Thursday, December 29, 2005

Suffering and Serving

As I continue reading "The Hidden Smile of God" I have been struck by the fact that the suffering is what drove Bunyan to the depths of his communion with God. It was in the times of deepest pain and affliction that he seemed to find the sweetest fellowship and strongest reliance on his Savior. He wrote "Pilgrim's Progress" while sitting in prison.

I was reminded of a passage in Thessalonians 3 that I read recently. Paul had sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage the Thessalonian church in their trials. But the second half of v.3 is what really struck me. Paul says of the trials, "You know quite well that we were destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted."

Throughout history we see that persecution and trials go hand in hand with the service of the faithful. Even the twelve disciples endured some horrific suffering.

I grew up on the mission field and saw some of the persecution of faithful believers firsthand. And for 7 years I struggled to reconcile how a loving God could call his children into a life of suffering. It seemed unfair and unjust to me that a life of obedient submission was often filled with pain and affliction.

But God's ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. He understands that this life, and our momentary trials, are but a second in the scope of eternity. If we live with a kindgom perspective rather than an earthly perspective, then we will be able to endure. Because the day will come when it will have been worth it, and the pain and tears will be no more.

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." --Phil. 3:10


Yesterday was our 14th wedding anniversary. It was also the 2nd anniversary of our big move to Pittsburgh.

We look back and are amazed. Amazed that God has blessed us with two beautiful kids who are so much fun. Amazed that we have been able to be part of a great adventure, and that there have been very few dull moments on this journey. Amazed that we have been able to serve alongside some of the most incredible people in ministry. Amazed that God has blessed us with such loving family and friends.

As we get ready to start a new year, we are excited about where God is leading us. We have a sense of anticipation for the months ahead. We feel like God is getting ready to do something big: not just in our own personal lives, but in our children, our students, and throughout the nations as well.

Here are some of the things we are praying for in the new year: more students coming to know Christ, an opportunity to go work with simple churches overseas, spiritual growth in our kids as we teach them to study the Word inductively, more of our students being called into missions, and a deeper level of friendship and partnership in our marriage.

We also hope that we will be able to find a church home and a family of friends. We are praying that God will send more laborers to work with us in Pittsburgh. We pray that cooperation will continue, and relationships keep developing between the different Christian organizations on campus. And we are praying that God will give us direction concerning the church plant in Oakland.

A few years from now, we hope to be able to look back and thank God for answering many of these prayers. He has shown Himself to be so true, over and over again. We are reminded of a promise that we claimed when we first felt the call to PA, while we were trying to raise our financial support. "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." --1 Thess. 5:24

Praise be to God for His goodness.

Monday, December 26, 2005

"To Live Upon God that is Invisible"

I continue to be intrigued by John Bunyan's statement "to live upon God that is invisible."

John Piper, in his book "The Hidden Smile of God", says this about it:
"He (Bunyan) is with us and ministering to us because he reverenced the Word of God and was so permeatd by it that his blood is "Bibline"--the essence of the Bible flows from him.

And this is what he has to show us. That 'to live upon God that is invisible' is to live upon the Word of God. To serve and suffer rooted in God is to serve and suffer saturated with the Word of God. This is how we shall live, this is how we shall suffer. And, if we are called to be leaders among the people of God, this is how we shall help our people get safely to the Celestial City. We will woo them with the Word. We will say to them what Bunyan said to his people--and I say to you, dear reader:

'God hath strewed all the way from the gate of hell, where thou wast, to the gate of heaven, whither thou art going, with flowers out of his own garden. Behold how the promises, invitations, calls, and encouragements, like lilies, lie round about thee! Take heed that thou dost not tread them under thy foot.' "

I have found these truths to be evident in my own life. Healing from bondage of my past came when I began to saturate myself with the Word of God. Guidance for each day comes when I read my Bible. And hope for the future is found there as well. His Word is real and powerful and relevant in every situation of my life.

