Thursday, May 31, 2012

Romans - The God we worship...

[Bible study on Romans - post 3  I left off in my last post at Romans 1:12.]

One of the foundational truths of the Bible is that humanity needed a Savior. Some other religions agree, others don't, but none offer salvation in the same way Jesus does.  And this is what Paul begins laying the foundations for.  Let's continue reading.

After a few verses of continued greeting, Paul says this:
For I am not (AD)ashamed of the gospel, for (AE)it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the (AF)Jew first and also to (AG)the Greek. 17 For in it (AH)the righteousness of God is revealed [j]from faith to faith; as it is written, “[k](AI)But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

You could almost call this the thesis statement of Romans. We could pick this statement apart and touch on a dozen different truths, but we'd have to use most of the entire book to do so.  So let's wait 'till we get to those parts.

If we were to put Romans into an outline, Verse 18 would begin section II, after the intro.  Paul begins to explain the state of the world in the eyes of God. In fact, he's going to go through several chapters of proof as to why we need a Savior.
18 For (AJ)the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who (AK)suppress the truth [l]in unrighteousness, 19 because (AL)that which is known about God is evident [m]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For (AM)since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, (AN)being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
That's not a section of scripture that many people like. It's not seeker-friendly, and it doesn't leave room for the beliefs of many other religions. In fact, it's statements like that that cause people to say that Christianity is judgmental and not open-minded.  Yes, it is true that the Bible says judge not lest you be judged. However, if we're doing to believe the Bible and study it, then we've got to acknowledge what God says in it, regardless of how much we or anybody else likes it. And this is not our opinion in this verse; this is God's.

As we read through these passages, let's remember that we are not reading standards by which we are to judge others. We are reading truths about how God sees His creation, and we are reading about the world that we ourselves have been born into. Our job is to look at ourselves as we read these verses.

So what is this section saying exactly?

It says, "The wrath of God is revealed." I find it rather interesting, as it's not an active statement. He's not saying, "The wrath of God is poured out." To me, revealed means more like, "These things make God angry, and we can't help noticing it."  It's sort of like when the dirt slowly washes away from a cliff side until layers of rock are visible underneath. Finally, the rock is revealed. The rock didn't unleash itself or jump out at us. It always was there, but it is finally revealed.

The verse also talks doesn't say that this anger is against men who do evil things. Other verses might say that... but not this one. It specifically says that it's against men (meaning mankind--men and women) "who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."

God cares about truth. A lot.  You know, it only makes sense, though. He said, "I am."  He simply IS. The existence of something is it's most absolutely truth. He is bigger and more powerful and more real than anything we can comprehend. When we fail to acknowledge that, we're a bit like a piece of artwork denying the existence of the artist who created it. He is everything that we are not, and He is so much more than our created minds can fathom in even the tiniest morsels.

So for someone whose very existence is more real than all of what we see, smell, touch, and is... well, you could almost say that God is made of truth. (Actually, Jesus did say, "I am the Truth.")  Lies go against His nature, and His ultimate enemy is the father of lies.  So right here, we have the ultimate battle of the ages... Truth against Lies.

Back to the verse. Paul writes here that God's wrath is revealed against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth.  ...Against those who take the side of the father of lies rather than taking a stand for Truth.

The next verse is a difficult one that many, many people will disagree with:
20 For (AM)since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, (AN)being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Hard as it may be to believe, this verse says humanity is "without excuse," even though it states what appears to be an impossibility!  Read it again... it says that something invisible has been clearly seen.  I can't help smiling at that.  But then Paul explains a bit more, saying that God's creation is what allows us to understand His eternal power and His nature.  And it says that this is obvious enough that, in God's eyes, we have no excuse. No excuse for what?  Let's back up.
(AL)that which is known about God is evident [m]within them; for God made it evident to them. 2

Now do all of us agree with the truth of who God is?

It's rather obvious that we don't. Some don't believe at all. As for myself, God continually points out areas of my life where I have not believed in His nature! Thank God for the rest of the truths of Romans, for I have needed them!

