Friday, January 28, 2011

Fun Day - Friday in Africa

We got up and enjoyed some coffee and time in the Word and prayer. We took a ride into downtown Niamay and bought some souveneirs. Then the fun started.

We headed south to an open area where giraffes are being repopulated. Our guide jumped in the truck and navigated us thirty minutes into some wide open spaces. I thought he was lost with all of the turns we were taking and then... we saw them. They were magnificient. There was a two week old baby, 2 two month olds, five mommas, and the daddy. It was something to see!

After that we grabbed lunch and came back to the mission house. We made calls, wrote blogs and got cleaned up. We took our stuff to the airport and so we are all ready to go.

We are leaving now to get our last meal in Africa. We should be in Paris by morning, Atltanta by the afternoon, and home by 6:30 pm. Please pray for traveling mercies.

Please also pray for me as I edit the sermon I will be preaching on Sunday. I am fired up, but need only preach as God's Spirit directs. Pray I listen and give what only He desires for His people at Living Hope.

Baptisms & a Bus Ride - Thursday in Africa

The day started similar to Wednesday. We got up, got some eggs, and got over to the training center. We studied God's Word with the men and answered as many questions as we could.

As mid-day came, we headed to the river to baptize the man who had been saved the day before, Ka. Bubba was excited. Not only were we baptizing Ka, but Ji as well. Ji was a man that had been saved some time before, but had not been faithful in his participation in the church. Recently, he had been much more connected and had been present for all of the teaching times. He was very excited to making his public profession of faith.

We all went down by the river to watch. Henry started singing and we all joined in. Bubba was in the water with Ka and Ji. Both men were baptized by Bubba and we all celebrated by clapping and shouting praise to God.

Interestingly, there was a man there by the river that was washing his clothes. After the second man came out of the water, he announced to the group that he too wanted to be baptized. I immediately had concerns. Who was this guy? Did he know the Gospel? Did he know what baptism was? Were these men ready to investigate his faith claims?

All of my concerns were quickly removed. Ibra, one of the elders of the church, explained that he had been witnessing to this man, Mega, for several months and that he had accepted Christ about a month ago. Mega had just gotten back into town and wanted to be a part of the church and was ready to be baptized. He gave a profession of his faith that was clear and without prompting. So he was baptized too.

Three baptisms in one day!

After the baptisms, we gathered for prayer. We prayed for them. They prayed for us. Then we all prayed for the missionaries. It was a touching moment.

They walked us to the bus station and ligered for a while and then we said our last good-byes.

Thiry minutes after the time we were supposed to leave, we began loading up on the bus. It was really hot that day and about 2 pm in the afternoon, when we got to our seats. We were asked to get on first since we would be the last stop. We didn't want to have to get off the bus everytime someone had a stop so we got in the very back of the bus. Our knees pressed into the seat in front of us. We road with the windows down with sand flying all around us and sweat pouring from our bodies for 3 and a half ours. I hope they washed those seats:D

When we got off, we must have been a sight to see. I don't think any of us used the restroom in our pants, but it certainly looked like and felt like we did. We had literally sweated through our clothes. It was glorious. Never had we been nastier and happier. We were just glad to be standing on our feet and out of the back of that bus.

We got back to the baptist mission house and got cleaned up. After an ice-cold coke, we all had a smile. A little dinner later and a call or two back home put our minds and bodies at ease.

We slept good Thursday night. We'd seen God's hand at work through the teaching and the baptisms. We'd had an unforgetable ride through Niger. We celebrated God's grace and goodness and said goodnight.

The Happiest Hardest Day of the Trip - Wednesday in Africa

I woke up from the sound of a motorcycle engine reving up outside our door. After some water, a babywipes bath, and brushing our teeth we headed to the main market. We had two scrambled eggs African style and drew quite a few looks. We took a quick tour of the main market, met some nice people, and then went to our meeting room.

