The past six months have been some of the most challenging and most fruitful of our lives. We have seen more salvations, baptisms in the Holy Spirit and disasters than I can remember. We want to thank you for being partners with us in it all. The new disciples that are being made and the hungry mouths that are being fed will thank you, with us, when we meet in heaven. Please click the big picture, below, for a quick rundown of all that has taken place or for an impressive array of photos that will amaze you! If the picture doesn't click, try here.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
Monday, May 01, 2017
I am NOT super kind.
But I AM afraid of being the rich man in the story of Lazarus the beggar, who died and suffered eternally for being a selfish man.
That is why I didn’t send Norma away on her first visit to my house. Not long into our conversation, I realized that Norma probably had some learning issues. She was about my age, stocky, and badly in need of some dental work, which I later related to her great love of sweets.
It was a sunny, hot afternoon about two months ago when Norma first came to my door. Our conversation went like this:
“Hi. There was an older lady who lives here who told me that I could come and get a piece of cake this afternoon. Can I talk to her?”
Me: “I’m the lady of the house here, and there isn’t one older than me.”
Norma: “Well, she told me I could have a piece of cake.”
Me: “I don’t have a piece of cake.”
Norma: “Do you have something to eat?”
The conversation (or better said, barrage of requests) continued on…..Norma wanted to be certain that she asked for all her favorite things. She asked me for something sweet to drink, for jewelry, for purses (she LOVES purses), desserts, jello, cookies for her son. She has also had two birthdays in the short time I have known her. 😊 Norma began to visit me regularly…every other day, sometimes every afternoon. I put a stop to the daily visits, as I realized that soon I would have to budget Norma into my grocery trips if I didn’t. I told her she could come once a week, which she MOSTLY abides by.
Norma has impacted my life in the strongest of ways, and probably not in the way you might think. All of you mercy people out there are thinking about all the nice things you might do for Norma, and assume that it is kindness that motivates me. Don’t be deceived. I usually know from her persistent ring that she is at my door, and it is not mercy that makes me answer. I just give her what she wants because I am obliged to care for the poor and because if I don’t, she will continue to pester me anyway. The real thing about Norma that speaks to me is that she NEVER STOPS ASKING FOR STUFF! She is one of the most persistent people I have ever met. If an entrepreneur went after business opportunities the way Norma does with jello, they would be a millionaire. I HATE asking for things, and Norma reminds me every week that he who does not ask does not get.
I am in a season where I am forging new territory with ministry to university students. I have to ASK---pastors, university officials, prospective student leaders. Over and over again. After the third try, I want to give up. But then there is Norma in my mind, asking for gelatin. And I knock again. Norma is God’s way of telling me that if I would just keep pushing, I would get more of what I want! The woman with the unjust judge cries out until he gives her what she wants, not because he likes her or even cares for her needs, or about justice. He does it because she is driving him nuts. I relate.
One day, I didn’t have any food for her. She was sorely disappointed. She kept running through her list. Nothing. I was ready to send her on her way with a pack of cookies and a drink of water (sometimes I get stubborn about the sweet drinks issue, thinking it is better to give her water). Then like a light going off, she asked for flan. I realized I had the remains of a HUGE flan in the fridge that my flan-loving husband wouldn’t finish because of his travels. I told her that, yes, I actually DID have flan! She literally jumped up and down with excitement. She had hit the jackpot! I was flabbergasted that she had just happened to ask for something that was in my house, that usually wasn’t. It was almost like an angel playing a joke on me had dropped it into her mind.
One day, it’s going to be my flan day. A door will open on a campus that looked impenetrable a day before, or someone will decide to become a disciple of Jesus because I listened to the Holy Spirit. I'll risk crossing the line of making a bother of myself. I will put on a little bit of Norma-tude, and a huge portion of Holy Spirit-gifted flan will fall in my lap. I may even do a Norma dance. And then I'll do it again!
Friday, September 09, 2016
Hosea 3 and God’s unfolding revelation
I recently had a brief conversation on Facebook with some XA disciples, in which one of them referenced my teachings on how to interpret the Bible. He quoted my teachings, saying, “It can never mean what it never meant.” It was gratifying to know that someone was listening and that he still remembers! But, it also revealed my own growth as a biblical scholar and theologian, since I no longer agree with what I used to teach! (This enables me to give grace to politicians who change their views – though I have no plans to extend that grace to anyone who is currently running for office!)
