Tag

perspective

Switchback

By | Blog, Involve, Personal

Sometimes you feel like you’re taking a step backward.  Other times 2 steps forward and 1 step back.  Other times, just chasing your tail in circles.  Today is a switchback.


 

A switchback takes the long way to go a short distance.

But because the grade is steep, it’s too difficult or dangerous to tackle head on.


 

A switchback is a road where it’s hard to see around the bend.


 

Spiritually speaking, a switchback is a process for us to keep moving forward and put our trust in God.

He knows the reasons even when we don’t.

He sees the destination even when we can’t.

He puts value in the process despite our desire to avoid it.

He uses the switchback to help refine character, develop patience and perseverance, increase humility and dependence – all while keeping us safe in the palm of His hand.


Today is a switchback because Lovekin didn’t get to go see the specialists, we don’t have a treatment plan, we don’t know anything more than we did yesterday.  Another day of nothing.  My heart is restless, but I know He is present.  As present for her as He is for me.  God doesn’t ask me to like it.  It is.


 

Keep praying; stay faithful.  Keep your eyes on Him, all the way around the bend.


 

Photo credit: Chris Harnish

The Beauty of “No”

By | Blog, Envision, Equip

Three things happen when you say no to an opportunity, invitation or appointment.

First, you create margin in your life.  When we say yes to too many things – even good things – we fill our schedules and lives beyond our capacity.  You’ve probably heard the expression, “the good is the enemy of the best.”  One has to say no to appointments, invitations and other opportunities to leave margin in life.  For the person living within appropriate margins, when something excellent comes along, he or she can say YES.  For the person juggling all the balls in the air, adding another thing simply means something else must fall.  Wouldn’t you rather be ready for the best than under a pile with the rest?

Second, when you say no, you make room for God’s peace and leadership in your life.  Remember the scripture that begins God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble? Just a few verses later, the psalmist prescribes how to find your rest in His fortress: Be still and know that I am God.  The visual of the peaceful, empty park bench also communicates that quietness; He offers us communion with Him when we cease striving.  When we say yes too often, we don’t have time to pray, to connect with the Lord, to discern His path for our lives and relationships.

Third, saying no develops your character.  My friend Don recently shared a quote with me from a Sunday sermon he heard years ago: “The rejection of adversity is the mark of an immature soul.”  Think about it… aside from the unrealistic dream of vast lottery winnings, there really is no “something for nothing” of true value in this world.  Victory in virtually everything with high value is accomplished through adversity.  Even in salvation, we receive Christ by grace alone through faith alone, but remember the price Jesus paid on our behalf.  My character needs me to say no to easy but meaningless ventures and to say yes to challenges with depth and worth.  Too often we shy away.  When we say yes to the boring, the mundane and the mediocre, we reject healthy growth and maturity.

Reject the lie that being over-capacity honors God or is useful.  Good stewardship of my life isn’t visible in a hectic and frenetic schedule.  My decision to say no clears away the detritus and pollution of my life, and frees me up to be the person God wants me to be.

No can actually be very beautiful.  When free to choose, take your margin, peace of mind and maturity into consideration, and ask the Lord for guidance.  He always leads faithfully.

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

It’s the Eternity, Christian!

By | Envision

While I typically attempt to express myself in a manner that my words would be applicable in any season, I’ve written these thoughts in the wake of the re-election of Barack Obama to a second term as president. And so I have felt free to borrow the title from the slogan of a prior campaign, the purpose of which was to continuously align the proponents to focus on what they recognized as the essential issue.

As followers of Christ, we have many responsibilities. But our essential issue is the Gospel. There are many actions and activities that flow from the Greatest Commandment but the continual refrain of Kingdom proponents should be Christ, Gospel, Eternity.

Each day that we have the freedom to live for Christ, we must take every opportunity to make His priorities our own. His values are own. His focus our own.

Jesus was never distracted from His purpose of redemption, His ascent to the cross, His development of His disciples, His obedience to His Father. Was that because of the cooperation of the Roman Empire? Herod? Pilate? The Sanhedrin? The culture of the nation?

Followers of Christ do not need to bicker about whether the current political or social landscape is desirable. We will pray for the leaders of the land and take our duties of citizenship seriously, but our first allegiance is to God and His Kingdom. Not only is it our priority, it is the only thing that’s going to last.

We could diverge upon a discussion of how biblical heroes led under various administrations (e.g. Joseph, Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther, Paul, Peter, John, etc.,) and perhaps on another day, I will. But these are all subservient to our mission: proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We must be aligned to the Gospel and the timeline of eternity. It will not matter who won which election on the day your friend dies, or your neighbor, or your co-worker. The only decision determining his or her eternal destiny will be whether he or she has trusted in Christ and accepted His payment for sin and His gift of eternal life.

