Saturday, May 26, 2012

This church needs a pediatrist

photo by elaine johnson

But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
Since my spinal cord injury in 2003 my feet are a constant source of concern. I have almost no feeling in my feet and i cant move my toes at all. Since I have no feeling I have been known to step on a piece of glass and not even know it until Susan, asks what all this blood on the floor is. Not pretty at least by human standards. However, according to Romans 10 (above) My feet are beautiful simply because they carry out the function of taking me to places that need some good news, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is good to know that even though my feet are not the most presentable of my body parts, God finds them to be beautiful. Why does he find them beautiful? One reason, Obedience to his command to take the gospel to all nations.
How about your feet? I will tell you that though we disciples of Jesus were given a very simple command (see Matt 28:18-20), there are very few beautiful feet to be found among us. We go about our daily lives keeping Jesus to ourselves. If we were truly to believe the good news about Jesus, we would be compelled to tell people about Him. But I am convinced that our churches are either filled with unbelievers or ugly feeted disobedient cowards. For if they had truly been changed by this good news, if their lives had been turned inside out because of the grace supplied by Jesus Christ, they could do nothing else but rearrange their priorities and do whatever it takes to make His name known in every corner of the earth. It is not a special calling for a select few but a natural reaction to Amazing grace!
So you can go to your church on Sunday morning and see all of the fancy shoes worn by people who profess to be disciples of Jesus. But underneath the facsade of beauty you will find quite a collection of ugly feet. It is like a modern day version of the Whitewashed tombs of the Pharisees. But it doesn’t have to be that way, If you truly believe that Jesus is who he said he was, If he truly changed your life just tell people about it. At your workplace, in your home, write an email, tell a stranger, or maybe you could even go to a strange land that hasn’t heard any good news in a long time. That is the prescription for ugly feet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rebel Music: Matt Papa This Changes everything

You may want to read the first post if you haven't already to know where I am coming from with this series. Here it is: Rebel Music

So as we came back to the states we (like most missionaries) were clueless about any new music. Because we are out of the loop for years at a time we usually have no clue where to look for good music. When we do hear stuff it all sounds like the same old stuff. So, I will try to ask people I trust for some recommendations. Sometimes this works...but only sometimes. In interviewing a new couple to join the team I asked them about what music they like to listen to. After I made fun of them for listening to...whatever they liked, Loggins and Messina or some nonsense. They told me I should check out an artist named Matt Papa. They told me about some of his songs and I was interested in checking it out. So I downloaded the album “This changes everything” and i left it on itunes for several weeks. I was going to listen to it for the first time on the plane to Uganda. I couldn’t have chosen a better album to listen to. It has now become our theme Album while driving through the African countryside. I truly think I will associate these first experiences in Africa with this album.
Here is my take on some of my favorite songs on the album:
One Thing:  We all make choices, but our choices are usually driven by something. Our goals, our children, Our own pleasure. But for the Christian our lives should be driven and guided by one thing and one thing alone, our relationship with Jesus. The natural reaction to this close intimate relationship is that we will be compelled to proclaim his name wherever we go. We will manifest Christ in our lives, with our words and our deeds.
Favorite line: We all get one life, one chance to live for what’s gonna last in the end. Fame, power, pleasure, gold You gain the world but you lose your soul. We all live for something, Jesus or nothing. So what’s it gonna be? What’s your one thing?
This changes everything: It is sad how UNchanged Christians are. We say things like “We serve a Risen Savior” but all the outrageousness is gone from the statement. Jesus life and message has been so watered down that we also live diluted versions of the Christian life. BUT if all the things we read in the Bible are true, we should be the most driven and active people in the world. If we lived like all these things were actually true, the world would stand up and take notice. We would be telling people about our Amazing Jesus, We would be affecting poverty, violence, sickness, and injustice for the glory of his name. Sadly, that is often not how we live. This song was/is a real challenge to my personal walk and testimony.
Favorite line: “Did I miss something? or have I begun to lie? Do I really live like Jesus is alive?! ‘Cause if this is true, this changes everything! If this is real I’ve got to tell the world. If He is God, then I have a choice to make. If I believe then I must follow Him.
What are we waiting for?: It is a common belief that the work of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ is set aside for a select few Christians. Unfortunately the Bible does back up this theory. However this excuse allows us to continue to follow our own dreams and goals while ignoring the command from our Lord, to go. I would love to see more believers take this call seriously and reevaluate their lives and their commitment to  this calling. Not every individual is supposed to live in a strange land and learn a new language, etc. But we are all supposed to organize our lives and priorities around our call to take the Gospel to the world. Maybe you pray daily for some of those who left everything to go. Maybe, you give sacrificially to the work. Maybe you take the gospel to the dark areas of your city or county? Or Maybe, you pack your bags and leave your hopes and dreams behind and adopt His hopes and dreams as your own. 
Favorite Line: “He says go, take the news to all the nations. We say no, you know we just don’t feel called. But oh, the Lord of all the universe has called us all, to go. So, What are we waiting for? A message in the sky? A miracle? A sign from up above? Is not his word enough?!
Stay away from Jesus:  This is another prophetic song dealing with the tendency of this generation of Christians to take the name of Jesus, though they are not willing to live like true Christians. The basic, idea is that if you are not willing to die to yourself and give everything up just to follow him, you might as well stay away from him. Because this is what he demands of us, everything. This does not mean that we have to give everything away and live in poverty, but rather that we are willing to do just that if he told us to. Christianity is not about what we get from God, but rather taking advantage of having the privilege of following him in whatever he asks of us.
Favorite Line: He says, be either hot or cold, you can’t serve God and gold. You know indifference is the road that leads to hell. So, if you are happy in your stuff and if 10 percent is enough, stay away from Jesus!
The Lord is a warrior:  Since we live now in a culture surrounded by warriors, this song has special meaning for me. Jesus is not some pansy, milk-toast, limp wristed teacher, but rather someone who was willing to fight evil and sin itself and do it all for me. And the fact that even death could not conquer him means he alone is worthy to be praised and I will speak of him until the day I die.
Favorite Line:  “See the lamb on his cross, once exalted now despised, It is finished and he dies. Silence falls, days go past, my God did the darkness win?!  But this is not the end, no. Feel the shaking ground, oh see the stone is rolling back now!!! The Lord is a warrior, The Lord is a warrior, The Lord is his name!
I absolutely love this album. I am listening to it start to finish several times a week. The things I love about it and that make it rare in Christian music today are two things, It’s focus on obedience, this is a forgotten discipline in Christian circles today. Yet, It was absolutely essential for the early Christian. We had a motto on our last team, Obedience is life. This album exemplifies this very concept to me. The other reason I am loving this album is that there is such a heavy focus on our calling to take the good news to the nations. I appreciate an artist that is willing to say the hard things and be an advocate for Christ’s teachings and commands in a world (church) that simply likes to have their ears tickled. If Matt Papa ever reads this review Let me say thank you for expressing our hearts.
Other albums: I have only listened to this album from Matt Papa. I have not had access to any others...yet. But I look forward to listening to some of his other songs.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rebel Music

I have always had a DEEP destain for pop music. It is the lowest form of musical expression and contributes almost nothing to society. Though some may disagree, I do not consider myself to be a music snob, I just have a high standard for the sounds that intentionally enter into my ears. As I was thinking about writing some Album reviews for this blog I saw a pattern in the albums I wanted to review. In Christian music, I tend to gravitate towards what I call rebel music. Music that challenges me. Music that points out my own sin, or that of my culture, Music that is not afraid to say the truth even when it hurts. When I find an album like this i wear it out! I listen to it until I am well aware of the stench that floats up to the throne from my own sin. And then I keep listening to it until I am well on my way to purging my life of this crap that hinders me from continued spiritual growth...Music helps me stay focused on how I am living my life and why. So, I thought I would share some of these very influencial Albums with you all. I hope you will enjoy. Keep your eyes (and ears) open for the upcoming Rebel Music series!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mighty Warriors: Companionship

This series started as I began to pray for the Lord to send us workers. We were blessed with so many incredible fellow missionaries (especially nationals) while on Xtreme team, It was our prayer that the Lord send us more like these men and women. Though there are many others from our previous team that we admire and are very special to us in one way or another, I think we have fully expressed the type of people we pray the Lord sends us. I hope you will all pray for God to send us people like all of these Mighty Warriors. However, we would like to finish on this last family...
Trent & Kay Jones were our best friends and companions for years while we were in Peru. Their companionship helped keep us encouraged and challenged to keep pushing to the edge of our abilities and be our best for the Lord. When Trent and I would get together it was like two friends who had know each other for a very long time. We both came from a rural background and did some of the same things growing up. But most importantly, we shared one thing in common that brought us even closer than family. We both had a deep appreciation for the grace that had been given us and we wanted to live our lives to the fullest for His glory. I trained Trent when he first got to the field, but he challenged me in many ways both personally as well as spiritually and intelectually. He helped me to understand Gods word better and helped me to refine my understanding of many things concerning His kingdom. It was truly a case of iron sharpening iron.
Susan and Kay were experiencing the same things at the same time, birthing and raising children. All the while trying to find ways to get to the villages and be a productive missionary as well as a good mom. I will tell you that they were/are successful at both. I know Susan could not have made it without the encouragement she recieved from Kay. We miss them terribly and the giftings they brought to the team are needed very badly on the echelon team. I am still trying to convince them to join us in Africa when they wrap things up in S America, but in the meantime...Lord, PLEASE send us families who can relate and encourage one another in a way that glorifies you and spurs us all on to good works. Send them quickly!
Update: Trent and Kay are now finishing up the work of the xtreme team. They are taking the vision of the team to new places and equiping the nationals to take this team in the direction the Lord leads them into...then they are coming to join us in Africa (fingers crossed, haha)

Mighty Warrior: Steadfastness

Nik is the guy in the white shirt and blue doo-rag

Nik’s story is almost too incredible to believe. Nik arrived at the house of Joe, one of our team leaders, he was wanting to participate in our upcoming training. He had been told about the training by Jose (one of the previous Mighty Warriors). So Nik was trained with a small group of other men who were preparing to be church planters. During training Nik was the glue of the group. He always had a good attitude and was filled with words of praise. When the team began training him in Chrononlogical Bible Storying he really excelled in the sharing of Gods word.
Towards the end of his training he was informed that he was supposed to present himself in court for a prior case against him. Long story short, before he had come to Christ he had been accused of a crime he did not commit. He was cleared of the charges after a trial. Soon thereafter he was introduced to Jesus. This changed his life forever. Unfortunately, double jeapordy does not exist in Peru. Time went by and they never found the person responsible for the crime, so they decided to retry Nik. There was no new evidence, and as our lawyers looked at the case they said it was a joke. After the trial was over and it was clear that he had not been proven guilty, we were all shocked when he was convicted! We did not understand, and we were told by a lawyer friend that she thinks he was convicted because he was dark skinned and they tend to blame everything on dark skinned people.
Nik’s response was inspirational. He basiclly said, I knew I was being trained to go to the mission field, It just so happens that my mission field is the Federal prison. In fact this prison has been written up many times as one of the worst prisons in the world. Some of his teammates went to visit him and found he was famous in the prison. He was known as the story man. He had been sharing the stories he had learned from Gods word in prison. He was in the process of planting a church there in prison. He did not complain or cry wo is me. He simply used his circumstances for the betterment of the kingdom. His wife abandoned him, he lost his son. But he just keeps his head up and served the Lord with gladness. Lord, please send us men like Nik, who are steadfast and willing to suffer anything for the name of Christ, men who do not look at their circumstances as something to complain about but rather to exploit for the kingdom.
Update: I have not heard an update on Nik since I left Peru. But I am sure your prayers for him are appreciated.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mighty Warriors: Hard worker

I have always said that Jody Johnson is the best friend you will ever have. He will literally do ANYTHING to serve you and help out when it is needed. During the many years I have known him I have never seen him complain or give second thought to even the most menial tasks. He truly works as unto the Lord, He does everything like it is a project for the Lord Jesus himself. He will give it his best and will do it with  genuine smile on his face. This is a very rare trait. In all my years I have never known anyone else to have this trait. BUT, I hope the Lord knows where these good servants of his are, because we need more people like Jody on the echelon team. Lord, please send us even just one who is like Jody, one who inspires us with his hard work and servants spirit.
Update: Jody is currently in Shreveport, LA. He works for Chesapeak oil.  He is now married and will soon be the father of a little girl! They are thinking of returning to the mission field in the next few years. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thanks for coming Travis!

Well, I am planning on taking our friend Travis back to the airport today after 3 weeks in Africa. He has been a tremendous help to us in many ways. We planted an incredible garden that will give us vegetables for a long time into the future. We cleaned up the compound and got things looking much better. We invented our own tree trimmer which worked like a charm until the very last tree. We had lots of laughs and some great fellowship together. Whether he knows it or not we wanted Travis to know it really meant a lot to us that he would come and help us out. We know what a sacrifice it was to leave his family for such a long time and we feel privileged to be on the receiving end of this sacrifice. All of us will miss Travis (especially the kids) until he comes again.

We also wanted to thank FBC Broken Arrow for their support and for sending seeds and other goodies to us through Travis. We send greetings to Mike Cropper's Sunday School Class and we welcome any of you guys to come and visit as well. Here are a few pictures from Travis' trip:

This is the 'after' shot. sorry i can't find the before. Trust me, the tree looks much better!
Travis trimming the other tree in our front yard. He is using our homemade tree saw.
Making plans for the garden.
Travis, prepping our garden.
Memphis, put his boots on and showed up to work.
After work relaxation
We went to the kraal, this is where they bring their cows every night. It was an impressive sight.
These girls just received the pillow case dresses Travis brought. Even though they do not look it, they were very excited. They had their new dresses on before they even got home.
We took Travis to the game park before he left.
One of the first animals we sighted, a lone lion. He was very close.
Travis is petting the pet water buffalo calf from Nga Moru camp.
I think he was missing his cows, haha
This is Travis taking a rest before we continued our game drive.
These guys were not happy to see us.
Thanks again for coming Travis! It was a blast!