Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Post-Thanksgiving Meditation

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

Last weekend was Thanksgiving, which in some ways feels like a 2nd class holiday in American culture.  All over twitter, I have seen people refer to it as “Black Friday Eve.” And usually we are all to quick to move beyond thankfulness and into consumption, shifting the focus back to us.

This year I wanted my thanksgiving to be a bit different. I intentionally meditated on Psalm 107, especially the first phrase: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is Good, His steadfast love endures forever.”  We know that we need to be thankful.  Objectively, even non-Christians would say that thankfulness is important.  So it isn't just that we should be thankful, or even that we should be thankful to God just because He is God.  The psalmist gives a clear call to worship not just to be thankful, but why we should be thankful.

We should be thankful for God’s goodness.  This is His moral excellence.  Every choice He makes, every gift He gives, everything He does is completely correct and is set up for our good and His glory.  This is a hard thought in today's world. There are so many things that aren't good. Yet in a world of "not goodness", God is the only one that is truly good. We can trust His leading and His word. Furthermore, his “steadfast love” endures forever.  There will never be a time in which God’s steadfast love runs dry.  This is His covenant-keeping love. His love is unshakable.

So this Thanksgiving I sought to give thanks to God. Not just because He is worthy, but because He is good and His love endures forever.

What part of God's character are you most thankful for?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Special Thanksgiving

We have something very special to be thankful for this year... 

Just yesterday, we reached the halfway mark in our monthly support! 
We are now at 51% of our monthly financial support!

We have so much to be thankful for, even beyond this special milestone. We're thankful for our wonderful family whom we get to celebrate with, the generosity and support of friends and family as we journey to Austria, and above all else, a God who has graciously saved us and given us an eternal hope.

"Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
   let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
   and extol him with music and song.
 For the LORD is the great God,
   the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
   and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and his hands formed the dry land.

 Come, let us bow down in worship,
   let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   the flock under his care."

Psalm 95:1 - 7

Monday, November 21, 2011

Praying for a BOLD GOAL

This month, we began a concerted prayer effort for a big goal. Would you join us in prayer? Watch this video to learn more...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lily's Story

A while ago, we were up in Detroit Lakes sharing with a church. We had a really great time up there and we were really blessed by the wonderful community.  While we were there, we met a woman named Lily*.

When we arrived at the church and got into the sanctuary before the service began, I took a second to look around.  In a room full of people chatting and greeting each other, I saw one head bowed and hands folded.  An older woman was deep in prayer before the service began.  I noticed her against the contrast of chatting but didn't think much of it until after the service.

We had a fellowship meal afterward, and Lily stopped us in line and asked if we would stop by her table to talk with her. When we had a second, we broke away and went to visit her table.

She told us about her many friends and family that were in religious traditions focused on works and not salvation by grace through faith.  As we talked with her, you could see her heart breaking for those that knew who God was, but had never had a true relationship with Him.  The more she talked, the more we could see how emotional of a subject this was for her.  She told us how glad she was for our ministry and promised to pray for us.

We are very passionate about reaching lost people in western Europe, but I was truly challenged by the fervency of this woman.  We need to continually ask God to break our hearts and show us the world through His eyes. Our prayer is that we can have a heart like Lily's for the lost people around us.

How is God breaking your heart for the people around you? 

Do you need him to break your heart again?

*Lily isn't her real name
Photo credit is here user TACLUDA on rgbstock.com

Friday, November 4, 2011

How do we pray boldly?

During this journey of preparing for Austria and building our financial support team, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to pray boldly.  I believe that God answers prayer, and I believe that we should pray boldly and specifically if we want to see Him work. Scripture tells us to go before the thrown of God confidently (Hebrews 4:16) and to pray continually (I Thessalonians 5:16). Scripture even says we can move mountains through prayer.

"I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him." - Mark 11:23

This all seems plain and simple, right?

While I know all of these things to be true, I also know this: God doesn't always answer prayers, at least not in a way that we can see or understand.   I've experienced times where I've prayed boldly for someone to be healed and they weren't. I've prayed for missionaries to get to the field quickly and it took them years. We've all experienced this in one way or another.

So what I have been wrestling with is this... How do we pray boldly, while also humbling submitted to what God wants? How do I pray and hope for something, while knowing in my heart that God may not answer my prayer the way I want to or according to my timeline? How do I do this without getting discouraged or disappointed?

Right now, Nate and I have boldly been praying that we reach an important and lofty goal: 60% funding by January 15th. Reaching this goal will enable us to attend pre-departure training at WorldVenture in January, which will set us up well to leave for Austria this summer. Not meeting this goal will slow our timeline down. I want to pray for this confidently and boldly, but I've been struggling with fear that we won't reach the goal. I want to prepare myself for that possibility, while at the same time still hoping and praying that we make it.

I don't have answers to all of this. I know that the Lord is sovereign over all of it - of the funding, the timeline, the training and everything else in between. So what do I do?

I keep praying.

My prayer is that He brings me peace and shapes my heart, so I can pray boldly and rest in His will for our lives.

 How do you reconcile praying boldly and submitting to the Lord's will?

Photo credit: dieraecherin from morguefile.com

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Fruit of Partnership

A few weeks ago, we spent some time up in Detroit Lakes, MN.  We had a few great stories from that time, but one of my favorites begins with my time at Moody Bible Institute.

When I was at school, we talked a lot about how to chose a stateside missions organization to partner with.  There are so many challenges to get overseas, and you need to work with an agency that is a good fit for you and will best help you navigate those challenges. As I started to look at different organizations, I met a guy named Phil from WorldVenture.  We chatted a couple of times each year and I got to know more and more about his organization.  He wasn't just a recruiter trying to make numbers...he got to know me and built a relationship with me.  He also communicated clearly about the organization's strengths and weaknesses, shared with me about the application process, and advised me about what would be the best timing to begin the process of joining WorldVenture.  We stayed in touch for quite a while until it was time for Bethany and I to begin our application.

So how does this connect to a church up in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota?  The night before we were to present, we stopped by the church to test out all the technical stuff and make sure we were ready to present.  We saw the board on the wall with pictures of all the missionaries the church supports.  One face jumped right out at us...it was Phil and his wife! The church had been supporting Phil and Mimi for many years as they ministered to Americans who are looking to go overseas as missionaries.

The next morning, it was so great to get the chance to preach the word to this congregation, a group of people who had already partnered with our ministry by supporting my friend Phil.  We are a product of their prayers and support! It was such a gift to know that this church understood the need for people like Phil to coach new missionaries along in their journey to the field.

Photo credit: alvimann
from morguefile.com