The Encouragers {Day 8}

By Wednesday, October 8, 2014 0 0

Philippians 4:19

When I read Paul’s letters, it seems to me that his encouragers played an important role in keeping him on the field, keeping his eye on the prize: Jesus. He admonishes the churches everywhere to encourage one another, and thanks them for their encouragement to him.

Financial support is so encouraging. Our partners are tangible proof and confirmation of God’s call on our lives, and they motivate us to put our own money where our faith is and remember that giving to missions is giving to God, not people.

Prayer support is humbling. To think that people around the world would remember us in their prayers, petition the God of the universe on our behalf… I can’t wrap my head around it sometimes, and yet each year I get hundreds of notes, Facebook messages, comments and emails telling me “we’re praying for you.”

And finally, the real life Barnabus’ (Barnabi?) who speak from the heart, encourage us in our calling, our ministry, our efforts. We couldn’t do it without these people who allow God to speak through them.

Following are some of the things our encouragers have said to us that have really kept us going.

All your work is kingdom work. We support YOU.

I know Spain needs missionaries because I have been there.

We’re in this with you for the long haul.

I think you’d be good at that.

It is a joy to see that money come out of my account each month. I am doing something for God’s kingdom!

Seeing your faith in this season is motivating to me.

We pray for you every day.

We need you here! (from our coworkers)

You will marvel at the work God is doing in front of your very eyes… through the prayers of people who live on the other side of the world (from this blog post by Gloria Furman)

I pray many more will read this, Rose. Excellent!

You are precious and honored in his sight, he chose you and will deliver you through any storm, and he wants you to live a life of freedom and not one of bondage.

You are SO loved and prayed for by SO many!

(image source)

31 Stories of Preparing for the Mission Field at Seasoned with Salt // theduryees.com

Please Pray for Our Dear Friends

By Tuesday, February 25, 2014 1 0

Our dear friends and Chris’s former youth pastor and his wife, Randy and Debbie, are enduring a real trial right now. Debbie is being treated for a rare and aggressive cancer and doctors have made it clear Debbie may not have much time left. We have been praying boldly for healing, for peace and comfort in this time, and God has come through. Debbie has shown joy in her spirit even as her energy fades, Randy says that he is at peace, that he can see how God is at work. He and Debbie both believe this is “win-win” for Debbie. If God heals her this side of Heaven, she wins big time. If He heals her for eternity by bringing her home, she wins even bigger! And yet, this is a devastating tragedy. Please pray with us for these dear friends and their family (4 children and a brand new son-in-law!). Chris has written a little tribute to them here. -Rose

Chris's youth groupHigh school. The four years that we spend as “teens” or “high school kids” is always considered to be some of the most defining periods in our lives. We start making the transition into adulthood and taking on adult responsibilities and thinking about what our lives might look like as we move on.

I was always involved in my church growing up. I was a part of the youth group and was blessed to be in it while Randy and Debbie Lawrence were leading. I didn’t really think about it then but I sometimes wonder if they ever really knew the impact they had on the lives and, more importantly, the spiritual decisions of 20 to 30 kids.

Here are some of the good things I saw in action through Randy and Debbie: I observed how a man is supposed to love his wife and children. I saw a man who spent time with God on a regular basis. I saw two people who were very willing to hold a believer accountable to scripture even though that person might be upset with them at first. I saw a couple who were so compassionate towards the kids in their youth group that a late night visit or even a prank wasn’t discouraged.

Randy showed me that my faith meant more than just stating that I was a Christian and acting like it. Randy and Debbie showed me that following Christ is depending on Him to be everything; letting God change me and know that everything was about glorifying our Lord.

As I read regular updates about Debbie’s condition and what is going on I also see that they are not finished teaching us. They may not know it and they may say that they aren’t doing anything special but the eyes of their former youth group, many of us with families of our own, careers and homes, are still watching them. And their lives are consistent with what they had taught us when we were teens.

I have been and am blessed by the Lawrence family. I hope that we too were and are a blessing to them. Debbie and Randy know that life isn’t easy but they also know who their hope comes from. They worship and love the God of miracles and many mercies, the God of promises made and kept, the God of healing and the one who has defeated death and sorrow.

