Thursday, November 13, 2014

Now It Feels Like Africa

We have been in Nairobi now for three almost  weeks and it was always missing something that made me think that maybe Africa had changed. I mean there are malls and regular supermarkets. You can walk pretty much anywhere and not see the extreme poverty that Africa has had on display in our previous times here. There are brand new Mercedes driving around very nice apartment building line many streets.

Not that I believed Africa had this major overhaul in the past 8 years, but it is different, until today.

We were walking back from the office this afternoon and came upon a man laying in the ditch in obvious convulsions. Laying in a drainage ditch, foaming at the mouth and convulsing. Another man and myself managed to get him turned on his side so he wouldn't choke and put something under his head so he wouldn't smash his  head against the concrete curb.

As the man began to come around he said he needed some water, which he had in a bag he was carrying. He then explained he was a diabetic and need something with sugar. We got him some juice and some biscuits. He then explained that he was not only diabetic but also had epilepsy He had been to the doctor that morning but could not afford the medication. This man also had a large oozing infection puncture wound on his neck from when he fell last week.

This brings me to the question; what should be our response to this situation? At first glance this seems to be a real life Parable of the Good Samaritan. This man was not pulling some scam to try and get money, he was truly in dire need of help. Can all the arguments presented in the parable be applied here, maybe even more? Can we all come up with a valid reason to ignore the situation? By the way calling 911 is not an option.

Anyone who has lived in a developing country has faced the same question. The needs are so great that one could completely give away all that you own in very short time.

I do not have an answer to this situation, I responded as I felt the Lord would have had me done, but then again I could be just making excuses myself.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Knowing God

To Know Him And Him Only

As we have gone through this process of preparation to leave the good old USA and move to a place that we have never been, but are called by God to go we have had to review so many things in our life and what we value. The Bible tells us, "where your treasure is there your heart will be also". Treasure can come in so many forms besides money, gold and jewels. Treasure can be homes, jobs, lifestyle of just comfort.  I have always found great truth in the words of a song Me and Bobby McGee Freedoms just another word for nothin left to lose". You are never truly free so long as you have treasure in this world. In this world there is decay, thieves, and all kinds of things that will try to take your treasure. In order to prevent you losing all your treasure you must be vigilant, watching for any one or any thing that might threaten your treasure. Unfortunately when to make the attempt to keep some people away, you can keep all people away.

This is not the way we were designed to live. Relationships are what we were created for. Relationships with each other, but more importantly, relationship with our creator and father. We have had to look at this relationship and assign a value to it in our lives. This has been a very enlightening experience. While I think it would be possible to do this without actual circumstances that threaten your earthly treasure, I am not sure the experience would be as real. How do you reach the point that is expressed in Philippians 3:10 All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised Him from death. I want to share in His sufferings and be like Him, even in His death.

The more I know about Christ, the more I realize that He is so much bigger, complex, eternal, and wonderful than my mind can grasp. I can spend my entire life trying to know Him, understand Him, and still not begin to grasp who He really is and how He works. The idea of a completely sovereign God is so hard to grasp. To often we want hold His actions in judgement, as if it it is us who actually knows best and can see into eternity.

I pray that every day He will show me more of Himself and my trust will grow to the point that I can say with all assurance All I want, ALL I WANT is to know Him and the power that raised Him from the dead.  It is then I will be rich beyond everything that I might possess here on earth

Monday, August 11, 2014

What Do I Really Own?

We as a society in the U.S. have become increasingly materialistic.  The more technology advances, the more we feel the need to have the latest and the best, and the fastest thing on the market. Our possessions have taken ownership of our souls and we must maintain at all costs.  As you drive across the countryside passing through small town towns of less than one thousand people, chances are you will see a storage unit business. In larger cities there are massive buildings choked full of stuff people do not have room for in their house, so they have to rent more space to store the stuff they might need someday. There is even television shows of auctions of stuff that people have abandon in these storage units.

In the Bible when a man who had acquired much did not have room to store all he had he said to himself      "This is what I will do, I will tear down my barns and build and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I'll say to myself, you have plenty of grain Laid up for many years. Take Life easy, eat, drink, and be merry."

Are we as a society so different than this man?

In the decision about what to do with our house before leaving for South Sudan I was faced with a side of my self that I admit made me think.  I am a firm believer in the idea that the Lord is the owner of everything that I possess. However the thought of selling our house and getting quite a bit of money to stash away in the bank sounded really good.  I said to myself, "with that kind of money, I could be very self sufficient, I would not have to rely on any one for my needs and wants while in South Sudan"

I have not viewed my self as really materialistic, but when faced with this I had to reconsider.I do like financial security. I do like not have to wait on any one else when I need something.  The Lord showed me that my security must come from my position in Christ not in the abundance of my possessions.  My riches must be found in the relationship with Him and those around me, not the stuff of this world. This was not the easiest thing for me to grasp having grown up in the U.S.

