Category Archives: Bucharest

God is in the Awkward

I hate being awkward.  I hate looking strange, weird, unusual.  I hate making people feel uncomfortable.

But I love to share the gospel because it completely changed my life.  And I love to share it with complete strangers.

Those two things usually don’t work well together, but I’ve learned how to bring up the gospel in ways that remove the awkwardness.  I try to make it as natural and normal as possible.  I have friends who seem to relish the awkwardness… and sharing the gospel with them is always an interesting adventure.  And it usually ends with me realizing I don’t need to be afraid of awkward moments because God is in the awkward moment.

In June, I met with two friends, and we set out to Unirii Park to share the gospel.  At one point, the quietest in the group points to a young man sitting on a bench and asks us, “What do you think about him?  Should we talk to him?”

“Sure!” I responded, not really feeling it but willing to go for it and wanting to be encouraging.  “Since you felt the impression, why don’t you start the conversation?”  (Did you see how smoothly I got out of responsibility?)

So he approached and said quietly in Romanian, “We want to tell you about the gospel…”

The young man looked confusingly at my friend, looked at the people around him, smiled awkwardly, lifted his hands and shrugged, said something in an unfamiliar language to the woman next to him… and then smiled awkwardly again at my friend.

“English?” I asked, when it dawned on me that perhaps he hadn’t understood a word my friend had said.

“Little,” the young man smiled, looking very relieved.  “Ukraine.”  He then pointed to himself, the woman on the bench with him, and an elderly couple on the neighboring bench.  We found out they were his family, mom, grandpa, and grandma.

And that’s how one of the most amazing (and awkward) conversations of the day began…  But the awkwardness didn’t stop there.

At one point, the third man in our group received a word of knowledge and asked, “Grandma, pain in her body?  In her knees?”  The young man nodded “yes” excitedly.  “I pray for her,” my friend said and then, without giving any warning, without asking permission, my friend knelt down in front of grandma and put his hands right on her knees.

The stunned look on her face was priceless.

Grandpa, not knowing what on earth was happening, jumped to his feet and pulled his arm back.  I don’t know what was going through his mind, but it looked like he was ready to throw a punch at my friend.

My friend, meanwhile, was oblivious and simply prayed a quick prayer of healing for grandma’s knee.

She stood up and began to walk, without limping.

The family was overjoyed, and everyone (even grandpa) was smiling.

“Jesus healed you,” my friend explained.  “He is God and He’s alive.  Through Him we can be forgiven.  Through Him we can go to heaven.”  He shared a simple but clear account of the gospel.  “Do you want to pray with me?”

All the family nodded their heads after the young man translated.

“Great!  Repeat after me.”

The young man translated.  Everyone nodded.

“Jesus.”

“Jesus,” everybody echoed in English.

“Thank you for paying the price for my sins.”

“Thank you mmmph rrrmmph eprounvosdljh…” the family attempted to copy my friend.

“No, no, they don’t know what they’re saying.

“Use Google Translate,” I suggested.

I’m sure it was obvious to all of you reading, but Google Translate did *not* work.

“Okay, I pray in English.  You,” my friend pointed to the young man, “translate into Ukrainian.  Everyone,” he pointed to the family, “repeats in Ukrainian.”

Finally something that made sense!

The whole family prayed together, and when we got done, they had the biggest smiles on their faces.  They hugged all of us and kept saying, “Thank you.”

And I stood there stunned that God actually did something.  None of those awkward moments, none of the weirdness, none of the strangeness stopped Him from healing grandma’s knee and touching this family’s hearts.

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Petrache Lupu – The Shepherd Who Saw God

petrache big            On Sunday, the 16th of June, 1935, in the town of Maglavit, a seventeen-year-old, poor shepherd with a speech impediment finally worked up enough courage to announce to his church a short message he claimed came directly from God the Father, whom he swore had visited him in the form of an old man while he was tending sheep.  His message, a stereotypical Old Testament “turn or burn” indictment of his people, was met with both obvious incredulity and a similarly expected enthusiasm.  Both those in favor and those against the happenings in Maglavit, and especially those hoping to profit from the events, spread the news far and wide.  Newspapers were full of stories of miracles, healings, and prophecies as excitement over the shepherd boy who had seen God spread.  In time, over two million people would take part in the spectacular events of Maglavit.  Today, much of the events that took place are shrouded in mystery.  Who was Petrache Lupu, the man who claimed to see God, and what can we learn from his life rife with visions, miracles, and extravagant stories reminiscent of Ezekiel or Isaiah?

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Jacob: A New Identity (Genesis 32:24-33:4)

[As part of our “Loving the Bible” class at Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie, each student is required to write a paper about some passage in the Bible and then present it to the class.  I decided that since I’m requiring my busy students to do the paper, I should do it as well.  Below is my paper about Jacob and his strange, late-night wrestling competition.]

