Archive for April, 2011

What is “True Love”?

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

“Set me as a seal upon you heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised.” Song of Solomon 8:6,7

What is “True Love”?

We live in an age when the word “love” is used very easily—too easily! Much of the time we are using the term for something completely trivial—a car or a drink; casually—”love you” as expressed at the end of a conversation that has no actions to back it up; or to describe lustful feelings. But real, sacrificing, adoring, “other-centered” love is greatly sought after, though rare. Sometimes the word “love” is even used to manipulate and take advantage of other people.

Fortunately, there is such a thing as true love. In Song of Solomon such a love is found, and the suggestion is made that love can become so precious that all the money in the world could not induce a man or woman to give up that love. It is interesting that in that book, one finds a progressive expression of love: “My beloved is mine and I am my beloveds” (Song of Sol. 2:16); “I am my beloveds and my beloved is mine” (Song of Sol. 6:3); and finally, “I am my beloveds” (Song of Sol. 7:10)—note the last expression where the love is completely other-centered.

In 1 Corinthians 13 we  are reminded that “true love” goes beyond actions, even factoring in what motivates our love, for it states  it is possible to think we are showing love by giving all that we have, and even allowing our bodies to be burned, but still not have love—apparently because our motives are self-centered (1 Cor. 13:3).

What is the secret? Love comes from God! (1 John 4:8) and when we have godly love, it becomes the kind of love that is recorded and remembered ever after.

Apparently there are times when human beings experience the “true” kind of love, as attested to in the following notes written by John Newton to his wife Mary, who recognized that his relationship with her was a gift from God. Friends from an early age, and married after his conversion, he idolized her, and constantly wrote to her when he was separated from her. Read carefully, notice why he believed they enjoyed such a close relationship:

“You will not be displeased with me for saying, that though you are dearer to me than the aggregate of all earthly comforts, I wish to limit my passion within those bounds which God has appointed. Our love to each other ought to lead us to love him supremely, who is the author and source of all the good we possess or hope for. It is to him we owe that happiness in a marriage state which so many seek in vain, some of whom set out with such hopes and prospects, that their disappointments can be deduced for no other cause, than having placed that high regard on a creature which is only due to the Creator. He therefore withholds his blessing (without which no union can subsist) and their expectations, of course, end in indifference . . . ”

“I consider our union as a peculiar effect and gift of an indulgent Providence, and therefore, as a talent to be improved to higher ends, to the promoting of his will and service upon earth. And to assisting each other to prepare for an eternal state, to which a few years at the farthest will introduce us. Were these points wholly neglected, however great our satisfaction might be for the present, it would be better never to have seen each other; since the time must come when, of all the endearments of our connection, nothing will remain, but the consciousness how greatly we were favored, and how we improved the favors we possessed . . .”

“He formed us for each other, and his good Providence brought us together. It is no wonder if so many years, so many endearments, so many obligations, have produced an uncommon effect; and that by long habit, it is become almost impossible for me to draw a breath, of which you are not concerned. If this mutual affection leads us to this fountain from which our blessings flow, and if we can regard each other, and everything about us, with a reference to that eternity to which we are hasting, then we are happy indeed.”

“The path of few peoples through life has been more marked with peculiar mercies than yours. How differently has he led us from the way we should have chosen for ourselves! We have had remarkable turns in our affairs; but every change has been for the better; and in every trouble (for we have had our troubles) he has given us effectual help. Shall we not then believe, that he will perfect that which concerns us? When I was an infant, and knew not what I wanted, he sent you into the world to be, first, the principal hinge, upon which my part, and character in life, was to turn and then to be my companion. We have traveled together near twenty-six years; and though we are changeable creatures, and have seen almost every thing change around us, he has preserved our affections, by his blessings, or we might have been weary of each other. How far we have yet to go, we know not . . . . If our lives are prolonged, the shadows of the evening, old age, with its attendant infirmities, will be pressing upon us soon. Yet I hope this uncertain remaining part of our pilgrimage, will upon the whole, be the best; for our God is all-sufficient, and can make us more happy, by the light of his countenance, when our temporal comforts fail, then we never were, when we possessed them to the greatest advantage.”

