• 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!

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. 


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.

Watch your language

My mother used to tell my brothers and I, “Watch your language”, whenever a word thatWatch-your-language-1868661-ralphiesoap_super came out of our mouths that was not helpful or something said that would not build up others.  She didn’t primarily use that phrase because of bad language, but because of unhelpful or damaging language we were using.

When we live and minister among another people group other than our own, we need to ‘watch over our language’.  What I mean is we cannot accept a ‘global understanding’ of another’s language.  We should not settle for just passable language acquisition.

The apostle Paul writes in the context of our teaching and disciping: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29).  We are to ‘work hard’ as an athlete does in all our efforts and work, including language acquisition.

When do not make this effort, we create a context where the Gospel message might be truncated; where our ‘language’ potentially ends up hindering the clear communication of the Gospel message in another cultural context.

Many of us have experienced a similar situation when we talk with someone from another culture who is trying to speak in our mother tongue.  If that person’s language skills are just okay, we find ourselves struggling to understand the real content of their ‘message’.  It feels like we are missing something, and we end up using reductionist language in order to continue the conversation.

Two principles should guide us as we seek to ‘communicate well’ with others.

First, remember that language acquisition is a lifelong project.  I still remember learning the word for ‘apple core’ while running with my teammate, David. He saw an apple core on the ground, turned to me and said “Do you know the word for that in French?”  I didn’t, but I learned it that day.  And I had already been in France for over seven years.

Second, regularly ask others for help.  If language acquisition is a lifelong project, then we should not slow down the learning process.  When your teammate, your national co-worker, or another friend encourages you to speak more in the national language, your language ability and your capacity to share the good news will grow and deepen.

The ‘long arm’ of God

touch-of-God-gives-life-to-the-soul-400x320I have always been fascinated by the verse in Isaiah: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear” (59:1).  It’s a poetic way of stating that God is not limited, in any way, from doing what pleases Him.  What delights Him most is when His creation attributes glory to Him.  As the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it: “And in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power and glory to him.”  God’s desire is that in everything we do, we bring glory to Him (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Here’s the rub: despite our best intentions something often stands in our way from turning all praise back to God.  The prophet Isaiah goes on to say in the following verse: “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and you sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (59:2)  It’s our inability to do what we know we should do. It’s the separation we experience when we know we have brought shame upon our Father.

Yet, we often ‘plough on’, believing that the weight of the good things we will do for God will compensate for our warped heart motivation.  We don’t stop to consider what might be ‘going wrong’ in our hearts.

The extraordinarily good news is that Jesus broke down that ‘wall of separation’ and restored us to live in community with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Father ‘delighted in bruising His Son’ so that His glory now covers us in robes of righteousness, giving us access into God’s presence.  The ‘long arm’ of God has reached down, and reaches down again each day to draw us back to Himself: to experience His forgiveness and to give us a heart to offer back to Him our thanks and praise.

Earlier this year, I ‘gifted’ the World Team Global community the challenge of impacting two unreached people groups this year in some significant way. We have had good conversations so far about who those people groups might be.  However, prayer is our first, and continual, step in this process.  Join me the 7th of June at 15h00 Paris time!


Join me for five (5) minutes for a ‘worldwide concert of prayer’ this coming Thursday at 15h00 Paris time. Wherever you might be at that time, would you stop and simply pray:

God, show us what people groups, among whom we currently work, that You long for World Team to impact this year?

Spread the word to others that they might join us for 5!

Gifting the challenge – HOW?

One of the other questions that has come up when talking about the ‘Gifting a Challenge’ project is: how are we going to identify the two people groups on which to focus and the indicators for determining impacthow bis

It’s a great question.

In the first series of online forums, we asked two questions:

  • Which one or two UPGs (that WT is working with) would you suggest we focus on and the reasons why?
  • What 5 markers would demonstrate concretely the impact of our efforts among those one or two people groups?

What I found interesting was that there a fair amount of convergence in the answers given to these questions.  Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised since it’s something many have been praying about for some time.

The HOW, I believe, is discovered by gathering people from the WT Global community to enter into conversation with one another and asking the Lord to lead us as we talk.

We need you to work this process further.  I hope you’ll join us on one of the next online forums.

Information on times and the link will be sent soon.