To every child ever born God has given a destiny and purpose.  He has specific plans for each human being and has not only created each person with such individual and unique personalities, likes and dislikes, even talents, but He has also ordained specific things for him to do during his short lifetime, things that only that particular individual can accomplish.  Regrettably, most Christians are so haunted by their failures that they see only a long list of lost opportunities, resulting in a deep and pervasive sense of disappointment, a fear of having somehow missed God’s plans and purposes for their life.  For many, this sense is great enough that they fail to see by faith the redemptive power of God to bring restoration and renewal.  For those who have felt the weight of such a list of failures, there is much encouragement in the life of Jacob, in particular, in one fateful night when God met him and revealed his new identity.

July 24, 2015 - 'No Longer Jacob'

July 24, 2015 – ‘No Longer Jacob’

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The Third Day

[As part of the Loving the Bible class at Scoala Biblica Piatra Vie, students had to rewrite Genesis 22:1-19, choosing to either write all or just a portion of the story in their own words. The following is my rewrite.]

Three days.

It had been three days of heavy and brooding silence in my spirit, each day heavier and more terrifying than the last as the mountain reared its ugly head and took form, and step by dreadful step grew larger, more defined, and more hideous for what it signified. The end of our journey.

And now, here finally, my boy in my arms at last, how heavy was his weight. Oh, how heavy and terrible the weight!

“My boy…” I mumbled, terror and sorrow mixed in my trembling voice. “My dear Isaac…”

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Exodus 24 – Maintaining Intimacy with God

December 6, 2010 - 'His Word Is My Life'

December 6, 2010 – ‘His Word Is My Life’

How’s your prayer life? you ask a random Christian. Nine times out of ten, he’ll respond, Uh… not as good as it should be… and then lower his eyes with a guilty look.

Personally, my prayer life took a massive hit when I moved to Bucharest, Romania. Besides the natural factors of moving from a slower-paced small town in rural Wisconsin to a large, fast-paced European capital city, there is also the spiritual factor of an enemy who wants to keep me from the presence of the One who gives life, direction, power, anointing. I was still reading the Bible, but not every day, and I regularly rushed through it so I could get something practical done… My heart wasn’t connecting with God, the spring of living water.

September 4, 2012 - 'Baptize Me In Fire'

September 4, 2012 – ‘Baptize Me In Fire’

I could feel my heart getting colder towards God, but I hadn’t realized how bad I had let things get until I took a week off to go to Turkey. In my mind, I thought, Yes! I finally can get some time to rest and recuperate spiritually. I’m gonna read so much of the Bible and spend so much time with God. It’s going to be awesome! But when I got to Turkey, I didn’t want to read the Bible! I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to play music and worship God. I didn’t want to make art for him. I didn’t even really feel guilty for this!

It was a rude wake up call! But I responded quickly, made some changes in my life, and have been fighting this cold, dead heart ever since I recognized the problem. Already, I can see a drastic change in my attitude and desire towards prayer and the presence of God.

I want to share with you some tips from my experience. All of these tips are pretty basic, but they’re things that I had let slide, things that can make the difference between a religious, dry, dead prayer life and a life-giving, abundant, empowering, relationship with God.

Let’s look at Moses’ life, perhaps one of the best examples we have of a man who kept a sustained and intense intimacy with God despite incredible demands on his time and a number of serious weaknesses. Turn to Exodus 24

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8 Reasons You Should Never Become a Missionary

***None of this is original.  I took it all from the Laura Parker Blog (here).  I hope she doesn’t mind.***

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1. Don’t Become a Missionary if You Think You Are Going to Change the World. First, high expectations doom to disappoint, but, also, maybe your desire to change the world is trumping your desire to serve. Ask yourself if you would be happy moving overseas to a much harsher environment in order to quietly help a local, while getting no recognition and seeing no fruit in the process. If you can answer honestly yes, then maybe you’re still in the running. {Don’t worry, we thought we would’ve answered yes, but found out that we really had some unhealthy saviour-complexes to begin with. You can read about that here: On Living a Good Story and Not Trying So Hard and The Guy in the Orange Shirt.}

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A Home for Daniel and Maria

One of our closest friends and fellow laborers we’ve met while here is Daniel. We met him about 2 years ago, when he was a new Christian recently returned from working in Finland. He shared his life story with us, how he had grown up in a bad home, how he became involved with crime, drugs, and prostitution, and how God had rescued him and completely changed him.

After trying but failing to kill himself with a drug overdose, he started reading the Bible and realized that Jesus had died for him and all he needed to do was receive His forgiveness. From that moment, everything began changing. He threw away the drugs, he stopped visiting prostitutes, he stopped lying and cheating, and all he wanted to do was tell everyone about Jesus.

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