Me, not We (and not They): The Bible is a Mirror, not a Magnifying Glass

A few years ago, I did a Bible study where I was specifically reading to see God. I found this is the best way to read His Word because it keeps the focus on Him, and not on me. But sometimes, when we’re looking for Him, He reveals things about ourselves as well.

This last week was pretty crazy, and I definitely missed a few days of reading my Bible, so today I decided I would “catch up.” While reading in Luke 14, Jesus makes some clear statements about how we should treat people. He is very specific about the fact that we should not esteem “important” people above others. He says when we give a banquet, it should be for the poor and for the strangers: the people who cannot repay us. 

As I read this, I became frustrated with the church.They don’t do this. They have important visitors stand. They give high praise to people of importance. And where are the poor? Do we really serve them and reach them? Or are we too interested in making friends with rich, important people because they can do things for us in return? 

Then, Jesus said to me, through the Holy Spirit, “Stop making this about WE and about THEY. What about YOU?” And He spoke these words through the story in Luke 15 of the Prodigal Son. It’s not because I was a prodigal; it’s because I’m the brother who stayed home. I’m the one who’s constantly saying, “But I try to do everything right, and what do I get out of it!” That’s me. And the Holy Spirit convicts me of that regularly. 

Not to mention, I don’t do everything right. I am definitely guilty of the things I try to pin on them. I just try to magnify the sins of others instead of peering at the reflection of my own faults that I see in the light.

When we look in the Bible to find God, When I look in the Bible to find God, His light reveals my sin. And then I rejoice because it is covered in the blood of Jesus. I confess, and rejoice because God is rejoicing too.

 

Classroom Quips

5th grade

STUDENT: Miss Melissa, I wet myself!

ME: I’m going to take the time to teach you a very important English lesson right now. If you spill water on yourself, you want to say, “I spilled water on myself!” Otherwise, you’re saying you peed your pants, and I know you didn’t pee your pants!

6th grade

STUDENT 1: What is oozy?

ME: It’s like slimy.

STUDENT 2 (extremely intelligent): It’s when a liquid has a high viscosity.

ME: I’m going to quote you on that later. (And here I am, quoting him.)

7th grade

ME: Do you know what it means if your mouth waters?

STUDENT: Yeah, that’s what ##### does when she sleeps in class.

ME: No, that’s drool.

8th grade

The students were presenting their Fantasy Kingdom projects last week.

ME: Where is your coat of arms?

STUDENT: Oh, right here. This is the jacket the boys wear, and this is the jacket the girls wear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the thing about IBEM’s harvest

melszyd:

So grateful for what God is doing here in the D.R.

Originally posted on Bienvenidos and welcome. :

Tonight as our pastor shared an exciting announcement, I took out my notebook and I started writing. Not sermon notes, just  notes . (I did read Harriet the Spy this week.) This is what I wrote. 

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Gary and Alli (Pastor and his wife) could’ve left. They could’ve given up and left and nobody would’ve blamed them. They could’ve grown bitter and burnt out. They could’ve been comfortable and safe and close to their families and still done “good things.” They could’ve not had their house broken into.

Miguel and Noemi (Pastor and his wife) could’ve left. They could’ve given up on this crazy American pastor with his Spanish that isn’t always exactly perfect and his counter cultural gospel. They could’ve said, “We do enough for God, actually, and pastoring just sounds like a lot of work we don’t have time for,” and people would’ve understood.

On Friday nights the women of…

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Things That Are Happening

I certainly don’t blog as much as I’d like to because I’m no good at putting together really cool stuff to say. Twitter is more on my thought level! But, today, I’m putting up a bullet list of things going on so you can know more and pray more for the people here, the church, the school, and the team.

  • Please pray for Wendy and Chad as they continue to grieve the loss of their baby.
  • Many people have recently responded to Christ’s call for salvation after hearing the Gospel through the book of Galatians at IBEM (our church). Pray for them as they are being discipled. Our church doesn’t broadcast “numbers” or “names,” so I don’t have a bunch of stats or stories. However, I can tell you what I’ve seen. I’ve watched Franci attend church every week since he received Christ. I’ve seen an older gentleman (in his 50′s or 60′s?) attend faithfully after accepting Christ on his first visit to our church. Last night, a man gave testimony (probably in his 20′s?) about his salvation experience 3 weeks ago. I am so encouraged by the men who are responding. 
  • The women who work in the women’s ministry with the Safe House have been praying for specific women for years. One of those women became a Christian last Sunday. Sadly, her boyfriend wasn’t thrilled because her prostitution supports his drug habit. He severely beat her. She was in church again yesterday. Pray for her, and pray for those who can help her. I’ve heard that men from the church have already confronted the boyfriend, and I believe the women’s ministry is going to help her find work.
  • We had a group from Arlington Baptist College visit last week to help in the school. They took over teaching a few of the classes each day. Some of them are considering teaching at The Palms. Please pray for them and others as our school is in need of more American teachers for our next school year. Also pray for our finances and building issues. We are out of space!
  • Last week, one of my students came to me and told me he wanted to be Christian. He’s been at the school for 5 years. One thing I appreciate about the kids here is that they don’t pretend to be Christian if they’re not. The honesty is refreshing. But last week, he made the decision to follow Jesus.
  • In our 7th grade class today, it dawned on one of the kids that C.S. Lewis was a Christian. We stopped reading, and I told them a little about his testimony—how Lewis was raised in a Christian home, but walked away from it when he was a teen, and even became an Atheist. We discussed WHY we see this happen so much. In the conversation, I pleaded with the students to set aside what people have told them them they need to do, what rules they need to follow, etc. I said, Look at Jesus. Listen to Him. Who is He, and do you want to follow Him? 

