Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Russia

It is hard to read or watch the news these days and not be overwhelmed by the tragedies that surround us. In a lot ways, and I know this is true for me, it is hard to not be desensitized to the horrors of suffering and bloodshed. On Monday two Russian women, strapped with explosives, committed suicide taking many victims with them. As Christians, our initial reaction to these acts of violence should be a missional one. We should be broken over the souls lost and be broken over the evil taking place. To believe in the finished work of Christ is to believe that he can and will one day make all of these things right. In the meantime, we have work to do. We are called to be ministers of reconciliation and hope to a lost and dying world.

For today’s country it seemed only fitting to choose Russia.

Russia is the world’s largest country. With over 144 million people, Russia spans 11 time zones. While the population is still quite large, they have faced a rapid decline in the population and expect it to only decline further with each passing year. This is a country that has gone through tremendous change in the past 100 years, from the collapse of the Tsarist Empire, to the rise of Communism and war, to the current aftermath of years of oppression and turmoil. Russia is a dark and despondent place plagued by family breakdowns, low birth rates, and uncertain political climate at times.

Ways to pray:

  • Pray for churches to be planted. There is a tremendous need for church planting and spiritual leadership. There are simply not enough churches and pastors for all of the people.
  • Pray for Christians to be faithful in the midst of darkness. It is often hard to remain faithful when all that is around you is unfaithfulness. Pray that God would give them the grace to endure.
  • Pray that the Gospel would penetrate into the darkest and most despairing areas of Russia.

For more reading on Russia, check out Operation World.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why Can't We Be Friends?

I don’t read the Christianity Today Women’s blog frequently, but the topic caught my eye the other day. It was a post from a resident director of a dorm at Cedarville University. She was talking about the need for Christian colleges to provide meaningful friendships between the sexes. She poses the question, “will Christian colleges teach men and women to be friends?” and suggests that believers need to begin thinking of “new paradigms” for friendship between men and women. I think Christian students need opportunities to mingle and meet the opposite sex—but not primarily for the purpose of meaningful friendships alone.

We grew up in a culture saturated by the “Friends” mentality. Every girl wanted a guy best friend that she could live with platonically. And if she was Christian she just wanted the guy best friend, minus the same living quarters. It was cool. It was fun. But someone always got a little to into the friendship, crossed the “friend” line, and had the DTR talk (define the relationship). And then, the blissful friendship was over, or at the very least, extremely awkward.

Why is that almost always the case?

Could it be that we were never designed to be best friends with the opposite sex outside of commitment? This culture of close friends of the opposite sex has done a lot of damage to how we view relationships. It has allowed familiarity without the commitment. Suddenly we can have all of the perks of a relationship (companionship, being known, emotional intimacy, good conversation), but no commitment. We are just being familiar.

I have no male friends besides my husband. There is no one else that I bear my soul to. Prior to marrying him (and meeting him), I had no male friends either. I had a lot of acquaintances and spent a lot of time hanging out in groups, but no one had my heart. And to be honest, it was that much easier to give away when the man who is now my husband began pursuing me.

I agree that we need to foster meaningful relationships among the sexes, but boundaries with the opposite sex should extend much farther than the mere physical. Our longing for meaningful friendship with the opposite sex is stemming from a longing to be known and understood—ultimately to be married. Don’t allow a man to know you and understand you if he will not promise to do so for a lifetime—or at least try and date you to figure out if that is what God wants for the both of you.

Does this mean that single women should never have guy friends? Not at all. It just means that a single woman’s meaningful relationships should come from female friendships. These are friendships that will last and encourage you in your pursuit of marriage and godliness. Friendships with guys in a group setting can be extremely fulfilling and safe for everyone involved. You can call me old fashioned, or even crazy. That is fine. But I can honestly tell you that I do not regret the fact that I had no friendships to sever when I married my husband. My close friendships were with women and they were only strengthened when I said, “I do.”

