Do What You Can

•November 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

In our recent efforts to “BE” the church instead of merely going to a building we call a church (i.e. Missional Living) I was reminded of an illustration I heard many years ago and that I have used many times as well.

A man walked out to the beach one morning for his daily exercise and was concerned to see that the tide had washed up numerous Star fish which were scattered all over the sand. The poor Star fish would quickly die unless they could somehow make it back into the water. As the man looked down the beach he noticed  a small figure doing something so he started walking in that direction. As he got closer he was able to see that it was a young boy who was picking up the Star fish and throwing them back into the sea. The man admired the boy’s compassion but felt the need to save him all the trouble since there were so many Star fish on the beach. As the boy picked up another Star fish the man said, “Son, I know you are trying to help these poor Star fish but there are so many of them on the beach that you can’t possibly make a difference for all of them.” The young boy looked at the Star fish in his hand, looked up at the stranger and said, “I may not be able to make a difference for all the Star fish but I can sure make a difference for this one.” He then threw the fish into the sea.

This past Sunday we distributed approximately 40 complete Thanksgiving Meals throughout the neighborhoods surrounding the physical building where our Church family meets each week. Each of these meals will feed approximately 6 to 8 depending on the appetites of those eating. The weather was horrible this past Sunday afternoon. It was about 47 degrees and raining. Everything was soaking wet! I was taking a great nap when I suddenly woke up realizing it was time to go. To be honest, I looked outside and thought: “We should have postponed this project.” (I really just didn’t want to end my nap and get out in the cold, wet weather) I was absolutely amazed when I arrived at the church to find so many people scurrying around trying to get all the bags, turkeys, hams, etc. loaded in the automobiles to deliver the meals. I was ashamed of myself when I encountered our people.

The response from people receiving the Meals ranged from absolute shock/disbelief to humble gratitude. All of our “servants” that I have spoken with were deeply moved by the experience. One of our young ladies was told by a recipient that we had blessed her. The response: “NO we are the ones who are receiving the blessing!” One of the most consistent things I heard from others was that they just wished we had more bags with more meals to deliver!!!

This is the point of this blog. I too was thinking about how many people who are in walking distance of our buildings and who also needed some help with food for Thanksgiving. Then it dawned on me. Like the boy who was throwing the Star fish back into the ocean, we couldn’t help everyone but the ones we did help were blessed by the “Missional Obedience” of some special Christ-Followers.

My challenge to our hearts this Thanksgiving season is to simply DO WHAT WE CAN to help someone in need. We will never meet all the needs and we will certainly never run out of needs! But, it may just make an eternal difference in the ones we are able to help. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Ready for Some Good News

•November 19, 2009 • 2 Comments

Do you ever get tired of turning on the News programs and hearing about murders, extortion, political posturing, sexual predators, etc.? I don’t know if the world is getting worse or if we just have too many news shows! I certainly know that they need to stop having an hour and a half to tell you the same bad news with just a little different twist. (don’t get me started on the 24 hour news programs)

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming the “bad news” on our media spin artists. I just wonder if there isn’t as much or more “good things” happening in our world that we never hear about. Have we drifted so far away from any resemblance of LIVING LIFE to the FULLEST that our professional journalists think all we care about is the heart-breaking stuff? (This really is not supposed to be a blog shooting down the journalism industry!)

I was teaching last night and started talking about the vibes we send to others simply by the way we answer the question: “How you doing?” Here are some possible ways people answer this very simple question: “So-So! — Just gettin by — Not TOO Bad — Makin it — Been better! — Fine, you?” Just think about it; someone takes the time to ask how you are getting along in life and you communicate that LIFE pretty much ‘blows!’

God has Created us to LIVE! We are so bogged down by the affairs of this temporary life that our “eternity view” is completely lost. I know this is a struggle for me. I started wondering what I communicate to others simply by the way I respond to their greeting. The GOOD NEWS is more prevalent than the bad stuff in our world. Instead of telling us about the 2 or 3 or 8 people who were shot today, why not share how millions were not shot! Even better, people everywhere today shared warm, encouraging words with someone else; some compassionate healthcare worker changed an invalid patient just to make them more comfortable; someone actually slowed down on the expressway to let another driver in the flow of traffic!! Can you even begin to imagine ALL the GOOD that was done today? Of course you are not going to hear about it on CNN, Fox News, or any local news outlet.

