If I Could Describe

If I could describe the past few days and what God has been doing in my heart, I would describe it like this:  I am falling so madly in love with Jesus.  I have stepped into something that I would never have dreamed on my own was the desire of my heart, but God who knows me better than I know myself would not give up on me and pursued me until I finally chose to obey.  I don’t know why my heart so often wants to fight the very thing that would give me life; why I would run away from the very thing that would bring me fulfillment.  It seems that nearly every time I come to God in prayer, I have to fight off the initial feelings that I don’t want to be there.  Once that battle is won and I step into God’s presence, I am forever changed.  Every day.

God has been reminding me lately that He has had His hand on the story of my life since the beginning.  He has been taking me through all the many moments of struggle, disappointment, fear, and failure and showing me how He is my Redeemer.  For example, just a couple days ago we sang “Trading My Sorrows” in one of our meetings, and the second verse never hit me until just then:  “I’m trading my sickness, I’m trading my pain, I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.”  I remembered in that moment the nine years of illness I struggled with that seemed to dominate my life.  Even though there are elements of this illness that I still live with, my God of mercy saw me through it all.  He walked with me through the darkness, held me through the nights when the pain was more than I could bear, wiped away my tears when I fell apart, and helped me to stand.  Looking back over that long season, I remember more than I can put into words those moments and years when He was so faithful, when He was the only One I had.  He was the only One who understood.  Singing that song, I could truly say that now, as I move forward as a missionary in Peru and later in Ecuador that I am trading all of those things:  the darkness, the pain, the tears, and the fear for the joy of the Lord.  I am laying them down at His feet.  I will forever trust Him.

I remember that day in Ecuador when I gave up my calling to be a missionary.  I hated who I was.  I had nothing to offer the King of Kings.  Then He invaded my world.  He rushed in like a hurricane.  He swept me off my feet and showed me a love like no other.  He proved His desire for me in spite of all that I believed made me unworthy.  I found that it is truly His love alone that makes me worthy.  As much as I wish I could exaggerate this story, there are no words to describe how Divine this redemption was.  From that moment forward, there has been no question:  I am His and I will follow.

Yesterday we had a discipleship class with some Peruvians who are training to be leaders.  We walked through the salvation message and talked about how Jesus is the only way and through accepting Him, we become His children are being made new.  A truth hit me as we talked about the verse “the old has gone, the new has come”.  God convicted me once again of the box that I had not only put Him in, but that I had also put myself in.  He told me that He desires to do so much through my life, but I must be willing to completely leave behind my insecurity, fear, and understanding.  He wants to transform me.

I have been reading in Joshua lately, and it has been striking to me at this point.  God told Joshua over and over again, “Do not be afraid” “Be strong and courageous” “Be very strong and courageous”.  This is the message that God has so often had to speak to my heart, and one that He does not need to speak to those who are naturally strong and courageous but to those of us who by nature are fearful people.  Our God chooses the least likely to do the greatest things.  Yesterday, the verse from Joshua 3:7 jumped off the page into my journal:  “The Lord told Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to make you a great leader in the eyes of all the Israelites.  They will know that I am with you, just as I was with Moses.’”  This statement immediately precedes the great and miraculous crossing of the Jordan River.  A great part of me wants to run away.  A great part of me wants more than anything to beg God to send someone else; to tell Him that I don’t want to put myself out there that far.  There is a lot at stake in those deep waters.  Why can’t I be a simple follower?  Why must God call me of all people to be a leader?

We watched a video of Francis Chan the other day.  Though I had seen it before, every time I see this illustration, it rocks my world.  He is standing on a balance beam and talking about the difficult things that he has been through and how he is tempted to desire a safe life, far away from anything that could possible injure or disable.  He said that so many Christians bend down and hold onto the beam with all they have, hoping that nothing will ever touch them.  Then when the end of their lives comes and they slip quietly off the balance beam into the presence of God, no amount of bowing can make God say, “Well done!”  What is a judge to do with an Olympic gymnast who mounts the balance beam, bends down and straddles it until the end of the routine, and dismounts to bow proudly before him?  Although getting on the balance beam and doing flips and twirls may be dangerous and may possibly cause me to fall sometimes, I want a routine that makes my Father proud.  I want to experience all that there is in seeking to be close to Him, and that will without a doubt cause me to take some serious risks.  However, it is so worth it.

