Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

There’s nothing like holidays overseas to make you feel isolated, creepy and angry. It’s weird that no one on your team does them the same way you do (“What do you mean you eat cranberry sauce out of a can?”). I remember my first Thanksgiving at Krista’s family’s house when I discovered they were about to throw away the dark meat of the turkey. They insist it was a joke but I was pretty scared for a minute.

These feelings are intensified overseas, and the next five weeks--Thanksgiving through New Year’s—can be the most difficult part of a stint year. You are experiencing culture shock, miss your family, and your team seems suddenly to represent another culture, too… a culture that opens gifts on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

Then you start looking at the culture. They think it’s bizarre that you celebrate a day of thankfulness by gorging yourself on over-sized birds and cranberries and smashed potatoes. They don’t understand why you want Christmas Day off from your classes. They don’t see why missing your family on this Thursday is different from any other day of the year. You feel out of place, out of sorts and out of strength.

Here’s a scripture I hope will encourage you:

“…they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country which they had left they would have had opportunity to return. Instead they were looking forward to a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Remember, you are not only a stranger to this culture you are living in now, but to the culture of the entire world. A day is coming when you can be “home” at last, when you will be with the Most Beloved One, in his home, celebrating every holyday together with him. In that day we won’t feel alone anymore, won’t be worn out from life in this world and won’t find ourselves adrift and without hope ever again.

So, take a break here and there, make sure you are rested. Give your family and friends a call for the holidays. But don’t forget that you are a stranger where you are in the same way that you would be a stranger in the United States… you are a citizen of a greater kingdom, the Heavenly one. In the meantime, celebrate with your teammates or other believers; that’s a pretty good preview of the New Jerusalem to come.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Homothumadon: Jesus, Fired up!

Acts 4 is a great scene in the early church.  In the chapter prior, Peter & John were on the way to pray and end up healing a 40-year old crippled beggar.   Peter turns it into and evangelistic event so the Sadducees arrested them but the number of believers blossomed to about 5000.   So Peter & John are brought before the high priest and his whole family.  Peter filled with the Holy Spirit gives a rocking testimony of who did the real healing – Jesus: the one you crucified but rose again, the rejected stone that is now the Cornerstone, and the only one under heaven of whom salvation is found.   They threatened them and tell them to stop speaking in Jesus’ name and of course the P & J have now of that, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God for we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."

But the part that intrigues me is what happens when P & J go back to their team and give a report.  Luke writes that when the church heard this “they raised their voices together in prayer to God.”  The prayer is an awesome one of acknowledging that our Lord and Creator is calling the shots.  And the supplication is simply for God to consider the threats and enable them, His servants, to speak the gospel with great boldness and to continue to display His power through

 the name of Jesus.

The Greek word that is translated here in the NIV ‘together’ is homothumadon.  It shows up several places in Acts: the 120 were gathered in homothumadon Acts 1:14; after Pentecost the 3000 continued daily homothumadon in the temple and homes – Acts 2:46; the church ; used to met homothumadon in Solomon’s Portico – Acts 5:12; and the council homothumadon choose some men to send with Paul & Barnabas to Gentile believers – Acts 15:25.

Eugene Peterson writes that “of one mind” or “together” or “of one accord” all seems too tame.  Homothumadon is a compound word.  Homo means the same.  The don on the end signifies that it’s an adverb.   But the middle thumas is a word surging with energy.  By itself it means ‘flying off the handle’, ‘losing your temper’, ‘going ballistic’.  In the context of this movement of young believers there is nothing negative in it, no malice, no revenge, no violence.  Instead the energy is love, peace, community, unity, with one voice, a oneness in spirit and purpose.  It’s a unanimous response of a large group of individuals with different gifts and ideas from the soul based on what God has done and who He is.  It’s not just some byproduct of playing nice or walking through steps of resolving conflict.  It’s a holy passion.  It’s the fire of the Spirit.  It’s Jesus, fired up!

