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Looking Ahead

By Envision, Headfirst

What does God have in store for you this year?  And for His Kingdom?  Are you anticipating it?

The Scriptures are filled with the historical accounts of His supernatural intervention in history and thoroughly documented.  The Bible is complete, but God’s work is not.  What could be written about how He will work in and through you in the year to come?

  • In the year King Uzziah died…  (Isaiah 6:1)
  • In the 480th year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel…  (1 Kings 6:1)
  • And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus…  (Daniel 1:21)
  • In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar…  (Luke 3:1-2)

Will you look ahead in faith and anticipation?  Will you follow the King into battle?

How will you use your freedom?  How will you use your resources?

As you welcome the New Year, as you hear the trumpet blow, join us in running headfirst into God’s calling on our lives!

Give it up

By Envision, Personal

The malls are full of shoppers looking for the perfect gift.  Or as we get this close to Christmas, any gift.  (I’m thinking that the advent of online shopping has got to bring immense relief to a claustrophobic.  Never had thought of as a purveyor of emotional peace before.)  I wasn’t even shopping for gifts today, yet I managed to visit both the post office and Costco today.  Did I experience the Christmas spirit?

Don’t even check your mail box or email if you can’t handle the flood of advertisements or a barrage of appeals directed at your year-end giving.  (Full disclosure: yes, our ministry was among them.  Just once though – not every five minutes.)  Hold on to your wallet and your checkbook before good intentions drag you into debt.

So Dave, is this the part where you insist something is wrong with my perspective and offer a different one?

Don’t get me wrong – I like gifts.  I’ve even been known to buy myself gifts [insert appropriate gasp of shock here.]  But here’s the deal:

  1. You can only give from what you have.  Affection, wisdom, experience, cash, whatever – if you don’t possess it, you can’t give it away.
  2. If they don’t want it, they’re not going to receive it.  (Favorite phrase on Christmas morning: “Oh, this is lovely…”)
  3. The truth is, you’re the ultimate re-gifter: nothing you have is really yours anyway.  What you were born with was a gift from God.  Everything you’ve earned is a blessing from Him too.  (See James 1:16-17)  So why are you holding on to everything so tightly?

Philip James "Jim" Elliott (Oct 8, 1927 – Jan 8, 1956)

God has already shown us that it’s better to give than to receive.  It just takes humanity longer to accept it.  (Though researchers have indeed found this to be true – see the Science Central Archive or the original study.)  He modeled true gift giving in Christmas and Easter – by giving Himself through His incarnation and redeeming us through His crucifixion and resurrection.  (How long we take to accept that is also up to us.)  As written in Romans 5:8, God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The best gift you can receive is Jesus.  He gave up His life for you.  The best gift you can give is the Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ.  And the best way to give it is through your life.  Even if you have to give it up.  It isn’t yours anyway.

(In the words that Jim Elliott paraphrased from Scripture: He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.)

Day 6

By Envision, Involve

Which do you prefer: the journey? or reaching the goal?

Day 4 brought near completion of our major project – the concrete for the basketball court.

But by now I’m losing track of the days. I’ve been so deeply engaged in leadership and problem solving, all I really know is what happened, but not when.

I know we loved children and taught them about Jesus. I know partnered with pastors and their churches. We prayed with families, worshiped together, shared the Word. Bonded. Loved. Cried. This is a group of young men and women who have left everything they knew to minister the life and love of Christ to people hurting deeply.

It hasn’t been perfect because we aren’t perfect; circumstances aren’t perfect; we are just fragile containers whose cracks and gaps are windows for God’s glory to shine.

I’m tapping this out with my thumb as I hold the phone in my one free hand as we drive from Port au Prince to the Dominican border. We are on a new journey with a new destination since our airline cancelled this week’s flights. Great symbolism, as none of us are the same any more. We are new people with changed hearts reaching for new goals.

We’ll keep you posted along the way…

Politics, Passions, Opinions

By Envision, Involve

My analysis reflects no one’s opinion but my own and makes no claim to prophetic revelation. It is simply my political insights and social and spiritual assessment.

Key players:
Celestin – represents status quo as the son in law of the current president. His political party UNITY is the establishment.

Manigat – her late husband was democratically elected president in 1988 and served four months before a military coup deposed him. She is 70 years old but represents change and diplomacy.

Matelly – a wildcard in the election, a pop music singer and celebrity, represents the anti-establishment and unknown transition.

The results announced last night had no candidate had achieved 50% of the vote required to win. Manigat led with >30%, Celestin had >20% as did Matelly, less than 1% behind or about 6800 votes. The commission interpreted narrowly and announced a mid-January run-off between Manigat and Celestin.

The electoral process allows for 72 hours for candidates to protest. Matelly and Celestin have reportedly already lodged appeals, which will then be reviewed and ruled on Dec 20.

Meanwhile, demonstrators allegedly lit the UNITE party headquarters of Celestin on fire. There are many dubious unverified reports of violence, but this was apparently witnessed by AP journalists.

Some people are looking for any reason for violence – politics, cholera, poverty. I don’t minimize these concerns and crises. But the reaction is an inappropriate response.

I believe once there is clarity in the process forward, the violence will subside – at least for the time being.

The people of Haiti are crying out for help. They want help to feed their families. They want a hope and a future. They need Jesus. It is not my place to endorse a candidate, but I do believe (strongly) that a new government has a potential for change that will not occur with the ruling party.

