has done for us and our surrender to Him, our understanding that He did it all when we couldn’t do anything.

This life is too short to live for the trend of the moment. Rather, seize life for the adventure it is meant to be and live fully in the moments you have.

 “We shall have all eternity in which to celebrate our victories, but we have only one swift hour before the sunset in which to win them.”   Robert Moffat

____________________________