Laura and I have received so many calls and texts congratulating us on our upcoming wedding. The response has been terrific. Besides asking the story of how we met and how we got engaged, the biggest question has been, “Where?” and, “Why there on your honeymoon?”
I must confess, I tried really hard to keep it a secret. She wanted a surprise. I tried really hard. I wanted to surprise her. But God had other plans. A few weeks ago, Laura called. Her voice was a little trembled, a little unsure. She said, “During my prayer time, I felt like God told me I needed to know about our honeymoon.”
Up to this point, she knew nothing. In fact, I had begun sending her pics of lodges in the Poconos – not exactly our cup of tea. So on the following Sunday, we came back to the house, sat, and talked. We went back and forth on possibilities, but she knew I was only stalling. Then she said it, “John, I want you to tell me where we’re going.”
“Alrighty then.” I pulled my computer on my lap and opened it. Before I typed in the web address, she said she wanted to guess. “To serve on the mission field in Africa!”
I stuttered, almost lost. Huh?! I’d been careful. I thought I did a good job hiding the plan, but God knew there was some work to be done before we left. And the only way was for us to work on it together. I didn’t answer her.
I typed in the website a letter at a time, “S O Z O C H I L D R E N . O R G”. The screen filled and so did her eyes. We scrolled down and watched this video.
We laughed and cried together. Again, I was humbled that God knew we needed to work through things before we arrived to serve.
So there you have it. Our big secret revealed. We are flying out after the wedding. There is a layover in Europe for a couple of days, then we are heading to the mission field to finish out the month.
This is the result of lots of prayer. And we believe, the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s a couple of housekeeping items you may want to know.
- We need your prayers. And not just, “Hey, I’ll pray,” and then forget. We’re asking our friends to take time out of each day to specifically ask God to lead us in this marriage and in service to Him.
- Consider helping us to get to Uganda. Laura and I truthfully have more stuff than we need. So, we’re politely asking, please no vases, napkins, toasters, etc. Instead please consider donating to the mission trip. We’ve been saving, but the cost is substantial.
- Check out Sozo’s website. We chose Sozo because we believe in their mission to reach homeless children in Uganda. Take a few minutes to look through their material and consider sponsoring a child.
- Share this story, and let us know you’re praying. We firmly believe that this is not about us. Our prayer is that this inspires, touches, and encourages others. With everything in our lives that went terribly wrong, this is our chance to start out right.
Sozo Children Missions
BIBLE STORY: Josiah’s cleansing of Judah. (2 Kings 22 & 23)
BIBLE VERSE: “Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11b (NLT)
Why does a marathoner keep running? Why do some elite athletes have careers far longer than their contemporaries? One key difference is conditioning built by constant training. Elite level athletes train hard, often, and at a higher level of difficulty than others. This constant use and training pushes their bodies to be able to work longer, harder, and at performance levels beyond the average person. Perseverance does not happen by accident.
It happens by training. You have to work at it and it will never be easy. There is no list of “three easy ways to build perseverance.” There is not even one easy way. That is the point of perseverance; it is not easy. Ever.
King Josiah knew what was right. He knew what was best for him and for the nation and he refused to give up on it. He knew that God had called him to a life-long fight against the evil worship practices that had sprung up in Judah and he never backed down or gave up. Perseverance is difficult. If you are persevering, that means that the payoff is a long way off.
It is a lot easier to do hard work or endure difficult circumstances when you can see the reward on the other side of the routine. But just like the elite athletes training for a game, we need to make perseverance a lifestyle. If an athlete trains only during the season, he or she will suffer the consequences in injuries, reduced performance, and a shorter career. We need to remember that we are called to do the right thing, not just for a season, but for a lifetime.
BIBLE STORY: Man of God from Judah. (1 Kings 13)
BIBLE VERSE: “Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.” Proverbs 11:3 (NLT)
Think about a used car salesman. Now think about a mechanic. Now think about a lawyer. Are you thinking very nice things? If you are like most people, probably not. Our culture is full of stories about dishonesty and corruption in these fields of work. Are all used car salesmen selling bad goods to good people? Do all car mechanics recommend expensive and unnecessary repairs? Are all lawyers valueless, amoral, shysters? Of course not.
But we all have heard about the dishonest ones, so much and so often, that when we think of these professions, we don’t have many nice thoughts. The dishonesty of the few, hurts the reputation of all.
