Gervase Markham, a member of The Crowded House Sheffield, shares his story of living with terminal cancer as a Christian …
“I want to make my living in the world first, and then – once I’ve achieved financial stability – I will happily give the rest of my years to God.”
I can’t say that I’ve ever actually said those words out loud, but I’m certain there have been moments in my life where I’ve acted in accordance with that motive.
A guy once asked me why I would spend my “best years” studying for a career only to go out and live the volunteer-funded life of an overseas missionary. It blew his mind that my wife would be okay with us spending our own funds on schooling, only to “waste” it by choosing to raise funds and serve elsewhere. He didn’t think we would be appreciated. He didn’t think it was good for my CV. He didn’t think it was a good use our the resources we had already invested.
He didn’t think much like me. Or at least much like me in my best moments. I’m not going to pretend to possess a righteous attitude every moment of every day, but there is something truly and deeply twisted about the way of thinking that says, “My best years belong to me. I am able to and need to make myself financially self-sufficient. God will be happy with anything that I give to him.”
I tried to share my heart with this guy. I remember saying something to this effect: When we leave our home country, family, and our soon-to-be-grandparents parents and come to settle among a foreign people, this is a bulletin to the world, ‘Christ is worth my life!’ And that is the message that we want to ring in the ears of all who see our lives. How are we to give a credible witness to those when we tell them they should give the best years of their lives to God if we’re not already doing so?
No life is “wasted” that is wasted in the gospel ministry.
I’m not sure he left that conversation any differently than when it began, but its something I can share with you now.
We are the witnesses Jesus chooses to use in this world.
Literally. This is the view of Sheffield from the top of our terrace. We live on a short block of about 40 terraced houses, populated primarily by university students and a few young families. We’ve enjoyed our time on Westbrook Bank and are settling in quite nicely, but there are some oddities to English life that we’d like to share in order that your prayers might be more informed.
It has been said that “an English town is a vast conspiracy to mislead foreigners,” and in our experience over the past 2 months this has proven true. English streets are never straight. Every time a street bends it is given a different name (except when the bend is so sharp that it really makes two different streets). There are at least 60 confusing synonyms for ‘street’ (place, mews, crescent, terrace, rise, lane, gate, etc.), and that street names are in any case always carefully hidden. Even if you manage to find the correct street, the numbering of the houses will be hopelessly inconsistent and idiosyncratic, further complicated by many people choosing to give their houses names rather than numbers [think "Downton Abbey"]! Add to this the fact that house numbers and names are usually at least as well camouflaged as the street names.
We mention all this because it is a funny fact of life for us, but it is also indicative of the English obsession with privacy. And if you live here for any amount of time you’ll hear the expression, “An Englishman’s home is his castle.” He can’t actually have the moat and drawbridge, but he can make it bloody difficult to get to!
But the more we talk with folks here we have found that an Englishman’s home is much more than just his castle, the embodiment of his privacy, it is also his identity, his main status-indicator and likely his primary obsession. For these reasons, it can be difficult to forge intimate and lasting relationships.
Please pray for us as we learn English rules and customs. Pray that we wouldn’t offend too many sensibilities in our efforts to meet new people. And pray that we would offend any sensibilities that are necessary for the gospel to take root in the lives of those we meet. And as always, pray that our hope and courage would be rooted in Christ and the power of the gospel to save those who believe.
“What can we do to help? Can we send you a short-term team?”
As a missionary, I have often been asked these questions by supporters, home churches, and missions committees. Understandably, some supporters want to be as hands-on as possible in helping their missionaries. Know this: m
issionaries who face intense spiritual battle rely on the prayerful and generous support of churches and individuals.
That said, overseas missions would be impossible without the committed, consistent support of well-informed people and churches back at home. Here are six ways to support missionaries and take part in God’s mission to the world.
