Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christian Liberty and Ethics

I consider myself relatively well-travelled, so it is through experience that I make the statement that much of the world wants to live in America. Not all, but much. Because America is free. It's a place where you not only have opportunity and choices, but you have the freedom to do what you want. Everyone is wealthy. Everyone is happy. There is more food than we know what to do with and no one ever cries in America.

At least that is the perception.

But for those of us who live here, we know that picture is not altogether accurate. It's not realistic. Don't get me wrong - I love America and when I travel outside of America, I can't wait to get back. But for those outside of America that want to be in America, it is possible that a perception of liberty and freedom has created an unrealistic picture of what the actual American life looks like.

I think this is true of Christianity as well. Let me explain: It is true that salvation is of the Lord - it is His work and His doing, and when I stand before the Father in heaven and He asks why He should allow me into His eternity, my only answer is Jesus Christ. There is nothing I could ever do to merit His favor - Jesus alone bore my sins on the cross, paid the high price of God's wrath on His person and purchased me for His Father's sake. Taking this truth and applying it to every day life, however, has developed a perception among believers that Christian liberty means we are free to do whatever we want, since salvation is of the Lord and we really can't earn God's favor. We've got our fire insurance, and technically we are "free from the law," so we have the liberty to live life as we please. We are not under the law. Nothing is expected of us but to enjoy the freedom from sin that Jesus afforded.

Is this really true? Perhaps I have overstated it, but I believe that my words are an accurate description of the misperception of Christian liberty.

True, God has taken away the punishment of sin. Jesus paid that. But God does not take away the consequences of sin - that is something that we have to bear. But I don't want to talk about blatant, overt sin that believers may choose to engage in. The consequences of that sin is obvious and deserved. What I want to talk about is true Christian liberty - those things that would not fall into the category of "sin" but are somewhat a gray area as to whether or not it is proper to participate in. You know, maybe it's television shows that make you a bit uncomfortable to watch. Or the choice to smoke or public or just private? The music you listen to - are we allowed as believers to listen to rock music? Or only Christian rock? Isn't everything "allowed" within the boundaries of Christian liberty?

Time for a word from the Word:

"All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify...whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, just as I am also of Christ." ( I Corinthians 10: 23, 31-33 and 11:1)

Here Paul gives us a list of ethical questions to ask, when it comes to non-sin liberty choices:

1. Is it profitable?
2. Does it edify?
3. Does it glorify God?
4. Does it give offense?
5. Does it imitate Christ?

To be clear, questions like these only align us with the character of our Savior - they do not save us. Christian liberty is not a matter of salvation because we all know that our works do not earn us salvation. But our works evidence our salvation and a person who is walking with the Lord seeks to imitate Him. So this morning I wanted to provide you with a list of ethics questions to help you shape your Christian liberties and clear up the misperception that freedom in Christ means freedom to make poor choices without consequences.

Though I am writing about non-sin issues, there are still consequences to every choice we make and even a non-sin choice, if made poorly, can lead to a sinful result. And truth be known, many of the choices that we feel fall in a non-sin category, are because we don't want to recognize the fact that it actually is a matter of choosing righteousness over sin.

I am sorry if it sounds like I am talking in circles, but I believe you know what I am speaking of - for example, is music a moral issue? I don't think so, but lyrics are. So how do we justify filling our heads with godless lyrics for the enjoyment of the amoral music? How do we justify watching television shows that glorify pre-marital and extra-marital sexual activity and not be affected by it? We do it by claiming Christian liberty.

Don't misunderstand me -I am not advocating legalism by any means. The instruction God gives us in His word is intentional and not a checklist to follow. His instruction flows from His character and if our call is to be Christlike in all we do, then acting on His word is for discipleship. We have to avoid the pendulum swing of legalism, so the bottom line is that we need biblical guidance and support in our decision-making processes. We have to know the word and then act on it, not on a vague understanding of freedom and not on a system set up to earn God's favor.

