Thursday, December 15, 2011

Feeding Program Success Stories

An omelet made with egg, rice, dried vegetables,
soy protein and vitamins.

This from Bill:

For a couple of years, we were able to feed up to 1000 kids three to five days per week in our poorest schools. Thankfully, the food was generously provided by two ministries: Fire Peru and Feed My Starving Children. Last year, while we were in the states, we had to close the feeding program. The mission of Latin America ChildCare is to transform the lives of children in need with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through education and ministries of compassion (like the feeding program). Closing the program down felt counter to our mission.

Saying Grace before eating lunch.

When we returned to Peru, we received good news. A container of food was available. It would be  enough food to feed the kids in our two schools in the jungle—but it would cost $4500 to get it out of the port. How were we going to pay for it? 

We received a $500 donation last year, specifically marked for the feeding program. Ironically, when we received the donation, we had already closed the program. So, it was a prophetic faith-seed donation. But that left us $4000 short. We did the only prudent thing to do in that situation: close our eyes and jump. That’s right, close our eyes and spend money we don’t have on an expensive program we can’t afford. The reason I was willing to go out on a limb is that I know these kids personally. They’re not just pictures on a television screen. These are the kids that scream “Missionary Bill!” and run to hug me when they see me walking down their muddy jungle streets.  

Three stories haunt me and motivated my decision to spend the money. The first is of a boy who grew two inches in two months. (That must have hurt!) The families in the jungle town of Iquitos only earn 71 cents per person daily. They are literally starving. 35% of the children in Iquitos suffer from stunted growth as a result of extreme malnutrition. He was one of them; but when his body got the nourishment it needed, it took off like a weed.

The second story is of a girl who gained ten pounds in one month. After finishing her own lunch, she went around eating the leftover food off of the other students’ plates. The teachers realized that she wasn’t eating anything at home. It reminded me of my father, who was a prisoner of war during WWII. He spent nine months in a prison camp on the island of Singapore. When the war ended, he weighed less than 100 pounds. He said that for years afterwards, he never felt like he could eat enough. That is what this young girl was going through. As soon as she got the chance to eat, she couldn’t stop.

The third story comes from Doris—one of the teachers in Belen, the poorest neighborhood in Iquitos. She spoke with me as we were installing a computer lab in our school there. Doris thanked me for the feeding program and told me that before the program, the school did not have any behavioral problems with the kids. She said that they all sat in class quietly listening. But, when we started the feeding program, their behavior changed completely. They became like wild animals. They would not sit still. They talked in class. They were disorderly. She realized that before the feeding program, they did not have enough energy to be rebellious. They didn’t have enough energy to move. Once they started eating, their behavior changed and they became kids again. Her face was filled with tears and a smile as she declared, “Now they’re acting like kids are supposed to act!”

Kids are supposed to smile and play

When we returned to Peru, I asked God to get the feeding program back up and running. As such, I was excited when I heard that we could have food this year, if we could pay to get it out of the port. A $4000 expense ($4500 minus the $500 I’d already been given) was not in the budget. But, what could I do? I thought about the kids with stunted growth and the ones who are too tired to play, and I made the decision to pay the money and feed the kids for one more year. On top of that, we paid another $3000 to buy Christmas gifts for the children who don’t have a Latin America Childcare Sponsor. The outlay of cash was making my Midwest conservative head spin right off my body! Having said that, let me now ask for prayer—that God would pay for it all. Pray that He would open the windows of heaven and confirm our decision to spend the money. And, if you feel God calling you to join us by making a special gift, please do so! You can make a special donation by clicking the donations tab on the top-left of the blog. Please send me a note, also, to let me know what the donation is for. Thanks!

For another great story about the feeding program, please see Lena’s blog entry:

For some pictures of the program click here:

20 Fabulous Years

Bill and Lena - Dec. 14, 1991

Yesterday, Lena and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. I'm grateful to God for a wife that is spiritual, fun and gets better looking every day. I'm a blessed man!