After a quick stop at the corner market to load up on tea, figs, and peanuts, we headed straight for the training area. Bubba had gotten us a room in what used to be a vocational training building for women. With our shoes off and all of us sitting on mats on the floor we got to work. We first answered all the questions that we had not gotten to the day before. I gave some insights on the nature of the church and Bill provided training on generous giving and marriage.

Just as we were about to start a new traning a man who had come as a guest spoke up. Our team was not sure what he was saying, but all of the other men began celebrating. It turns out that one of the men had been sharing Christ with him for about a month. He had come to listen to some of the teaching. He had just said to the guys, "Hey, I have to go to work now, but before I go, would it be ok if I accepted Jesus as my God to be saved?" After hearing a message on giving and marriage, that brother came forward:D

That afternoon Jason G and Todd provided outstanding teaching. Jason G taught them how to put off the old self and to put on the new person in Christ. Todd taught on the fruit of the Spirit. That afternoon it got hot. I mean real hot. We had to abandon our room for a tree outside where we could catch a breeze. We took large bricks that had fallen from the abondoned building next door and made them into seats in a cirlc. The facility was alonside of the river so we could catch a breeze. We also caught the sight of lots of people coming to take a bath - awkward for the North Americans and nothing new to the Africans:D

The training time consisted of more than just information. These brothers love to sing and Henry had shown up the night before to get in on the training. He would lead the music... can't carry a tune, but he loves to sing. We will be teaching these songs to the children of Living Hope when we get back.

We also had amazing times of prayer. The prayer time was very overwhelming to me. Some of the phrases they used were so powerful... "let us be always one, make your Word to be in us, thank you for all that you have given us in Christ."

That night we sat under the stars waiting for dinner. Bubba showed up as the food did so we all dumped part of our meal on his plate and forced him to stay and eat. We laughed and shared stories and praised God for the great grace He's given to us to make us His children and brothers to one another.

After taking a cold shower and getting the frog out of our room, I laid my head down and praised God for the joy that is mine to be His. I am loved with an unending gracious love. My family is found all over the planet. The Kingdom of God is on the move and the Lord has allowed me to be on the front line of it. What a joy and honor for me!

Tuesday in Africa

The sky was dark, but the stars were bright when we headed to the bus station. It felt good to us, but the people here looked like they were expecting a blizzard in their coats and caps. The bus was about 45 minutes late, but everyone made it on board and away we went.

We arrived in Iyarou around mid-morning and got checked into our hotel. A political rally was taking place just outside of it. There were soldiers with guns and it made us a bit edgy. We had heard about the aligators in what used to be a swimming pool, but it still surprised us to see their heads poking out of the dark water. In our bathroom we found a bat hanging dead above the toilet. All in all we were happy - we were in the bush - this is what we signed up for.

Our first stop was at the home of the first believers there. The mom and son were believers, but the father wasn't. We talked and heard stories and shared pictures for a while.

The next stop was at Bubba's (that's what I call him). He is big and any NFL team would do well to take a look at him for tightend. We sat in front of his home in the shade drinking tea. We first heard about their lives and how God was at work there and then they started firing questions at us: What should we know as a young church? How can we best serve God? What does Scripture say about giving? (none of these men have jobs) We answered some of their questions by talking about the importance of loving each other (Acts 2:42-47) and being peacemakers through reconciliation (Matthew 18:15-35 & 2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

Then we had lunch. It was on a large round metal tray. It had rice and some kind of meat and a sauce. We all sit around and ate from it together - community.

The sun had moved so after lunch we found a tree and provided more teachings and answered more questions. These men know the Bible. They know sound doctrine. The work of the Holy Spirit amazed us. They were quoting Scripture that they'd never heard. One would say something and I would ask if they knew that text. They would look surprised and then we would read it to them and they would just smile.

