Thursday, November 28, 2013

not always is it wonderful.

it’s the most wonderful time of the year. 
families are gathering together.
christmas lights are strung up on houses.
wish lists are being written with hopes to find each item under the tree on christmas morning.
it’s impossible to quit eating with food at every turn. 
sales in every store.
christmas carols, sugar cookies, and snowmen.
you can come in from the cold and cozy up next to the fire with a blanket and a mug full of hot chocolate and marshmallows. 
ugg boots, leggings, oversized sweaters…
whatever it may be that makes the holidays special for you. 

it’s a joyous season for a lot of us. 

a lot of us… here, in the united states.  a lot of us… looking at this blog on our laptops or iphones or ipads or iwhatevers.  for a lot of us, here in our privileged little towns, this is the most wonderful time of the year.  but for a lot of people, it is the worst. 

but how often do you stop to appreciate those things.  the small things.  the ability to bake cookies.  the cup of hot chocolate you can make after coming in from the blizzarding cold. the winter clothes that you have to keep you warm.  the house that you get to come home to…

unfortunately a holiday that started out as the greatest gift ever given, has turned from celebrating what has been given to us, to what can we get.  greed has over come us.  we donate one day of our year to focus on being thankful, and the next day we trample people to death trying to get more.  we are a people consumed with getting more.  having the best.  having the most.  having it all.  and in doing so, we fail to see the true meaning of the season.

think about it. 

i was born into a family where i have never once had to worry about where i would sleep…what i would wear…where my next meal would come from.  and my guess would be that a lot of you haven’t either. 

but we don’t see it. 

the past week i spent in kansas city with link year.  for those of you who didn’t see my last post, i asked for prayer.  prayer that we would be safe; prayer that we would be impactful; and prayer that hearts of our students would be broken.

we were in the middle of one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country.  we had the ability to go and shine light in the darkness, and boy did we put up a fight.  it wasn’t only the students that were impacted.  my life was forever changed. 

our first day we spent in inner city kansas city working with a ministry called the hope center.  it’s literally in the middle of a poverty stricken, crime flooded neighborhood.  the hope center provides education, and discipleship to every child they come in to contact with.  they provide the students with something that they might not see anywhere else around them…hope.

that day we did a demonstration with our students to show them exactly how privileged they are.  all week they were divided into groups of four or five called their ‘family groups’.  for the sake of the demonstration, we had each group draw a number.  they drew either 1,2, or 3.  what they didn’t know was that out of the 10 groups, five of them drew 1, four of them drew 2, and only one group drew 3. 

as the students grew impatient waiting for lunch, we set up the meal next door.  we had the 2s come over first.  they were seated on couches and plastic chairs where they found a plate with a pb&j, chips and an apple waiting for them.  next, we had the 1s come over.  they were seated on the ground where they found two large bowls of beans and rice with three or four spoons in each bowl. 

the mood of the room started to change.  they could see what was going on.  some were angry; some were confused, and most were just in awe.  

“would everyone stand to your feet?  we have some very important guests joining us for lunch today.  every one join me in welcoming group number 3!” as the third group walked in, the rest of the room gave them a standing ovation as they were escorted to the center of the room, seated at a table with comfortable chairs.  still confused, everyone sat down and waited to see what they would be given. 

the doors opened again, and as the staff graciously served group 3 a bountiful meal of chickfila nuggets and chicken sandwiches, accompanied by waffle fries, dipping sauces, and sweet tea, you could see the impact our little ‘demonstration’ was having on the group. 

only one rule was given. there would be no sharing of food between ‘classes.’ 

two girls in the ‘middle-class’ group couldn’t even bring themselves to eat their sandwiches seeing the group on the ground eating rice and beans. 

the girls in group three sat at the table weeping, eating their chicken simply out of guilt, being waited on hand and foot, and knowing that what they didn’t eat would go to waste. 