So, take the questions above, generated from Paul's instructions to the church at Corinth and use them as a guideline. I am afraid I possibly stirred up more confusion than clarity, but this is what was laid on my heart this morning, so I am passing it on to you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Gift

The nights were warming up. That was a blessing. It had been a long winter and even spring could not shake the bite of cold from its nights. But the tide was finally turning and the bite faded into the warmth of humidity, as the summer opened its tired eyes and woke from its long sleep.

Speaking of sleep, it was easier to sleep when it was warmer. The cloth she used to call a jacket was best suited as a pillow, now that it wasn't needed for warmth. But her feet were her biggest problem.

Sara sat up on her make shift bed, a vacant bench, and drew her knees beneath her chin. She reached down and rubbed the tops of her feet. They felt warm to the touch, which had more to do with the nighttime temperatures than with circulation. The warmth helped the healing process, but with another long day of walking ahead of her, she knew the tender sores would soon reopen and the pain would quickly return.

And there was really nothing she could do about it.

Sara suddenly remembered her gift and her feet dropped to the ground as she bent over to see if it was still where she had placed it the night before. Relief flooded her soul when she spotted the beautifully wrapped present sitting patiently under the bench, exactly where she had put it. She reached for it and pulled it onto her lap.

This present meant the world to her. It's what made the pain in her feet fade while she walked. It wasn't a burden at all - it was a blessing. She had no idea what was inside but because it was given to her, it had been placed in her care, it brought her great joy. She knew she could open it any time she wanted to, but the wrapping was so beautiful and she had never been given a gift like this before, that she just couldn't bring herself to pulling the bow off, let alone removing the paper.

What was inside could never be as wonderful as the anticipation of what was inside.

So she gladly carried it on her journey. She had nothing else. She had no baggage to weigh her down, no backpack to lug around. Just this box, which really wasn't heavy at all. She actually liked carrying it, because wherever she went, people could see that she was the owner of a beautiful present. When they asked her what was inside, she really couldn't answer but she was okay with that because this was her present and she could do with it whatever she wanted. She wasn't rude with people, but it really wasn't their business what was in her box.

Occasionally she mentioned that the joy of carrying the present lessened the pain in her feet, but even that was not necessarily a kind act since everyone struggled with their feet. It was almost cruel, since foot pain was so prevalent in the world and she wasn't willing to give her gift away.

After all, HE gave it to her. And HE could give it to others as well, but this was HER gift.

Sara stood and stretched. Another day, a few more miles down the road. She picked up her box and paused. Should she open the box today? She could carefully remove the wrapping and just peek inside. She felt that familiar ache in her feet begin to rise and she knew the sooner she began walking, the sooner her mind would be distracted from the pain. She glanced around and decided that one more day wouldn't make a difference. She would maybe open it tomorrow, if she woke up earlier.

So Sara continued on her journey, carrying the brand new shoes that had been given to her to heal her feet and make her journey easier.

Have you looked in your box today?

Monday, April 26, 2010

If you love Me... will keep my commandments. John 14:15

How in the world do love and commandments fit together? I thought love was selfless, free flowing emotions, filled with warm fuzzies. But God is saying that love is obedience.

Actually, it's really rather obvious. Think about it. As a parent, we equate obedience with love all the time. As a spouse, I readily show my love to Dave by not making "Squeaky Chicken" for dinner (long story). Obedience demonstrates love.

Therefore, a lack of obedience either shows ignorance or rebellion, right?

Unfortunately, we tend to put our sin nature on a pedestal and say that obedience is just too hard sometimes because of our flesh, and we think that excuse works. But it really doesn't. It's simply a cover for the fact that we are willfully rebellious to God's commandments because we just don't love Him enough to obey.


Well, sometimes the truth hurts.

When I came across this verse today, I had to pause and ask myself, "What commandments of God do I keep?" So many times we hear that in Christ we are free from the law and I think that has fostered a complacency towards His commandments. But freedom from the law is simply freedom from having to keep the law for salvation. Christ's righteousness has been applied to our account, therefore we are free from the bonds of sin. But God's law still reveals His character and I guess my question this morning is this: If I truly love Him, am I willing to obey His commandments? Which commandments do I obey and which do I ignore? If God demonstrated His love for us by giving His Son, how do I demonstrate my love for Him?

