Blog – Renita

  • Why Asia and South America? Isn't DML an African ministry?

    In a recent blog post, I announced that the DML team would be traveling to Asia and South America over the next few months, to launch DML.  

    Some of you may be wondering why we would be doing this - are we not mostly an African ministry?  Is there not more work to do in Africa?  Has the curriculum not been mostly formed for African churches and businesses?

    To these questions, I would say, "Yes, yes, and yes."  And then I would add, "But..."

    DML was started, formed, and developed in West and East Africa.  That continues to be the place where we do most of our learning.  Our DML teams across Africa are continually testing and trying ways to see how to help the local church and denominations be change agents in the marketplace, and to reclaim the marketplace for Christ through the local church.  Africa will always be further ahead in the implementation of DML than any other place and we continue to learn from what are teams/church denominations are doing there.  

    There is still more work to be done in Africa.  Our teams, in most places, have captured one or two denominations, have set up trainings in a few of the cities and there is much more opportunity in every place!  Additionally, there are many more countries in Africa that can be reached with this message of the integration of faith and work through the local church.  

    BUT the good news is that our teams are responding to these requests.  Our teams in Burkina Faso are reaching Cote d'Ivoire and Gabon.  Our team in Nigeria is reaching Botswana.  Our DML leader in Tanzania is speaking to a team in South Africa.  This is happening naturally as people from different countries hear our teams speak.  We praise God for this!

    DML has committed from the beginning to work on a "pull" rather than a "push."  That means that we would not look for opportunities to go to different places, but rather wait for a pull from a place and discern whether that pull was a good fit for who we are at the time.  

    In 2019, DML met with an organization out of Texas called "Global Advance."  They serve and equip pastors and church leaders, and also had a passion for reclaiming the marketplace for Christ but didn't have the tools necessary to make that happen.  Global Advance had a strong pull from their teams in Asia and South America for this.  In 2020, we started a formal partnership with them, and our goal was to equip their leaders who had a desire to reach the marketplace through the local church. Since then, our teams have trained their leaders in eight countries where they are working, and this summer we will help two of those teams to officially launch. 

    What is exciting about this is that we don't have to vet these requests or partners but because of our relationship with Global Advance and their long-term relationships with their partners, we can jump right in and get going.  

    The curriculum does need to change slightly in the approach as many parts of Asia do not have nearly the number of churches/Christians as Africa.  Some have very strong opposition to anything Christian being brought into the country, so I have to be careful even in writing this blog.  We need to learn about the religions and cultures in these places and adjust them accordingly.  Thankfully we do have partners who are helping us through that.

    We thank God for these opportunities, and we covet your prayers as we go outside of the places that we know a tiny bit about, to places that we know even less about!  

  • Weddings and Wisdom and Writing, oh my!

    Wedding:  The wedding of my son, Noah, to his bride Hannah, was a beautiful and joyous event.  We don't have many pictures yet, as we relied on the photographer and kept our phones in our pockets, but I have a couple that I can share with you.  We welcome Hannah to our family (formally - she has been part of our family for six years already!).

    Now we begin to focus on my daughter Hannah's wedding in less than four months!  Such joy!  Such blessings!

    Wisdom:  I received so much excellent feedback from many of you as it relates to workshop titles that would resonate with North American pastors and church leaders.  Several of you actually asked your pastors for feedback, others of you proposed excellent alternatives, and still others proposed sound methodology that we will be taking under consideration going forward.  I feel so blessed that you take the time to read and respond in such thoughtful ways!  It makes the body of Christ very real and alive to me - thank you!  

    Writing:  This past week had the additional joy of completing a year-long project of writing a paper for the BAM (Business as Mission) Global Think Tank.  The subject of the paper was "BAM and the Church" and involved three key areas:  the theological challenges inherent in the sacred/secular divide, the structural challenges of the local church in engaging the marketplace, and the cultural challenges found in many parts of the world regarding the view of work and the perception of the role of the church.

    This was a group project with contributions from faith & work leaders from around the world.  Anyone who remembers doing group projects in college or high school can likely recall both their joy and the struggles, and when you add in about twelve time zones, different styles of writing, and different voices, it did become a complicated task!  But we are all happy with the final draft and we hope to be able to release not too long from now.  

