Sunday, April 13, 2014

KEEPING Them "Sent Out"

by Stacey

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." - Matthew 9:36-38  

To be faithful to Christ's command in Matthew 9, I have always thought that Christians were supposed to "pray people to the field." After, myself, going through the process of becoming a missionary, I completely understand why Jesus told us that the "goers" need a lot of prayer. There are a million hurdles: finding a mission agency, having both spouses being equally committed to the cause, getting all the education that one needs, raising thousands and thousands of dollars, and so on. 

But, at this point, I am becoming more and more convinced that as much as we need to pray that God would SEND missionaries to the field, we also need to pray that he would KEEP them there. I am learning that the reasons to return home to the States are more plentiful than the hurdles that missionaries face before reaching the field. Some missionaries return home due to interpersonal conflict among their team, others due to sickness, and still others due to foreign governments refusing to renew visas. Whatever the reason, I think this trend lends to the fact that there is a real Enemy who wants to keep the lost in darkness and thus does everything in his power to keep "beautiful feet" reaching the unreached.

As we noted before, just since we arrived in France we have seen an enormous amount of opposition to those in our language program. Even this week, a fellow missionary family was told that they might have to return home to the US. This family arrived in France with 3 kids and one on the way, and their goal was to study French then head off to Africa. However, this past week, their fourth child was born with what appears to be a serious disease which would prevent him from living in Africa. He is still undergoing some tests but this family is having to grapple with the reality of a sick child and the possibility of having to pack their bags and return to the country they just left. 

The Loss of a Missionary is Serious
So, how are we to interpret situations like these? I think the first step is to acknowledge the gravity of the potential loss. Paul asks the question in Romans 10:14 "But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" 

Answer: The lost will not call on Jesus if they do not believe in him. And they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him. And they will not hear about Jesus unless someone tells them about him. And the reality is that many people groups in the world do not have any Christian witness, thus people need to be sent to them. And if people are not sent to them (from whatever country, not just the US of course) they will not believe. They will not give God the glory he deserves and they will not be saved. I am hard pressed to interpret Paul's argument in any other way. 

Thus the loss of "goers" to an unreached people group is a loss of light, a loss of Jesus, a loss of salvation.

But is not God Sovereign?
Considering our friends' situation, can we not relax a little and just say that the Lord is sovereign over this birth defect and accept the fact he is redirecting the steps of this family?

I think we should look to King David for an answer to this question. He was certainly a king who believed in the sovereignty of God, and yet his belief did not lead to a passivity. When a prophet of the Lord directly told him that it was the will of God that his child die as a result of his sin with Bathsheba, David threw himself on the ground weeping and pleading with God for seven days (2 Sam 12). He gave his reason in 2 Samuel 12:22 "I fasted and wept, for I said, 'Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?'" David knew his God was merciful and so for seven days he appealed to this mercy and grace that he would not take the life of his child. 

Then, when his baby died David got up, bathed himself, worshiped God, and ate. It was clear that God had made a decision and there was nothing more that could be done. He rested in God's sovereign decision after his will was crystal clear. 

If King David had a prophet directly tell him what the Lord said and he "fought it," how much more can we "fight" what comes out of the mouth of an atheist doctor? How much quicker should we be to appeal to God's heart for the lost and commitment to save people from every tribe, tongue and nation?

I fear that too often we pray half-hearted prayers calling our lack of zeal a submission to God's sovereignty.

Make War
So, to conclude this post, I say we refuse to accept the departure of this family until (like David) we are to a point of no return. I say that we echo the zeal of the psalmist who restlessly, aggressively cried out...
"You have seen, O LORD; be not silent! O Lord, be not far from me! Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord!"  - Psalm 35:22-23  
"Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call!" Psalm 102:2   
I say that people all over the world join together to pray that the Lord would "awake" and heal this baby, for the baby's sake and also for the advancement of the Gospel into Africa.  And I say that the "senders" continue to pray for missionaries on the field that the Lord would "answer speedily" and keep them sent out for decades.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

[VIDEO] French Testing Hidden Camera

by Dave and Stacey

We wanted to let you all get a glimpse of what exam week looks like here in France so we snuck a hidden camera into the classroom. And when you are done watching pray that God works a miracle and that our whole class passed. We get our most recent exam results tomorrow!

