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Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankful

It's a dastardly scheme of the enemy's. A devastating blow against the Christian walk when a believer does not have the Christ as the Lord over his life. So easily do the attractions of the world creep in and arrest our attention. We turn from the reason for  our existence and allow our minds to grow dusty in regards to how we think of Christ.

When materialism, or social help, or Christian ministry, or community service, or hedonism, or any other entity or idea other than Christ becomes our aim, we are trapped in a temporal state of mind.

I drove down from Ohio to Georgia last Tuesday. I was concerned about money and the maintenance I had to perform on my car. I had just gotten my oil changed and was forcefully warned about all of the different ways my car could spontaneously combust at any moment if I didn't immediately drop $1,000 on it. Driving to Georgia, I began to worry and fret about finances. Need I elaborate? I think everybody's been here before. Sometimes worry just grips you and numbs your mind with fear. It's eerily consuming.


But at the same time I was thinking and pondering how to maintain an eternal perspective on life. 


I'm tired of falling in the trap of losing perspective and I want out. I don't want my thoughts to be consumed with what to get who for Christmas, or where am I going to get money for ______ , how long will it take us to raise support? I want to live with the big picture, the eternal picture in mind. This earth will fade away. Its pleasures, its politics, its popularity, and its positions. That is why Jesus said that the first shall be last. Everything will be flipped upside down and shaken up. 


My mind flicked back from one to the other. Money, Christ, money, Christ.

It is only when we have Christ as the center and definition of our very being (Gal 2:20) that we live in light of the way things really are. If everything in life is going fine, I think it's easy to lose sight of this. The happy, stable person is in danger of losing touch with reality. The person who is concerned about finances for the good of his own family is at risk of losing the most valuable thing he has. As I asked God how to maintain my grasp on reality, I was lead again to think about my financial situation. 


Finally I realized that only when we choose to believe what Jesus tells us, and live like we believe it, will we be able to keep our priorities in order. 

I must choose to trust Christ with my finances and actively rebel against the thoughts of worries and tight-fisted temptations that come my way. This is one way to keep Christ at the center. Thank you, God, this Thanksgiving, for a difficult financial situation to keep me trusting in you.



Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

(Matthew 6:25b-33 ESV)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Piggy Bank

Jonathan and I had an open house this past weekend. Maybe the timing was wrong or the location was too far--- regardless, we had very poor attendance. Being a very positive person, this was what threw me into the ocean of reality. However,  God is very intentional, so we started thinking about a different direction God would have us take in getting to Costa Rica.

Considering we live in a college town... 
God has put us in this location, home of Miami University, for a specific reason. I believe one of the reasons is to help students understand stewardship. Maybe God is wanting us to ask for support not from established individuals but from the poor, college student who can only give up a coffee a week.

I just finished Andy Stanley's Fields of Gold. The book does a wonderful job of addressing stewardship and what prevents us from giving. Fear is the reason Andy suggests why we don't give back to God. We're afraid that when it comes down to it we won't have enough. Or when it comes time to give, we have nothing left. We ask what will we eat? What will we wear? Doesn't Jesus address this concern in the Beatitudes? See Matthew 5 to address those fears. I could say a lot more about what I learned, and maybe I should later in its own post.

Anyways, I believe God wants us to take the opportunity to challenge students to cast off their fear of giving and trust God to provide. It's His money anyways. He doesn't need our money to get what He wants done, but He allows us the chance to join His work-- to be a part of His plan. It will be a much longer process if we're talking about $10 a month from students. However, if God is able to use us to direct them to be good stewards, then the gain is so much more!

P.S. The picture of Patrick was to make people view the post

Sunday, November 13, 2011

God is in Control

I am more than eager to go to Costa Rica. This picture of the youth group is the background for our computer. Every time I see it, which is often, I pray for the students that they would seek God and find Him. I pray for the young women that they would find fulfillment, satisfaction, love, and encouragement from God in His Word. I pray that the youth will desire to know God and know His Word. I pray for Jonathan and I that we will be leaders worthy of this ministry He has called us to. We pray that He will use this time in preparing for Costa Rica to teach us how we can better minister to these students.

