We’re In! The Hill’s are going to PNG!

Dear Family, Church family, and friends,

God has done a lot in our lives since we sent the last email and we are thrilled to be able to announce that we are now Wycliffe members! (We even get our own “@wycliffe.org email addresses! haha) Although our official employment date is not until September 1, our employment paperwork has all been submitted and we have received our job offer from Wycliffe to serve in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Thank you all for your prayers and support—God answered your prayers in ways we could have never dreamed! In the name of brevity, I won’t list all of the ways God provided for us in this email, but if you want a glimpse of his provision, check out our previous blog post here.

While we will miss our family and friends greatly, we know beyond a shadow of doubt that this ministry is where God is leading our family. There are currently over 1,900 languages in the world without a shred of scripture. Imagine having no access to scripture in English! Think of the last time God revealed something profound to you that changed your spiritual walk. Was it while you were reading scripture? While you were listening to a sermon on a passage of scripture? In your small group at church, talking over a passage of scripture? What would your spiritual walk look like if you never heard God’s word in your language? Carl F.H. Henry once said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” Similarly, it’s only good news if they can understand it! We will have the incredible privilege of being a part of bringing God’s Word into one of those 1,900 languages—specifically, one of the 300+ languages without scripture in Papua New Guinea. (For more information about Wycliffe and Bible translation, click here).

But, before we can jump in and start translating, there is a good bit of training we must undergo, and we need your help! Our first part of training for Wycliffe will be a two-week training session and orientation in Orlando from October 18-31. Our cost of attendance, which covers room and board, airfare, and cost of training, is about $3,500 for our family. We’ve sold just about everything we can sell to meet our financial requirements for application, so we need ministry partners who are willing to pray for us and partner with us financially to bring God’s Word to the Bible-less. Would you prayerfully consider advancing the Kingdom by partnering with us in our ministry? If God is leading you to partner with us financially, please look below for information about making a tax-deductible donation.

We also desperately need prayer partners. The task of translating the Bible into a foreign language is a God-sized ambition, and is something that will only come to pass with God’s miraculous provision. Please pray 1) for our training, 2) for God to raise up other prayer and financial partners, and 3) for God to begin preparing the people to whom we will minister to receive the Gospel.

We hope to begin sharing our vision for ministry soon with local churches, so if your church would be interested in having us speak, please contact me and we can make arrangements. Again, thanks for your prayers and support! Please continue to pray for us as we take these next steps in our ministry.

Donations can be sent to:
Wycliffe Bible Translators
P.O. Box 628200
Orlando, FL 32862-8200

Or, you can make your donation securely online.

Please include a separate note with your donation stating: “Preference for the Wycliffe ministry of Jason and Jennifer Hill, #239685.”

For His Kingdom,

Jason, Jennifer, and Josiah Hill
Wycliffe Bible Translators
Skype: jasonjennifer.hill
Cell: (501) 941-8072

We’re applying to Wycliffe Bible Translators!

This article was originally written June 24th. See the paragraph at the end for updates since that time. Thanks so much for your prayers! God has provided above and beyond what we expected. Due to God’s provision, we are now ready to apply for Wycliffe, and the truck hasn’t even sold yet! Although we still need to sell the truck, we have already begun our application to Wycliffe. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we take these next steps. Throughout this journey, God has taught me a lot–especially about discerning his will. When I was in college, this was something I struggled with a lot. How do I know what God’s will is for me? How do I choose what to major in? What job to take? Is God calling me into this ministry or that one? Over time, God made his will clear, but it didn’t happen the way I expected or on my timeline. This past Wednesday night at Bible study, we studied the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. I’ve read this story many times before, but in light of all that has transpired in our lives recently, one particular insight into discerning God’s will became apparent to me.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went.” (Acts 8:26-27a ESV)

Notice that at first Philip was given a very general command. God told him to head south to the desert. Philip didn’t receive instructions about the precise location he was to go to, the exact timing, who he was to meet, how to get there, or what he was supposed to do once he arrived. The Spirit simply said “Go south” and he obeyed.

And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him…Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:29-35 ESV)

Once Philip obeyed God’s initial, general directions, God revealed his will in more detail. By obeying the part of God’s will that had been revealed to him, however unspecific it was initially, Philip placed himself in the exact location that he needed to be in to receive God’s more specific instructions. And, once Philip obeyed and got into the chariot, God’s will for him to share the gospel with the Ethiopian became obvious and imistakable. When I was younger, I prayed very hard for God to reveal his will to me. But, when I prayed for God’s will to be plain, I wanted to know what, when, where, why, how, and I wanted to know it all now! I assumed that in order to be following God now, I needed to know exactly what God wanted me to be doing in the future. But God works exactly the opposite! If you want to ensure that you’ll be doing what God wants in the future, then make sure you’re following his will for you right now! It doesn’t matter whether God’s will for you is specific–“Go to XYZ college, get a degree in business, take this internship, and this job”–or if its more general–“Get an education, grow in your walk with God, honor God with your finances, etc.” By following his unspecific revealed will we place ourselves in the right place for God’s more specific will to be made plain. This concept is taught more explicitly in Romans 12:1-2.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1, 2 NIV)

