I had been there…

3 times over the course of three years I uprooted myself from my “normal” life.  I left my home, the place I’m most comfortable, the place where I have dominion (well most of the time).  I left my country.  A place where I understand most of the customs, where I understand the language, a place where I nearly always feel safe.  I got on a plane and traveledThe-load-is-getting-bigger-and-bigger_thumb.jpg a great distance to a place that I knew I would love, but I didn’t realize how much I would love the people.  Going that great distance changed me.  It changed how I watch the news of the world.  It changed how I look at my own culture.  It changed what I think about and pray about. I talked about it with the people closest to me and people that I hardly knew.  My trips to the Philippines changed me.

This change in me was most noted when the news of Hurricane Yolanda came to light.  A huge Hurricane, maybe the largest ever, was bearing down on a place that was on the other side of the world from me.  Normally, this would just be a blip of news that I may or may not notice.  If there was a connection to me through friends or my church, I might donate to a relief cause or say a prayer for them.  But normally, I wouldn’t care much for the pain happening such a great distance from me.  But I had been there.  I had walked with the people whom the storm was bearing down on.  I had worshiped with them, worked with them, ate with them, I became friends with them.  And because I had been there, I cared….oh I cared.  I wanted to do anything in my (limited) power to help them.  I wanted to raise money yes, but more than that, I wanted to BE WITH THEM.  I wanted to return.

This morning, I realized that in this, I can identify with God.  He has been here.  He left his home, he left the most glorious place ever imagined. He left his power and became a poor baby with no power. He walked with us, worked with us, worshiped with us.  He became friends with us, he wanted the best for us in so many ways. Then he left. He could have stayed but he left knowing greater things would happen.

This morning, as I was reading and praying and worshiping…preparing to lead the body here in worship, I was reminded by Him that when we are in the path of a great storm, He wants nothing more than to help us, to protect us, to BE WITH US, to return.

I praise God this morning…because even though he is a great distance from us…HE’S BEEN HERE! And he loves me and cares for me and is with me….and will return.

Praise God!

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Going Public

Why is evangelism so difficult?  This is a question I have asked a few people in our church over the last three or four weeks.  Some of the responses were…

“I don’t want to push my religion on others.”

“I’m afraid I don’t know enough.”

“I’m afraid of what they will think of me.”

“If I live a good life, they’ll be able to SEE the what I believe.”

“I’m not sure I believe it myself sometimes.”

reGroup1 Going PublicWow…there is truth in all of these and if you are a follower of Christ, there are probably bits of all of these that ring true for you.  Isn’t it crazy that many of us have made it hard or a chore or something that is impossible for us to do….to tell someone GOOD NEWS?!

This fall at Southwest (the church that I get to serve), we are calling our church to “Go Public”. We hope to give inspiration, challenge, and tools for this body to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the people in our circle of friends and beyond.

For this 6 week series, I have put together a “Daily Devotional Guide” for our church.  You can download the pdf of the guide here or sign up for a daily email.

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Lessons from Honduras…Action or Words?

This is the last piece I will write on this blog concerning my trip to Honduras.  By no means does this mean that this is all that I learned in Honduras!  I am still learning from God through my Honduras experience and hope that these lessons will still keep coming.  All the lessons seem to fall under one of the three major lessons that God was and is teaching me.  So here it is…

Lesson Número Tres – Love Does!

As I’ve written before, I struggled with the Spanish language.  I butchered it in ways that it may have never been butchered before.  I would learn simple phrases that I could speak to people like “God bless you” or “bendiciones” but when it came time for me to speak, my brain would freeze up and I’d just nod and say something like “adios”!

While this was very frustrating when I was trying to order a burger with mustard and pickles only (I ended up with a burger with everything but mustard and pickles!), it was even more frustrating to me when I was trying to communicate very important things like the love of God.  I would be in someone’s home who was not sure where there next meal would come from, who was in need of surgery, who had experienced death and I couldn’t tell them how much God loves them.  I would be with kids who had no Dad to speak of or who’s parents abandoned them or worse, stayed with them and abused them, and I couldn’t tell them about how God loved them and sent His Son to redeem them.  I felt so useless!

Saturday night, I was journaling and praying and thinking through this frustration and I heard God reminding me…show them you love them and you won’t need  to speak their language.  I began to remember that the universal language IS love.  Not just spoken to or about someone, but in action.

Before we left for Honduras, Adrian gave several of us a book by Bob Goff titled, “Love Does”  God was also using this book to remind me over and over, that love isn’t just somebody standing in front of a group of people preaching and telling them about God, or singing about God.  Love is actually doing something.  Goff tells story after story of people who’s love for God and their fellow man manifest in incredible deeds and miracles.

