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Big Dreams, Bigger God

Later, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: Upon the servants, upon the handmaids, I will pour out my Spirit. Joel 2:28-29

Scripture says in Genesis, “Joseph dreamed a dream.” It doesn’t say if he drank hot chocolate before bed, making the odds of dreaming a little greater. It doesn’t say what he read before bedtime or what he was thinking about when he fell asleep. It simply says, “Joseph dreamed a dream.”

I am a Joseph. I am a dreamer. I believe my dreams are God-orchestrated, and I believe that there is mighty, mighty power in a dream, just as there is in the name of Jesus. For Joseph it was power over the murderous plot of his brothers who threw him into a well. It was power over the slave traders as he was found in the desert. It was power over injustice and inhuman treatment as he stood naked in the auction of a slave market. It was power over a prison sentence claiming the rest of his years. I believe there is no limitation to the power of a dream.

I dream big enough for the both of us, but I serve a big God, too. I know that the dreams in me were bred by my Creator, who spoke the universe into existence. This dream of mine is bigger than the opposition of the world around me, and not for a minute will I lay it aside because of my own human inadequacy. The Lord is looking for men and women to wake up and say, just like Joseph did, “World, I had a dream.”

Every book is the dream God placed in the heart of a writer. Every home is the dream God placed in the heart of a designer. Every garden is the dream God placed in the heart of a landscaper.

To the house of Jesse, traveled a prophet. God was after a man whose heart was vast enough to carry an entire nation. Jesse brought every last son before Him, each one with a face fit to be a king’s. Each one talented, each one handsome, but each one rejected by God. Then came David, a boy who lived beneath an open canopy, in a field with his sheep. This son was different, living not confined by walls, but under every one of Heaven’s stars. Similar to Abraham, I’m sure he counted stars and stayed up late to fall asleep beneath them. I’m sure he woke up early, just in time for the glimpse of grace that the sunrise offers. I can’t imagine the view he must’ve had. He was different in the way he was strong, drawing his strength from the Man he knew lived inside of him. The prophet saw him and the extent of his heart. “Here is one after God’s heart, here is one who thinks God’s thoughts and dreams His dreams.” I love the way Tommy Reid, a favorite pastor of mine, sums up the way the prophet sees David. He says, “He had never read one of David’s songs or heard him play his harp. All he knew was that he looked beyond the suntanned skin and saw a heart big enough to contain God’s dreams.”

And He made from one, all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined their allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation. So that they may seek God and find Him there, although He is not far from each one of us. For in Him, we live and move and have our being.  Acts 17:26-28

I delight in this. I can’t tell you the peace that this bit of Truth brings me. Please, read those few verses again. He has determined our allotted periods of time and fixed boundaries of our habitation, so that we may seek and FIND Him. He has created fixed boundaries. “There is a fixed, determined place where we are called to seamlessly move in Him and He in us.”

My dream was always that of a typical little girl. I’d always hoped I’d have a yard full of horses and a house full of puppies someday. Something like that. I had my heart set on being a marine biologist, or whatever allowed me to ride on the back’s of dolphins or hold starfish in my palms.

And then by the grace of God, the world of missions woke me up, and my dreams, to most ears, sound crazier now than my original dreams of Arabian horses and deep-sea dives.

It’s among the mud huts, the dirty water, the always-dusty bare feet, the rice and beans, that I have found my calling. It’s there that I seamlessly move in Him and He in me. Africa is my fixed boundary. That’s where I seek Him the most, that’s where I find Him the most. I now dream of banana trees in my front yard, not horses. Of African children running through the house, not puppies. Of riding on the back of pikis, not dolphins. I dream of holding small hands again, not starfish. I dream of saying Jesus to the one who has never heard His Name. I dream of fetching water, of walking the trek to the market. I dream of blind eyes opening, deaf ears hearing, of seeing my Heavenly Father touch someone for the first time. I dream of meals multiplied until every hungry stomach in the village is filled until it’s full. I dream of revelations every single day.