By transforming and renewing our minds into the image of Christ (God’s general will for all Christians), we grow in our faith and place ourselves in a spiritual position to hear and discern God’s will more clearly. Allow me to illustrate with my own experience. When I was fourteen, I felt God’s clear and unmistakable call into ministry. But despite the clarity of that calling, it was not a very detailed calling. I began preaching in small churches around my home and preparing myself for a career of ministry. In high school, I realized that I would need to get an education in order to better prepare myself for ministry, so I began looking for colleges. Over time, one particular college began to stand out, and I applied and was accepted at that school. Unfortunately, during my late high school and college years, my relationship with God grew distant, and my ability to discern his will was hindered. I selected a major (Biology and Chemistry) largely without consulting God, and made many other decisions on my own as well. On a mission trip to India during college, however, God began to reveal to me that he wanted me to serve in foreign missions, though I didn’t yet know in what capacity. I prayed for God to reveal his will to me, but when all the details weren’t clear, I decided to go ahead and make plans of my own–medical missions. As you might imagine, those weren’t God’s plans, and that would later become painfully clear after loosing my job as an analytical chemist, two days before I would have bought a home in Sherwood and began the application process to medical school. After some soul searching, prayer, and reflection on what I knew God’s general will was in my life–missions and ministry–I decided to pursue education that would place me more in line with the general portion of God’s will that had been revealed to me and leave the specifics for a later date. That step of obedience placed me exactly where I needed to be (Southern Seminary) to hear God’s next, more specific directions. I began hearing about a missions organization that I’d never heard of before–Wycliffe Bible Translators. I was intrigued by their mission, and attended several presentations they conducted on our campus. The more I learned about them, the more interested I became. Then, after hearing the testimonies of Ed and Linda Speyers and other Wycliffe missionaries, it began to sink in that this just might be the work God was preparing me for. Almost eleven years after my initial call into the ministry, I attended Total-it-Up at the Dallas campus of Wycliffe in January 2014. During that week-long conference, God unfolded his more specific will for us and it became obvious that this was where God wanted us. Finally, we had a more specific direction (though there are still many details left to be determined!), and we knew what needed to be done. But before we could move forward, we had some debt to take care of.

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38 ESV)

At first, God’s will for our lives is usually vague and unspecific. Occasionally God reveals specifics up front, but that is rare. As we take steps of obedience in the portion of his will that has been revealed to us, he reveals his more specific will. Then, as we pursue that, he provides, just as he provided a body of water for Philip to baptize the Ethiopian. In the last few months, we’ve seen God do exactly that. Knowing that Wycliffe was God’s will for us, we decided to have a yard sale to pay off debt, and God blessed us with $1,800 earnings in one day! We knew we had to cut our budget down, so we began looking for a new home. God provided one at half the cost of our former rental home, and it’s less than a block from our church! When taxes came around, God blessed us through a tax debt that was over $2,000 less than we had expected! Then, just this last week, after finally deciding to sell my bike, a buyer came and bought it for $850. Do you remember how I said that once we take steps of obedience to follow Gods will he provides? The next day our rent deposit from our previous home arrived in the mail–$830! Then, a couple days later, the final payment from a roofing job I did in March (that had been delayed by the mortgage company) finally came in and I was paid on that–quite a sizable bonus check! God provided so well that we were able to pay off all that we needed in order to apply before we had even sold the truck! In sum, when we set our minds to follow God’s will and began taking concrete actions where we knew he was leading, he provided the rest. In six months, we were able to pay off over $6,000 of taxes, debt, and past due medical bills–not counting the truck!** It’s no fun to sit and wait without a clear sense of direction in your life. I’ve been in that position. I was there for eleven years, and it still don’t know all the specifics. The natural instinct is to read more into God’s will than what might be revealed to you and to make a path where there is none. But part of the way that God grows us into mature believers is through teaching us patience in those waiting periods and teaching us how to discern his will. Your holiness is God’s will for you, and that doesn’t happen overnight. But, as you offer your life as a living sacrifice and focus on transforming and renewing your mind to the image of Christ, he will make his will plain to you. And once he has made it plain, go forward in peace knowing that he will provide everything you need in his perfect timing. Updates (as of August 17th): Our application moved through more quickly than expected, and we received an official job offer from Wycliffe on August 5th! In God’s usual timing, the day after receiving our official job offer from Wycliffe, I sold my truck. Since the beginning of the year, God has enabled us to pay off about $10,000 of debt, plus our truck. We will be traveling to Orlando, FL for our first portion of training in October, and we have selected Papua New Guinea for our country of assignment (though our official invitation to PNG has not yet been finalized). We still have not figured out all the specific details of our assignment, but we know that God will reveal those things to us as we need to know them. Thank you for your prayers! Please continue to pray for us, and we hope you will begin to prayerfully consider partnering with us in our ministry in the future.IMG_1303.PNGIMG_1303-0.PNG

First Newsletter from the Hills

Dear Friends and Family,

For those of you who don’t yet know, Jennifer and I have felt for some time that God might be leading us to serve as foreign missionaries. We have had the opportunity to go on two mission trips together (India in 2007, Haiti in 2011) and both felt that God was leading us to commit to more than just the occasional mission trip. We have been praying that God would make his will for us plain, and we believe that he has answered that prayer.

