Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Day In The Life...

So, many people have asked me, "What do you do?"  Yes, we did move to be part of a ministry where Alex is the main one involved.  I have not taken up teaching Greek but I am learning the Greek alphabet with the boys!  I am not writing books with deep theological meaning but I have gotten to spend time with some amazing students, from places I can't even pronounce correctly, who have a passion for God, His Word, and to see His kingdom grow!  I have had the opportunity to be a part of a Bible study for ladies in our neighborhood and in the group of around 12 at least 7 different countries are represented!  Our family is working on learning Dutch and I'm learning my southern accent does not help in the least with the guttural sounds found in this language.  Yes, yes, lots going on; but what do I do all day?

I do many of the same things I did when we lived in the States.  For example, I cook, do laundry, teach the boys, weed the garden (or at least try), and go to the grocery store; these are just the things that usually happen every day . . . . Only all those things are done very differently from how  I did them at home.  How are things different?  Well, I'll tell you a wee bit:

Cooking: I love camping.  I grew up going several times a year and we always cooked over a Coleman gas stove.  I, however, was not allowed to use it because "it might blow up."  Enter Jenny's life long fear of gas stoves and then fast-forward to "its hard to find a second hand electric stove in Holland."

Meet my lovely gas still gives me a fright at times but I am slowly learning to appreciate it's instant heat, easy cleaning, and that it still works when the electricity is out!  I have had to tweak a few recipes and spend a lot of time bent over trying to see just how high that flame is but I'm sure we will be best of friends in a few more months!

Laundry: Yeah, that.  Have I ever mentioned just how much 4 little boys can make in one day?  Oh how I miss my super sized top loading washing machine!  Meet my, very wonderful and I'm thankful for it, washing machine.  It lives on the third floor (which is the norm here) and can hold up to 5 kilos of laundry!  Reality check is that 5 kilos is about 11 pounds.  Great laundry washing powers, itty bitty washing space!  It gets the job done and the shortest full cycle is complete in about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  Please note none of this is complaining I'm just telling you what you asked: what do you do all day.  Also know that I have good helpers with everything but cooking because "the gas stove might blow up!" ;0)

Teaching the boys: We are thankful to have received our exemption letter in order to be able to homeschool legally for this year!  Currently we have Elijah in 3rd grade, Benjamin in 1st grade,  Paul is doing some Pre-Kindergarten fun and Micah supervises!

We try to have our day of schooling done by lunch but when it comes to science experiments and history projects or if we start a good piece of literature and can't put it down we go over a bit on that goal!


Micah is a very supportive brother during school time!
The small bit of "yard" you have in the front and back of your house is a big deal here.  It is amazing the beauty that some people can grow.  It's amazing the weeds I can grow in the midst of my effort to grow beauty!  We also planted lettuce and broccoli (the slugs ate the plants before they even had a chance), and Elijah planted a pumpkin patch.  Therefore our backyard is mostly pumpkin with some lettuce, a few berry bushes and um...weeds.  The garden of weedin' follows me everywhere I go!

Our bit of grass.  It so rarely has to be mowed its a big deal when Alex borrows the
electric mower to take care of the two minute job!  Even the neighborhood kids come to watch!

If you look closely not only will you see the pumpkin patch and weeds you will also see some very heavy rain and then about one minute later...

...literally one minute later the clouds blew on with the rain and the sun is out!

As for the grocery store, now that is a big change!  We don't have a car so we just bike or walk like many people in Holland.  If the weather is nice I love it and have no complaints, but if it's raining or really windy or really cold I have to admit I really, really have a hard time convincing myself this is fun. Really.  This is so different from our life in NC. Over the past 6 years everywhere we lived there was a grocery store just a two minute drive away.  It's now about a 25 minute walk or a 6 minute bike ride...rain or shine.

As Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Do Everything" starts out:

You're picking up toys on the living room floor for the 15th time today 
Matching up socks 
Sweeping up lost cheerios that got away 

You put a baby on your hip 
Color on your lips and head out the door 

While I may not know you, 
I bet I know you 
Wonder sometimes, does it matter at all? 

Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long 
As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you, 
Cause he made you, 
To do 
Every little thing that you do 
To bring a smile to His face 
Tell the story of grace 
With every move that you make 
And every little thing you do 

To God be the Glory Ya'll!

Introducing our Greek Reading Group (one of my favorite times of the day)

When I was an undergraduate student I greatly benefited from two voluntary study groups. The first was an informal Greek reading group that met for breakfast most mornings. If I remember correctly it was initiated or led by Randy Curtis and J.D. Meade. I met with them when I could and I think Brian Bunnell also met with us. Each morning (when we were able to roll out of bed in time) we ate breakfast together and tried to get through a chapter in our Greek New Testaments. It was in this informal and voluntary time of reading that my Greek clicked and things began to fall into place to enable me to use it on a regular basis moving forward.

Second, a new CIU professor at the time, Steve Baarendse, began a voluntary reading group that met once a week to discuss what we were reading outside of class. During my time in this group we read and discussed Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.

These two groups made a big impact on my development during my senior year and I often determined to facilitate a similar group if God ever led me to minister in a school setting. The time has come!