1. Pray for your missionaries regularly. Then tell the missionary you’re praying for specific prayer requests.
One missionary shared recently that he ran some statistics on his outgoing prayer emails. He discovered that a large portion of his prayer emails—possibly more than half—weren’t even opened by the recipients, the people he was counting on as his prayer warriors. This is disconcerting. Writing quick emails to your missionary to tell them you’re praying for specific requests assures them that, no matter how isolated they might be, their ministry is being covered in prayer. Being specific about your prayers will help them know you are looking over their requests carefully. If your address or contact information changes, be sure to let your missionaries know; this applies to missions committees as well as individual supporters. Nothing is more discouraging to a missionary than returned prayer letters and unanswered phone calls to supporting churches.
In the busyness of life, it can be difficult to pray diligently and regularly for missions work. The task can be aided by organizing a prayer group for your missionary; if you do this, be sure to let your missionaries know so they can be encouraged and maybe even Skype in during one of the prayer meetings.
2. Commit to regular financial support.
One-time donations are welcome, but regular support shows missionaries that you are committed to their ministry in the long haul. It also provides missionaries with a more consistent source of income, so they do not have to be overly concerned about whether they will be able to maintain their support level year to year. Most missionaries dread the prospect of being sent home to raise funds if their supporting churches or individual supporters drop them or forget to give.
Missionaries have a lot to worry about already—cultural and linguistic adaptation, running ministries with limited resources, resistance, persecution, harsh living environments, and more. Though support-raising might be a necessary reality, you can make the process easier for overseas Christian laborers by being consistent in your support. It’s a shame that many people avoid going to the missions field, as the Great Commission mandates, because they fear support raising.
In Philippians 4:15-19, Paul commends a church that supported him financially when he was overseas:
When I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Financially supporting missionaries not only blesses them—it also blesses you.
3. Help combat homesickness.
A simple care package can communicate a great deal. Ask your missionaries if there is anything they particularly miss from home—books, worship or sermon CDs, foods, spices, toys, games, or TV shows. If receiving mail is not possible for them but using the internet is, offer online goods like downloadable music credit, magazine subscriptions, or e-books.
4. Help missionaries during their “furloughs.”
The term furlough can be deceiving because it suggests the missionary is taking time off or enjoying a long holiday. For this reason, some mission agencies such as ours dub this time as a “home assignment.” Don’t assume that “furloughs” are entirely restful for the missionary. In fact, many missionaries return home with a dose of reluctance, not because they don’t love their home churches, but because of the cultural transitions and logistical hassles that “furloughs” entail.
We know that war-torn soldiers who return from tours of duty need special support. Recent statistics about the high suicide rate among U.S. troops remind us of this reality. Like returning soldiers, missionaries on “furlough” often return home similarly confused. Some might detect a widening emotional gap with friends back at home because they’ve traversed entire seasons of life apart. Some have suffered the death of relatives while they were overseas, resulting in a loss of intimacy in their family networks. Some have endured trauma overseas and might need counseling but cannot afford it at regular rates.
You can assist your missionaries during their “furloughs” in many tangible ways. You can help them acclimate by greeting them at the airport or by asking them intelligent questions about their life and ministry. You can volunteer to help them with housing or setting up a mobile phone. You can let them borrow vehicles or furniture. Since visiting home churches often requires a fair amount of travel, you can offer to help with childcare or donate your frequent flier miles. If you are a counselor or physician, consider offering your services free of charge. Finally, you can help spread the word of their return to others and keep up with what they might need throughout their “furlough.” Befriend them; encourage your children to get to know theirs.
5. If you do want to visit the missionary overseas, be mindful of their point of view.
Sometimes, short-term missions trips are not as helpful to missionaries as vision trips, where people go overseas to acquaint themselves with an area they are committed to pray for and otherwise support long-term. People who visit the field with this mindset can then spread their passion for missions with churches at home and serve as long-term advocates for missionaries.
