Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Call to Walk with God...

On the way to Dublin... God is with us...
Enoch walked with God.  Abraham walked with God. Moses walked with God.  Each faced trials and trouble, but in each case the Lord was with them and HIS presence made all the difference.  I'm so glad in these days that God is with US!  I would remind you, the call to go is a call to follow, and as long as we're following Him... we discover HIS very real difference making presence.

We've only been in Ireland five days, yet it seems like SO many more.  In this short time we've had to face some obstacles, but in each case HE has been close. We're looking for a place to live, a school for Matthew and insurance so we can drive the car we have here.  We visited three schools yesterday and were told in each there was no room for Matthew.  We were told we could not get insurance until we got our Irish license(which can take up to 50 weeks).  We were told in order to rent an apartment we would need a bank account... we're still waiting.

One might see these as frustrations... we're choosing to see these as opportunities to trust in Him.  I'm reminded of the scripture we were given from Isaiah 49:11 "I will turn all my mountains into roads..."   I'm also reminded that NOTHING is impossible with God.  Our challenge is to stay close to Him, seeking his face.

I don't know where you find yourself today... it's easy to think because circumstances are difficult that we're walking the wrong road, that we're taking the wrong path...it's so easy in those places to forget that God has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  Like the disciples in the storm we forget that Jesus is right here with us.  Let's never forget, in the center of God's will, the storms can come.... but more than that... let's not forget, even in the storms, HE is there!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Prayer Update... from Ireland!

PrayerLetter Update...

Prayer Partners....

I want to start by thanking you for your prayers... they're making all the difference in the world.

First some incredible answers to prayer.
 
Our travels went well. God watched over us, even as we sat for three hours on the plane in Chicago.  A storm was going through O'hare with winds over 70mph, but even as the plane swayed, we recognized God's very real presence.  We arrived just a little late, but went through immigration and customs with NO troubles.

In addition you can see we have a car. However... (see below...)

Now some requests for prayer...  Please join us in praying about the following:
Car Insurance & Drivers License:  The information we've been given is suggesting we cannot be insured until we have an Irish License and getting a license can take months.  Until that time I would only be able to drive with a licensed driver of Ireland. (Think of it like a drivers permit in the US.) Please pray for help in this, and for a speedy process.
House Hunting: We'll begin in earnest the search for our home... this is obviously complicated by not being able to drive, but God will help us.  Please pray for HIS leading and provision.

Blessings on you... thanks for joining us... it will be such fun to see HOW God answers our prayers!

Steve & Annette

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pictures from the Journey!

Greetings from Ireland... here are just a couple of pictures from our trip... thanks again for your prayers.  Please pray as we deal with all things we need to see accomplished.... phones, insurance, our car and of course the home... So many decisions... asking the Lord to give us HIS wisdom and HIS peace in the process.

Enjoy the few pictures.... more stories to come!

Ireland 2011 "Our Trip Begins..."















At George Bush International Airport in Houston... 

Waiting to get our boarding passes for Aer LIngus...

waiting...


Our CarryOn luggage, ready for ANYTHING!

Waiting to get on the flight to Dublin.

Aer Lingus Counter...


Greystones Sea front
Our wonderful hosts... Fred & Ruth Stephens

A Store in Greystones!

Monday, June 20, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON...3...2...1...

One more sleep til… we leave
I’m not sure I’ll sleep very well tonight.  It’s like the night before Christmas.  I’m SO excited about tomorrow and ALL the future holds.  It’s incredible to put one's self in the hand of God, walking with Jesus.  If you haven't tried it, do!  
As I sit here my heart swells with Praise and Thanksgiving to God. Your giving, your prayers, your support, your obedience… are leading me to lift my hands in praise to our God.  HE is so faithful.  Thank you!  I think of so many who have blessed us in such incredible ways.  I’m reminded of the passage of scripture in 2Cor 9:12  which says, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”
I’m excited about sharing this journey with you.  YOU are a part of our team.  

Just think... just one more sleep til...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON...3...2...

I can't tell you how often someone has asked us when we're heading to the mission field, to Ireland. I understand the question, it's one I anticipate, but with only two days left before I leave I cannot help but share my concerns about this very normal question. Perhaps your scratching your head wondering what I'm talking about? Let's just say I have two concerns.


Have you thought about this? The question makes some assumptions. It assumes you've got to go somewhere to get there, the mission field I mean! There is, in this question, the assumption that where we are is NOT the mission field. You might say, but that's not what I mean... and you'd be right. Yet the subtle message in the question is we're NOT there. Right? And this assumption leads to two very dangerous conclusions!