There are so many different ways God has made it clear that He desire for us to go to Costa Rica. I'll have to write a post about all the different ways at another point. We trust that God will provide the necessary funds for us to actually go and be the youth directors. However, it is challenging to trust Him when things aren't going at the rapid pace we desire. We're supposed to be at 50% support by January to be able to attend a conference that is necessary for us to be in Costa Rica by August. Right now we are at 5% support. Reaching our goal seems impossible, but it provides a great opportunity for God to show Himself and to show us that He desires us to be in CR and to show all finances are ultimately His. Lord, we have great faith that You are capable!

I am an extremely positive/optimistic person. I've really enjoyed this process of telling people about Costa Rica and watching them respond. I've been blown away by people's generosity and praise people for their stewardship  However, today was the first day that the 45% remaining has seemed too big, too hard, and too impossible. Please pray that Jonathan and I will continue to know that if God wants us there that He will provide. In our hearts we know it's true, but mathematically it seems really crazy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ready to Climb

Last Thursday, two of my Youth Climbing Team students made me very proud. They led up our indoor wall.

There are two type of rock climbing with a rope: the first is top-roping, where you have an anchor at the top. The rope goes from the climber, up to the anchor, and down to the belayer, who takes up the slack as the climber moves up the wall. 

Lead climbing is the second type, where the rope is tied to the climber, and as he moves up the wall he clips the rope into anchor points in the wall along the way. The belayer feeds more slack to the climber as he moves up the wall. If a climber were to fall top-roping, he would fall maybe 2 feet. In lead climbing, you fall the slack to where you last clipped in to an anchor--and that much more (if you're 5 ft above you're anchor, you fall 10). 
Where as top-roping can require no previous experience, lead climbing requires hard work at skill and technique. I had these two students training on more and more difficult routes while still top roping. I pulled them aside and had them do special exercises. Finally, I had them practice their clipping again and again and again and again and again. I probably made one student practice clipping in the rope about 50 times each practice. Why? Because little minute stuff like that will make or break your climb. Clipping needs to be second nature. Lead climbing is about climbing, not about clipping. New lead climbers tend to focus their energies on making the next clip, and not on the climb itself.

A parallel comes to mind of my spiritual life. Walking with the Lord, it's the seemingly minute stuff that can make me stumble. Things that should be second nature: like prayer. If prayer is not second nature in a believer's life, you know he hasn't been praying much. How easily prayers come to my lips is directly connected with how often I've been praying. What happens when prayer does not come easily? My energies are spent trying to figure out how to pray. My attention to how I stumble over words. If my life is all about glorifying God, and I can't even pray a simple prayer, I need to get some things straightened out. 



The same goes for reading my Bible, worshiping, and being generous with what I'm entrusted with. We need to be able to get these things right, so that when practice is over we're ready to climb.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First loved us

Patrick stealing his first cookie
Patrick loves to talk. He'll babble all day to anyone or anything. The other day I heard him saying his normal "Dadada  dat dat dat adadad," so I went to check on him. He was talking to the baby on the diaper box! With his constant attempt to communicate-- and my linguistics background-- I'm very interested in how he'll soon start to understand and even say more words. This got me thinking....

How is Patrick going to understand the word love? I say "Patrick, I love you" about 20+ times a day, but what will that mean to him? How will he learn to understand love? Then it dawned on me... Patrick will understand love because I demonstrate it's meaning to him. I comfort him when he cries. I feed him when he's hungry. I play with him and cuddle with him. I consistently show Patrick that I love him. He'll understand love because I love him and demonstrate it. 

1 John 4 came to life in this context. Verse 19 states: "We love because he first loved us."  Verse 9 and 10 shows how God loves: "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 

What a great responsibility Jonathan and I have to demonstrate love to Patrick. What a blessing that God teaches us how to love and displayed His love in such a powerful way that enables us to love others!