One of the funny "wedding stories" has to do with the eating of the wedding cake. Lena and I were blessed to have two receptions. The first one was in Cleveland, immediately following the wedding. As is my nature, we were very proper in that ceremony. I'm not a big fan of newly married couples displaying some kind of hidden aggression in their first hours of matrimony. The second reception was held in Cincinnati, the day after the wedding. It was for our Cincy friends who couldn't make the drive to Cleveland. My mother insisted that we wear our wedding garb to give it an official feeling. To add to it officialness, we replayed the cutting of the cake for everyone. But, this time it was a lot more relaxed. As I recall, my brother-in-law Bob lead the call for something more fun than our politeness from the day before. Others joined in and I began to see a playful gleam in Lena's eye. She went into a wide-up like a major league pitcher and I knew I was in trouble. Bob saw it too and had his camera ready. That is how we got my favorite picture from our wedding. After Lena pelted me with the cake, it was my turn. I couldn't smash it in her face. So, I rushed forward and kissed her--smearing it all over her face. It's a good image of our marriage--a mix of play and proper, fun and fancy. I'm looking forward to 20 more years of the same!

The pics below tell the story in order:

Lena contemplates the attack while the crowd is egging her on.

She makes her move!

Bill responds with a kiss, smearing icing on Lena's face.

It tastes so good, we opt for another kiss.

Here are some pics of the wedding:

In my FaceBook post, I dedicated a song to Lena. If you want to hear the song and view some really big hair, check out the Forester Sisters' youtube video:

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Waiting for Worship: Raising Kids to Worship with their Hearts

This from Lena:

This morning we enjoyed a family time of worship together.  These days it is harder to assemble, with sleepovers and busy teen social schedules, but we still manage to squeak out some time many Saturday mornings to worship together.  We started this custom years ago with a promising vocalist of 12 years and novice drummer on a Costa Rican bongo.  It was stop and start, especially with two toddlers, but we have been richly rewarded with Hannah showing great promise as a lead vocalist in worship, with a couple of instruments budding, and Colton is now an intrepid percussionist.

But the heart of this--the desire we had--was to nurture a heart of worship in our children.  We raised Hannah and Colton in a constant environment of communal worship in Chi Alpha campus ministries, and when we switched ministry focus, we didn't want to lose that focus.  I see a natural progression in the lives of Hannah and Colton, that now it is THEM who desire to worship and adore, and their own relationships with the Lord now drives their worship.

But I remember the squiggly days--especially because I see it lived out in Abi and Will.  They struggle to stay with us.  Many of the songs aren't familiar, as Sunday mornings are done in Spanish and apart from the parents, so they are learning other songs.  We try to let the little ones do their thing.  They can hit a drum, shake a shaker, dance a dance, or whatever, but they have to invest.  Every Saturday that we manage to gather them up for worship, it is so similar.  I see the little ones slip away in their minds, and have to call them back, and it is not exactly fun or worship-rewarding on my end, but I look at my two big ones, and praise God that they found their way to Him in the middle of this environment, and I keep setting them on the right track, waiting for worship to spill out of their little hearts.  Some children are like open spiritual magnets, and draw the Lord into their hearts like sponges.  They easily slip into His presence, and it is a breeze.  Others are more cerebral, and require more patience, but that doesn't mean they aren't right there in worship.  Just different.

But when worship arrives, and time stops, and they slip into that timeless place where God touches their hearts and they are talking to Him and walking with Him---that is the gold of parenting.  Sometimes it feels like I am serving them carrots and peas for the umpteenth time, following that old principle that if you expose them to a vegetable enough, they will eventually like it and get used to the taste.  Repeated exposure.  But the moment that they find out that worship is like a fresh orange of life and refreshment, and not a rutabaga, there is celebration in the house.  Don't give up. Wait for worship.  It is worth it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Reaching or Becoming the Lost

Abi let's her light shine on the 4th of July.

