Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mission Nicaragua :: Recap

Posted: August 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

Nicaragua 2017Nicaragua 2017-2



Posted: October 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

“I came to a new understanding why Jesus passed up the religious establishment of his day, the economically secure, the socially prestigious, and sought out the poor, the outcast, the sinner, the broken, the sick, the lonely. He felt, as we so often do not feel, their sorrow. He was acquainted, as we too seldom are, with their grief. On Calvary he died of a broken heart. But that heart was broken long before Black Friday, by the desolation of the common people. “In all their afflictions, he was afflicted.”

Most of the time we are not. We seem to have quite a different conception of life. We avoid as much as possible the unpleasant. We shun the suffering of others. We shrink from any burdens except those which life itself inescapably thrusts upon us. We seek arduously the wealth and power that will enable us to secure ourselves against the possibility of being involved with another’s affliction. Lazarus sometimes makes his way to our door step. We toss him a coin and go on our way. We give our charities but we do not give ourselves. We build our charitable institutions but we do not build ourselves into other’s lives.” (From The Captivating Presence by Albert Edward Day)

My prayer is every increasingly growing that I would see people through the eyes of Christ. I used to hear my pastor say, “Every person is a candidate for Christ.” I don’t want to see people as scenery on my highway of life. People matter to God, so people should matter to me.

I’ve come to realize that everywhere I look people are hurting. People have physical, emotional and primarily spiritual needs. I’m continually reminded where Jesus spoke about looking out at the crowd of people as “sheep that were harassed and helpless… sheep without a shepherd.”

What a great responsibility and privilege I have as a Christian who the Shepherd rescued, to point other sheep to that same Great Shepherd. To walk with people through the difficulties of life to the place of entering in to those difficulties… in order to share the hope that I have found in the Gospel.

I’ve got a long way to go… but praying that day by day the scales fall off and the captivating beauty of Christ and the power of the Gospel would first impact my heart so that I can love God and love others.

A Cry for Mercy

Posted: September 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

There isn’t much I have to say. Actually, I feel that is the way it should be most of the time. During my time alone with God this morning, I read this prayer by Henri Nouwen from his A Cry for Mercy. I’ll let his thoughts and heart desire speak for me today…

O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I am impressed by my own spiritual insights. I probably know more about prayer, meditation and contemplation than most Christians do. I have read many books about the Christian life and have even written a few myself. Still, as impressed as I am, I am more impressed by the enormous abyss between my insights and my life.

It seems as if I am standing on one side of a huge canyon and see how I should grow toward you, live in your presence and serve you, but cannot reach the other side of the canyon where you are. I can speak and write, preach and argue about the beauty and goodness of the life I see on the other side, but how, O Lord, can I get there? Sometimes I even have the painful feeling that the clearer the vision, the more aware I am of the depth of the canyon.

Am I doomed to die on the wrong side of the abyss? Am I destined to excite others to reach the promised land while remaining unable to enter there myself? Sometimes I feel imprisoned by my own insights and “spiritual competence.” You alone, Lord, can reach out to me and save me. You alone.

I can only keep trying to be faithful, even though I fell faithless most of the time,. What else can I do but keep praying to you, even when I feel dark; to keep writing about you, even when I feel numb; to keep speaking in your name, even when I fell alone. Come Lord Jesus, come. Have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.

A Cry for Mercy

Posted: April 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

O Lord, who else or what else can I desire but you? You are my Lord, Lord of my heart, mind and soul. You know me through and through. In and through you everything that is finds its origin and goal. You embrace all that exists and care for it with divine love and compassion. Why, then, do I keep expecting happiness and satisfaction outside of you? Why do I keep relating to you as one of my many relationships, instead of my only relationship, in which all other ones are grounded? Why do I keep looking for popularity, respect from others, success acclaim and sensual pleasures? Why, Lord, is it so hard for me to make you the only one? Why do I keep hesitating to surrender myself totally to you?

Help me, O Lord, to let my old self die, to let die the thousand big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in you and see through you the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words and thoughts can be come a hymn of praise to you.

I need your loving grace to travel on this hard road that leads to the death of my old self and to a new life in and for you. I know and trust that this is the road to freedom.

Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend. Amen.

– From A Cry for Mercy by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Reaching Out

Posted: February 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

As my role begins the process of changing, it has led me to do some extensive and intensive prayer and study in God’s Word, as well as research in areas that I feel the need to press into more deeply. Of course for all of us that claim to follow Christ, we are both equally bound and terrified by the word evangelism. No other word is seemingly so compelling and repulsive at the same time. It falls into that category of our life and faith where we go, “I know I should be doing something but I’m not really sure what to do, so I will put that one on the shelf for later.”