In Acts 4, when threatened the early church could have cowered in fear or just decided to be nice little compliant Christians content with their holy huddle.  Come on 5000!  That’s a lot to be satisfied with why rock the boat?  Instead there is this wonderful powerful harmony, this homothumadon fueled by the fire of the Holy Spirit that calls them to cry out in one voice that God rules and to plead with Him not to take away the threat but it give them as His servants boldness and power to declare and display the gospel in the midst of the persecution.    They didn’t resort to trying to overthrow the status quo.  They didn’t grumble.  They didn’t loose heart.  They didn’t cower.  They humbly asked that the gospel not be tamed because God cannot be tamed. 

That’s what unity is.  That’s the kind of power the world has rarely seen. That’s a power that launches transformational movements that can’t be stopped.  That’s what being united in spirit and purpose can do.  That’s Jesus, fired up!

Monday, November 17, 2008


One of the hardest things for me to deal with on STINT was when someone totally ripped me off. A few of you may have heard my story about the Overpriced Potato that caused me to go insanely off my rocker and yell at an entire market full of people that I was being unfairly treated.

Here's a little news item that caught my attention: A couple on vacation in India was charged TWO HUNDRED bucks for some street food.

In other news, Mmmmmmm, samosas!

How about you guys? And good rip-off stories this year?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lessons from the Wild I (Devotion)

The Wildebeest (or Gnu) is one strange animal.  It's really an antelope with an ox-like head.  But two crazy traits  stand-out as lessons to us.  

One is that in the dry seasons millions of wildebeests will travel hundreds of miles in search of grass & water. They can cover 30 miles in a day.  They often travel with zebras and gazelles following rain clouds and lightening in the distance knowing that the clouds will lead them to the water & green pasture.

This reminds me of the Children of Israel in the desert who were depend on God leading them with a cloud by day and fire at night.  Nehemiah writes that it was out  of God's great compassion that God lead them providing manna and water for them.  And that God sustained them in such miraculous fashion that their clothes didn't even wear out in 40 years of camping out.

For a generation, they knew that when the cloud of God's glory would come down that they were to pitch camp.  His glory would come down over the Tabernacle tent.  Later, when the temple was built by Solomon, God's glory again came down in a cloud.  And one day our Messiah will come again on clouds.   

The other interesting thing about wildebeests is that the males will do something that no other antelope does.  When hunted, they will stay behind the group or even stumble to act hurt to get the attention of a hungry lion or laughing hyena.  While the male wildebeests fain injury, the rest of the group has time to run to safety.

Jesus said that there was no greater love than laying down your life for your friends.  When know that verse.  We like that verse.  What we may forget (or just don't like) is that verse is sandwiched in between these two Jesus' statements.  "This is my command: Love each other as I have loved you" and "You are my friends if you do what I command."

Jesus calls us  to live and love like Him.  That great love, that amazing love, that sacrificial love for others is what separates those of us who just say they know Jesus and those who experience a friendship with the Savior.

Two crazy wildebeests traits.  One is an act of dependence trusting Him for our daily bread.  Looking for Him to show up and guide us.  To dwell with us.  To come to us and to come for us.  The other is a call to a life of sacrifice, out of love to lay it all down.  To consider others more important than ourselves.

Who gnu?

Mid-Year Madness

Espana ~  Here are the bare minimum facts for the Spain Midyear for Namestan, Eastern Europe/Russia & Western Europe:

Thailand ~ This is for those serving in East Asia, Thailand & Japan.  
  • January 14th - 20th
  • Place:  Central Duangtawan Hotel , in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 
  •  You should arrive by 6 pm on the 14th of January, 2009.  
  • Everyone is free to leave anytime on January 20th.  
  •  The CRS for this midyear is up so please go here to register for the conference.  We need you to register by Dec. 15th.

If you have questions about either Mid-year, first contact your regional STINT Coordinator or WSN Director.