after everyone had finished eating, we discussed what happened.  one of the girls in the chickfila group explained it best… “i did nothing to deserve that food.  i didn’t win a contest, i didn’t pay for it, i didn’t even request it… it was just given to me.  we drew a number, and that’s it.   we didn’t even know what the number meant.  it just makes me realize that i did nothing to deserve the family i was given.  i did nothing to deserve parents who can support me.  i did nothing to deserve a house, or food, or warm clothes.  it was just given to me, all because of the family i was born in to.” 

one of the girls from the middle group told us why she couldn’t eat.  “it’s just unreal to see how much poverty there really is in the world.  i sit at that table every day and eat until my stomach is full, and then i eat some more.  it’s just so hard to physically see what so many people face on a daily basis, and not be able to do anything about it.  i just feel so selfish.”

i did nothing to deserve to grow up urbandale, iowa, the definition of suburbia, with parents who have always worked hard so that i wouldn’t have to.  i did nothing to deserve the life i’ve been given.  i did nothing to deserve the food i eat every day.  i did nothing to deserve the roof i have always had over my head.  i did nothing to deserve the clothes i wear, or the ability to go shopping with my mom every time i come home.  i don’t deserve it. 

later on that week, after helping pack meals for the homeless, and serving in a soup kitchen, we had our students stand out on the street holding signs with statistics about homelessness.  they were given no time to change their clothes, or grab hats and gloves or even a sweatshirt.  they went as they were, and stood outside for an hour and a half holding signs. 

they came back and reflected on their experience.

“hardly anyone even paid attention to us.” 
“i’m so cold, i can’t feel my fingers.” 
“only one lady waved at me.  it was really nice to see someone cared.” 

what if that was what you had to do all day every day just to feed your family at night.  what if you had no hat, no coat, no food, and no house to come home to.  what if you were out there, on the street, for 5, 6 hours at a time. 

for a lot of the students, and even myself, that was when it clicked.  they finally realized what they had been missing all along. 

for some people, this isn’t just a week…this isn’t just a ‘learning experience’…this isn’t the staff coming up with different ways to make us feel guilty…this is real life. 

this is reality. 

our lives are so privileged, we don’t realize that there are people less fortunate than us everywhere.  mission work doesn’t require a plane.  it doesn’t require an organized trip, and it doesn’t require a group of people.  everywhere we go there are people in need.  in your hometown, there are people in need.  in your church, your school, your office, there are people in need.  when you ask god to help you see, you won’t have to look very far. 

i guess what i’m trying to say is be thankful.  truly, truly thankful.   as you feast this season, be thankful that you have food.  as you bust out your winter jackets and fuzzy boots, be thankful that you have clothes to keep you warm as you walk from your front door to your car, and your car into whatever building you’re entering.  be thankful that you aren’t standing on a street corner, or sleeping on a bench.  be thankful that you have so many luxuries that other people may only dream of.  be thankful.  you don’t realize how good you have it. 

watch this video and realize just how blessed you really are.  and be thankful.

"pray also for me, that whenever i speak, words may be given me so that i will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which i am an ambassador in chains. pray that i may declare it fearlessly, as i should."-ephesians 6:19-20

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Hey yall.  This is usually out of character for me, but I’m writing today to ask you for something.  I’m writing today to ask for prayer.

It’s easy to say that the past few weeks have been hard.  Not just like, I have lots of homework, I’m not getting any sleep, I hate my friends kind of hard… But the WE ARE AT WAR, front line, enemy firing shots at us without letting up kind of hard.  This may sound insane, and you may think I’m being dramatic, but just hear me out. 

For those of you who don’t really know what the heck I’m doing with my life, I am currently living in Branson, Missouri, working for a gap year program called Kanakuk Link Year.  I completed the program last year, and was offered to come back and help out as an intern.  Link Year is a gap year program designed to help 18-20 year old high school graduates develop a firm foundation in their faith before going to college.  The goal in doing this is that these students would be equipped in their faith enough to go out and impact their campuses for Christ.  Well, guess what? It’s working. 