video

This is tongue in cheek. We REALLY love our school and professors. But the tests are REALLY hard. And I am pretty sure they know that they are really hard too.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pressing Prayer Requests

by Dave

In light of recent events and those upcoming we would like to ask for your prayer. Since we have been in France one of our classmates was diagnosed with cancer, three classmates have lost a parent, and just a couple of days ago one classmate fell down the steps and broke her right arm and fractured her left arm. On top of that two of our co-worker families in Cameroon have had to leave due to medical problems. All of this convinces us that we need your prayers. We know that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood" and our adversary is working hard to keep missionaries away from the field. So, if you could please:
  • Pray for our friend who broke both of her arms. She had an operation and is now at home recovering. Pray she will not become discouraged, that we would all help her through this difficult time, and that she will be able to learn French in the midst of this.
  • Pray for Dan who is now in remission in the US and is hoping to still be able to go to Africa in the not too distant future.
  • Pray for all of our classmates that have recently lost a parent. There is a lot of grieving on campus right now.
  • Pray that God would preserve our health and the health of our families as we get closer and closer to moving to Cameroon. We are learning that we are really very fragile and we are in desperate need of the Lord's protection.
On a lighter (but still important) note, we also have our next set of exams coming up this next week. Below is a picture of some of the packs of vocabulary that we have been given just within the last two months and that are responsible to know for our exams.  Needless to say we have been learning a lot and are hoping that what we have been learning will come out of our mouths on our exams (and then there is our bird Pickles).
  • Please pray that we and all of all classmates would pass our tests with flying colors. 
Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers!


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Is Jesus God? And Does it Matter?

by Dave
Unexpectedly we have had 3 house calls by Jehovah's Witnesses since we arrived in France. We actually were not able to talk to them any of these times (the first two times because we did not speak French well enough and the last time because they came at a bad time). But considering these encounters got me thinking about the deity of Christ. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus is not God, nor that he claimed to be God. Instead he is the archangel Michael and was God's first creation.

I have found that this is actually a pretty common talking point, especially for cults like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. "Jesus was a good teacher, but he never claimed to be God and we should not try to make him more than he was." There are a lot of problems with this worldview, and Jehovah's Witnesses start with very different assumptions. But I am going to begin with the assumption that the Bible is true and not corrupted throughout the centuries (see: FAQ: Is the Bible Reliable?). And I want to spend time in this post asking the questions: Did Jesus claim to be God? And does it matter?

Did Jesus Claim to Be God?
If you do a search on biblegateway.com for "I am God" you will find 10 passages where God says this exact phrase; none of which come from the mouth of Jesus. Well, there you have it. End of story, right? Not exactly. It is a fact that we have no recorded instance of Jesus saying the phrase "I am God." However, Jesus said pretty much the same thing in John 8. The context: Jesus was in the midst of a heated discussion with Jews who claimed that they did not need to be freed as they were never slaves, but were instead children of Abraham. Jesus had a different idea, namely that these unbelieving Jewish leaders were actually children of the Devil. Since they referenced Abraham Jesus jumped on the opportunity to say,
"Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."So the Jews said to him, "You are not fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple" (v. 56-59).
There are three facts recorded in this dialogue that point to the fact that Jesus claimed to be Christ. The first is that Jesus claimed to exist before Abraham, "Before Abraham was, I AM." They Jewish leaders picked up on this because they said "You are not 50 years old and you have seen Abraham?" At the very least one could say that Jesus was claiming to be older than he appeared (around 2000 years old). There could be other explanations (like he was really the archangel Michael for instance). But what is funny is that Jesus did not say, "I existed before Abraham." This leads to the second point: Jesus claimed to be I AM. Not all translations capitalize I AM in this passage, as I have done here. But I think that it is really clear. The phrase itself is not grammatically correct unless we view I AM to refer to the divine name. Jesus is using the name that God Himself used in Exodus 3:
Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you" (v. 13-14).
So, according to this passage in Exodus, God told Moses that his name was I AM. Then in John 8 Jesus says that he is I AM. So, did Jesus say that he was God? Absolutely. This is evidenced further by the last part of the John 8 passage where "they picked up stones to throw at him." This is more explicit in John 10 after Jesus said "I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again and he asked for what work they were wanting to stone him. They replied:
"It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God" (33).
Even if Jehovah's Witnesses do not understand it, the Jews understood it just fine. When Jesus said things like "Before Abraham was I AM" and "I and the Father are one," he was claiming to be God. This was something the Jewish leaders considered to be blasphemy. And of course it would be blasphemy unless Jesus was in fact God.

