Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Foolishness with my friend, Anabel.

This past weekend, my brother Brad, picked me up at the airport in Indy. He drove me to South Bend, Indiana, for the interview at the Harvest Show (on LeSea Broadcasting).

We were waiting in the room they call the "green room." It isn't really green, but I think that is the color many people turn while waiting to go on international television.

We were having a conversation with the other author who was to be on that same morning. In walked Kelly, one of the co-hosts. She is so energetic, vivacious, and friendly!

Kelly greeted each of us. She was very approachable. Her interaction with me reflected how deeply our journey had stirred a place within her that she was not yet certain she wanted to delve into.

She quickly began to relay a story of hearing from viewers the week before who had judged her for her 'like' of American Idol. (Those of you who stayed tuned after my interview, saw a bit of this play out on your tv.)

One viewer wrote and told her, "the Bible says, thou shalt have no other gods before me," and that she should not be watching or talking about such things.

Another said, "I thought you were a Christian."

The attitude conveyed by these was not an uncommon opinion from those who have come apart from the world, but separated themselves so completely, that they will struggle to find common ground in which to ever share with non-believers.

I enjoy American Idol. I like to watch the foolishness that unfolds on that show.

I don't agree with the disposition of those who would impose legalism on this front.

I cannot tell you who the winners of most of the seasons are. I do not idolize those who are finalists in any way. I enjoy the competitive nature of the show, the foolishness of those who come but have no talent in this arena, and some of the amazing ability of a few.

Being a fan of this show allows me potential opportunities to relate with those who are unbelievers, and who do take "idolizing," too far.

My salvation is not based on empty legalistic viewpoints or perfection in living. It is based on the Grace of a Savior, who died for me, and drew me to Him, right where I was, full of sin and filth. He set me free from that sin by His blood! He granted me freedom to live.

My ability to convey His love to others will be partially based on my understanding of the culture they live in. How will I ever make the Gospel relevant to them, if I don't know where they are coming from?

While I know the areas of life that I must stay away from, because of my own weaknesses that lead to sin, I also know that if I want to reach people for the Kingdom, I need to understand a bit about their lives.

It is possible to come apart from this world, to not be of this world, and still understand what is happening in it.

Jesus hung out in some places that I could not, because I am weak. Still, there are places I can visit and be a witness for Him. Growth in Him, in each of our lives, will reveal to each of us where these lines need to be drawn. He set a model for us of going where the lost hang out, that we might meet them. That also requires a level of understanding that comes through operating within that culture.

Being a missionary for Him is not as much about participating in some event, as it is leading a lifestyle that reflects Him to others. It is about being intentional in conversation. It is about finding common ground and building bridges to span the gaps.

If we are truly sold out to Him, then some of the things that we might be judged by our brothers and sisters in Christ for doing, are more reflective of their own areas of weakness or lack of depth in understanding the freedoms we do have.

I do not exist to cling to worldly programming or visit worldly venues. I do exist to operate within the world the Lord has placed me in and to bring Him glory in the process. It is my responsibility to help others to learn to do likewise.

If watching a silly tv show provides a platform to bridge a gap, and I have no weakness or predisposition to failure as a result of taking part, then after weighing the options and potential consequences, I can proceed slowly and intentionally, participate in an opportunity, and seek to make Him famous in the process.

This is not a license to sin, but a freedom to understand how Jesus functioned, and to go and do likewise.

I praise my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for who He is, what He has done and is still doing, and my privilege in loving and serving Him!

He is my purpose in life.


Monday, March 30, 2009

one of many who would give their hearts to Christ on the streets of Nuevo Laredo

I appreciate the kind words of encouragement from many of you who saw the Harvest Show interview. It was a blessing to be able to participate in this and to spend time with family in Indiana.

While in Indiana, over the past four days, I had the privilege of meeting with a woman that I knew from my childhood. She was a paper route customer for either my brother or me. She had been a prayer warrior for BJ while he was in the hospital, and her daughter wrote on our wall frequently.

As she invited me into her home, she informed me she was 90 years old! She does not look 90, she looks much younger. She acts much younger. Her mind is sharp and her compassion focused.

She had heard about the interview, and had called my mother prior to it's airing to be sure she had the time right. She said she did not want to miss it. She was such an encouragement.

She said she has ordered one of our books in the past, and decided she must have forgotten to go pick it up. She had been so anxious to have it and to read it. My sister Lisa and I delivered a copy to her door.

Her home was warm and inviting. I did not have much time, but could not resist her invitation to come and sit down for a while. There is something about having the opportunity to connect with these dear saints of the Lord.

God has placed elders in our lives for a reason. In too many of our churches today, there is a loss of connection between the "elder generation" and the younger ones.
We often do not worship in the same services. Many are in a traditional setting while others go to the contemporary.

This dichotomy causes a loss of fellowship between the generations. It is far more difficult for the younger population to respect their elders if they never see or meet them. It is no easy task for the elders to pour into young lives that they don't encounter.

Theoretical fellowship, is no fellowship at all. I believe it is important for the young to learn from their elders. I realize that differences in worship styles has become extremely important.

I do not believe worship was ever intended to interfere with cross-generational connections. In fact, it should be a time we stand side by side to offer our all to our Savior.

The younger need the wisdom and experiential teachings of the elders. The elders need the significant task of pouring into those who have walked the earth for fewer days.

Without this connection, both groups suffer in ways the church body was never intended experience.

Who would have thought that worship would become the platform for selfishness that would erode the church body from the inside out?

I am extremely thankful for the men and women in my life who are wiser and carry more years than I. I have long looked up to them.

Growing up, I can remember a woman in the church who always worked with the newborns. When we arrived at church early, she would be there, memorizing scripture. I was a boy then, and this dear saint must have been in the winter of her experience.
It did not matter, she poured into me and others like me at each opportunity.

I can think of many, in my lifetime who have done likewise. Elders having fellowship with the youth culture is an important facet of training them up. We must make time and develop connection points between the two.

