Month: March 2014

Short Term Missions – are they worth it?

IS THIS WORTH ALL THE MONEY TO GO?

By: Jack Hempfling

“This short term mission trip is an awful lot of money” comes the thought! You may have encountered the school of thought out there in some Christian circles that says wealthy nations should send their money, and NOT people on short term mission trips. “After all,” the logic concludes, “the nationals can do so much more with that amount of money than you can.”

There is just one major problem with that “logical” view. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God inhabits money! God dwells in people! He said “Go,” He is sending you, and has promised to go with you.

I have seen gunky, stinky, undoubtedly “disease infested” third world water turned to fresh clean water by the same Jesus who changed water into wine, for the benefit of a team of average American citizens who simply gave themselves to a building project in a poor colonia in North Mexico. I have seen churches established, people healed, the presence of God provide sovereign protection, deliverance from all kinds of darkness, all occurring through the lives and hands of willing short-term missionaries who perhaps could have erected more cement blocks by sending their cash. Miraculous signs will “follow” you who believe, the Bible says; they can’t follow a sitting object, and they follow YOU, not your cash. I have come to expect a “following” when we obey the command to “go,” a following of God’s divine protection, grace, provision, eternal fruit, and miracles.

God has placed something in you that can never dwell in a currency, and that is a deposit of Himself.

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NKJV

As I boarded the plane last week, I was feeling “behind on some long-dormant projects. It was a week that had been planned for months. The busy schedule was all mapped out for us, and I was thinking that the only time I had to “work” on these projects would be with my laptop open on the plane trip itself. “Hours of freedom from electronic communication!” Imagine my surprise when all three legs of the trip put me next to people who needed to talk and draw from the Gospel of Christ.

Should we be surprised by such divine appointments “as we go?” As Jesus was traveling to one place, He paused to minister to a Samaritan woman who led her entire village to Christ.

How many times, “as we go,” has God arranged for divine appointments along the way, with eternal impacts that only the Lord can now fully measure?

Jesus also said “Go” because one person has the strength from God that another person needs. We in this country need the strength that God has deposited in Christians from other parts of the world, and vice versa. You are being sent to places where you are going to pray, preach, sing, testify, build, or train leaders like only you can do. No dollar can do it. You are going to meet people and form relationships that no amount of money can accomplish.

The bottom line is this:

Does God have the necessary resources to see His own commands fulfilled or not?

Economic markets rise and fall, but God has no shortage of dollar bills, pesos, pounds, schillings, and other currencies. The Bible says that the earth is His and the fullness thereof. In other words: it all belongs to Him. His bank account is unlimited, although He does sometimes have a shortage of obedient servants who will go into all the world.

The Lord spoke to me once to train pastors on short-term missions in two impoverished nations. My logical mind thought “That sounds crazy. They can’t afford doing missions themselves,” but I obeyed and challenged them to begin doing what they could afford, like sending teams across the city or to neighboring villages. As they did what they could do, I assured them that God would open more doors.

I myself was shocked only a few years later, when I found some of these pastors bringing teams to my country on short-term mission trips! One pastor came up to me and said “I remember you! You taught us about going, and we’re doing what you taught us.”

I am not saying that we shouldn’t also support those people and ministries that facilitate the gospel spreading within people groups, but don’t let the logic of human reasoning overstep the clear command of Scripture, and keep going with joy!


Jack Hempfling is Pastor of Living Waters Church, LeRoy, New York

Author: Before You Go, a 40 Day Devotional to Prepare for a Short Term Mission
Available in Paperback and E-Versions, from CBD and Xulon Press
Spanish Version Antes De Ir just released, available on Amazon

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Trust

So, my dog is getting a little old and has problems with her legs.  She limps at times.  Today she can’t climb steps.  She doesn’t mind being picked up or held.  I can carry her around the house without any objection.  That is, until I come to the stairs.  When I get to the top of the stairs, she squirms and gets nervous.  Does she think after all this time that I will throw her over the side?  I have never harmed her.  I have never dropped her.  She knows that I am carrying her because her legs hurt.  Why does she think I will drop her down the stairs?

Aren’t we a lot like that?  Has God ever hurt us? Has He ever dropped us? Would He throw us over the side?

