Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Week Thirty - What’s Gonna Happen?

With every happenstance of life, we react. Sometimes we use measured wisdom, and sometimes we resort to unbridled emotion. Either way, Newton's Law remains - For every action there is a positive and equal reaction. Let me challenge you today, even as I challenge myself, to consider our responses to life's events. Let's think through these questions.

What is going to happen if I explode? If I'm not honest? If I demand things be my way? If I fail to keep a confidence? If I don't keep my word? If I cheat? How often do I react without taking time to think about the consequences?

The Bible contains examples of people who failed to stop and think before they acted or reacted, especially those who didn't first inquire of God. As a result, they all fell onto hard times, and the cost was dear. Movies or even human nature reveal the same principle. When we react without stopping to think, things don't turn out so well.

A couple of weeks ago, we talked about Emotional Intelligence. That is the ability to discern outcomes based on our responses and the feelings of others, to be considerate. Taking time to consider what will happen, how others will feel, what might be behind their words, and the best course for resolution are key elements to a healthy response based on emotional intelligence.

Now, go back and ask yourself those first few questions again. What situation is in front of you that needs to have more thought? Or a prayerful, measured response? What is most likely to happen if you control your emotions, mete out your words, wait for a more appropriate time to respond, or even decide to take a different approach?

I'm sure you know the answer. Patience and wisdom are always better than hasty foolish responses. Seeking God's opinion before acting on your own is always the better approach.

So what's gonna happen? Only you can decide. You can keep on tearing up your relationships or start being the mender. You can continue eating your words or learn to season them with grace. You can continue creating drama or be the peacemaker.

Your reaction is your choice. I know what I'm gonna do. How about you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Week Twenty-Nine - The End of the Ride

Every ride comes to an end, no matter how long or arduous. Our ride with the Border Agency went smoothly for over fifteen years, and then it took one big nose-dive. This past Friday, July 14, we received an email stating that our sponsorship license had been revoked with no further recourse for appeal. So we stepped off the rollercoaster. 

Do you know that feeling? Your head is still reeling and spinning as you try to reorient yourself to solid ground. That is how we feel right now. We have informed all our missionaries that they must move speedily to plan B. Otherwise, they have sixty days to leave the country. Thankfully, nearly all of them have been diligent in getting plan B in place. Only a few have been left hanging and are now scrambling to find a new sponsor.

While we feel deep grief at the closing of this door, we look back at the miraculous way God opened it in the first place and rejoice in the nearly 60 missionary families who have come and gone through this process. It has been a blessed ministry with over 25 churches planted and hundreds of souls saved.

As we watch to see what else God will do, missionaries face the challenge of taking on a sponsorship license through their ministries, and the challenge is being given to the British to take a more active part in church planting. It is time to stop relying on the missionaries to do what the British are equipped to do.

While we have peace in our hearts that our time on the rollercoaster is done, the need for others to step up by faith and find creative ways to keep the ministry of church planting and evangelism alive in the UK is never more evident. 

Can you please pray for the need in Britain? Pray God will direct those willing to apply for a license. Pray that they can navigate the new requirements. Pray for those trying to stay on the field that they find a new sponsor. And most of all, pray God enables us to keep the light aflame and burn it into the hearts of the British nationals.

Thank you to all of you who have followed us on this path and kept the situation in prayer. God has answered, and now we watch for His further hand of blessing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Week Twenty-Eight - Emotional Intelligence

We've probably all heard about AI - Artificial Intelligence. But have you ever read about emotional intelligence? I noticed the term when I was reading Untangled by Lisa Damour. She says "emotional intelligence is the capacity to reflect on our thoughts, feelings, and actions and be aware of complex mental states - the wishes, beliefs, and feelings - of the people around us."

    Her book is about raising teenage girls, but I found this chapter beneficial to every age. The ability to lay aside self and be considerate of others is a skill greatly lacking today. And, if the Bible is true, this will become more of a lost skill in the future as people become lovers of themselves. 