Does it Matter?
Sometimes when I raise this as an issue I get the you-are-being-theologically-nit-picky look. I mean, after all the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons say that they trust in Jesus for salvation, isn't that enough? A few years back someone questioned the then President of the Mormon church in regards to whether or not he believed in the traditional Jesus. Gordon Hinckley responded by saying:
No I don't believe [in the traditional Christ]. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the dispensation of the fullness of times (Gordon B. Hinckley, cited in "Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads," LDS Church News, Saturday, 20 June 1999: 7).
I think that Mr. Hinckley was more right than he knew. He was saying that he did not believe in the Jesus of the ancient creeds (i.e. the Apostle's Creed). But I believe the issue is deeper than that. The Mormon church does not believe in the Jesus of the Bible. I can say that I trust in Jesus to save me from my sins,but when the Jehovah's Witnesses say "We do not worship Jesus, as we do not believe that he is God Almighty" they reveal that they are placing their faith in a different Jesus. One who is not worthy of worship. The name of Jesus is very important, but it is the PERSON, not the name, that saves us. Banking one's salvation on a man named Jesus that was really an angel, or a good teacher, or even a man who did enough good deeds to become A god, is to reject the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus did not claim to be A god, he claimed to be THE God, I AM, YHWH, Elohim. The fact stands that if you do not believe in Jesus as God, you do not believe in the Jesus of the Bible. And it is only the Jesus of the Bible that can save. So, does the deity of Christ matter? Yes, it is a matter of life and death.

The deity of Christ is not a theological concept for nit-picky professors. Instead, the Bible presents us with the man Jesus Christ, who was and is the God of the universe. And we are invited to come to him with people from every tribe, tongue and nation and bow and worship him as God. Jesus is not merely a name, or a theological construct. Jesus, God Almighty, is the one that will one day return to call his elect home, and to destroy all those who trust in anyone else. Even if their trust is in another man named Jesus. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Great Cloud of Witnesses and the Lonely Christian

by Stacey

After several months of neglecting my morning jog due to cold weather, this past week I decided to put on my running shoes once again. The first morning out, it was cold and the streets were empty except for a few men in berets coming to buy their morning baguettes. I was panting and struggling due to the fact that I have gotten a bit of out of shape during the winter months. I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Suddenly I looked up and saw a rather large French woman, still in her pajamas, looking right at me from her second floor apartment. A smile lit up her face and she began clapping her hands and cheering for me. “Bravo, bravo!” she shouted. With this affirmation, my spirits were lifted and I finished my jog with increased speed and relative ease. It is amazing how pain can be diminished when you know someone is watching you and cheering you on.

This kind woman reminded me that there are clouds of witnesses surrounding the Christian, even in times when he or she may feel like he is totally alone. I am persuaded that the awareness of their presence is one of God’s means of grace to cause the lonely saint to endure.

The Testimony of the Saints

When we read Hebrews 11, we find that there truly is nothing new under the sun. Every struggle that Christians endure today has been endured by the saints of old. In this chapter we read about Noah who feared a coming judgment and thus chose to accept rejection from those in his culture as he built a huge boat. Later, we observe Moses’ parents as they defied the laws of an unrighteous government. Because of their sacrifice, their son Moses had the riches of a kingdom. However, he chose to refuse to be called the son of the King’s daughter and walked away from the thrill of living for vain pleasures. He chose instead to follow Christ and be mistreated. The Israelites understood what it was like to live under an oppressive regime. Then they were called on to trust God when he told them to destroy an enemy city by walking around it. They understood what it was like to follow God when his methods did not seem to make sense. David felt the heartbreak of the betrayal of his own son and the disgust and sorrow of having sexual abuse occur in his family. And others were tortured and were without the basic necessities like food and clothing.

So how can their stories comfort for the lonely Christian?

