2 John 1:6

2 John 1:6
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.
As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love

Friday, July 18, 2014

Teamwork, Soccer, and the Church

Last Sunday, I had a great afternoon playing soccer on a team with our boys.  I was so impressed by how well they worked together as a team.  How they passed the balls and recognized the skill of other kids who had a greater ability to score.  But other times they passed to those who needed help learning to play and sharing the ball even knowing the kid receiving the pass would not have the ability to keep it. Sometimes they even passed it to me and soccer it not one of my strengths.

                Teamwork in ministry is so important because we have many people with many different gifts and at different parts of their walk.  Sometimes we are tempted to do everything by ourselves because we do not know we can trust others or if others are ready to be given a chance.  It is Just like when I saw the older boys pass the ball off to younger, newer, and less skilled players.  Inwardly my competitive side did not want to see the younger kids given the ball.  But, I know for the game to continue to be fun and competitive these boys need to get their time to practice and develop.  In the end we had a great game everybody had lots of fun and my team still won (probably not because of my contribution)!  I bet the next game will better and I will be better because I was given a chance.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

                This scripture and this ideas is one of my favorite subjects from the New Testament; the Church Body and us working together to accomplish God's plans.  I like how the model that God gave us for the Church is one of interdependence.  As a mission ministry we can benefit from these same part of the body that Paul talks about.  It is exciting for me to get to know all the people I work with and see how they fit to make our ministry stronger and better.  I am better too when I recognize where my gifting and skills end and other need to fill in my weaknesses.  And I also need to give others a chance to put there gift to work and watch their skills develop. 

I pray… God help me recognize my strengths and gifts and help me to serve, but also help me recognize my weakness and the strengths in others so we can serve better together.  Lord give me the desire to pass off ministry when I lack the skill to continue forward and to those who need to fully develop in to the body part you have for them.  Help us to work the best together to accomplish the ministry you have laid out for us to accomplish.  AMEN

Celebrating Adam 8th birthday in our new home in Honduras!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Power of Attitude!

Philippians 4:8
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

                In the letter to the Philippians, Paul spends a lot of time talking about attitude.  I believe his reason for taking this time sharing about this subject is this: he realizes that attitude can blind our eyes to reality.  I believe that the feeling we experience when we judge our life experiences can be skewed by our attitude, and it affects how we see the direction of our life.  And our enemy wants us to miss out on the opportunity to thank our God for the good he has placed in our life.

                As we learn from following the life of Paul, through the book of Acts he did not have the easiest life.  We see: he was unjustly jailed, he had falling out with friends, and ministry partners desert him.  He had his share of bad experiences, but he also had an incredible ministry. He brought the Church to much of the known world!  I believe he had been witness to the bad attitudes and misdirected focus, he had to make this same choice every day and had to watch people he cared lose this battle and leave the ministry.   Look at these 2 passages of scripture: (an example of partner to deserter)

Colossians 4:14 - Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas.

2 Timothy 4:10a - Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica.

                I know that in many times in my life and ministry I have missed the joys of service by focusing on my negative experience.  I felt I was treated unjustly or my effort was disregarded, but these small irritations stole the joy from the majority of my life and the blessing I was witnessing.   In reality I have been blessed over and above by the opportunities to serve and by the lives I have touched and by the people who have blessed my family. 

                Every day I have opportunities to miss out on the joy of life.  Or to express praise to my God for the many blessing.  Today I am choosing to “Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise!”

PRAISE!  This week we welcomed 4 new boys to the Ranch, brothers ages 4-13!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Learning to LISTEN!

     In language school, you would think the hardest thing to do would be to learn all of the new vocabulary.   I am realizing that the vocabulary alone does not help on it’s own.  More importantly, you need to learn to listen for the new language.   I know much more vocabulary then I can hear in conversation.  I know the words, but I am unable to pick them out in a string of words spoken to me or a slight cold changes easy to understand words into something sounding garbled.