It might seem fun and exciting to have meaningful individual friendships right now, but it will only make life difficult when the man who is to be your best friend forever comes along. We were designed to be known, loved, and intimate with one man only—our husband. And we shouldn’t settle for anything less.

For more reading on this topic, read Candice Watter's book Get Married: What Women Can Do To Help It Happen. I just finished reading it and wish I would have had it when I was single!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Monday!

Sometimes your Monday just needs a pick-me-up. Why not look at a cute baby to get your day started. I know it makes me happy, especially when that cute baby is my 6 month old nephew!

When we went to Florida for my Grandpa's memorial we got to hang out with my entire family. We also got to see our nephew who we hadn't seen since he was a newborn. He has grown a lot, and gets cuter by the minute if you ask me. But I am a biased Aunt.

I wish I could see him every day, but pictures will do for now!

So blog readers...Happy Monday! Hope your day is blessed. And I hope you enjoy the picture!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hospitality as a Ministry, Part 2

Yesterday, I posted on the first part of this brief series. Today we will look at the last two points I have learned about hospitality in the last few weeks.
  1. Hospitality is not gender specific. Often we think that hospitality is only for women. But here we see that Paul is writing to Roman believers, men and women. He doesn’t make gender distinctions in the command to show hospitality. I have heard it said many times that hospitality is a woman’s job, but Paul does not go there, and we know from other passages of Scripture that Paul is in no way afraid to make distinctions between the different callings on men and women. In Titus 1:8 we see that for a man to be qualified to lead God’s people he must be hospitable (among other things). Throughout the Gospels we encounter men (and women) who willingly invite Jesus and his disciples into their homes. The Bible clearly shows us that God did not limit hospitality to a specific gender when he inspired Paul to pen these words.
  2. Hospitality is not contingent on marital status. Along with thinking that hospitality is only for women, we also tend to associate hospitality with married women—especially ones with their own homes and nice, new things. I have seen single women refrain from hospitality because they think they don’t have enough space, or the right things. But once again, Paul does not make this distinction. If we believe that practicing hospitality is an opportunity to show the love of Christ to people, then surely this applies to single women too. Carolyn McCulley, a single woman, has an entire chapter on hospitality as a ministry in her book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye. She says, “Our homes can provide an oasis in many a busy life to demonstrate interest in and care for those around us.”

Perhaps you have an extremely demanding job and are not home often, ask God to give you wisdom to live out this command in the midst of a hectic schedule. For you, it might mean one guest a month. Maybe you are a young mother and are spent at the end of the day. For you, it might mean inviting an unsaved mom over to befriend her and allow your kids to play. God cares about a heart that desires to minister, not duty for duty’s sake.

We have been invited into God’s family. He extended hospitality to us, and this should make us grateful. The desire to be hospitable should be out of the overflow of a humble heart, changed by the work of Christ, who desires the world to know the greatness of Jesus Christ. We don’t minister to gain glory for ourselves. We minister to gain glory for our Christ.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hospitality as a Ministry, Part 1

“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
-Romans 12:13

The past few weeks I have been taking a class on the ministry of hospitality at the Seminary. It is a class for wives of seminary students, and it has been extremely helpful. One of my assignments in class was to put together a devotion on hospitality, so I will be posting what I learned through this devotion in the next few days. God has really opened my eyes to what his vision of hospitality is in this class. Hope this helps!

Often when we talk about hospitality we get a June Cleaver image in our minds: perfect dress, baked cookies always ready for guests, apron always on and ready for cooking, and a spotless home. None of these images are wrong in and of themselves, but they don’t give the full biblical picture of hospitality. These ideas of hospitality are merely external, and to view hospitality in this way can quickly make a woman (or man) who doesn’t measure up feel inadequate and incapable of obeying God’s command to be hospitable to one another. Today and tomorrow, we will look at four things that I have learned about hospitality in recent weeks.