This January, we had the opportunity to go to Dallas for a one week “Taste Of Translation And Linguistics” (aka–“TOTAL it up”), which allowed us the opportunity to have a unique peek into the life of missionaries with the organization Wycliffe Bible Translators. While there are many great missions agencies out there, Wycliffe was a perfect match for us. Hearing the stories of how lives were changed when people finally had God’s Word in their heart language for the first time was exciting. We both have a passion for God’s Word and for unreached peoples, and God has planted a desire deep in my heart to take the gospel to those who have never heard (Rom. 15:20-21). Furthermore, the nature of Bible translation plays to my spiritual gifts and talents and was a perfect fit for the type of work I would most enjoy. The week that we spent at TOTAL it Up confirmed that God was calling us to serve as missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators and we are excited as we take the next steps forward.

But, becoming foreign missionaries is no easy task! Amongst the many obstacles we have to overcome is debt reduction. As many of you already know, Jennifer and I have been taking some drastic steps to meet the debt requirements that we must attain before applying to Wycliffe. In April, we held a huge yard sale where we sold quite a few of our valuables. God blessed us immensely in that we were able to raise over $1,800 in one day at a yard sale! (Talk about a “God thing!”) Next, we moved to a smaller, more affordable place in Jacksonville, cutting our rent budget in half. These steps have allowed us to make some great leaps forward towards our debt reduction goal, but we still have just over $2,500 left to pay off before we can apply. While that may sound like a lot, we are actually quite close to being able to accomplish that goal. In short, if we can sell my truck (2003 Dodge Ram 1500) and bike (2009 Fuji Aloha 1.0), then we will have reached our goal and be ready to apply! If we were to accomplish that this month, that would put us on track for becoming Wycliffe members by November, just in time for a mandatory training session in January at the Wycliffe HQ in Orlando. But, in order to make that training in January, we have to apply by the end of June!

So, here’s how you can help. First of all, please pray for us! While that may sound cliche’, it’s anything but! Paying off $2500 of debt in less than a month is a BHAG (Big Holy Audacious Goal), and is something only God can pull off! (Kind of like making $1800 at a one day yard sale!)  Since I started writing this, I’ve already had one person contact me about buying my bike and another about buying my truck! So please remember us in your prayers! Secondly, please pass the word that we have a truck and bike for sale! You can view my ad for the truck here, and the bike here or here.  Hopefully, by the time you read this they will no longer be for sale, but just in case, spread the word!

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. We will keep you posted as we make progress in this journey. Please consider becoming a follower of our blog, so you’ll receive our periodic updates and prayer requests in your inbox.

In Christ,

Jason, Jennifer, and Josiah Hill

A couple Q & A’s:

Q: Where will your assignment be and what language will you be working in?
A: In short, we don’t know yet. Once we are accepted with Wycliffe, we will spend the next 2-3 months collaborating with missionaries in the field to determine a good fit for us. If we’re able to apply in June, we should know those details by October.

Q: If you do apply by July, when will you be moving overseas?
A: Once accepted, we will have to attend a two week training session called “Equip” which will train us on raising support. Then, we will have to raise our support. There’s no set time on that process, but it often takes around a year to become fully funded. After we are fully funded, we will move to Dallas for one year of training at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL). Upon completion of that one year program, we will be “deployed” to our initial assignment. In short, the process takes about 2 years or so after acceptance to get to the field.

Q: You have a wife and small child. Why would you move to some dangerous third world country when there’s people here in America who need Jesus and it’s much less risky?
A: There are over 1,900 languages left without any portion of God’s Word in their heart language. In short, that’s not “OK.” While it’s true that ministry is desperately needed here in America, and it’s perhaps true that America may be generally safer than, say, the DRC, those people need Christ just as much as Americans do. Furthermore, they have NO scripture, NO ministers, and NO hope of ever hearing the gospel unless someone goes and tells them. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Rom. 10:14-15, ESV Meanwhile, Americans have a plethora of English Bible translations to pick from, churches on every street corner, and prepackaged gospel presentations available at the click of a remote control. We cannot sit back in comfort and relative safety while the world burns. Some are called to ministry here, some there. Regardless of location, all Christians are called to be involved in missions–some are primarily senders, and some are primarily “goers.” (Though I think all of us have a duty to both.) We have been called out to go, so all we can do is joyfully “trust and obey.”

