April 2013

Restore My Soul: A Meditation on Psalm 63

By Chris Treneer

Photo Courtesy Glenn McMahan

Photo Courtesy Glenn McMahan

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1).

David wrote Psalm 63 from the Desert of Judah. He was also in a spiritual desert, thirsty for God, longing for the restoration of his soul. "My soul thirsts for You!"

In 1973, I went through my own spiritual desert. As Psalm 118:13-14 (RSV) describes it, "I was pushed hard, so that I was falling." Several circumstances pressed me to the limit:

  • The death of Pat Spivey, a colleague and close friend
  • A very long and difficult labor when our first daughter, Ruth, was born
  • Developing mono two months after Ruth was born
  • A busy student ministry based in our home
  • Pressure to “keep up appearances,” complicated by my unwillingness to be open about the state of my soul

There are many causes for a thirsty soul, but discontentment is a principal factor. We are surrounded by fallen people and a broken world. We become discontent with ourselves, our sinfulness, and mortality. All this can cause spiritual weariness. Like David, we live in a spiritually dry land. The world around us is desperately trying to quench its thirst with everything except the Living Water.

Spiritual thirst also increases because our society measures success by a never-ending drive for accomplishment. The ceaseless activity drains our souls of meaning and refreshment. People are tired, not just physically, but in the depths of their souls. We need to remember the promise of Matthew 11:28-29: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . . . and you will find rest for your souls."

As I began to think about what it means for God to “restore our souls,” I realized from this Psalm that the first step is to admit that our souls do experience thirst, as David described. Unfortunately, our tendency is to hide our weakness, even though hiding prevents healing. In Mark 3 we find the account of Jesus helping the man with a withered hand. "Stretch out your hand," Jesus said. Which hand do you think that man stretched out? He extended his withered hand, of course, because he wanted to be healed. By contrast, I often want to keep my withered hand hidden—to conceal the pain, the difficulties, and struggles of my life.

David doesn’t stop with acknowledging his spiritual thirst; instead, he expresses his confident expectation that his soul “will be satisfied.” I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory, David writes. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied.

David’s words are keys to ways that God restores our souls. First, David says that the sanctuary is where he is able to fix his inner eye on God. Where is your sanctuary? Where do you go to see God? Wherever it happens to be, the need is to focus on God Himself—the only One who can restore our souls.

Next, David focused on God’s power and glory and love. When I meditate on God’s power, I am reminded of His sovereignty and control—and my safety. His strength carries my worries and concerns. Then when I consider God’s glory—as well as His beauty and majesty—I am drawn to worship and surrender. Focusing on His glory transfers my perspective from the earthly to the eternal. Finally, gaining assurance of God’s love enables me to come to the One who gave His life for me. He is the One who has loved me with an everlasting love and drawn me close with loving-kindness. He is the One who will build me up again (Jeremiah 31:3-4), whose love will satisfy me in the morning . . . so that I may sing for joy (Psalm 90:14).

God does restore our souls. May the Lord help us to cling to Him, and may we constantly experience His arms upholding us. May the thirst of our souls be satisfied as we see Him.

"My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me" (Psalm 63:8).   

Chris Treneer co-labors with her husband, International President Mike Treneer. Chris served with Mike in Kenya for 16 years, after which time Mike led the European work. They have lived in Colorado Springs since 2005, when Mike became International President.

"I'd Rather Die with My Shoes On"

By IET Communications

Viashima Agu

Viashima Agu

Nigerian-born Viashima Agu is almost 60, an age when many men are beginning to think about retirement. Not Viashima. He’s taking on one of the hardest jobs anyone can imagine: pioneering a Navigator work in Liberia.

Viashima and his wife, Rumun, have embraced an uphill struggle as they work to establish a foundational generation of Liberians who will carry the Gospel into their own culture. The obstacles are many. They need people who are receptive to the Gospel. Then they must help those people grow in Christ. It will be crucial for these first believers to open doors to relationships through which the Gospel can spread generationally.

Such pioneering work is difficult anywhere, but Viashima and Rumun are starting this effort in a country recovering from fourteen years of civil war. The unemployment rate is very high. Viashima says that a debilitated infrastructure and widespread corruption make it more difficult for businesses. But he’s undaunted.

“God’s promises show us that nothing is going to stop Jesus from discipling the nations,” Viashima said. “We can either join Him or we can sit out . . . I want to die with my shoes on, battling for what He has called me to do.”

Viashima began to pray about Liberia in 2009. Then, in 2010, he made a two-week trip to evaluate the situation. He went again in March 2011, spending nearly four months. On this trip, he asked God to connect him with students who would be receptive to the Gospel and connect him to a broader relational network.

God answered this prayer. Prior to the beginning of that semester, Viashima met a student who introduced him to many others who were also interested in knowing more about the Gospel. God was opening doors.

Viashima and Rumun knew they would need to live in Liberia to be most effective. But at the time, financial limitations made a move unviable. Viashima decided to make regular forays into Liberia until sufficient funds could be raised. During each trip he found his friends eager to study the Bible. Rapport grew as they gathered under a tree on campus to learn about a relationship with God. Eventually Viashima asked if they would like to accept Christ as Lord.

“Some of the students told me that they couldn’t [accept Christ] because they had too many sexual sins,” Viashima said, adding that the group hadn’t come to a clear understanding of God’s grace. He encouraged them to first give their lives to Christ—to “come as you are”—and then ask Jesus to transform their lives through a Spirit-filled process of discipleship.