Without a doubt the best and most comforting thing about moving to Peru has been the time that I have spent in prayer in His presence.  He is with me always.  Psalm 139: 7-12 says, “I can never escape from Your Spirit!  I can never get away from Your presence!  If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there.  If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me.  I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from You.  To You the night shines as bright as day.  Darkness and light are the same to You.”  No matter where I am, He is with me.  No matter where He calls me, He is going with me.  When I sit down to spend time with Him, I am reminded that God not only was there in my past, but He is here in my present and my future as well.  I need only to trust Him with today; with this moment.  Whatever fears I have about whatever it is that God has asked me to do, I must learn to say in this moment, “I desire what pleases You, Lord.”  I long only for His smile.  I long only for his warm, “Well, done!”

So I move forward in faith that this Love that has brought me safely thus far will lead me the rest of the way.  I trust that if He has called me to be a leader in His Kingdom that He will be my Help.  I make my home in no other place but wherever His Spirit draws me.  I read all that happens around me through the “normal lens” of the activity of the Spirit.  Lest I ever forget, I pray that He might remind me that His mercies are new every morning.  I rejoice in every new miracle like it is the first one I have ever seen.  I never get used to watching God’s hand at work.  I have felt His hand throughout my life and have seen from where He has taken me.  I know this great grace and I long that others will know it as well.  So I pray; we pray that the Holy Spirit rain would fall from heaven on us and those we are with.  Lord, make Yourself known to these people You love so much!  And may we always be waiting in expectation of all that You are going to do!

In the Beginning

In the beginning…of craziness…we moved to Peru.  Yesterday, to be exact.  To be honest, it feels like we have been here for a week.  I left the States two days ago and hopped on a series of four flights.  On the first flight, I met two really nice people that I spent time talking to.  One of them in particular is a Muslim from Iraq.  We had a great conversation about religion.  On the next flight, what do you know, the guy next to me started talking to me.  He is originally from El Salvador and was flying back for vacation.  He is a Mormon.  Now that was an interesting conversation.  I learned a lot, and I think he walked away challenged to finish reading the Bible (which he says is boring, but some things he said showed he clearly didn’t know what was in there).  On the third flight I sat next to a Christian from Mexico who was traveling with a music group.  By the time I got to the fourth flight I was too tired to have a decent conversation with anyone.

Within the first hour of being in Peru, I lost my passport.  It just vanished into thin air and we have no clue how it happened.  No kidding, it was probably the worst first impression I could make on my future boss and coworkers.  I spent part of yesterday afternoon with my host family at the police station filing a report.  Once a passport is lost, the chances of ever finding again are super slim.  I was just sick about it.  We began making plans to head to Lima sometime soon to get a replacement.  I spent a lot of time praying yesterday and had finally accepted God’s peace about the matter.  I gave the whole situation to Him, knowing that worrying about it anymore was not going to bring it back.  God said, “I got this.”  After much prayer on behalf of our team and some prayer partners back home, my passport mysteriously appeared on a ledge where it was not the day before.  We have no idea how it got there, but don’t really care.  I have my passport.

Last night we hung out at the airport for quite some time waiting for CJ, our fourth team member, to come.  She missed the flight she was originally supposed to be on, but made it for the next one…without her bags.  They are somewhere in Colombia or Lima, we don’t know right now.  We are praying that they arrive soon.  She had a super stressful journey and the airlines were not helpful.  I have a sense that the discouragement we have both faced at different points is a hint that God has great things in store for our team.

Today Ron and his kids took us on a walking tour of Arequipa.  We met some 40/40’s that we will be training with while we are here.  We walked for about five hours and saw a small part of the city.  It was really fun to see so many things.  We walked into this long hallway lined with shoes…I have honestly never seen SO MANY SHOES in my entire existence…put together.  It was crazy.  Every meal that we have had here has been impressive.

