Advent 2014 v1.0 – Week 3

Hope you’re enjoying your family’s Advent celebrations!  We are “refining” ours 😉  Maddie’s biggest qualm was that we were sitting on the floor (cold tile floor!) to do ours – Pah!  Here’s week 3’s Jesse Tree lineup.  Not as many Jesus Storybook Bible matches, but it’s not a bad thing to mix it up and include some ‘grown up’ Bible reading or another version from another children’s Bible!  Jesus’ birthday is almost upon us!

3rd Sunday – The Prince of Peace (Crown with dove) – Is 9:2, 6-7

Monday – The New Covenant (Heart w/ Scripture inside) – Jer 31:31-33, Heb 9:13-15

Tuesday – Bethlehem Prophecy (Bethlehem silhouette) – Micah 5:2, Luke 2:4-7

Wednesday – The Fiery Furnace (Fiery Furnace) – Daniel 3, Matt 5:11-12

Thursday – Return to Jerusalem (Brick wall) – Neh 1:3, 2:18, 6:15-16

Friday – Daniel & the Lion’s Den (Sleeping Lion) – Daniel 6:2-29

  • Can read “Daniel & the scary sleepover” in JSB

Saturday – Jonah’s Special Message (Fish) – Jonah 1-4, Heb 1:1-2

  • Can read “God’s messenger” in JSB

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Happy Resurrection Day! A little late…

Hey y’all!  We got to celebrate a little differently this year…not that the way we had been celebrating was bad, but we just wanted to change it up a bit.  We started out basic this year since the girls are 3 1/2 and 5 and plan to add more as the years go on.  I’d (Beth) like to start even a little bit earlier…around Lent-ish time, maybe.  This year’s Easter just crept up on me!

Anyways, we checked out Sojourn’s website for some kid-friendly Palm Sunday activities and came up with this!  I cut and pasted some stuff, but it was really fun to reenact the “Triumphal Entry” story.  Firstly though, we traced the girls hands 3x’s and cut them out and taped them to a popsicle stick for the “palm leaves”.  IMG_7041Then, we prefaced the story a little bit and asked the Big Question (from the Sojourn link) of Who is Jesus?  They answered so energetically, “Hosanna, Jesus is the Savior King!”  The girls’ favorite part was acting out the story 😉  Will (of course!) was Jesus, I was the person who laid down the coats (yeah, we busted out our winter jackets!) on the ground, the girls were waving said “palm” leaves and then, me and the girls switched to the Pharisees.  Pah!  Good times…we prayed and then, they wanted to do it again!  It was neat b/c all throughout the week, randomly the girls would shout, “Hosanna, Jesus is the Savior King!”

Then, I had seen a couple of different cute ideas about how to keep Easter about the Resurrection…so, here’s what we did:

Thursday, we and our friends upstairs made these stained glass crosses and explained that the cross is empty b/c Jesus is alive!  (Left one is Mahaney’s and right one is Maddie’s)

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Friday, we gathered all of our materials for our Resurrection Garden!  We’ve seen these all over the internet and wanted to try it out.  We followed this particular one by Oh Amanda and really liked the aspect of gathering leaves, twigs for the crosses and flowers for Friday and talking about the story of Jesus’ death…
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…and as the day went on and Saturday went on, the plants withered painting a picture of sadness and death.

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– But on Sunday morning, we started getting all excited b/c the girls knew that the Resurrection Garden would change, but they didn’t know how!  Before going into see the garden, we wanted to get the Resurrection Rolls in the oven!  So, we told them briefly and simply how people back in the day used to bury people by using oils (melted butter) and spices (cinnamon sugar) and wrapped them up and put them in a tomb (the wrapped up crescent roll).  We popped those suckers in the oven and went on to see about this Resurrection Garden!

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That morning, I got up early and went back out and replaced all of the tattered leaves and flowers with new, fresh, vibrant ones showing that Jesus brings new life!  It was fun for the girls to help get it all together, made and hear the story that we’ve heard a few times, but seeing it come to life for them was really neat.  Buggy wanted to keep the little Jesus I made from a pipecleaner 😉
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It was a fun, relaxing Easter and I would love to add some things to these traditions next year.  We also drew the Jesus dying on the cross story in henna w/the girls and they wanted to show it off to their friends/teachers at school!
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Death and the New Believer: How to Counsel?

