Wednesday, July 28, 2010

does this look familiar? (same location BJ's similar photo was taken in Ecuador)

Recently, we were debriefing our summer mission teams in Dallas. A friend of our ministry, who is also a nationally known songwriter/worship artist (with his wife) came and surprised us. He and his mentor led worship for us, in impromptu fashion. (While their songs are nationally known, they are not always recognized.)

The students were thrilled! So were we!!!

Deanna and I were eating a meal with him, and he relayed the following story.

He and his wife were recently leading worship at a National Worship Leaders conference. Many big name artists were present.

As he and his wife boarded a train at the airport, there were no seats available. They noticed two things.

First, a group of three young men carrying guitar, cases were seated and chattering on about the upcoming worship conference. They were excited about seeing certain artists. They exchanged glances, but made no signs of recognition or chivalry.

Second, an older gentleman realized the wife of this duo had no seat, and offered his to her. With a glance toward the three Christian young men who were oblivious to their indiscretion, she respectfully accepted his offer.

Later, my friends led worship throughout the event. All present became aware of them.

During a break, my friends were manning a booth about their ministry. These same three young men came, this time with recognition.

After some initial superficial conversation, the wife (who is the primary vocalist) learned where they were from and began to tell them about a ministry they could engage in, in their city.

While she was mid conversation, they turned and walked away.

How often are we so focused on our ideas and plans for what we believe we can do, that we completely ignore where the Lord is at work? Many of us are all about our own dreams and goals. We do what we want, and ask the Lord to bless it.

What He wants from us is to do what His Word teaches.

How Christ-like is it when our heart beats so strongly for our own dreams that we ignore opportunities He is putting directly before us.

The life truly blessed is the obedient life. When we are obedient, we are naturally aware of what the Lord is doing around us. We see His hand at work and are ready to join in.

When we are inward focused, our expectations are that "others" will handle the "Great Commission" while we fulfill our singular passion. We seek to do what we like from our gifting and ignore the areas He is trying to develop.

This ultimately results in a church that is powerless to impact its community. Everyone is doing what He enjoys while sitting back trying to figure out why lost people aren't coming to Jesus.

We need to listen to His voice while paying attention to the needs around us, and seeking to meet them.

Even he smallest need met, brings about joy.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I did not get to go to Panama, as I have not passed the kidney stone. I did finally get a CT scan this morning, but will not know the result for a couple more days. In the mean time, my partner in ministry led the team in my place. His gain, my loss. I am comfortable with the decision however, as it would not have been good to be in the jungle and have a serious medical issue, with help hours away.

We did receive our 30 day teams back, and sent out our Panama team. The 30 day teams had an amazing summer. Thousands of new believers were added to His kingdom! Lives were changed both on our teams and in the hearts of each nation.

My daughter Lauren led the team to Peru this year. It was her first trip there. She did an amazing job. She had the youngest team, but they walked in unity and power. They visited places that BJ, Deanna and I have never been. I confess I am jealous.

Regardless, the Lord used her and continues to develop her leadership abilities.

Whitney has begun her career as a nurse, and was more than ready to begin!

Deanna starts school again Friday, August 6th. It doesn't seem possible that she is going back to work already! Where did the summer go?

This late summer begins a new season of traveling and speaking. I look forward to doing so, and am thankful for the provision of the Lord.

More later, but wanted to update you all.

God bless!


Monday, July 19, 2010

Kuna Indian boys in Panama (I will see them again, soon)

I leave tomorrow afternoon to receive our summer mission teams in Dallas! I can't believe they are already returning! This summer has flown by!

They arrive Wednesday, get debriefed Thursday, and then go home Friday morning. Then I receive my Panama team (of 25) on Friday afternoon. I leave for Panama with them on Sunday, and return the following Sunday.

This trip, I will get to work alongside my nephew and his wife, who are missionaries in Panama. I am very excited about that!

I have NOT passed my kidney stone(s) yet, so I am a bit unsettled. I do appreciate your prayer support on this front. The doctor wanted me to have a CT scan before I left to assure it was of a size I could pass, but insurance issues have held that up. Please pray.

Last week, we transferred one of our daughters phone plans from our family plan to she and her husbands. This was gonna happen sooner or later.

Who knew it would require the involvement of people around the world to make it happen?

It began by a simple conversation between Deanna and Whitney. Deanna then took the project on and began to deal with it.

When we began our family plan, it was listed under my name as the primary. A year ago we had Deanna added as a co-primary, so she could deal with some issues.

When she went to handle this simple transfer, they would not let her. Their memories seemed to have lapsed, and they said I would have to do this, as the primary. She tried to take care of it at a local store for this company, and was directed to call customer service.

Did you know customer service is in India (apparently)?

When I called, a young woman answered the phone and told me her name. There were so many syllables and sounds I did not recognize, that I did not catch it. I asked her to spell it for me. I sat in disbelief as she spelled out the name of one of our summer months. When she said her name, it sounded much more exotic than our months name. It had extra syllables and letters that don't appear in the correct spelling.

Unfortunately, much of our conversation went that way. When I told her I had no idea what she had just said to me, I understood her apology. She began to speak with clearer diction.