     As I was sitting studying for class, I began to think about this reality process.  We know so much about God’s language through studying his word, sitting through many sermons, Sunday school classes, retreats, and so on and so on.  We have learned to recognize God’s word on paper, and given out in sermons.  But, what about listening to God as we go about real life?  Have we tuned our ears to hear God speak to us?

     I came to Honduras because God spoke to my heart about his desire for me to be here ministering.  But, I did not hear God speak to me about it before October 2012.  I am not sure I was taking time to actively listen.  In October, I had stepped away from my normal life to serve in Honduras short term.  I had left my distractions behind.  I am certain God had been preparing me for this ministry for sometime, but I was too focused on my native language (my wants, my fears, my goals and aspirations), to be aware of God speaking his words into my life.

     The real trick to understanding language is to learn to focus on new sounds and filter them out of the noises that surround us.  Do sometimes we let God’s voice become background noise and allow our native language to take our focus?  In the sheep pen there is lots of bleating and other noises, are we focusing on the right voice and ready to follow?

     We learn to listen by listening.  I live in a country that speaks Spanish.  I hear it everywhere I go.  But I only listen when I take time to focus on the words filling the air around me, I have 38 years of practice at filtering out all but English.  I am learning Spanish, but I will only understand when I train my ears to respond to the spoken word.

John 10:24-27
 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

 The Bible helps us practice listening to God ‘s language without some of the noise in life to distract us. This is why we study his word to learn and to recognize the sounds of God!  In this passage Jesus says his works are speaking to the people testifying to who he is.  But the Jewish people could not filter it out of their native language (their hopes, dreams goals and personal aspirations for the messiah).  They knew the vocabulary but did not know how to listen.

It is my goal to take more time to learn to listen to God’s voice.  To practice separating his voice from the noises that fill the air and my mind.  Please take time to listen and learn to respond with me to God's voice, and then take one step at a time walking in obedience.

One of my kids favorite books is With You all the Way  by Max Lucado.  It is a great kids story about listening for God's voice.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Orphan Care 4- Suffering?

            Hosea 1:2-3
 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”  So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

                 Wow!  I know you are probably wondering where I am going with a passage of scripture like this.  But, the point that I want people to understand is that God calls us to do difficult things.  Orphan care is no different and this principle applies to all ministries, but I think this can be confusing for people that sacrifice their lives to help children. 

                If you are like me it is so easy to get caught up with the pictures of beautiful kids and our hearts get tugged as we want to alleviate their suffering.  But, these cute kids are really just regular people in cute containers.  And since they are normal people they will have the same afflictions we all deal with greed, anger, disobedience, stubbornness, un-forgiveness, meanness, and hatred. There is no guarantee that the individuals we bless with good intentions will ever respond the way we expect. 
                But, God calls people to do hard things.  Hosea was a man of God, I doubt Gomer was at the top of his list for his future wife, even her name does not sound pleasant.  Hopefully, he had cute nickname for her.  Hosea was willing to tell his people about God, and demonstrate it through this difficult relationship.  He continued to follow God's leading, even when he had to go and purchase his wife out of prostitution.

                We do not do ministry of any kind because it is good for us.  In fact, at times it is hard and will be hard.  We will be rejected, picked on, and people will be downright mean to us, that is what Jesus tells us (John 15:19-21).  We do it because we are called to love how God loved us.  Most of us have heard about the mother who sent her child back to Russia. LINK I do not know the full story, but it is clear that the mother did not understand that taking this step forward to adopt would require suffering.  In returning the child she may have done what was best for her and kept her from suffering,but at the expense of harming this young boy. 

Romans 5:6-8

 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

God understands suffering and knew his love may never be reciprocated.  God demonstrated a love that is willing to suffer for the benefit of others.  There will be times of suffering when we give our hearts to others, but it is temporary because God also promises times of celebration.  Yes, children will break our hearts and make us question why we even tried in the first place.  But, some of the children will be transformed, because they give their lives to Christ.

