Friday, November 30, 2007

BJ and his Peru 2005 team.

Allowing our children to follow after the heart of God does not remove them from life experiences it expands them.

When he was 14 and wanting to leave the country for five weeks, we did not immediately say "yes." We stewed and we brewed.

It was true that we had let our daughters go overseas, but we had either been along, or they went for shorter term trips. They were in high school. He was still a child in our eyes. He was our youngest, we wanted to protect him and keep him close.

He did normal junior high things. He went to sleep overs, ski trips with his class, band trips, etc. He knew how to have fun. That never lacked. He talked on the phone, went over to friends houses, played video games and cultivated a zit farm. But his calling in life was not the same as other students. His fervency in sharing with others about his Savior was born of a deep abiding friendship with the King. He heard His voice and He hungered to follow after Him in obedience.

In our lives, the closer we are to the heart of God, the more our thoughts and prayers are centered around His will and desires. This is never a bad thing. When we see it in our children we must realize, they are not "normal." Their desires have been birthed by their Savior. We as their authority must be completely surrendered to Him to discern His will for them. It's too easy to make knee jerk decisions that we are more comfortable with, without taking into account the Lord's will.

When BJ returned the first year, from Peru telling us he wanted to go to Thailand...that he was "called" to Thailand, we took it to prayer. We received no peace. We could not give our blessing. He also returned wanting to go to Mexico for a Christmas trip. We struggled with that as well. We took it to prayer, but found ourselves frustrated that his desires seemed to run clear of the family. Ultimately, we did not let him go there, either.

In the Word, in the account of Samuel's youth (I Samuel 1-3), I see parallels that are pertinent to raising children who follow hard after God. I see myself in Hannah's prayers and concerns. I try to imagine releasing my child for His service at such a young age. It does not come easily. It does not come at all, for many.

I see the sons of Eli who were raised to follow the Lord, but found their own will more important. They went through the motions but took advantage of situations at every turn to benefit self. How many children being raised in churches or outside of them do we see follow this path?

Nurturing the child who cares mostly about Christ-centered opportunities is uncharted territory for most parents. This is not the way most of us were raised. Even if we were, we worry for their safety. We may think they are being too serious too much of the time.

The Word tells us to 'come out from the world and be separate.' When we see our children doing this we need to consistently encourage them, while seeking Him ourselves. We are still the authority He has placed over them for such a time as this. If they are following Him, they will yield to us whether they like it or not, and whether we are right or not.

Eli looked at Hannah and thought she was drunk. The world looks at us and thinks we are crazy for letting such young ones do what God has called them too. Story after story reveal parents who have fought against public opinion, knowing their child was not "normal." They let their child go, when family and friends said it was insane.

Samuel heard the word of the Lord. He did not understand it at first. He had to be trained. When our children begin to hear from God, the world says they are crazy. They are not. They are the ones He is raising up. They do not always understand the timing issues that come into play, so we must help discern this on their behalf. We must be seeking Him hard ourselves. This can be an intimidating process. He is not the author of intimidation. He will provide answers to His faithful ones. He will bring peace to these situations.

Jesus, at an early age (Luke 2:41-52), took on adult responsibilities. At 12, he began to do adult things. His parents were not thrilled about it at all. They did not even understand it at first. In their view, He was taking this whole growing up thing, too far. He was not. He was not "normal." The things He focused on were the things His Father in Heaven moved in His heart to do. He had earthly parents and was obedient to them. He was here for a purpose. Ultimately, His parents had to yield to that purpose and help foster growth, rather than hold Him back, so He could be all His Heavenly Father wanted Him to be.

Our responsibility is the same. We may not like it. We may not be sure of it. We may make mistakes in the journey. Our children will forgive us. So will our Father in Heaven.

That child that follows hard after Christ is not the norm in our world, or even in our Christian sub-culture. We have to make decisions that move them into the path and will of God. That does not always mean we say "yes." It does mean we seek Him hard and yield to His will above our own.


He will bring peace to each and every question and decision to those who seek after His heart.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Our Team, on the beach at Pacasmayo, Peru. I received word yesterday from the administrators of the the "BJ School" of a baptismal service that will take place while Brad and I are there (in Piura), next week (we leave Tuesday the 4th and return Thursday the 13th). We are excited and anxious to participate in this! I want to thank those of you who have sent financial support for the school. We will be taking this to them and know it will be invested in the children of this school.


This morning as I rose early to prepare for Deanna's Birthday, I was reminded of all the times that we had the privilege of doing the same with BJ. He would set his alarm and be the first one up. He would rise and make breakfast. If others weren't up in timely fashion, he would "assist them," assuring they made it for the onset of the celebration.

He had such a joy in doing this. Giving to others brought joy to the receiver and to him. I can remember when he began to want to pick out gifts for his family. They were thought out and special. Deanna still wears a ring and a necklace that were selected and given by BJ. I do not like to think about the possibilities of them one day breaking or getting lost.

His care and concern for the women in his family was deep. His desire to see them be honored and made to feel special was precious. His protectiveness of their honor and and physical presence was unique for a small young man with a huge heart. He gave to others as well.

He gave to his friends. He gave to those he encountered on the internet. He gave to those who were in need. He was focused on the things that were important. He did not often get sidetracked with the folly of worldly things. He assisted others in raising the direction of their vision from this, to Christ.

It sickens me when I hear others say that living life like he did is not possible. Unfortunately, this has come from both parents and children. I live as witness to the fact that it is possible and should be aspired to. We are far too willing to give up on seeking God and being a witness for Him.

