Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Blahginess!

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The Life of Faith

I asked God to speak to me this morning in my quiet time (novel idea, I know) and he was faithful. I so much appreciate what was said that I want to pass it on, so enjoy…

The passage was Hebrews 11:8-10 and focused on the faith of Abraham. I am working my way through William Barclay’s commentary on the book (if you are not aware of this, I am a big fan of Barclay’s works and highly recommend them for study). Some observations and quotes from this passage based on Barclay’s commentary.

1. Abraham’s faith was a faith of adventure.

“Most of us live a cautious life on the principle of safety first; but, to live the Christian life, it is necessary to have a certain reckless willingness to be adventurous. If faith can see every step of the way, it is not really faith. It is sometimes necessary for Christians to take the way to which the voice of God is calling them without knowing what the consequences will be.”

2. Abraham’s faith was a faith of patience.

“At the moment of decision, there is the excitement of and the thrill; at the moment of achievement, there is the glow and glory of satisfaction; but, in the intervening time, it is necessary to have the ability to wait and work and watch when nothing seems to be happening. It is then that we are most liable to give up our hopes and lower our ideals and sink into an apathy whose dreams are dead.”

3. Abraham’s faith was a faith looking beyond this world.

“No one ever did anything great without a vision which made it possible to face the difficulties and discouragements of the way…God cannot give us the vision unless we allow him to; but, if we are patient and look to him, even in earth’s desert places he will send us the vision, and with it the toil and trouble of the way all become worth while.”

To me there is no greater force on earth than people who live on purpose and most importantly, God’s purpose. I find myself in that “intervening time” when I need to persevere and stay connected to that vision which God has called me. I even have a sound track for this time:

Where do you find yourself today? Need a vision? Need patience? Need to reconnect with what God has shown you?


Some encouraging news…

I could use some, how about you? So here you go:

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:14 (NLT)

I’ve been working through William Barclay’s exposition on the Letter to the Romans and his insight to this verse is very uplifting. Without editing or summarizing I want to give to you his words:

     (i) There is hope. It is easy in the light of experience to despair of oneself. It is easy in the light of events to despair of the world. Someone tells of a meeting in a certain church at a time of emergency. The meeting was constituted with prayer by the chairman. He addressed God as “Almighty and eternal God, whose grace is sufficient for all things.” When the prayer was finished, the business part of the meeting began; and the chairman introduced the business by saying: “Gentlemen, the situation in this church is completely hopeless, and nothing can be done.” Either his prayer was composed of empty and meaningless words, or his statement was untrue.
     It has long ago been said that there are no hopeless situations; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them. It is told that there was a cabinet meeting in the darkest days of the last war, just after France had capitulated. Mr. Churchill outlined the situation in its starkest colors. Britian stood alone. There was silence when he had finished speaking, and on some faces was written despair, and some would have given up the struggle. Mr. Churchill looked round that dispirited company. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I find it rather inspiring.”
    There is something in Christian hope that not all the shadows can quench–and that something is the conviction that God is alive. No man is hopeless so long as there is the grace of Jesus Christ; and no situation is hopeless so long as there is the power of God.
     (ii) There is joy. There is all the difference in this world between pleasure and joy. The Cynic philosophers declared that pleasure was unmitigated evil. Anthisthenes made the strange statement that he would “rather be mad than pleased.” Their argument was that “pleasure is only the pause between two pains.” You have longing for something, that is the pain; you get it, the longing is satisfied and there is a pause in the pain; you enjoy it and the moment is gone; and the pain comes back. In truth, that is the way pleasure works. But Christian joy is not dependent on things outside a man; its source is in our consciousness of the presence of the living Lord, the certainty that nothing can separate us from the love of God in him.
     (iii) There is peace. The ancient philosophers sought for what they called ataraxia, the untroubled life. They wanted all that serenity which is proof alike against the shattering blows and the petty pinpricks of this life. One would almost say that today serenity is a lost possession. There are two things which make it impossible.
     (a) There is inner tension. Men live a distracted life, for the word distract literally means to pull apart. So long as a man is a walking civil war and a split personality, there can obviously be for him no such thing as serenity. There is only one way out of this, and that is for self to abdicate to Christ. When Christ controls, the tension is gone.
     (b) There is worry about external things. Many are haunted by the chances and the changes of life. H.G. Wells tells how in New York harbour he was once on a liner. It was foggy, and suddenly out of the fog loomed another liner, and the two ships slip past each other with only yards to spare. He was suddenly face to face with what he called the general large dangerousness of life. It is hard not to worry, for man is characteristically a creature who looks forward to guess and fear. The only end to that worry is the utter conviction that, whatever happens, God’s hand will never cause his child a needless tear. Things will happen that we cannot understand, but if we are sure enough of God’s love, we can accept with serenity even those things which wound the heart and baffle the mind.
     (iv) There is power. Here is the supreme need of men. It is not that we do not know the right thing; the trouble is the doing it. The trouble is to cope with and to conquer things, to make what Wells called “the secret splendor of our intentions” into actual facts. That we can never do alone. Only when the surge of Christ’s power fills our weakness can we master life as we ought. By ourselves we can do nothing; but with God all things are possible.
 
