Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Lord is here

Acts 28

On Sunday, Steve and Tamara preached from Phil 1, and Tamara shared that the first thing that she prays in the morning is "The Lord is here".  I have been praying this the past several mornings, and it has been very encouraging.   Brandi and I have discussed before how sometimes we feel like our prayers don't make it past the ceiling, and God is somewhere far away in outer space.  And we wonder if we are just crazy people talking to ourselves.  But He is near; He is here.  I need to see the reality that He is right here with me.  His name is Immanuel.

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me, and thank you for being with me.  Holy Spirit, thank you for filling me and anointing me.  Thank you for your presence.  Please help me share your presence with others around me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Shepherding - vision

Yesterday evening, the elders/shepherds of our church met to discuss a proposed vision by three of our pastors.  I really appreciate the simplicity of this vision and it's consistency with Ephesians 4.  It was so encouraging to see a vision discussed and considered. 

Heavenly Father, please help us listen to you and follow you.  Holy Spirit, please guide us in your truth, and teach us to walk in community and fellowship with you as we engage the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Consistency in Scripture memory

Acts 24

Beau has been in Vacation Bible School this week, and they assigned daily memory verses for the kids.  Beau is not even in kindergarten, so I assumed that this would be too much for him, but he has done very well.  This has helped us realize that we should begin a consistent weekly scripture memory routine with our boys. I need to be memorizing, as well, so it would be good for me, too.  The key is consistency.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word, and thank you for revealing yourself to us.  Lord, may we be consistent in hiding your word in our hearts so that we will know you and walk with you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Well, here it is, Wednesday already, and while I have had good intentions to blog, I have not disciplined myself to do it.  Slacker. 

I preached on Sunday about God's refining fire (Mal 3).  Perhaps the Lord is allowing me to be tested with being busy.  Or maybe I shouldn't be so busy.  Maybe I should be more of a slacker.

Heavenly Father, I am confused about what I am supposed to be doing. (Or at least, how much.)  It seems like there are many things that I could do, but what should I be doing?  More and more, I realize what little time I actually spend with my wife and sons; and yet, I have the greatest opportunity to lead them to Christ.  What is my motivation for being so busy?  I think I really percieve my intrinsic value in proportion to my work productivity; please help me find my value in Christ's purchase on the cross.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ecuador 2014 - Part 2


Our host and hostess were such sweet people.  May the Lord bless them for their hospitality and kindness.

In the morning, Steve, Janet, and I had the opportunity to visit the municipal water treatment plant in Samborondón.  They currently have a traditional aeration and chlorination treatment of groundwater, but they have recently installed and are soon to begin operation of a  new state of the art water treatment plant including pre-sedimentation, pre-ozonation, coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, sand filtration, and post-chlorination for residual disinfection.  It was so encouraging to see the development of civil infrastructure in this region, especially since the treatment process was designed and manufactured on Ecuador.  It also gave me confidence that what I teach in my courses is generally applicable around the world.

On the drive from Samborondón back to El Recreo, Steve, Geovanni, and I discussed relational evangelism and how we have to be intentional and bold in sharing the Gospel, but we also have to be genuine in our love and relationship with people as we share the Gospel.  After packing up clothes for a few days, we talked about discipleship as we drove from El Recreo to Olon (on the coast, northwest of Guayaquil).

We stopped at a gas station, and Geovanni talked me into coffee... soon, everyone had a snack.  We had a great time conversing, but it was especially encouraging for me because it is the first time that I remember understanding a conversation well enough that I understood a joke in Spanish, and we all laughed together (without someone having to explain it to me in English).  I have wanted to learn Spanish for so many years, and I feel like I noticed significant improvement.

Friday afternoon, we had a late lunch on the beach before making it to Olon.  We had the great privelege of providing a marriage retreat for the leaders of the regional Iglesia de Cristo Iberoamericana (ICI) churches.  I was so exited to help provide a retreat that I would have loved to have participated in myself.

While the couples were in their first session, we snuck into their hotel rooms and left them chocolates on their pillows.  That was pretty fun.

Our team had another discussion based on the book Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  We were pretty honest and transparent with each other, and I had opportunity to pray for one of our teammates regarding a troubling health condition.


When I woke up, I went for a swim by myself in the ocean.  It was pretty brisk, but I don't have the opportunity in El Paso, so i wanted to take advantage.  I was impressed with the loudness and power of the waves. After showering, I searched for Scriptures with "waves" and found Psalm 93:3-5

"The floods have lifted up, O Lord , the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.  Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty! 

After the morning session, we oversaw a couple of games for the couples to play together in competition against the other couples.  I think it was really important to have these games to balance the serious sessions.

Saturday afternoon, while the couples had time to walk the beach, we distributed filters in San Jose and Curia.  In the last house, they offered us some homemade salted fish.  I have never eaten sardines before, but these looked like little white minnows. I tried not to think about it too long, and I just ate it quickly. Man I was glad that I kept it down.

