Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Conviction Conviction

I'm just going to be transparent here. I had a painful realization yesterday. One that left me on my knees before a holy God, thanking Him for his relentless grace and overwhelming mercy and repenting of my pride.

If I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, and I haven't felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit in recent days, something is terribly wrong.

Why would I say that? Because I'm not perfect yet I live in light of the fact that I am purchased with the blood of a perfect Savior. So to not have any conviction in my life about sin is to somehow feel like I have "arrived" at a higher spiritual plain in which nothing is lacking in me spiritually. And that is wrong.

It hit me that I wasn't growing spiritually. That I have the knowledge of how to grow, of how to know the God of the Universe, but I wasn't growing or knowing. I was complacently comfortable.

I was convicted about my lack of conviction. 

God used a message that is more than six years old to speak straight to my heart. I want to recommend it to you. So, turn off the TV for an hour tonight or download it to your iPod and listen. Maybe you don't need it, but maybe you do. I did.

The-Knowability-of-God by Matt Chandler

(God has used Matt Chandler to speak to my heart countless times. I highly recommend subscribing to his podcast and listening to his messages.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Laughter

Yesterday was a pretty obnoxious day. My computer has been down for two days at work and that means I'm stuck scanning literally dozens of folders..... uuuggghhhhh. Boring.

Richard ended up needing to fly down to Muscle Shoals, AL last night to pick up some glue for the flooring of the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition house they are building here in Chattanooga so it was just me and the nugget for the evening.

There really wasn't anything special about the evening: playtime, dinner, bathtime (which did not go too well for some reason), and then it was story time.

I got the book out and was reading it to Elliott when he did his usual of sticking his finger up to my mouth. That usually means he wants to play so I acted like I was chewing on it. Now, this is not unusual and we play this game all the time but for some reason last night he thought it was the funniest thing ever!!

He gave the best belly laugh I have ever heard him do! Of course that set me off laughing and for the next ten minutes we were both just cracking up and enjoying our story time like never before!

Suddenly, my computer being down and all of the frustrations of the day seemed to fade away. Maybe laughter really is the best medicine... especially laughter from a cute baby boy!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Good Reads

While we were on our most recent trip, I actually had time to read some books, a rare occurrence when we are Stateside and life is nonstop. Just thought I'd share a few of the good ones...

Title: Spirit of the Rainforest: A Yanomamo Shaman's Story
Author: Mark Andrew Richie
My thoughts: 
For those of us who have been raised in "modern" civilization, it's difficult for us to wrap our minds around the truth found in Ephesians 6.12 where Paul writes, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." But in parts of the world where the name of Jesus has never been mentioned and satan rules and reigns as the "prince of the power of the air", there are a lot of spiritual things that go on that are very difficult for us to believe or understand.

We have God in a pretty box and say things like, "God doesn't work that way. We have the full Scriptures now so He doesn't do that anymore..."

Surpise! He's God and He can do whatever He wants!

What I liked most about this book is that it is told from a Shaman (or Witchdoctor) and opens your eyes to the reality of the spiritual battles that go on, especially in these uncontacted tribes.

If you're interested in getting a better understanding of the spiritual warfare that goes on in the Jungle, read this book.

(Disclaimer: We do NOT recommend this book for young readers. It is very graphic and detailed in ways that are not appropriate for some. Use discretion and feel free to ask us if you have questions in regards who should not read it.)

Title: Bruchko
Author: Bruce Olson
My thoughts:
Have you ever thought to yourself, "I have no idea how to do what God is calling me to do!" or "I am not educated or equipped to do that!" Well, Bruce Olson was no doubt less "qualified" and less "educated" than anyone reading this right now but God used him in ways that I literally still have trouble believing until I realize, "Oh yeah... we do serve the God of the impossible!"

If you want to hear an incredible story of how God used a nobody to accomplish something amazing, read this book.

I read it in a day. It's that good.

Title: Pagan Christianity?
Authors: Frank Viola and George Barna
My thoughts:
As you were putting on your suit and tie or struggling to fit in that dress after the holidays as you headed out to church this past Sunday morning, did it cross your mind, "Why in the world do we have to get dressed up for church?" Or maybe you've wondered why we make people "bow their heads and close their eyes" or why we have a "sinners prayer" that can't seem to be located in the Scriptures. Why do we build massive buildings? Why do we tithe? Why is there always a certain structure to the service and why is it always the same? Why do we sit on pews and fill out decision cards and spend money on massive steeples and..... lots of questions!

I had/have a lot of questions about why we Christians do the "Christian" things that we do, especially since I can't seem to find almost any of them in the Bible. If you find yourself in that same position, here's a great book for you to read. Admittedly I haven't finished it yet, but the bulk of what I have read has been very eye-opening and backed up by facts and history.

A little warning: Unless you're ready/willing to have the practices and traditions that you've likely known all your life questioned, don't read this book. It will no doubt step on a toe or two, but as Richard would say, "Sometimes you have to step on toes so people will get out of the way!"

Title: The Shack
Author: William P. Young
My thoughts:
When I first started reading this book, I thought it was just another fiction book about a Christian family that goes through a hard time and then turns to God and viola! a happy family surfaces.


For me, it helped me understand a little better the unconditional love and forgiveness of God and His desire to know us intimately.

Just a little disclaimer, there is a controversy over this book. I personally found it refreshing, but I didn't look to it for doctrinal reference. I wouldn't recommend it to an unsaved person for a clearer understanding of salvation as it doesn't present that plainly. Obviously you should go to the Scriptures for that. I took it at face value and for me it was encouraging.

