Thursday, January 26, 2012

On the River Again! - Tommy

I visited in several communities on the Rio Cocco river this month from the 10th through the 15th. We set up one day medical clinics, taught Bible classes and held worship services each evening. I was given the opportunity to preach one night and we had so many people in the building that one of the brothers told me to hurry up because he was afraid that the building was going to fall down!

I was encouraged to see many of the folks who were baptised during our last trip still attending services and being active in the congregation at San Andres. Every trip on the Rio Cocco is a chance for us to build relationships and share the gospel of Jesus Christ in both word and deed.

It is always exciting but also physically challenging to make these trips as conditions are very primitive in the villages of the river (no electricity, no running water, outhouses, very hot, humid, rain, mud, etc.) but it is always a very rewarding time!

Click the picture below to see all of the photos from this trip. Once you have viewed the first picture in the series you can click on the word "close" in the top right hand corner to view the larger gallery. Feel free to comment with any questions you might have.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Esperando - Becky

I think it's interesting that, in Spanish, the word for "hoping" is the same word for "waiting." For example, you could say, Están esperando el autobús; They are waiting for the bus. Or, you could say, Estaba esperando de alguna simpatía; I was hoping for some sympathy. In English, the word "waiting" implies expectation, while "hoping" can be more synonymous with "wishing." When we hope for something, usually we have in our heads that it may not happen. However, I think the Spanish connotation fits a little better when it comes to the hope we have from God.

Romans chapter 8 talks about the hope we can have as children of God to receive our spiritual inheritance. Observe the tone of this passage:

19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed... 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved...

This definitely sounds like the thing we are hoping for is something that we should be expecting to happen. I have heard different Bible teachers talk about things that are "now but not yet," like the fact that our souls are hidden with Christ, but we are still physically here on this earth. I think the same concept is going on here with our adoption as God's children. Verse 16 says, The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Apparently we are already God's children, yet we are still waiting for what we are to receive as heirs. Picking up the passage with the rest of verse 24, we read the obvious:

24 ...But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

I love what is said further down in the chapter to convince us that our hope is well-founded:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose... 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ...35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ...37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Woah. That's some pretty powerful stuff, if we really take it to heart. I would sum it up as saying that in every single situation in our lives (us being those who are already in loving relationship with Him), whether in good or bad circumstances, God is right there loving us, so we can hope, really believe that he is working out the best for us. We don't have to wonder if God will love and take care of us; we can already know He will, even though the future hasn't happened yet. I can't talk about this without bringing up Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

In my life I have done a lot of waiting. As a teenager, it felt like it was taking forever to find a boyfriend. Once I started dating Tommy, we waited 3 1/2 years to get married while he paid off his debt. From the time we thought we were ready to buy a house, it took us over 2 years to find one. As we were starting to get settled and to think about trying for children, Tommy took a major pay cut at work, enough that I had to start looking for a job and forget about kids for a while. Then, through a number of circumstances, we decided to move to Nicaragua to become missionaries. However, we had to do something with our house first, and it rented just in the nick of time after much agonizing over what we would do if it didn't. Now we are here, but we are still waiting for our "new" (rental) house to be built as we continue to live in the mission. Currently, Tommy is on a trip to a remote location up the Rio Coco, so I'm having to wait a week for him to come home.

What is crazy to me is that I am able to reduce these events, many of which were agonizing at the time, to single sentences. When we were waiting to get married, it was so frustrating to have to drive back and forth all the time to be able to see each other. Now it's hard to remember a lot of that time period. These things are just the major highlights of my life since high school, but I could throw in a ton more "smaller" events. The underlying thing in all of them, though, is that God did work things out for my good. Things I spent so much energy wishing and praying for, He did for me. There were also things that I wanted but that I didn't get, and I can look back now and feel so glad that I didn't get them. This proves to me that God really is looking out for what is best for me.

With this in mind, I shouldn't have any reason to worry about anything. I have witnessed the effects of verse 28 in my life over and over again, so now I hang on to that promise like a security blanket. It is true that I may (and likely will) have to go through a lot of unpleasantness to get to my blessings--and that does produce anxiety in me--but still I know that God is completely faithful. Realizing this has made a huge difference in my life. As I have trusted God with more of my life, He has consistently held up His end of things. I still get nervous and frustrated and impatient at times, but I'm finding less and less reason to hang on to those emotions.

What are you waiting for right now? Do you have hope that God will work it out for your good? Why or why not?


Thursday, January 5, 2012


I have started reading through Psalms to kind of go along with the One-Year daily Bible that some of my friends (some of you) are reading this year. So far I have read as far as Psalm 5. I don't plan to blog every time I read, but I have some thoughts I want to share that I think apply to many of the Psalms.

A common theme in the things that David writes is for God to take vengeance on the wicked, especially those who are against David in particular. To us this may seem rather barbaric, and it may surprise us when David describes how God does take out his vengeance. However--and this may seem harsh too--it occurred to me that God only punishes those who deserve it. The people being destroyed are those who have brought it upon themselves by their actions. These people are against God, not just unsure if they believe in Him, but actively in opposition to Him. They are described as wicked, sinners, mockers, conspirers, plotters, foes, enemies, arrogant, wrong-doers, liars, bloodthirsty, deceitful, filled with destruction, rebels, etc., and this is just what I saw in the first five Psalms. Most of these traits are things that would make these people hated by men too. If we actually knew them, we might feel like it was right for them to be punished. Most people could say, "good riddance" to evil men.

