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Little Victories & Fruit

October 23, 2012 Leave a comment

The other night, a friend and I went to a coffee shop together and talked for nearly 3 hours! It was soo refreshing. Something that I noticed to be a thread in our conversation was what I like to refer to as “little victories”. These victories are moments that we often overlook or take for granted, but in reality are a miracle that is happening by God’s power. I want to show that these moments are what many Christians neglect to call “fruit”.  I want to describe “little victories” to you and why it is so important for the Christian to recognize them as fruit, too.

What is Fruit?

The Bible refers to a Christian’s “fruit” or “fruitfulness” a number of times. Many are specifically referring to a strengthening in numbers or the physical condition of a place (i.e valley, field, etc). But, at times fruit is refereed to as evidence and also as a spiritual harvest.

Evidential & Evangelistic Fruit

An example of this is Philippians 1:22-24, “If I am to live in the flesh, that means a fruitful labor for me..to remain in my flesh is more necessary on your account.” In this passage, Paul is debating on which is better, life of death? Death is better for him, but his life is better for their sake, because his labor is considered “fruitful”. What was he laboring for? V25, “for (their) progress and joy in the faith, so that in (Paul they) may have ample cause to glory in Christ.” Their progress is what made the labor fruitful. So, this is an example of evangelistic, but also evidential fruit (fruit that shows proof of faith).”

Another, more clear, evidential fruit analogy is in John 15. In verse 5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” This whole passage clearly shows that a true, born again believer, will have fruit, or evidence, that he is in Christ. If you want to know more specifically what those evidences are I recommend searching for them in 1 John.

Fruitfulness is Not a Cookie-Cutter Experience

So, what does this “fruit” have to do with Little Victories? Well, fruitfulness can’t be judged in a cookie-cutter fashion. Each person progresses differently. For example, last year at a college campus there was a group of students reaching out to international students. Only one person became a Christian within a couple years of laboring and so many students were discouraged and thus determined that the international ministry was “unfruitful”. I disagreed with that.

Salvation is not the only fruit that exists. In fact, most times that the Bible talks about “fruit” it isn’t talking about a Salvation Experience. A fruitful moment can be when someone in your family, in your dorm, or at your work place goes from never discussing God to asking you to pray for them. It can be when someone confides in you what they really believe about the Bible. Or it can be when a person may confess sin to you, even if they still remain a non-Christian. Those are still a Little Victories or Fruit, because it is showing a movement towards Jesus.

An example that is not so much evangelistic, but evidential is when it occurs within a believer. I’ll use myself as an example. The way that I have been designed is very different from my old classmate and friend, “Jim”. I am very confident in myself if I’m having a theological & philosophical discussion in a small group or one-on-one. I used to think I was so bold in sharing the gospel and truth because of this gift. But, it did not take many philosophy courses in college to show me how much of a scardy-cat I am in a class size setting, without a plan, and with no opportunity to take back my words if I were to mess up. I can remember a number of times where I sat in disobedience because I would not open my mouth. Jim, however, was excellent with speaking up in class. He took advantage of that setting and really stood as my role model. Sharing truth one-on-one might not have been much of a challenge or victory for me, but when I spoke up about the gospel in class – that was fruit, that was a victory for me.

Not Just Jargon

My objective is not to change the way we use lingo. Not recognizing fruit in the smaller, more subtle ways can really crush a Christian’s spirit. If we fail to recognize and praise God over this kind of fruit we will encounter the following problems…

  1. We will give up too quickly on people. Yes, we want to move where the Spirit is moving when we are sharing the gospel. But, could the Spirit be moving in someone’s life and you aren’t recognizing it? What if someone is being pursued by Jesus and we say, “Eh, he’s just not interested because he didn’t come to the retreat.” or “I’ve shared the gospel a couple of times and she still hasn’t surrendered.” Look for little victories in this person’s life, before deciding to move forward.
  2. We will fail to recognize God’s grace in our life as a believer. Can you recall what God has been growing you in lately? What have you recently repented of? When was the last time you picked obedience to Jesus instead of something else? If we aren’t seeing God move in mighty, but quiet ways we will fail to see God’s faithfulness to conforming us to the image of his Son, Jesus.
  3. We will dive into self-righteousness or self-pity. Building off of #2, if we are not seeing God work we will either (1) see ourselves as the one working or (2) we will believe nothing is working.

Experiencing these three outcomes will drastically affect your marriage, relationships with believers, witness to the non-believer, and personal walk with God. Let’s make it a great aim of ours to see these Little Victories and worship God in response to them!