Can I just encourage you to share the GOOD stuff that is all around you with someone whose smile seems to have disappeared? Lately certain stresses of everyday life have been so thick around me. It is so easy to get caught in the vacuum of negative energy! (I sure put off way too much of this stuff) I want to learn how to live the MOMENT; maximize this LIFE God has given me;  and intentionally try to sow good seeds into the lives of others. Life is so fast-paced that it will take great energy to resist the ‘gravity’ of stress and worry and exude that which can bless others.

The Bible says to “do good to others as we have the opportunity.” (Galatians 6:10) Trust me, the opportunities are numerous when we choose to see them. They are right in front of us each day, usually in the form of aggravations. I don’t know all that you have been through or are going through but I do know the Precepts and Principles given in the Bible help us to find that elusive “Abundant Life” right in the midst of our daily battles. SHARE SOME GOOD NEWS!! Maybe if enough people in our world decided to focus more on the GOOD than the Bad, we would see less bad!

VETERANS’ DAY

•November 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I think it is fitting that VETERANS’ Day falls so close to our annual reminder to be Thankful for the great Nation where we get to live. I have some very close friends who have children already deployed to the war zones and others who are in preparation to go. As I ponder what this day must mean to the many families who have lost loved ones or seen their family members “marked” for life because of war, is it really enough?

This past Sunday our Worship Band was leading us in the Praise song that says “I am Free.” Of course we were celebrating our Freedom from Sin’s power and penalty through the Victory won by Jesus. But, as we closed that song I felt led to come up and remind our people of all the Men and Women who are presently serving in our Armed Forces, many who are in danger of being killed or severely injured at any moment. And then what about those who go to war and come back without any obvious scars on their bodies. Only another Soldier would know what they really went through seeing other people die and maybe even being required to take the life of others. There is no way to measure the life-long effects that await these BRAVEST of the BRAVE!!

I just wanted to encourage anyone who may read this to spend time praying for our Soldiers — those who have served and those serving now. And, let’s be intentional about doing this on a daily basis and not just on a one particular day when the Federal agencies and banks are closed. I’m certainly not preaching at anyone — just sharing what I am convicted to do a better job of.

Are we really THANKFUL? How does this most basic and vital of all Attitudes affect what we do each day? Does it make us more patient when waiting in line? Does it make us kind towards our Server who is responsible for more tables than humanly possible? What about the elderly driver that is getting on your last nerve? Can’t we be a little more patient, kind, caring and giving towards our Fellow Americans? Maybe Holidays like THANKSGIVING and VETERANS’ DAY should be more about “demonstrating” our gratitude! What do you think? Let’s go out and make a difference in someone’s life ASAP.

Let the River Flow

•November 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment
A River in Romania

The Psalmist speaks metaphorically of the “BLESSED” person being ”like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3) Since I am an avid lover of the outdoors this image brings a sense of heavenly bliss to my heart and soul. There is nothing more therapeutic for me than the sound of white water pouring over the river’s rocks. Just close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose and let it out as slow as you can through your mouth, and imagine yourself sitting by this gentle river surrounded by the soft breeze of fresh air. It is amazing how God wires us with the ability to travel to the most serene places without ever leaving our homes, jobs, schools, etc.

This image came to me as I emerged from sleep to consciousness this morning. I hovered between these two states in absolute wonder at how God has blessed my life. When I was in Romania I was staying in one of my Pastor friend’s homes. He has 3 precious daughters who are very attentive to their guests. They gave me a coffee cup that had a phrase written on it in Romanian. I asked what the phrase meant and one of the girls told me: “Too Blessed to be Stressed.” I then asked the oldest daughter if she knew what stress was. It was enlightening to see how she described the “Stress” she sees in her parents as they strive to manage all of their life commitments. This started me thinking how my family “Interprets” my countenance, attitudes, etc. in striving to handle all of the things that I am responsible for. I have to tell you, I do a terrible job handling all these things without the influential presence of STRESS.

Today I choose to “Live the Moment” that God has given me. I will never get everything done and it will definitely never turn out exactly like I plan. I spoke at a funeral service yesterday and heard myself telling a family in grief to make the most of every moment and don’t wait until someone dies to be together as a family. I thought, “Why don’t you take that advice?”

This is a “Season” of Thanksgiving. In our Home Groups we are talking about how to be “Missional.” This basically means “Being the Church” not just going to church. We discussed several practical ways we could show our love for God by helping others in need. (And this is certainly a time when many are in need!) If we are living in the reality of God’s blessings on our lives then we can become a blessing for others. But, if we try to add another thing to our calendar we may do a good deed but it will seem more like obligation than ministry.

