My Extraordinary Mission Trip

Wondering why (hoping?) that I’d fallen off the earth entirely?

Not this time. But I did travel to the other side of it.

For ten days this month, God called me to the unspeakable privilege of carrying his gospel to an unreached people group in South Asia. There are security concerns due to the region’s hostility towards Christianity, so I won’t reveal the exact location. I spent six days there, two days traveling each way, and six days afterwards lolling about jet-lagged out of my mind. That accounts for my absence.

It was…extraordinary.

I got to wade through ankle-high trash carrying rice bowls…and the Good News…to impoverished but smiling people living under urban bridges.

I got to pray with them as they eagerly set aside their own deities (or at least began the process) and accepted the one true God.

I got to travel to tiny tarp villages in the absolute middle of nowhere to teach and encourage brand new believers in sweltering brick huts.

I got to encourage new brethren from a fisherman’s village.

I got to lay hands on all these brothers and sisters asking God for jobs, healings, the end of family abuse, and protection against forced idol worship.

I got to share my faith, along with my team, with a confident but attentive Muslim waitress at a Hard Rock Cafe.

I got to watch out of the window at the poverty and chaos generated by false religion.

I got to speak at a Sunday morning service about, as George Whitefield said, repenting of both our sin and our righteousness (as in, repenting of our attempts to gain status before God and letting the cross be 100% of our justification).

I got to meet the beleaguered but determined brothers and sisters who are doing the gruntwork on their home soil, pleading with their countrymen to come to Christ.

It was…amazing.

And not easy. I remember being pretty freaked out as we drove to our first bridge site, asked to step out of a rental van and simply start sharing the Gospel with complete strangers. It required everything I’d ever learned (or taught myself back home). Did I trust God to back me up? Was my confidence in my identity in him? Did I know the Gospel? Could I answer their questions (I remember one young man curious to know how and why Jesus was killed)?

God was faithful. My teammates were marvelous. The prayer and financial support from my church was palpable.

And people are in the kingdom of God now, who weren’t before.

I’ll be back to my normal blogging schedule and headspace here soon, but I’ll warn you now: if talk of foreign missions makes you uncomfortable, this blog might not be the place for you anymore. We are called; we are not given the option. Thousands plunge daily, millions annually, into hell. I hope you’ll stick around and let yourself be challenged as I was.

To My Future Daughter

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Sweetheart,

I was laid off from my primary job last month.

It happens. No hard feelings. It was a great gig while it lasted, good people and all.

No doubt this bores your yet-nonexistent mind to tears, so I’ll skip to where this affects you: though I’ve finally managed to save up a bit, I want you to know that it wasn’t an option to stay content with my second job (pizza delivery) after the lay-off. It wasn’t an option to just tread water financially. I found myself compelled to turn around and find new primary employment, go right back to sixty hours a week, even though I’ve been plugging away at that pace for eight years.

Because of you.

You’re the reason why I keep knocking myself out year in and year out, why it never bugs me to take a longer shift, why it didn’t bother me to skip the big-screen TV and streaming subscriptions, why I keep hitting the gym to secure some semblance of energy in middle age, and why I’m planning to buy and remodel a house next year without a while lot of experience.

Because of you, sweetheart. You’re worth it.

I want it to be the best version of me that finally, God willing, gets to hold you someday. A red carpet rolled out for your life, colored by Jesus’ blood.

This is all syrupily, comically premature, of course, because I’m so far back in the process that I don’t even know who your mother will be yet (I still hope you look like her – it’s gotta be an improvement). But still, somehow, I think about you all the time. Having church friends who are cranking out babies right and left probably has something to do with it – que sera sera.

I’ve got so many plans, God willing. We’ll talk about Jesus in the same breath as Daniel Tiger. We’ll be opening Bibles as often as candy wrappers. We’ll hit our knees in our igloo and gape at God’s handiwork from our treehouse. Your first guitar (or kazoo?) songs will be worship songs. Jesus is my hero, and I want him to be yours. He needs me to train you, and that’s why I train myself now.

If that happens, you’ll stand out. And that’s both awesome and terrifying.

Gosh, what an insane world you’ll be born into. The Joker would be proud. If it’s not a physical war, it’s a war of ideas on the worldly plane and of kingdoms on the spiritual one. The clash is fiercer than ever, and we’ve both been drafted.