So let each of us be reminded, Christian, that if our allegiance is to the One True God, our eyes must be on Him, and our lives must revolve around His purposes. Let us cry out to the nations that our only hope is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Set your eyes, your heart, your mind, your family, your calendar, your budget, and every decision entrusted to you on the Gospel. It’s the Eternity, Christian!

 

Celebrity

By | Envision, Equip

Why is our society captivated by celebrity?  It seems that merely a spark of fame or notoriety breeds adoration.  Some admire the actual accomplishments of others (which brought them fame) while many seem to adore those whose abnormal behavior brought them attention.  It would be effortless to name a string of current celebrities without any resume beyond wealth, immorality or deviance.  Then there is the niche of modern royalty – a special category for those descended from someone famous.  (Not just the House of Windsor, consider any number of American families treated as royalty.)

Is it possible that our culture is so hungry for the divine that people will pour their hearts into virtually any semblance of fame?  That we believe if we could just gain some affiliation with them it would somehow give us value?  That we will give our time, attention, money and yes, even worship to those who offer a taste of their celebrity to us?

That thirst seems insatiable, because it is only satisfied in Jesus Christ.  It is Jesus who offers us the privilege of being born again – born spiritually.  He offers us an abundant life, rivers of living water so that we will never thirst again, bearing much fruit.

“But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.”  John 1:12-13

Why worship celebrity when you can know the Messiah, the One True God?  Taste and see that the Lord is good!  Forget the royal families of this world; you are invited to the Father, to be His child, and to spend eternity with Him.  Jesus told His disciples that He was preparing a place for them.  God’s children have a room in His mansion.

Next time the media starts selling celebrity (which we’ve been asking for) – instead, find a quiet place, grab a Bible, and pray and read His Word, and let Jesus fill your heart.

Alive to the Spirit

By | Envision, Involve

Open Road
We are cruising on the road through the Hungarian countryside – a beautiful, crisp morning of 3º C at the end of autumn, the shades of brown, auburn, tan, rust and gold foliage contrasting with the grey skies. Patches of green trees interrupt the landscape briefly, distracting us from the coming winter. My heart is alive this morning to the adventure that God has in store for us as we scout out His will for the partnership between New Life Eastern Europe and The Global Mission.

Last night I had the privilege of representing church leaders in the U.S. in a dinner conversation with the director of Eastern Europe and Russia for Campus Crusade for Christ. The doors are wide open for developing missions partnership between churches and ministries for the sake of the Gospel. This is a phenomenal blessing and privilege for us to respond to the needs of the Kingdom.

What if we could send missionaries and teams to meet as many needs as possible and accelerate the Gospel? Do we have the faith to believe this is possible? It’s not just a ministry question; it’s a personal question!

Often we have such a limited imagination of how God would use our families, small groups and churches to advance the Kingdom. Would you dare to take a seven day challenge to pray each day for seven days and ask the Holy Spirit to show you one next step for your family in the Great Commission?
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  • He might ask you to change your schedule – would you be willing?
  • He might ask you to spend money – would you make it a priority?
  • He might ask you to recruit your friends – would you pursue them?
  • He might ask you to use your passport – would you pack your bag?
[/arrow_list]Our car rolls to a stop at our meeting point in downtown Košice, Slovakia, and we bundle up to meet the chill. Each next step opens an opportunity to share the Gospel, to encourage a brother, to experience the Holy Spirit’s leading. What do you have for us next, Lord?   Let’s go![divider_top]Top[/divider_top]

Guest column: A safe mission

By | Envision, Involve

By Brianna Alexander

It was supposed to be a “safe” missions trip. All I had to do was drive 20 minutes to church, hammer in a few nails, help carry some heavy wood pieces, and voila! I would have helped build a loft house for a family in Mexico and spread the love of Christ without putting a stamp in my passport. I had done this last year and I thought I was prepared.

The thing is though, I didn’t use a hammer. I used a spatula. I don’t use spatulas, or any cooking utensils for that matter. Seriously, I’m a terrible cook. I’m infamous for burning canned re-fried beans and just the other night I ruined crock-pot chicken! So imagine my dismay when I somehow found myself behind the giant church BBQ cooking cheeseburgers for 80 very hungry house builders. Funny, God, real funny.

Yet, as I stood there with smoke blowing directly into my eyes, I realized something. In the parking lot was a whole group of imperfect vessels. People were bending nails, hammering boards in the wrong place, getting bruised up. But no one was complaining, or yelling, or crying in a corner feeling sorry for themselves. They would all just laugh it off, bandage up and get right back in the action.

