Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 2010 The Journey Continues - Peter Taiwan Update

May 2010 Taiwan Newsletter Text

What Do We Do With The Role/Gifts/Abilities God Has Given Us?

(1 Corinthians 11-15; Romans 12-13; 1 Peter 2 & 4; and Ephesians 3-4)

Do you know what these passages are about? Some of you might know. I do not want to get into all the controversies that can be connected to these passages or how sometimes these passages are used. Some people see spiritual gifts, some see God empowered abilities, and some see God given roles and careers. I do not want to enter that debate, but I do want to talk about these passages. Some of my research on church planting brought me back to these passages several times this month. When I took the time to read and pray through these Scriptures, I made a few observations that will apply no matter which interpretation you take on the whole. First, whatever these “things” are, it is according to faith, it is according to the grace given to you, and it’s function is for the benefit of people other than you. It is amazing how all of these “things” do something amazing no matter which way you look at it. You, “individually” have been given “something” from God which is to be used for “communal” benefit (1 Corinthians 12:7; Romans 12:6; 1 Peter 4:10; Ephesians 4:12-13). It stood out to me that these passages at the same time emphasized who you are as an individual, and at the same time emphasized who you are defined within community. Second, God purposely made me the way I am. I do not mean sinful habits and sinful desires. I am referring to the part of yourself that makes you who you are and gives you a place within community. If this is true of my strengths, this may well be true of my weaknesses as it was for Paul (2 Corinthians 11-12). I am not referring to sinful things as weaknesses; I am referring to things that I would personally have looked at myself and thought of as a weaknesses. For instance, my dyslexia and A.D.H.D. (I am merely reflecting my perception of my experience, this is not judgement on others who have dyslexia or A.D.H.D.). You could equally pick anything about oneself as long as it is truly a part of oneself. My point is to say that God made us the way He did for a purpose. We may not know or understand the what, or why, however we do know He lovingly made us on purpose. Third, these passages also show me that we are made for each other and intends for us to be built up by each other. I think; just as God the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and God Jesus the Messiah are one and a community to themselves. I think He/They enjoy Himself/Themself/Themselves, and He intends for us to to be community like He is community. Also, of course, for us to be community with Him. These “things” He has given us are for taking part in making that idea reality for us and as us, rather than just individuals.

Here are a few observations from that study of the above Scriptures.

Spiritual Gifts

Purpose of the Spiritual Gifts According to Context of the Passage:

“To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

“we have different gifts according to the grace given to us” (Romans 12:6).

“For the culmination of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7). “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

“to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God – a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

Key Roles/Spiritual Gifts/Abilities in each Passage

1 Corinthians 12 - message of wisdom, message of knowledge, faith, healing, performing miracles, prophecy, and interpretation of tongues.

Romans 12 - Prophecy, faith, service, teaching, exhortation, contributing, leadership, and mercy.

1 Peter 4 - love for one another, hospitality, serve, good stewards, and speaking with God’s words.

Ephesians 4 - Pastor, teacher, prophet, apostle, and evangelists. The Journey Continues Inside And Out

(1 Corinthians 11-15; Romans 12-13; 1 Peter 2 & 4; and Ephesians 3-4)

My Journey Continues: Eight Months and Counting: One Small Step For Jesus One Great Leap For Peter

Physically: This month I have continued to exercise as much as I have free time to exercise. I probablyam progressing, but at this point I am hopeful but cannot really tell if I am progressing. The fact that I am exercising with a timeframe of six months to one year changes my perspective a lot. I feel good but pretty dizzy all the time. My hearing seems to be about the same.