However, there is a problem. The rest of us "good" people have some of these traits too. What one of us hasn't ever lied? Who hasn't plotted in their heart to strike out at someone who hurt them? Is there anyone who has actually followed every single command of those in authority (this includes listening to our parents, following the speed limit, everything)? The thing is, all of us are sinners, and, really, all of us deserve to die. Even the best of us isn't perfect, even David. In light of this, I love verse 7 of Psalm 5:

But I, by your great mercy,
will come into your house;
in reverence will I bow down
toward your holy temple.

David doesn't get to come into the house of God because he is somehow worthy. Rather, God takes mercy on him, which indicates that there was some offense that God chose to pardon. Mercy is only necessary when someone has done wrong. But we might say, okay, if David is a sinner too, then why does he get mercy when others get vengeance? Well, one clue is that David is bowing down in reverence. Another is in verse 8:

Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies--
make straight your way before me.

We can see here that David is actively seeking to be righteous. This doesn't mean that he is always right, but he acknowledges that he needs God to lead him. Instead of plotting against God, which we know from Psalm 2 is a vain endeavor anyway, David, recognizing God's power and authority, is choosing to let God rule him. Let's look at verse 11:

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

When I read this verse, something that I ask myself is, What do they need protection from? I may be stretching this further than it is intended to go, but I think, honestly, there is only one thing that anyone needs to fear, and that is God. If I am on God's side, I really don't need to fear anything else because He is greater than anything that could hurt me. If I am opposed to God, then I have every reason to be afraid. It follows, then, that I definitely don't want to be on God's bad side. However, since I am imperfect, the only way for me to be right with Him is for Him to lead me and to "make straight [His] way before me." If sin is what causes God's wrath to fall on me, then for me to be "safe," the thing I need protection from is sin.

Yes, there are physical enemies on earth that we need protection from, as well as people who hurt us emotionally. Yes, God is the one to protect us. But, for us to be under God's protection, we need to make sure that we are not the enemy. We are incapable of doing this on our own, so God has to work in us to make us righteous. He will only do that, though, if we let him, so I conclude that the best we can do is to fall helpless before Him, admitting that we can do nothing without Him. Then he will be our refuge.

For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor
as with a shield (verse 12).

I encourage you to read all of Psalm 5 again with the idea that we need protection from sin. I think that everyone will be able to relate. I know I did.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Look in the Mirror - Becky

Today was the first day back to work this year for everyone at the mission. We spent it participating in an all-day seminar on Character, based on the materials we are working to implement in the schools here. Of the 7 character traits covered in the material, we went over 3 today: Respect, Responsibility, and Fairness/Justice. While these things are still fresh in my mind, I want to share a few thoughts (if random) that occurred to me during the seminar. (These are not necessarily things that were said by presenters; I am just sharing what has formed in my own brain based on what I heard.)

Respect - Respect is very closely tied to Love. The level of respect we show to people indicates what we think of them, much like a mirror. However, (the thought in this sentence comes from Benny Baker) we should respect people not because they deserve it but because we are respectful people. If we respect people more than they deserve, even though our human nature makes this distasteful to us, it actually makes us look better in the eyes of other people. People who are respectful of others tend to be those whom others want to respect.

Responsibility - As Christians, we all reflect God to the world. (See 2 Cor. 3:18, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." and Matt. 5:14-16, "You are the light of the world... In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."). Unfortunately, we can never give an accurate picture of God because we are fallable humans, but it is our responsibility to present as accurate of a picture as we can. Of course, God is love, and it is our job to let the world know that God loves each person. The Church is supposed to do this by, together, embodying Christ, the ultimate personification of love. That is what it means to be the body of Christ.

Fairness/Justice - Acting fairly or justly involves not just being nice and considerate to people but weighing different ideas to be able to make wise decisions. For example, if someone commits a crime, the judge must evaluate the evidence, and once the person is found guilty, the judge gives a sentence that is in line with the severity of the crime. Or, in a situation where two or more people have opposing desires, a just authority figure would consider whose need was the greatest, etc. and then give out resources (or whatever) accordingly. In order to satisfy our inner sense of fairness, things that happen to us or to other people must match our perceived value of whomever they happen to. If we think we are of equal value with our peers but we are the only one who does not receive something positive, we feel slighted. However, if we place greater value on our leader, we will feel that it is appropriate for them to be the only one to receive something. With this in mind, for a person to be able to exercise justice in a given situation, they must know all of the facts. Whose need is greater? What value do the people involved place on themselves and on each other? What and how much have the people already received (of resources, attention, etc.)? A person wanting to be treated fairly would do well to communicate these things, but, by the same token, a person wanting to treat others fairly can start by finding out these things.

These are just some of the ideas that stuck out in my brain. (And, like I said, these are mostly my own random thoughts, not just what was presented to me.) There is a lot more that I am still trying to process. I think we have begun to take an honest look in the mirror, and that has brought out things both to praise God for and to work on improving. I pray that he transforms us more and more into His likeness every day.