Do me a favor today and take a look at John 14. The whole chapter. Just in case you are not sure that God expects anything from us, this is a good place to start.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Just for fun...

Can't tell you what a difference from their being juniors to seniors...

All good kids...went to prom...came back with about 25 friends, had nachos and swam at the pool...back up to the house for cookies and a movie...gone by 2:30...when I got up this morning, the house was straightened one would have ever known there was a party here...good kids...

Make It a Tool

Isn't it amazing how the proper tool makes the job so much easier?

I like to change out the pictures that hang over my fireplace, depending on the season. I have a beautiful, winter woods picture that I just love - it has our western Michigan, line-planted pines, with the sun peeking through as it sets...or rises, I guess. I also have a great fall landscape, which captures the changing colors of autumn. Right now, I have a great flower garden hanging over the mantle. It was painted with a knife so the paint is clumpy and thick - so beautiful! Makes me ready for spring.

The pictures are different sizes, however, so when I switch out the paintings, I have to move the screw which they hang on from either the higher anchor or the lower one. So to get the job done, I need my tall ladder and a philips screw driver. Pretty simple and the job is done in about thirty seconds. But if I tried to make the change without the proper tools, say a hammer and one of my kitchen chairs, I doubt I'd pull it off.

The key to making the job easy is the proper tools.

And I might add, the purpose of tools is to repair something, change something, install something or make something better. In other words, you use tools to improve the current situation.

Since my teaching wrapped up recently, I have had a personal project that I am just about finished with - it's one of those things I have been putting off, but it needs to be done now. My current Bible is falling apart and though its content needs no help, its framing is shot. So I have been transferring my notes from this current Bible into a new one. I have done this several times in my life, and though it initially seems like a hassle, it's actually a lot of fun.

Here's my process: I gather multiple colored highlighters and a good pen, and then go page by page, transferring the notes from one to the other. Each color has a specific meaning - yellow is endtimes, orange is counseling, pink is sovereignty, blue is favorite verses and green is...well, green is for verses with special meaning. Some people think I'm crazy for taking the time to copy notes - I mean the scripture is what is important and inspired, right?

Well, to me God's word is a tool. It is life's tool. God has given it to us to help us through life - to repair relationships, to change our attitudes, to mature us and make us more like His Son. Without this tool, life is unbearable! Can you even imagine life without the Word of God? Bottom line, His Word improves our current situation, no matter what situation you find yourself in.

Unfortunately, many believers don't know how to use this tool. It sits on the shelf of their proverbial garage and because they don't understand its use, they never grab it and use it. Yesterday, my girlfriend Jackie and I were preparing food for my kid's after-prom party at our pool. She was going to cut up tomatoes and onions, and when I handed her a cutting board and a knife, she went over to one of my drawers and pulled out a contraption that was given to me years ago that I have never used. Three minutes later, everything was chopped up and in tupperware and I just stood with my mouth open. Here I had this tool, didn't know how to use it, and all these years it could have made my life so much easier!

That's the Bible for so many people.

I guess my encouragement to you today is to look at your Bible as a tool. Remember, to use tools takes effort, but the tool itself makes the project go smoother...easier. When I am counseling, I don't have to remember exact references because I know that the passage I am looking for is in Galatians. So I flip over there and find any orange verses and before you know it, I've got what I was looking for. A tool.