Emotionally/Spiritually: This month I continued to trudge along physically, but I made a huge leapforward emotionally or spiritually or psychologically depending on your perspective. I think God was at work in me this month as I was studying the passages I referenced above, reading the book of Job, reading an article on “calling” by Dan Allender, spending time in silence and solitude, and listening to some of the lectures from two courses on lay counseling. I am hesitant to say something like, “God spoke to me” because I am frankly not sure. I definitely think God is guiding me and teaching me, but do not ask me to put my finger on exactly what God is doing/saying. I always cautiously take the advice of Proverbs 3:5-6 in these situations and acknowledge God as I proceed and put my hope in God’s willingness to correct me rather than putting my hope on my understanding as being faultless. That said, let me share with you what has been on my mind and heart, and what has come out of all this, this month. Reflecting on my findings in the Scriptures, I began to think about a few things I have struggled with since I was an elementary school student. I was angry with myself as I struggled to learn to read and was overly critical of myself. I thought to myself, “Why am I stupid and everyone else is so much smarter than me” (as I struggled with dyslexia and A.D.H.D which I got excellent help with from my school and my mother). I thought, “Everyone else reads so much faster than me.” Later in Junior and Senior High School that self rejection developed into self hatred and self condemnation. I still remember feeling like, “this life is so miserable, the sooner I die, the better.” That statement characterizes my thoughts and feelings as I transitioned from High School to college. Some people meet Jesus on a mountain top experience. I was in the cave underneath the lowest point in the valley where there is no light and no hope. It was that darkest of places where I never knew the light could shine that I found Jesus. Or, more accurately Jesus found me, I finally realized He was there all along. His Word told me He loved me and that I had value. “I have value!” I wept, fell on my knees, and began to follow King Jesus. I was so empty and hurt that when I had only experienced a little of Jesus; grace and love, I thought I was healed! I was like someone dying of dehydration thinking that first sip of water was all that was needed. I was like someone who had forgotten what it was to drink water. When I was in college, I remember fasting, spending times in silence and solitude, and pursuing Jesus with all my heart, with a single question in mind, “Is it really possible that you love me? Aren’t I just like all those pharisees that you rebuked?” Either His Word is true and I am loved, or have I just been believing a lie. I held onto the Word of God and was affirmed in holding onto the truth. A few years later I could finally hear Jesus leading me back to where I found Him. I thought I was already healed, but He showed me that my journey was far from over. It took moving to the other side of the world (Taiwan), going through culture shock, struggling to learn Mandarin Chinese, and struggling to build relationships with the Taiwanese people I had come to love; to bring to the surface remaining wounds buried as far out of sight as possible. God provided me with some amazing community, and provided some wonderful journey mates through grace groups to bring me another critical step forward on my journey. Now, I am beginning another step on that same journey. It began this month as the Scriptures and what I was learning was digested in my mind. I do not know where this will end up, but it will be good. That has meant re-entering the pain and re-entering that cave I left so long ago. The time I had in grace groups helped me re-enter that cave and look at that elementary school experience and say “I don’t, I won’t hate you.” I worked with lots of help from my brothers and sisters in Christ; worked to be able to love and accept that little child. Now, I re-enter the cave again with mixed feelings. But this time I bring wonderful news that enables me to love that little child in a whole new way. Before I strived to loved that child despite all his shortcomings and all the things that he/I is/am not but wish I could be. Now, I got to re-enter the cave to love that boy wholly, because I am a child of the King and because He made me this way on purpose. Because He loved first, I loved Him (Jesus). Because of Jesus’ love, I can love the person I hated more than anyone else in the world, myself. He gave me value and significance that even I had to acknowledge. I am talking about healing, not narcissism. My life is a story, Jesus is writing that story. That story fits within Jesus’ story. For the first time in my life I can see my weaknesses; the parts I hated so much, as an important part of the story. They are not merely things to be overcome or triumph, in spite of. These weaknesses are ways for me and for others, to see Him at work. I really believe in what He said to Paul, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). For the first time I can accept myself, even though I am not the person I once had dreamed I could be if God just enabled me. I have let go of that dream, and have taken hold of who I really am. Now, I can celebrate my weaknesses, and I can see my weaknesses differently. It will be exciting not to see how God works in spite of my weaknesses, but how God will work through my weaknesses. How my weaknesses could embolden others to catch a glimpse of just how great the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob really is. How great is the God revealed in Jesus the Messiah. How great is God who fills me with His Holy Spirit and ordains me as one of Jesus’, fellow priests. I rejoice to be a part of a kingdom of priests in Jesus‘ priesthood (1 Peter 2). I finally see I am both an individual and I have a special place in God’s community. I am not useless (as I used to secretly tell myself)!!!! The lies no longer have power over me! I show you my shame so you can see God’s glory. Please keep that in mind as you think about what you just read. I am being vulnerable with you so you can see just how great our God is.