God’s Blessings are something to be thankful for. They are also supposed to flow through us to other people. Would you take the time today to “Count your many blessings?” (Make a list) Then, open your eyes and see the people in your sphere of influence through the eyes of Christ. Let His blessings FLOW through you to touch someone else. Channeled blessings multiply joy while hoarded blessings enhance stress. The greatest way for us to prove to God how Thankful we are is to give something away that we actually WANT and/or NEED! The ministry of Thanksgiving is waiting to bless us like nothing else can. “LET THE RIVER FLOW!”

Still Learning

•October 30, 2009 • 2 Comments

Remember when we thought our time in school would never end? I remember thinking that I would never have to read another book or solve another mathematical equation that had absolutely no relevance to the “real world.” I mean, after all, how has “Beowolf” or “MacBeth” put any money in my bank account? After leaving our country and returning for over a dozen times now, I realize how much we are still in the classroom. The “Lessons” we are assigned each day may sometimes seem as irrelevant as those monotonous chemistry symbols or the theorms of geometry (my all-time worst subject!) But, when we stop to process that which invades our realm of consciousness, we may be surprised by the advantages they bring to our life.

While our objective for going to Romania on this last trip were well defined, I somehow felt that there was something more for me to do (or perhaps learn). Like many of us do, I sought to put my own “spin” on what I thought it was that I would experience. Then, as the trip rapidly progressed, I realized that nothing unexpected or unusual was happening. I began to wonder if our extreme busyness was keeping me from experiencing the “deeper” things that God wanted me to learn. Could it be that our everyday lives are basically doing the same thing to us today? We are staying so busy that the major things God is trying to teach us seem to be irrelevant at the time when we are experiencing them. When we view our daily lives as monotonous activity we may fail to learn some of our most beneficial, relevant lessons.

AS I try to evaluate this last trip out of our great country, I still cannot say for sure that God taught me this… or that God wanted me to go on this trip because… Since I am the kind of personality that puts a great deal of emphasis and importance on results, I fear that many of the things God wants to teach me are overshadowed by my pursuit of successful endeavors.

I do realize that my thoughts of how it would be to share the Love of Christ with the people of Romania were not realized. The people that I did get to talk to were either saved or just as disinterested as the people I encounter many times here in America (in the deep south where I live). I have many times felt like God wanted me to do something for someone else in an attempt to tell them about His love only to experience something totally different when the time came. The question that consumes my thought world right now is: “Why is it so difficult to share with others something that is greater than any other experience we can have on this earth?”

Are we expending our greatest resources on things that have no eternal value at all? Are the seconds passing by right now filled with deeper truths than I am aware of? Are the things we reach for closer and more obvious than we think? Maybe you could offer some help in “making sense” out of these ambiguous lessons. Any thoughts?

Home Again

•October 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

After boarding many different airplanes, rushing to find the right gates at airports, and just sitting for a very long time, we made it home. The travel to and from Romania is very tiring. But, it is just a part of the deal. We are honored that God has allowed us to once again go and serve His Kingdom in the great country of Romania. We have been blessed beyond description. The Christians we work with in Romania are very devoted to our Lord. This always challenges the level of growth I experience day-to-day.

In trying to assess the progress of another trip to Romania it occurred to me how much has been accomplished since the first time I went to the village of Sanger. I vividly remember being taken to preach in this village in 2005 on a trip we made to work on a church building in another village. The small group was meeting in a borrowed facility right beside the village’s school. I told the guys with us on that trip that I really felt like this was a place where something significant could be done.

After that trip, we were blessed with a significant gift by a committed Believer and started looking for property in Sanger. God blessed us with a very large piece of property that already had a house and some other structures on it that the church could use until a building could be constructed. Now, on these last two trips God has allowed us to build a facility for the church in that village to meet in and for the children to have a place to have their day-camps. Now the dream I first saw in 2005 has become a reality. The church has property and facilities to help them do the work of our Lord in their own community! When looking at what has been accomplished it is amazing. Especially since our church is so small, limiting our ability to finance this work.

Everything that has been accomplished is the result of numerous Christians doing whatever they can. It is many people giving all size gifts and not just a few giving a lot. I believe this is the way God expects us to accomplish His Visions on this earth. Only God can get the credit for what has been accomplished because we could not do it any other way. This also reminds me that He is also ABLE to supply for the future work in this area of the world.

Please pray for God’s CLARITY as we look to the future. Another church in the city of Cluj, Romania has asked us to provide construction teams for a Christian Camp facility on some property they have in the mountains. We toured this property on Sunday, October 25th, and all I can say is WOW! It is some beautiful land with a white water stream running right through it. The church has used summer and fall camps to build their church (over 500 members now) and has some great plans for this property that was given to them to develop something major for our Lord’s work.