Every dream is the Lord pouring His spirit into us, just as He says He will in Joel. He’ll find us, as He did David, with our “world-changer” hearts.

Yes, I am Joseph. I am David. I am Moses. I am Jesus. I am a dreamer.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

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The Cost of Following Jesus – ISIS and America

Islamic terrorists in Iraq are beheading children and burying people alive, and it won’t stop there. They have a message for America: “We’re coming for you.” -CBN News

 

Following the path to Jesus often leads to persecution. Growing up in a culture where freedoms and choices are plentiful, makes that a hard pill to swallow for some. We’re free to gather in worship, we’re free to pray, we’re free to praise and sing to the Heavens all we please. While we very well may be ridiculed, hardly ever are we arrested for our faith.

 

Luke 21:10-19     Nations will go to war against one another, and kingdoms will attack each other. There will be great earthquakes, and in many places, people will starve to death and suffer terrible diseases. All sorts of frightening things will be seen in the sky. Before all of this happens, you will be arrested and punished. You will be tried in your meeting places and put in jail. Because of Me, you will be placed on trial before kings and governors. But this will be your chance to tell about your faith. Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or to say that you are wrong. You will be betrayed by your own family and friends. Some of you will even be killed. Because of Me, you will be hated by everyone. But don’t worry! You will be saved by being faithful to Me.”

 

I’m continuously watching videos and reading articles about ISIS and the persecution in Qaraqosh and Bartilla. I watch these Islamic terrorists run Christians out of their homes, cut off their limbs, and blow up their bodies. They flee while they can to Erbil, most with nothing more than the clothes on their back. If they don’t convert, they are killed, each one of them, from baby, to mother, to old man. They’re burning churches and cleaning out the belongings of the victims, leaving them with nothing. No ID, no travel documentation, no clothes, no money, nothing. They’re shot, tossed on the ground, and run over with machinery, as their families are made to watch. They’re pleading for the United States and the United Nations to come stand by them.

What am I doing for my faith?

Meanwhile, as thousands upon thousands are dying for their faith, here in America, churches care more about the lighting on the stage. They’re having basketball courts put in, flat screens installed, and pool tables set up. On the other side of the globe, children are being taken, raped and beheaded for their faith, while we worry about raising our hands during Sunday morning worship. We ask ourselves what the person next to us will think if we pray out loud or clap in excitement for the Lord. Frankly, I think we all need a heart check. Yes, persecution in the US is few and far between, but are we ready to fight the good fight?

Jesus made plain the consequences that would come with following Him. He warned us all through Scripture what would take place in the lives of believers. It happened to Peter, John, Paul, James, and countless others. Why it still comes as a surprise to me, is beyond me. Even though it’s anticipated, it’s not any more acceptable. 

Have mercy, Lord, on those who are mistreated. Keep them strong and rescue them from death.

Recently I read a story about a man named Dmetri, who fell head-over-heels in love with Jesus during the communist reign in Russia. He began opening his home to others, giving them a place to come and worship. People swarmed to read the Bible and sing songs that testified their faith. So many people came, the government noticed, and Dmetri was fired from his job. Steadfast, he continued preaching to others that came and gathered. One night, during a church session, officers broke in and took him, just as Luke said would happen in meeting places. They slapped him around and said, “We warned you, and warned you! And I will not warn you again! If you do not stop this nonsense, this is the least that is going to happen to you.” When the officer made his way to the door, a small grandmother put her life out there, and waved a finger in his face. She declared, “You have laid hands on a man of God and you will NOT survive!” Two days later, the officer died of a heart attack. After 150 people showed up at the next meeting, Dmetri was thrown into jail for 17 years. The prisoners and guards couldn’t break him as he continuously sang the same song to Jesus every day. They laughed and cursed, sometimes throwing waste at him. He snuck paper to his cell and wrote Bible verses on them, sticking them to concrete pillars as “praise offerings” to God. For 17 years he was beaten, but never stopped. The guards finally decided to execute him, but as they carried him away, 1500 inmates raised their hands and began singing the same song Dmetri had sung every day for those 17 years. The officers stepped back in horror and questioned him, demanding to know who he really was. He proudly declared, “I am a son of the Living God, and Jesus is his name!” He was then released.