This is the true riches that will bless you and everyone around you now and into eternity.  Nothing or no one can take these away, but the things we collect and call riches will all be lost as you pass over.

"But God said to him, you fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself."

Luke 12: 18 - 21

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Independence Day is Today!

The journey continues.  We are moving toward our departure to South Sudan.  It is very exciting to see the Lord moving and teaching getting us ready for the road ahead.

We Americans just celebrated our Independence Day, July 4th.  A time of celebration of our breaking away from those that would rule over us.  It started me thinking when in a Bible study the leader asked "Do we have independence?"

We here in the US tend to dearly hold our freedom as a God given right to do as we please.  After all we are free and no one can make us do anything.  Yet I think more and more we are seeing the results of this free thinking in the news.  For decades in our schools we have been forcing out the idea of  an absolute right and wrong.  What is right for you might not be right for everyone else.  So we continue to allow everyone to do what is right in his own eyes, responsible to no one.

Is this freedom? If your life motto is "get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can" are you really free? That great theologian Janis Joplin once sang in a song "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" There is quite a bit of wisdom in those words.  As soon as there is one thing in your life that you must hang on to, you are no longer free.  In fact you have become a slave.  Your life will be arranged and organized for the benefit of that one thing, it will become your god. The one thing that you devote more time and resources to, that your hope for the future is in. Now it can be argued that some things in life should be in this position, take family for instance.  Shouldn't your life be set up and arranged to make sure that you are able to see your family prosper?  Or maybe just you spouse.  After all Jesus said "love your wife as Christ loves the church, even laying down his life for her".

The question is, can we really control anything at all? We can build up our savings and pay off all the bills, but that stuff can all change in a heartbeat, literally.

I came across this quote on an SIM missionary's facebook page, her name is Cathy Hoelzer and she is serving at a medical clinic in Doro, South Sudan,

 "A Boring life is the result of risk-less living. The need for security is killing our passion for adventure. We watch movies to feed our hunger for adventure but it is a plastic, synthetic, fantasy and it's siphoning off our God given desire to actually live a fantastic journey.

I love movies, but I don't want life to be something I watch on the screen. I want life to be something worth dying for

It's time to leave the shores of security and set sail on the sea of a great adventure..

A life being led by the Lord Jesus Christ, is a life that can be compared to none other, hang on and enjoy the ride.

"Greater love no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends"

John 15:13 NIV

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It Is All Part Of The Plan

Would a loving father bring hardship and frustration into the life of his child?  As I reflected on this question I thought of the many things that had transpired in my own life that had caused me to be unhappy and frustrated.

I was never a fan of school and found it frustrating and at times degrading due to interactions with the other children who were experiencing the same thing and decided to lash out in their own frustration. I think of the many times I went to the doctor for everything from vaccinations to surgery for one thing or another.  This does not even begin to the things that I caused to come into my life due to my own stupid choices and brought the need for correction.

All this being said I think the idea that a loving father may at times bring hardship and even pain into the life of his child for the purpose of a greater good.

So why do we have such a hard time believing that God, our heavenly Father would do less?  If we as fathers know how to give good things to our children would our heavenly Father do any less?

We have many things going on in our life right now that many people would consider bad.  However if I truly believe that God is in control of everything that happens and nothing takes Him by surprise, then is He not going use every one of these situations for good?  And if He is going to use every one for good, should I not be looking for that good and not be blaming one another, or life, or the devil?

I guess what might be really important is my reaction to the circumstances that are swirling around me.  Will I be overwhelmed with the storm of life that rages and threatens me or do I rest in my Father who has every situation under His control?

If I can hold onto the fact that there is nothing happening that is not part of my loving Father's plan, then I can rest in Him and be able to walk on the waves.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

I bring you all greetings on this most blessed of days Good Friday.  The day God chose to repair the destroyed relationship between Himself and man.  This is the real miracle of Easter.

I have watched a few of the Cosmos series on tv lately and while I disagree with just about all of the conclusions they make, I can agree on one thing, the cosmos, meaning all of space, is an awesome and wonderfully fascinating thing.  It is so large we cannot begin to wrap our minds around it. There are things out there that rival or exceed the beauty of anything here on earth. When I think that with all of this creation, with all of the beauty and order that exists, with the power that is generated by stars and planets, with all of this, God loved me enough to nail His son to a tree so that the wages of my disobedience, my rebellion against this creator who brought the cosmos in being with a word wouuld not hold me accountable, but He would pay this price Himself and would call me His son.

When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place what is man that you remember him, the son of man that you look after him? You made him a little less than God and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him lord over the works of your hands; and put everything under his feet, all the sheep and oxen as well as all the animals in the wild, all the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea that pass through the currents of the seas.

Yahweh, our Lord how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth.

