Now Why This Fear

Lyrics:
Now why this fear and unbelief?
Has not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for us?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for the debt of sin
Now canceled at the cross?

Jesus, all my trust is in Your blood
Jesus, You’ve rescued us
Through Your great love

Complete atonement You have made
And by Your death have fully paid
The debt Your people owed
No wrath remains for us to face
We’re sheltered by Your saving grace
And sprinkled with Your blood

How sweet the sound of saving grace
How sweet the sound of saving grace
Christ died for me

Be still my soul and know this peace
The merits of your great high priest
Have bought your liberty
Rely then on His precious blood
Don’t fear your banishment from God
Since Jesus sets you free

Original Verses by Augustus Toplady (1772), Music, Alternative, and Additional Words by Doug Plank
© 2011 Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP)

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Catholicism in Spain

Sometimes it’s difficult to explain the Spanish religious climate to American Christians. In Spain, nearly 78% of people claim to be Christian. [It's interesting that a few years ago that number was 90%]

Of that 78% of Christian people, 94.5% are Catholic. This leave the remaining 5.5% to be divided by Protestant, Independent, Anglican, Orthodox, and Other.

I have many American Catholic people in my life whom I love and respect. I believe they have a vibrant personal relationship with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ. I believe we’ll live and worship together in the new earth one day. Additionally, some of my favorite Christian authors are Catholic; many of the Church fathers who inspire me were Catholic. As I talk to people about the spiritual darkness and lack of Christianity in Spain, I’m not casting doubt on the faith of my believing Catholic friends. I’m casting doubt on the empty, cultural Catholicism prevalent in Spain and other places in Europe (Italy, for example).

I was reading this morning about people groups in Spain and came across the Basques (0.5% evangelical). These people have a rich cultural history and an absolutely fascinating language- a language with one of the most amazing histories on earth. As I read about the Basques, I found this explanation of Spanish Catholicism and I want to share it here:

What is difficult for many American Catholics to understand is that the Catholic Church around the world has a mission strategy of syncretism. They accept the “traditional beliefs” of the new people, and then try to re-create those in a Catholic form. Catholics would say that they are successful in that. Others might tend to disagree.

Another aspect of Catholicism in Spain is that it is very much a cultural Catholicism for the overwhelming majority of people. To be Catholic means to participate in the big events of the Catholic Church (infant baptism, first communion, confirmation, marriage in the Catholic Church, burial in the Catholic cemetery, and then the Mass for the dead on the anniversaries of their passing.

Finally, down through the centuries the Catholic church has played a prominent role in the governing of Spain since 350 A.D. right up through the 1970s. They have insisted that to be Spanish is necessarily to be Catholic, and since the decline of the Roman Empire, they have lobbied subsequent national leadership to embrace the Catholic faith as their own and as a force for unity with Spain. Even General Franco used the imposition of Catholicism to “unite” all of the Spanish nation under his leadership. As a result, When Franco died in 1975, many Spaniards rejected the Catholic Church as well as Franco’s failed agenda. The Basque Country went from the “most Catholic” to the “least Catholic” of all the autonomous regions of Spain in a 20-30 year period following Franco´s death.

Most Catholics still claim Catholicism if they claim any religious affiliation at all, but it is, for the most part, a cultural Catholicism only, and even in that limited sense, any real allegiance to the church has been greatly weakened.

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On Faith and the Prodigal Cat.

On May 4th, at about midnight, our cat (Roy Rogers) accidentally jumped from our 3rd floor balcony and down to the street. He escaped the love of three robust and busy kiddos, consistent food and water, and a chair of his (basically) very own.

Missing Poster (Roy)

We searched like crazy for the first week. Asked neighbors, local businesses, the veterinary clinic… Friends came over to help us search under cars and in other unlikely places. A lot of tears fell.

The second week, we started putting things away that reminded the kids of Roy. We were still keeping our eyes open, but not expecting anymore to find him. Over and over we were surprised by the people in out community that asked us if we had found him yet, and encouraged us that it was still possible.

But then on Thursday, while Brian and Malaki were heading to basketball practice, they saw a flash of grey and white in the alley. It dissapeared quickly, but they were pretty sure it was Roy. Brian dropped his to-do list, and went out on the search again. He called some cat-loving friends, Jamie and Eddie, and they searched until 11:45pm. They found him, but couldn’t catch him.

The next afternoon, Brian and Jamie put on some old clothes, and crawled under a locked door, into the empty storefront where Roy was hiding out. Eddie, the kids and I waited outside. We were just hoping to catch him if he ran out. (or explain to police or neighbors who questioned us)

About 10-15 minutes in, Brian called out, “Eddie, Malaki – get ready. I have something for you.” and he passed Roy under the door and we put him safely back in his carrier. (And went directly to the vet.)

Captured

I admit that I did not expect to find Roy after those first few days passed. I just didn’t think it could happen. And I thought if we did manage to catch him, he would come back so wild that he couldn’t be safe to keep. Well, I was wrong on all counts.

Brian and Jamie - Cat Rescuers

The one of us that had faith that his pet would return was Malaki. He prayed every day that God would keep Roy safe and bring him home. He told me of times at school that he would stop working, close his eyes, and pray. And when Roy appeared again, no one was more surprised than Brian and I, but no one was less surprised than Malaki. And no one was happier, (except maybe the culprit himself, who will not stop meowing unless someone is touching him).