But as for those who don't agree with these truths...
21 For even though they knew God, they did not [n]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became (AO)futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
I see pride here.  Paul is essentially saying that even though God's attributes and power have been made evident to all of us, some will refuse to admit it anyway. They won't honor Him. They'll suppress the truth. And what? They won't give thanks.  Just file that away as a note on the importance of thanksgiving.

Again, think of the piece of artwork refusing to acknowledge Truth that it was created and the power that the Artist has over it. The artwork then has to come up with other truths, because we all have to believe in something.  But having discarded the most important foundational truth of all, every other idea that the artwork can come up with is going to be rather futile, isn't it?
22 (AP)Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and (AQ)exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and [o]crawling creatures.
This right here is a distinguishing point between the Truth of the Bible and many other religions. Many offer you a god in the form of an animal or a man, or a mixture in between.  We worship a God who is glorious and powerful. A God whom the majesty and beauty of the heavens is a reflection of.

Which is more worthy of worship?

These?

Or the God who has included this as part of His artwork?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Romans - When we gather together...

[Bible study on Romans - post 2]

I read some more in Romans this morning, but I didn't get very far! I actually like it when this happens.

Years ago I learned that I get the most out of my time in the Bible - and I hear from God most clearly - when I read slowly and stop the moment I think anything about a verse. Then I open up my journal and being typing my thoughts and questions as I ask God about the verse. Conversational-style prayer.

I got through Romans 1:8-12 this morning. ::smile::

Paul starts this big, long dissertation on Christian theology by praising and encouraging the Roman Christians. He also tells them how often he prays for them.

And then he says this:
11 For (G)I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be [b]established [strengthened]; 
I noticed that Paul spoke as if spiritual gifts were imparted from one Christian to others, and I began asking God about that.

Can one Christian give a spiritual gift to another?
Can it be done at any time, or is it subject only to God's will?


Me...I find it impossible to believe that God gave us the ability or authority to hand out gifts whenever and however we feel like it. If that was possible...well, it only takes a quick look at the church and world to know that God has not made that possible.  Therefore, God does retain control of who gets spiritual gifts and when.

So in that case, if it's subject to God's will, then why couldn't God give them the gift without Paul going there?

I think the equally obvious answer is that God, being the maker and owner of His gifts, can give His gifts to whomever He wants, whenever He wants.

So why did Paul write this? Why did he not instead write that he was asking God to give them gifts?

As I asked God about this, I began to see that in this verse, Paul was not making a deep theological statement about how gifts were given. He was merely expressing a desire to see something happen--something that his past experience had taught him often happened when he met with others who believed in Jesus Christ.

Then God pointed out the next verse to me:
12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Paul was indeed referring to what happens when believers gather together!  What I find interesting and amazing is that Paul, the great apostle who already had received the revelation necessary to write this book we have in our Bible, said that he too was encouraged by the faith of other Christians he met!

And herein we find a truth that Paul also refers to when he says:
When you come together, each of you(B) has a hymn,(C) or a word of instruction,(D) a revelation, a tongue(E) or an interpretation.(F) Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.(G) - 1 Corinthians 14:26
And:
16 Let the message of Christ(A) dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom(B) through psalms,(C) hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.(D) - Colossians 3:16

If you search through the Bible, there are many verses addressing how things should be conducted when Christians come together, and the over-riding focus is that we are all to be building up one another.  How sad it is that much of the "body of Christ" is doing anything but that when we gather together!  (Jesus did say that "by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." This has serious implications, which I will not get into now, but which the world has been pointing out for years when they look at Christians.) 

Ecclesiastes 4:12
says that "if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart."


I believe this is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to in this famous verse that people say "commands church attendance."
23 Let us...consider how (AU)to stimulate one another to love and (AV)good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own (AW)assembling together, as is the habit of some, but (AX)encouraging one another; and all the more as you see (AY)the day drawing near. - Hebrews 10:23-25
This is the truth that Paul knew... that when those who truly believe in Jesus Christ gather together in love, for the purpose of encouraging and building up one another, something special happens. He'd seen it happen before, and he was eager to see it happen again with the believers in Rome.

