Thursday, November 11, 2010
Friday, November 05, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Monday, August 30, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Friday, June 04, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I hope you are well and enjoying the Spring! Here’s an update from the Palmers…
Some reflections from Hebrews 11 and 12
This past weekend I was invited to teach a manuscript Bible study on Hebrews 11 – 12 for a church that is connected to our Servant Partners ministry here in Los Angeles. About 85 people participated in the study, which was an interactive discussion. The group consisted of both Spanish and English speakers, so in addition to leading the Bible study, I was also translating English comments into Spanish and vice versa. It was challenging, fulfilling, and inspiring all at once. I really enjoyed the study. We talked about the way the author of Hebrews defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11.1). As we proceeded through chapters 11 and 12 we saw that that these “things not seen” specifically include God himself (11:27), and the heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal city of God that is the true homeland of people of faith (11:10, 13-16, 12:22). Faith gives us assurance and conviction that these things are real. But we also discussed how faith does not stop with merely being confident and sure of the reality of God and his eternal kingdom. People of faith also look forward to (11:10), seek after (11:14), and desire (11:16) these better, unseen things above all that this earth offers, making choices and living their lives in a way that reflects their ultimate desire and preference for God. The group was particularly challenged by the description, in 11.35-38, of people who endured great suffering by faith. We talked about how faith in God does not always issue in the conquering of obstacles and the kinds of triumphs and victories described in verses 33-35…
…who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.
In sharp contrast to these, the author of Hebrews immediately proceeds to describe a whole other set of people – no less people of faith than the former – who, among other unpleasant things, rather than escaping the edge of the sword, were killed by it. For these people, their faith brought not deliverance from suffering in this life, but the capacity to endure suffering with unbreakable hope in God and his unseen, eternal reward, though in this life deliverance never came. This is a whole other, more profound level of “victory” and “triumph” by faith – the triumph of our ultimate hope in God over the discouraging nature of our life’s circumstances. The text says that the world is not worthy of such people of faith (11.38), and that God is not ashamed to be called their God (11.16). May such testimony be true of us all, no matter what suffering life may bring! We talked about how natural it is to want to be among the former group of “victorious” people of faith, rather than the latter, suffering group. It is human nature for our hearts to desire and even expect that because we have faith in God, God should prosper us, deliver us from pain and trouble, and answer our prayers just the way we want him to. But clearly, God does not always work that way. The author of Hebrews writes that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (12.6), and then goes on to describe all the good results that God’s discipline produces in us when we endure it by faith. We talked about how God is often more concerned with using suffering and hardship in our lives to train us in faith, obedience, and holiness, than he is with delivering us from the suffering that, when faithfully endured, benefits us in those ways. I got a lot of comments after the study that it was encouraging and helpful. One person shared with me that his life was full of problems, but that he was inspired not to let any of them derail him from faith and hope in God. I hope this brief summary of our study encourages and inspires you as well in your journey of faith!
A quote to ponder:
“Man, who is born of woman, is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). It may be of great service to us, before we fall asleep, to remember this mournful fact, for it may lead us to hold lightly to earthly things. There is nothing very pleasant in the recollection that we are not above the arrows of adversity, but it may humble us and prevent us from boasting like the psalmist that our mountain stands firm, that we shall never be moved. It may prevent us from making our roots too deep in this soil from which we are so soon to be transplanted into the heavenly garden. Let us keep in mind the frail tenure upon which we hold our temporal mercies. If we remember that all the trees of earth are marked for the woodman's axe, we will not be so ready to build our nests in them. We should love, but we should love with the love that expects death, and that reckons upon separations. Our dear relations are simply loaned to us, and the hour when we must return them to the lender's hand may be sooner than we think. This is also true of our worldly goods. Do not riches take to themselves wings and fly away? Our health is equally precarious. Frail flowers of the field, we must not reckon upon blooming forever. There is a time appointed for weakness and sickness, when we will have to glorify God by suffering and not by earnest activity. There is no single point in which we can hope to escape from the sharp arrows of affliction; out of our few days there is not one secure from sorrow. Beloved reader, do not set your affections upon things of earth, but seek those things that are above, for here the moth devours, and the thief steals, but there all joys are perpetual and eternal. The path of trouble is the way home. Lord, make this thought a pillow for many a weary head! (Charles Spurgeon, from Morning and Evening, devotional reflections on Job 14.1)
Monday, May 03, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
I hope you were blessed this past weekend in the celebration of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday! I spent yesterday morning and evening reading and meditating on 1 Corinthians 15, which is all about the resurrection of the dead. It was very inspiring. I spent some time considering verse 19, in which Paul writes, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Now, I absolutely believe that life with Jesus this side of the grave is abundant and good, infused with indestructible joy, hope, and peace to which the unbelieving have no access. But verses such as this are a powerful reminder that as great as our experience of God and his love is in this life, it is so very little – such a faint glimmer or pale reflection – compared to what awaits us beyond the grave.
