Our Triune God Loves His People to Work in Community Just as He Does.

The Story
On Sunday morning, the tinkling of teaspoons in teacups was the signal for me to slip out of bed and join the fun in my parents’ bedroom. Settled between them with a cup of tea and some Maria biscuits in my saucer, I joined them to sip, dip and nibble. After fifteen minutes of joy, my Mom would leave us to make breakfast, and the story would begin.

The stories usually were about a young man going out into the world to “seek his fortune.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but as he walked along the road, he would meet someone who had a special ability. One could swing his sword so fast he could use it as an umbrella during a rainstorm. The two would decide to seek their fortune together. Soon they would meet others with different special talents, and they would join the group.

Eventually, they would meet a problem, a princess held by a giant, for instance, and the young man and his group would devise a plan to defeat the giant and rescue the princess, each member using his unique skill. The result was often measured in bags of gold for each of them.

The Impression
Each story my dad told was different, but each had that same theme, and they made a profound impression on me. I make up similar stories to tell my children and grandchildren. When my wife and I went to Brazil as linguists, teachers, and Bible translators, I saw myself as the young man going out to gather a group of people with compensating talents to work together to “seek our fortune.” Wycliffe was a good fit for us since the agency values people with a wide variety of skills, but all of whom see themselves as a vital part of every translation team.

Working Together: It's the Right Thing to Do

Working Together: It’s the Right Thing to Do

The Result
As Jo and I lived with the Canela people, God led us to connect with men and women who had a natural gifting in various areas. We helped them develop these talents. One young man became very skilled at extracting rotten teeth. Others loved teaching people to read. An artist illustrated the translated Scriptures with sketches of Canela life. Several learned to type, and one had the knack of making sentences flow smoothly. At times, a dozen people worked together on various aspects of the translation work.

This way of working together interdependently fitted right in with the Canela culture. Together we accomplished things so massive, difficult and complicated, no single one of us could have achieved them as an individual.

The Contrast
Unfortunately, our North American culture glorifies independence. Our hero is the lone pioneer, conquering the wild west, building a log house for his family with his own hands, and clearing the land with his own axe.

Businesses, and even churches, in North America, spend much time and money teaching people to work together as a team. It doesn’t come naturally to us. We have a cultural bias against the concept. Only in sports like hockey or football do we value the team.

The Trinity
In that respect, Canela culture is far more godly than North American culture. Here’s why. God said, “Let Us make man in Our own likeness.” God is a community of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They made human beings in Their likeness, to be people with the same need to live and work together in community as They had.

This kind of working community is a far cry from the military and industrial model of exploiting the labour of individuals to accomplish objectives set by generals or executives. The strength of the interdependent community lies in its people, not in its bosses. The more people grow in a deep appreciation for the variety of contributions from others in the community, the more productive the community becomes.

The Questions
So, is yours a godly (god-like) family? That is, does your family work together, as the Holy Trinity does?

What about your church? Are all the members engaged in ministry, each contributing to the whole with their own talents and abilities?

 

Drop Your Phone and Drive!

For thousands of years, great people of God have exemplified the concept, they have practised it, and have given warnings about it, and now the police are saying the same thing.

David the great king of Israel: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek.” Psalm 27:4 (NIV)

Paul the church planting apostle: “I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing.” Philippians 3:13 (TLB)

James the brother of Jesus: “A double minded man is unstable in all his thoughts and deeds. James 1:8 (GNV)

Police in North America: “Multitasking while driving a vehicle is a crime.” Distracted Driving Law (TSA 115)

The scientific community confirms and illustrates the truth of what they are all saying, “The human mind cannot focus effectively on more than one thing at a time.”

David Rock, in his book, Your Brain at Work, says that thousands of experiments and studies over the past forty years have proved the phenomenon called dual-task interference. In one experiment, a group had to decide and record whether a light flashed on the left or right side of a window. The accuracy of their responses was high, like that of a Harvard MBA. Then a simple extra task was added: to identify if the light was one of three colors. Instantly, their accuracy dropped to that of an eight-year old.

