06 May 2016

A Biblical Look at Mother's Day: A Song for the Rest of Us

As we approach Mothers Day, I am very thankful for the moms that have been in my life: my mom, grandma, sister, aunts, cousins, and friends. I honor them all. However, I also honor women who could not conceive, never had opportunity to try, do not have a desire for
children or choose not to have children for a variety of reasons. 

I am one of those women. Nevertheless, I am not without hope, and I do not despair.

Recently I had an opportunity to teach a class at my local church on the topic “Fulfilled in Christ.” This study was a four-week journey toward a new way to view our lives. We examined what it means to be family, and what constitutes “normal” in modern society and in the life of a believer in Christ.

In the class, we studied how scripture reveals a different way to understand stages of the human life than is typically represented in society and, oftentimes, the church. It is a "normal" assumption that individuals should follow a certain set of rules for the stages of life and are sometimes seen as atypical or not normal if they don't. 

In the class, we studied that the church is meant to be a place of inclusion. The church was created and transformed by Jesus to be a family where everyone belongs. We also looked into the scriptures to find that the ultimate goal of life was not to create your family, but to be a family as God intended.

In Isaiah 54, we read that one particular revelation about the coming of the Christ (the Messiah) was a new way to see motherhood. This passage speaks of the woman who cannot bear children: 


“Sing, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband”

The barren woman sings. She SINGS. In a world where having babies and preserving bloodlines was so very important, a woman who cannot have children is singing.  

Why?

In the Garden of Eden, God expressed His desire for creation to have relationship with Him. When Eden collapsed, so did the intimacy of that relationship. However, God’s longing for relationship immediately initiated a plan to restore what was lost.

Eve would birth children (through pain) and begin the process of tracing God’s desire to redeem relationship with his creation. The genealogies written throughout the Bible served as a map to point to God’s plan. Throughout the Old Testament we read about the topics of bloodline, offspring, and the blessings that would come through them. The blessing to mankind would come through the offspring of Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Israel and would reveal God’s sovereignty and grace upon humanity. 

God was at work. He gave a promise to Abraham that his children would be greater than the sand and stars (Gen 22:17). 

How was this going to happen?

And what does this have to do with a barren woman?

Immediately following the famous “Suffering Servant” passages (Isaiah 53) comes a promise to women who feel like they are without value because they cannot do what women have done since the time of Eve: bear children. Without offspring, women were cut off from the people of God because their blessing was removed by their inability to bear children. They had no inheritance because they had no offspring, no blessing.

However, with the coming of the Messiah, Isaiah prophesies that the barren woman would sing. She sings because the Messiah has provided her an ability 1) to have children in far greater number than she could ever have biologically, and 2) to receive the coveted blessing, favor, and promise of God. She was no longer cut-off, but was a part of the family. She was honored. She was blessed. Therefore, she has not other response but to sing.

For those who long for children of their own, this message may not bring comfort to a heart that longs for a child. Many desire to adopt or foster, but life and circumstances obstruct the ability to raise a child. Scriptures and prayers bring promises from God held with great hope. Some see the hope fulfilled only to lose the child through miscarriages, stillbirths, or way too young. Perhaps an adoption was terminated at the last moment. No matter how a child a child leaves a mother, the pain must be without comfort.

However, with an accurate understanding of scripture, hope for a family can be found through the fulfillment that came through Christ. If we can view family through a biblical lens, we can see the role of the mother – and the entire family – in a way that brings hope and our own fulfillment. But it can only be seen through Jesus.

Jesus was the fulfillment of all of our desires. All of the promises of scripture point to Him. The physical bloodline from Eve flowed on a cross for us, and provided the ability for it to include all of us as family. No one is left out. No one is more or less because of the ability to have or not have children. Everyone has an equal place at the table because all of us have the ability to carry on a new bloodline to generations to come. It doesn’t come through biology. It comes by the Spirit. It came because of Christ.

In Jesus' earthly life, he begins to interact with a new form of family: an eternal one. Natural and temporal relationships (marriage, children, mother, father, brothers) were no longer the focus because he brought an eternal family together! (Luke 14:26) Blessing would now come because He allowed us entrance back into Eden.