But lies and dishonesty hurt more than people’s reputations. When we lie we can cause pain for everyone around us. If you have ever been lied to, or lied about, you know that it hurts. Even when the truth is uncovered, the pain is still there. In the Bible Story, the prophet actually causes the death of the Man from Judah because of his lie. When we lie, we can never know the all the possible consequences of what we are doing. A simple lie can grow into something that creates horrible consequences for people around us.
We have all heard examples of how a lie got someone in trouble. But we shouldn’t just think about ourselves when we consider the consequences of lying. Those around us can be injured equally, or even more than we are by our dishonesty. So if you can’t be honest for your own sake, be honest for God’s sake, and for the sake of those around you.
BIBLE STORY: David’s mighty men. (2 Samuel 23:8-17)
BIBLE VERSE: “…pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” 2 Timothy 2:22b (NLT)
“I’ve got your back.” “I’ll cover you.” “Right behind you.” We’ve heard these words from buddycops, adventurers, and heroes on TV shows and in movies. But no movie is extreme enough for the derring-do of David’s companions. A movie made about their exploits would be considered impossible. Outlandishly exaggerated. They did things that no Hollywood producer would allow in a script.
These men broke through enemy lines into an occupied town. Not for secret plans. Not to rescue a princess. Not even to steal priceless treasure. To get their friend a drink of water. But these men’s actions were not just brave for bravery’s sake. They loved David as a friend and were willing to do anything for him. And David loved them.
David inspired faithfulness because he was faithful. He was faithful to God. He was faithful to his men. All of us need faithful friends who will be there for us, looking out for our best interests and helping us in our direst moments. No. We are not kings fighting battles like David. But we are sons and daughters of God, the King of Kings. And there is a battle to tell the world about Jesus. Faithfulness might not mean fighting a physical battle, but it might mean bringing someone a drink of water.
It means seeing a need and meeting it. It means loaning things that your friends need, without them asking. It means hospitality. It means being there for your friends when they lose loved ones. It means giving extra money to the church when a disaster strikes, so that the church can respond quickly. No matter what the need is, a faithful friend will jump in to help. We need to be faithful friends and have faithful friends in our lives. Make sure that the people you are closest to are faithful friends and friends who are faithful to God.
BIBLE STORY: King Uzziah enters the Temple. (2nd Chronicles 26)
BIBLE VERSE: “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12 (NLT)
Pride is unique in that it attacks us at the best times of our lives. Pride slips in when we have closed the big deal. Pride shows up after the big win. Pride comes gift wrapped in success. But, if we let pride take hold, it can lead us to the worst times of our lives. Pride removes our ability to listen to advice.
It lessens our natural warnings about consequences. It makes us see ourselves as different from others, deserving of special treatment and able to make our own rules. Once that happens, it is only a matter of time before we fall. And the prouder we become, the more destructive and dangerous the fall will be.
King Uzziah’s fall was devastating. He was a famous and powerful King, who destroyed enemy armies and towns, and had success at everything he touched. Because of pride he became an infected outcast, quarantined and living in isolation, unable to continue ruling the nation. All this was caused by pride. Uzziah thought he could ignore the rules. He did not listen to advice. He thought he was above that. Our only defense from pride is humility.
But, not the false humility that we see so often in people who use self-deprecating remarks as a way of begging a compliment from others. Behavior like this gives humility a bad reputation. We think of it as downplaying our skills. Or, we see it as passing up credit that we deserve. But, true humility is actually about truth. If we are honest about our abilities and about God, who gives them to us, we will not become proud, but thankful.
It is when we start to claim ownership of our skills and celebrate our victories as coming from our own cleverness and power that we start to become victims of pride. Don’t falsely downplay or insult yourself to seem humble. Do and be your best. Give thanks to God. And, remember that you are never above listening to warnings and advice from others. Especially if those giving the warnings are people who follow God.
BIBLE STORY: Repentance and Salvation. (Luke 23:32 – 24:49)
BIBLE VERSE: “There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.” Luke 24:47b (NLT)
Being physically lost and being spiritually lost have many similarities. One of them is, that when we realize that we are lost, we need to change direction. There is one man in the Bible who is famous for changing the direction of his life without moving from the spot he was in. He could not move. He was nailed on a cross next to Jesus. The first criminal chose to mock Jesus by joining the crowd in taunting Jesus to save Himself, but the other gave us an example to follow of repentance.
“Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” Luke 23:40 (NLT)
He admitted his own sin and that he deserved to be punished. He recognized Jesus as sinless, and acknowledged that Jesus was God’s Son, the Messiah. He knew Jesus was the only one to turn to, and that is exactly what he did. And Jesus responded. “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 (NLT)
One interesting thing about this exchange, is a question: Who told the second criminal about Jesus? Perhaps he was simply around during Jesus’ trial long enough to hear. But Jesus didn’t talk very much. Perhaps he heard the words of the weeping women along the road as they carried their crosses. But most people were cursing Jesus and spitting at Him. Someone must have shared with him.
Someone must share Jesus with the people around you. People around you may not know that they are lost in sin. But if they have not accepted Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, they are stuck in sin as surely as the criminals were nailed to the crosses. To be free from sin, they need to follow the example the criminal gave. Repent. Turn around. Change direction.
But they can’t do that if you don’t tell them. You must share the message. You might not get a positive response. You might be jeered by the crowd. You might lose friendships. But without you telling them, they might never realize what the second criminal did. That they can turn their lives around and give their lives to Jesus.
BIBLE STORY: The fiery furnace. (Daniel 3)
BIBLE VERSE: “Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right.” Proverbs 20:11 (NLT)
It can happen to a vital part of your car’s engine. It can happen to a dish in the microwave. It can happen to your home’s foundation. It can happen to a support beam in a bridge or a building. But no matter where it happens, it is bad when something cracks under pressure. Just when you need it the most, it fails. And when it fails, you are left with a mess to clean up, or even worse. People can be hurt. Calculating failure is an important part of design.
If a designer does not know the failure point of the material she is working with to build a chair, she cannot know if it is strong enough to support a person’s weight. We expect certain things to fail. When you bend a toothpick or a pencil there is a satisfying, “snap,” when it breaks due to the pressure. We cynically expect people to fail, too. News organizations wait impatiently to score a scoop on public figures who blow it, give into temptation, or reveal the worst parts of themselves. That is why it is so shocking to the world when we demonstrate the kind of supernatural structural integrity that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did.
They did not break, no matter how much pressure King Nebuchadnezzar put on. They did not flinch, no matter how much the King turned up the heat. The King expected them to fail. He expected them to give in. When they did not, at first he became enraged, but then when they miraculously survived, he became amazed. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not care about the penalty, or the punishment they would face. They cared about being faithful to God. Being unfaithful to God was worse than burning to death.
When we have that same attitude of “no matter what” obedience, God gives us supernatural integrity to do the right thing. Everything has a natural failure point. If you try to stand in your own strength, the world will break you. But if you follow the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you can show the world the kind of supernatural integrity that caused King Nebuchadnezzar to say, “There is no other god who can rescue like this!” (Daniel 3:29b)
BIBLE STORY: Hannah and Samuel. (1 Samuel 1)
BIBLE VERSE: “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.” Psalm 6:9 (NLT)
Sometimes it seems that gardens, and even yards, just attract rocks. If you have ever kept a garden or done any landscaping, you know that from time to time you find a rock where you need to plant a row of vegetables, a shrub, or a tree. Sometimes the rocks are small enough that you can pick them up with one hand, and with a flick of your wrist they are gone. Sometimes you run across a rock that is a bit larger.
You might have to dig around it a little and use two hands to pick it up and toss it away. You might even find a rock that is so big you can’t quite handle it on your own. You may need a strong friend and a wheelbarrow to move it. But what if you started digging around a rock, and digging, and digging, and you just kept finding more and more of the rock? Eventually, you realize the rock is at least the size of a large car. There is no way you can dig it out on your own. You will need not one strong friend, but many friends with special tools to help you dig out that rock.
Prayer is sometimes like digging up rocks. Sometimes, we might say a quick prayer over a minor irritation of life and it is gone and done with just like that. Sometimes a problem that we pray for will be larger and we may spend more time praying before we see results. Sometimes we will need to ask others to help, by praying with us, and sometimes problems are so huge that we may pray and pray and pray for months and even years before the problem is solved.
When you start digging up a rock, you never know how big it will be. When you start praying for a situation in life, you might not know how long it will take, but you can know that God cares for you and wants you to seek Him through prayer. A rock in your garden won’t be moved at all if you don’t dig it out. And if you don’t pray for problems in your life, you’ll never move them either.