    God is good!

    Pastor David Beelen, the pastor Noah has known his whole life, officiated the wedding.
    Noah's side of the family including my mom, one sister, brother, nephew.  It was good to be together!
  • Feedback Requested

    The ministry of Discipling Marketplace Leaders was started and grown in both East, West, and Central Africa.  It is now beginning to be exported from Africa to other parts of the world.  I'm excited to announce that in June, we will be in Asia for three weeks, meeting with three partners.  And in August, we will be in Brazil meeting with a different partner.  God is opening doors and we are thankful for the opportunity to join Him in His work.

    Many of you have been reading this blog for some time and have an understanding of our goal to have every Christian understand their calling and mission in every workplace.  That means what we do is important (and we are to do our work with excellence), how we do our work matters as we are Christ's ambassadors, understanding why we work (flourishing of creation and humanity), and where are called to work (in every space and place where work leads to flourishing) matters!

    And many of you have said at one time or another, "We need this in the US."  In fact, I have been asked the following occasionally by Africans, "This must be working well in the US for you to bring it to Africa."  I have to let them know that this was started and shaped by African pastors and businesspeople and now can be exported to the rest of the world.

    But getting traction in the US is not easy.  There are many reasons that I believe are the cause of that, but today I'm looking for feedback on how we can attract busy pastors and church leaders to at least stop and hear the message of discipleship for the workplace.  

    To that end, I have created a number of titles for a one-hour or two-hour workshop and would love your feedback for which you think would resonate with a pastor in the US or Canada.  It is our belief that almost every pastor wants to be making disciples and see transformation happen in and through their members.  Understanding that common vision, we would like to offer a title that would capture enough attention for a busy pastor to make space in his/her calendar to attend.  Our offerings are:

  •  The Purpose of Sunday is Monday
  •  Whole Life Discipleship:  Every Place and Every Space
  • Meeting God at Work
  • Unleashing the Church:  From Sunday Christians to Everyday Christians
  • Preparing the Church for a Post-Christian World
  • Would you be willing to think about which might resonate with pastors and send me a brief response?
    This week my son, Noah, gets married so I will be slow on responses but will respond as soon as I can.
    Scholarship Campaign Update:  We are so thankful for the Gospel Patrons who joined our scholarship campaign during the month of April!  Whether you have been a Gospel Patron with DML for some time or you are new through the campaign, we thank God for you!  Although we did not quite meet or goal of $30,000 in April, if you are interested, there is still time to contribute to the message of "work as worship" going far and wide!  Click here for more details.

  • Garden to Graveyard, Graveyard to Garden

    Yesterday we celebrated Easter, the resurrection of Jesus. 

    Sometimes celebrating Easter is difficult when in the midst of seeing suffering and death all around.  From a shooting death in what should be simple traffic stop in Grand Rapids MI, to kidnappings in Kaduna Nigeria, to the war in Ukraine, the words "death where is your victory" can sometimes ring hollow.

    But yesterday I was reminded of the shift from garden to graveyard, and then graveyard to garden.  Our pastor reminded us that in the recounting of the fall in Genesis 3, Eden moved from being a Garden to being a Graveyard.  Adam and Eve, who were created to work and care for the garden, suddenly knew death. This garden that was created for flourishing and life had the shadow of death cast over it.

    From that time on, the world knew daily the reality of the graveyard.  

    But then Jesus came to earth, lived and died, and was buried in a tomb which was located in a garden.  He defeats death.  And the first person He appears to, Mary Magdalene, confuses Him for a gardener (John 20:15). 

    And as it turns out, she is not mistaken.  Our God and Father, and Jesus the Son, are indeed gardeners.

    Author Larry Peabody (God Loves Your Work) reminds us that God used words in the creation of this world.  Genesis 1 says over and again, "And God said..."  But when God made man, there is different terminology.  God "formed" man and "took the rib" from man to form woman.  You can speak from a distance, but God's hands got dirty when making humanity.

