All posts by Jonathan

Husband, father, friend, disciple, teacher, thinker, encourager, rider, runner, giver.

Single Biggest Problem

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” That’s a quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw that in some way addresses my new role at Black Forest Academy, BFA. Like tap water and stocked grocery shelves our communication with others is something that most of us take for granted. It’s just there and we never give it a second thought.

I am now a part of the BFA Communications team. This is a more than full-time role as we develop a multimedia base that will compliment the excellent print and web tools we already have in place and will support the Great Commission and the mission of the school. I am excited because this opportunity will let me work into my strengths and experiences while continuing to have an impact in the lives of the student body. The work that I do should have a direct effect on the entire staff, the missionary parents, and our network of supporters around the globe. I am humbled to serve and equip so many.

I don’t want to simply assume that I am communicating God’s faithfulness that He demonstrates daily at BFA. The fingerprints of His sovereign hand are all over this place, but do others know? I want my work to be like a 21st-century bull horn constantly telling the world about God’s amazing love for missionary kids, Christians and all of creation. We can’t overtly slap the gospel message into every video, but we can produce each one with excellence to accurately communicate who God is and what he is doing around the world.

Switchboard operators (black and white)
The old way of communicating

Would you pray for me and the entire communications team that the “single biggest problem” wouldn’t even be an issue in the coming year? We want to be faithful and effective! Thank you. In that spirit, what would you like to know? In your opinion what are some of the important things that we should communicate to the world beyond Kandern? Leave your comment below and help us insure that we are communicating well! 

Love to Play. Play to Love.

Recently Eli has been a part of a play group with other local German women and children. Although he is the youngest child there, it’s a chance for him to dance, hear fluent German, and exercise… if he’s not sleeping. The play group is designed as a community outreach.  There are only a couple of Christians in the group.  Even though we are still learning the language, it’s a great opportunity to love others like Jesus does through our actions.  God continues to give the Griesse family chances to reach out, outside of our comfort zone, and share the hope and the joy that we have.  Thank the Lord for Eli, who at his young age is already demonstrating how to love others even while he’s playing! 

Working

This past week has been spent mowing grass, washing trash cans and hauling gravel at the Black Forest Academy campuses to prepare for the school year and to make some simple, sweat-equity improvements. It’s hard work, but these days of sweating and straining have brought two things to mind, 1) the way I and many believers have unjustly elevated certain jobs and ministries over others, and 2) the way we distort and misunderstand ministry.

One thing that the Holy Spirit is doing in the 21st Century church is leveling the playing field when it comes to leadership. Check out the organizational chart in some of today’s most effective churches and you’ll find that it is a lot flatter than in the past. It’s not just the staff, pastors and a hierarchy of leaders who are making a difference. It’s the congregation who is having a real impact in the local community and around the globe. Praise the Lord that ministry is no longer the sole (or soul) responsibility of the pastor!

Being a minister is not about a degree a salary or a title. It’s about sharing the hope of the gospel by stepping out from behind the comfortable walls we’ve built and into the challenging spots where God has placed us. Then… BAM!, we plant our feet in the enemy’s territory answering the Great Commission by reclaiming that place as the Lord’s! You are there and you represent Him.

Whether you are in the board room or working third shift on the Tyson processing line, claim that place as the Lord’s! Whether you are designing and building the newest elder-care facility, or if you’ll be the one cleaning out the patient’s bed pans, you are a minister, a missionary, a Kingdom worker reclaiming and restoring that which was lost. You are representing The Coming King!

If we are mowing, teaching, selling, serving, coaching, washing, leading, hauling or sweating, let’s be an expression of God’s love for the world. We are not here to sit and wait for some magic moment or rapture, but to be a faithful reflection of hope among the lost and broken. Work hard, give God the glory and pray for His renewal in your life and others.