Where is your treasure?

When we lived in Louisville, I delivered pizzas part time to help make ends meet while I was taking classes at Seminary.  I got to meet all kinds of people and it was, oddly enough, a pretty enjoyable job!  But, let’s face it–pizza delivery isn’t going to make you rich.  After paying for tuition and books, I usually felt like the little boy with two fish desperately hoping God would somehow multiply my meager earnings so we could just pay the bills.

So, over time I began to struggle with jealousy.  I often delivered pizzas to homes that were quite extravagant.  And while I couldn’t always tell whether or not the owner was a believer, sometimes it was quite clear that they weren’t!  (Or at least weren’t acting like one at the time!)   Here I was trying to serve God and follow his lead, and it was all I could do just to pay the bills!  I remember one house that was especially lavish.  It had all the custom trimmings, a perfectly manicured and landscaped lawn, and you couldn’t help but be intimidated by its grand entryway.  Yet for all its extravagance, it sat in the shadow of the house across the street.  Literally.  The neighborhood was in a hilly area of town and the house across the street sat up much higher on the hill, so when the sun set the home literally sat in the shadow of the castle across the street.  It kind of made me chuckle a bit.  These folks had spent who knows how many years accumulating their wealth and saving up to build their dream home, and then along comes the Jones’ who build an even bigger house on the hill!  Every time they walk out the front door, they have to crane their neck upwards and block the sun with their hand just to see their neighbor’s home.

Now there’s nothing wrong with being rich.  Job was rich, and he was a godly man.  Furthermore, there’s not necessarily any spiritual benefit to being dirt poor.  There’s nothing necessarily unspiritual about owning stuff–as long as your stuff doesn’t own you.  And, on the flip side, there’s nothing necessarily spiritual about NOT owning stuff, because your NOT owning stuff CAN own you.

Just take a look at the warnings Jesus gives in Matthew 6:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” [Mat 6:19-25, 31-34 ESV]

Jesus’ warnings here don’t only apply to the wealthy.  In fact, who is more likely to worry about where their next meal is going to come from or what they will wear tomorrow–the rich or the poor?  Jesus isn’t only warning against piling up treasures on earth, but also against coveting such treasures.  Jesus’ focus was on what< you treasure, not on how much treasure you have.  I’ve met relatively poor people who treasure material possessions and worldly comfort more than some rich people!  (And I have been such a person, too.)

The reason that Jesus spends so much time talking about money is because money and material possessions betray our true passions in life.  The way we spend our time and money reveals a lot about what we value, or “treasure,” here on earth.  It reveals our perspective on life.  Many people skip over verses 22-23 , because they’re difficult to understand, but they state exactly that:

The eye (i.e.–perspective on money) is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye (i.e.–perspective on money) is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye (i.e.–perspective on money) is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.

How many of us walk around filled with worldly darkness with our spiritual growth stunted because our “eye” is bad?  Oh that God would open our eyes to see the way he sees!  Why do we treasure money and material comforts which will all be destroyed instead of treasuring the eternal God?  We ought to treasure him and the things which he treasures, namely, human souls!

As Jennifer and I are preparing for service with Wycliffe, one of the obstacles we have to overcome is our debt.  Some of our debt is from educational loans, but some of it is from chasing our own little American dream.  After years of praying for God to reveal his will to me for my career path in ministry, God finally revealed it this January at Total it Up (A weeklong Wycliffe “orientation” of sorts).  Unfortunately, because of my “bad eye” in the past, our ability to move forward with Wycliffe has been delayed until we can pay down our debt.  Suddenly this passage came to life. I began to hear God asking me, “Jason, what do you treasure? Do you treasure me and following my will, or do you treasure your gas-guzzling four wheel drive truck? What about your comfort–could you live in a smaller place if it meant being able to get the gospel to those who have never heard sooner?” My accumulation of worldly treasures was preventing me from inheriting the eternal treasures God had promised. I wrestled with it it for a while, until I read this:

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” [Luke 12:15-21 ESV]

I don’t ever want to face God and hear the words, “You fool!”  Could we get to the field without having to sell our possessions?  Perhaps eventually, but how many of the people to whom we will be sent would perish without having heard the gospel in that time?  If my soul is required of me tonight, do I want to be still clutching to my stuff when I face God, knowing that I treasured money instead of God?

… 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [Luke 12:31-32 ESV]

Over the last couple years, God has slowly replaced the worldly treasures in my life with himself.  It’s been a slow, and at times, painful process.  But the difference is astounding.  Once I finally let go of those possessions that possessed me, the jealousy that had consumed me was replaced with a fiery passion to see the gospel go to the nations. It was so freeing!  The idea that years from now I might possibly have the privilege of handing a completed New Testament to a people who previously had no scripture is beyond my capability to express in words.  Now, my passion is God, his Word, and his Kingdom.  I think that were I able to trade lives with those whom I coveted before I would find myself saying, “This is it?  This is what I wanted?  I’m supposed to be satisfied with this?!?!”  I don’t want to settle for the American Dream.  I want God’s Dream.  The American Dream is too small.  I’ve been given a taste of God’s passion for the nations and I can’t imagine settling for anything less. But, it took God prying away those idols from my life so that he could change my unwilling heart into a heart that he could use. Please don’t misunderstand–I had nothing to do with this.  God alone deserves the credit.  But by God’s grace, I now treasure him–not as I should, of course, but more than I once did.