We all struggle in places of darkness, whether they be physical locations or recesses within us. So did he. We cannot afford to let the enemy have victory over us after our failures. He does not have dominion. We may succumb to his divisive games from time to time, but that does not make him lord of our lives. That place is reserved for Christ alone!

He has provided forgiveness once for all, if we but confess and receive Him as Lord. The sinful struggles are not who we are. They are simply part of the journey of being human. The old nature does not die easily. The enemy sometimes fools us into thinking we have nothing to offer and should give up trying. I see this play out in the lives of students all the time. I see this play out in my own life, regularly! None of us are proud of such failures.

Christ is victory over the failures. He is forgiveness when we fail. When we submit to Him daily, moment by moment, we begin to live the life He has in store. We begin to impact others in small ways, and our lives begin to make a difference.

Part of the problem is we look too much to ourselves to see how we are doing. We look for evidence of impact on our world and are quickly defeated. BJ knew he would fail. He knew I would fail him. He knew to look beyond self, to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There and only there is fullness. When we die to self and surrender each heartbeat to Him, we begin to see the world as He does.

When we look within, we see failure. What will it take for us to keep our eyes off of of self, and on the Saving One? Yahweh is the reason that each of us can live with such passion and devour difficulties by and in the strength of Jesus!

When we look to Him to live our lives, we shed failures and stave the flow of guilt. The enemy is the author of this disparaging ugliness. We must learn to leave it at the foot of the cross and rise to walk in His power.

BJ learned to do that at a young age. Through Christ, you and I can do likewise.

Be encouraged! Seek Him! Live for Him! Die to self. Walk in His power!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Deanna holding our new nephew, Matthew Stephen Tucker.
I got a phone call a couple of nights ago from a friend. I did not get it returned until yesterday. She began to share a story with me that is hard to hear.
A friend of hers came over and asked if they could go share Christ with a friend of his. She asked where he lived and the young man said, "I don't know but the Holy Spirit will guide us."
Thinking he was joking, she got into the car. The young man drove purposefully to a home. She was convinced with how direct a route they took, that he in fact knew where to go.
He went up to the door and knocked. She saw a face she recognized appear from behind the door. They both went into the home, telling him they were there to share 'good news' with him.
He offered to provide lunch, which they graciously accepted.
Somewhere during the meal, things took an unexpected turn. My friend rose from her chair just as the man with whom they were visiting kicked her chair and sent it flying across the room and into the wall. The man came at her, thrusting his knee into her mid-section. The pain raced through her body. As she attempted to react, he pinned her against the wall and pulled out a knife.
He drew it across her body where it parted the skin but did not draw blood. Then with the knife pressed against her stomach with just enough pressure not to penetrate, he asked, "Are you a Christian?"
Her mind raced. They had been having a sandwich and calm conversation and suddenly he flew into this rage. She struggled to understand. Her thoughts transported forward to the sermon she had to deliver next week for her seminary. The topic? Are you ashamed of the Gospel?
She felt the knife pressing against her as she drew breath, perhaps for the last time, to answer him.
She proceeded to tell him that in fact she was, and that was the 'good news' they were there to share with him. She fully expected to die. She contemplated saying she wasn't a believer. She wondered why her friend who got up from his chair, stood motionless. Then she realized that if he moved towards them, her end may come more quickly. She shared the Gospel with her attacker while violently being held against the wall.
Suddenly, he released her and walked over to the refrigerator and asked if they wanted ice cream.
Her mind was reeling. Her abdomen was throbbing. What had just happened? Why had she asked the Lord for a good sermon illustration for her upcoming message? She needed to finish sharing with him, but feared a reprisal.
She stood near the door and asked him if he would like to give his heart to Christ. She was ready to flee at the slightest hint of his return.
Then, as if being released from a demonic possession (ya think?) he said he did want Jesus as his Lord. He gave his heart to Christ in the ensuing moments.
He pressed them for how they knew he was in trouble and how they found where he lived. He could not understand how they knew that his life was in danger (from himself) as he had been contemplating the satanic church that was not bringing him the joy and peace he expected. He stood in their presence quoting a significant portion of Scripture. They listened in disbelief.
Somewhere, amid discussion of all of this, they parted company realizing that the Holy Spirit had led them to his address they had no resources to find. He had protected my friend when her friend could not (even though he had told her he was coming for her protection). They left realizing they had just experienced the power of God in fullness.
Realizing, as she recounted her story for me, how close to death she was, I tried to encourage her for remaining faithful. Clearly, the Lord was her direction and her protection. Because of her obedient heart, she walks in His tremendous power!
Am I ashamed of His Gospel? Are you? She wasn't.
What are you going to do with your day?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The newly engaged Jared and Whitney (yes, he just took a shower so his hair is a little wet...I hope).
How should we measure the difference between what we want, what we get, and what we deserve?
Many find their happiness dissipating in the chasms between these monolithic ideals.
We do not live a culture that allows us to have a proper view of these things. Money is highly valued and so is what it can buy. We tend to be propelled forward by desires that seem to incubate overnight and carry little critical thought as to their actual necessity.
Our capitalistic society has done very well with the whole marketing corresponds to sales, and supply vs demand availability. We see something on tv and we want it...especially if it we can find a niche in our lives that matches up to the professed attributes.
Seldom does this take into account wants vs needs. There is little we need, but much that we want and pursue. Happiness is falsely tied to gain. Gain does not bring happiness. Happiness is borne from the realization that we have received what we did not deserve. It is tied more to the philosophical than the physical.
Recently, a South American pastor was in the states, and as he traveled the cities here, he relayed that the homes he was seeing were what he had always expected our heavenly dwellings to look like.
What are we 'expecting' in our lives?
Is it any wonder that in our culture we have little real understanding for what those in other countries are going through? This is a critical point in understanding what happens in the heart of Americans who serve in missions and see how little is actually required to survive. At the very least, one returns with a different definition of wealth.
Our children (and even we) suffer not from lack of needs being met, but from an attitude of entitlement. We believe we should have "bigger and better" because those around us do. This view of life runs rampant in the USA. We are a very blessed nation and we consume the largest portion of the worlds resources. We do very little with our wealth that contributes to the improved lives of others. We tend to be very self-centered and selfish.
Unfortunately, this attitude has also penetrated our churches.
Some of the most precious worship I have experienced has happened on splinter infested benches with dirt floor chasers. Sometimes there was even a roof.
We would never settle for anything close to that, as we expect and can afford to do so much more.
My intent today is to point out the obvious. We are heading into a time of year that might be better termed as 'tis the season to get what's due me!' As we fill out Christmas lists that contain a laundry list of large expensive items, we need to take a second look at the inequity that may exist between what we are asking for and what we are giving.
What do we want? MORE!
What do we get? Closer to what we want than we deserve.
What do we deserve? Eternal separation from the Lord God.
What do we need? Jesus plus nothing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Deanna and me in the Awe Star offices.

