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