First this question might lead us to live life differently here, if HERE is not the mission field. Crazy!  I know, but answer me this... would you live life differently if you thought of yourself, right where you are, as being on the mission field, if you saw yourself as a missionary? You see the truth is we're ALL on the mission field, and I'm not saying this just because the world has come to our shores.  I'm saying this because all ministry involves the crossing of barriers.  If your coworker is going to come to Christ, you'll have to GO to them.  If your neighbor is going to come to Christ, again you'll have to GO to them. You're going to have to get involved in their lives, loving them. That is missions... the crossing of barriers with the gospel.


I mentioned there were two concerns. The second also flows from the assumption that we're NOT on the mission field here in the states. If we're NOT on the mission field we don't have to do cross-cultural ministry. We understand that on the mission field we need to do all sorts of stuff to impact that culture for Christ. We were not upset when they incorporated drums into Haitian worship, back in the day! We understood! We got Paul's words to the church in Corinth where he shares...



"I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."1 Co 9:22–23


So why don't we sometimes get that here? I think, in part, it's because we forget to remember... we're on the mission field. All around us there are people who need Jesus. People who have misconceived ideas about Christ and the church. People who will never darken the doors of the "church" we know and love. (there's another problem here. Our buildings are not the church, are they? WE are the church... but that's another blog) Anyway, there are people across the back fence, across the street, across the tracks, across the cubical wall, across town, across the table... that need Jesus.  Missions is about going ACROSS those barriers.

Let's determine today to think of where we are as the place that God has called us to share the message of the kingdom.  Remember.... we're on the mission field.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON...3...

Three days!  Three(or so)  Pictures!!  
Laundry, Laundry, Laundry.... oh what fun!  It's vital to keep an eye on your dirty laundry... it reproduces... serious!


FOUR down.... four to go! :-)  The first miracle is we've got four done.
The next miracle will be getting everything else in four more... and the carry-ons etc...
Packing... Don't we look organized?
Packing.... We'll never be done with boxes...
Packing... okay... so we're NOT that organized... Just a little realism thrown in!
By the way, this is Annette's bag...  I'm NOT throwing her under the bus...
mine, can't be viewed... is a REAL mess!

Friday, June 17, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON...10...9...8...7...6...5...4...

It's not far...
Four more days until we leave for Ireland.  It hardly seems possible.  I was thinking about all this in light of my wedding day and the emotions that were part of that day.  I've pastored 21 years and through those years I stood with many men preparing to enter the sanctuary to exchange vows with their bride.  It's amazing the emotions that are part of that scene.  I remember the churning in stomachs. The Joy, the fear.  Being overwhelmed, weak at the knees, but filled with joy. Scared to death, but living a dream.  I'm feeling that same overwhelmed, weak at the knees feeling today as I think about what lies ahead. Have you been there?  


Do you know what's helping me?  God's word is once again speaking into my fear, my sense of being overwhelmed, and here's some of what He is saying to me FOUR days out!


"If God is FOUR us, who can be against us." Rom 8:31
"FOUR nothing is impossible with God!" Luke 1:37
"FOUR me to live is Christ, to die is gain!" Phil 1:21
"Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, FOUR the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9


Did I tell you I'm excited?  Did I share I can't wait to see ALL that God does in and through us?  I can't believe it.  Praise HIS name.  Thank you Jesus for the JOY of spending my life for YOU! Like when I found my way to the top of that aisle... what joy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON...10...9...8...7...6...5...

Tomorrow Annette & I celebrate 22 years of marriage. I love her so much!  Maybe your thinking that's all great, but what's that got to do with Ireland and our call?  Nothing and everything.

I've been reading in Mark 6.  This chapter starts with the arrival of Jesus in Nazareth and ends with the beheading of John the Baptist.  Yet in the middle of all this is the sending out of the twelve.  If you go to the text you'll discover a couple of things. 

As Jesus calls them to "go" he doesn't send them out alone.  They go together.  Ministry is NOT something you do by yourself.  I would be so bold as to suggest you can't do it by yourself.  To quote my mentor, "We really do need each other!"  It's true... we really do!  Maybe you've already caught the connection. Let's just say it this way, I'm so glad I have the opportunity to "go" with Annette.

Something else....did you notice the instructions Jesus gave the disciples in Mark 6:8-11?  "These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.  And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

What does Jesus mean here?  I think perhaps the best answer to that question is found in looking at the example of Jesus in John 4.