Since buildings constructed out of wood are rare in Romania, they need guys from our churches to come and frame up these buildings. They can do a lot of the other construction. Please pray about possibly being involved in this future opportunity.

For all of you who prayed for our team while in Romania; gave to help us financially or any other way, let me say THANK YOU! Look what God has done and dream with me about what He still plans to do!!! God Bless.

Mission Accomplished

•October 24, 2009 • 1 Comment
We are now back in the city of Cluj after working very hard, long hours on the church building in Sanger. The last two and half days were very draining — in a very good way! After putting on Drywall “mud” and sanding it for many hours, I commented to the team that there were only two people whom I would do this for: Jesus and Lisa! We finally did get the main church room sanded and now have two coats of paint on the ceiling and walls. (Thanks to our faithful Partners from Romania) Now I am able to sit back and relax a bit as well as enjoy a good hot shower! Actually, a wonderful Brother from another village let us come to shower in his home twice while we were there. Praise the Lord!!

Basically the church only needs to get the flooring installed and the wood stove heater put in and they can start meeting in the new building. Those who came by during the week are so excited about having this new facility to meet together and praise the Lord! The children who came provide much encouragement that God can do great things in this village. There are so many children in this particular village. I think that is why God drew my heart to work with Pastor Marius in Sanger, Romania.

Thanks to so many of you we were able to come and work for about 8 days in July and 7 days on this trip and see something amazing accomplished. We are all tired physically but are rejoicing in our Spirits! (I also just learned that they are turning the clocks back one hour tonight so we get an extra hour of sleep — AMEN!) Here are a few pictures from the last couple of days…

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The Power of NOW!

•October 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Making Progress
Making Progress

Over the past 6 years it has been my privilege to come to Romania and PARTNER with fellow Christ- Followers in the work of building God’s Kingdom. The blessings I have received and continue to receive far outweigh anything I could bring to our “Family” here in Romania. After being in 7 different countries on this globe, I have learned how many of God’s blessings Americans have in comparison to other places in the world. I am proud to be an American! While I love to travel, see God’s great big world, and partner with loving Christian people, I always love to get back home. I miss my wife Lisa, my children Matthew and Ashley, and my other family members. I also miss our Church family. Without many of them it would not be possible for us to be here!

                For many years I struggled with going home because of the discrepancy in our abundance when compared to the limited resources of other people in the world. Surely the inequality must not be pleasing to God! Don’t get me wrong, I know that America is not the only place in this world where His Abundant blessings are plentiful! The difference in my mind is that I truly believe America was established by God to be a “Light” to the nations of the world! It is my conviction that God has blessed the USA abundantly so that we would be a LIGHT to the other nations of the world! The more America has drifted from our foundation, the more uncertain our future has become. Many people are looking to Washington, D.C. for help when the Psalmist told us hundreds of years ago that “our help comes from the Lord.” (cf. Psalm 121)

                I wrestle with thoughts concerning what someone like me could do to change some of these inequalities? Why has God allowed me to experience other cultures, see first-hand how blessed I have been, and struggle with the inequalities of abundance among people whom I know He loves equally? My answers are not profound or exhaustive. Simply put: God is always at work in our lives and in the lives of those we encounter on a daily basis. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it is our responsibility to SERVE the causes of our Lord wherever He has placed us. Today, whether you are involved in the activities of your normal day or on adventures others only dream about, SERVE God with ALL of your HEART!!! Like the old hymn says:

“Little is much when God is in it; Labor not for wealth or fame.

There’s a crown and you can win it; If you’ll go in Jesus’ name.”

We continue to make progress on the church building in Sanger Village, Romania. The drywall work is taking longer than expected. Because of the cold, wet conditions the “mud” is not drying properly. We have to get all the finish work done so we can get the inside painted, the windows trimmed out, and the electrical things installed. At this time it does not look like we will be able to get the bathroom ready, the floor covering installed or the wood stove for heat placed in the church. But these are things that they can do after we have returned home. We believe the church building will be ready for the church to meet in this winter!! Hallelujah.

            Please continue to pray for us today. Right now it is about 7:00am and the other guys are sleeping. I am praying now for each of them to be strong for our tasks today. I am growing to love all these guys in a deeper way. I respect them and their families greatly for making this journey with me. Each of our team members have spouses and young children at home. I know they miss each other greatly! These spouses are just as much a part of this team as those who are here. Without supportive family members our time here would not be possible! THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR FAMILY MEMBERS. WE LOVE YOU!! (And our Romanian Family longs to meet all of you!)

Solo de Gloria! TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY BOTH NOW AND FOREVERMORE!

