Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Update: The lifeless body of 3 year old Ryan Hamlin was discovered on 5/26/11 in the nearby lake. His dad fought back tears as he annouced this, calling Ryan, "my little buddy." My heart is broken for them.

The remains of my friend Steve's home (bottom right), after a tornado ripped through his small community. He is the father of my friend Katie (who used to work with me), and my hunting buddy.

Steve survived in the face of torment and tragedy. Curiosity got the better of him as he peered through a window to view the incoming tornado.

The wrath it unleashed, sent shrapnel through the window where he stood. Bloodied, he fled to a back hall and hit the ground as his home exploded around him. The only roof left was above where he fell.

Video of his small lakefront neighborhood, revealed foundations with no structures. A pan of the camera spotlighted a sea of shredded lumber in the far corner of the small lake.

While this image is disturbing enough, the realization that a three year old child is feared to be floating amid that unwelcome, laketop hardwood wrenches ones emotions.

He had just been huddling with his mother and two brothers in a nearby building. The building was decimated. His two brothers could not initially be found. The mother is hospitalized.

His two brothers were recovered, and taken to the hospital with serious injuries. The five year old remains, the fifteen month old died. The three year old is being searched for, even now.

My friend is no doubt thankful for his life. My attempts to reach him last evening went unanswered. I began trying early last night, when I saw a tornado near his home (on tv). I continued to try until I was contacted that his home had been destroyed, and led to a news video of his neighborhood.

Early this morning, I learned that his phone had been carried away by the twister.

His daughter serves as a missionary in Central Asia. I spoke with her this morning, and learned that she is struggling to focus on anything. She has yet to hear from her father, though she knows he is alright.

I rose this morning with the intent of standing at my friends side to sift through the devastation and memories.

I learned that none of the residents are allowed into the area until the three year old is found.

One of Steve's neighbors is his sister. Her home is gone as well.

What is truly important in this life?


Life in Him!

Some will blame God for allowing such a thing to happen. Others will be found desperately grateful for deliverance.

He is a big enough God to handle our frustrations and anger. He continues to love and seeks to draw the broken to Himself. There are many broken just now. There is much we can do to help. All of us must pray.

Where does one begin after such a tragedy? Losing everything but life, shocks one to a stark sense of what is real. I don't pretend to understand it.

I fear the power of such tornadic events; yet I rest in the hand of a Mighty God... who I am in awe of.

His power is beyond that which He creates or allows.

I need not fear, but press into Him.

I am praying for those in the path of today's storms.

God is in control.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Come, let us worship the King!

The past two weekends have been amazing.

I had the privilege of speaking to the community of Leon County Texas for the second time. 10 churches were present in our worship experience!

I had been there in December of last year, and was honored to be asked back. Many times, when people hear our story, the Lord moves, but a basic assumption is made that when I speak, I only share about BJ.

My heart is drawn to these people in a unique way. Being asked back only intensified my love for them! God is moving in their community, and it has been a pleasure to be part of that! What an encouragement they are!

Then this past weekend, I was privileged to return to a church in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. This is another place that gets it! God is moving in their hearts! They are missional in their approach to their community and beyond! It is so encouraging to be a part of what God is doing!

I could not be more thankful for His provision and the encouragement that results from walking in simple obedience to opportunities He provides.

I have met some amazing people, and have been afforded the privilege of seeing God at work.

I praise Jesus for this!

I know I have a propensity to drone on about what His people are not doing, so I am thankful for the chance to see Him working through these!

Our office is very busy getting ready for our summer trips. Our teams are headed to Cambodia, Latvia, Panama and Peru. I appreciate the prayer support many of you continue to give!

We continue to walk through a season of change and are seeking His direction for each step. For the second summer in a row, the country the Lord put on my heart for Deanna and I to lead a team to, has been closed down, due to lack of students.

Last summer, a new work began in my own ministry as I have had the privilege of coming alongside of some Christian men, and walking through life and decision making with them.

I have been so encouraged by this.

