Sister to Sister: Prayers for Pago Pago

Monday 5:45 am.

I have finally found my seat on this little jet that will taxi us over to Houston on our first leg of a trip to Pago Pago, American Samoa. They told us to go to the restroom before boarding because the lavatory is inoperable. I mean they told us that just after I purchased and drank half of that large coffee. I was sure I needed that coffee, after having started my day at 3 am. Now, I’m pretty sure I paid five dollars for a cup of misery in the air. After three extra expedition fees, my passport did not arrive. Here’s hoping the copy of my birth certificate works when I try to exit the states in Honolulu. If not, I guess there are worse things than waiting there in Waikiki for my husband to come back from the mission trip in Samoa. 

But really, I am very prayerful that lots of good can be done by the One who is hearing my petitions through the clay vessels that we are. He is good. This church (the Nu’uuli church) has recently experienced a loss of valuable leadership along with facing all of the other obstacles that the devil loves to put in the paths of congregations. I’ve been asked to speak about the role of women in the family. I hope you will pray for Glenn and me, and Abraham and Ruth Soli, our translators and fellow teachers, as we try our best to help immunize this church against false teachings with the powerful spiritual booster that is the Word. We love the Soli family and their patriarch, who passed away last year, is sorely missed by God’s family in Pago Pago. We are so blessed to have a large constituency from this good family at West Huntsville.

By the time we get home from Pago Pago, it will be the tenth flight since last Friday for Glenn and me. We’ve learned to sleep sitting up, to hurry up and wait, to unpack and repack to beat the business pros and that sharing a toothbrush every now and then is the only practical thing to do.  Most of all, we’re extremely blessed to have learned that God’s people, wherever they are, are a welcoming, nurturing family. 

I hope you’ll pray for His blessings on our travel and His work in American Samoa. We’re so thankful for all of those who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to be sure there’s a group of God’s people on this island. They built the fire. We just get to fan the flames a little.

You keep fanning them, too…wherever you are!

Monday 10:45 am… And the post script to the above is…

We all got off the plane so they could fix that lavatory. Somebody had stuffed a large quantity of paper towels into that toilet. Regulations would not allow us to make the flight with an inoperable toilet after all, although the pilot really wanted to take to the skies. The toilet repair delay caused us to miss the Houston connection to Honolulu, which caused us to miss the only flight to Samoa for the next four-and-a-half days. Our mission was aborted, the gospel meeting postponed, all of the people in Pago Pago who had taken off work were displaced. And, now, five hours later, we are back home. All because of a large wad of paper towels in the wrong place. This mission trip, for now at least, literally went right down the drain …with that wad.

Still there’s the Romans 8:28 clause.I believe in that clause today.

“…all things”… (that’s all the ramifications around the wad in the toilet, too)…”work together for good to those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose.” Maybe the reschedule will work a greater weight to His glory than would the work of the present week. Whatever the reason, the result is a repurpose for this week. And there are so many purposes competing for the bonus time.

Sister to Sister: Can We Go to the Playground?

 

I smiled at  a recent conversation between my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson and his mother:

Ezra: “Can we go to the playground today?”

Ezra’s mom: “No…not today, baby.”

Ezra: “Can we go to the playground?” 

Ezra’s mom: “I said ‘Not today,’ Ezra.”

Ezra: “I’m going to give you oooone more chance, Mama. I said ‘Can we go to the playground?’”

Ezra’s mom: “Ezra, Mama and Daddy are the only ones who can say  ‘one more chance’”.

Ezra: “Oh…Well…Can we go to the playground?”

We do this sometimes with God. We wish for things and sometimes we even ask for things that we know are against His expressed will. He has already told us we cannot go to that playground, but we keep insisting that going there is what we desire, as if we are not listening to him at all. Sometimes we ask for material things, knowing all along that we already are much too obsessed with riches. We ask for promotions to other cities, not minding the fact that there are no faithful churches or Christian encouragers there. We ask for success on the corporate ladder without ever giving a thought to the stairway to heaven. This can also be described as the Balaam syndrome. (Read Numbers 22-24). 