When persecution comes, when your road becomes long, and your hallelujah tired, hold tight to Luke’s Scripture. 

 

This is a chance to tell about your faith. Don’t worry about what you will say to defend yourselves. I will give you the wisdom to know what to say. None of your enemies will be able to oppose you or tell you that you’re wrong.

Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender. Shout loudly. Spend wisely. Read avidly. Live responsibly. Give Lavishly. Travel meaningfully. Think Biblically. Study purposefully. Volunteer. Pray continually. 

 

 

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In every nook and cranny

Trying to find those “just right” words to sum up my struggles and my not-so-great days. The words that reassure you that you aren’t the only one fighting the good fight, but don’t paint me as a down-in-the-dumps, joyless being. Don’t let the words in past posts fool you into thinking I have my life together; I don’t, nor have I come close to leading a well-put, orderly way of life. My hair is split at the ends, my floor needs swept, shoes are falling, disarrayed, out of my closet. I forget to answer voicemails, books are never fully read, my bed is rarely made, and I’m living a messy, messy life. But when I say messy, I’m not referring to the dust on my furniture, or the growing to-do list.

My struggles and my not-so-great days remind me that I’m nothing short of needy. Needy for a refilled cup; more Jesus. Needy for Truth; more Jesus. Needy for love, and for a push in the right direction; more Jesus. Here I sit, yet again, writing about what my missionary heart is at odds with. I have big plans, and hopes that are high enough for the both of us. Big dreams, but a bigger God.

You see, I’ve grown up in the average state of Indiana, in an average home, in a below average town. A so called “world changer” isn’t something expected to come from your every day, average. I think “world changer” and I picture a Harvard graduate with inspiring quotes painted on their walls, and a recycle bin filled to the brim. I think of someone who only eats organic food and walks from place to place, rather than burning fossil fuels by driving a car.

But changing the world and changing the world for one person are two different things. And through scripture and movies and music and books, God has set a desire in my heart to do the latter, understanding that as I carry out His will, little by little the world as a whole will be changed.

I want to be the world changer in a sun hat with sunscreen covering the brim of my nose, hauling water from a newly built well miles away. I want to hand wash clothes, find my way by candle light, and feed growing children. I want to smuggle Bibles underground where thirsting people wait to be quenched by the Living Water. I want to wash feet and hold hands. I want to enter war zones and defend innocent people with no leaders. I want to share the good news, in every nook and cranny of this earth.

I’m reminded by someone new everyday that being a missionary or a relief worker doesn’t pay, that it’s not practical. I can’t afford it, I have to have a plan, I have to think about my safety. Oh my does it pay. It pays in joy and it pays in lasting relationships. And does God call us to practicality? Or does He call us to love and to give and to serve with every ounce of what we have to offer? I can afford it, knowing that God will be quick to meet my needs as I meet the needs of someone else. I don’t have to have a plan when Jeremiah tells me God has a plan for me. The way my heart is weighted down by the burdens of others I’ve yet to meet, gives me all the assurance I need that this is His very plan for me, that I go and speak of His love all over. If I made my own plans rather than following the ones God has laid before me, who knows where I would be. Thankfully, God’s plans never seem to be affected much by my own. Safety is a touchy subject for me. Of all the things I wish people grasped, it’s that safety is never guaranteed anywhere, whether you’re in your backyard or the slums of India. Just because one place is riskier than another, the people inhabiting them all share the same needs. Each individual needs Jesus just as much as the next person, and as Romans 10:15 says, “Who will go unless they are sent?” He is sending me, please know that. Shots can ring out, doors can be knocked down, but my God will stay the same. If I were to die sharing the Gospel, I’d thank the Lord that of all the ways I could go, He blessed me with the opportunity to go serving.

