Saturday, February 21, 2015

Blessed Are The Meek

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. - Matthew 5:5

The meek are willing to submit their life to the will of God.  Whatever plans and desires, goals and dreams you have, someone who is meek holds them openly and loosely before God.  It is God’s will they are ultimately concerned with and submissive to.  The meek person finds their joy in obedience to God and is often not a miserable person.  Life may not always seem to go their way, in fact often times it doesn’t but the Lord gives them a promise that the meek, “shall inherit the earth.”  One day God will reward the meek with an unfading crown of glory for their perseverance and faith.  The meek will not only be blessed in this life by so much more in the life to come.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:6-7

The meek are willing to trust their life into the care of God.  How much energy do you expend trying to secure provisions, control outcomes or manage people’s perceptions of you?  The meek trust God’s promises that He will provide, protect, and defend.  We must roll our burdens onto the Lord for He is the only one able to carry them.  Many of us are walking around trying to carry boulders and we need to roll them onto the Lord and trust Him with our messy lives.  God may not always fix our lives but He can carry the burden for us when we trust in Him.

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. - Psalm 37:5

Meekness is an attitude of humility, submissiveness, and expectant trust towards God while also an attitude of patience, gentleness, and kindness towards others.  Blessed are we when we submit to God’s will, trust our lives to His care, and show gentle kindness to people we interact with.  A.W. Tozer sums up the meek this way,

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.  Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself.  He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.  He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels.  In himself, nothing; in God, everything.  That is his motto.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why I Don't Pray

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. - Matthew 7:7

I can hear the words echoing in my ears; “Why don’t you just pull over and ask for directions?”  If you are a husband you have probably heard these words many times coming from the passenger seat of your vehicle.  Men (and most humans) have a deep desire in us to figure it out in our own strength and wisdom.  Asking shows weakness, it is conceding that I cannot do it on my own.

Prayer is a constant act of humility that is founded on the premise that we need help.  In it we admit our own weakness and surrender to the power of an Almighty God.  Our problem is that too often we simply don’t pray.  So then we must ask the question, “Why am I not praying?”

I don’t pray because I don’t recognize my need
We live in a society that elevates self.  Entitlement rules our thinking which is fueled by marketing that tells us we are special because we are a premier member or holder of a discount card.  When we are lost we prefer to stay lost and figure it out ourselves rather than ask for help.  One of the biggest lies Satan has convinced us to believe is that we are ok, that we don’t need help.  People who pray recognize that God gives life and breath.  That He rules over all and all is subject to Him.  This same God invites us to ask, to come before His throne of grace and lay out our heart before Him.  What a privilege that people once dead in their trespasses and sins would be given access to and help from the God of the universe.

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! - Matthew 7:9-11

I don’t pray because I don’t believe God cares
God cares more about you than you will ever know, however the problem is that we view care from our perspective instead of God’s perspective.  Care defined by us often means that God does what I want him to do instead of God doing what I need.  We know what we want but God knows what we need.  When we feel like someone doesn’t care we don’t share our thoughts, feelings, and needs with them.  Why would we?  We have already concluded that they don’t care so why waste the time.  Don’t allow yourself to make a judgement on God.  Don’t make the conclusion that He doesn’t care.  Trust His person, His character, and His word and allow Him to care for you by developing a heart of prayer.

So today I encourage you to stop for a moment.  Let the world around you freeze.  Sit in the silence and listen.  Now think about all the struggles you cannot overcome, the heart changes that you cannot make, the lives that you cannot transform and ask the God who sits on the throne, the One who calls you son or daughter, the one who bought you with the precious blood of Christ to do far more than you can ask or imagine.  He is able, He is the God who cares.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A New Start

"Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days." - A.W. Tozer

A new year often signals a new start.  That is the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  His grace has given us a new start and continues to give us forgiveness and new starts from whatever failures and mistakes we have made.  We become new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) where the old has gone and His grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9).

