Friday, June 27, 2008
I'll be honest, it's hard for me to read the above and not spend a little time on the words "always" and "prosper everywhere I send it" (italics mine) in regards to His word. If you've spent even a little time actively trying to reach people with the Good News you can get tripped up with those words because, well, so many people seem to be uninterested in this eternity changing free gift.
I know the Evil One tries to plant seeds of discouragment with every "no" we hear. It's also especially hard to hear "of course I'm coming" or "of course I'll be there" a few hundred times and never actually see those people come to anything. This brings disappointment as well.
This week God reminded us that His word (not our words or our actions) is active and it works even when we think not much is going on.
A couple of days ago I got a call from a really good friend of mine. He's a great friend actually but, I'll confess, there's been some distance between us lately. Partly his fault, partly mine. I'm not proud of it but that's where we are. For a long time, I diligently reached out to him to become a Christian, giving him many opportunities to accept. He would always say just what I wanted to hear, but never followed through on putting anything into practice. After a while, I got tired of trying. We are still good friends but we just don't see each other as much as we used to.
Lately, I've been reading the writings of George Müller and one thing he encourages is praying daily with your wife. You'd think as a Christian missionary I wouldn't need a kick in the pants to start getting serious about doing this but the book has made us (both Benay and myself) try to be consistent in daily getting together for prayer. Benay has a little book and she has been writing down everything we pray about.
One of the things we began praying about is specific people. We pray for them by name. My friend and his family are on our list. "Out of the blue" he called two days ago. He asked how we are doing. He asked how house church is going and he wants to bring his family by our house tomorrow for a visit. God is good.
Yesterday afternoon I took the kids to see a movie and to let Benay have a free afternoon as she is battling the beginnings of a cold. While at home she heard the doorbell. She went to answer it and saw that it was another friend who had visited our house church with his family a couple of times in January/February. We literally haven't seen them since then. We've traded emails with them but haven't seen them. He was bringing a baby shower invitation to us for his little girl that will be born about a week before our little boy. He said they haven't forgotten about house church, want to come back but it has been hard with his girlfriend being pregnant (they only have a motorcycle which makes double riding a little difficult). It was a great surprise to hear from them again and to have them invite us to this big day for them.
After Benay told me about this visit we thought about the verse above. It reminded us that God is in control. You'd think I'd know this by now but I constantly need to be reminded. It's good to be reminded that no matter how long (over 5 years) or how short (2 house church visits) the amount of time you spend with someone, His word always produces fruit. It will accomplish "all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it."
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Our teammates, Sascha and Jennifer Terry, were there as well. Because Claudio and Rute's house is in a suburb of Porto Alegre, 30-40 minutes away, the Terrys have been consistently going to Claudio and Rute's house weekly to worship with and encourage them. The Terrys then come home and are part of another house church that meets in their home in the afternoon.
The Sunday we shared together was truly a celebration. Claudio works all night on Saturday night but still takes part in house church on Sunday morning. I honestly don't know how he does all he does. He is on a bus 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, and works 8-10 hours per day. His only off day is Sunday but he faithfully opens his house and celebrates worshipping God with his family.
We had a great time at their house.
The kids had a great time hanging out. Garrett brought two of his classmates to experience house church.
Monday, June 23, 2008
There have been days when I've wondered why God chose us to do this, but many more days of praise and thankfulness that He allows us to walk hand in hand with Him as well as our teammates, our incredible Brasilian brothers and sisters, and our not-yet Christian friends.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Do you live expectantly? Do the little things excite you? Do you imagine the improbable and expect the impossible? Life is full and running over with opportunities to see God's hand in little things. Only the most sensitive of His servants see them, smile, and live on tiptoe.
Children can teach us a lot about this kind of expectancy. Did you ever listen to a child pray? Their faith knows no bounds. And who are the least surprised people when God answers prayer? The children.