We Have Ammunition to Reject the Lie that We are Alone

Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses referring to the list of heros in Hebrews 11. This record of people testifies to the fact that others have indeed experienced what it is like to have their families torn apart, what it is like to look at the pleasures of sin and to walk the other way, what it is like to not really belong anywhere, what it is like to endure in obeying the Lord even when that comes at a cost. These testimonies prevent us from walking down the road of self-pity where we get out a carton of ice-cream and meditate on how no one understands our sufferings. It also reassures the Christian that even if there is lack authentic relationships at church or in our marriage, we are nonetheless surrounded God, angels, and saints who are more-or-less cheering us on.

We can Endure

And the voices of those who surround us are saying that we need to endure in the faith. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12.1). The world, flesh and the Devil tell us to drown our feelings of loneliness in the comforts of sin. Such as: drinking a little too much, fantasizing about a different life, looking at pornography, the distractions of materialism, and so on. 

And yet, as we run the Christian race and hear the temptation of the Devil that God would never forgive us for that sin, we look to our right and see King David who was forgiven of adultery and murder. And so we take on more step. 

Still we long to give into a life filled with alcohol, clubs and shallow conversations, and yet we look to our left and see Moses who was given grace to walk out of a palace to go wander in a desert for forty years. And we take another step. 

We are so fed up with the mundane daily grind of correcting our children, seeking to be content in God, and honor our bosses at work. Then, out of the corner of our eye we see Noah holding a sign that says, "Think your life is mundane? I built a boat in preparation for a flood that did not come until I was 600 years old." After reading that poster we take several steps forward. 

But then there is still that nagging feeling of rejection. And yet, through the crowd we see Joseph holding a picture of when his brothers sold him into slavery. "If the Lord can sustain him through that, then he surely can sustain my faith through what I'm feeling" we think as we take another step.

And yet the most encouraging thing that we hear the cloud of witnesses shouting is that the finish line is near.

We can Fantasize about the Future

What sustained the saints of old and what sustains Christians today is that there is an actual city that is being prepared for the family of God that is just on other side of the finish line. What gave Abraham the ability to leave everything was that he "was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." He knew that a city built by God is so much better then all the comforts of a familiar hometown on earth. Moses left the temptations of sin because "he considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward." Moses was seeking a pleasure that was better then the pleasures he left behind. He was able to leave a beautiful palace because he knew a better one was coming. 

The believers in the Old Testament did not just loosen their grip on the things of this world, but instead they let go of something lesser only to hold more tightly onto something better. And their preoccupation with what they had taken hold of was what enabled them to endure. And so for us, let us follow in their example and let our daydreams be about the perfect city that awaits us all. When we do this, we will surely be able to endure.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

God Bless America: A Response to Secularism in France

by Stacey

I expected France to more like America than it is. Both are Western countries, both have democratic governments and both are committed to religious freedom. So, I assumed that the manifestation of my faith here in France would be more-or-less identical to the expression of my faith in America. As it turns out my presuppositions were wrong.

Is Religious Expression…Illegal?
We have slowly learned that the "separation between Church in State" in France does not mean what I am used to it meaning. In the States the government seeks to remains “neutral” while allowing all adherents to practice their religion freely. Interference from the government comes in only when there is violence or other violations of the rights of others. In contrast, here in France the government forbids what it calls the “ostentatious” expression of religion in public places. According to what I have been told, it is "ostentatious," and thus illegal, for me to wear a cross and walk down the street. It would also be illegal for my North-African Muslim neighbors to wear head coverings and go to the supermarket. It is illegal for our church to go out in groups and evangelize people on the streets. My children cannot wear Christian t-shirts to school and, come to think of it, I have not seen any religious bumper stickers. Further, not only is the government seeking to keep religion off the streets, but its strong arm is also sweeping its way into religious meetings. There was recently an announcement at our church that there is a law in the works which would make it illegal to preach against abortion from the pulpit.

Really?
As an American, I would expect there to be an outrage against these types of laws. Is it truly religious freedom to be told how and when I can express my religion? I had thought that secularism was the way in which each religion could have a voice without the government taking sides. What I am finding here is that secularism is the process by which the government silences the voice of religion. To my surprise, there does not seem to be controversy surrounding these laws. This is secularism as the French know it and it appears to be accepted without (much) question. It is in situations like these that I realize how American I really am.