As I finish up my transfer project, I have to admit, it has taken me longer than necessary, because I am enjoying so much the totality of the Word. So many treasures are hidden within the pages of this great tool! So go out to your garage and grab that tool off the shelf and start messing with it - before you know it, it will be filled with notes and stars, highlighted colors and exclamation points. Put in dates and smiley faces - just make it personal and you'll be amazed for years to come how this tool can make your life easier.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gardening in the Church

I got a call from Uncle Ron this morning. He's been working in the garden already, tilling the boxes, testing the watering system, trimming back the strawberry plants, etc. He's the master gardener in my life. We have a garden together but let me be perfectly honest with you, he is the gardener and I am the harvester. I reap the fruits of his labors. Now, I do weed here and there, and when he'll actually let me, I love to till and water and drop the seeds in the little rows as well, but he is the real deal. A true, walking green thumb. Spring is always an exciting time in the garden, as he and I anticipate a full-fledged, veggie producing masterpiece by late summer.

There is a great connection between gardening and disciple-making. The purpose of a spring planting is for that late summer harvesting. You don't drop seeds in the ground and hope they produce nothing. And you don't drop seeds in the ground and come back three months later to see what happened. No, in gardening, you plant, then you water, then you weed, then you dust, then you weed some more, add a little more water, sometimes prune and then, in the end, you enjoy the fruits or vegetables of your labor.

Same with disciple-making. This call of the church, of each believer, to go and make disciples, is not a seed throwing event. It is a purposeful, planned, intentional focus of your life. Yes, there is seed planting. But you don't plant seeds and hope they produce nothing. And you don't drop seeds of the gospel on bare soil and come back later to see what happened. No, disciple-making is an intentional soil preparing, seed planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting call.

I'm not sure what scares people more, the seed planting or the nurturing. Is it harder to share the gospel or walk alongside new believers as they struggle against the elements to become a sturdy, firmly rooted plant? I am sure there are arguments on both sides, but bottom line - gardening is hard. So is disciple-making.

Gardening is also highly rewarding.

And so is disciple-making.

But Kristen, you're a teacher. Not all of us have that gift, so the disciple-making is really just for teachers, right?


It is for all of us. It is the call of all believers. Therefore, in all that we do, we should be intentionally seeking discipleship. Our lives should point to Christ, whether we are at the grocery store or in a classroom, at work or at home. A simple reminder of this call is found in II Timothy 2:15, where Paul says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of truth." You could replace the word "workman" with "gardener." There is an assumption in this verse that we are working for the Lord - what is that work? Disciple-making. And unfortunately there is also an assumption that our effort in this work will either make us ashamed before the Lord or unashamed.

Uncle Ron gave me my own box last summer to plant cutting flowers. I am not the talented gardener that he is and let me tell you, there came a point in the summer that I struggled to even go to the garden because I was so ashamed of that box. It was not a lack of talent that caused my shame. It was a lack of attention. The box was overgrown with weeds that smothered out the bulbs I had planted. When I pulled the weeds, I pulled out half the plants as well and the whole project was a disaster. Great shame.

So what is the key to being an unashamed workman? Rightly dividing the Word of truth. Let me put it this way: The better I know scripture, the better workman I will be. The better I know the Word, the better disciple-maker I will be. It's actually contagious. God's Word has the inspiring ability to multiply itself. Like a great, epic film that you watch and want to tell people about, when you immerse yourself in God's Word and SEE HIM, you can't help but talk to others about HIM. It's really that simple.

So, I guess coming out of a church planting conference, I have been inspired to hone my disciple-making skills, and it starts with staying in the Word. Discipleship flows from personal growth, so let me encourage you all to purposefully get in the Word, with a desire to be a gardener that has no need to be ashamed before the Lord. That's my plan and it can be yours as well!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quick Check In

It's nearly midnight on day two of Harvest University and my mind is reeling. I can't turn it off. There are nine of us here from our core team and between the nine of us, we are attending six different tracks. My track was the only one that gave a three-ring binder at the first workshop and I knew I was in trouble. Two hundred pages later, I wonder why I can't sleep!

Ten years ago a few men had a dream to plant ten churches in ten years. This was right around the time Dave and I met James MacDonald, and I thought it was a pretty lofty dream. Ten years later I think they hit 48 or 49 plants! Pretty amazing!