And then there was Cameron.  Cameron was one of the workers at Mission Lazarus, I believe he runs the agriculture side of the mission.  Cameron was with us one night in our devo sharing about the work of mission Lazarus and sharing his personal story…and God used Cameron to continue with His message for me.  Cameron told us of some of the work of Mission Lazarus in Honduras.  He told us that if they went to people who were homeless or starving DSC_0375or dying and told them how much God loves them but didn’t help them, those people wouldn’t really want to hear about this God who in their eyes had left them in poverty and hurt.  However, when they served these people, simply out of their love for them and for God, the people began to ask why….”why would you do such a thing for me?” Then Cameron and others at Mission Lazarus simply tell them of the great love God has for them.  Love does…it doesn’t just talk…it does.

Cameron shared with us a very familiar passage of scripture, John 1:1.  This is a very familiar scripture to me, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God….etc”  But Cameron shared this scripture from the Spanish translation of scripture.

John 1:1 “En el principio existía el Verbo, y el Verbo estaba con Dios”

He shared the Spanish version with us because of the use of the word “Verbo”, in the beginning was the “verbo”…that’s right the VERB…the action…that is how Jesus is described by John.  And that’s how we should be described by the world.

I don’t care if I’m described as smart, or right, or talented…but if I am to be like Christ, I should be described as someone who is DOING something.  I don’t care if our church has the best singing or the most right doctrine or the flashiest building…but if we are to be a Church of Christ, we should be described as a church who is DOING something.  Doing something out of love.  Doing something that requires sacrifice.  Doing something for people I love.  Doing something for people that are very hard for me to love.

LOVE DOES!  And if we…if I… am going to claim to be a son of a God who is defined by love, I most be defined by Love.

Father, thank you for teaching me so much in Honduras.  Thank you for your patience Father….I need it.  I commit to you Father to talk less….and do more….in Your name!


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Lessons from Honduras…More Grace.

On my Honduran journey, I learned so much….how to lay bricks, mix concrete, ride a horse, play revolution (the card game not the Beatles song) but there were three things that truly stood out that God had for me on this trip.  So, for my second lesson from Honduras…

Lesson Número Dos –
Have grace for those who don’t speak “your language”.

In the last year, I have travelled out of the country for missions 3 times.  2 times to the Philippines and now once to Honduras and Mission Lazarus.  Both works are INCREDIBLE and are doing great things for the Kingdom of Heaven but there was one major difference.  In the Philippines, I speak their language (most of them speak English), in Honduras, for the most part, I do not!

Espanol_Yellow_ShirtThis was very frustrating to me.  I am a communicator.  I love to talk to people and especially to laugh with people.  I love to lead groups by motivating them and verbally creating an environment for worship or fun or learning, etc.  But in Honduras, I felt hamstrung from the very beginning.  In people’s homes I couldn’t sing in their language or pray in their language or tell them how great God is.  At the work site, I couldn’t ask the questions I wanted to ask or respond to questions or instructions when spoken to me. 

I messed up the Spanish language at EVERY turn it seemed.  I lead songs for VBS in Spanish and there is no telling how bad I messed that up. The worst time for me though was on the very first day.  We were waiting on time to start VBS and were playing with some local kids at the public soccer field (a dirt field with some goals).  We were playing soccer….um….I mean futbol, and throwing a Frisbee that Everett had brought.  At one point, a little boy came up to me and said….something….I’m not sure what.  One of the things I learned early was how to ask their name in Spanish, so since DSC_0301I couldn’t respond to his speaking, I asked his name by saying, “Te amo!”  He looked at me…very confused…so I do what I always do when people can’t understand me, I said it LOUDER, “TE AMO!!!”.  Here, I was, a foreign giant white man, leaning down to this poor little child, yelling at him, trying to figure out his name.  The only problem was, I wasn’t asking his name (I later was reminded you ask that by saying, “como te llama”), no, I was yelling at him, “I LOVE YOU!!!”.  How disturbing this must have been for this poor child!

Again, this was very frustrating to me, but what amazed me, and taught me so much, was DSC_0512the fact that they NEVER got frustrated with me!   I never saw the roll of the eyes from anyone I was talking to.  I never had anybody give up on me.  I never once was made to feel stupid because I could not speak the necessary language to communicate even the simplest things.  In fact, it was just the opposite, I was made to feel loved.

And this is what God was teaching/reminding me.  It is very often that I get frustrated with people who don’t “speak my language”.  Sometimes it is the English language I wish people would master and I get put out by people who want to come to “my country” but not learn “my language”.  How arrogant and unloving of me.  But even more so, I find myself getting frustrated with people who don’t speak “my language” in church.  By “my language” here, I don’t mean the English language, I mean the language that we learn that is different depending on our beliefs or our surroundings or our backgrounds.  I confess that I get frustrated with people when I judge that they aren’t as “enlightened” as me or they “don’t get it”.  How arrogant and unloving of me!