Be American and Be Loud
Although there are many things I appreciate about France even over my own culture, I cannot help but to appreciate the freedom (at least in contrast to the rest of the world) that we as Christians are given in America. Our freedom is truly unique. The US is a nation in which Christian sports celebrities write “John 3:16” on their faces. There are billboards that promote the Biblical perspective that unborn children are living and valuable. We can find a box, stand on it and preach the Gospel. We can go down to Santa Monica Boulevard in Southern California and talk to people for hours about Christ. We can get into universities and loudly preach on the forgiveness of sin that is promised to those who repent and believe. One time Dave was kindly trying to convince a woman to not have an abortion when someone called the police on him. When the police came Dave explained that he was just speaking his convictions in a public place. The officers said he was well within his rights to do just that. So Dave opened the Bible and continued to read it on the street with two officers standing behind him. There are innumerable ways that we can express our allegiance to Jesus and spread his Word in the states.

I know the US has its problems and there are times where I am not proud to be an American. And there are challenges to these freedoms in the news everyday. Yet I think I speak on behalf of my brothers and sisters who are overseas (especially those who are in countries where Christianity is illegal) when I say that we should be genuinely thankful for the freedoms that we do have. We are able to do things in America that are absolutely unthinkable for many people the world today. And, to adapt a well-known adage: with great freedom comes great responsibility. My challenge for my Christian friends in America today is this: be thankful for your freedoms and steward them well. I have heard many people say that we can fulfill the Great Commission right at home by evangelizing our neighbors, so by all means let us follow through. Let us have backyard Bible clubs for the kids in the neighborhood, let us not scoff at the car with 23 Christian bumper stickers on the back of it, let us open our mouths to speak on behalf of the unborn, let us pray for our neighbors and fellow parents at our kids schools, let us be ambitious to take advantage of every single freedom that we have been given. Let us not squander this gift of freedom, let us thank the Lord and use our freedoms to expand his Kingdom in the States.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

7 Tips for Americans Visiting France

by Dave
We have been in France now for 11 months and I feel like that is long enough to begin to dispense some advice for our American friends. We are certainly not French culture experts, but here are 7 things that might be helpful if you decide to visit (or move to) France:---

1. Prepare Yourself to Feel Like a Giant
We are pretty used to it by now, but when we first moved to France it was shocking how much smaller everything was. The people are smaller, the cars are smaller, the food portions are smaller, the refrigerators are smaller, everything is smaller. When I walk around I feel like Buddy the Elf at the North Pole. I have broken two chairs at school and innumerable pens. When we take Elias to his school his entire class jams into a very tiny hallway. Often parents are kneeling to take off their kid's shoes and no one else can move until they are done. I have knocked more than one decorative poster off of the wall just trying to turn around in this hallway.

2. Do Not Hug People
Turns out French people think that hugging is gross (unless you are married or a child). Somehow it seems less sanitary to them than kissing one another. To be fair, most of them do not actually kiss when the do the "bises." They touch cheeks and kiss the air. Some of the older generation will straight up kiss your cheek and through a recent "kiss-understanding" Stacey did get one smack right on the lips a few weeks back. Most of the time a handshake will do just fine, so I just make that my default. However, at church, and especially with the older generation, they lean into your face and do not leave until you have touched cheeks and kissed air.

3. You Only Get One "Bonjour" Per Day
You may not realize it, but Americans say "hello"all the time. Apparently this is absolutely bizarre for the French. You greet someone here with "Bonjour" but if you run into them again, "Bonjour" is prohibited. Stacey asked what you say they second time you see someone and one teacher responded..."Nothing!" Yep, they just look at you and smile, but they do not say "Bonjour" more than once a day. Also, they do not say "Bonjour" to each other on the street, but they do say "Bonjour" to everyone when entering a waiting room. And if you go into a store (like a bakery), before you order anything you should make sure to say "Bonjour" to the clerk.

4. Talk Quieter
Have you ever heard that people consider Americans loud? I think it might be because we are loud. It is particularly evident with our children. Everywhere we go I feel like the kids are screaming. So when we go out in public I try to reduce our noise by at least 50%. Of course it never works and people just stare at us wondering if we are all partially deaf.