By noon tomorrow, when they send us home, we will have sat in five workshops in our respective tracks and had three main sessions of worship and teaching with the other 1,000 church workers here. The conference is well organized, well run, and the enthusiasm is spilling over into our evenings and dreams. The worship is intoxicating, probably because the sanctuary is filled with committed disciple-makers. As we read from Revelation, I had a tiny glimpse of heaven, as the people shouted, "Worthy is the Lamb to receive power and glory and dominion and honor and praise!"

Committed disciple-makers.

That's why we plant. Christ said to go and make disciples, and the answer to that call is to plant churches. Churches who seek out the lost and bring them the good news of the gospel. And then they don't walk away, but they draw in and walk alongside and build up and water and encourge and prune and tend. And reproduce.



It's a lot of work, but there is no higher calling. And no, I am not referring to the pastorate. I am referring to the high calling of the believer. This is OUR calling - each and every one of us. As followers of Christ, we are called to reproduce ourselves! That's what bearing fruit means. We bear Christ's identity, and are called to make more disciples. So I am not making more Kristens but more Disciples of Jesus. Mmmm...I love this!

Needless to say, I've got a lot on my mind. I'm typing this from my i-phone so I can't really proof read - so forgive my typos and rambling. I just wanted you to know that I am alive and I've been inspired. Not ready to come home yet, but then again there is much work to do...

Hope you are all well...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quick Update

Just letting you all know I'll be gone a few days, starting this afternoon until Wednesday. I am sure when I get back from Harvest University, I will have plenty to chat about!

Here's the site for the conference - check it out!

Have a good week!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Shower Time!

Today was the first of several wedding showers for my precious daughter, Katherine. This shower was given by Katherine's future mother-in-law's best friend, and the guests were friends and family of the Averills. I wanted to share a few pictures with you.

Before the festivities got going, Kevin and Pam (Austin's parents) greeted the women, introducing Katherine to their guests. Kevin said such wonderful things about Katherine - that she was intelligent, beautiful, loves the Lord and is full of grace. I am so thrilled that she has such a nice relationship with the Averills and that they love her so! Then Kevin gave a beautiful prayer and booked out of there - it was time for the women to take over!

We played a few games - very clever ones - and then had lunch together. A beautiful spread!

Then Katherine started opening gifts. She oohed and aahhed - Kevin was right. She was so gracious! And, oh, the gifts she got! So much stuff for her kitchen, bathroom accessories and blankets! The list goes on and on...

Nico worked on the ribbon bouquet and Alex took most of the pictures. Katherine's maid of honor recorded the gifts - all three attendants served her well...

Austin showed up and did his best not to break any ribbons. Truth be told, he was a bit disappointed that Katherine had all the fun of opening gifts, so when he arrived early, I knew what was on his mind...

They were absolutely blessed by the shower today!

Afterwards, we took all the gifts to their apartment and put them away. Austin will move in in a few weeks once school is done. We have teased him that we are going to buy him paper plates and cups, so he can't use anything before Katherine gets there. The look on his face was priceless...but then we let him off the hook.

I want to thank the women who showered my daughter and future son-in-law with such wonderful blessings! And I want to thank the Lord for this young couple who love Him, that He has chosen them and given them salvation. Now I need to start praying for the salvation of my future grandchildren...(as if I haven't already...)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Difficult vs. Wonderful

I was once again reminded how great our God is this morning.

A girlfriend of mine, Shelly, shared a prayer request with me on Tuesday - her sister's grandchild was diagnosed with muscle cancer. A two month old. She asked for prayer that the doctors would have wisdom as they were scheduling a biopsy for later this week at U of M.

So I prayed for this little baby and the doctors, having no idea what God would do in this situation.

Shelly wrote me this morning and the doctors have cancelled the biopsy. They said that the baby does not have cancer, but a "vascular legion filled with blood" that they will monitor. But apparently it is not life threatening, and it's definitely not cancer! Praise the Lord!