If I do my job, if you know Jesus and the woman he’s calling you to be, if God answers my prayers, you’ll bear a spark nobody can miss. You’ll be functional. You’ll be kind. And, sad commentary as it is, that will probably make you stick out like a sore thumb in the 2030s. Your peers will look up to you. Employers will trust you. The church will see fit to send you to the nations, to those born less privileged. Colleges will court you. So will guys (I’ve already bought a shotgun) until they get bored and wander off because you’re waiting until God hits the horn and produces a guy who is just as enthralled with Him.

If I do my job. God have mercy.

But it’ll also make you a target. The Scriptural life isn’t popular anymore, and people also attack what they admire. Will we have to live off the grid to stand on the Word? I can’t say. But it does no good to mince words, sweetheart: you will be hated, just as I will be. Just as He is.

It almost makes me hope that you don’t stand out. That I can just hide you in a bunker, staple Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak to your shoulders, or expose everyone who meets you to memory-blocking pheromones. But we both know these aren’t options. Follow Jesus and the world will see.

So I have to train you for that, too. I have to teach you to do what’s right even when nobody’s watching (or when everyone’s watching). I must model deriving identity and strength from Christ, not the world. I’ve got to serve, date, and prioritize your mom so you know what a real family looks like. I can’t spare the rod, even if it hurts me more. Because if I don’t yank you back, life and Satan will. And they won’t be gentle.

Maybe you’ll be all dresses and dollhouses; maybe you’ll be a true country girl with an ATV and a 17-point shed by high school. Fine by me, even if one hits my checkbook harder. Your essence will be seen and loved.

But no matter what, I know God’s got you. And that wonderful knowledge crucifies my fear.

If I don’t make it all the way to hand you off on your wedding day (definitely won’t happen if the Seahawks keep getting up my blood pressure like this), may this letter find you, dear daughter. May you know how much I adore you, even now, before you were a glint in anyone’s eye. Because you were in Jesus’ eye from the beginning, and he’s given up far more for you than I ever could.

With all my eagerly waiting heart,

Dad

P.S. Grandma wants you to hurry up and get here.

When My Parents Taught Me NOT to Pray the Lord’s Prayer

fireOne of the home runs my parents hit in my spiritual upbringing was teaching my younger brother and I to pray well.

No excuses, no cop-outs. Every night, we’d hit our knees by our bedside, no matter how tired we were, no matter how late it was or where we’d just driven in from. We’d pray, and like many things my parents taught us to do, we’d pray with intentionality, with conscientious effort.

That’s why they often wouldn’t allow us to pray the Lord’s Prayer, no matter how often we asked to.

That might sound a little weird. But back then, we weren’t begging them to allow us the Lord’s Prayer because we understood the power, simplicity, and holiness of it. We were begging for it because we’d memorized it, and thus it was shorter and easier. And, of course, we were always looking for the path of least effort as kids. It’s one of the back-door counters Satan brings to use of Scripture: rote memorization can be a counterfeit to true engagement with God.

Instead, Mom and Dad had us pray consciously, using our own ideas, perhaps utilizing a list (good strategy), only occasionally reciting the Lord’s Prayer and calling it a night.

OUR Lord Jesus declared that “men ought always to pray and not to faint,” and the parable in which his words occur, was taught with the intention of saving men from faintheartedness and weakness in prayer. Our Lord was seeking to teach that laxity must be guarded against, and persistence fostered and encouraged. … Cold prayers have no claim on heaven, and no hearing in the courts above. Fire is the life of prayer, and heaven is reached by flaming importunity rising in an ascending scale. – E.M. Bounds

There’s a lot of mystery in prayer, but I’ve oft wondered how many points we Christians leave on the field through prayer that is glancing, distracted, half-formed. I’ll tell you right now, if I want to find fascinating things to daydream about, or suddenly gain great clarity on a totally irrelevant matter, or remember all the things I need to do tomorrow, all I need to do is start praying; Satan instantly partners with my own mind to distract me with all this other stuff.

I know we have the encouragement that the Spirit “also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groaning” (Romans 8:26), but that verse is not describing laziness in prayer. That’s something we need to deal with. God has extended us a bridge; the need is great. Why do we dither about?