Month of May in Review

- Ting, from Craig’s N.T.U.T. Bible study was baptized in Xin Dian. Praise the LORD!

- I had a great time in Bible study and a birthday dinner with N.T.U.T. students.

- My Birthday, I’m twenty-nine years old. Had another great date with Jesus on a night hike in Taipei. Also got to spend time with my friends.

- Talked to a buddhist that tried to convert me to buddhism at Long Shan temple. So there is such a thing as evangelical buddhists. It was very informative. Good chance to understand better what people actually think. Buddhists use special Chinese vocabulary (like Christianese) that was difficult to understand.

- Listening to the Bible in Chinese. I am trying to have God write His Word on my heart. This month I continued to focus on the Gospel of John; which I am teaching through in my English Bible study at N.T.U.T. I also began focusing on getting through the Sermon On The Mount in Chinese. So far I have only made my way through the Beatitudes. I haven’t been learning very quickly, but what I learn I had to listen to fifty to a one hundred times. So even if I cannot get the Word accessible to my conscious mind; it definitely is in my subconscious.

- Re-wrote my personal ministry plan corresponding to my teams field ministry plan. We update these every year. Also, I thought this time was special because language school is no longer my primary focus. My path is lengthening!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

April 2010 Update

April 2010 Taiwan Update from Peter

The journey continues: 7 Months Out

The visit to the doctor last month was good for me. I did not receive the news I had hoped. However, it did give me a picture of the coming year; and of my future. With a longer view of recovery in mind, I have spent a lot of time this month mentally/emotionally adjusting to the idea of being constantly dizzy for at least the next six months to a year, drawing near to Jesus, and expressing my trust in God (the God who designed my body) by spending time exercising (my body). I have been climbing a lot of stairs, running by the riverside, doing squats to strengthen my knees, abdomen exercises to strengthen my core, training my sense of balance, and hiking. This month when I went night hiking near Jian Tian M.R.T. station I had a bit of an epiphany. It has changed the way I try to improve my balance, and has made me think about my journey with Jesus a little differently. I went hiking at about five in the afternoon. It was still light out when I went up the mountain. However, while I was on the top of the mountain the sun went down and the darkness came out. Hiking is difficult enough; climbing stairs and maneuvering around objects while experiencing vertigo. When the sun went down I discovered something important about my balance. (Just want to make a disclaimer, I am not a doctor and the following is merely my hypothesis to explain what I was experiencing). As my vision became impaired by the darkness I noticed my sense of balance went a little crazy. It gave me the sense of being drawn in this direction and that; seemingly for no reason. I think, when I can see clearly; I experience my sense of balance differently. Normally the fluid in one’s ears (functions like a level: carpenter’s tool) primarily provides a sense of balance. Mine is still broken. As I explained in the past. I have been trying to use my sense of vision to help me have a more accurate sense of balance. When my ability to use my vision became impaired I discovered just how much it had been making a difference. On the mountain, in the dark, I found myself depending on my sense of touch for nearby objects to help make up the difference. The part that was most difficult as I did this was thinking counterintuitively. My sense of balance was telling me I need to do one thing and I had to do the opposite based on my sense of touch. Just like I have become accustomed do doing with my vision. It actually worked! I made it down the mountain safely and learned an important lesson. Until my sense of balance recovers I will need to be able to use and trust my other senses to help me think counterintuitively at times in order to balance properly. So now, I am trying to train my balance with that in mind. For example: I do an exercise with my eyes closed so that I can retrain how I interpret my sense of balance when I cannot depend on my vision to override the information my ears provide my brain. I hypothesize my brain is probably making new interconnections to accomplish the same task in a different way. God did an amazing job designing the brain. These brain retraining and balance exercises have helped my balance to improve this month. I also began using a jump rope this month.

