Monday, February 22, 2010

Deanna and her mother...

What a privilege I had in speaking to the students at Dallas Christian College last week. There were prospective students visiting that day as well. We experienced His powerful presence as we studied the Word together. I had the privilege of training students and leaders for their upcoming mission trips to several places around the world.

Two other opportunities I had during this time, were to spend time with Whitney and Jared in their home, and to have breakfast with my friend Afshin Ziafat. It was a great trip... just wish Deanna could have been with me.

Often times, within our families are those whose hearts are not surrendered to Him. We usually are aware of the need for their salvation, but are often occupied with life, and time passes.

Being His witness to our family is most difficult. They know all of our junk. They are most aware of our short-comings. They may even have thrown our own issues in our faces when we have tried to talk about Christ with them. We become easily sidetracked with regret and realization.

However, this is merely a tactic of the enemy. We must not allow him to gain this ground.

We must turn the negative into a point of reflecting the Grace of our Savior into the conversation, in such a way that they see that we too are aware of our weaknesses, and that in spite of them, He has forgiven us.

I know sharing with family is hard. Sometimes, lost moments become fodder for guilt... when loved ones pass and they do so without Christ.

They need to know that He is real. They need to know that He truly cares and is concerned about the details of our lives. They need to see true change in our way of living, so they might comprehend a portion of His power and grace.

Of course, this must be done without our parading it in such a way that it says, "see how good I am?"

We often see the good in others and search for the bad, that we might feel better about self. Our loved ones do this too. It's why they throw failure in our faces.

We must be grace to them. We must not engage in highly charged emotional debate, that looks more like trying to win an argument for the sake of being right, than one set free by a compassionate Savior.

When we fall into this trap, we assist the enemy.

Emotion is part of this experience, its true. Decisions emotionally made, often do not last, or in this case, prove not to be legitimate.

We must push forward for our families. We must pray for them, continuously. We must choose the times we speak, well. We need to be Spirit led.

Being Spirit led tends to be a foreign concept to too many believers. This is often reflective of a poor prayer life and little time spent cultivating relationship with Him.

We must be in His Word. If we do not make ourselves at home in His Word, we will not recognize when He is speaking to us. If we do not recognize when He is speaking, we will not be Spirit led.

Being Spirit led has everything to do with relationship with Christ.

We cannot expect to impact our families for Him (in a positive way) if we are not in deep, intimate relationship with Him, ourselves.

The difference noted in our lives by others is what causes them to question their own decisions and choices. If our life looks no different from theirs, then we are not reflecting the righteousness of Jesus.

Why would they want what we tell them we have if it's not demonstrated as making a difference by how we live?

Hypocrisy is an ugly thing. Those who shout the name of Jesus from the mountain, should not also be found partying in darkness.

We need Him. They need Him. They need us to live for Him, that they can see His reflection... before its too late!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Deanna, Pastor Tito and me last summer in Chimbote, Peru

I am heading to Dallas today. I have the privilege of spending time with students at Dallas Christian College helping prepare them for the mission field. I am excited to be with them!

It is a mixed blessing to spend time with college age students at this point in life. My son would be a sophomore, were he still with us. As a parent, I suppose it is impossible not to count the time.

Lately, we have been missing him a great deal. There are times that we wish we could just have a conversation with him, or a dream about him. Though, no amount of time would ever be enough. We will always want for more of him. It sure helps us to appreciate the daughters we do have.

It also helps me appreciate these speaking opportunities. I know there are warriors for Christ out there who the Lord is leading. It is a privilege to be a part of their lives, no matter how brief the encounters.

I continue to hear stories of young men and women who served the Lord and then went off the deep end. They are finding their way a difficult one. As parents it's hard not to try to live their lives for them. As a friend or surrogate father, I sometimes have difficulty with compassion. Not something I am proud of, but I have to surrender these students and my struggles with their struggles to the Lord.

It is difficult for me to see others waste their lives, when one so precious to me showed a better way. I too, struggle with worldly pleasures and issues. It is not that I have somehow arrived. I guess it will always be easier to see the splinter in someone else's eye, than the plank in my own.

Anyway, I am so thankful for the opportunities the Lord provides to continue to pour into others... even as I need to be poured into. The Lord provides and fills me up, as He fills others up. Wow! What a cool concept! What a cool Savior!

Be blessed, and I will return next week!

God bless,


Monday, February 15, 2010

Lynae (sister), Deanna and Brad (brother) in Indiana

I was walking the beach on my recent trip to Florida. I suppose I shouldn't have been, but I was surprised that I was the youngest person on the beach!

I walked miles of shoreline and saw the same thing. People older than me, wearing swim suits. Many were, shall we say, people who I would have preferred not to see in such attire.

The same question kept nagging at me. "Where are these people from that 60 degrees is warm enough to wear so little?" Most of them were not walking the beach as I was... they were "laying out."

Honestly, I had not seen such sun worship since my college days. After a harsh midwestern winter, the sun would come out in April and warm things up for a day or two and campus wide, students would skip class to catch some rays.

I suppose at that age, I didn't mind it so much. Who am I kidding? Most guys looked forward to it!

I have never been a huge beach person. That would be my brother, Brad. I would prefer to be in the mountains... regardless of temperature! Few understand this. Most would prefer to be beach side.

I did see porpoises skimming the coastline, gulls and pelicans fishing to their fill, but oh those sun bathers. Some of those visuals have left a mark.

It was a great time to have my ipod with worship music cranked. I tried to focus on Jesus and the purpose of my visit. I had many reasons to give Him thanks and praise! The people I was meeting, renewal of old acquaintances, the presence of the Lord in our sessions, and honestly, the Lord's provision in general.