Today, if I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I do so because I understand it and have been trained in its meaning. May we all be lit on fire this week to pray as if we mean it.

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Trusting God with Your Worst-Case Scenario — Christy Fitzwater

This post contains a Dallas Willard quote that has wrecked my life this year in the best possible way – a lesson straight out of Daniel. All I can do today is set this post before you.

They started talking about how crowded our school was back in May, and my brilliant mind told a story of how I would have to go back to my tiny classroom–no wait–maybe I wouldn’t even have a classroom and would have to travel to borrowed rooms, since I was a part-time teacher. 165 more words

via Trusting God with Your Worst-Case Scenario — Christy Fitzwater

4 Scriptural Promises that Speak the Language of Anxiety and Depression

Ray Of Light Forest Trees Sunlight Sun SunbeamThough you might not expect it, one of the most heartbreaking things of being a teacher and youth leader is seeing the ease in which the world’s chaos comes to their phones.

It’s a lot harder to focus on the present as a kid. All the world’s turmoil, all its sin and darkness, is transmitted right to their pockets by a 5G network that we pay for – and are at a serious disadvantage without.

I shake my head. We didn’t have to deal with this at our age. You can teach them which battles to fight, how to pick trustworthy sources and process the avalanche. But sometimes you hear it in their voices: how much of the world will even be around once I’m tossing my tassel?

Anxiety and depression flourish with growing darkness. In these last days, these darknesses have closed in ever more tightly – though, as they say, the night is darkest just before the dawn.

God’s steadfast love manifests in some promises that speak the language of anxiety and depression.

1. “I do not condemn you for this.”

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Many Christians are under the impression that depression is a sin, a failure to adequately read (or believe) Scripture. They rebuke the anxious and depressed accordingly.

I don’t count myself in this camp. Anxiety and depression can stem from a place of spiritual ignorance (how depressing indeed our future would be without the hope of God!). But they can also be chemical, seasonal, hormonal, the product of spiritual warfare, or simply the soul’s response to tragedy. I know people whose depression clears up with caffeine. Others can shed it by changing lifestyles or thought patterns.

More importantly, condemnation of the mentally beleaguered forgets the work of the Cross. If offenses like extramarital sex, drug addiction, and murder cannot block God’s forgiveness for the repentant, then anxiety and depression most certainly cannot. This reality ought to reign in our judgments, soften the often contemptuous tone we level towards the depressed. They are instead candidates for God’s compassion – as are we all.

2. “I’m happy to reassure you as often as you need.”

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:22-23)

One hallmark of anxiety and depression is seeking frequent reassurance of love – even from those who are closest and most loyal. Ever felt like you’re always vaguely “in trouble” somehow? Ever seen a friend act distant and assumed the problem is you, that you upset them with some little offhand word or action a month ago and they’re just too polite to tell you? Anxiety brings this stuff in spades.

I have friends with severe anxiety, and it’s amazing to watch their spouses. They know their mates’ needs, and they’ll “check in” emotionally with them on a regular basis. During a long church function, they sometimes won’t let an hour pass without swinging by to see how they’re doing. Though knowing they can’t be God to their spouses, they offer what they can. They don’t groan, roll their eyes, or tell their struggling spouses to buck up. They took “in sickness and in health” seriously.

Well, it’s not like God will be outdone in compassion by a human. He, too, overflows. He is not stingy, doling out a little love here and there, expecting it to tide us over for weeks and then chiding us when we long for more. Nothing in Scripture suggests that sort of thing. He welcomes a daily dependence on him, promotes it, encourages it. If he gets frustrated over anything, it’s that we don’t depend on him, that we do try the weeks-long independence thing and wind up dry and desolate!

No, God loves to check in with us. His words of love are written down in black and white, available with the simple turning of a page; the sunshine, oxygen, and moisture in the atmosphere do not run out; and he tells us to be filled with his Spirit, a regular activity like eating or drinking. He is not embarrassed or annoyed that we seek him again and again; he is delighted. And responsive.

3. “My power and strength are available to you.”

