Hangin' Out in Karongue

Hangin' Out in Karongue

Thursday, March 29, 2012

One of My Teachers

A good student has the ability to learn from anything and anyone. But, as we all know, that is much easier said than done. And as those of us with children also know, there are plenty of lessons that we can learn from our kids.

Since moving to Canada our family has increasingly been learning about humility and courage. We are finding that it takes both of these qualities to learn and practice a new language. Humility because to attempt to speak a new language among those that call it "their" language is to sound like a child. Not a well-spoken, articulate, polished, educated eighth grade kind of child. No, we are talking two-year-old here. And you need courage because you have to be bold and courageous to risk sounding like the aforementioned two-year-old for the sake of practicing and learning your new language.

Today, Thea was my instructor in both humility and courage. This week her class had the task of writing a report on any influential figure they chose and then giving an oral report on that person to the class. Now this is the kind of assignment that Thea could have easily bowed out of. She has only been in her French school for about six weeks and her teacher would have graciously consented to letting the anglophone sit this one out. But she chose not to and she dove into the deep end of the pool.

For the topic of her paper she chose Francesca Battistelli, a Christian singer that she really likes. This week she wrote her paper in English and then, with some help from her trusty iPod, she translated it into French. She wrote about Francesca's background and career, but the focus of her paper was Francesca's faith in God.

Today, after working with her French helper to make sure that her paper was ready, she stood at the front of her classroom and gave her first ever public presentation. And she did it totally in French.

When she got home today her excitement was contagious and caused her parents to feel great gratitude to God for the tremendous blessing of an encouraged young girl. And I was reminded that good learners can learn a lot about humility and courage from a fourth grade American girl living in Canada trying to speak French, fit in, and please her parents and her Lord. I still have a lot to learn.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"The Deal of a Lifetime"

I am so very thankful for my good friend Tracy Sweat over at the blog "Resting in His Grace." Tracy and his wife TC have a heart for missions, and more importantly, a heart for Jesus and the Gospel.

More often than we deserve, Tracy writes about our family and ministry as he keeps us before his readers so that they in turn can keep us before the King in prayer.

Take a few minutes and check-out a recent post he wrote that includes our family and ministry.


Then check back often at "Resting in His Grace" for more good reading that will always point you to the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Without Words Wednesday

Sledding on the hill in our front yard.

The children enjoying a cone filled with "du sirop d'erable."
After this picture was taken we would soon be extracting the
"sirop" from the hair of the lovely Hosanna.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Hosanna, do you know why we're here?"

I pick Hosanna up everyday from pre-school. It is about a fifteen minute ride home from her school and that serves as our little "Daddy - daughter" time to ourselves. On occasion, unknown to the rest of the family, we stop and get a candy bar or some other treat. But the one thing that we always do, between our conversations about her day, is listen to French pop music on the way home. Usually really loud. It's just fun and safe since neither of us know what they are saying.

We have always sought to keep our children informed as to what God is doing in our lives as His direction for us directly impacts them. We also firmly believe that God has not called two parents to Senegal, but has called a family to go there and serve Him. So we often talk about God's purposes for us as a family. We always try to keep the kids in the loop.

About a month or so ago, as Hosanna and I were driving home from her school, I wanted to do a bit of a check-up and make sure that she was processing the transition to Canada and all that was going on in our lives. I wanted to remind her that we are in Canada for a purpose: to learn French so that we can be equipped to serve the peoples of southern Senegal.

So between bad French pop songs I asked her a simple question: "Hosanna, do know  why we're here? Do you know why we moved to Canada?" She paused for a moment and then said, "Oh yea Dad. We are here so that we can watch French television. Could you please turn up the radio, I really love this song?" Life with Hosanna is never boring!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

He was Broken for the Broken

Perspective is sometimes everything. After serving as a pastor for nearly ten years I am accustomed to observing the Lord's Supper from the front of the church. From that vantage point I would often watch our deacons as they distributed the bread and the juice. I would watch the trays and the plates and be on guard that there was enough for everyone. Though I sought to have my mind and heart turned toward the Lord and His sacrifice, many times my attention would be captured by the "doing" of the Lord's Supper as I served.

I have taken part in the Lord's Supper several times since leaving the pastorate. But today something was different. I am not sure if it was because we were in a French speaking church where, at our language capacity, it is easy to be distracted. Or maybe this morning I was a bit more tired than usual due to the time change. Or maybe it was something else. Maybe this morning the Lord chose to open my eyes to something I have never noticed at the Lord's Supper.

This morning as the bread and the juice were making the rounds I noticed all of the people there and began to think about them. I noticed the distracted mother in front of me who kept rubbing her brow as if she had a headache as she tried to keep the little one on her lap still. I saw the man to my left on our row who passed the elements to Ezra without taking any because he is an agnostic and is not sure that Christianity is real. I heard the coughing man behind us, the one who probably should have stayed home this morning, and was reminded of how miserable it is to feel like that. The group of teenagers three rows back who whispered to one another as the music played. And I looked around the room, glancing at the faces of the people there, and I wondered about  their struggles and fears and hang-ups and sins. All the while I held a piece of unleavened bread in my hand that represented the broken body of our Lord.

Now I know that the Lord's Supper is about Jesus and not about us. And as a pastor I have said in the past that the Lord's  Supper is not the time or  the place to be concerned about what others are doing. But today it was in the seeing of others that I saw something beautiful about the Lord. His body was broken and his blood was shed for broken people like these. Distracted people. Hurting people. Confused people. Weak and frail and fragile and needy people. He was broken for the broken. He came not for the healthy, but for  the sick.