“Beyond Comprehension”

•October 21, 2009 • 3 Comments

Have you ever been asked to do something that you knew was beyond your capacity? It seems that most of our tasks in this life are determined by what we think we can do. We attempt to utilize the resources at our discretion to accomplish what we feel CAN be done. It occurred to me yesterday how God has CALLED us to come to a country that we know little about for a task that is much greater than anything we can do. We understand how to build a “Physical” structure for the People of God to have their meetings in. God has also shown us how HE Supernaturally stretches the resources to complete this project.

 

But, in the midst of our frantic pace to accomplish our objectives in such a short span of time, I am acutely aware of the things that exceed ALL of our RESOURCES (i.e. Our knowledge, money, time, etc.). While we can construct a building we cannot make people come. While we can share our testimony and explain to people how to be saved, we cannot make people accept Jesus Christ as their Savior! God is the Only One who can DRAW people to Himself. We are called to have Compassion on those who are in Spiritual Darkness and to do everything we can to help them SEE Jesus in us. But, we have no ability to make this Most Critical of ALL decisions for them. So, today I am asking God to keep me centered on His Love for Me and anticipating the accomplishments He will make today that far exceed my limitations.

 

So far this week (in spite of much rain) we are making good progress on the Church building in Sanger. The Team is working very hard on all of our tasks. Some are dealing with physical sickness and tired bodies. Please pray for God to keep all of our TEAM members healthy and strong for the TASK He has called us to accomplish here in Romania. Pray for the people who see the building being completed to come and hear the messages that will be shared in this place. Pray for the children. They are in school now so many of them were not able to come for the activities yesterday. We are having the “Bible Camp” in the morning one day and then in the afternoon the next day. Pray for our Romanian partners. Many of them have other commitments to meet and cannot stay with us for this work. Pray for the ones who have faithfully served with us in this great Calling.

 

We continue to wrestle with tension between challenges in our physical realm (i.e. physical weariness; irritations over trying to get things accomplished without some needed resources; human relations; etc.) and the “Struggles” we face in the Spiritual Realm. Each time I find myself at a point wondering why I am so far from home, missing my family, trying to build something so foreign to the people in this culture, etc. God sends someone into my sphere of consciousness to remind me why I am here. As I walked the muddy, cold road to the church this morning, (Wednesday) I simply prayed in my Spirit “God is this where you want me right now?” Without hesitation HE affirmed my calling to be here.

My deep love for our Romanian Brothers and Sisters is growing. They are so faithful and committed to the Lord! They are wonderful hosts (I never eat this much every day!). They treat us like royalty. Last night the guys were blessed to be able to go and take a hot shower at one of the Believer’s houses in a neighboring village. THANK YOU LORD!!!!! We have much to try and accomplish today on the building. Please pray for our Team. Kim continues to be sick and has been in the hotel for a couple of days. Pray that she will be well enough today to come and share in this ministry. Pray for the children to come to the day camp. The weather and their school schedule has prohibited them from coming as they usually do. Even though smaller numbers of children are coming, those who are here bless us immensely!

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STAY TUNED!

Update From Romania

•October 19, 2009 • 5 Comments

Well I finally have an internet connection here in Romania. (I am sitting in Marius’ car outside an establishment that serves fire water!) We are all here safely and everyone is doing great! TJ and Paul arrived yesterday. WE had wonderful meetings with the people yesterday. The children performed a drama on the story of the Prodigal Son yesterday afternoon. The parents and others in the village were invited. There were probably about 65 people there. The children did a wonderful job. I had the privilege of sharing my testimony following the play and encouraged the people to search their hearts and allow Jesus Christ to come in. Please pray for God’s DRAWING power upon these who have heard the message of Salvation.

I have a video of the Construction progress thus far but the upload speed is very slow where I am. We are very pleased with the work the Romanians have done on the building. With God’s help I believe we will be able to have the building ready for the church to meet in. We have brought enough money to get the primary things done. We will not be able to complete the building in its entirety but will make it to where they can use it for worship and the children’s programs for the rest of the winter.

Pray with us about the continuing work in Sanger. Pray also about your involvement in this opportunity to partner with some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Like Paul said this morning (as only Paul can), “God knows who He wants to come and what He wants each of us to do!” Well said Paul. Many of you back home are wanting to come. Begin now saving whatever money you can and get your passport! Take the first steps and then God will do the rest.

I have some pictures and video to show you but the upload speed on this connection is very, very, very slow. I will try to see if I can find a faster connection so you can see what we are doing. For those who are on facebook check there and I will try to post some media there.

God Bless!

 
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