Saturday, November 21, 2009

On A Mission

My family and I have been to a far away land for a purpose that we thought was right.  Nevertheless, we did not tell anybody about it until we were already back.  If I told you where we were going and what our purpose was, you would even have supported us.  In this world cultures are varied.  Cultures vary in their interpretation of mannerisms, actions, and even simple words.  What is good or right with one culture may be perceived as detestable in another.  Sometimes, the mere fact that we come from one country, we could be considered as an enemy by default. There were specific words that we were advised not to say.  The clothes we wore had to be those that respected the culture.  We talked and looked at the people in that country in a regulated manner.  So with all consciousness we tried to avoid saying or doing certain things.  Not that we allowed ourselves to be controlled by fear but we did not want to attract unnecessary attention to ourselves at the wrong time.   There is some work yet to be done and to try to protect our own right and comfort would have done injustice to our purpose.  For the same reason, I will not mention names of people or places in this post.

Here are the people of our church who recently left go to a far away land  and those who sent them.  I trust the Lord that He will protect them from evil and that He will do His work through their strengths and abilities while they are there and even more so when they come back.

Mothers sent their children whom they protected so carefully.  Wives sent their husbands who they share their lives with. A husband sent his beloved wife.  Such an expression of faith and of trust.   There is a equivalent sacrifice between those going and those left behind.

The team is made up of a diverse ages and status.  They all are now part of one team who will work together as one so that they will please the One they seek to serve.  They will be watched by everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike.  I pray that the the Holy Spirit will surround them so that they will shine with the love that they have been empowered with.

There is power in diversity.

There are many women who lost their husbands in this place where they are now.  Many children lost their fathers.  They lost their houses.  When almost everything that says "home" is gone, hope seem so far away.  May the love and service that this team show, bring hope to those who have lost a lot.

The people that they seek to minister to are believers.  Knowing the adversity that these believers have to undergo in such culture, we can say that they are persistent in their faith.  However, even Job, King David, and Solomon have had times when they needed a boost in their spirits.  May the lives and examples of those who went revive the believers there like water to a wilting plant.

"If you carefully observe all these commands... No man will be able to stand against you. The LORD your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go." ~Deuteronomy 11:22...25

Experiencing a different culture when you are young is a lot easier than when you are older.  I gathered this from watching my children's reactions compared with mine.  They are almost always more accommodating of the differences in the way things ought to be done. They are willing to try new things.  The younger members of the team are fortunate and will have a good chance of straightening stereotypes.

Young and old they all will have a clearer understanding of the way the other half of the world live.  Young and old they will all come home will gratefulness for the freedom and abundance that we all enjoy on this of the globe.  May the Lord give us all the humility to praise Him for all the good things He has made available for us.

We all hope to see them back safe after Thanksgiving.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Missionaries in This World

Last Sunday at AWANA, we asked the children what they know about a missionary.  One of them answered,  "Someone who goes to another country to tell about Jesus."  From a six-year old, that's very good and even cute.  Today, eleven people from our church left to go to a far away land to serve.  We know that God approves of any deed that helps those who are in need.  To celebrate this occasion I was inspired to read the first book of Thessalonians.  With or without a plane tickets, as followers of Christ, we are missionaries  in this world.  We are citizens of a another kingdom (Philippians 3:20).  We all are here temporarily for a purpose.  We are in this world as an agents of change before our Savior comes.  First Thessalonians 1:2-10 reads:

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord's message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. --1 Thessalonians 1:2-10
This is a part of Paul's letter to the church in Thessalonica.  Paul describes how the church served as bearer of God's message not only in Macedonia and Achaia but everywhere.  Paul was the missionary who went live with them.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Thessalonians got the message.  The church then had to sow the seed that they received. They lived where they were as missionaries to those who did not know God.  The passages describe the characteristics of the Christians in Thessalonica.

1.  Remembered and prayed before God
      --Your work produced by faith
      --Your labor promted by love
      --Your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ
2.  Powered by the Holy Spirit
3.  Loved and chosen by God
4.  Imitators of the Lord
5.  Received the message inspite of severe suffering
6.  Model to all believers

"Let our lives ring out the Lord's message right here and then everywhere." 

"They will know we are Christians by our love."  Let our lives reflect the one we serve - the living and true God.

as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thanksgiving At Cornerstone

Roast Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Jello
Strawberry Lemonade (very colorful)
Pies (different types)
Decaffeinated Coffee

There was an abundance of food.  My plate was full or it looked full because I had salad underneath the mashed potatoes and stuffing.  My coffee came with a slice of pumpkin pie. 

There was good music.  People can really sing well after eating a lot of food.  Or maybe I was just deceived because I go to the morning service where there are very few voices contributing to the sound of music.

There were thanksgiving speeches.  Most of them were very well thought of.   There were also unplanned speeches.  They were all good.  I am a strong believer of telling stories that re-tell about the goodness of God.  Others get encouraged to re-think about their own experiences with God.   I've heard amazing stories tonight.  I appreciate all the people who shared.  There was some hint of emotion...and yet they were able to convey their messages.