I've seen it happen, too.  There is "going to church."  And then there is going to church and meeting with people who have the same hunger for God and love for people that you do. When we all go to church for more than just obligation...when we go both eager to receive from God but also eager to encourage those who are there...when we call or write to or meet with others to share what God has done and what God is doing...to praise Him and give Him glory and focus on Him and His goodness in our conversation, God blesses it. This kind of getting together encourages and inspires me... it quickens my spirit and fires up the hunger in my spirit for more of Him... to know the God who shows Himself to to all of us in slightly different ways and who is so great and marvelous that it will take the combined revelation of all of us to even come close to revealing all He is.

Can I encourage you... if church-going is a chore... if you've not found a church or group of people where you find this sort of encouragement...seek Him for guidance.  I don't pretend to know what churches or gatherings may be near you, nor will I tell you what to do or judge anything you or those in past churches you have gone to have done so far. All I know is that this is part of God's desire for His people. If He has spent so many verses pointing out what He wants to happen when we gather together, then I believe He is capable of somehow providing this kind of fellowship for those who seek Him for the guidance on where to find it...even if it's just two or three people in a coffee shop every week.

God bless!

Jump to the next post on Romans.
Go to the index of posts on Romans.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Beginning Romans...

My pastor preached out of Romans yesterday, and I was very quickly reminded of how much I LOVE Romans. There is just so much truth...so much incredible depth of everything Jesus did for us explained in there!

It reminded me that a little while back I had contemplated doing a Bible study on Romans on this blog.

I'm wondering if anyone is interested? I actually have no idea how many people regularly read this blog (can't tell the real traffic from the spam traffic), but would anyone be interested in going through Romans with me?

I'm not promising it'll be an every day thing, nor would I be expecting comments on every post or on the same day I post. I'm just thinking I'll go through it slowly and post what I see and love as I get to it, and readers can comment if and when they want to.

Here's the background on Romans:

Romans was, as the first verse states, written by Paul, the apostle. This is the same Paul who was originally persecuting, arresting, and killing the disciples and new believers in Christ (when he went by his original name of Saul) before Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and totally changed his life. (See Acts 4:58-9:30) He spent three years in Arabia searching the scriptures as the Holy Spirit revealed to Him the truth of Christ. (He briefly explained this to the Galatian church in Galatians 1:11-24.)

You have to remember that Paul grew up being trained and educated in the Jewish version of Harvard. He knew the Scriptures (meaning the Old Testament) front to back inside and out. He was trained and taught by Gamaliel, the most outstanding rabbi teacher the Jews had (Acts 22:3).  He knew the Scriptures with his brain...but he had no revelation on them. He did not believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and so he used the permission he'd been given by the high priest to travel around arresting those "belonging to the Way." (Acts 9:2)

And then he met Jesus. (Acts 9:5) He was soon filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 9:17)

Remember how Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would "teach us all things"? (John 14:26) Well that is exactly what the Holy Spirit did. During those three years in Arabia, Paul searched the scriptures finding what he was blind to before... proof over and over and over again that Jesus WAS the promised Messiah. He then went back to Jerusalem and met with Peter and James.

Seventeen years or so had passed (according to historians) when Paul wrote this letter to the Romans. It was addressed to the believers who lived in Rome, as verse 7 says that this letter is "to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints." In this letter, Paul goes through, in a step-by-step manner, everything that Jesus accomplished for us through is perfect life and death on the cross.

There is so much truth in there that is applicable to our everyday lives...so much that is life-changing when the Holy Spirit reveals the full truth of it to us, just as it was life-changing for Paul.

And that's why I'm considering sharing this Bible Study here.  If you're interested, go ahead and comment. Either way, I'll still seek God for direction on what and when I post things.

Jump to the next post on Romans.
Go to the index of posts on Romans.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A great exchange...

"You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." - Rev. 3:17-18
The Compassion Bloggers trip to Tanzania is over, more quickly than it seems they usually are. Maybe because I was playing catch-up all last week.