Daily & Mutual Submission in Our Marriage

October 18, 2012 Leave a comment

In a couple of days, I will have been married for a full 5 months! We are still babies, but lots has been learned in such a short amount of time.

I just wanted to give a brief post on ways I am seeing Ephesians 5:21 in my marriage, which states…

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

I love how we are (as the Body of Christ & married people) called to mutual submit to each other. The word used for “submit” or “subject” in the Greek implies the same type of submitting that would happen in an Army between officers, cadets, etc. Ephesians calls both the husband and wife to do this to each other, but emphasizes it with the wife (v.33). While, the husbands submission is emphasized as love & sacrifice (v.33). I think this is because,(generally speaking) it is harder for a wife to submit in respect (refer to Gen. 1:16b) and harder for a husband to submit in love. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs expounds on this thought in his new book,  Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs.

Obviously, there will be times in a married couple’s life where submitting is costly. It could be a career change or a big move that one spouse may not be fond of. Then, a submission that recognizes that the marriage is where your allegiance is instead of with yourself may need to take place. But, those times are typically few and far between. I am not experienced with that kind of submission. So, what I want to address in this blog is the everyday, mutual submission.

Day-by-Day Submission

1. A few months ago, we had the opportunity to join the school’s rec center. But, we could only afford for one person to join. We both had equally convincing reasons as to why one should join instead of the other. But, I chose to encourage Danny to join instead of fight for the membership. This isn’t because I didn’t want to join. It’s just because I saw it as a way to put his desires above mine. A way to show him that I’m out for his well-being and happiness more than my own.

2. Often, while grocery shopping I’m torn between a dessert Danny likes to eat and a cereal I like. Usually, both aren’t in budget. So, sometimes I practice submission by grabbing his favorites over mine. This is again, a little way to help him. It’s a little way to put him before me.

3. Danny and I disagreed about our preferences for housing arrangements in Singapore. We both agreed that living with each other alone was the first priority. But, if that couldn’t happen I thought it was best to live with our partner and he thought it best to live with a host family. Instead of pushing for his #2 to become my #2 he ‘submitted’ to my desire and chose to work towards us living with our partner if necessary.

These are just a couple of examples. But, what I want to show is that mutual submission is practicing the basics of Christianity. It is the essence of serving and placing another above yourself like Jesus did. Mark 10:45:

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.

~~~What are some ways submission has occurred in other couple’s lives? What are common misconceptions about biblical submission?~~~

Raising Financial Support for a Living: A Right Perspective

September 21, 2012 2 comments

I am fully aware of how negligent I have been with my blog. Deepest apologies followers! Married life and transitioning to Singapore have kept me distracted.

Well, I know I started a different series, but I figure I have plenty of opportunities to write about college ministry. So, today I wanted to begin to give you the “backstage” view in raising financial support as a full-time job. Danny and I have been raising sponsors for Notebook & Biblemission trips for years, but this is our first time raising funds as our month-by-month income. In this post, I hope to just answer some of the “why” questions behind what we’re doing. In later posts, I’d like to give some important principles to remember for both the Supporter and Support Raiser. And lastly, I’d like to give a practical How-To post. 🙂 **A lot of my material comes from CO START (training conference), the Bible, books, and personal experience.

Misconceptions

1.  I’m not earning or deserving of this money.

2. It’s not biblical to raise support.

3. They don’t want to give.

4. I’m too busy and don’t have enough contacts

5. Support raising adds to the burdens of being a missionary.

Have you felt this way? Or have you viewed non-profits this way? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has struggled with viewing fundraising as a privilege. Yes, raising financial needs for the gospel is a privilege! I hope that this post enlightens us by looking at God’s Truth, the value of Partnership, and the role of Faith.

Biblical Basis

A passage Danny and I love to point supporters to is Philippians (which is btw, a support letter) 4:10-20.  Observe how Paul describes raising finances: (to list a few) v. 10 people are involved (concerned for Paul), v. he’s not needy, but content, v.15 there is a partnership, v.16 continued help for Paul’s needs, v17. he’s fully provided for, etc. This passage especially shows us that support giving is for God, Paul & the supporters themselves because it is a “sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God(v18-20).”

Other Biblical references: ( I’m excluding Tithing and General Giving just because I want to show that the Supporter and Supporter Raiser should know that specifically living off another person’s giving for the sake of advancing the gospel is biblical.)

Jesus lived on support (Luke 8:1-3) “…and many others, who provided for them out of their means”

Support lifestyle was commanded (Luke 10:7) “…for the laborer deserves his wages”

Disciples were sent to survive on generosity, not by begging (Luke 10:4-7).

…A somewhat common response to our way of living is: Why don’t you work a job? After all, Paul was a tent-maker.

3 Times Paul made tents: (1) In Corinth,  Acts 18:1-5. (2) Ephasus (Acts 20:33-34). (3) Thessolonica, 2 Thess 3:8-9.

I argue that Paul used working in the community as a way of outreach or in other situations he was not being provided for. He says that he had the right to, but choose not to (2 Thess. 3:10).

1 Corinthians 9 Paul gives an argument for minister’s living off of the giving of others. His points: One, that “those who proclaim the gospel shall make their living by the gospel.” (v11-12,14). Second, ministers deserve and should take delight in having needs met by support. (vs.10-12). And third, the Levites are the model for supported ministers. (vs.13).

Networking & Vision Casting

Something that I have learned over the years is that a Supporter Raiser has a large circle of friends, influence, and connections. Currently, Danny and I have at minimum 50 people on our team. It has been such a joy to meet face-to-face with each person and family. Each time we share at a church service, class, or with people individually we notice that both ourselves and the other party is encouraged and strengthened. At each meeting we give our presentation. We share about discipleship, its affect on our life, and our purpose for moving to Singapore. If we did not raise up a support team then we would miss out on knowing and being mutually encouraged by so many people.

Partnership is Personal

We have large variety of people on our team. Some people or are investors, parents, IT guys, teachers, pastors, missionaries, photographers, retired, videographers, students, and more. Some have a high income, some low. Some are from America, some are not. Each teammate has something to contribute to our mission. After each meeting we ask 3 commitments from people: (1) Financial commitment because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (2) Wisdom and Involvement, because we will be far more effective in SG if we have a wisdom, skill, and resource base that is larger than the two of us. (3) Contacts, because we want to always branch out of our circles and invite more people into a partnership.

Not only does our supporter commit to us, but they can also expect certain things from us. Such things being: (1) Faithfulness to the mission. (2) Steadfast prayer for them. (3) Availability to them and their needs. (4) Regular Updates and Involvement. We have been convicted that we are called to shepherd our supporters just as much as we are to shepherd those that we are ministering to.

It really is a partnership. Without partnership loneliness will strike faster and harder than ever. Vision would leak. The number of people to rejoice with would be lessened. And we would overall be doing a disservice to the body of Christ.

Faith Building

Fundraising challenges and strengthens the faith of both the Giver and the Receiver. There are a number of people on our team who have given an amount that “hurts”, an amount that will cause them to trust the Lord. They’ve given an amount that will remind them to pray fervently for us. Danny and I keep a budget for Missions too. And I remember a time where we only had $16 for groceries (to last 2 weeks), but we gave $50 for a mission. It was a sacrifice, but it was worshipful! The Fund Raiser also experiences the privilege of stepping out on faith. When Danny took his discipleship group to Haiti they had 3 weeks to raise $6000.  Yet, by faith and faithfulness it all came in on time!!! A missionary must practice trusting the Lord, by trusting the promises of people. They are also continually reminded that they lack nothing in Christ! They are rich in the eyes of their Father!

So, you see, even if the church offered to pay our full income, we would still choose to raise some of the support.

My hope is that this post stirs you to give to missionaries and for missionaries to be proud to ask!

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What has been the most significant perspective change for you and why?

What was the most helpful truth learned about support raising?

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#1 Christianity is not so much about me and Jesus as it is about Christ and His Church

April 26, 2012 2 comments

The Enduring Community

I’m starting a series about 5 truths I’ve learned from doing ministry at VSU. I wish I had known them sooner, but I’m glad for the experiences that taught me these.

1. Christianity is not so much about me and Jesus as it is about Christ and his Church.