As we get older we grow too sophisticated for that. We use phrases like, "Let's be realistic about this." We lose that expectancy, that urgency of hope, that delightful, childlike, wide-eyed joy of faith that keeps us full of anticipation and excitement. May God deliver us from a grim, stoic, stale shrug of the shoulders! "Look, I haven't changed," He says. "I still delight in doing impossible things. I love to surprise you!"
When I read this, I couldn't help but remember something that happened with our daughter Ansley about 10 years ago (she was 5 or 6 years old). We had a computer and Ansley had just gotten a new computer game. But evidently we needed an upgrade because every time she wanted to play the game, it would go to a certain point in the game, and then stop with a message saying that our computer didn't have enough memory to continue past this point. I told Ansley that this game probably wouldn't work on our computer. A little while later, she told me "Mom, I KNOW my game is going to work tomorrow. Because I prayed to God and asked Him to fix it and I KNOW that it will work." She was so sure of herself that I didn't have the heart to tell her that it probably still wouldn't work (I mean, does God install more computer memory??). Evidently He does. Because the next day and everyday after that, the game worked. Same computer, same game. A little girl with child like faith and a mom who learned that God DOES love to surprise us.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Sometimes he sends books from his favorite authors (like Brennan Manning) and other times he sends some that someone has recommended to him or others that he's found on his own. He found a short little book entitled "Anyway.....The Paradoxical Commandments" and sent it to us last year. The author is Kent M. Keith.
Here are his 10 "paradoxical" commandments:
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world your best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Check it out. You'll be encouraged.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Here is the card.She even had some visitors come to the airport to tell her bye. The boy is from school. I think he might be a little sweet on Ansley since he ditched school to hang out with "us" for a couple of hours. Or maybe he just likes to ditch school.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
These cold nights have been very rough on our three youngest kids. They all have colds and coughs right now. I know the cold doesn't cause sickness (from what little my brain remembers from my physical therapy school days) but I don't think getting out of bed in the morning and seeing your breath is a good thing either.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Garrett's BEST friends are the ones he made Mississippi. He has tons of great friends here but he still talks about 2 boys from Grenada that are his best buddies. It's funny, but we moved away from Mississippi when Garrett was only 4 years old and have been back for very short visits since then but he has never forgotten his buddies Nathan and Corbin.
Here is Benay with Monica.
But then moved to the den and asked for some knife help to open the package.
The first thing he got was a hand written note from Nathan.Unfortunately we had to take a break and go eat lunch (kids only go to school a half day here). It was one of the fastest lunches Garrett ever ate and he was soon back to opening the box. He got a Tennessee Vols cap.
Some flavored marshmallows............and some Dr. Pepper (now it's Christmas for me!). I think Ted put this in for me as a special "remember the good ole days" present. Ted and I used to work together. We used to go jogging and sometimes rode bikes together. I think the exercise was an excuse to feed our other habit.......drink Dr. Pepper together. Some mornings we would start our day off with Dr. Pepper and biscuits, honey buns, or insert your favorite artery clogging food here. Some days we had to stay late to see patients or work on paper work and we, of course, used Dr. Pepper to help us cope with the late hours. Anyway, as you can tell from his face in the picture, Garrett has inherited his dad's love for DP. We were all happy with Garrett's presents. I said earlier that Garrett's BEST friends are the ones he made in Mississippi. I don't think our family as a whole has any better friends than these. We love you guys!(most of our family with the Hill family - Ted, Monica, Cody, Nathan and Erin)
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Use your uniqueness to take great risks for God!
The only mistake is not to risk making one.
Such was the error of the one-talent servant. Did the master notice him? Indeed, he did. And from the third servant we learn a sobering lesson. “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground’ ” (Matt. 25: 24–25).
Contrast the reaction of the third servant with that of the first two.
The faithful servants “went and traded” (v. 16). The fearful one “went and dug” (v. 18).
The first two invested. The last one buried.