So we’re thanking God today for bringing home the prodigal cat once again, and for giving us an example of childlike faith, even when it’s hard.

Together Again

(*All pictures for this post are courtesy of Malaki’s camera)

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The One Attribute You Need If You Want To Move Overseas

Yesterday, I had a conference call with our head office in the United States. They asked me, “When we talk with potential co-workers, what kind of background are you looking for? Do you want people who’ve lived overseas, done similar work, something like that?”

To which I replied, “To me, all that matters is that people come over here with a learner’s mentality. The most important thing is for them to be curious. Previous experience and accurate expectations are helpful, but I didn’t even have much of that when I moved here. The most important thing is that they’re curious.”

If you want to live and acculturate in a new country, curiosity is the key.

You’re going to be angry when the post office won’t let you pick up your wife’s package- or when they won’t let you pick up your own mail because the address on your ID doesn’t match the address on the envelope. Sometimes, a little bit of rage against your new host culture will bubble inside. But the difference between becoming bitter and sticking with it lies, in large part, in your curiosity. As often as you remember, “OK, I’m here to learn, not to be an expert,” you can take a breath and begin to brainstorm why this conflict just happened.

You’re asking questions and making discoveries each week. In time, the dots will connect. At least some of them will. You’ll begin to expect surprises and you’ll hold more realistic expectations.

 

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Good Always Wins.

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Oh Lord, what have I done?

You told me this would happen, and I just couldn’t see it.

Is there any hope for me; someone who would deny you and walk away in such a crucial moment?

I couldn’t even stay awake to pray when you asked me to. Would that have changed anything?

At the very least, if I had stayed awake in the garden… if I had not denied him, all I would have now would be grief – not guilt and grief.

It’s hard to imagine the gravity of emotion Peter must have felt in the days after Jesus died. Sure, it was only a couple of days. But when you put yourself in the disciples place, I’m sure it felt like an eternity.

Those dark days were long enough for the adrenaline of Jesus’ trial, torture, and death to wear off; long enough for them to feel the absence of their friend and leader; long enough for the enormity of the situation to sink in, leaving only unanswered questions and fear.

Lots of fear.

But, like I try to tell my kids when they are feeling particularly afraid – good always wins in the end.  It may really seem like evil has finished the game, but that means it’s not over.

Tomorrow morning, Resurrection Sunday, we will celebrate the living Christ. We will celebrate the continuation and fulfillment of Jesus’ story. We will celebrate the ultimate good vs. evil story, and the end is already set.

Peter did not have to live out his life feeling guilty, wondering if Jesus would still love him after all his doubting and failing.

And neither do we.

It’s really not such a foreign question, is it? It’s not for me anyway. But those doubts and fears, and general feeling of unworthiness are already anticipated and paid for.

Jesus has already done the work to make us right with him.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4-6)

It is finished.

 

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Another Year With Cora

Dear Cora,

On Monday, you will complete another year of life. I feel so blessed to have had you in my life for 5 years now, Cora. Your first days of life were scary for us. Now every birthday you have is a reminder of how precious life is, and how fragile.

But you have been anything but fragile. From breathing problems at birth, to RSV as a six-pound, 12-day-old baby, to a overseas move when you were three, to spending your first year of school in a country outside of your birth country; you amaze me with your strength.

This year you have gone to school for the first time, read your first words, learned to write your name and mine, and made friends in a language I couldn’t understand until I was an adult.

You have learned more about sharing, being flexible, and being a caring friend, sister, and daughter this year than ever before. And you’ve learned by practice and self-control. Your warm heart and enthusiasm often make me (very) tired, but I want to learn more of that from you.

You are always very brave, and sometimes very shy. And I have hardly ever seen a daughter so in love with her Daddy.

I hope for you this year, that you will see dreams come true. That you will have the desires of your heart. I hope that when you don’t get what you want, you won’t be hindered by that, and never doubt that God is with you and for you. I hope you will be able to be brave and try new things, because you are confident He is with you.

I hope that you always know how much I love you; this year and every one to come. I’m so happy to be your momma, Cora Jewel.

Te quiero mucho!!
-Mommy

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Posted in Cora, Family, Personal | 1 Comment

Comparing ourselves

From my friend Dave:

The way we dumb down law and sin is by comparing ourselves to others, instead of to Jesus, the Standard, the Perfect One.  “Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” commanded Jesus.  Wait, that’s impossible!  Bingo.  Impossible to enter the Christian life, and impossible to live the Christian life.  I need the convicting work of Jesus’ Spirit 24/7, not just for Sunday morning, not just for the big decisions in my life.  I need dependency on Him in every detail of my life, all day long, asking Him and thanking Him about everything.  His life, lived through me, so I’m amazingly joyful and peaceful, wowing those around me, as I operate by His power, not my puny power.  No credit/glory to me.  All to Jesus.

Another reason it’s (mainly) a waste of precious time, in my opinion, to constantly have conversations and articles about the latest trend in American Evangelicalism and who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s a silly habit that looks like concern for the church, and even feels like concern for the church, but comes along with a mega-dose of comparing and arrogance.

What I need is less thinking about (famous guy)’s performance and news and also less thinking about my own performance. I need more thinking about God’s unmeasurable love and to get filled up with that so my friends and neighbors can see it in me and hear it from me. I need more conviction, more repentance, more joy, and more peace. That’s how the Gospel goes forward.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3-5, ESV)

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