William Barclay
The Letter to the Romans, revised edition
pp. 198-200
 

It’s a really long post, I get it. But if you made it this far you understand why.

What speaks the most encouragement to you today?


Half the Story…

Zacchaeus was a wee little man…a wee little man was he…

I love revisiting stories from the Bible that were so familiar to me as a child. Given his short stature Zacchaeus got creative and climbed a tree just so that he could get a glimpse of Jesus. This caught the attention of Jesus who called out to him to come down from the tree and invited himself over to his house for dinner. It’s a great story and I think it resonated with me as a child because I could identify with short people (I was, after all, a child). My recollections are centered around the emphasis of Zachaeus’ desperation to see Jesus. It is a great point.

How desperate are we to see Jesus?

But it is only half the story. Once the party moves to Zachaeus’ house, he makes a remarkable announcement:

“I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” (Luke 19:8 NLT)

Half his wealth, and a pledge to payback anyone he cheated 4 times the amount. Not only did Zacchaeus see Jesus, he was radically changed by the encounter. There’s so much more to this story than a short little man trying to see Jesus. The aftermath of his encounter completely changed his life.

So really, how desperate are you to see Jesus?


Who Am I?

Back in the USA and back in the office. As I have been processing from my month long trip (I have been in Sierra Leone) I have been introspecting about God and purpose and calling. A couple of things are creeping into my thinking. 1. Teaching is still very much a part of who I am and how God has wired me. 2. Leadership runs deeply as well. How do I know? I found myself struggling to push thoughts, feelings, desires and emotions as I watched others perform both of these functions. I am focused first and foremost on my job here at LEI as Media Director, but my heart and mind are becoming more and more sensitive to what God may be moving me towards.

Just a head’s up.

What kind of stuff is God revealing about you?


Sierra Leone 5

Well, it’s over. Actually, it’s just beginning. As the Primer Construction Institute draws to a close I am faced with the reality that the real work begins, hours and hours of video footage and hundreds upon hundreds of photos. My mind shuts down as I try and think about all that I’ve seen and experienced and translate that into what needs to get done once I get back to Tulsa. I’m still focused on trying to simply enjoy the moment and not let the gigabits and video projects deter me.

On October 28th we left Tulsa to come to Sierra Leone on the frontlines of LEI’s strategy to boost the literacy rate in this country over the next five years. In three weeks we have trained 15 participants and written 4 primers in 2 languages. Indeed, the Sierra Leone project is getting off the ground. I can’t say enough about the leadership of Rev. Gregory Bangura. He is laser focused on this mission and undeterred by any obstacle that may present itself. This project is in good hands and off to a great start. Soon Tutor Training Workshops (TTWs) will be scheduled to train teachers who will then use these primers (once finished and printed) to teach adult non-readers. Much of this work will occur through the local church. The pastor’s I have met with and talked to are all excited to have access to this new ministry tool. Not just to encourage discipleship but to encourage church planting.

There are some dangers. There is a lot of talk and unfortunately much of that talk comes with little if any action. Some here are solely focused on benefiting themselves in one way or another. As we leave, our prayer is that the zeal and excitement translates into tangible work. The beauty of all this, is that it truly depends upon Sierra Leoneans. Personally, I am confident in what God has called us to. I am convinced that this is God’s work and it is larger than any church, pastor or organization!