I know this is a bit of a downer this Christmas Season, but remember we do not celebrate this holiday just because Jesus was born.  We celebrate His birth because of Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die for our benefit.  Without this truth, this Christmas celebration would have died out years ago or would have never caught on.  That is why Jesus' birth is so significant, because He gave more then He would ever receive back for people who may not truly fully appreciate His sacrifice.  We are not asked to do something that God has not already done for us!

 Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Orphan Care – Part 3 Is it really needed?

             As I had said all along I am kind of new to the need for orphan care around the world.  It seems to me like I know lots of people who have adopted or who are on a waiting list to adopt.  If there is a huge need how come it is so hard to find a child to adopt?  In 2012 in the United States there were 8,668 international adoptions this is down from 22,991 in 2004. LINK  There is even a larger number of children adopted from foster care in our country every year, about 52,000 in 2010. LINK

These Adoption statistics are all great numbers, but the number of orphans around the world is increasing every day.  It is estimated that there are 42,000 new orphans per day; that is 29 per minute! LINK  If you do the math you will figure out that adoption just scratches the surface and the problem is HUGE! The need is overwelming... But, the cost of adoption and the regulations surround adoption make this solution an impossible option.  It is a very good option, but there will always be more children in need of a homes than homes avaible for children.  That is where ministries like Rancho Ebenezer become very valuable. 
 In many other countries there are many things, illness, wars, displacement, and extreme poverty affecting what it means to be an orphan.  Just like in the United States, there are many kids that are adopted out of foster care that may have at least one living parent, but for many reasons their parents can no longer care for the children.  UNICEF counts children as orphans in developing countries when at least one parent has died and it is difficult to raise a family without the help of their spouse.  So many kids are considered orphans because they no longer have suitable parental care but, they still have connections to their community.  Which means orphan care has to be done near their home in order to maintain their ties to their community.
Now if we look back at what God wants for His people in the Bible (read earlier blogs: Orphan Care 1&2), He wants His people to be a father to the fatherless.  This really throws the doors open and we realize what a blessing we can be if we respond to God’s vision for our lives.  Why do I say this?  In America we have an epidemic of fatherlessness, about a third of all children live in Fatherless homes! LINK  This problem gives us an opportunity to serve children.  It is unfortunate that the reality is that many people are working hard at exploiting these children.

 What I want you to understand is my family is called to serve the fatherless children in Honduras.  But, there are many opportunities for others to serve here in our country.   As Jen and I look back over our years of ministry one thing stands out, God has called us to serve the fatherless, only now it's the fatherless that are in Honduras.  Maybe your home town is your mission field?
             God wanted His people to be a blessing to others; in His wisdom He pointed people in the direction of the Fatherless.  Because of death, illness, poverty and sin, He understood this need would always be in our world.  He has helped His people be a blessing to the world by guiding our lives into the path of children who are in much need of help. 

Do I believe we will solve the issue of fatherless in our World?  No…  But it does not mean we cannot work to impact those in our community.   I would rather be able to impact one child at a time than attempt to solve all the world’s problems, and miss the one child I could have blessed.   Is there a fatherless child you can bless today?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Orphan Care Part 2 - Empathy and Compassion

This is a brief conversation my 7 year-old son Adam and I had on the way home from school on Wednesday:

   Adam:  Dad do you know what Empathy and Compassion are?
   Me: Yeah, but what do you think it means?

   Adam:  Well, Empathy is trying to feel and understand what others feel.
   Me: Ok, so what is Compassion?

   Adam:  Compassion is feeling what others feel and then doing something about it like helping them or saying kind things to help them feel better.
   Me:  So how is that like what we will be doing in Honduras? 

   Adam:  Well we visited the ranch, and met all the kids without parents.  We are showing compassion because we are going back to help them.

