Behold! The Lamb of God! [a podcast]

This message was recorded at the International Christian Assembly in Phnom Penh, September 15, 2019: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

You can click the above link to listen, or find the message (in a day or two) on the trotters41 podcast on iTunes. Thanks so much, and may God bless!

See the “Arrivals” video below, along with the da Vinci painting referenced, along with the two songs referenced.

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Songs:

 

 

You Are Loved

by Elizabeth

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“You are loved with an everlasting love — that’s what the Bible says — and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

I recorded this Elisabeth Elliot quote in my journal a few months ago. Like many people, I have a complicated relationship with Elisabeth Elliot, but this message is pure gold.

It all started with a kitchen table conversation. Jonathan Trotter had been reminiscing about his childhood, the way he and his family would pause their studies each morning to grab a snack and listen to Elisabeth Elliot’s 15-minute radio show.

Every show ended with this statement of truth and grace. I sat at the kitchen table dumbfounded. I had never heard that statement before. I certainly didn’t know she spoke it over her listeners every single day.

She was saying this in an era when, in some religious circles at least, not a whole lot of God’s love was being preached. And it especially wasn’t being preached (at least in most of my childhood churches) that the reason we dare to believe in God’s love was because the BIBLE.

The next day at church the preacher talked about God’s everlasting love, and I took note.

At a special worship service later that week, we sang these words from Hillsong:

“I’ll sing to You Lord a hymn of love
For Your faithfulness to me.
I’m carried in everlasting arms,
You’ll never let me go, through it all.”

More everlasting arms. And more recordings in my journal.

Then last week I dropped my kids off for VBS, and when I came back to pick them up, all the kids were singing:

“What have I to dread, what have I to fear
Leaning on the everlasting arms?

I have blessed peace with my Lord so near
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms,
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.”

It was a song I sang a lot in my childhood, and though it’s a fun song, I didn’t have any particular fondness for it at the time. But it didn’t take a genius to recognize the pattern here.

When God speaks, He tends to repeat himself — or echo Himself as my husband likes to say. Over the last few months I’ve heard a lot of echos of God’s everlasting love, and I want to pass them on to you.

I don’t think I can say it any better than E.E., so remember:

“You are loved with an everlasting love — that’s what the Bible says — and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

For All the Things That Never Should Have Happened

by Elizabeth

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What’s to be done about all the things that “never should have happened”?

I look at my life, and I look at the lives of the people I love, and I think about all the things that really never should have happened.

Things I never should have done, whether mistakenly or naively or even willfully. Things that never should have been done to me, whether accidentally or willfully. And things that never should have happened to the people I love most — never ever, not even in a million years.

Sometimes I replay these things over and over in my mind and think, “if only.” If only, if only, if only. If only that thing or that series of things had never happened. Then life would be better. It would be more full of joy and less full of pain.

I sit and wish I could go back in time, back before that event, before that pain, and I wish I could change what happened, either for me or for the people I love.

Sometimes I think about the “never should have beens” TOO frequently.

Because I cannot go back and change what happened. No one can. It’s no use wishing for a different past or a different present. It won’t ever happen.

But sometimes, the thing that happened is so terrible, so dreadful, that I honestly don’t know how we can move on. What then? What do we do then?

I sat with this question this week, and here is the place I landed: CHRIST.

The only thing I know to do, amidst senseless and brutal suffering, is look to Christ. This is why we need Christ — for all the millions and billions of things that “never should have happened.”

This was the very purpose for which Christ was sent into our world. He is here today, with us and in us, precisely for the things that never should have happened. Yes, even when those choices were made and those actions were committed by Christ followers. Christ is here for ALL these things.

Maybe you don’t have any nagging questions about God’s goodness or why God let something happen to you. Maybe you never kick yourself for what you have done in the past.

But maybe sometimes you, like me, loop around all the “what ifs” and “if onlys” and “never should have happeneds.”

When I think of these unanswered and unanswerable questions, I’m reminded of some of the parting words in C.S. Lewis’s “Till We Have Faces.” The main character Orual is so like me, so prone to bitterness, so prone to questioning. But then she has an encounter with the Divine and responds:

“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.
You are yourself the answer.
Before your face questions die away.
What other answer would suffice?”

I’m reminded of Job’s response to the Lord near the end of their very long conversation, and I’m reminded of the disciples’ confession in John 16:30:

“Now we understand that You know everything, and there’s no need to question You.”

I don’t know what these questions and regrets looks like in your life right now. I don’t even know what they are going to look like in my life, moving forward.