Maybe you can help me (Will) process something that has been weighing on my heart for the past 24 hours.  You see, early Sunday morning, we received a call that the father of our house helper and language teacher died unexpectedly.  These 2 sisters were very distraught.  Their father and family live about 10 hours away from here in FLL.  They last saw him 6 weeks ago.  They are only 25 and 18…and they are all Hindu.  Now, as believers we have a different view of death.  Yes, there is mourning and weeping and sadness, but this is all surrounded by the hope that we have that the one who has died is now living with Jesus, forever.

We never had the chance to meet their father.  Even though they have only been working for with us for 4 months, these girls have become a part of our family.  Their father and family had been planning on moving down to our town for some time, but he was waiting till he completed his cancer treatments.  We had been praying for healing, and he was on the path to recovery.  The girls often talked of their dad and how much they missed him.  They were so excited for the day when the family would move here.  We too were excited.  Beth has been sharing the Gospel with both girls regularly since they moved here.  The younger sister seemed to have a softening of her heart towards Jesus; the older not so much.  However, we are very much believers in Homes of Peace as found in Luke 10, and so were  looking forward to getting a chance to share this great news with the whole family, esp the father.  You see, in this culture, the father is THE leader of the family.  What he says, what he gives permission for, what he forbids, stands.  If he believes, then it’s easier for all to believe.

Well, we never got that chance and never will.  As an unbeliever in Jesus, the Bible makes it very clear what has happened to his soul.  No reincarnation.  No second chances.  No eternal life with Jesus.  People die every day not knowing Jesus; in fact here in South Asia, I think it’s like 40 people/minute (let that stat set in).  But for me, it’s a reality I know, but maybe haven’t taken to heart….until now.

If When these girls open their lives to knowing Jesus, we (mostly Beth) will have the great joy of discipling these young girls into mature women of Christ.  Yet, I can’t get past that one of these truths they will have to grasp is that their father is in hell.  Yes, when they die, they will no longer have to worry about reincarnation and the lack of assurance.  They will know their Savior and spend the rest of eternity in His presence…but their father will not.

So friends, this is the burden I carry today.  What do you say to new believers when they realize, for the 1st time, that their family members who died without Jesus are in hell?  How do you help them cope with the weight of this knowledge?

And we’re back!

It seems like forever before this blog gets updated…sorry ’bout that.  We are in the midst of selling all of our stuff and our house, so, it’s been a teensy (or is it tinsy?) bit busy…hopefully, there will be an update soon on our official timetable made by THE Will Jackson towards the beginning of August.  Me and the girls are really enjoying our time together this summer and have done a number of things….sleep in, eat, nap, play in the pool, eat, art time, eat, read, go to the zoo, go to church, eat….how many times a day do they eat?  It’s been great and there is more adventure yet to come, I’m sure…

We celebrated 4th of July weekend with my folks and had a nice, relaxing weekend…we haven’t had that in a long time…so, before the real madness, that is the month of July, starts, we wanted to veg out and chill w/ some family.  Oh, I wanted to share about a book I am reading, Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers…..WHOA.  Can’t put it down to save my life….I’m not a big book reader, repeat, I cannot stand reading…..but I really love this book.  It’s based on the Hosea/Gomer story in the Bible and I strongly encourage you to run out and buy it….go ahead!   I’d love to chat about it…it has captured me in 2 ways…1.  Just being so thankful that the Lord is a loving God that will always come after His people and 2. Thankful that my husband would do the same.  Now, don’t get any cheeky ideas, I’m not into that kind of business that Will would have to run out after me….but I am so grateful for a man who would if he had to.
Will has been….well, I’m not really sure….oh yes, he sprained his ankle a couple of weeks ago, so, I have been tending to him 🙂  He is projected to resume athletics in 2 more weeks…and get ready for his work’s golf tourney at the end of the month…