  1. Hospitality is a Gospel issue. In order to understand this command in Romans to “seek to show hospitality”, we need to first understand what Paul is saying in the entire book of Romans. It is very easy for us to take a verse like this and simply obey it for obedience sake, but Paul is giving us some great Gospel truths in the entire book that will enable us, and set us up, to hear what God would have for us by the time we get to Romans 12:13. Romans 1-11 is full of rich theological truths about what Christ has accomplished on our behalf. Romans 12-16 is about the practical living out of these truths. Paul is setting us up theologically first so we can rightly engage in the practical tasks of the Christian life. They don’t make sense without it. This is why he says in vs. 2 that he is urging them “by the mercies of God.” With God’s mercy in plain view in the previous chapters, he is calling the believers in Rome to a life changed by Christ. He is saying to them “in light of all that you have learned about God’s abundant grace and mercy towards you, here is how you live.” We can see these truths as applying to us as well, if we are in Christ. To practice hospitality is to live out of a life changed by the Gospel. Christ’s amazing work is what people should see in us when we love them and minister to them.
  2. Hospitality is an exercise in humility. To minister to people often means to die to our own desires. If you read all of chapter 12 you will see countless commands that pertain to selfless living. In verse 3, Paul tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. In verse 10, Paul tells us to outdo each other in honor. And we know that often times, the ministry of hospitality requires us to step outside of what is comfortable for the good of someone else. There is no room for pride when we are ministering to people with hospitality. Pride will hinder them from seeing Jesus, which is what we ultimately want. Giving people our time, love, and resources will destroy us and drain us if we are consumed with our own desires and wants.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Nigeria

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, with over 130,000,000 living in this coastal country. While Nigeria practices freedom of religion, the country is split between Muslims living in the north and Christians living in the south. This split has always caused tension, and often violence between the north and south, with Christians being the recipients of horrific persecution as of late. Carolyn McCulley responds to this violence after watching a documentary on Nigeria. Her insights are very helpful as we pray for, and think about, Nigeria.

She says:

"Please pray that our Christian brothers and sisters there can be bold instruments of reconciliation, sowers of the gospel who do not perpetuate the bloodshed. Pray for their protection and boldness in ministering truth. And pray that those who identify with Christian beliefs, but who have not put their saving faith in Christ's work on the cross, will truly become followers of Christ."

You can read the rest of the post here.

Ways to pray:

  • Pray that believers be encouraged and strengthened even in the midst of horrible suffering.

  • Pray that existing Christians would have access to growth and discipleship.

  • The church has seen tremendous growth in recent years, pray that this growth would not lead to doctrinal unfaithfulness.

Read more about Nigeria here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jesus Makes All Things Clean

Have you ever read through the ritual cleansing passages in Leviticus? Often we don’t think of these passages first when we do our quiet times in the morning. We usually gravitate towards something more practical to us, right? But should this be the case? If we believe that God’s Word is true, and we believe He has things in store for us on every page of Scripture, then even the words in Leviticus have tremendous power over our lives.

Under the Old Covenant if a woman had a discharge of blood she was considered impure—even if this was during her monthly cycle. Leviticus 15 gives us the verdict for a woman who experienced prolonged bleeding. We learn here that if anyone touched her, they were unclean as well. At the end of her discharge she was to follow a series of purification rituals that would cleanse her of her impurity and put her in right standing to come into the Temple. If a woman’s bleeding continued for years at a time she was perpetually unclean—a disgrace and an outcast. At first glance this seems horribly unfair and hard to swallow. The very thing that God gave to a woman was now making her unclean and unable to be in his presence.

Fast forward to the New Testament and Luke 8:43-58 (and Matthew 9:20-22) where a woman who had suffered from a discharge for twelve years is healed by simply touching the Savior’s garment. It’s hard to imagine all that she went through in those years, but the Bible gives us some indication. She could not enter the temple. She could not worship. She was cast out of society because she was dirty, unclean, and sick. The very fact that Jesus was touched by her would have made him unclean. But she knew that Jesus had something that all of the ritualistic purity requirements never were able to fulfill. He was purity. He was clean. He was perfect. And he was powerful.