    During Jesus' time on earth, his hands got dirty again.  Very dirty.  Calloused, splintered, and injured as a carpenter for 18 years, and then scarred as the nails pierced them as a result of an unjust trial, sentence, and execution.  

    You can't garden from a distance.  You have to get your hands dirty in the soil.  And thankfully, God does not garden from a distance.  We are told in John 5:17 that, "My Father is always working, and so am I."  

    And each of us, in our own gardens, cannot garden from a distance.  And so, our hands get dirty with the invasive species of sin that has filled our own gardens:  in our homes, with our loved ones, in our churches, in our communities, in our nations, and in our world.

    Death has lost its victory and has lost its sting.  The graveyard has become a garden again.  

    We lament when there is death and sickness and suffering.  We lament when there is war and kidnappings and fear. 

    But we do not despair.  We do not grieve as if we have no hope.  Rather we join the God that saved us by getting His hands dirty and continue to get our own hands dirty.  We get in the dirt, we pull the weeds, we plant the seeds, we labor as gardeners using our time, treasure, and talent.

    And in so doing, we strive to join with our Father in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, a little bit at a time.  

    I thank God for an Easter that allows for both lament and rejoicing, for the now and the not yet.

  • Keeping it real: We were made to work!

    This week, our partner from Burkina Faso posted this video on our Global DML WhatsApp platform, with this comment:  

    Work is just part of our spiritual and physical DNA. Even when we lose all our ability, we still want to work because Work is part of God's image in us.

    When I watched the video, I was struck by two things:

  • I should never complain about hard work!
  • The need, desire, and joy of work is deep and real!
  • This joy in work has been frustrated by sin.  As we see people rediscover their joy and purpose in work, we find that there is an attitude change which then results in greater productivity!  When I work for money or I work without joy, my eyes are cast down on myself.  But when I work as a calling, work for the Lord or for the flourishing of humanity and creation, my eyes are lifted up!

    For those who are partnered with us in getting this message out, we thank you!  If you are not, we invite you to join us in our effort to get this message across Africa and beyond by becoming a Gospel Patron!  For more information or to join us, please click here.

  • DML's Scholarship Campaign

    Discipling Marketplace Leaders is running a scholarship campaign during the month of April, in an effort to raise $30,000 in 30 days to provide scholarships to pastors, church leaders, and marketplace ministers through our partners across Africa and Nicaragua.  These scholarships allow these leaders to attend DML workshops and trainings and access the on-going support and resources to implement workplace ministries in their church as well as mentoring for business leaders. 

    That is a goal of $1000/day and I am praying the goal will be met so that we can continue to spread the message of a healthy theology of work! 

    In 2021, we were able to train almost 3,000 pulpit pastors and 6,400 marketplace ministers, many of whom paid fees to cover the costs of these trainings but for those 10% who had financial challenges, these scholarship funds covered their expenses, which allowed for more people to hear this good news!  

    It only costs about $20/person to have a pulpit pastor/church leader attend our foundational workshop and about $50/person for a business owner to go through our twelve-week workshop. And we know that these trainings will help churches equip the priesthood of believers to be the church every day of the week, and will also increase profit, household income, and create jobs in the businesses!

    We can't do this without your support!  As a donor, you become a "gospel patron" on the DML team.  

    During April, we will be sharing a number of brief videos that our partners have sent of pulpit pastors and marketplace ministers who share the importance of understanding that God works, that we were created to work, and that work can be an act of worship. Here is a brief video from our partner in Burundi.  The language that is being spoken is Kirundi, but the subtitles are in English.

    Please consider joining us in April by giving toward this goal!  Click here for more information.

    As I stuffed envelopes for this campaign, I had to chuckle over the picture below, sent to me by someone in the fundraising arena.  This feels true at times!  But God is so good in calling us to link arms together to combine the three resources (time, treasure and talent) that God has given each of us in order for us to work together for the flourishing of humankind and creation, to the glory of God.  Amen?

  • Law of Three Generations

    I don't know if you have heard of the Law of Three Generations for Christians.  I am told this comes from Bruce Wilkinson who also describes this as the "Powerful Principle of Three Chairs."