God has a purpose for your life, and it’s not for you to fulfill your American Dream.  He has bigger plans for you than that.  He wants to give you the Kingdom!  Don’t settle for fool’s gold.  He alone is the true treasure, the only thing worth living for.  What’s your treasure?

 

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Suffering Well

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.  And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Job 1:20-22

This Thanksgiving, we take time to be grateful for all that we have been blessed with.  But for many, the holiday season is not such a joyful time.  Many people around us are suffering through tragic losses and difficult times.  Each of us, at some point in our lives, will go through similar experiences of suffering.  All of us will, most likely, suffer financial difficulty, health problems, and the loss of loved ones.  It’s not really a matter of “if,” but “when.”  But isn’t it interesting that we don’t all react the same way, even when our problems are basically the same as everyone else’s?  Why is it that some people seem to collapse when tragedy strikes, while others blossom?

There’s a few things from the story of Job in the Old Testament that we can learn about suffering.  But first, let’s take note of a few of the most important details in the story.  First of all, notice that Job’s suffering was not a result of sin that he had committed.  Job is described as being “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.” (v. 1) We shouldn’t assume from that truth that our own suffering is never a result of our sin—oftentimes it is!  Take a speeding ticket, for example.  Ultimately, all suffering is indirectly caused by sin, because sin has ravaged the perfect creation that God made.  But suffering is not always caused directly by our sin.  Sometimes bad things happen to godly people.

Secondly, notice what Job lost.  First, Job lost his oxen and donkeys.  Oxen were the combines of that day, so this loss would be similar to loosing one’s livelihood and food source simultaneously.  No oxen, no food.  Secondly, Job lost his sheep.  Sheep were used for sacrifices to God, clothing (from the wool), and perhaps for food as well.  The third thing Job lost was his camels—his primary mode of transportation.  Last, and most importantly, Job lost his family.  All seven sons and three daughters were killed when the roof over their head collapsed during a feast.  And, while he was still mourning the loss of these, he was stricken with boils on his skin.  In the span of just moments, Job lost his job, his food, his clothing, his transportation, his children, and his health.

Thirdly, notice that there were things going on “behind the scenes,” in the spiritual realm, that Job was not privy to.  Now, we don’t know for sure why God allowed Satan to afflict Job.  Certainly God could have prevented Satan from doing so, but for whatever reason, he decided to permit Satan to afflict Job to a certain extent.  Perhaps God was trying to grow Job’s faith.  That certainly is one of the outcomes of this whole ordeal.  But while that may be the case, I tend to think that the purpose of Job’s afflictions was for our spiritual benefit.  We get a behind the scenes look at suffering that we don’t get anywhere else in scripture.  So perhaps one of the greatest lessons we learn through Job is that sometimes our suffering is the means God uses to encourage others during their suffering.  Because of the introduction of sin into the world, suffering is an inevitable part of life.  But when Christians endure suffering well, we show through our testimony that there is hope in the midst of crisis for those who are in Christ.

But how do we “suffer well?”  The answer lies in Job’s response to his suffering.  Job’s first reaction to suffering was both grief and worship.  Now Job’s grieving comes as no surprise to us, given all that he had lost.  But worship?!?!  God had just allowed unspeakable disaster to strike Job, and all Job had ever done was live a godly life!  Of course, Job wasn’t without sin, but even God himself describes Job as “blameless and upright.”  How could Job resist the incredible urge to blame God for his suffering?  Job was able to suffer well because he had developed a godly character long before tragedy struck.  Job didn’t wait around for disaster to hit and then look in the “What to read when you are suffering” appendix in his Bible.  Job didn’t have to frantically scramble around asking advice from godly people on how to endure suffering.  Job didn’t wonder what kind of God would allow such suffering.  Job didn’t question God’s character because Job already knew God’s character.  The time to figure out how to handle suffering is not when you’re in the middle of it—the best time to figure that out is when things are good.  Job could worship God in the middle of suffering because he had made up his mind long beforehand that he would do so.  Job had a faith “emergency fund” that he’d been saving up for years, funded by the realization that every blessing was a gift from God.

Job recognized that “the Lord gave…” When times were good, Job didn’t take it for granted.  Job realized that his oxen, sheep, camels, servants, wealth, health, and family were all gifts from God that he didn’t deserve.  That’s why Job prayed for his children after every feast—because he realized that his family’s health and wellbeing was simply a product of God’s grace and mercy.  Job was able to weather the storm because he practiced a lifestyle of thanksgiving.  Job didn’t worship God because God had taken all of these blessings away from him; Job worshiped God because that’s just what Job did—he worshiped God.  Every day.  Continually.  Every blessing that Job received he praised God for.  Every ox, every donkey, every sheep, every servant, every penny of his wealth, every son, every daughter, every moment, every hour.