“If I just touch him,” she thought, “maybe I will have hope, maybe I will have relief.”

And she did.

Leviticus 15:25-31 is a staggering reminder of what this woman experienced. Every square inch of anything she came in contact with would be stained with her impurity. She needed to be cleansed and healed. All of the rituals, all of the law, all of the sacrifices and need for atonement met their fulfillment in the Man who said “your faith has made you well.”

This is what we miss when we don’t read the Old Testament. Without Leviticus, we can’t understand the fullness of Luke. They are meant to go together. Understanding the Law should make us weep for this woman who has no hope besides Christ. The people in Jesus’ day knew what her discharge meant, and they would have been horrified that she touched Jesus. We are meant to feel the weight of the Law, but we are also meant to feel the freedom and release that Jesus brings at the inauguration of his Kingdom. This is the hope of the Savior. All of the promises, all of the rituals, all of the sacrifices, find their once and final fulfillment in the work of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Mexico

My junior year of college I went on my first mission trip. Ever since my conversion I had felt a strong urge to work with orphans and impoverished children in some capacity, but primarily through short-term mission trips. So when the list of trips came out that fall I could hardly stand waiting to pack my bags to head to an orphanage in Reynosa, Mexico. God did a lot on that trip to open my eyes to the plight of the orphan and to spur in my heart an even greater desire to care for orphans. Even while we were in Reynosa the concern about drug related violence was a reality, even such that we weren't really allowed to leave the orphanage compound. I don't remember thinking much about the fact that people were murdered weekly not too far from where I was staying, but it was probably because I felt really safe inside the walls of the Christian orphanage. I was really saddened to read a few days ago that due to the rise of violence in Reynosa, the United States has restricted travel to Reynosa.

In light of this news, for Missions Wednesday this week we are going to learn about Mexico. As I read more about Mexico I was overwhelmed by the thousands of people who do not have an evangelical church in their area, the thousands of children who live on the streets and in the slums everyday, and by the desperate need for discipleship among the young people and adults of this neighboring country.

In my own mind it is really easy to think that just because they are so close to us they don't have needs like countries really far away. They border America, shouldn't they have access to churches like us? But just like we daily and weekly need to be reminded of our need for the Gospel, so do our friends to the south of us.

Mexico is the fourth largest Latin American country. Their capital city, Mexico City, alone has 22.5 million people. The primary language of Mexico is Spanish. There are some Amerindian people who still speak Amerindian primarily, but this is the minority. While they are considered 94.26 % Christian, the majority of this percentage identify as Catholic. Some are nominal and some are merely Catholic in belief, yet pagan in practice.

There is still a tremendous need for an evangelical presence in much of Mexico. There has been some persecution of evangelicals, but this has not stopped evangelicals from growing in number. The evanglical church is still largely in the lower class areas and has not really penetrated into the wealthier classes.

Ways to pray:
  • Pray that God would allow for missionaries to go to areas that need an evanglical presence.

  • Pray that churches would be established and cultural stereotypes of Americans would be shattered as they come.

  • Pray for the believers in Reynosa and all border towns as they minister to people amidst fear and violence.

  • Pray that God would send people to minister to the younger generation of Mexicans who are largely unreached.

Read more about Mexico here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March Madness 2010!

Today is a big day in the Reissig home. You see, today is Selection Sunday, the day we pick our teams for our NCAA basketball tournament bracket. Up until a few years ago the only madness I experienced in March was cramming for mid-terms. Living with the 2520 girls changed everything, and now I am hooked. Then last year my family, Daniel, and I all filled out a bracket. We were really into it.
And I won. The whole thing.
Not only did I win. I had all four teams in the Final Four in my bracket, and I picked the winning team. I grew up in a family of sports lovers, I married a sports lover, and I, quite frankly, have no athletic skill or knowledge. The gene totally skipped me. I just pick blindly and act like I know what's going on. It drives the sports enthusiasts crazy (like my husband and my youngest brother). But I win, and that is all that matters.
So tonight starts the selection and Thursday starts the craziness. We are looking forward to it. I like to think of it as the Olympics, part 2. The madness has begun and I am hoping to continue my winning streak. It's my one attempt at sporting ability. I have to make it count.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Chile

Just by watching the news it seems that every week brings a new form of devastation to a country. In reality, devastation happens all around us every day, it is in the large magnitudes that we are shocked awake. But these great tragedies that happen, that affect us on a global scale, do often bring our attention to countries otherwise would have been far from our minds.