Getting Instructions

Volunteers gathered for morning instructions

That day was an amazing testament as to what the body of Christ can do when we set aside our own insecurities, annoyances and weaknesses and just focus on completing the mission God has set before us. Everyone one in the parking lot had a different story. They came from different churches, were different ages and were in a different part of their journey with Christ. What they shared was the desire to serve God by working together to bless a family they didn’t know, in a country many of them had never been to. That desire transcended all differences and weaknesses.

Imagine if we made that our goal all the time? Imagine if we stopped getting hung up on religious technicalities, cultural barriers and personality clashes? What if we stopped comparing ourselves to other people, stopped feeling inadequate, stopped focusing on our weaknesses and instead trusted God to equip us for the mission he has called us to? What if every day, whether it was at church, at work, at home or in a foreign country, we made a conscious effort to focus on the big picture, the God picture, and work with our fellow humans to bring that picture to life? Hmm, I wonder what life would look like then.

For that one morning, I set aside my own insecurities and cooked those burgers as best as I could. And while I did get asked “what’s this green thing in my burger?” (it was just an herb from the herb salt) the burgers turned out fairly decent. I actually didn’t have anything to worry about because the church’s resident chef was there cooking tri-tip that was to die for. Even if the burgers had been terrible, no one would have noticed. And while I appreciated and learned from that experience, I’m glad to be back behind my computer, using one of my actual talents to further the kingdom of God.

Couple receiving the house

Heriberto and Ruth now have a home to share with their one month old son, Jared

Did You Know…?

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  • Hands of Mercy (HōM) helps churches build loft houses for families in Mexico. They have created a system that allows people to build walls, a roof and steps here in the United States. Then the pieces get taken to Mexico and the house is assembled and ready in a day so that the family can move in.
  • Many people in Mexico have never lived in a house with a lock. Someone always has to stay in the house in order to guard the family’s meager possessions. The HōM loft houses are equipped with locks and keys so families and their possessions are much safer.  Sometimes they have to explain how to use a lock & key set.
  • Some people have never lived in a house with a window. Because their homes are often pieced together with mismatched materials, including rented wood and sheet metal, it’s usually not logical or possible to add a window. But HōM loft houses are very sturdy and protect against the elements. Therefore, it’s nice that there are a few windows to open to let in fresh air.
  • You can host your own HōM loft house build! Gather a core group of people together to organize the event and raise $4,000. That money covers all costs including the cost of bringing the house down to Mexico. Then get the word out and gather a group of builders to help with the U.S. pre-fab and the assembly of the house in Mexico. For more information, visit HōM online or contact The Global Mission to learn how you can create your own event.
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BriannaBrianna Alexander is an avid blogger who writes about social media marketing, real estate, Orange County, CA and the ridiculous price of mascara. She’s excited to use her talent to support missions and further God’s kingdom. When she isn’t blogging she’s usually doing things she will later blog about like cheering for the Angels, discovering new parks with her little dog and eating delicious food her husband cooks for her.  To see a video of the prefab she wrote about, watch How to Build a Home.

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Whose vote counts?

By | Involve, Personal

Remember: the right to vote is not universal

The privilege of self-government is an amazing blessing in our republic – few nations have historically given every citizen the right to freely cast a confidential ballot without fear of reprisal.  Today’s midterm election in the U.S. is a reminder that we have a remarkable opportunity to choose our leaders.

In fact, as I worked my way through my election materials and down my ballot, I struggled with my disappointment in our candidates for city council.  We were allotted three votes for the three open seats, and I had only been confident in two of my choices.  So, after weeks with no new conclusions and even unanswered email to a candidate requesting more information on his platform, I did what few citizens opt: standing there in the booth, I (digitally) wrote in my own name.

I’m not going to win – I hadn’t even mentioned to my wife that I was doing this, so I am confident I received just that single vote.  But I saw the computer print the ballot – and there was my name with my vote.

Which brings to mind the aphorism that every vote matters.  How many re-counts will there be after the polls have closed, only to discover the thinnest margin of victory?  How many judges will again be ruling on the validity of overseas ballots, absentee ballots and defining the value of the infamous “hanging chad” while the media elevates or vilifies a state or local election official?  And this is when mortals get involved in determining whose vote actually matters.

For me, this stream of thought brings me back to the worship of the One – holy, righteous and perfect in judgment – who in His grace has made my salvation sure through Christ – by voting for my election.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble… (2 Peter 1:10)

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness… (Titus 1:1)

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:26-27)