How many times do we need to be carried before we trust God?  Will we doubt Him again the next time we need to be carried?  Isn’t it a little ridiculous how we squirm and cry over our situation when we know that God has carried us so many times before?

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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Mountains

It’s so easy to see the mountain.  It looms in front of you.  There are jagged rocks, cliffs and snow on the peak.  It is impossible to climb, yet alone remove.  Even if you had dynamite and a bulldozer you wouldn’t be able to clear it out of the way.

Are you going to stand there and stare at it for the rest of your life?

Are you going to give up and live at its base never getting to the other side?

Are you going to go back from where you came?

Do you have any faith?  Do you believe?  Can you speak?

Matthew 17:20

New International Version (NIV)

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

mountain

International Adoption

Wow.  Thank you to everyone who has walked with us through this.  We are certainly not alone.

 

Parents struggle to get assistance after adopting from overseas

LEARNING TO COPE: Amanda and Bryan Alexander stand in their adopted daughter’s bedroom in Georgia. They keep the room free of decorations and put the dresser in front of the window as precautions meant to protect their daughter. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry

U.S. government, adoption agencies seldom help; one family shares challenges of caring for daughter

NEW YORK – Amanda Alexander always wanted to adopt. In 2008, when her adoption agency sent a picture of a Russian girl who was available, Amanda fell in love.

The girl was almost 2, and the agency warned that she had a “developmental and speech delay.” Two years later, an American doctor also diagnosed the girl with fetal alcohol syndrome and severe attachment disorders.

Now 7 years old, Alexander says, the girl has attacked her mother and classmates and tried to cut out her tongue with scissors. In the last three years, she has been hospitalized nine times for psychiatric care.

The Alexanders sought help from schools, social workers and other parents. But they found there is little assistance available for parents of international adoptees, particularly when children have severe trauma and emotional problems.

Their situation reflects a quandary faced by adoptive parents across the United States. With high hopes and often at great expense, families have adopted needy boys and girls from orphanages overseas, only to realize after returning to America that the children have behavioral or psychiatric problems that hadn’t been diagnosed or disclosed.

Many parents are unprepared to handle the problems. Their adoption agencies often won’t help. And neither will the U.S. government. Amanda Alexander left a job in management to devote time to her daughter. The Alexanders travelled from Seattle to Virginia to meet specialists, amassed enormous medical bills and moved to a different state to get better care for her.

In September, a Reuters investigation revealed how some desperate parents have turned to Internet groups to seek new homes for children they regret adopting. The practice is called “re-homing,” and the online bulletin boards enable parents to advertise children and arrange custody transfers that bypass government oversight.

In response to the news agency’s findings, state and federal lawmakers are seeking measures aimed at stopping re-homing, and Russia and other nations are calling on the United States to account for what has become of international adoptees. Since the late 1990s, Americans have adopted about 243,000 children from other countries, but no authority tracks what happens after those children arrive in the United States.

The Alexanders say giving their daughter to a stranger they met online would have been unthinkable. “It’s not something that we would ever do,” Amanda Alexander says.

But for parents who hold onto a troubled international adoptee, the way ahead can be grueling. Reuters interviewed about two dozen families with troubled children adopted abroad. They described how their children molested siblings, tried to crash their cars, pulled knives on them, killed or tortured animals, or took weapons to school. Many of the parents did not want their names to be published, in part because they say they worry about stigmatizing their families.

Amanda Alexander, 34, decided to speak publicly. “It has been really hard,” she says. “It’s completely changed our lives in every way.”

 

‘LEAP OF FAITH’

In 2008, the Alexanders made three trips to Russia. There, eight doctors evaluated the parents-in-waiting to see if they would be fitting caretakers. The Russian physicians listened to their hearts with stethoscopes, inquired about drug and alcohol use, even asked about their greatest fears. The exam seemed somewhat staged to the Alexanders, who say the doctors asked them to pay $800 each for the service. They obliged.

The trips were required to complete the adoption. On each journey, the Alexanders learned a little more about the toddler they hoped to take home. On the second visit to Russia, they recall learning that the girl had a heart condition; on the third, they discovered she also had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Amanda Alexander says she requested all of the girl’s Russian medical records but was told by the adoption agency, European Adoption Consultants, Inc. that she would receive them on the final trip to Russia. When she did get the records, they were in Russian and contained references to conditions including cerebral palsy and a heart issue that were not mentioned in the English paperwork that the Alexanders had initially received.