The men were tired as the sun was going down so we headed back to the hotel. We made a quick trip to see the hippos and then had dinner and fell asleep fast and hard. Nice thing about Africa... you get tired easy and sleep good.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Monday in Africa

Monday was a bit of a surprise. We went into the day thinking that God was going to lead us one way, but then found Him guiding us in a different dirction. We were going to Togiboty and Boubon. Both were Christless villages.

The entire day felt different from the very beginning. We had a different interpeter and we knew that we were going to villages where there were no believers. In most cases we understood that the people we would be sharing with would be hearing the Gospel of Jesus for the first time. We also knew that our task was not only to share the Gospel, but also to prepare the way for the team from Living Hope that will come behind us in May.

My main focus was on discovering God's will for where Living Hope's launch place for reaching this area would be. The early favorite was Tagiboty. The missionaries here had a good relationship with the chief and knew the village pretty well. They did not know much about Boubon, but were interested in seeing what the Lord was doing there.

We went to Tagiboty first and our first order of business was to meet the chief. He is a funny little guy with lots of personality. He laughs and jokes a lot. We gave him gifts (a bible, a cassette player, and a cassette tape sharing the Gospel), exchanged welcomes which I'd been trained and prepared to do, and we sat down in his compound. There were lots of people around and the chief looked nervous. He smiled and told us we had access to the entire village to pray and bless the people and we were hurried out.

We got out stuff together and got started. Jason Graham went first and did a great job sharing the "creation to Christ" Gospel presentation. About 20 people listened and we gave Gospel cassette tapes to the adults. We were then called to a man's home that wanted to talk with us. Bill Starr, Toddy Crosby and I went into his two room 10 ft by 20 ft home and sat down. The man's wife and two children were there so I felt safe... and then he started talking and I realized he was a witch doctor. I am sure there is a more pc name for his work, but regardless of what you call it, this man was working with demonic power to do some bad stuff.

We shared the Gospel with Him, but he was not interested. He'd asked us to his home because he knew that we were spiritual leaders. He wanted us to take his picture and tell people to come to him for all of their witch doctor needs. We assured him that we only shared Jesus and we offered up prayers for him and left.

Our next stop was to be at a man's house where his wife was sick. He told us that the prayers of the people here did not work, but he believed our prayers to Jesus would work. As we were about to enter his compound, an older relative stepped in and would not allow us to enter. He embarassed the man that had asked us for prayers. We just left.

We met and shared with others as we walked through the village. We were surrounded by children the entire time we were walking and praying who were holding our hands and rubbing our arms. Our interpreter, who has a very serious disposition started laughing and so I asked him what had happened. He told me that the little girl wondered why I had so much hair on my arm, but none on my head. I even get bald jokes in Africa:D

After praying by the river, we headed back to the chief. He wanted to talk to us again, but with less people. We sat and listened as he shared about the history of his people. We were able to get permission for our team to return in May and we left satisfied with that, but concerned about that village. Although the chief is great and there are some sweet people there, it has a darkness about it that needs the light of Christ to dispel.

We went and had a picnic lunch. We rode camels and relaxed for a bit and then headed to Boubon.

At Boubon we had a ball. Boubon is a little more modern. They have electricity and running water. The chief was away, but we met with his second in command and he was glad to meet us. We divided into twos to walk through the village and share the Gospel. The people were kind and receptive. Jason Graham and I both spoke and received a very warm reception. No one accepted Christ, but they were all very interested in what we were teaching.

We met up with the other team and they had the same experience. The people were very warm and open to the Gospel.

At the start of the day, we thought Tagiboty would be the probable place that we would launch from to reach "The Road to Karma," but it turns out that Boubon will probably be our base of operation as we seek to start churches in these three villages: Boubon, Tagiboty, and the village farthest from Niamay, Karma. Our hope is that Living Hope will adopt "The Road to Karma" a thirty mile stretch of three villages with about 50,000 people. It would be so great to see in a decade or less churches thriving in these three villages. The vision is clear and the strategy is sound. Now the prayer and ongoing sharing and training in Christ begins.