If you would like to go overseas to visit a missionary or lead a short-term team, be sure to dialogue with the missionary beforehand and try not to bring to the table any preconceived notions about what you think would be helpful. Ask for the missionary’s honest opinion about what would be best for them. Go with a clear mindset of serving and learning. Missionaries who have worked to build up a ministry over a period of years may not want advice from short-term visitors who are only in the country for a couple of days or weeks. Similarly, if a Chinese Christian visiting the United States for the first time immediately confronted a pastor about how the entire American church should be run, that person—no matter how well-meaning—would probably be disregarded.
Even so, visits from supporters and church representatives can be helpful. Once, when we were on the field, a pastor from our home church came to visit us. We wanted to show him our different ministries, but due to typhoons, we had to cancel most of our events. Still, the pastor remained flexible and even volunteered to help my husband mop up an area of our new gospel center that had flooded because of the torrential rain. One night, a local woman came to our house to chat, and it became evident that we would soon enjoy significant gospel conversation. My husband and the visiting pastor went upstairs and started to pray for us. The woman received Christ that night and became our first convert.
The pastor’s visit encouraged us because he came with the goal to pray, watch, and learn. Throughout his stay he expressed compassion and concern for us, and he did not jump to making rash conclusions about anything he observed. The whole experience helped him better understand what our lives were like overseas.
6. Send a “medium-term” missionary to help be part of a long-term vision.
People willing to commit one to two years to the missions field usually have enough time to learn the local language and contribute to the ministry in a significant way. “Medium-term” missionaries can build meaningful relationships with locals and support long-term missionaries in a way that can help sustain a ministry in the long run.
For instance, one young woman came to Taiwan specifically to help a long-term missionary couple with the education of their special-needs son. Perhaps many people in the church have the ability to teach missionary kids, which could free up more missionaries to minister in completely unreached areas of the world that lack missionary schools. Other people might have the capacity to teach English overseas. Still others work well with children, are gifted in evangelism, or have professional skills that can be employed in a particular project.
If you know someone interested in “medium-term” missions, ask the missionaries you support about what kinds of opportunities might be available.
Little Act, Big Effect
I remember one point in the early stages of our ministry when we wanted to let local children play with American board games during our outreach events. After sending out a quick email to our supporters, many of them immediately offered to send us games. Having these supporter gifts on hand eventually helped us launch several children’s ministries that led families to seek Christ.
“How did you get these games over here?” one curious local asked while watching her children play with the games.
“They’re from Christians around the world who believe in the Good News so much that they sent us here to share it,” I replied.
She smiled. “That’s really moving.”
Sometimes, little acts of support and commitment can go a long way.
Read the full article here…HT: TGC
Too much of what parades as evangelical Christianity is actually legalism. A lot of evangelicals are actually legalists.
What is legalism?
A legalist is someone who believes their behavior somehow impacts God’s affection for us or disposition towards us.
If I’m honest, I’ll confess that legalists scare me.
Why do legalists scare me? Because I am a sinner. I don’t want legalist to know how much of a sinner I actually am. I think we are all pretty much like this.
The legalist is the last person you will go to confess your sin. What scares me about legalism is not their moral conviction, but their moral outrage.
Getting this should help us see why folks drift toward theological liberalism.
Liberalism is not an alternative.
Liberalism is indifferent to sin. And this does me no good.We need neither legalists nor liberals.
We don’t need people who get outraged at sin nor who are indifferent to sin. When we sin, we need something altogether different. We need something radically other than what legalists or liberals bring to the table.
Without open sin, there can’t be open, irresistible and extravagant grace.
What is grace?
Grace is God’s undeserved blessing and favor that comes to us in the person of His Son through the Holy Spirit.
Grace is not a thing that we receive as some passive recipient, nor a commodity to be purchased. Grace is an intimate union with a person who is dynamic and powerful, who captures and transforms us and becomes that which actually defines us.
Have you ever noticed how uncomfortable someone’s generosity can make you feel? There is often an instinctive desire somehow to redress the balance and reduce the debt. When we cannot do this in a tangible way, we resort to extravagant gratitude as if the very act of repeatedly saying ‘thank you’ goes some way towards getting the relationship back on a more even keel!