I will not forget the 20 or 30 minutes I spent with this dear lady. She expressed not only her appreciation for our time, but she validated my own experience with her words of encouragement and pride over seeing us walk with the Lord.

I do not like to think where I might be, had I not had godly examples, that were tangible and reflective of what it truly looks like to have an intimate walk with Him!

I praise God for my elders!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Deanna and Pablo

Tomorrow morning, I leave for Indiana. On Friday morning, I will be on the Harvest Show. This is a national broadcast and may run in your area live or later. Their web address is www.harvest-tv.com. I will be in the South Bend studio for this interview. I would appreciate your prayer support. Unfortunately, Deanna cannot come with me.

Preparing for the mission trip to Mexico this time, came with a vociferous battle. Since our government cautioned US citizens not to go there due to the high level of violence between drug cartels and Federales, many colleges, churches and para-church mission trips were canceled.

I spoke with many who had withdrawn and were deeply disappointed. Understandably, we had some parents pull their children from our teams.

The last thing I wanted to do as a leader, was to march into a "hot" zone with a group of students and lead them to slaughter. I sought the Lord and the wise counsel of godly men.

The Lord gave me a Scripture passage that I was very familiar with, to quell my fears and calm me down. He did so, while I was teaching a discipleship series on "Hearing God's voice!"

I clung to this passage as I spoke with parents who were concerned. As a father who has lost his only son as a result of serving, I do not take lightly, the issue of parental surrender of their children. To be honest, at times I fear what could happen.

The Lord has demonstrated His power, over and over. He has all authority, and was clearly in charge on this trip.

We had absolutely no issues at the border crossings, both coming and going. In fact, I have had my teams searched thoroughly in the past, and this time, we breezed through. We also traveled all over the border town of Nuevo Laredo, which is in the news routinely as a violent place. One parent called me and said they had contacts in the government in Laredo who said, "Do not come!"

I have now been in Nuevo Laredo for missions on six occasions. I have been pulled out of my van at the bidding of the Mexican Army, as they aimed their tank guns and machine guns at us, while searching our van for drugs. I know how it feels to be a bit intimidated.

I had far more stress before this trip, than after arriving. Why? Because we have a natural tendency to fear. We especially fear what we cannot see or control.

As I began to prepare for this journey, I feared. When the Lord gave me His Word, my heart was filled with peace. When I sought wise counsel, my heart was filled with peace.

At what point to we stop fearing, in any circumstance?

On our final morning of ministry, I took 24 students into a women's prison. Here, if the families do not bring them food and toiletries, they have to go without. This is a hard place! I knew our students were a bit apprehensive, but simultaneously, excited.

While they were sharing the Gospel with the women, the asst warden of the prison, saw our method and was very moved by the drama. He asked us to also come into the men's side and share. We were thrilled at the open door! The students were even more apprehensive!

Though there are many guards with automatic weapons, any environment such as this could easily get out of control. There is something to be said about open doors and the peace of Christ, that help allay fear.

The students shared, and we saw 60 people between the men's side and the women's side, come to faith in Christ!

Perfect love truly does drive out fear!

When we walk where we are encouraged to walk by our Lord and Savior, the result will be that glory is brought to Him!

I will never have a cavalier attitude towards students, parents, or potential danger, but I will have faith in my God that no matter what the end result (for me), if He has called me, I must go!

Fear is a tool the enemy uses to strike at the heart of obedience in the lives of potential warriors. If we succumb to his schemes, we run his interference, and corrupt the will of our Father in Heaven.

Fear not!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Deanna ministers in Tuxpan, Mexico

Thursday morning of last week, my contact, Anabel, asked me if I would sit down with a pastor and his wife at dinner time and talk for a few moments. She reminded me of a conversation I had with her back in November when we were together at our Missions Conference. She asked me if I remembered. I remembered the mans name but not why I might be meeting with him.

When ministry was finished that day, we arrived back at the church (where we eat and sleep). The pastor and his wife were there. I sat down with them. I tried to make small talk, but they seemed nervous. They spoke no English, and my Spanish while improving, did not allow for free flowing conversation.

I asked about their children, to which they shot each other a pained glance,before answering that they had none.

I knew I had somehow hurt them, but had no idea what I had done.

I was very distracted at dinner, as I had to give direction to my team for the evening, and had to get up several times to take care of things. Before sitting back down with them, I found Anabel and asked, "Why am I meeting with them?"

She pulled me aside and asked again if I remembered our conversation back in November. I told her, I remember you mentioning the man's name, but not why we would get together.

She said, "they lost their only son, 10 months ago."

All of my breath escaped! I had asked them if they had children! Surely they thought I was a buffoon for such an impropriety! They knew why we were together and assumed I knew. How then would I ask such a calloused question?

I grabbed a translator (who had just arrived), and we retreated into an office. It turns out, we were meeting together on this precious mother's birthday. Their names are Rogelio and Alejandra. Their sons name was Jonathon.

I apologized profusely, and explained the situation. I felt like a cad unworthy of their forgiveness in those moments.

Honestly, I hated being put in this position. I knew the only chance for any healing to occur was if the Holy Spirit took over this situation I was making a mess of.

I began to ask questions about their son, to get them talking.

He was a musician, who was the worship leader at the church his father pastored. He was full of life and loved by all. He was only 14 when he passed. He was very handsome. He was uncommonly mature for his young age. He was very close to the Lord. So close, that he received what he prayed for, routinely! He was almost 15 when he slipped home to be with his Heavenly Father. He died from cancer.

The pain of the recent passing pressed forward from their strained expressions. They fought back tears, not letting any escape...though I felt surely the dam would soon burst. I hurt so deeply for them.

I asked how their son liked to celebrate birthdays.

A smile creased Alejandra's lips.

She began to tell me a story. She spoke of how he liked to have cake and open gifts in their family way (I was amazed at how similar it was to our own). She said, birthdays were very important to him. So much so, that his cell phone had gone off at midnight (just a few hours before our meeting) to alert him of his mother's birthday!