I believe I can speak on behalf of the youth group that was Randy and Debbie’s youth group at Eastgate by saying that we all love you guys. We thank you for the investment and sacrifices you made so you could invest in our lives at the calling of Jesus Christ. Your mark has been made with me. I will be one of those who, in Heaven, lines up in front of you to say “thank you for giving to the Lord. Mine was a life that was changed.”

5 Reasons We Keep Our Kids In Church

By Monday, October 28, 2013 6 0

This is how Susanna “sits” in church. See how still and calm she is?

Parenthood brings out the soul-searcher in everyone. Over the last year, we have done a lot of praying, reading and thinking about what God wants for families and how he uses them to accomplish his purposes. We’ve discovered that families are probably the most important vessel for carrying God’s word to the lost. To that end, we want our family to look as much like Christ as possible, and how we worship God as a family is a key part of that. Below, I’ve outlined 5 reasons we keep our kids in church with us, as opposed to sending them to their own class during the worship service. It’s counter-cultural, but we believe it’s the right thing for our family and what God has called us to do. I want to make very clear that I appreciate people who serve children in children’s church a great deal and we don’t want to offend anyone. In different circumstances, we might have made different choices. We are often guests in churches where we are speaking as we raise support, and at our home church, Susanna and Austin are usually the only kids their age. Those aren’t reasons to keep our kids with us, but they do make it easier.

1. There is no other Biblical model. From Deuteronomy (see Deuteronomy 31:12-13) to Ephesians, God’s people have always gathered to worship Him with children present. Jesus invited the little children (some say the word in Matthew 19:13-15 can be translated infants) to come to him. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians included instructions specifically for the children he knew would be in attendance when the letter was read before the assembly (see Ephesians 6:1-4).

2. We want our children to know that they are to be tailored for the Church; church is not tailored for them. As Susanna and Austin grow up, I want them to be as aware as possible how they can serve God’s people in church. I want them to belong to a church in order to best serve their community, not to hear messages that make them feel good or fit their season of life. In order to see the needs of the church, my children need to be in church, where some needs are shared and prayed for, where money is collected to be used to serve others, and where needy people gather. When we send them to children’s church, we’re sending the message that we’ve created church for them. I think this will be detrimental later. At worst, they’ll walk away from “irrevelant” church. At best, they’ll seek a church full of people their own age and miss out on the multi-generational community God designed church to be.

3. The Bible teaches that the primary role of parents is to disciple their children. Teaching my children to worship God is the most important element of discipling my children. Although I know that our children’s church teachers love my kids and want to see them grow up to know and love Jesus (and they do teach them to that end), I have to take full responsibility for this part of discipleship through hands-on training in the main service. It’s going to take a long, long time, with many years where the children might not learn a single thing except that Mama and Daddy get really mad when they make too much noise. But my prayer is that as they see us, as well as older folks, worshiping, tithing, praying, learning and taking communion, and over the years it will come naturally to them to do the same.

4. It’s sanctifying for us too. It isn’t easy to keep little ones in the service. It would be much easier to drop them off and enjoy the time to ourselves. But is church supposed to be “time to myself?” Every week, I have to practice self-control and model appropriate church behavior for my kids. This means I don’t look at my phone (I do try to bring my book Bible, but the Bible app is an exception to this rule), I don’t forget to tithe, I take notes, I sing a joyful song to the Lord, I greet others “with a holy kiss” (I take this to mean with genuine care and concern, since we’re on kiss-free turf in America), and, later in the week, I apply the word I receive from God to my life. That’s where the rubber meets the road on number 3 as well: my kids hear the same message I do and then they watch me obey (or disobey) God on a daily basis.

5. It takes the pressure off. This reason is sort of a hodge podge of a bunch of different reasons we like family-integrated church (where the kids stay in the main service). There’s no pressure for others to teach my kids about Jesus during a specific time slot. The teaching just happens as my kids interact with people who have a gift. I never want anyone to think we don’t appreciate the work children’s leaders do or the gifts they have for working with kids. I want to create a space where that happens organically, out of relationships we have with people from all stages of life.

Less pressure for the church to provide childcare; not to mention all the logistics that come with that: background checks, schedules, appropriate rooms, allergen-free snacks, diaper changers (or ways to communicate the need for a diaper change), curriculum, communication with parents, etc.