Oh and CJ and I’s host family is amazing.  They have two daughters, ages five and eight.  The five year old and I have really clicked.  I lost 10-0 at slug bug yesterday and have learned so much vocabulary from her.  She is so patient with me and knows that when I don’t understand something, she needs to repeat it using different words.  What a smart little girl.  She also told me yesterday that if she fell off the top of our bunk bed, she would break her head and need a new one.  So sweet.  Our host mom is an amazing cook and she and her husband (his name is Jesús) have taken so much time to sit down and talk with us and to get to know us.  I have found that my background in Spanish is helping A LOT, but there is so much I have yet to learn.  Good thing we start language school on Tuesday.

For those of you who would like to know how to pray for us, here are a few requests:

-CJ’s luggage to arrive soon and safely
-For our orientation and the first few days of language school go to smoothly
-For perseverance and abundant energy, as our job is going to be very intense
-For our spiritual growth individually as we are preparing for all that is coming once we move to Ecuador
-For our team of very different personalities and experiences to bond well and serve well together

The Line

“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I heard a pastor speak recently about his young son’s year of discovery and learning.  He wanted to ride his bike without training wheels, so he approached his dad with the proposition.  They carved a couple hours out of the schedule and after a few stumbles and tips, he learned how to ride the bike.  The son next wanted to learn how to swim, so they spent time in the pool day after day until he was able to swim.  Finally, the son wanted to learn how to dive into the pool.  His dad, the pastor, stood in the pool and told his son to come and stand on the edge.  His son stepped forward but stood about an inch or so away.  “No, son,” the father said, “you have to stand on the edge.  Let your toes dangle over!”  It took some coaxing, but finally his son was able to do it.  Slowly but surely he conquered his fear and dove into the pool.

The pastor talked about how in certain places in the world where the earth is transitioning from one type of terrain to another, there is an in-between place or line where the change happens.  A mountain cannot simply run into open ocean.  There is a place in between where it seems to be full of chaos and fear, but there is no other place in either the mountain or the open seas where there is such vibrant life.  He quoted a geologist who in essence said that this place, though it is unpredictable, is her favorite place.  She wants to always live in this line.

He said that in our spiritual lives, there is a line as well.  There is an edge to the swimming pool where we must dangle our toes over the water.  There is a line between the mountains and the open ocean.  This line often feels chaotic although there is complete order in everything in God.  It is a truly unpredictable place to be, but there is no other place where there is more vibrant life.  The pastor said that this line where we are often fearful is also the line of change.  The further a person travels from this line in either direction, the more complacent, content, and apathetic he becomes.  However, at the line, there is change.

I believe that God is at the line.  I have thought of life so often in terms of a journey, and it can be understood this way.  I believe that I am in places now that I never would have dreamed when I began my relationship with Christ.  I have found, however, that following God is not as much about getting somewhere as it is about being where He is and being as close to him as I possibly can.  C.S. Lewis compares God to the lion Aslan in his writing, and there is a place where the children asked, “Well is he safe?”  The beaver replied, “Of course he isn’t safe.  But he is good.”  There is nothing safe about being in a relationship with God just like there is nothing safe about getting on a plane this morning and moving to Peru.  However, I want to be where God is and where He is calling me to be.  Call it what you may:  the center of His will, or standing at the line with my toes dangling over the edge:  this is my place of fear, but my place of greatest change.  I cannot refuse Him when He draws me in.  I don’t want to be complacent, content, and apathetic.  I want to be full of life:  the life of Christ.

Today I am afraid, not because of what I am doing in leaving for the mission field but because I know that I am standing at the place of change.  I have come to find that there is a healthy fear in life.  This fear prepares me for the reality of the decision I am making.  This fear alerts my heart:  “Look!  Something great is about to happen!”  This fear is giving room for God to shine glory through a unworthy vessel.  It is an awareness that God has something great in store for anyone who would give everything to come and follow.  I am standing at the line of change.