On February 26 a massive 8.8 earthquake struck the country of Chile, killing over 300 people and displacing millions. In the wake of this disaster, I have wanted to learn more about this country that often seems so far away from here.

Chile is located in the southern most portion of South America. It is between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. In Chile there is freedom of religion, and statistically the country is 89.6% Christian, though less than 20% of the population would be categorized as Evangelical.

Even though the statistics show that there seems to be a great presence of Gospel witness among the people of Chile, the Church there still needs a lot of prayer and encouragement.

Ways to pray:

  • There has been a lot of disunity between Evangelical denominations. Pray that God would heal the division and the Gospel would go forth in the midst of reconciliation.
  • Pray against isolationism among the believers there. Part of the disunity stems from believers isolating themselves, thus hindering national and global impact.
  • Pray that God would use this earthquake to spur on his Church to serve one another within the country of Chile, and to not become discouraged by the devastation among them.
  • Pray that God would raise up missionaries to go to Chile, and that they would answer the call.

Read more about Chile here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Purity in an Impure World: Hope for Change

There are some who hear and read things on purity and feel overwhelming shame and remorse. This post is for you. There are some who hear and read things on purity and think it doesn't apply to them. This post is for you, too. There are some who read and hear things on purity and think that it is pointless. This post is for you, as well.

Some think that their life is fine the way it is. They don’t see a problem with their impurity. But is it really satisfying you? If you were honest with yourself would you be able to say that it is enough? You were designed to receive maximum fulfillment in Jesus only, and the very fact that you keep going back to your sin even though you feel unsatisfied in the morning is because you are trying to make those acts mean something they were never designed to mean. There is a void in your soul that only Jesus can fill. No person can fill that for you. Jesus is so much better than any temporary pleasure that sex can bring.

Some think that their life is fine the way it is because they don’t ever do anything that bad. But have you ever lusted? Have you ever watched a scene in a movie that was sexual? Have you ever lusted and wished you could act out on it? Maybe you have and maybe you haven’t. Praise God for that. The only reason you are still standing pure to this day is by the sheer grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Praise him for that. Thank him for that. And ask him to continue giving you grace.

Some, on the other hand, feel so broken over their sin. They feel like they have failed miserably. They feel like there is no hope for a sinner like them. I encourage you, dear sister, that there is a fountain of grace for you at the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Bible says that he is living water. He is life. He is salvation for those who turn from their sin and trust in his death and resurrection alone. Do not despair. There is no sin so great that he is not sufficient to conquer with his finished work.

The point of purity is not so you can say you made it to marriage without having sex. It’s about God and obedience to him because you love him. All our attempts at purity without the shed blood of Jesus on our behalf are worthless. We need him in our fight to stay pure. I am married and I still need him daily to fight my sinful tendency towards impurity. God does not care how far we go, really. He also doesn’t care if you signed a purity card or wear a purity ring. He cares about your heart. He cares about your soul. He cares about what you worship. He wants you to worship him only—not sex, not boys, not popularity, not school, not beauty, not fun, not friends, not even church youth group. Purity is important because the Creator of the universe, and you, is pure. Purity is important because his Son, Jesus Christ, was the purest man who ever lived. And he died to make us pure. He died to cleanse us from our impurity. And the sad reality is, even if you have never engaged in any sexual immorality—you are still an impure person in need of Christ’s purity. We all are. But the great hope is that we can have Jesus. Do not look to your own attempts at purity. They will fail you every time. But Jesus, he is the hope for impure people like you and me.

Read Parts One, Two, and Three