I fought back tears, but lost the battle quickly. I could not believe this gift! I spoke through my weeping about what a blessing it was to receive this birthday wish 10 months after his passing!

I explained that Deanna and I enjoyed surprise memories that came over time, and that this one was clearly unique and completely unexpected! I told them how special this was.

The dam burst, and the floods came.

Over the next minutes we would laugh and cry together. Our hearts were to be forever hemmed together over this experience that neither of us pursued. I told a story, then they told a story. I would ask questions, and they would ask questions.

I told them that my friend Mark Magers was with me on this trip, and he had lost his only son just seven months ago. I told them his son Justin's, story. I told them about Pastor Tito in Peru, and how dynamic his ministry became after the death of his son. I knew I was walking a fine line and tried not to press them into some sort of mold or pattern, but wanted them to see that God's blessings are poured into those who remain faithful to Him, in the wake of tragedy.

Translators generally speak one sentence or so at a time when translating. In this situation, we were speaking in full paragraphs and pages and our rookie translator was missing nothing. Clearly, the Holy Spirit was present! I was in awe of how the Lord had taken over and soothed where my blunder could have been devastating.

I gave them a copy of our book and let them know that I regretted that it was not printed in Spanish, but that it had photos of my son and my family within it's pages.

They gave me a photo of their son, and told me a final story.

Jonathon was a prayer warrior. He wanted an electric guitar to lead worship with. He had told his parents, but they had reminded him they did not have the money for it. He told them that God would provide.

He found a picture of the guitar he wanted in a magazine. He showed it to his parents and cut it out. Then he tucked it into his Bible marking that speaks to God hearing the prayers and providing for the faithful (I believe it is Psalm 34).

Time passed.

Jonathon worked with different groups from the USA that came to minister. A group from Temple, Texas that partnered with his church heard him once mention in passing his desire.

His parents were overwhelmed and yet learned from their son's faithfulness, when that very guitar was presented to Jonathon as a gift!

He used it to bring Glory to God!

I look forward to hugging the neck of my brother Jonathon Hernandez, when my time to go home comes.

God took home another amazing young man, mature beyond his years! His life is bringing hope and encouragement to that of many others.

Moments before his passing, he spoke with his parents and told them not to be frightened. He was unafraid, and ready to go home to meet his Savior. He was spared the pain associated with the final stages of cancer. He was not bitter, but was thankful for the life he had been given.

I praise God for this encounter. I am changed because of it. I love my brother and sister, Rogelio and Alejandra!

As we closed in prayer, a river ran beneath our feet, but joy filled our hearts!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Victor, a bartender from Dallas, came to Nuevo Laredo in search of a relationship with Christ!

What an incredible trip to Mexico! Where the Lord leads, there is no reason to fear!
Between our two teams in Veracruz and Nuevo Laredo, we saw a few hundred people come to Christ in the short time we were present! We were able to connect most all of them with a Bible teaching church to disciple them as new believers!

One such man is Victor!

At the conclusion of one of our ministry sites, one of my students called out to me rather urgently. I came to her and learned that the man she had encountered (Victor) had spiritual issues and needed help.

We began to talk. He was struggling with thoughts that were evil. He confessed that he was a "good man," but that these thoughts were plaguing him, and he wanted them to stop. He also stated that he was having panic attacks as a result of the war in his mind.

He stated repeatedly, "I just want to be a Christian, I wish someone would tell me how to be a Christian!"

He spoke of growing up in religion, and that he was part of a church that was very religious, but it did not teach him how to be a "Christian."

In the course of our conversation, he said that he was a good husband and father and that he worked two jobs to make a living. He is a bartender and also works another job to provide.

It was not always easy to get a word in with Victor. His hearts desire was so impassioned, and he had desired this for so long, that he struggled to stop talking about it long enough to listen.

When I was finally able to capture his attention, he listened intently. I told him that though he was a good man and that though the world was filled with good men, it was not enough to reserve a place in heaven.

I told him what Scripture says about "our righteousness [being] like filthy rags," and told him what that meant. I taught him about the three voices that we each hear in life...the voice from above, the voice from within, and the voice from below. I showed him how in his own life, the voice from below (the enemies voice) had been received as his own voice, and he was now believing lies. I told him he would need to "take those thoughts captive," according to Scripture, and surrender them to Christ!

Finally, I got to share with him how simple it would be to become a Christian! Upon learning this, he said, "Oh how I wish my wife and daughters could be Christians, too!"

He fought through tears and with much passion, Victor surrendered to Christ!

Upon completion of his surrender, he looked at me and hugged me tightly (as seen in the picture above). Such a peace came over him, that he began to tell me about it. His worried demeanor gave way to a calm. Now his desire was for his family to come to Christ. We prayed over that, and sought the Lord to intervene. He asked me to connect him to a good Church in the Dallas area. I took down his information and also gave him my card, that we might stay in touch.

After he walked away and I was telling my story to the gathered students, they told me that while Victor was praying to receive Christ as his Lord and Savior, his wife was doing the same thing with one of the students!

I met Victor's wife (and mother) just before they left, but was unaware at the time of her appointment with the Lord, where she too would surrender to Him! I wish I could have been present, when they shared with each other, what had just happened!

I praise God for His amazing provision! How incredible that a man and his wife would drive to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, during a time when our media paints the city to be in violent turmoil, only to find the most overwhelming peace of his life!

My God has all authority in heaven and on earth! The forces of evil may rise against Him, but they shall not prevail against such a Mighty God!

We can rest in His peace, while ministering to the broken!

32 of us traveled to Mexico. 8 went to Veracruz (including Deanna who spent the week with her brother and sis-in-law) and 24 remained in this border town, where Christ was at work in power! I praise Him for all He did in the mountain villages of Cerro Grande and La Cruz (in the state of Veracruz) and in Nuevo Laredo!