We can, of course, do many purely physical acts at once. Street musicians play a guitar, a harmonica, and a set of drums all at the same time. I used to hike while slashing a path through the jungle with my bush knife. We can even mix physical and mental activity like walking while discussing a topic with a friend. No dual task interference there. On the other hand, I have been guilty of driving right past my exit because I was in the midst of telling a story to my passengers.

I failed because of what Linda Stone, a former Vice-President at Microsoft, calls continuous partial attention. My focus was split. While I told my story, I also had to keep alert for signs of the exit I was to take. She says, “To pay continuous partial attention is to keep a top-level item (my story) in focus, and constantly scan the periphery in case something more important (my exit) emerges.”

By the way, this does not happen when my wife is with me, since as soon as I start a story, she takes over the scanning of highway signs to tell me where to turn.

mugOther studies show that constantly doing two mental tasks at the same time reduces efficiency on both of them by about 50%. So, yes, we can force our brains to do two things at once, but it takes twice as long, or the result is about half as good.

Furthermore, a study done in the University of London found that some tasks requiring short, intense focus, like emailing and text-messaging, when done constantly, reduce mental capability from five to fifteen points on an IQ test which is about the same effect as missing a whole night’s sleep, or smoking pot/cannabis.

God has designed our brains to excel when we concentrate or attention on one mental task at a time. Our culture, however, glorifies multitasking: from the mother in her minivan, juggling a tight schedule while planning what to make for dinner, to the CEO in his office, reading memos, emailing instructions, making decisions, scanning reports, solving problems, all the while keeping his board’s directives in mind.

No wonder so many of us live under a constant sense of threat. We are forcing our brains to be on constant alert increasing our level of stress hormones and reducing our effectiveness.

But we who are Christians do not need to suffer this stress. We can simply obey God’s command, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (KJV). He is in control. Our greatest personal problem, our relationship with Him, is already solved.

The current crisis facing us, our family, our business, our church, or even Christianity as a whole, is under His control.

We need to stop, ask Him to show us one single thing to do towards solving the crisis, then focus on doing it. Then do the next, and the next. One at a time.

That’s how He designed us to operate.

By the way, if you are reading this on your phone while stopped at a traffic light, and if you are the guy ahead of me . . .

The light is green! Drop your phone and drive!

 

 

 

The Surprise Visitor

It had been more than three years since our expulsion from the Canela village. We prayed for our Canela friends and daily longed to be with them.

One Saturday evening as my family and I were sitting down to our evening meal there was a knock on our door. I got up, opened it and there, to my utter astonishment, stood Jaco, our very best Canela translation helper—nearly a thousand kilometres from his village! I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say.

“Jaco, what are you doing here? How did you get here? Come in!”

“I walked for two days. Then I caught a ride on a rice freight truck for a day. Then I got on a bus for a day and a night, and I walked some more. Now, here I am. And what’s to eat?”

“Sit down, sit down. It’s so good to see you. Here, fill your plate.”

We had a great time visiting that evening and all day Sunday. Then on Monday, after a big breakfast, I asked him,

“So, Jaco, would you like to translate some more of God’s Word.”

“Yes!”

So we sat down across from each other at my study table. I dusted off the translation manuals and other books that I hadn’t been able to use for three years. It wasn’t hard to pray and thank God for bringing Jaco. I asked God to help us translate some more of His Word. I was, of course, praying in the Canela language, and when I was done I said,

Hamre,” meaning Done or Amen.

I opened my eyes and was about to open my mouth to start talking when I noticed Jaco still had his eyes closed. And then he started to pray.

“Hello, Great Father in the sky. This is me, Jaco, You’ll remember me. I’m one of those who just recently has turned to You, and begun to follow You.”

That’s when I began to cry.

Because after thirteen years of study, translating, praying and waiting, this was the first time I had heard there were any Canelas who had turned to God. And even though it was the first time I had ever heard a Canela pray, I could hardly wait to hear him say “Hamre” so I could ask him,

“When did this happen?”