Newton’s sentiments are an encouraging reminder that true love is possible this side of heaven to those who make God the center of their relationship!

Ultimately speaking, the greatest manifestation of real love was the love expressed when Jesus died on the cross, which eventually led to the resurrection that is celebrated in so many churches this weekend.

Read more from John Newton at path2prayer.com

Are You Serious When You Pray

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

[Most recent Newsletter]

April 4, 2011

Greetings!

Contents:
Are You Serious When You Pray
Updates on Mission Trips
Travel Adventures
Updates on Dan’s work in Michigan
Updates on Web site
A Thought to Ponder

Introduction:
It is good to be back home, but I confess to missing my friends back in El Suyatal, Honduras. Actually I miss friends in many places, but since Honduras is the most recent place I visited I am especially thinking of them right now. I had a great week there and will tell you a bit more in this newsletter. However I first want to ask you if you are serious when you pray?

Are You Serious When You Pray?:
“Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’-let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac….” Gen. 24:14

“Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you….” Isa. 30:18

I’ve often marveled at the way God answered Eliezer’s prayer when he was seeking a spouse for Isaac. Two things are worth noting: (1) He specifically answered Eliezer’s prayer, and (2) He immediately brought the person-while he was STILL praying Rebekah came along. Eliezer soon realized that God had answered his prayer. That was a fast answer to prayer. I am grateful God is both willing and able to answer our prayers.

Do you wish God answered your prayers as specifically and quickly? I think He wants to do the same for us in our day, but I don’t think most of us are prepared to receive such a specific answer, at least we are not prepared to receive it so quickly.

Reviewing the story found in Genesis 24, Abraham seems to have sensed the need of a godly spouse for Isaac. Isaac was of a kind and compliant nature; having a godly wife would strengthen his spiritual resolve and would be a blessing-Yes, marriage contracted in the fear of the Lord is a good thing and I often pray for young adults who seek marriage partners.

Abraham was very specific when instructing Eliezer about the person he was to return with: (1) she was to come from his family; and (2) she was to return to the land of Canaan. Regardless of how wonderful or spiritual she might be, regardless of her beauty or intelligence, if these two criteria were not met, she could not be the one! These were so important, in fact, that Eliezer was released from bringing anyone back if no one was willing to return-apparently there are times when being single is better than being married.

Eliezer made his preparations, and headed off-Isaac trusted this godly man even though Isaac was 40 at the time probably.

Arriving in Mesopotamia, the land where Abraham was from, Eliezer made his way to the well where the local people came to draw water. It was a good place for Eliezer to come to, since he would be able to mingle with the local people and his camels were also thirsty-apparently some places can be more suitable than others to receive God’s answer.

There he prayed. “Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Please let down your pitcher that I may drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink’-let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac.” Gen. 24:13,14

Before he even finished praying, God responded: “And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, … came out with her pitcher on her shoulder” (Gen. 24:15) Of a hospitable and generous nature, she offered to not only bring water to Eliezer, but also fetched water for all of his camels-a good place to find God’s choice is where others are being served. His prayer was perfectly answered!

Eliezer asked about her family, soon realized God had answered his prayer, and proceeded to praise God before he did anything else-he never forgot that he was on a mission for God!

When he met with Rebekah’s family, he was able to share all the ways God had led up to the moment-when God works His providential leadings are easy to follow, and the family could neither respond yay or nay because it was so obvious that God was in charge-when God is leading there won’t need to be a lot of convincing of others.

Rebekah agreed to return to Canaan, they traveled back, Isaac received her, and there was love at first sight-since God is the author of love, the marriages He brings about are the sweetest.

Returning to my original question, I ask: Why was God able to answer Eliezer’s prayer so specifically and quickly? Because Eliezer was prepared to IMMEDIATELY accept GOD’S SPECIFIC CHOICE!

When it comes to serious things in life, like marriage, most people want TIME to consider possibilities, want MULTIPLE prospects to choose from, and the LAST WORD on the final choice. Yes, we seek God’s blessings, but in the end we want what we want, and often leave God out of the decision process.