    2 Timothy 3:2-4 tells us that in the last days, "men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God." 

    It sounds like what we see today, a definite lack of emotional intelligence. And our society promotes these traits. By telling us we are special, great, and deserving, they suggest that success depends on luck, not effort, creating an attitude of deserving and privilege. It might make us feel good for the short term, but in the long term, we are left feeling like victims of circumstance instead of someone who uses diligence and intelligence to succeed in life. And our focus remains solely on ourselves. We ignore or forget those around us in our push to the top. We may even be guilty of using people to get what we want while not considering how our actions affect them. We grow selfish and self-consumed, sometimes without even realizing it. That's because we lack emotional intelligence.

    We build emotional intelligence by learning to consider others. Not to the non-consideration of ourselves but to mutual benefit. Lisa Damour says we grow in emotional intelligence skills "when we use our insights about each other to find a way to solve hurts and misunderstandings."

    As I thought about her term, I began thinking of the Golden Rule, which is rarely taught today. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," Jesus said. And that takes emotional intelligence - reflection on your needs and the needs of others. Then, making a decision of action that will benefit both. But isn't that the consistent teaching of Scripture? To not think of ourselves more highly than we ought? To make room for and meet the needs of others? You can make a great Bible study on emotional intelligence by studying out the "one another" Bible verses. Google them and see what your Bible says.

    So the question for us to consider today is, how emotionally intelligent are we? Do we consider others when planning or choosing our words and actions? Or do we think only of what we want and let the chips fall regardless of the cost? Are we teaching the skill of emotional intelligence to our children? Are we exhibiting it before them? Let's be sure we are emotionally intelligent - having the "capacity to reflect on our thoughts, feelings, and actions and be aware of complex mental states - the wishes, beliefs, and feelings - of the people around us."

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Week Twenty-Seven - Mountain Movers

Jesus answered Peter's query about the dried-up fig tree by assuring him that believing prayer can move mountains and that whatsoever his heart desires could be his if he believes. We also venture to claim these great promises, but Jesus placed a prerequisite - you must have a spirit of forgiveness. Mark 11:25 - "And when ye stand praying, forgive."

    We rarely stand to pray, but this was the manner of the day, to stand in public with hands raised to heaven and pray aloud.

    The Pharisees were condemned for this out showing, not because the manner was wrong, but because their motive was askew. They wanted attention. Their motive was pride.

    Jesus even warned his disciples against praying while having ought with anyone. They needed pure hearts because unforgiveness, holding grudges, pride, resentment, and unresolved conflicts inhibit prayer.

    Chuck Lynch, in his book, I Should Forgive, But, takes time to examine many excuses we give as to why we cannot, will not, or believe we are justified not to forgive. In each case, Scripture reveals God's heart is always toward forgiveness. Why? Because God's heart is forgiving toward us. Ephesians 4:32 says that as He has forgiven us, we are likewise called to forgiveness.

    To refuse is to be bound in pride, and God hates pride. There is no place for it before God. Forgiveness requires humility. It is laying down the cloak of pride and putting on the garment of peace, laying aside the sword of vengeance and taking up the rod of gentleness. Forgiveness restores our peace. It opens the floodgates of God's mercy and opens our hearts to greater fellowship with Him and others.

    I have never prayed aloud, standing with my arms open to Heaven. Have you? But in my mind, I see it this way. If I pray like this, I open myself to God, allowing Him to look straight into my heart. If my heart is pure, the interaction would be glorious, but if my heart holds secret sins, unforgiveness, or pride, I am opening myself up to the judgment of God.

    Remember the Publican and the Pharisee praying? One, full of pride and self-righteousness, makes a show. The other, humble and repenting, kneels and beats his chest in confession. In either case, the manner is not condemned, but each is judged on his heart condition. 

    So today, where you to stand to pray, or even kneel, do so, ready to forgive. Forgive those who hurt you. Forgive those who cheated. Forgive those who spoke unkindly. Forgive those who have stolen from you. Forgive, "even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."

    And then, you can move mountains.