Why is this the case?
It is probably because grace is not an easy thing to live with. Grace deprives me of achievement and merit. It takes away deserving from what I receive. It removes any lingering hope of being my own savior and exposes the corruption of my heart. And so I keep trying to find refuge in works and performance because therein lies my pride and sense of self-worth. Experience shows how easily the Christian life can degenerate into legalism. Self-justification seems to be the default setting of sinful hearts.
This default was reset, however, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The lavish love of God has brought grace to those in Christ, and by grace through faith we are as acceptable to the Father as his own Son. And when you stand before him, he will be as pleased to see you as he is in his own Son. And you will have as much a reason to stand there as Christ, the Son [Eph 2.1-10].
I thought this was a wonderful video. The Keep Calm and Carry On poster is a pop culture icon for sure, but …
Judging can’t be avoided. We all do it. And we should. The ideas of reform and improvement presuppose making judgments about right and wrong, superior and inferior.
If you want to have meaningful moral discussions, the nature of a moral discussion is to look at an action and judge it. That’s what it means to have moral conversations. It’s to look at ourselves, people around us, or cultural trends or the conduct of people in government, and ask whether this is good conduct. Should we approve of such conduct or not?
So it’s not possible to have a meaningful moral discussion that actually has a goal of making a better person or a better country without speaking in judgmental terms. It’s part of the nature of having moral discussions. We have to be capable of saying that some actions are better and others are worse if we’re going to have any real discussions about virtue and morality in a way that results in moral improvement, whether that’s individual or corporate reform.
We must use judgmental terms, but that doesn’t mean we come across as judgmental curmudgeons.
The biblical motive for mission is to be joy, gratitude and excitement. Christ is risen. The first missionary movement was born out of persecution (Acts 8.1), but the disciples involved in it scattered in all directions, telling people the good news about Jesus (Acts 8.4).
Declaring the good news about Jesus is the only point of missions, and consequently other motives are not just inadequate for the task, but are rather an utter contradiction to it. The gospel as it is in Jesus is a gospel of sheer grace, and to be guilted out to the mission field is to deny the efficacy of that grace. And if the missionary doesn’t believe the message, then why should anybody else believe it? And to go to the mission field in an attempt to get one’s own spiritual life in order is likewise a denial of how God works with men.
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in whitestood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” [Acts 1.7-11]
The place and power for mission is always in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Luke syncs up his two-part narrative on the mission of God [Luke-Acts] with similar introductions. The angels didn’t tell the disciples to hit the road as soon as Jesus left. They were to wait for the divine Holy Spirit. The Spirit, who when he reveals himself, is never shy and withdrawn. In the nativity story, he overshadows Mary so that she conceives, and here he overshadows the 120 in the upper room in Jerusalem, so that creation might conceive. The power and Spirit of God came upon Mary (Lk 1.35), and the power and Spirit of God came upon the early church (Acts 2.1-2).
Places don’t give you power. Power takes you places. Your spirituality is not a function of your Sat Nav coordinates. The first place it takes you is right where you already are, the way you are. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that becoming a missionary will fix your problems—in many cases, it will only amplify them. Mission-heartedness will address your selfishness problem to the extent that such a heart gives itself away to people where you are present. The power falls where you are first, you see the results of it locally first, and then you take the show on the road. Power is in the drive train. Place is just the steering wheel.
The church does not do missions; the church is missions. So we ask, “What is the assigned task?” Think about this for a moment. Jesus did not say to go out into the world and get a representative sampling. He did not say to get a smidge from here and a smidge from there. He said to disciple the nations (Mt 28.18-20). How discipled is discipled? Well, how wet is the ocean floor under the Atlantic (Isa 11.9; Ha. 2.14)?
The point of the church is two-fold—birth and growth. Every little “c” church exists to glorify God by discipling the nations by planting pregnant churches here, there–everywhere.