The quote was saying that, when one is interpreting the Bible, the meaning of the text for the original audience is THE meaning. So, when Jesus told the parable of the lost coin, he was talking about a lost coin and not about Syrian refugees or Taylor Swift's latest boyfriend. Whatever the text meant to the original audience is still, by far, the best place to start in interpreting the Bible. BUT, the conversation doesn’t end there. As such, I feel the need to write my old friends back and explain that I don't hold as strongly to that as I used to. The reason is that I’ve grown in my understanding of Biblical Theology and the firm belief that the later books in the Bible reveal and explain God’s plan, intentionally, with greater clarity than the earlier books. So, even though we can see salvation by grace in Genesis, we see it much clearer in Ephesians. And once we’ve read Ephesians, we will forever see Genesis in a different light. The amazing aspect of this is that God knew, all along, that the day would come when Ephesians would influence what I see in Genesis. He knew that! In fact, when Jesus preached, he knew that his audience was made up of first century farmers and fishermen – but he also knew that I would one day read the same sermon. God was preaching to them in their time and to me in this time at the same time. Therefore, limiting the text to the incomplete perspective of the original audience unnecessarily limits God's "unfolding revelation."
I realized early on (even as I was teaching the limited methodology) that such a limited perspective of interpretation completely negated the possibility of prophecy. So, I changed the quote to say, “It can never mean what it never meant … except for prophecy.” Unfortunately, that limits God, too, for the entire Bible is prophecy. It's like when movies or video games put in "Easter eggs." Those are fun little clues that reveal that there is a unified author often telling apparently disconnected stories. Pixar movies are full of references to other Pixar movies; e.g., in the dentist’s office of Finding Nemo, there is a Buzz Lightyear doll on the floor and a little boy is reading an “Incredibles” comic book. Also, in nearly every Pixar movie, the same Toyota Pizza truck can be seen and the number A113 is in all of them. In a similar way, God has put parts of the N.T. in the O.T. -- not to mention that Jesus is the subject of all of it.
With that in mind, we come to my own devotional reading from a couple of days ago. It is Hosea 3:1-5: "The Lord said to me, “Go, show love to your wife again, even though she loves another man and continually commits adultery. Likewise, the Lord loves the Israelites although they turn to other gods and love to offer raisin cakes to idols.” 3:2 So I paid fifteen shekels of silver and about seven bushels of barley to purchase her. 3:3 Then I told her, “You must live with me many days; you must not commit adultery or have sexual intercourse with another man, and I also will wait for you.” 3:4 For the Israelites must live many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred fertility pillar, without ephod or idols. 3:5 Afterward, the Israelites will turn and seek the Lord their God and their Davidic king. Then they will submit to the Lord in fear and receive his blessings in the future. (NET)"
From my N.T. perspective, I see 3 things:
1. V 1-2: Hosea had to pay a "redemption" price to get his wife back. Somehow, in her sin and idolatry, she got into debt (perhaps to a pimp or maybe she was in jail for a DUI -- it's easy to get into debt when you live without boundaries) and Hosea had to pay the price to set her free. How difficult it must have been for him to have to pay for her, knowing full well that she was guilty. This makes me think of Jesus, paying the price for us, out of his love for us, knowing full well what shameful harlots we are. You could say that Jesus isn’t in the text, but I would beg to differ. God commanded Hosea to return to his unfaithful wife as an example of God’s love for His people. God planned this out intentionally. It is not coincidental that Hosea had to pay a redemption price for his unfaithful wife and we cannot overlook that God paid a very costly redemption price for us. He who orchestrated this story did so as a prequel to the even more tragic story to come.
2. V 3-4: Hosea withheld having times of intimacy with his wife as an illustration that a time would come when God's presence would not be with His people. They would not have a King or a priest--before a Davidic King would come. I look at this and see the 400 years without prophecy, before Jesus (the Davidic king and Priest in the order of Melchizedek) came. It would be very unlikely that the original audience would have had the same interpretation, since they lacked the information that we currently have.
3. V 5: After this long time without God's intimate presence, there would come a new time of intimacy in which the previous rebellious people would become God seekers. A Davidic King will reign over them and they will willingly submit to the Lord. This is clearly (from my N.T. perspective) referring to Jesus and the character transforming ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is, again, unlikely that the original audience could have foreseen this fulfillment. What is very likely is that the original audience could only see the general outline that God would not reject them forever and that the Davidic dynasty would not be wiped out. All of that is true, but we now know how it came to be fulfilled.
So, proper biblical interpretation recognizes the interpretation of the original audience (as much as we can surmise it) and also brings clarity to it with an awareness of, and insights from, God's unfolding revelation.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
This from Lena:
When we arrived in the States last June, I was sure my fascination with shopping for things I can’t get in Peru would fade after a month or so, but that wasn’t the case. In my family, we always joke saying, “Hey, did you know there is a sale at Kohls?!!?” (There is always a sale at Kohls). Even though I know that much of the shopping has been totally reasonable, I find that there are heart issues that have surprised me with their voracious spirit—an inner demand for more, for “enough” that is impossible to satisfy.