5. Bring a Gift
Whenever the French are invited to someone's house they bring a gift. It does not have to be anything too exciting, maybe some flowers or chocolates. But it is just what they do here. We invited a boy from Kaden's class over to play on a Saturday a few weeks ago. He brought with him a small gift for each of our children and his mom made us a cake. In the end, I think it is kind of fun. But I wish we would have known when we first got here!

6. Cheese!
The French REALLY like their cheese. There are some 400 varieties of cheese here and everywhere you go there are regional specialties. One professor told us that when/if we travel we should really try the cheeses wherever we go. I would have never considered writing that into a travel itinerary. In meals with guests the they have a special course just for cheese that comes after the main course and before dessert. We were even told that some French people are very particular about how their cheese is cut and it is considered an insult to cut it in another manner.

7. Vacations
The French also really love their vacations. We arrived in France in April and were ready and willing to dive into our studies. However, there was a two week vacation from the end of April and into May. Then, school is completely closed for July and August (as are many stores in France). Then another two-week break in October, two weeks in December, and another two weeks in February. At first it was a little frustrating, being that we were so eager. However, now I am really coming to like having the consistent breaks throughout. We still study a lot though the vacations, but it is nice to have a break without new information.


We will keep you updated with fun French culture facts while we are here, and then all sorts of new things in Africa!

*Photo from http://www.anopticalillusion.com

Sunday, February 16, 2014

3 Ways to Pray for your (Usually Discouraged) Missionaries in Language School

By Stacey

Do you have any friends that are going through language school for missions? Let me give you some insight into what is going on in their heads.

(reading) “How are they to hear without someone preaching?...How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:14-15).

(thinking) How in the world am I ever going to preach in this language?! And how beautiful are my feet if my mouth is incapable of communicating the Gospel?!

We (missionaries) used to flip to Romans 10 to inspire ourselves during the long season of support-raising. These days we eye these verses with suspicion, wondering if we could ever have beautiful feet.

Missionaries know that without the Word there is no salvation. That is why they sold everything to go overseas, and why they take language school so seriously. They are well aware that the Devil is against them and is trying to foil their determined plans to learn language X. Why? Because he does not want them to go spread the Gospel. If one thinks he is sharing the Gospel but is actually saying “Adam and Eve sinned…the world was…chicken! But then a man came who died for…rocks!...so repent and believe!” then no one will get saved. Your missionary friends know that without the accurate transmission of the Gospel, people will not repent and believe. Thus they need your prayers for the long, tedious, never-have-anything-exciting-to-say-in-their-newsletters season of language acquisition. Here are 3 ways that you can be praying:

1. Pray for the Stress

Imagine two parents working 40-50 hours a week while taking care of their children who are also experiencing culture shock. Imagine being a surgeon or a pilot and then going to class only have your teacher bewildered that you do not know what a present participle is. Imagine being a super-relational, shepherding type forced to understand, hear and mimic the tones in a tone language…for 3 years straight. Imagine carrying your sick, complaining child through the snow so that you can get to class in time only to sit there and struggle to pick up even one word from an audio recording produced in the early 1900s. Imagine taking a four-day test on which your teachers intentionally put questions that they knew would not know. And then imagine failing that test and thus being forced to stay in the country for another 6 months to pass that level. Or imagine walking into the middle of the African wild with a pencil and paper and trying to write down a language with clicks and tones…oh and do not forget to home-school the children!

All this to say, the phase of language learning is stressful and filled with pressure. So please remember your missionary friends. Pray that in the midst of stress the God of peace would be with them. Pray that they would keep their minds stayed on God and that in turn God would keep them in perfect peace. Pray that the Lord would sanctify them in the midst of trials and that their faith would flourish. Pray that they would leave language school not just (Lord willing) speaking another language but that their faith would be purified, refined and worthy of emulating. 

2. Pray for the Discouragement

Missionaries face a great temptation to feel like they will never grasp their new language (and their professors and missions agencies might have their doubts as well). Some missionaries enter the field in their 60s and are expected to keep up with the others in their 20s. Some missionaries simply cannot hear the rising and falling in pitch in tonal languages. Others practice and practice a particular sound in the language for years and are still incapable of mimicking it. And the result is that they are not understood by the nationals. Others fear having to write yet another newsletter saying that they are going to have to extend their time in language school. These things are discouraging and can often lead to skepticism or paralysis. You missionary friends likely struggle daily with thoughts of “why bother studying, it does not make a difference anyway." 