So I am left to pray. And edit videos, and tell stories, and show pictures, and share with everyone who wants to hear about what is going on in Sierra Leone.

Will you join us?

 


Sierra Leone 4

1 week left! Hard to believe that we have been here in Bo for 2 weeks now and in less than a week we will be back in Freetown. Things are progressing well. As of this afternoon (Sunday November 14) we are very close to getting book 1 in both the Mende and Themne. Things are moving at a bit faster pace now that we have progressed this far.

The participants are doing very well. Occasionally, one or two of the participants will have to leave for a day or two in order to attend to business with their families or jobs. This is a little disruptive, especially for the Mende team. The Mende have been slowed by a couple of factors. First and foremost is that the Mende Bible is currently under revision. There are 5 different Mende dialects and the original translation was written in one of the minority dialects. So they are in the process of harmonizing the language so that it is familiar with all dialects. Since we rely so much on the Bible many of the words are debated as to whether or not they are acceptable. This problem is compounded by the fact that a few of the Mende team members are also involved in the Mende bible translation project. The arguments become very tedious at times and take up quite a bit of time. However, their presence is a blessing because we know that the final product will be of excellent quality. They all care very deeply about this primer construction and are so eager to bring literacy to their people. They fully understand that the Mende Bible translation work does not matter if the people cannot read!

As for the Themne, they are progress quite well. Early on our concern was with this team as they had the fewest members, especially those who are able to write the language. Praise God that the Bible Society here in Sierra Leone released one of their translators to come and join the primer construction. He is an invaluable asset to the team.

What about me? I’m doing really well. My health is strong. Though I have the occasional stomach issue that forces me into seclusion in my water closet for a time. I am doing my best to get up at 6:15 three days a week to go running. That is a very interesting adventure in itself. At night, sleeping can be a challenge as well, but each morning after I shower and dress I feel ready to take on the day. The filming and photographing are all going quite well. It is becoming a bit of a challenge at this stage because there are only so many hours of footage and only so many photos one can take of people sitting in a room writing. But there are many other things that keep me busy. One is working on laptops of the various participants. So many of them are infected with virus’ and other malicious internet bugs and things. It is very challenging to resolve most of the issues because the internet is slow if there at all and the resources are not available here that are best for taking care of these problems. This week I will also start a small project of capturing each of the LEI missionaries on video. I want them to share just a small segment of what they are doing as an introduction. I can tell you that these men are completely committed to the work of LEI. Literacy is so important to them and unfortunately we don’t get to hear their voices too often. Please pray that we are able to capture each one effectively and professionally.

Thanks so much for continuing to pray for us. As well as things are going here I still miss my family very much and can’t wait to be rejoined with them. I am getting so excited about the thought of that reunion coinciding with Thanksgiving and Eve’s birthday. What a celebration it will be!

God bless you all!

PS The photo is from yesterday (Saturday November 13th). Pastor Gregory and I spoke to this gathering of local pastors. I spoke to them about missions and Pastor Gregory talked about steadfastness. It was a great 1-2 punch. Gregory ended the time by offering to buy one pastor a bicycle if they would commit to planting a church in a village nearby in the next year. So a pastor was randomly selected and given $100 to buy a bicycle. It was a pretty neat experience!

In case you can’t tell, I’m the white guy in the back.


Sierra Leone 3

We are 4 days into primer construction. It is exhausting work. The process is so tedious. A very careful accounting of each word and letter used in every lesson must be kept. It is repeated over and over; “Our job is hard so that it is easy for the new reader.” You can see it at the end of the day in the participant’s eyes. They are tired and often frustrated by the work. This is nothing to say of the artist who is tasked with drawing over 120 images for the 4 primers that will be written, an almost incalculable number of hours over the course of two weeks.

I’m reminded today of the approximately 3.5 million Sierra Leoneans who can’t read or write. Their futures are getting a little brighter each day we work. The Gospel is within reach with each new lesson. The picture is that of the Themne Jesus. A representation of our Savior to a tribe and tongue of people; can’t you almost hear them praising God in heaven?

Thanks again for contributing in prayers and support in this effort. I am humbled and honored to be here on the frontlines with you, sharing the story of God’s glory!

Keep praying!