What a Weekend!

I am so full of joy today as I write this update! It’s been amazing to watch as God has continued to affirm and establish what we’ve done at ICCP.

Last friday I had the great privilege of leading a worship night at the church on a very important evening in France, Fête de la Musique. On this night in France, anyone can play music anywhere in the street throughout the city, so we decided to do a evening of music in the church as well. It was kind of a last hurrah for me. In the end it was a great success and we had something like 90 passers-by walk in and check things out while we were playing.

Yesterday, I had the enormous privilege to commission Jérémie and Leisa during the evening service. One thing that I am reminded of is that standard church services are far from ineffective, on one very major condition, that is; the Spirit is given the authority over the service, and people must be given freedom to speak and proclaim what He’s saying during the service. In that sense it’s no different than a dbs. That is something we’ve been fostering at ICCP, and the result is pretty incredible. Sunday is a great example. When I went to the stage with Jérémie and Leisa, I told the congregation that I was going to pray for the new worship leaders, and invited any one in the congregation who wanted to pray over them to join. There is something so beautiful and old testament-like about this idea of commissioning. I felt like a proud father blessing his children, passing on the leadership mantle. Two of us prayed over them, and another girl who is part of the worship team received visions for both. The first was that Leisa was like an Eagle, and people would be carried on the wings of her worship and she would be given the eyes of discernment like an eagle to see far and discern wisdom, and God would be her wind and she would not strive or work to carry the congregation but that God would be the lift for her wings! The second was Jérémie was like a fire that had the roar of a stampede of horses, and as he charged towards the target he set everything in his wake on fire with the gospel, and that he would increase in speed and effectiveness towards the goal! These are not the kind of words people can just make up on the spot, but when we give the Holy Spirit freedom to speak through his people and the gifts given them we will see mountains moved.

The response of the congregation was evident – people knew God was among them and continued to open their hearts to Him throughout the service. At the end of the service I counted no fewer than 4 people being prayed for. I’m not positive on a total number. I know God stirred some changes in people’s hearts yesterday evening and it was a joy to be a part of. Most of all, it was incredible to hear God confirm again what He spoke to me last Fall about Jérémie and Leisa through Jodie, the worship team pianist, and no less before the whole church. God is moving!

 

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Weeklyish Update

The big news of the last week is prayer, and fair amount of emotional ups and downs. I am realizing that while I am firmly convinced we are doing the right thing in heading north, there are many parts of it that I am not ready for. Some of these are seemingly trivial that then somehow effect you way more than they should. For example, the lack of mountains. This is really disturbing me and I just don’t feel ready to leave the mountains as I’ve always appreciated mountainous regions and recognized that being in them does something for my soul. None the less, there are no mountains in The Netherlands. Perhaps more significantly, I am having a hard time with the fact that we are so far away from our family and old friends. It’s hard knowing how much we are missing people grow up and life going on in the States. This is the hard reality of what we do that never gets easier. In fact it might get harder? I guess I’ll find out.

Not as much to highlight this week,  but I’d like to mention the increase in prayer that we’ve engaged in with others. We have had two intense prayer times with two different individuals in order to help them discern what God might be saying to them regarding their futures. In both we all came away having heard Him confirm direction. It’s this kind of thing that I want to highlight today. This kind of sitting and waiting in prayer with others until you have heard God was foreign to me before embarking on this journey. Now it is common place. It’s a more literal interpretation of James 1:5, that is; we ask and wait, and ask more until we get an answer. We believe that God answers prayer, not that He ignores us. What was the direction? In one case a young man was looking for guidance on a difficult situation. In the other a young woman received the conviction she needed to recognize that God was calling her into full time ministry (this is a very brief summary of our times with them, my apologies for skipping over all the details). Both were big, life altering decisions. (Fun fact; from our DBS three weeks prior, my action point or “I will statement” was to pray diligently for more laborers – from Mat. 9:37. As they say here: Et Voila!)

It strikes me as odd then that what becomes so obvious in those times of prayer, that is that God is real and He speaks to people directly still, that I don’t engage in this exercise or practice of submission in prayer more often. In other words, if I know I can hear God and receive guiding instruction for life’s biggest decisions, why don’t I do it all the time? Something to ponder.

In other news, we are getting a lawyer to facilitate the Dutch visa process. The good news is that we are hoping to have an idea of time frame for receiving that visa after the appointment with the immigration lawyers on Friday. It is unfortunate that a lawyer is seemingly required, but I’m going with what I’m being told from higher-ups who have more experience at this than I do. So we press on!

 

Weekly-ish Review

So much for writing one of these every week! I love the suffix “ish.” It’s a real suffix in my grammar lexicon. You can add it to anything and it immediately implies a sense of mediocre and less than exact, or to be exact, exactish. But I digress. This is Monday, so the tangent wasn’t altogether unrelated.

In transition world, I feel like I’m connecting more and more easily with Remko. Starting to build some coworker chemistry, or as much can be built over Skype anyways. We’ve heard back from the school that we can officially continue our application process. So that means the boys are registered in the system. The school isn’t althogether sure how much space is available and does a re-enrollment at the end of June, so we will get the rest of the documents they need loaded in the next day or so… or dayish (couldn’t help myself).