Jesus does not diminish or undermine traditional family values of house and home, marriage and children. His first miracle took place in attendance at a wedding! (John 2) However, Jesus does announce that Kingdom values require greater allegiance to Him than to traditional family members. Remember his response when notified about his biological family? "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" (Matthew 12:48)  Jesus family values required a bond together as family even if they were not biological.

Jesus’ life and ministry focused on those who were abandoned in the traditional familial society: orphans, widows, foreigners, the sick, broken, hurting, poor, hungry, and defiled. Why? Because his bloodline guaranteed that they had a place at His table. Our table. These without even a name suddenly had an inheritance. They were part of the family. They were enough.*


 Jesus introduced a new social system and means of understanding the stages of life. Our life is to be a reflection of an eternal kingdom, not only a biological family. Romans 9:8 tells us that "it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring." Our bloodline was meant to be eternal, through all generations. Children of God's eternal kingdom can only come through the bloodline of Jesus. Therefore, to see family as Jesus did brings to us a family unit that is far greater than sons and daughters (Isaiah 56).

Not everyone will be able to comprehend this promise. We are human. We have desire. We just want to do what we were created to do. However, if we can grasp what Jesus did to society and how he turned family roles upside down, we may begin to think differently about a lot of things, not just motherhood. 

The coming of Jesus allowed us entrance into a life of bringing hope to the world around us. If we can accept that His ways are good, perhaps our viewpoint on this very difficult subject of barrenness and infertility could also change. 

We may not have the ability to bear children or raise them in our household. However, just like the barren woman of Isaiah 54, we can sing because our children will be, like Abraham's, as numerous as the stars. 

As we open our hearts to a new form of family, God will show us how to accept one another for who we were created to be. Isaiah's prophecy continues in verses 14 & 15: "All your children will be taught by the Lord,and great will be their peace." 

When we release our lives, hopes and desires to Him, he will be our ultimate fulfilment. And we will all have the ability to have spiritual children who will be taught by God and given His peace.

God’s promises to us are true. So on this Mother's Day, may we recognize that the ability to have biological children does not make you a mother, Jesus does. 

Everyone is welcome to the family table.  


Sing, barren woman, sing!

And we will sing with you.



*Special thanks to Barry Danylak and his research in “Redeeming Singleness: How the storyline of scripture affirms the single life,” (2010,Crossway Books, Illinois). I consider Barry a friend and his research inspires me to study and understand how everyone is fulfilled through Christ.

30 March 2016

Feminist? Nah... But striving to be Biblical

I rarely post things like this, but here you go:
I am a single, never married female minister. However, I am not a feminist by any stretch. I know who I am in Christ. I know my own humanity and place on this earth. Also, although I post the article below, I don't agree with everything written. I don't feel we should need to take such a strong stance for gender equality, however, I do believe we should stand up for those who have had their voice silenced in the church, and that stance should be a biblical one. 
We need to know what the Bible reveals to us and look at the entirety of scripture & seek God for clear interpretation of what the coming of Christ brought to humanity. 
In my estimation, the fulfillment of scripture through Jesus means that we all have a place at the table, no matter our gender, abilities, sins - or our past, present, or future. God has accepted us just as we are, and we should strive to accept and promote one another as brothers & sisters in Christ. None of us are perfect. We are all on a journey. 
So lets treat one another as we would like to be treated. Love God. Love others as you love yourself. 

16 February 2016

My updated bio...

I have not posted an updated bio on this site in a while. I'm also posting a few prayer requests. Thank you for your prayers for me and for Europe!

Shannon Buckner, a native of Clarksville, Arkansas, is a veteran missionary to Europe, having served in Belgium and the United Kingdom since 1998.  Shannon's 25 years in missions has included church planting and the training students in England at Mattersey Hall Christian College (2012-2014), Belgium at Continental Theological Seminary (1998-2011), as well as ministry in Cambodia (1992-‘95 & ‘97), and Egypt (summers of '89 & '90).