I was determined not to speak because it is a very dangerous thing to do and I am aware of my lack of finesse in my speech.  There is a very fine line between sharing to glorify God and that of sharing to glorify my own.

Other than the fellowship there was a purpose for all these... to encourage and be encouraged.  To be encouraged to do what we are supposed to do as part of a body.  To be encouraged to participate in the operations of the body and not to be content as a spectator.  To be encouraged to become part of the "source" and not the "sink" of resources that maintain the body.  We have responsibilities to perform.  If one of member refuses to do his part, by default, the rest will have to take on more of the burden.  We need unity to accomplish the work that God has planned for us in a reasonable speed.

Give.  Give because you have been given. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Who Wants To Be Great?

Taken in Edinburgh, Scotland

...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  ~ Mark 10:43-44

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Characteristics of Generosity and Giving

"For the true giver, giving is an end."

Generosity, is a virtue.  It is achieved by a select group of people who possess some resources and decide to give a portion or all to someone else.  We all have something.  We all have been given resources, some of which we didn't even work or ask for.  Therefore, we have what it requires to be generous. 

Why isn't everyone generous?  Because the other requirement is still missing.  Generosity is not related to the availability of resources as much as the beating of the heart that drives us to open our hands.  The will to give transforms giving into generosity.  For the true giver, giving is an end.  Generous people make life happen more beautifully for others.  Not expecting anything in return, the reward is in the giving.

Adding other required results to our giving is Pharisee-like. For example, if I'd say, "I'll give to the church so that God will bless me."  Who, really, is the intended recipient of your gift? "I'll give a flower to my friend so that she will always be nice to me."  Who is the intended benificiary of those flowers, if not you?  Evaluate those motives carefully because, knowingly or unknowingly, we try to give as if throwing a boomerang. 

To give with the expectation of winning or getting recognition in the end is anti-generous. 

What to give?
Give Goods To Satisfy What's Lacking.  Whenever I think of the word generosity, I imagine checks, money, and the equivalent value of material things.  But true generosity can be expressed in so many ways, because God has blessed us in so many ways. Meet a specific need.  Give money if you have money.  If garden herbs are all you have, then give those herbs as long as it will aid somebody. 

Jesus Christ referred to himself as the bread of life (John 6:35).  He gave himself to satisfy the hungry.  He said he is the living water for the thirsty to drink.  He said he is the light to guide the lost (John 8:12).  He said he is the life for those who are dying (John 11:25).  He gave for a reason.  Loving led to giving. Loving serves the needs of the beloved. 

We were on a Mission trip to Belize and one of the things that we did was clean a storage room where hundreds of nice thick socks were stored.  Those socks came from Texas as a gift from people who wanted to be generous.  Belize, however, is hot throughout the year and Belizeans don't need thick winter socks.  Those who gave had good intentions to help but their generosity was directed to the wrong recipient.  Instead of being useful, the socks became a burden because My Refuge had to pay customs fees and now to provide storage (In a world where there is not a lot of material things, no one will decide to just throw those socks away.  There is this hope that time will come when they will become useful).

Give Yourself.  It is not enough to give my tithes and offerring to the church.  My money is not a license to exempt myself of the services that I could be doing.  We've all been gifted to serve.  While my money helps, I think that my heart will be more willing to give accurately if I get involved.  God sent His Son to come live among us sinners, leaving his privileges of deity behind.  We needed a Savior. He provided us with the only One who could. 

Why Give
Giving is Honoring to God. To give is to participate in someone else's cause or agenda.   God gave us the things we have and all our lives because he wants us to enjoy this life with Him. 
So when we give, we give out of gratitude and of trust in God. It is honoring to God when we give to the right cause.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! ~ 2 Cor. 9:12-15
How To give?
Jesus Christ Is Our Example   Jesus Christ gave the most significant gift ever given in the history of humanity. He gave his life, his wisdom, his time, his strength, his emotions, and he also gave wine, bread and fish and water.  Salvation through the gift of his life was an extension of an attitude he exhibited throughout his entire life. He lived to give.  He showed up. He was not an absentee giver.

Give From Your Heart. The bible clearly states that a cheerful giver gets God's approval and the goodwill of man.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. ~2 Cor. 9:7
To Whom?
Give To Those In Need.  Who do we give to? Tithe, Offering... It seems to me that if we want to give back to God we give to those who are in need.  When we give to an organization or a group of believers, we know that these should be used to minister to the "least of these brothers of mine". 
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'  ~ Matthew 25:31-46
Give To A Cause.  The church as an entity should be the zone zero for ministries where its members exercise loving, giving, serving, and to reach out. This is a worthy cause. We then give ourselves, and resources to make this happen. It is meaningless to give when we don't understand the reason. It is difficult to be generous to an abstract cause.

These are just my thoughts in trying to understand the theology of giving and generosity.   After all there is an ongoing giving-campaign at Cornerstone.  So I try to put down what He is pointing out to me.
...Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. ~ Ephesians 5:25b