Saturday, November 30, 2013

30 Blessings (aka 30 Reasons for Thankfulness)

Like all those people on facebook, I like to reflect in November about the reasons I have to be thankful, but I prefer to show it as one lump sum list instead of each day. You might notice that most of my reasons to be thankful have something to do with our mission trip in Costa Rica.

  1. Our families support our call to missions/ministry and our mission trip.
  2. We have this opportunity for our year-long mission trip.
  3. We have no debt so we can do things like this trip.
  4. We have a plethora of supporters back in the States. (We send over 400 newsletters each month! Who knew that we knew so many people?!?!)
  5. We have a church family here that patiently speaks with us and loves us.
  6. We have internet access and Skype to connect with our family and friends.
  7. I have a husband who is a believer and is missions-minded.
  8. We have a wonderful Spanish teacher here.
  9. We have patient Spanish-speakers to converse with.
  10. We sing (Spanish) songs at our church that we know the English equivalent songs.
  11. We are 75% funded.
  12. We live in an environment of generosity and the sharing of food.
  13. We see beautiful sunsets almost daily.
  14. Our parents are letting us use their homes as storage units.
  15. Our apartment and home is furnished, so we didn't need to buy or bring lots of heavy stuff here.
  16. I get more exercise here, because we walk most places...or take the bus & then walk.
  17. I get to eat homemade flour tortillas with cinnamon sugar of deliciousness.
  18. We get to eat more healthy foods since fruits & veggies are super cheap.
  19. Tea. How I love you.
  20. We don't have food allergies.
  21. We don't have major illnesses.
  22. We receive our salvation through God's grace and Christ's sacrifice, not by our works.
  23. I have a kindle.
  24. I have friends who support, encourage, and bring laughs.
  25. I'm thankful for the color blue.
  26. We have good relationships with our in-laws.
  27. We get a weekly Sabbath rest
  28. We have Bible(s) in English
  29. We have enough food to eat each day.
  30. We can openly practice our faith.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Doing 'Be Still'

Sometimes I focus too much on what I need to do for God instead of focusing on who He is.

Lord, what do I need to do today?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, don't You mean to read my Bible everyday?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, don't You mean to pray & to fast?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, don't You mean to witness & to evangelize?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, don't You mean to tell me what to do?

-Be still and know that I am God.

But Lord, that's not an action; it's a state of being. You want me to do nothing except be & realize who You are as my God?

-Be still and know that I am God.

Lord, I need to be still? I need to silence the to-do lists, the goals, the pressing demands, the worries, the fears, the technology, & the noise in order to be? I need to to silence all other things and focus on You, on Your God-ness, on who You are?

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10


Bible study, prayer, fasting, witnessing, evangelizing, and other actions of Christians are important, but God isn't impressed by how much you do. First & foremost spend time with Him. We are saved by grace, not by works. Our actions should be rooted in our love for God, not in our to do list.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Water for the World

There is a wonderful organization (Living Water International) that is dedicated to bringing clean drinking water to the 783 million people who don't have access to it in our world today. That's 1 in every 9 people.

But what can we do?
I can't fly to another country.
I can't build a well.
I can't make a difference.

I'm not too sure about the first two points, but everyone can make a difference.

What can I do?

I can take the10 Days Challenge and commit to only drinking water for 10 days! Sweet!! I'll save lots of money! My bank account will love that. Umm...not quite. Step two is to donate the money you would have spent on other drinks to an organization like Living Water International so they can help others.

I can Join With Chick-Fil-A to help those without clean water through Chick-Fil-A plus one. I don't have a Chick-Fil-A nearby, so you may want to research this on your own.

I can Pray for Clean Water. Prayer is powerful.

I can check out suggestions on the Do Something page. I can find something that I can do to help.

I can use less water to shower, to wash dishes, to wash the car. I can teach my children why this is important.

What is the cost?
There are many variables that affect the cost of building a well. Some wells will cost $5,000 while others are higher than $150,000. But clean water should be available to everyone.

So I challenge you, what will you do to help get clean water to the people of the world?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Moving Out of My Comfort Zone

For the past 2 months and the next 10 months, our (my husband and I) home is an apartment in Costa Rica. From time to time we talk about what will happen after our year here.

We have many unknown questions:
Where will we live?
What will we do?
What will our life look like after a yearlong mission trip in Costa Rica?

While discussing this, my husband mentioned how he didn't want to spend the rest of our lives in his hometown and birthplace. On one hand, I can relate. Most of the people in my hometown don't venture far away and live their lives in the county of their birth. He quoted the figure of 50% as the number of people in his hometown who spend their whole lives in their hometown (give or take a few ventures away).

