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Hold Your Ground

By | Blog, Envision, Headfirst, Media, Personal

Don’t give in to the Grinch this holiday season.  He’s all over social media telling you how bad things are, then topping the last story with a new video or meme.  Tis the season to pile on, right?  I’m not suggesting this world is good; it’s not.  It’s corrupted by sin, death and disease.  But in God, we have a Father who gives His children good gifts.  We have a Savior who redeems us and brings reconciliation between men and God.  We have the Spirit who fills and empowers us to live righteously for His purposes.  Hold your ground: choose faith, hope and love!

Identify the blessings in your life and celebrate them.  If you can’t find enough, celebrate with a brother or sister who will share them with you.

Here’s my own Thanksgiving offering for you – the video overview from our recent Men’s Mission to Haiti.  Stay till the end – it’s worth every (free) penny.

httpvh://vimeo.com/112757027

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5)

Grinch = bad.  God = good!

Wake Up Call

By | Blog, Headfirst, Personal

Alarm clock take offIf you learned you only had weeks to live, would you change the way you’ve been living?

Dramatic life changes prompt questions like this, and most people would answer in the affirmative: “Yes, I’ve got a lot to change.”  Change is painful and difficult, so we are reluctant to depart from our ways.  More than reluctant, we’re resistant.  Usually we aren’t willing to make any significant change apart from something which shakes our foundation.  Without the wake-up call, we flounder forward, unwilling to disturb the comfortable, the traditional, the repeatable.

Metamorphosis is rare without acute causation.  If the transformation isn’t hardwired into the DNA, driving the caterpillar into the chrysalis to exit as a butterfly, then what spurs such focused energy to stop the routine and become something different, something more?  Rarely is it something less than death or than a life-threatening event.  Doesn’t the clichéd conversation always revolve around a deathbed?  “I’d do it differently if I could do it all over again.”

So if you found out that your time had run out, or someone you deeply loved was being taken from you, what regrets would you have?  Is it a “bucket list” because you haven’t seen the Louvre, gone swimming with dolphins, or climbed Everest?  We’re fairly certain that those things are mostly okay, but amassing a larger pile of assets is not.  As Jesus taught, “”For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26.)  Then again, the next metaphor is the epitaph.  What will it read?  What do you want to be remembered for?  Something temporal or something eternal?  Something transient or lasting?  Is there anything so weighty, so glorious, that you would give your life and your soul to live with everlasting meaning?

The phone rings.  Your doctor asks you to come in to discuss the results from the lab tests.

Would anything change?  Name it, list it, write it down, shout it out.  Can you interrupt your life’s course without the wake-up call?  What will it take?

Start today all over.  And perhaps read 1 Corinthians 15.  It’s worth it.

Finding Jesus in the Chaos

By | Blog, Equip, Headfirst, Personal

You may have seen the jokes posted with the tag #FirstWorldProblems.  They ridicule the frustrations of our lives in contrast to the life struggles of the 3rd World.  Some are mean-spirited, but many raise awareness that sometimes our “big problems” are insignificant when held up to the “big picture.”  I’d like to offer one contrast of my own: Too busy for God.  This applies to Christ-followers and unbelievers, but my comments here are intended for the believers who are drowning in this conflict every day.

This isn’t a book, so let’s skip the chapter where I try to convince you that there is chaos in your life and you’ve allowed it to distance you from God.  If you don’t have this problem, move along.  I do, so I’ll just write for myself and you’re welcome to read along as an observer.  (Yeah, I just said that I have chaos in my life, and even the calling to lead a missions ministry has not made me immune.  Actually, it contributes, just like any other occupation.  It just has it’s own unique twists.)

So let’s embrace reality: my work, recreation, health, family, iPhone, friends, hobbies, travel, responsibilities and to-do lists…  they’re all part of a noisy, clanging, distracting battle where focusing on God and my relationship with Him gets obscured and lost.  Not because they are bad things, but because they aren’t Him.  They don’t simply dovetail into a beautiful symphony.  Some people recognize this, begin to re-prioritize, and re-launch the search for the elusive “balance.” (Surely if all my choices are honoring to the Lord, then everything will supernaturally sync.  Right?)

Let’s go after this from the other direction.  I want to find Jesus.  I want Him everywhere in my life.  I want to walk with Him but my life is full of chaos.  Not because I’m making horrible unbiblical decisions.  Rather, because I don’t live in the Garden, and I’m plagued by the consequences of sin and all its deformities.  Death and disease have come into this world, and I must work and sweat and battle.1  Jesus has won the war and I am victorious in Him, but every day until His Kingdom, I must battle.  One of those battles is against chaos.

There are two pillars I’ve learned that guard my soul in the fight against chaos so that I might walk closely with God.  Their names are Peace and Order.  We need to see that when we instill peace in our lives, we restrain chaos.  Peace means more than quiet (though silence is certainly peaceful.)  Quieting my heart means slowing, slowing, stopping.  My mind begins to drift to other thoughts that are not of Jesus…  stop.  Come back.  Slow.  Easy.  Nothing else, just Him.  Peace means surrender – of my soul.  Learning to be present in His presence.  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”2  How could my heart be still then?  Only in my abandon to the Shepherd of my soul.