What a blessing it was to be with family over Thanksgiving! We traveled toward Kentucky on Tuesday night, and spent the night in eastern Missouri. We drove through the Mark Twain National Forest, which I am sure was beautiful, but you could not tell as it was dark. My girls thought we were on an old logging road as we went up and down and from side to side (interrupting their sleep).

We arrived on Wednesday and were able to relax and enjoy our loved ones! Whitney arrived an hour or so after we did, from Indy. Deanna's brother and his wife have a new baby boy, and we were thrilled to get to hold him. Our feast was incredible!

After lunch on Saturday, we made a quick trip to Indy to have a private dinner with Whitney and Jared. We spent two or three hours together, then headed to my brothers to spend the night. We got up before dawn on Sunday, and headed back to Tulsa.

Seeing family is a huge joy. Departing is a tragedy. We wished we had had a couple more days to visit with family and friends we did not get to see.

I can honestly say that being in Indiana felt like "home." I have missed it and the people we didn't get to see, more than I realized. The air was filled with woodsmoke from roaring fireplaces, and the skyline in silhouette was a beacon.

It is said that "you can never go back." I don't know if that is true or not, but on this brief visit, that adage seemed misguided.

We were back. It was far too brief, and I know we weren't there to stay but the familiarity rang true and warmed my soul. Though we had told no one we were coming, we ran into friends on the interstate, and had a conversation from car to car as we drove. That brought us encouragement!

The hospitality of Jared and my brother were so inviting. We needed that time. Though I don't enjoy the long drive as I wish I could, I truly enjoyed Deanna's mother and her family as well as being "home."

My brother and I leave for Peru in a little over a week. We will be taking the financial resources that some have sent to the "BJ School." I look forward to renewing acquaintances and being with Brad for his first trip to South America. Shortly after that, we will be with family again to celebrate our Savior's birth. How precious that occasion will be, and how much we look forward to it!

Tomorrow afternoon, I will be speaking at a Christian School in Yukon, Oklahoma. I look forward to that time with the students!

I look forward to the day when celebrating with family will be perpetual, and "home" will be eternal. No leaving, no long drives. Just Jesus, and family...finally home.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving two years ago when our family assisted in the relief work after Hurricane Katrina. In the pictures you may find Deanna, Whitney, Brad (my brother), Derek (nephew) and Dan (Deanna's brother). Yes some guy in green, too.
This Thanksgiving, we will be spending time with Deanna's family residing in Kentucky. We are looking forward to the time together!
This year, the celebrations will be different than past ones. There are new things in our lives to come together for. Things we will share for the first time as a family. Deanna's brother Stephen and his wife Kandi, had a son about three weeks ago! We cannot wait to hold him, cuddle him, and probably fight over him. His mommy may have a different plan, I'm not really sure.
New births are such a celebration! Babies and young children have a way of bringing joy in special ways to the time we spend together. There is no doubt that we will all be thankful for God's provision!
There are other reasons to celebrate as well. Across the miles, time and responsibility seem to steal from us that which we often desire most...spending time with each other. No particular agenda, just being together with nothing to rush off and do. It always helps when that time is accompanied by food.
Food has a way facilitating pleasure on so many levels. We always look forward to the wafting aroma of baked goods, which fill the house with the joy and anticipation. This is something you remember for a lifetime. Isn't it amazing how one smell can take you back years, or thrust you into the future when you will gather again? I just love that!
Music is something we celebrate in our family. My girls are all singers and players (of instruments). When we come together, they share their giftedness and it blesses me deeply. Nothing soothes my soul like listening to them pour themselves into the passionate expression God has given them (well, except for a good back rub). I can't wait!!! (for the singing)
We have one new thing to celebrate this year. Something that has never happened in my family before!
I got a phone call late last week. It was unexpected. Sometime later, perhaps I will be given permission to share the story in full.
In short, it was a young man I'm not sure I've ever talked to on the phone. A young man, in all honesty, I was not expecting to speak to that day.
He asked me a question I was not prepared to hear.
The answer to his question will change our lives. We are still dealing with the idea of how this will impact each of us. However, that doesn't really matter. What matters is the joy this call has brought to Whitney.
This young man asked for permission to marry her!!!
She now walks a bit off kilter. She's having a bit of trouble adjusting to the weight shift. Her hand is half a carat heavier.
Praise God!!!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Katie and me on foreign soil.