We serve a Mighty God, and He needs to be praised by ALL of His people!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We hear a great deal about "hope" and "change" these days; our President was elected to a large degree because of the idea of these concepts. The problem with many of our social programs, our organizations and many of our lives is that they don't really offer any hope for the future. They don't provide the means or a goal to change the heart of the individual.

Typically, we address getting through the day, living hand-to-mouth; this is especially true since our government and judiciary have largely turned their backs on Christ...we end up with programs that offer no absolutes on which to base their own existence. "A man or woman without hope for the future cannot live creatively or productively today" (Henri J.M Nouwen) - at least not in a way that they can sustain until they see change. We offer food or money but nothing of substance in which to believe, nothing that will guide them to a life-change tomorrow.

There must be promise in the events of today for there to be any permanant change in our lives and only Christ offers this hope. If we realize that our sadness today is a road to joy tomorrow, we have purpose in our lives and maybe, just enought to pull us through and realize that in the journey itself, there is purpose...and purpose leads to meaning and meaning to joy.

Throughout most of the history or our country we knew that to succeed as a people we must build our society on a sound, Bibical foundation. This wasn't hidden, it is still there to see though revisionist historians are working furvently to make it disappear. As we turned our collective backs and allowed it to happen we now realize the reward for doing so is to slowly lose that which we had. As surely as reading scriptures and praying in classrooms have disappeared from our schools, the hope that we as children found in Christ has evaporated into hopeless despair about the future of each young heart and mind.

If we can't show our children that there is joy in the end - even if they don't lift themselves out of poverty here, then they have no reason to live lives that will fulfill any visible purpose. We end up with the least-common denominator, just getting by any way we can regardless of how it impacts the lives or property of others. If we are without incentive we are without hope. If there is no hope we will know no joy. True joy only comes in the end when Love in the form of Jesus Christ wins and we get to look forward to eternity with him.

Share Him today in the ways you are gifted. Only lives changed by His love and life will provide hope for tomorrow.

In Christ,


Friday, March 13, 2009

My missionary brother, Larry Singletary talks with the head of the Somali Bantu clan in a Divine Encounter. A woman in the marketplace responds to friends.

Saturday morning March 14th, Deanna and I will be leaving with two teams for Mexico. One team will minister to the Totonac Indians in the mountaintop villages of La Cruz and Cerro Grande. The other team will spend the week ministering in Nuevo Laredo. Over thirty people are going on the two teams and we would appreciate your prayer support. This is a Spring Break trip and we will return the following weekend.

I would like to share that on Friday, March 27th at 9:00am, I will be interviewed on national television. The Harvest Show, which is part of LeSea Broadcasting, has asked us to come. Unfortunately, Deanna will not be able to go. I will update you, closer to that date.

I absolutely love the visitations of the Lord on the mission field. He comes in such power and presence!

Though I was not there, we had a team in Nuevo Laredo just after Christmas. On that team was a youth pastor who had come without his students.

He was sent to pray over a blind man who was ill. He had been raised and was on staff at a church that doesn't believe that healings generally happen today. He was apprehensive about going to pray for the man. Primarily because the leadership were not going with him and he was out of his comfort zone.

As he prayed for the man, the Lord moved. The man began to cry out, "I can see! I can see! I can see!"

Stunned, the young man was unsure what to do or say or think. He could not imagine returning to his congregation and sharing with them that as he prayed, Jesus healed.
They did not believe such things happened today.

They do!

It is not uncommon, especially on the mission field, to see such things occur.

However, our own country seldom experiences such movements of God. We have become much like the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 12:38 and on. Many of us struggle with faith, and take on an attitude of "show me a sign, then I will believe." No sign is given to us, as we have already seen His Gospel and know it perhaps better than any other land. Yet, we fail to live it.

We seek to embrace the 'best life now' attitude, and ignore the promised suffering of believers. We even dumb down the definition of suffering to mean, "our wants weren't met."

We have been blessed with so much in our country, and much is expected of us. Yet we have become satisfied with less than His best, and do not engage in life changing ministry.

Then we act surprised and disillusioned that we are not seeing miraculous moves of God or revival in our land. These things will not occur until we begin to walk in His obedience... that turns fear into faith.

He still does gives dreams and visions. He still does miraculous works. He still draws the lost to Him. He does so in lands where the need for Him is recognized. He desires to more here in our land.

We live in a culture that believes the answer to most problems is more money. It is what we teach our children to pursue. Many "Christian" parents discourage their own children from becoming pastors or missionaries, because "you won't make a decent living doing that!"

We can serve Him best by working to turn this tide within our own families. By doing what He calls us to do, even when culture says it is foolish or too dangerous. By serving Him with our whole being. By seeking Him with our all.

I do believe it is possible for revival to break out all across our land. Unfortunately, I think we will have to suffer much before this occurs. Until we begin to view who He is as we should, and begin to live for Him as we should, and truly deny ourselves as we should, He is not likely to bless us with the uncommon visitation of revival.

I know there are pockets here and there. I have even seen the beginnings of His blessing. We have far to go, and we will not earn it by being successful by worldly standards.

Obedience can turn the things we are fearful of doing, into the faith that keeps us focused.

"...present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom 12:1-2


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

precious ones that do not know Him

Who will go to the meet the needs of these who do not know Him? Who will deny self, and wear the splinters of rough hewn timber embedded in shoulder and back to fulfill the call of the Almighty?

It is necessary that we pray. It is necessary that we lift up others who go. It is necessary that we support those who are willing, so that they might go. These are worthy pursuits.

But who will go? Who will take on the commission of their King? Who will realize they are ruined and can only serve their Savior by going...that they have been running from His hand on their hearts for long enough?

Where can you go to escape? Are combative words and spirit enough to bring peace where turmoil boils? Can one escape the grip of grace by indulging the dross of bounty? Can belief and acceptance of worldly marketing schemes bring pleasure and satisfaction?

Can we continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with others who refuse to go, Sunday after Sunday, in a game of eternal red rover? Do we feel better about our Christianity when we have more who feel like we do than will respond to what Scripture compels us to do?

