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The Unexpected Diving Board

I have learned more and been challenged in greater ways in the past 12 hours than I have in the past two weeks, and the lessons came through tears.

Sometimes…well, most of the time…as ministers of the Gospel, we are engaged in active spiritual warfare.  Sometimes, an arrow or two gets through the defenses and they pierce the skin.  And it hurts.  Sometimes we cry ourselves to sleep hearing the lies and crying out to God with the little strength we have left.

You know, the thing I love about God is that He never lets us go.  When I woke up this morning, I immersed myself in the Word of God.  I opened a book that I am reading and heard a message that I desperately needed to hear.  He challenged me this morning to take serious steps of faith.  My God fought for me.  While I slept, He answered my cry and made me stronger.  This morning we won the battle I have been fighting the past few days, and I am victorious in Him.

Who would have thought that the enemy’s arrows and my heartfelt tears would be a diving board for deeper faith?  Only God can use the enemy’s weapons against him.  This is what the children of God experience:  the wounds caused by enemy forces make them stronger.  As soldiers for the Kingdom, we can never afford to forget that we are on the winning side.  Any attacks sent our way are hurled by an enemy that knows he has lost and wants to bring as many with him as he can.  Don’t let him win.  Determine to use his attacks against him.  Use them as a diving board into a deeper and more profound relationship with Jesus.  Throw it at Satan and shout, “In yo’ FACE!”

Here’s the formula for success in the battle:  once in a while, an arrow might make it through the defenses.  Cry out to Jesus.  Cover yourself in the truth of the Word of God.  Tune your ears to the voice of God, hear the challenge coming from your Master and Commander and take off running after Jesus in obedience.  Remember the challenge from Romans 8:28:  “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”  Even enemy arrows…even tears…can catapult you into greater things in Christ.  Go out there and live the Great Adventure!

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Reality

Today we had the opportunity to go to the visitation of a youth from our church that was killed in a car crash yesterday; a kid in his early 20’s with so much life left to live.  It wasn’t too long ago that he accepted Christ, but we are thankful for the hope we have that he is spending eternity with Jesus.

This is reality.  Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns.  It doesn’t always make sense.  However, I am thankful for a God who has our lives in His hands.  I am thankful that I can be sure of where I will spend eternity.  The truth is, we never know what moment might be our last.  It is days like today that make me even more anxious to share the hope that I have with everyone I meet.  There is not an opportunity worth missing.

Just Not Happenin’

We all have days when it’s just not happenin’.  Tonight was one of those nights for me.  I am a missionary in Ecuador, and we speak Spanish most of the time.  There are days when my Spanish is amazing.  The words just roll off the tongue.  Then there are days, like today, when I (and everyone else for that matter) wonder if I speak Spanish at all.

The cool thing about ministry done the right way is that it is not about us.  I gave one of the worst formed lessons I have ever given (not for lack of preparation; it was just one of those days), but God decided to do something amazing.  We had at least three people accept Christ.  While I’m off trying to spat out the words Nehemiah and city ruins, God’s over there saving souls.  And that just rocks.

All this to say:  don’t be afraid to step out and be obedient.  Don’t get down and depressed when your performance is just not happenin’, because it could be that in your bad night, God’s performance is totally happenin’.  Learn to look past yourself to the activity of God and give Him glory for everything He is doing.  Rejoice with Him and celebrate.

And don’t let Satan defeat you with the lie that you can’t do something when you have a bad night or a bad experience.  Get up and do it again with the same passion.  Because it’s not about you anyway.  It’s all about Him.

3-Minute Update! (January 21, 2014)

Happy 21st of January from Ambato, Ecuador!  We have been back for about 4 days and are trying to catch up with everything that happened while we were gone!  On Saturday night I had the opportunity to speak at the youth service!  We had some visitors from Extreme with us the past few days and it was awesome to be able to spend time with them!

Extreme recently had their annual meeting and I just want to say that I am so proud of the organization that I work for!  Our leaders are truly servants of God who are seeking to expand the Kingdom of God.  Please continue to pray for them and us as we enter another year of new adventures!

We now have a door for our children’s department!

Here’s some awesome news for you:  We had the opportunity to baptize 6 people this past Sunday!  Here are their first names so you can continue to pray for them by name:

-Diego

-Marcia

-Luis

-Jonathan

-Mayra

-Estefanía

Please keep us in prayer as next weekend we have an evangelism event.  More to come on what that will involve!  It will take place Saturday and Sunday the 1st and 2nd of February.

Also, our Encounter is coming up the 1st and 2nd of March.  Please be in prayer for those who are planning on coming right now, that God will provide the funds for each of them to go.  We are aiming for at least 20 from Ambato to attend.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page and team blog – pictures of the baptism are coming soon!  Thank you so much for all your support and prayers!

Have a fantastic day!