This was not the example of Jesus…oh…if Jesus would have waited on me to “get it” before he had grace for me and compassion on me….he would still be waiting I’m afraid.

So, Honduras has reminded me to have more grace for those who don’t speak like me…in all of the ways that applies.  To love those that disagree with me.  To learn from those who I think might need to learn more themselves.  To stop being so arrogant…ugh….

Father, thank you for Ishmael and Digna and Phillpe and Santos and all of those kids who loved me and had grace for me….no matter how dumb I was.  Thank you for using them to remind me of Your grace for me.  Thank you for your patience with me Father.  And now I will be patient with those around me who “don’t speak my language”. 


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Truett’s Baptism!!!

Before my next post on Honduras….TRUETT WAS BAPTIZED SUNDAY!!!!!!!!  I’m so proud of this boy and his decision to follow Christ for the rest of his life.  I know he will run into bumps, but God is with him. I’m so thankful for Truett!!

So in case you didn’t get to witness it, rejoice with me and praise God as you watch!

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Lessons from Honduras….Be thankful!

Earlier this month, I was blessed to be able to travel with 19 others from Southwest Church of Christ to Honduras where we did some work with Mission Lazarus.  This was a “youth trip”, designed for our current seniors and just graduated seniors, but of course, God taught me so much on this trip.  Over the next few posts I want to journal just a little bit of what God has taught/is teaching me from my time in a third world country. 

Lesson Número Uno – Be Thankful!  IMG_0321

I’ve always thought I was a pretty grateful person.  I praise God regularly for His goodness and the blessings I have in my life.  My incredible wife, my incredible kids, the job that I have, etc.  But, in Honduras, I was called to a new level of gratitude.


As a part of our work in Honduras, our team built a house (we almost finished it!).  I know DSC_0515people in the US that have several storage buildings (for our extra stuff) that are bigger than the house we built.  We built a 16’x20’ cinderblock house.  It will eventually have some electricity but will not have running water.  A family of 5 is anxiously awaiting this new home and were so thankful to Southwest and Mission Lazarus for building it.  (by the way, a huge thank you to the KSM foundation for providing the funds for us to do this project)  My office, is bigger than this house.  Of course my house is bigger than this house! 

Another part of our work was taking bags of food to homes that were in need.  Each day we were there, part of our team would deliver a feed sack full of “staple” foods to homes of people who were in need.  We would present the food to them as a provision from God (not from the Americans but from God).  These bags would feed a family of 5 for about 2 weeks.  Many of the homes we entered were built much like the home we were building…small cinder block rooms that were partitioned off by IMG_0297hanging blankets or building makeshift walls to give some sort of privacy.  Many of the homes we were in were not as nice.  They were built out of mud and sticks with dirt floors.  Their bathrooms were usually out in the yard as was their “laundry room” and kitchens.  Many of the people we met didn’t know where their next meal would come from.  Some of the people we met had serious health problems and were awaiting some sort of treatment praying to God for healing.  All of the homes and needs were different, but there was one thing they all had in common…they were happy and thankful.  They were thankful for every blessing they had.  When they prayed over their food, they were ACTUALLY thankful for it.  They never once complained because they got beans and they had already had beans that week.  They didn’t put themselves into debt over their heads buying bigger houses to keep up with the “Jones’”. They were thankful!  When they prayed, I didn’t understand much of it but I did understand “gracias señor”(thank you Lord) being said over and over again as well as “gracias espiritu santo” (thank you Holy Spirit…yes they would thank the Holy Spirit for leading us to their house!). 

The third part of our work in Honduras was putting on a VBS for the kids at a church in DSC_0429Limon.  And again, I saw everywhere I looked, thankful hearts.  I hate to admit the number of crafts, color pages, children’s stories, etc. that I have deposited in my trash cans over the years my children have been in church…but it’s a lot.  And I think I’m a good parent because my kids crafts actually made it to the trash can and weren’t left in the church pew!  Not so with these kids though.  Every color sheet that they were given was a treasure.  The crafts they made were valuable works of art to them.  DSC_0451And snack time…you would have thought we were giving them a gourmet dinner (goldfish and koolaid!).  They were so thankful for all of these things.  Not one got left on the ground when they left.  Not one was left in the car to be thrown away later (partly because they didn’t have cars!).  And every day, they ended by giving us all hugs and thanking us. 