Shannon’s main focus of missionary ministry has been the training of hundreds of international students preparing for vocational ministry throughout Europe. With a BA in Bible & Theology (CBC), MA in Christian Ministry (AGTS), and current work toward a PhD in Intercultural Studies, Shannon’s training and experience in mentoring, ministry, and practical theology have provided her with an opportunity to form the next generation of Christian leaders. This focus on training now translates into forming missionaries to effectively reach Europe.

Shannon currently serves on the leadership team for the AG World Missions in Europe with the role of “Resourcing Missionary Life.” She leads a team of missionaries that provide resources for the training, mentoring, and building of competency & community among the more than 400 Assemblies of God missionaries in Europe. This training takes place on the ground in Europe and among new itinerating missionaries preparing for the field.  As missionary effectiveness increases, we believe that our mission to reach Europe for Christ will also increase.

Why Europe?
Europe is generally viewed as a region that is steeped in history, adorned with beauty and confidently accomplished and cultured. The truth is that Europe is dominated by dark secrets, deep wounds and desperate spiritual brokenness. The message of the Gospel has been perverted, leading to the abandonment of Christianity, the growth of other religious expressions and the rise of secularism – removing God from all aspects of life.

Therefore, the purpose of our mission to Europe is this: By His Spirit, we do justly, through standing with the marginalized. We love mercy, by engaging the secularist. We walk humbly to inspire revitalization.

We envision a Europe where the Gospel is completely and accurately expressed through strong communities of faith – making disciples, birthing churches and impacting society.

Thank you for your prayers for Shannon and the AGWM missionary personnel throughout the continent of Europe.





Ways you can pray:
1) Shannon serves as a leader for AGWM Europe, with an emphasis upon resourcing missionaries. She leads a team of missionaries focused on the training & mentoring of new workers to Europe.  Please pray for wisdom in leadership and divine guidance in training efforts.
2) For new missionaries engaged in Europe missionary training.
3) For Shannon’s travel to Europe.
4) For current refugee crisis in Europe - wisdom for leaders, national churches, and AGWM missionaries as we respond with compassion & evangelism.
5) For the development of further training and mentoring programs in Europe.
6) For direction & open doors as it relates to Shannon’s future of ministry in Europe.
7) For physical health and strength.
8) For Shannon’s family, especially nieces & nephews.

16 December 2015

Merry Christmas & Update from Shannon

Hi friends - my latest update is now posted with a special Christmas greeting and information about what is happening in Europe Missions. 

Thank you for your prayers, partnership, and giving.

If you would like to give a tax deductible end-of-year donation to my missions account, simply click this link to be re-directed to the online-giving portal. Thank you so much!

May you have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Blessings,
Shannon


CLICK HERE TO READ THE ONLINE UPDATE!

15 October 2015

Myths about refugees...

I'm reading this article from the Washington Post as I am finalizing travel in Europe in a few days. I will primarily be in and out of the areas where these dear people are traveling. It is humbling to understand the freedom that I have to live in a city that is not being destroyed and in a nation where I do not fear for my life. It is also humbling to comprehend that I can travel in & out of nations like Croatia without fear of the cold, land mines, separation from my family, or the rejection by a government. I simply show my passport, step on a plane, and return to the safety of my home country. So as I sort through travel arrangements, I am praying for ways that I can be involved in sharing God's love during this trip. 

If we find ourselves complaining about being "persecuted" or fearing what an influx of refugees will mean for our nation, or for Europe, please remember that each person that gets on a boat, swims, walks, or rides in a train or bus has a story. They have a family. They had a job, a home, a daily routine that has now been disrupted and they are on a quest to live in peace. They are not out to get us. Islam is not taking over. God is bringing yet another nation to us, perhaps because we have not been willing to go to them. The Gospel is being preached. With words, with water, with blankets, with time, with care. 

PLEASE PRAY FOR THESE REFUGEES. See the faces. Read their stories. Pray for those that are sharing God's love with them daily through compassion. And please, ask God how you can help be the love of Jesus in a time of crisis to someone that is suffering. 

If you want to be involved through giving, Convoy of Hope Europe​ is on the ground, planting churches, and loving people. You can give to them here: https://giving.ag.org/Give/Details/600001-410946?Class=44&Comments=Europe%20Refugees


Here's a video from VOX about the History of the War in Syria:

11 September 2015

The Refugee Crisis in Europe

While I am currently in the US, my heart is in Europe. 

