Someone free

What makes someone beautiful? What makes someone valuable? What makes someone worthy of being free?

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Doing vs. Knowing

Do you ever feel overwhelmed or overloaded? Do you ever feel like you just aren’t ever doing enough, and there isn’t enough time in the day? Me too. These first couple weeks in Thailand have been a whirlwind. We have gotten a lot more done in getting set up here than I thought we would, which is great. But I won’t lie. I’m drained.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses summoned the nation of Israel to give them the law of the Lord. These laws weren’t just a bunch of random rules, but was God discipling an entire nation and wanting to be made known to the world through them.

In Chapter 5, Moses quotes the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20. He quotes what God had said in Exodus 20, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” I see this as a gentle reminder as to say “Hey I’m going to remind you who I AM, and why you should listen to me, then I’m going to tell you what to do.”

Moses quotes the first few commandments that were given. Then when he gets to the fourth one (keeping the Sabbath holy), something is added that wasn’t in Exodus 20. Deuteronomy 5:15 says “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”

In the midst of the commandments, He emphasizes this one, and reminds them AGAIN – saying LOOK WHO I AM AND WHAT I HAVE DONE FOR YOU, NOW MAKE SURE YOU KEEP THIS ONE.

I won’t lie – if I’m reading through the Ten Commandments, this one I’m probably ranking as one of the lowest on the totem pole. I mean the other ones are dealing with their relationship with God, and not killing or stealing or dishonoring other people. Why does He choose to emphasize this one above the rest?

Vulnerability alert – I’m guilty of breaking all of these (for murder and adultery, see Jesus’ interpretation Matthew 5:21-30, check annnddd check…. Dang it). The commandment I am probably guilty of breaking the most is the Sabbath. But why is this important? I am so good at staying busy, but I am doing GOOD things. So shouldn’t that be the exception, if it’s broken for doing good?

I think God is placing emphasis on this because He wants to remind us again that His primary concern isn’t about what we do for Him, but that we actually step back from everyday life and KNOW Him. When we truly seek and know Him, doing good WILL follow. However, just because we DO things FOR Him, doesn’t mean we know Him. I can do things for my wife all the time; cook, clean, laundry, yardwork, etc. I can know about her (color hair, favorite color, where she likes to shop, etc) – and she would appreciate ALL of that. But if I do things for her and know about her, and don’t KNOW her – do you think she would be pleased? Definitely not.

I’m not saying we have to go all Pharisee on the Sabbath and refuse to do anything. Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, but that’s because He was more concerned with the heart of it than the legalistic concept. But He also constantly withdrew to pray and spend time with the Father.

I urge you (as I write this mainly to remind myself) – to take time to rest. God emphasized this command for a reason. I think when I fail to rest, it’s also a sign that I am failing to trust in God. I am saying that God does not know what’s best, and I don’t trust it will get done or be ok unless I take control and constantly go full speed.

Nothing is wrong with getting stuff done. We SHOULD accomplish things. Work is good. But resting and focusing on Him is essential.

If my primary focus is getting stuff done, then I must ask myself, is what I am doing so I may be known and glorified? Or is it so I may know Him better, so HE may be known and glorified?

How’s your schedule looking? Do you take time to retreat, rest, and just focus on KNOWING God? Or do you fall into the achiever trap like me by trying to constantly DO?

“’This is what the Lord says: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 9:23-24

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Fearful vs. Faithful

After travelling for about 24 hours, we arrived. We are in Thailand. Wow – there were some days that we weren’t sure we would ever say those words! Because of God’s grace, provision, and the generosity and support of so many of friends and family members (a.k.a. you guys…) we are here!

Right now we are staying with our friends and super gracious and awesome hosts, Scott and Heather Lacy. They are awesome and have been such a huge blessing already in the first few days of being here. Our first day was super productive! We were able to get signed up for a phone plan, bought some helmets, and rented scooters for the week. We will probably try to buy a scooter within the next week.

Right now our main objective is learning how to live in Thailand; adjusting and just figuring out how to do life here. This involves finding scooters, finding a house to rent, learning how to navigate our way in a city full of signs that we can’t read, figuring out where we can go to get groceries, or other things we may need, (and hopefully for me finding a good place to be able to play some basketball with Thai’s).