Therefore what awaits us is a powerful motivating principle in how we live our lives in this world. If the prospect of prosperity or gain in this world motivates us to work hard and invest time, energy, and resources, how much more so should the prospect of gain and reward in the resurrection! Paul writes, “I worked harder than any of them,” (v. 10) and “If the dead are not raised at all … why am I in danger every hour? What do I gain if … the dead are not raised?” (vs. 29-32). And he concludes the chapter by saying, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (v. 58). May Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15 inspire us all as we move forward from our celebrations of our Lord’s resurrection.
In addition to reading 1 Cor. 15 from my regular Bible, I also read “The Message” translation by Eugene Peterson, which puts the Bible into contemporary language and idioms. I enjoyed this version so much that I have typed out a long section of it at the end of this letter. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!
The Sermon on the Mount
We made it through the first half of the Sermon on the Mount in the weekly Bible study that meets in our home. We are shifting gears for the Spring and looking at the Gospel of Mark, but I hope to be able to finish the second half of the Sermon on the Mount with a group of others this Summer.
Have you ever had the experience of intending to read a book for years, but never getting to it, and then when you finally do, kind of kicking yourself for not having done so sooner, because the book is so AWESOME? That was precisely my experience as I have finally gotten around to reading D.M. Lloyd Jones’ Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. I have known about this book for 20 years, and wanted to read it all along, but never did before this past Winter. It is so fabulous, such a compelling portrait of discipleship and life in God’s kingdom, I only wish that it had enriched my life the way it has 20 years ago, instead of just now! I would be so much the better for it. Anyway, I highly encourage any of you to read it!
Later this month Mini and I are celebrating our seventh anniversary! I am so grateful for my wife and daughters.
For the joy set before us,
Dave, Mini, Lily, and Emily
PS: The excerpt from “The Message” is below, if you’d like to read that...
From “The Message” Bible translation by Eugene Peterson, excerpts from 1 Corinthians 15:
…If Christ wasn’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever… If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we’re a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries…
If God’s power stops at the cemetery gates, why do we keep doing things that suggest he’s going to clean the place out someday, pulling everyone up on their feet alive? And why do you think I keep risking my neck in this dangerous work? I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I’d do this if I wasn’t convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus? Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn’t be the end of me? Not on your life! It’s resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live. If there’s no resurrection, “We eat, we drink, the next day we die,” and that’s all there is to it…
Some skeptic is sure to ask, “Show me how resurrection works. Give me a diagram; draw me a picture. What does this ‘resurrection body’ look like?” If you look at this question closely, you realize how absurd it is. There are no diagrams for this kind of thing. But we do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between the seed and the plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different…
This image of planting a dead seed and raising a live plant is a mere sketch at best, but perhaps it will help in approaching the mystery of the resurrection body – but only if you keep in mind that when we’re raised, we’re raised for good, alive forever! The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious. Put in the ground weak, it comes up powerful. The seed sown is natural; the seed grown is supernatural – same seed, same body, but what a difference from when it goes down in physical mortality to when it is raised up in spiritual immortality!...
Let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die – but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes – it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:
“Death swallowed up by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh Death?
Oh Death, who’s afraid of you now?”…
With all this going on for us, my dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
I have just returned from nine days in Mexico City, training a group of new missionaries who are joining our team in that city. The team works in one of Mexico City’s largest slums, a community of about 750,000 people. I am always inspired by being among our missionaries who willingly and joyfully choose into hardship in order to live directly among the urban poor, and be the presence of Jesus and his kingdom in difficult places. It was a privilege to be among these new missionaries, and to participate in their training.
Among other topics of the training, we studied the Gospel of Luke together. As you probably know, the major theme of Luke’s gospel is Jesus’ welcoming love for the poor, the weak, the beggars, the lepers, the “little ones,” “those of humble estate,” the notorious sinners, the prostitutes, the tax-collectors, the “sick,” the “unclean,” the demonized, the Samaritans, the “other,” – those who were despised, disregarded, and cast aside by “respectable society.” These are the ones with whom Jesus primarily spent his time and shared his fellowship – people that Brennan Manning affectionately calls “ragamuffins.” Jesus earnestly desired that they know that to God they were not worthless, or inferior, but beloved and valuable; and that God’s kingdom (if not human society) was for such as them – those most tempted to believe that God had cursed, abandoned, or rejected them. Throughout Luke’s gospel Jesus calls the privileged, respected, “religious,” and everyone else, to prove to be a neighbor to such as these (10:29-37), not to care about them less than we care about our own children and animals (13:15-17, 14:1-6), to be generous and kind toward them in their need (12:33), to invite them into our homes, and to eat at our tables (5:29-31, 14:12-14, 15:1-2, 19:7), not merely to give to them, but to make friends with them (16:9), and in this way, to prefer greatness and reward in the kingdom of God, at the resurrection of the just, over maintaining our reputation or our exalted, honored status in society (6:22-23, 6:26, 9:46-48, 11:43, 14:7-14, 18:14, 18:17, 20:45-47, 22:24-27).