I am excited to see what is in store next! Perhaps more of the same... perhaps bigger change... perhaps none of the above.

He is in control!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sometimes, I recognize my ridiculous capacity to blend in with the world around me. I don't aspire to it, it comes naturally.

What is unnatural is striving to resemble Jesus.

I enjoy taking hikes. When I get into the woods, all of His creatures recognize that I don't belong. I am perceived as a threat. They run, hide and do all they can to make themselves undetectable.

Adam and Eve did the same thing in the garden. After they ate from the forbidden tree, and recognized their nakedness, they tried to hide from God among the underbrush.

When I have my worldly face on, I do the same thing. At least I act like He is unaware of my foolishness. I put on my 'cool act' and dress up in such a way that I would presume to be undetectable. I have a better chance of entering the woods without being discovered by animals...and I can't even do that.

It seems so ridiculous when I write those words down and reread them!!! However, I know its true. It's stupid and embarrassing.

I heard a story this week of a deacon that walked into the office of a pastor and proceeded to tell him that he was unqualified for his role. He began with his own resume and accomplishments, and ended with this individuals lack of appropriate training.

Whether he was right or wrong, does that look more like the world or Jesus. In his dismantling of this pastor, he was seeking to elevate his own position.


The Jesus I serve and read the words of, never spoke or approached men that way. He called the under-educated and the least of them, to do mighty things.

Sometimes we are so sure we are right, that we break relationships to prove it.

Jesus sought to build relationships, and restore people.

It's easy to walk like the world. It's easy to look like the world. The greater challenge is in looking like Jesus!

It's amazing how He can take the worldliest among us, and by His renewal, regenerate life and restore lost dreams and visions.

I am thankful to serve one as Mighty as He!


Please be praying for the believers in Leon County, Texas, as I leave tomorrow to share with them in Marquez, on Sunday. 2:00pm at Marquez Baptist Church. Many from several denominations will be present!

Monday, May 02, 2011

On the day I had the privilege of baptizing 30 Cambodians (along with 3 other Khmer Pastors), two mothers brought their sons to me to 'dunk.' One loved it, the other was frightened. Neither understood baptism, so it was more of a time of joyful interaction in the Mekong River! Two of the people I baptized converted from Islam!!! His timing is never late!

Much joy is being celebrated in our country over the elimination of a terrorist leader.

I am not unsympathetic. A part of me wants to celebrate on behalf of those who lost loved ones at the design of this mans' hand.

I find myself necessarily tempering any enthusiasm through the lens of Scripture.

For example, Ezekiel 33:11 says,

"As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live."

It seems incomprehensible to us that such a man would ever turn his heart towards our Savior. In our flesh, and through the emotion we would attribute to 'righteous anger,' the celebration of his death seems appropriate. After all, it has taken nearly 10 years to hunt him down. This seems an eternity to those who have lost.

I am reminded however, that His word says, "Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." 2Pet 3:8-9

We know that not everyone will come to repentance. We know many have already died apart from a Salvation experience. If "by their fruit you will recognize them," (Mtw 7:16) then can't we assume this man's heart to be blacker than night? Surely he would never come to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thus, it would be appropriate to put him down for good, right? His deeds are hideous!

Then why would the Lord convey, "vengeance is mine" (Rom 12:19-20) and encourage us not to take revenge?

Governments will make decisions that may or may not be in accordance with Scripture. We are subject to our rulers and authorities. According to Mtw 28:18, all authority has been given to our Savior. Romans 13:1 teaches us that "there is no authority except that which God has established."

I am not suggesting we rebel against our government, rather that we extend our Savior's grace and love to those we would rather reject. In doing so, we never know whose life might be changed.

Did he deserve death? Yes! But so do we, and yet we received His grace!

We cannot know or choose who will respond to our Savior. Ours is to be faithful and obedient in bringing them truth and allowing the Holy Spirit to do his thing.

Let us temper our joyfulness over such things with His Word. If we respond as Jesus would, others will take note.