• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Running in the rain

In runners speak, we call it the ‘pre-wash’. That’s when you head out for a run and half way through the run, it starts to rain.  What are you going to do?  You have to get back home, so you just run through the rain and take the ‘pre-wash’.

When we woke up on the day of the Florence marathon (November 25th), I could hear the rain falling outside, and it didn’t sound like a slight drizzle.

For 42 kilometers, we got soaked.  This wasn’t just a ‘pre-wash’, but a slogging through the rain for over four hours (in the case of my daughter, a lot less time of running through the rain).

IMG-20181126-WA0009Now, I had linked this run to the challenge that I had gifted to us as a mission: to see significant impact among two unreached people groups in the coming months and year. We had chosen to focus our attention on the Dadjo (Chad) and Cham (Cambodia) peoples.

As I approached kilometer 28 and began to wonder if I could really go the distance because of the rain (the famous ‘wall’ when running a marathon), the thought came to me: ‘Is this what it’s going to be like to pray for the Dadjo and the Cham?  To ‘slog it out’ in prayer in order to see hardened hearts turn to the Creator of the universe?’

Now I don’t want to make a direct parallel between my marathon run and this call to pray for these two people groups, but the call to ‘persevere in prayer’ (Colossians 4:2-4) began to take on new meaning as I sought to keep running even though my mind was yelling for me to stop.

So, what kept me running past kilometer 28?  It was the thought of crossing that finish line in front of the Duomo (the main cathedral).

So, what will keep us ‘running together in prayer’; of persevering in our intercession for the Dadjo and the Cham?

The thought of seeing hundreds of Dadjo and Cham standing before the throne and “crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

It’s time to start ‘running’ together!

My friend Paul

My friend Paul went home to be with the Lord last week.  The deep groan of sadness that I felt when the news first came out, began to give way over time to reflection on the impact that this one brother had on my life. paul_welcome

As I ‘re-watched’ the videos in my head of the many times we had shared life and ministry together, three words or word images came to mind

Persistent challengePaul regularly put challenges out in front of you. The reason I started running marathons came about the day Paul called me up to announce he had an entry for me for the London marathon. I had never put my name in for the London marathon (a lottery system)!  Apparently Paul, however, had been putting my name in, along with his name and his son’s name, for three years until our names had been drawn!  Paul didn’t just challenge you in life activities, he challenged your capacity to believe that ‘God could do above and beyond what we could ask or think’.  He pushed you to believe that God could work among a resistant people group; that He could spawn movements of multiplying churches; that He could work in and through us to reach others for Christ.

Dogged perseveranceI cannot think of Paul without thinking of how he was constantly ‘moving forward’.  I still marvel at how he, a former wrestler, finished the London marathon in a very respectable time. He doggedly pursued the difficult tasks.  More importantly, he doggedly pursued God.  There was always that new thought, fresh insight that the Lord has laid on his heart and that he wanted to share with you when you got together in a meeting.  He not only shared, but he lifted you up before the Lord in prayer, and you could count on that when he told you so.  He kept driving forward to the ‘upward call’.

Amazing adventureYou never quite knew where Paul was ‘taking’ you when you set off with him.  One year, he decided to rent a boat on the Thames for the week long meeting of the Europe field directors.  After that ‘week on the boat’, we all said that we would never do that again.  However, his ‘adventure’ worked to draw us together in a way we weren’t expecting … and part of the proof is that we’re still talking about that infamous ‘boat trip’ to this day!  It wasn’t the craziness of the activity that finally characterized Paul, it was the context of grace he tried to create where you came to recognize the One in whom we put our trust and confidence, and who gave us the grace we needed to keep moving forward.

I will deeply miss my friend Paul.  I have missed him being part of my team for the past number of years.  Detlef got that privilege in recent years. And we are all better people for having rubbed shoulders with Paul.

I will not forget the impact that Paul has left on my life.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share with another how they have influenced your life!

We won’t always get it right

perfectionPerfection is elusive.  In fact, it’s unattainable in this life.  However, that does not keep us from expecting that standard of ourselves and of others.  Oftentimes, I either say to myself or I hear other people say: “Why couldn’t (I) they just have done ____?” And you can fill in the blank.

We won’t always get it right. I won’t, you won’t always do what is best for ourselves, for others, for God.