I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

What more needs said? Life with anxiety and depression need not be a weary, half-conscious stumble. Instead, it can be a valiant fight. God has made so much available – not just through practical strategies but from the very armories of heaven. No matter our progress, the choice is clear. Fight – God is on your side.

4. “You will get a new mind one day.”

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Imagine the moment we see God and receive our glorified bodies. New minds will come with them.

Imagine the incessant weight of sadness lifted, falling from our souls like useless scales, never to burden us again. Imagine constant lightness of heart, for no reason other than God always wanted it for us. No more chronic, racing overthinking, or endless suspicion, or that corner of your soul that perpetually waits for the other shoe to drop. Every corner of our soul now conquered and owned and healed fully by God.

Until then, it’s a war. No doubt about it. But the war will end. For the Christian, God has planned an entirely new body and mind, and nothing can avert his work. It will be yours. In the meantime, I’m praying for you, and rooting for you.

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

Snow and Suffering Can Melt Fast

It’s happening again – after a short but pleasant summer (with no fires!), the cool wetness of fall is suggested again in this week’s weather. May God move quickly for us.

Brandon J. Adams

evergreen-1802157_1280The last two winters have been brutal.

More specifically, this last one was mild and forgetful of its job right up until February and then got brutal to catch up (reminds me of the Seahawks offense). Constant negative temperatures, almost daily blizzards. Considering my fifteen-mile daily commute, this was immensely tiresome. I’d say something melodramatic like “I nearly died three times a week in this weather”, except frankly we Montanans are so used to roadside near-death experiences that they’re routine now.

But I was amazed by this: weather can change awful fast.

Theoretically, fall and spring are transitional seasons. That’s not really how it works here. It’s summer, summer, summer, then BOOM maybe a week or two of something in between before the snow comes. It’s winter, winter, winter, then BOOM it’s pretty warm and the flowers start blooming.

All of a sudden, this week, the brutal cold just evaporated…

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When God Moves Us Fraidy-Cats

23746683041_6dd4b048d1_zThis weekend, I helped someone move, and there was a cat involved.

Some cats handle moving better than others, staring wide-eyed with fascination out the window as a world beyond their understanding flits by.

This was not such a cat. She has to be the most timid beast I’ve ever met. For weeks, she has been crouched behind whatever will give her cover while her owner clanked dishes into boxes and thumped belongings around – the usual chaos of moving. At one point, once almost everything was packed up, she hid behind a book on the floor. A book. The front cover was upturned, and she hid her face behind it, rump protruding from behind.

And once she was safely in the car and there was nowhere left to hide, she simply turned her face to the corner and kept it there for the entire ten-hour ride.

I was tempted to make fun of her.

But then I saw myself in her.

The cat had no way to comprehend what was happening. It was beyond her. Cars, houses, moves, jobs, thunder, sunshine…she lacked the faculties to understand a tenth of it. All she knew was that she was being moved into an unfamiliar environment, without knowing how long, sound and fury all around her.

Yet the humans in charge knew it signified nothing. We knew it was an unremarkable move between states. We knew it would all be over soon, that she’d be okay, and that she would eventually grow into her new surroundings.

We are this cat.

When God moves us, it scares the willies out of us, honestly. We haven’t the capacity to see or understand a tenth of what’s going on. The spiritual clanks and crashes behind what we see and hear, the purposes of God in it all – it’s on the same level to us as elevators and internal combustion are to the average cat.

And so we turn our faces to the corner, and a little part of our hearts (maybe not so little) resenting God. We want our old place, our comfortable toys and occasional plate of tuna water.

But God sees a greater reality. Wonderful things are happening, or at least necessary. He knows our destination, knows his purpose, knows all the plans he’s carefully laid out. He is not callously throwing us to a new owner, or casting us onto the street.

He has packed everything we need and sent it ahead of us; he has arranged for its unpacking when we arrive.

When we drive through thunderstorms on the route, they will not destroy us; when the sun rises and sets on our journeys, he remains our light.

And most of all, he himself will be there.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3)

And though we hide from him in fear and frustration, he keeps pursuing us, like I did with this cat. He seeks us in our hiding places, turning over unpacked bags and blankets until he finds our trembling form, and reassures us.

Will we wander out again? Will we peek out from the maze of dollies and askew furniture, walk back up to our Owner, and take a drink from his water again?

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch.