Friday, February 22, 2013

My Great Barrier Reef

One of the best perks about living in Vanuatu is the access we have to the ocean; it quite literally is in our backyard. I don't really like to swim in the ocean, but I love to sit on the shore and just gaze out across the water and enjoy the beautiful landscape God designed. There are two small islands just east of us that make for an incredible view.

Tonight, when I went out to enjoy the view, I again noticed the waves coming in off the ocean. They would come in fairly large, probably about two or three feet tall, until they got about fifty feet from shore, where they would crash against the coral reef that encompasses our little cove. From there, the water would roll in much more smoothly until it hit the beach. That got me thinking. That reef is like God and the way He protects us. When there are huge waves coming off the ocean of life trying to crash hard against our shore, God stands out from the shore and lets the strength of the wave crash against Him. Then a small surge comes up the shore. Oftentimes, we will look at the small amount of surge that hits our shore and wonder why God has allowed such problems into our lives. Why couldn't God have removed these problems we're facing? Why did He allow these things to happen to us? Little do we realize that He has already faced the brunt of the waves on our behalf. He has tempered the amount of surge allowed to come our way. Instead of asking why He has allowed these problems, we should be thanking Him for all the trials He has not allowed to come our way.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One Pineapple or the Whole Basket

Part of going shopping here in Vanuatu includes going to market. You never know what you’ll find there. Different villages send their produce to market at different times, and most villages have a “specialty,” one crop that nearly everyone produces. One time when I went to market, nearly every vendor was selling mangoes. Another time, there must have been twenty people selling oranges (which, ironically, here are green). One item that isn’t too common, but you can usually find a few of is pineapple. Now, pineapples in America are quite nice, but are nothing compared to the pineapples here. They are incredibly sweet and delicious. However, they do come with quite a price tag. A small one often is $2 with larger ones ranging all the way up to $5. Recently when I was at market, I walked all the way through looking for pineapples. I needed a small one because once you cut them open they go bad in a day and a half, and I can only eat so much. I found some nice small ones in a small basket, and asked the lady how much they were. She told me 300 vatu ($3.00). That’s a bit expensive for small pineapples, but I really wanted one, so I paid the lady the 300vt and took a pineapple. I proceeded to buy the rest of what I needed and went to get in the car. I heard a knocking on the window and looked up. There was the lady that had sold me the pineapple holding the basket with six more pineapples in it. She told me that I had paid for the basket without taking it [crazy white lady]. I, confused, took the basket and thanked her.

Then I realized, 300vt was not the price of one pineapple, it was the price of the whole basket. The price for the whole basket had been paid, but I, in my ignorance, had only taken advantage of a small bit of what had been purchased. How often do we do the same. The price for salvation has been paid, but often we only take advantage of a small part of what has been purchased. Now, I’m not talking about being “partly saved,” but not taking full advantage of what we’ve been given. Salvation has so much more to it than just going to heaven. It is freedom from the power of sin. It allows for the filling of the Holy Spirit. It provides an opportunity to live an abundant life. How many times do we, in our ignorance, take one pineapple, not realizing Christ paid for the whole basket?

Monday, February 4, 2013

The 10 Plagues

One very distinct memory I have from my survey trip that I keep recalling is one particular week. Every evening of that week, there was an infestation of a particular bug; but every evening, it was a different bug. One night, there were flies. Another, beetles. Another, these little tiny green bugs. And every morning when we woke up, they would all be dead on the ground. It started me thinking on how much I would hate to have lived in the days of the ten plagues on Egypt. At least I have the comfort in knowing that no matter whatever bugs I may encounter, it’s all in the service of God and God will get me through it. I cannot fathom trying to meet the challenges of the mission field without God’s constant presence and ready help. A few nights ago, I had three of the worst bugs all in my house in the same evening. There was a three-inch diameter spider on my ceiling, a poisonous centipede on my floor, and an enormous grasshopper in my bathroom (I don’t mind grasshoppers too much normally, but this one was jumping around startling me and it was HUGE). I quickly squished the centipede with my baton-like flashlight (that I always have close-by at night, just in case). Then I got a jar and went into the bathroom, caught the grasshopper and put him outside. But I was still stuck with the spider on the ceiling. Even if I had gone to get a ladder (which I was not inclined to do that late at night), I still probably wouldn’t have been able to reach the spider to kill it. I began to pray that it would just drop down dead, or fall so I could squish it, or just leave the way it came. But it didn’t. It didn’t do any of those things, it just sat there. Every once in a while, it would jump and grab a bug and eat it. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t just get rid of the spider so I could relax and go to sleep. Then God did something I never expected, instead of removing the spider, He removed my fear of spiders. Now, you must understand, I’ve HATED spiders my entire life. I saw part of this documentary on black-widow spiders when I was like eight or nine and that thoroughly freaked me out (as if I wasn’t scared of spiders enough to begin with). But that night, God gave me a peace I had never before felt in the presence of a spider. Then I began to realize, that that spider, whom I had feared, actually was something good sent to me from God. It was eating other bugs in my room, ones that I had good reason to fear, like mosquitoes that might be carrying malaria. That night, I realized that so often we are quick to ask God to remove something difficult in our lives that might just be something that He sent to be a blessing.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

God's Will

Why do people automatically assume that God's will will be done? Not just His big plan for the world will, but His will for every minute detail of every person’s life. After much ado about receiving my visa to be a missionary in Vanuatu, I had someone write to me in an email saying something to the effect of "I'm so glad you were able to get your visa; I knew it was God's will for you to be there." That comment pre-supposed that if I hadn't gotten my visa, it would be because it was God's will for me to not be a missionary in Vanuatu. That sparked my thoughts deeper into this topic: Is God's will always done? I submit to you that it is not.
1. God is not willing that any should perish. If God's will always was done, not a single person would be in hell. God's will is that all come to repentance. Not all have come to repentance; therefore, His will is not done.
2. God has a specific will for every Christian. The vast majority choose not to do His will; therefore, His will is not done.
3. It is not God's will for anyone to sin, yet people do sin; therefore, His will is not done.
4. If it is not God's will for anyone to sin, any consequences of sin are not His will; therefore, His will is not done.

I do not presume that because something negative happens, it is God's will. It most certainly is God's will for the people of Vanuatu to have access to Him through His Word. If I were not granted a visa to Vanuatu, it would not be because it is not His will for me to be here. It would be because His will is for me to be here, but something hindered His will from getting accomplished. This country is a stronghold of Satan, and I am convinced that if I had not gotten my visa, it would be because of Satan's working.

Now please do not misunderstand. I am not stating that God is not omnipotent or that He does not care to intervene. Neither are the case. However, for there to be such a thing as good, there has to exist an opposite. No one could be good if there was no choice to be made that resisted evil. If God were to have His will accomplished in every case, there would be no free will of man. If there were no free will of man, God would not receive glory by men choosing to obey Him. That would defeat the entire purpose for which we were created: to glorify Him.

Consequently, each of us must change our behaviour in two ways. First, we must undertake to pray more fervently; Jesus prayed for God's will to be done, and we should too. Prayer makes an incredible difference in the outcome of events. Second, we must obey God. When God's will is not done, most of the time, it is because people don't do it. Very few of these instances occur because of the Devil or demons. If we Christians would simply obey God and pray for His will to be done, how much of this world could we change?