Monday, February 21, 2011
May the God who’s ways are higher than ours bless and lead you,
Nick and Deanne
Saturday, February 19, 2011
The Japanese campmeeting only lasted from yesterday (Friday) until this evening (Saturday night) because people want the meetings but don’t want to use their vacation time. Most of the people from out of the area just drove up for the Saturday meetings because hotels are expensive and there’s not much camping in the city.
I was privileged with the role of leading worship music for the youth with a youth band that had its debut last night and changed members by the next meeting. I also got to lead out in Sabbath School (which is like Sunday school but on Saturday...our Sabbath) in which we had a Bible study on the Parable of the Sower from Mark 4.
One of the high points of our time together was an ice breaker during church that we set up like speed-dating...kind of. The intent was not to play match maker, though some sparks may have flown, but rather to help the youth who came from different churches to connect with each other. The theme for the campmeeting and our little game was witnessing. So the outreach mentality has lived on in a different form. There were many different stations, some were more fun centered and some were intended to encourage more deep thinking. Pictures were drawn, popcorn was thrown, some of it was caught by gaping mouths, puzzles were solved, story’s were written and people got prayed for. But the station I wanted to share simply asked: How would you write your testimony in one sentence? Write it down. These are some of the responses:
I came to Christ, becoming a Christian at 3rd grade sunday school
I was raised a Christian my whole life but when I became older my faith deepened and strengthened over time.
Jesus loves us very much!!!
I have been a 7th-day Adventist since I was little, but ever so recently I found out how much Jesus really loves me.
I still don’t have one...
I don’t know what that means...hehe...
Jesus loves us. Very much also.
Anywhere you go, God is with you. So trust in Him and believe!
To believe in God without any doubt.
God has found me and loves me.
I was born in a Christian home and it’s shaped who I am.
I was born a seventh-day Adventist, became more spiritual in 8th grade, and I’m continuing my walk with Jesus.
I was able to go to bible camp and see how weak I was and how much I need Him.
To trust God and not myself.
I was born into an Adventist home, and home-schooled. I continue to trust God, and try to draw closer to Him.
God does great things when you need it most and when you expect it least.
To build on my character and on my relationship on God
To talk to God as often as I can so I may have a closer relationship with Him.
After going to a public school I have come to appreciate my church and Christian friends so much more.
I was born into a Christian family and didn’t really come to know God until just this year at school!
I am kinda like a ball. I keep bouncing away from and toward Jesus. Hopefully I stay close one day.
To love God without hesitation or doubts
A good time was had by all and hopefully all were inspired, changed and will go out to share their experience with Jesus with their whole lives.
P.S. This was our theme song:)
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Have you ever tried to be “perfect”? If so, did you succeed? Let me just confess that I have tried to be “perfect” many times, almost daily, and I have failed every time. I wake up each morning with a “You can do it!” mentality that I will be able to shed every flaw I am plagued with. It’s as if I wake up and begin my worship time as an ugly caterpillar but when I’m finished, I expect myself to come out of worship as a beautiful butterfly fully transformed. I literally create my “perfection” checklist during worship time and expect myself to keep all of those checks in place throughout the day. When I miss once check, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up. This vicious cycle is utterly exhausting, disappointing and frightening.
This morning for devotions I read Mark 5:21-43 about A Dead Girl and a Sick Woman. I’ve read this story many times, but today, I felt like I was reading about myself. The story begins with a father desperately asking Jesus whether he will heal his dying 12-year-old daughter. Of course Jesus is willing and goes with the man. While Jesus makes his way through the crowd to heal the little girl, there is an old woman there who has been bleeding for 12 years. No one, not even doctors, have been able to heal her. However, when she hears about Jesus, she believes that if she just touches Him she will be healed. And that’s exactly what happens. Jesus tells her that her faith has healed her and that she’s is freed from her suffering. Right after that, some men bring news that the man’s daughter has died. Jesus simply replies, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Soon enough, Jesus is at the girl’s room and raises her from the dead.
I had a wonderful childhood, but during high school betrayal, heartache and life’s horrible consequences got the best of me. It resulted with many of the struggles that I still battle today and sometimes it feels like I died before I was able to become an adult. And other times it feels like the problems had no beginning, that they’ve just always been. This internal struggle that I have to solve my own problems and become “perfect” has literally made me feel like an old woman. So there I am, a girl who only got to live 12 years of her life and an old woman who has been suffering an illness for 12 years.
The beautiful thing about this story is that they were both healed. What was it that healed them? What was it that made them “perfect”? Jesus, of course, is the only one who could help them, but if it wasn’t for faith perhaps the healings wouldn’t have taken place. What I love about this story is how there were two different faiths that healed. With the old woman, her own faith allowed her to be healed. With the little girl, it was her father’s faith that healed her.
Jesus is not only able to heal all of our problems, He also wants to. If you’re like me and you’ve been longing to be freed from the bondage that sin has caught you up in, believe and allow Jesus to do it. What can you do to believe? Spend time getting to know Jesus. Come to Him in worship, not to meet one of your “perfection” checks, but to get to know the Healer. You see, we cannot make ourselves “perfect.” But Jesus, well, “He can do it!” And if you feel like your faith is struggling, then find someone who loves you and who has the faith that Jesus will heal you. Remember the words of Jesus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I was so impressed that she would actually pause her search to share some kindness with total strangers. We wouldn’t have missed it if she didn’t say anything but it was such a pleasant plus to our shopping experience that it got me thinking...wouldn’t it be great if everybody did that sort of thing every day? People have a natural fear of the unknown, especially people they don’t know. Maybe Deanne just looks so cute and cuddly that the young woman decided to take her chances. But regardless of how wonderful my wife is, everybody in the whole world was created in the image of God and has their own unique beauty that reflects their Maker. It is worth complimenting and much, much more. The power of a compliment, a warm gesture or a common courtesy can break down huge barriers of isolation in our culture and make fast friends.
Moments later as we walked towards the check out lines, we saw the kind young lady again and affirmed her kindness. She seemed just as surprised as we were at her gracious words. May you take the opportunity today to pause from your business and surprise someone with praise. Remember, one of our greatest responsibilities is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Be intentional in the small things and true love for total strangers will follow.
Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.
-Proverbs 15:4 The Message
Monday, February 14, 2011
I sat, with two friends, in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town-square. The food and the company were both especially good that day.
As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, 'I will work for food..' My heart sank.
I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief. We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response.
I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back in my car. Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: 'Don't go back to the office until you've at least driven once more around the square.'
Then with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square's third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the store front church, going through his sack. I stopped and looked; feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town's newest visitor.
'Looking for the pastor?' I asked.
'Not really,' he replied, 'just resting.'
'Have you eaten today?'
'Oh, I ate something early this morning.'
'Would you like to have lunch with me?'
'Do you have some work I could do for you?'
'No work,' I replied 'I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to take you to lunch.'
'Sure,' he replied with a smile.
As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. Where you headed?'
'St. Louis '
'Where you from?'
'Oh, all over; mostly Florida ..'
'How long you been walking?'
'Fourteen years,' came the reply.
I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, 'Jesus is The Never Ending Story..'
Then Daniel's story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early in life. He'd made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences.. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona .. He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought.
He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God
'Nothing's been the same since,' he said, 'I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now.' 'Ever think of stopping?' I asked.
'Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me But God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles That's what's in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit leads.'
I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: 'What's it like?' 'What?' ;
'To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?'
'Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn't make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people's concepts of other folks like me.'
My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused He turned to me and said, 'Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I've prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in.'
I felt as if we were on holy ground. 'Could you use another Bible?' I asked.
He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy... It was also his personal favorite.. 'I've read through it 14 times,' he said.
'I'm not sure we've got one of those, but let's stop by our church and see' I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful.
'Where are you headed from here?' I asked.
'Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon.'
'Are you hoping to hire on there for a while?'
'No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that's where I'm going next.'
He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town-square where we'd met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things.
'Would you sign my autograph book?' he asked.. 'I like to keep messages from folks I meet.'
I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, 'I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.'
'Thanks, man,' he said. 'I know we just met and we're really just strangers, but I love you.'
'I know,' I said, 'I love you, too.' 'The Lord is good!'
'Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?' I asked.
A long time,' he replied
And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed.... He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, 'See you in the New Jerusalem.'
'I'll be there!' was my reply.
He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, 'When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?'
image 'You bet,' I shouted back, 'God bless.'
'God bless.' And that was the last I saw of him.
Late that evening as I left my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them... a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them.
Then I remembered his words: 'If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?' Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office.. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry. 'See you in the New Jerusalem,' he said.
Yes, Daniel, I know I will...
'I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.'
My instructions were to send this to four people that I wanted God to bless and I picked all who read this blog. Please pass this to four people you want to be blessed.
Prayer is powerful and there is nothing attached. Please pray for me and for those dear to you as well as your "enemies." Prayer is one of the best gifts we receive. There is no cost but a lot of rewards. Let's continue to pray for one another. God bless and have a nice day!
'Father, I ask you to bless my friends, relatives and e-mail buddies reading this right now. Show them a new revelation of your love and power. Holy Spirit, I ask you to minister to their spirit at this very moment. Where there is pain, give them your peace and mercy. Where there is self-doubt, release a renewed confidence through your grace, In Jesus Christ's precious Name Amen.'
I sent this to more than four by posting it here, but this story is so touching I felt each of you would enjoy it greatly.
P.S. Just thought I'd add a song about service from one of the first cd's I ever owned.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Which person are you? I’ve noticed recently that there are a lot of people trying to make themselves look and feel big (more-so the closer I get to Hollywood). They get really flashy clothes in some extreme style even if they are totally uncomfortable and impractical. They make sure everyone within a block of their fancy and probably too expensive car can hear their music pumping as they roll down the street. They talk only about themselves and the different forms of egomania go on and on. I can’t deny that the times are all too frequent that I want to be the center of attention, times I get distracted from what’s real and lose my security.
But I want to be in that second, “awe that comes from feeling small,” group that realizes the world doesn’t revolve around me and it’s really best that way. Understanding that I am just a small part of one of God’s masterpieces and simultaneously knowing that having Jesus value is way better. My description of Jesus value: according to God (who’s opinion is fact regardless of what anybody says) my life is as valuable as Jesus’s as He demonstrated at the cross where He laid down His life for mine. We’ll return here.
When we’re trying to be big we miss out on the fulfilling identity God has created us for: to be in relationship with Him. When it’s all about me, it’s can’t be about Us (me + God = Us). It’s when we realize that we are nothing on our own but worth more than a universe in Him that our lives start pointing in the direction of our true purpose here.
In Mark 6:7-14, Jesus sends the disciples on a study tour that surely drove this message home. Jesus had the disciples go out to preach a simple message of repentance without hardly anything material, but spiritually they were equipped with limitless power and dressed to the nine’s. Supported only by Himself, God used men to cast out demons, heal sick people and lead many to salvation.
When we make life all about ourselves we try to support our image with stuff. God doesn’t need our stuff because He has more than enough since it’s all His anyway. Back to the cross. Why? Because the point is driven home there more than anywhere else in scripture. It was when Jesus was stripped of everything, even the clothes on His back and nailed to a cross that He made salvation a reality by giving up His life completely.
So in our weakness He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) and united to His strong and outstretched arm is where we belong. May we embrace the reality of our smallness so we can experience our purpose as being part of God's salvation bringing masterpiece in uninhibited relationship with Him.
P.S. I love the song All I Need Is You by Hillsong. Give it a listen if you want to take some time to reflect on this thought...or if you just want to hear an awesome song.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Deanne was stung by that boogery (actually snotty) bug about a week and a half ago. I took no precautions around her because I was confident in my immune system. We shared food and drinks and all. Besides, the last time she was sick it lasted for a week and I only got it for a couple days. I could handle that.
Needless to say, five or six days ago my California allergies partnered with a cold. I still tried to do my regular thing. I still worked out, even climbed around on a mountain for a couple hours on Sabbath but conditions just got worse. I felt weak in my Sunday workout and finally decided to rest yesterday and again today. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, also I read on WebMD.com that resting helps your body to focus on ridding itself of the bug. Among the home remedies there was even a guy who suggested snorting citric acid from an orange peel to kill the germs. He said he hasn’t had a cold for 11 years and that people are now looking to oranges for a cure to AIDS. Crazy right? By the way, don’t try it...it doesn’t work. I’m just going to rest. Even though it’s taking me a bit off track, it’s a nice change of scenery.
Resting physically causes you to slow down and think a bit more about your life. I realize that spiritually I am also sick and tired of being sick and tired, tired of filling so many spare moments with things that are meaningless, especially T.V. and video games. Since when did they become an important priority? Moderation, yes, but I can’t let them keep me from true rest. They actually wake me up. I have been spiritually restless recently and know I need to cut down on my T.V. time. I feel more relaxed already.
So often we think that being spiritually sound has to do with running ourselves ragged serving the Lord. I disagree. I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me but I believe that we first need to find our rest, peace and security in Christ. This isn’t my first go around on this lesson. I’ve heard it from the still small voice at other times when I’ve been forced to slow down due to bodily injury.
If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired I invite you to join me in seeking rest. Don’t wait to be forced to think about it. Choose to take a walk. Read a book that will cause you to reflect on what is really important in life and take that reflection time. Turn off the T.V. during a meal once in a while. When you’re praying alone, try listening. Your mind will probably still be spinning at turbo speed but once you physically slow down you’ll notice you’re competing in many exhausting races you don’t have to run.
Check out Isaiah 40:28-31ESV:
28Have you not known? Have you not heard?The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
The renewed strength to do more than you could have ever imagined comes after waiting on God, after resting in Him.
P.S. In googling “sick and tired of being sick and tired” I found an inspiring video about civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The phrase is on her tomb stone and she made it famous in her life. Check out the video if you have time and may your life be one of impact because you learned this lesson before you lay resting in your grave.