Monthly Archives: July 2009

Am I wise enough?

Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; The wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of intelligent will vanish. Isaiah 29:14

Recently I’ve been feeling a bit of conviction due to the astounding time and energy I spend seeking to prove my worth not just to God, but even worse, seeking to prove it to the people around me.   Specifically, I’ve been wondering why it is so important to me that people who know me – especially people in the church – carry the opinion that I am a wise person –  you know, a person of intellect.

Since being here I’ve been able to spend some time in The Journal of John Wesley.  It seems that Wesley struggled a great deal with a fear of dying.  Following are some entries he made during and immediately following his trip across the Atlantic to Georgia regarding this fear (I’ve added a little more explanation in par.):

(1735) Sunday, (November) 23 – At night I was awakened by the tossing of the ship and roaring of the wind, and plainly I showed I was unfit,  for I was unwilling, to die.

(1736) Saturday, (February) 7 – (At this entry, the group had arrived only a few days prior in Georgia.  Wesley writes that he asked a German pastor he met from Savannah on this day “his advice with regard to my own conduct” – specifically his fear of dying during the trip across from England.  Following is the response of the German pastor to Wesley’s concerns.)  He said, “My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions…Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?”  I was surprised, and knew not what to answer.  He observed it and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?”  I paused and said, “I know He is Saviour of the world.”  “True,” replied he, “but do you know He has saved you?”

Saturday, 14 (a week after the conversation with the German pastor) –  (Wesley is invited to preach to a group of Native Americans, and they express their gladness that Wesley is with them, and their desire for the “wise” men of their Nation to hear him speak.  Following is Wesley’s reply.)  I answered, “There is but One, He that sitteth in heaven, who is able to teach man wisdom.  Though we are come so far, we know not whether He will please to teach you by us or no.  If He teaches you, you will learn wisdom, but we can do nothing.”

____________

How complicated we make things in our desire to be seen as wise!!!  The simple fact, whether we choose to accept it or not, is that we are only saved – set free, healed, with joy and truth – because of the death of Jesus Christ.  Where we would be had that event not have been a part of history I cannot imagine.  But it is a part of history, it did happen, and because of that alone we are saved.

I do wonder sometimes what is it going to take for me to let go of my fruitless efforts at proving myself to Him and to others – to simply accept the gift of life and freedom that He gives – to let the price of His life on the cross for me be so true in my life that no other effort for self-justification is needed.

Finally, I wonder if at the time of truly receiving the gift He offers, I won’t find that these burdensome efforts I make won’t be replaced by joyous and wonderful expressions of love for Him.  Holiness brought on out of love for my Father and gratefulness and humility for the price He paid for me…what an awesome thing that will be.

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The Watermelons are coming! The Watermelons are coming!

All around the vast city of Saint Petersburg, large green cages are appearing on street corners.  Isabel thinks some gigantic birds have moved to our neighborhood, but alas, this is a just a good sign that watermelon season is upon us!  I can’t tell you how excited we are to be able to buy a “АРБУЗ”.  (That’s pronounced, “ArrBooz” in Russian)  They’ve been in short supply for weeks now- and very expensive.  Soon the market will be flooded and we’ll have them 20 feet from our flat for a reasonable price.  Thank you, Lord for your simple blessings.  It’s a little hint of home that we can use these days…

ARBUZ

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Captive

captive

sin’s prisoner

Savior- broken shackles

mercy for my malice

grace

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What are we doing here?

I’ve been in Isaiah recently, although not nearly as much as I could’ve been.  Despite my fairly undisciplined quiet-time schedule since our move however, God has been faithful to carefully but consistently deepen my awareness of some of the issues with which I’ve struggled for some time, but about which I’ve chosen to do nothing until now.  Many of these issues, it turns out, are regarding what the modern church (including myself) calls missions.

“Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine…All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth.  Who is it he is trying to teach?  To whom is he explaining his message?  To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast?  For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there.

Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people... So then the word of the Lord will become:  Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there – so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.” Isaiah 28: 7 – 13 (italics added per MC)

Since moving here in May, due probably a lot to the fact that I’ve not had a lot of energy (1st trimester) and that I don’t speak Russian very well at all, I have struggled a great deal with the feeling of isolation.  Charlie really enjoys solitude, while I really feel more comfortable as a part of a community.