We are a mission church and we must remain a mission church so long as a mission remains.
- I suppose I’ve always known that I could only be at one place at one time, but it really hits you when you hug your family and friends before setting sail. There aren’t many words to describe that last embrace. At least I haven’t found any yet. Silence and tears say more. What this means for me and my family–and you as well–is that we were meant to live a local life. We will resist and want to act like we are omnipresent, but Jesus will patiently teach us that as human beings we cannot be, and this admission will glorify God (Prov 3.5-6). I would be lying if i didn’t wish I were omnipresent. I wish I could be everywhere for everyone at times. And many want me for themselves. But we must all learn that only Jesus can be with us wherever we are at all times. This fact is actually good news for you and for me.
- What is more, we cannot do everything that needs to be done, which means that Jesus will teach us to live with the things that we can neither control nor fix. The temptation is to act as if we are omnipotent, but we will harm others and ourselves when we try. I am sure I am not the only one with a desire to fix everything, immediately. But every time I cling to this desire instead of Christ, I fail to see that only Jesus can fix everything and that there are some things Jesus leaves unfixed for his glory.
- Being in a new place can be scary and unnerving. This leaves us with yet another sober realization–that none of us are able to know everyone or everything, which means that Jesus will teach us to live with ignorance, our own and others’. In other words, we are not omniscient. Jesus will require us to stop pretending that we are. Only Jesus knows everything we need; his invitation to faith and to trust in his knowing is a good one.
Jesus invites everywhere-for-alls, fix-it-alls, and know-it-alls to the cross, the empty tomb, and the throne of his grace for their time of need.
WEST [Wales Evangelical School of Theology] enters a new era this year with a groundbreaking, executive-level partnership with The Porterbrook Network. This partnership will provide gospel-centred training at all levels, from basics to PhD.
This is an exciting new development in the world of theological training and scholarship.
Click HERE for more on WESTPorterbrook.
The BBC has a quick and fun slideshow here documenting the life of The Tube.
You can find out how much we are leaning on our own understanding by asking the question: How much do we actually depend on God in prayer?
Ask yourself: Do I let the Bible overrule my own thinking?
If all you do is agree with the Bible, then your response is not obedience but coincidence. It’s just that the prejudices you’ve soaked up from your culture happen to line up with the Bible at that point. But what do you do when the Bible contradicts what you want to be true?
This recipe comes from our dear friends Josh and Olivia. Josh started making these for Casey during man-nights in Louisville and we quickly started requesting that he make them every time we were together. They’re tangy without being too spicy so most everyone at a party can enjoy. Sorry for the poor photo quality….it was a last minute Instagram photo after we made a batch for New Years Eve.
- 2 jars pepperoncini – located next to the jalepenos in your grocery.
- 8 oz crab meat, shredded
- 1 T. Texas Pete or Louisiana hot sauce (more if you like spicy)
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1.5 T cajun seasoning (optional)
- 2 packages fat free cream cheese (1lb, kept at room temp)
- Cut the stem end off the pepperoncini and carefully scape out the seeds.
- Beat the cream cheese in a bowl with the crab meat, hot sauce and seasonings until well blended.
- Place the mix into a pastry bag or a zip lock bag with a small hole cut in one corner.
- Pipe the mix into the seeded pepperoncini and fill to the top.
- Chill in the fridge a minimum of 30 minutes prior to serving.
Conversion put me in a complicated and comprehensive chaos. I sometimes wonder, when I hear other Christians pray for the salvation of the “lost,” if they realize that this comprehensive chaos is the desired end of such prayers. Often, people asked me to describe the “lessons” that I learned from this experience. I can’t. It was too traumatic. Sometimes in crisis, we don’t really learn lessons. Sometimes the result is simpler and more profound: sometimes our character is simply transformed.