Would you be willing to pray for these three villages and the evangelism and tranining teams that will be going into them at least three times a week?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunday in Africa

Sunday, January 23, 2011 is a day that I can't imagine I will ever forget. We began the Lord's Day by traveling in a rented taxi van to Karma, a demon oppressed village outside of Niamay, to worship with a faithful believer. As we reached the outskirts of Niamay, the roadside provided views of a brown dead landscape littered with goats, lambs, donkeys, and people with jackets and coats. It was crazy cold for Africa. I think it was 60 degrees.

When we reached Karma, a thin man with sharp features met us enthusiastically and jumped into the van. Henry was thrilled to see us. His smile was big and his laugh was loud as he talked back and forth with Mark and C (C is our brilliant translator fluent in 6 languages and currently studying Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic in seminary.) As we came into the village, Henry's face changed. He looked tentative and a little nervous.

Henry led us around to the back of the village to a tree. He explained how and why he had received permission for us to gather there. In the shade of that tree we exchanged names and pleasantries and then each of us shared how we came to know Christ. We also opened the Word of God together and prayed. Henry was soaking in everything that was said. It was clear that this brother had not had community for a while.

He explained to us how the 6 other recently baptized believers there in Karma had been persecuted for their faith and had turned away from Christ. One of the former believers actually told Henry that if he came and talked to him about Jesus again that he would beat him. Apparently, these believers were treated by their families and friends the way they were treating Henry and instead of remaining faithful had given up their new found faith in Jesus. Sadly, this is not uncomman in a country where Christians are persecuted.

Henry has not given up. His wife, his parents, his siblings, his in-laws, and all of his friends have rejected him. Most will not talk to him and there is a very real possibility that he will be deprived of home, of work, and even the possiblity of buying food. In this culture community is vital to survival. On his own, Henry should not be able to survive.

But Henry has more than survived. He has thrived. After our time under the tree, he walked us through the village. Among the Songhai there is a saying, "The guest is king." Although they know we were Christian, they treated us with kindness and respect. Henry led us to a hill where we were able to look down upon the whole village. We prayed and then Henry began to sing. Mark and C knew the song and joined him. Henry sang the loudest and with the greatest joy. This persecuted man has the joy of the Lord in him!

That afternoon we had a meal together, made a run for the market, and then headed back to the tree for more traning. Mark asked me to teach Henry what happens when a believer dies and what heaven is like. I was tired of sitting so I asked to stand and began to teach. C stood next to me and translated and we accidentally drew a crowd. First it was children, but then some women joined too. After I spoke, the other men stood and shared encouraging Scriptures with Henry and many of the people stayed. We taught for about an hour and a half. I could not believe that most of the people stayed and listened.

As we prepared to leave Todd Crosby stood and boldly shared the Gospel. Afterward, we asked if we could pray for the people standing there listening. This was a big deal for people that think prayer is something you do when a horn goes off 5 times a day and you get on a towel, face the east, and quote Arabic words you don't know the meaning of. We explained that because we pray in Jesus' name, our God hears us always at all times. It was amazing to these poeple to hear their names lifted up in prayer.

As we left, Henry sang again and prayed for us. It was 11 am in Bowling Green, KY and I asked him to pray for Pastor Jeff who was about to preach again and for the gathered believers at Living Hope. He then prayed for us and we left with gladness and hope in our hearts.

I have come to a firm understanding about myself and Hamma. I may have more knowledge than him, but he has more faith. I am thankful for the truth I know, but I am humbled by the faith I need. My prayer is that I can have faith like Hamma and encourage the people I love toward that same end.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Saturday in Africa

On Saturday afternoon, January 22 the team from Living Hope and I had the privilege of training committed leaders from Niger Africa. These are devout believers that love Jesus and desire to see their nation know Him and love Him.

Jason Graham began the training by teaching on spiritual warfare. Todd Crosby then followed him by teaching on personal holiness. Bill Starr instructed them on the qualifications of leaders that do God's work. I finished the evening by talking about what bold leadership looked like and required based on Nehemiah.