Pray for them. Pray that the God of all hope would help them to not despair or be discouraged. Pray that they would be able to master sound X or verb paradigm Y and wait expectantly for God to answer. Pray that they would remember that their identity does not rise or fall based on their competency in the language. Instead they are secure forever in Christ. Pray that their feelings would not push them to give up.

3. Pray for Raw Determination

Proverbs 14:23 says “In all toil there is profit.” Pray that your missionaries would toil and labor and trust that there will be profit even when they cannot see it. Pray that they would keep learning those vocabulary words even when they feel like nothing is changing. Pray that they would know when they should put relationships in the States aside to go talk like a child with a national. Pray that your missionaries would be even more stubborn then they already are, more determined, more skilled in not listening to their emotions. Pray that they would have the mentality: “Language X or death.” Pray they would not give up until they are understood.


The Adversary does not start his work against the missionary the first time he shares the Gospel, he has plans in the works well before. Pray against his schemes and pray regularly for your missionaries in language school.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Adopted by a King

by Dave
Have you ever heard of Caesar Augustus? His name might be familiar, as he plays a supporting role in the Divine Drama beginning at Jesus' birth. You can read of him in the Gospel of Luke:
"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all of the world should be registered" (Luke 2:1).
It was this decree that led Joseph and Mary back to Bethlehem where Christ was born. Augustus was the Caesar at the time of Christ's birth and was really the earthly reason that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But did you know that he was not born with the name Augustus? No, he was born Gaius Octavius to a wealthy, but decidedly not royal family. How then did he end up a Caesar? By adoption. 

Adoption in Rome
Turns out adoption was pretty common in the Roman world. Now, it was not the kind of adoption that we are used to today. Julius Caesar did not hop a flight over to Ethiopia and adopt Octavius as a baby. In fact, Octavius did not even know that he was adopted until after Julius was dead. Julius was the Caesar of the Roman Republic while Octavius was growing up and pursuing military training. During the Ides of March (of Shakespeare fame), Julius was murdered by up to 60 aristocrats including some of his friends. Octavius was only 18 at the time and he soon learned that Julius had listed him as the adopted heir in his will. Julius had no legitimate male children and his choice to adopt allowed him to have the power over who would come after him.

This posthumous adoption left Octavius with the right to become Caesar and two-thirds of Julius' estate. However, his adoptive father's death led to several civil wars that brought the end of the Roman Republic. It was not until 17 years later in 27BC that he officially became Caesar Augustus at the beginning of the Roman Empire. The title carried with it not only great civil power in Rome, but left Augustus with the status of a god. Apparently, Augustus liked the way that this all worked out because he in turn adopted his successor, Tiberius. In fact, in the first 200 years of the Roman Empire, Caligula, Nero, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Lucius Verus all became Caesar through adoption.[1] 

When Augustus was adopted he was welcomed to a new life. Though he had to fight for it, he had been given the right through his adoption to become king, even to be considered a god. Being the son and the heir to Julius Caesar meant that he inherited his estate, his title, his privileges and his obligations. 

Adoption in Christianity
It was into this context that Jesus and Christianity was born. And it was into this context that Paul said:
"For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry 'Abba, Father!'" (Rom 8:15).
and
"He predestined us for adoption as sons through Christ Jesus, according to the purpose of his will" (Eph 1:5).
It is a Christian notion that those who believe in Christ have been adopted by God. And as with Augustus, our adoption comes with an estate, a title, with privileges and with obligations. Did you know that as Christians we will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5), eternal life (Matt 19:29), and the kingdom of God (Matt 25:34)? And though we will never be called king (and certainly not "god"), we are told that we will one day judge angels (I Cor 6:3). Further, as children of the king we are able to boldly approach the throne of grace (Heb 4:16). And all of this wonderful inheritance is ours through Christ Jesus.