But there is a secondary truth found in Bunyan's words, and that is the concept of "serve and suffer." I'll tackle that one tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Beautiful Musicians

Anna and her good friend Louisa at the band concert. Louisa plays the baritone.

Beautiful Instruments

The combined bands playing the grand finale

Tuesday night we had the privilege of going to our daughter Anna's band concert. She plays the Saxaphone, and this year the 5th graders got to play in the Middle and High School Christmas Concert. Each grade was featured, using combined bands from all three elementary schools, as well as the Middle School and High School ensembles.

But the grand finale was when the High School drum majors came marching in, climbed up on their ladders and blew their whistles. The entire Pine-Richland High School band then marched in, surrounding all the younger bands who were seated in the center of the gym. They all played the final song together. It was incredible, and a "larger-than-life" experience for Anna.

It reminded me, though, of a comment that was made by one of our students, Kyle. He had been reading in Romans 6:13, when the concept of being "instruments of God" really struck him. He described us as being musical instruments who should be constantly walking around playing the beautiful song of the gospel through the way we live. Then, as the Holy Spirit allows, the lost people around us will hear the strange and lovely music, and be drawn to it. We are to be a living testimony, playing beautiful music.

My heart felt like it would burst as the music from all of these amazing children just filled up the room. But suddenly I heard a horn (probably a tuba) miss the part. It's blaring notes stuck out against the smooth background of the other musicians. And for one second it ruined the harmony and beauty of the song.

I thought about our lives, those times when we are tempted to play our own tune and draw attention to ourselves. Those individual notes sound blaring and dissonant against the smooth unity of the rest of the orchestra. When we take our eyes off the conducter, and begin to do our own thing, our song is not so beautiful anymore because it doesn't fit in with the leading of the conducter.

My prayer is that our eyes will be so closely focused on our conducter, that we will be able to play beautifully synchronized music harmoniously together.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Wisdom from the field

Jerod Harper was a student in our college group in Oklahoma. He is currently serving overseas in a country in Asia. He has some amazing insights, and I wanted you to get to hear his heart.

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake"--Philippians 1:29

Suffering comes in many forms and from all sides. At the moment I live in a relatively open country as a student here. Studying so that someday I may return to working in a different country. I am not in constant fear of what may come of me like many of my brothers and sisters in other countries.

My suffering comes not at the hand of man but is an emotional struggle. You see, I have family in the States. Family I love and miss greatly. Not to mention all the friends. That at first may not seem to be that great of suffering and truly I would never compare it to that of those who are giving their lives for the sake of the gospel.

But what you must remember is that when my family members had birthdays I woke up and will wake up thousands of miles away. When my good friends get married I wake up thousands of miles away. When my sister had her first child I woke up thousands of miles away. When my grandfather died I woke up thousands of miles away. For all the major events that happen in the lives of your family members and friends you are not present. Births, weddings, funerals, graduations, etc. and you experience it all through photos and phone calls.

But would I ever want it to be different? Never, not for a second. I realized some time back that this world is not where I live. Too many people think that this is where we live and heaven is where we go to live. But that is just the opposite. May I plead with you to live for heaven.

C.S. Lewis stated it like this, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built the Middle Ages, the English evangelicals who abolished the slave trade, all left their mark on earth precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in.' Aim at earth and you will get neither."

More importantly than C.S. Lewis is what God himself said. These are just a few:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."--Matthew 6:19-21

"For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."--Hebrews 11:14-16

"Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets."--Luke 6:22-23

Live for heaven. It is well worth it. Will it cost you? Yes. But rejoice when you suffer for his sake, for your reward is great! Let me leave you with two quotes:

"While vast continents are shrouded in darkness...the burden of proof lies upon you to show that the circumstances in which God has placed you were meant by God to keep you out of the foreign mission field."--Ion Keith-Falconer

"As we have a high old time this Christmas, may we who know Christ hear the cry of the damned as they hurtle headlong into the Christless night without ever having a chance. May we be moved with compassion as our Lord was. May we shed tears of repentance for these we have failed to bring out of the darkness. Beyond the smiling scenes of Bethlehem, may we see the crushing agony of Golgotha. May God give us a new vision of His will concerning the lost--and our responsibility."--Nate Saint (He wrote this twenty one days before he died attempting to fulfill that responsibility).