I anticipate that our team will have safety to operate in Haiti until our return. While here we will continue a vigilant day-to-day & moment-by-moment supervision of our Christ centered outreach to Haiti.

Day 3

By Envision, Involve

I’ve got to start working on this earlier in the day!

Obviously, with the results of the presidential election tonight, at least 50% of Haitian voters are disappointed, and we are taking safety and security quite seriously.

Tonight, rather than the scheduled outreach, we stayed in and spent time with the boys here in the care of the Center of Hope. We had a time of “verbal worship” as we listened to one another answer two questions: how has God revealed Himself to you? and how has that changed your life?

The Haitian, American and Dominican stories were so beautiful and moving. Jesus was lifted up and many tears rolled down. Common themes touched on hope, grace, purpose and forgiveness. What an amazing group of people. What an awesome God.

We’ve only been together for a bit more than 48 hours, yet this is a family!

Most of the day was spent working on the basketball court. Mixing water, sand, gravel and cement. Pumping more water from the well (no, not for drinking.) a bucket brigade passing the concrete mix down to the forms, pouring it out, passing it back empty. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Making the backboard from scratch since the airline reps at LAX refused to allow us to bring the one we purchased (after clearing it with them by phone.) Measure, cut, paint, mark. Prune the tree overhanging the court. Dig the hole for the pole.

We had some great breakthroughs today too. We don’t mind hiring locals for pay – providing jobs is beneficial for the community. But we’ve also been trying to engage people in helping each other. Today we had a good group from the community join us to help build THEIR court, which is great and encouraging progress seeing increased ownership.

Also, we connected with several new people and organizations who we have been hopeful to develop future relationships.

Much to pray for, much to praise for.

Now we are beginning a new day, starting with team devotions in the Word, then onto breakfast and pouring more concrete to finish the court.

Day 2

By Envision, Involve

Many are asleep, but a handful remain awake playing “telephone pictionary.” I know the emotion of the day, the spiritual insights and the visceral images are now being expressed through loud laughter and silliness.

It’s been a full journey already, from packing to airports to a new language and culture. The immense poverty, the unappealing smells, the basic food. But we’ve seen so many smiles today, and already have been meeting so many needs.

Today there was a soccer game in an open field, and VBS for younger ones, and all of us in a ring praying together with our Haitian neighbors. Games at a youth outreach, worship singing Mighty to Save, and Jorge sharing how Christ changed his life via translation.

Tomorrow we begin our day in worship and a devotional at 7am local time, breakfast and then getting rolling on projects including a basketball court for the community. More stories, more pictures, more names and stories of changed lives to come.

Day 1

By Envision, Involve

Writing from the plane now. The trip started off for me in a whole new way. This veteran trip leader left his passport, wallet and cash for ministry projects on his desk at home. Never done that before. Had to run home before we even left for the airport. I had to remind myself that I was so busy taking care of everyone else, I needed to take care of me too.

Once we’d gathered and prayed we packed all twenty of us into our transport (thx Erik & Grant) and got up to LAX without any issues.

A few more moments for prayer when we learned that American Airlines was enforcing a new embargo against traveling with oversize bags, crates, tubs and boxes. Jourdan initiated a moment of prayer for an exception – to no avail; but we now could rest knowing God had a different plan for us. Our crew quickly got to work repacking into alternate luggage (abandoned suitcases provided for free by AA desk staff), even breaking down the basketball goal into our new bags. (We had to leave the plexiglass backboard behind.)

It’s been uneventful since then, getting through the TSA bodyscan, some dinner in the terminal and boarding our flight to Miami. All too soon we will arrive in the middle of the night – 5am ET but 2am to our bodies.

So it’s time to get a few short hours of rest before we get on our way…

More to come, more to pray… (Please get all our bags there, Lord!)

P.S. In Miami now.

Launch D -1

By Envision, Involve

Tomorrow we’ll be taking a team of 20 back to Haiti – the 6th mission to Hispaniola in 2010. This brief and personal video greeting inaugurates our mission overseas. We are at launch D minus 1 day.


Water into Wine

By Envision, Personal

Worship leader Chris Tomlin

I’ve had Chris Tomlin‘s new worship song Our God stuck in my head for a month now, which has been a great thing.  It has a driving melody with inspiring lyrics, reminding God’s people of His power, majesty and unshakable love.  It begins with a reminder of Christ’s first miracle – turning water into wine.  Usually when I hear those words, I think of the wedding in Cana, as it is historically recorded in the Gospel of John.  This week of Thanksgiving, the Holy Spirit has been nudging me in another direction.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus began His ministry and publicly substantiated His divinity with supernatural demonstrations.  His first terrestrial display, essentially making something from nothing, echoed His act of creation when He literally made the universe out of nothing.  And this theme of transformation extends beyond the physical world; indeed God is spiritually bringing life to the dead and redeeming His creation.

Nearly 25 years ago, in 1986, at the end of my rope, I made a decision to end my life but God supernaturally intervened and gave me salvation, hope and purpose.  He gave me eternal life and began a process of transformation in me.  Once again, God made something out of nothing.

Jesus continues His work of redemption and transformation every day.  Capture today by taking a moment to pause and give thanks for His work in you.  How has God turned water into wine in your life?

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)