“I have been reading those printouts of Luke and Acts every day for a long time. Then a few months ago, I was sitting in my hammock reading those papers and I asked myself,

‘Jaco, how much longer are you going to just lie here and read this stuff? When are you going to believe it and obey it?’

And I answered myself,

‘Right now.’

So I got up out of my hammock and walked out behind my house. I looked up into the sky and said,

‘Great Father in the Sky. This is me, my name is Jaco. According to those papers I have been reading, I am in a really bad relationship with You. I have not lived the way You wanted me to live. Will You please do something for me?’

And then, do you know what the Great Father did?”

“No, what did He do?” I asked.

“He adopted me into His family,” Jaco said, using the same term the Canelas used when one family adopted me as their son, and another adopted my wife as their daughter, and we became true citizens of the Canela village.

Popjes (206)I looked at Jaco, sitting across the study table from me and I thought, There sits the first Canela citizen of heaven.

“Then I went into the village,” Jaco continued, “and talked to some of my friends. They read the Great Father’s papers too and now there is a whole group of people who are following the way of Jesus.”

There had been no missionary, no evangelist or pastor in the village for three years. All there was of God was an early draft printout of a couple of Bible books. But God’s time had finally come.

He had begun to build His Church among the Canelas.

 

How Much Is Left to Do in the Great Commission?

John Piper is a pastor who speaks my language!

The following is a guest blog first published in his Desiring God blog. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-much-is-left-to-do-in-the-great-commission

The only statistic I can add is that of the 6,800 languages spoken in the world today, about 1,850 languages still do not have any Scripture translated into them, nor has anyone yet been assigned to start a translation program for the 200 million people who speak these languages. No church can be planted without the Seed of the Word of God in the language of the people. http://www.wycliffe.org/About/Statistics.aspx

Now here is JohnPiper:

How Much Is Left to Do in the Great Commission?

We should be dumbfounded at how doable the remaining task of world missions is. Before I show this, let’s clarify some definitions.

Missions is not the same as evangelism. Evangelism is sharing the gospel with any unbelievers, and that work will never be done till Jesus comes.

Missions, on the other hand, relates to people groups, not just people, and the number is finite and relatively stable — like the “every people, tongue, tribe, and nation” of Revelation 5:9.

So missions is crossing a culture, learning a language, and planting the church through preaching the gospel among people groups that have no churches strong enough to evangelize their group.

According to the Joshua Project (as of February 16) there are 16,598 people groups in the world. 7,165 of these are “unreached” (fewer than 2% evangelical).

Defining things somewhat differently, the research arm of the Southern Baptist International Missions Board estimates 11,310 people groups, of which 6,405 are unreached and 3,100 are “unengaged” (no evangelical mission effort to reach them is underway).

Does that number sound large to you? 3,100? These are the people groups yet to be pursued and penetrated with a missions effort. The number is, in fact, amazingly small compared to the resources available to us.

Consider these numbers from the January 2013 issue of The International Bulletin of Missionary Research (vol. 37, no. 1):

  • There are 44,000 Christian denominations in the world — 14 for every unengaged people group.
  • There are 700 million evangelical Christians in the world — 225,000 for every unengaged people group.
  • There are 4.5 million Christian congregations in the world — 1,451 congregations for every unengaged people group.
  • There are 4,900 Christian foreign mission sending agencies in the world — 1.5 agencies for every unengaged people group.

This is simply mindboggling. I am not unaware that most of these 3,100 unengaged peoples are in places and under regimes that are hostile to Christian presence. So I am not saying it will be easy to reach them. It will be very costly.

But if God would grant the passion and courage and wisdom, the remaining task is neither vague, nor enormous, nor unattainable. Would you join me in obeying Matthew 9:38, “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”?

And then be a radical, sacrificial goer, or a radical, sacrificial sender. Jesus has all authority to accomplish this. He promises to be with us to the end of the age as we mobilize for this. What a thrilling prospect! What a cause to live for! What a holy ambition.

Closing note from Jack: Since I failed to find a suitable photo, here’s a famous quote to illustrate John’s point, “The Church is like a man wearing a deep sea diver’s pressure suit and helmet, bravely stepping into a bathtub to pull the drain plug.”