During the third session (that evening), our team spent time praying for the couples.  I prayed especially that the Lord would encourage them in their marriages and in their ministries.  I need to be more intentional about praying for the marriage relationships of leaders in Paseo.


Steve and I woke up early and went for a swim in the ocean. I told Steve about a bad dream that I had that night; he listened and responded with grace.  Steve is a good friend.  I am not sure why I haven't been more intentional about hanging out with him.  He is a kind and genuine man, and I should be a better friend to him.

After breakfast, during the fourth and final marriage session, Steve and I walked around the town in search of bread and wine for our team to have communion together.  We had a great conversation about emulating the ministry of Christ, especially the balance between fostering communal living among disciples, as well as living missionaly and engaging people of peace.  I believe we share a common perspective.  It was special to take communion together as a team.

After the last session, I felt impressed to encourage Karen with a word that the Lord had given me for her.  The local culture where she is serving is very oppressive of women; they are treated like property.  On Wednesday, someone had called Karen and said some very mean things to her, discouraging her to the point of giving up.  I told her that I believed the enemy was attacking her because she is being salt and light in that community.  I told her that she is a powerful woman because Jesus is in her, and "greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world".  I encouraged her to persevere in her ministry to women, because she is working to change culture, and that takes time.  And then I shared 1 Cor 15:57-58, which Karen said was very encouraging to her:

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."

After returning to El Recreo Sunday evening, we packed up our luggage for an early departure on Monday morning.  At that point, it was very late in the evening, but we went ahead with a debriefing with Marcelo, Geovanni, Kathy, and Luis.  They were so appreciative of our time, investment, and partnership with them.


They called us "missionaries".  Slowly accepting some of that identity.  On the ride to the airport, Geovanni told me that I am not a missionary, I am family.  I read to Geovanni the great commission (in Spanish), and I told him that I believe that they are making disciples.

Heavenly Father, you have blessed me so richly!  Thank you so much for allowing me to participate in your kingdom work.  May I be faithful to love you and obey you, and may you recieve all of the glory. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ecuador 2014


We drove from El Recreo to Troncal and distributed filters until early afternoon.  The first two homes were elderly people who each lived alone.  I prayed for the Lord to care for them, and then I realized that He is - through the Body.

On the wall in one of the homes: Psalm 23.  The Spanish word for "shepherd" is "pastor".  I pray that I will grow as a shepherd of my family and our congregation.

Afterwards, we went to a thermal springs pool next to a river running through the mountains.   We didn't swim, but I was so impressed with the beauty of God's creation (so much green!) I was also wrestling internally with the fact that we were essentially already taking a break on the first day that we were here.  As a workaholic, I tend to think that my value is proportional to my labor, so I think it was very helpful for the Lord to take time to debunk that myth straight away.  It is His work, and I can accomplish nothing.  I must co-labor with Him.


In the morning, we distributed water filters in the "Cooperativa" (formerly known as "the invasion").  I was reminded again that you don't need stuff to have joy, and you don't have to have much to be hospitable.  If you don't have joy, and you don't show love, then you need Jesus.

The shrimp ceviche that we had for lunch was some of the best ceviche that I have ever tasted.

We drove to Samborondon in the afternoon, and then we went to distribute filters.  This is the first time we have distributed filters in this town, and we are the first team to engage families in the community on behalf of this church.  Quite a privelege.

I had a great conversation with Steve after we retired for the evening.  (The Lord continues to use Steve to make a significant impact on me.)  I asked him about me being a nerd my sense of lack of close friendships; it was very helpful for me to try to verbalize some of what I am thinking/feeling.  We talked about being a husband, father, and church leader.  Steve is one of the most insightful yet humble guys that I know.


Janet, Steve, and I distributed filters all day.  Rocio fulfilled one of her bucket-list requests of the Lord which was to teach English in South America. 

This morning, I saw a little boy who was four years old, but he was the size of Jude.  It made me miss my boys so much, and it made me appreciate the value of good nutrition.

One of the houses was so dirty that I soon found myself wanting to rush the presentation so that we could leave quickly.  The Lord gebtly exposed the condition of my heart by allowing me to realize that He loves that family just as much as any other family, and Jesus would spend genuine time with them.  I need to be willing to step out of my comfort zone to engage people with the love of Christ.

Jose was bold in sharing how our life without God is like contaminated water, but through Jesus, He purifies us.  I thought about how we are like the water jugs - dirty inside and out, but God wants us to have pure Living Water in us and through us.

We had a good conversation with our hostess at dinner (she reminds me of my grandma).  She is so hospitable,  and she has the joy of the Lord.  I don't know if Matthew 10:41 applies or not, but I hope it does.