Order also restrains chaos.  It is more than structure – putting things in their places so that nothing distracts.  Order is intentionality.  Singularity of purpose.  I have no other agenda.  The Creator brought order out of chaos.  He can do the same in the depths of my heart.  “No weapon forged against you will prevail.”3  Purposefully give Him His rightful place and deny that which brings distraction and disharmony.

When I guard my heart and mind in Christ, when I let His peace and order reign over me, the chaos fades and I can find Jesus.  It’s not easy – surrender never is.  I must lay my will down and lift His cup.  “Not my will but yours be done.”4  It happens in His power or we fail every time.  I’ve been learning to invite God into moments and to ask Him to help me yield to Him.  To usher in His peace and His plan… and to let me come to a stop and purposefully surrender, that I might know Him.  More and more.

This week, the Lord brought to mind how much I need Him every moment.  A hymn came to mind and I decided it would help me build the pillars higher as I battle chaos.  I found this version on YouTube – the author (Sam Robson) seems to have created a number of these moving performances.  It was exactly what I needed to help me enter His presence.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3wSbLa2uGg

  1. Genesis 3:17-19
  2. Psalm 23:5
  3. Isaiah 54:16-17
  4. Luke 22:42

Bringing Chanje

By | Envision, Headfirst, Involve, Media

Chanje is the Haitian Creole word for change – for transformation.  We’ve seen the Lord move so dramatically in Haiti this past year, that we’ve begun calling what we do there a “Chanje Movement.”  Being a part of the transformation means being available to the Lord to change myself, my community and my world, however He directs.  This month, we had an amazing team of people participating in that movement.  Some of those highlights are in the video below, and as things progress we will continue to post the stories, photos and videos of transformation in Haiti.

Chanje Movement team in Haiti, August 2012

Freed from Fear

By | Equip, Headfirst

I was reflecting on fear earlier this month – how it is harnessed by the enemy to disrupt us as we pursue our vision and try to live out our faith.  We want to attempt great things for God, but fear derails us.

It could be fear of failure, fear of others’ judgment of us or disappointment in us.  It might manifest as anxiety, depression, frustration, anger or a poor attitude.  But it debilitates.  Fear erodes.  It saps and drains.

I tend to conceptualize that faith is the adversary of fear, that if I can muster the proper amount of faith, I will be able to act despite my fears.  I picture a balancing act between them.  Is it faith vs cowardice?  Do I simply need courage – to act despite my fears?

So I find it delightful to discover that God doesn’t agree with me in this word picture.  This is not to discredit courage.  But “sucking it up and going for it anyway” is not the remedy for fear.  Neither faith, nor courage, is the conqueror of fear – love is.  “Love casts out all fear.” 1 John 4:18.

I don’t need to try harder, trust more, or redouble my resolve.  I need to experience more of Christ’s perfect love.  Like a sponge, I soak in His love, and as He permeates the fabric of my soul, there is no room for fear.  I am freed from all else.  Freed from performance, freed from disappointment, freed from judgment.  I am free to trust Him and experience the faith that He desires and provides, and the courage He assures, and free to attempt great things for the Lord.

Do as Jesus did

By | Envision, Headfirst

Our second morning of our men’s mission to Haiti began with a team devotional on the full deity and humanity of Jesus.  What could’ve been a very intellectual topic was instead an insightful conversation about how understanding Christ’s nature influences how we live today.

Our friend Jimmy sharing Christ

Several of our Haitian colleagues were sitting in on the discussion but had not contributed as of yet.  As the topic developed, one of our friends was asked about what followers of Christ could do to demonstrate His love to others here in Haiti.  His simple reply was to “do as Jesus did.”

And though the devotional ran its course without any of us making an intentional goal out of that comment, it unmistakably became our theme infiltrating every part of our labor for the Gospel.  No question about it, each day of ministry felt like it was plucked from the Scriptures; as if we were 1st century disciples.

We went out to the masses living in the streets and fed them and shared the love and hope of Jesus with them.  We walked through a tent city where over 250 families with more than 2000 children lived, and we met and prayed for the mute, the blind, the lame and the demon possessed.  Yes, literally.  We drew away with more than 60 pastors and trained them for ministry, emphasizing the priorities of knowing God and His word, evangelism and discipleship.  We drew a crowd in a park and proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Savior and One True God.  We held children with no parents and poured out the Father’s love.  We sang our worship at the top of our lungs from the depths of our hearts.  We cried with compassion for the broken and lost.  And we prayed to the Redeemer to set the captives free from sin and death.

By conservative count during the week, well more than 20 people found salvation in Jesus Christ – one at a time, five at a time, ten at a time.