I was a bit overwhelmed at God's hand and then the Lord brought scripture to my mind: "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" This is what Jesus said to Abraham when He visited him (pre-incarnate Christ) to tell him that Sarah was going to have a baby within a year. Sarah laughed as she listened from within a tent and Jesus called her out. The translators use the word "difficult" in this passage, but they translate the same exact word as "wonderful" when they describe the coming Messiah in Isaiah 9:7: "And He shall be called Wonderful Counselor..." Should it really say, He shall be called Difficult Counselor? Well, I guess that would fit, for the counsel of God can be difficult at times, but its burden is so much less than its wonderfulness, so no, I think it was intended to be "wonderful counselor."

Then how about Jesus' question, "Is anything too difficult for the Lord?" We all know the answer to that question, but is it possible the translation is wrong? Should it read instead, "Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?" Personally I think either word can be used, but I gravitate to "wonderful." Giving Sarah a baby at 90 years old was a wonderful act. There was no difficulty for God in it at all, but all the wonderfulness is credited to Him.

So as I thought about this little baby and this wonderful news, what I really thought was, "Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?" The answer to that is no - He is wonderful in and of Himself, therefore He can do anything wonderful, if He chooses.

As you pray today for whatever concerns are laid on your heart, use these questions to calm your anxiousness.

Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?

Is there anything too wonderful for the Lord?

God is in control, therefore, His hands are not tied and the answers to your prayers are His answers. If He choses to remove the trial, then He is wonderful and it was not too difficult. But if the trial persists, then guess what? He's still wonderful and it's not too difficult for Him.

He is God.

He is Sovereign.

He reigns.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why Nike?

You all know the movie. It was one of my favorites when I was in high school. Okay, fine. It was my VERY favorite. Underdog, washed up, uneducated, boxer turns hero.

Go Rocky.

I got so excited during the final boxing match in the first Rocky movie that I lost a contact and had to sit still, waiting for the theater lights to turn back on to find it. Bummer. Trust me.

Anyway, Rocky overcame his obstacles to victory. It took a second movie to win the title from Apollo Creed, who became his very best friend, before he was beat to death by Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. I could go on and on. Really.

But here's my point, Rocky was an overcomer. He faced his obstacles and defeated them. It's an inspiring tale that burns in the hearts of Americans, because we are also considered overcomers.

Rocky's story pales in comparison to our story, however. Fist-shaking, hell-bound, rebellious, dead man brought back to life. Putrid, stinking corpse made heir of all things. Enslaved, shackled, in bondage wretch turns into free child of the Master. But here's the problem. We didn't accomplish these things using mere brute force like Rocky did. We didn't have a Mickey verbally whipping us into shape and an Adrian covering her eyes in the wings. We did not write this story. Overcoming is not our doing.

It's God's.

He did everything. He is the Overcomer. And when Jesus took on our identity on the cross, bearing the wrath of His Father for our sins, and gave us His identity, we became overcomers as well. We were no longer guilty but innocent. No longer stained but made clean. God looks at us and sees the righteousness of His Son applied to our persons. Went from dead to Overcomers.

The greek word for Overcomer is nikao, or nike. In the verses under my blog title, the greek word "nikao" is used three times and it is used as a description of believers. If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, it changes our lives from loser to Overcomer. This is not a suggestion or an encouragement like, "You can do it, little believer. You can overcome. You really can..." No, it is a descriptive word for believers. Whatever is born of God overcomes. If you are His child, you overcome. Period.

Now granted, there are plenty of instructions for believers to press on and overcome - in the seven letters to the churches of Revelation, especially, you see the call to overcome, to march forward, to be victorious. These passages are definitely a call to action, a call to effort and instructional. But I do not believe that anyone shows up at the pearly gates in heaven and God says, "Welcome home, child. You almost overcame. Nice try, but come on in anyway." No, the fact that we are His children means that we are already victorious. Sin has no hold on us, we are free from the bondage of rebellion and we will defeat death - all through the power of God. We hold the title of Overcomer because of Jesus. And if we are truly Overcomers, then we need to live like Overcomers. Yes?

