Questions: they often linger, mysteriously, even hauntingly.
Nor is it the unanswered and unanswerable questions that are necessarily the most troubling. It is often, perhaps more often, the questions with answers that stay with us, demanding our attention. Maybe that is why humans often are happier with unanswered questions; questions of life, death, and eternity.
Recent circumstances in the providence of God have turned my thoughts more in this direction. I recently received a text from my cousin informing me that his mother had died. In the same week, a vibrant Christian sister about my age died after a struggle with terminal illness. Even more recently I found out that my Father has been diagnosed with stage four melanoma. All of these have reminded me of the rhetorical question asked by James in his inspired letter to struggling Christians: “What is your life…?” To which he replies; “It is but a vapor, appearing for a little time, then vanishing.”
I will soon turn sixty-three. Even if I live a relatively long life, most of it is gone. Which leads me back to the question James proposes. It is more than a reminder of the certainty of death, although it is that. It is a soul-searching question about the meaning of life, especially for the child of God. It is as much a question of why and where as it is what. It is a question of purpose, direction, and destiny. How then can we profit from pondering James’ question and applying its answers?
I urge you to do three things:
First: Embrace the Uncertainty of Life.
Both the surrounding circumstances and the personal conditions of life are uncertain. It is certainly foolish to approach life without plans. But it is just as foolish, perhaps more so, to make plans without God. Everything is predicated upon the active providence of our Lord. Circumstances change, sometimes rapidly and sometimes drastically. This is not abnormal. This is Providential! In like manner, personal conditions of physical, mental, and emotional health as well as financial status can all change, as a quick look at the opening chapters of the book of Job reminds us. If you and I do not embrace this reality, we could become disappointed, frustrated, angry, and even bitter.
Second: Embrace the Brevity of Life.
In August of 1963, my mother began to have labor pains. My Father rushed my sisters and me to our relatives and my mother to the hospital. Soon we were told of the birth of a boy. I had a brother, and, being the only boy, I was naturally excited. But it was only in the next day or two that young Daniel began to have problems and died. My hopes of a brother to share life with were dashed and my nine year old heart was broken. For me, that was an early lesson on the brevity of life. Life’s duration is short, even at its longest. This life’s termination is sure.
Third: Embrace the Priority of Life.
Woven into the text of this exhortation by James is his inspired answer to his question: “What is your life?” We face all the uncertainty of this brief life with one priority: the will of God. Life is not something to be tenaciously held to. Rather it is a valuable gift to be invested. The believer does not spend his or her life nor does he waste it. He invests it. “If the Lord wills….” is not a cliche. It is a way of life. The will of God is not a hard to find lost treasure. It is the path of a disciple. We invest our lives seeking God’s will in the only place God reveals it: in His Word. God’s will is also something that He unfolds in His own good time, as He leads by His Spirit, for “…. as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” “A man’s heart devises his way, but the LORD directs his steps”(Prov.16:9). He must be the Lord of our plans. Then we invest our life in doing God’s will. We must be doers of the Word and not hearers only. God has revealed His will. It is ours, by His grace, to obey.” “What is your life…?” Its direction, its purpose, its destiny are all in His hands. “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” To this end we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be pleasing to Him”(2Cor. 5:9).
“A long time ago in a ‘place’ far far away”, something happened that changed the course of the church, western civilization, and the world. It affected what you believe, how you live, where you attend church, and the influence of world wide missions. It turned Europe from a dark continent into a vibrant, thriving one; from a continent afraid to think to a culture bursting with ideas; from a continent of people who could hardly see beyond their doors to a people with the horizon for their vision. If this seems like hyperbole, it is not. No event since the birth of Christ has had such an impact. Indeed it is difficult to overestimate its significance. And while the secular world may choose to ignore it, it cannot escape it. The ideological freedom and openness of thought that is so ostensibly valued today is due, at least in part, to it. Though it was a sovereign act of God, He used men to bring it to pass; men who were resolved to stand no matter what the cost might be. It was their resolve, by God’s grace, that led a continent from darkness to light.
The event I am referring to is the Reformation. This fall we will commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of its beginning. There were preludes to it, but when a mere mortal took the initiative to nail his Biblical theses in a most obvious place, the battle was on. The fire had been lighted, and there was no extinguishing it. Martin Luther was that man who, standing on the shoulders of Huss, Wycliffe, and others, led the charge into the Biblical and theological darkness when it seemed unsafe, unwise, and unfruitful. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists all have roots there, as do others. And later, those who were spiritual descendants of the reformers made their way across an ocean to a New World. Is it all that difficult for the modern thinking Christian to see something of the present day importance of these men and this event? Must we agree with everything they said and did in order to appreciate their work and apply the truth they sacrificed so much to pass on. And dare we undervalue their work and testimony by ignoring their example and legacy. But surely the need for reformation is past. We benefit from their life and work, true enough, but how much and for how long should we dwell on the past? What’s done is done, and this is a new day with new challenges and fresh ideas.
Or could it be that a darkness all too similar to the darkness of those pre-reformation days has slowly and almost imperceptibly surrounded the contemporary church? Have we lost sight of the ideas and beliefs that brought new life to the church five hundred years ago? Could it be that the people of God need a new generation preachers of old truth and a new generation of common men and women with the uncommon resolve to stand once again?
As October and the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation’s beginning approach, will you make plans to join us at Passion4Christ Summit. Together we will take a new look, not just at the Reformation, but at the need for fresh resolve to stand on and for Christ and His Word. How can we do anything else?
Yours for Christ and the Gospel,
Three months after the election of 2016, it seems that cooler heads are not necessarily prevailing. We have had time to see our first glimpses of the Trump presidency, hear words of adulation from some, and screams of anger from others. It seems every general election (the ones in which we elect a President) brings new cries and claims from left and right that this is the most important election of our time. While these claims may elicit from us yawns and criticisms of overstatement, it does seem that we live in an era in which every four years brings us the challenge that this election is indeed the most significant yet. Perhaps this is because we are witnessing a culture “civil war” with major battles occurring at the ballot booth. The deep cultural and moral divide only deepens as the stakes escalate. We watch and wait with varying degrees of optimism. As evangelical Christians we hope and pray that our God will have mercy on us, not giving us what we deserve but what we are convinced we need.
I have been among those who have hoped and prayed for certain results in local, state, and national election. I believe there is Biblical warrant to pray for political leaders before as well as after they are elected. As returns have come in I have had the experience of gratitude and even elation. I have also experienced deep disappointment and concern.
This election brought to me a mixed bag of concerns, convictions, and confused and convoluted feelings. I have reminded myself and others that our hope is not in worldly leaders and their agendas. I have recalled this: “For promotion does not come from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He puts down one, and raises up another”(Ps. 75:6,7). “My hope(whether here or in eternity) is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” My head is not in the sand however. I voted prayerfully, conscientiously, and convictionally. When Joshua was about to enter the Promised Land with the children of Israel, he had an incredible experience. He was confronted by a man with his sword drawn. On the cusp of warfare, Joshua naturally wondered if the man was friend or foe, and he voiced his concern. The man identified himself, then in the words of a well-known preacher of the recent past said;”I’m not here to take sides. I’m here to take charge.” We who call ourselves evangelical Christians are submitted to and trusting in the “Commander of the Lord’s army”. He is in charge. We are beholden to no man or party. The purposes of our Lord are sure and will come to pass. We must not fret because of evil doers or find unbiblical comfort in those who appear to be on our side. I am, I think, a patriot. But my patriotism is not primary. I am prone to be far too attached to this world and far too satisfied with what it offers. That is why I remind myself that my “citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself. Therefore my brothers(and sisters),… stand fast in the Lord,…”(Phil. 3:20-4:1). Thank God this is not all there is. Let us not therefore think and live as though it is. Let us attempt to live every moment to the glory of God, make every decision with eternity in view, “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith,…”
There was a lot of great things on the blog in 2016! We have left you a few highlights below…
Can I have a do-over? – Micah Cavanaugh
Have you ever done or said something and suddenly or soon thereafter wished you could take it back or have a redo? Unlike TV shows or fantasy fiction we cannot undo the past. In fact, one of the most certain things we have in life is what has already happened. You must live with your decisions. But how do those decisions affect you in the long term? – [Read More]
The “Trump” card – Charles Cavanaugh
As we enter 2016, The United States approaches a familiar event: the election of a President. The interest and excitement of this event begin much earlier and begin to reach fever pitch with the primary season. Christians join the banter on Facebook and blogs, making known their preferences and why. Who will stand for this or protect that right? Who will stand up to the entrenched establishment and give us fresh direction and leadership? – [Read More]
“Open my eyes that I may see” – Pam Cavanaugh
I awoke this morning facing the new year. Oddly enough my thoughts were not on making New Year’s resolutions. My mind was transported back to my childhood. I was remembering the retro toy called Viewmaster. This was a contraption that you put a thin cardboard disk containing a 3D color photograph into so you could view the picture. Some showed travel attractions; others cartoons or TV shows. I vividly remember putting the slide in wrong many times. Of course I could not see clearly or figure out what was before my eyes. I twisted and turned the slide until it fit correctly. I am sure directions were written on the disk, but it was so easy not to follow them or pay attention. – [Read More]
The theology of cinema – Charles Cavanaugh
This brings us to a more recent development in the production of quasi-biblical fiction: a cinematic effort to tell the story of the child Jesus. The movie “The Young Messiah” is based on a book written by Anne Rice. The movie purports to give an historically reliable account of the child Jesus at the age of seven when his parents were returning to Palestine with him from Egypt. The narrative weaves the pursuit of the child by a Roman soldier and instances of miracles performed by the surprised and uncertain young Messiah. It has opened to some good reviews, even getting a positive nod from Focus on the Family. – [Read More]
What’s Trending? – Charles Cavanaugh
But perhaps no term or concept has gotten more traction than “What’s Trending”. Just the sound of this phrase reminds us that if it is happening on Facebook, it must be important. Which brings up another old term that has new meaning: viral. Viral used to carry the connotation of something unpleasant, debilitating, even infectious. But now if it has “gone viral”, it is uber popular. Originally it was trending. Then it went viral. Never mind that it was a video of a woman donning a mask of an imaginary galactic creature, a dog doing something unusual or even gross, or a human being stupid. – [Read More]
The world is searching for genuine joy. They may call it something else or look for it under the guise of fun or pleasure, but the basic need is still the same: joy. And what a time to find and express joy: Christmas, the incarnation. God has stooped to meet man’s greatest need: sinless God for sinful man. While the joy of Christians is unspeakable, our sense of humility is understandable. What would we be without our Lord’s work on our behalf? It is a time to contrast what we deserve with what we enjoy. The wide path to eternal hell and exchanged for the crown of life and eternal glory.
This is the reality of Christmas joy and is expressed so eloquently by H. R. Bramley in his incarnation poem.
A babe on the breast of a maiden He lies,
Yet sits with the Father on high in the skies,
Before Him their faces the seraphim hide,
While Joseph stands waiting, unscared by His side.
Oh, wonder of wonders, which none can unfold!
The Ancient of Days is an hour or two old,
The Maker of all things is made of the earth,
Man is worshipped by angels, and God comes to birth.
The Word in the bliss of the Godhead remains,
Yet in flesh comes to suffer the keenest of pains,
He is that He was, and forever shall be,
But becomes what He was not for you and for me.
This Christmas remember the most memorable gift, the most remarkable event, the most unspeakable joy.
Dear Friends of the Ministry,
We were nearing the end of our time at P4C 2016 when an attendee approached me with some much appreciated words of thanks. I will not quote him verbatim, but he asked a question something like this, “How did this happen? How did your family come to minister together like this?” He added that it was something he would like to do one day. His question was both surprising and humbling. It’s answer is an occasion to give our God thanks and moves me to tears even as I write. How is it that the Cavanaugh family came to minister together as we do?
As I told my brother then, such things do not come together on a whim. They are or should be the fruit of life. As a young man I noticed most young people did not seem to have the same passion and hunger for Christ and His truth as their parents. As I grew older, God gave me the desire and hope to avoid such generational decline. When I entered the pastoral ministry, I longed to have a lasting influence on men and their families. He gave me a wife who shared that desire. We wanted the Cavanaugh family to love Christ together and to show that love for His glory. My prayer and vision was that God would use us to touch the nations, to proclaim His Word, and to touch the next generation for Christ.
The Cavanaugh family is just a small part of what God is doing, but we are grateful to have that part. When I first began to pray about these things, there was no such thing as a blog or podcast. Today we produce “CrossTalk” – a weekly podcast – and maintain a blog on our website. My prayer to touch the nations has witnessed God’s gracious providence in leading Daniel and Micah around the world to minister Christ. Daniel has lead several trips to South America, and since Daniel’s marriage, Micah has continued, leading a trip to Ecuador just last Summer and Summers before that. Many of you have had a part in this, including a trip Pam and I took to Ecuador to lead a Family Leadership Conference a few years back. Micah not only has recently led annual trips to Ecuador, but also serves the Lord in a local church in New Braunfels, TX. God has also placed him strategically in the field of politics and government where he can have an impact for Christ.
The Cavanaugh family as always enjoyed encouraging pastors and their wives, having picnics for local pastors at our home. I have recently had the privilege of teaching a pastoral ministries and leadership class at our church as well. It is our hope that the Lord will open other doors for ministering to men of God. Perhaps the biggest blessing to the Cavanaugh family in all of this is Passion4Christ Summit. It kicks off the Christmas season for us and is the highlight of our year. Our anticipation builds as we look forward to seeing familiar faces and making new friends in Christ. Since 2008, over 500 Christian singles have attended P4C. If we have been allowed by our Lord to have any influence at all, it is that we have encouraged those who have come to carry the reality of Christ and His Gospel effectively to this and the next generation.
One of the great blessings is that Vision4Living is no longer four but five. Daniel’s wife, Michelle, is an answer to prayer, having been raised in a Christ-centered, ministry-minded family. She shares in the vision of the Cavanaugh family to touch and change the next generation for Christ. And part of the fulfillment of that vision is that by God’s grace she will deliver another little Cavanaugh into the Cavanaugh family in February. Michelle’s heart for God and love for people will be used by our Lord to make the Cavanaugh family more complete as she and Daniel raise up a generation to know and love Christ and make Him known to their generation and the generations to come.
As I answered the question of that young man at P4C 2016, I sensed the need to make one thing very clear. The Cavanaugh family is not a special family. We are a very ordinary family. We sin. We have conflict. We have to work through these things as much as you and your family. We need Christ moment by moment and day by day, and we live by His grace. Our hope is that the years to come will find us faithful to Him and to the vision and task of touching and changing the next generation for Him. We ask you to prayerfully consider joining the Cavanaugh family in this work by giving to Vision4Living Ministries during this year’s Reasons to Give Campaign. If you are not able to give, we understand. If you choose not to, may our Lord bless you in whatever way may please Him to use you in the great cause of the Gospel. Christ and His glory are always the Reason to Give. Thank you and thank the Lord for all you mean to us.
To God be the Glory,
Have you ever done or said something and suddenly or soon thereafter wished you could take it back or have a redo? Unlike TV shows or fantasy fiction we cannot undo the past. In fact, one of the most certain things we have in life is what has already happened. You must live with your decisions. But how do those decisions affect you in the long term?
Many years ago, 20 now to be exact, I was riding my brother’s bike on a warm August day down the sidewalk in front of our family’s home in Louisville, Kentucky. I had secured the bicycle after protesting my mother’s initial misgivings about me riding a bike that one, was bigger than mine and two had handle brakes which I was unused to. She was baking cookies and decided not to argue with me further. As I wheeled my prize out to the driveway I took no thought for the future, only the impending adventure I was about to enjoy. Less than 30 minutes later I lost control of that bike and went face first over the handle bars and skidded violently into the pavement. Or so I’m told because you see I have no memory of what happened. My face however told much of the story.
I remember waking in the ambulance and being unable to move. I was told to stay still and I can still hear a voice asking my mother questions. I can hear her voice talking to me and telling me it was going to be all right. Little did she know that after they had done a CT scan on me, sewn my bottom lip torn like a piece of paper towards my chin, bandaged my scars and run numerous tests, that four weeks later an aneurysm would form in the upper lobe of my brain.
Our family was out late at another family’s house. We got home, and I had become somewhat quiet and non-responsive in the back seat of our ’88 Plymouth voyager. My Dad carried me into the house and laid me at the foot of the stairs to the second story of our home. He instructed me to get up, put my pj’s on and go to bed. Mom came, but minutes later, and half dragged me up the stairs laying me near the bathroom door. I should insert here that I was a known sleepy head and unresponsive once I was asleep. I began violently throwing up on the bathroom floor and try as I might could not move my body to the toilet. Mom and Dad came in and tried to get me there, Mom kept telling me to sit up and finally Dad said, “Pam, maybe he can’t”. I tried to respond to my Dad’s questions, but it was as if all my motor function skills were gone. Actually, that is exactly what had happened. My aneurysm had bled, instead of bursting like most do and it was causing me to have a seizure.
My family got me to the hospital and wouldn’t you know it God had the most renown brain surgeon at the time touring Kosair Childrens’ hospital that night. The last time my parents saw me I had tubes out my face, shaved head and taped eyes. 9 and a 1/2 hours later they would receive the words that I was in recovery. But along the way so many things would happen in surgery. The vein around the aneurysm was clear, but they put two titanium clamps in my head to hold the ends of the destroyed vein.
Obviously I survived, and let me tell you I’ve omitted hours of this story. I had to learn to walk again, saw double vision for months, had the worst headaches you can imagine, days of being carried to the bathroom, being bathed because I had so many wires connected to my body. I still have the scar on my right hand where they tried unsuccessfully to stick an IV in me. I have the scar on my head that runs from sideburn to sideburn that reminds me of all this and more.
All this because I chose to ride my brothers bike on that warm August afternoon in 1996. What if I hadn’t? Our decisions do affect us. What if I could have a do over, would I take it? Have you ever wished you could have a do over? Maybe meet someone for the first time again or maybe a second chance at a first date.
I’ve been thinking a lot about do overs lately. You’ve heard the saying; “You only get one chance at a first impression”. Every day is our only opportunity for what we do with that day. Are you living with regret for things you wish you could change? You can’t have those situations back,’ but even if you could should you change the past?
The past affects the future. Thank you captain obvious, right? Consider Romans 8:28, a verse we are all likely familiar with, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” God works in and through your decisions to bring about His perfect will. Perhaps you should have made a different choice to avoid painful outcomes but does that limit what God can and, according to Romans 8 will do through that mistake? When we live in the past and dwell on our mistakes, we limit the reality of the sovereignty of God in our lives. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from our mistakes or choices, or even that we shouldn’t ask forgiveness for when we are wrong, but we cannot allow those choices to control our current reality out of fear or discouragement for what might have been.
If I could go back to August, 1996 when I was standing in front of 2306 Burrell drive, would I change my decision to ride my brother’s bike that day? It is not for me to decide. The choice was made and now it is up to me to live with the reality that my decisions have made. God’s grace is sufficient for your mistakes and your wiser choices. Do not actively resist that grace by dwelling on your mistakes.
There are moments I have wished I could take something back or have a redo. But I cannot go back. So I’ll work on moving forward and using the time I am given. Hindsight is a funny thing, it can be a source of great discouragement if you let it. Let it motivate you to live more fully for Christ and in His grace. Live! Every moment.
There is such a shortage of it. It is not impossible to find, but it gets crowded out by the bad news. The big three, “sin, sorrow, and death”, seem to be having their way. They own the news. Meanwhile, righteousness is diminished, and wickedness abounds. It is somewhat frightening.
The anti-God forces are having their way. It is seen in radical Islam killing many and terrifying many others. It is seen in the advance of secularism in the United States; a militant secularism that will not be satisfied until it silences every voice and every remnant of Theo-centric, Christo-centric, and Biblio-centric truth. We see it in a church that still pins its hopes on a national leader who will turn the tide in another direction: a church far happier with its comforts and conveniences than with Christ and Christ alone. It seems as though we spend our days waiting for the next big tragedy and wondering if anything can stop the forces of darkness. As Christians, we can hardly help wondering if our day is one that will witness an onslaught of persecutions that western Christianity has not yet seen. If we are not careful, we could be caught up in the uncertainty and dread that grips the world. We could succumb, at least subconsciously, to such fear.
But what is actually happening around us? Are things as they appear? The answer is yes and no. Yes, the world is rife with evil. In the United States, the days of cultural Christianity are gone with hardly noticeable remnants here and there. Judeo-Christian values and a Puritan ethic that once dominated the cultural landscape have all but disappeared and are fodder for jokes and cynicism even in some Christian circles. The leaders of our nation pay lip service to Christianity, while denying and undermining every vestige of Christian and Biblical orthodoxy.Sin and perversion are applauded while righteousness is hated. The nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing. But Psalm 2 does not make that as a statement. It poses it as a question. “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?” The question is as appropriate today as it was in the day of the Psalmist. Why indeed do the rulers of the world set themselves? Why indeed do they take counsel together against the LORD and against His Christ? For what appears to be the triumph of evil men, is but a prelude to their ultimate fall. “He Who sits in the heavens laughs. He scoffs at them.” The world may be falling apart around us, but our Lord is having His way. “He does whatever He pleases.” Fret not because of evil doers,… They shall soon be cut off and wither as the grass. Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; … Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Shall we fret and not trust our mighty God? Shall we fear that His Gospel will not prevail? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” For those who know Christ, the good news of the Gospel overshadows all the bad news, and it is that good news that we gladly bear as a light to the nations.
Have you ever felt like God designed you for a specific time and place? Somewhere He put you on purpose? On Sunday evening, just over four weeks ago, I looked out over a field of grass, dirt, and little cabins built of concrete blocks. There is an entrance to this landscape just to the left of my view and through it are driving four large buses, aboard it are 86 Ecuadorean children and numerous young helpers. They are coming because God has a plan that is bigger than we can fathom. Just two short weeks earlier this moment seemed impossible, like it might never happen. You see, every year we host a group of kids in a small beach town on the coast of Ecuador. But this year, because parents were worried about the earthquakes and families didn’t have the money, camp was in jeopardy of happening. When Pastor Benjamin informed us that camp would not happen this year, we decided that something had to be done. We prayed, called friends back home, and used social media to spread the word. As a result we raised $10K plus to send 90 kids to camp who would otherwise never have come.
As these kids poke their heads out of the bus windows their eyes are met, many of them for the first time, with the landscape that has for me become so familiar over the last few years. They know nothing of what God has in store for this next week, a fact I will soon realize we share in common. You see, most of these children would never be here but for the donations of so many who sponsored this opportunity for Ecuadorean children to play at the beach, watch skits put on by American young people, play soccer at camp, and most importantly hear the gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them over and over again.
Their faces are a mix of curiosity, pure anticipation, and all out excitement to be here. The hugs are plentiful and the feel of love and welcome of our team from the U.S. is unmistakably genuine. These kids need this love and attention.
The hellos are plentiful but soon over and the week gets started. Time fails me to give you detailed description of the days ahead. They are filled with early morning time alone with God interrupted by children laughing and wanting attention, eating food with 140 people loudly cheering in a mess hall style building, cheers for camp team colors – Verde! Roho! Tomate! Morado! Azul! – and let’s not forget the kitchen team, Amarillo!
Rotations everyday give the children time to be split up in individual small groups and hear about God’s message of salvation and who He is by experiencing crafts, games, and stories. Beach time, “vamos a laplaya” is a common cry each afternoon. Taking 86 kids to the beach is no small feat but the experience is worth the “trouble”. Returning to camp with 100 plus sweaty, sandy, and all out messy people is a daily routine that never gets old.
Then we begin down time and some futball [soccer] with the kids, which rounds out our free time. Every evening, we line up the teams after dinner to the dreaded sound of the whistle. This is an ever threatening call to the kids as they come screaming from every corner of camp so they can win points by being, the first, second, or third team to make it. “Wave your flag” plays over the PA as the children run single file into the chapel where we sing and actually wave each team flag to this popular tune. Verses, songs, and a crazy skit with a serious message, round out the evening.