This from Bill:

I wanted to share some thoughts that ran through my head this morning as I read the Bible. The  following verse jumped out at me (don't worry, I'll translate it): 

2 Cor. 6:14 No se asocien íntimamente con los que son incrédulos.

There is a small conflict between the concepts of reaching the lost through friendship and becoming the lost through friendship. 2 Cor. 6:14, in the NIV reads, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” It  is often used in counseling couples against an interfaith marriage (especially given the marital meaning of intimacy). But, it has also been used more generally, as in the example of entering into a business partnership with an unscrupulous partner. The Message (by Eugene Peterson) phrases verses 14 and 15 this way, “Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands?” The interfaith marriage or unscrupulous business partner are very real and appropriate warnings which can be taken from this verse. The NTV (the Spanish translation quoted above) jumped out at me as I was reading it. My translation of the NTV sounds like this: "Don't have an intimate association with those who are incredulous (that is, with those who are critical of the faith)."

Hanging out with people who reject you is painful. As such, some Christians try to hide what they think, feel or believe about many topics, in order to avoid the ire of their so called friends. I say, "so called friends," because I don't believe it is possible to have a real friendship with someone who views the philosophical foundations of your life as foolish or stupid. To pull that off, one would have to be a hypocrite—either not saying what he/she really believes or not really believing it. The Message’s phrasing of verse 15 sums it up well, “How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands?”

It is hard for an honest person to be friends with dishonest thieves. The latter keep stealing from the former, then laughing at him for his gullible foolishness. It's possible to be an acquaintance with theives, but you have to keep your doors locked. As the NTV puts it, one can’t "associate intimately" with such people. An intimate friendship, in this case, is speaking about much more than mere acquaintanceship; rather, it's about opening up one's life, living without barriers, unlocking the doors. The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary supports this, stating, "Paul has just appealed to the Corinthians for mutual openness in affection and in speech. His own heart is open wide to them, but both he and they know why they cannot reciprocate as fully as they ought. Some of them have an uneasy conscience about their continuing pagan associations.”

Real friendship requires reciprocal trust and respect. Real friends let their guards down and value one another. It is possible to be friends with somone who disagrees with your faith, as long as that person values who you are and respects you. But, if that person is opposed to your faith (incredulous), such that he/she speaks ill of it and anyone who adheres to it, then you cannot be real friends with that person--unless you are a glutton for punishment or hide what you believe.

The latter is the option that many Christians take. They live and speak like people in the world, in order to reach those in the world. It is analogous to becoming darkness to reach people living in darkness or to putting a basket over a candle. The latter example is rather funny, since it is nonsensical (you don’t light a light and then obscure it). But it goes beyond nonsensical to dangerous, since the basket will either snuff out the flame or the flame will set fire to the basket. In Luke 8:16, Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” The bed statement would have been ridiculously obvious to Christ’s listeners, since beds were predominantly made out of straw. So, not only would the light not shine, it could end up burning down the entire house. That’s the danger of trying to hide the light within. If one tries to snuff-out or obscure the fire within, it will only come to a tragic end. It is also, as the verse points out, incongruent. Obviously, if one is trying to reach those in darkeness, at some point one needs to turn the light on. When that happens, a few will be grateful, but the majority will find that it hurts their eyes and they'll blame the light-bearer for their pain. In John 3:19-21, Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (NIV)”

In other words, “Ouch!” They are going to cover their eyes, scream that you are hurthing them, then blame you. In fact, those who dislike the light will eventually go beyond blaming to accusing. In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)”

It is really hard to rejoice when people persecute you and “falsely saying all kinds of evil against you,” but according to Jesus (and I think He can be trusted on this subject), it’ll be worth it.

Today, those who have a strong opinion that is opposed to the politically correct teachings of the world (especially the part of the world that is located in Hollywood, California), are declared to be intollerant and irrelevant. As such, many Christians stray away from such topics in an attempt to win their friends and co-workers. Unfortunately (as detailed above), it is a failed methodology. It’ll destroy you. You can’t squash what you are in order to win others to what you are. That's nonsensical and dangerous. When you put on a mask in order to suppress what you really believe, you endanger your very being and may become that which you emulate.