No, a little dust here and there isn’t what makes my life messy. People near and dear, who I want to understand the pulling at my heart before anyone else, don’t. Satan crowding out God’s voice, growing statistics, distant lands only being pictures in my mind, not stamps on my passport. These things make my life messy, these things are what remind me that I too, am needy. By the grace of God, I’m not needy for things of this world anymore, but rather I’m needy for change in this world. I need people to understand that God isn’t ushering me into this life of discipleship only to leave me hanging. My heart has been shaped by God in a mold foreign to most. My “average” life isn’t all that average after all, but that’s the kind of change Jesus brings.

“The pain you feel in your heart over the desires God has put in you, (them being yet unfulfilled) is your gift from Him, because it causes you to wrestle with Him for the fulfillment of those desires.” – Corey Russel

I leave for Africa in 66 days, and I’m still in need of $750. If you’d like to partner with me by donating, you can donate at http://www.globalexpeditions.com/donate using my ID 2700920. I need prayer just as much as I need the funds, please consider praying for me over the next couple months as God prepares my heart. Let me know if you choose to do either, I’d like to keep you updated on things through pictures and mail. Thank you!

 

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“The laptop you’re reading this on contains coltan which was likely dug from the earth by a child slave held at gun point in Congo. Your cell phone has the same story. The coffee you drink, the chocolate you eat, probably the shirt that you’re wearing are all covered in the blood of another. Someone else has died so that you can enjoy your wealth.” -Amy Lou

My eyes have recently been widened to child slavery and the price these people pay to see another sunrise. I’m convinced that if stories could make your ears bleed, the stories these precious children have to tell would be the ones to do it.

slaveryfootprint.org

 

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Love rendition

So easily I forget the freedom that lies right in front of me. So easily I fight to unlock the shackles I bear, overlooking the key that Jesus has freely given to me. I say “freely”, but that freedom was bought at such a high price. I forget that the water He gives quenches every thirst. I forget that His ear is bent to hear me. My faith shakes, and my heart breaks, and every day, from dawn to dusk, my God stands faithful and waiting. On the bright side of brokenness, lies Jesus.

I wish I could say my Bible was worn at the seams. I wish I could say I don’t continuously hit the snooze button, making excuses to sleep through my morning quiet time with the Lord. My head doesn’t bow in prayer as often as it should, and my hands hang at my sides while they should be lifted in praise. I let myself get swallowed up by the world, kind of like Jonah getting swallowed by the whale, only on much drier terms.

Most days my heart cries for order.

Recently I found myself stuck in a rut. A deep rut, similar to a pot hole after an ice storm. I got lost in the comparison game, only to come out as the loser. Days were long, and nights longer. The pot hole became a sink hole. As I spent a couple days restlessly battling the chaos within me, I gave in and handed my greed over to God. I said, “Father, I’m exhausted. I’m selfish and jealous for so many things.” And I was. I had a calloused heart for a good week, trying to make jealousy a prettier trait than it is. Despite my efforts, there just wasn’t any justifying my feelings. I ran to Jesus, and called His Name. I remembered the freedom in front of me. I remembered that chains are broken and shackles fall to our feet when we call upon our gentle Father. With these realizations, God plucked me out of the rut, and paved over the pot hole. With closed eyes and folded hands, I called on Him, only minutes before How He Loves came on my Pandora station. The first line, “He is jealous for me,” echoed in my ears, resonating with a new meaning. I had heard this song before, too many times to count, but this time I heard Jesus, not David Crowder. “I am jealous for you,” He whispered, “I long for you.” Oh, amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

He is jealous for me. The Maker of everything in sight, the One who hung the stars and carved the mountains, is jealous for me. I am cherished and I am pursued by a Love that outdoes all the rest. I am enveloped in His grace, sealed tight like a love letter sent to free a debtor. I imagine God peeling and sticking a stamp to the corner of a grace-filled envelope, before putting the flag up on the mailbox. Heaven’s mailroom must be filled to the brim with envelopes of the same sort. Although I’d like to picture it that way, grace is stamped with Christ’s blood, something far more precious. 