All I know is that as I sat with the anguish and with the questions this week, that I knew, all over again, that Christ would be the antidote to the poison. That He would be the answer. For me and for the people I love.

Because we all need Christ for the “never should have beens.” No matter who did them.

And in the end, after all our questions and maybe even in the middle of all our questions, I pray we will be able to proclaim along with the modern hymn:

“Christ is enough for me.
Christ is enough for me.
Everything I need is in You.
Everything I need.”

Amen, and amen.

(originally posted on FB)

A Book is Born: Serving Well is now available!

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Elizabeth and I are thrilled to introduce you to our new book, Serving Well. It is our deepest hope that this 400+ page book will encourage and equip cross-cultural folks through the various seasons of life and ministry.

It’s available in print and Kindle version here. Our publisher is also selling the book with a 20% discount here.

You can read the Serving Well press release (with book excerpt) here.

 

From the Back Cover
Are you dreaming of working abroad? Imagining serving God in another land? Or are you already on the field, unsure about what to do next or how to manage the stresses of cross-cultural life? Or perhaps you’ve been on the field a while now, and you’re weary, maybe so weary that you wonder how much longer you can keep going.

If any of these situations describes you, there is hope inside this book. You’ll find steps you can take to prepare for the field, as well as ways to find strength and renewal if you’re already there. From the beginning to the end of the cross-cultural journey, Serving Well has something for you.

 

Early Reviews for Serving Well
Serving Well is an important voice in the search for honest, experienced conversation on living and working cross-culturally in a healthy and sustainable way. Dig in!”
– Michael Pollock, Executive Director, Interaction International and co-author of Third Culture Kids

Serving Well is more than a book to sit down and read once. It is a tool box to return to over and over, a companion for dark and confusing days, and a guide for effective and long-lasting service. Elizabeth and Jonathan are the real deal and Serving Well, like the Trotters, is wise, compassionate, vulnerable, and honest. This needs to be on the shelves of everyone involved in international, faith-based ministry.”
– Rachel Pieh Jones, author of Finding Home: Third Culture Kids in the World, and Stronger Than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa

Serving Well is a must-read book for missionaries and for those who love them. This is a book you really need if you are ‘called to go, or called to let go.’ In Serving Well we read both the spiritual and practical, simple and profound, funny and compelling in chapters written by Elizabeth and then Jonathan Trotter; hearing from each their voices and their hearts, the struggles and the victories, ‘the bad days and the good days’ of preparing to go and serving well overseas. Their down-to-earth yet godly insights were born from living overseas and from authentically wrestling with the ‘yays and yucks’ of missionary life. They draw wisdom from both Scripture and sci-fi authors, Psalms and funny YouTube videos, encounters with Jesus and encounters with cops looking for a bribe. Take two books with you to the mission field: the Bible, and Serving Well.”
– Mark R. Avers, Barnabas International

Serving Well is deep and rich, covering all aspects of an international life of service from multiple angles. It is full of comfort, challenge, and good advice for anyone who serves abroad, or has ever thought about it, no matter where they find themselves in their journeys. It is also really helpful reading for anyone who has loved ones, friends or family, serving abroad–or returning, to visit or repatriate. Jonathan and Elizabeth Trotter are both insightful and empathetic writers, full of humility and quick to extend grace–both to themselves and to others. Their writing covers sorrow and joy, hope and crisis, weariness and determination. Best of all, from my perspective as someone who has worked with TCKs for over 13 years, it contains an excellent collection of important advice on the topic of raising missionary kids. Choose particular topics, or slowly meander through the entire volume piece by piece, but whatever you do–read this book!”
– Tanya Crossman, cross cultural consultant and author of Misunderstood: The Impact of Growing Up Overseas in the 21st Century

“Overseas workers face a barrage of junk when they arrive on their field location: identity issues, fear/anxiety issues, and faith issues. I have worked with missionaries for well over a decade now and see how these common themes cry out for a grace-filled approach to truth and authenticity. The Trotters live this out loud, intentionally seeking a way to minister out of their own pain, striving, humor, and failure. Keep this reference close at hand!”
– Jeannie Hartsfield, Clinical Counselor, Global Member Care Coordinator, World Team

“This book is the definitive guide to thriving in cross-cultural ministry. The Trotters have distilled years of experience into pithy chapters filled with helpful tips and wise insights. Put it on your must-read list.”
– Craig Greenfield, Founder, Alongsiders International, author of Subversive Jesus

“In this must-read missions book, Jonathan and Elizabeth unearth the underlying motivations of the cross-cultural call. Penned with copious compassion and startling transparency, Serving Well is sure to make you laugh, cry, and, in the end, rejoice as you partner with God in His global missions mandate.”
– David Joannes, author of The Mind of a Missionary

 

 

Ash Wednesday & Resurrection

by Elizabeth

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I went to Ash Wednesday service this week expecting to meet God. I always do — in unexpected ways. I can never predict the moment God will show up and the tears will fall. The part of the liturgy that touched me the year before inevitably feels dry to me a year later.