NEEDED MORE: The Alexanders say they are glad they adopted their daughter, but they wish they had known more about her medical conditions before bringing her home to the United States. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry

An attorney representing European Adoption Consultants, citing confidentiality agreements, said the agency could not comment on specific cases but that parents typically receive the full medical information from orphanages earlier in the adoption process.

After the family brought their daughter to her new home in Tennessee, the family took the girl for a battery of tests by American doctors. They discovered her heart condition was a benign murmur, and the cerebral palsy was mild. But the girl’s behavior was odd. She was hyperactive and would hit her head against her crib.

Doctors initially diagnosed her with ADHD. It would be another two years before Amanda learned that the girl had all the characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome, along with child trauma and severe attachment disorders.

The Ohio-based adoption agency also offered no training and little information about the possibility of attachment issues, stating only that these were rare, the Alexanders say. Instead, the agency offered advice about travelling to the Moscow airport and how to declare money. The couple says they took it upon themselves to buy and read adoption and parenting books to prepare.

The executive director of European Adoption Consultants, Margaret Cole, said that training is part of the homestudy requirements, and the training includes “all the elements of parenting and adopting.” Cole did not respond to further requests to comment.

International standards recommend – and will soon require – that adoption agencies provide 10 hours of training for parents seeking to adopt overseas. That’s not nearly enough, parents and adoption experts say.

The Alexanders say they would have proceeded with the adoption if they had known more about their daughter’s eventual diagnoses, but would have prepared differently.

“I took a leap of faith and said, ‘I want her,’” Amanda Alexander says. “She was meant to be ours.”

SWEET BUT VIOLENT

When the girl was age 4, the Alexanders placed her in a pre-kindergarten program. She received private speech and language tutoring, but the school determined she was not eligible for a specialized program.

The girl was volatile. She could be sweet and spunky, then become physically destructive without warning. She attacked other students at school. Doctors prescribed medicine. Still, Amanda regularly received frantic calls at work about the girl’s behavior.

When the girl threatened to kill a classmate, her pediatrician recommended a psychiatric hospital. It would be the girl’s first of nine hospitalizations in the next three years.

Please read more: http://www.reuters.com/investigates/adoption-follows/#article/part3

Bullies and Religion

Bullies are mean.  They try to build themselves up by putting other people down.

Religion is mean because it builds up it’s followers by putting others down that don’t follow the religion.

“You’re going to hell!” no “You’re going to hell!”, well, we all know that “he is going to hell!”

Rules, regulations, and a man’s desire to build a stairway to heaven.  Your hair is too long, you smoke, you drink, you listen to rock music, you listen to jazz, you read the wrong Bible.

C’mon folks.  Stop being a bully.  Lay down your gavel and stop being the judge.  Criticizing someone else isn’t going to get you closer to God.  Standing on the street corner yelling won’t show the way to a loving God.  Hating everyone that isn’t like you isn’t going to make God love you more.  There’s a speck in your eye.  There’s a plank in mine.  Sorry  for all the times I’ve been a bully.

 

Luke 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Trash

Our janitor was cleaning the office the other day.  He said “Steve eats a lot of candy”.  “Why do you say that?” I responded.  “His trash can is full of candy wrappers.  Snickers, Milkyway, Hershey.  His can is full of them.”

You can tell a lot about a person by going through their trash.  That’s why criminals are looking there for identity theft.  Our trash can tell a lot.  It can be embarrassing. It can reveal hidden secrets.

It’s too bad we can’t shred our sins.  Oh wait.  We can.

What’s in your trash?

Joshua 24:23

“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

Peace

I always have to laugh when I read this verse:

Proverbs 25:24 Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

It really isn’t funny – some people would be better off on the roof.  Whether they deal with a nasty wife, nasty husband or countless other issues, no one wants to live in strife every day.

I pray for peace to you today.  I pray for solitude and quiet so that you may rest in His presence.  He alone can calm your fears and give you direction.  Enjoy a moment, or moments, on your Father’s lap and feel his love flow over you.