When the Israelites were miraculously delivered out of slavery (and into the desert), they went immediately into God’s training program for How To Be God’s People. They were free, but they were out in the dessert with all they owned and all their families. They were like a traveling metropolis, with no way to keep themselves in food and water—the most basic of elements. I am always fascinated by God’s delivery system for the manna that saved their lives. Manna was delivered only by God’s hand, it was delivered daily, it was un-hoardable, it was provided in such a way as to never be too much or too little regardless of how much you gathered, and the only time you could gather extra was in preparation for the Sabbath. God was clearly their only source for food, and He insisted that they trust Him to provide what they needed, but only when they needed it. Nothing more, nothing less.
These rules remind me of the process of adoption and the way parents need to proceed to form a secure emotional connection to their children—especially those who come to their new home having been a victim of neglect or abuse or lived in extremely impoverished situations. The new parents have to be the only ones to feed the adopted child, the only ones to care for their needs, so that trust can be built. They have to learn to trust their parents enough to accept in their hearts that they don’t need to hoard food for later—for just in case things go south—in case they need to make a quick get away. It seems to me that when the hoarding stops, it is clear evidence that trust is formed—something to celebrate!
It has been so clear to me lately that the impulse to hoard is a clear sign that the hoarder does not trust that what they need will be provided. As a child of God, it means that I am still thinking I may have to keep a suitcase ready in case this God doesn’t come through. In my own heart, I find myself needing to cling to scripture. I tell myself, “Lena, if he dresses the lilies so beautifully, how much more will He take care to dress you?” The orphan in me fights back, but the loved adopted daughter declares her security, and says, “My Father is a good father, and He will provide everything I need!”
So I do regular checks for cheerios in the closet. It’s a journey, like everything else! Hoarding gives me a false sense of security that doesn’t satisfy and a nagging worry over scarcity, but trusting the hand of the Father gives peace and an opportunity to prove his love, not only to me, but to those who walk with me and have their own stash hidden away that they need to surrender. Even cheerios eventually go stale sitting in that closet, but his mercies are new every morning, and his manna is ready for the day.
Friday, June 24, 2016
This, from Bill:
Ps. 66:11 is strong and, for many, hard to reconcile with their concept of God. It says, "You led us into a trap; you caused us to suffer. (NET)" To understand it, it is helpful to look at the verses before and after.
66:9 He preserves our lives
and does not allow our feet to slip.
66:10 For you, O God, tested us;
you purified us like refined silver.
66:11 You led us into a trap;
you caused us to suffer.
66:12 You allowed men to ride over our heads;
we passed through fire and water,
but you brought us out into a wide open place. (NET, Ps 66:9-12)
This is a great juxtaposition of concepts. In the heart of it is God as athletic coach or good father. He intentionally puts the trainee under pressure so that when real pressure comes, the person can withstand it and come forth victorious. 66:11 is really strong, "You led us into a trap; you caused us to suffer." In today's culture the goal of life is pleasure and comfort. In God's culture, the goal is strength and freedom. Some people say that it is unjust for God to cause us to suffer. This is either evidence that the Bible's depiction of God is untrue (since a good God would never do that) or that the God of the O.T. is cruel and should not be worshipped. Ironically, they would not say the same of a drill sergeant at boot camp or of one of the coaches on "The Biggest Loser." There is an understanding in those contexts of the classic adage, "No pain, no gain." In the passage above, the difficulty the we press through is the very thing that produces victory. The suffering is the lesson that "preserves our lives and does not allow our feet to slip." (verse 9) And that, brings us to freedom; i.e., "into a wide open place. (NET, Ps 66:12)"
Over the last year, I've gained about 10 pounds. That has caused its own kind of suffering and, yet, I still have a very high opinion of ice cream.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Congratulations! You have worked hard and long, stayed up into the night to complete your tasks, enjoyed time with your friends and now you are looking back and soaking it in. You pause in these last hang-outs with friends for just moments and think, “Wow. This really is it!” You know that your heart is in the business of choosing a path. It likely will not be a path from which you cannot re-trace your steps, because much of the joy of youth is that there is abundant time for a do-over.
Still, little by little, you will choose. A pattern will begin to emerge from what looked like a crazy jumble of yarn in the beginning. Your story will take unexpected turns—some that you never would have chosen, and at least a few that take your breath away.
Some would say that times have changed; that life is harder now than it was in the past. Because you are a young man of the Word, you know that Biblical times dressed sin differently, with its pagan worship, but that the expressions were the very same sins we see today. Paul and the apostles consistently warned against conforming to these sins that are obvious to those who are awake—sexual impurity, drunkenness, greed, selfish ambition, vain conceit, hard-heartedness. True followers of Jesus lived differently, not just adding a thin veneer of Jesus on top. These standards have not changed!
