As I travel around, I have been around a lot of children of late. This morning I asked God what it was that He wanted to teach me from the experiences that I am having around children. I was led to think of Enoh. This little boy never hesitates to express his love. Yesterday at lunch he said “I love you” individually to just about everyone in the room. He is a loving child. We can learn to express our love freely from him. Love for our Father and love for one another. When I arrived the other night, I was greeted with his enthusiastic greeting “chica Tom” (Uncle Tom in Croatian). He knew I was coming and was glad to see me. What can I learn from this? I can apply that greeting this way: as my Lord has promised to return, I can look forward to it with great joy. And I can be ready. How? By abiding with Him now and keeping myself fit to be in presence, living in His Gospel by recognizing that I am a mess and living a life of repentance (“God help me, I can’t, so you must”) and faith (“Lord build my faith, give me the strength to lift the shield of faith”). If I am in constant communion with Him in this way, I am ready to receive Him whenever it is time for Him to come. I learned one more thing… or should I say I am reminded of one more thing through my time with Enoh, Our heavenly Father is incredibly patient. I have observed amazing patience in the parenting of Enoh’s mom and dad (Enoh is 2 1/2!). This has reminded me that God is patient with me and that I require a lot of patience from Him because of my fallen-ness. Thankfully. I rest in His righteousness and I dwell in his patient embrace and walk in His patient guidance. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He told us to have faith like a little child. Faith that shows up as love… lived, said and walked.
Monthly Archives: May 2011
A couple of years ago a friend in New York told me about a couple who were serving in Sarajevo. I emailed them from Budapest and Laci and I went to visit Dejan and Michelle to meet and see about ministry possibilities together. On the way back from that visit I got to meet Jeremy who serves in Croatia and talked briefly about ministry possibilities. A few months later, Dejan and Michelle met Jeremy and Petra at a CEO gathering in northern Hungary as well as the rest of the gang including Doug and Lea. So Jeremy and Doug talk about baseball as outreach and the layers of connection deepen. Later, Dejan and Michelle hang out with Jeremy and Petra and deepen that connection. Recently, Michelle tells Jeremy about a guy who lives near him in Croatia and a discussion with Garrett about baseball as outreach is set up. I arrive and ride along with Jeremy to this neighboring Croatian city to meet this new contact made who is using baseball as outreach. Well, it turns out, as we talked about baseball fields, we learn that he has heard of Doug and when I asked him where he went to school, he did a degree in computer science at… UVa! no kidding… and he went to the same church while at UVA that Lea did in her undergrad year… wow, God has a pretty cool network… and to think that if Heather had not told me about Dejan and Michelle, today’s meeting would have never happened…
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Last Saturday I participated in a forum on the Bible. The point of our talk was to present reasons to look to the Bible as God’s revelation to man. We had a great turnout, the English corner of the public library was at capacity. The best part were the questions that the audience asked. One person asked us to differentiate between the Christianity in the Bible and religion. I was able to discuss how God has revealed Himself in the Bible and wishes to have a relationship with us. I was able to share with them the difference between knowing about God and knowing God from a relational level. After the forum, we got to have a number of conversations with people with more questions. It was a great opportunity to share about God’s revelation in the Scripture and His desire for relationship with us.
I have been thinking a lot and praying about unity for a good while now. The events of the last few weeks have increased this thinking and praying about unity. This morning it occured to me that a couple of things that lead to unity are: understanding and rule 2.
In the last couple of weeks I have gained fresh understanding about a few things that I did not have before. It occured to me that understanding can, in many cases, trump the need to be right. As many who know me, and especially those who know me well for a longer time can attest to, I like being right. I pride myself (a carefully chosen phrase) on having a biblical understanding. Sadly, on many occasions, my right-ness has trumped relationship. This is wrong. Last night at the event in Szeged, I said something like “it was good to set distinctives aside to sing, pray and study together.”