For example, as I travel around the world I often speak with young adults who are working for God. Many of these conversations are about their prayerful quest for a godly marriage partner. As a result I pray for many of them and am pleased when I hear that God has brought the much prayed for partner.

95% of the godly young adults who attend my meetings are single. 99% of the young women of this group are praying for God to lead them to a godly man who they can safely give their hearts to. Some of the young women have joined other young women to seek God’s help in finding a godly husband.

I wish I could say as many young men are praying, praying as earnestly, or joining other young men to unite in praying about this important facet of life. I wish, but it doesn’t seem to be so. Some of the young men are also considering their options as they play the “friend” game-enjoying close friendships that are considered casual and come without obligations-at least in their minds. But what seems casual to them is far more than casual to the young woman they are friends with sometimes. Sadly breakups from “friendships” are confusing and hurt just as badly as when serious relationships break up.

Knowing of the godly desires of the young people, I am always keeping my eyes open for possible matches. Some time back I was speaking with a young man about a godly young woman who would make a wonderful partner for someone. He had formerly asked me to pray that God would help him find a godly partner to serve God with him, and I thought I might have found such a person. He was please to hear of someone, but responded that he wanted an “organic” relationship-new term to me-explained with the following descriptors: “natural growth, makes things go smoother. Low expectations.” In pondering the response, seemed to me he wasn’t ready to make a decision in that area of his life and I shouldn’t have mentioned anyone to him until he was ready. To look at this spiritually, He wasn’t prepared to to get a fast answer to his prayer for a partner because he wasn’t ready to enter into a serious relationship, or he wasn’t prepared to accept God’s choice.

Is it possible my friend was wanting options to consider-perhaps even playing the field? That is unfortunate since I am constantly talking with brokenhearted young adults who got into relationships where either one or the other of the parties wasn’t that serious yet, and broke things off eventually, little realizing the heartbreak that would result. I’ve also heard from more than one individual who has gone down the “tentative” relationship pathway, been disappointed multiple times, and has decided to no longer be part of such relationships-preferring to wait for the individual who is seriously seeking God’s choice, and is surrendered to accept God’s choice. Here’s some advice: don’t start a relationship unless you are prepared to court and get married.

And remember “just being friends” and spending lots of time with a member of the opposite sex is like being in a relationship after some time for a young woman. The guys may not realize this, but a woman’s heart responds to attention and time, even if the young man doesn’t intend for the relationship to be anything more than a friendship! Don’t play the “just friends” game. Those breakups hurt just as bad!

I am reminded of another young adult who once wrote asking that I pray that she get admitted to a particular college. So I prayed and was pleased to learn that she had been accepted-even received a scholarship. I was praising God. But she didn’t come! Inquiring what happened, I discovered she had changed her mind! I was left wondering if she had really sought God’s direction prior to asking me to pray. I wondered why I had prayed for her so specifically.

My prayers in both of these cases were misguided. Praying that they would become serious with God and seek whatever God wanted, would have been more appropriate. But praying for a specific person, and a specific college, was misguided. God didn’t answer my prayers, and I am realizing that I don’t want to waste time praying those prayers anymore. In the future, I will be very interested to know why the person making the request is so sure their request is God’s will? Lack of seeking after God, lack of surrendering to God’s direction, will preclude praying specifically, and will necessitate a general prayer for direction and surrender to the direction eventually given.

I have mentioned two young adult examples, but I think the same happens for adults whether single or married. We have a problem, we consider what is going on in our lives, come up with our own solution, and then beg God to grant whatever we have asked-even ask our friends to pray for whatever we want. We could save ourselves lots of time and frustration if we were to ask God what He wants, and how He wants us to pray. I believe those answers would come much faster.

So I ask: Are you serious when you pray? I believe many of the delays encountered when we pray, come because we are not serious with God-at least not serious about receiving HIS answer. As a result, God waits until we become so frustrated with our attempts-attempts which can go on for years, that we will finally surrender and accept HIS answer. Then He will quickly answer, according to His will, like He did for Eliezer.