After we were done, C, a national partner with our local missionaries from the IMB, taught them the church planting strategy we are a part of. It is called E2E: entry to exit. It is the plan for how we see the Gospel going out, disciples being developed, churches being started, and the Kingdom expanding in West Africa to the praise of Jesus' name.

When I think about what these people are sacrificing and how they are so happy to be serving Jesus, I am humbled. They have so little and yet they are doing so much. Their knowledge is so limited, but their faith is so great. Their pain and problems are so intense and yet, their joy is unshakable.

Our God is a great God. I pray that we in North America will not abandon Him for the power, pleasue, popularity, and possessions Satan is offering us in exchange. The offer Satan is making us is like the one he offered Jesus. If we will abandon God and choose sin, he will give us something to satisfy our pride and flesh. May we never forget that sin takes you further than you inteded to go, costs you more than you wanted to pay, and gives you less than it promises. May we remain faithful to God's Word, God's Great Commission, and God's Kingdom purpose.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Traveling Friends

Acts 20:3–6 (ESV) There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

I have read past these names so many times with little thought of how important they were to Paul. As I am about to set out on a mission trip to Africa, I am thankful for the men I am traveling with: Bill Starr, Jason Graham, and Todd Crosby. We will be working with Mark and Parker, whom my wife and I traveled with to do ministry in New York several years ago and that I served on staff with for years. Each of these leaders are gifted in their unique way and my joy is to get to serve with them.

Who we journey through life with is important. We all need good friends that we can stand in Christ with. Praise God for your friends today and celebrate the fact that Jesus calls us to community and to live on mission with others who love us, love Him, and that we love.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Part I Do, You Do, We Do

Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power. (Psalms 110:3)

One mark of revival, during which God comes to His people in power, is that God's people are compelled to offer their lives for His service. Many churches lack people who are willing to get involved in carrying out God's redemptive work. The mission fields are crying out for Christians to go and share the gospel with those who've never heard it. What we need is not more pleas for volunteers, but an outpouring of the power of God. When God comes among His people in power, there is never a shortage of volunteers or resources for His work! ~Blackaby

One of the things that sets the church apart is the sacrificial spirit of God's people. The church is not a club or a business. A local church is a family. There are indicators of organization in a church and there are business aspects in a church just as there are in any family. What makes the church different is the what, the how, and the why.

The what is the Kingdom. Every true church exists to grow God's Kingdom. The church does not exist for itself. It exists for the cause of the King of Heaven.

The how is God's power released in God's humble people. The King of Heaven has adopted children to be His own. They freely give what God has given to them to serve the needs of the church, which impacts God's Kingdom.

The why is God's glory. The King of Heaven deserves praise and honor. Every lost person represents a stolen praise that should be given to God. All praise and glory belong to God and when a person lives without God and does not praise His great name, God is robbed of what is rightfully His.

Today I praise God that I get to be a part of a family of faith like Living Hope and get to see thousands of people serving God's church to grow God's Kingdom for the glory of God.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Challenging Words that Comfort

I will be leaving for Africa in a few days with a small band of men to encourage a new church in the truth of God's Word, to challenge missionaries on that field, and to select a city that Living Hope will plant churches in. The excitement is building, but so is the temptation to be anxious. I don't want to get sick. I don't want to let the team or the church or the people down. I don't want to miss what the Lord has for me in this.

I drew comfort from this today and pass it on to you.

If I go upon the Lord’s errand, with a simple reliance upon his power, and a single eye to his glory, it is certain that he will be with me. His sending me binds him to back me up. Is not this enough? What more can I want? If all the angels and archangels were with me, I might fail; but if HE is with me, I must succeed. Only let me take care that I act worthily towards this promise. Let me not go timidly, half-heartedly, carelessly, presumptuously. What manner of person ought he to be who has God with him!