I say that only to point out the irony in that it has been in these weeks of this sort of isolation and quiet around me that I have become so aware of the weight I feel regarding all of the talking we as a church are doing these days.

For example, in most western churches, the entire Sunday worship (often the entire week) is built around the 20-25 minute sermon that is delivered, typically towards the end of the service.  It is what both pastors and the people coming to worship expect.  We missionaries are notorious for our tendency to talk and talk.  Most pastors I know won’t even let a missionary hold a microphone without very close supervision!!!

I see believers (including myself some days) easily spend an hour or more online or with some christian journal in their hands reading other people’s opinions on any number of issues ranging from how much we should be talking about sin in the church to how much of a church’s budget should be spent on a new altar rail, and then barely give 10-15 minutes (if that) a day seeking a real relationship with God through time with Him on our knees or in praise and worship or in His word.  It is easier for some reason to pick up a devotion book, turn to the day’s devotion, and read the assigned verse and the author-of-the-day’s opinion of what it should be saying to the reader than it is to pick up the scriptures and ask God to show us what He wants us to see in His words.

Why does it feel that we as a church are so much more concerned with the opinions of other people (and making sure they know ours) than we are with our own relationship with Christ?  Why do we spend so much time arguing our opinions or preparing our 30 minute sermons (myself included) and so little time praying with and for one another?  Don’t we understand that we carry absolutely no power to save, heal, make whole, redeem, or deliver anyone?  Don’t we see that the only thing we have to offer anyone else who is lost or hurting is Jesus Christ?

Why do so many of the people we serve (and so many of us for that matter) have absolutely no idea how to approach our Father through Jesus Christ?  So many of us in the church – maybe in the church for years – have no idea what it means to be silent and still in His presence, and to hear from Him, and to feel the healing and wholeness that only He can bring.  I wonder if the thought of that experience doesn’t actually scare many of us to death.

And of course, the ultimate irony in this is that I share all of these opinions in my own little blog!!!  And the true grace is that many of you reading and catching that hypocrisy love me like your sister anyway!!!  I love you and I thank God for you in Christ Jesus.   Miki

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One Body

Hello All!  Sorry for the news gap-  we’ve been dealing with some gnarly headcolds, challenges with orphanages, challenges with language school and challenges with culture shock!  I’m sure we’ll fill you in on those items at a later date, but today I want to talk about the Body of Christ.

1Corinthians 12 says:  The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ. (NIV)

Last month we got to see that play out with our at-risk childrens ministry, and it was awesome.  I know that we would not be here in Russia today without the body sending us, but a recent situation here affirmed this verse.

We hosted a small team from St. Johns UMC in Aiken S.C.  Three ladies came and worked with us in disabled orphanages, adult facilities and an intake hospital in the city center.  This act of faith and service is enough to give thanks to the Almighty, but it was the Body that made it even more special.

Deedee, Pam and Susan arrived with tons of supplies to give out at these facilities.  The supplies included childrens clothing, art supplies, toys for stimulation, toothbrushes, bracelets and cross ornaments.  This was St. John’s congregation at work.  On top of that, the ladies were kind enough to help us pass out supplies from FIVE other supporter churches as well.  Over the years we’ve recieved lots of supplies to give out from all of you, so we had some surplus waiting on us when we finally moved in May.

It was a humbling sight to see these ladies helping us distribute:

-Childrens and Adult clothing from Kennesaw UMC
-Childrens T-Shirts from Tuscaloosa FUMC
-Letters from American children to the orphans.  Stallsville UMC in Summerville, SC, Central UMC in Fitgerald, GA and Mountain View UMC in Mount Pleasant all have sent letters from their kids for us to give out.

All of these churches had a part to play, and as one they were able to support and encourage a few of these precious children in Russia.  We still haven’t distributed everything, so this Body will continue to provide through these churches in the name of Christ.

It’s always fun to watch the department nurses come down and grab clothing and supplies that are useful for their particular kids, but its more fun to know that the supplies are coming from so many of you out there.  And to see a child’s face light up when you tell them that they’ve received a letter from a kid in the U.S.A. is a great ministry.  A few of the kids during this visit immediately ran to their caretaker and asked to display the letters and drawings up on the wall.  Yes, some letters from your children are hanging up in prominent places in an orphanage!

Little efforts do add up when they’re made in the name of Jesus.

Thank you so much for your service.  We ask you to continue.  Which part will you play next?

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