Bethel, Alaska – Friday, 6-22

Thursday, June 21, 2018

img_1656.jpegSummer Solstice!  The longest day of the year is here.  And when you are in Bethel, AK, that means sunrise is 5:13 AM and sunset is at 12:23 AM (tomorrow) and it simply will NOT get dark … ever!  It really is interesting (and disorienting).  Talking to the local folks, they get very tired of the constant light.  They work hard to “black out” their homes to get a break. And they bask in the more normal sunlight when they are “down states.”

IMG_9174.JPGIt reminds me of the struggle that many of us face when we have cloudy days stretched together and we long to have the sunlight return.  And, of course, there is Seasonal Affect Disorder which afflicts folks when there isn’t enough sunlight (which I am sure is a big deal here in Alaska when they have constant darkness.) and can cause deep depression.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Wow!  There is blue sky showing!  It is the first we’ve seen since we arrived in Bethel.  Thank you, Lord!

IMG_1639-1We accomplished a HUGE amount of work yesterday.  In fact, the director of the seminary (and the man who assigns and coordinates the work) stopped by our devotions a few minutes ago and admitted that he is struggling to figure out what to have us do for the rest of the time AND what he’ll have for the teams that follow us do during the rest of the summer.  However, I am confident that he will find more to do. The needs are everywhere.

IMG_3108.jpegIt was also interesting to be here for the longest day of the year.  In fact, several of us took pictures at midnight last night.  The outdoors we as light as the middle afternoon. There were people outside flying a kite and a boy was riding his bike!  This picture is through a solar screen.  I’ll get better pictures tonight.

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Well, it is off to work. Thank you for your prayers.  If you don’t mind, please join us in praying for the chance to have more interactions with the community in the days ahead.

IMG_1639-1.jpegHappy Friday … afternoon!

 

 

Bethel, Alaska – Wednesday 6-20

Wednesday, 6-20-2018

IMG_1568.jpegWe began on Monday with our travel to Anchorage, Alaska.  We started early and it was a LONG day!  However, we made it to Anchorage by 5 PM local time and we had hours and hours of daylight left!  In fact, since it really doesn’t get dark here during the summer, we had endless hours of daylight.  Unfortunately, our energy level didn’t measure up to the daylight hours.  We were all exhausted and in bed by 8:30 PM.

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On Tuesday morning, before we made the flight to Bethel where we would work for the week, we had a “fun day.”  The day began with a trip to a wildlife preserve.  It was truly amazing!  We saw Moose, Cariboo, Wolves, Muskox, Fox, a Brown Bear and a Black Bear, and a Baldheaded Eagle, among other things.  This was a wonderful way to start our time in Alaska.  But it was only the beginning.

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After we left the wildlife preserve, we made a short trip to Wittier, Alaska where we took a boat tour called “Glacier Quest.”  It, too, was phenomenal.  We saw incredible wildlife in Prince William Sound, but the most amazing parts were the blue glaciers.  They were absolutely beautiful and we had the privilege of watching one of the glaciers “calve” several times.

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This morning (Wednesday, 6-20) we, again, started VERY early and made the 1.25-hour flight to Bethel Alaska. Everything went smoothly and we began our work here in earnest.  We are staying on the campus of Alaska Bible Seminary.  It is a seminary of the Moravian Church that trains indigenous people for ministry.  There is so much work to be done, and we will do our best to complete as much as possible.

Thank you for your prayers and support.  Everyone is healthy and well.  This is a GREAT team of people and I’ll look forward to reporting to you again tomorrow about our progress.

God bless you!

Confirmation Day 2018

2018Confirmation.jpgWhat an amazing group of young people!  They truly disciples and followers of Jesus.  I cannot wait to see what God has in store for them in the day, months, years and decades ahead.  Each and every one is God’s masterpiece, created and re-created with a beautiful plan and future in mind!  They are going to change their world and make a difference for the Kingdom of God.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8–10

 Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Eph 2:8–10.

Server: Jesus

This past weekend, during the message we were talking about the importance of serving. It is Jesus purpose in life, and it is ours, as well. One of the points we talked about was the fact that when we serve, we not only care for the person involved, but we are also serving Jesus. In Matthew 25, Jesus puts it this way, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40IMG_1157

Later in the afternoon, one of our members sent me a message. He and his family had gone to church after the service. When they got the check for their meal, they realized just how real Jesus’ words are.

The simple acts of service we do every day reach all the way up to heaven just like heaven reached down to us through the ministry of God’s Son. When we love and serve people, it reaches all the way to Jesus. Remembering this can help us stay focused on our words, actions, and attitude when we might, otherwise, be tempted to be less-than-kind. Whenever we are called to serve someone, and we find it difficult, just remind yourself, “I’m serving Jesus!” If you see Jesus behind the person, you will look differently at that person. You will look at them with more respect and more love.

Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men … Colossians 3:23a

firing on all cylinders …

carThis past weekend during the message, I spoke about the power of gratitude.  I likened gratitude to the oil in the engines of our cars.  That oil doesn’t make the engine run, but it surely keeps it running.  If your car runs out of engine oil, it will eventually cause the engine to overheat, seize up and quit working.  A lack of gratitude has a similar impact on our lives.  We become easily frustrated and discouraged. We see the worst in situations and people.  Eventually, we become cynical and unable even to see blessings that are right in front of us.

That is why Paul tells us that giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us!  You read that correctly. Giving thanks in all situations is God’s will for us! “Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) That doesn’t mean it is easy, but it is essential. In fact, if we to think back the car engine example above, it is ESSENTIAL … and hard!

Gratitude changes things … it changes us! It opens up our hearts and minds to allow us to realize that we are being blessed … even in the hard and disappointing times.  A dear friend of mine used to say, “Whenever God says, ‘No.’ to a prayer that my wife and I have been bringing to Him, we get excited.  We know that He is not saying, ‘No.” because He doesn’t love us or care for us.  He is saying, “No.” because He has something even better in mind for us. That fits perfectly with Scripture.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  (1 John 3:1a)

God LOVES us and is passionate about our needs AND our prayers just like any loving father would be.  Only He loves and cares perfectly. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) In fact, I love the way Paul puts it in his beautiful prayer for all believers in Ephesians 3.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Knowing all of that gives us the same confidence as my friend.  God is working for us and not against us.  What He has in store for us is beyond what we can imagine.

In fact, God’s WORD even promises that the difficult and painful times are being worked together by our loving, Heavenly Father for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) When we trust that, it helps put things in perspective. God is still in control, NO MATTER WHAT. Better yet, it isn’t just God, it is the Almighty Father who loves and adores us. You and I can live (and give thanks) with the confidence of a little child who knows that his/her parents will always love and care for them.

So I have a suggestion.  I mentioned it in the message last Sunday, and you may already be doing it.  My thought is to practice gratitude.  Make it a focal point of your daily life.  Put it on your “to do list.”  Over and over and over, stop and give thanks.  When the negative thoughts come into your mind, stop and start making a list of the reasons you are grateful.  When you feel anxious, pause and give thanks.  And when something doesn’t happen the way you were praying for it to happen, get excited!  God has something even better in mind for you, His precious child!

Here is a link to last weekend’s message. 

 

 

 

 

 

When Suffering Lasts …

PainThis past weekend, the final point of my message, “Your Pain is NOT Fruitless,” was “Remember, the pit only lasts for a bit.” (You can find the entire message here.) The point being that difficult/hard times in life come in seasons. The key to dealing with these seasons is to remember that they are only a season and “seasons” don’t last forever.

 I was talking to a pastor friend about the message, and he said, “Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it will ever end.” As I thought about his words, it occurred to me that for some dear people, the “season” of suffering or struggle (the “time in the pit” from the message) will last for the rest of this earthly life. From our human perspective, that sure seems like forever. I realized that for all of us we will reach a point in life (sooner or later) when, at least some portion of the struggles we face, will be with us until we die. What do we do then? What do we do when the season doesn’t end?

