Missionaries Invited: Brief Overview On Nica 2016

rene-and-victorIt’s cold today. Yesterday was just the same. The month is December. My locale, Central IL. Hard to believe I was sporting shorts and a t-shirt only a handful of hours ago. But that was Nicaragua. Not here.

Began writing this blog a day or two after the trip. Sounded like a mushy tale from a BBC flick. So much editing! I present you now, what I hope to be the highly grounded version. I guess finding the right window of time to express oneself to others is science. A work of art. Let’s see how we do here…

Made a last second shift on travel to the airport and back. A friend of mine found me out about a bus ride that rode round trip between Peoria and O’hare. That’s Chicago’s main airport, if you’re not aware. Saved money. Not necessarily time, although. Then again, those layovers did allow me space to process the memories, electrified, still spangling inside.

life-jacketsFort Lauderdale served as cut off man both there and back again. Never been before now. Someone said that airports don’t count anyhow. Sounds fair to me.

Customs was a breeze. Scan line? Lost a pocket knife on the way back to the States. Forgot to pack it in my check in. Merry Christmas, TSA! Did manage to pick up another one though. Felt kinda naked without it.

Joe. Jairo. Rene. Those guys worked hard to snatch me up at the airport in Managua. The hour was late. Some 1:30am. Had already been travelling all day. Was just informed it was another 4 hours, via car ride, to the hotel from there. You guys are the best!

kids-on-the-wallMight have slept in a bit that morning. Was headed into double OT. Then I heard Scott’s voice from outside my room – that distinct boom, a Texas radio presence. We hadn’t seen one another in almost 3 years. Couldn’t resist getting to it. Was super glad I did!

Met the team. Met the team. Met the team. Everyone so full of life! Even the quiet ones. So many times things start out so slow. But this crew was unique. You could feel it! Nobody wore their badge outside their skin. Everyone was adaptable – eager for what better served the mission. Work horses. Love horses. Tried and true. Yeah, there were opportunities for failure, but in the end, everybody pulled through. And we were a better team because of it.

kiss-me-betterI know I’m supposed to talk about miracles and things of like manner. I know what you want to hear is how God did this. God did that. We’ve grown so used to the formula. Who am I not to follow suit? I mean, we were there to encourage young adults who were either in leadership or destined for it… so I guess I should make some big stink on how well all that went. And I will. It’s just that…

mt-scene1I think I learned something on this trip. Imagine that. And what I now believe is that missions isn’t always necessarily about us, Americans especially, packing our suitcases to fly off to some foreign land and unpacking all we know. It’s not about building some structure, by ourselves, as if the nation we’re currently visiting runs a shortage on construction workers. Sometimes, at least this time, it was about locking arms in friendship with Nicaraguans, Mexicans, even a few Swedes and saying, “This is a sign, a testimony of the Kingdom that’s coming! When every tribe, tongue and nation will dwell together in unity, under Christ’s lordship!” Did I get that right?

young-adult-group-picAs for the young adults: Yeah, they had a great time! Let us know it on so many levels. And God did do so many amazing things, I could convert this blog into a book! But overall, I’m just so impressed with the leadership of those who were instructing on leadership. The match of character per subject advertised was spot on! I’d do it again in less than half a heart’s beat. Probably you would too? #invitation

the-team

Texas Dream. Illinois Awakening

images (1) (2)

Whether late 2013 or early 2014, I cannot recollect. Had a dream that would stick with me for at least a few years. Hopefully a lifetime. Starts out, I’m running a Tough Mudder event with my friend Scott. Backdrop: Tough Mudder is a mud race that travels all over the U.S – and if I remember correctly, a little internationally as well. Its premises is based of British boot camp drills that promotes teamwork to a finishing the mission. Together. As one.

Previous to the dream, I’d run two other TM races. One near Charlotte. One near Dallas. Both lived to be beyond expectation, and not in ways that I’d expected. I’ll explain that here in a bit.

Arlington, TX was where the pillow met my head. Moved there from Fort Mill, SC and stayed for 8 months. In the dream however, the race was staged in Peoria, IL, the city I’m from. Not only that, it was in my mom’s back yard, or rather what I knew it to be, as dreams have a tendency to transform reality, and yet you somehow still recognize their origin. Maybe that’s just me.

