Germany and the Gospel

I am currently on a short-term missions trip to an English Teaching camp in Germany! Each day a team member writes about his or her experience and today is my day! So here are my thoughts:

Phrases like, Auf Wiedersehen!  See ya! Tschüss! Ciao! and Have a great summer! were repeated over 100 times as we said goodbye to both campers and fellow staff workers this hot July afternoon.  Mixed emotions of relief of the season of relaxation to come and remorse over the season of investment we would leave behind flooded each one of us in the team. After sending off the teens with our contact information, and final encouragements to be in the Word, we ate lunch, praised God for the week, and headed to the nearest little town for some celebratory ice cream.

After dinner back at camp we had a meeting where each of us shared some of our most memorable moments at Neues Leben, and some of the biggest lesson God has taught us through this trip. I was so encouraged and impressed by all that God has been teaching the members of this team. They are amazing, god-fearing, delightful young people. Probably the most exciting thing to me is that through this camp ministry and the trials and blessings that came with it, God has stirred in each of our hearts (among many things) a renewed passion for knowing and defending the gospel. I know that I (and many of us on the team) far too often take the gospel and its truths for granted. I belittle it in my life and don’t realize or utilize the enormous power it should have in helping me to die to myself. I wasn’t focusing on the power of the gospel- until God started using circumstances at this camp to refocus my heart on its incredible, undeniable, grace-centered, Scripture-soaked, truth based on the person and work of Jesus Christ. I know I need the reminder of the power of the gospel in my life. Not just for my own spirit and joy in freedom, but also so that I am able to properly present it to others when God brings those opportunities.

1 Thessalonians 1:4-7 “ For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you,  because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.”

This week we each have been challenged with questions of what is simply preference in worship or word choice in teaching, and when is it much more serious than that and in need of rebuke? These were the questions that were most encouraging to wrestle through, because it made us look to the Scriptures for answers. Our dear supporters, I just want to say how proud you would be of each of these team members. They were quick to defend and focus on the beauty and necessity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and gracious in the way they processed and approached things.

May this be an encouragement to you to take time TODAY to reexamine your understanding of the gospel in your life. It has almost become a buzzword in our society.  So stop and think. First, do you KNOW the gospel? One easy way to find out if you do know-try sharing it with someone today. Even if it is someone who already knows it! Practice verbally teaching the gospel. Secondly, does the gospel CHANGE you? Does it make a difference in your life or are you still relying on your own power or your own good works or how you feel to make you righteous or close to God? What does it mean in your life?

For the Team,

Betty Pompell

Phrases I Don’t Especially Like

(sorry for the lack of creative title)

There are some Christian phrases that for some reason or another-I dislike a little.

Every time I hear them-

Every time I say them-

I cringe a bit.

Now, get me wrong, they might be phrases that I use from time to time, that make sense, and are wonderfully intended-but they rub me the wrong way and I’d love to explain why.  I hope I don’t sound cynical or spiteful as I share this with you. That is not my heart’s intent. I share my opinions because I know I say too many things without examining them first. I’m simply offering another angle to consider looking at these phrases from.

  1. “It’s a God thing” –I’ve found that usually this phrase follows a story about finding a good parking spot and not being late for a meeting, or something equally thrilling. Not that God isn’t delighted that you were delighted-he is! He loves your joy! It’s just, I don’t I know, I feel like the Creator and Savior of the universe deserve a little more praise than the acknowledgement of something being “his thing”. It seems to be the easy way out of praising him.  God has given us an amazing ability to craft words of adoration to him and has revealed his character and nature in Scripture-we have so much we can say about him and praise Him for –let’s make a little more effort to do it intelligently and a way that brings him honor. (An additional reason I don’t like it, is because it reminds me of the phrase, “It’s a jeep thing-you wouldn’t understand”. And I don’t understand.)
  1. “I don’t wanna go through the motions”– I totally respect this ideology in many ways. We, as Christians, should engage our hearts and minds in our actions. We should aim to not be habitually hypocritically (we absolutely will be hypocritical-we must try to actively combat that!).  I think it is dangerous to not sometimes “go through the motions” if you are not feeling it. Let me give you an example. I hope to be married one day. I will pledge my heart and life to serving my husband (after Christ of course!), getting to know him, and loving him more and more each passing moment. But there will be days when he annoys me, when I don’t FEEL the strong desire for him as I did on my wedding day. But do I refuse to spend time with him, telling him, “I don’t want to go through the motions”. Heck no! With actions come emotions! I kiss him on his forehead, make us breakfast, and remind myself of all the reasons I DO love him until the feelings follow! It is the same with our spiritual life. Sometimes you don’t feel like being a Christian. But it is during those moments where doing the “motions” are even MORE important.  You pick up your bible, you call your accountability partner, you memorize Scripture-until the feelings come back. Sometimes you have to go through the motions to find emotions, and that is okay.
  1. “I want to be on fire for God”– I love the heart behind this when I hear someone (and hear myself) say it I just make sure we realize what we are saying. When I think of being “on fire for God” you know who I think of? Christians during Nero’s reign, Anne Askew, John Wycliffe,  John Huss, and William Tyndale. These men and women were literally set on fire for God, burned at the stake for their dedication to Scripture. They were willing to go to heaven in a chariot of fire.  When we say, we want to be on fire for God, we might mean we want to talk about him a lot, and to think about him a lot (both good things!) but we don’t actually want to be persecuted for this love relationship. We don’t want our lives to be a public spectacle of the evanescence of this life and the importance of holding fast to Scripture. If we are going to say this phrase-lets please take seriously how consuming a fire truly is and be willing to at least live for our faith even if we don’t have the chance to die for it.