Then we give God “another chance” sometimes. We act as if we are in control. We build our own little towers of Babel (Genesis 11) and begin to actually think we can make our own rules of philosophy and morality. We discount His absolute truth in favor of our relativism. We dismiss His power and talk about how we can save the planet. We even decide we can define things like life’s beginning point and marriage and even gender. We just kind of tell God that we’ll give Him another chance to get it right. 

James said it this way: 

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (James 4:4).

All of our misguided ambitions and repeated pleas for things outside His will make  us His enemies and, ultimately separate us from Him eternally.

James also gives us the direct route to true success. It’s friendship with God. It’s spelled out in verses six through ten of the same chapter:

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.


 

 

 

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Finally! The Exciting Conclusion)


Five Important Take-Aways

1. Forced to choose between culture and Christianity, I must choose Christianity every.single.time. Further, there’s evil woven into every culture and I must distance myself from that evil.

2. Fighting the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) has nothing to do with a battle about social injustices.   It has everything to do with standing for spiritual truth; for Jesus Christ. That was the essence of the statement when the persecuted apostle penned it. It is still its essence. 

3. Faithful Christians referencing “my people” will always be speaking of Christians, not people who have the same pigmentation. “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

4. I must reject the idea that, in the church, broad reparations can be made. A person can only repent and repair violations that he/she has personally has committed. It is Biblically impossible to repent of sins committed by someone else. If the “someone else” is dead, then preaching repentance of his sins is, at least, useless, and, at most, divisive. If we extrapolate past sins, placing them on the church today, we may be stimulating the very division we profess to reject. We should be willing to look around at the vast majority of our congregations and admit that the word “racist” is not applicable to most congregations today.

5. Finally, and most importantly, I must acknowledge and rejoice in the fact that we already have the true answer to problems involving race relations. It is the cross and the church that was purchased at Calvary. Faithful members of that body have always been colorblind.  We protect, love, and offer solace to one another (Eph. 5:21). You can surely find individuals among us who persist in wrong attitudes and actions on many subjects,  but I am convinced that the  New Testament church is the one body in which the challenge has been sufficiently met by our Savior. I must not project this cultural fight into God’s body.  The church described in the New Testament is not part of the problem.  It is the solution to the problem.

May He bless us as we love and encourage each other. 

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 16)

Approaching the end of what has become a lengthy series, I want to draw several conclusions to summarize: 

First, Racism is a very temporary problem. Our thinking on the subject should always be tempered by that fact that racism, or having our faith with respect of persons (James 2:9),  is sin and it will not exist in heaven. 

Secondly, we should never forget that Jesus wants unity that’s based on truth for His people. That was the subject of His dying prayer in John 17. But that unity cannot be a reality if white Christians devalue or are prejudiced against people of a different skin color. It cannot happen if Christians of color extrapolate misdeeds and mistreatment from American history and assign those misdeeds to their brothers and sisters today. 

My husband and I travel around the U.S. visiting many congregations each year. We do not see assemblies or fellowship times or relationships that are tainted by racism in our travels. We do see the opposite of racism regularly. We see Christians of all colors eating together, hugging one another, helping one another, serving side by side as elders and teachers together, and listening to pulpits that are sometimes filled by white brethren and other times filled by brown brethren. In our home congregation, we have regular singings with two other churches. Two of the churches involved are mostly white, with minorities of African Americans, Mexican, El Salvadorian and Samoan people. The third church is mostly African American. I think many folks at all three of these churches would tell you that our times together for these services are some of their favorite worship times. I believe our elders would love to merge with either of these churches if their leaderships were so inclined. I do not believe there is any correction that needs to be made by the elders in these churches with regard to racism. 

