The Dutch Rush

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Category: Faith (page 2 of 3)

the cost of being used

“Let me tell you that the reading of Christian biographies often has filled me with discouragement because of the tendency to write as if the discouragements, struggles, frailties and weaknesses didn’t exist during a time of walking along the path, or stepping out on the stepping stone, where the Lord had clearly led. The criterion of being in the Lord’s will, and doing what He has unfolded, so often seemed to be spelled out as “sailing through.” …

…Never forget this…at any point in life, in a thousand different kinds of situations, the answer to prayer, “Use me, Lord, I want to be greatly used of Thee,” can be the hardest thing you have ever faced. It is the answer to prayer that brings exhaustion of a variety of kinds, and that brings a cost to be paid that almost smashes you, and me.

There is always a cost to being “used mightily for the Lord”, and there always was…the reality of having been used is not wiped out by the reluctant cost. We are in a battle, and winning a skirmish brings scars and sometimes deep wounds.

…Paul did not hide his difficulties but rather says, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered…” (2 Cor. 1:8) If he was under pressures far beyond his ability to endure, why are we so loath to mention pressures, whatever sort they may be? We do each other a terrible disservice if we end on a crescendo of glory and never mention the cost God’s servants have always had woven into their piece of the battle…”

-Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry

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things we owe our Christian children

For Christian parents, just thinking of what we should teach our children about God can seem overwhelming. Our duty might feel so daunting, that we may want to look the other way. We might not realize the opportunity we have, and how quickly it slips away.

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bringing beauty to places where it is not

Recently some new ideas on the value of beauty crossed my path. I was unprepared for how our trip to Albania would provide a living example of those ideas.

During this past school year, Alyssa and I read some interesting things about bringing beauty to dark places. I enjoyed the discussions that followed. We thought about the danger of pursuing beauty in our lives at the expense of other things that God might have for us.

Instead of accepting the [people] that God sends in the course of our lives, the devotee of beauty…cares to know only those people whose views of life are the same as his own.

-Charlotte Mason Vol. 4

It went on to describe how the person can become unable to be around things that are ugly, so he avoids places that are not beautiful to him. But the sadness rushes in when he misses out on the happiness that comes from the effort to bring beauty to dark and troubled places.

For happiness comes of effort, service, wide interests, and last and least, of enjoyment…

when people put enjoyment, even of beautiful things, in the first place…they miss the very thing they seek, and become enfeebled in body and fretful and discontented in temper.

-C. Mason

These things made an impression on us, not so much because we are constantly chasing after beautiful things, but because we began to notice where beauty was, and where it was not.

We must make it our business, as much as in us lies, to bring beauty to places where it is not.

– C. Mason

As most of you know, we have just returned from a trip to Albania to visit our missionaries. It was quite an adventure, and as we imagined, it gave us a more realistic perspective of what is happening over there.FullSizeRender (5)

It is difficult to adequately describe all that we were able to see and hear, but something stood out to me as we listened to the stories of what is happening with the people of that country.

Beauty.

There is beauty in that place of devastation. In those broken families, in the hurt and abused children, there are precious smiles. Sin and corruption abound, but the smiles and the pockets of beauty point to a God who is still there. God hasn’t abandoned that place and those people. They too are created in God’s image, and are just as precious to Him as any of us.

Albania is a beautiful country. Just gorgeous. If it had not recently come out of communism, with all of the mess that comes from such trying times, you would want it on your list of places to see.

It was the land of the paradox.

On many streets there were completely destroyed buildings, right up next to perfectly respectable looking homes.

There were bright smiles from girls who have been so badly abused in all the ways you can imagine, that one look at their glad faces can make you cry.

It could at least help us to re-evaluate the things that make us “sad”.

Across from respectable looking buildings, there was a “home” with a child and his mother. The home rivaled any I have visited in Mexico in regards to squalor and filth. They pay half of all their income to rent that broken down dump. I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture. It felt disrespectful.

On one corner, delicious gyros were sold, but on the other hand, the water can possibly make you sick.

In the middle of all of this beauty and ugliness…live our missionaries and their children. Life for them is not what it is for you and me. They choose to live and serve in a dark place.

Bad news is often right around the corner: Another child was found beaten. A new story of a young girl brutally attacked. These things are part of the pattern of daily life.

