Ready for the Storm

Yesterday morning a tropical storm warning was issued for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and by the early afternoon it was changed to a hurricane watch. Right now this isn’t too serious since if a hurricane hits it would be a category one which just means lots of rain and wind. However that doesn’t mean you don’t prepare for the worst.

By now I’ve been through enough tropical storms to know how to prepare for them:

  1. Set aside as much water as possible because thats usually the first thing that’s turned off
  2. Get enough food for at least a few days
  3. Keep your phone almost fully charged at all times and flashlights nearby [there will be a power outage]
  4. And be prepared to spend a few days mostly at home

The truth is things like this tropical storm don’t worry me too much because there is time to prepare for it. The storms that you should worry about are the ones that come without warning.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had a very heavy storm (it would probably be referred to as a tropical storm) shortly after Christmas in 2010. If I understand correctly, the storm came the day after Christmas without warning. Many people were celebrating with friends at the sea, or in town so when the storm came it caught everyone by surprise. Though property damage was done, the greatest effect was people didn’t have the necessary food, or water for days.

This led people to begin taking storm preparation seriously. They will catch rain water, fill barrels with tap water ahead of time, and make sure that extra food like canned goods is set aside. While experiencing my first tropical storm around four years ago, I was told to fill up buckets with water by seven or eight people!

If only being prepared for the trials and temptations of life would be that easy…..

while being prepared for a physical storm is quite simple, the spiritual storms of life take much more than a barrel of water, and some canned goods.

We’ve all experienced the unexpected storm that attacks us out of nowhere.

That unexpected phone call….

That extra expense you don’t have money for…

That strong relationship that is suddenly broken…

While we can’t prepare for everything, the good news is that we CAN be prepared for the storms one life! This is done not by relying on ourselves, but abiding in Christ.

Paul in Colossians 2:4-7 encourages the Believers to remain firmly planted in the Lord

Col. 2:4   And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 

Though the immediate context is about guarding against false doctrine, it can also be applied to a life of faithfulness to Christ. Being rooted or stablished (firm) in Him means to stay as close as possible to the Lord, spending as much time as we can in Him.

So those who remain close to Christ grow to be strong oak trees while those who rely on themselves are small weak saplings. We therefore must be close to the Lord NOW so that we are ready for what comes

Life has a way of revealing who is an oak tree and who is a sapling. May we prepare ourselves for the storms that come without warning, and stand firm while others are blown away by the wind.

The Boring Parts of Missions

At around 8:00 every morning I walk through the village of Barrouallie, and hand out tracts.

I am very grateful for this opportunity and enjoy it. But often it is (dare I say it?)…boring.

Missionary presentations at Churches, prayer letters, and some social media posts make it seem as if missions is one exciting adventure or praise after another.

I don’t believe missionaries do this on purpose (there’s only so much info you can put in your updates) but it can create a flawed view of ministry.

taken to it’s extreme this view will create missionaries who are always seeking the adventure or exciting ministry opportunity that would look great in their latest prayer letter. But truthfully much of missions is filled with experiences that aren’t exciting at all.

  1. like taking people to and from the doctor
  2. Spending the day in town looking for a particular item
  3. Fixing things that are broken (because you cannot get a new one)
  4. or doing daily jobs like cooking, driving, cleaning, and washing clothes,

There are times when the Lord allows me to share the Gospel during my morning walks, but its usually spent just greeting people and passing out tracts.

and thats okay…..

Because integrity isn’t developed by the mountaintop experiences of missions. Instead it’s built up slowly as the day to day ministry habits are repeated for years at a time.

This morning while walking home a man stopped me and asked whether Jesus was made by Josephs sperm. I was able to spend some time explaining Christ came by God instead of Joesph, and why it was important. If Jesus was born by Joseph, then He was just another man. If He was born by God, then Jesus was God.

It was a great reminder that if we are faithful in the boring moments of life, God will bring the exciting moments eventually.

The Place for Partners

As a child, Saturday morning always meant doing some extra chores or jobs around the house. But before those started I was able to sit down, and with a large bowl of cereal watch “Saturday morning wrestling.”