And so, I challenge you now as I have many times before. Root yourself deep in the Lord. I don’t care what the rest of the world is doing, you be a soldier for Jesus. The standards your dad and I have set for you set you out on the path to freakdom. You feel the strain of pulling in a different direction, and you will feel (as you already have felt) like a weirdo as others watch your choices to treat with kindness those who are rejected by others, your purity of speech, your way of only speaking the Name of Jesus with the reverence of one who serves Him, your readiness to share the gospel. You look and smell different. As life goes on, you will do campus outreach when others are watching Netflix, you will go to worship practice when you know you could really use some more study time, you will continue to take time to show kindness to someone everyone else ignores. In lots of little ways, you will set a standard that others see as extreme and unnecessary. They may even insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all sorts of evil things about you. Rejoice and be glad, because a great reward awaits us! (Matt 5:11). Your life will be set on a trajectory that little by little, with each decision to put the Kingdom of God first, you will mark out a path that will be rich and adventurous and the kind of life that leaves few regrets. And you WILL be a weirdo. It runs in the family.
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
A friend recently asked if we can receive letters and packages in the mail in Peru. The answer is yes. We get cards and letters all the time. Receiving packages is also possible, but requires a bit more work. For a package, we need to know ahead of time what is in it and how much the contents are worth (since we have to pay customs/taxes on many items). Also, it is best if letters and packages are sent to my legal name, William Shrader, which is printed on my government ID; rather than Bill--which, in another culture, looks like a different name. These lessons have been learned the hard way; that is, the "culture shock" way. Culture shock is when one experience is interpreted two different ways and both interpretations make sense -- depending on your cultural context. When you live overseas, you stumble onto culture shock experiences without warning. Your success as a missionary greatly depends on your willingness to see the other's perspective and to keep a good sense of humor about it throughout. Here's just one of my "culture shock" experiences and my attempt to laugh at it now.
|Who is Bill Shrader and why do you want his mail?!!!|
Twice I've been summoned to customs and interrogated. They didn't put me in a dank room with a single light over my head, but it was still stressful. It was more like a big post office where they held my package hostage--which I'm sure was a very frightening experience for the package. They questioned why I was receiving packages using an alias, rather than my legal name. They insisted that I come clean and confess, demanding "Who is Bill Shrader?!!!" I resisted the urge to say, "Bill Shrader is a sensitive, yet complicated man, who enjoys a night at the ballet even though he's embarrassed by their outfits." Instead, I explained that “Bill” is such a common nickname in the U.S., that all Americans know that Bill and William are the same name. That didn't fly, since (as everyone can see) Bill and William start with different letters.
They then demanded that I tell them what was in the package to confirm that I was the real recipient. Their logic was that the real recipient would know that the package was coming and what it contained. I knew neither. The package (I later found out) was sent by a church and I had no idea it was coming or what was in it. Their heads exploded. The customs agents could not believe that someone in another country would send something without telling the recipient what it was and that it was coming. I explained that sometimes, even in Peru, friends send a gift without telling you what’s in it. (The problem with that analogy is that, in Peru, nobody uses the mail. They don't trust it. So, while they may give a gift and not tell you what is in it, they really wouldn't "send" it. I knew my argument was weak, but I stuck to it.) I asked them to tell me who sent it and that I would call and find out what was inside. That was not acceptable, because they believed that once I knew who sent it, they could no longer prove that I was NOT Bill Shrader. So, they asked me what it was worth. I explained that not knowing what was in the package made it very hard to determine its value. I advised them to open the package and that we would all discover its contents and value together. This took a lot of convincing, since they still didn't believe that I was Bill Shrader -- which meant, from their perspective, that a stranger was telling them to open somebody else's mail to see if he wanted what was inside. We were at an impasse. I approached it with American logic and they responded with Peruvian logic--both of which makes sense in their own cultural context. Eventually, I won. It helped that I lived at the same address as Bill Shrader and I had the same phone number, too.
So, what was inside? A bag of coffee and some garage sale items like used children’s books and T-shirts. It was a very thoughtful gift. Finding english children's books in Peru is nearly impossible. So, some good coffee and five Hardy Boys books from a garage sale is a great missionary gift. The problem, then, was the issue of value. What's the value of garage sale items in a country where they've never heard of a garage sale? I explained that the books were not new and that in the US, people sell used things on Saturdays in their front yard and that all their neighbors come looking for a bargain. It was as though I had told the Customs agents that Americans let random neighbors pick through their drawers looking for clean underwear—then they mail it to strangers.