Friday, November 29, 2013

Who Decides What a Christian Is Anyway?

I'm home-schooling the kids now and this past week we've started learning about different religions. One of the books I'm using is the The Usborne Book of Peoples of the World. I like the layout and it is very informative.

Under Christianity it had relatively good information and then I came to this line:  "Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead and now lives with God in heaven. They believe that if they lead good lives they too will go to heaven when they die."

Is that why we are going to heaven, Christians? If we are good? I would guess most non-Christian people would describe Christianity this way and probably don't see any problem in what I've quoted up there. In fact, I've started to realize that many Zambian Christians and even many American Christians wouldn't blink an eye at that above statement.

Here's the problem.... that's NOT the gospel of Jesus Christ!!! Christ said nobody is good but God alone. My list of good deeds in this life is NOT why I will be in heaven someday. The Bible very clearly teaches that it is by faith in Jesus Christ and his righteousness that we are saved, so that none of us can boast. No matter if I lead a very good life... if I haven't trusted in the goodness of Jesus, I will NOT be in heaven with him someday. Period.

That is what sets Christianity apart from other religions of the world. Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, JW's, Jews.... everyone is just trying to follow their set of rules and be good enough. But Christ taught that none of us would ever measure up to God's perfect standard no matter how hard we tried. He came to fulfill the standard in our place and then die in our place. Can I get an "Amen" anybody?

Christians, if you are trying to be very very good everyday so that you can have a good enough resume to get into heaven, well you are in for a surprise. Your resume stinks. Nobody is impressed with you, especially not God! It is by faith that we are saved so that none of us may boast. Cling to Christ. Throw all of your eggs in that basket because it is Jesus Christ alone who saves!!!!

PS... Usborne Books... get your facts straight!

Monday, November 18, 2013

This World Is Not My Home

So here we are back in our house at Ciyanjano. The view out my window where I’m typing is incredible and so very African. The sun is just coming up and the birds are going bananas. The air is cool but you can already feel the heat of the sun even though it’s still a sliver on the eastern horizon. From my desk I can see children in their uniforms walking to school on the other side of the steam, acacia trees, palms, bananas, giant cactus and further out, the scrubby green hill that the locals call “the mountain.” 

What surprises me most is how totally normal this feels. How much this strange place feels like home. Of course it was just a few weeks ago that we were eating an amazing breakfast at the Mt Bakery with good friends and walking the streets of Bellingham, breathing in the cool air and the brilliance of a thousand leaves changing colors. That also felt like home. One of my favorite songs I sing the kids is an traditional song that goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing though. My treasures are laid up somewhere, beyond the blue. My savior beckons me from heaven’s open doors and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” I think it rings so true for me because it’s so so easy to fall in love with the things and places of this world - after all, God made so many beautiful and lovely things. 

Coming back to Zambia this time I’m far more aware of what we are leaving behind. During our first term we lost years of time with friends and family. We missed out on births and weddings. Graduations and funerals. We missed out on celebrations and mournings. Our kids could be in great public schools. We could go to the beach a couple of times a year. We could have the kids in karate and I could ride a motorcycle without fearing for my life every moment. My parents are getting older and I could be spending more time with them, letting them have more time with their grandchildren. This time I feel the great weight of what we are leaving behind to serve the local church in Zambia. 

When I was a new Christian I had this thought in the back of my mind whenever I was having doubts about my faith. The thought was this, “Even if this whole Jesus thing is not true, at least I’d be living a good life where we serve others and stuff, so no big loss.” A few weeks ago at Oikos, our pastor Pete preached from 1 Corinthians 15. Paul says that if Christ is not risen than we are to pitied most of all. This really struck me for the first time in light of our imminent departure. Our radical call as Christ followers comes at a cost. This is not new stuff; I’m not striking out in new territory, Christ himself called his followers to take up their cross and follow him. A life that is completely under the will of God is not just living a life that proves Christianity is just a way to live a better life now. It’s living a life that points completely to our belief that Christ is who he says he is and he has done what he says he’s done. And we actually believe that to the extent that if we have lived our life to Christ and he is not risen than we have lived as fools. And the world should see us as fools until they believe. 

So I’m praying that the Holy Spirit will fill me up when it’s 95 degrees in our bedroom at 11pm and the power is out and the bats are flying around our living room. When we’re pulled over for speeding when we’re going under the speed limit. When we’re sweating our way through an afternoon at immigration. When we're missing friends and family and our home church. When we miss weddings and births. Praying that I would by contented and joyful with wherever God would have us and that I would not love the world or any place in it more than I love my savior and the place he’s preparing for me when the work of this life is over.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bible Club Re-Visited

It's hard to believe that we've been back in Zambia for 2 weeks already! Our time has been quite full with re-organizing the house a bit, starting home-schooling, getting back into the Ciyanjano groove (such as surprise trips to the clinic with neighbor kids, surprise pastors wanting to book camps, or surprise bats in our bedroom... so Tricia, are you saying life is full of surprises?? Why, yes!).

Surprises can throw off your whole day but they can also completely MAKE your whole day. That was true of yesterday - I got my Bible Club back together for our first of many weekly meetings to come. Surprisingly, almost all the 35 kids that were coming before our home assignment showed up, on time, and wearing their t-shirts!!! For those of you who have never experienced African culture... this was truly amazing. I was super pumped to see the kids and they were all looking really good. Also Judy (pictured above) showed up to help me translate and wrangle the kiddos.

Then, after our Bible story time, I was surprised again!!! Judy and the children surprised me by telling me that THEY had also prepared a program for ME. I had the beautiful privilege of sitting back while the kids performed songs and recited memory verses they had worked on over previous weeks. My very favorite song  (not to be "so vain" as that old song goes) was the song they made up for me:  "We are so happy, Auntie Tricia. We are so happy, happy, happy that you are back in Zambia." This song was catchy, if I do say so myself, and also had some dance moves that went along with it that were quite sassy.

So of course, how thoroughly encouraged could a Sunday school teacher be??!! I told the kids that I would have come all the way back to Zambia JUST to see their program because it was so awesome. Please remember Ciyanjano's Bible Club in your prayers each week and pray that these kids will know, love and serve the Lord and share the good news about Jesus Christ with others.