Have you identified where the line is in your life?  What is the place that scares you most to go?  Could it be that this is the line where God is, beckoning you to come?  It is true that at the line it may be unpredictable and may seem chaotic, but God holds everything in perfect order.  At this line there is vibrant life.  Is the relationship you have with God important enough to you that you would give anything to have it?  Could you sell all you had for the pearl of great price?  Could you pluck out the part of your life that keeps you from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace?  Could you drop your nets and follow?  This grace is costly but it is worth the price.  I have found that I want to be in no other place but where God is, be that in the States or in Peru or wherever else.  I want to face those fears and experience change.  I want to stand on the edge and experience His life.  There is no other place for me.  Today, I am standing at the line.  Today I am feeling my toes dangling over the edge.  Today, I am diving into His arms.

My God Is A God Who Provides

Well, time is running short.  Today was chaotic.  Spent most of it in multiple conversations at once with people from several different countries.  We then made a final shopping run and met my grandparents and my aunt and uncle for dinner.  We then rushed off to a different aunt and uncle’s house for a quick photo shoot before the sun went down.  Then we rushed home and I am sitting down for a few minutes to share some thoughts before some friends come over for a late night movie night.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) we head out to Denver and on Thursday I fly out of the United States and officially move to Peru.

I wanted to take a bit to give God glory for some amazing things that He has done over the past two and a half months in fundraising for this mission.  At the end of June I accepted the position to go with Extreme Nazarene Ministries to South America, and that commitment entailed that I would raise $37,000 in monthly pledges and donations between then and now (mid-September).  I am not a rich person at all and I don’t know any rich people.  Most people I know are going through very difficult times.  However, God has truly worked a miracle through the faithfulness of so many people giving what they have been given, regardless of the amount.  I am fully funded and because of that, I am able to board the plane on Thursday.  PRAISE GOD!

It has truly been a test of faith, but even moreso a testament to God’s faithfulness and provision.  My idea of how things would work out was so small compared to God’s idea…always is.  As it turned out, many of the people that I had thought would be able to support me could not, and there were times of discouragement.  Then, out of nowhere, God brought people into my life that I didn’t even know.  Some people I would meet by chance or through a crisis completely unrelated, and an open door for conversation about what I was preparing to do would appear.  There are many people who do not know Christ that have joined in to see what God is doing.  And He is doing something amazing.

God didn’t provide the funds in my time frame.  In fact, I had about three days to spare.  It is amazing to me how much peace that God gave to my family and to me.  You would think we would have been banging our heads against a wall, but the truth of the matter is, God’s peace that transcends understanding filled our hearts.  He took our mustard seed of faith and made it grow.  The length of time also gave opportunity for more people to become involved.  Had I received the funds earlier, I may not have been as proactive about speaking in all the churches that I did or talking to as many people.  However, God knew who He wanted to be a part of this, and I have been constantly reminded that this is not MY story, but rather it is HIS story of which I have the privilege to be a part.

Probably the best part of this whole process is watching those in my life stand in awe of God and all that He has done.  What was so impossible God has made possible, and He has proven that He truly does take care of those He calls into His service.  Those that know the lack of resources that I have can testify even more that this was God’s work and only His work that has made this possible.  There is no mistaking this truth, and I know that this is only the beginning of all that He plans to do through our lives, all for His glory.  So many people are watching now, intent on God, anticipating something great.  He will not disappoint.

I am excited to begin this journey and to share here many stories of God’s work and His faithfulness.  So many of you have prayed for me, and please continue as this is only the beginning of the battle.  We are storming the gates of hell, running to the weak and weary and broken, bringing a message of God’s love, grace and hope.  We know that God has already been at work both in Arequipa, Peru and our later assignment of Ambato, Ecuador.  We are in prayer that God will humble us and give us the courage to join in with the work He is already doing and to serve Him fearlessly and with all boldness.  Pray for our team as we support each other and join forces for the Kingdom.  Stay tuned for more details.

Because of His Choice

It is about 1:30 in the morning, so this is going to be a short post about a couple thoughts that I had during a road trip today.

I was listening to a sermon by Greg Boyd while riding in the car, and I was challenged as he built onto a concept that I have been learning.  I have told the story about my journey in Ecuador, about how I gave up my missionary calling only to have God chase me down.  He showed me during that time that He, God Almighty of the Universe, does not need me for any purpose that He Himself could not do.  However, He had chosen me to fulfill a particular purpose, a role in His Kingdom and He wasn’t about to let me off the hook.  I learned that He truly and deeply desires me.

