Category Archives: Life as I experience it

Impossible

Have you ever tried to do something that was impossible (or seemed impossible)?  How did you decide to begin?  What was the outcome?

God called Moses to what seemed an impossible task.  God told Moses to return to Egypt and ask Pharaoh to let the people go into the wilderness for a feast.  Well, of course, Pharaoh did just that, right?!?  Wrong…

Pharaoh didn’t believe in the Lord and wasn’t about to let his “workers” leave their jobs.  So, instead of letting them go, he made their tasks even harder.  Which, in turn, caused the Israelites to  turn to Moses and Aaron and say, “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants…” (Exodus 5:21)

The task before Moses and Aaron just became “impossible” as they were now going to have to “fight” this battle on two fronts.  Before Pharaoh and God’s people.  At that moment, the task seemed impossible.

We are often challenged to do what seems impossible.  Our willingness to join the task is extremely important.  Our heart and mind must be ready.

Moses and Aaron were just beginning to travel a road that would be many years in the making, and in their first “test” they quickly accused the Lord, saying “you have not delivered your people at all.” (Ex 5:23)

Is God calling me to an impossible task?  Am I willing to do what seems impossible?   How have I been prepared to the task?  What will my reaction be when I don’t first succeed?

At the close of chapter 5, one might say that Moses and Aaron aren’t doing too well.  Their challenges and the impossible tasks are just beginning.

Cost

This morning as I was reading Exodus 2-3, I was struck by a few of things.  First, it is so great to see how God orchestrated that Moses’ mom put him in a basket that floated and that Pharoah’s daughter found him.

Second, Moses encounters God in a burning bush that wasn’t consumed. God speaks to Moses, reminding him who God is and that God desires to send Moses back to Egypt in order to bring His people out.

Third, was Moses prepared to do it no matter the cost? Can we say that we are prepared to serve at all cost?

At the moment that Moses had his burning bush moment, he had no idea what he would face in Egypt.  God was using that moment to prepare him.

What about me?  Am I ready to serve at all cost?  I cannot see “into the future.”  I do not know what is going to happen even later today.  However, through my experiences with God thus far, I know that I can trust Him, no matter the cost.  He has promised to be with me through it all.  Just as He promised Moses.

Love

After Israel (Jacob) dies, his son’s take his body from Egypt and buried him with his fore-fathers.  Upon returning to Egypt, imagine the thoughts going through Joseph’s brothers heads… They had sold him into slavery and he endured years in jail.

So, in Genesis 50, the brothers sought forgiveness for their actions, via a “message” from their now dead father.  Scripture says that Joseph wept (vs 17). I think this gives us a great view into Joseph’ s heart.  He loved his family very much, especially his father.

Joseph replies, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (vs 19-20).  I think we get a glimpse of the heart of God here as well.

Joseph’s life exemplified grace and love toward those who meant him harm.  How much more should I act in grace and love?

How often do the words or actions of people show us disrespect or non-love?  How often do I do the same things to others?  How often do my words tear down instead of build up?

A couple of months ago I heard a person in position say some hurtful things.  I left there angry.  I didn’t take those words personally, but I thought they were highly inappropriate in that setting.  I wanted to “set things straight!”

Yet, looking at the example of Joseph, can I ask the same question… “Am I in the place of God? What you meant for evil, God will use it for good.”

It may not be the best example, but through it all, I do know that I need to act in love and grace.  Maybe there is something to the old saying… kill them with kindness!

Call

Recently, due to some issues in my own life and several friends, I have been reflecting upon calling.  I can remember several distinct times when I felt God calling me: my salvation experience at the age of 11; my call to serve in the local church in 1988; my call to serve internationally in 1992.

I have understood and taken the call that God placed in my heart and life very seriously. Therefore, when I found myself in the US for medical reasons in the fall of 2016, I was focused on getting well so that I could return to that call.

It meant everything to me, yet, during my recovery time, there were at least 2 distinct times when I was uncertain that would happen.  The first time: in the hospital when I found out that I had stage IIB cancer, and in the spring of 2017 as I walked to church.  Both times, I felt God’s reassuring hand on my life and the message was that God was with me no matter what the future held.

During my almost 15 years with IMB, there have only been a few times when I thought maybe I should leave my position and return to the US.  All of them have been fleeting moments with no real serious thought of going home.  There was one time in 2015, when our organization offered early retirement and I had to consider, but even then, God’s call remained true.

Since I returned to Ukraine in September 2017, I continue to recover from cancer surgery and chemo.  Most days I feel great.  However, this winter has been hard!  I have not felt well often.  It has been discouraging… and there have been those moments when I thought it would be easier to go back to the US.