My wife's tear stained face (over the frustrations involved) turned to joy as she watched me try to control my laughter in dealing with this friendly woman, whose first language was not English.

I constantly had to process what I thought she was saying. She was SO polite, which I appreciated. I struggled to understand her and kept hoping I wasn't agreeing to signing over ownership of my home, as I said "yes," to her many questions.

My daughter was not available to deal with the issue on her end until two days later. They had made an appointment with me, to call her on that specific day.

That day came, and my phone rang. It was an 800 number and I was busy, so did not answer it. They immediately called back.

Since I was waiting for insurance approval for a CT scan, I decided I better answer it.

It wasn't the same woman, but she sounded EXACTLY the same. I thought it was the same woman giving me a different name. She had the same accent and all. I didn't catch her name. I didn't ask for it, either. I just knew she didn't say the name of a hot summer month... at least it didn't sound like it!

Anyway, they had discovered an extra step was required in dealing with the issue of transferring my daughter onto her own plan. A step that involved my son-in-laws name.

To allow my daughter to be transferred off of my plan, and onto her husbands, I had to approve it.

I am thankful that I don't have to be THAT involved in every aspect of my daughters life. I love her dearly, but I do not want to be that involved in her day to day operations.

It is not that way when my Savior looks at my life. He is very interested in every detail. He wants me to come to Him for His approval until such time that I am so close to Him that my heart beats with His and He shows me what He desires.

I am thankful for that! I need that from Him, in a way that my daughters do not need me to keep a detailed account of their lives.

Perhaps this is why I struggle to let them go, in many ways. I love them so deeply that I am interested in what is going on with them. However, they need less of me as they mature. They have learned more about life and how to live it. They are adults.

While I am an adult, I want my Savior to keep interested in me. I need Him to do so. But, I have to learn to allow Him access to EVERY area of my life. I'm pretty good at thinking I have matured beyond need for His help at times. The sad fact is that its not usually true.

I am thankful that no matter how far away He seems, He always understands my heart. My accent doesn't throw Him. He gets me.

I just have to let Him have me, each moment of each day.


Friday, July 16, 2010

A little web time

Nothing to report yet (on the kidney stone)...

Anyone interested, can listen to my recent message "5 Components of a Healthy Church," at this link: The sermon is not up at this writing, but is to be posted yet this week. I brought it on 7/4/10.

Recently, I have been contemplating the impact of preaching/teaching apart from experience. I know that for me, messages I hear have a deeper impact, if I can relate by experience.

So many times, within our culture, missionary stories inspire, but have no real staying power (apart from what the Holy Spirit may do) in the lives of those who hear, but have not experienced (or in some cases run from the experiences).

Now I know, that no testimony or story has deep impact apart from what the Lord does through it... and that is kind of the point.

I think though, that many struggle to find relevancy in the Word of God, because they have never experienced it in power (or again, run from it).

One can preach a powerful message and know they have experienced the Lord's anointing all over it, and yet watch a body refuse to respond. I believe this happens week in and week out in our churches. It is very discouraging.

The Lord has placed me in the position to speak into the lives of students, and occasionally, adults. Truth all day long, but until they experience His work in action (which requires their obedience), the words will just be words. I don't mean everyone has to go to an overseas mission field, but I do believe ALL of us are called to live missional lives!

My resulting question... is there strong evidence that we are allowing the Lord to reveal Himself to us, through evidence of our own demonstrated acts of obedience?

For too many, a morning sermon is forgotten by lunch. In part, because of our attitude when entering corporate worship.

Many are quick to think the message is about the person next to them, while sporting waterproof skin to His convicting rain.

I have seen so many families of means or lack thereof, arrive at the same dump (though different paths led them there)... broken, divorced, in rehab, embracing worldly lusts, and/or seeking self-worth in relationships apart from Christ.

I understand when non-believing families end here. Their lives are based on cultural traditions. What they learn growing up is often what they value or in some cases are a reaction to. Few non believing families hold to Biblical truths as their guide.

I struggle to understand why the lives of believers aren't dissimilar.

What is valued is often the pursuit of happiness through pleasure. Messages that deal with moving outside of our own comfort are quickly cast aside as irrelevant. Many have bought into the idea that God wants me happy, and my happiness is not based on suffering or discomfort. Rather, it is based on what brings me pleasure. Therefore, my life should consist of pursuing ends that result in pleasure, thus bringing happiness.

You will not find this in Scripture, yet many live this way, within Christian circles.

All of us want to be happy. However, the life of a believer should be characterized by obedience. There is great joy in obedience regardless of the suffering that may come with it. Happiness is a by-product of that joy.

If we seek happiness, we obtain a disillusioned life. If we are obedient, the joy in that yields a fulfilled, happy believer.

Therefore, if we want to be happy as believers, we need to deny ourselves, follow where He leads, and find that the pursuit of Him, yields great joy.

Seeking Jesus brings joy.
Seeking happiness brings disappointment.

We've all experienced disappointment... it's time for some serious joy!


Friday, July 09, 2010

mounting a trail camera at the farm...