Last night, Deanna, Lauren and my other "daughter" Katie (from our organization) and I spoke at Oklahoma State University. We were afforded the privilege of sharing in tag-team fashion with a women's group. What an incredible blessing it was for us. Several came up to look into partnering with us to serve in missions.

Having my family participate in this was unusual (as an opportunity) and incredible. They did a great job, and it was great for the ladies in attendance to hear from the hearts of women their age and up, who were serving the Lord overseas.

We shared many stories with them about how God has provided for our teams as we go, and the impact on other cultures He has through the obedience of the few.

A young lady who has only been a believer for a couple of months came to talk about possibilities. She could sense God drawing her into deeper water, with a desire to be forced to rely on Him. She and a friend spoke of how in our culture, they are protected and safe in regards to their faith. While jeering unbelievers may disagree with their stance on who God is, there is never a threat upon their ability to worship freely. They desire to share the Gospel with those in lands where persecution exists on more difficult levels. They wanted to serve in lands where the people are starving both physically and spiritually.

By this, I am reminded of a meeting I was in recently with a friend who is a North African man that is a believer, and though regularly arrested and persecuted for his faith, has accomplished much for the Lord. He is from a land where Islam rules. His every move is scrutinized.

He had just shared with the men in our meeting how appalled he was that one of the Christian Universities here in Oklahoma offered no classes on Islam or how to contend with their faith as believers. He went on to explain how they will proselytize us and show us that the Qur'an is an extension of the truth...the completion of it. That they will say the Old Testament of the Jews is part of their belief system, the New Testament of the Christians is part of their beliefs, but that the Qur'an is the completion of those truths and must be received by all.

"Islam is one of the fastest growing religions today," he said.

Another Christian man in the meeting joined in the discussion. He said that it was arrogant of American Christians to go over to foreign cultures and share our views. He said that we should leave that to people like our North African friend (what happens to the Great Commission in this mindset?).

I spoke up and told them that this was not a foreign issue alone. Many times as American Christians we have gotten it wrong and tried to westernize other cultures. We should not do that. Bringing Christ to them is not wrong, but forcing them to adapt to our ways in the west is not wise.

Furthermore, Muslims are living and worshipping in America in record numbers. Most believers are more likely to encounter them here than abroad, and few are educated in their ways. If we fail to be informed in their ways then we are more likely to have the truth clouded when we hear their version of it.

A North African teacher I worked with two summers ago said this to me. "The goal of Islam as a whole is to move into other countries and ultimately, take them over. They will be forced to become Islamic. It does not matter if the group is radical or not, the end game is the same...worship Allah as the one true God, and lose all of your current freedoms."

If we fail to prepare our youth, and are not preparing ourselves to understand Islam, then we are going to have our world rocked. It will only be a matter of time until the persecution that exists elsewhere comes to us.

Statistically speaking, the church in the US is not having an impact on its own culture.

Muslims are not the enemy. That is not my point. We are to love and embrace them and show them the way to Christ. In the Bible we are told to go forth and multiply and fill the earth. In the US, our families generally have one to two children. Muslims have many, many children. They are trying to do the same thing... fill the earth. Before long, their numbers will be such that the threat must be taken seriously. If we do not begin now to educate ourselves, we will not be ready for Satan, who is the enemy. He is enshrouding the truth behind a veil of lies.

It is only a veil. The Truth must be proclaimed to all. We cannot treat them like the enemy, but as victims of the same.

The Qur'an is full of references to Christ. There are books available that teach how to share Christ from the Qur'an. This is an effective tool and we as believers, need to embrace it.

It is time to "stand up and let [your] voice be heard." Prepare yourselves, for the enemy is seeking to devour those he can. We must be ready. Relaxing in our current comforts will not prepare us for the battle ahead.

If you cannot go overseas, or do not feel called to do so, at least prepare yourself to protect your King on your own soil.

We know He ultimately prevails!!! Yay God!!!

For His people to do nothing while the enemy advances, means many who we should have an impact on will fall to deception. We must stand up and fight!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Los ninos de Peru (the children of Peru).

One of the loves I have developed in missions is for the children of each land. Seldom do they fear the things that we do. Crime and violence against them does not play out in most of their countries the way it does here (an attribute of our Sodom and Gomorrah type society). They are very open and strike up conversations assertively (like the one above).

Each opportunity the Lord has given us to travel to foreign lands, I end up taking many pictures of the children. They love it. They love the cameras and the images of themselves that few have seen before.

Trust is built very quickly, behind the lens. Especially, a digital or other types that allow instant viewing of photographs.

Each know they exist, but few have seen themselves on film. When they do, eruptions of laughter and increased posing, result. Viewing what they have known to be evident but have not seen brings much joy.

Recently, my aunt was meeting my cousin (her daughter) and her daughters (my aunts grandchildren) at a restaurant. She arrived after them. As she walked to the entrance, she found them staring to the heavens.

She followed their gaze, skyward. She saw nothing.

She asked what they were looking for. The youngest among them brought her up to speed.

She pointed in the direction of their viewing and relayed that she needed to find a little orange speck. She continued that she had released an orange balloon and it was rising ever higher.

She said she was sending it up to BJ and that it was a reminder to pray for Brent and Deanna.