C. H. Spurgeon, The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith, 17.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Watch Your Words

This morning while I was running on the treadmill, I watched four different news shows at the same time. It is odd that I and the rest of North America have come to see this as normal. We have so much information coming at us and those that provide the news have the pressure to fill 24 hours a day with information. In the process they can and often do say things poorly. In the midst of so much tragedy and pain, it seems that the news media is not simply telling about it. It seems that they are making it worse.

We all must be careful about what we say. Words have power and they can really do damage.

Jesus made a big deal about words. He said in Matthew 12:34–37 (ESV) "You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Years ago I heard Rick Warren talk about the impact that electronic and social media has had on people's lives and how careful we must be. He said something to the effect that in this age information is instant, global and permanent. Our words go out fast, they reach lots of people and they remain.

Let's pray for our words.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When We Lose Someone

Yesterday was a dear friend's birthday who went to be with the Lord last year. It is a strange thing to see an electronic update come up with her name and face. She was such a dear saint that loved the Lord, her family, and her friends. She was a person that you could always count on to do something kind. It may be a gift or just a card saying that she was praying for you. Her ministry was to students and to women in the church. She hosted the first of what is now our Girl's Ministry in our Student area of the church. Her help to me was in caring for and counseling women who were going through marital difficulties. She was a gifted encourager and teller of truth. I miss Lynne Breen.

I know that a lot of other people do too and we are all praying for Mike, Travis, Caleb, and Lynne's family.

I also know that many people feel the way I do about someone else. It may be a family member, a friend, or someone they admired. When we have a loss that cannot be replaced, it is tough to go on. There are certain places in our lives for a parent, a child, a confidant or an inspiration and when we lose that person, a replacement may not be possible. The loss is real and lasting.

The grace of God gives us joy even in our loss for those of us in Christ that have lost loved ones who are in Christ. We can say what David said when he lost a child, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23) One day all of us in Christ will be gathered together with God. We will all be together with Him. What a great day that will be!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What We Get To Do

Not only are we receiving the Lord's Supper tomorrow... And not only will we see the family of Living Hope love Jesus, each other, and people in need... We can do what D.L. Moody says angels would love to do - celebrate and share the Gospel!

I believe that if an angel were to wing his way from earth up to Heaven, and were to say that there was one poor, ragged boy, without father or mother, with no one to care for him and teach him the way of life; and if God were to ask who among them were willing to come down to this earth and live here for fifty years and lead that one to Jesus Christ, every angel in Heaven would volunteer to go. Even Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, would say, "Let me leave my high and lofty position, and let me have the luxury of leading one soul to Jesus Christ." There is no greater honor than to be the instrument in God's hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of Heaven.

-- Dwight L. Moody

Friday, January 7, 2011

Africa on My Mind

I woke up thinking about and praying for Africa. It will not be long before I will be there with a small team of leaders to evangelize, train young Christians and church leaders, and to pray for a village that needs a church. It is our hope to have Living Hope take responsibility to see to it that a church is planted in that village of some 15,000 lost people.

Please commit to pray for me and the team of men I will be serving with. Ask God to keep us safe and healthy, to enable us to serve Him and His church effectively, and for Him to do a work in us and through us that brings Him glory. Also, please be in prayer for the missionaries and the people group we will be seeking to give hope to. You can read about the people group here and get to know the missionaries here.

Please be in prayer for our families here. They will have to continue on with business as usual without our help. The workload they will have to carry along with missing us and praying for us will be quite a burden.

Right now each of us is finishing our planning for what we will teach. We are making final decisions about what we are going to bring and preparing our hearts and minds for spiritual darkness, heat, and also for the sweetness of fellowship with our missionary friends and the new believers we will come to love. If you could pray that God would provide us with discernment and for clarity in our preparation for what to teach, that would be a huge help. There is so much we can give, but so little time.