2. Worship is more about devotion than it is about emotion.

3. People do what they see, not what you say.

4. Focus on faithfulness, not on results.

5. The more holy you become, the less holy you’ll feel.

Something that I began to see a couple of years ago, but didn’t really live by until this past year is that Christ reconciled His Church – not just me and God! Yes, there is a uniqueness about our salvation, but far too often we lean way to much on the unity between us and God, and not enough on us and others. I’ve been partnering with other Christians in ministry for a few years and so I’ve been learning this through experiences. But also, this past semester my discipleship group has been studying Ephesians and reading the “The Enduring Community” together. Reading these has really developed my idea of the Church.

Why do we focus so much about us and God and so little on others?

There are a number of reasons for this. Probably some common responses to why we do this would be: relationships are messy, it requires lots of effort, they will see my sin, and it’s just easier not to pursue people. I think all of these reason narrow down to the problem of having a small vision and value for God’s people. If we really saw individuals as significant and valuable we would not only be involved in their lives, but we would be anxious for unity with our fellow brothers and sisters.

What exactly did Christ reconcile on the cross?

Hebrews 7: 25 tells us, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” The first thing we think of when someone asks what happened on the cross is that we have been reconciled to God. This is absolutely true. Yet, God is not the only one we were reconciled with. I used to think that Ephesians 2:13 which states, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” was only referring to our connection with God. However, after studying the context I found that the entire second half of the chapter is about our unity with fellow believers. This verse provides the transition from the hostility between the Gentiles and God being reconciled, and also the hostility between people being reconciled.  We have been brought near to each other and are no longer “Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Col. 3:11)”

How can we turn from division and become unified?

 In order to avoid division we must actively seek unity with other believers and be proactive in the upbuilding of the Body of Christ. Here are a few ways that if had been practiced more by both myself and others, lots of harmony would have been gained. All of them really boil down to one’s character.

1. Verbalize your thoughts in an understanding way: I cannot count the times that division has snuck into a fellowship simply because no one shared how they felt (at least to the person that they have concerns with). When I say “in an understanding way” I mean two things. First, to clearly articulate concerns. Second, to do so with gentleness and humility. I really believe most problems within the Church could be overcome through good communication.

2. Be quick to reconcile your relationships: Matthew 5 :23-24 states, “…if you are offering your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother , and then come and offer your gift.” The verse tells me that even if I am not the one harboring bitterness, it is my duty to reconcile my relationships. Another verse puts the responsibility on me and not someone else is Romans 12:18 which says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

3. Live sympathetically: Take on the feelings of another – relate with them. If many really have become ONE body then you are affected by the wellness of your brothers and sisters. Therefore, we must “mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice” we must serve one another and care tenderly for each other.

4. Value individuals: Appreciate people for who they are, not for how comfortable they make you feel. Every relationship is significant. John Piper once said that every person is made in the image of God, therefore everyone is interesting! Appreiciate people for their unique design and contribution to the whole Body.

I’ve had to face all of this while at VSU. Soon, I’ll be moving and I’m nervous because I will need to learn to practice this truth with people that I am not as used to and close with. However, Christ has reconciled the biggest gap of all: me and Him, therefore I know that He can unite me to others too.

Guard Your Heart = Don’t Flirt?

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 NIV

For years  I have heard women during a chick-flick cover their eyes and say, “Guard your hearts ladies!” Or when a girl has a guy friend or a crush she may say, “I’m scared to talk about X because I want to ‘guard my heart.'” And even though I don’t think that is wrong to say – I’ve often felt that Proverbs 4:23 goes way past emotional purity with the opposite sex. I’m sure that’s not a unique assumption, but I have never heard this verse used outside the context of lust and emotionally connecting with the opposite sex.

I battled with this verse a lot while dating Danny. We dated for over a year before we got engaged and I could not understand how to “guard my heart” with a man who was not my husband and yet was naturally learning the more intimate parts of my life. I asked myself, “How can you date someone for a long time and still guard your heart? And more so, do only the unmarried people need to guard their heart? What am I guarding my heart from or for?”

I think it is best to first address what you should be keeping your heart for. I enjoy how the ESV translates this verse,

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Our heart is the center of our being; its our core. And according to this verse everything we do flows from this core part of who we are. So, when we guard our heart we are guarding the center of who we are, but we are also protecting what flows out of us – life. Another reference to this is in Proverbs 14: 27 which states,

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

This verse states that a spring or fountain of life is to actually fear God. So, the reverence and awe of the LORD comes from one’s heart and therefore the heart must be protected. The Bible is showing a link and correlation between the condition of one’s heart and their life, which for the Christian is their worship of God. So, your heart is being protected for the sake of you fearing the LORD.

Now, what must we protect our hearts from? What would harm our reverence to our God? Well, anything that steals our reverence to God is some sort of idol (Hosea 2:13, Romans 1:25, etc). The terms “guard” and “with vigilance” are insisting an effort is being made. One will not fear the LORD on accident – it is a result of protecting one’s center from lesser loves.

Although flirting is probably a result of not guarding one’s heart, this verse can be applied to far more in life. Why is being too emotionally attached to someone unwise? It can steal your reverence to God. Guarding my heart didn’t mean not to share personal matters with Danny; it meant to enjoy Danny, but to worship God.  I think this verse is primarily cautioning us to protect ourselves from idols, because the more that our heart is invested in idols the less inclined we are to fear the LORD. More so, if our heart is enthralled with God everything we do will flow from our worship.

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