How many people read my posts about it and/or clicked over to follow the bloggers? I'm thinking that it was very, very few. In fact, I have the feeling that even my regular blog readers skipped this trip. (Based on almost no traffic, not a single Facebook "like," only one comment, etc.)

Which means that no one might read this post as well.  ::shrugs::

So why am I still writing this? Because maybe there are one or two whom God has directed here after all, or whom He will direct here in the future. Maybe there are a few who realize that sponsoring a child isn't really about giving.  Sure, it includes that, but that's not what it's about. At least, that's not what it's supposed to be about.

See, this is what most people think sponsoring a child is about:

I agree to have $38/month taken out of my bank account. Maybe I'll even have to give up going out to dinner once/month to afford that. But that means a child in another country gets medical care, food, and a basic education, so that's worth it. I've done a good thing.

Sure, if that's how you go about it, then it is only about giving. And that is where it starts, because any exchange has to start somewhere. And in this exchange, we are the only ones who can start it.

But here's what sponsorship can be:

I agree to have $38/month taken out of my bank. I'm giving what amounts to one out-to-dinner meal because due to the amazing fact that I happen to have been born on the upside of currency exchange rates, that's all it'll take to provide a child with food, medical care, and a basic education.

I am going to also give some more. Now I'm going to give of my time and attention... I'm going to regularly write to my sponsored child and get as involved in his life as he'll let me.

I'm also going to pray. I'm going to open my heart to both a child and to God. I'm going to take advantage of this partnership where everything is done in Jesus' name.

And that's when you start receiving.

.~*^*~.,.~*^*~.,.~*^*~.

There are so many different kinds of wealth. Here in America and in other first-world industrialized nations, we've got our hands mixed up in the financial wealth of the world (even if it does usually feel like that "wealth" slips through our fingers too fast to actually grab hold of).

But we are not rich in perspective and values. Because with all our things and the bills that come with them... with all of our government and laws and elections... with all our education (and bills for that)... with all our grocery store shelves filled with questionable ingredients by companies that are just as hungry for our money as we are...

With our TVs and computers and news and entertainment... we are blind. (See the verse at the top of this post.)

Yes, we know we're materialistic and that "things" don't matter in the scheme of things... but knowing that doesn't make the electric bill go away, does it? "Knowing" also does not prevent blindness.

Sometimes finding God in the whirlwind of first-world industrialized life is nearly impossible.  No wonder Jesus said it's so hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God!

Which is why this "exchange" is so great!  It's a clear way to grab a hold of $38 of that wealth before it slips away and exchange it for "gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." (Rev. 3:17-18)


.~*^*~.,.~*^*~.,.~*^*~.

So what do you receive? 

Perspective

Wisdom

Opened eyes

Joy and laughter

The knowledge that somewhere, a child prays for you every day. (Anyone ever noticed how powerful children's prayers are.)

More of Jesus.

I'm serious.  Jesus said that the kingdom of God belongs to the children. If we want to enter the kingdom of God, we must become like children. I think he meant learning to see Him through the eyes of a child.

Some of the most precious inside-of-me-changes that God has done in me have come because I have learned to look for God's hand and voice and face amongst poor children half a world away. Yes, we have children here, and my children have taught me much... but I'm afraid that many American children are "old" compared to children stuck in poverty.  So many children in our country have already bought into our materialistic viewpoints.

My life--the real life that counts--is worth so much more already, just because of what these children have given me.

And that's the great exchange. We give them a tiny bit of what we are rich in -- $38/month.  We also give them the sacrifice of what we are not rich in... time needed to write letters and pray for them. But in return, they give us what they are rich in -- perspective on what's really important.

Which is worth more?  Quite frankly, I think we just might have the opportunity to receive far more than we're giving.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matt. 6:19-21

Do you want your heart to be found in Jesus?
"Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." - Matt. 25:40
Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Where the Shepherd provides...

[I'm following the Compassion Bloggers' Tanzania trip this week. Click here if you want to see all the my Tanzania trip posts.]

"The Nester" got to meet her sponsored 15-year-old yesterday. You can read her whole post if you like, but I want to share the second half.