I’m not saying that we can’t be acquaintances with people who do not share our faith. We have to be. Who else is going to tell them the truth? (See 1 Cor. 5:9-13) But, there is a big difference between an acquaintance and an intimate friend.

It is important for us to take heed of Paul’s advice against being “unequally yoked,” or (as the NTV puts it) having an intimate association with those who are incredulous. We cannot hide the truth in order to make it known. In our attempts to reach the lost, we don’t want to become them.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lessons from the tooth and toe!

This from Bill:

Our first term as foreign missionaries had been successful, but was not without challenges. Some of the challenges tested our faith and nerves. They left us weary and ready to return to the states for support raising and recuperation.  Others challenges did not look significant on the outside, but I somehow felt like they were. When our term was up and it was time to move back to the states, I suffered three minor wounds that made me feel like the devil was trying to chase me away. They were a broken tooth, a bruised toe and a torn rotator cuff.

The tooth was a molar, held together by a combination of Elmer's glue and duct tape. (Actually, it was ceramic polymer, but it LOOKED like Elmer’s glue and duct tape.)  In the midst of the move, the tooth exploded like Mount St. Helens. (I shared about this on a previous entry.) The dentist did not give me enough Novocain! I could feel everything he was doing. I was totally tense, awaiting the moment when the drill would hit the nerve. The smell of the tooth/ceramic being drilled away was sickening. (Please see the attached photo, which is a 100% real recreation.) 

Basking in the power of complete self-pity, I lay in the chair thinking, "Why do I have to go through this pain in the last few days of our first term. Can't I get out of here without having to endure another stressful experience?"

The answer was no. The dentist put in new glue and fried it with a type of laser beam that is the dentist's version of an Easy Bake Oven. I left the office with a certified case of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), aggravated by PTDV (Peruvian Traumatic Dental Visit).

I decided to recover by going back to our apartment and moving to the United States. Back at the apartment, two things happened. The first is that our cleaning woman washed my running shoes. Our cleaning woman worked for us twice a week and was obsessed with our shoes. Since Lima is a desert, shoes get dirty fast—but they were no match for our cleaning lady. She had them looking like new in a jiffy. Unfortunately for our kids, they often discovered that their shoes were soaking wet just as they needed to put them on to go to school. The routine usually went like this:

Bill: Put your shoes on, we're going to be late!

Shrader child: I can't find my shoes!

Bill: They're in the laundry room. Quick, put them on!

Shrader child: Yuck! They're all wet!

Eventually we had to forbid the cleaning woman from cleaning the shoes, but not before she got to mine. I thought, “Wow, these look like new.” But they didn’t feel right. After 20 trips up and down four flights of stairs, I realized what it was—they had shrunk. My big toe (on the right foot) began to ache as the shoe pushed the nail into the toe.  

It takes more than a bruised toe to keep this missionary from moving overseas, so I ignored the pain and bent over to pick up a mattress. That’s when the second unfortunate event occurred. The mattress was not a California King or even a stately queen. It was a humble twin. I picked it up a little off center, so I tossed it in the air, just a little, to get it better situated. As I did so, something in my left shoulder made a sound like a rubber-band snapping.

A friend saw me wince and said, “Let me help you with that.”

I said, “Thanks, because I don’t think my arm is connected to my body anymore.”

Technically, it was still connected, but not of much use. It was a torn rotator cuff and the mattress was, literally, the last straw. For months after that, I could only use my left arm if I didn’t have to actually lift it. So, I returned to the states on June 28, 2010, with a gimpy toe, a useless arm and a fear of hot beverages. Thankfully, in a short amount of time, God began a restorative work in us that included healing my arm and my toe.

Big Bruise - Oct 31, 2010
The initial physical evidence of God’s restoration was the bruise under my toe nail. It began to grow out. In October of 2010, Lena and I traveled to Yulee, Florida and had a great time ministering at Celebration Assembly. While walking along the beach, we talked about the bruise and joked that it was a sign from God; i.e., that when the bruise grew out, it would be time to return to Peru. Truthfully, I was only half joking. For me, the bruise had taken on the identity of the difficulties we endured during our first term and of the restoration we were receiving from the Lord during our time in the states. My shoulder was another sign. Even though it was less visible than the bruise on my toe, I was aware that it hurt less each day. God was at work.