The dream follows with Scott and I running into an old friend of his. The man was older, literally. I discerned him as to have much wisdom, aside even his balding head with white hair there remaining. Immediately, did I desire to learn from him. Turning to Scott, I asked if he wouldn’t mind me running with his friend instead. He assured me it was just fine. The old man didn’t seem to mind either. Possibly, that was the plan all along, though I did not know it at the time. I’ll explain that one shortly here as well.

As we ran, the old man kept growing further and further away. Eventually, he escaped me all together. Frustrated at this point, and feeling all alone, I decided the best thing to do was stop and wait for Scott. That happened, and we ran together once again.

From that time til now, I’ve been trying to decipher the dream’s interpretation. It wasn’t long after the fact that I packed up and moved back to Peoria. Hadn’t planned it that way. What I mean is that there was no intentionality on my behalf to somehow cause this dream come true. What would happen however, is that life, via God’s most loving, helpful hand, would lead me down the path toward revelation.

I’ll be honest, until recently, I surmised the old man was wrong for doing what he’d done. That I was probably going to find myself, in life, with someone (could almost even tell you who) ran far too fast, leaving me to wallow in their dust. Eventually, God would relieve me from that situation and lead me back to someone like Scott, whose leadership/camaraderie was of far greater quality. Now, I can see that the old man was indeed very wise. He was showing me what I MYSELF had been presently guilty of. Ouch!

My idea of greatness mattered more of a “look what I can do” kind of reality, verses a “look how I can live through Christ Who strengthens me” mentality. We all like to look and feel important. Jesus, being the ultimate example of leadership/camaraderie, came to serve, even to the point of laying down His life. Death. That’s leadership? Emphatically, “Yes!”

I know there’s a lot of talk about “team” these days. And yet, the end game still seems to horde the lust for self-promotion. This masquerade, though nothing new, is far too prevalent among us, even in the church. But I dare not go there. The finger is always best pointed at self. Eye. Log. Speck of dust and such.

This year, I’m gonna run another Tough Mudder. It’s been a few. I’m looking forward to it! And what I wanted to say earlier about the race, is that it’s really not a race at all. That is, you’re not timed. There are no trophies for coming in first, second, or third. There are however, rewards for finishing – with your team. That’s my story. Probably there’s more to it. I just don’t yet know what it is I still don’t know

Curses. Blessings. Generational Misunderstandings?

 Many of us have grown up in our walk learning of them – learning to beware of the vices that gripped our ancestors and would most definitely lay hold of us lest we partake of extra precaution. The Old Testament makes mention of such overflow. But the New? Possibly I’m wrong in my conclusion, but are we willing to re-examine? Certainly I needed to, even regardless any time, money, and energy spent

Some would say that if we receive generational blessings, then it only makes sense we would inherit curses the same. I believed this for a good bit. Now I begin to wonder. After all, Jesus’ blood, doesn’t it speak a better word?

If God is the God of blessing, then might it be that whatever blessings were passed down from Him, remain as free to overflow? Yet, God is not a God of curses, is He? How then can curses carry through the blood of Jesus that we are now covered in? The spiritual covenants of our ancestors, are they not cut off when we are born again, transformed into His image, a new creation, adopted as spiritual sons and daughters into a NEW family – God’s family, the line of Christ?

Great, is the question that arises from those who still align themselves with generational curses: “Why then are so many believers still struggling from the similar sins of their ancestors?” My best answer, thus far, is that we don’t fully believe who or Whose we are. Our identity as sons and daughters of the most high God is still a little bit foggy, a little bit jaded – and just maybe a lot?

Good news, is that as we continue to intentionally grow deeper into truth, into intimacy with Jesus, declaring daily of who and Whose we are, so many of the things that once bound us, will sooner or later transform from mountains to molehills to nothing at all. Paul asserts in Philippians chapter 3, how he presses on toward the inheritance of the power of the resurrection, leaving behind the things of the past; both good, bad, and ugly

I dare not say that I have arrived. SO FAR FROM IT!!! I can only attest to the amount of freedom that I have found in following this course – however infinitesimal it may be. Mostly, I just enjoy sharing. I love enduring, thriving through the journey in camaraderie with others. Writing out the things I’ve heard helps me better understand, better to live out the things I’m learning