Pray for Jerod. You can read more from him at Tales of the Road.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Guest Blogger--Cristina Paredes

Cristina is our intern at the Community College of Allegheny County. She is an amazing young lady who passionately loves the Lord. And something cool about her--she is a missionary kid from Ecuador to the United States!!! Her parents serve in Arkansas, and now Cristina is serving here in Pittsburgh with us for a year.

Let me share with you what I'm soooo exciting and I bet it will be refreshing for you as well!!

We always have difficult circumstances in our lives and we want peace but never really claim it and make it ours...Father DESIRES us to ALWAYS have and dwell in His peace like a river.

" If you only had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea" Isaiah 48:18

So, is a river calm? not really...When was the last time you saw white-water rapids? ha!! fun and scary!!! and beautiful.

1. A river is a moving stream of water. God's Word doesn't not say we'll have peace like a pond. In Isaiah 48:18 He describes a peace that can be retained while life twists and turns and rolls over boulders. To have peace like a river is to have security and tranquility of heart and mind while meeting many bumps and unexpected turns on life's journey through change. Peace is a submission to a trustworthy Authority, not resignation from all activity. Any activity that cannot be brought under the umbrella of God's authority will prove to be a source of turmoil and exhaustion.

2. A river a body of fresh water fed by springs. Peace comes from an active, ongoing, and obedient relationship with the Prince of Peace. He wants to feed us with the Living Water of His Spirit and a steady stream of His Word until we have peace like a river. Studying His Word is one of many ways God desires to feed a peaceful river in your soul.

3. A river begins and ends witha body of water. Every river has an upland source and an ultimate outlet or mouth. Likewise, peace like a river flows frin a continuous connection with the upland Source, Jesus Christ, and a timely reminder that this life will ultimately spill out into a glorious eternal life. US chicas, His princesses, His children, we who know Christ personally are continually moving over rocks and sometimes cliffs, through narrow palces and wide valleys to a heavenly destination. Until then, ABIDING in Christ is the key to staying deliberately connected with our upland Source.

I want that peace like a river in my life...I want to make believe Him in this promise and make it experience Him constantly as peace like a river!!!

I know some of us are going through hard are not alone...He desires you and i to have peace...Allow HIM...

"This is what the Lord says -- your REDEEMER, the Holy One of Israel, 'I am the lord your GOd, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go" Isaiah 48:17

That is has been so refreshing for me hopefully you can enjoy it as much as I have!!!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Celebrating our Cultural Identity

This past few weeks, loyal Americans all over the country have been participating in a relatively new, but significant cultural ritual. Not wanting our children to miss out on rich national tradition, we have been reviewing all the Star Wars movies (in order) while awaiting with eager anticipation the release of Episode 3.

Then tonight, in a festive culmination of this month-long celebration, we cooked up a big pot of chili, set up the big screen in the middle of our living room, and watched "Revenge of the Sith." Chris came to join us, and a good time was had by all.

So for you critics who claim that Americans do not have a true cultural identity, we proved you
wrong tonight. Ha! : )

(And yes, I realize that the image on the screen is not from "Revenge of the Sith." We felt the need to review some of the classic scenes from previous episodes as well.)
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Politically Correct Happy Holidays

In the interest of not offending anyone over the new "Happy Holidays" controversy, the Cherry family has decided to use the following display for the 2005 season.