I think our spiritual life can be similar, it also requires counterintuitive thinking. I think we interpret our experiences through a lens (interpretive term: like when you wear glasses you see through the lenses) made up of our thought life, beliefs, and experiences. I think that the sins we have committed as we grow up plays a part in that lens. This makes following and trusting Jesus very challenging at times. I think this is similar to the way I experience balance in light of my vertigo. My ears tell me one thing, my eyes tell me another thing, and my sense of touch tells me something else. My ears, sense of balance is the least dependable of these three. Sometimes I have to think counterintuitively in the sense of what my ears are telling me and my experiences sinning are telling me. I have to decide to trust something other than my ears and experience with sin in order to move forward. This feels awkward at times because I have to go against what feels right and natural at times in order to do what is actually right and natural. I call it counterintuitive because my body and mind are not accurately interpreting reality and I have to go against those senses at times. I have to choose to trust something else. For my balance, that may be touch and vision. For my life, that would be trusting Jesus. He is not idealistic or unrealistic; we are! He actually understands how reality operates. Sometimes we just have to go against our own senses and assumptions to follow Jesus. This is one place faith plays an important role for both my body’s balance issues and for my spiritual life. Sometimes you cannot understand until you trust and obey. Faith is not a blind leap. Faith helps us to understand

knowledge. Through faith, we come to know Christ. Through faith I realize my balance is wrong and my vision or touch is right. This is not ridiculous nor is it without a basis. Through trusting that Jesus actually knows what He is talking about and obeying Him you come to find out He really does know what He is talking about. As I train my brain and my mind, and as I train my body, I am training myself to reinterpret how I understand the information my senses are giving me about how I experience balance. I am also learning how to interpret my experience of reality through Jesus‘ teachings. This is critical because sometimes balance and my sense of how the world operates is dead wrong. I must and will learn how to retrain the way I think; so that I can retrain my brain; so that I can change my life. So that one day I can balance, dance, ride a bicycle, and do others things once again. That has been the journey that has begun this month as I continue on my journey to recover. Still realistic, practical, and hopeful. Determined to never give up.

Church Planting & Discipleship: A View of Learning For The Future

As I excitedly and prayerfully continue down this path in the direction of discipleship and church planting Ican already see I will need to learn and grow as much as possible. Since I hope to plant churches that will not be lead by a seminary trained pastor, I have to make some adjustments. I also hope the people that make up these churches will be diverse in age and stage of life. That means the churches will be lead by regular people with regular day jobs and families. With that in mind, I imagine the role I want to grow into is that of the skilled teacher and facilitator. I want the end result to be an indigenous church that is self governing, self supporting, reproducing, self sustaining, and a church that grows into not needing me (Ephesians 4:11-16). Facilitating disciples that make disciples, and planting churches that plant churches. The most challenging part of that job is possibly also the most important part of the job. I need to train, teach, and facilitate the growth of regular people for the “work of ministry” (loving people well) with the top quality training I can provide without sending people off to school, and without people realizing I am giving them such sophisticated training and resources. I think this second part is a real concern because a lot of working class people might not feel comfortable with attending or leading in standard structures of traditional churches. Education is essential for upward mobility in Taiwanese society and many working class people have very little education. Thus, they are trapped. Thus, they feel unqualified for work of ministry. Please understand when I use the phrase, “work of ministry” I am envisioning a very very broad interpretation of what that means. I think God intends for us all to be His priests, and this His end goal is to restore the world to holiness (Gen. 1-2; Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:5). People will need to learn how great Jesus is; He does not need them to be great; they just need to serve the great God. I think God has especially prepared me in this way. Until I realized Jesus is great than I imagined. He does not need my skills and abilities. He wants my heart to be willing to obey and trust to Him enough for me to follow Him. This change was a paradigm shift for me and it probably will also be for many regular people here in Taiwan. For this job, I need to be able to teach people starting from wherever people are; guiding them towards maturity and towards following Jesus. That is why becoming a great teacher matters. Jesus was the best teacher to ever walk the earth. It seems to me that He had an amazing way of meeting people where they were at. His teaching was based out of knowing God personally and being very familiar with His Word. My teaching won’t be a uniform system, but instead, teaching according to the type of learner each person is and where they are on their journey. Thus meeting people where they are at. Jesus is this the master and disciple-maker. I am not the one who says, “follow me” I am not the LORD. I too am a disciple; just a little further ahead than those who are not His disciples. I see all that I do as being done inpartnership with Jesus, His Holy Spirit, and the Father. It is critical that I am facilitating and teaching in harmony with Him. I need to be competent in working with people other than those who are my peers and those younger than me. I must grow into being able to work with people older than me, people with husbands and wives, people with children, and grandfather and grandmother. I think that the most strategic person I could reach for Christ in the family would be grandpa. He will heavily influence his children and grandchildren even after he passes away.