I know you are all following the news and watching the influx of Syrian refugees coming across Europe's boarders. They are fleeing war and tyranny, and looking for hope. 

They are members of a community. White collar, blue collar, professional, athletes, dads, moms, siblings, grandmas & grandpas. They have walked hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles. 

Some have paid a lot of money to people who have made promises to get them into the European Union, only to be left on the side of the road to die. One van's back door was welded shut and the trafficker ran from police when they were stopped. Many are stopped at boarders to be registered, only to be held in detainment centers. They are kicked off of trains and buses. They sleep on the streets, or in a field, or outside of a station, hoping for something new to happen the next day. 

Hoping. 

It's quite amazing what hope can do for us. Especially when we are frightened.

It's quite amazing what fear will do to us, and we are willing to do anything to protect our families. 

It causes people to take off in the middle of the night, gather their families, and set out for something better. There has to be more than war. There has to be more than cities being overtaken. There has to be acceptance. There has to be hope. 

Europe is now at a crossroads: Offer hope or prolong fear.

As I watch my colleagues share love, compassion, and Jesus in the flesh across Europe, I am compelled to pray. I am also compelled to think that Jesus would respond in the same way. He would not see them as a nuisance. He would not reject them. He would not deny their value. 

Jesus would walk with them along the road.
Jesus would sleep next to them on the street. 
Jesus would pick up trash in their camp.
Jesus would make a shelter for them to sleep under. 
Jesus would offer water to wash their babies.
Jesus would fill their arms with food. 
Jesus would hug them. 
Jesus would give them the truth of His word to hold onto.
Jesus would love them. 

Would you join me in praying for Europe?
Join me in praying for these refugees. 
Join me in praying for governments and leaders to respond appropriately.
Join me in praying that the church rise up & be Jesus. 
Join me in praying for church leaders, missionaries, and Christians to do what is right. 
Join me in offering hope to a displaced people. 
Join me, and Jesus, and love them.

Here's a video taken by Europe Missions workers on the Macedonia/Greece border to give you an idea of what is happening in one area of Europe. 
video

This week the face of Europe has changed. May we change too.

This is not a "please give" post, but most of you will not be able to go to Europe to help. If you want to give, CLICK THIS LINK TO AG GIVING and all funds will go directly to the efforts to share compassion with these refugees via Europe Missions


Video courtesy of Peter Good.

28 August 2015

Women in Ministry

This post is for the young women at the Arkansas Youth Department's Timothy Retreat - for teens who are sensing God's call to ministry. In the links below you will find a few resources to help you study the role of Women in Ministry, what the Assemblies of God thinks about it, and also my notes from the session. 


Final Words of Wisdom for Young Women Feeling a Call to Ministry:
  • ·      Listen to the voice of Jesus – have mentors, observe others, learn from leaders, but ultimately you must be obedient to what God wants you to do. Be sensitive to His voice.
  • ·      Take your time – you have an appointed number of days for a reason. The preparation of your own heart and the process of leading you to ministry is more important than the ministry. Let God develop your personality & interests as you live your life.
  • ·      Don’t be afraid of singleness – God has placed us in families. Look for the people around you that become your family – you don’t have to create your own to be validated as a minister.
  • ·      Get education – ask God what he would have you to do, may be Bible school, may not. Know the word of God, but be open to what God asks of you to do as it relates to study.
  • ·      Get involved now – don’t wait until you have a degree, have a family, have an invitation. God is asking us to listen & be obedient now. He is active around you. What is he asking you to do?
  • ·      Love people, not the ministry – you will fulfill God’s call if you genuinely love all people. Look for opportunities to share Jesus through words, actions, prayers, compassion.

PDF Resources to download:
God's Women Then and Now - Gill & Cavaness
Paul, Women and Wives - Keener
Jesus Hearted Woman - Detrick
Why Not Women: A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership - Cunningham
A Year of Biblical Womanhood - Evans
Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit The Bible's View of Women - Bessey
Redeeming Singleness - Biblical Theology of Singleness - Danylak