Somehow, spiritual metaphors are always more visible to me when I am out of my element. Walking out of my hotel room to view the marina, with the tide out, I watched a Great Blue Heron work the shoreline.

Slowly, he moved down past me, focused on his prey. Interesting, that laying beside him were many fish, free for the picking. They were already dead. He was not interested in them. He wanted the live ones.

Watching him select his food, my mind maneuvered to the similarities in how the enemy preys upon us.

When we are spiritually dead, he seemingly ignores our motives and decisions... they already reflect him.

When we are alive, he stalks us. Constantly seeking to disrupt our surrender. Desiring to put much energy between us and our Savior. His goal, to get us to turn from our Lord. He feasts upon our failures.

When there are no disruptions in our lives, it is cause for repose. We must ask ourselves why the attacks have ceased.

In truth, the enemy seems to care most about those he cannot have. How similar are we? We desire things we cannot have, and will put a great deal of energy in obtaining them.

We tend to invest little in that which is freely given, yet requires our focus and attention to deepen intimacy.

We want the tangible. So does the enemy. He believes in the allure of the world to cripple our relations with a Holy God.

Don't fall victim to his wily ways. Seek the Savior, and allow His desire for you to draw you into time spent, which will equip you to stand against the attacks of the enemy.

Thank goodness we have a Savior to help overshadow the memories and scars of life... even the ones from the beach...


Monday, February 08, 2010

part of our team in North Africa that hiked up Toubkal, in 2006...

This past week was amazing!

I had the privilege of serving at Indian Rocks Christian School (and Church) in Largo, Florida and then at an event called "Elevate" in Marion, Arkansas's FBC.

I made many new friends and saw the Spirit of the Lord move over us in blessed fashion.

I reconnected with my friends and missionaries to North Africa while in Florida. I did not know they were going to be at the same event I was. The blessing was huge, as we got to share a meal and multiple conversations about what the Lord continues to do in NA.

Finding out that the man who had acted as interpreter for us while my family and I were there (and team) was now not only serving as pastor, but was in seminary is a miracle of the Lord! I have written of him before and the fact that I had shared the Gospel with him multiple times, but he was not going to make a decision for Christ out of respect for his father (who was Muslim) while he was alive.

We reminisced about our time working together, and what is currently happening in the country. The news was very good as the Lord continues to provide in amazing ways and they are seeing real progress!

After my time in Florida, I headed to a youth event in Arkansas. I had an incredible time with these students and was amazed at how my Lord moved in their lives! We saw many come to Christ and several surrender to ministry/missions!

I am so thankful for this!

On Sunday, as I was heading to the airport, I received word that the friends I reconnected with in Florida (missionaries to NA), had terrible news. Their home in North Africa and the house churches had been raided! The government there has recently cracked down on missionaries there, and deported many.

They do not know if they will be able to return or not! This is their calling, their love, their life. Please join me in praying for J and S and for my friend in seminary.

We serve a Mighty God who has ALL authority, and He can open the door for their return and protection of their (His) "assets."


Monday, February 01, 2010

I went hunting, yesterday... with a camera! Wild "tom" turkeys.

I begin my travels for the week, tomorrow morning. It will be a busy week as I have the privilege of preaching eight times in five days!

My laptop died this past weekend, so this will likely be my only update.

What a privilege it was to hike yesterday, in the seven inches of snow that fell late last week. The snow sat atop limbs encased in ice, so everything shone with extra brilliance.

I saw evidence of much wildlife. It's hard to hide in fresh snowfall. I saw the tracks of fox, raccoon, rabbit, turkey, etc. I found the fox den. I spotted many birds, including the six or seven "toms" that were strutting at the woods edge (see pic above). I saw patted down lanes from heavy use by a family of raccoons. Those lanes were no longer white, but had turned a yellowish brown from extreme use.

It's funny how the tracks of tom turkeys change when they are in strut mode. In 7 inches of snow, instead of just foot prints, there are wing tip (no, not the shoes, that would just be silly) prints as well. You can actually count the rear feathers when they initially spread, by the imprint in the snow. Crazy!

I wonder how often we are aware of the "imprint" we leave?

My memory is not what it used to be. I find myself too often, grasping for names or faces, when I am approached electronically or personally. I simply do not remember everyone I should.

I get messages from people that leave me wondering, 'who is this person and where did I meet them?' If they don't tell me, and if their picture (say on facebook) doesn't clue me in, then I am in trouble. I adopt the 12 step program attitude of "fake it till you make it."

Sometimes it comes back to me, sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't, I am left wondering, 'how did I impact their life?' I am curious, was it a positive or negative experience?

It's kind of like when people call you on the phone and you know you are supposed to know who they are, and they may even sound familiar, but you cannot place them... except, sometimes I still don't know who they are after I learn their name... not good.

I am confessing this not because I don't care, but in case I am having a conversation with you, and I seem to be keeping things beyond the perimeter of intimacy, it just might be because a new phase of "senioritis" has set in.

I know there have been times when I have been 'strutting like a turkey,' and acting fool. My hope and my prayer is that this it not how I am remembered.

I want to be known for having cared and desiring to see the love of my Savior poured into the life of each and every person I encounter. "Do I really live that way?" is the question.

Am I allowing His love to be manifested in such a way that others sense His presence during and after the encounter?

That is the "track" I would like to leave on others lives.

I'd prefer they not be counting my flaws as I extend myself into full strut.

I can only accomplish this as I allow Him to be the Lord of my life. When I drive, I may get there quicker, but without His intended results.

I will always make mistakes. I cannot keep others from remembering my foolishness. I must however, seek to put Him first in every way, so that others see Jesus, not brent.