I want to know, specifically, if what she saw adjusts your spiritual vision just a little.

About half way through her very long post, she starts a little journey, and I beg you to read to the end.

Next we got to go to Topiwo’s home.  And this part needs its own series, people and I’m going to do my best to cram it into one long, everwordy post. So grab a coffee, run to the bathroom  and get ready to be astonished…. this is gonna be worth it, as long as I don’t wreck it all up.  I will never forget this as long as I shall live…

And for the record, I’ve always said, you never really know a person until you’ve been in their home or at least I’m saying it starting today.



After four days of walking over urban dirt roads and paths littered with trash, visiting children in concrete homes crammed close together we found ourselves in this pristine, pure, open plain at the foot of some mountains…



Here’s a few seconds of our walk – it’s shaky but you get the idea::





And then we get to his home.



A handmade home.

And it is breathtaking.  He LIVES here. And it’s a simple hut made of stuff of the earth and it is humble and glorious all at the same time.  OH my goodness this child lives in a mud hut!  A real one!



And we meet his aunt (I think?) who he lives with.  Topiwo’s mother died when he was young.  His aunt is absolutely wonderful and we do not speak the same language in words but we do have an interpreter and I can tell by how she speaks and her eyes and her face that she is nothing but maternal and I am in love with her.  And disclaimer: they do not smile when they pose for photos so even though she looks a little stern as soon as she started speaking and the camera was down she came alive.



So Topiwo had a sponsor since 2005 (before our family) but for some reason they cancelled so now we get to be his sponsor.



She talked and talked and told us how Compassion has helped their family over the last seven years, and oh my goodness this is the part where I tried to hold back tears. That area of Tanzania has experienced drought so Compassion has supplied the family with food. Maasai live off the land so they are immediately affected by drought. Even though Topiwo is the one sponsored, Compassion visits the home of all their children (his last home visit was in April) and they assess any needs of the family because they want to make sure that no one goes without food and basic health care.

Because of Compassion, now Topiwo can go to school, have a uniform and a pair of shoes and even get tutoring for his studies.  I ask her what she hopes for Topiwo’s future and she says for him to do well in school and succeed in life. And Compassion gives him that chance.



Meanwhile all the neighbors and family have gathered. There are babies and children and men and women and they all seem to know that Topiwo’s sponsor is here and they want to meet us all and shake our hands and they are so gracious and mild mannered. I am so grateful for the community that Topiwo is surrounded with–there are so many people here that know him and love him!  Such a different feel from the home yesterday.



We went inside the circular mud hut, it had a fire pit in the middle, a damp dirt floor, no windows at all–just a small hole and it’s really, really dark. There were two rooms and you could see thick branches like pillars holding up the structure from the inside and twigs and grass on the roof.  This is where they live.


He tried to look stern but this man was a sweetheart, patting Topiwo on the back from time to time

And we walked outside and you know what? As we were getting ready to leave I didn’t feel sad about where Topiwo lives.  I actually was incredibly happy for him because he is rich with love and community and joy and gracefulness.  Richer than a lot of people that I know.



Now if you have read this far this is where it gets worth it. On the outside of the home Topiwo had painted Psalm 23 and then his name and the names of others who live there.

Topiwo lives in a mud hut.

Do you remember how the 23rd Psalm starts?


Did I happen to mention that Topiwo lives in a mud hut? And that his family lives in Tanzania and didn’t have any food until Compassion stepped in?  This young man quietly declares his faith and I wondered about what message I am sending people when they walk through my front door?  Do I really believe that I have everything I need, or do I immediately launch into declaring what I don’t have and what isn’t good enough as soon as someone walks into my home?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Where love lives...

Hectic... crazy... rushed...

Sound like life?

It all-too-often sounds like mine. Granted, I really do like to be busy, and I don't think it's wrong to want to pack a lot of living into however many years I've been given.

But...

Do you ever get the feeling that our focus gets "off" sometimes? That we lose sight of what's really important in the midst of all the busy-ness?