Does it matter that many die daily in our land and others, apart from the knowledge of Christ, while we gather at dinner parties or fellowship activities, telling no one who Jesus is? Do we really care? Is there any evidence to reflect our concern?

Jesus died that others might live. Is it really our right to live while others die and we withdraw to the security of our own escape and inaction?

When will we care? What will it take to move us from concern to obedience?

What does it profit the lost if we have the power of the testimony of Salvation, and only ever hold it close, thinking it not radical enough to impact another's life? What does that profit the Kingdom of God?

Are we really so selfish that escaping through the flames while keeping our own Salvation is enough? Is that what the Gospel is all about to us? Is that the measure of our motivation and progress in our relationship with Him?

Have we become lukewarm and in full denial of it?

What will it be like to relax in a pool of swill, assuring ourselves we've got it together, only to awake as we are spat out?

What DOES it profit a man to gain the whole world? Is the forfeiture of our souls a clause we're unconcerned about because we've found a loophole and a lawyer?

Who are the sheep? Who are the goats?

If we know a believer by his fruit, are we embracing famine?

Open war is upon us. Are we content to withdraw into the keep, holding out hope that the enemy will give up due to the strength of our fortress? Is God our fortress? If so, why do we reside within church walls that don't spill out people who are willing to walk in that same Gods' obedience?

Today, we must choose.

Will our knees bend that we might pray, or will they remain stiff that we can stand tall in our own pride?

Will our mouths be filled and then emptied of words of a Savior, or will they drink in the coffee of the day, and swallow its bitter flavor?

Will our hearts yield to allow Jesus to reign, or harden that we might enjoy another day of leisure?

How many more have passed into eternal separation from God while we read words and remain unmoved by His Spirit?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the three of us, hiking towards the refugee camp in Kenya

I regret that I am at a point in life where I do not remember some things well.

Recently, I met people that I thought I was encounering for the first time, only to find out, that it was not, and I should have remembered. I do not like the message this sends to them. Kind of like..."I don't care about you."

When I meet people, I genuinely do enjoy being able to interact with them. Of course there are always those who are unforgettable, but I fear I forget more than I remember.

I used to be good at remembering names. That skill is fading. I have to work really hard to do so, now. Even then, I find I often fail.

Perhaps it is because of my age. Or maybe it is because my intended 3 pounds of grey matter weighs in at less. I really don't know for sure, and could probably be convinced of either.

Some would tell me my years of coffee drinking has stunted my intellectual growth and development. That would probably be true as well.

Whatever the reason, the fact is, I just don't remember names or faces like I used to.

When I was much younger, my grandmother on my mother's side was not around a great deal. She had been a college professor and was very intelligent. She lived in another state.

Still I have many memories of time with her.

I remember watching her peal apples, cut them into small pieces and work at the stove to make applesauce! The aroma wafted through our kitchen...I loved it. It was always better than what came out of a jar.

I remember her staying with us a time or two when my parents went away. Though I am sure there were times they didn't want to, they always returned. She played games with us, and worked to stimulate our intellect. That was easier for some of the four of us than others.

She loved us and that was evident. However, in her latter years, Alzheimers began to set in.

This once brilliant mind, began to fail her. She began to forget faces, places, and where we were in a conversation. In the advanced stages, parts of her that had we had never seen became visible. She could not always process who she was with, and began giving orders to those she really didn't even know, but thought she did. On occasion, she became quite verbally cruel. I knew this was not her, but it still hurt.

It was a difficult thing to behold. I know others have endured similar situations. I saw my mother suffer over this. She often tried to walk us through what was happening to protect our young feelings.

However, intermingled with this memory is one even stronger. One that has always stayed with me. Even when my grandmother could not remember our names or faces, or recognize much about her life, there was one thing she always knew.


I would intentionally ask her questions in which Jesus was the answer, and she always knew that.

That spoke with great amplification into my life.

Somewhere along there, I know I was questioning God's existence. To see her be in a mental state where nothing made sense, and she seemed to know no one, yet she never forgot Jesus, was, well...huge to me!

If a relationship with Christ was a myth, and seeking Him was what weak people did, then there was no way she would be able to process one she had never actually seen over those she had!

She knew Him! He was her Savior. She never forgot the Christ who died for her sin, and set her free!

I may forget many things in my life. I may even offend some by not remembering their names, how I knew them, or what we may have experienced in the past. I will not forget my Jesus!

He is always there, even when I sometimes feel like He isn't. I know He died for me, and He will carry me through whatever may come.

There is a word I am compelled to use here. I do not know it's origin. It is used by Indian people in Asia when they encounter each other, and think the other might be a believer.

The word is Jaymacee.

It means, 'The Messiah is Victorious!'

Some day, if I encounter you on the street, and do not remember you, hopefully, we will see the presence of the Lord in one another, and will call...



Monday, March 09, 2009

inside a refugee camp

Over the last month and a half, I have seen God do an amazing work in my own heart. I have seen Him use the stories He has given me, to affect the lives of others. I have seen Him draw people close to Him.

Through trial and triumph, I am changed, and others are moved to review their own dispositions.

Clearly, this is a work that I could not manufacture. I am not smart enough to try. My vantage point has shifted. What I see, what I do, and how I respond or teach others to, seems to carry with it more responsibility, more significance.

There are days, I do not want to carry this mantle. I cannot say I even understand it. I am not sure I am supposed to.

Last night, I received an unexpected view back.

A friend of mine, Mark Magers (Justin Magers' father) shared the testimony of his sons life. His only son gave his life while serving the Lord in India. Mark and his wife and daughter were invited to a missions conference to speak. (It was a conference in which I had been invited to share with students. I spent the last four days with a precious body of believers who are highly motivated in the arena of evangelism and missions.)

Hearing his father's heart was compelling. Seeing the sting of brokenness find many unexpected opportunities to emerge was difficult. Deanna and I being seated next to his wife and daughter, found intense emotion permeating the row.