You see, when we stop taking things for granted and start praising God for every blessing we have, then our attitude changes.  Instead of feeling that God owes us all these things—that we’re entitled to God’s blessings—we begin to see God’s blessings for what they are: grace.  Blessings from God are his grace—unmerited favor.  Suffering is not when God steals things from us that belong to us (our health, family, wealth, etc.), it’s when God simply takes back what was rightfully his to begin with.  If the Lord gave, then the Lord has the right to take away.  And it helps to keep in mind the truth of Romans 8:28—“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  God never takes back his blessings just for the fun of it.  There’s always a purpose, and it always works together for our good.

So how do you suffer well?  You start right now—especially if things are going well.  You live a life of thanksgiving—not just one day every year.  You suffer well by making every day Thanksgiving Day.  And then when tragedy strikes you simply repeat what you say every day: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

My new blog name, and what it’s all about

So, you’ve probably noticed that the last blog post you got from me wasn’t from “Jhillinlouisville.”  That’s because I’ve changed the name of my blog, along with its design and focus, to reflect what I want my ministry (and my blog ministry) to be focused on.  So, I owe it to you–my subscribers–to let you in on the what, why, and how of Acts 1:8 Ministries.

The “What” (and “Where”) of Acts 1:8 Ministries:

“Acts 1:8 Ministries” is a description of the focus of my family’s ministry.  It comes from the famous verse in the Bible often called the “Great Commission,” which is Christ’s last recorded spoken words after his resurrection before he ascended into heaven.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:8 (ESV)

So, in short, the “what” of Acts 1:8 is that we are all called to be “witnesses” of what Christ has done for us and, as Matthew 28:19-20 states, we are to “make disciples”  in our hometowns (“Jerusalem”), in our region (“Judea”), and to “the end of the earth.”  I believe that that verse, as well as many others, teaches that every Christian has an obligation to share the gospel and make disciples in those three areas.  Some will be called to spend more time witnessing locally, and some–like my family–will be called to primarily serve overseas.  But all of us are required to spend some time in each of these areas.  I cannot forsake sharing the gospel with my neighbor simply because I’ve been called to foreign missions, nor can someone who is called to serve locally forsake foreign missions.  We are all called to serve in “Jerusalem, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 Ministries is one of the means by which I aim to be a witness and make disciples.  So, some of my blog posts will be “witness” posts–telling of what God has done in or through me–and some of my posts will be “disciple making”–engaging my readers in critical thinking of practical issues based upon biblical teaching.  Occasionally, I will also give status updates of our progress towards the mission field.

The “Why” of Acts 1:8 Ministries:

Why in the world would someone leave what is arguably the greatest nation in the world, move to some third world country where they know absolutely no one, can’t speak the language, and don’t know the culture simply for the hope of making disciples?  Paul explained it well in his letter to the Romans:

For”everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Romans 10:13-15 (ESV)

The simple truth is that there is no hope of an eternity in heaven without repentance from your sins and belief in Christ.  (See my pages on The Gospel for a full explanation of the Bible’s teaching on salvation.)  And, as Paul states, those who don’t know about what Christ has done can’t believe in him.  They can’t learn what Christ has done for them unless someone tells them.  And we can’t tell them without going to meet them where they are.  So, as Christians, WE MUST GO.  It’s tragic enough that there are people who have rejected the gospel after hearing it, but it’s simply unacceptable that millions would perish without ever having heard the gospel.  It’s our responsibility as Christians to make sure they have the opportunity to accept the gospel.  And that is what Acts 1:8 Ministries is all about.  Why would people pack up and move to a third world country to share the gospel?  Because…

the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

II Corinthians 5:14-15

As far as the specific “why” of Bible translation, consider the following statistics from Wycliffe.  Of the approximately 6800 spoken languages in the world, just under 2,000 have no portion of the Bible translated into that language.  That amounts to about 209,000,000 people who have no access to the Bible in the language that they understand.  We’re not just talking about the number of people who haven’t heard the gospel, we’re talking about the number of people who have absolutely no hope of ever hearing the gospel because it’s not even in their language!  We can’t hope to see successful church plants in these cultures if God’s Word is not even available to them.  God’s Word is powerful and has the ability to transform entire people groups.  (Check out this story for a great example.)  The foundation  Wycliffe’s “Vision 2025” is their goal to begin a translation project in all of those remaining languages by the year 2025.  Due to technological and strategical advances, combined with people who are willing to count the cost and share the hope of Christ, they are on track toward meeting that goal.  I, for one, would like to be a part of that.

