Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sojourning Like Abraham

Dr. Marvin Newell, my mission’s professor (and former missionary) while at Moody Theological Seminary, recently wrote these excellent thoughts about missionaries.  I hope it encourages you and I to stay faithful in encouraging and thanking our missionaries more regularly.  I strive to connect with many of our missionaries every week by sending them emails.  You can do this as well by going to our website and go to Ministries / then Missions—you will see the list of missionaries we support.
 “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out…and he went out not knowing where he was going…for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8-10)
Missionaries are those who, in practice, live out their lives in the here and now as sojourners in the truest sense of the word. Like Abraham, they are “called to go out” of their home environment. Stop and think about it for a moment. To accomplish their uprooted calling, missionaries become:
  • Geographic sojourners: willing to leave their homeland and all that is familiar to live anywhere God so leads.
  • Cultural sojourners: willing to live in a new and strange culture, among people with a different worldview, and learn to speak another language, for the sake of making the gospel known.
  • Monetary sojourners: willing to deny themselves the accumulation of wealth and even live impoverished for the sake of identifying with the people among whom they minister. Trophy homes, expensive cars, children’s elite education and exotic vacations are willingly forfeited.
  • Relational sojourners: willing to leave loved ones behind – parents, siblings, friends, and at times even children – in order to befriend and relate to lost “others” who are strangers. It might even mean placing young children in a distant boarding school, as my wife and I (and some of you) did.
To be a mission sojourner means that everything that we feel we have a right to is held loosely. But that’s OK, because mission sojourners have come to realize that that which is of the present is temporal, whereas everything waiting in the next life is eternal. A missionary willingly sojourns because of this eternal perspective.
Like Abraham, the missionary is looking forward to the fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11) of that eternal city whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10). Self-denial in this life will make for satisfaction in the next. Foregoing in the present will make for fulfillment in the future. Heaven will be an eternal experience of continual make up for all that was forfeited while serving as sojourners in the here and now.
Perhaps a good reminder for all mission sojourners comes from pastor Steve Berger in his book Between Heaven and Earth. Having lost his teenage son suddenly in a tragic accident, Berger writes:
“God wants us to see our lives through the lens of being strangers, sojourners,
pilgrims, and foreigners on this earth. Simultaneously, He wants us to know
that we are not strangers, pilgrims, and foreigners in the household of God.
There, we are fellow citizens. That is where we belong.” 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Parenting--I thought I had the Answers

The photos are abundant when it comes to searching for happy families.  The majority of those photos show families dressed perfectly, laughing, having fun, and doing life together--not a problem nor a heartache in the world.  There appears to be nothing absent that these families do not have.  The reality is that all families struggle and most parents would acknowledge that their own homes were somewhat dysfunctional when growing up.  Thousands of books have been written (and continue to be written) on parenting from different angles and perspectives.  Many books leave us feeling very incompetent and questioning whether or not we have what it takes to raise healthy children.  Some books even leave us feeling that it is too late to make any real difference as our children have aged--I don't believe this.

The truth is that none of us will ever be fully prepared, ready, or have all the answers to raise children.  Child rearing that is biblical sees a child as a gift from God to their parents.  The responsibility of parents is to invest into their children so that they may live responsibly unto the Lord.  Does this mean teaching them to learn to be responsible to pay their bills?  Of course.  It also means teaching our children how to interact with and honor others, and how to keep their word even when it is not easy or convenient.  Parenting never ends but the relationship certainly changes.  Children (of all ages) are told to "honor" their parents all through Scripture, but they are not told to always obey their parents.  There is a time when decision making is passed along to our children, although they may still consult us as they choose to honor us.

One of the greatest opportunities for parents is to continue to disciple their children by praying and encouraging them in the ways of the Lord.  At times, we may feel that we have lost the window of opportunity to "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4); however, I have watched wise, godly parents over and over again impact their children for Christ because they are faithful in their walk before God.  I have witnessed adult children returning to walk in God's ways after years of personal rejection of His authority in their lives.  Most parents have been inconsistent over the years in their own lives and have failed to demonstrate Christ-likeness before their children.  It is not over nor is it too late!!!  Our children still want to hear from us, but the way we go about is not the same as when they were living under our care.  They want to see our faith lived out.

Just when we think we begin to understand this parenting thing and have the right answers--it is time for our children to leave the nest.  So what now?  Write a book or post a blog?  Mentor or tutor other young children--sounds great.  What about staying involved in our own children's lives even if it is in a limited capacity.  Our godly choices will continue to leave a legacy even if we don't have all of the answers.  If the truth be known, our kids really don't mind if don't have all of the answers as long as they know we love them and we want God's best for them.

Don't stop nurturing, instructing, and making disciples of your children--it's a lifelong journey.