Before a crowd of hundreds of people, he spoke of a life spent for Kingdom work, laid down willingly. This is an unusual venue for healing, yet to share among believers only makes sense.

Behind us sat a Venezuelan pastor and wife who understood no English, but did comprehend tears. From a heart of love, they passed kleenex forward. Gratefulness eked from a mother's broken heart.

When Mark concluded, uproarious applause and the instantaneous rise to feet happened throughout the sanctuary. This moment was bittersweet for this family.

A video streamed with Justin's mission work. This scene was very familiar. Somehow a necessary occurrence among a people who need reminders of what is truly important.

The pastor of the host church called the family forward to be surrounded by those who would come, to be lifted up to our Father in heaven, for the journey ahead.

Aisles suddenly filled as a throng of people came as one.

As the mass of people pressed in, a most unexpected (to me) thing happened. The pastor called my name into the mic. I raised my hand and he asked me to pray for the family, "because I knew how to."

I climbed the stairs to receive the mic and moved to the front of the stage. My brokenness seemed to intensify many fold. I cannot help but wonder if Jesus, in much amplified fashion and with far greater intensity, felt something like this when He took on our sin and sorrow.

Praying from the place of another's pain is not easy to embrace. Somehow, this was like being visited by an old friend...or was it an enemy? Putting self aside to lift up this precious family was an honor.

Deanna and I have grown to love this family as the Lord has allowed us to share our hearts over meals, on a couple of occasions.

There was such intensity and presence of the Lord in the room. Words didn't seem to matter. Just loving on these who needed it most, who paid such a price, was what this was about. He was present and embracing their hearts. It was a Holy moment.

To be truthful, I remember little of what occurred during this time. Only that I felt and still feel such compassion for them.

This Saturday, Mark will embark on his first mission trip!

I have the honor of walking beside him on this journey. He is joining our Spring Break team, headed to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Yes, we are aware of the news headlines. Yes, we are aware, many churches have canceled their mission trips to Mexico.

God has given us such peace amid the torrent of turmoil breaking out in border towns. We will walk in His power and under His protection! We know we are called. We are going to carry His Name to the lost and broken...and will see healing be portioned to a father's heart from the heart of the Father.


Friday, March 06, 2009

another photo from Kakuma, Kenya

I am at a missions conference. It began yesterday and runs through Sunday evening. I would ask you to pray for this event. I speak tonight and Sunday morning. Tonight I am with the combined junior and senior high. Sunday morning, I am with the junior high. I am very excited to have these opportunities.

This is a church that has a thriving missions program, with a youth ministry staff that are thrilled to have us recruit their students (even though they take their own overseas trips). I want the Lord to do that, to be honest. I just want to connect them if they are supposed to go with us.

Anyway, it has been great to connect with brothers and sisters from around the world. Last night I spoke with a woman from Vietnam who has a ministry to orphans with her husband in Cambodia! That is a move of God! What a precious woman. As she shared her testimony, she wept openly for these orphans and their significant needs.

Cambodia is another country God has called me to that I don't understand the calling just now. That doesn't matter. I will go if He wants me there and see what He may have for us to do. My calling there is a more recent one. He brought that within the last 6 months or so.

My Awe Star booth is right next to theirs. That should absolutely not surprise me. I love God's heart and how He reveals Himself over and over.

Anyway, please be in prayer for the hearts of these young men and women that the Lord may want to send to serve Him this summer.

I am sharing the platform tonight with Dave Riner from StuMo (Student Mobilization). He is in charge of the mission program that my friend Justin went to serve with. Justin, you may remember, gave his life while serving the Lord in India, several months ago.

Sunday night, his father Mark, will give testimony of their journey, in the closing service! I cannot wait to hear him.

Mark and I are traveling to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico together over spring break to serve the Lord with 25 students!

God is sooo good!


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Somali Bantu refugees in Kakuma, Kenya

Many use the phrase, 'Where God guides, He provides.'

Recently, while traveling in Mexico, I spent time with my primary contact and others. Her name is Anabel. She is the director of missions for the church we partner with when we travel to Mexico to serve.

She is the most selfless servant I have ever encountered. Her ministry in Nuevo Laredo is vast. She prays for the sick, she ministers to those in need, she sets up details for many groups who travel there to serve. Her hours are long.

She does not get paid to do what she does.

When she gets home late at night, she'll spend several hours sowing to earn a meager living. She also receives blessing from others who the Lord moves to assist her.
Often, when given money, she will use it to buy Bibles to hand out, rather than use it to meet her own needs, which at times are significant.

While we were on this recent trip together, she asked my about my journey to Africa. I told her quite a bit. When I was finished, she asked if we ever went to Somalia.

She had heard me talk about he Somali refugees. Her interest was piqued. She shared that many years ago, she had seen a tv spot that showed a Somali child. The Lord has used that picture to place a calling deep within her heart. She knew she was supposed to minister to the people of Somalia. She asked me to let her know if we took a team there in the future.

I could see how much she wanted to fulfill this desire the Lord had given her. I shared with her that one of the men I traveled with, who had spent 10 years of his life as a missionary in Uganda, now lived in San Antonio, just two hours away from her. Further, he and his wife now worked with Somali Bantu refugees there in San Antonio. I told her that I believed they would welcome her to join them in serving this Muslim people.

She asked me to send her the contact info upon my return to the US. Shortly after I got back, I heard from her. She wanted to know if I had made contact yet. I was thankful that I had, and that Larry and Terry Singletary (the missionary couple we spoke of) were very interested in having her come!

More than that, one of the women who works with them as they serve, is fluent in Spanish, as Anabel speaks only a little English. By the time I sent Anabel pertinent information, this woman had already made contact with her, and they had set this weekend for her to come, meet the people and get to know the Singletary's and others, she would serve beside! She is very excited!

I know when Anabel sensed God's call to this people, she wondered how she could ever get to their continent to serve them. I know when she was at our Missions conference last November, and heard Larry Singletary speak, her heart quickened at the renewal of her calling. I know that when we began to speak on this topic, while in Mexico together, her heart yearned to be with a people she had never met!