 

If you have to use words . . .

If you need to use words . . . ok.  You don’t need to.  His presence is so overwhelming that it is evident everywhere we look.  Defend Him?  Ha! He doesn’t need defended and you aren’t a good enough debater to do it.  Let the scoffers look around them.  If they can’t seem Him then they are blind.

Draw closer.  Feel His presence.  Sense His beauty.  Open your blinds and let His rays shine in.  There is no darkness.  You are never alone.

Psalm 19

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

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I am the weakest

I’m not sharing this to receive pity so don’t look at it that way.  I want to relate and understand God’s strength because we are all weak in some area of our life.

I dreaded gym class in school.  I was the weak kid.  The one who was last to be picked, or 2nd, 3rd, or 4th to the last depending on who was in the class that showed less physical skill than me.  I guess I ranked in front of a few.  I was skinny, wore glasses and didn’t have any defined physical ability.  In my day, there was no “mercy” or “political correctness” in giving everyone a boost.  If you couldn’t run, hit or throw you were pretty much abandoned.  Teachers didn’t “protect” the weak kids and neither did the jocks.   I grew up with a scorn to jocks.  I hated sports and I was determined some day to get even with the “dumb” jocks as I called them.

When you grow up weak, you learn early on that life is not fair and that it can be very cruel.  We all search for what we are good at.  For some it is sports.  For some it is music or art.  You get the point.  What we didn’t know in those early years is that even when we excel at an area, life can still be hard, unfair and cruel.  Jocks get hurt.  Young talented musicians level off and don’t continue to excel as adults.  Artists who shine in school find that they aren’t that great in the real world.

Weakness.  It can be a nightmare.  It can bear fear, dismay, anger, depression and lack of motivation.  Who wants to take on a challenge when we know we are weak?  Being picked last in gym class only makes one weaker because we realize that we don’t stand a chance.

So what hope do we have?  We stand on God’s promises.  We stand on His calling.  None of us are the last to be chosen when it comes to God.  We are all 1st calls when He looks at us.  He empowers us.  He enables us.  He prepares us.  He.  It is HE, not me.

Stop looking at ME and look at HE.  What is HE calling you to?  What is HE gifting you for?  Don’t be worried about being called last.  Focus on being called FIRST.

Judges 6:14-16

New International Version (NIV)

14 The Lord turned to Gideon and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

1 Samuel 16:10-12

New International Version (NIV)

10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

Heathens reading Christian books

What makes a book “Christian”?  What makes a writer a “Christian author?”

This debate has carried on for decades about music.  The majority of weight being lyrics, second – the artist’s testimony and lifestyle, 3rd – where and how it is it marketed.  If the music is sold in Christian bookstores it is considered “Christian”.    Artists can join and fall off the list.  In the 1980’s, Bob Dylan made a sudden decision to become a Christian.  He released two “Christian” albums and then refuted and went back to being Bob Dylan.  On the other hand, many “Christian” artists have been pulled off the list because of admission to sin, lifestyle changes (homosexuality), general lyrics, or just simply a desire to be in a secular field.

Books are much harder to define.  I have read many “Christian” novels that said nothing about God – nothing.  If I didn’t know the author was a Christian I would have never have labeled it a “Christian” book.  I’m not knocking these books.  I really enjoyed them.  I just don’t know why they are published under a “Christian” label.

With the onslaught of internet sales, “Christian” books are being marketed to the general public.  In the old days, there were “Christian” bookstores which heathens never went into.  The secular bookstores put all “Christian” publishers in a back corner and labeled them “religious”.  The heathens were safe.

Now the heathens are buying “Christian” books because they aren’t labeled.  If you don’t believe me, read the comments under “Christian” novels.  The heathens actually want warning labels put on “Christian” novels because they feel like they are being deceived by “religious” material being marketed as regular fiction.

I am slightly amused by the whole thing.  After living in fear for years about being deceived into buying anti-Christ music, movies, and books it is funny to hear the heathen complain.

But really, what is a “Christian” book?  What is a “Christian” business?  What is “Christian” music?  Maybe we should have a new rating system: Slightly Christian, Moderate Christian, Heavy Christian, Slam it down your throat Christian.  hmmm

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Childcup