But in thinking of our call to evangelism or outreach, I came across some great insight in writings from John Piper and Robert Coleman. They helped me see that really this concept of outreach is less about us and more about God… go figure. Seems to be a common reversal we make in most areas of life!

In Coleman’s The Master Plan of Discipleship, he shows us something quite remarkable. In the book of Acts, evangelistic strategy seems to focus mainly on people who have been prepared in some way by God to be receptive to receive the Gospel. So God is the great evangelist – He is the one who prepares and persuades. “He awakens sinners (Ephesians 2:5), opens their hearts (Acts 16:14), draws them (John 6:44), empowers the gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:1) and calls the lost (1 Corinthians 1:24).”

So I simply have the privilege to join God in what He is already doing! I just have to be about the process of “outreach”… or as the great commission would put it… “as I’m going” to look for opportunities to make disciples of the ones God is already calling. Does that not seem a relief to anyone else?

Look at how this took place in the book of Acts:

• The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost unleashed the gospel on a host of spiritually sensitive Jews who had come from at least fifteen different nations to worship the God of the Old Testament

• The next big harvest came in Samaria (Acts 8:4-25), where Jesus earlier had laid a foundation by His witness (John 4:4-42)

• The Holy Spirit sent Philip to an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the scroll of Isaiah and was puzzling over who chapter 53 was talking about (Acts 8:26-39).

• The evangelistic breakthrough with Gentiles outside Jerusalem came with Cornelius, who feared God and gave alms and prayed and had a vision of God’s messenger (Acts 10).

• When Paul launched his missionary career, he followed the pattern of going first to the synagogue in search of some receptive Jews or God-fearing Gentiles (Acts 13:5, 14, 42f; 14:1; 17:1f; 10, 17; 18:4, 7, 19, 26; 19:8)

• On his second missionary journey, Paul’s planning was checked twice by the Lord. The Holy Spirit forbade him (for the moment) to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), and the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7). Instead, Paul saw a vision with a man saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). The focus again was on the spiritually receptive.

• In Philippi there was no synagogue. So Paul found a place where women prayed outside the city and joined them, where one was converted (Acts 16:12-14).

There were times when Paul argued in the marketplace or town center, but it wasn’t a pattern like this. Yet the pattern of looking for the receptive or as Coleman says, “to look for those who want to move for Christ. Life is too short to expend excessive time and energy upon apathetic people.”

This has really resonated within my heart. Not that we ever ignore or push any spiritually calloused people away – we are always called to pray for those outside the faith, but to search for those where God’s Spirit is working and calling. God’s purpose and mission remains the same – that the Gospel go to all nations – even to those who would be resistant. Piper says, “We become partners with the Holy Spirit, and we should be alert to those who are beginning to be awakened by His grace.” And Coleman is right when he says, “I am convinced that a few such persons are within the influence of every Christian.”

They are around me. They are around you. By the privilege and duty God has given us, let us relentlessly give our lives to this great calling… that the world may know Christ! As Jesus said of his mission, “To seek and to save the lost.” We have the responsibility to do the seeking… to find those that He is calling and leave the saving up to Him!

Richness for the Good?

Posted: December 9, 2009 in Uncategorized

For the majority of my time in ministry I’ve mainly worked with families and students who are abundantly blessed. In fact, I coined a phrase “silver-spoon ministry” in efforts to describe what it was like to minister to students of privilege – students that regularly received a brand new car for their 16th birthday, usually much nicer than the one I was driving. Silver-spoon ministry has it’s challenges for sure… and then one day, I started to look deeper into the Scriptures (and in turn my own heart) to discover if there was any possibility of harnessing materialism for the Kingdom. Could materialism somehow be for the good?

I’m no different than anyone out there really. We’ve all been subject to the indoctrination of the American Dream as an active or passive part of our education. It’s said many different ways: be self-sufficient, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, make a name for yourself, have it your way, get rich, get stuff… and as a result: be happy. And even though I learned early on lessons from Scripture to the contrary, the American Dream mantra is a tough one to overcome. Let’s face it, we do like stuff and we’ll do whatever it takes to get it so we can be happy.