I’m not going to lie – our first day in the city was pretty intimidating. There are some things in English, and some people speak a little English, but it definitely hit me how difficult it’s going to be to build relationships here and do life here, let alone actually have a conversation with any spiritual significance. Doubts started to creep in my mind, telling me how we can’t be effective or ever change someone’s life here. Who are we to step in here and do something like this?

Numbers 13 and 14 has been really encouraging me though. Numbers 13 talks about the twelve Israelite spies who went to explore the land of Canaan. They didn’t just go in and conquer. God wanted them to explore the land, observe the people, and use strategy. It’s important that we don’t go in blindly, but that we actually take time to observe the people, the culture, and different obstacles we may run into.

Numbers 14 is about how ten of the spies doubted God’s plan because of what they saw and experienced. “ Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (v. 3). Moses and Aaron responded, saying “Do not rebel against the Lord, and do not be afraid of the people of the land….. The Lord is with us, do not be afraid of them” (v. 9). The Lord responds to them saying, “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they” (v. 11-12).

I can’t help but think even how differently this story may have been if God didn’t send them in to explore the land ahead of time. They may not have even had time to doubt – if they just went in and battled these huge Canaanites, they may not have had time to back out. However, God gives them the chance to see and doubt. He wanted their trust and obedience, and He should have it ESPECIALLY because of all the miraculous signs He had already performed for the Israelites. In spite of these miracles, the Israelites still let their fear for the unknown interfere with what they had already known (who God was and how far He had already brought them).

This gave me comfort in our scenario. The fact that we are even in Thailand, especially in the time frame that we were hoping and praying for, was definitely a miracle. This was not something that Nicole or I or anyone else could have accomplished – it was 100% because of God’s grace and provision. He did not bring us here for nothing. So as we face intimidating things such as a culture we aren’t familiar with, a language we don’t know, and obstacles yet to be seen – I think it’s so important that we continue to look back on what God HAS done, who God IS – so we can continue to walk in faith and confidence. We don’t have confidence in what we can do on our own, but what GOD will be able to accomplish. Hopefully this encourages you as well – in case you are facing some pretty scary unknowns. Don’t let fear of the unknown rule over what you do know about God and what He has done – He is faithful. Many of you have heard us talk about this verse, but it just continues to apply and be one of our theme verses for our Thailand story:

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential, not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of HIM that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” – 1 Corinthians 1: 26-31

We will be updating people and sending more specifics regarding our game plan over these next few months via email – if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribe to our email list by clicking here.

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One word

Last year my wife and I were in a time of transition – not physically, but spiritually and emotionally. We felt God was moving in us, but we weren’t sure exactly what the end result was going to be.

At the beginning of 2012, we decided to pick a word or theme for 2012. Something that we could focus on, and that we would try to put into practice (I didn’t know until this year, but there are a bunch of people doing this at http://oneword365.com/).

The word that we picked was “submit”. We wanted to lay down our own thoughts, plans, desires, and submit to do whatever God laid on our hearts (caution: if you pick this word, please know what you are getting into. He might ask you to do something you may not like). However, I know that His plan is ALWAYS better than ours – even if it doesn’t always seem that way.

We decided to do the same thing this year. The word that we felt God was laying on our hearts was patience. As we move to another country, the need to be patient with each other, with other organizations, with people in a completely different culture and mindset than us, patience with ministry, patience with God – operating in His time, not ours.

I’m scared for this one – because I’m not a super patient person. I like to see results. And I feel like if there are opportunities to practice patience, it usually means things aren’t going my way, or as quick as I would like. But this year we are committing to focus on being patient – not to focus on our time line, or things that we want. We want to continue to be obedient and faithful and be patient that God will work through things (even if we don’t necessarily see the impact right away).

I kind of want 2013 to fly by for a couple different reasons, but I’m going to do my best to be patient 🙂

What about you – what word would you pick to focus on in 2013?

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Funded. Thailand, here we come!

Our prayers have been answered – we have enough funds raised to go to Thailand!!!! We can’t express how grateful we are to everyone for their prayers, and partnering with us in this ministry. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! Most of all, we are so grateful to God for His grace and provision. He truly performed a miracle providing these funds in such a short time. May He receive ALL the glory that these funds were raised, and may He be glorified with every penny that is used in Thailand. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen!!”