It is not easier for them than it would be for you and me. It is hard. Ugly. Painful. I imagine that it is difficult to see the beauty around them each day, when they are so busy trying to provide safety for these marginalized children that many refuse to help.

For this reason I was so glad and impressed to see that my friend had brought beauty to places where it was not.     FullSizeRender (2)

All of the beautiful flowers and plants, the color of her walls, the prints hung on those walls, they all speak to a determination.

There will be beauty in this place.

We know that in the end, beauty will triumph over ugliness, good will win over evil. God will finally beat the Devil once and for all.

It seemed that the invaluable part of what my friend is doing with her space is the precious message she is sending to her family: No matter what is outside of these walls, no matter the desolation and hurt, I will make a place for us to be at peace. Her family needs it, she and her husband need it.

I felt humbled and honored to see it.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.

-Isaiah 52:7

Michael’s Sermons

For observant readers, this post may seem pointless. But others may not have noticed that I now have links on the blog for Michael’s sermons. I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time, and I thought I’d tell you why.

It is an honor to be married to such a bold, yet caring preacher of God’s word. I’m so grateful to share this calling with him, and glad that God has allowed me to be a part of this work.

It takes tremendous courage to continue to preach God’s word faithfully, in the way God has revealed His Word to you, whether it’s popular or not.

I am able to see behind the scenes, so I know what goes into each Sunday morning. I can honestly say that God is real and powerful, and Michael is faithful and courageous. Some weeks it seems as if the Devil is throwing everything at us, and so what happens on Sunday morning in those times can feel miraculous.

There is no source of power for God’s people-for preaching, or teaching, or for anything else-except Christ Himself. Apart from Christ, anything which seems to be spiritual power is actually the power of the flesh.

-Francis Schaeffer

Sometimes I wish I could share with you all how God has come through and shown His power. Most of those stories aren’t mine to tell, but often through those stories I am reminded that God is truly here. He is in control of things whether we want to admit that or not.

It’s important to me to share these sermons with you. There are a lot of voices out there, begging you to listen to them. Many may be good speakers, but to me it seems that few care as much as Michael about making the Truth tangible, understandable, and relevant, while staying true to what the Bible is saying.

I’ve been reading about the Waldensians lately. They are a group of people who are credited with starting a pre-reformation in the thirteenth century. They loved their Bibles. They defended the faith heartily. Even after facing severe persecution, they became traveling peddlers, sharing the Truth with all who would listen.

“We have a precious stone, the Word of God. It is so brilliant that by it’s light a man may see God.”

-The Waldensians

These men reminded me of Michael. They had fierce determination, faithfulness and courage to preach God’s word passionately to any who would listen.

Sometimes, it is astounding to me that it is such a battle to share our faith.

It seems like it should be the simplest thing in the world. Of course, at times sharing our faith is simple, and I am grateful that Michael communicates the simplicity of the Gospel.

But what shocks me is the level of difficulty in convincing long time Christians that we are actually in a battle. It’s a terrible battle with millions of casualties. And Satan is actively fighting with everything he’s got.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

– Ephesians 6:12

It’s frighteningly easy to become relaxed and comfortable in our own little world.  We forget why we’re here. We avoid thinking about a battle.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

-1 Peter 5:8-9

I know how Michael wrestles with the responsibility of warning Christians that God isn’t playing around. When we choose Him, we choose Him entirely. At the expense of everything else. That can be uncomfortable. When we get to a certain place in life, we’d rather not rethink some things that we have come to hold dearly. We just want to leave things as they are. It’s easier that way.

What God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it.

-John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

While challenging life-long Christians who would sometimes rather not have new ideas, Michael also has the responsibility of showing how loving and caring God is to those who are just now coming to Him to repent of their sin. Balance is so difficult to achieve, but God knows what He is doing, and how to accomplish His purpose. He grants wisdom to those who seek it.

We are continuously praying that God would use these words that Michael speaks each week. I believe that God is answering that prayer, and I wanted to make these sermons available so others can also be encouraged and challenged.

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love and marriage

It’s tricky to not be very old, but sort of bossy, and to be talking/reading/thinking about marriage incessantly.

Sometimes I worry that I take the whole marriage thing a little too seriously.  But I am relieved when I read the Bible.  God takes it seriously too.

Michael has been preaching through Ephesians.  We are nearly to the marriage part in chapter 5.  It mentions that marriage gives us a picture of Christ and the Church.  If we’re honest, some marriages would turn people to Atheism in a heartbeat.