But I’ve done this enough that I know God will show up. Even if we are more than halfway through the service and I haven’t encountered Him yet, I know He will draw near to me.

That night I experienced several of these moments. The imposition of ashes, of course, when we remembered that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. When we sang “Lord Have Mercy.” When we begged God repeatedly, “Holy Lord, hear our prayer.”

And when we sang the first verse of “Jesus Paid It All”: I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness, watch and pray, find in me thine all in all.” Because I know my strength is small, and I am weak without Him.

But most of all for me that night, was the moment in the middle of a worship song whose name I can’t remember, that God reminded me of Galatians 5:7-8. On Tuesday and Wednesday I had a deep, dark flare of anxiety and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I had been doing so well, and the intensity of this relapse surprised and frightened me.

So I turned to the text. Here it is in the New Living Translation:

“You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom.”

And here are verses 1-3 in The Message:

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.”

[I love Paul. The way I love Paul borders on the ridiculous.]

I was discouraged because I had been running the race so well. The days had been good, and I was full of joy. And then what happened? It was like all of that goodness and grace just disappeared, poured right down the drain.

In case you don’t know what anxiety or OCD feels like, it certainly feels like a harness of slavery. And OCD is a definite rule-keeping system. I don’t want to trade my free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law.

So what is holding me back when I relapse? Maybe it’s the brokenness of my own brain, or the forces of evil in the spiritual realms. Maybe it’s living in a fallen and unpredictable world. Maybe it’s some aspect of soul care or body care that I’ve neglected. Maybe it’s all of it together. Maybe I’ll never know.

But this one thing I know: it’s not God. God is the One calling me to freedom. He’s not the One holding me back or “hindering” me, as the ESV puts it. The Message tells us: “This detour doesn’t come from the One who called you into the race in the first place.”  No, the God who called me didn’t design that detour. What He wants to give is life full and free, satisfying and abundant.

And that freedom was what I had on Thursday — because I went to Church the night before. That’s not all I did, of course. Before that I had gone back to bed to cry extra hard. That wore me out so much I needed a nap. Then in an effort to manage the anxiety, I exercised as hard as I could. After that I went to church, where I smiled and made sweet small talk with people, because I knew the good stuff was coming when I entered that sanctuary.

I wasn’t ok, and I knew it, and I needed God to sit with me in the mess. And meet me He did, through the words of Paul and the words of the hymns and the words of the liturgy.

Because a relapse is not the end of the story. That’s what I tell girls struggling through eating disorders, and it’s what I needed to be reminded of last night. A relapse doesn’t mean that no healing has happened. It doesn’t mean that recovery is over. It actually means lots of progress has been made; a relapse wouldn’t feel so awful if you hadn’t been making forward movement.

So I relapsed. But I didn’t have to stay in that relapse, spiraling downward and feeling sorry for myself. I could start making good choices again, and I could listen to God when He spoke, and I could let Him encourage my heart.

I am a person in need of deep mercy from God, and so are you. So are we all, for we are all formed from dust. Our Maker knows we are dust, for He is the one who made us and breathed His life into us.

But dust, like relapse, is not the end of the story: for we are a Resurrection people, both now and forevermore. Amen.

 

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When the Thief Steals {A Life Overseas}

by Jonathan

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ Jesus

Thieves steal. Sometimes the impact is NOW; you know it immediately and you feel it deeply. Other times, it takes some time; the bomb’s on a delay. And then it blows and you begin to realize all that was taken. All the time lost, the lives shattered, the relationships fractured. It feels like the wind gets knocked right out of you and you can’t even tell if the crater in your soul feels like anger or sadness or some other concoction of pain. But it’s definitely pain.

Sometimes the thief steals stuff, but often it’s more. Much more.

Maybe the thief looked like a robber on the back of a moto, or a home invader. Maybe the thief was a corrupt government, stealing freedom, opportunities, and futures. Maybe the thief was a cruel family member, or someone from your church or mission, a “friend.”

Whoever they were, they stole, they destroyed, and they killed. Or at least they tried.

Continue reading at A Life Overseas

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