Another great conversation with Steve this evening.  About parenting.  I want to set an example of righteous living for my children.

Heavenly Father,  thank you for your kindness in allowing me to be here.  Thank you for all of the people who gave so generously so that I could be here.  Thank you for teaching me so many things here.  Lord, please help me listen to you and obey.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, July 7, 2014


The Lord brought us safely and efficiently to Ecuador today.  I am very grateful.  I miss these folks.  Dear Brothers and Sisters.

On our trip, we are reading the book, The Ragamuffin Gospel.  I am impressed with how much I try to earn God's favor by being religious.   God says, "You can't earn my love by being good." And He says, "You can't lose my love by being bad."  He loves us as His dear children!  And we can take refuge in His love... the way Jude is comforted when we hold him,  or the way that Rhett is calmed and nourished when Brandi nurses him.  We can't earn His love, nor can we lose it.  We need to embrace the grace of His love.  His grace will dissolve away self-righteousness and self-condemnation.  Let us rest in His grace; rest from a  break-neck works pace, and rest from self-flogging. 

Matt. 18:2-4.  The child doesn't have to struggle to get himself in a good position for having a relationship with God.  No pretense, no merits, just grace. 

Heavenly Father, thank you for the beauty of your grace.  Please forgive me for working so hard to try to earn it.  Please forgive me for condemning myself.  Help me push through the awkwardness of allowing the reality of your grace to dissolve my self-righteousness and self-condemnation. Lord Jesus, thank you for bearing the condemnation of sin, and thank you for giving me your righteousness.  Please help me rest in your love. Holy Spirit, please help me lead others into that rest. I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, July 5, 2014


ACT 12:11, 21-23 NIV

Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen."  ... On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

In the first half of this chapter, Peter was delivered from Herod's evil plan, and at the end of the chapter, Herod was eaten by worms.  This reminds me of Psalm 1:6:

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Of course, we keep in mind that, at the beginning of this chapter, James (the elder) was killed by Herod, so God's protection for the righteous doesn't mean that all disciples of Jesus will be miraculously delivered from all opposition.  But the Lord is faithful to His word, and when we receive the gracious righteousness of Christ by faith, we can know with certainty that the Lord determines our steps.  We can find peace and comfort in knowing that He is loving and kind and that His plan for us will ultimately be revealed as good and perfect.

Heavenly Father, I want to want to dwell with you.  I want to focus on dwelling with you and not worry about my circumstances.  Lord, please help me rest in you, knowing that you are good and sovereign.  Lord Jesus, thank you for your righteousness, and Holy Spirit, thank you for your presence.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Will it count?

I ran into a professor at lunch last week.  He asked me how I was doing and how my research is coming along.  In my previous conversations with him, he usually mentions recent grant awards, publications, and something about him being an editor of a prestigious journal.  In academia, it sure is easy to get caught up in the rat race of proposals, publications, and prestige.

Lecrae posted this on his Facebook page last week (Jun 26):
"Don't envy the rat for the cheese in his trap."

I am beginning to be able to see the trap.

I think it is ironic that administrators push research for the sake of prestige.  Research may eventually produce a net benefit in people's lives (though generally indirectly), but teaching impacts people directly and immediately.

I was walking through the parking lot yesterday, and the thought occurred to me, "Does that hot-shot professor actually believe that when he stands before Christ for judgment, that his publications and accolades will be valuable in eternity?"

I shared this thought with Brogden this afternoon, and he gently, but frankly, pointed out that it is not my job to judge someone else, and in fact, I need to ask the question of myself and my own work.  Do I actually believe that my work will survive the fire of the bema seat evaluation of Christ?

I think I need to invest more time in teaching and mentoring graduate students.  I believe that there are powerful opportunities for me to significantly impact students.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your patience with me.  Lord, please help me invest in what you want me to do and not be driven by the world's trapped perspective of sucess. May I find my sucess and validation in you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Holy Spirit activities

Acts 9:31 AMP

So the church throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was edified [growing in wisdom, virtue, and piety] and walking in the respect and reverential fear of the Lord and in the consolation and exhortation of the Holy Spirit, continued to increase and was multiplied.

I think there is more to this Holy Spirit person than I was led to believe growing up.  One of the arguments that I heard was that the Holy Spirit did some peculiar things that were exclusive to the book of Acts (e.g., baptism of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, raising people from the dead, etc.), and that those activities have now essentially ceased. But over the past several years, I have heard stories of how the  Lord continues to display Himself through these extraordinary effects, and I am beginning to think that, perhaps, it may be possible to avail yourself to be used by the Lord in these ways.

Heavenly Father, I want to walk in fellowship with you.  Please help me understand you, as much as that is possible and you allow it.  Holy Spirit, I confess that I don't think I understand you; please reveal yourself to me, anoint me with your presence, power, and authority, and accomplish your good works through me for your glory.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.