In her youth, she understood that though he was no longer present on this earth, he dwelled in the presence of the risen Christ. She has prayed for him for a long time. This continued after his passing until her mommy explained that BJ no longer needed her prayer, but Brent and Deanna did. She has remained faithful since.

She sent a message to one she knows is present in a land she cannot see or touch, who resides with One who is Ever present.

Her view is not clouded by what she cannot see. Though she may watch what is visible until it is out of her minds ability to distinguish a presence, she has faith to realize her act has sent a discernible message.

While she may not know the chapter and verse of 2 Cor 4:18 by heart, yet, she understands the concept.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

We do not need to see proof on film or specks dancing in the sky to believe. We have faith in the One we cannot see, but know is Ever present!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ice Cream break with Anabel, my contact, and the team!
I have butterflies in my stomach this morning.
I'm remembering back to the first day of school for my children, and feeling those old feelings. This time it is because Lauren is starting school...again.
The anxiousness today is because she has been hired as a teacher at the Goddard School in Owasso, Oklahoma! We are very proud of her and very excited! Today is her first day. She is full of enthusiasm!
My parents were both teachers. My Mom's mom (guess that makes her my maternal grandmother) was a college professor. So was her son, (my uncle). Some of my dads siblings were educators as well. They spent much of their lives as teachers, principals, etc.
Deanna is a teacher and loves her students (her new job, a provision from the Lord).
I guess being an educator is in our family's gene pool.
I never wanted to teach. I never thought I could. I didn't think I had the patience. I wanted the perk of having the summer off, but felt that it was unfair to pursue a career based on that alone.
As I look at my life now, I can see that teaching is a huge part of what I do. It is not that I aspired to it, or ever made a conscious choice to, but that is where the Lord has led. I can honestly say that there are few feelings of fulfillment that come over me, as when I am presented with the privilege of teaching students.
The cool thing is that when I teach, I get to talk about the things of God! My classroom is often on foreign soil and comprised of those who are hungry for His Word. They are interested in what I have to share.
I honestly don't know how teachers do it when the class has no interest in the topic they are bringing, and make it known through torturous means. I have such respect for them (the teachers)! They do not get paid nearly enough to endure all they must!
Now, I am very excited to see Lauren begin in this role. She will be incredible at this! She has so much to offer, and so much passion. She also knows how to communicate! I might just have to stow away in her lunch pail one day just to hang out and see how she does.
Our Savior carries the distinction of being the coolest teacher ever. His ability to turn a phrase and surprise a classroom was unequalled! His breadth of knowledge came directly from the mind of His Father! His method of using stories to make his point has set the tone for centuries.
We always seem to be able to understand things more clearly if a pertinent story that brings it all home for us, can be shared.
Ultimately, His very life as a teacher came to an end, because what He was teaching was unacceptable to the masses. Few teach this way. Few have the courage to go against public opinion, and allow themselves to be the sacrifice that drives home the very teaching they brought.
I revere those who do.
If we are listening, He has much to teach and share and show us still today. Let's be good students, and bring pleasure to our teacher!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sharing Christ and praying with a drunk man in Mexico.

Recently at the missions conference we held, I was tremendously encouraged by a young man, who on the last night of the event, came and sat down next to me. He struck up conversation, but it was not small talk. It was not even discussion about the upcoming trips.

His concern, the question on his heart, surprised me. It surprised me because of how selfless it was in nature.

He said something like, "How do you get refilled? You are always giving, always pouring into others, how do you get spiritually recharged?"

I can tell you that I work with some of the most incredible students in the US. They are very deep spiritually, and hunger for more. They are the aroma of Christ to me, much of the time. They empty themselves for His sake, and count on Him for refilling.

However, this is a struggle point for many.

"Empty" is often the time when the most intense struggles begin. There is a tendency to let down, and just want to put it in cruise control. Spilling into the lives of others, while very rewarding, is taxing. It takes something out of you, and there is great need at that point to get alone with Christ and be fed. If you don't, the enemy often finds inroads, or a playground that is enticing to you, when at other times it wouldn't be.

If he cannot impact you with leisure, he often attacks with difficulty. He will do anything to distract you from the incredible things God has done.

Whitney led a DiscipleNow group this past weekend. She had junior girls. Whitney has much to give and much wisdom. She truly has a lot going on.

She was so excited about her weekend and all the Lord had done in and among her group of students.

At the conclusion, when all was over and she was ready to go, her car wouldn't start. It didn't turn out to be a simple solution either. Not only was the battery dead, but there were/are other issues as well.

Fortunately, some friends from church came to her rescue. Even in this, she saw the Lord at work. One friend bought her a new battery. Another, drove out to the country where her car was idle, to find out what was wrong, and make it work again, at least until it can be fixed.

While she ended up spending the better part of the rest of her Sunday trying to get this resolved, she went through times of frustration and anguish. She very clearly saw the Lord at work, but there is still a wound from which there can be the need to lash out at the inequity of it all.

Where does one go to refill after this? How do you keep your focus true and your heart above reproach in this situation?

The answer is not complicated. For those who are walking closely with the Lord, it is apparent. You run to Him. You flee to His presence. You open His Word and get on your face, where it is just you and Him. He brings the restoration, the mending of the wound, the refilling.

Seldom do I get asked such a significant question by anyone. Truly, most of us are celebrating the moments or concerned with our own issues. To have a student take the time to make sure I was okay, was so encouraging!

He gets it. Christ in Him, brought what was needed to a tired and weary traveler! His cool drink of water, quenches my thirst, still.