If you read The Appearing, nike (or nee-kay) was the victory chant of the faithful believers. Though the great tribulation weighed heavy on them, they knew they would overcome. This word meant a lot to my father, as he formed a company with salesmen who had been fired from their previous jobs. They wanted to overcome the odds and be victorious in the investment banking industry, so Dad named their firm "Nike Securities." That name lasted for about 10 years before that other Nike company got us to change it, but to this day that company thrives because the partners understood the call to Overcome. Even the Nike shoe company uses that name to encourage athletes to be victorious.

So why is my blog titled "Nike Musings?" Because I am an Overcomer. I am a child of God. He has given me this title and this call and if you are a believer in Christ, you also are an Overcomer. As for the musings, the dictionary says that "musings" means "an instance or period of reflection." In other words, this blog is going to be the thoughts of an Overcomer.

And now you know.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You Say Goodbye, I Say...

Okay, so I really wasn't gone, I just relocated!

Confused? Let me explain. I love to write and my previous blog was partnered with a class I was teaching. The class is over and so now Kristen is being unleashed to the blogging world. (Yes, I spoke of myself in the third person - how fun is that?) No longer will I be limited to memory verse discussion and study application of the book of Genesis, though I must admit, I had plenty of material to work with. No, now I am able to spread my wings and post about all sorts of musings! From end times theology to church planting to gardening to the life of Christ - whatever hits my mind may actually be turned into prose.

So, for those who need a bit of a distraction during the day, welcome. For the others who bore easily, this may be a very brief relationship. And for the three of you who actually read my blog, thanks for sticking around!

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." I Timothy 1:17

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Final Thoughts

We've had a great year, gals! As our study concludes, I want to send out a few thanks to those who have been such a wonderful support to me this year. So, here goes:

1. I want to start by thanking Beth for her partnership this year. When I asked her to be my prayer leader, announcement giver and in general, "Mother-to-the-class", I knew she had already sat through my Genesis study a few years back. To agree would mean giving up the blessing of the other study track and going through Genesis again. She prayed about it and when she agreed, she jumped in with both feet and fulfilled the role above and beyond my expectations. I know her devotionals were heart felt and stemmed from a true concern for the spiritual development of the class and the bond of unity which is to be characteristic of the body of Christ. Thank you, Beth, for your faithful service to the women and myself, for the time and thought that went into your prayer times, and for your compassionate heart and tender care you showered on us each week! You are truly a blessing to me!

2. Before Crystal was even home from prison, I planted the seed in her mind to consider blessing us with her creativity during class this year. She quickly accepted and started sketching and by the time she arrived back home, she had drawings and ideas flowing in abundance. I believe that as I have taught this year, watching her create has been a blessing to all of you. I hope you will always remember the flowing banner of God's presence throughout your life, as well as throughout history. Thank you, Crystal, for your faithful service in painting for us, for the many, many sketches that took up precious time, and for your sweet testimony of a changed life dependent on the Lord. So glad to have you home!

3. Now I'd like to turn to my students. You gals were something else! I must admit, I was surprised at how many of you were new to my study this year and thrilled that most of you had not sat through Genesis with me before and were willing to give it a go! Through rain, snow or sleet, you faithfully plowed your way to church (sorry if I make you sound like a postman!) to be at study each week. You kicked it in after Christmas and pounded your memory verses, to the thrill of my heart! You eagerly prayed for each other in our group times, and quietly and thoughtfully used the sanctuary prayer times to draw closer to the Lord. And as for the actual classtime, I am not sure if anyone did their homework, but I do know that you were quick to ask and answer questions, you hung with me at my racing speed through Genesis and always had an encouraging word or hug for me week after week! What more could a teacher ask for? Thank you, Ladies, for your faithfulness and friendship!

4. And finally, I want to thank my blogging friends for checking out the blog on a regular basis, for getting the guts to actually post here and there, and for encouraging me to continue writing. Though some of you were not able to be in class, you have been a great source of inspiration and I want to thank you for following the blog this year.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and so it is with fond memories that I write this final blog entry. Since this blog was created to be an accessory to the Groundwork For Grace class, now that the class is over I am going to close the blog. I will wait a few days, so that if any of you would like to copy any of the blog entries you will have time to do so.