Not only Haiti was changed this week, but each of us as well.  Each has a heart alive for the King, and a willingness to live more fully for His Kingdom.  We return to our own neighborhoods and communities with greater vision, passion and more equipped for ministry.  And we will never forget the lives of those we grew to love, friends and co-laborers in the Gospel, and the broken for whom God has broken our hearts.

In short, we did as Jesus did.

Stand Firm

By | Envision, Headfirst, Involve, Media, Personal
[pullquote_right]This interview’s theme is  from 1 Corinthians 16:13[/pullquote_right]

We filmed this video to invite men to be part of a missions trip to Haiti.  While it was edited for a particular weekend men’s retreat, the honesty and authentic stories shared by these men has been included here in hope that others would be inspired to fully entrust their lives to God, and choose to give their all for Christ.  Along with the exhortation for evangelism and discipleship, we also aim to continue bringing awareness and to recruit involvement to missions work in Haiti and to all the nations.

Among the panelists is our ministry’s international director.

Thank you to Crossline and LifeTogether for the production of this video!

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Get With It

By | Envision, Headfirst, Personal
A wake-up call for those of us who need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and preach a message to an audience of one
[arrow_list]
  • Re-focus
  • Re-calibrate
  • Re-engineer
[/arrow_list]

Whatever you want to call it, it’s time to get with it. To no one’s surprise, the latest disciple of poor exegesis was wrong about the end of the world. (Not before entertaining the mainstream media and giving them one more straw man to use as a whip to beat down on the faith community.)

So if you aren’t living out your calling, if you’re still waiting in vain for some excuse not to get your life in gear and start living for Christ, what is it going to take for you to make a change to your status quo?

Clearly the New Year’s resolutions aren’t working. Spring cleaning didn’t make it happen. No crisis stirred the need to crack open your Bible this morning. Your alarm clock did not usher you into the halls of worship. So why aren’t you living as if eternity is more important than today?

Have you invited the Holy Spirit to convict your heart of passivity? He is more than willing to help you re-focus on letting Christ rule in your heart. Will you stop and exhale for long enough to recognize that what you’ve been inhaling hasn’t been bearing the fruit you want in your life? It’s time to re-calibrate. Get your daily actions in line with producing what you want at year’s end. Your year is made up of many months, each month’s outcome determined by the composite of weeks. What you did today really does predict what you’ll possess at the end of your life. You’ve been told there’s no formula for living the Christian life? I don’t buy into that. No – one size does not fit all – because we are all uniquely created and wired. But if you don’t think you will reap what you’ve sown, you’re not just fooling yourself, you’re calling God a liar.[pullquote_left]For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12[/pullquote_left]

So yes, it’s time to re-engineer. If you aren’t living in your sweet spot, experiencing God’s favor and blessing, working out your faith, living to please the One who can say “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” it’s time to cut to the core and get that heart transplant you’ve awaited for far too long.

True discipleship – it starts with a pure, eager passion for Jesus. Remember that day you fell in love with Him? Start there. And just keep walking. Living in love with Him.

Extraction

By | Envision, Headfirst

Last time we left Haiti, we had to evacuate. This time, it is a more orderly departure – on time, and according to plan. I am thrilled that it has gone so smoothly – and it hasn’t required an emergency for us to recognize God’s hand on this trip.

Still, pray with us for Haiti – the preliminary election results from the presidential run-off are due to be released tomorrow, and they may again (like December’s 20+ candidates general election) spur mayhem in the streets and closure of the airport and other industry.

We are departing from what has been one of the most profitable fact-finding missions in my career. I honestly feel that we will be able to bring back the report we’ve been praying for: faith-filled, God-honoring, grace-sized view of the land… and more.

It took 40 years for the Israelites to obey God and enter the land He promised would be theirs everlasting.
Perhaps we are no Joshua and Caleb, but I pray we will be faithful and full of faith as we lead an army back here. I hope you will be among His troops (physically, spiritually, financially or however He calls,) and that we won’t need to waste time in the wilderness figuring out who the Commander is.

Part of my calling is to be a herald of the Gospel. Will you respond to His glory and majesty in bringing His light to the nations?

We will be back soon, to pray and to plan, and to blow the trumpet and assemble teams to go and bring the Gospel to those who’ve never heard!

So for now, we have reached our extraction point. But we are leaving markers in the field for our return….

Boots on the Ground

By | Envision, Headfirst

Today and tomorrow will be filled with conversations and scouting out the land. As I explained to one pastor last night, our role right now is like that of Joshua and Caleb, to spy out the land, and to return with a faith-filled, God-honoring, grace-sized report.

Would you ask God to give us eyes not for what is here, but for what could be? That our souls would be filled with his vision and we would clearly hear from Him what He would have us do.

We want to be right in the middle of God’s will. Thank you for being on the journey with us.

** Update **

God is clearly answering our prayers and lavishing His grace upon us. We are Him open doors – or more accurately, break down walls and carve a clear path.

And today is yet another view into a world desperate for Jesus; lost, hurting, and in need. With warm hearted men, women and children.

Please continue to pray for us to see and hear God’s will.

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