Monday, November 12, 2007

"Davicho" (or "little David") stands between us in Pacasmayo, Peru. He is the young man BJ gave the guitar to before leaving Peru the last time. He is an amazing musician on multiple instruments. The guitar has been used all over the country to lead worship.

As the holidays draw near, and many of us look forward to spending time with family and overeating, I was reminded yesterday of the importance of being present to worship our Savior.

A young man I work with (who also spent the summer in Peru with us) came to church yesterday, though he has been fighting a virus (that most of us in the office have passed around).

As I hugged him I asked him why he wasn't home in bed, getting the rest I knew he needed.

His response?

"Because I really want to be here!"

His reply was not cavalier. He did not say this as if to imply he had no choice. His answer was full of significance. His voice filled with passion, and his desire made clear.

He was there to worship his Savior!

It seemed as though taking self into account and considering how he was feeling did not even enter into the picture for him. He was there because he loves Jesus, and needed to worship Him.

His attitude moved me. It also stood in sharp contrast to what I witnessed next.

My attention is routinely drawn to families with a single son. Watching their child is something that always stirs my heart. I remember many things in those moments and am filled with hope and joy.

This day found a family seated in the row in front of us. Deanna and I had arrived late to church and so we sat in the back. Deanna was on my right, and this sharp family was immediately in front and to my left.

I was initially struck by words the mom had written on her bulletin (as we stood to sing). In large letters, she had scrawled out the word "THANKSGIVING."

Immediately my mind rewound to views of my own family around a table where no matter what centerpieces were on it, the turkey commanded my full attention. The air wafted with aromas of baking pies, burning candles and all sorts of other incredible confections.

I understood this mothers anticipation. My own is filled with longings to already be with family and yearnings for memories of yesterday.

I thought about my sick friend who at 18 was hundreds of miles away from his own family. When I'm sick, I want to be cared for. He seemed to be feeling better, but I still wondered if he didn't miss his mother, doting on him in his time of need. Especially with the holidays drawing near.

The son of the family in front of me reminded me of BJ in that he could not sit still. He moved constantly and had to find things to occupy him.

At different points in watching, I observed the parents writing. Even the son entered in. When I saw a full page of notes on the fathers lap, I was impressed. My own attention had been drawn away from my pastors message, and my notes were scant.

The notes got passed down the aisle to the son, and came into my 'nibby-nosed' focus.

While it is far better for me to reserve my nose for imbibing Thanksgivings past and future, I confess I was invading their privacy with this sense.

They had not been taking notes at all. Each of them in turn had been writing their "Christmas lists."

I thought about my sick friends statement..."because I really want to be here!"

I thought about the pre-occupation of upcoming celebrations with family.

I realized my own attitude had more to do with selfishness on this day, than a seeking heart.

I do not write to indict the family. I write to point out that if a pole was taken in churches across our land, I believe far more of us would be occupied with matters of our own contentment, than those of our Saviors longings.

Family is so important. Holidays are times to be spent celebrating with family.

Let us not forget who is to be worshipped and adored above all, as we enter into the "most wonderful time, of the year!"


Friday, November 09, 2007

"Mom and Dad" in Mexico (she's holding "swords" under her arm and watching our team, minister...I am studying the Word to teach later that evening).

Yesterday I had the privilege of having an early morning breakfast with a friend from Indy. I cannot begin to tell you what an encouragement it is to have such surprises! Thank you Lord for friends and opportunities like this.

It brings joy, enthusiasm and anticipation to be able to share with one who knows you well, and who has been present to walk through dark shadows and shards of grace with you. There is something about one who is interested in you for you, and not for what has happened to you, or how you can bring benefit to their situation.

I count it gain to be able to listen to him and hear what the Lord is doing in his life. How things have changed, and how God is guiding.

We do not get many chances in life to have intimacy like this. Those who will look after your own when you are absent, those you can trust with your deepest yearnings.

Sometimes we don't miss what we don't have until we are reminded of what once was. I do not weep, cry or mope around as I say this. Rather, I am excited to be reminded of such deep and abiding friendships that are reminiscent of my very relationship with Christ.

These opportunities spur me on to pursue Him, as there are none truly like Him. There are representations in life of those who reflect Him, but none who can fill you like He does.

To spend a couple of hours with one who is sold out for Jesus and to hear how God lives and moves in his life, brings peace to a weary heart.

To be brought up to speed on things and people from the past is a celebration of the joy we have in Christ.

Those we have stood in the trenches with, those we have walked on foreign soil with for the Kingdoms sake, are ones who bless us without even a hint of knowledge they are doing so. They love us in spite of our failures. They love us simply because we are an expression of Him.

Who else will stand and protect your back with knees bent and swords drawn?

Many would shrink away for the sake of a better offer. Those who have journeyed through life with you have a deeper understanding of their own relationship with the One.

Encouragement is not always brought by easily. Sometimes it can only come as the Lord leads.

He does lead. He does provide. He does bring us those who would love us so, just in time!

I Praise Him today, for sending Himself in the form of my friend! What a precious Friend, indeed.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

This past weekend, Pastor Tito (from Peru) was teaching about our need as believers to live our lives for Christ and Him alone. He was explaining that in Latin America, Christians are watched very closely. If they live a life in contrast to what they say they believe, then the unbelievers call them out for it at humiliating times.

He went on to explain that they go so far as to keep lists of wrongs committed by believers, especially pastors. These lists are brought up at times when Christ is being shared with them. Part of his point was that evangelism in Latin America, needs not to focus on lording Christianity over unbelievers as if they are second class citizens, but to build relationships with them, and letting them see who we really are as believers. Imperfect people who follow hard after Jesus.