Greg Boyd was talking on the podcast about our giftings and our purposes in life and in God’s Kingdom, and he brought up a very important point:  God needs us.  Now this is an interesting concept, especially in the context of the story I just shared.  While it is true that God Almighty can do anything, it is also true that He chooses to limit His work by calling us humans to have a role in the plan.  He could have, in fact, created the world with humans that serve and worship Him mindlessly, but He didn’t.  He created humans with free will with not only the power to reject Him and in turn accept an eternity without Him, but He also gave humans the free will to accept Him and reject an eternity without Him (to spend eternity with Him).  Along with this free will to accept Him, we have also been given the incredible gift to live out a purpose that God has planned for our lives; the opportunity to contribute in a real way to an exciting and Divine redemption plan.  That means that as followers of Christ, we are not spiritual freeloaders, but rather have a responsibility to use what is given to us by God appropriately within the Body of Christ.

He used the example of a pastor and a church secretary.  The church was looking to relocate to another building, and as the pastor was driving by a certain location, he saw that it was for sale.  When he arrived at the church, he asked his secretary to look into what it would cost to purchase the property.  Two weeks passed by and the pastor decided to follow-up with the secretary to see what she found out.  As it so happened, she had forgotten to make the call amidst all her other obligations.  They soon discovered that the building had been in the perfect price range but had been purchased by another organization just eight days before.  Because the secretary had failed to follow-up in a timely manner, the church was unable to move to the new location.

Some might say, “Well, it must not have been God’s will that the church would move into the building.”  However, is this actually the truth, or was God wanting to work through the secretary to make things happen?  Surely God can take our mistakes and our missed opportunities and redeem them, but I wonder if sometimes we miss God’s best because we are not “on our game”.  God does not need us to do His work because He is unable; but it is Biblical that God has needed His people throughout history to not only be obedient to His calling, but to offer Him their best service.  He has chosen in many situations to place the consequences of blessings or repercussions in the hands of people.  The question is:  will we be faithful?

There are many times looking back over my life when I can see clearly where I have perhaps missed out on God’s best.  I have let fear keep me from stepping out when I knew God wanted me to move, and more often than not when I have stepped out, I have let that fear give me a spirit of timidity and I gave a half-hearted effort.  The reason why I felt insecure is ultimately irrelevant; the truth is that I was not wholeheartedly obedient.  I can see this in two main areas of my life:  my writing and my public speaking.  I have not pursued writing in many avenues where God opened the door because I was afraid.  In public speaking, I have accepted opportunities, but believed myself incapable of being great.  When I spoke, it came from a place of false humility.  True humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us.  I have learned that God does not see me as weak; rather He has made me weak so that I could show His strength.  The spirit inside of me is not timid if it is truly His Holy Spirit that fills me.  If He has called me, then He is with me and in me.  There is no reason for me not to proceed with bold confidence.

I have found that usually the question that people wrestle with is not “What does God want me to do?” but rather it is, “Can I truly do what God has asked me to do?”  Sometimes we question our callings, thinking that our belief in our incapability means that we must have heard something wrong.  “Surely God wouldn’t ask me to do that.  I must need to revisit this calling thing.”  God has placed within us certain abilities and desires directly related to our purposes in life.  For me, my calling to missions was no surprise, even though I struggled and tried to run away.  God’s purpose was engrained so deeply in my heart that I could not question it.  I doubted my ability to fulfill that purpose.

What if I were to courageously step up and do what I already know God wants me to do?  I believe that I am being obedient to Christ by moving to South America to do mission work in four days.  However, I also need to be aware that this action alone is only the beginning of my obedience.  God also wants my heart.  He wants me to be fully committed to the task, and He wants to coach me along the way.  It is true that I am not going to be perfect at it in the beginning, and there is an element of the task that I will always need His strength and grace.  However, He has called me to give my best and full attention to this task and to always strive for perfection in His Kingdom.  Perfection in His eyes means that I live out my purpose in every way, doing all that He created me to do.  His perfectionism does not beat me over the head when I make a mistake, but rather pushes me to learn from those mistakes to serve Him better in the future.  He sees the potential that He created in me.  Just like a runner trains for a race, disciplining and pushing himself forward, we should seek to push ourselves and discipline our spirits well in order that we might win the prize:  God’s best for His Kingdom.