In those moments or days, I reflect on God’s call on my life.  I hold on to the promises of God, my favorite being Jesus’ promise to always be with me.  His call on my life is what moves me through those moments.

IMB leadership adopted some key terms in June 2016.  In the section on calling, it is written: “What must be constant in a disciple’s life, however, is faithfulness to God’s call, no matter the cost, until God calls the disciple to different service.”  Oh, how my heart agrees with this!

Satan is going to attack us.  Life is going to throw us “curve balls” at times.  Work, family, church, ministry… all of them can bring frustrations.  But there is one constant that remains… God’s call!  That’s what we must hold on to with all our strength!  It is the one constant when surrounded by the fickleness of this world.

Plan

We Americans like to plan.  We set aside money for weddings, for education, for cars, vacations and various other activities.  We set goals for work, for life.  We look forward 5, 10, 15 years to where we would like to be professionally.

For much of the last 24 years, I have lived in cultures where planning isn’t taken to that level.

As a Christ follower, I try to rely upon God’s plan for my life.  Sometimes it is hard to discern God’s plan for our lives.

Take the case of Joseph.  He was his father’s favorite.   He had an unfavorable dream about his brothers being subjected to his leadership. His brother’s sold him into slavery.

Think about that for a moment… how could that be God’s plan?

Joseph wound up in jail in Egypt, spent several years there, forgotten. Finally was released and made number 2 in charge of all of Egypt.  His brothers come to buy grain. After some time, he finally reveals his identity to them and speaks these words, “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Gen 45:5)

After all that Joseph had been through; all the years in slavery, in jail, away from family, he spoke those words!  At some point in his heart, he began to understand that this was God’s plan.  Again in Genesis 45:8, he says, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”

From the moment when I learned that I had Stage IIB cancer, I had peace.  Where did that peace come from?  From a relationship with God and through the circumstances I had been through the last few years.

God had, in ways unknown to me, begun to prepare me and my heart for that journey.  In April 2014, I had to leave Donetsk due to the uncertainty of war around me.  Reading a book a colleague suggested, “The Red Sea Rules.” Living with colleagues for several months. Not sure where I was to move. Starting “over” in a city that I didn’t know well.  All of these circumstances God used in my life to prepare me for that day when the doctor told me I had malignant cancer.

Where does that leave me?  How does this apply to me?  How will I use circumstances that come up in my life so that I can understand God’s plan?

Remembering what I learned from “The Red Sea Rules,”  I need to realize that God means for me to be where I am (rule 1) and that I need to be more concerned for God’s glory than for my relief (rule 2).  Lastly, don’t forget to praise Him (rule 10)!

 

Even if…

My heart and mind have been full these last few weeks.

God has been filling my life with words recently.  Last year, words came, but I didn’t want to put them down.  I wasn’t angry at God or anyone else, I just didn’t write them down.

Now, it seems that all I want to do is write them down…

I have been sick a couple of times this past week.  Friday afternoon, after I had been out to do a couple of errands, I began not feeling well… again.  By evening, I was running a temperature.  By the next morning, it was pretty high and I had the chills.

The chills reminded me of January 2017, when I still only had one drain tube (another would be added by the end of January).  I got an infection in my bile duct which caused horrendous shakes, chills and fever.  I will never forget how awful I felt that long night!

I am thankful for antibiotics that helped me recover quickly after that infection.

Well, I am feeling better today, more than 30 hours since my fever broke.  But, I made myself stay home these last 2 days to avoid a relapse.

So, I needed some information from an old company email (we changed systems last year), so I had to go looking for it.  Well, this research caused me to read some emails that I wrote to some medical people.

I am at great peace with this process (except for the waiting!) and know that God is in control.  If I may share one story: I have been dismayed that the Budapest MRI in January was mis-diagnosed.  I woke up at 3 or 4 a.m. during my jet lag days with this thought: If I truly believe that God is in control of my life, then I have to believe that He closed the eyes of the person reading the MRI or allowed them to miss the tumor.  It will be so that God can receive the Glory.  How that will be is still to be determined.”

The peace I felt going through this whole process is due to my heart relationship with God.  And early on, God made it clear to me that He was with me.

So today, as I reflect on this past year, my heart still sings,

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

MercyMe, Even If 

Character

Joseph’s life is full of examples of living with character.  The Bible tells the story of his owner’s wife trying to deceive him so that he will lie with her. Scripture shows that he was able to get out the situation, until once, he left his coat, and she told the guards.

When Potiphar heard that news, he had Joseph thrown in jail.  The Word tells us that even in jail, Joseph lived a life full of character and God blessed him.  Whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

Genesis 39:21 says, “the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love.” Even in prison, where life had to be difficult, the Lord had a plan for Joseph!

