Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Three Things

The most important thing that you can do for our family and ministry is consistently pray for us. Please take time each day to pray with us for these three areas of our lives. Consider lifting up these requests before each meal for the next two months.

FAMILY: For God to draw us closer to Him and to one another. That we would transition to Canada and school well at the end of the year.

FINANCES: For God to assemble the remaining people that He is calling to financially support our ministry. That all of our financial support would be in place before the end of the year.

FIELD: For the Jola people of southern Senegal. Ask God to prepare their hearts for the Gospel and to draw them to Jesus.

Thank you for praying! We will let you know exactly how God answers!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Satan's Plan for Your Church

Satan has a plan for your church. If you are part of a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Gospel-centered congregation Satan has a plan for your church. And his plan is to destroy it. He either wants to destroy it in the sense that it no longer exists or he wants to destroy it in the sense that it no longer matters that it exists. Either way that is his purpose and agenda for your church.

Satan is a crafty schemer and strategist (Ephesians 6:11). He knows what works. For your church he has a threefold strategy that is progressive with each phase of his plan building upon the one that has gone before it.

Phase one: DISTRACT
Satan’s major point of attack is upon a church’s focus. His main goal is to get the people of God to take their eyes off Jesus and the Gospel and to place them upon something else; something temporal. If God uses a church that is focused on the Gospel then Satan knows that the most effective thing that he can do to stop the work of God is to get the church focused on something other than the Gospel. And he throws out everything in the world in an attempt to distract. Like a fisherman with a tackle box full of lures, he keeps changing the bait until we bite. And oftentimes the bait is not bad or sinful. Sometimes the bait that he uses is something that is good, but is just simply not the Gospel.

This is always his first step, so if he can be stopped here then he is rendered virtually powerless in the church. That means that our eyes must continually be fixed upon Jesus and the Gospel.

Phase two: DISUNITE and DIVIDE
Unity is broken when the thing that holds us the people of God together, which is the Gospel, is not front and center. And Satan knows that if he is able to distract the church then disunity will almost always happen; it is nearly always inevitable once distraction has occurred. Because when the Gospel is ignored then we look around and realize that we really have nothing to hold us together. When the Gospel is not center-stage then we no longer have a common purpose and goal and mission together. And when this happens we all seek to come up with a new agenda of our own because we are not anchored to the agenda of Jesus and the Gospel. Most (not all, but most) disunity that occurs in the local church has as its root cause the fact that people are looking at something other than the Gospel.
When our eyes and focus are not on the Gospel then we no longer see what unites us and there is division that ensues.

Phase three: DISCOURAGE
Once a church gets to this point it becomes obvious that the work of God is not being accomplished. When this phase takes place there is an absence of vision and focus and spiritual life and vitality and vibrancy and passion. And everyone becomes discouraged. Everyone sits around and sees nothing but the problems because they no longer see the promises of the Gospel. And discouragement leads to inactivity and an inactive church is not a healthy church. When a church gets to that point then you can just picture Satan sitting back and laughing because his work has been accomplished as the work of Jesus has ceased.

But none of this happens when everyone’s eyes are fixed on Jesus and the Gospel. Satan cannot touch a strong and healthy church like that. May God’s people “turn their eyes upon Jesus” as Jesus uses His church to accomplish His will in the world!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Road to Senegal Goes Through Canada

What does Quebec, Canada have in common with Senegal, West Africa? (Hint: it’s not the weather!) It’s the fact that French is the official language of both! After several months of prayer, research, and inquiry we have decided to attend language school in Sherbrooke, Quebec at Parole de Vie Bethel’s French Language School.

While Matt and Gayle are busy studying French, Ezra and Thea will be attending a Frenchspeaking Canadian school for their education. (Anyone want to guess who will learn the language first?) Learning French before arriving in Senegal will allow us to hit Senegal better equipped to communicate and minister to the people there. French will also serve as our “bridge” language to enable us to learn the Jola language once in Senegal.

We plan to leave Florida and drive to Canada at the end of December and stay there at least through June. Please pray for us as we prepare for this huge transition in our lives.

Our transition to Canada also means that all of our financial support needs to be in place in the next
three months. Currently 72% of our monthly support is committed and we are praying for new monthly partners to make an on-going commitment to support our ministry. Our family is deeply thankful for you being a part of what God has called us to do!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sharing Your Story

Many Christians struggle with sharing their faith. It is one of those things that they know they are supposed to do and sincerely want to do, yet they struggle to find the right words or the best “technique” that fits their circumstances and personality.

Thankfully, God is much less concerned with technique than He is the communication of truth. And He has given all Christians a relevant, personal way to share their faith: through the telling of their story. Your story of what Jesus has done in your life is a powerful vehicle for truth as you share it with others.

In Acts chapter 26 the Apostle Paul gives us an excellent example of how to do this as he shares his story with King Agrippa. He divides his story of what Jesus has done in his life into three parts: what his life was like before Jesus (Acts 26:1-11), how he became a follower of Jesus (26:12-18), and what his life has been like since trusting Jesus (26:19-23).