But where this American Dream intersects with the Kingdom of God is of great interest to me and has recently been a place of great tension in my heart. Even in knowing that the American Dream has no power to save – and actually has the opposite power of destruction – we continually find ourselves lying prostrate before that idol in worship. And I am guilty of that. And over and over again in the Gospels we see encounters with the hurting, homelessness, poverty, outcasts, social injustice and the like. And there standing in the way of those encounters are selfishness, greed and materialism.

In the summer of 2005, I led a group of high school students to the second poorest country in this hemisphere: Nicaragua. I had never been to a third world country before and didn’t really know what to expect. One morning we loaded the bus to head to La Chureca – the city dump. I’ve written on it numerous times here before, so feel free to search through any of the summer archives here on this blog to read more. So in driving through the deplorable conditions of humanity that were living in abject poverty, I still knew that I would get on an airplane and return to the comforts of my home and American way of life. Or would I?

I returned not knowing what to do with the amount of “treasure” that my family and I possess. Things that seemed common like a vehicle for transportation, food in the pantry, clothes in the closet and clean, hot water for a shower and a bed to sleep in began to feel like a luxury. I didn’t dare venture to actually think of my “luxury” items. I thought that everything had to go. I didn’t know where to start. The American Dream started to look less like a dream and more like a nightmare.

The goal then became to try to understand how to live the Gospel in a world that I, and the students I seek to minister to, is riddled with narcissism, materialism, greed and entitlement. And those values are sought after and even rewarded. And then one day I came across a quote that read, “The most serious problem facing the church today is materialism – materialism not as a philosophical theory, but as a way of life.” And it isn’t going away anytime soon.

My initial inclination has always been to simply vilify this American Dream. And don’t jump too far ahead, because I intend in no way to excuse sins of greed, materialism, etc. that Scripture condemns. But I began to wonder if the American Dream could be rescued and renewed for the Kingdom? And so while I do my best to understand my wealth and resources from a global perspective and even strive to bring that understanding to my students… rather than getting stuck in guilt or moving towards manipulation… maybe the answer is a both/and. A rejection of the sinfulness and selfishness of the American Dream, while at the same time, an understanding that what we do find that we have (in our time, talent and particularly treasure) can be used in an amazing way for the Gospel around the world. I can do something about the children in La Chureca even if I can’t physically be there to help. God has resourced me well – and many around me – to finance the efforts of the Kingdom.

Then the gospel and our desire for live it out missionally moves from simply being about going, to being about going AND sending. How can we not only go and serve but also funnel our possessions into service devoted to God’s glory and advancing the Kingdom? So maybe the silver-spoon that looked problematic can be redeemed by removing it from our mouths and using it to feed someone else’s mouth! Now that’s richness for the good!

So I realize I haven’t been as active in the blogging world as of late. It probably has more to do with the addition to the family, ministry responsibilities and other things that would make a pretty long list, but I’ll spare you. And I don’t ever write feeling I have something to say that others need to read, as much as I write because I need to read! This serves as my online journal I guess.

Anyhow, I was reading in 1 Samuel 8 the other day and was really struck by the request of the people… God’s chosen people for leadership. In verse 5 the elders met with Samuel and said, “Give us A king to judge us like all the other nations have.” Seems an innocent request at first glance. We want to have a king to rule us, and why not, everyone else does.

But then Samuel’s reply, “Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance.” I just have to wonder why the elders from all the tribes didn’t do this in the first place. For generations, God had spoken to, led, provided for, instructed and cared for His people. Yet the lure of “having what everyone else had” became too great, yet again, in their life. God answers Samuel by saying, “They don’t want me THE King any longer. So give them what they want.”

Before I get to critical of the Israelites, I had to do a little soul searching. How many times have I said – verbally or non-verbally, intentionally or non-intentionally – “I want A king, not THE King!” So, thousands of years later, not only does the pattern continue among God’s chosen people, but it is even evident in my own life. It is so tempting to look around and see what the world offers and desire their king(s) over the one and only King.

For as much as we all push against authority, we’re still always asking for it. As much as we want freedom, we ultimately by our choices end up as slaves. But the distinction isn’t in having authority – it’s being able to select what authority we fall under. Do we live in humble obedience, a life pleasing to THE King? Or are we out looking to set up our own kingdom with our own king? It doesn’t matter what king we are bowing down to – the king of popularity, power, prestige… the list goes on and on and on.

As that passage continues you can hear the heartbreak in God’s response. He basically recounts His faithfulness and love for His people and their continued fickleness, abandonment and downright rejection. How it must break the heart of God when we decide we would rather have a king over the King of kings!