This is where God’s forgiveness greatly impacts our relationships one to another.  I really like Eugene Peterson’s translation of Colossians 3:12-14: “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.  It’s your basic, all-purpose garment.  Never be without it.”

We won’t always get it right. I won’t, you won’t always do what is best for ourselves, for others, for God.

Paul, writing to the Colossian church, challenges us to live in light of the reality that we can never completely and perfectly fulfill the ‘law’ or carry out the ‘work’ with which we have burdened ourselves or others.  That is why the love and forgiveness that Christ offers to us is so life ‘changing’.  It moves us away from self-centredness to Christ centredness; offering to others what Christ has and continues to offer to us each day.

We won’t always get it right. I won’t, you won’t always do what is best for ourselves, for others, for God.  However, we can extend to one another (and to ourselves) Christ’s love and forgiveness which will remind us that when we don’t get it right, it’s not the end of the world.  For Christ once again offers to us His love and forgiveness, picks us up, and sets us on our way again to serve Him as best we can with all our heart, mind soul and strength.

Discipline comes second

A few weeks ago, I went to see my doctor, in an effort to find an excuse for getting out of running the Florence marathon. My doctor listened carefully and when I was done ‘whining’, he asked me one simple question: “Mr Riddell, how have you been feeling these days?”  I couldn’t lie to him and so I said that, honestly, I was feeling really, really good; better than I have in a long, long time.  “You know why?” he asked.  My quick response was that it was because I was running a whole lot more these days in preparation for the marathon.  His response was insightful: it was not because of the increased number of kilometers I was running.  It was because I now had an objective, a clear challenge.

That challenge then gave rise to the discipline of running more regularly.  I left his office with a renewed sense of purpose and a willingness to press on towards November 25th (the date when I will be running the Florence marathon with our oldest daughter and son).

I began to wonder if there was not a possible parallel between the words of my doctor and our journey with Christ.  So often, we push discipline into first place in our lives — we just have to keep doing more, we think. A Christian, we say, must do more of this or that to grow in his or her Christian life.

What if the larger objective, the greater challenge took centre stage?  What if ‘glorifying God’ because of His mercy and love poured out on us was our first motivation?  Wouldn’t the discipline needed to keep walking with Christ be the natural (second) response to knowing that our lives are meant to be an act of worship and thanks to the God who loves us?

Ask yourself this question today: Did I read the Bible today because it was part of what I had to do as Christian?  Did I spend time with God today because that’s what a believer has to do?

If the answer to either question is ‘yes’, maybe it’s time to have a chat with the Great Physician and hear these words again and take them to heart: you are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17)

Feel like you are in a mid-year funk?

funk bis bisMany times, at this point in the year (whether you are experiencing summer in the northern hemisphere or winter in the southern hemisphere), we sense this kind of ‘funk’ that comes over us. Now a good dictionary will tell you that ‘funk’ means that one is in ‘a state of paralyzing fear, or a depressed state of mind’.  I might just say, it’s the desire to just stop doing much of anything; often characterized by the phrase: “I mean, what’s the use of doing ___________ (and you fill in the blank)?

The psalmist knew this very same feeling: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”  (42:11)

These times of ‘funk’, in one sense, are part of the human condition, part of a cross cultural worker’s experience.  I guess we could say, they are a sign that we are emotionally real.

However, it’s not the awareness of the ‘funk’ that is the struggle for us, but how we might address it; how we could dig ourselves out of it.

First, we don’t ‘dig’, we grab and hold onto to a hand.  By nature, as cross cultural workers, we are ‘doers’. When a problem arises, we try to figure out a solution and address it.  That persevering, doing attitude is what landed us in the current place where we are serving.  However, addressing the ‘funk’ we may be feeling, begins not by our doing, but by our willingness to admit we need someone else’s help.  It is to reach out our hand to grab hold of the divine hand that is being extended to us. The psalmist figured that out when he wrote in response to the ‘funk’ he found himself in: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (40:11)

Next, we focus on a person rather than an outcome.  Our prayers can often be a long list of points where we are asking God for results or outcomes.  And there is nothing wrong with pleading with God for those outcomes.  However, our hope is not ultimately in the outcome, but in the One who can bring about the outcome. The psalmist had no assurance of a good outcome at that moment, but he knew the One who was guarding his soul and who would ultimately save him in His way and time.  It’s not the outcome we worship, but our eternal God.