While, of course, these teachings are directed to us all, their application is a daily, inescapable reality for our missionaries who live in urban slums, and rub shoulders with “ragamuffins” day and night. Please pray for our missionaries in Mexico. Two families with children are joining the Mexico City team, and participated in the training -- Tim & Philippa, and their three sons, Hudson, Oscar, and William (from New Zealand), and Philip & Beauty, and their son Tadi and daughter Tino (from Zimbabwe). Please pray for them as these families transition into the slum community in Mexico City in the coming weeks. I enjoyed so much sharing these recent days with them in the training. Their commitment to Jesus and the gospel is admirable. I am sure the love and light of Jesus will shine from them among the poor of Mexico City.
The Sermon on the Mount
In January we began studying the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in our small group Bible studies with our church here in Long Beach. We will be working through it until June. This is one of my favorite sections of Scripture, and I have greatly enjoyed preparing for the first several studies we have done so far in the small group that meets at our home. I have been putting together some notes on each section that we study each week. If you would like to read my notes, please let me know and I would be happy to send them to you.
Emily is a year and a half, and is saying quite a lot of words now. Her favorite thing to say is, “Uh oh!” whenever she drops something or sees something fall to the floor. She also sits and “reads” her kids’ books, turning the pages and babbling eagerly with baby talk. Very cute!
Lily is 3 years and 7 months. On Monday, January 18 Lily wanted to know why the mail carrier didn’t come. I explained that it was a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, and I explained who MLK was, and that he had taught some white-skinned people how silly it was to think they were superior to black-skinned people simply because of their white skin. Then, a week later, Lily and I were talking about her “Thomas the Train” video, Steamies vs. Diesels, in which both the steamies (steam engines) and diesels (diesel engines) think they are better than the other, and so they are mean to each other. As the story goes on, the steamies and diesels have to learn to appreciate their differences, value each other, and work together. Lily made the connection to what I had told her about MLK a week before, and said, “Yeah, that’s what Martin Luther King said! The steamies and diesels don’t know about Martin Luther King yet!” :^)
We are so grateful for you and are always happy to hear from you! We pray that God’s grace, peace, and joy will be with you.
For the joy set before us,
Dave, Mini, Lily, and Emily
A quote to ponder:
O that God should desire that my interpretation and that of all teachers should disappear, and each Christian should come straight to the Scripture alone and to the pure word of God! You see from this babbling of mine the immeasurable difference between the word of God and all human words, and how no man can adequately reach and explain a single word of God with all his words. It is an eternal word and must be understood and contemplated with a quiet mind. Go to the Bible itself, dear Christians, and let my expositions and those of all scholars be no more than a tool with which to build aright, so that we can understand, taste, and abide in the simple and pure word of God; for God dwells alone in Zion. (Martin Luther, 1522)
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Here is our prayer letter for January 2010...
Friday, January 15, 2010
We hope and pray that you enjoyed the holidays, and 2010 is off to a good start for you!
Thank you so much for praying for me at Urbana in late December. I thoroughly enjoyed the manuscript study that I led each morning, as well as the entire convention. I was a little nervous about leading such a large Bible study (it turned out to be about 700 people), since prior to Urbana the largest group Bible study I had led was “only” about 100 people. :^) But the studies went just great, and it turned out being very encouraging and fun to lead in that context. All of the participants in the Bible study I led had signed up beforehand for the International Poverty Track, so these were all people with a particular interest in or calling to the world’s poor. I had some great conversations with some of them after each study. It was great to study the Scripture and look at the example of Jesus with so many hundreds of young people who desire to be a blessing to the poor. I have been told that about 200 of them made commitments at Urbana to serve among the urban poor longer term. Very exciting!
The convention as a whole was also fabulous. This was my sixth Urbana, and was certainly my favorite in terms of the teaching in the main sessions. The convention theme was “He lived among us,” from John 1:14. Many of the speakers unpacked the significance of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and how it is a model for our own ministry and mission in this world. We heard testimonies from missionaries who have lived and ministered among the poor in some of the most difficult and desperate places on earth, and who face danger and even death so that others may come to know the heart and nature of God. We also heard from people who have “stayed home” and have earned a lot of money through their businesses / work over the years, yet have chosen to live a “missionary lifestyle” in the US, and give everything else that they earn to purposes advancing God’s Kingdom. It was inspiring and challenging to be called to live our lives with a singular purpose of seeking God’s Kingdom. I was happy that the convention as a whole had such an emphasis on incarnational mission among the poor. In a world in which more than half of the human population now lives on less than $3 per day, and globally, the gap between the “have’s” and “have-not’s” is greater than ever before, I think it was a very appropriate and timely emphasis!
Teaching in Mexico City
I will be traveling again in just over three weeks. Servant Partners is hosting a Global Urban Training School in Mexico City for new staff preparing to begin their ministries on the field. I am scheduled to teach at this training school from February 9 – 17. It has been 21 years since I spent a year in Mexico City as a 20-year-old, and I am excited about going back! :^) Please pray for my teaching in February, and also for Mini, Lily, and Emily at home while I am away.
May God bless you with every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ throughout this year! We love you and are always happy to hear from you.
For the joy set before us,
Dave, Mini, Lily, and Emily
A quote to ponder:
The essential thing in heaven and on earth is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction. There thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living. (Friedrich Neitzsche)