I do like what Mark Strauss said about it, "Employ spiritual discernment, as with anything in life."

(The above suggestions do not imply that we agree with everything that is written in all of these books. Obviously we are told to search the Scriptures for what is true and right. These are just some books that we have enjoyed and that have challenged us to dig deeper in the Word. Please use spiritual discernment and go to the Scriptures for any questions or doubts.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

The [Not So] Glamorous Life

As I descended the end of the houseboat via a ladder with an 18 lb baby strapped to my chest, trying to balance and keep the flashlight somehow in line with my step in the pitch black night, I remember thinking, "Oh my word. If our parents saw this right now, they would all have simultaneous heart attacks."

It was Christmas Eve and we were all climbing down the boat and making our way very carefully and quite treacherously up the steep, muddy hill to the home of an local family to celebrate the holidays. The temperature had cooled off to a pleasant 78 degrees and thankfully the rain had cleared out. I was carefully guarding each step because I was merely inches from slipping and falling into the muddy, murky water of the Amazon. It's not that I cared so much about getting wet as much as not letting Elliott get wet... oh, and the fact that it's very well known that you don't go in the water after nightfall.

As we finally reached the top of the hill, I turned to wait for Richard and suddenly I was face to face with one of the most beautiful displays of God's grandeur I think I've ever seen. It was a moonless, cloudless night and I could literally see thousands of stars mirrored over the Amazon River. I stood there with my mouth wide open. Richard joined me moments later and we both stood in awe. Words cannot describe and any attempt to take a photo would have been in vain. I wanted to stand there all night, but the family was waiting for us so we continued to their home and spent the evening talking (or trying to with such a language barrier), eating, and being together.

Around 11pm, Elliott had just about reached his limit of daily excitement so Richard and I made our way back down the slippery hill and back up onto the boat. I finally got Elliott situated for the night and climbed up onto the top bunk in the small room we were occupying and turned the little battery operated fan on above my head. I was already sweating again and the wind had all but ceased. By this time it was midnight. I remember thinking, "This has got to be the most unusual Christmas Eve of my entire life...."

Our time on this most recent trip was packed full of a lot of things: adventure, exhaustion, new contacts, sickness, open doors, frustrations, growing, learning, teaching, sweating, fishing, laughing, swimming, crying, writing, reading... the list goes on.

But one thing it was not full of was glamor.

Living in the jung|e is not glamorous. It's hot. It's rainy. Sometimes there is no wind, no fans, and it feels like you are sitting in a sauna. You take three showers a day just to keep your body cool. There are bugs that bite the fire out of you. Sometimes, there is not a drop of running water. Sometimes, there's nothing to eat. Sometimes, there is no where to be alone. Sometimes, there is nothing new or exciting for days at a time and you find yourself saying, "Hey, God.... You know I'm still down here, right?"

I think it's a lot like our Christmas Eve trek, though, . It took us a long time to descend the boat. It was tedious steadying our foot with each step. It took a lot of effort to keep balanced and we were all watching out for each other, trying to share the light from our flashlights as best we could. The climb up the hill was steep and our shoes were caked in mud making each step burdensome.

But when we got to the top of that hill, we got to see a glimpse--just a tiny glimpse--of the holy God we serve. We got to see for a brief moment all of His power and majesty and holiness and sovereignty. And at that moment, I would have hiked that hill over and over just to see it again. Now, it didn't last long and soon we were hurried on to the next part of our evening. Just a couple hours later we found ourselves climbing back down that hill and working our way back to the boat. The clouds had moved in so the stars were no longer in sight. But it was worth it all just to see that glimpse.

In the Jung|e, we learned that sometimes it's day after day of monotony. It's exhausting and sometimes you just want to be at "home" in the A/C watching "The Office" and eating a large pizza all by yourself. But it's in those brief moments when you meet that Indian family and you see in their faces the face of God and you know--you just know--that God has you there for a reason and that He sent His Son to die on the cross for that person your trying to reach. You can't speak their language and you don't know their culture, but all of the sudden every part of your being wants to learn it so you can just share with them the hope and the joy that is found in the God that you serve.

It's those glimpses at the "big picture" that make you say, "God, give me the heat. Give me those daggum little bugs that you can't see until they've already bitten you sixty times. Give me the monotony and give me the hunger. Go ahead and throw some sickness in there if you need to. But please, please let me just have one more chance to see Your face again and to share your name with these people."

Then, well, maybe it does become a little glamorous.

View from on the boat of our trek up the hill on Christmas Eve.

Precious little daughter of the Indian witch doctor whose chances of hearing about Jesus are slim right now.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday: A Perfect God

We travel a lot so naturally we meet a lot of people.

It never fails that we meet someone who has developed some sort of bitterness over the years, particularly among those in the ministry. Actually, it seems like those are some of the bitterest people I know!

Why? Well, the only common denominator that I can put my finger on is this: their focus was/is on people instead of Christ.

I hear things like:

"The ministry is hard. You learn you just can't trust people."
"Just prepare yourself to be very lonely. No one understands what it's like to be in the ministry."
"People will turn their backs on you because they don't understand."

But really is it any surprise when people let us down? Is it any surprise when we find we can't trust those closest to us? Is it really a shock that people don't understand us?

I think not. Actually, I'd be surprised if it were the other way around! In fact, I have no doubt that I've done my fair share of letting people down in my almost 25 years of existence.

So what do we do then? Give up and get bitter?

No, I'd say we just keep "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

I like what Oswald Chambers says, "I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God."

I'm thankful for a perfect God. He never fails.
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