Allow me to add a word of balance. A word of caution. If the sins of your ancestors are still a burning struggle, for example, if your dad was an alcoholic and you currently feel that overwhelming draw; then it would not be wise to dive into drinking, at any level, until you have come to terms of peace that would keep you from falling into that same dark chasm. Does that make sense? Freedom in Christ is not meant to be a stumbling block. But it can be if our understanding of it is misguided, not for the sake of love – loving Him. Loving ourselves. Loving others

On the same note, I would encourage us to become less intrigued by familiar spirits, rather ever-increasing in our fellowship with Holy Spirit; Who is both our helper, our comforter, our guide. Any over-attraction to darkness, in my mind, is probably married to a spirit of fear

‘Identity’ is utmost in proportion of God’s heart for us. Wished I would have dove into those waters much sooner. Not to weep over spilled milk – who knows, maybe this blog will touch someone. Just putting it out there, being honest about my own journey, cheering on others as I myself am being cheered, helps me to feel like God is indeed redeeming the time. He is

Identity in Christ. It is the main source, the very key to overcoming. That’s Good News!

Beyond the Myths of the Beast Mark

Seems we’re set on a chip. Possibly. I believe it very well could be. But we still don’t know for sure. The text never tells

From what I’ve heard there are technological advances, even as we speak, to place a chip beneath the skin for purposes of identification. Some say it already exists. Some say this will blaze the trail to a buy, sell, and trade scenario. I see how that would sound an alarm. But is it for the right reasons?

We have this fear. You know, the one where you fall unconscious one day and wake up in a hospital only to find out you’ve taken the mark (doctor’s insertion)? I’ve heard it. Wondered the same thing myself once. Good news is, we need not to worry. Only insert the rest of the story

A long time ago, in a galaxy… God created angels. One of them would rise so great with pride that when he witnessed creation worship the Lord, he fell so dark into deception, thinking he could make greater than what God said was good. Satan desired to steal the worship of every living soul

His agenda to kill and destroy comes lavishly packaged on a rewards based basis. Even to Jesus Himself, he offered, “Bow down and worship me and I will give You the nations”. You can bet the like, his aim is the same with us

Possibly we got it backwards. Maybe it’s not, ‘Take the mark and you’ll worship the beast’, but ‘Worship the beast and you’ll earn the badge to buy sell and trade’? I’m not saying there won’t be dangling carrots and death threats. I only know worship doesn’t happen by accident. It’s purposeful. Intentional

I guess what I’m asking is that we might reconsider some of what we’ve heard. I know there are bar codes and what not. And within those codes it’s said they contain the 666. But we all carry credit cards, along with other devices we use on a consistent basis – it’s all the same stuff. Nothing ever happens. No demons are manifested. At the end of the day, a chip is a chip – mere metal and plastic

What I’m trying to say is that, it’s really not about the mark at all, rather the worship it takes to receive one. So let’s get so rooted and grounded in Christ that we don’t ever have to worry about it again. Because we can be. It’s such great news!

Abide and Fickle No More

Upon a recent read of a favorite newsletter, I was reminded of an inkling I’d had toward a particular truth in scripture. What’s more, I felt re-birthed to re-explore, partly because of the impact it bears on our everyday, but also due to the thrusting hunger on my, possibly your current state of being

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” – Jn 17:22 ESV

From what many of us have heard, this statement that Jesus prays in conversation with Father God, is crash driven toward the core of Church Unity. After all, how powerful would the Church be if only She were unified?

However, when we search out all that Jesus has been saying, Jn 14-17, the word, or phrase “(Abide) in Me” takes its stand some 7 times, depending on your translation. Seven times in four chapters means a great something! I would dare to say it establishes the focus of what this passage is primarily gearing toward. You?

That in mind, can we soundly say this statement revolves around Church unity? An afterthought at best. I believe, and what the author of one of my favorite newsletters believes, is that Jesus is offering us a oneness in God, individually, with a mirror image of how Jesus and the Father are one. That’s great news! And although we may have been keen to this truth… how does it affect our prayer life?