The “How” of Acts 1:8 Ministries:

Well, obviously my blog plays a part in how I carry out the Great Commission.  But since I’ve already talked about that, I’ll concentrate on our progress towards going on mission with Wycliffe.  (I’ve learned through experience and Biblical teaching not to assume that I know what the future holds, so I will offer this disclaimer: “If the Lord wills,” these are our plans for the future.)

Before we can proceed any further with our plans with Wycliffe, we need to confirm that Bible translation is, indeed, where God wants us.  In January, Jennifer and I will be going down to Dallas for TOTAL it Up (TOTAL= Taste Of Translation And Linguistics).  TIU is a one week crash course on translation, held at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL), designed to help aspiring translators discern God’s calling to the field.  Jennifer and I would certainly appreciate your prayers for that week, both for our spiritual discernment and for God’s financial provision for the cost of tuition and travel.

In the meantime, Jenn and I are focusing on paying of our debts and getting me through seminary.  Seminary is not required for service with Wycliffe, but will certainly be helpful in missions.  Getting rid of debt, however, is a requirement.  So, we could certainly use your prayers in that area.  We have just completed Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey, and that has helped us a lot.  Pray that God would provide in abundance so that we can use that money to pay off debt and get on the field sooner.

Once we have paid off enough of our debt, we can begin the application process with Wycliffe.  That process will take a couple months, and once accepted we will counsel with Wycliffe to determine which language and people group we will have for our initial field assignment.  After six weeks of online orientation and a two week training session in Orlando, FL, we will then begin the process of raising funds.  We hope that you will prayerfully consider supporting our ministry if/when that time comes.  “How are they to preach unless they are sent?”  Just as important as the missionaries who take the gospel are those who send them.

Upon completion of raising the funds we need for our assignment, we will move to Dallas to attend GIAL for one year, where we will be taught the basics of language acquisition and translation.  Then, it’s off to who-knows-where.  We will work for two years on our initial field assignment.  During that time, we will work on learning the language and building relationships in the community we live in.  Then, we will come back to GIAL for another year of more specialized training before heading back overseas for our final field assignment, which will culminate with the release of a new translation of the Bible in a language that didn’t have one before.

You may or may not be called to a career in foreign missions, but we hope that you will partner with us and support us in prayer as we pursue our calling to take the gospel “where Christ has not been named” and to those “who have never heard.”  (See Romans 15:20-21)  Thanks for your dedication and support!  We will keep you posted!

The Jig is Up, Ms. Williams: If It’s Human, It’s Murder

If you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, you’ll know that there’s been quite a stir regarding abortion in the last few weeks. Having just passed the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, abortion has been the hot topic lately–even more so than usual. One particular TV commercial celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade seems to unashamedly declare what many pro-life advocates have said all along–“women’s rights” is nothing more than a clever catch phrase to afford the right of abortion to those who are sexually promiscuous. (To their credit, however, many abortion advocates are equally disgusted with the commercial’s blatant chauvinism and callousness towards the subject of abortion. Kudos to those of you who find it repulsive.) But one article seems to have broken out of the traditional arguments for abortion and, at least in my opinion, finally revealed what some abortion advocates have secretly believed this whole time and have, for good reason, kept secret.

The article I’m referring to is the one by Mary Elizabeth Williams entitled, “So What if Abortion Ends a Life?” In case you don’t have time to read her article in full, I’ve highlighted some of the important parts for you.

Let’s address a few quotes from Williams’ article:

…Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice…

Well, I suppose at least Williams has finally conceded that an unborn child is, in fact, a human life. On the other hand, how in the world does Williams concede that a fetus is a human life and still justify abortion?

…All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always…

Here’s the thrust of her argument: Women’s rights trump baby’s rights. Williams’ is willing to concede that a fetus is a human life but yet also willing to deny said life its “inalienable rights…to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I’m not sure the constitution affords you the privilege to deny the basic right of life to another human being solely on the undemonstrated basis that they have less rights than you. That’s circular reasoning: “I can deny my baby its right to life because my rights are more important than his.” Really? On what basis does another human being have less rights than you? Sounds eerily similar to the kind of logic that fueled slavery in the 1800’s and genocidal maniacs like Hitler and Stalin. (And we thought that kind of racist, genocidal thinking was confined to slave traders and Nazis…hmmm) Yet somehow abortion is championed as the path to the future and those of us who believe that “all life is created equal” are labeled as “backward” and “stuck-in-the-past,” or to use Williams’ words, “bullies, archconservatives, and wingnuts.” As a matter of fact, that’s the purpose of laws–to ensure that my rights don’t infringe upon yours. How ironic that pro-life advocates are labeled as “anti-women’s rights.” Perhaps I’m forgetting, but I don’t recall the right to an abortion in the list of inalienable rights.* I do, however, recall the right to life. And if Williams’ concedes that a fetus has life, I don’t see how she can logically deny the most basic right–the right to continue living–from her baby. Defending her belief that a fetus is a human life, Williams says:

When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born…When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?