Forgotten Girls: Stories of Hope and Courage

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This book is written by Kay Marshall Strom and Michelle Rickett and is about the plight of women throughout the world.  It covers a lot of different topics such as poverty, inequality, trafficking, war, and injustice.  Each chapter takes place in a different country and is packed full of stories that will tear at the heart strings and call you to action.

What I like about this book is that each chapter includes many different ideas in how people can get involved and make a difference in small and big ways and in a variety of different levels of commitment.  For those who cannot give much time or money, there are many other ideas.  At the end of the book there is also an extensive section dedicated to follow-up reading ideas and organizations that are actively taking part in the fight against injustice.

This book is a Christian book and has encouraging stories as well about how people have spread the Gospel and maintained wholly dedicated lives in very challenging circumstances.

This book was worth reading.  On a scale of 1-10, I would probably rate it a 6.5.  On Kindle, it costs $9.99.

Let Your Love Be Loud

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So I discovered this morning that if you want to do a wake-up call in an Ecuadorian neighborhood, walk your dog down the street.  There was not a second of peace, and at one point there were approximately 14 dogs barking and banging against gates.  Not a single person was still in la-la land.  And…we set off a car alarm.

I thought to myself, “If we were half as excited to spend time with Jesus and share Him with others as dogs are to see each other, OH MY WORD…heaven would be full and Jesus would have come back already.  Where is the passion?  Where is the reckless happiness?

I want my love for Jesus to constantly be bubbling over.  I want it to be loud, so that no one could possibly be spiritually sleeping around me.  We aren’t called to blend in or maintain the peace.  We are called to stand out, to shine, to radically draw people to Him.

So here’s the challenge for today:  Let your love be loud!

The Overflow of His Heart

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My friend and I were driving down a rural highway in Indiana marveling at the vibrant sunset when she spoke up, “You know how the Bible says that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks?  When God created the world, all of life, and us, He spoke it into existence.  Creation is the overflow of God’s heart!”

That concept blew me away.  Still blows me away.  Next time you see a sunset or look into your little one’s eyes…or better yet, when you look into the mirror in the morning, remember that God created everything good!  All of creation is fantastically made, and you are more than just a part of it.  You are the OVERFLOW OF GOD’S HEART.  Have a blessed day!

My Holy Obsession

This past week as I have been spending some time with my best friend near Chicago before heading back to Ecuador, we have been reading together the book The Final Quest by Rick Joyner.  She had read this book before and it greatly impacted her life, so she was passing it along to me.  We still have one more chapter to go, but the last chapter so greatly impacted me that I simply have to take time to process it.  Perhaps it will take the rest of my life to truly process it.

The book is a series of visions that Rick received about the final spiritual battle and of heaven.  Most effective books have at most 20% of really awesome material and the rest is filler to help the reader process the 20% that is impactful (my own observation).  However, because this book is purely a vision from God, there is absolutely no filler material and every piece is fantastically profound.  I can’t comprehend a lot of it yet…it is still so new.

The part of the book that so far has been the most convicting and humbling was the part when Rick entered heaven, interacted with those there and with Jesus.  I have never been so convicted, and yes that is redundant but there is no other word to describe.  There are those who were great reformers in the Church, who impacted thousands or millions through their organizations for the Gospel, and even highlighted one of the greatest writers of all time (no names, of course).  These people had such great success, and we would say for the Kingdom, here on earth but were among the lowest rank in heaven because the inner focus of their lives and the way they used (or abused) their influence led themselves and others away from Christ.  They had sought to promote themselves and had not promoted Jesus.  They would spend the rest of eternity with the privilege of being in God’s presence, but were destined to only observe His glory from a distance.  They were called by Jesus to be Kings in His Kingdom, but because of their selfishness and pride were reduced to the outskirts of His glory.

I felt like my heart had been exposed.  I love Jesus, but my heart has not been clothed in the humility that I must have to stand in the presence of Jesus.  I have been praying that my life might make a difference, but had still been measuring my success by worldly standards.  I have been driven by the desire to make an impact for the Kingdom rather than by my intense and insatiable love for Jesus.  In fact, that I would want to be great in any way is a dangerous place to be.  Truly, it is Christ who exalts us.  We must humble ourselves.  There is no other way, and in the end any pride that we have will destroy us and others who depend on and look to our example for salvation.

I realized that my life can be lived for no other purpose than to point others to Jesus.  There is nothing else in this life that matters.  I will write, but I make no apologies about the fact that I write only about Jesus and His goodness and for His glory.  I will care for the orphans and seek healing for those broken by sin because my God sends me, but not for the great impact that I might have; I do it because my love for Jesus cannot help but overflow; because true worship of the King of Kings is the only remedy for the brokenness in this world.  It is not only my passion; it is my ABSOLUTE OBSESSION to look upon Jesus and to never deviate from His gaze.