Wherever you are in your spiritual walk I can bet you could use a new start.  Today is a new day, commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and he will act (Psalm 37:5).  As a pastor and a person many people look to as a spiritual leader I sit here in desperate need of a new start.  Wasted time, lack of prayer, self-reliance, selfishness, the praise of men and much more have infiltrated my life and relationship with Christ.  As I begin this new year it is a chance to put a stake in the ground and "turn to God in earnest."  To practice discipline this year to develop a deeper receptivity to the Lord.  I believe God wants to do far more in my life and ministry and I believe He wants to do far more in you.  What is God asking of you?  Is today a day to start anew?

God can do far more in your life than you can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20) if you will let Him.  Let go of the world, hold desperately onto God and His Word, and when failure comes repent quickly and turn to God in earnest.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Identity - Live from it not for it

Many of our games we play in our culture today revolve around us acting out something while others guess who we are trying to be.  We often find ourselves living for our identity.  Trying to gain the approval of others so that we may feel accepted.  Our purpose becomes trying to fit in instead of living for God's glory and His Kingdom.  As followers of Christ we have to get back to living from our identity "in Christ" as Ephesians 1 talks about.  We have to remember that a saint is our constant identity while sinner is an occasional activity.

When I was growing up my mom would always say to me, "remember who you are."  I used to hate that because when I was about to go out and indulge in sin she would say that and conviction would happen.  I knew who I was in Christ but my flesh wanted to be someone else for a few hours on a Friday or Saturday night.  I am thankful for a mom who was constantly reminding me to remember who I am.  I hope that today you remember who you are in Christ Jesus and that you live from your identity in Him.

Here is a great resource for those us that may struggle with identity.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Arizona - Update #4

The VBS has been going well.  We have been averaging 40-45 kids which is a good number for our group.  Don and I have been leading an adult bible study during VBS for parents and community members.  Yesterday we had a group of 15.  We are learning to teach slowly so that they can interpret to the older ones who don't speak much English.

The past couple days we have encountered sand storms which was quite a challenge for our group. Winds were 30-40mph with gusts in the 50mph.  We were unable to do anything outside and had to clean out our tents every night.  Sleeping bags, clothes, and whatever was in our tents was absolutely covered in sand.  Even though the conditions were not desirable the group did well to pereservere through the circumstances.

We are learning a lot as a group.  Encountering a different culture, serving in difficult circumstances, and learning to work with each other has been challenging but fruitful.  Each day we have a passage of scripture that we are to be meditating on then we come together as a group to share.  Philippians 4 was the passage the other day.  I encourage you to pick up your bible today and read that chapter.  Take a moment to reflect upon the words of God and allow him to speak to you.

I may look like a gangster but this was my protection from the sand.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Arizona - Update #3

Sunday at Middle Mesa Bible Church was quite the experience for our group.  Church started at 10:00am with a few people in attendance.  0ver the next hour or so people constantly trickled in until the church building was about full.  Part of our group ran a children's church for most of the morning.  The scheduled time for church to end was noon but since the food wasn't ready church just kept going and going and going until the food was finally ready around 1:45pm.  We spent the rest of Sunday setting up and preparing for VBS.

Monday was our first day of VBS.  Jeff and I went out early to pick up kids.  I felt like I was in a Jeep commercial as I navigated what were supposedly roads.  Let's just say it's good thing I have 4 wheel drive.  It took over an hour to pick up kids due to the distance and road conditions.  In some spots you could only drive 5-10mph so you can swerve to miss the really big holes.  Other parts were really sandy like driving on a beach.  We had 33 kids on our first day while Don and I had 5 adults for bible study during that time.

The plan was to visit the Grand Canyon this afternoon but due to 30-40mph winds and massive dust storms we postponed the trip to later in the week.  This has allowed our group for our first rest time this whole trip.  We have been going non-stop since Friday.  They are enjoying the much needed rest.  Please continue to pray for us. Pray for the kids, myself as I pick kids up and take them home, the adults in the bible study, and for our team as the sand storms are getting sand everywhere!