    Imagine three chairs side by side.  Each chair represents a different person and their faith, with three different levels of commitment toward God.  Every person reading this blog is sitting in one of those chairs.  You can decide where you sit but you cannot decide the consequences of that decision. 

    The first chair is called "commitment." This person has a whole heart for God and a personal relationship with Jesus.  This person is deeply committed to Jesus in all they do.  An example of a person sitting in this first chair would be David.

    The second chair is called "compromise." This person has accepted Christ but hasn't decided how much or little to follow Him.  They agree with the beliefs of the first chair and appears to follow the "Christian lifestyle" but there is inconsistency and instability.  Children who grow up in a Christian home tend to sit in this second chair.  It's also easy for a Christian to slide from the first chair to the second chair.  An example of this would be David's son, Solomon. 

    The third chair is called "conflict."  This person has not responded personally to God and may be confused by their spiritual condition.  If he/she has grown up in a Christian home, they may look and act like those in the other chairs, but there is a gulf between this person and God.  A person who grows up in the home of the second chair tends to sit in the third chair.  They saw Christianity in name only and therefore reject it when they are older.  An example of this would be Solomon's son, Rehoboam.

    Here is another example of the three chairs, in three generations, from Joshua and Judges:

    And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. So the people answered and said: Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods… So the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord which He had done for Israel…. When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. (Judges 24:15-16; Judges 2:7, 10)

    • First Chair:  Joshua knew God and His works.
    • Second Chair:  The elders knew about God and His works.
    • Third Chair:  The children of the elders did not know God or His works.

    I've been thinking about this a lot of late, especially because of conversations with Europeans who appear to be in a post-Christian era, conversations in the United States who seem to be heading toward a post-Christian era, and conversations with Africans who seem to still be in-between the first and second generation.   Our DML bible study on Nehemiah reminds us of the pattern of the generational forgetting of God when things go well and then remembering when crisis happens.

    To know God and to know about God are very different.  

    I continue to pray that we, as the Global Church, pursue making disciples who experience no sacred/secular divide which will allow us to see God in every place and every space, and not relegate Him only to the church building and Sunday worship.  That is not the full answer, but I do think it is an important part of it.

  • Crap Detector #2: The Role of Prayer

    A couple of weeks ago, I reintroduced you to my "crap detector," my inner alarm that goes off at times related to my passion or areas of study.  Crap detectors are very personally tuned, and mine is likely differently calibrated than those of others around me or some of my readers.  I thought I would share three different things that set off my crap detector.  I first shared about the way "blessing" sets it off, when Christinas bask in blessing as passive receiving rather than seeing it as God's active equipping.  Today I want to talk about how some talk about prayer sets my crap detector abuzz.  I do so with some fear and trembling because there is a danger that I may be misunderstood but let me proceed and trust you to hear me out.

    Over the seventeen years that I have lived and worked in Africa, I have heard many a pastor and church leader boast about how much they pray.  Many tell that this spiritual practice usually comes at the cost of sleep.  There can be a subtle competition among Christians about how little sleep one gets because one is up so early or late praying.  Most of the time, these comments are met with murmurs of "wow" and respect is given to the person who seems so dedicated to God.

    On my last trip to East Africa, some of the pastors in our workshop, were nodding off and dozing in their chairs at 9 am. This was way before we could blame the carbs they ate at lunch or the heat of the day.  I knew that some were nodding off because they had only gotten four or five hours of sleep and had gotten up at 4 am to pray.  I wondered to myself, "Is this what faithfulness looks like?  Is it more important to be up praying than to accept sleep as a God-given gift?  What if that early prayer time prevents you from not being able to stay awake at 9 am during a workshop where God may have a message for you?  How many of the dozing pastors had boasted that they "don't need much sleep" because they choose to pray but find themselves instead napping through the day?"  This sets my crap detector to a level one low buzz.  

    It made me wonder, how do we, as Christians, figure out where, when, and how much prayer should fit into our lives?  