In the first part of Paul’s story he shares with Agrippa enough details about his life before becoming a Christian to inform, but not get bogged down with unnecessary details. Paul relates with Agrippa and his Jewish background so he shares with him that Jesus is the promised Messiah (26:6-7). Paul also shares what his concept of Jesus was before his conversion (26:9-11). 

When Paul shares about his conversion he tells of the events surrounding his coming to faith in Jesus (26:12-17). He also is sure to include the truths of the Gospel (26:18). People do not come to faith through hearing our story; they come to faith through hearing the Gospel. So Paul is sure to include in his story what it is that Jesus does for sinners who trust Him.

As Paul brings his story to a close he shares with Agrippa how his life is now different. He tells him that while he was once disobedient, he is now striving to be obedient to what Jesus has called him to do (26:19). Paul also stresses that what Jesus has done for him He can and will do for others (26:20, 23). At the same time Paul is careful to show that Jesus does not make one’s life problem free (26:21).

After sharing his story Paul then calls for a response (26:24-29). The communication of God’s truth always calls for a response on the part of the listener.

As you share your story with others seek to emulate Paul’s example. Talk about your life before Jesus and what it was like. Do not feel that you have to share all the sordid details of your past; just help them to understand what you used to be like and how you used to think about Jesus and Christianity. Then include how you became a Christian. In this part seek to clearly and concisely share the truth of the Gospel. Let them know what it means to become a follower of Jesus. Then finally talk about how your life is different now: how has Jesus changed you since becoming His follower.

While sharing your story use memorized Scripture to help convey what Jesus has done in your life. Also, try to avoid language that tends to be “churchy” or that people may not understand. Consider writing out your story and practice saying it out loud. This experience will help put you at ease when you share it with others.

But more than anything you have to tell your story. The only story that God cannot use is an unspoken and unshared one. So go and tell others of what Jesus has done in your life and pray that God would use it to “open their eyes in order to turn them from darkness to light” (Acts 26:18).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Finding Our Identity in Christ

The first time that the reader is introduced to Peter and his brother Andrew in the Gospel of Mark Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:16). And the two brothers were there casting their nets into the water because, as Mark adds, “they were fishermen.” Now fishermen had a bad reputation in those days: they were known to be hard workers, rough in their speech, crude in their mannerisms, and coarse in their treatment of others. In other words, they were a pretty rough and tumble bunch of guys who were known to be really rough around the edges.

But Peter and Andrew “were fishermen.” They were defined by what they did for a living. When people would have seen them they would have thought, “There are Peter and Andrew the fishermen.” Being defined by what a person did as their profession was commonplace in the first century. Jesus’ step-father was Joseph the carpenter. One of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, was known as Matthew the tax-collector. Later in Mark chapter 6 when people are wondering about the identity of Jesus they will ask, “Isn’t this the carpenter?” identifying even Jesus by His former profession.

The same thing is true today: one of the first questions that a person usually asks when they meet someone new is, “Now what do you do for a living?” These same things define us and serve as our identity: we are engineers, and managers, and pastors, and businessmen, and stay-at-home moms, and teachers. For Peter and Andrew, as well as for us today, part of who they were was drawn from what they did.

But it is not only our career that defines us and gives us a sense of identity, but many other things as well. Some of you may be defined by your successes: wealthy, successful, powerful. Some of you may be defined by your failures: unwed mother, addict, loser. Some of you may be defined by your past: sin, disappointment, abused, tragedy, victim. That is your identity that you feel that you are living with that defines you and who you are. And there are times where you feel that you cannot shake it and that you will always be “that.”

But the thing that Jesus offered to these fishermen and that He offers to us as well is not a change of identity, but the opportunity to find our identity in Him. That we could be defined by Jesus and our relationship with Him and that we could find our identity in Jesus Himself.

Do you remember the ridiculous years of high school where everybody was just trying to fit in with one group or another? If you were a jock you dressed one way and did one group of things and if you were a preppy you dressed another way and had another group of friends and did other activities. Each group had their defining characteristics as everybody was searching for their identity and what was going to define them. There was franticness about fitting in and being accepted and being noticed and being somebody. Unfortunately the ridiculousness of high school did not end there: many people today are still searching for what will define their lives as they look to find their identity and who they are in what they do and what they have. 

So the freeing alternative that Jesus offers is to find our identity in who we are in Jesus. No matter what else I may or may not be, or whatever I may or may not have, I must first and foremost be defined by my relationship with Jesus Christ. Before anything else, before I am a missionary or a husband or a father or a friend or a whatever, I must be defined as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Do not let your past or this world dictate to you who you are. Find your identity in Jesus Christ and let that define you. Because all of those other things may change, but who I am in Jesus will never change. If I can find my identity in Jesus and be satisfied in Jesus then I do not need the latest and greatest things to define who I am. I do not need a huge bank account to make me feel like a real somebody. I will not crave more stuff to impress others. Because I am secure knowing who I am in Jesus Christ.

When that happens I am free to find worth in who I am in Jesus and in nothing else. Peter the fisherman and Andrew the fisherman were about to become Simon Peter and Andrew the followers of Jesus as Jesus said to them, “Follow Me” (Mark 1:17). How sweet and freeing to lose ourselves in Jesus Christ!