Agreed. Bravo, Ms. Williams. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Ironically, in this much Williams’ opinion seems to be perfectly in line with God’s. (See this former post of mine regarding what the Bible has to say about the life of an unborn child.) In an attempt to justify her decision to deny the right of life to her unborn child, Williams states:

…[We] make choices about life all the time in our country. We make them about men and women in other nations. We make them about prisoners in our penal system. We make them about patients with terminal illnesses and accident victims. We still have passionate debates about the justifications of our actions as a society, but we don’t have to do it while being bullied around by the vague idea that if you say we’re talking about human life, then the jig is up, rights-wise. It seems absurd to suggest that the only thing that makes us fully human is the short ride out of some lady’s vagina. That distinction may apply neatly legally, but philosophically, surely we can do better.

I will assume that by “men and women in other nations” Williams’ is referring to victims of war. I will start by pointing out that only under certain circumstances are any of the people on this list denied their right to life and only then under careful deliberation. Not all murderers are executed, not all enemy combatants are killed, and we don’t pull the plug on every terminally ill patient. We don’t have time to discuss the intricacies of all these situations. So, conceding that there are some situations in which people of other nations (i.e.–enemy combatants, terrorists, etc.), criminals, and patients with terminal illnesses might be justifiably killed (or allowed to die), let’s think about this: enemy combatants, death row inmates, patients with terminal illnesses, babies…Which one of these is not like the others?!?! Seriously? Are we really at the point where we can compare the execution of an unborn child with that of a death row inmate? An unborn child has not “attacked” your nation, murdered anyone, and–in most cases–is not terminally ill. Mind you, Williams’ is not merely arguing for the right of a mother to abort in situations in which the life of the mother or baby is at risk–she wants unrestricted access to abortions under any circumstances–including mere inconvenience to the mother. We don’t even do that to murderers! Even murderers are given a trial first, and relatively few of them are executed. Usually, only those committing certain types of murder that are considered especially heinous are executed, and even then, many states have outlawed executions outright or rarely ever practice them. Why should it be ok to kill an innocent baby–which Williams has admitted is a human life–with less restrictions than convicted murderers? And why are we even comparing the two?!?!
But, Ms. Williams, let’s apply your reasoning further. If 1) an unborn child is, indeed, a human life every bit as much as two-year old toddler (and Williams concedes this point), and 2) I have demonstrated that the law does not afford the privilege to one human to infringe upon the inalienable rights of another human (except under the circumstances of war, executions of murders, etc.), and 3) we can reasonably say that an unborn child is not in the same category as murderers and enemy combatants, then what is the difference between the abortion of an unborn child and the killing of a toddler who is inconveniencing his mother with a temper tantrum, except, to use Ms. Williams’ words, “a short ride out of some lady’s vagina?” (Please pardon the crudeness–I would not have used that terminology except to demonstrate a fatal flaw in her argumentation.) Williams has already conceded that the unborn child is a human life, so as far as I can tell, if Williams wants to include fetuses in the exception to the right of life along with criminals and enemy combatants, why not include a toddler as well? Or your rebellious teenager? If you’re willing to grant the status of “living human being” to an unborn child, you MUST also give that human being its inalienable right to life. Rather, you don’t grant that right–it’s already there. You may not infringe upon it.

I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated from the moment she peed on those sticks, and is also now well over 40 and in an experimental drug trial. If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your *** I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion….And I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

I imagine that a great many abortion advocates will cringe at Ms. Williams’ article almost as much as I. I don’t think that Williams represents the vast majority of pro-choicers when it comes to her conviction that an unborn child is a living human being. And that’s somewhat of a relief. Williams’ brazen disrespect for life sends chills up my spine. That a mother could so callously disregard what she knows to be life inside of her on the mere basis of inconvenience is just disgusting. It make me want to puke. I can understand the argument against granting an unborn child the status of “life.” I disagree with it, but I can at least understand it on a rational level. But to acknowledge that life and blatantly argue for its extermination? Unthinkable.

Humans were created in the image of God. And if that unborn baby is human and has not committed a sin worthy of death, YOU SHALL NOT KILL. Period. You may argue against the “humanity” of an unborn fetus, but if you agree that an unborn child is a living human being created in the image of God, then yes, Ms. Williams, “the jig is up.”

*Some may argue that the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness gives the basis for the right to an abortion. I’m not convinced for two reasons: 1) the law never affords you the privilege of exercising your pursuit of happiness at the expense of another’s rights and, 2) the inconvenience to your “happiness” that is caused by pregnancy is the direct result of your pursuit of another kind of happiness. You can get yourself locked into prison for joyriding and then whine about the police taking away your rights. Similarly, you can go around having sex whenever and with whomever and then whine about getting pregnant. (I am NOT talking about rape or incest–I’m merely talking about the vast majority of pregnancies, which are caused through consensual sex.)

Taking the Good News of Jesus "To the Ends of the Earth!"