Grandpa and grandma are too important for me to wait until I am sixty or seventy years old before figuring out how to connect with them. So I need to grow in knowledge, wisdom, maturity, understanding, closeness to Jesus, into Jesus’ character, and as a teacher/facilitator. Does that sound a little overwhelming? It does to me too. I need your prayers. I have confidence Jesus will help me grow and give me plenty of opportunities to connect with a diversity of people here. So I want to lay out for you how I will use my free-time to grow in the following areas over the next year or so: counseling (Dan Allender, Siang-Yang Tan, Larry Crabb), spiritual formation/discipleship (Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster, Marva Dawn), chinese/Taiwanese history, church planting (Wolfgang Simson), and first century Judaism (Apocrypha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Tacitus, Philo). I have included all these focuses and authors so you can see what will be influencing me. I would love your input if any of you have input you would like to give me. I think focusing on these areas will provide me with the tools I need, and these tools should enable me to grow into being much more diverse than my experience/age would normally allow. If this looks idealistic that is not my intention. This is not research for a master’s degree. These are tools for real life. This strategy for learning and growing has come from the needs I see in front of me. This way I can live out life like Jesus, and I can teach by intentionally modeling instead of just explaining. The people I am reaching out to need to see how to love like Jesus more than understand the theory behind loving like Jesus. That is why the research is necessary for me; I must strive to have mastery of understanding and behavior in these kinds of areas. I want to shift discussion towards: how do we obey Jesus such as: how to love wives, husbands, kids, parents, and grandparents. The fact that I am not old enough, and my life experience in not enough, is not an excuse I can afford to rely on. I pray the churches I plant will be discussing and living how do I love my enemy, not why I should or should not love my enemy. So they can be able to disciple other Taiwanese people. So they can plant churches able to teach people how to love their enemies and teaching them how to bless those who curse them. Churches with people that will be able to and willing to teach others how to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). Please pray with your imagination. Imagine what the people in these churches will look like before knowing Jesus, and magine what they might look like in maturity. Let’s pray these churches into being, that Jesus Kingdom may come and His will may be done on earth and in each of us as it is done in heaven. Let’s pray, act, and watch as God brings justice to the world (make things right).

Month in Fast Forward

This month I studied chinese a lot. Finally finished my last text book on Christian vocabulary. I will now have a lot more time to focus on building relationships and working towards planting churches. I did a lot of exercising. Having the students take turns teaching the English Bible study has been great. We read and discussed through John chapters two, three, and four. Spent time building relationships and drinking tea. I have also spent a good amount of time in prayer and thinking. I got to meet with two missionaries who have been reaching out to working class people in Taiwan for more that fifteen years each. It was great! I accompanied them and saw what they do, we prayer walked, we sat and prayed together, and we talked. It was a blessing of an opportunity for a new missionary to get to learn from two veterans.

Other Prayer Requests

-Please pray for opportunities to build relationships with working class Taiwanese.

-For my ability to speak Chinese and Taiwanese to improve.

-For churches to be planted and for disciples to be made.

-Wisdom in conveying complex and Biblical concepts very simply and accurately in Chinese.

-For my dreams and hopes for what a church plant might look like be dashed to pieces so that I don’t hold onto my

ideas too strongly and so that Jesus’ dreams and hopes for the Taiwanese may rise out of those ashes.

I really enjoy reading your responses to the newsletter, thoughts, suggestions, and any questions you have about my

ministry or the culture here please feel free to email me. You have no idea how God will use your email. Thanks

for reading.