And sometimes, since I live on a Caribbean island, I am able to get away on Saturday for some relaxation. Gracias a Dios!

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Different Isn’t Bad or Wrong, but Sometimes It’s Hard to Understand

Miss Wendy is a part of our mission team here. She also teaches music at the school, and she was due to deliver her baby in just 2 weeks. I had been holding in my emotions this week because the students hadn’t been told that Miss Wendy lost her baby. Today, because I knew the students were made aware, my emotions let loose. Awkwardly, I started crying in 7th grade English. I had to leave the class to try to regain my composure. When I returned, I stopped them from reading to explain why I was crying, and why I was sad.

Their responses caught me off guard. “People die all the time.”  “She has two other kids.” They weren’t being disrespectful. They weren’t being rude. They were genuinely confused on why I was so sad. To them, death was just another part of life. 

Living in a different culture is fascinating. I love when I realize a cultural difference, especially when I can mentally work through it and understand how and why it’s different. But today was hard. It made me sad that these kids didn’t seem to process the idea of death the way I do, or the sadness that I feel should be associated with death. Jesus even wept! 

I explained the best I could. I said, “Do you know how when you’re angry, you show it! You yell, and you fight and you feel that emotion so strongly?” They understood and confirmed. I said, “Well, the way anger is a strong emotion for you, sadness is a strong emotion for me.” It probably wasn’t the best comparison, but it was all I had.

As we continued reading (the chapter happened to be the death of Aslan), I got sad all over again, but for a different reason. I desperately want my students to understand Jesus, His love, and what He’s done for us, but in my brain, that’s hard to grasp if you can’t experience sadness. What Jesus did for us is amazing and good and … all those other fantastic words, but to fully get it (and I still don’t), you really have to think of the sadness of God the Father, and the sadness of Jesus suffering alone. Love isn’t all happy and get what you want. It’s tears and pain because you care about someone.

I don’t want to give one story to the Dominican people. This was just my experience today, and even as I’ve seen others talk of death here, it hasn’t been common for me to see people displaying their grief. I will spend the next few weeks processing it all, talking through it with friends, and asking God for help and wisdom as I work with these students.

I left today challenged–challenged to step back from what is normal for me and consider something different. I don’t usually like challenges, but graciously, God is patient with me.

 

The Baseball MInistry

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This morning, I got up early to go watch one of my students play baseball. Until this morning, I really didn’t know much about our team’s baseball ministry. Now I know a little bit.

The ministry has leagues for the age levels: 6-8, 9-12, and 13-14. I was watching the 9-12 year olds play, and there are 6 teams in the league. Once they are over 15, I think there is just one team. In total, there are well over 100 kids playing baseball through the DR Vision ministry. This means they are playing baseball and also hearing the Word of God. They are being led by Christian men and older teens.

Today, I watched one of my 8th grade students help coach the 9-12 year olds. I had no idea that’s what he does on his Saturday mornings. It’s very exciting to see the young men giving and serving with their lives. 

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Jeremias and Me

Meanwhile, I got to see Jose and Jeremias play ball. They are both in my 7th grade English class. They both got to pitch, and I saw Jose hit an in-the-park homerun! 

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Jose

Gary told me I should consider helping coach in the league. Baseball and Jesus are my two favorite things…

 

 

A Small Part of a Big Plan – More from reading about Narnia

This week, my 7th grade class read the chapter where the children first learn of Aslan. Mr. Beaver tells the children that Aslan is good, but not safe. Lucy is consumed with wanting to save Mr. Tumnus, to which the beavers explain, Only Aslan can save Mr. Tumnus.

I stopped the reading after that conversation to remind the students that Aslan is a picture of Christ, and how He is the only one who can save. But then I asked, Does Aslan use the children to help fight, to regain Narnia, and does He call them to be part of the plan of restoration? Of course, He does.

So I asked the students, If you truly believed the world could be restored back to perfection, would you want to be part of that plan? My heart was moved by the faces of some of the students: genuine excitement at the thought. They nodded and gave verbal affirmation. Yes! Of course! That would be cool!

“That’s what salvation is!” God is restoring the earth, one person at a time. Sure, only Christ can complete it, but He chooses to begin the redemption in and through us, and He is going to finish what He has begun. I want these kids to see salvation in a new way, possibly a way they haven’t considered. They know they are sinners, that Jesus loves them, and that He died on the cross. It’s the Good News. Salvation is a paradox of simplicity and complexity. It’s wonderful and awesome (in the true sense of these words). So many students know these facts, but they don’t know Jesus on an intimate level.

I so deeply want these kids to feel, see, know, understand the grandeur of Jesus, of salvation, of the big picture. And I truly want them to see that they are part of the plan. It’s not just about them. It’s not about giving up bad music, or wearing a tie. It’s about God, through Jesus Christ, restoring the world back to perfection. Making all things new.

When we think of our lives as part of this plan, it can transform because we are seeing our lives through God’s eyes, through the heart of Jesus, and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is calling us to be part of the restoration. And He promises to finish what He starts.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 

Philippians 1:6