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of preaching in my home church. My pastor and his family were away, and he asked me to fill in. I was thankful for the opportunity.

The things that tie us to this world are so interesting and diverse. For some it is relationship(s). For others, it is work, hobbies, or the desire to achieve goals.

Then there are the times that we cannot wait until the Lord returns. Sometimes it's because of the difficulties of life. Others, its because our desperation for Him is so intense. Then there are those times we don't want to have to endure imminent suffering (in any form).

Being home from the field this summer has been interesting.

The Lord has opened opportunities to pour into others lives that could not have happened if Deanna and I were away. We are certainly thankful for that.

He always knows what He is doing.

This week I've discovered another reason I may be home.

I began having abdominal pain mid week. My self diagnosis aren't backed by any medical expertise, but its in my genes to do this.

My wife pleaded with me to go to the doctor. I finally went yesterday.

After his poking and prodding and giving me a small plastic cup to fill, he came in with what he believes is the correct diagnosis.

Kidney stone(s).


There is no history of this in my family (that I am aware of). I rarely drink soda. I can't understand why I would have this.

Issues like this don't care what you understand.

My doctor tried to prepare me for what is ahead. I walked out expecting give birth any day now.

I won't have the joy of holding a little bundle of life on the back side (no pun intended) of the delivery.

I don't know when it will come. I just know the pain comes and goes.

I have discovered for now, that the more hydrated I stay, the less pain I am in. I am afraid I am not getting much work done between refilling my water bottle and then the porcelain throne (in that order).

It has given me a temporary reprieve from the constant reminder that began a few days ago.

Last night as Deanna and I went to bed, we followed our normal routine. We turned the tv on to watch 'Seinfeld' before drifting off to sleep. The episode was the one where Kramer has a kidney stone.

Not very funny... to me, at least. Deanna found it hilarious. The timing impeccable. She doesn't mean me any harm, it's just that Kramer screams like a little girl, and all can hear him. I screamed like a little girl once... I was being chased by a vicious German Shepherd.

My doctor tried to convey a less threatening end. He has had them, and talked of being doubled over in pain, but then getting relief as the stone drops from the kidney to the bladder.

I don't like being educated on this topic. I once passed out watching a film of an egg migrating from the ovaries to wherever it goes. I can't remember 'cause I lost consciousness!

I awoke later in a cold sweat. I have that to look forward to once again, it would appear.

Anyway, I would be greatly satisfied if the Lord returned before this experience. But then, there are many women who favor the idea (on a much smaller scale) of a man giving birth to "feel their pain."

I cannot make a u-turn on the road to undo this. I can't prevent this from happening any more than Deanna could prevent giving birth to our 3 children. They brought such joy to our lives. This delivery will be a bit different.

All things considered, my suffering will pale in comparison to His. He remains in control.

I would appreciate it if you would pray for the upcoming delivery.

And if you listen, you just might hear me...


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Lauren ministers in Peru!

The gauge for deciphering our impact on the world (for Christ) is not ours in the end. So why do I spend so much time contemplating this?

Because it is far too easy to see the opposite. One does not need to know how deep the impact for Christ (as He measures this) to be able to see how desolate the landscape becomes when we choose, as believers, to pursue our own course, and drag His Name into potential squalor.

Seeing the youngest team we've sent to the mission field this summer, have such a deep impact on the Peruvian culture is something I get very excited about!

Yes my oldest daughter is leading the team, and yes she is leading that team inside the borders of the land her brother contracted a fatal disease in.

Both have brought glory to their Savior!

BJ didn't have to look far to see the positive influence of his sisters', in terms of being Christlike. He honored and cherished them. He protected them both physically and in conversation. He saw in them what they did not always see in themselves.

Lauren's now being in this same country, would thrill BJ beyond words.

When he returned from Peru the last time, he told Lauren she was to go with him to Africa, to the Muslim nation, to minister. She did. She then helped lead a team to India, and now Peru.

She has also engaged the youth of our church and I have seen her develop into an incredible minister for Christ! Her heart has been broken for them. She prays for them, pours herself into them, teaches them, and desires to see the Lord break through to them.

What she longs for them to become, she is seeing the students on her Peru team explode into! Two of the students from her work at the church, are on the field with her.

I am thrilled to see through the flaws that we each have, to the blessing we can become to the heart of our Father, when we surrender ourselves completely before Him!

Scripture says, "and a child shall lead them."

There are many of our children on the field this summer, and they are leading by example... the life we are called to live. One where we speak with passion about our Savior at every opportunity! What they learn to do on the field, will carry through in many of their lives, when they return home.

Sadly, many will not understand their passion or fervor. Some will not want to be around them. And these I speak of, are believers.

They shy away from those who are close to the flame of His fire, because of their own poor decision making.

Should we as believers, live our lives as sold out vessels everyday, then the stories these will return with, would not sound so unbelievable.

For us to glorify our Savior, we must engage. For us to drag Him into squalor, we need do nothing. For when we do nothing, the enemy prevails, and our testimony remains unspoken and powerless.

Thank you Lauren, for being willing to die. Being willing to die to self, glorifies the Lord!