Which leads me to some very exciting weekends coming up!  We are planning on heading down to Knoxville one of the last weekends in July to see some friends and to see Mahaney’s namesake.  CJ Mahaney and his family will be preaching at the Alexander’s church and this is the man who we have named our 2nd kiddo after.  He (& his family) have been so influential Will and my faith journey and we just love him.  Granted, we don’t know him on a really personal level, we still have been affected by his love for Jesus.  Check out a little bit about him here.  Don’t you just love his squinty eyes when he smiles??  He is truly a hoot!
Also, my dear friends Anna and Taiter are planning a trip at the end of July to see us!  I can’t tell you how much this makes my heart leap.  It’s been a year since the triple threat has been reunited and I’m totally looking forward to the late nights, many laughs and hilarious stories we will share.  Too bad they’ll have to see me acting like the “mommy”….Stay tuned folks….

Gospel Ministry w/o the power of the Spirit?

I (Will) have been reading through Radical by David Platt over the past few months. Most (if not all) of the content I’ve heard before through the sermon podcasts. But there’s been a smaller theme in the book that’s really resonated with me and caused some soul searching on my part.

Platt spends one section talking about how [my paraphase] if we wanted to, church leaders in America could grow a huge mega-church without any help from the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is find the outgoing, charismatic speaker; build the greatest facilities w/ best technology; organize top-notch programs; and target the upper and middle suburban class. Before long, the church is booming and the leaders are being invited to all the speaking circuits with the other celeb-evangelicals. Yet, no where to be found is the Holy Spirit actually changing hearts rather than man playing with emotions.

As I read this, I began to think about who is really behind my gospel ministry. I’ve lived overseas for 2 years engaging unreached people groups; I’ve traveled around the southeast for 8 months promoting and recruiting for missions. I’ve had chance to preach and teach at churches. I’ve trained national church planter and pastors in Asia. Yet, I think I’ve come to the realization that much of my “ministry” falls into the category Platt is describing. Reflecting on the state of my personal walk with Christ during these times, I know that many of these efforts were completed in my own power. Bible reading was scarce; prayer even scarcer. Now, the Bible has plenty of examples of using someone’s sin or faults for the greater purpose (Joseph’s brothers, Cyrus, Judas, etc); so I don’t doubt that any who were impacted by what I said or did were impacted for the wrong reason necessarily. Yet, I have been reminded over and over the past few weeks about the missed opportunities this spiritless-ministry left on the table.

For too long, I’ve mostly relied on my head knowledge to carry me through ministry (and seminary) rather than opening my mind and heart to hear the Spirit’s leading. I know that the only way to completely follow God is 100% submission to him. I don’t doubt my salvation; I know that Christ is my Savior. What I look back on are the many times where my disobedience prevented me from seeing God at work through me, missing the opportunity to know him better. Yet, I know that the Spirit is always here in me. I trust God’s Word that the Spirit will lead and guide me; I trust that the Spirit will intercede for me when I know not what to say. I need to be more committed to being in God’s Word, to spending time in prayer, to listening to his voice. Only then will I be able to actually see the power of the Spirit in my gospel ministry.

I write this post not to publically confess my shortcomings. I write to possibly help and encourage any of the few readers we have to not fall into the same trap that I did. Don’t rely only on your own gifts, because your gifts and talents without the power of the Holy Spirit are fruitless. Gospel ministry without the power of the Spirit is no Gospel ministry at all.

A Weekend w/ the Alexanders and C.J. Mahaney

Well, ok, we really didn’t spend the weekend w/ C. J.  However, we did hear him preach at Cornerstone Community Church in Knoxville with our friends the Alexanders.  Walt is a pastor there, and Beth has been friends w/ his wife Kim since they were back in Jr. High.  Waaaaayyyy back in the mid-90’s.  They were wonderful host treating us well over the weekend.  It was a pleasure to spend time with them chatting, playing cards, and talking about spiritual matters.  Walt just graduated from the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College so we had a good time comparing notes between there and Southern.