Some of my favorite matches were tag-team matches which always went the same way

  1. The good guys “or babyfaces” would start by beating up the bad guys “or heels” until the bad guys got an advantage (usually by cheating)
  2. The bad guys would then beat down one of the good guys and keep him from tagging in his partner
  3. After almost (but not quite) tagging in his partner a few times, the good guy would finally tag him in, and the partner would proceed to beat up the bad guys (commonly called a “hot-tag”)

The idea of tag-team wrestling and “partners” has been on my mind for the last two-weeks because I’ve been preaching on Joshua 9:23-27 where the Jews were tricked into partnering with people living within the land of Canaan. By the time they realized it was a trick the partnership had already been made, and couldn’t be broken (Joshua 9:7-27).

Studying this passage reminded me that while partners (those who will stand with us) are necessary in ministry, we must choose them very carefully

Occasionally in wrestling they will split up a tag-team for some reason. This is usually done through what’s referred to as a “heel-turn”.

As the beaten down good guy starts to struggle towards his corner the crowd begins to cheer in expectation of a “hot tag.” His fresh partner holds his arm out excitedly urging the wrestler on till pulling his hand back at the last moment.

Cue the look of disbelief on his partners face….and the booing of the crowd.

Sadly each of us have had moments of reaching our hand out for that partner only to find nobody there.

The answer isn’t to isolate ourselves and live the Christian life on our own (you can’t anyway)….but to seek Godly partners who are always ready to be tagged in.

Missions Must Have Systematic Theology

Most mornings after devotions I work on notes for a Systematic Theology One class that should be taught in early 2019.

I’m honored that the Lord has allowed me to do this because in my mind a strong grasp of Systematic Theology is one of the greatest needs on the mission field 

This doesn’t mean Vincentian Believers don’t know God’s truth (they do!) but the Great Commission calls us to teach others also.  

Systematic Theology (or theology that’s organized) equips Believers so that they can do and disciple others

  1. By seeing how truth fits into a larger subject (like the character of God)
  2. By having a deeper understanding of that truth 
  3. By knowing how to answer false doctrine or questions about those truths
  4. By being able to explain the truth itself in great detail to others 
  5. And by growing in their knowledge of that truth 

It’s true that Systematic Theology isn’t the most interesting thing in the world or easy to understand.  Thinking through arguments in support Calvinist or Arminian views of God’s providential control when it comes to evil isn’t exactly light reading.  However, it’s worth the effort if I can help Believers understand how a Holy God can allow evil.

Oh it would be easier to continue a ministry of preaching (which I love to do) that applies God’s truth to the challenges of daily life.  But eventually we must embrace a teaching ministry that allows our Church members to find the “steak and potatoes” in a Bible passage instead of just “baby food”

The Curse of a Safe Mission Field

By now most of you have heard about John Allen Chau, a Christian who attempted to evangelize the Sentineleze people with the Gospel, but was martyred.

Much has been written about his actions (I personally feel not going with a team or doing proper planning was a mistake) but the coverage of his death reveals an interesting truth.

Our mission fields have become safe 

In early days of missions, there was a danger whenever a missionary traveled to the field:

  1.  There was a great possibility of dying on the long journey by sea to the field
  2. There often wasn’t a possibility of furlough…missionaries were known to bring their caskets with them on the first voyage
  3. The people wouldn’t be as open to the Gospel 
  4. And without modern medicine many died on the field because of sickness

Today however I can text my parents every morning, and live in a mission field where people love to read tracts!

Please understand I’m incredibly grateful for the advances that have made it easier to reach the lost with the Gospel.  But this also sometimes can make missions “too easy”

  • It’s easy to begin relying on our own wisdom or strength 
  • It’s easy to never really exercise faith
  • It’s easy to neglect the disciplines of daily Bible study and prayer 
  • It’s easy to stay where it’s “comfortable” ministry wise

The answer isn’t taking risks like John Chau did, but using our safe mission field for God’s glory by taking steps of faith as He leads. 

Because Missions is never meant to be safe.