In our adult bible study we looked at John chapter 3.  We had some great discussion and eventually started talking about God's unconditional (agape) love.  It was encouraging to hear how everyone there, including us talked about how we are called to love people with the love Christ has lavished upon us.  We can't manufacture that love on our own, in fact we need to die to ourselves, put off the flesh and put on Christ to love people unconditionally.

We found something in common...volleyball!

The kids were a little worn out after a long day.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Arizona - Update #2

On our drive to the reservation we stopped in Flagstaff for gas.  During our stop my wife was cornered by a drunk guy asking for money so I had to come to the rescue.  Then after I filled up our vehicle a man named Jack came and talked to me.  He was an older man driving a beat up Ford Bronco.  He parked at the gas station and had no money for gas.  He was just waiting there for help and you could tell he was embarrassed to even have to ask.  We filled up his tank of gas and while doing that he shared he was in Flagstaff to visit his wife who is in an alcohol recovery program.  Jack said he has been sober for ten years and drove out to visit his wife to try to save his marriage.  I told Jack about our group and that we would be praying for him and his wife Pamela.  Today if you have a few moments I encourage you to pray for them as well.

Our time Saturday at the Camp Meeting was a great cultural experience for our group.  Everyone got to use an outhouse, eat fry bread, and get to know many of the Navajo people.  Some of our group took the kids during the meetings and sang songs, played games, and has some Bible lessons with them.  The rest of us attended the meetings and some even got to sing and share.  In fact, one of the leaders of the meetings asked Don if he knew him during one of the services.  Afterwards they were talking and found out they went to Moody Bible Institute at the same time and did some Native American ministry together back in the early 90s.  It is amazing how connected we are in the Kingdom of God.

The teaching was very challenging.  The last speaker talked about peacemaking and reconciliation.  One issue that happens in Navajo Nation (and also in most churches in America) is that we don't deal with issues between each other well.  Instead of going to the person, then taking two or more witnesses as Matthew 18 calls us to do we just go somewhere else to find peace.  You see, we look to a new place for peace instead of realizing that true peace is dwelling in us through God's Spirit.  That is why God gives us instruction on how to walk through conflict.  Gossip doesn't bring peace, avoidance doesn't bring peace, running away doesn't bring peace.  We need to be the people of God who through much grace and love are honest and direct and strive for peace in our relationships with one another.  He ended by talking about our most important relationship and that is ours with Jesus Christ.  Are you at peace with God?  Are you reconciled to him through the blood of Christ?

This is our home for the week.  There is dust everywhere and in everything!

Our group singing some songs at the Camp Meeting

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Arizona - Update #1

Last summer we took a group to El Nathan Christian Camp in Flagstaff, AZ.  We did a lot of work, mainly a lot of painting to help improve the facilities there.  We showed up shortly after the camp had experienced some damage from a flash flood so God's timing was perfect.  During our time there we built a strong relationship with the camp director.  He then introduced us to a Navajo family who invited us to the reservation to do the VBS we are set to do this week.  Jeff, the camp director informed us that this is a rare opportunity and was amazed at how quickly they trusted our group to come.

The journey to the Navajo Reservation began on Wednesday for a few but most of us were up and on the road early this morning.  There are a total of 23 people on this trip.  A group of 4 began driving out with a camper carrying our luggage, sound equipment, camping equipment, food, kitchen supplies, and all our VBS material on Wednesday. The rest of the group is flying into Phoenix then making the 4 hour drive to the reservation.

This weekend is the yearly camp meeting for Middle Mesa Bible Church.  From my understanding the camp meeting is like a yearly weekend revival/family reunion since most of the churches are family churches.  The families on the reservation are fairly large (think Amish) and most churches are small and consist mainly of extended family.  This often times presents a challenge when it comes to outreach but it has been encouraging to see their heart to share the gospel at Middle Mesa Bible Church.

Prayer Points
- Spiritual & Physical Strength: after a long day of traveling many of us will be physically wiped out and we will be entering a spiritually dark place.  Pray that we would be rooted and grounded in the word, praying continuously.
- Kids: for them to come to VBS and that their hearts would be open to the Gospel
- Team: that we would represent Christ in a way that demonstrates His power and His Spirit. That the people we encounter would know that we have been with Jesus.