Upon further reflection of what that really means, I am struck by how hard that could be for people. And therefore I am pondering how that event, which was a fresh attempt to gather the believers of a city together, really was a great thing. Because now, on reflection, I see how people had to really set aside their distinctives to enter into the singing of praise to God and the type of study and even the way we prayed. It was a fresh attempt at unity by some guys whose hearts were in the right place, but I can imagine that some folks had to set aside a lot in order to “enter in.” I am grateful that people were willing and that they made the attempt, I pray that they are blessed by God.
Remember, people become used to certain styles and they have certain distinctives and theological positions that really matter to them. These include, among other things, the style of worship service they attend regularly, the type of music in the songs that are sung, their style of personal devotions and prayer and, interestingly (in my recent experience) what they believe about the end times.
Indeed, in my recent travels I have encountered and entered into some amazing worship experiences. This includes my own home church the the ‘ville, IHOP (not pancakes) in Kansas City, the Rock of Kansas City and Del Pest Golgota in Budapest. Four distinct worship expressions, four slightly different theological understandings which then drove me to the Bible for reminders and better understanding.
So, here is what I am thinking about understanding. The more I learn about a brother and his theological position and why he holds it (even if, as I study the text and can come to a different conclusion of, say, the end times), the more I understand and can relate to him. He is, after all, my brother first and I am going to be blessed with him forever in the presence of the Lord. You see, I believe that as he and I agree on the person and work of Jesus the Christ, if he is pre-, post- or a-mill, or pre-, mid- or post- trib, he is my brother and I need to love and work alongside him. The same goes for church, if he is high church or low, charismatic or reformed, free or formal in worship, I believe we need to be willing to set aside our distinctives so that we can worship the same triune God and serve side by side in the extending of the Kingdom. I crave understanding, to get this I need to listen to my brother, hold him before our Father in prayer and study the Scripture. In the body of Christ, if we are to have unity, I believe understanding is paramount.
Rule 2 comes from my travel tips and is as follows: “It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s just different.” This usually applies to cultural things like food, transportation types and different manners in different places, but in this case I wish to apply it to minor areas of theology and practices in following Jesus. What are the minor areas? Well, I cannot answer that question for anyone but myself and for me it is anything outside the nature and authoritativeness of the Bible, the holy nature and work of God, Jesus the perfect God-man, the Holy Spirit and salvation by faith alone are less important. If I were so inclined (but am not) I could spell them out as the five fundementals of yore. Thus the matters listed about outrank worship style, diet, eschatology, politics, and (gasp) the modern geo-political state of Israel, and so forth. Yes, these matters are important, but I do not believe they are important enough to break fellowship over. Indeed, as mature followers of Jesus, I believe we need, in view of Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8, to learn how to put the other guy first. This is the theological spirit of rule 2 which has, heretofore, been used only in a cultural context.
Unity. How can we have it? By realizing that we may not have all the answers in some of these, as Paul put it, “disputable matters.” By realizing that our brothers and sisters can in fact read the same Bible on disputable matters and reach different conclusions on matters that are less than core theology and still show love for one another. I consider understanding your point more important than making my point. If I can do this, I can take a step in the direction of biblical unity and express and live the love Jesus talks about in John 13:35-36, and then, as Jesus said, “they will know we are HIS disciples.”
Sadly, as I re-read this, I see that the very writing of this post, may indeed set some brothers or sisters off the course of unity, but I hope not, I hope it will cause thought not reaction and contemplation and not condemnation. As I write this, I am in Serbia, in the former Yugoslavia, in a region that has, for centuries, been ripped apart by refusal to understand and refusal to unity. May it not be so in your heart or mine.
 interestingly, three different views of the end times were expressed… I have not thought this much about eschatology in 15 or 20 years and was taked aback by the emphasis I heard recently. It was cool because it made me think and reasses and go to Scripture for understanding! My own position didn’t change but it was good to go to Scripture to see why others believed what they believed and then how that impacts thinking and practice. Indeed ones view of evil and suffering are impacted by one’s end times thinking and in the case of a lot of folks, thier politics is influenced as well. Since all of these folks are my brothers and sisters and friends, I am glad to understand these things.