Update on Mission Trips:
Two weeks ago I was in Honduras in Central America, where I spent a delightful week at the IBC Mission School at a tiny village called El Suyatal. You may have heard that Honduras is among the poorest and most challenged countries in Central America. That may be true, but I was always surrounded by kind and loving people and had a wonderful experience. I spoke to the students about what it means to follow Jesus for their devotional hour in the morning, taught a morning class on witnessing, went with them on visits in the village some of the days, and spoke every evening on prayer to the villagers. The signs of poverty were all around. The streets had no paving, the donkeys were often loose, horses were an important part of transportation, and many of the homes have dirt floors, etc.. But smiles came in response to my “buenos” greetings, and spoke of a happiness which I appreciated. The school was founded by young adults, and today includes dorms and other buildings, wonderful gardens, a bilingual kindergarten, and a leadership that has great spiritual maturity and commitment to Jesus. There is no electricity-a good thing I came to realize since the constant bombardment of noise and media so prevalent in today’s society were absent, making more time for prayer, conversations with people, quiet time with Jesus, and earlier bedtimes-a welcome and needed change. In fact I’ve thought it might be good to shut off the electric here in Michigan at times. The lack of hot water for showers was very character refining-fortunately I didn’t die from the shock of the cold water, but neither did the water get any warmer over the course of the week. The food was delicious-vegan food that I looked forward to, the fellowship and friendships were of the sweetest variety, daily times praying at 6:30 AM will be remembered for a long time, and I rejoiced at the very positive work going on in the little village. Students and staff go there from many places in the world (Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Norway, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, United States, etc.) and one can speak many different languages in the course of the day. I will happily return in the future, and happily recommend the school for any young adult who wants to learn about sharing Christ with people in the marketplace, learn about medical missionary work, studying the Bible, and learning how to grow and live off the land-even the guys learn how to bake bread. And all the students are learning to speak Spanish as well. I continue to pray for the people at the school, and the people in the village. I’m even learning a bit of Spanish now that I am home in preparation of returning one day. Should you be interested, you can learn more about them at this web site: http://www.vidaprojects.org/english They gave me a CD of Christian music upon leaving which was a mix of English and German songs that is really beautiful. Please join me praying for them, and if God puts it on your heart, supporting them financially. Though they want to be self-supporting, they are still living by faith and depend on the rest of us to get through day by day.

Travel Adventures:
Traveling to and from Honduras was an interesting prayer-driven adventure. On the way down, my first seat mate could have traded his name for mine, so far as similarities of the things we have experienced in life go. I hope we stay in touch. In Miami, as I was sitting and waiting for my plane to Honduras, an American woman who was seated close by, asked where I was going. I didn’t know right off, but pulled out the sheet of paper to show her “El Suyatal. She was amazed and exclaimed, “El Suyatal is a tiny little village 1.5 hours from Tegucigalpa which no one knows about. I live there! She was from the same town I was going to. That coincidence assured me that God was directing me to go. During the week I looked up Sarah and her family, and spent time visiting with her. She later came to the school with her daughter to visit with the staff and students. On the way home, my seat mate was a young adult who grew up in an orphanage in Honduras and we became friends. God is good.

I am working on a trip to India for May perhaps. Please remember that in your prayers.

Life in Michigan:
I am teaching the history of great Christians at the Seminary here. I love teaching the course because we get inspired every class by someone who pulled off great things for God. This week we have considered famous women: Susannah Wesley-the mother of John and Charles Wesley; Mary Lyons-a pioneer educator in New England whose Mount Holyoke Female Seminary made a great difference in many parts of the world; Francis Ridley Havergal-the author of many favorite Christian hymns; and Amy Carmichael-who founded the Dohnavur Fellowship orphanage in the southern most part of India. You can find information on these women at this link at path2prayer.com.

Some Quotes from Mary Lyons:
“When in doubt which of two courses to take, follow that which involves the most self-denial. You will then find yourself in the safe and happier path.”