Opportunities like this have the power to change us and eternity. My prayer is that God will do a fresh work in me and grow a greater love and awe of Him in my heart.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Buying from Amazon? Use this link and support missions...

Under my picture on this blog to the right you will see a box that says...
Use this Link to Support Missions at Living Hope Baptist Church

* Amazon Link for Referral Credit for LHBC

If you are going to buy anything from Amazon, please use that link first. Every purchase you make will give money toward the mission efforts of Living Hope. You can support missionaries all over the world and make it possible for people to hear the Gospel by doing nothing more than buying something you were going purchase anyway.

It's good Kingdom stewardship.

You can also find the link on the church's website.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Taking It for Granted

It was really dark this morning and when I was leaving our dark bedroom to go run at 5 am, I failed to notice that our bedroom door was slightly opened. I nailed my head on the door. It hurt so bad. Thankfully, it didn't leave a mark.

While I was driving to the gym, I started thinking about Proverbs 4:19 "But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." So many people live what I briefly experienced this morning. Darkness is their normal and they stumble about in hate, lust, greed, and all sorts of Godlessness and the result is pain. In sin we never see what's coming until it's too late and by then all we can do is hope to minimize the damage.

What a privilege it is to be walk in Christ and enjoy the blessings of His promises like John 8:12 "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”

In Christ we are guided by truth and enabled to be blessed by His presence. This light allows us to see sin for what it is and to avoid obstacles that would trip us up. In Christ we can "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles," and we are able to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us." We do this when we "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1–2

It is easy to take God's blessings for granted. We can own Bibles and have access to places of worship and friends in Christ, but if we do not appreciate them and live in them, we will miss the blessing of the light and face the consequences of darkness. It is a privilege to know Christ. I am going to live in appreciation of God's grace to me today and the light He has bestowed in me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I was so tired. It was cold. My head is stopped up with the beginnings of a sinus infection. The last thing I wanted to do was put on my work out clothes, get in a cold car, and go work out.

But I did. The only reason I got up and went was because I knew that if I didn't follow through with my commitment, I would have regretted it. Regret is the worst. There is nothing that can mend it. Opportunities come and when we don't take advantage of them, we don't get a do over. You push through and go for it or you miss it.

The words "would have", "should have", and "could have" leave a bad taste in my mouth. They are the first words of justified failure. Once you start saying those words and get comfortable with them, you can know you have accepted regret as a reality. That's no way to live.

God has a great day planned for each of us today who have been saved by grace through faith. Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. The question we have to answer is, will I go for it and take advantage of the opportunities that stand before me today even though they will require great effort and maybe sacrifice or will I settle for regret.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3 of Resolutions

Barna's Research on Resolutions:
When asked to describe their experience with resolutions during 2010, only one out of four Americans (23%) who had made resolutions found those commitments resulted in “significant, long-term change” to their behaviors or attitudes. More commonly, Americans described their 2010 resolutions as resulting in “minor change” (29%) or “no change” (49%).

Resolutions are funny for me. I have found that there are things I want to be different in my life, but I usually don't want to have to change what I do. I like the idea of weighing less, but I don't want to give up the calorie intake to do it. I like the idea of reading more, but I don't want to give up the other activities I engage in.

What I have learned works for me is getting excited about the life change and letting the results be secondary. If I focus only on the results, they usually don't happen. When I focus on the day to day activities of my life and celebrate them and make them habitual the results usually come in time.

I don't really have any resolutions this year, but today I'm getting back into my work mode where my mind is required to live in 5th gear for 8-12 hours a day. This is good and bad. The good thing is that I love what I am privileged to do, but I will miss building legos with Asher, shooting ball with the kids, and the afternoon naps that I enjoyed during my vacation last week.

So it's day 3 of the new year and my prayer is that God will do a fresh work in my heart, allow me to feel His presence in every decision and task, and enable me to rest in the goodness of His grace that provides me the opportunity to live in the power of His Spirit. I am also going to keep the M&M jar in my office closed this week.