The first two went out on a limb. The third hugged the trunk.
The master wouldn’t stand for it. Brace yourself for the force of his response. “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest” (vv. 26–27).
Whoa. What just happened? Why the blowtorch? Find the answer in the missing phrase. The master repeated the assessment of the servant, word for word, with one exclusion. Did you note it? “I knew you to be a hard man” (v. 24). The master didn’t repeat the description he wouldn’t accept.
The servant levied a cruel judgment by calling the master a hard man. The servant used the exact word for “hard” that Christ used to describe stiff-necked and stubborn Pharisees (see Matt. 19:8; Acts 7:51). The writer of Hebrews employed the term to beg readers not to harden their hearts (3:8). The one-talent servant called his master stiff-necked, stubborn, and hard.
His sin was not mismanagement, but misunderstanding. Was his master hard? He gave multimillion-dollar gifts to undeserving servants; he honored the two-talent worker as much as the five; he stood face to face with both at homecoming and announced before the audiences of heaven and hell, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Was this a hard master? Infinitely good, graciously abundant, yes. But hard? No.
The one-talent servant never knew his master. He should have. He lived under his roof and shared his address. He knew his face, his name, but he never knew his master’s heart. And, as a result, he broke it.
Who is this unprofitable servant? If you never use your gifts for God, you are. If you think God is a hard God, you are.
For fear of doing the wrong thing for God, you’ll do nothing for God. For fear of making the wrong kingdom decision, you’ll make no kingdom decision. For fear of messing up, you’ll miss out. You will give what this servant gave and will hear what this servant heard: “You wicked and lazy servant” (v. 26).
But you don’t have to. It’s not too late to seek your Father’s heart. Your God is a good God.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Our particular house church is made up of several new Christians, several not-yet-Christians, a few who have been Christians for many years but haven't matured that much, several teens and kids. We love our group and recognize the opportunity that God has given us to lead and nurture them. But there have been some struggles. People who are new to the faith have many years of living without faith under their belt. The transformation that occurs, unfortunately, isn't instantaneous. It requires day by day growing, seeking and experiencing God. Many don't have the patience it takes to deal with not-yet-Christians who think their worldly ideas are right. Family and marital struggles due to years of living without Christ, "lukewarm" attitudes from some who have been in a church for many years but are just now being asked to really BE a church - these are some of the struggles that we have been facing this year.
Sometimes you feel like giving up.
And then God comes along (actually He was there all the time) and gives you just what you need to go on. This happened to me yesterday as I(Benay) was going through the study "Experiencing God" by Henry Blackaby. This particular day the theme of the study was unity in the body and how the body should seek to discern God's will for their future. It is not the leader's job to determine God's will for the body and let the rest know. The body, as a whole, should seek God's will. Here is a list of questions that were asked:
Of course the answer to each question should be "YES". But I have to admit that I struggled with questions 3 and 4. With my human eyes, it seems almost impossible that our church will ever reach the kind of unity described as "one heart and one mind". But do I believe that God can do this? Yes. And number 4 - am I willing to wait for God to do his work? Well, what if it takes a long time? What if I need to leave Brazil? What if..... But am I willing to wait? OK, Yes.
What did God tell me through this? I'm not in charge of our church. He is. This is not a sprint. It's a marathon. How long does spiritual formation take? Well, thinking of my own life, years - and He's still not done.
Another jewel from my Bible study was this verse that came right after the above questions:
Never noticed before the inclusion of the words "endurance" and "encouragement". Never understood how that related to unity. But I do now.
I would ask you to pray for our churches and pray for us as we do what needs to be done day by day.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
We start out singing with the kids and talking about the fruits of the Spirit and the specific fruit we will be studying that day.One day we had a visit from a confused tangerine who thought HE might be included in the fruits of the Spirit.Then we divide the kids up into three groups according to age and send them to three different stations - Bible story, arts and crafts, and games. Here are some pictures: