El Salvador Mission Trip Update – Day 1

We spent most of yesterday traveling to El Salvador. After many hours of flying we were graciously met in the San Salvador airport by Word of Life director Roy and two other missionaries, Rodrigo and Oscar. After grabbing a quick lunch and meeting up with the rest of the WOL team, we set our course northwest to the town of Santa Ana. Traveling through the countryside was an enlightening experience, as we were able to catch a small glimpse of the lifestyle of many who live in this country. 

 

Arriving in Santa Ana, we settled in to our hotel, Tolteka (which are wonderful accommodations), had dinner with the team and spent some time planning and praying. For the next several days, we will be working with churches in this area. As I am learning, the Word of Life team partners with local church to share the gospel and make disciples. There are 268 municipalities in the country of El Salvador, and WOL has been able to partner with churches in 162 of those municipalities, over the last eight years. Our team will have to privilege to minister in the towns of Metapan, Santiago de la Frontera, and Candelaria de la Frontera – frontera can be translated frontier or border. These rural communities (near the Guatemalan border) are very poor and in the words of Roy, are “also poor in spirit – very humble.”
This morning we will participate in a “Super Match” which is a strategy that WOL uses to reach out to high school students. In a local park, we will set up games and activities for the students to participate in and then share the gospel with them through a skit and a message. After lunch we are planning to serve with a local church Dios Es Amor,  going door-to-door to share Christ with their community.
Please continue to pray for us and our partnership with the WOL team. The people we seek to engage today most likely have a familiarity with Jesus through cultural Catholic heritage that is strong here. Please pray that the gospel of grace would disassemble a works-righteousness penetrate through a tough religious shell.

A Glad and Generous Christmas…

6570744841_69c6cfdc16It’s the most wonderful time of the year…filled with decorations, cookies, presents, music, and all the Christmas cheer. As a Christian dad who is trying to lead my family well through the holiday season, I am trying to help my children think rightly about Christmas.

Enter Santa Claus.

My soon to be 3-year-olds hear songs about Santa, watch Christmas movies with appearances by the big man, and see him at the mall. So what do we do with Santa Claus? Embrace him fully, reject him totally, or find a happy medium? That’s a question that Christian parents seem to be asking this time of the year. To some, it seems that the modern Santa Claus (much different from Saint Nicholas of church history) represents the consumerist and materialistic problems that plague the Christmas season and holiday. The most wonderful time of the year can easily become the most stressful time as desires become demands and take the throne of our hearts.

James, writing to believers, asks a pointed question to them about the origin of their sin:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (4:1-3).

James, why is our culture so materialistic? Why do my children have a Christmas list a mile long? Why do I have a Christmas list a mile long? James seems to be saying that our hearts are the source of our competing desires, our envy and covetousness. Ouch! I thought it was Santa’s fault, not my own heart’s sin struggle.

wordmadefleshEnter Jesus.

Christmas is a season where we celebrate the incarnation of our Savior, which is “good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 10b-11). Jesus came to live and walk among us. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us and to give us a new heart. And he left the Holy Spirit with us to root out the sin that so easily entangles, and to help us wage war against the remaining sin that finds its home deep within. The gospel is our only hope in fighting discontentment, materialism, selfishness, enviousness, and all the other sins that grow so freely around the Christmas time.

As a church, we have been studying the Treasure Principle together. Randy Alcorn has a helpful section “Changing Christmas” found on pages 386-387 in his larger work on the subject, Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Here are his remarks:

Can we change the pattern of materialism in our homes? Certainly. Take Christmas, for example. We can buy far less. We can hand make presents, set a budget, and buy presents in advance to avoid the unnerving jostling through stores. Any change is good if it helps us to focus on Christ rather than ourselves. We can visit shut-ins or take food to the needy – to focus on giving rather than receiving….But even if you still exchange presents, you can make Christmas different. Don’t be victimized by the world’s materialism. Worship Christ in simplicity.

This Christmas, maybe we should be less worried about jolly ole Saint Nick lurking in the chimney and more concerned with the war within our soul. Let’s help one another find the joy in Christmas – that One freely gave his all for us. In turn, let’s model for ourselves, our families, and this world what Christmas is really about.

Where is Your Treasure?

Video

On a Sunday afternoon in November, we gathered with a handful of our church family and let them talk about what they had been learning from our Bible study series, The Treasure Principal. In the following video, they address the question about whether the desires of our heart are found here on earth, or in heaven. This is the first video from our series, A Glad and Generous People.

dinging of the soul…

strandedDing, ding, ding. This signal, simple and subtle, often keeps me from being stranded. As I hurry around town – driving to and from work, back and forth to home, or over to the coffee shop – this signal reminds me of a simple task…to turn my headlights off in my Jeep. I find that as I am riding around town, my mind races, often filled with thoughts of the scheduled events of the day, worries and joys of the family, life and ministry, and this signal reminds me not to forget the simple task that keeps me going. The simple task that keeps me from being stranded, left in some parking lot with a dead battery.

Since September there has been another signal going off, but this one is different – quiet and internal – and yet drawing my attention just the same. This signal is sounding off in my heart as I have been reading through the Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn and studying how the gospel impacts my money and possessions.

Reading this material has convicted me and helped me to refocus. The busyness of life and the sway of my heart’s affections can keep me distracted, and if left unchecked could leave me spiritually stranded. The Lord has used this study material as a signal, dinging loudly and often within my soul. This dinging has called me to remember that where my treasure is, there my heart is as well (Matthew 6:21).

The following Alcorn quotes are just a few of those dinging, heart checks:

“Once we understood that we were giving away God’s money to do God’s work, we discovered a peace and joy we never had back when we thought it was our money” (26).

“Our giving is a reflexive response to the grace of God” (31).

“Our present life on earth is the dot. It begins. It ends. It’s brief. But from that dot extends a line that goes on forever. That line is eternity, which Christians will spend in heaven” (50).

“The act of giving is a vivid reminder that it’s all about God, not about us. It’s saying I am not the point, He is the point. He does not exist for me. I exist for Him. God’s money has a higher purpose than my affluence. Giving is a joyful surrender to a greater person and a greater agenda. Giving affirms Christ’s lordship. It dethrones me and exalts Him. It breaks the chains of mammon that would enslave me” (59).

“Your children should love the Lord, work hard, and experience the joy of trusting God. More important than leaving your children an inheritance is leaving them a spiritual heritage” (72).”

“God distributes wealth unevenly not because He loves some of His children more than others, but so His children can distribute it to their brothers and sisters on His behalf” (77).

I hope you have been challenged by this study as well. I would love to share more with you about my journey and hear your story. Let’s grab a cup of coffee or a biscuit sometime, and let’s help each other not to be left spiritually stranded with our battery drained – for nothing is more energizing than grace!

A Glad and Generous People

The phrase “A Glad and Generous People” is based on Acts 2:42-47. There the fellowship of believers responds with gladness, generosity, and sacrificial sharing of their material possessions, all because of the grace they have found in Jesus Christ. To that end, we too want to be a glad and generous people!

Glad & Generous slide final

This fall we offered a 13 week Bible Study curriculum, based on Randy Alcorn’s book, The Treasure Principle, devoted to helping us understand why Christians give. Many of you have shared examples of what God is teaching you about generosity and the gospel implications for our giving and spending habits. We have also heard how the gospel has been at work in the life of at least one in our community by listening to what she learned about possessions and how those possessions can find a place on the throne of one’s heart.

We are planning for several more testimonies that reflect how the gospel is helping us to be a glad and generous people. As you hear these inspiring stories, please consider one of these next steps you might take to grow in the discipline of giving:

  • Individual Counsel – Speak directly with a minister to learn more about the discipline of giving.
  • Mentoring pairings – A couple desiring to learn more about giving will be paired with a more mature couple, who will provide encouragement, counseling, solutions, and resources, within a couple to couple relationship. If you are interested in this, please contact Chuck Stanley.
  • “Handling Our Money and Possessions” Class – A 10-12 week “How to” study that will include tips on budgeting, giving patterns, and debt management. This class will be offered on Sunday nights beginning February 8, 2015.

We are encouraged by what God is teaching our community about this important spiritual discipline!

Serve Medford day 4

Today we were able to serve in two of Medford’s parks. We spent most of our day trimming overgrown bushes and cleaning out playground areas. We were also able to have some conversations with those who were in the park and invite them to the Community Fun Night taking place on Friday.

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After a day’s work we challenged First Baptist Church of Melbourne, FL to an intense game of Kickball!

The Challenge…

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The Secret Weapon…

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The Aftermath…

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