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CCN Conference Call

I'm really excited about an event that is taking place on December 6th at 3:00pm EST. Campus Church Networks is hosting a nationwide prayer/testimony conference call, and we have been invited to join them. Here's a portion of the evite I received from Jaeson Ma, who is heading it up.

Host: CCN
When: Tuesday, December 6, 6:00pmPST
Hey CCN Associates, This CCN Conference call is to continue our training in contending for the "SUPERNATURAL" power of God on our unviversity campuses. This will be a time of empowerment and encouragement as we report what God has done on our campuses in the last month. Please come ready to report 1-3 minute testimonies of God's movement on your campus. Lets all join the call and call out to God before the end of the 2005 school year for God to move in POWER! Conference Call Agenda

1. Revival Prayer
2. Campus Testimonies
3. Contending for the Supernatural Training
4. Important 2006 CCN announcements

See you all on the call!!!

God has been doing some cool things on campuses all across our nation, and we have been praying for and sharing with each other. Our prayer is that God would spark a movement on college campuses not just across America, but globally! We want to see Christ move in power!

If you want to check out some exciting testimonies, go to . You need to read what happened to Jaeson and his friends on the Bruin Walk at UCLA. Or to read Jaeson's personal blog, go to

White Thanksgiving

We had a cold, snowy Thanksgiving this year, much to the kid's delight! We spent it with our friends, the Stockerts, and with Chris, who was our intern the past two years at CMU. It was a really fun and relaxed time with our Pittsburgh family!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Psalms 118
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Oh let Israel say, "His lovingkindness is everlasting."
Oh let the house of Aaron say, "His lovingkindness is everlasting."
Oh let those who fear the LORD say, "His lovingkindness is everlasting."
From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place.
The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?

The LORD is for me among those who help me; Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD Than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD Than to trust in princes.
All nations surrounded me; In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me; In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees; They were extinguished as a fire of thorns; In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.
You pushed me violently so that I was falling, But the LORD helped me.
The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.
The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.
The right hand of the LORD is exalted; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.
I will not die, but live, And tell of the works of the LORD.
The LORD has disciplined me severely, But He has not given me over to death.
Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD; The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me, And You have become my salvation.
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.
This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O LORD, do save, we beseech You; O LORD, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You.
Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Heart of a Little Missionary

I just love having conversations with my 8-year-old, Joshua. Here is our conversation today.

Q: What do you think are the most important things in life?
A: Praising God, reading my Bible, my family, and telling people about Jesus. You know, life is kind of like being sent on a mission, if you think about it. The whole reason that we're born in the first place is to tell people about Jesus.

Q: What made you decide to become a Christian?
A: I just believe that God is real, and I believe His story. I'm glad that I had a chance to know about that.

Q: What would you tell someone who did not know about Him?
A: That He can save them from their sins if they just believe.

Q: How do you know that God really exists?
A: Because He really does talk to me. Like through my heart and my head. He tells me if I should do something or not. We talk to each other. I sometimes tell him sorry when my friends at school take His name in vain. And I apologize for my sins, too. I tell Him that I love Him.

Q: How do you go deeper in that relationship with Him?
A: I haven't really done that very well lately, but I want to. Like I want to read the whole Bible and talk to Him more and stuff.

Q: What do you think God thinks about you?
A: I guess He thinks I'm good sometimes and pretty wild sometimes. But then He thinks, "I love that kid!"

Q: Do you think God has a plan for your life?
A: I know that He does, but I don't know all the details yet. I think I may be a missionary and go around the world. Because around the world there are less people that know about Jesus than there are here.

Q: But what if that means you have to live in a hut, or eat bugs, or what if it means you will die?
A: The hut would be FUN, and bugs might taste good. But it would be worth it if I was killed. Because I am only one person, but I can tell a lot of people. If you go to hell, it's like dying for all eternity. But if you go to heaven, it's like having a much, much better life than you would have on earth anyway.

