The Questions of God, Hagar, and Genesis 16

Learning to ask good questions is a Christlike thing to do. Here’s a discussion about the questions God asked Hagar. These questions form the basis of my pastoral counseling ministry. Recorded at ICA, Phnom Penh Cambodia, November 2017.

Click here to listen to the mp3, or find this message on the trotters41 podcast here.

 

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The True Myths That Keep Me Coming Back to God {Velvet Ashes}

Elizabeth is over at Velvet Ashes today . . . 

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The word myth often conjures up the idea of epic fantasy tales or of commonly held beliefs that need debunking. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary defines myth as both “a fictitious or imaginary person or thing” and “a widely held but false belief or idea.”

The dictionary also defines myth as “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” The word derives from the Greek mythos which simply means “story.”

And that is what I think of when I think of myth: I think of story. I think of narrative. So when I use the word myth to describe the Bible, I’m not saying it’s not true – because I most certainly believe it is true. Rather, when I say the Bible is myth, I’m saying that it’s full of stories that infuse meaning into our lives and that it is, in actuality, one overarching Story.

The God of the Bible audaciously makes a world, joyfully populates it with creatures, and then willingly redeems those creatures from sin and death. This story is unlike any story humans have ever told. Indeed, the Bible’s uniqueness among world myths is one reason I believe it, love it, and base my life on it.

Finish reading here.

Communion as the intersection of all things

by Elizabeth

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I didn’t grow up with the Sacraments. Sacraments were for liturgical traditions, while I was a proud and happy member of Restoration Movement churches. I did, however, grow up with physical commemorations of spiritual truths — for that is what sacrament means. Of course, I didn’t know that back then.

I like to talk about these things when I get together with my friend Heidi, whose husband is an Anglican priest. When I asked her what sacrament means, this is what she told me:

 “The Anglican Book of Common Prayer uses this definition of sacrament: a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given to us. There’s also the pithy phrase ‘Matter matters.’ It relates to the way God comes to us through matter (water, the bread and wine, etc) and to His value of matter (our physical bodies themselves and all of creation are precious to him – not evil or something to be escaped as in Gnosticism).”

“Matter matters.” As someone who has been running away from her physical body since early adolescence, this was novel concept to me. But as I reflected on my spiritual history, I realized that my church tradition did observe two sacramental practices: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism celebrates our union with Christ through death, burial, and resurrection and is intended to occur once in a lifetime. The Lord’s Supper, on the other hand, is a regular occurrence and a reminder of how much we are loved. We are loved enough for Christ to pour out his very blood and allow his very body to be broken for us and for our eternal home.

(I like to designate corporate singing as a sacramental practice due to the fact that in singing we join the physical sound waves of our voices together to worship our Triune God and to declare spiritual truths over ourselves, but that’s another conversation entirely.)

Some people call it the Eucharist. I usually call it communion. Whatever its name, this meal of bread and wine is our feast of love. It is where we learn and remember our belovedness. It is where God speaks to us. It is where He calls us: every particle of every person in every place.

God communicates His call in every conceivable human language, for in His wisdom He created communion as the intersection of all things.

It is the intersection of the physical – bread and wine – with the spiritual – the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.

It is the intersection of the deeply personal – what Christ did for ME – and the incredibly communal – what Christ did for ALL of us.

It is the intersection of the Old Testament sacrifices and the new covenant where no more sacrifices are needed.

It is the intersection of the ancient and the far future as we look back to the Exodus and the Passover – the central story of the Old Testament – and eagerly await the wedding feast of the Lamb.

It is the intersection of the ordinary — a regularly repeated act — and the ceremonial — a special event.

It is the intersection of celebration – our God is victorious and we are free — and mourning – our God suffered and our sins caused it.

The Lord’s Supper is the intersection of the marriage invitation and the acceptance of His offer. It is the intersection of being chosen and the act of choosing back.

The Table brings together all human experiences. At the Table He speaks to each person’s particular history and particular language and particular longings. At the Table He places us in a community that will never end.

So come to the Table where there’s always room for more.

Take, eat: the Body of Christ, broken for you.

Take, drink: the Blood of Christ, shed for you.

Come to the Table and remember. Come to the Table and celebrate. Come to the Table where there’s always room for more.

 

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Five non-missiony books to help you live and minister across cultures

by Jonathan

These aren’t mission-y books. They’re not even about cross-cultural life or transition. Nevertheless, these books have been fundamental to my life (and sanity) abroad. In no particular order…

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, by Timothy Keller
Because if you didn’t have a good grasp on these concepts before moving, you’ll need to get one pretty quick after moving. I very much appreciate Keller’s deeply theological and yet tender writing in this book. Those two things do not often coexist, unfortunately.

Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller
This one makes the list because the basic story is known but the deeper message is typically missed. This book and the truths in it have the power to reshape our understanding of God’s character and of his view of us. In the world of cross-cultural ministry, God’s character and how he views us are pretty big deals. I recommend this one all.the.time.

The Psalms
I had to not-so-subtly sneak this in. Of course, this one is not co-equal to the others, but it’s often overlooked. I’ve written here and here about the importance of the Psalms in the lives of missionaries and cross-cultural workers.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero
There’s nothing wrong with being a pastor at a suburban, wealthy, primarily white church. But this guy isn’t one. So, although he writes from an American context, he also writes from a cross-cultural, multi-ethnic, church-centered context. I also love how he assumes that the majority of people are going to be truly transformed and discipled, not through professional counselling, but through consistent and loving relationships.

A Year with G.K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wonder, by Kevin Belmonte
Life is serious, the world is a mess, and we need the aged brilliance of Chesterton. His humor, his levity in the face of a world that was no-less troubled, his talk of fairies and mysteries and paradox, it’s all for our time. Get to know the author who pretty much gave the world C.S. Lewis. You’re welcome.

Welp, that’s it. Have a great day! Oh, and if you have a book that you’d add to this list, link to it in the comments section below. Thanks for dropping by!

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*Contains Amazon affiliate links

What Jesus Has to Say About Dealing With Rejection

by Elizabeth

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Rejection. I hate it. I hate the feeling. And I was feeling it again recently. In a major way. So I searched through my journals till I found an entry from over a year ago. It was the notes from a sermon Tim Krenz preached to the graduating seniors. The ideas helped me so much that I re-copied my notes into my current journal, and now I’m going to share them with you. It’s based out of the words of Jesus in Luke 10.

“Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.

“If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’”

Tim offered the graduates a handy little acronym for dealing with rejection: GRAD. It stands for:

GO

REMEMBER

ANTICIPATE

DETERMINE

Here’s how we can deal with the rejection we so much long to forget:

We GO out into the world like the disciples of long ago.

We REMEMBER who we are and what we have — God’s Word and God’s Spirit.

We ANTICIPATE rejection — whether it’s unfounded or not, we cannot avoid it.

Lastly, we DETERMINE ahead of time how we will respond: by shaking even the dust of that rejection off our feet. Even down to the last bit of dust, we will not carry it around with us, because we remember that even when man rejects us, God has not rejected us. We don’t call down fire from heaven on our rejectors like the Sons of Thunder wanted to do in the previous chapter (Luke 9:54). No, we do not take that rejection up: we shake, shake, shake it off.

 

You may also be interested in what I wrote about rejection a couple years ago.

How My Church Accidentally Taught Me About the Holy Spirit

by Elizabeth

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Last summer at a conference, the worship leader asked us to close our eyes and think back to the person who first told us about Jesus, to think back to the day we decided to follow Him and get baptized, and to try to remember the first person we wanted to tell afterwards. The exercise prompted a memory I hadn’t thought of in a long time. It was something I never articulated at the time but have definite memory of.

When I spoke with my parents about wanting to be baptized, mostly I verbalized the knowledge of my sin and the fear of hell. (I think most people verbalize those things in the beginning.) I knew I wanted forgiveness for my sins, yes, but I also had the distinct thought that I didn’t want to go back to public school that fall unless the Holy Spirit were living in me. I’m not sure why I wanted this because I wasn’t part of a church that preached the Holy Spirit. If anything, I was in a church that preached against the Holy Spirit.

But we were required to memorize Acts 2:38, and you cannot contain the very words of God, even when you try. Men may preach against the Holy Spirit, but men’s preaching can’t stop the Word of God from promising this to us: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” By that time the Word of God was deep in my heart from all that memorizing. I knew the Holy Spirit was supposed to be given to me, and I wanted that gift.

Nowadays it seems normal to speak of the Holy Spirit’s movement in my life. But once upon a time it seemed novel. And when that worship leader had us think back on our deciding-to-follow-Jesus moments, he in a very tangible way reframed my life. I began to see my Holy Spirit awakening, two decades later, through the seed of Acts 2:38.

All that hunger to know God more, to encounter God more, to hear God’s voice, it seemed so new and exciting at the time. Now I also see it as the flowering of a long-dormant seed. God placed a desire in my teenage heart that I didn’t understand at the time. I am so thankful that this Trinitarian God of ours continues to walk alongside me and teach me more of who He is.

 

*I treasure my church upbringing. It taught me reverence for the Scriptures and gave me facility with the main Story (and main stories) of the Bible. It instilled in me a love for worship through song and a deep appreciation for the institution of the Church. Though I have grown in my understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit, I will always be thankful for the churches of my childhood.