Saying goodnight, hugs, selfies, water games, stopped up toilets, battidos [milk shakes], quiet times in the hammocks (never), slamming cabin doors, yells of “GOAL!”, soccer tournament, serious questions about salvation, more hugs, tense moments playing games, “Una Fila chicos!” [One line kids], more clogged toilets, creepy poodle dogs that bite, mosquitoes, demon ants that bite, ecua volley, beach time, water fights at the beach, waves and holding little handicapped boys afloat – experiencing the ocean for the first time – are just a few memories that flood my mind. But you see, the children are gone and I’m looking at an empty field covered in these memories. The buses are rounding the corner leaving these scenes and this week behind but carrying with them memories that will last, for me a lifetime.
As I look back on three weeks of working with kids, I can say it was not always easy, in fact at times it seemed downright impossible to go on. The truth is life is not easy for the believer. It was never promised to us, and we should never anticipate or expect it to be. We should revel in the difficulties, because whether we know it or not at the time, those are the experiences that will shape our relationships with others and Christ. They define who we are.
The people we worked with, the places we went, and the memories that I will forever hold in my heart serve to remind me of my humanity and need for Christ. We are each of us given times and opportunities designed to be light for Christ and to create a stronger relationship with Him. Will we fail? Absolutely, but only when we fail and see our inability will we turn to Christ and see our total need of Him.
Have you ever felt like God designed you for a time and place? Somewhere He put you on purpose? On Sunday evening just over three weeks ago I looked out over a field of grass, dirt and little cabins built of concrete blocks dreaming about the week that had just passed so quickly, too quickly. Yet, knowing God had me right where He wanted me to be. All the difficulty in the world cannot separate you from the love and success of living a life devoted to Christ when you are looking to Him. Success is not defined by the world but by Someone else. We do not know how or when God will use our inabilities. So, we must keep seeking Him and trusting Him wherever you are, and when you reflect on life you can rest in the knowledge that it’s not you that carries the weight of the results. Some things – many things – change, but there is a consistency, an unchanging truth we can and must rest in as time goes by. God has put you just where He wants you, here on earth for a very short time. So, don’t waste time fretting about the results or about what is next. Trust in an all-powerful, all-knowing God whose sovereignty should remove all doubt from the believer.
Photo Credit: Meagan Wanschura
“If you … know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”(Matt.7:10-12).
The past few weeks have been very interesting to say the least. I rent my home, and the oven in our home went completely out. My landlady, sad to say, doesn’t get in a big hurry to respond when it comes to spending money on this house. I was without an oven for a few weeks, as she looked for a cheap alternative to my dilemma.
I wish I could report that I took this situation without getting upset. Well, that was not the case. But as this ordeal went on, the Lord began to expose my heart and attitude. This is not a comfortable place to be. Let’s face it, apart from Christ our hearts are deceitful “and desperately wicked”. I am well aware of this as this saga unfolds.
The saga continued with the arrival of a $35 stove bought on Craig’s List delivered to my house by her maintenance man(which I think came over on the Mayflower). Can you figure out where this is going? No, it never worked properly, so this trial continued on for days.
My husband and I knew something else had to happen. Charles challenged me in our prayers together to pray for our landlady to do the right thing before we made the leap to buy a new stove. That week all of this drama in my life and seeming discomfort was truly put into perspective. The Lord loves to do this in my life! My son is leading a mission team of young people in Ecuador. There is a website I can visit to keep up, along with pictures of those they are ministering to. I am scanning the pictures, and my heart is truly smashed. Seeing the poverty and conditions of life for these children made me so ashamed of how I viewed my apparent horrible situation with my stove. These children and adults are so joyful even in difficult life situations.
My Heavenly Father has given me a gift of living in a very blessed nation, even though I do not deserve it. The greatest gift is my salvation through Jesus Christ. He holds my life, my heart, and yes my stove, and my future in His hands.
There came a knock on my door. I answered the door, and my landlady’s maintenance man said these very words… “I have a gift for you.” I looked, and there was a brand new stove sitting at my door. I asked, and my Heavenly Father gave me a gift.
The stove was the right thing, but the lessons I learned along the way was the true gift from my Heavenly Father Who cares for me.