A Shout Out to God!

Psalm 8

I think we can all agree that LIGHTNING BUGS are by far, the best insect on planet earth.

Most bugs freak me out. Stink Bugs? Eww. Spiders? Eek! Bees? Ahh! Centipedes? AHHHH! Cockroaches? WAAAAAHHHHH! All my hairs stand on end, my heart starts to pound, and I make a mad dash to the nearest flip-flop.

But lightning bugs? I have loved these little creatures of the night for as long as I can remember. Where I am from, there were two types of children when it came to dealing with fireflies. You either watched them with wonder in your eyes and a smile on your face as they lit up your gently cusped hands OR you smeared their glowing guts on the side of the nearest building. But no matter which way you showed your affection for them-it was clear, they were nothing to be afraid of!

And I was thinking the other night, how I would feel about these bugs if God had designed them a little differently? Can you imagine! What if they bit? Or they had a poisonous stinger? Or an annoying buzzing sound? Or they tried to crawl in your ear in the middle of the night and plant eggs in your brain?!

Okay…maybe that was a bit too much. I’m just saying, God was a very gracious, intelligent designer when he made these harmless glowing insects. And I for one, would just like to thank God for his kindness. Next time you catch one of these sweet creatures-you should thank him too.

The Woman at the Well

I started a new grad class the other day and the prof had us answer some classic “introductory” questions. What’s your name? Where are you from? What is your vocation? What are your personal interest and hobbies?  Etc. etc. etc. I got this-I can answer these questions charmingly and with wit! But the last question threw me for a loop…she asked us,

“What woman in the Bible do you most identify with?”.

Oh…well that is not on my list of top ten questions people normally ask me. I had to think. Here is a snap shot of my inner monologue:

Hmm. Women in the Bible…okay…gotta choose one I identify with…one that I am like…well there is Mary, the mother of Jesus… I could never choose her-that seems prideful…there is Ruth, oh I love Ruth! But-I feel like that is too clique…I’m just a Ruth looking for a Boaz!…I’d feel lame…okay…Priscilla? Abigail? Deborah? Eh…nothings clicking… how about Esther…no, I am no Esther…Jezebel? Ha…awkward. Bleeding woman? Eh, I’m not in deep suffering…what about the Samaritan woman at the well?

The woman at the well! I like it!

So I pulled up John 4 on my computer and re-read the familiar story. Usually, when I read Scripture-I naturally read it just as a narrator-the way one would read an audio book. But this time I tried reading it as an actress-the way one would read a screenplay. It came to life! I could hear a breeze in the background (relief on such a hot day) and an overt sassiness in the Samaritan woman’s smooth voice. She is strong, self-reliant, and unafraid. She speaks her mind and asks questions when she has them. She confidently articulates her beliefs, and is eager to learn more of faith and eternal life.

I decided to affectionately call her Bekah.

A few minutes into Bekah’s intense conversation with Jesus he looks at her and suggests that she goes and grabs her husband. He would love to meet him and chat with him too! [This is the point in the conversation where Bek SHOULD have been honest and transparent with the man whom she is pretty sure is the Messiah, but instead-she is sneaky]. “A husband? Oh, I am a single woman, don’t you know. I don’t even have a husband. [insert pathetic ‘woe is me’ face, accompanied with a heavy sigh].” Jesus doesn’t miss a beat. “I know you aren’t married…but you certainly aren’t single. You are not married now-but you’ve been five times! And right now you are living with/sleeping with a man who you aren’t married too.” Ouch. Jesus. Talk about just ripping off the band aid! Bekah was trying to be “vague” and “politically correct” (aka deceptive)-our Christ would have nothing of it.  In identifying the truth of her statement, Christ is saying:

“I’m not going to dance around your sin to make you feel more comfortable or loveable. I am not going to ignore your lifestyle and pretend that it doesn’t offend me deeply. It does. BUT even though I know your deepest sin, I’ve still been talking to you this whole time. I still want to give you the water that will satisfy every thirst.  I still want you to know me.

I can identify with the Bekah in many ways. The two primary ones being:

a)      Bekah and I both too often try and smooth over our sin against God. My “I don’t have a husbands” come when I think I can fool him and make sins small, acceptable, and insignificant. When he convicts me of one thing, I point at something else-or try and bury my sin in half-truth, hoping he won’t see right through me. Guess what? He does. He sees right through my sin that I try to wrap up in a pretty bow, and still calls me daughter.

b)      Bekah and I both want to tell people about our experience with Christ. It is not just enough to experience it for ourselves-joy comes from sharing! I both have and want more of her vivacious “gotta tell them” spirit. we both see that we are pretty awful-but God is incredible and people need to hear it.

Bekah’s response wasn’t anger or shame-because it wasn’t a response to her sin being revealed. Her response was one of gratitude and worship to her sins being forgiven. The messiah, the Savior of the World, introduced himself to her, in all her wickedness, and said, “despite everything in you-I want you to take freely of everything in me.” God foreknew all my sin. Every grotesque offense against him, he has already known about even before he made the first sun rise. He has already seen it, and he STILL chose to adopt me as his daughter. He STILL wanted to make himself known to me, have a relationship with me, hear from me, and have me grow in love and knowledge of him. KNOWING THAT makes me want to leave my water jug behind, run into a city and tell people to come and see this God man-the Savior of the world.