At the beginning of this semester I began a voluntary Greek reading group. There are no assignments and no needed preparation. We meet for breakfast Monday through Thursday and since beginning in August we have read and discussed John 1-12 in the Greek. My goal is to get through as much of the New Testament as we can between when a student starts and when they graduate. I was not sure if any students would commit to being a part since it is voluntary and there are quite a few competing pressures in a student's life (responsibilities, assignments, and tests that actually carry a grade) but I have been pleasantly surprised by attendance.

It is such a joy for me to study the New Testament in the original languages with students who are committed to loving God with all their heart, mind, and strength.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Practicing Practical Prayer with Paul (I couldn't prevent the alliteration)

We recently hosted a weekend seminar here at Tyndale Theological Seminary. The topic was on developing one's prayer life and several of the missionary-teachers here presented on various topics. The seminar was advertised in the local churches and many people came from a wide range of churches.

My presentation was on prayer in Paul's epistles. I tried to identify and organize every occurence in which Paul prayed or asked for prayer in his epistles. I will not claim that it is exhaustive but it is pretty close :-) The goal was to encourage and equip people to pray for the kind of things Paul prayed for. This is a good antidote to shallow or self-centered praying. Feel free to freely copy and use the handout to strengthen your own prayer life and encourage others.

Prayer in Paul's Epistles

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Musings: Perseverance Produces Assurance

For several Mondays I have been posting about the relationship of our present existence to God’s promised future because I think it is an important topic that is under-discussed in our churches. One text that discusses salvation in both the present and the future while also discussing the link between the two is Romans 5:1–11. How do we know we will be saved in the final judgment? What is the basis of our assurance of salvation?

“(1) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (3) More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, (4) and endurance produces character [dokimē: evidence, proof that something is genuine), and character [dokimē] produces hope, (5) and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

(6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Before salvation: We are described as weak (5:6), ungodly (5:6), sinners (5:8), and enemies (5:10).

We have been saved: Because of Christ’s death (5:9–10) and our faith (5:1) we now have been justified (5:1, 9; declared to be in the right or righteous) and reconciled to God (5:10, 11; the restoration of a broken relationship). We also now have peace with God (5:1), access to grace (5:2), and joy (5:2).

We will be saved: Because of our justification and reconciliation we have confidence that we will be saved from God’s wrath (5:9, 10) in the future day of judgment.

How do we as believers have such incredible confidence that we will be saved on the final day of judgment? Paul here grounds our confidence in two realities. First, in Christ the future verdict from the final judgment has moved into the present and right now, in the present, Christians hear the verdict of “not guilty!” This is the meaning of justification! The future verdict has been declared in the present over those whose lives are bound up with Christ’s life.

Second, our faithful endurance in the midst of the suffering of this present time period produces evidence or proof (dokimē) that God’s declaration of “not-guilty” in the present time will match his verdict in the final judgment. I think the ESV’s translation of this word as “character” obscures this point (the NASB does a bit better with “proven character”). Paul’s point is that we as Christians can rejoice in the midst of suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces evidence, proof, or assurance that we are indeed in the right (justified). This assurance, forged in the furnace of endurance, then results in confident hope.

This two-fold basis of assurance guards against false assurance or false confidence. We have confidence based upon the promises of God that our faith has already resulted in justification and reconciliation. This confidence is confirmed or made more sure by our endurance and perseverance which results in proof or evidence that we will indeed be saved in the final judgment.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Musings: A Christian Approach to Homosexuality

I have been studying the presence of "justification" language in the New Testament for a future post and came across this text in 1 Corinthians. I have always (as long as I can remember anyway) thought that Paul, without explicitly trying, provided a sketch of a Christian approach to homosexuality in these verses.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

For me, this particular text makes several important points.

1. Yes, homosexuality is a serious sin; the practice of which will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.

2. Homosexuality is one sin among many, it is not singled out here for special comment as particularly worse or somehow more evil or more corrupt. It is a sin alongside heterosexual immorality, adultery, and other non-sexual sins. There is no basis here whatsoever for homophobia or hate-speech. Homosexuality was wide-spread in the ancient Roman world.

3. “And such were some of you”: Some, if not many, in the Corinthian church had formerly practiced homosexuality but did so no longer. There is a clear line between those who in Christ are being rescued and transformed and who have hope for future entrance into God’s kingdom and those who will not inherit the kingdom of God.

4. There is hope: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” As a sin and temptation homosexuality can and must be dealt with the same way a Christian is to deal with any sin and temptation (see point 2); i.e., the one who struggles with homosexual lust is in the same position as the one who struggles with heterosexual lust. Both sins will exclude one from God’s kingdom, yet there is hope for those who struggle with either or both; it is the hope and reality of forgiveness and transformation that we as Christians cling to as we pursue righteousness in the present by grace and by the power of God’s indwelling Spirit.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Increasing Global Persecution of Christians

Check out this article on recent global persecution of Christians: The war on Christians » The Spectator. The mainstream media rarely draws attention to the global persecution of Christians.

We know from Revelation 6:9-11 that things will get worse in this regard before the end.

"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been."

May those who are suffering for Christ prove faithful to the end and may we, by God's grace, also prove faithful when we are called upon to join them in their tribulation and suffering.