In what ways have I been hesitating in God’s calling?  I may be going through the motions, but am I proceeding courageously and boldly into His purpose for my life?  We have the ultimate superpower behind us and working through us.  When we are following God’s will, there is no reason why we should be afraid or shrink back from giving the task our all.  If God has called us, He will give us everything we need to accomplish what it is He has asked us to do.  He has given us the responsibility of contributing to the outcome of certain crossroads, not because He can’t work things out, but because He has chosen to use us as vital conduits for His Kingdom.  Many opportunities for God’s redemption and salvation have been lost over the centuries due to a lack of obedience on behalf of His people.  Many hearts have been turned away from salvation due to the lack of holy example on behalf of those who call themselves His people.  So the question is:  what does your life look like?  Are you dormant in your faith?  Are you half-heartedly serving?  Are you an antonym of Jesus’ love?  It’s time to inventory!  Evaluate where you are, take it to God, and submit yourself wholly to His purpose!

There are those that I know who genuinely have sought after God and are still unsure of God’s direction for their lives.  My friend brought up a fantastic point in conversation the other day:  follow Him anyway.  In the Bible, God has laid out many general and specific commandments that apply to every follower of Christ.  Do not let your lack of direction keep you from doing anything in service to the Kingdom.  Do not let your lack of direction keep you from seeking Christ daily and faithfully through every decision and circumstance life brings your way.  It is truth that God is directing your path, though you may not be aware of His work.  The Bible says that many have entertained angels unaware.  It is important that God’s people are faithful and enthusiastic about their purpose in life and in the Body of Christ.  Every part is important and every part is designed exactly the way God wanted it.  He makes no mistakes and He does not waste time.  Where are you in your walk with Him today?

Everything Changes

What a stunning time this is.  I have been watching the news almost constantly the past three days or so, and it seems like the entire Middle East and Northern Africa is erupting like a volcano that has been gurgling beneath the surface for quite some time.  The news is even telling of other places in the world where demonstrations are breaking out for various reasons.  There is so much hostility and anger flying through the air.  It is pretty unnerving.  It is clear that in many ways, our world might never be the same no matter how much we want to bury our heads in the sand and pretend like everything is fine and dandy.

I can’t believe that I am moving to Peru in five days.  This past year has been full of change.  Last August I moved to Nashville, began grad school, a new job, and an internship.  After the first semester, I stepped down from school and started praying about what God might want me to do, but believing that it would probably be in Nashville.  In February, God started awakening my calling to missions again, and I was frustrated by this because I loved Nashville and the people I knew there.  I thought that maybe it was simply a reminder that God had called me there someday.  In March God proved me wrong and made His calling so strong that I could not deny it.  Through a twisted series of events, I was introduced to Extreme Nazarene Ministries in April and began the application process.  I interviewed for the position in late June.  I was offered the position and I accepted.  That decision began the insane past two and a half months that I have lived through.

In July I quit my job and began fundraising the $37,000 I would need in order to go.  August 1stI began the trek to Nebraska.  My family took what was left of my belongings there and I spent time in Kansas and North Dakota before ending up in Nebraska in the middle of the month.  In the past four weeks I have spoken at several churches, youth groups, and even a school.  I have been meeting with many people, each for the last time for a long time. It has been an emotional rollercoaster and in many ways physically and spiritually exhausting.  There is a battle going on, just like in any situation when one is obedient to God.  Satan has used about every tactic I can think of so far to deter and discourage.  However, he knows that he has lost not only this battle but the ultimate battle with his destiny.  My decision to serve Christ faithfully and joyfully is final.