We have applied for our Visa’s, but it could take up to 15 days to process. We are hoping to be out to Thailand around January 9th, because our language school starts the 21st. So this would give us some time to get settled in and adjusted before we start learning the language.

If you could please pray that this Visa process goes smoothly – we would greatly appreciate it! We are also just waiting for confirmation from our sending agency (Converge) and then we will get our plane tickets ordered.

What an incredible miracle, and gift. Thank you all again – we can’t tell you how much we appreciate everyone’s generosity, support, and encouragement. It has been so encouraging to see the body of Christ rally around us and make this their mission and ministry, just as much as ours! We are so excited to see what God will do in and through all of us 🙂 May Jesus continue to be glorified in everything!

Some other quick prayer requests:

 

– Pray that God would continue to provide the proper people that we can partner with in Thailand

– Pray for local Thai people who love the Lord that we can partner with in ministry (Luke 10 – “Person of peace”). We want to empower them, not make them dependent upon outsiders.

– That we continue to trust and seek God every step of the way

– Our marriage stay strong during this time of transition

– That by God’s grace, we can learn the language!

We won’t be able to post all our ministry details online. So if you want to stay updated, we would be honored if you signed up to receive our email updates by going here.

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Ripple Effect

We want to go to Thailand and make an impact. Scratch that, we want to make a BIG impact. We have big dreams, big hopes, and are praying for big things.

I’m a pretty results oriented guy. If I have put time and effort into something, I want to see results. On top of this, if others have put time and effort into something with me, prayed constantly, made sacrifices with us, and I feel like it’s in my hands, then I REALLY want to see results.

Because the truth is, if we go to Thailand, and we don’t see impact, or fruit, or lives that have been affected, a big part of me will want to view this as a failure. And I feel like everyone else will look at it that way as well.

All that time put into it, away from friends and family, all that money invested, all those prayers, was all that for nothing?

I really don’t want to come off as a pessimist. But I do think this is a reality we must think about. We are going to a country where they say “To be Thai, is to be Buddhist”. We have an uphill battle even before we get there, knowing that by following Jesus, they would essentially be abandoning their nation’s spiritual identity. A place that has been called a “graveyard for missionaries” because there has been a Christian presence there for over 500 years, yet less than 1% of the nation is “Christian”. We know this will not be a cake walk, and other people have told us that as well.

So does this mean we shouldn’t go? Or all this effort isn’t worth it? Absolutely not. Truth is, when we follow God, it’s not going to be a piece of cake. In fact, a lot of times following Him is the HARDER route (for a primary example, see the cross – Jesus even prayed “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” In Jesus’ case, He CHOSE the hard route, because He knew it was what the Father wanted, and it would glorify Him the most).

As Jesus was suffering, being tortured, and hanging on the cross, even His own disciples denied and doubted him. The guys who walked with Him, saw Him calm a storm, raised Lazarus from the dead. and yet they still doubted.

Often times when things aren’t looking peachy, we doubt. We doubt God Himself, and we doubt if what we are doing is right. We can have this mindset that if we are in God’s will, everything should be super easy, and awesome, and thousands will come to Jesus and He’s going to miraculously provide root beer floats for everyone in the process.

God usually doesn’t seem to work this way though. Look at the parable of the sower that Jesus tells. 75% of the seed that the farmer sows doesn’t reap anything. That’s only a 25% completion rate, a percentage that even a Cardinals quarterback grimaces at (sorry, low blow I know. It’s been a rough year…)

Regardless of what the results are, we are called to be obedient, to be faithful, and to keep sowing. Because as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6-8, some may plant, some may water, but it is truly on God who makes things grow. We must continue to be obedient, do our part, and trust in Him for the rest.

We don’t always know or see the impact that our actions have. Just like a small stone being thrown into a pond. The stone doesn’t see the ripple effect it creates on a pond that ends up being so much bigger than the stone. We don’t always see the ripple effect our actions can create.