Ps 8: 3-9 HCSB

Looking over creation it strikes me that it would be no unusual task for God the creator to raise Jesus Christ from the dead.  But for this God with all that he has and is would care enough for me, this is the true miracle of Easter.

Being adopted into the family of God has changed my life. There are still times when I rebel as a petulant child. But my father gently guides me back into the relationship that He intended for my good.  I will never cease to be amazed at the patience He has for me.  Could He have created me with complete and total obedience to what He wanted, of course. But that would not be a relationship.  He created me for a relationship, no matter what the cost, even that of His son.

I wish you all a very blessed Good Friday, and Day of Resurrection.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

ONE Body

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.

Romans 12: 3-5

Ruth and I were greatly blessed to attend a missions conference recently and I must admit that this conference was a lesson in what "one body" truly means.  There were pastors and missionaries from Egypt, West Bank, Israel, Moldova, Brazil, Thailand and the U.S. to name a few.  This was an incredible time of fellowship and worship.  One of the interesting things was, we spent three days together, and I could not tell you the denomination of a single person I talked to. And not one person ever asked me.

I am not saying denominations are bad.  The problem arises when we start picking apart another group because they don't do things the way we do.  Or maybe they get a bit more energetic than us.  I think denominations are a useful tool in God's Kingdom, God in His mercy, knows us better than we know ourselves, gives us every opportunity to come to Him in an environment that we are comfortable with so that we are "without excuse".

It is so refreshing to worship among a group, some raising hands, others jumping and shouting, still others standing or sitting quietly in reverence of a Holy God. Do we really all have to be the same?

If we try and cut off some of our brothers and sisters from what WE perceive as the body, are we trying to cut off a toe because it is not a finger?

If we have these problems here, what about our brothers and sisters in another culture, aren't they part of this body too?  I have taken a dislike to the term "foreign missions".  It seems to make a division between what we do here, and what they do "over there".  We have our "stuff" here, and if there is enough we could use it there.

The Bible tells us there is ONE body, we are all tied together with ONE Spirit.  If we can agree that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, can we overlook some of our differences if our style of worship, or some of the doctrinal things that have been debated for centuries?

For me it was like a piece of heaven, worshiping with others, all feeling the freedom to worship as we see fit.  Do we really want to be like Saul's daughter Michal who came out to meet David after he danced with all his might before the Lord?  She came and chastised him saying "How the king of Israel honored himself today!" she said "He exposed himself today in the sight of the slave girls of his subjects like a vulgar person would expose himself"

Let us not attempt to mutilate the body of Christ to make it look all the same.  Something we are comfortable with, but useless to the world.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What does "All In" Mean?

I have been challenged lately by by a study our church is doing on the book All In by Mark Batterson.  He starts out by the example of "One Way Missionaries"  Missionaries that went overseas on a one way ticket, said good bye to families and friends and packed their belongings in a coffin without consideration of ever returning.

I would have to agree that those individuals were All In, but how does this compare to life today?

Having lived in Nigeria, I know there were missionaries that went from Nigeria, to Sudan or other areas and basically did this.  I heard of children and families being lost to starvation and exposure for the sake of the gospel.  Have we in the U.S. lost the sense of urgency and even importance of bringing people into a relationship with Jesus Christ?  Do we want to get the benefits without the cost?

I admit that I am challenged myself with the concept of being All In.  I think it is easy to say I would be willing to die for the sake of the Gospel.  I guess living for the sake of the Gospel might be a bit more difficult in circumstances that are far less than secure for my family.

Lord willing, Ruth and I will be in South Sudan by the end of the year.  Please pray that we would be faithful, regardless of the circumstances we find around us.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

For Such A Time as This

In life we experience a great many events that bring us great joy and great sorrow. We use these events to shape who we are and how we respond to one another during the real trials of this life.

My father passed away last Sunday the 9th of February, just a little over one year after my mother passed away. This has caused me to reflect on the things in life that are truly important. We chase dreams of riches, power, maybe just comfort. But as we get older these things  seem to fade, except maybe comfort. That one, at least to me is having a greater draw.

My body begun to have pains with every sudden move, getting out of bed is something I do just to get joints moving. So is there anything that I can count on besides death and taxes?

I am finding my faith in Jesus Christ is growing stronger and stronger as I race toward the inevitable demise of this fragile shell I currently reside in. All these events in my life, regardless of the effect they have had on me are being used by my loving father, not for my comfort or even my benefit, but to show His love to people who are in desperate need of being loved, as I once was. I am looking forward to that day when faith becomes sight and I am made new again.

So do your best death, there is no fear.  I want to go out serving my Lord and serving others only to be racing to the other side where there is no death and no arthritis or no pain or decay.  I long to hear the words "well done my good and faithful servant".  But until then me and my house will serve the Lord.

"perhaps you have come to the kingdom, for such a time as this"