On Sunday, C.J. was preaching at their church and it was a blessing for us to hear him.  You can download his message at their website, and I recommend that you do.  Here are a few of the quotes that I wrote down from his sermon on Acts 4:32 – 6:7:

  • “Any offense to God’s swift judgment shows our ignorance of His holiness and our sin”
  • Speaking about Ananias and Sapphira, “Ask not ‘why they died’ but ‘why are we still alive?'”
  • “The persecution only highlighted [the apostles] joy.  This is an unstoppable gospel”
  • “God’s favor results in growth which results in change.  Changes were required; sacrifice was necessary.”
  • “Turn your attention away from exclusively your heart and toward the hearts of others”

Thanks Walt and Kim for a great weekend!!

“Truth in Relationships” by Liz Lockwood

Quite relevant concerning that tomorrow is Valentines Day everywhere but the Jackson house . . . because everyday is V-Day at in our house! 🙂

Anyway, our good friend Liz Lockwood wrote this article for My Mission Fulfilled that I thought worthy of pointing out.  Liz is very full of wisdom and insight, and we are glad that her writing is making it for all to see!  Here’s the intro:

Most of us have been there at some point in life . . . spending an increased amount of time with a guy and enjoying every single minute of it. He calls you sometimes “just to talk,” makes an effort to see you every chance he gets, and treats you differently than his other female friends. When you meet eyes across the room, your stomach flutters and your palms get sweaty. You are not really sure what this is all about, but you like him and you want whatever this is to continue. In fact, you haven’t actually discussed dating with him; you have yet to define this relationship.

If you have gone through this before, you know how frustrating it can feel. Dating is one of the areas in life where uncertainty can linger for much longer than it is welcome. There simply comes a point in every dating relationship when you need to have a D.T.R. “Defining the Relationship” is critical for establishing boundary lines, expectations, and leadership in dating.   (More . . .)

 

A Tale of Two Christmases

We’ve been back about a week from Nepal and I have been reflecting on the trip.  One of the first things that struck me was Christmas Day.

You see, until just a few years ago, Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom; there was no celebration of Christmas.  But for 2008, the new interim government declared Christmas an official holiday.  I thought it was pretty cool.  Everywhere we went, all the people were wishing us a Merry Christmas (only many spelled it “marry” but oh well).  However, the deeper you looked, you realized that they had no idea what was going on.  While my Nepali wasn’t great, I heard on the radio the DJ’s explaining what Christmas is.  And with the huge tourism industry in Nepal, they and the local newspapers would give details of what goes on in the different countries of the world.  When it came to the USA, the emphasis was more on Santa Claus than Christ.  All around the city you would see trees decorated and pictures of Santa Claus (or Saint Nick if you wish).

On Christmas day, I and the team were heading from our hotel to spend the afternoon with some of the missionaries their in town.  We had a great day of eating a big meal, talking, laughing, and sharing Christmas stories.  As we were leaving, our taxi driver told me that around our hotel, they were getting ready to have a big Christmas program.  (Now, “program” is the English translation and can mean anything from an official ceremony to a party.)  I thought it was interesting that the Christmas was getting its own program.  In my Western, Judeo-Christian mindset, I envisioned one thing.  When we returned that evening, we found something completely different. . . The Christmas program was actually a massive street dance party thrown by a local beer company.  I am not great at estimating, but I would bet there were about 3-5,000 people dancing and grinding and celebrating Christmas (many drunk beyond belief) in the middle of the street.  Our taxi let us out right by the stage and we then had to push our way through the masses to get to the street our hotel is on.  Luckily, being 6’5″ helps in this situation, but the sadness till weighs on my heart.  This country that has been locked in Hinduism for its entire existance is finally “free” to celebrate Christmas and here are 5,000 of the next generation in a giant street rave. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of town earlier in the day, one local church publicized that they were having a Christmas fellowship.  They were expecting about 200 people to show up and their last count had over 400 people!  So here in Nepal, the same name was given to 2 Christmas celebrations, yet they could not have been more different.  I remember laying in bed that night just burdened for this younger generation who could care less about Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism.  They seem to only be concerned about their own image, wants, and desires.  One of the pastors that we met even called this age group agnostics.  The Devil doesn’t let go of them easily; he just moves them from one lost cause to another, from worship of false gods to worship of themself as god, from tradition to rebellion.  Lord, may You draw these people to Yourself.

May the numbers continue to increase in the church outreach and decrease in the street raves.

Modesty Making a Comeback?