Obviously God is important, but sometimes when we think, "I know I'm too busy and I'm letting life get in the way of God," we lack any sort of real concept... connection... path...between the crazyness we're in the midst of and a life that might still be crazy but have God wrapped up in the midst of everything.


Somehow, following these Compassion Blogger trips helps me find and see that. It's another reason I love following them.

May you be blessed by this story from Maggie:

this leader separated the boys from the girls and they stood facing each other in a half-circle. she picked one child from each side, gave them both a small stick to hold, and told them to run around the opposite gender group ~ whoever made a complete circle first, won. the kids played a few rounds and it seemed simple.

super, super simple.

then the leader asked two people from our team to race. if you know how to predict scenarios you’ll know to put me down for the GIRLS team. she yelled something and i knew that was our cue to start the race. so off i want, running to the edge of the boys half circle and then behind them, quickly running across to the other side.

i could hear everyone cheering for us.

GO MAGGIE! GO MAGGIE! GO SCOTT!

i could feel my adrenaline building — i needed my legs to keep up with my brain, i could feel them starting to buckle as i turned the last corner to run home and my heart was pounding and the kids were cheering for us. their smiles were so bright they were practically glowing, lighting up the humid, sunny day a little bit brighter. {come to tanzania if you don’t believe me, wink!} i was so close to finishing first, to beating my teammate.

but i totally hit the dirt

i could blame it on the fact that my feet were sweaty inside my shoes and my legs were moving faster than my brain was spitting out commands, but know that’s not true.

i hit the dirt because God wanted to show me something. remember yesterday when i wrote that God has been trying to teach me that my earthly struggles don’t matter? He wants my purpose to be stitched up by Him. and yup, He’s still mending me.


back to the race, i was about to hit the dirt. and then i did fall ~ it happened so fast i hardly had time to process it. but when i stood up and saw the damage, i mean it was pretty hard to miss the dirt covering my arms and shirt and pants, i felt a teeny bit embarrassed. there i was, our day at the child development center had JUST begun, and i was covered in dirt.

everyone was so sweet — asking if i was OK and telling me how close to the finish line i was — telling me how great of a job i did. a few came over and patted me on the back, zack gave me a little wink to silently remind me it was OK that i just fell. {thanks, babe.}

my feelings had time to settle just a bit, but only just long enough to turn into a fierce embarrassment over how dirty i was.

that’s when my heart broke. i could feel my eyes starting to burn, a few tears filling up each eye. i turned around for just a second and acted like i was brushing the dirt off my pants. oh, my arms are filthy too, i better brush the dirt off my arms too while i cry with my back to the rest of the group. but after those few seconds passed the tears didn’t pass. actually, the burning in my eyes increased and those few tears turned into too many tears to count. but God was counting.

one of the little girls came over to check on me. she couldn’t have been more than four-years-old. she saw my tears and moved a little bit closer to me. then another girl came over and started brushing the dirt off my pants. a third came over and did the same to my shirt.

how can it be that the start of a second i’m standing here in africa, feeling so incredibly embarrassed that i fell — my once-clean outfit is now covered in dirt — and the end of that one second i’m feeling the love of Christ like i never have before?

these children don’t care about my clothes. they don’t care that my now-dirty clothes look just like their always-dirty clothes. why couldn’t i see that before?

we don’t speak the same language but my tears spoke to them quicker than the rate my tears were falling onto my cheeks.
they saw me hurting and they rushed to my side.

earlier this year, when i agreed to travel with compassion, i had absolutely no clue the lessons i’d be learning. i thought i was agreeing to travel to teach lessons. geez, how selfish does that sound?

OH, it is so hard to not bring all of these children home with me. i mean, aside from how beautiful and spunky they are, they have so much to teach us…


like how life is SO not about how clean your clothes are, or what your house looks like, or whether you have to share a car with someone else in your family.

life is about loving on each other — all the time — in the name of Jesus.
Can you see why I love following these trips? Jesus said we must come to Him like a child. Perhaps it's not surprising that He shows Himself to us through His children...

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Where hope shines...