In this story we find Jesus asking a Samaritan woman for a drink of water, engaging her in conversation, ended up staying in town... How does this amplify what he shares with the disciples in Mark 6?  He came into that scene with empty hands(no bread, no bag, no money)... nothing with which to draw water.  It would have been right for Jesus to have begun that conversation speaking about HER need, but instead Jesus starts from HIS point of need.  He needed her help!  Is that not interesting?  In addition,  He entered a town that no self-respecting Jew would enter, instead they would shake the dust off their feet and go on.  Why did Jesus stay?  He was welcomed.  He was invited to stay.

Lord... help us to enter the lives of people as Jesus instructed and modeled.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON...10...9...8...7...6...

Six days to go... allow me to share six promises I'm hanging onto these days!

We have this hope
as an anchor for the soul,
firm and secure.
Heb 6:19
l.    "I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up." Isaiah 49:11
These words were given to me as I faced a mountain I didn't think could be overcome.  Yet at every turn God made a way, and I believe HE will continue to do so!  

II.   "The LORD is my light and my salvation — 
        whom shall I fear?
       The LORD is the stronghold of my life — 
        of whom shall I be afraid?"  Ps 27:1
Wow!  What an incredible declaration to begin one of my favorite Psalms... if you read the rest of this Psalm you begin to realize what an incredible declaration this really is... as he shares in the end...   
"I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD; 
                                          be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." Ps 27:13-14

III.   "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,
          with eternal pleasures at your right hand."  Ps 16:11
I love the present tense in these words.  He MAKES known... He WILL fill me....what a promise

IV.  "The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing." Ps 23:1
You can't be much more sufficient than that, can you?  

V.   "My flesh and my heart may fail, 
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Ps 73:26
No matter what... God is the strength of my life...

VI.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. 
        If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; 
        apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5
What an incredible promise...Lord help me to focus on abiding in you, though!

Which of these speaks into your life today? 
Is there one you'd share with me? 
I'd LOVE to hear!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON...10...9...8...7

Seven Days!  A Week to wait... not a bad idea!

I've been thinking about a passage of scripture found in Isaiah 40:28-31.

    Have you not known? Have you not heard? 
    The LORD is the everlasting God, 
    the Creator of the ends of the earth. 
    He does not faint or grow weary; 
    his understanding is unsearchable.
                                             He gives power to the faint, 
                                             and strengthens the powerless. 
                                             Even youths will faint and be weary, 
                                             and the young will fall exhausted; 
                                             but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, 
                                             they shall mount up with wings like eagles, 
                                             they shall run and not be weary, 
                                             they shall walk and not faint. 

These words give us such a great picture of someone who is weak, someone who is at the end of their strength.  We don't like feeling weak, weary or powerless, and yet I wonder is it not in that place that we look for our source?  Is it not in that place that we turn to our Lord?

We have a week to go before we leave for Ireland.  I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, a little powerless, a little faint, a little weak.  Let's fall on our knees and discover what is proclaimed in Isaiah, "the LORD shall renew our strength..."

Feeling a little weak at the knees?  Why don't you drop to them and wait on the Lord?  Maybe waiting is a good idea?

Monday, June 13, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON... 10...9...8...

8 more days.... In just over a week we'll find ourselves "waiting" at the gate... waiting for the plane... I hear eight and I think wait.  Ted, you should be impressed, okay maybe not! (For those of you who don't know, Ted is a friend who writes poetry!   You ought to check out his blog: http://jtvink.blogspot.com/ )

Anyway, back to my thought!  I hate to wait and I still have 8 days!  I've been reflecting on waiting!  A couple of years ago during advent our church thought about what it means to wait.  Waiting seems to us to be SO passive.  We feel so helpless when we wait, right?  Yet the reality is in waiting there is a profound view of the future.  There is hope.  Ted and Sarah are "waiting" for the arrival of their little one. Sarah is pregnant.  I'm sure there are days when the wait seem unbearable, but still they wait... is it passive? If you talk with Sarah you'll soon discover how very active waiting can be.  There is SO much to do.  I would suggest in some ways that waiting is a spiritual discipline. (that I need to learn) What do I mean?  It's something we can do, which puts us in a place where God can move and act in my life.