This morning on cnn.com, I read the following headline, “Mom shocked by teen’s modest clothing.”  And according to the author, modesty is on the return!  I would have hoped that this would be as a result of many teenagers coming to conviction that showing off their “bosoms and buns” (funny story to follow) is not honoring to the Lord; however the author attributes the shift more to some of the same factors that sent modesty packing: the economy, parents, specialty stores, and celebrities.

Side note: I find it quite ironic that teens/college students with less money are actually wearing more clothes.  Isn’t it funny that the clothing that has less material actually costs more than buying 2-3 pieces of clothing to wear layered?

At the same time that modesty appears to be in style now, I will be interested to see if it remains “in style” come next spring.  I mean, of course modesty is “in style” in the fall when it starts to get colder leading into winter; who wants to dress all skimpy when it’s 40 degrees outside?  Maybe I am a little skeptical, but when you are in an industry that is consumer driven (or you go out of business), I would think that advertisers would do all that they can to sell their products.  So is it not reasonable to think that they would “hire” the celebrities to dress a certain way in order to push their product to teens and parents?  What dad out there wouldn’t want his daughter to dress more modestly?  The author’s final words reflect just this attitude, “But I’m rejoicing over anything that keeps my girl from looking like a lounge singer.”

What we really need are parents to take the responsibility in raising their kids.  We need people to understand purity as one of the gifts given to them by a loving and Holy God through His Son Christ.  Yesterday, our pastor preached on Samsom and how he gave away his heritage, lineage, and gifts which included purity.  As he spoke to us about purity, he used the example of a wrapped gift.  When girls wear revealing clothing, when guys look, when we give of ourselves . . . , we are ripping the paper off and throwing the gift away.  He encouraged the parents to take control of what their kids are wearing.  He encouraged the young (and older) women to dress “beautiful, not sexy.”  In a more comical moment, he encouraged those who have the gift of “bosoms and buns” to not show those to all of us at church but save that for their husband.  It was a passionate plea from a man who understands that to throw away the gifts of God is to throw God away.

So, is modesty making a comeback?  Let’s wait till next Spring to find out . . .

Here are 2 of what I think are some of the best resources on modesty:

Where did all the Young Adults go?

Today, I ran across a very insightful article about reaching the Young Adult generation with the Gospel. Trevin Wax has been reviewing the chapters of the book After the Baby Boomers by Robert Wuthnow, and the final chapter is titled Youthful Churches. I would encourage all pastors and people working with Young Adults to read this article. Three particular passages summarized by Trevin stuck out to me:

“Churches must stop assuming that if they have a vibrant youth group and then a good program for young married couples with kids, they will reach this generation. This kind of mentality leaves out three-quarters of this generation. Churches should step in and fill the void. Why do we invest so much in programs for the children and the elderly, while leaving out ministry to young adults? We need programs for single adults with questions about marriage, work, and finances.”

“Regarding worship styles, Wuthnow’s research may surprise you. Young adults are increasingly less likely to want the contemporary worship of the boomer generation. They think church services should “feel like church.” Young adults are more often interested in preserving traditional worship than changing it.”

“The research numbers on worship styles may shock you (unless you are like me and in your twenties, and then you’ll sigh and say, “Finally, someone is describing our generation correctly!”). The greatest popularity of contemporary worship appears to be among people in their early forties. The lowest percentage of all (12%) of those who prefer contemporary worship is represented by people in their 20’s. That figure is lower than the percentage of church members aged 65-97.”

Many churches are not reaching out to the Young Adults. Events such as VBS, Upward, Fall Festivals, Kids Choirs, Senior Adult luncheons, etc are the many events that most churches host as outreach events . . . which really doesn’t reach out to Young Adults. One cool thing at our church is that we have a part-time staff member working with Young Adults. He has been teaching a series on dating and marriage (you can find his blogs here).

Also, the comment about the “contemporary music” is great! Our generation is tired of singing the 24/7 choruses (7 words repeated 24 times). What our generation, at least I do, loves is the music that tells the story of the Gospel and the nature of God as seen in many songs produced by Sovereign Grace. I’ll be looking forward to reading Trevin’s final thoughts on the entire book later this week.