    There are two things I know:

    • God is the only one who does not slumber or sleep.  The rest of us need sleep.  Scientists continue to discover the importance of sleep on our lives and its effect on our health and wellbeing.  They say we need seven to eight hours of sleep per night.  And that is the rule - not the exception.  I can't tell you how many people I hear say, "Well, I don't need that much sleep."  Actually, you do.  It's a fact.  There may be exceptions to the rule, but those are rare, and while people may say they are an exception, there is usually a cost somewhere that they may not even be aware of.  Read the excellent book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker to learn more.
    • I know that almost EVERYONE complains almost all the time about how busy they are.  It's one of our favorite pastimes. 
    Therefore, I know that if we are so busy during the day AND we need seven to eight hours of sleep per night, it makes it difficult to find time for prayer.  Do I give up work?  Time with family?  Sleep?
    Where is the time for prayer?  There is no one way or pattern, and no easy answer to these questions.  
    How much prayer is the right amount?  One hour per day?  Two hours?  More?  Less?    Do we do what Martin Luther said, "I have so much to do that I will spend the first three hours in prayer."  At what point do we move from prayer to action?  Certainly, one would say Luther's example is admirable but is that something we can manage every day?  
    A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon on prayer.  The preacher said that "prayer is more important than other ministries." Then added to that statement that "prayer tells us about our love for God."  The preacher complained that "few people were coming to the church's prayer meetings."  
    My "crap detector" started going off and I glanced around hoping that no one would notice its loud buzzing.  I would not use the words "more important" but rather that prayer should be the foundation of every ministry.  The following heavy statements about love of God followed by attendance of church meetings was a good recipe for guilt for members.  I wondered whether this pastor was assuming that because we aren't praying in the church building, that therefore we as a church (the people) are not praying?  The sacred/secular divide rears its ugly head again.  The church was being defined by what happens in the building (church gathered), not by what happens to the equipped people when they are the church scattered from Monday-Saturday.
    The ministry of DML holds three one-hour prayer meetings every week, which I rarely miss.  DML leadership doesn't expect pastors, elders, or deacons from our churches to make regular appearances in our ministry meetings.  Likewise when some from the gathered church may have a workplace prayer meeting or Bible study, church leaders and staff don't usually make an appearance.  My crap detector started buzzing as the sacred/secular divide seemed to assume that unless we attended the gathered church's prayer meeting, then is it assumed that our prayer lives were deficient, or that our love for God might also be deficient?  There were no questions by the pastor about what we are doing related to prayer, just assumptions about what we are not doing.
    I find that in Africa as well as North America, or maybe just around Christians in general, there is lots of guilt about prayer.  As a person well acquainted with guilt, my crap detector goes off quickly when I hear it as it is so often abused and does not invite people into a more responsive faith.  
    I am a firm believer in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

    This threefold structure of rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks is something that helps us integrate our faith into our lives.  Some have described it as a framework of freedom, not a set of rules that restrict us, but a way of living out our faith in the context of our work and community.  

    There is a time for dedicated prayer.  There are some who are called to be intercessors.  Prayer is a critical part of us being in relationship with God and listening prayer (rather than listing all my concerns) is how we hear God.  But how that looks for each person is going to be a bit different.  Let's give grace and space for those differences and ask more questions of each other to learn what that looks like in each other's workplace or home space.

    I invite you again to share with me how and where your "crap detector" goes off, or how you balance your prayer life!

  • Reed Family Update: Engagement Parties and How to be Chopped!

    This is going to be quite an exciting year for our family.  My son Noah and his fiancée, Hannah Birmingham, will be getting married on May 6, 2022.  My daughter Hannah and her fiancé, Matt Koster, will be getting married on September 10, 2022.  Four months apart, and lots of intense wedding planning, which is so much fun!

