Saturday, September 28, 2013

Embracing Obscurity- Chapter 2

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 2: Embracing Definition 

- This chapter is a call to examine ourselves and see what we allow to define us.  In finding that, we find the source of our pride- which is clearly something that needs rooted out of our lives.

- "We know that others are judging us by our 'cover,' and we really, really want them to like what they see." (Page 20)  I don't think I have ever verbalized this to anyone else, but I know it is true for me.  If someone dislikes me, I want them to see that that reason is not valid- either they have misunderstood me, or they are simply wrong in their thoughts.  I could easily see that this is an area of pride in my life.

- He pointed out that the things that are our "subtitles" all point to a pursuit, regardless of whether or not there is an accomplishment.  This helped me to see that we often are proud about our direction, even if we haven't already reached an important destination.

- In the questions at the end of the chapter, he asked which of the people we were most like.  I think my personal "subtitle" is a hodge podge of different ones.  There were a few phrases in these character studies that I easily identified with:
    "Over time he has allowed success in his field to define his success as a person." (Page 23)
    "...she feels like she hasn't accomplished enough." (Page 25)
    "...making it big- by proving himself." (Page 25)
    "Being faced with the relative commonality of her skills..." (Page 25)
    "...wants others to be jealous of..." (Page 26)

- I did some thinking about my subtitle, but there were some questions I couldn't give a definite answer to.  I need more time to think and to ask God what things I am allowing/wanting to define me and what glory I want from them.

- I think that if I were to no longer have a "ministry" job and would be working a "secular" job, I would struggle with feeling like my identity had changed.  I think part of that is a respect for the God's calling, but I think part of that is a false way of measuring myself- by what position I am in.

- We believers often incorrectly define "success" for a person in ministry or for a ministry itself.  Then, we measure people, ourselves included, by that definition.  I want to be a man who knows what God has for him to do and who does it, seeing that as true success.  However, I know in my heart there are many things that fight against that.  I often want to define success by my ministry activities, my ministry abilities/results, number of churches planted (pursuit, not accomplishment), etc.  I need the Lord to help me turn my eyes off myself.

- He quoted Piper as saying, "I am not making peace, but war, with my own sins." (Page 33)  It is so easy to be in between those- we are not really making peace, but it is not a war in which we are fully engaged.   

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 1
Discussion on Chapter 3

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Embracing Obscurity- Chapter 1

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 1: One in a Billion

- In this chapter, the author uses several tactics to point out how insignificant we are, despite our personal thoughts on the matter.  He points to the sheer number of humans on earth, the incredible detail and quantity of living organisms, the enormity of the expanse of the known creation, and the fact that most of us will live and die relatively unnoticed in the grand scheme of things.

- I can't specifically remember a time when a huge number of people just impressed on me my insignificance.  The closest thing I could come up with was at an international marketplace near Christmas a couple of years ago.  Several things added together to really make me feel disconnected from the event and from the other people there.  As a result, I felt very insignificant.  Do any of you have a "moment" as he referred to?

- Numbers can get so big that they lose their force.  In those instances, comparison can do much to give perspective.  His scaling down the numbers about the sun, the solar system, and the Milky Way made it much clearer for me: "If our solar system were represented on a twelve-inch ruler, our sun ... would be smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.  On this same scale, our galaxy, The Milky Way, would be larger than the Pacific Ocean." (Page 8)  Wow!  (By the way, any of you following the story of the Voyager 1 probe leaving the solar system after ... 36 years?  Think how long it'll take to get out of the Milky Way!)

- He said that many men and women of God "have come to think little of themselves in light of all that God is and does."  (Page 9)  In meditating on this, I noticed some flawed thinking in my own mind.  When I picture thinking little of myself, I imagine me actively putting down and/or devaluing myself.  However, after reading this quote, I think the emphasis is more on the fact that we are thinking so much of God and what He does, that there is little room for us to even think of ourselves.

- I will admit that my flesh wants more recognition.  I want people to see how good of a ________ I am.  I want people to see they were wrong in their opinions of me.  I want more people who look up to me, etc.  I was challenged by the thought that very few of us truly want less of these things, yet that should by my mindset.

- After pointing out that, in the big picture, we all live in obscurity already, he mentions that we each have the "choice of whether to embrace personal obscurity- an obscurity of heart as much as position."  (Page 11)  I don't know what he is going to say in the rest of the book, but for me, this is the key thought of the book.  Will my heart be content with being obscure, so that "Christ can be made more known?"  (Page 13)

- I like his discussion questions.  (Most books' discussion questions disappoint me.)  I thought #7 was good for me: "How would you describe the difference between an obscurity of position and an obscurity of heart?" (Page 14)  I would say that obscurity of position is something that we all have.  Obscurity of heart is a choice we make that is counter-intuitive, for it goes against our sinful nature.  We choose to direct our thoughts to our God's importance, rather than dwelling on our own. 

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Introduction
Discussion on Chapter 2

Friday, September 13, 2013

Embracing Obscurity- Introduction

(A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)


- I hope you fellows were able to make it through all that reading.  I'm sorry for assigning the entire Introduction for two weeks- that was almost too much material to cover!  :-)

- I was challenged by the thought that is it human, sinful nature that craves to be a "somebody" and that our world today only heightens that.  Everyone wants to be, become, or know about a somebody.  This has crept into our thinking and I see that I too want to be known.  I think we could all say that our flesh cries out to be the one who preaches to thousands, leads hundreds to the Lord, plants dozens of churches, etc.  While there is a bit of pure desire in those things, I see that my flesh wants the corresponding recognition as well.

- I appreciated his point that embracing obscurity is not "wiping ourselves from existence."  (Page 3)  Instead, it is working to make everything of our Lord and not working to make anything of us.

- I appreciated his honesty about the flesh's desire for "accidental" discoveries of who wrote the book.  It is such an accurate picture of our sinful nature!

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 1

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hughes News #47

"Tie your shoes and pray for the Hughes"

Dear Friends,        
As many of you already know by now, we are making plans for our first furlough.  Lord-willing, we will be in the States from the middle of December to the middle of June.  The Lord has allowed us to already schedule meetings with all but two of our supporting churches and a few new churches.  We look forward to the time with those churches, and with family and friends.
In addition to our language training, another goal we have before furlough is getting a feel for the housing situation in Soroca.  Our thinking is that if we learn now what is for sale and for rent, it will be a big help to us when we return.  We have already taken one house hunting trip and hope to do a couple more before we need to leave.
One of the houses we viewed in Soroca
The pastors at the church we are attending have given me some upcoming opportunities to minister.  The next two or three Tuesdays, I will be teaching a Bible study through Titus.  This Sunday we will be going to a village where we both will be able to minister in music, and I will be able to preach.  While I look forward to these, it is still much different from simply preparing a lesson or message in English.  I would appreciate your prayers that the Lord would help me to grow in my ability, and that despite my inabilities He would speak to people’s hearts.
In His service,
Jacob and Viola Hughes
For Prayer:
1. Teaching/preaching appointments the next few weeks
2. Housing search in Soroca
3. Further preparations for our upcoming furlough                     
For Praise:
1. A couple weeks off lessons in August
2. Tickets back to the States with a good schedule and price
3. Many meetings scheduled/plans made for furlough