It is no different here, but often we try to make ourselves believe it is. We are not shy about doing things we know are not right, because we want to be accepted by our peer groups. We want to be seen as "cool," and do not even think about how our choices will impact our testimony.

I am not suggesting we become legalistic in our approach to our faith, but that we simply stop to think about how our chosen actions may be interpreted by an unbelieving audience. Are we following Christs example by how we live our lives?

Recently, a young lady that I know is a believer, posted pictures of herself on the internet from a Halloween party. This is generally an opportune time to dress up in costume regalia, and to be somebody you are not for an evening. This can be a great deal of fun.

I have noticed, however, that many believers use this time to dress in ways that are generally inappropriate. Maybe a better way to put it is that they dress in ways that if they were standing in Christs presence they probably would not choose to dress.

Considering whether or not what we are doing would be pleasing to Christ is a good barometer for decision making.

It's a bit startling then to stop and evaluate the fact that if we are believers, His Holy Spirit dwells in us and we take Him wherever we go. How then do we justify our decisions to overtly choose to do things that would not be pleasing to Him?

The enemy has us believing the lie that it is okay to justify anything as long as we don't mean any harm.

Those who don't believe aren't looking at our intentions. They are looking for the Truth in what we do and say. If we don't show them this by how we live, then who are we a better witness for, Christ or the enemy?

In her pictures posted on the web, this young lady displays herself in provocative clothing. While I'm certain she would consider most of her pictures to be harmless and fun, she has included at least one that is nearly pornographic.

This same young lady, leads worship on Sunday.

Many would say I am being "Pharisaical." Others, that I am "casting the first stone."

Perhaps I am.

While I know that I am far from perfect, and that I make mistakes and some of them are on display for many to see, I believe that the Lord's heart breaks when we as a body behave in this way, believing it to not be hurting anyone.

Somehow, some way, we must begin to hold one another accountable for our actions. It does not have to be in condemnation. It should be in love.

At any rate, we must stop justifying sinful actions because those Christ wants to draw to Himself are watching.

While it is impossible to be perfect, it is possible to strive for a life lived as the Bible teaches.

I truly hope you understand my point, today.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Lauren likes pumpkins!
Recently a young man who is a friend of mine, received a phone call in the middle of the night. On the other end of the line was a whimpering voice he barely recognized.
As he gathered himself to be fully present in the conversation, he realized it was a young lady on his college campus that he barely new. He had met her at some function or other, and now in her despair, was crying out to him.
She began to unravel a tale of awakening in a strange bed. Apparently she stumbled outside, and was able to give him enough direction that after some hunting, he was able to find her.
She proceeded to tell him how she had met a guy while having a drink. The next thing she remembered was waking in his bed...he was gone.
She had likely been rendered unconscious with a "date rape" drug.
My friend took her to the local hospital and was told that they could not help her.
Greatly annoyed, they set out for the rape center in a nearby large city. Upon arrival, it was closed.
Next they headed to the largest hospital available. They arrived and explained the situation and asked for a blood test to prove the drug had been administered and for a "rape kit" to be done. They were denied, and told that some law prevented them from being able to administer such.
This drug only stays in the system for a period of a few hours. They knew they were fighting the clock, and were growing more frustrated...perhaps the moment!
After three stops and a lot of driving, without success, they headed to the police station. Surely they would get assistance here. It was the their job to investigate these accusations.
To their disbelief, they were denied one final time. Because she had redressed herself and due to the passage of time, there was nothing the police could do!
This young lady continues to try to heal from a memory she does not have. She is unaware of what happened to her. She is not even sure if anything did.
Unfortunately, this scenario is too common on college campuses today. Rohypnol, or the "date rape" drug is far too available. It is used across our country by men looking for immediate gratification.
What is less common?
Those like my friend, who though they are barely known, have made clear who they are in Christ! He lives his life for Jesus, so when a young lady who is desperate for help in the wee hours of the morning, knows exactly who to call, though she does not truly know him.
I praise God that though he was put in the most difficult of situations, he came immediately to her aid, and did what he could! He would say it was not enough! He wants to do more. He has even investigated and discovered who the offender is, and confronted him.
Without evidence, it is impossible to know for sure what happened. He feels this young man may be lying.
Yesterday, he checked in on the young lady, and she is doing as well as can be expected.
"Infuriated," is the term that best describes how this makes me feel!!!
I pray the Lord gives each of us a heart of compassion for the offenders, and that we are motivated to do all we can to reach out to those around us who are either victims or perpetrators. He loves them equally, and we need to as well.
One unexpected but intentional conversation with another, can make all of the difference in their life.
My friend did in hers.
My Savior did in his.