So we walk into this – we are going to continue to dream big, pray big, and want to make a huge impact. But even if the results aren’t evident, we are going to continue trying to be obedient and faithful in the little. We will continue to do our part to glorify Him, and pray that God uses it to bring glory to Himself. Because He is GOD – and He is so much bigger than our failures, mistakes, or lack of results. He can still use those things to shape us, and give Him glory. We must trust in Him, even during the hard times, and pray even if we can’t necessarily see it, that our actions are used for something so much bigger than we can see, and create a ripple effect.

ripples

What about you? Have you experienced a hard time recently (or maybe are in one right now) and you are trying to see where God is working in this? Can you think of times where you weren’t sure where God was in something, but later you were able to see him at work? I hope this encourages you. Continue on – be faithful, be obedient, and put your trust in HIM alone; not in ourselves, not in our actions, or the results that we want to see, but continue to glorify Him in everything. God may be using you to create a bigger impact than you even realize.

“Our motto must continue to be perseverance. And ultimately I trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success.” – William Wilberforce

This is just the tip of the iceberg… to find out more about what our ministry in Thailand will entail, sign up for our email updates here.

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Man up!?

Last week I met a new friend in one of our training sessions who was from Kenya. His name is Pareyo (not sure if that’s how you spell it, but he did take on a new name after his baptism – William. And I do know how to spell that one.)

In his tribe, it is a custom that in order for a boy to enter into manhood, they must set out and kill a lion. With a spear. And he did. I’m not talking about this kind of lion. More like this kind of lion.

This immediately made me question my manhood, seeing as the biggest thing that I have killed in my life is my friend/boss’ plant at our office (Although I’m still convinced it wasn’t my fault. I’m pretty sure my brother-in-law/co-worker sabotaged it).

Not too much later, I overheard a conversation about worship songs and how some guys may have trouble wrapping their minds around some of them because they are super emotional, fall in love with Jesus type songs. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love Jesus, and fall more in love with him every day. But sometimes I feel as men we can be struck with passivity and apathy (and  yes, I am included in that statement). We are Christians, we are called to lay down our lives and love others just like Jesus did… but is that it? Jesus calls me to be a wimp and not sin too much and just wait for Him to return?

It is very Biblical to lay down our lives (see Philippians 2, 1 John 3:16, Mark 10:43-45, and pretty much most of the Bible), but sometimes the result can be in laying down, we decide to not take a stand FOR things either. In my opinion the act of laying down our lives should be much more offensive than defensive. Jesus wasn’t pushed into the cross, He CHOSE the cross. Just like we should choose to sacrifice and lay our lives down because we know the purpose and goal behind it. Not taking a stand for anything easily leads into a lack of direction.

We feel unless there is one specific call placed on our lives, that we KNOW God has set for us specifically, then our job is to wait on Him until we receive that call. Sometimes we get so caught up with the question “God, what is your will for my life?” Instead, I think we should ask the question, “God, what is your WILL?” (Quote from Tim Keller – website plug here).

He has already given us His will. It’s all throughout scripture. Jesus emphasized it when He taught us how to pray. He says “Your (God’s) Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Our job is to bring His Kingdom to this earth. A kingdom of justice, and mercy, and love. A kingdom of hope, and grace, and peace. A kingdom where all nations, tribes, tongues are present, A kingdom where Jesus is LORD!

We can often settle for a gospel that goes like this, “Jesus died to save us from our sins, so we can spend eternity with Him in heaven.” That is GOOD NEWS. But then what? Do we just sit around, try to manage our sin and morality by keeping a good image and abstaining from the “bad sins”, and have some great community bubble we can take refuge in, and every once in a while tell our co-workers what we believe?

It’s good news that He died to save us even when we don’t deserve it. But it’s also good news that He is redeeming us, and He has plans to redeem this world, and wants to use US to do it. We have been commissioned to bring His kingdom to the earth. We are to live out the principles that He preached, and take a stand for what HE stands for.

Do you feel bored, or unchallenged in your faith? Or think that following Jesus is the opposite of manly? I have been there. But my mind is in the process of being renewed and transformed (and yes… it’s a life long process). There is a lot of work to do, and He allows us to fight for this coming Kingdom. How manly is that?

Let’s ask God to give us opportunities to lay down our lives, not defensively, but offensively as we try to advance His kingdom. What are some things you can do to advance God’s Kingdom today?

For something much more inspiring and eloquent, check out this clip from my pastor, Mark Connelly, from a sermon series he gave last year.

Please keep up on all the stuff we will be doing in Thailand too – sign up here to get our emails. It takes 30 seconds, and then you can go back to Facebook. Love you all – thanks for continuing to check us out 🙂

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