Little Bruise - March 22, 2011
The next toe picture was on March 22nd – nine months after the move. As you can see, most of the bruise is gone. The nail, where the bruise had been, was no longer connected to the toe. A few weeks later, it was time to clip it off. The date was April 15th. We had received the word from the Lord that we would return to Peru “on time and by a miracle,” a month or so before. The toe nail was a ridiculous, but real, confirmation. It was time to return.

No Bruise - April 15, 2011 - Time to return
But one thing was necessary to do before leaving Cincinnati—visit the dentist. So, the day before we moved out of our house, we all went to the dentist’s office. The first thing he noted was that the duct tape and Elmer’s glue were not holding up very well. (This was not the fault of the Peruvian dentist. Rather, it was a sad fact of the state of the tooth.) He begged me to come back later, to try to repair the tooth. But I could not. We had people waiting at the house to begin the move.

Ironically, as my toe and shoulder pain got better, Lena got worse. She had experienced debilitating pain in her jaw. For months she had been on a powerful pain medication to relieve what was thought to be trigeminal neuralgia -- a debilitating nerve disorder. On July 20, the day before our move, Lena went to the dentist. He discovered a cyst in Lena’s gum, just below her bottom teeth. It needed immediate treatment. Therefore, on the day of our move, Lena got an emergency root canal to flush out the infection. Though it added stress to our move, it was an answer to prayer. The pain from the cyst had plagued Lena for months. We prayed for revelation and God revealed the cause. He also provided an excellent oral surgeon who was able to take Lena in the very next morning.

The move out of our house and the return to Lima went very smoothly. (Thanks to all our friends who helped!) But, a few days after arriving in Lima, two things happened: First, Lena smashed her thumb in the car door. It was extremely painful and all of the observers said, in unison, “She’s going to lose that nail!” (I would show you pictures of her nail, but it would require a warning label.)

Bill's understated street credibility
At nearly the same time as Lena’s semi-thumbectomy, Mt. Saint Helens erupted once again--my tooth exploded. Thankfully, I was able to get to the dentist the next day—though not without immense fear on my part. (I could feel the nerve with my tongue!) The dentist bulldozed the remaining shards of the tooth and rebuilt it with a gold crown. (Please note in the photo that A) they were having a two for one sale, and B) the street credibility that gold teeth gives a man. Since the teeth are molars, one can’t really see the gold in normal social settings; but, just knowing they’re there gives me a sense of confidence among those for whom gold teeth is a powerful fashion statement.)

This is where I reveal, with some apprehension, the part of me that feels like something spiritual is going on. I realize that my tooth, toe and tendon could have all been coincidences or the result of a lack of wisdom on my part. I realize that I’m at fault for not getting the tooth checked out sooner or for lifting the mattress in the wrong way. But I feel like there is more to it. Just before leaving Peru, I had to have emergency dental work.  Just before leaving the states, Lena had to have emergency dental work. Then, just after arriving back in Peru, I had to have emergency dental work again. Just before leaving Peru, I had a damaged toe nail. Just after returning, Lena had a damaged thumb nail. Is it just coincidence or is God or the enemy trying to write a story with too much poetic parallelism? My suspicion is simply that the enemy has been trying to attack us and wear us down. That is, we've been fighting a spiritual battle tooth and nail! 

A few things are apparent from these experiences:

1) Lena and I put off visiting the dentist until the last possible minute.

2) One should never wear shoes that are too small or close a car door when you’re exhausted and in a hurry.