Monday, November 05, 2007

In the lefthand picture, Deanna is on the left and Whitney on the far right. They were players this weekend, in the drama "Freedom" that BJ acted in while in Peru. Deanna was one of the "People of the Land" who rejected Christ, while Whitney played an "Evil Knight."
In the picture on the right, Lauren is in the front row and Whitney and Deanna are right behind her. This is about 1/4th of the total number of people who participated in our iGo.2 Missions Conference weekend. (you probably know this, but you can click on the pictures to make them larger)
What an incredible weekend! Thank you for your prayer covering! We had people from all over the USA present. From California to Florida and from Oregon to Indiana, there were many participants. Pastor Tito came from Peru, and two nationals from Egypt were present to speak! Both parents and students received a significant blessing by participating with the Lord in a wonderful time of ministry and fellowship. Check out for more info on our upcoming trips.
Lauren planned the entire event (with some help from the Ridgeway Baptist pastors and Awe Star Staff), and did an amazing job!!!
My heart is extremely full this morning as I reflect on the weekend. We saw the Lord do some amazing things. I heard from students about the things God has been up to in their lives. Some of what they are going through is very good! Some of what they are going through is very troubling!
I suppose this is pretty representative of what is going on in our world.
I know I sometimes I tackle some pretty heavy issues on this site. I know there are times when after reading, we walk away wondering if there is any real hope. I want you to know that if it is ever reflected that there is not, then I am not doing my job well. I truly do get overwhelmed at what I perceive at times as a total misunderstanding from our Christian culture of what needs to be done in our world!
Even last night, as Whitney was returning to Indy and the three of us sat down to catch our breath and watch a movie together, we became overwhelmed at the subject matter. We knew it was tackling a real life issue of the recent past and probably something that is still happening in the world somewhere today.
It was well acted, but it left us emotional over the state of our world and the knowledge of the task before us! Where do we begin?
It is my desire for this to be a place of recognition of the hope we each have in Christ! However, hope does not move forward quickly on immobile feet!
When people continue to die without a saving knowledge of Jesus, and our world seems to continue on a path reflective of Sodom and Gomorrah, the issues of responsibility and direction must be considered.
I am exhausted after a weekend that was truly uplifting. Yet, I cannot rest as there is much to do!
It is far too easy for me to sit back and do nothing, rather than chip away at issues and make baby steps of progress towards accomplishing those things the Lord desires to see.
My request is that as you visit, you take away a bit of understanding that we each share in the responsibility of the things that must be done. Some of us seem to be running on a barrel in open water. It looks like we are going fast, when in truth we are going nowhere, and are about to crash!
Let's put our feet on solid ground...on firm Truth, and move forward!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Since it is illegal to assemble in North Africa, we had to find secluded places to gather for worship and teaching. Our thirst for Him was intensified. He quenched as only He can.

Tonight begins our missions conference! There are between 100 and 200 people from around the USA en route to Tulsa as I write. I just heard from a group of 16 in a caravan from Indiana, who have had a flat tire, followed by a broken lug as they try to come. Please lift them up!

Two from our small office were out sick yesterday. I know the enemy will seek to disrupt and derail the growing enthusiasm that the followers of Christ who are headed this direction, are filled with.

I imagine others will have issues of travel as well. However, the Lord will have victory in this weekend. One can often measure the impact the Lord desires to have, by the level of opposition prior to an event or time of gathering.

He will prevail!

Lauren has worked hard and organized this weekend. I am proud of her and all of her efforts. I believe the Lord desires to do a great work among us!

Yesterday, we received the brochure our publisher put together to promote our book! It is 30 pages, and includes chapters one and twenty. The cover and back look to be the actual that will be used for the book. Our enthusiasm continues to grow as we see the Lord stir and move in the hearts of His own to use this book as a tool to further His Kingdom!!!

The brochure was primarily printed to distribute to an association of youth pastors nationwide called "Interlink." It crosses denominational borders, and these are reported to be the strongest youth ministries in the country. Over 7,000 of these will be sent out to this group. That our publisher would invest in this way, suggests that they truly believe this project will impact our country!

We are praising God for His provision, and for what we believe He wants to do!

I will be speaking twice this weekend, and look forward to the interaction with these who have missions hearts!

Have a super weekend!!!


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Keeper of the Sword, Joshua, testifies about his relationship with Christ and then is baptized by his father.

Many times have I spoken of the faith of a child, as written in the Word. It has tremendous power. It is an awesome example. It grows the body of Christ!

I have seen it so many times. A child will get involved in a church body, come to understand who Jesus is, surrender their life to Him, and something amazing happens!

It is amazing enough, the changes that take place in the young life that is transformed. But cooler still is how the Lord then reaches the parents of the child through the faith of the little one!

When hardened hearts see the brokenness and faith of their offspring, it has transforming power. It has this power, because the One who is "all powerful" is in it.

Further, the changed lives of children continue to impact the world around them.

Such is the case with Joshua (though his parents are strong in the Lord).

You may remember that he was the first to rise at BJ's Memorial Service, and move forward to "take BJ's place." He understood his decision. When his daddy questioned him about why he went forward, his articulation expressed not just knowledge, but passion for serving his King.

This past Sunday, he had the opportunity to act on that faith through baptism.

Joshua stepped to the microphone and shared that he had given his heart to Jesus, and that Christ's death washed away the sin in his life. He told how he believed in Jesus, and boldly proclaimed that he wanted to be "a disciple" for Him!

This is a young man the enemy battles against. I remember shortly after his birth, standing in the hospital beside his mother and father, and praying over him. He had a heart issue at birth that threatened to claim him at infancy.

The Lord guided the surgeon's hand and the issue was resolved.

His mother is working hard to train him in the ways of the Lord. His father is a worthy role model, and travels the world in 'child relief focused ministry.' He had two younger sisters that look up to him as their big brother.

There is a powerful anointing on his life, and we must support him through prayer. The Lord has significant plans for him. His life is an offering back to Christ. He is growing in Him each day. His desire is to be found obedient to the King.

In a corner of his room stands a sword, currently sheathed as he prepares for battle.

One day soon, he will with strong hand and firm heart, grasp that sword, unsheathe it and take his stand for his King. As he does, the words will echo..."I will lead, I will serve, I will fight. I will tell people about Christ. I will unsheathe my sword and stop playing only defense in this war. It's time to raise a revolution. God will give me the strength!" (BJ)

dad (uncle)