Finally, we write about or share where God has taken us in our journey, so as to not forget.  How many times have you or I come to a situation and found ourselves responding in the same way we did the last time we were in a similar situation?  In part, it’s because we have a short memory and easily forget what God taught us in a previous time and how He desires us to respond in this new situation.  Writing down one’s experiences (another way of saying, journaling) is one way of trying to capture those teachable moments. I’m not a great journal-er, but I’m trying to learn.  I know there are other ways, so we must try to find some avenue by which to help us remember.

Interested in challenging yourself more on this topic?  Consider reading an ‘old’ book: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by Jeremiah Burroughs.

“The mess we are in”

A couple of weeks ago, I read this story sent by a good friend who served with World Team for many years.  The honesty with which he shared spoke to my heart and reminded me that God does use all things for our good and for His glory.  Here’s the story:

I learned yesterday of the passing of my uncle, Milton, 98 years of age, herald of the Gospel for 2 decades in India and another 2 in Surinam.

The last time I talked to him was probably 20 years ago.  We were sitting in the shade on a pile of rocks and I was complaining to him that I had been given a job that was beyond me, nothing was working out like I had hoped, and I couldn’t see what good it all would do in the end. 

“Let me tell you a story,” he said.  “During much of my life in India I felt just like you do now.  But last year, this time, my kids arranged a return trip to visit the village where we had worked and God let me see what he had been up to.

“You know I grew up as a dry-land wheat farmer in Saskatchewan, but from my youth I felt that God had set me aside as one of those who were to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  I signed up as a missionary, and I was sent to a completely unreached village in India.  My mission leadership decided that the best way to use my skills to make contact and to establish trust in the village was to establish a sustainable agricultural project.  So there I was, teaching Indian farmers how to grow wheat.  That’s NOT what I had signed up for!  I wanted to be an evangelist. 

“During our second term, our mission decided that we needed to start a clinic and a school for orphans.  Since I was the only member of our team who knew which end of a hammer to hold, I was put in charge of construction, overseeing a crew of Indian builders.  AGAIN, not what I had signed up for.  I wanted to be an evangelist.

“Our third term, it was decided that my wife and I should be dorm parents to the boy students at the school.  So there we were, cooking, housekeeping, doing laundry for 20 boys.  We poured our hearts into them, but what I really wanted was to be an evangelist.  So I requested a transfer and they sent me to Surinam where I was put in charge of rebuilding a tumbled-down Bible camp. 

“Now, 20 years later, thanks to my kids, I got to go back for a visit and I understand what was going on.  There is drought in the area where we worked, but, thanks to the dry-land farming methods I taught them, our village farmers know how to deal with it – so they have food to eat and surplus to sell.  Plentiful food and basic medical care bring crowds of people from other towns to our town every day.  Our village is known as a Christian village, and those farmers and builders I worked with are the heart of the Christian community.  And the orphan boys?  They have grown up to be leaders of that community and they’re out evangelizing in the market place every day.  The whole time I was there fretting and complaining, I never saw it coming!”

And then Uncle Milton laid this piece of unfathomable wisdom on me.  “Duane,” he said, “Take it from me: You have no idea what God is planning to accomplish through the mess that you’re in now.”  He was right, you know. 

mess_banner

God is planning to accomplish something for His glory, through whatever “mess” we may find ourselves in right now.

What’s your method?

Truc’ is one of those all-purpose words in French.  It means a thing, an object, or just whatever it is you can’t think of the name for.  If you are at the hardware store and you’re looking at a piece of electrical equipment, but can’t remember the exact word in French, you can simply ask how this ‘truc’ works.

20180628_093648.jpgI have found it helpful to have a ‘truc’; some ‘thing’ that provides me a way to keep working on my language ability.  It’s a small notebook where I write down any new word or phrase that I hear, its definition and perhaps a simple example of how to use it in a conversation. The purpose of the little notebook is for me to keep learning so that there will be clarity in the Gospel message I share with French people.

It’s a method or technique that works for me.  It may not work for you.  However, you may have other ways, a ‘truc’ that has helped you in ongoing language learning. We would love to hear what that might be.