Wednesday, June 27, 2012

point of departure

Acts 1:1-11

In my mind, there are two very important concepts here that Jesus gave His disciples as He departed.  First, the main objective of why we are still here on earth - to share Jesus with others:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

First challenge question:  Am I consistently telling people what I have witnessed Jesus do in my life?

Second point, the angels told them how long we have to accomplish this objective (i.e., until Jesus returns):

11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

Second challenge question:  Am I living in constant expectation of Christ's return?

Heavenly Father, please give me discernment to clearly realize opportunities to share Jesus with others, and please give me boldness to tell people about what I have witnessed Jesus do in my life.  Lord Jesus, I want to be expecting your return.  I want to live in constant conscious awareness of your imminent return, and I pray that this expectation will practically sanctify the way that I live my life.  I love you, and I want to know you.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 25, 2012

catching fish

John 21:1-14

I am impressed by the similarities between the the day that Jesus first called Peter and the gang to be his disciples (Luke 5:1-11), and when Jesus appeared to them again at the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection.

In both cases, they had fished all night and caught nothing.  Then Jesus (a carpenter) instructed the fishermen to try again.  (By the way, I wonder if God allows us to have an unproductive season sometimes so that when we finally obey His prompting, He really gains our attention.)  In the first case, after He got their attention, Jesus told them that they would be fishing for men.  I wonder if, after Jesus's death and resurrection, Peter and the gang had returned to fishing for fish because they didn't yet have a clear directive from Jesus.  I wonder if, after they obeyed Jesus and threw their nets on the other side and caught a huge group of fish, Peter was remembering that day when Jesus called them to be fishers of men.  I wonder if Peter was thinking that he was neither a good fisher of fish nor a good fisher of men.

Heavenly Father, please help me obey you.  Lord, please help me pay attention to you.  I want to be a fisher of men, and I want to trust that you will provide for my family.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Last week, we read the book Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen.  I have known that I need to have more solitude for growing in my relationship with the Lord, but I simply haven't implemented it.  My goal is to set aside time to walk/run and be quiet to listen to the Lord each morning.

This book emphasized three points.  First, we need solitude, because it allows us to connect with the Lord and disconnect from the world.  Second, solitude allows us to focus on genuinely caring for people, as opposed to mechanically trying to cure people.  And third, through solitude, we develop an increasing expectation for Christ's return.

Jn 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Heavenly Father, please help me develop a practice of focusing on you.  You are important, and I want to show you that by practically taking time to listen to you.  Please help me grow in realizing that it is your work, not mine.  You are the source of love, and apart from you, I am nothing.  Lord Jesus, I want to grow in hoping in your return.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ecuador trip recap

The Lord blessed us with a great trip to Ecuador this past week.

We took 100 filters with us and distributed about 85 filters in homes, and we prayed with each family.  A handful of the undistributed filters will be used with a recently constructed cistern to provide water to families without filters.  Here are several things that impressed me from the trip:

Sunday: Pastor Marcelo shared from John 1 that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Listening to the sermon in a different language and on a different continent, I was impressed with the global aspect of Jesus's salvation.

Monday: We traveled to a remote town to distribute five filters where they have recently planted a church.  The local pastor was formerly a member of a militant faction, but he turned to the Lord.  Several years ago, he became sick and was paralyzed (the doctors could not do anything for him), but several Brothers and Sisters prayed for the Lord to heal him, and he was miraculously healed.  He has devoted his life to full-time ministry, and his story was very encouraging to me.

Tuesday: We distributed filters to the families of the kindergarten students that the El Recreo church runs.  Most of the students are from the poorest section of El Recreo, and many of the homes are in a region that floods during the monsoon season.  The local pastor and church members are so devoted that they often walk through knee-deep to chest-deep water that is contaminated with flooded septic systems just to visit these families.

Wednesday: We distributed filters to neighbors of church members, and our team visited the home of a child who was severely burned in a tragic house fire.  One of the members of our team is a lawyer, and she is working to complete and submit paperwork for financial support for extensive medical treatment.

Thursday: We invited 10 civil engineering students and their professor from ESPOL to join us in distributing filters in the afternoon.  It was a vivid experience for the students, and I feel like it was a very effective communication of genuine faith and love as opposed to religious activities.