“Jesus was never seeking a place where to live, but a place where he could deny himself for others.”

“Go where no one else will go, not seeking the praise of man, but the favor which comes from God only.”

“I felt that in the sight of God, my duty in my own little sphere and with my own feeble ability was more to me than the duty of all the world besides. Could I call thousands into the treasury of the Lord, it might not be so important a duty for me as to give from my own purse that last farthing which God requires.”

“The yielding of the will to the parent or teacher is often the schoolmaster that leads to Christ. Thank God if you have learned to submit your will to that of your parents.”

“We can train benevolent workers only by being benevolent ourselves. The Levites had no portion among the tribes; the Lord was their inheritance; but out of their living they gave their tithes to the Lord. Let us live in the same spirit.”

“If work needs to be done, and no one wants to do it, that is the work for you. Much of the work of the world, if done at all, must be done for love – not for pecuniary returns.”

“Loving self supremely continually disappoints.”

“Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand.”

Recent Answers to Prayer:
One brother wrote to say that immigration papers came in answer to many prayers. Another young woman wrote to say that an impossible job internship was offered to her that was totally unexpected. Another person has landed a job at a large hospital in answer to prayer. A student got almost a perfect score on a test that he prayed about much. God is still answering our prayers!

Update on Website:
I keep adding resources to the web site. I am currently researching much the writings of famous missionaries and finding much to bless my soul. I often hear from others the blessings they are gaining in visiting. Add a link to my site to your church’s site.

Foreign Language Resources:
My meetings were taped in Honduras. Since they were all translated into Spanish, there are now complete messages on prayer, following Jesus and witness. These will be added to path2prayer.com when the editing is completed. Do you feel called to translate? Some volunteers are doing some translation for the web site and I would welcome more. At this point we have resources in Romanian and Spanish. Find out about them at the Foreign Language Link at path2prayer.com

A Thought to Ponder:
As I study the history of great Christians, I am becoming increasingly convinced that a healthy mature walk with God not only includes reading the Bible and praying every day, and serving God locally, but also either going as missionaries on short or long-term trips, or giving to support those who are already in missions, or making it possible for others to go in our place. What do you think in this regard? I think of Louis Harms who had the little church in Hermannsburg, Germany. No one would have expected much of his church in the little village, but he was convinced his church could only be healthy if the members were actively sending and supporting missionaries. And so they did. Eventually they had eight mission stations and many missionaries serving God in Africa. Later they also worked in India. I don’t think the formula for spiritual health has changed since his time. If you want to have a strong walk with Jesus, you will have to start asking God what He would have you do in this regard. We should seek opportunities to serve God oversees, at least short-term. God will call some individuals to long-term mission service; for some something shorter. If for some reason you cannot go, then God needs you to financially make it possible for others to go-either go, or help someone else who can go.

A Prayer:
Father in heaven, thank you for allowing me to go on the mission trip to Honduras. Thank you for guiding me as I selected planes, as I served you at the mission school, as I returned, etc.. Thank you for letting me serve you in teaching about great Christians here. Thank you that You have given us so many examples of individuals who surrendered their lives and what they had, and were used by You in a great way as a result. Father, bless my friend Dan. I don’t know what is going on for Dan, but You do. Please grant the same blessings that you gave me, and continue to give me, as we seek to serve You. You know the prayers that are going up. You know to what degree Dan is serious about having prayers answered. Might you give Dan the willingness to seek Your answers, and the courage to accept Your Answers when they come. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thank you for the difference you are making and God bless you! You are in my thoughts and prayers!

Dan

Because You Now Have My Heart

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

A friend, Sarah Reiswig, recently went on a trip to Kenya. She wrote the following about the trip. My heart was touched and I sought and obtained Sarah’s permission to share it further. Mission trips are life and perspective-changing experiences. If you have not gone on a mission trip yet, you should. You will be blessed. Thank you Sarah for allowing me to share your thoughts from Kenya.

Because You Have My Heart

I haven’t been back in Canada for 24 hours, and I feel like I left part of myself behind.  As I’m assuming I didn’t leave it in the Heathrow Airport, I can only conclude that I left my heart in Kenya. So I decided to compile this list of things Kenya taught me, to try to bring some closure to the sadness I’m feeling.

