Monday, October 20, 2014

As a Volunteer Missionary

As a volunteer missionary, I have my Mt. Carmel moments alongside my flights to the deserts discouraged. I have my Martha behaviors crowding out my Mary mannerisms.

I doubt like Thomas. I lie & deceive like Abraham & Isaac. I boast like Joseph. I judge & condemn like the Pharisees. I wander from God like the Israelites. I fear like Gideon. I sin like Adam & Eve. I am stingy like Nabal. I have pride like Aaron & Miriam. I try to replace God with myself like the devil. Ouch. I'm like the devil.

Yet, I also sing like David (just flip through his Psalms in your Bible). I weep with compassion like Jeremiah (or read Lamentations). I help like Abigail. I open my home like Mary/Martha & Lydia. I write like Paul (see Romans, the Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, the Thessalonians, the Timothy's, Titus, and Philemon)...(ok, maybe not quite so eloquently). I invite like Andrew. I encourage like Barbabas. I seek the truth like Nicodemus. I dance like Miriam. I work like Nehemiah.

It's funny how the 10 negative examples came so much more readily and easily than the 10 positive examples. I'm talking MAJOR brainstorming to reach 10 positive examples to go with my 10 negative examples. The 10 negative examples flowed out of the pen and off my fingers, but the 10 positive examples struggled to form.

As a volunteer missionary, I still reach the highs & lows of faith. As a volunteer missionary, God is still with me, just as He is with you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

An Insider's Outsider View of the American Church

Dear brother or sister in Christ,
I'm sorry we don't see eye to eye on the state of things for the Church in the US. I see your fear, your very real fear, over situations you read about. I read the stories too. I get my news from the BBC instead of American newspapers, but I read global and American news 6 days a week. (Sabbaths aren't for news stories).

In fact, I may read more news stories than you do about persecution. I get a weekly newsletter from Persecution.org with updates about global persecutions. Sometimes American stories make the headlines, but the US isn't the only country to suffer persecution & many other believers suffer more than the legal battles in the US. I am praying my way through the top 50 countries with religious persecution this year with http://www.worldwatchlist.us/. Spoiler: the US doesn't even make the list with its persecution.
I am a Christian & I was born an American citizen, so I am an insider, a part of your group, Christians in America. Yet, I'm an outsider too. For the past year I have been watching the American Church, as I've been serving as a volunteer missionary in Latin America. I have the perspective of an outside observer, but with claims to the inside of the American Church.

And so I write lovingly with a breaking heart this open letter (it may sound frustrated, but frustration is just the easiest emotion to detect when I hear what the American Church has been saying & vent to my husband).
The next paragraph is the harshest, the most difficult for you to read. I wrote this truth with love, but sometimes the necessary things are hard to hear.

American Christian on the internet, you have become very self-centered and inwardly-focused. You have an attitude of 'woe is me' that is not biblical. You're allowing the persecution & problems that you are facing to blind you to all other suffering except your own. This attitude is not glorifying to God nor is it attractive to non-Christians.

I hear you complain against rules that say teachers cannot publicly lead prayer in public schools. You expect Christians can publicly lead a class in prayer, a class with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and more. Yet if your child came home with news that their Muslim teacher lead them in the daily prayer to Allah that is a core of Islamic beliefs, you would be outraged. If your child was instructed to meditate & try to reach Nirvana by a Buddhist teacher, you would be among the first to call the school to complain. You expect that other religions cannot proselytize your child in school, but you still expect Christians to be able to do so.

I want to encourage you with the reminder that no government can stop a person from praying to God (who does not need our spoken words to understand us) unless the government kills them. Teachers may not publicly lead students in prayer, but that doesn't stop them from being able to silently pray to God whenever they feel the need. I hear the fear in your cyber-voice that the US will write off the amendment to the Constitution that gives us the freedom of religion. I see the worst-case scenario that the US will become anti-Christian & actively persecute believers (like other countries currently are facing and have been facing).
Let me remind you that God works in broken systems. God has worked through pagan kings & rulers actively persecuting the Church in the past. He still is able to work through these channels. He still works things for His Glory.

I hope to share with you a wider perspective. Wider than your problems and your fears.
Truth 1: Persecution is to be expected. Jesus was persecuted. He told his disciples to expect it since servants will be treated like their master. James tells us to expect it.

Truth 2: We are not to complain against persecution. We are to rejoice we can suffer for God. Jesus told the crowds to rejoice when they are persecuted because of him, because they would be rewarded in heaven. The early church were glad they could be whipped & suffer for Jesus.

Truth 3: The proper attitude to have when you face persecution is to have more compassion for other believers (brothers & sisters) with more severe persecution and to pray FOR those who are persecuting you.

Please don't allow the problems you are facing in the culture of the US to turn you so inward, so self-centered that you forget to pray for your brothers & sisters around the world. Please don't complain & whine about the persecution you see in the US. Thank God that you have the freedom of religion. Pray for those without this freedom. God is allowing us experiences that allow us to sympathize better with the persecuted church. React like the Bible encourages: Remember God is Lord of all. Expect it. Rejoice that we can suffer for Christ's name.
your sister-in-Christ,
Liz o' the Niche