In closing, I want to leave you with an exhortation that Paul gave to the church at Ephesus. It is my heart for you ladies:

"For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." Ephesians 1:15-21

Friday, April 9, 2010

What a Week!

We're back!

I want to thank all of you who kept us in your prayers over the past week. It was quite a journey, and as usual, I have plenty of stories to share. But for the sake of time and YOUR interest, I will share pictures and you'll have to ask me in person to share my stories!

Here's a picture of the "team" in the airport in Chicago, waiting for the adventure to start. If you notice, my son, Christopher, and Nate are holding hands. There is actually a long story to explain that one, but you'll have to just take my word for it - those two are goofballs! But you can see the excitement and anticipation on their faces...they were not disappointed!

This was taken at Moses' church in Paynesville, which is basically a suburb (if you want to call it that) of Monrovia. We were trying to teach a song here - by the time we got out the puppets, there were about 150 to 200 children in the small church. Needless to say, they were fascinated by the puppets - they had never seen anything like that before.

Here is a shot that shows the kids working the puppets. It wasn't overly difficult, except that it was 110 degrees in the church and about 200 degrees inside the puppets! Roosevelt, the man who is the principal of the church's school, was so excited about using the puppets - he carefully watched what we were doing and told me that he would use these puppets to tell many, many stories and proclaim the name of Jesus to the children. What more could we ask for?

The next two pictures were taken at the Harvest in Buchanan. Buchanan is the second largest city in Liberia (behind Monrovia) and is a pretty rough place. The kids on the team were a bit taken back by how hard the people were in the city, but once we got to the church, the love of Christ flowed from the hugs, smiles and greetings of the believers. That calmed all of us down. Dave and I led conferences for the men and women respectively, both in Monrovia and in Buchanan, and here you see us teaching. We did not need interpreters, which is an incredible blessing, and I believe that both groups really soaked up the teaching. They are spiritual sponges and it is a joy to teach people who are hungry to learn and grow.

I taught on roles of the husband and wife, focusing on how God instructs women to treat their husbands. I told the women that even in America this teaching (mostly of submission) is not quickly embraced, but it is not my teaching, but God's. I also talked about the biblical call to forgive and talked them through the put off/renew/put on concept of change. In Monrovia, I also discussed sexual abuse recovery, since so many of the women had been violated during the recent civil war. These were precious times of teaching and I would ask that you keep the women of these two churches in your prayers, as they try to act on what they learned. When I was done teaching, one woman stood up and said, "It is not in the African woman's heart to submit. But this is God's Word and God's plan for our lives, so we must obey." It was truly a new concept for them to love their husbands sacrificially, follow their leadership, complete them as wives and respect/cheer them with edifying words.

Everywhere we went we were mobbed with children. There are hundreds and hundreds of children with very little to do, so when there is a commotion over at the church, they come running! The high schoolers were so good with the kids - they played "football" with them (soccer), as well as basketball, painted their nails, blew bubbles, made bracelets with them, Alex did about a million back flips to entertain, sang with them, took Polaroid pictures to give them, jumped rope, etc. They sweated much, laughed even more, and teared up when it was time to say good bye. I was very pleased that they displayed a true servant's heart with these children, often having to entertain a few hundred children for a couple of hours while Dave and I taught the adults.

And finally, this picture was taken the morning we left. This was a typical breakfast at the hotel - and egg, toast and a slice of cheese. It was really fine and so much more than the average Liberian ate all day.

Thank you again for your prayers. We felt the prayer cover greatly and really had only one scary incident, but I'll save that story for when I see you! The Holy Spirit is alive and well in Liberia, and it is my pleasure to report to you that God changes lives wherever He touches. The common bond of Christ surpasses culture and continents, and I want to give all the glory for any good that was done to the One who holds the world in His loving and gentle hands.

Thank you, Jesus, for this wonderful opportunity, and may Your name be continuously praised!