    Since both of my children and their beloved having been living independently for some time, they both declared that they didn't need wedding showers, so we decided to hold engagement parties for them instead.  And as we talked about fun things to do at an engagement party, we all agreed that our family's love for cooking shows would be a fun theme.  So, on November 27, we held a "Chopped" Engagement Party for Noah and his Hannah; and on February 20, we held a "Chopped" Engagement Party for Hannah and Matt.  We had grandmothers, aunts and uncles, parents, siblings, groomsmen and bridesmaids and their significant others and more!  Both parties were really a lot of fun, so I'm sharing this with you with bunches of photos!
    If you aren't familiar with the show Chopped, the idea (which we modified for our own delight) is that teams of two have to cook with mystery food ingredients, in a limited amount of time, with a variety of sabotages that can also be thrown their way.  Then judges judge the food based on taste, presentation, and the use of the mystery ingredients.  They had to cook with artichokes, plantains, tomatillos, and other fun ingredients for the entree; and for the dessert, they had to figure out how to make a tasty dessert with root beer, pomegranate, Cheetos, and other fun ingredients!
    The sabotages they had to deal with included having their hands tied together (with a garter of course - it's a wedding theme!) for the whole cooking round; for one member to have to hold a bouquet in one hand for the whole cooking round; to wear "Team Bride" glasses, which have very limited vision, for the whole round, and more.  There was tension, laughter, frustration, and fun, all wrapped up in what turned out to be very successful and tasty dishes over all!  
    Enjoy these pictures!  I'll put Noah's engagement party pictures first, then Hannah's engagement party pictures.  
    Noah and Hannah Birmingham's party:
    Those who cooked for Noah and Hannah B's party - Hannah Reed was the MC.
    The bride and groom to be...and yes, Noah felt left out of festive dressing, so he is wearing the veil.  (Is he a little bit like his dad?  Absolutely!

    Some of the beautiful plates of food, and the judges for Noah and Hannah's party (including the bride-to-be, and my husband Michael, who both did a great job!)
    Hannah and Matt Koster's party:
    Brother and sister, getting married four months apart.  Love these two! 
    Hannah and Matt opening a few kitchen presents that could be used for the Chopped party, and then would end up in their home.
    The Grooms team - Matt with his groomsmen as well as his sister, who will stand up for him - cooking for Team Groom!
    The bride's team - Hannah's maid of honor and bridesmaids, as well as her brother who will stand up for her - cooking for Team Bride!
    Bride and groom as judges, as well as one of Hannah's bridesmaids and Matt's grandmother!  (And yes, you had to be a bit brave to eat this food, so I give her props!)
    Noah and one of Hannah's bridesmaids trying to cook while tied together.  Not easy to do!

    Trying to make a dessert while holding a bouquet!  Mwah ha ha ha ha!
    The Team Bride sunglasses, which only has pinholes through which to see.  But the pie looks pretty good, doesn't it!

    All in all, a fun time.  We have decided that we will do these types of competitions on our own as a family, as we enjoyed it so much.  But not until after the weddings!  
    Bob is not far from our thoughts with all of this - his missing these upcoming events with his children and our missing his presence and input.   He has missed so much already in the last twelve years.  While the amount of time since he left us continues to grow, our missing him at these big events does not lessen.  But God is still good!
  • Crap Detector #1: Blessings - Passive Receiving or Active Equipping?

    When I look back over my own faith journey, I'm sometimes surprised to realize that I've essentially been pastored by two men.  From birth to age 17, I attended the churches where my father was the pastor.  At age 17, I moved from Canada to Grand Rapids and started attending Madison Square Church, and Pastor David Beelen was my pastor until he retired a couple of years ago.  That is a lot of years of influence on my life and faith, especially from Pastor Dave!  

    A recurring exhortation that Pastor Dave would use in his teaching was that all Christians need to fine-tune their own "crap detectors" in order to determine what was Biblical truth and what was not.  I remember chuckling over that phrase - one that my father, the other pastor in my life, would NEVER have used and definitely not from the pulpit!  What's even better is that Pastor Dave had a "crap detector" built and brought it to the pulpit on many a Sunday to press home the illustration.  His goal was to get us to not blindly accept what was taught from the pulpit or anywhere else, but to learn the word of God and bury it in our hearts.

    Over the years, my crap detector has become finetuned in detecting some specific foul-smelling errors relating to my passion and my work.  My crap detector has been known to go off when I hear or read false or muddled unbiblical ideas especially around the concepts of the sacred/secular divide, the theology of work, and the purpose of our place in creation.  Others may have their crap detector attuned to different biblical issues and problems.  For my husband, Michael, for example, who has spent his adult life being an editor for New Testament studies and theology, his crap detector is very attuned toward Pauline studies and matters relating to what Paul teaches.