3) The enemy will try to attack and wear you down by all sorts of tactics, but he will not win. God is there, providing miracles along the way. The cyst in Lena’s mouth was so painful, it caused literal despair--but God revealed the cause. That’s the part we need to keep reminding ourselves. We tend to get caught up in our pains. When it happens, it is helpful to remember the times when God got us through. When I was in the dentist’s chair or was experiencing pain from my toe and shoulder, I was tempted to feel that the enemy was going to keep poking us until we gave up. But that was not the case. God did not let that happen. There are a lot of things to be afraid of in life (especially for missionaries). It is easy to walk in fear. But, that’s no way to live! It’ll suck you dry. So, let me state the obvious for my own encouragement (and for those for whom this story resonates in some way): Though we may experience pain and frustration, God answers our prayers and brings about restoration.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Be the Olive Tree

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever.
I will praise you forever for what you have done;
in your name I  will hope, for your name is good.
I will praise you in the presence of your saints. (Psalms 52:8-9)

This verse is planted in the middle of one of those psalms whose composition was clearly provoked through some difficult trial of the psalmist in which some powerful, deceitful person was weilding influence.  The psalmist sees injustice, imagining the justice that God himself will carry out against this man once all is said and done.  At the end, he refocuses himself, as we all must do, and ends his poem with this declaration of faithfulness.
I became curious about the olive tree after reading this passage.  There are some things that probably everyone in Israel knows about olive trees that many of us do not, and so I wanted to investigate.  It was encouraging, so I thought I would share.

Cool Stuff About Olive Trees

1. Olive trees can live for thousands of years, continuing to give fruit! 

2.Olive trees can survive great hardship--even a fire that destroys the tree above ground will not destroy the root.  Within days after a fire, an olive tree can send up new shoots.  Talk about resilience.

3.Olive trees can be killed by over-watering.  Apparently, babying an olive tree can produce disease that will end it's life.

Cool Stuff About People Who Plant Themselves in the House of God

1. We can give fruit for many years, producing an impressive yield.  It is the location that makes the difference.  In the house of God, the soil is just right, and when we live there, the fruit follows.

2.We can survive great hardship when our roots are deep in the House of God.  You can't grow roots where you only sit once a week.  We have to live there.  But if we do, we can expect there to be shoots coming up, even after the greatest trials imaginable.  Olive trees with deep roots are survivors, and so are those who make the Almighty their home.

3.Our growth can be stunted if life gets too easy, and we can even spiritually die.  Have you ever seen a person for whom life is too easy?  When things are too easy, we seem to be able to create problems to obsess over.  We weren't created for ease, but for God's pleasure, and conflict and diffuculties are His pruning tools. 

I want to be the olive tree.  Olives are delicious(I grew up eating them as a little Italian-American), and the oil that comes from them is really good for you. They are strong and durable, showing off their best quality in the face of trouble--their resilience.  They were not created as something delicate, but as something enduring.  I want to send up shoots even in the most difficult season, signaling to all around that I WILL survive, even when the fire or pruning has been severe.  I will accept that an easy life could very well be the death of me, and so I will accept  the turbulence of my life, whatever it may be, knowing it is serving the purpose of keeping me very close to the Savior, with deep roots in the house of God.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Standing on the Promises

A friend of mine recently raised the issue of Christians who claim O.T. promises that, with a closer reading of the text, cannot really be claimed by a Christian in Ohio. For example, back in the 80’s, it was very in vogue to claim the promises of Deuteronomy 28. In so doing, people never mention the curses for disobedience in the same chapter, nor the fact that to receive many of the promises one had to be “in the land” of Israel. Having said that, I don't want to squash to faith of anyone who is looking for the good that our Heavenly Father has for us. So, here's a defense for claiming a few of the really good promises.

1) Gal 3:16 states, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. (NIV)” If I am Part of Abraham's seed, then I am heir to his promises. Ephesians 1:4-6 says that we were chosen (in Christ) to be adopted as sons and daughters. Even though I am not a Jew, I am part of God’s “Chosen people” by the rights of adoption through the legal payment of the Messiah. Legally adopted children have the full rights of heirs. If I am adopted as one of God’s sons, even though adopted, I am no less an heir.

2) Romans 11:17-24 explains how Gentiles (of which I am one) are grafted into Israel.  If I am grafted into the original tree, then I am heir to the promises.