According to the Pew Research Center "...most Americans have moved to a new community at least once in their lives, although a notable number — nearly four-in-ten — have never left the place in which they were born...In the Midwest, nearly half of adult residents say they have spent their entire lives in their hometown." (Cohn, and Morin)

Yet, when I heard that my future may not include staying in my college town, the place of my first two homes as a wife, I was saddened. I had expected to move back to my college town and his hometown after our mission trip and continue my friendships and dreams in that setting. I realized that my college town had become my comfort zone. It was virtually all that I had known as a new wife. I knew where to shop. I knew who to hang out with. I had friends, church, and family nearby. In short, I was comfortable there.

The thought of not returning to the only setting I had known as a married person saddened me. The thought of following a job or an opportunity of God to another city filled me with dread. It was like I expected God to reward my obedience in following Him to another country by Him transplanting me exactly back where I was.

The thing is, I don't even know how my college town would fit me after a year on the mission field. I don't know how we will be changed by our experiences here or how the city would change in a year. Maybe to go back and rebuild a life there would bring pain, heartache, and frustration.

When everything is boiled down, I need to be willing to leave my comfort zone. I need to be open to the option that maybe God won't put us back in the same town with the same friends and the same activities as before. My dreams, my hopes have to die in order for me to see the plans of God. When I fiercely cling to my dreams of the future, I am not open to God's guidance. It's possible that I will sacrifice my dreams on the altar to God, only to have Him give me the same dream. It's possible that I will sacrifice my dreams on the altar to God, only to have Him give me a new dream. But I will not know God's plans until I release my hold on my plans.

God could put us back in the same town after our year in Costa Rica or He may have different plans. If I cling to my plans for my future, would I have really learned anything about faith and trust during my time on the mission field?

Lord, wherever you want us after this year in Costa Rica, let us be open and willing to travel and live where You put us. Give us wisdom in navigating our post-mission field-experience and the desire to be missionaries wherever You place us.

Cohn, D'Vera, and Rich Morin. "Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where’s Home? ." PewResearch Social & Demographic Trends. PewResearchCenter, 17 Dec 2008. Web. 12 Nov 2013. <http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2008/12/17/who-moves-who-stays-put-wheres-home/>.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Prayer Challenge for the Persecuted Church

As the International Day of Prayer approaches (November 10, 2013), I challenge you to pray. The global church and its persecuted churches can seem like such a big prayer request and so I drew up a list of prayer prompts for your convenience.

-Pray for Liberty in North Korea. (I challenge you to pray faithfully each week, each day until this prayer is a reality)
-Pray for the 50 countries where persecution is the most severe. (I challenge you to pray for a country a day for the rest of the year & for the first 50 days of 2014)
-Pray for the pastors in persecuted countries.
-Pray for the missionaries in persecuted countries.
-Pray for the believers in persecuted countries.
-Pray against the works of the evil one in these countries. Ask for God to bind the hands of satan and protect His children.
-Pray for the persecutors. Pray that they will encounter Jesus and their encounter will leave them changed like Saul-Paul.
-Pray for the persecuted to have courage, strength, and endurance to withstand the persecution and to be Christ to their persecutors.
-Pray for God to move through governments, organizations, and people to protect His people.

Commit to pray. For a day. For a week. For a month. For a year.
Pray with your words. Pray with the words of others.
Pray alone. Pray with your family. Pray with your small group. Pray with your church.
Pray in the morning. Pray in the afternoon. Pray in the evening.
Pray with fasting. Pray with food.
Pray standing. Pray kneeling. Pray prostrate on the ground. Pray sitting. Pray while driving (but don't close your eyes).
Pray silently. Pray aloud. Pray with words. Pray with songs. Pray with groans & tears.

Pray for the persecuted church.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Persecution in the American Church (An Apology to the American Church)


I hear through word-of-mouth in the States how persecuted the Christians are there. Typically I silently scoff, because I have been exposed to sources that teach about persecution in the wider world, persecution that includes physical harm, property damage, threats, and death.

America is home of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Christianity isn't very popular in America right now, but in my mind, that was nowhere near the same as persecution. In my mind, to make that claim was to dishonor the real persecuted church in the world.

As I researched the persecuted church and gathered resources for prayer & knowledge, I came across this quote in the IDOP Resources for Churches.

"DOES PERSECUTION HAPPEN IN THE UNITED STATES?
ANSWER: Persecution in the United States is not full-fledged when compared to the horrific physical violence in other countries. However, persecution exists as Christian’s rights are constricted by the government institutions, such as public schools and work places. The culture of political correctness severely restricts speech. Christians can be easily labeled as bigots and haters when people rise up to speak the truth. The Pew Forum reports that government restrictions on religious freedom (such as zoning permits for churches) and social hostility for religious groups in the United States have increased in the past four years."
-Created by the International Christian Concern at Persecution.org (no copyright infringement intended)

So...I was wrong, there is mild persecution in the American church. It is not the persecution seen in the 50 countries with the most persecution, but it still exists. I apologize for scoffing at the persecution I thought was in your minds.