In the DMM world, we had a great meeting last week. We read through the passage, or rather 3 verses, where Jesus asks the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His harvest. I chose this passage for two reasons. First, to engage them more in the spreading of the gospel through prayer. Second, for them to think about the implications of what could it mean to be a laborer. We camped out here for a while. I think I’ll turn that into its own blog and link it here. Stay tuned. We’ve continued to make prayer a greater chunk of the time together, which is good because it’s forcing them to practice something other reading the Bible and interpreting it / applying it. Obviously applying it can mean all sorts of things, but I’m learning for the umpteenth time there may not be another spiritual discipline so important as prayer.

We made it back to the chiropractor as a family and I proceeded to get sick immediately after. When the chiropractor makes exclamations in response to the noises coming from your back, it’s a sure sign it was time. That was last Wednesday and I’m still sore!

Thanks to the generosity of some of our supporters I am writing this update on a new computer! The old one was barely hanging on and then the screen died. It’s amazing how dependent we are on working computers! Just try going one week with out using a computer or phone (except for calling). It’s really quite incredible.

There was a terrorist attack in Lyon last week. It doesn’t have anything to do with us in the south, but it’s been a reminder that those kinds of things are still very real and not in the distant past.

Lastly, for the first time I fully observed one of my worship leader protégés. Simply, I didn’t go to the practice on Thursday and I observed on Sunday. I didn’t realize how much it needed to happen. The problem is if I’m at practice then I whether purposefully or not influence the decisions that are made. The only way for someone to fully own the responsibility for an action is to make it entirely by themselves. So, I think it was really good for them, but there’s a bit more to go over than I originally thought. None the less we had to take the training wheels off. I plan to do it with the other leader this next week. Unfortunately we all have to flounder a bit before we learn to swim.

Week In Review

Trying to communicate more. This is quite difficult as I have a hard time communicating at all (as anyone seeing my facebook knows!). I tend to be an inward processor, and once things have happened, my brain generally moves on to the next thing. That said, that’s not a great way of keeping people up to date. So we’ll give this a shot and see how it goes. Simple, weekly. Here’s what took place this last week.

Progress made on the Visa to the Netherlands: It’s been confirmed that Communitas is a designated sponsor. This is great news. We’ve also finished the official job description. This will facilitate an invitation letter that can then be used for things like housing and and getting a bank account. It’s a much more legit visa than our visitor visa for France, so we’ll need to get an attorney which is unfortunate but par for the course. We’ve done our part for the moment, so we wait for now.

All documents for Initiating Children’s Registration into ISU submitted: We submitted the final translations of the boys school documents from French back into English (which I did! – it took a bit longer, but it was free), which confirms their grade level. At this point we are waiting to hear that our boys’ places have been reserved for the fall season.

Making sure people are doing things at ICCP:  At this point I’m trying hard not to do things regarding ICCP and rather making sure someone else is doing them (managing). This is semi-annoying because it involves so much more emailing and phone calling / texting. Because we plan to leave mid-July I’ve given ICCP a mid-June end date. That gives us a month to organize things here and really prepare to leave. It also gives ICCP time to practice doing things while we’re around. So far things are going fantastically with our new worship leader team. Continue to pray for them.

Discovery Bible Study:  I have to constantly be looking for small wins here. And they continue to come. This last Sunday, Marc, told me that when I leave he hopes the group will continue on. I mentioned that I hoped so as well! All it would take was for someone to initiate it. I think he mentioned it because he knows like I do that it is too dependent on me initiating it, and they haven’t fully realized its necessity in their lives. There are always many things to be involved in regarding church life. These guys are all a bit reluctant to be seen as a leader. They have each grown in leadership tremendously, but God really needs to implant a boldness in each of them. None the less we have changed the name to Quartière Général (general quarters in english) as opposed to ‘bible study” (honestly when did this name become something people are supposed to get excited about?) and those coming to the group are now affectionately calling themselves les combatants (the combatants). It has taken a bit of a military turn, but I think it’s just what is needed. A time when we look at how the battle is going, where we need help, and make a plan to get back out there and fight. I can relate and I hope the dbs maintains this life giving, refueling, battle prep flare.

Down for the count:  Everyone in the apartment got sick at some point since last Friday and poor Hudson has been sick since, though he’s taken a turn for the better as of yesterday.  I went to his school class today to ask what work he could catch up on over the weekend and the teacher told me he is such a good student she’s not even worried about it. Basically don’t bother, he excels and it’s not necessary. I continue to look at this as a great compliment to Hudson, and not as a sign that he’s in the wrong class!

There is no Resurrection without Death

Kind of a morbid title, but fascinating at the same time.  And it’s such an incredible biblical principle. I’m only just now realizing how much it pervades every aspect of our lives.