                I watched a little video about a fight on black Friday where three women were fighting over who knows what, but a person standing there was concerned enough to pull out a camera to film.  The most startling thing about the video was not the fighting itself, but the lack of action taken by those in the crowd of shoppers. 
                It is not that people did not have empathy.  I am sure there were people in the crowd who felt the same frustration as these women.  Some, may have even sided in their heads with the women they felt were in the right.  Empathy comes in bucket loads at times, but empathy is not enough.  How come no one stepped into stop the fight?  Empathy did not stop the fight; empathy just recorded and took in the pain.

                As followers of Jesus, we need to move past empathy and embrace compassion.  We can watch the news or hear about people’s pain and feel the prick of pain in our hearts.  But, God wanted a world where people acted.  He did not want people just to know about others pains, but He wanted people willing to partner with them to alleviate their suffering. 
                As I said in my last post, God commanded his people to respond in action, because He knows it is easier to have empathy than compassion.  He knows it is the human tendency to be spectators of the destruction going on in our world.  I hear people complain constantly about the state of our world, but what steps are we willing to take to show compassion to one person at a time. 

                In the story of Ruth, she is a widow and a foreigner.  She has been reduced to gleaning in fields to provide for her mother in-law.  She was gleaning in Boaz's field. Boaz could have happily let her pick through the passed over crops and known she had food to eat.  But he was moved with compassion and went beyond just empathy; he redeemed her and took her as his wife when her intended redeemer would not.  The whole story can be found in the book of Ruth in the Bible.
                I think some of you could argue that Boaz showed compassion by allowing Ruth to glean, but I think that would just be showing empathy.  It is kind of like saying we are showing compassion by paying taxes to help those on welfare.  Meeting needs out of moral or mandated obligation does not always mean weare being compassionate, but sometimes the opposite happens and we are resentful of these people who need help.  God wants our compassion to inspire us to invest in the lives of others.  Jesus called this type of compassion discipleship. 

Matthew 9:35-37

 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Matthew 28:19-20

 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
            In Matthew 9:35-37, Jesus feels the pain of his people and states his need for harvest workers.  His command to his Harvest workers is stated in Matthew 28:19-20.  According to Jesus, how do you show compassion? By making disciples! This is the kind of compassion God wants his people to show, it is beyond just the finacial obligation to care for fatherless (widows or foreigners).  It extends to how much we are willing to personally invest into the lives of people.  Jesus' discipleship meant personal investment.  If you want to gain more understanding, read the Gospels to see how Jesus invested in the lives of his disciples over the 3 years they were together.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Orphan Care Explained Part 1

            A few Sundays back I preached on Orphan care,  I thought it would be good to share on my blog what God has taught me. It would be too long to post the whole document, so I am going to break it up over the next few weeks.

Deuteronomy 24:17-22- Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.

            First, you have to understand how God valued orphan care from the foundations of his people.  He states other commands and curses for neglecting the widow, foreigner, and orphan over 13 times in the law and 40 times in the Old Testament.  The Prophets condemn the people for neglecting the fatherless.  This act of caring was to be an identifying component to the life of the Jewish people. 

            His law gave instructions to how this was to be done through the systems of tithes and generosity.  God also gave his people warnings and curses, it was not a casual request; it was a mandate.  But it seemed to be bigger than just dealing with the symptoms of fatherlessness or poverty.  The best stories in the Bible present this generosity toward the widow, foreigner, or orphan through discipleship or true investment.  Think of the storys of Ruth, or Esther.

             In Job 31:17-18 Job explains that he has cared for the fatherless as he would his own children.  He saw the care extending past the financial obligations of the law and became a father to the fatherless.  

            I know we tend to ignore statements from the law as outdated or legalistic.  Jesus did come to fulfill the law, but I believe this goes beyond the Law to the heart of God.  In Psalms 68, David identifies God as a father to the fatherless; he goes on to say God sets the lonely in families.  God wants his people to reflect his character to the world; it is just one more way to shine the light. 

            I believe that God in his foreknowledge saw the reality of the orphan problem.  He knew that they would be impoverished and easily taken advantage of; he knew that the poor would always be with us.  But he also knew, it was an opportunity for his followers to impact the world one life at a time.