3) Some promises are very specific about place, time, and the activities that one must do in order to appropriate the promise; e.g., Deut. 28. Others are more general and serve paradigmatically as expressions of a positive relationship. For example, promises that flow from God's character may be appropriated by anyone at any time because God does not change. 2 Chron. 7:14 (which Joe mentioned above) occurs in time, but Solomon's prayer is intentionally irrespective of time, as is God's answer. While Solomon's prayer is specific about place, God's answer is noticeably devoid of a place reference. The only limiters in God's answer are 1) those who make up "my people" and 2) the attitude of those people. Again, since I have been grafted/adopted into that people/family and am an heir to the promises provided by the Messiah, the only limiting factor is my attitude. The promise is a clear reflection of God's character. It will never change. If I humble myself and pray, if I seek His face and turn from my wicked ways, He will hear from heaven...

4) Again, in the vein of O.T. promises that are based on God’s unchanging character, there are promises that may be appropriated by God’s children by virtue of His role of father. Matthew 7:11 states, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

There are some who mis-claim promises, rewriting them to suit their selfish desires; but they are a small number compared to the millions who do not know of (or do not appropriate) the glorious "riches of Christ Jesus" that come with a restored relationship to God and the joy of being grafted into His people and adoption as His child.

Two more scriptures to consider:
Ro 15:8-9 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.”

2Co 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Purpose of the Law

This from Bill:

Back in 1985 or 86, I had a conversation with a friend at Seminary that has bothered me ever since. She contended that one could be saved by obeying the O.T. law. From her reasoning, she felt that God would have been unjust if He knowingly gave people a law that wouldn’t get them into heaven. I countered that the law could not save anyone and that it was never intended to, quoting Galatians 2:15-16 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified (NIV).”

In spite of my persuasiveness, she did not budge. Her position has bothered me ever since—which is another way of saying that after 25 years, I still can’t let the conversation rest. The crux of the argument has to do with the real purpose of the law. Was it a list of things that people needed to do to get into heaven? The answer is no. The purpose of the law was to reveal to arrogant people that they are not as holy or righteous as they think. So, every time I see this topic addressed in the Scriptures, I yell, “Aha!” and highlight it in my Bible. Today is one of those days.

I’ve been reading the book of Romans in my quiet times—comparing the Nuevo Traducción Viviente (NTV, the Spanish versión of the New Living Translation) to the NET Bible. (For an explanation of the two, please see the boring footnote below.) The verses that would have confirmed my victory in the discussion are Romans 3:19-20. Since I’ve been reading in Spanish, I’ll include for you (at no additional cost) my quick and easy Spanish translation.

Rom. 3:19-20--19 Obviamente, la ley se aplica a quienes fue entregada, porque su propósito es evitar que la gente tenga excusas y demostrar que todo el mundo es culpable delante de Dios. 20 Pues nadie llegará jamás a ser justo ante Dios por hacer lo que la ley manda. La ley sencillamente nos muestra lo pecadores que somos. (NTV)

Bill’s quick and easy translation: Obviously, the law (of Moses) applies to those to whom it was given, because it’s purpose was to keep people from making excuses and to demonstrate that the whole world is guilty before God. Nobody will ever stand before God justified (or righteous) because of their obedience to the law’s mandates. The law simply shows what sinners we are (or, that we are sinners).

In my opinion, this is one of the most theologically significant quotes of scripture. Some thoughts include:

1. The law was never intended to bring one to salvation; rather, to open one's eyes to the condition of his/her heart, soul, and (lack of) character. 3:20, in the NET Bible reads as follows: 3:20 For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Or, as the NTV puts it, “The Law simply shows us what sinners we are.” The revelation that we are sinners, the awareness that we’re not as good as our excuses make us out to be, is the impetus for running to the cross. The law reveals that we are sinners and that revelation makes us desperate for the grace that Jesus gives. So, in this way, the law really does have a significant (though painful) part in bringing us to salvation.