I’ve been reading through Isaiah recently, which really means I’m happily absorbing the first chapter still after three weeks. As someone with a developing love of the poetic, I find Isaiah captivating. Here’s a really cool example in Isaiah of the principle above with some vivid imagery.

Isaiah 1:24–26
[24] Therefore the Lord declares,
              the LORD of hosts,
              the Mighty One of Israel:
        “Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
              and avenge myself on my foes.
[25] I will turn my hand against you
              and will smelt away your dross as with lye
              and remove all your alloy.
[26] And I will restore your judges as at the first,
              and your counselors as at the beginning.
        Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
              the faithful city.” (ESV)

Context: the first half of the chapter is Isaiah spelling out how corrupt Israel has become. Look at the 4th line. Get relief from what? What could anyone possibly do to God? Is God tormented or physically hurt by anyone? No obviously not. So what is he talking about? He’s saying that all the surrounding nations are looking at Israel and mocking Him because of it. How so? When the nation that is supposed to stand for justice, charity, hospitality, protection for the widows and orphans, etc., acts continuously contrary to those ideals, the surrounding nations see that and conclude that Israel’s God is either weak or doesn’t care, and thus the things he stands for aren’t important. They in effect say, “Why not kill my neighbor, steal his wife and land, and live like a king and do whatever I want? Israel is as corrupt as we are, and their God is supposedly the real God and stands for justice, but they aren’t punished, so obviously there is no reason to try and uphold justice, there is no reason to try and make peace with my neighbor, or welcome the foreigner in my land. Nothing will happen to me if I don’t, so why deprive myself of what I want? Their God is just like ours.”

And so, the most high God endures the mocking caused by His own representatives’ actions. How does He respond? He says “I will turn my hand against you” – that is to say remove his protection from them – “and (here’s where it gets really good) will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy.”

As a former engineering student this is such illuminating word painting! A smelter is used to separate and purify metals by adding heat and a carbon reacting agent. Science. So what happens is you take your metal and put it in the smelter, then tremendous heat is added and eventually a carbon reacting agent, such as charcoal in the old days. We know that when we heat things up chemical reactions takes place more readily, that’s why we wash dishes in hot water. Introducing the carbon causes the oxygen (the impurities) in the metal to bind to the carbon creating carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, thus purifying the metal down to its base element, such as gold, silver, or iron. But where did the oxygen come from? Oxygen is in the air, and over time, when it comes in contact with metals, it most often causes some form of oxidation which is science-speak for… rust. Are you getting the picture that God has set for us? He’s saying in verse 25 that regarding Israel He’s looking at a giant lump of metal, and He knows there’s pure gold (it’s true that gold doesn’t rust at normal temperatures but bear with me) in it somewhere, but it’s been so oxidized and rusted over time that it’s elemental composition has changed, and the only way to get it back to it’s former beauty is to inject ridiculous amounts of heat and chemicals until the metal is literally changed back into it’s pure form and all the excess is burned away. An alloy is a metal in itself, it’s just not a pure one, so God is saying, “I don’t like what you have become.”

At the end of 26 we see the result of His smelting process – Israel shall be called (by their neighbors) righteous and faithful, restoring God’s rightful reputation as the God who cares about righteousness and justice.

For me, verse 25 really illustrates my point. The base metal was dead so to speak. It had been alloyed into something else that no longer resembled the original. Without putting it to the fire, thus causing the “death” of the alloying metals and compounds, the base metal could never be “resurrected.” This is an unfortunate reality of the life we live, that is; I can’t get positive change of character without the painful death of something else within me.

We all have things we want changed. I often want to be more disciplined for example (this is most often not followed up with real-life effort). The reality is, I can’t be more disciplined and remain lazy, right? These two things can’t both be true of me at the same time. If I legitimately want to be more disciplined, I must sacrifice (to use a very christian-y word) my desire to sleep in an extra hour if I’m going to get up one hour early. So the positive discipline for me in terms of getting out of bed only comes with the death of sleeping in.

In other words, most of us (I assume) want to be closer Jesus. So then this principle forces us to ask the question, “what am I willing to give up to get the closeness I desire?” Maybe it’s the death of a habit. Maybe it’s a mindset towards someone else. But how often do we think of change this way? Do we realize that there won’t be any positive change until there has been death first? In fact there can’t be! One might think this flies in the face of God meeting us where we’re at – the “come as you are” principle – but that principle only applies when we are humble and willing to change. The context of “come as you are” is our broken state, not a self-righteous one. God always opposes the proud (James 4:5, 1 Pet. 5:5, Prov. 3:34), which incidentally should lead us to the broken state, but that’s a different topic. I think, at least for me, the reality is God has already met me and now he’s saying it’s time to move. It should affect the way I pray, the way I love my family, the way I serve others. It should affect everything. How often I’ve found myself thinking thoughts like, “If only this person did this, then things would be right.” “If only I had a little more of this, then things would be better.” So lame.  These thoughts express an immature (but understandable!) desire to improve life without giving anything up. Thankfully, God happens to be quite jealous for us, and His Spirit lives in us! This is good news if the goal is to be more like Him. It’s bad news if the goal is an easier life.