Like Joseph, God has a plan for my life (and yours)! Sometimes, like Joseph, we want to rush the plan.  Yet, I can read that Joseph was walking in the midst of God’s plan.  Can I say the same for me?  Am I walking in the midst of God’s plan?

What plan does the Lord have for me?  Am I willing to wait?  Do I want to rush it, which it what we do often in our culture today?  God’s plan for Joseph took years to come to fruition.  Like Joseph, I need to allow God’s character to shape me during those years of waiting.  In the end, it will all be worth it.

Dreams

As I contemplate what to write this morning, it is easy to get side-tracked.  After several days of snow, extreme cold and cloudy days, this morning it is clear skies, sunny and 10 degrees!  A “dreamy” kind of morning in eastern Ukraine, if it weren’t so cold!

Joseph was 17 years old and his father’s favorite.  His first dream showed his brothers “bowing” down to him.  Because of this, his brothers “hated him even more.” (Gen 37:8)  Then another dream had all his brothers and his father bowing down.  His father rebuked him, and his brothers were jealous.

Joseph’s dreams put in action a plan that God had for his family.  Many twists and turns will happen before Joseph or his family will see the bigger plan.

His brother’s jealousy led them to be deceived and they sold their brother into slavery.  In Gen 37, we read that he winds up in Egypt, and Jacob, Joseph’s father, mourning a son he thought was dead.  Deceit has a way of leading from one lie to another to another.

What dreams do I have?  Where do these dreams (or goals) come from?  Is God in the midst of those dreams?

As a person living cross-culturally, I have lots of dreams.  Most of them involve trying to help people live their lives seeking out God’s plan.  Starting new groups, new churches.  Discipling.

Like Joseph, it may take many years before seeing those dreams become real. I’m sure at the moment when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, his dreams were the farthest thing from his mind.  Yet, God had a plan.  A plan to use those dreams at just the right time.

Hope

I’ve written about music being medicine for me here.

This Saturday morning, as I prepared and ate breakfast I was listening to music.  One song that has helped me during my recovery began to play.  It is a song by Tenth Avenue North, “I have this Hope.”  I remember when my friend sent this song to me while I was still in the hospital on November 16, 2016.

He, along with 3 other brothers in Christ, made the trip from Arkansas to Richardson to visit me on Nov 14 and then he sent this video 2 days later.  I remember sitting in my hospital room and listening to the words.  Tears streamed down my face, I began to cry.

The words rang so true to me at that moment…

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

My chest was beating hard as I contemplated those word!  I think anyone facing cancer has a multitude of questions floating about in their head.  I wasn’t any different.  Except I did have HOPE! 

As an 11 year old in Vacation Bible School at Cityview Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, I remember to this day a conversation I had with the pastor of the church.  He asked some pointed questions about my salvation.  When I left his office that day, I had given my life to Jesus.

The road from an 11 year old child to a 55 year old man has been littered with many potholes, detours and, occasionally, a stretch of smooth sailing.  But, as I wrote yesterday, those who believe in Christ have a hope that is only found when we give our lives to Him completely.

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me

Even though I have lived with this promise for many years, it only became incredibly real to me when faced with a life-altering problem.  I thank Jesus that He has become more real to me in these last 14 months since surgery.

Are you facing a seemingly insurmountable problem?  Peace comes when we are able to say that we have a hope, in the depth of our souls, in the flood or the fire (or whatever the occasion might be)… Jesus is with us!

Promise

Do you ever make promises?  If so, do you find it hard to keep them sometimes?

My desire is to be a man of my word.  I grew up in a time when a handshake between two men meant something.  Oftentimes, that handshake represented someone’s word and was better than a contract.  It was a promise.

Jacob encountered God on his way to Haran.  His mother didn’t want him to marry a local woman, so she had Isaac send him back to her brother’s house. Along the way, he slept and had a dream.  (Gen 28:12)

God made several promises to Jacob: that the land where he slept would be his; his offspring would be countless; and that He (God) would always be with him and never leave him.

Throughout the Bible, God made one promise over and over: that He would be with that person in that particular story.  Then, in Matthew 28:20, Jesus promised to be with his disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I accept this promise from Jesus with gratitude.  I am so thankful He promised to be with us always.  During my treatments, His promise helped me tremendously to endure surgery, chemo and radiation.

I know that I have failed at times to keep all my promises; sometimes dues to circumstances I couldn’t control and, other times, because I was weak or not wise. I’ve had to apologize more than once for promising more than I could deliver.

As I grow in Christ, my desire is to be more like Him, and so I should always be a man of my word. So, before I make a promise I should remember the example I have been given in Christ and strive to be more like Him everyday.