When Rick approached Jesus, he had many experiences.  One of them was when it said that Jesus had wiped away the tears from the eyes of everyone else in heaven but His own.  As a tear fell from His face, He caught it in a cup and handed it to Rick to drink.  The taste was more bitter than anything he had ever tasted and caused a sorrow so great that a river of weeping erupted from Rick’s eyes.  He understood the desperation of Jesus for those who are lost.  Rick looked out over the great room of heaven and observed that even though there were millions there, they only occupied a small portion of the room.  Jesus shared His passion that His house might be full.  He commissioned Rick to go out to rescue the prisoners, to rescue those He dearly loves.  What greater calling COULD THERE EVER BE?  That is my calling.  That is your calling.  Yet, I do not write this for you.  I write this because I cannot keep it inside…I cannot contain this passion, this sorrow, this desperation.

Looking into the eyes of Jesus, there is no fear or impossibility.  These things don’t even matter.  All that matters is the love that sends us…the sorrow of Christ that drives us to not stop until His great desire is fulfilled.  When I look into His eyes, there is absolutely nothing I would not do for Him, and I sense that there is not much that I will not do for Him.  It is my great joy to do it all.

Anything that I write would be lame in comparison to all I hear God speaking to my heart, so I pray that my life might write a story of humility that is deserving of His smile.  I pray that every single moment would point others away from me and to Christ.  I pray that the attitude of my heart would be one of intimacy with my Jesus.  What matters here on earth is totally flipped in heaven.  What is temporary is totally different than what is eternal.  I will live for eternity.  I will live to worship Jesus.  I will live to carry His name in this world by His GRACE and in His strength.  His grace is all that I could ever boast about.

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

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Do you want to read something totally inspiring?  I recommend Sun Stand Still.

This book is based on the story in Joshua chapter 10 when Joshua prayed that God might make the sun stand still for an entire 24 hours and God answered his bold request.  There is more to the story than you think, and you learn that there is more to your responsibility in your calling and this partnership with God than you think…and it’s exciting.

The book starts out very basic and takes a bit to get off the ground, but stick with it.  It makes a lot of bold claims, but even in my skepticism the author came through on every one of them by the end of the book.  I might even read this book a second time later on this year.  I highly recommend it, and totally worth the $10.99 Kindle cost.

You want to learn how to pray effectively?  You want to learn how to partner with God in bringing about the Kingdom?  Do you want to learn what it means to live life with audacious faith and see the Sun Stand Still in impossible ways?  Do you want to learn how to trust God even when things don’t come about like you prayed they would?  Read this book!

Fear of Falling

Last night I had the opportunity to share a testimony and worship time with three other world changers in a living room in Lansing, Michigan.  The Spirit of God was so powerful in that place.  We all received words from God and we prayed for each other and the steps ahead.

Garrett shared a story from his past that totally spoke into my life, and I wanted to be vulnerable for a few moments and share it with you.

In one of his teaching assignments, he was put in charge of a high obstacle course.  Although he was afraid of heights, he took the job.  The rule of the course was that once a student climbed the ladder at the beginning, the only way he or she could come down was by finishing the course.  One day he was working with a group of middle-school students, and a young girl started to panic.  She finished crossing the most difficult part and latched herself onto a pole and started crying uncontrollably.  Garrett was at the end of the course, so he began to make his way to her.  As he reached her in her desperate situation, she explained to him all the reasons why she couldn’t complete the course, though most were unintelligible because of the tears.  He gently reassured her, “You are not in danger!  Even if you fall from the path, this rope will catch you just a foot below, and I am here to make sure that doesn’t even happen.  Every day I walk this course and check every nut and bolt and rope and all your equipment to make sure that everything is secure for you, and I just walked the portion of the course that you are getting ready to walk.  I can tell you that you will be quite ok!”  As he spoke those words to the girl, the concept clicked in his mind as well and was a pivotal point in his spiritual journey.

As he shared this story with me, it resonated so clearly in my life.  Recently I had been struggling with fear about the next step, and although I was willing to do anything for God, the past few days had found me spiritually clinging to a pole, afraid to twitch.  However, God used the story of the obstacle course to remind me that He has already walked this path that is ahead of me – many times.  He reminded me that although it seems unsafe to me, that I am secure in His hand.  The path ahead might be physically dangerous, but even then I have nothing to fear.  One of the words from God that Rachel shared with me last night was that God wouldn’t call me to go somewhere that wasn’t with Him.  That is a comforting thought.

It is true that we are often convicted and challenged by our own words coming out of our mouths.  I remember saying last night that the fact that I am ever afraid of anything means that I do not truly understand how big and good God is.  Although it is hard for me to admit my fear, I am thankful that God found me there – clinging to the pole for dear life – and took my hand.  So we continue through the obstacle course without a fear of falling.  I will walk with the One who has gone before and already prepared the way.

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