And as I sat there, a broken and sick person surrounded by other broken and sick people, I was reminded of the beauty of the Gospel. Jesus was broken for broken people like us. Then I ate the bread and I drank the juice and I thanked God for a Savior like that. Sometimes perspective is everything.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Faith for Real Life

The Bible obviously has a lot to say about faith. The word “faith” or “faithful” is used about 350 times in the Bible. We usually talk about faith as it relates to saving faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that we are saved from our sins not through works or the things that we do, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” So we are saved by grace, which is God’s unearned favor and blessing (a gift that cannot be worked for) through faith. Faith in Jesus links us to the grace of God in the finished work of Jesus. So think of God’s grace displayed in Jesus dying for our sins and then consider faith being that which links or ties or unites me with what Jesus has done. Saved by grace, through faith: faith is the vehicle that gets me to the grace.

That is usually how we talk about faith. But after we are saved we still need faith. Not faith to save us again, for we are secure in our salvation through the grace of God in Christ. But rather we need the kind of faith that keeps us trusting in God no matter what comes into our lives. 

The writer of Hebrews has a lot to say about faith and how that faith is lived out and evidenced. Hebrews chapter 11 is sometimes referred to as the “Hall of Faith” where faithful saints from the Old Testament are reflected upon and given as examples of faith for us to emulate. But before the writer of Hebrews goes on to talk about the examples of the faithful, he talks about what faith is.

In Hebrews 11:1 he writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The word translated “substance” brings with it the idea of solid conviction and trust and the word “evidence” in the second part of the verse carries much the same meaning. This is faith in the midst of things that are unseen or not figured out or uncertain. Faith in the midst of real life.  

But this faith does not find its anchor in what is known and understood and what can be checked out and mapped or planned. The anchor for this faith and this trust is the person and the promises of God: Who He is and what He has said He will accomplish. It is a trust in God that enables the Christian to press on steadfastly whatever the future holds for him.

And the Christian presses on not because he understands or trusts the future, but because he understands and trusts God who firmly holds him and the future. Faith knows that God can be relied upon and trusted, so it clings to Him even when there are many things that are unseen and not worked out from our perspective. Faith clings to God when you do not know how things are going to shake out and where exactly you are going to land.  

Let’s be real here: most of life right now from our perspective is absolutely uncertain. We do not know what the next moment holds, much less the next year or the next decade. That is our perspective, but that is not God’s perspective. So at times of uncertainty the last response that we need is fear. The response that we need is faith. Because the uncertainty is only an apparent uncertainty; everything is certain to the God that we are called to trust.  

Fear and faith cannot coexist. If you have fear it shows that you do not have faith. If you have faith it will dispel the fear. But all of this is a matter of perspective. It all derives from how one sees things: do you see by merely sight or do you see by faith? Fear sees only the uncertainty and the unanswered questions and the range of options. Faith sees only God.
So when you do not have all of the answers where do you go? You go to God. You remind yourself of who He is and what He has promised. And you stay there and you cling to Him. That is faith for real life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What we need is to be drinking!

Hudson Taylor was a pioneer missionary who lived to take the Gospel to inland China. While the need for the lost peoples of China served as a great motivator for Taylor, his supreme motivation was the joy of knowing and serving Jesus.

For Hudson Taylor, John 7:37-38 became foundational for the way that he thought and for the way that he lived out the Christian life. There Jesus says, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

Read Taylor's comments on this passage and see how it drove his life to be saturated with the desire for Christ and being satisfied in Him:

 “Who does not thirst? Who has not mind-thirsts, heart-thirsts, soul-thirsts, or body-thirsts? Well, no matter which, or whether I have them all – “Come unto Me and” remain thirsty? Ah no! “Come unto Me and drink.”
“What, can Jesus meet my need? Yes, and more than meet it. No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service; no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones; no matter how helpless I am, how deep are my soul-yearnings – Jesus can meet all, all, and more than meet. He not only promises me rest – ah, how welcome that would be, were it all, and what an all that one word embraces! He not only promises me drink to alleviate my thirst. No, better than that! He who trusts Jesus out of him shall flow…”
 “Can it be? Can the dry and thirsty one not only be refreshed – the parched soil moistened, the arid places cooled – but the land be so saturated that springs well up and streams flow down from it? Even so! And not mere mountain-torrents, full while the rain lasts, then dry again…but, “from within him shall flow rivers” – rivers like the mighty Yangtze (great river in China), ever deep, ever full. In times of drought brooks may fail, often do, canals may be pumped dry, often are, but the Yangtze never. Always a mighty stream, always flowing deep and irresistible!”
 “Come unto me and drink. Not, come and take a hasty draught; not, come and slightly alleviate, or for a short time remove one’s thirst. No! Drink or be drinking constantly, habitually. The cause of thirst may be irremediable. One coming, one drinking may refresh and comfort: but we are to be ever coming, ever drinking. No fear of emptying the fountain or exhausting the river!”
On another occasion Taylor wrote:
“Do not let us change the Savior’s words. It is not ‘whosoever has drunk,’ but ‘whosoever drinks.’ It is not one of isolated draught He speaks, or even many, but of the continuous habit of the soul. The habit of coming in faith to Him is incompatible with unmet hunger and thirst. It seems to me that where many of us err is in leaving our drinking in the past, while our thirst continues in the present. What we need is to be drinking – yes, thankful for each occasion which drives us to drink ever more deeply of the living water.”
Let us come to Jesus and drink! And may the sovereign Lord of the universe give us the grace to make us always thirst for more!