So while I travelled to Honduras to teach about God and serve people for God, God taught me great lessons from the people of Honduras.  First off, He challenged me to be more DSC_0417thankful.  And I am/will be!  More thankful for my family, more thankful for my church, more thankful at EVERY meal, more thankful for road construction (I have now driven on roads that don’t get construction…makes you more thankful!), on that note…more thankful for traffic laws, more thankful for the times of fun and laughter, more thankful for the quiet serious times,  more thankful for my education and for the education system my children get, more thankful for my government, more thankful for my church family, more thankful for the big things and more thankful for the little things.  I hope people notice this in me, notice that I’ve changed.  Not for my glory but for the Glory of God.

Gracias a Dios, Gracias Hijo, y Gracias Espiritu Santo!!

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

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Lot’s of Questions…

In my line of “work”, there seems to be a lot of questions that are “very important” that need to be answered “right”.  Wow that’s a lot of “quotes”! 

I put quotes around “work” because to me, my line of work is not work at all.  Sure it’s hard sometimes. Sure it takes time and skill for me to do.  Sure I get paid for it.  But it’s a joy (most of the time!)….but that’s another journal entry for another day.

I put quotes around “very important” because well….are they?   Really, what questions are “very important”? 

And I put quotes around “right” because over the years I’ve learned a lot about what “right” means to many.

Recently, I’ve been studying Genesis and some of those “very important” questions have come up.  Where the 7 days literal days? Where were the dinosaurimportants? Is the creation account literal or figurative?  Why did God look with favor on Abel and not Cain?  Who did Cain marry? (I know…Mrs. Cain!) Who was Cain afraid of? etc.  Now, I do have an opinion on these questions, but humility demands that I ask myself if have the “right” answer?  Furthermore, how important are these questions and how important is it that I get them right?

I am learning that I have sometimes been guilty of treating all “religious” questions with the same intensity of importance and that this intensity over getting some of the less important questions “right” has many times lead me to miss the most important questions. 

For example, some in my circle of followers have argued for years over whether or not it is “legal” to have Bible Classes or not.  Some have been so concerned over other believers getting this “very important” question “right”, that they have refused fellowship to those who get it “wrong”.  I wonder if this is one of many cases of us making unimportant questions “very important” and requiring that everyone get it “right”.  And we didn’t stop with Bible Classes, we also argued over other “very important” things like church signs, carpet, versions of the Bible, number of cups used in the Lord’s supper, when we remember the Lord’s Supper, the order of worship, the types of songs, shaped notes or round, instruments, kitchens, (by the way, I’ve never heard a church argue over whether we should have indoor plumbing…) length of sermons, women’s role, what time Sunday night should meet, if we should meet Sunday night, and so on and so on…..UGH!  Are these really the “very important” questions that we must get “right”?

Yes, some matters are “very important”.  But some matters are only “very important” because we have said they are, not because they are very-important-sign-valeriebbimportant to God.   I pray that God will lead me in such a way, and that I can walk in humility in a way that the questions that I ask and the answers that I seek, truly are “very important”.  And, I challenge all who seek Christ, to first seek what was important to him (justice, mercy, love, just to name a few), and let the lesser things stay where they belong.

Father, I praise you for your mercy when I try to make the unimportant important.  Help me show that same mercy and love to others.  I ask for your Holy Spirit to guide me into the real important questions that I should be asking of You, and of myself.  I want to know you more Father.  I praise you that you want me to know you!

Your son….

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Back to Bloggin’?

It’s been a while…but I think I’ll give this a go again.  Why, you say?  I guess I think I have something to say.  More than that, I’m learning so much.  I learn from teaching, I learn from experiencing, I learn from my kids, I learn from my wife, I learn from friends in Christ, I learn from those who don’t know Christ, I learn from people I love and agree with, I learn from people I’m trying to love and vehemently disagree with,  I still learn from my parents, I learn from unlearning, I learn from reading, I learn from listening,  I learn from failing, I learn from conquering…

learnI want to be forever learning.  I want to be humble enough to learn and confident enough to teach what I’m learning and have learned.  That’s a difficult road for me to walk down sometimes, but it is so important for me, as a leader, to continue.

In my life, I have found myself sometimes getting comfortable when I have learned something…so comfortable that I slack and get in to bad habits, so I have to relearn all of the time.  Relearn how to sing correctly, relearn how to study scripture, relearn how to teach, relearn how to learn!  It truly is a life long journey.

So here at this space, I’m going to journal about it.  I’ll journal about things that are happening and journal about things I’m discovering.  Mostly it’s for me (and my Mom…I think she’s the only one that reads).  But for me, this blogging is another part of me learning.  If you would like to join me on this journey, that’d be great.  If not, there’s plenty of other great things to read out there on the web!


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