This year’s class of students has a spiritual hunger unlike that of any group of young adults I have ever seen.  They are digging DEEP.  It’s incredible, and so encouraging to see these guys and gals go through exactly what I went through last year, only with so much more passion.  They are doing everything I wish I did.  They are taking full advantage of the many opportunities they have been given to learn and absorb as much as they can about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and what it means to truly live for him.  It is so humbling to be a part of the way He is truly changing each and every one of them from the inside out. 

This campus is burning with a fire so vast that it cannot be tamed.  And that is a challenge that the enemy is willing to accept. 

Like I said, we are at WAR.  Not a physical war, but a war against the spiritual forces of evil that currently control this earth.  I’m talking spiritual warfare. 

In the past few weeks, an overwhelming feeling of darkness has consumed my heart.  I have been frustrated for no apparent reason.  My joy was literally ripped right out from under me.  I couldn’t stand to be around people, and I was rude to everyone around me.  I was definitely not representing Christ well.  I felt like there was this huge barrier between the lord, who I used to walk so closely with, and myself.  I didn’t know why, and I was afraid to admit it to anyone.  I was afraid to admit my struggles, because I am in a position of leadership, and I didn’t want to show my weakness.  I thought that to be a good example, I had to have it all together; and guess what? I don’t. 

As time went on, I kept hoping that things would get better, but they never did.  In fact, they just got worse and worse.  I was consumed with things, doubts, struggles that I hadn’t dealt with since leaving high school.  I thought I was completely alone.  I thought that no one would understand.  I had actually convinced myself that my boss would send me home if he knew.  Satan isolated me; he trapped me in my own fear.

It wasn’t until last Wednesday night that I understood why. 
Every Wednesday night after our weekly church service, we have a time of questions and answers with one of the directors here at link year.  One of the guys asked a vague, yet personal question.  He asked if we could change God’s plan by neglecting his will.  He was directed to Isaiah 55:8-9 which says…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways,” 
declares the Lord. 
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways
 and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

But he couldn’t even finish reading before he excused himself, and ran out the back door.  Before the doors even closed, we could hear him screaming.  Crying out to God.  Taking out all of his frustration. 

The rest of us were silent.  We didn’t know how to react.  Adam Donyes, the man leading our discussion prayed for him, and then, again, we sat in silence.  Donyes shared with the group about some personal things he and his wife have been walking through the past few weeks, and all of a sudden, it was like a ripple affect.  Person after person, story after story, they began to open up.  We had all been experiencing the same oppression; the same separation from God.  This was not coincidence. 

Two weeks ago, 6 students and one staff guy went up to a church near Springfield and wreaked havoc on the darkness that that church had been consumed by for years.  They spent time with the youth in a three-day conference, and showed them for maybe the first time what it means to follow God.  Satan had a foothold in that church.  There was darkness in that church.  But what happens when light comes to the darkness? Everything within the darkness is exposed.  And that is exactly what happened that weekend.  And guess what? Satan was pissed. 

He has seen the work that these students are capable of.  He sees the potential these student have to change the world, and it TERRIFIES him.  Why would he not try to stop it?

That’s how I know that this is not coincidence.  It is not a coincidence that this has been happening for the past two weeks.   It is not a coincidence that this group of students is experiencing this oppression more than any group before.  It is not a coincidence that we are leaving tomorrow to spend the week serving Kansas City Missouri.  It is not a coincidence. 

Satan has a foothold on the college campuses these students will end up at.  Satan had a foothold in that church.  These students came in and spread the light that has the power to kick him out flat on his butt.  Satan has a foothold in Kansas City.  We are going to be right in the midst of the second most dangerous neighborhood in the United States.  You better believe that he is going to do everything he can to prevent us from going out and spreading the good news of the gospel. 

THIS IS WAR.  We are at war with the spiritual forces of evil that rule this world.  We are on the front lines.  All of us.  Daily.  If you are a Christian living your life to impact the world for Christ, this means you too. 

Its time to fight.  It’s time to be fitted with the Armor of God that Paul describes in Ephesians chapter 6, and take up our shield and our sword and FIGHT.  There is no room for complacency.  There is no room to hide.  There is no room to let Satan in.  He is not welcome here. 