I know she will faithfully walk out this calling, and she will impact this people in a way no one else could. I know this, because my God has made a way, where there was no way. I know how He has uniquely equipped Anabel to serve.

He has made a way for a woman who six or seven months ago, could not even leave her country because she did not have the necessary paperwork to do so. Through His provision and what we would call a miraculous series of events, she now can come and go from her country as she pleases, and just in time to serve the very people God broke her heart for!

He is never late. His provision always occurs, just in time.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A Totonac Indian woman heading home from the market and a landscape view of the misty mountains my first morning in Cerro Grande

After spending a week in Mexico to set up a Spring Break trip to the mountains of Veracruz, I arrived back into the office to find I had a meeting scheduled to meet with two of the men we had been with at the prayer cottage, plus two more.

We (in our office) were unsure what the purpose of the meeting was about, but knew three of the four men were coming around our ministry as God has sent them to raise up an economic structure to help support our ministry over the long term.

The fourth man was unknown to us. Upon arrival, we learned he was a lawyer by education who had spent much of his career in commercial real estate for a large corporate retailer. God had given him a vision forty eight years ago, when he was five. He never understood it until recently.

He had retreated into his literal prayer closet, and sought the Lord. God revealed to him the meaning of his dream, so many years ago. He left his job and is pursuing this avenue of ministry which involves business people, Christian Principles, and stadium events. His presentation involved impressive computer generated graphics.

I confess that such things, while worthwhile pursuits when raised up by the Lord, fall short of raising my excitement. I sat for most of the morning and part of the afternoon wondering why we were meeting.

I guess I had the kind of attitude most of us do. That attitude begs, what's in it for me? I struggled not to feel that way. I believe the Lord can and will do some incredible things through this ministry plan. Personally, I sought it's relevance to what our ministry is about, and why one of these men had called us all together.

I know this all sounds very selfish. I just want to be clear that I felt disconnected and was hoping my partner in the meeting (from our office) did not.

Most of the men around the table, shared what God was doing in their lives before we headed off to lunch. As they shared, they combined their visions for business/ministry.

At lunch, I was seated across from the lawyer. As we were eating, and one of our party was sharing, God spoke to me.

He revealed that I needed to tell this man something very specific.

I was not inclined to agree.

My new lawyer friend was all business. He revealed no emotion, whatsoever. Our personalities are 180 degree polar opposites.

When he had shared before lunch, he told us he had one son. A miracle child.

He and his wife had wanted children for years, but had been unable to. Then, nine years ago, when he was in his early forties, the Lord opened her womb, and they got pregnant.

He continued on that his son was the only thing in life capable of bringing laughter to him. He laughed hard at the antics of his son, but asserted that nothing else in life brought him to that place.

As he spoke, sadness rushed in. I was sad because laughter is so important in our lives. Sad because my son did the same thing to me and I miss it. Sad because I knew that I could laugh at other things as well, and I needed to be able to.

I pondered what the Lord told me to share. I grieved over it. I did not want to be the messenger. I knew this message would not likely be found acceptable or received by my new friend, from anyone else. I don't know how I knew it, I just knew it.

When I have the privilege of participating in these kinds of meetings, I generally recognize the presence of the Lord. Up to my turn to share, I had not sensed Him. This concerned me. Why were we here? Was this a waste of all of our time?

How could it be? We were all believers coming together to bring glory to God by sharing what He was doing.

We were back in the conference room. Lunch was over, I knew my turn was coming.

I went last out of the six men. In the course of our conversations, most of the others had told our new friend that I would be sharing my journey and that he really needed to hear it.

As the final man told what God was doing in his business life, I pondered how to share the message I had been entrusted with.

It was no longer a question of whether or not I would share it, it was how would I share it?

Suddenly, I was being called upon to share. I was asked to share the story of Elijah Ajaang first.

I did so. After this, and as it was time to share our story, I asked the men to pray with me.

As we closed our eyes to pray, the Holy Spirit rushed in like a mighty wind! I was overwhelmed by His presence and suddenly could not speak. When I did, it was with a deep sense of brokenness.

As I prayed, I shared with my new friend that God had prepared him for this venture, but that one thing was left for him to do in order to be fully surrendered. One thing he would not want to do. One thing he had likely not even considered (because most of us don't).

As we continued in prayer, the Lord had me speak of Abraham and Isaac and the altar of sacrifice. He revealed much to us about the Abraham's heart and Isaac's responsiveness.

In the course of seeking our Father, I told him that God needed him to put his son on the altar.

Our Lord was moving and stirring our hearts throughout this time of prayer. Why and when He chooses to enter with such gentle violence, I cannot comprehend. I only stand confident that He does, and I am so very grateful!

Over the next moments, I shared about BJ. I explained how we had been told he was a girl from the ultrasound and that he was our miracle son...our only son.

I told of his life, his passion for Jesus, his service, and his death. I spoke of the impact that the Lord was having on lives around the world because of his obedience. I emphasized that we each as parents had to be willing to put our children on the altar, for they are not our own, but belong to the Father anyway.

Upon concluding, he was a man touched by God's Spirit. He told us he had never even considered doing such a thing. He wanted to pray and offer up his one and only miracle son! He wanted to mark this day, as the day he laid his son down.

And so, we did.

I could not believe it and yet I had come to completely expect it. The mysterious and powerful ways our God moves cannot be contained in one story or one life, but fills volumes and is carried by the testimonies of His people from sea to shining sea.

We each need to share our stories of God's movement. It doesn't matter how small or insignificant we perceive them to be. He uses them in mighty ways, and we need to be faithful to open our mouths and speak.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Grain drying in front of a home and children playing in a Tepez village of the Karamojong people.

Recently, God has has been working in ways I have seldom seen Him do, through my prayer life. I am sharing this today, because in both cases, I was apprehensive to act upon what He wanted me to do. I was apprehensive because it was difficult for me to believe that He was doing what I thought He was doing, and I wasn't anxious to be the messenger in either situation.