Please pray for us! I want to share with you something for to meditate on.  It is from John Piper and was an encouragement to me reading this on the plane.

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

God did not spare his own Son, because it was the only way he could spare us. The guilt of our transgressions, the punishment of our iniquities, the curse of our sin would have brought us inescapably to the destruction of hell. But God did not spare his own Son; he gave him up to be pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities, and crucified for our sin.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Kenya - Update #3

Each day we learn more and more of the African culture.  Last night we went to the midweek church service.  The church is downtown on the third floor.  It is difficult to describe the downtown experience.  It is the craziest driving I have ever been a part of with vehicles, motorcycles, and people everywhere.  Don spoke at church and was a huge encouragement to the people who came out.  We met a young man named Joseph is Kenyan and works for the church.  He ended up spending the day with us as we went to Mwangaza Africa International Mission.

Mwangaza is a an orphanage and school but also has a farm with cows, chickens, and sheep.  They grow food for themselves and the community.  We were able to share during their devotion time.  They sung us a Swahili song which was amazing.  Then we attempted to sing some songs with them, myself and Amy shared a testimony, and Daniel Thomas shared a short message with them.  After that we got a tour of the grounds and heard the vision for where they want to go.  In the afternoon we were able to spend time playing with the kids.  They loved playing red rover, climbing all over us guys, and getting their picture taken.  We got to talk with many of them and hear their stories and find out their passions.  Below is a picture of Boyi who says he wants to be a pastor.

Please be in prayer for us as we discuss how we individually and us as a church can partner with Mwangaza in the future.  They have a great philosophy in how they operate their orphanage.  They have two homes with two house parents which are families who live with the orphans.  Ideally they would have 12 orphans per house but they are overcrowded with 16 in one and 17 in the other.  They would like to build 2 more homes ASAP.

Thoughts for the day:

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thankfulness and joy are abundant among the children we met today.  Their singing and prayers were passionate and you could tell they loved God.  These kids get the will of God much more than I do at times.  Having little allows them to be thankful for so much more.  They don't have a sense of entitlement, they are just so happy to be loved.  My prayer is the I would live out the will of God as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells me to.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kenya - Update #2

Yesterday we made the 6 hour journey from Nairobi to the Samaritan's Purse compound where Nate & Stephanie Thomas live.  Along the journey we got to first hand experience of the Kenyan culture.  For instance, alongside the road it was normal to see donkeys, cows, goats, zebras, baboons, men peeing, speed bump fruit salesmen, and much more.

We spent the evening getting settled in and then had dinner with the Thomas family.  It just so happened to be their son Ben's 15th birthday so we got to celebrate with them which meant cake and ice cream!  We were excited to finally be with them and they were really excited to see some faces that they knew.

Today (Thursday) Kyle had to leave at 5:45am to go ride along on a Samaritan's Purse mission to South Sudan.  I guess when you are an airplane mechanic you get certain perks.  He got to serve as the 3rd crew member on a DC3 plane and got to see two refugee camps, one which had over 100,000 refugees.  The rest of the group spent the day helping a Kenyan man named Reuben.  He has been blind since the age of 3 but God has done a tremendous work in his life.  Reuben had the opportunity to study with Ravi Zaccharias in the USA and now has an Apologetics and Radio ministry called Word of Truth.  Mark was able to help him with some IT issues at the radio station and Sadie was put to work with her interior design skills to help them better lay out the space.  The rest of us fixed a swing and got most of the library reorganized.  We ended the day by Reuben making us some traditional Kenyan Chi and singing worship songs.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

During my time in Kenya I have decided to really dig into 1 Thessalonians.  As I began this morning I couldn't help but be struck by the three things Paul remembers before God about the Thessalonians.  My prayer is that these things would be a legacy of my life.

Work of Faith: that my life would be evident of faithfulness to God and dependence upon Him.
Labor of Love: an unconditional love towards people that often times leaves me weary & tired.
Steadfastness of Hope: to remain, stand, and endure through the trials of life with a hope unshaken.

- reorganizing the library