[I'm following the Compassion Bloggers' Tanzania trip, so this post is a very rare 2nd-in-a-day! 
Please don't skip the first post!] 


I'm seeing it again... what I love so much about following these blogging trips.   In fact, most of the posts I'm reading are talking about it, too.

Jolanthe wrote:
The one thing that stood out during our visit to the Buhongwa child development center with Compassion International today was HOPE. 

...

Hope is such a small word but filled with such amazing potential.
Obviously, hope is a theme for me, and it was long before I named this blog Hope Is Calling six years ago. The thing is... you can't really identify hope for what it is until you see it shining in the darkness of hopelessness.

I'm reading through everything the bloggers shared last night, and what do I see?

First I see the hopelessness as it exists in the natural through Kelli's eyes. Hopelessness that is unfortunately all-too-real in this world of sin.

She meets the mothers who aren't praying for the rent payment or the gas money... they're praying for bread for their children that night.

The families whose children are still waiting (some for almost a year) for a sponsor and (if they're anything like me) probably beginning to wonder if maybe, for some reason, God hadn't chosen their child.

The families who are on the outside looking in on the work that Compassion and Love and Jesus are doing.

But then Kelli goes back to the project. And there?

Back at the Compassion center at the Africa Inland Church I saw hope. I saw it and I heard it. I hugged it and let it play with my hair. Hope revealed itself in the form of giggling faces, curious stares, sweet songs and a sermon from a ten year old named James that would put the greatest communicators of the pulpit to shame.
Hope. It’s slow. But it’s there.


That's what I love being a part of, in my own small way, with my own Compassion kids and my blog and these words I write.

I love sharing the hope that is there and here, surrounding us.  Oh I know that hope sometimes seems hidden somewhere that refuses to be found. But it's not. You just have to know where to look.

Ps. 25:3 - "No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame."

Ps. 31:24 - "Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD."

Ps. 147:11 - "The LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love."

Is. 40:31 - "But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Is. 49:23 - "Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed."

Jer. 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Rom. 15:13 - "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

1 Tim 6:17 - "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."

Psalm 139:7-12
Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

Hope is everywhere. But only because He is everywhere.


Wanna see more pictures and read more snippets from Kelli? She shared a whole extra post-full!

Time for another trip!

It's time for another Compassion Bloggers trip!

For those of you who haven't followed here long or who may have forgotten, a couple of times a year, Compassion International hosts a bloggers trip. This means that Shaun Groves (yes, the singer... he works for Compassion) brings six (or so) regular, ordinary people (who happen to be regular bloggers) along on a trip to some area of the world where Compassion works. The bloggers every day go back to their hotel (such as it is) and share their experience from the day on their blogs! (Yes, I'd LOVE to do it some day!)

I love following along on these, for God reminds me and shows me so many things.

I am reminded of what is really important. I get to see the power of Jesus' name bringing hope to people on the other side of the world. I feel connected with members of the body of Christ that I'd never get to otherwise meet this side of heaven.

I love seeing this:

...the joy Jesus puts on the face of a child who has not much more than Him. Do you see it?

So this week's posts will all most likely be about the bloggers trip. For those of you who want to read about past bloggers trips that I've followed here, you can click up there on "Compassion International" and then "Bloggers Trips" and it will filter out only those posts. For anyone who wants to see the non-Bloggers-trip posts I've shared recently, use the other links on the menu.

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This week is a Bloggers trip to Tanzania. Actually, it started Sunday, but I got my days mixed up, so I'm jumping on board a tiny bit late.

For those who may wonder, Tanzania is right there (in the image), on the west coast of Africa. It's a decent sized country... and half of their population is under 15 years old.

Wow.

Here are some other facts about Tanzania:

Tanzania is the home of the world-famous Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain.

It is the third-largest producer of gold in Africa after South Africa and Ghana. The country is also known for Tanzanite, a type of precious gemstone that is found only in Tanzania.

2006 data show that 55% of the population had sustainable access to improved drinking water sources and 33% had sustainable access to improved sanitation. (That means half the population does not have access to "improved" drinking water!)