Q: Do you have a verse that God has shown you about all this?
A: Yes. It's when Jesus talks, afterHe had just come back to life. I think it's in Matthew. He says He's going to come back again when all the nations know about Him. I really want people to know about God, and I really want to see Jesus come down again.

How's that for a missions heart???!!! He challenges me constantly!
Mat 18:2-3 "And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blessing of Affliction

I have been hashing through some deep wounds from my past that God has brought to light, and that I need to deal with. It has been tough.

On Wednesday a friend gave me this great book. It is called, "The Hidden Smile of God: the Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd." by John Piper. As a child I loved "Pilgrim's Progress", so I was excited to read it. I'm just through the first chapter, but wanted to share this part. It is about how to rightly suffer affliction.

Piper points out that Bunyan's solution is to "live upon a God that is invisible." In a quote from "Seasonable Counsel", Bunyan says,

"We are apt to overshoot, in the days that are calm, and to think ourselves far
higher, and more strong than we find we be, when the trying day is upon
us....We could not live without such turnings of the hand of God upon
us. We should be overgrown with flesh, if we had not our seasonable
winters. It is said that in some countries trees will grow, but will bear
no fruit, because there is no winter there
(What does that mean, to "live upon a God that is invisible?" I am trying to fully wrap my mind around that concept.)

It has been amazing how God has even used my recent struggle for good. Last Friday a student sat on my couch and asked why my parents would have willingly jeopardized our safety. He could not comprehend putting your family through what we have been through just to tell others about Christ. (He is Jewish.) I was able to tell him that our eternal condition is far more important than our physical well-being and comfort.

Then last night, one of our students was struggling, and began talking to me about his pain. We agreed together that it is easier to go through trials if we know two things: 1) That God is Sovereign, and 2) That there is a purpose in our suffering. But this kid happens to be Muslim. So in the midst of still dealing with my own heartache, I found myself saying that a loving God ordained affliction in my life in order to draw me to Himself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

John the Baptist and Original Sin

There is a verse that I have puzzled over for weeks now. It is Luke 1:15b "and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb." (referring to John the Baptist.)

One of our Catholic students explained that this is where his church gets the belief that John was without original sin.

While I can't agree with that concept, the verse does continue to perplex me. It does not fit into my belief that we receive the Holy Spirit upon regeneration.

Also, if John was filled with the Holy Spirit, then why did he ask Jesus in Matt. 11:3 "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" Wouldn't he know that without a shadow of a doubt?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Earlier this week a friend sent me this quote. I love the simplicity, but also the depth of it. What do you think?

A fellow Franciscan once challenged me with a set of questions:

Do you ever reflect upon the fact that Jesus feels proud of you? Proud that you accepted the faith which he offered you? Proud that after he chose you, you chose him for a friend and Lord? Proud that you haven’t given up? Proud that you believe in him enough to try again and again? Proud that you trust that he can help you? Do you ever think that Jesus appreciates you for wanting him, for wanting to say no to so many things that would separate you from him? Do you ever think that Jesus is grateful to you for pausing to smile and comfort one of his children who has a great need to see a smile, to feel a touch? Do you ever think of Jesus being grateful to you for learning more about him so that you can speak to others more deeply and truly about him? Do you ever think that Jesus can be angry or disappointed in you for not believing that he has forgiven you totally?

Jesus said, “I do not call you servants, but friends . . .” Therefore, there is the possibility of every feeling and emotion which can exist between friends to exist here and now between Jesus and you.

From A Glimpse of Jesus, by Brennan Manning: A Stranger to Self-Hatred, p. 115.

Friday, November 11, 2005

This is our CrossSeekers group at CMU. I'm on the bottom row, far right Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I Finally Caved!!!

This blog is a result of much peer pressure, after all my friends got tired of my daily emails and ramblings. Marty Duren is doing a victory dance right now! : )

I want to be able to openly discuss life issues, difficult passages of scripture, cool books or quotes, or basically anything that strikes your fancy! And of course, the occasional interesting photo as well.