Often have I made decisions, both great and small, based upon my current “feelings”. How fickle those can be! Right? And to what cost? To whose expense? My “feelings” have no doubt gotten the better of me, both great and small, on far too many occasions. How many of us find ourselves in a current predicament, wishing we’d learned from the last? Let me be first to stand

Let’s close. I’m making a point to pray this on a regular basis. “Lord, make Your thoughts, my thoughts. Let my mind, will, and emotions match Yours perfectly. Please touch me in this arena. I have great need of this! My life, Your glory, depends on it.” Amen

Was Satan Surprised by Jesus’ Resurrection: Paths of Least Resistance

I may be wrong. Certainly willing to re-examine the evidence. Been curious over when Jesus calls out to Peter “Get behind me, Satan!” It would appear He was assimilating Peter’s not wanting Him to go to the Cross was as the same desire as Satan’s? So what if…

What if the scene in the wilderness where Jesus was asked to “turn these stones into bread” was so that He would fail the very fast that would prepare Him for crucifixion? What if “Bow down and worship me (Satan)” was an attempt on the devil’s part to sway Jesus into endeavoring an easier path? What if after denying him (Satan) the suggestion for throwing Yourself off of a cliff was a temptation to a less painful death?

And what if Satan knew the Bible backwards and forwards, being fully aware the prophesies of Isaiah and Jeremiah that foretold of Christ’s suffering? What if Satan was the tempter behind Jesus’ hesitation toward drinking the cup? What if the devil really wasn’t surprised by the resurrection? What if he was actually trying to keep Him from it?

What if Judas’ temptation was not to kill Jesus, but force his hand? What if, just like the other disciples, he (Judas) expected the Messiah to overthrow Rome, which would demand an act of war, and that after three years without even so much as a military skirmish, he allowed the devil to deceive him into manipulating one himself by handing Him over to the Pharisees? What if Jesus would have overthrown the Pharisee’s guards? Would they (the Pharisees) have called upon the Roman guards? What if Jesus would have overthrown them too? If so, would the powers that be have called upon the Roman army? If that happened, what would be left but to take Caesar’s place as king of the most powerful country at that space in time – one that would have given Him power to rule the world? Would that bypass the cross, eliminating the Resurrection – the centrality of our salvation? Would that make the prophesies that foretold of it null and void? Would that make God a liar? Would He still be God if what He said would happen did not?

It’s a lot of what ifs. But what if? What if the message here was not so much about God taking the sneaky, down but not out, backdoor approach? What if it is more about endurance, perseverance with hope, joy and tears despite the temptation to quit and or take a lesser road? Like Judas, who was a thief, we are all tempted to take a path of least resistance – a real shoppers discount. Unfortunately, that is not where true Christianity is forged

God is good. All the time. And often times He does bless us with green pastures. But we have to figure those green pastures, those still waters are there for a reason – because we desperately needed them after the fire we just came through. Just have this funny feeling, that despite popular theology, the truth around the Crucifixion/Resurrection leans more toward a fight against all hell to get there. Not the other way around. You?

Man to Die Once? Cry of a Christmas Carol

carolEnoch and Elijah – Along with Moses, these are top gunners for those applying the part of “Two Witnesses” mentioned in Revelation. The evidence? “It is appointed man to die once” as gathers the Hebrew author. And at least two of these have yet to take their turn. But let us discover what else he has to say

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

At the end of this age, when Jesus returns, what will He do? First, transacts the resurrection of those who are dead and in Christ (1Thess 4:16). Next, and most important to this article, He will gather those who are still alive and in Christ (1 Thess 4:17) …and kill them

Hold the phone! Kill them? In order that man die once, He would have to – Wrong? I believe we all know the right answer here

First, we must ask the million dollar question… “the Why Behind the What”

Beyond popular belief, the context of this statement revolves around what would have been, had God not suffered the Cross. Think about it. Why was man appointed to die once? Because of sin. What did Jesus do? He paid the price for it. And that is what the author of Hebrews is intending to convey. He simply does it “A Christmas Carol” type fashion, where Scrooge has the dickens scared out of him by what might have been, or very well may be, would we not die to ourselves, in Christ, now

The beauty of this book is that it touchstones an in depth paramount per what Christ has done and why

Sorry Enoch. Sorry Elijah. Sorry Moses. You may yet have the job, but not for all the reasons initially considered. Probably you already knew and are A-OK. James and John? I have a hunch

May we continually be graced to ask the “Why Behind the What”