Prayer warriors, I come to you in need of prayer.  I come to you asking for help.  There is nothing we can do to combat this warfare other than pray, and we need you on our side.  

We have been given the opportunity to go and make war on one of the darkest neighborhoods in the United States.  But we cannot let the darkness overcome our light!  This week will either make us or break us.  If we can continue to stand strong in this war against evil, if we can continue to combat the darkness with the light, we have the potential to do great things for the sake of the kingdom.  BUT, we cannot allow the darkness to overtake us.  We cannot allow the enemy to distract us from the mission at hand.   We cannot ease through this week.  WE ARE CALLED TO MAKE WAR.  

I have a strong feeling about this group.  I know that the Lord has huge things in store for them.  This confliction is unlike any other I have ever experienced.  And that’s not a coincidence.  I truly believe that there is revival in store for this nation, and I truly believe that it will start in Branson, MO. 

Your prayers are appreciated.  Pray for boldness, safety, and faith.  Pray against distraction.  Pray against temptation.  Pray against complacency.  Pray that we may stand strong against the attack of the evil one.  Pray. 

Thank you. 

 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” – Ephesians 6:19-20

Monday, September 30, 2013

what I couldn't see.

In honor of fall, and the inevitable arrival of cold weather, gray skies, and winter coats, I thought I would post this little snippet I wrote last winter.  Take it as you will.       

       I woke up that morning earlier than any human being should ever have to wake up. I had an early flight. I think I was headed to a wedding.  For the third night in a row, I had gotten about four hours of sleep.   I hopped through the shower, gathered my things, and headed to the airport. Now, I have never been one to tolerate cold weather.. And this morning was especially cold.  A fresh layer of snow was falling, and the sun had not yet risen to begin to melt away ice from the street.  Another miserable winter day in Iowa.  Luckily, I made it through security without any complications. I sat down at my gate, and fell asleep while attempting to read 'Mere Christianity' by C.S. Lewis. I woke up to the announcer...'Now boarding all rows.' Sweet. I looked at my ticket. 1A. Hopefully I won't get seated next to someone weird...  As I walked down the hall to board the plane, I was greeted by the familiar breeze that I had left outside.  It was freezing.  As I finally got a glance at the plane in which I would be traveling, I got just the slightest bit nervous. Are we flying in a shoebox? I shouldn't have been surprised.. Flying out of Des Moines Iowa the planes don't get much larger than that. How the heck are all of these people going to fit on that tiny plane...  I was the last one on board. Seat 1A... There really was no need for the A.  After all, there was only one seat in row one.  I put my bag in the overhead bin, and sat down. When are they going to shut that door...  It's freeeezing in here.  Of course, sitting up front lost all it's appeal with the 5 degree air from outside seeping in all around me.  

       Just when all the passengers had finally gotten their stuff stowed, and found their seats, the flight attendant realized that she had forgotten to replenish the ice. Of course. 10 minutes later, ice and all, she was back, and closed the door behind her.  Now she began to do all of the standard checks and preparations for any flight. I fell asleep.  All that leg room and the combination of an isle and window seat really made it easy to get comfortable.  I woke up, probably twenty minutes later, and looked out my window. The first thing I noticed was the dead bug that had gotten caught between the plexiglass plates that separated the inside from the out.  And then I realized that we had not yet moved away from our gate.  I shut the blinds, and went back to sleep.  We ended up sitting around  for an hour.  Once I finally felt the plane moving, I opened the window shade again.  All I had to look at was the miserable people working outside in the miserable weather.  To me, this is what makes winter so difficult to enjoy.  The ground is gray. The skies are grey. The trees look dead. You can't go outside for fresh air without bundling up, but even then you're probably still cold.  It's depressing.  I was tired, I was cold, I was annoyed.  And I was quickly loosing patience.  But finally, we were ready for take off.  

      Our tiny plane began building speed. From the second our wheels left the ground I could feel the turbulence the weather system was creating.  After a second, our altitude had put us directly in the middle of one of those huge grey clouds. As I watched, I thought to myself, this is going to be a miserable plane ride.  But just seconds later, the nose of the plane still shooting upwards, we were out of the cloud.  All of a sudden, it was as though the storm had passed completely.  We were in the midst of the most immaculately beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.  The clouds as white as fresh fallen snow created the most beautiful canvas for all the colors of the rising sun as far as the eye could see.  At the horizon, the beautiful shades of orange and gold faded into the most brilliant blue I have ever seen.  And to think... I almost missed this sight because I didn't want to look at the dead bug in my window.  

      This is an awesome depiction of life.  Although we often go through tough situations in which we are not always joyful, or even when we feel depressed, there will come a better ending.  It's a matter of how we get there.  Do we want to ignore our problems, close our eyes to the dead bugs in our windows, and miss out on the beautiful sights that life has to offer? Embrace it.  Learn that the grey winters of life are the places in which we truly learn to grow.  After all, it is impossible to recognize good without first having a perspective of bad.  

     Sometimes, when things seem unbearable, when things are dark and depressing and cold, The Lord is setting us up to see his brilliance in an entirely new way. Even the slight delay for ice which seems to just add to our misery is merely a way of preparing us for something great; something we can enjoy and appreciate more because of the delays we endured. 

     Sometimes in the midst of it, we think we know best. Shut the door and lets take off already.  But what we don't see is how The Lord is using every moment we "suffer" through, to make us appreciate each moment he blesses us with all the more.  All we need to do is wait to get through the clouds so that we can witness the beauty of the sunrise. 

 "Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

high impact.

This week, we got to hear about practical ways to live high impact lives for Christ.  Austin Ochs was our speaker, and he did a great job of using examples to teach us about living 100% for the kingdom of God. 

Our economic, social, and spiritual capital is what determines the level of impact our lives can have.  Ochs defined economic capital using the acronym LIFE: labor, influence,  finance, and expertise.  How can you use your LIFE to further God's kingdom?    Social capital involves every relationship in our lives.  Are we pursuing relationships for the purpose of knowing God and making him known?  Finally, spiritual capital involves our religious practices and moral code.  Are you honoring God by seeking abundant life on earth and the hope of eternal life in the future based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? 

Everything we do involved our head, our heart, and our hands.  Honoring God means pursuing truth, exercising faith, and living with character.  Your pursuit of truth is measured by the amount of time you spend reading, memorizing, and meditating on scripture.  Faith is the fuel that turns knowing into doing.  The measure of commitment to be a person of character is directly related to your obedience to living in his truth.  

Honoring God is done by serving people, pursuing excellence, and stewarding your resources well.  Serving people means having vision to see what should be done, hope to believe it can be done, and courage to get it done.  Pursuing excellence involves expertise, innovation, and discipline.  Stewarding resources well using what you need and being generous with what you don't.  

With these aspects in play, we will begin to realize the impact of our lives increasing, and glorify the name of God in everything that we do.  

It's crazy to think that we only have a few weeks left here at Link Year, but I would definitely appreciate prayers to finish strong, and get all that I can out of the awesome opportunity I've been blessed with.  Love y'all!! Thanks! 

"Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." - Ephesians 6:19-20

Thursday, April 4, 2013


This week we were challenged by Mr. Sean McDowell.  I will admit that I was extremely intimidated and humbled when he opened up class on Tuesday morning by role-playing as an atheist in an open debate against 'us Christians.'  After about 45 minutes of question after question asked by students who thought they could confidently defend their faith, Mr. McDowell took off his 'atheist' jacket, and helped us to reflect on what had been said.  

Granted, Mr. McDowell is probably more well educated than any atheist we will ever encounter in real life, it was extremely humbling to hear his arguments, and his input on what we can do better.  He asked us to step back and look at what really went on during our debate...

"How did you treat me?" Well, we didn't ever really take time to understand his point of view. We never listened to what he had to say. We were too focused on getting him to say what we knew how to respond to.  The bible says in 2 Timothy 4 to be ready in season and out of season. And now I understand why! "What was going on in your heart?"  Honestly, I was so focused on proving him wrong; I didn't care about his feelings. Instead, we should think, 'how can I truly show love to this person?"  It's important to keep in mind that if you don't have a heart for the lost, evangelism can be more harmful than helpful.  Think of it like putting a stone in someone's shoe. When there's even a small stone stuck in your shoe, every step you take you're reminded of the rock by the discomfort it causes you.  Likewise, we should give people reason to question their beliefs.  

Next, we moved on to Truth.  Truth is a belief that aligns with reality.  In the words of Aristotle, “Truth is telling it as it is.”  There are two different types of truths; subjective and objective.  Subjective truths are true to the subject, however since the subject can change, so can the truth.  These truths are often opinions or preference claims that internal to the person who makes them.  Objective truths are true to the object.  These are truths that cannot change unless the object itself changes.  These truths are true to all people, because it is factual information.  Just because an objective claim is made about something does not necessarily mean that it is true.  For instance, Christianity may or may not be true, but it is not only true to SOME people and not to others.  If the option were between believing in Christianity and knowing what lies on the other side of eternity, and not accepting Christianity and living with only the expectation to die and rot in a box for the rest of eternity, why would you not choose the obvious better option? 

On Wednesday, we talked about the reliability of the New Testament.  There are three key tests to know whether or not we can trust the New Testament.  First off is the honesty test.  Does the document claim to be reporting truth?  All throughout the New Testament, scriptures point to the fact that it is the inspired word of God.  Especially in the Gospels and the book of Acts, we see the apostles claiming to be eyewitnesses of the truth they are proclaiming.  Fictional stories are not realistic, but the New Testament is very specific and lines up perfectly with history.  It’s also important to look at the criterion of embarrassment.  Does the document contain embarrassing material?  Authors wouldn’t make up embarrassing stories about themselves.  But all throughout the New Testament we see embarrassing stories about the way the apostles lived.  Peter denies Jesus three times.  Jesus calls Peter satan.  James and John bicker about who will sit next to Jesus in heaven.  The disciples don’t understand Jesus’ teachings.  Women discover the empty tomb, not men.  In my opinion, one of the most significant signs of the truth of the Gospel is the fact that the apostles were willing to die for the cause of Jesus Christ.  They were eyewitnesses.  They lived when he did.  They walked with him, talked with him, heard him speak, and saw him perform miracles.  If this was all a joke…a story they made up one day, would they die for it?  Would someone go to such lengths as to die for something they knew to be a lie?  No. 

The second test is the Telephone Game.  What is the time gap between when the event happened and the earliest manuscript of the copies we have today?  As far as the New Testament as a whole, we currently have copies that date back somewhere between 120 and 130 AD.  Less than a century after Jesus left the Earth.  However, recently, a portion of the book of Mark has been found that dates back to the 1st century; probably only 30 or 40 years after Jesus’ time.   How many manuscripts do we have?  23,000 copies, with less than 1% of any discrepancies being meaningful or viable errors.  And even if there are slight differences, they are not anything that changes any form of Christian doctrine.  Differences between “the Gospel of God” and “the Gospel of Christ,” or “let us have peace” and “we have peace.”  There is more evidence today for Jesus Christ than there is for either Julius Ceaser or Alexander the Great. 

The third and final test is the Corroboration Test.  Do other historical materials confirm or deny the testimony provided by the document themselves?  There has been innumerous archaeological finds that confirm the accuracy of biblical stories all throughout the bible.  Remains from the city of Jericho, which was destroyed by the Israelites in the book of Joshua.   Remains of people crucified with nails in their wrists and broken shins.  There are so many finds; it’s incredible to think that so many people still reject the word of God.  Information like that cannot be faked. 

This week was challenging; as most weeks here are.  It was so good to see how much we still have to learn, and hear about the ways we can further our knowledge in order to be able to better defend our faith.  There are so many resources out there available to help us learn ways we can better relate with people who have different worldviews from us; we just must desire to learn these things.  It’s a discipline we must work on because while we’re here on earth, we’re called to be about God’s business; not our own. 

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”  - Ephesians 6:19-20