Less pressure on visitors to send their kids to strange places with strange people. For a Christian, it might be strange NOT to send one’s child to children’s church during the main service. But my concern regarding visitors is mainly how a non-Christian might feel, and I imagine it feels better to know that kids are welcome in the main service.

Less pressure on kids to do anything to be acceptable to God. They are welcome to worship with everyone in the body of Christ. This means we have to accept the way they worship, but I think this is valuable to the church, much like including our disabled brothers and sisters.

Resources on family-integrated ministry that have influenced our thinking:

 

Joyful Dependence

By Tuesday, January 29, 2013 3 0

on my heartAs you know, my word for the year is depend. Throughout my walk with him, God has given me opportunities to depend on him. In college, I learned to depend on God for wisdom when speaking to agnostics, hostile atheists, and seekers. As a new career woman, I learned to depend on God for victory over anxiety. As a plain-ole-disciple of Jesus, I am learning to depend on Him by memorizing more scripture this year than I ever have before. But never have the opportunities to practice dependence on the Lord been more abundant than in this season of my life: new to motherhood and preparing for the mission field.

A-Word-for-2013

Although I often fight it or whine through it, I see now that God is fostering a heart of joyful dependence in me as we wait for God to build our partnership team. I know that one of the lessons of this season is that what is accomplished is not my own doing. We might make phone calls, write prayer letters, give church presentations, but God is building the team. As I wait for Him to do it, I pray. I pray for the people I know are meant to be on our team, and I pray for the ones I don’t yet know. Then, when we meet them, God has already answered my prayers. One of our partners had supported a missionary to Italy previously, and had been praying about where to put that support once it became available again. Others have been job searching, and I pray for them often. I pray they might experience the same joyful dependence the Lord has given me.

Our field is going to be much, much more discouraging, challenging, and even pressure-filled than prefield. We go to our home church often, we speak the language, we live in the same home we made before God called us. When I battle the enemy on the field, he’ll use those things against me. But I will remember the Lord’s faithfulness to me while we waited, and I will depend on the Lord (hopefully with joy) for deliverance, answers to our prayers, and courage.

I’m linking up with Christine over at Grace Covers Me today as she releases her book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart, and collects heart stories from church planting and ministry wives. Join us? Also, stay tuned for a giveaway!

Poor, Rich and Everyone In Between {Day 26}

What does it look like to love justice and mercy? Certainly it means being generous with the poor, caring for widows and orphans. The prophets and Jesus both make that abundantly clear.

Isaiah 58 is a chapter of correction and defining true worship. God says that he is not impressed with the fasting of “religious” people, who are doing it just to be seen (‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. vs 3)

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
(Isaiah 58:6-8 ESV)

A fast that pleases the Lord is one of sacrificial giving. Sharing with the hungry, being relational with people. This is the kind of fasting I want to do.

Serving and caring for people less fortunate than ourselves is not a spiritual gift. I am not exempt from these commands because my calling to the mission field is oh-so-spiritual. On the contrary, I must study these scriptures, pray for wisdom for how to minister this way in my field, and be obedient. This is the (earthly) work that frees people (the heavenly work having already been done on the cross).

When rich people meet Jesus, they see how poor they are without Him. And when poor people meet Jesus, they realize they are rich. Hungry or full, physically, is meaningless without the perfectly satisfying salvation of Jesus Christ. My burden is to see this cross-section of physically blessed people acknowledge their spiritual poverty and accept the true riches of Jesus Christ. As I endeavor to share God’s love with them, I must also show his love to the poor, the destitute. I must give feet to my faith. Sharing the Gospel and making disciples is so important. The church is God’s plan for meeting the needs of people, and I believe the church is failing in this area. Our priorities look no different than the rest of the world’s and they should stand out as a beacon on a hill. The number one need people have is for grace. God’s grace. If we can spread it by fasting the way Isaiah describes, then true freedom will follow quickly when we share that ultimate gift.

This is not just a prayer for a missionary, though I desire to remind you we struggle with the same selfishness that plagues us all this time of year. This is a prayer for the church. This is my prayer for myself. I plan to spend the next few months looking at different areas of my life and culling. I will be asking God to show me where I can cut back and fast in a way that benefits another. Then I’ll share my experience here.

This post is inspired by 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.