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30 March, 2013

Changing perspective . . .

We have been hot when exercising hard. But nothing like we were hot just walking across the housing compound in South Sudan. Being in Tonj, South Sudan in the dry season changed our perspective on hot.

We have been excited when we’ve learned God’s revelations to us through His word. But maybe never as excited as some of the South Sudanese during their recent training on Biblical orality. Their excitement at learning how to simply tell the stories of the Bible brought tears of joy to our eyes.

One man told us, “I am old. It is too late for me to learn to read and write. But hearing and learning Bible stories will allow me to share the Word of God with others and I am so happy!”  By the end of the three days of training he then said, “Now I realize that I must learn to read so I can read the Bible myself. Then I can learn more stories faster and be able to share more of God’s word with people.”

Sarah told how she planned to apply the storytelling she learned. “This is good for even an old woman like me to learn. Where I live the water is far and we have to walk long to reach there. I will have enough time to tell the story and help the other women discover for themselves the treasures in God’s word.  Thank you for teaching me this.”

Hearing these testimonials changed our perspective on excitement about learning God’s word.

We enjoy gardening and get pleasure out of planting and harvesting. Being part of the Community Health Empowerment training in South Sudan, including teaching on “Farming God’s Way”  (click here to read more) changed our perspective about good stewardship of our agricultural resources. Experiencing the excitement of pastors and other subsistence farmers as they learned truths from God’s word that apply to their farming practices thrilled our souls.

The shared experiences in South Sudan changed our perspective. Somehow it was no longer too hot to be out working the fields for harvest. The harvest is plentiful and praise the Lord for the laborers He is raising up in South Sudan! (See links to photos of South Sudan to the left)
Now in Uganda again we pray to understand in ever increasing measure God’s perspective in every situation, every day. Yesterday we received word from one of our Africa Gospel Church leaders that many sorcerers have gathered in his community from all over Uganda. They are drumming and sacrificing to the demons, proclaiming they are setting people free from spirits that burn people’s houses. They are spreading the word that Christians are weak and have been defeated by the demons.  He requested prayer for his community.

Please join us in praying for that community. Please pray that God’s perspective on what is weak and who has been defeated might be known. Pray that Truth will be proclaimed and many will turn to Him. Pray that God alone will be glorified and the Christians strengthened as they praise God and call upon Him for protection and deliverance.

The spiritual battle is strong this Easter weekend. Join us in boldly celebrating our Victor and claiming His victory. Our perspective as His children is different than that of the world, and we want to be useful as His change agents, changing perspective wherever He leads us.

01 March, 2013

The cup . . .

March seems to be “coming early” this year.  It was just the other day we were anticipating Christmas, anticipating celebrating the birth of Jesus and now we are in the midst of Lent, the season of Easter.  

Often during both the Christmas and Easter seasons a word or a phrase related to the season becomes a focus of my thoughts.   Recently, I’ve been focusing on the phrase “the cup”. 

The cup, what is it?   The cup was a common Jewish metaphor either for joy or for divine judgment against human sin. Jesus applied this figure to Himself for He was to bear the wrath of God’s judgment against sin in place of sinners (cf. Mark 10:45; 14:36; 15:34). He would drink the “cup” voluntarily.  The cup, for Jesus was his emanate journey to the cross.   It was a journey to the place of willing sacrifice, willing obedience to do the will of His father, to do what he had been sent by the Father to do.  

During this Lenten season, Christine and I have been pondering thoughts written by Henri Nouwen in his book  “Can You Drink the Cup?”  (click here to read more) In this book, Nouwen reflects on the question Jesus asked John and James after their mother asked Jesus if they may sit on His right and left hand sides in His kingdom: “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” Nouwen uses the cup as a metaphor for our lives and breaks it down into three parts: holding, lifting and drinking. “Can we hold our life, lift our life, and drink it, as Jesus did?” 

To hold it:
Before anything else we must hold “the cup.”   To hold the cup is more than just living our life.   Nouwen states, “Holding the cup of life means looking critically at what [how] we are living.”   Christ demonstrated he was living for His father’s purpose.   The question which comes to my mind is, “Am I living courageously for Christ in every joyful or sorrowful circumstance?   Am I living in a way which helps connect people to Jesus?”

To lift it:
In lifting “the cup” Nouwen shares it is “Lifting our cup means sharing our life so we can celebrate it. When we truly believe we are called to lay down our lives for our friends, we must dare to take the risk to let others know what we are living.”  The question I’ve been pondering is,  “Am I lifting my life with all of its joys and its sorrows for others to see and encouraged so they too can lift their lives and connect others to Jesus?”

To drink it:
Nouwen writes that drinking “the cup” means “this is my life . . . I want this to be my life.”    Drinking the cup is recognizing we have been created uniquely by God and for His purpose. Regardless of circumstances in our lives, whether joyful or painful, God’s love and contentment in Him is enough.      The question I’ve been pondering for myself is, “Am I content with what God has given me and am I content where God has placed me?”    

Just as Jesus demonstrated unconditional selflessness and love for me, I too desire to demonstrate that same kind of love by holding, lifting and drinking “the cup” God has given me.  

Serving Him with a grateful heart,