The under-five mortality rate in 2010 is estimated to be 76 out of 1,000. The leading cause of death in children who survive the neonatal period is malaria. Other leading causes of death in under 5’s is pneumonia and diarrhea.

Tanzanians pride themselves on living together with their diversity.

Tanzanians see themselves as having two "official" languages, English and Swahili. Swahili is seen as the unifying language of the country between different tribes, who each have their own tribal language; English serves the purpose of providing Tanzanians with the ability to participate in the global economy and culture. The first language typically learned by a Tanzanian is that of his or her tribe, with Swahili and English learned thereafter.

Tanzania has considerable wildlife habitat, including much of the Serengeti plain.

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It seems to me that Tanzania is both a poor nation and a rich nation. Rich in resources and culture, but poor in the wisdom needed to use those resources to care for its people.  (Are any of us any different, though?)

Usually the first day of these trips is spent touring the Compassion project... the church/school that is working with Compassion.  The bloggers get to see how, though Compassion is a world-wide organization, in each-and-every-location, it is individuals who usually volunteer their time life to share the love of Jesus with the children around them. It is a handful of volunteers there with the grace and love and access to these children, paired up with hundreds of givers volunteers/prayers/writers here and around the world who have a bit more money and love and time enough to write, who make such huge and life-changing differences in the families whose children are sponsored.

Every time I think about the fact that this simple partnership is happening over a million times around the world for over a million children and their families, the more awesome and amazed I am at how God works. It's so simple!  But it's so miraculous... 1.2 million times over. (Wanna be a part of it?)

This post has gotten long enough, and I'm still going through two days of blogger posts.  I'll have more later today, most likely, but in the meantime, feel free to read the first-day thoughts from the bloggers:

The Nester's Well I didn't expect to meet HER in Tanzania
Kelli's On Turkish Fish and Hope
Jolanthe's Sweet Songs of Praise ~ Compassion Tanzania Blogging Trip {Day 1}
Maggie's {let my purpose be stitched up by Him.}
Scott's Jesus Loves The Children and A Trip To The Motherland
Amy's Compassion Blogging Trip: Day 1

Friday, May 04, 2012

Countless second chances...

For some reason, I found this song running through my spirit this afternoon, right when I was in a really lousy mood. I didn't know exactly what put me in a lousy mood, but I knew it wasn't right, wasn't fair to my kids, and definitely wasn't doing me any good either.

I'm afraid I didn't have the heart to really do any sort of admirable praying (I trust you know what I mean), but I did cry out within my spirit, "Lord, help!!! I don't want to be this way and I feel far too weak to fight it right now!" It wasn't long after that I realized this song was relentlessly running through me.

So I went and looked it up.

It is positively amazing how God knows exactly what words we need to hear...how He lifts us up from the mire.

Some of my favorite lines from this song....

"My future hangs on this; You make preciousness from dust, please don't stop creating me." Isn't that an amazing reminder? That our Creator isn't done with us yet?

"When sin and ugliness collide with redemption's kiss, beauty awakens by romance." What a poetic way to sum up God's redemptive love for us!

"Mercy as infinite as You."  Just in case you weren't here or don't remember what was (and still is) overwhelming me about God's power and infinite-ness back in January, '09, here's the link: Power births peace. When I think of that, then this line takes on whole new meaning.

"You craft life from our mistakes." Only God can do that. Only Him. And this is one of the greatest miracles He works in us. (Remember Earthworm Miracles? I haven't forgotten!)

And then there's, "Countless second chances..."  (Lam. 3:2)



Here's the song in case you need it as much as I did today:



Second Chance

by: Rend Collective Experiment
 
My future hangs on this
You make preciousness from dust
Please don't stop creating me
Your blood offers the chance
To rewind to innocence
Reborn, perfect as a child

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption's kiss
Beauty awakens by romance
Always inside this mess
I have found forgiveness
Mercy as infinite as You

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross

Fragments of brokenness
Salvaged by the art of grace
You craft life from our mistakes
Black skies of my regrets
Outshone by this kindness
New life dawns over my soul

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross
Countless second chances
We've been given at the cross...

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