The unity for which our Lord prayed cannot be a reality today if reparations are required by any constituency in the body. This is true because Christians cannot repent of sins committed by others. Further, one Christian cannot apologize for the whole church, even if the entire body had been guilty of a sin. 

When I think of reparations, I think about Paul. He had done some awful things to Christians prior to Acts 9. Notice the reaction of Barnabas when Paul became a godly man. 

“And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:26-27).

Paul could not “undo” or materially pay for his past crimes against Christians. All he could do is what all of us can do: apply the Golden Rule to all people and go forth with the gospel to save as many men and women as possible. 

Thirdly, Galatians 3:26-27 does teach us to be colorblind. We set aside all ethnic and cultural differences, realizing that God has made us all of one blood. We see only souls.

If we allow any militant fight in defense of any culture or ethnicity to invade the church, it will be met with confusion and, ultimately division.  

Sister to Sister: Heads Up for the Diggers

First of all, my apologies for an error in this month’s study. Number seven (page 68) if you have the workbook) refers you back to the previous month’s chart. That chart is actually in Month Seven, number 13 (page 56 in the book). It’s the chart we did comparing the Old Testament priest to our High Priest, Jesus Christ. So make that correction as you study. 

Next, several ladies have had questions about the cities of refuge in question two of this month’s study.  Perhaps the instructions were not very clear. Here’s where we’re going with that one. 

Notice the meaning of each city’s name and try and find characteristics of our refuge (the church) that correspond to the Old Testament name. For example, the first site is Kedesh, meaning “Holy Place”. So we are looking for passages that describe the church as being holy, or passages that instruct us to be holy, or sanctified, as His church today. 

My passages for this particular city begin with a prophetic passage about the church. It’s Isaiah 66:17-24. ( I know this is not a New Testament passage, but I had to cheat here. This one is so good for this!) Just go there and read this passage and marvel at the emphasis on sanctification for the church. Then I noted the holiness commanded in I Corinthians chapters five and six—just throughout those chapters, the emphasis is keeping clean and holy. Then I made a note of I Peter 1: 15, 16 in which we are commanded, as his people, to be holy:

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Finally, for this city, I noted that the Greek word for “church” is ekklesia meaning ‘the called” or “called out”. 

Obviously for the next city, Shechem, we will be looking for passages about the strength of the Lord, since Shechem means strong shoulder. The shoulder upon which the church rests is Jesus. 

You get the drill. Just give yourself a little wiggle room. Your passages do not have to have the same wording as the name of the city. They just need to refer to the church or Christians using the same general characteristics or descriptions that lend themselves to the general idea suggested by the city’s name. 

This is a beneficial study when we consider the purpose of the cities. It’s not a complete parallel between these cities and the refuge we have in the body, but it is an interesting comparison. May He bless your study!

Sister to Sister: Christ over Color (Part 15)

The last specific passage I’d like to notice is the book of Philemon. It’s the story of a heathen slave-turned- Christian-runaway and his decision to go back to his master. You know Onesimus, as the runaway who ran into the great apostle Paul and became a slave to the ultimate Master, Jesus Christ. Notice verses 15 and 16 of this short letter from Paul beseeching Philemon to accept Onesimus back as so much more than a slave. Onesimus was Philemon’s brother in the Lord. 

For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

So many observations could be made. Paul, it seems to me, assumed that Onesimus would be very happy to be a brother to Philemon. There would be no resentment.  There were no cries for reparations from Paul or Onesimus.  Of course  in this case, we can also safely assume that Philemon had behaved as a Christian master to Onesimus. It’s interesting and stirring that Paul did not make a specific plea for the freedom of Onesimus from slavery. Perhaps this is because the church (Christians) was to refrain from civil disobedience as we have noted from Romans 13. Paul did expect and demand their love and respect for one another. Of course, their decisions about the master/slave relationship were to be guided by their allegiance to Christ and their love for one another. 

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)