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Ears are to Hear!

This statement may seem obvious, but in Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer says, “The tragedy is that our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear.” As I read these words, I was struck with their significance.  I see this practically in my own life as I consider the many times in which my wife or children were calling to me, but I did not hear them.  I also see it in my children’s lives, as I continue to be amazed at how difficult it can be to train them to hear.  It can be seen in the church as well, as we are bombarded by cares, technology, and numerous other distractions, which I believe are training our ears not to hear.

Jesus similarly says on several occasions, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  If we continue to look through the New Testament, we will see this exhortation repeated in Revelations warning the churches.  We can see that although we have ears, it does not mean we necessarily hear or are attentive to what is being said.  Do we desire to be a people who train our ears to be attentive to the authority of the word of the Lord, so that our souls may live?  Are we training our children in hearing authority, for their eternal welfare depends on it?  Finally, may we never neglect teaching others to hear the word of the Lord, for their lives depends on it!


Lessons from a Friend

I have a wonderful friend that has four boys. Through the last couple of weeks of watching her parent, I feel like God has shown me some of what it looks like (or should look) when He is parenting us.

A couple of weeks ago her younger two boys were playing and got into an argument. I don’t remember the details of the argument now, but what I do remember is my friend saying to her four-year-old in a gentle and loving way, “No, I know that you really want that, but I need you to accept that the answer is no. I can snuggle you for a bit.” Her son was crying hard and really disappointed, but in his frustrated, disappointed tears he snuggled into his mommy’s warm embrace until he was ready to continue playing.

Last night, a few families got to hang out together. This same friend’s 10-year-old came and asked his mom a question. I don’t think any of us heard what he asked, but the answer was no. He was visually disappointed, with a sigh and slouching of his shoulders, said, “Okay.” in polite and respectful way and then moved on and happily continued playing with his friends. The other moms and I were commenting on how well he took the answer and was able to move on and continue to have fun with his friends. She responded with, “Yeah, we are trying to teach our boys that it’s ok to be disappointed, but you still have to be respectful and obedient.” (Much harder said than done!)

Then it was her 12-year-old’s turn, with another plea from mom, to which her response was, “I’m sorry, I know I’m a “mean” mom, but the answer is no. One day, when you are a dad and have kids, you will understand and thank me!”

As parents, we see the importance of having to sometimes tell our children no. As I’ve watched these three sweet boys and their mom in these interactions, I can’t help but think of how we respond when God, our heavenly Father, tells us no. None of us like to hear “no” when we want something. Sometimes our disappointment is so strong, we need to cry about it for a little bit and except a loving embrace from our heavenly Father. Sometimes, we can let out a sigh, feel disappointed, accept our answer, be obedient and respectful, and move on joyfully. And sometimes, we can know that although we don’t understand the “no” right now, in years to come, we will look back and thank God for saying no.

What are Those?

One day, after several months living in Isaan, I glanced at my feet and to my surprise, noticed a strange new growth from the sides of each one of my feet (I will spare you the picture!).  At first glance, I became quite concerned that these were either massive plantar warts, an infection, or some sort of tropical tumor that had begun growing on my feet.  But after a closer examination, I discovered that these “large” growths were actually calluses that had developed due to always sitting cross-legged on the floor.  Over the next few weeks, out of curiosity, I began paying closer attention to feet.  I noticed that you could actually tell who sat on the floor often and who didn’t based on the development of calluses on the side of their feet.  Though this is a basically insignificant development for anyone outside, I praised God that He had provided me these calluses, which demonstrated to me that He had given me opportunities to sit among the Isaan people and share life with them!

A Walk in the Forest

Last year, we had an outing to the nearby mountains with some of our Thai friends.  As we walked along through the forest, they continued to point to the many species of plants and flora that were edible.  It seemed to me as if nearly everything around us could have been eaten.  This is not the only time that we have seen our Thai friends’ knowledge of nature and the edible.  We have often been able to enjoy (Well, mostly enjoy) many amazing dishes with plants freshly picked from around us.  We have also been able to gain an amazing amount of protein from things I would have not previously considered eating.  Everything from the beetles that fly into our house at night, to the ant eggs that are harvested from our nearby trees. We praise God that He has blessed the Thai people with an abundantly fruitful land and we pray that as they are enjoying the creation, that they will not stop there, but that they will seek to know of the Great Creator! 288

Making Thankfulness a Habit

Kemp Family 2004

Kemp Family 2004

When I was really little, my mom made a habit of asking me before I went to sleep, “Who loves Stacy?” and the listing would begin…”Mommy, Daddy, Jesus, Matt, Grant, Grandma, Grandpa…”.  This practice served a great purpose when I was in Jr. High.  I had a hurtful experience with some friends of mine that caused me to feel extremely lonely and feel like “nobody loves me.”   But when I felt like, “nobody loves me,” my mind wouldn’t allow me to go there because of this habit.  I would start going through the list we’d gone over so many nights, and let me tell you, when your mom is one of seven sibblings and you have 26 first cousins, it doesn’t take long to realize “nobody loves me” is far from the truth! 🙂 My attitude and state of loneliness had to change because I realized there really are lots of people who love me.  When confronted with the truth, the lie has to flee!