1. I learned that the most important thing when visiting a country is developing relationships. Eric Rajah modeled that…he and his wife showed me things that I will take to heart for the rest of my life. Everywhere we went, every hotel we stayed at, he would bring out the security staff, the housekeeping staff, the waiters, etc…etc…and thank them and give them a gift.  They loved it.  Heck, we loved it!!  And neither of us will ever forget it.

2. I learned to ask questions.  One of the schools on the Masai Mara was built by A Better World because Eric saw a man teaching a group of kids under a tree, and stopped his driver, got out and asked what this man was doing.  Today, they have a beautiful school, accessible clean water (women used to have to trek miles to get water) and, in a culture where women’s education is traditionally discouraged, almost half the students are female.

3. I learned you don’t need rules on the road:)  I’m being tongue-in-cheek here, of course. But there’s a real testament to our safari drivers that they got us safely all around Kenya…and managed to look completely unconcerned and slightly bored.  Plus, people don’t seem to have road rage here. They’re cutting each other off, passing each other with only a hair’s breadth between them and oncoming traffic, and NO ONE GETS MAD!!!  In fact, they have special waves and signals to help each other out.  Our Canadian drivers could learn a lot…(They also have speed bumps on the highway, which I personally founnd hilarious.)

4. I learned about hospitality.  If a Masai warriour came to my house and wanted to see what it looked like inside, I would, in the words of Desirea “call the police”!!!! And yet, these people brought us into their homes, answered all our probing questions, and made us feel welcome. Wherever our vans went, little kids would run out of their homes and wave wildly. Their homes weren’t anything great by our standards, but it was their home… and we were honored to be allowed to step into their world for a little while.

5. I learned that there are some exceptional teenagers at PAA.  I’m kind of afraid of teenagers, even when I was a teenager (talk about AWKWARD) but this trip with this particular group showed me that we could learn a lot from them.  They have a perspective on life that is refreshing…and the comedy that they provided was top-notch.

6. I learned that we’re somewhat spoiled by Canada’s healthcare.  Sure, we have long wait times…but at least we get a bed to ourselves.  We visited the labor and delivery floor in Nakuru hospital. Often there were indeed two women to a bed.  And I’ve had patients complain that they didn’t have a room to themselves.

7. I learned the value of medications. I know this makes me sound kind of like an addict, but I don’t know what I would have done without Cold and Sinus medication, Pepto-Bismol, and Imodium.  Glorious Imodium.  If it were personified, it would be a knight in shining armour.  Riding a horse named Pepto.

8. I learned that I don’t really need a watch to be on time.  Andrea (my friend who accompanied me) had brought two watches, I had brought none.  Within the first few days, both her watches went kaput.  We learned to tell time by the sun (it always rose at about 6:30) and by listening to see if the other people we were with were getting up, etc. We were only late once, and that was when her watches were still working.

9. I learned that I don’t need to be a parent to love a child so much my heart hurts. There are 6000 orphans wandering the streets of Nakuru on any given night. There are 64 orphanages in this same city working frantically to make a dent in this number. I met two exceptional little boys at the orphanage we visited; Greg, who is about 10-going-on-22 and Jonathan with the bright eyes and the dimples.  They both latched onto me the first day, and I was smitten.  I’m sponsoring them, not because I’m a great person, but because I can’t bear to let them go. Come to think of it, they’re probably the thieves who took the part of me that’s now missing.  Little rascals…thank you…

Kenya, I don’t know why you let this wasteful, wealthy-by-comparison, ignorant North American girl see your secrets. I certainly didn’t deserve it.  But now that you’ve shown me your breath-taking scenery, your amazing wildlife, let me meet your beautiful people and wonderful children…I don’t want to let you down.  I want to take this experience with me and not waste it. I want to do something with it, however small. Because it will matter to someone…

…and because you now have my heart.—Sarah Reisweg

Learn more about serving God in missions at path2prayer.com