Friday: In the morning, I met the Dean of the engineering college at ESPOL to ask for support in international research collaboration.  Then we drove several hours to distribute five filters in a remote town on the coast where they are planting another church.  The church planters became disciples of Christ only four years ago, and they are already mature disciples who are devoting their lives to expanding His Kingdom.  The Lord gave us a safe trip back to El Recreo.

Saturday: In the morning, we attended the baptism of the husband of a lady to whom we gave a filter two years ago.  This man has been working with the local pastor in El Recreo for the past several weeks; he is such a genuine and sincere man and is learning pastoral responsibilities very rapidly.  Saturday afternoon, we cooked "Mexican" tacos for the church; they were not familiar with tacos or our style of tortillas.

It was a blessing to work with this church again, and we look forward to working with them again next year.  I have learned so much, both spiritually and vocationally.

We pray that the distributed filters will be a blessing to the families and will provide a connecting point for a long-term ministry relationship between the families and the local churches.  In this way, we pray that these are more seeds, water, and cultivation for seeing more people experience the love and joy of life with Christ.  I pray that the Lord will continue to use me to share clean water and the Living Water.  And I pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send out more workers.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

easy math

John 11:28-57

40 Jesus responded, "Didn't I tell you that you would see God's glory if you believe?" 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me." 43 Then Jesus shouted, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him go!" 45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.

So, if many people believed by seeing Jesus's miracle, then why doesn't He continue to perform more miracles today so that more people will believe?  The power investment is negligible (i.e., any finite amount of power required to perform a miracle divided by omnipotence diverges to zero specific power output).  It seems like easy math to me.

Heavenly Father, I don't understand why you make things so hard some times.  Why not perform lots of miracles so that lots of people will believe?  Anyway, please help me trust you and listen to you.  Lord, please turn my heart to you.  I submit to your authority and your plan.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

healing versus raising

John 11:1-27
1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord's feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, "Lord, your dear friend is very sick."
Three times in three verses, Lazarus was sick.  He didn't just have a stuffy nose; he was severely ill.  And Mary and Martha knew it.  And they knew that Jesus was running around all over the country healing people, so, logically, they told Jesus that Lazarus was sick, knowing that, of course, Jesus would come heal Lazarus, because Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.
But He didn't.  Jesus intentionally waited to let Lazarus die so that Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead.
I can imagine that Mary and Martha were getting pretty impatient with Jesus as Lazarus was getting sicker and sicker and seeing that he would probably die.  Because I would have.  And I would have been pretty mad and disappointed with Jesus when Lazarus died.  "There you go, healing all of these people who don't even know you, but you can't even take care of someone you love? What kind of messed up plan is that?"
I found out a couple of days ago that my Uncle George was having some testing for cancer.  After praying for God to heal several of my friends and family from cancer with no (i.e., zero, zilch, nada) observed physical healings, I'm honestly wondering if praying for physical healing is worth the time and effort.  It seems like it is easier just to not get your expectations up, let Jesus let them die, and then watch Him raise us all at the last day (verse 24).
Heavenly Father, please help me trust you.  Lord Jesus, I know that you are the Resurrection and the Life, and I know that you have conquered sin and death, and I know that you will raise up your chosen on the last day, but it would be nice if you would heal some people physically every now and then.  I know you can't keep healing everybody from every sickness or then no one would ever die, and we have to die because of sin.  It would just be nice if some of my friends and family who seem to get cancer too early in life would be healed, physically.  It just seems really random.  Please help me trust you.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

listening to His voice

John 10
  24 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."

25 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. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

Heavenly Father, please turn my heart to your Son.  Lord Jesus, I want to listen to your voice.  Please help me hear you and focus on you instead of all of the distractions in this world.  Holy Spirit, please guide me into the truth of Christ.  I want to know you and follow you.  I want to keep in step with you.  Lord, please help me abide in you.  I want to believe you and obey you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 4, 2012

knowing His voice

John 10

But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won't follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don't know his voice."

How do I learn to recognize His voice? 

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending the Good Shepherd.  Lord Jesus, please speak to me.  I want to know your voice.  I want to listen to you.  Please help me focus on you. Lord, I want to follow you.  Please lead me.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.