This will be brief. I’ve been meaning for the past couple of days to let you know we’re headed to Thailand once again. Well, now it’s just an hour or so away.  I was blessed to go in March last year with two pastors from Calvary Community in Phoenix, Dan Holgate and Paul Hayes. This year, they invited me back as well as Laurie!  I am so glad the wives are coming along to round out the team. Last year we noticed how many of the Hmong pastors from the neighboring countries came and brought their wives, so this became a priority for us too.  A bonus is that we will get to see Molly Evans, a young lady from Grace who is serving in Bangkok.

As you think of us, please pray for the ministry. Safety and health are bonuses, but the effective work of ministering to these men and women is of utmost priority!

 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ . . .  Colossians 4:2-3

Hume Lake!

One of the highlights for Grace Community each year is when our students get to go to Hume Lake.  A few years ago, I was privileged to pop in for a brief visit.  Here are just 4 reasons why I love that we make this a big deal:

1. Our students bring friends who LOVE it. This is an amazing atmosphere to have a blast, see what Christianity can look like and learn some serious stuff about God and the love He has for each one. Kids that don’t know Jesus, maybe have never even been to church are welcomed and impacted.

2. It’s about the gospel of grace. Without apology or hesitation, Tuesday night is set up as the night when Jesus is preached and students are given a clear opportunity to respond.  Kids get saved throughout the week, but there’s a clear emphasis on this one night.  This is awesome.

3. Our students are impacted. This isn’t just a “camp experience” that is an emotional high and ‘wears off’. No, this is different. Our leaders and students talk about this all year long. It’s a big deal because it’s a blast and it’s about Jesus.

4. The teaching is amazing. This isn’t “Christianity-Lite”, this is “hard-core, live your life for Jesus, get serious about His Word and live in the love He has for you” kind of stuff.

Our students leave this Saturday.

This Sunday, we’ll have a “prayer list” with all the names of those at Hume.  I’m asking you to join all of Grace in praying for our students and leaders, starting NOW.  If history teaches us anything, we know that when God works, Satan comes out swinging. The enemy will do whatever he can to distract and discourage. But we’re not about the enemy. We belong to Jesus and we are putting our trust and confidence in Him. He is the Victor. So, let’s ban together and pray for God to have His way as the kids pack up, load up and enjoy an amazing week at Hume Lake.

Pray, invite, bring

I remember in college I entered a “preaching” challenge. I’m guessing most of you didn’t have that opportunity at your college. I did. I was a senior preparing for ministry and one of the courses in my theology and ministry training was for ‘homiletics’ or preaching.

This sermon was to be preached in front of my peers and visiting pastors.  The reason the message stands out is because I got it from my older brother.  My brother Jim was probably voted most likely to be a good preacher when he was in grade school!  I can’t remember if I heard him preach this message or I just asked and he gave me the reference and an outline.  As in most sermons, it’s not always about the originality, because God already gets the credit for that one in the actual text!  But it’s about being true to the text and relevant in application to your audience.

This is a long way to get to what I want to say.  The text was Mark 2:1-12.  The main idea is that a man is healed because his friends brought him to Jesus.  Literally.  But before the physical healing in vs 11-12, Jesus gave him forgiveness in v5. That was the bigger deal. Still is.

People may think they’re biggest need is to be ‘made whole’ or experience a healing or a positive turn in the events of their life, some pain to be removed. But the truth is, and we all know it, we need true genuine, unconditional forgiveness.  And that’s exactly what Jesus offers. That’s the gospel. And that’s exactly what we celebrate when we get excited about Resurrection Sunday.

The problem is most people don’t yet know about it. That’s where you and I come in.  God has forgiven us so we can demonstrate his love and grace and kindness and mercy towards others.

Let’s be the friends.  Let’s be the ones who will do anything to get someone in the presence of Christ.  Read the text; these guys literally tore the roof apart to let the man down through the new opening.

Pray for your friends. Then invite them. Then offer a ride, or lunch afterwards.  Bring them, introduce them to someone and sit with them.  And when you pray, pray believing!

Absent from the body and present with the Lord!

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”  2 Cor 5:8

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15

Mary Olson passed away peacefully this evening.  She was dearly loved and will be greatly missed. But all who knew her know of her love for Jesus, and tonight, she is with Him!  Sorrow and grief are real and difficult, but the peace and the hope we have is a beautiful act of God’s grace for us. She is with Him!

Drawing Near

This past Sunday to finish the 2012 year at Grace, I spoke on Praise and Prayer.  The key idea came from 1 Peter 1:3-9, and especially 6-7:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

We also spent some time looking at James 1:2-8, then we finished with James 4, especially vs 8:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

The main idea was that our praise to God comes from a closeness to Him and His purposes in our life. Praise doesn’t come only through “blessings” that we enjoy and give thanks for.  Praise is knowing God. Praise is the result of being near Him and growing in our understanding of Him.

The challenge was put out to find some time this week to “draw near to God”.  Because the result is what we long for, as a church family, but just as much as individual members, “and He will draw near to you!”

Perhaps 2012 will be remembered for some serious pain or disappointments, or maybe it was a banner year. Regardless, we praise Him because of HIM.  I want to be in that process of drawing near Him because I want to know His presence in my life, His nearness, His ‘praise-worthiness’ regardless of the situation.  I want to know God and His ever-present, always comforting, power-infusing nearness.

Hurricane Sandy

I just went online and gave a gift to help the victims from hurricane Sandy through Samaritan’s Purse. Our church has chosen to use this ministry as the best way to help in disasters like this.

You can go to the website and watch the video, or just read about all they are doing right now.

Then click the GIVE button and enter your debit card info. I’ve done this before. It is safe and it is a good thing to do.  As you give, pray that God will use your gift to bless someone. Whether it’s a victim still awaiting help, or a volunteer who is there giving of themselves to help, pray for people.  People need the Lord, and many will see the “good works” of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers and witness the light of the World.  Matt 5:14-16

Praying for the saints

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints  Eph 6:16-18

What a great word!

The evil one is sending darts, it’s who he is and what he does. But he’s a loser. What we have is our faith in the living God who already won this battle. We have faith. What an amazing gift. That I can know God and trust Him for salvation in the future (heaven awaits us!), but also in today’s salvation. This is a battle and we have a shield. Do I trust Him in what’s happening today and what He’s doing through it all?

God has given us His word, the Bible, our sword. Gotta know it. Must be familiar with it. Read it. Memorize parts. Meditate throughout the day on what you read in the early hours.

As I pay attention throughout the day, God allows me to come before Him on behalf of others. I’m not in this alone, nor are they. We’re in this together. Pray for one another.

The shield was a large ‘body-size’ type of protection. It could be used to stand side by side with others, making a protective wall.  So, we advance. Side by side, praying for one another.

Praying for Hmong Pastors

After a full day of ministry, we ended our time by praying for pastors and leaders. At the close of my teaching, I asked for any pastors that wanted prayer to stand and we’d come and pray for God’s peace and power to encourage them.

We’ve been teaching at a high level the past couple of days and we have more for tomorrow.  It was my turn to speak tonight, and my fellow pastors agreed that the men may need some encouragement.  You see, persecution is not a foreign thing to them. I’ve not lived through the same kind of persecution as they have experienced. Truth is, we know life is hard and the enemy is still working full time to hinder the gospel no matter where you serve Him.  But these guys really are facing tough issues.  So, we prayed.  We prayed individually over many tonight.  It was humbling to think of who I prayed for, the cost of ministry for them, the people they lead and teach. I was blessed to come before Jesus on their behalf and ask God to continue to strengthen them and keep them focused on Him and the amazing mission of grace we’re all called to be a part of!

Tomorrow we each lead one more session, then close out this part of the trip tomorrow evening and Friday morning.  It’s been good.  And we’re all tired. But it’s a good tired.

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power 2Thes 1:11

Snowy Flagstaff

It’s Monday morning and we’re soon on our way to the pastor’s conference to begin the teaching today through Thursday.  Yesterday we were able to visit another of the Children’s homes of Bahn Immanuel.  The young man that leads it was raised in the first one and now married with two kids is running a home in a small village not far from town.

I woke up early to see several messages on my phone.  The big snow has arrived in Flagstaff causing a few changes.  I’ve been thinking of you all and praying for you as the day is winding down for you.  Grateful for Laurie’s family visiting and helping her out in my absence.  Who doesn’t want to run a snowblower while vacationing on Spring Break?  Yikers.

Thanks for praying for us as we travel today and begin the conference.  I hope to check in this evening.