 Perhaps the most important thing we can do is maintain our perspective. If you think in terms of micro (small scale) and macro (large scale), our entire life is filled with micro-seasons … good times and bad times that happen for a variety of reasons. These good and bad micro-seasons come and go. However, our entire life is itself a micro-season that will eventually come to an end, and we will move into another macro-season which is Heaven. Some of life’s suffering will not cease during this lifetime. That is in keeping with our understanding that all healing in this life is temporary. Only the ultimate healing in Heaven will be complete and last forever. 

 Another critical thing to remember when a season of struggle goes on and on (or doesn’t end in this lifetime) it the Biblical concept of gratitude. Rejoice always! 17 Pray constantly. 18 Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) One of the reasons the Bible teaches us to be people of gratitude is the fact that life gets heavier and heavier. What I mean is that this is a sinful and fallen world. Over the course of our lifetimes (no matter how long that may be), there is an accumulation of hurts, painful memories, and illnesses (among other things) that take a toll on our hearts and minds. God’s WORD instructs us to practice gratitude because giving thanks is powerful. Thanksgiving has the power to cut through the ugly parts of life to help us see our blessings. When we recognize our blessings, that awareness alone can create a micro-season of joy and peace. Gratitude is powerful, and we MUST practice it in the hard times, so we are skilled “givers of thanks” when the times are more difficult.

 When we practice gratitude, we can realize the truth of 2 Corinthians 1. This powerful section of scripture (that speaks of the struggles and heartaches of the Apostle Paul) reminds us that when we struggle, God, himself is there to comfort us and help us through our hurts. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) In fact, even as He helps us through the painful times on our lives, He is also preparing us to help others. The efficiency and single-mindedness of our God is incredible. He doesn’t waste anything … especially our pain.

 That brings me to my final thought. When we move through this life with its mountain-tops and deep valleys, our God reminds us that HE has a purpose for us, our lives and even our struggles. At the heart of who we are is the reality that we are children of God. His love never leaves us. And His purpose for us is always good, even if what we are enduring is terrible. Never forget: You are God’s masterpiece! He created you and re-created you with purpose … for now (whatever the circumstances) and eternity!We may not always see His goal, but we can trust His love for us. Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. (1 John 3:1, 2)

Here is a beautiful song by Matthew West named “Mended.”

And one of my all-time favorites, MercyMe singing, “Flawless.”

 

 

 

The WORD for Today is 1 Corinthians 1.

IMG_0559The WORD for Today is 1 Corinthians 1. In this chapter, Paul is talking about wisdom and foolishness. In particular, he talks about how the wisdom of this world is foolishness in reality. And how the world views as foolishness our faith in God and His grace and His plan of salvation. But in verse 18, Paul goes even farther. The message of the cross of Jesus isn’t just wisdom. It is power!

The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Think about that for a moment. The message of the cross is not just wisdom; it is real power. In my life and your life, the word of the cross brings forgiveness! Our most profound, darkest sin and shame erased through the message of the cross! Can you imagine, you get a fresh start every day! Wow!

The message of the cross also brings love! Not the fickle love of this world or our culture … love that is here today and gone tomorrow. The love we find in the message of the cross is a love that NEVER changes and NEVER goes away. It is UNCONDITIONAL, CONSTANT, FEARLESS and FAITHFUL. That kind of love is powerful. So powerful that it not only comforts us (since God will never stop loving us) but it changes us! It works in our hearts and minds and transforms and renews us.

The message of the cross also brings hope! If our sins are erased, and God loves us with such an outrageous love, what can defeat us? You and I (purely by God’s grace) are His children and heirs of eternity. No matter what we face, He is with us. No matter how many days we have in this life, God has prepared a place for us in eternity. No matter how hard life may be right now, God is working everything (even the bad stuff) together for our good.