In short, I will say that when the Lord reveals Himself in prayer, I need to pay close attention, I need to believe what He is showing me, and I need to be faithful to act upon it.

The first situation, was about three weeks ago. I was at a prayer cottage with eight other men that God had assembled. It was an impromptu meeting, and the only person with me that I knew well, was from our offices at Awe Star. Two of the men had traveled to NW Arkansas with us, but I did not really know them. That is changing.

We had traveled to Arkansas to hear a man speak on marriage/divorce and its impact in the business culture. Two men were supposed to accompany us there, but when we stopped to pick them up, something had come up at their place of business, and they could not attend.

They invited us to return after the meeting to pray with them at their prayer cottage.

We did so, not really knowing what to expect.

When we assembled, there were eight of us, ranging in age from 25 to 84. We were a fairly representative sample of adult men in the US.

They asked me to start off by sharing about my trip to East Africa, and the story of Elijah Ajaang and my Bible (you can find that story on or around Feb 10th). As I did so, the Lord began to draw us together.

We began a season of prayer that spanned many hours and they passed without our team having any concept of time. It had not been planned, and it was evident the presence of the Lord was moving in and among us.

We took turns sharing what the Lord was doing in our lives and the dreams and visions He had given us. Then we prayed over each man. It was as sweet a time in prayer as I can ever remember having!

As one of the men, whom I will call Tom, moved to the center for us to pray over, the Lord immediately gave me a picture of a young blond girl somewhere around the age of 6. I knew I was supposed to pray for her. I felt she was his daughter. I had no way of knowing, except to trust the Lord.

While other men prayed for Tom, I asked the Lord to assure me I was to pray over this child, and that in fact I wanted confirmation that she was his daughter.

That would come, but not until I stepped out in faith.

When my turn came, it was clear I needed to lift this child up. I began rather hesitantly, unsure what to say, exactly.

I prayed something along the lines of, "Father you have given me a picture of a young blond girl. Tom, I don't know if you have a daughter?"...

"Yes, he does," came affirming words from a friend of his.

"Tom I don't know if she is blond"...

"Yes she is," spoke the same friend.

From there, I began to pray for her and for Tom, her dad. The Lord has a special anointing on that child that needed to be lifted up and that Tom needed to be aware of.

We had begun our prayer time in the early afternoon. When we rose to leave, darkness had fallen. The only indication that the hour was late during our time in prayer was the occasional phone vibrating, as wives began to try to reach unresponsive husbands.

When we finished, I knew I had been obedient to what the Lord has asked me to pray. I must say, however, that my apprehensions prior to doing so were largely based on not wanting to assume things that I really did not know.

I learned that God wanted to see if I trusted Him. He gave me a picture and compelled me to pray for a child I did not know, and had never seen before. A child He loved dearly, and had significant plans for!

My call to obedience, would open the door to recognition of how He wanted me to speak from his heart, to share a word that He wanted another to know. I did not take this responsibility lightly! It made me very nervous, and honestly a bit uncomfortable.

Afterwards, I felt His peace.

A couple of weeks later, He would do something similar. My obedience would be tested on a more significant level. I found myself not wanting to share what He put on my heart to speak.

I will write about it tomorrow.

Suffice it to say, that when the Lord speaks, I need to listen, evaluate and respond. He is teaching me that I need to spend less time in the evaluation process and simply trust Him. My thoughts tend to get in the way as I mull over what He has revealed. I know He has made me this way, but I am learning that He wants me to become more like Him and less like me.

I must become less that He might become more!


Monday, March 02, 2009

inside the Tepez village of the Karamojong...but please look again... at the child peering out from darkness, in the doorway

We live our lives at the fastest pace in the history of our country. Our expectations are that we will receive immediate gratification for needs and desires. Our children, even more so.

With this in mind, it is far too easy to miss the lives lived in darkness that are watching, waiting for intervention. The ones that seek us out are a bit more obvious, but the ones who hide in fear, or behind self imposed or constructed walls are next to impossible to find, unless we are seeking them.

On both of my recent journeys, I encountered people (mainly children) who had never seen a white man. Some stare out of curiosity, others run away with fear and trembling. One such child, screamed, ran into the family hut, and slammed the door. Wailing could be heard from behind that closed door.

Wailing can often be discerned behind the closed doors of peoples hearts.

We must learn to detect the brokenness amid the chaos, camouflage and clutter of everyday life.

There are those who are watching and waiting for the right timing to approach us. There are far more who will never come that close. Oh we may speak to them each day, we may even shake their hands, but they will never step out from behind the veil of secrecy, until we give them a reason to approach.

What do we do to open that door? How do we allow them access to what we have, that they do not?

If we are racing through our daily agenda, we will miss them. If we do not allow for unexpected delays in the timing of our schedules, their voices will not be heard. If we are not willing to yield our time, it is possible their only exposure to the Savior will be at the judgment seat.

I heard the heart of a young lady this weekend, who had kept an unbelievable schedule the days before. Her body cried out for sleep, and she was going home to get it. Upon arrival to her bed, she was contacted by another in need.

Since it came in the form of a text message, she had two choices. She could engage or remain silent, and meet her own need.

She chose to deny herself.

Her choice meant a life-line to another. Her willingness to remain available had a significant impact and brought glory to God.

Don't give in to the lie that your own needs won't wait. There will be time, or the Lord will help rearrange your schedule in such a way, that the things that are truly important will get needed attention.

Many of us need to re-prioritize our lives. Often, what we perceive as important leaves no room for what He sees as important. If our lives are about bringing Him glory, then allowing Him to change our direction is a significant option.

Learn to actively watch for those peering out from behind closing doors. Being useful to Him brings greater fulfillment than promotions or raises. Those choices impact eternity.

A job should not be our life. It should be a platform from which we learn to minister. Only those who truly seek to follow Him will understand the difference.

Meet the need in someone's life and see how your own priorities change.