Touched deeply by this message, a dozen men committed their lives to Christ. Viashima immediately started helping them become true disciples—to live godly lives of integrity and purity, to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus and His Word, and to love one another.

His next trips came in November of 2011 and in March 2012. The circle continued to expand as the original group brought their friends to the studies. Soon he had two study groups meeting every Sunday. As new students came around, Viashima kept returning to the book of John to help them understand the life and character of Jesus.

“At this age, with my gray hair, I didn’t think that these young men would relate well with me,” said Viashima. “But I had been praying that God would connect me to people who would connect me to their friends. I saw they wanted their friends to join our discussions.”

This receptivity reminds Viashima of God’s promise in Isaiah 60:22. “That verse says that the least of us can, by God’s power, be used to expand His kingdom. I’m the least. God is great. Knowing that, I can keep going.”

God continues to open doors. God has now provided the finances for Viashima and his wife to move to Liberia. At the time of this writing, he’s looking for a home near campus, a place where students will feel comfortable and welcome.

He and Rumun are ready to move to Liberia, and he’s giving his shoes some wear and tear.  

Reflections on International Leadership

By Bernie Dodd

Bernie and Jo Dodd

Bernie and Jo Dodd

Lorne Sanny, a former Navigator president, gave a quick but powerful presentation about leadership at a small conference many years ago. He stood and quoted Lamentations 3:22-23: "It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: Great is Thy faithfulness" (KJV). Everyone expected him to expound on the verse; however, without further comment, he sat down!

Lorne’s words pretty much sum up the basis of biblical leadership: Leaders don’t have a chance of succeeding without God’s mercies. But as I look back on the 25 years I spent as leader of our Navigator work in French-speaking Africa and Europe, I would like to add a few thoughts about leadership for the emerging generation.

It’s a Long Journey, so Rely on God and His Promises
When God spoke to Jacob at Bethel, He renewed His promise to bless all the nations, a promise He first gave to Abraham. But God didn’t just give Jacob a promise; he also trained him for at least twenty difficult years. Upon Jacob’s return to Bethel, he renamed it El-Bethel. Without delving into a Hebrew lesson, this act demonstrated that his focus was now on the God of the promise, rather than on the promise alone (see Genesis 35:7).

Why did God take Jacob through such an arduous journey? His primary goal was to deepen Jacob’s dependence on God and His promises rather than on Jacob’s own schemes.

Be a Servant-Leader: There’s Always Room for One More Servant!
Biblical leadership is primarily influence through service. Acts 7:35 says, This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God Himself. I have sought to imitate leaders who have delivered others and who have influenced and empowered me with mercy and love. By contrast, I’ve avoided imitating those who lead by dominating others in order to accomplish their ministry goals.

We Can’t Finish the Race Alone, so Team Up with Others
When I was selected in 2004 to be Regional Director of Europe, several friends shared Micah 6:8 with me. "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." One friend wrote a note saying, “That is all we ask!” So my goal was to team up and be with people, to listen and understand, to give feedback, to pray for and with them, to be in the Word together. In other words, I wanted to be an “alongsider” who helped people become the best they can be, much as Barnabas helped Mark become useful to Paul (2 Timothy 4:11).

Understand the Context, so that the Gospel Can Flow Freely
Jethro counseled Moses to select godly men to share leadership with him (Exodus 18). These 70 men, centuries later, became the Sanhedrin—a stalwart religious form that had lost its original purpose. What was first established to meet a need had become a rigid form that killed the Giver of Life! A good idea might become irrelevant—or something worse.

After David became king of Israel, the Philistines attacked him. He prayed for guidance and defeated them. Later, he used a different tactic to ambush and defeat the enemy (2 Samuel 5:17-25). This illustrates the need to continue asking what God wants us to do in different contexts. Some methods will continue to be useful but others will need to change.

These are some important lessons to consider as we serve. But we should always remember, as Lorne Sanny made so clear, that we have this ministry only because His compassions fail not. Great is His faithfulness.   

Bernie and Jo Dodd became Navigator staff in 1973, being involved first in campus ministry. They served as missionaries in Africa for 26 years and then 10 years in Europe. In 2012, Bernie concluded his role as Europe Regional Director. He and Jo are now on sabbatical in the UK. They have two grown daughters.

Protecting Glen Eyrie

By IET Communications

Nine months after the tragic Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Navigator staff, volunteers, and construction companies are working to protect the historic Glen Eyrie Conference Center from possible floods. The flood risk is extremely high. The fire’s intense heat caused the soil to glaze over, thereby inhibiting absorption. That could send torrents of rainwater plummeting through Queens Canyon to the Glen Eyrie castle. Jack McQueeney, executive director of Glen Eyrie Conference Center and Eagle Lake Camp, said with each rain the water-flows down the canyon have been 400-to-600 times greater than normal.

Extensive (and expensive) flood mitigation efforts have been underway since last fall. By April 15, an $800,000 armoring system (interlocking concrete blocks covered with dirt and sod) will be completed to further protect the castle’s foundation. Although the financial needs are challenging, Jack and his staff are approaching the situation in faith, according to Hebrews 11:6. God’s financial provision has been abundant so far, but additional support is needed. If you would like to contribute, call The Navigators at 866-568-7827, or go to www.navigators.org/us/support and enter the fund number: 23821780.   

Watch a video about the fire at: http://tinyurl.com/waldofireimpact