I’ve been readying through Colossians recently knowing I needed some heavenly perspective, but I’ve been hit with something else this time through.   The amount of times Paul talks about thankfulness in this little book has caught my attention to say the least.

*1:3 “We always thank God…”

*1:12 “and giving joyful thanks to the Father…”

*2:7 “…and overflowing with thankfulness.”

*3:15 “….And be thankful.

*3:16 “…singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

*3:17 “….giving thanks to God the Father…”

*4:2 “…being watchful and thankful.”

(I encourage you to read through the context of these verses, because they are powerful and challenging!)

This morning in Sunday school I was working with the kids to memorize Philippians 4:6-7.  We are also studying Paul’s life when he was imprisoned and shipwrecked. Paul’s life and circumstances were very seldom easy (mostly extremely difficult!) but what does he tell us we need to do?  “Be anxious in nothing, but in everything with prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

There is that word again.  Thankfulness.  This is not a new concept.  I know that I have an overwhelming amount of things I can be thankful for! But when faced with challenges (far less than imprisonment) and things I don’t like, how much am I putting thankfulness into practice?  Just as the habit that was started when I was little helped me when I needed it, so I need to get my mind in the habit with the things I am thankful for.  Then during times that I want to whine, complain, or feel sorry for myself (which happens more often than I’d like to admit), my mind won’t let me go there! Thankfulness is the key to breaking free from that dangerous and fruitless road!  And somehow I hear my words to the boys coming back at me,“no more but’s!!”.

The Persevering Ones

Several months ago, I (Jared) was asked by our regional leader to check and see about a small group of Christians in another district, which in named Nong Kung Si. It is about an hour from Kham Muang. We had heard of a group of Christians there, but until recently had not been able to get in touch with them.  Then, last week Pastor Sukent and I met the Thai pastor who is trying to help this small group of Christians.  This pastor, Pastor Wen, lives about an hour beyond Nong Kung Si, in another district, where he pastors a small church in the countryside and assists with several others.  During that visit, Pastor Wen expressed how is only able to go and visit Nong Kung Si one or two times each month for a worship gathering and would really appreciate some help in ministering to these Christians and reaching out to others in that district.  On Saturday, Pastor Wen called me and invited me to go and visit the group with him on Sunday afternoon.  So, on Sunday afternoon, I picked up Pastor Sukent and we had the opportunity to go with Pastor Wen to have a worship meeting with this group of Christians.  It was such a privilege to worship God together in this small house, with the 7-8 adults and several children that made up the group.  As we shared together, I learned that the group had been meeting together like this for about 13 years.  On several occasions, Pastor Wen had tried to send someone to live there and help with the group, but each time the person was not able to stay more than about 1 year.  Through those years, they would see parts of the ministry grow according to the gifts of the person who came to minister there, and then shrink after their departure.  The group expressed a great interest in having someone come to help them in developing a more consistent ministry within the district.  During our visit, my heart was really moved by the perseverance of these Christians over these many years, and through the ups and downs.  I left with a great burden to continue to encourage these persevering ones and to share their story with others in the hope that God will lead someone to be led to the district of Nong Kung Si to worship and witness alongside these Christians.  Please be in prayer with us as we prayerfully process how to partner together to build up and support these Christian brothers and sisters.

The Serpent or the Fruit?

I was recently discussing the temptation and sin of man in the Garden of Eden with a small group of Isaan people.  I talked about how the serpent, which in the Thai Bible is the same word as snake, tempted the woman to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They listened to what I had to say, and we talked about how the first man and woman chose to listen to the serpent and disobeyed God.

Then at the end of our conversation, one of the Isaan people said that they understood the teaching, but did not know why fruit was so tempting to the woman.  She said that in Isaan, fruit is easy to find, but how snakes are hard to find, and Isaan love to eat them.  She went on to say that if it had been an Isaan person in the Garden of Eden, the snake would not have had a chance to tempt the woman with the fruit, because as soon as she would have seen the snake, she would have grabbed it to eat!  May we have this same characteristic in our lives and not allow the serpent to tempt us!    Pit Viper