—Rosaria Champagne Butterfield,
Stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans will bring together a godless congregation in the Nave in St Paul’s Road, Canonbury for services – with wedding ceremonies and funerals for non-believers even on the cards.
Mr Jones and Ms Evans, a musical improv comedian who had a BBC Radio 4 show called Showstopper, came up with the idea for The Sunday Assembly after agreeing they liked many aspects of religion but didn’t believe in a god.
“We thought it would be a shame not to enjoy the good stuff about religion, like the sense of community, just because of a theological disagreement,” said Mr Jones, who recently became the first person to sell out the Sydney Opera House by personally selling all tickets by hand.
He continued: “It’s part atheist church and part foot-stomping show. There will be a speaker on a theme each month but there will also be an awesome house band, which Pippa will lead. We’ll be helping people try and stick to their new year’s resolutions in the first service.”
Mr Jones added: “We all should be ludicrously excited every single moment to be alive in one of the best countries in the world. If the church becomes a useful place for others, that would be a good thing. We just want people to feel encouraged and excited when they leave.”
As I prepare to preach Proverbs 3.5-6 this week, I’ve come to the conclusion that Monday-Saturday are days given to us to learn what it means to sing the passage we are preparing to preach. As I work through my own issues with trusting the Lord, leaning on his understanding and not my own, and acknowledging his authoritative presence in my life, I came across this powerful hymn and would like to share it with you.
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”
Jess and I have been praying, preparing, and packing to move overseas for nearly 2 entire years. We’re amateurs at best, and imbeciles at worst [I'll admit that I had to spellcheck the word "imbecile" to correct my own spelling]. We don’t claim to be experts in this, but we have learned a few things along the way. Here are a few ways you can start getting serious about moving overseas, even if you won’t be leaving for a couple of years.
- Start sharing your faith now. If you don’t talk to your neighbors now, you won’t do it then. And if you aren’t talking to your neighbors now, consider Jesus.
- Use public transportation. Most Americans don’t use public transportation, but for many missionaries serving in megacities driving their own car is either impractical or not financially feasible (gas in the country we will live in is 12 USD a gallon.) Learning bus routes and public transportation protocol is much easier when you speak the language. Taking public transportation is also a great way to redeem your commute time. You can study vocabulary, memorize scripture, or make a new friend on the bus!
- Start learning another language. You probably won’t reach fluency until you are fully immersed in a language, but you’ll be thankful in the future for anything you learn in the present. Even if you don’t know where you’ll be living or what language you’ll be speaking, simply learning one language makes it easier to learn another.
- Start learning the culture and the -isms of your region. Some of the best advice we’ve received was to take a suggestion from a local for a book explaining the quirks of the culture in which you will be living. We were recommended Watching the English by Kate Fox. Not only did we enjoy reading it and learning culture together, it has given us an “understood lingo” that we can share as we traverse cultural boundaries [and mishaps].
- Make an international friend. Adjusting to a new culture is much easier if you’ve helped someone else adjust to yours. Most public universities have a host family program for international students. Volunteer a few hours a week to help an international student transition to America and you’ll be surprised what you learn in the process.
- Learn how to cook from scratch. Americans are notoriously dependent on ready-made meals and processed foods. Could you survive with only fresh, raw ingredients? You probably will have to on the field. You’ll probably find it tastes better too!
- Sign up for a frequent flyer miles program. Most missionaries don’t earn a lot of money, but they do fly a lot. A free flight is helpful if you have a family emergency, could really use a vacation, or have to return home to raise financial support. We have enjoyed using our Capital One Venture Rewards Card.
- Get rid of stuff. It’s hard enough to say goodbye to friends and family–don’t be held down by your possessions. The fewer things you have to box up means the easier it will be to move. Before buying anything ask: will I need this in 5 years? If I can’t ship possessions to my future country, can I take this on a plane?
- Sign up for missionary newsletters. Start praying for missionaries now and learn about their ministry. Pray for them as they experience hardships and you will be better prepared to persevere when you experience trials.