2. Bob Comfort is a famous evangelist who argues that we should bring the 10 Commandments into the evangelism discussion whenever possible, to reveal to people that they are not as good as they think. He makes a great point. Otherwise, people define "good" in self-serving ways. It falls clearly in line with Hebrews 4:12, which says that God’s word discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. That is, God’s word clearly reveals our hypocrisy. As such, our evangelism discussions would be benefitted by memorizing the 10 Commandments and the Romans Road. (I tried this with a taxi driver last week and found that I could only list 8 of the 10 commandments—and only with great difficulty.)

3. Some say it is better to keep people ignorant of the law, so they won't be accountable. But, Rom. 2:11-16, especially verse15, shows that of the law is written on the hearts of all people to justly hold them accountable. “They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them... (NET).”

So, to my friend in Seminary (whose name I can’t remember), I say “Take that!”or “Touché!” (which looks a lot like “touchy,” pronounced with a French accent). To the rest of us, these verses remind us that God gets to decide was “good” is. The fact that we don’t cuss or smoke anymore is great, but it is not the same as achieving righteousness in the eyes of God. True righteousness is the gift of God, which we receive by putting our faith in Christ. So, it’s time to put a smile on our faces and look like the refugees that we are. We are people who, by grace, have just walked out of a burning building without getting singed. St. Paul says in Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

(Caution—the following discussion is boring and technical and may be skipped by those who prefer pithy conversations over technical ones: The NET Bible is a modern translation that can be accessed for free on the web and which gives a lot of footnotes about the translation process. For example, the NET Bible may discuss why there is a variation between two common translations (e.g., why the NIV is different than the King James) and why/how the NET translators chose their version. In terms of dynamic equivalency (the translation philosophy of trying to accurately convey the meaning of whole phrases, rather than a word for word translation), the NET bible is the latter (i.e., more didactic—being closer to the NASB). The NTV is the opposite—sometimes going too far in their attempt to clarify what the text is saying. I’ve enjoyed reading the NTV and the NET, together, because the practice of translating the NTV’s Spanish has produced a lot of questions about what the original Greek or Hebrew is really saying. As such, the NET’s translation footnotes have really come in handy.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

On-Time and by a Miracle

We are back in Peru! Thank you to everyone who helped us return to the land of our calling!

We returned to the US last summer to re-raise support and encourage churches to participate in missions. Our plan was to return to Peru before the new school year began in August of 2011. Planning how long one’s support raising is going to take is great—as long as the support raising  follows the plan. For many missionaries, the money and the calendar collide—causing them to delay their return until the necessary funds are raised. A few months prior to our return, we were $1800 away from our support raising goal. I knew that God called us to Peru, so I did not doubt that He would get us back—but I wasn't 100% certain about the timing. I began to contemplate a four month extension, but I also began to pray. I asked Lena, our children and our friends to ask the Lord what time He wanted us to return to Peru.

Almost immediately, Lena received a word from the Lord. He said that we would be returning “on time and by a miracle.” Shortly thereafter, Lena received a confirmation. At a missions service for Ohio ministers, a prophetic word was given, saying, “Do not say four months more and then the harvest!” Four months more … the exact time of the itineration extension I had in mind.

Since God said, “on time and by a miracle,” I began to preach and pray with fervor, and we saw God answer. We received $1300 in new pledges in one week; then, another $300 in pledges a few weeks later. By faith, we received permission from Headquarters and bought our tickets. Friends in Peru began to call us with possible places to live. God was working out the details.

We were two weeks from departure and still were $200 away from the goal. Lena and I began to joke that we would receive a call from Headquarters that our budget was complete just as we were getting on the plane. We did not receive a call as we got on the play; rather, an email! God raised our budget and sent us back “on time and by a miracle.”

Our initial call to Peru was very miraculous and, now, we feel that this miraculous return has been a confirmation of God’s will. Please pray that God’s anointing and miraculous presence would go with us—to the salvation of Peru and the Glory of His name. Please pray, also, for our families. Being a missionary is a costly sacrifice, not only for the one who is sent, but also for the ones who do the sending. Pray also that God would send us close friends to walk with us on this great adventure!

Much love, in Christ,
Bill and Lena Shrader

Our U.S. phone number in Peru: 513-407-5412