Now the question remains to be asked...What should the American church do about this persecution?

1. Pray...thanking God for that we can suffer for His name (Acts 5:17-42). 
2. Pray...thanking God that we will have a reward in heaven & that Jesus says the persecuted are blessed (Matthew 5:10-12). 
3. Pray...thanking God nothing can separate us from His love (and nothing includes persecution) (Romans 8:35-39).
4. Pray...thanking God that while man persecutes us, He doesn't abandon us (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
5. Pray...for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43-45)
6. Expect hate & persecution from the world, especially in the end times. (Matthew 24:1-14 and Luke 21:5-19 and John 15:18-25 and Acts 8:1 and 1 Thessalonians 3:4)
7. Bless our persecutors (Romans 12:14)
8. Endure persecution. Give blessings in response to cursing. Answer kindly in the face of slandering. (1 Corinthians 4:12-13)
 9. Accept persecution as a fact of following God's way (2 Timothy 3:12 )
10. Pray...for believers to have the "roots" to withstand persecution and not fall away from the faith (Matthew 13:1-23 and Mark 4:1-20)
11. Pray...for believers who left their homes & families and receive persecution for their faith (Mark 10:29-31)
12. Pray...for those who face worse persecution, persecution involving threats, violence, and death. Pray with a newly found sympathy and empathy for your brothers & sisters around the world who face the same thing (persecution), at times much more severely than we can imagine. Pray for God to protect & comfort His children in the persecuted church.

 Persecution exists in the world. As Christians, what will be the response we choose?

Monday, November 4, 2013

What the New Testament says about Persecution

What does the New Testament say about Persecution?
Did Jesus tell us we would never face it? No.
Did Jesus tell us we were to hate & complain against our persecutors? No.

What did Jesus, and his apostles, tell us about persecution?

The persecuted are blessed. They are to rejoice for they will have a great reward in heaven. Matthew 5:10-12

We are to love our enemies & pray for our persecutors so we may be called children of God. Matthew 5:43-45

Some will come to faith in Christ, but will not have the "roots" to stay the course when trouble or persecution strikes. Matthew 13:1-23 and Mark 4:1-20

In the end times, there will be persecution, death, and hate for believers. Many will leave the faith. There will be arrests & persecution. Matthew 24:1-14 and Luke 21:5-19

Those who leave family & homes will receive families, homes, and also persecutions. Mark 10:29-31

The world persecuted and hated Jesus. Because we follow Jesus, we can expect hate and persecution as well. John 15:18-25

The early church was persecuted. Acts 8:1
The early church rejoiced that they could suffer beatings & disgrace for Jesus. Acts 5:17-42
When Paul, Silas, & Timothy were persecuted, they said "told-ya-so" (give or take) 1 Thessalonians 3:4

Nothing, not even persecution, can separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:35-39

We are to bless, not curse, our persecutors. Romans 12:14

When cursed, bless. When persecuted, endure it. When slandered, answer kindly. 1 Corinthians 4:12-13

We are persecuted (by man) but not abandoned (by God) 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12

So this is a snapshot of what the New Testament has to say about persecution.

In summary:
-it will happen.
-rejoice in our reward in heaven
-pray for our persecutors.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

The first Sunday in November (for the UK & Ireland) and the second Sunday in November (internationally) is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). The official website is here. It has a lot of resources here from Biblical theology, liturgy, hymns, Bible readings, devotionals, videos, children's materials, and more.

Who are the persecuted? World Watch List creates a list each year of the top 50 countries with persecution. It has the 5-5-5 challenge of 5 minutes of prayer a week, 5 friends invited to join the challenge, and $5 a month to help suffering persecuted Christians. The watch list shows what countries need prayers for their persecuted Christians.

The Nazarene Church is joining in this movement, raising their voices with other denominations to pray for the persecuted.

Elizabeth Kendal has many resources on her site. She has the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, the Religious Liberty Monitoring, and Critical Prayer Request blogs. This post from the CPR is about the IDOP.

Open Doors can connect you with prayer updates, prayer calenders, daily devotionals, and more for the persecuted church.

Persecution.com has news, newsletters, information for getting involved, and more to help the persecuted church.

Those in America (where I'm from) have freedom to meet in official churches, practice our religion, and tell others about Christ. Dear Brothers & Sisters in America, not everyone in the world has the same freedom we do. Learn about the persecuted church. Commit to pray for them, to fast for them, to sacrificially give to them. Thank God for our freedoms instead of protesting the changing times. That will catch the notice of those around you.

I encourage you to study what the Bible says about persecution. There will be a follow up post on what the Bible says about persecution.