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Warm Heart

I’m weary and restless, stirring at the thought of the world’s bony children and bare feet. Somehow, these things warm my heart. Those who have nothing are dressed with smiles and filled with joy, finding contentment in another day to live. They rejoice and give thanks, always finding something to delight in. I see them and I’m reminded of, “You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to You and not be silent. Oh Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever.” Psalm 30:11-12 

I’m itching to share good news, to hold the coffee colored hands of an African child and tell them how wanted and valued and special they are. I want to skin my knees playing with those little boisterous beings, and then collapse on cool ground to soak in God’s goodness. I want to spend my hours drawing water, laughing as I drench myself trying to carry it back. Oh yes, these things warm my heart. 

“When have you ever read a story of God’s great work that made a lot of sense, a story that didn’t seem a little over the top, a little impossible? Not often. Radical, extraordinary love just doesn’t make sense in a fallen world; that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But it is the very nature of God.” – Katie Davis

I feel this unexplainable urge, this push and prod, to move to Africa and do these things. To share good news and to hold hands. To play with children and soak in God’s goodness. Serving, laughing and loving. Somehow I know that God, who resides in this heart of mine, is the source of it all. This growing love I feel towards people I’ve yet to meet is surely God ushering me into a life of discipleship. “Go,” He whispers. And go I will, running fast and free to Him, to Africa, to a life on the other side of the sea. “In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.” – Bob Goff

 

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God’s Calling On Your Life

We sit in waiting, day after day, expecting an answer from people and places and music and television, about what exactly we’re supposed to do with these lives of ours. All the while, days are passing and time is wasted in wonder. As we carry out our every day living, we go about it with the intent of just stumbling across what it is we’re meant to do for the rest of our lives, or where it is we’re supposed to go. We pray in anticipation, “God, what is it I’m supposed to do? Just tell me already.” Because that’s how we’re wired. We get antsy, we worry and fret over our unplanned lives, forgetting that God tells us not to be anxious. His plans for us slip our minds and we get brain washed by society telling us that by the time you turn 18, you better have the next 50 years mapped out. Believe me, I’ve spent my share of nights crying out to my ceiling, questioning if God was hearing me. I prayed the same prayer every night, asking God to reveal this “plan” I had always heard about, the one that prospers us and brings us hope. All along, the answer laid typed out on the delicate pages of my unopened Bible. In the Bible, God answers, and with nothing but truth and promises. Surely this isn’t news to you, but take a moment to think about it. So many questions we ask God are answered directly through the pages of the Bible collecting dust on our coffee table. 

We’re all called to the same life. We’re called to pray and to serve and to love our neighbors with willing hearts. We aren’t just called to love our neighbor next door, but the crossing guard directing traffic before school, the person that hits our car and drives off, the homeless man on the street corner asking for money only to turn around and spend it on drugs. We’re called to make disciples of all nations, whether that nation be our own or one on the opposite side of the ocean. We’re called to find the powerless and give them power, and to find the hungry to feed. There are beaten down, broken lives to love on all over the place. While we’re buried under the warmth of a tangled comforter, thousands upon thousands of others are buried under poverty and disease. They wrestle with desperation, so many of them unaware of the never-ending love and hope Jesus Christ brought and is bringing. We’re called to give more than we have, and in those moments of vulnerability, I’m convinced that’s when the most genuine form of joy takes root in our raw heart’s. We’re simply called to be brothers and sisters, to carry one another’s cross and love with such an intense love that Jesus is seen through our everyday living. This is what is asked of us. 

So maybe this plan of prosperity and hope isn’t a plan created just for us. Maybe the prosperity we’re blessed with is meant to be given to prosper others, and maybe the hope that God fills our life full of is meant to spark a flame of hope in someone else’s life. I’m finding more and more that the great future He has for us, is a future meant for serving and praying and loving. Not a day goes by that I’m not in awe that God, who is more than capable of doing all of this by Himself, would choose to let us all play a part.