    I pray your indulgence as I am going to spend a few blogs pointing out where my crap detector has been going off lately. I hope that in sharing these things within the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit will help us all to be attuned to God's word, keeping our "crap detectors" finely tuned for the falsehoods that so easily pose as truth.

    The first alarm bell I want to sound is the way Christians misunderstand and misuse the word "blessing."  My crap detector has gone off for some time when I hear how believers use this word, but only recently has it become clearer to me why this is so. 

    My crap detector has gone off when I hear Americans talk about how blessed we are to live in this country of relative safety, wealth, and opportunity.  Don't get me wrong, I am thankful to live in the US, especially all the more so this last week with the war between Russia and the Ukraine.  However, in my mind, I wondered when I hear such things from other believers: "Is this really a blessing?  The way in which our country has achieved our current state of prosperity and relative peace was not exactly 'Christian' in many ways.  How do we now get to say, 'Thank God for these blessings?'  

    A secondary bell goes off on the old detector as well. Doesn't this level of 'blessing' that we so enjoy tend to lead to complacency, apathy, and express itself in a lack of need for God?  Are we not fast moving toward a post-Christian era in the US because of our individual, cultural, even spiritual attitude toward these "blessings?" Would not the flip side be that if this prosperity and relative peace is blessing for us, then Ukraine is not blessed?  Or there is no blessing for Nigeria, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, or other countries dealing with on-going conflict or poverty?  Intentional or not, we, as Americans, thank God and cling to these privileges received as blessings, as if they are richly deserved.

    To be fair, my crap detector has also sounded when I have left American shores. It's gone off when, for example, I hear Africans praying for blessings.  Frequently enough, there has been a subtle (or less than subtle) subtext that to receive a blessing, a believer must have enough faith, or spend enough time in prayer, or plant a large enough seed, or be holy enough.  In this case, it's as if the blessing is earned.

    Maybe my crap detector has become heightened to the question of "blessing" because of Bob's death.  Many missionaries talk about how blessed they have been by God in His protection; that was not something I could say after Bob's death.  Or maybe it has become sharpened through spending so much time in countries with poverty, disease, conflict, and war, so that when I hear North American Christians pray for what we enjoy and describe as "blessings," it sounds hollow and superficial. What we in the US might perceive as a lack of blessings, may be the rich fertile soil for a deeper understanding.  As New Testament believers and Christians in most of the world know from experience, even as we are going through trials, it does not mean that we are not blessed. Both Matthew 5:5-6 and James 1:12 reminds us that we are blessed when we are under trial and persecution. (Matthew 5:5-6, Message version: "You're blessed when you are at the end of your rope.  With less of you there is more of God and his rule.  You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you." James 1:12 - "Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.") In this case, blessings are not an event or a material good, but it is the loving word of our Father over our lives that is revealed on our life's journey.

    Blessings cannot be earned NOR are they deserved NOR are they an event.  

    Blessing is an empowering or an equipping.  It is not passive receiving.

    God does not ask us to do something without empowering us to do what He is asking.  His blessings are an active equipping.  In Genesis 1:28, we were blessed before we did anything, in order for us to fulfil our purpose on this earth.  We are blessed to be fruitful.  We are blessed to reign. Those blessings are for all nations, for all people, made in HIS image, flourishing in this amazing world that He has created, with resources for all to use for our own flourishing and the flourishing of others.  

    We are blessed to be a blessing just like Abraham (Genesis 12:2 and Galatians 3:9).

    Inherent in this is that we should be careful when we pray for a blessing.  To whom it is given, much is required.  We are to pass that blessing on to others.  We are to keep open hands before the Lord when He gives blessings.  These blessings are not ours to hold tight to and try to control.  But rather, with open hands, we give the opportunity for these blessings to be a renewable resource that can make nations great, and people flourish.

    Does your crap detector go off when reading this blog?  If so, please feel free to write me at  And I would also love to hear what makes your crap detector go off!