Here I am now with only five more jam packed days before I leave the States.  I only have $1,400 left to raise.  It is nerve-wracking to still not be fully-funded, but when I look at the $35,600 that God has already brought in just in the last two and a half months, it is not hard to see that God’s hand is in this endeavor and I know that He will not let me fall now.  Today my cousin is getting married in Iowa and we are traveling to be there.  It is hard to believe that there are only two of us cousins left who have not actually settled down with someone.  We are no longer the little kids we used to be, all jumbled up on Grandma and Grandpa’s bed upstairs watching A Christmas Story play over and over and over every year.  We no longer take our places around the kids’ table in the kitchen pouring pepper in each other’s punch.  Now we sit at the adult table where everyone has to repeat everything they say because half of us are hard of hearing.  So many changes in life.  Some may say these changes are good, some might say they are bad.  To me, they are neither; they are just the way things are.

Even though we might accept change as inevitable, it does not necessarily mean that it is easy to face.  How comforting it is, however, that amidst a world that is turning upside down and plans and relationships that are under constant transition, we serve a God that was the same yesterday as He is today and will be forever.  He is our rock and fortress that is not shaken, though all that we know might be falling down around us.  I take comfort in that right now, because literally nothing in my life is staying the same but Him.  I can depend on Him to come through because His Word is solid and His love is unfailing.  Everything changes…but Him.

It is this truth that gives me the courage to take this next step with Him.  I know that God is already in Peru and Ecuador and at work in the hearts of people there.  I know that He is also with me every step of the way, strengthening me to do the work that He has called me to do.  He will always be there, every morning and every evening when I pour out my heart to Him.  It is not a burden to spend time with Him every day in His Word and in prayer; rather, it is a relief.  I know that He will provide everything that I need in every way during these times, as He always has in the past.  His faithfulness is what is holding me together and calling me forward.

It is also this truth that gives me the passion to take this next step with Him.  His love for all those in the world has never changed.  He is desperate that all might know Him and know His love and peace and hope.  Looking at the world amidst the riots and demonstrations, there is anything but love and peace and hope.  Sharing the good news about God’s love and sacrifice is not about going on a conquest but it is bringing a healing balm to a wounded people.  This is true because our conquest is not in order to defeat but to bring life.  In talking about my work fight human trafficking with a store clerk yesterday, I made the statement, “The world is not a safe place, so we who have hope staying in safe places simply does not make sense.”  It is scary leaving the United States as the world is erupting in war and violence.  However, it is proof even more that time is drawing short and the need for God’s hope is so much greater.  We must take the light to the darkness.  Just like God sent His only Son into a hostile world that ultimately killed Him, God sends out His lambs among wolves.  Just like God came to meet us where we were, we will go to meet the world where they are.  We have the example of love from Christ, and for His children, there is no other way to live.

These are exciting days like this world has never seen.  Just as violence and fear are reaching a crisis point, God is preparing to do a mighty work unseen until now.  I am beyond excited for all that means.  I am excited to be challenged and changed.  Even more than that, I am excited to see what God will do in the coming days, both in South America and in the rest of the world.  He is calling His people out.  Do you hear His voice?  Be obedient!  God’s message is not one of hatred and violence, but of love and hope.  He does not desire destruction, but rather restoration.  People have so twisted their idea of who He is and in turn are destroying each other.  Over the years I have known several Muslims, and I love them dearly.  Although they are not all violent, the religion to me still remains a mystery no matter how much I learn about its teachings.  I don’t care what anyone says:  we do not serve the same God.  The true God does not look like chaos, violence, and fear.  The true God, though powerful, humbled Himself to come as a baby and die on a wooden cross at the hands of men, not because He couldn’t have saved Himself; but because He chose instead to save us.  There is no other God in any other religion who has done this.  This is the God that I serve.

The world is changing right now, but this is the message that we bring to the world:  there is still hope!  Trust in God!  Jesus died to defeat the chains of sin and death so that we could have hope both in this life and in the life to come!  There is no reason to fear!  The safest place to be is in the center of His will, and His will is that all would come to know Him.  God has called me to South America.  For me, that place is the center of His will.  Where is the center of His will for you?  Life is uncertain.  This world is in chaos.  Everything changes…but God.
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