Monday, November 11, 2019

Leave your jug behind

We have been reading through the gospel of John in our weekly study with the church here in Maastricht. This past Sunday the topic at the Lord's Supper mentioned the woman at the well (John 4). It was an interesting point I had not often stood still by: she left her jug. This woman who already had a difficult existence and was going to all this trouble to get what she needed that day (water) left her water there at the well after talking to Jesus.
This is the question for each of us as well. Is what we are running after, the ways we are trying to get what we think we want, really working for us? Are we willing, like the woman at the well, to give it up in favour of what Jesus is offering? Even more, do we truly understand, like that woman, that what he is offering IS much better? And that it is so important that we have to go tell others?
We have contact almost every day with people who are looking for love, looking for happiness, looking for fulfilment or acceptance. In their search, they end up in all sorts of places and positions in their lives that only make things worse. We know how it goes, because we have been there too. But we know better now. We know that what Jesus offers, really IS better, because He really is who He says He is. So we share this wonderful gift of grace - living water. A strength to be completely created anew - not into something we are not, but into that which we were meant to be.
Not everyone can see the reality of this gift. Some are too lost in what they have been doing all along for so long. "If I leave my jug, how will I get water again?" "If I leave this running-after-these-things that are supposed to make me happy, how will I be able to be happy ever again?" Some people have heard and go running, like the woman at the well, to proclaim to their neighbours: "Listen! This is important!" For us it is simply important to keep presenting what Jesus is offering: living water.

Jesus was simply himself, connecting with this woman. He offered her what is true, but unbelievable to her. We are offering what seems unbelievable, but is true. When she had questions, he answered honestly, without being politically correct. And he was clear without being judgemental when he let her know that he knew her real situation. He did not pretend it did not exist, he named it and left it with her. 

We are so very thankful for the people God brought into our lives to speak clarity and truth to us so that we could see the offer of Jesus. And we are so thankful that God wants to and is using us to do the same for others wherever we are. We keep praying for people to be willing to just leave the jugs behind.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sweet Fellowship

We are so blessed to be in a place where so many countries come together. Geographically we are at the nexus of three countries and four language groups (the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium with Flemish and French speakers). We look forward to any time we get to gather with brothers and sisters from around the area. This builds us up and encourages the whole church. 
At the end of September we held our annual Family Day down at camp. Ardennen Bijbel Kamp is situated in the hills of the Ardennes where not too long ago soldiers died to defend democracy and justice. These days we gather as members of the church to encourage one another in living for truth and justice every day in the Lord. The congregation in Maastricht organized the day this year and it was great to be together with French-speakers as well as Dutch- and Flemish-speakers for the day. 
In October we spent time with our French-speaking brothers on our first Friday singing. Then, the very next day, we gathered in Cologne, Germany, with brothers and sisters from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany for a day of fellowship and singing. How good is it to get to know and be encouraged by the family of God from all around us. We love using every opportunity to get together. 
Later in the month we got together again, this time in a more sportive atmosphere. The COPA Benelux is organized every year by members from the church in Ghent and is for all church members in the Benelux. This year I got to play on a team with members of the church from The Hague, Haarlem, Sint Niklaas (Belgium) and Maastricht. But we were also a mixture of Russians, Ukrainians, Dutch and American-Belgians. 
God has an amazing view on who we are and what we should and can be. We are made in His image, made to give, to share, to be together because we are created by Him. People are people, no matter where we are from or live. We are all able to become children of the King, no matter what we have done in the past. And then, suddenly, we are family. That is exciting news! Look around at the family God has in your neighborhood, at the family He has placed you in where you are. Be encouraged and be an encouragement. 

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.   Ephesians 3:14-21

Monday, October 28, 2019

A friend and brother

At Bret's wedding
Today is my brothers’ birthday. My older brother Chris and my brother from a different mother. Not that I have a half-brother. Bret is not really my brother. But he is truly my brother. He is the one who introduced me to Jesus and showed me what it means to do just that (introduce others to Jesus). 
Bret and I have been best friends since 9th grade. We have shared a love for science fiction and tastes in music. We have played in bands together, driven all over the country together and grown in faith together. He loved me enough as my best friend to tell me something that cut me to the core. And because of that I was able to go to God’s word and find out that I really did need forgiveness and salvation. 
We don’t see each other in person very often. Ever since meeting up again at our York College reunion in 2017, however, we DO see each other almost every week. We share a video call each week, touch base and pray for each other. I can talk about how God is using us and challenging us here, about our kid's lives, or about the newest story idea I have heard or book I have read. He can talk about his two little girls, his pregnant wife, his writing or his work with the congregation where he preaches. Across the miles (or kilometers) we remain not only best friends, but truly brothers. 
Cherish the people God has put in your life. Be for those around you the grace that God has brought into your life. I am so thankful for how God can change lives completely using such imperfect tools (us) in such amazing ways. Then again, this is God, who through Jesus calls us friends. He knows what it means. 

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.You are my friends if you do what I command.I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:12-15