In the coming days as I grab my shovel, pick up the wheelbarrow, or pull the starter cord on the mower, I’ll think of you, faithful brothers and sisters, you who are my co-laborers with Christ. Grace and peace as you step out into the world for the work that lies ahead.

 

Some supporting Scriptures: Ecclesiastes 9:10, Psalm 90:16-17, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

 

Fragile

middle Rhine bridge
Mittlere Rheinbrüke

It happened around the time I was 37.2 years old. How do I know that? …because I was on a weekend retreat called The Walk to Emmaus and someone made a comment that the median life expectancy for an American male was 74.4 years. I did the math instead of listening to the speaker. Give or take a few days, my life was exactly half over! Sure that was only statistically, but it was a real wake up call for me. I barely heard anything else the remainder of the evening. I kept repeating in my head, “My life is half over. I only have half of my life left!”

It’s a humbling thought to consider how temporary and fleeting this life is. In James 4:13-15, the Bible speaks of our lifetimes as “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Even Sting the pop star has a beautiful song with the repeating chorus “how fragile we are.” I’m not sure where I heard it, but I say this phrase a lot, “Life is terminal.”

So am I a fatalist? Am I a Debbie downer? No. I’m really a guy who’s very hopeful and optimistic. Those of you who know me well… help me out here! Here’s what I’m trying to say. If your life is half over, what are you going to do with the rest of it? Pastor Chip Ingram tells of a retired church member who long outlived the 74.4 year average. This elderly gentleman showed his wisdom when he told his pastor, “If I would have known I was going to live this long, I wouldn’t have spent so much time working on my golf game.”

Valerie and I both celebrated birthdays this month, our first since heading out to serve in international missions. It’s not been easy, but every day of our remaining “37.2 years” is a gift from God that we wanted to give back to Him. Yes. We’re another year older. Yes. My half-way marker was awhile ago. But I love the Apostle Paul’s words paraphrased by Eugene Peterson, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.”

2 Corinthians 4:16 [The Message]

No matter how young or old you are, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. Not a day. I hope that you will experience that in your life and make the most of every day you are given!

Photo note: This picture was taken at the halfway point across the Rhine River in Basel, Switzerland on the Mittlere Rheinbrücke or middle Rhein bridge.

The path to Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

The Days Ahead

The path to Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
The path to Omaha Beach

Two down. Only one resolution remains. I’m not sure why we set resolutions each year, but I think part of it is so that we can cling to some tiny piece of false control when we look ahead at the unknown in the 365 days ahead. Thankfully my final goal that remains has a lot more to do with God’s great love and less to do with my daily habits or personal performance.

Last week, I ran across a story, one of the “behind the scenes” pieces of the Israel’s Exodus and the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 33, we catch an amazing dialog between a merciful Heavenly Father and His reluctant but willing servant, Moses. Note: this is the same righteous, “Old Testament” God who brought death and destruction earlier in the story; both are part of His divine nature.

In verse eleven, it says, “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” That is an amazing statement that stands in sharp contrast to the gods of other religions who are defined by their inapproachability. This is centuries before Jesus arrives in Bethlehem, an unmeasurable example of the Father’s love for His creation!

Because Moses has already been a witness, an undeserving recipient of God’s grace, he reminds Yahweh of the bond they have and the promise He has given. “You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’” But he also makes a confident request of the Lord, “Show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.”

We have that same opportunity to come before a God who loves us. Because of Christ’s death on our behalf and His resurrection, we can speak directly with him “as one speaks to a friend.” This is true no matter where we are geographically, politically or spiritually! But even if you don’t want to “be God’s friend,” His words to you in this new year are still the same, “I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.”

So how will we respond? Well, that is my last remaining resolution. In 2011 I want to consistently ask my Heavenly Father, my friend, “Show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.” Maybe you can make it your prayer too. Another one of God’s character traits that Valerie and I can tell you is true… He is faithful! If you want to know Him better, just ask Him. He will do it. You can experience His love and grace in 2011.