Adoption and Obligation
But like I said, this inheritance does come with obligation. Paul says in Romans 14:
"For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live we live to the Lord, and if we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's" (7-8).
Our adoption means that our lives are no longer ours. We belong to Christ and we belong to his kingdom. Augustus was a brilliant leader and he spread the Roman Empire far beyond the borders of his father. In fact he ruled with such power and confidence that he took "Imperator" to be his first name, which means "victorious commander." He found great power and conquering confidence in the name Caesar. We come to this world with an even greater name. We are heirs of the one who created the whole world. And our Father has commanded us to go into the whole world and spread his kingdom not for the name of a great man, but for his name. Unlike Augustus we have a Father who lives. We have a Father who is with us. And when we spread his kingdom it is because he gives us the strength to do it for his glory.

I said earlier that Augustus played a "supporting role" in the world's greatest drama. I said that because God had decided that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and wrote it down around 700 years before Augustus was born (Micah 5:2). Caesar Augustus was a very powerful man, but his role in the most important act of history was small. And for all that he accomplished, the kingdom that he fought for has been gone for almost 600 years. In contrast, we have an opportunity to fill our lives with works to build a kingdom that will never end. We do this not to become God's children, but because we have already been adopted. We are merely doing the work of our Father. What a great privilege and what a great responsibility!



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[1] Facts about Augustus, Julius and adoption in Ancient Rome were taken from some of my history and literature teachers throughout the last 25 years of my life and refreshed by Wikipedia. See these links for more information:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Caesar
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoption_in_ancient_Rome
[1] Photo from http://www.colorshotel.com/

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hare Family Update

by Dave
Can you believe we have been in France for 10 months!? It is amazing how fast the time has gone, and yet how slow at the same time. For those who have been wondering how things have been going...
Kaden
Kaden was a big sobbing pile of tears when we put him into school in Chambéry when we first moved to France. However, now that we are in Albertville he really has become excited about school. In fact, when we have vacation time he asks everyday if he can go to school. I asked him why he wanted to go to school and he said that staying home is so boring. He told us the other day that one of his buddies had decided not to be his friend any more. When we asked why he told us that he does not like that he always tries to hold his hand. It is a constant point of sorrow for Kaden that little boys do not want to hold his hand.  I think he is going to love Africa!

Makyra
Makyra is the artist of our family. She often draws pictures of people or hearts or butterflies. She uses a lot of colors and can sit and draw in a room by herself for hours. For whatever reason she rolls up her pants to make shorts pretty much everyday. She is obsessed with the color pink and gets pretty sad if we make her wear another color. We were sitting outside her classroom the other day talking to her and her teacher walked up and said, "She talks! It is amazing!" So, apparently she still does not talk very much at school.

Elias
Eli is bold and will pretty much go anywhere, climb anything, and run faster than his little legs can take him. But there is little doubt that he will fall straight on his face in the process. He likes to snuggle, even at terribly inappropriate times, like when I am trying to put on his boots. He has recently decided that he does not like to sleep and lets us know at least twice a day. His teachers seem very fond of him and they have let him come back for the afternoon session which is a big blessing. (In case you missed it Eli and Zoey were kicked out of school last trimester for disturbing the other kids during naptime).

Zoey
Zoey is so intense. Everything she does is intense. While it takes the other kids 15 minutes to get their coats and boots on in the morning, Zoey is done in .3 seconds. She does not really walk but more vibrates down the sidewalk. She is either completely silent or yelling orders at her brothers and sisters around the house. And she completely destroys her toothbrush because she brushes with so much zeal (and has really healthy teeth!).

Her teacher told us that she was "énervé." We went home and looked up the word and it means "annoying or manic." Zoey currently has a pretty deep wound on the bottom of her foot. When we asked her what happened, she shrugged and said, "I put a lego in my shoe."  Apparently she was walking around on a lego for who knows how long. Zoey also has been allowed back at school for the afternoon. Although on Friday her teacher said "We will see how it goes on Monday," which does not sound good.

Dave and Stacey
Stacey has a bit of Zoey in her. She either loves everything she encounters in France or completely hates it, but fortunately the loves way outweigh the hates. Stacey is also the queen of organisation and will no doubt write a French grammar someday. At school, we were able to skip a level and we are now in the next class up with only two other students. This makes for a lot of time talking which is exactly what we need. This trimester is a little more laid back (compared to the last one because we did two levels at one time) and we are enjoying it. God has blessed us with good teachers and good friends here in France, but we are starting to feel ready to get to Africa. Now is the time where we start coordinating shipments to Cameroon and buying plane tickets. Only 6 months to go!