The good news is that through our very own marriages, we could share the gospel.  We can make an earthly relationship so glorious, that its comparison is spiritual.  It is meant to attract people to Christ!  That’s why the Bible teaches wives how to treat their husbands so they don’t malign the Word.  It’s kind of a big deal.

The implications are huge.  I like to do things that matter, and I love to multitask. It was great news to think that I could kill two birds with one marriage stone, so to speak.

Naturally, there is the benefit of being ridiculously happy together.  In addition, we show those around us (kids, friends, family, church, neighbors, random other people who stop by to say hi, chickens, the mailman, the UPS driver ) that people who are in love with each other are happy!  That we have something worth having.  It encourages others to work with what they have too.  It could make the gospel attractive to people who otherwise might not be interested.

I recently read a painful book.  About marriage.  Why do I read painful books?

The author beautifully defined love and marriage, but it cut deeply when she also showed that some of us have marriage without the love.

When that happens, hearts are broken.  The gospel is maligned.  Our children may want nothing to do with “biblical” marriage.  We hold the power to ruin both love and the gospel for the people around us.  Alternately, we could make it attractive and beautiful.  It would be wise to think carefully about who we are as wives.  Not out of fear, but out of love for our husbands.  It’s about the love.

We promised before God to love, honor, and cherish.  Then we get that ring on our finger, and some of us get a little lazy.  We refuse to be accountable to God or anyone else for the ways we slack off on the small things that make life beautiful.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can repent and run the other way.

Just like Dad told me.

It’s a little intense raising pastor’s kids.  It can be unsettling to know that they could treasure their Lord so dearly right now and then turn and walk away from all of it.  As we have seen some do.

I realize that humility is usually right there to help us not get too full of ourselves. Especially in this line of work.  There is a vulnerability that must be present in our lives. We try to share life authentically with those who choose to trust us. We want to be the kind of people that Michael preaches about.

We try to hope and trust in the faithfulness of God in these things.

That is why stories like this are precious to me.  And I write them down and thank the Lord for them, because they sustain us, even as we try to hold these children so loosely. We want to give them space to be who God has made them to be.

There are a few phrases that I will remember forever.

A new one was added to the list a few weeks ago.  I really don’t want to sensationalize this. But I do want to share it with you. So if you’re reading this, that’s my disclaimer. Hopefully you’ll know what I mean when this is finished.

Recently, one of our children decided to tell one of their friends about Jesus and what He did for us.  This child thought about it for awhile before telling this friend.  There was motivation behind this decision: without a relationship with Jesus, this friend is going to Hell.  For eternity.

That should burden us all.  But some of us are too scared.  Or busy.  Or we don’t believe it could be true.

Anyway, I was unaware that this had happened until that evening.  I asked this child about it because Michael told me I would want to hear the story first hand.

I will never forget that conversation…

“Mom, I did it just like Dad told me.  I started with the bad news first.  That we are all sinners and we deserve to go to hell…

…then I told them the good news, that if we tell Jesus we repent of our sins and believe that he died on the cross and forgave us then we can go to heaven.”

I said I was so proud, and I asked what the friend said.

“well, he changed the subject…but I went back to it and said “okay man, I am not going to quit telling you about this, and I’m not going to quit inviting you to church until you start coming with me.”  And then we went back to playing.”

Oh my heart.  Is there anything in this life more important than sharing Jesus with our children and hearing them pass it on?

It has taken me weeks to sort through this conversation.  What I keep coming to is this:

The goodness of God…that I get to be a part of this family.

That my children have a dad who takes the time to teach them.  Michael doesn’t just preach this from the pulpit, he takes the time to have many, many conversations with our kids.  About why we want to tell our friends about Jesus, about what to say. About why we love the people that God put around us.  And that God will never stop loving them.

Michael comes home and spends the time that it takes to teach his children about life.

Maybe some pastors are not people their children want to model, or maybe they don’t take the time to let their children know them.  There are many reasons pastor’s children stray. I have to think that some of those reasons are a lack of interest or interaction pastors have in the lives of their children.  I am grateful that Michael and I both had dads that took time for us.

In my eyes Michael is a success because he takes the time for what matters.  I’m so glad for that.  The things that matter are messy and sometimes it takes a long time to see the good things happening.  But that’s why I’m writing.  So we can see these things and remember.

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