That reminds me of a passage I've been reflecting on in these days.  It's found in John 15.  Just listen to these words:

"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5

That word remain is elsewhere translated abide.  It carries the idea of staying in one place, waiting.  It's a call to lean into Jesus, to put our lives, our very selves in HIS hands.  Like I said, I hate to wait... but I'm learning how much I need to be grounded in Jesus.  HE is my life.  HE is my source, apart from Him I can do nothing!

Exhale... Inhale... I'm going to abide in Him.  I'm going to wait on HIM.  I am!  Really!  Okay... will you pray for me in this? And I'll pray for you to do the same!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON... 10...9...

They say a cat has nine lives….at least that’s the rumor.  I’ve often wondered where that saying came from. I know, they always land on their feet, and seems to escape certain death all the time.  At times it sure seems like they don't value their lives, right? 

Our problem: we only have one life.  I guess that explains our aversion to death.  Yet in God’s word we’re called to... well just listen...

Jesus put it this way in Luke 9, where He shares, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self?

Since we announced our call to follow God’s call to Ireland it’s been amazing the number of people who have shared the respect they have for us in our willingness to give us SO much.  Thanks for your support and encouragement... Yet I wonder... do we realize that in giving we gain? Right?

Unfortunately, I think in our consumerist culture we’ve got it all backwards.  We want faster cars, bigger homes, better clothes, and more cash.  Our culture screams that in those things we'll find fulfillment, security and joy. Yet I ask you, in gaining all those things do we ever have what we truly need?  It’s so easy to buy into the lie, isn't it? If I have just one more… if I have this particular item then I’ll be fulfilled.  When in reality all those things do is raise our anxiety level.  We need to live our lives in the shadow of these incredible words of Jesus.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:32-34


Think about that!  We've been given the KINGDOM!


Boy, I’m sure glad I got that off my chest... I, you heard me right, really needed to hear it! :-) 

Nine days to go, I can't wait!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

COUNTDOWN FROM HOUSTON... 10...

Apollo 13 "Houston, we have a problem..."
10..... Houston we have a problem...

Speaking of problems, I love the story of Moses... If you need to get caught up check out Exodus.  It's an incredible read.  It's filled with problems... Genocide, Murder, Bondage, Insurmountable Barriers, Hunger, Thirst, etc... Yet in the end we discover that nothing is impossible with God.

I love the story of Moses because it speaks so powerfully to me about my call and so often echos my response.  Let's just say, I was a little reluctant at first. (I saw plenty of problems) You need to understand the reason for my reluctance had nothing to do with the state of my willingness to follow after God.  My reluctance had to do with my self-perceived ability, or should I say lack of it.  I struggled for so long to be reminded that God's call has more to do with my availability than my ability.  Don't get me wrong... I believe God gifts us, but I also believe He calls us to join Him in places and ways that require our dependance on HIM first.

In TEN days, count them, we leave for Ireland.  I've had a number of well meaning people tell me I have what it takes, they think I'll do great.  I appreciate their support and encouragement.  Others, have probably thought on hearing that I'm going as a missionary to Ireland... WHAT?  He'll never make it!"  I think both of these positions come from the wrong perspective.  They come from the perspective that anything that is going to happen in Ireland is somehow wrapped up in ME!

While I certainly recognize that God has gifted me, I also realize it's NOT the gifts that will make the difference.  It's Jesus!  I cannot rely on my gifts.  I can ONLY rely on Christ.

You've heard the famous quote, "Houston, we have a problem!"?  It might be easy to adopt that thinking.  Let's face it we still don't have a home in Ireland.... I keep hearing how difficult our task will be, but I've discovered, as we've walked through this last year, that there is NOTHING that is too difficult for God!   Maybe, just maybe in these hard places we can discover the wonderful presence of our Lord.... I'm just thinking!   Maybe in your own life, you're thinking... "houston we have a problem..."  Why not give, not just the problem, but your very self to Him.... you'll discover the joy, the peace of walking with Jesus.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where Worlds Meet...

http://www.eurasiaregion.org/index.php/where-worlds-meet

Check out the JUNE 2011 issue of "Where Worlds Meet!" In this issue you'll find an article about us and our call to Ireland.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ready, Set... GO!

We've purchased our tickets for Ireland today!  


We leave from Houston International Airport at 11:15am on Tuesday, June 21st.  Our itinerary takes us through Chicago, then on to Dublin.  We arrive in Dublin on Wednesday, June 22nd at 8:25am.  They say that June 21st is the longest day of the year.  I'm guessing they might just be right.


I was thinking this morning about my call to missions and how even as a 14 year old I sensed God was calling me.  I remembered how during my years at Point Loma that call grew.  My experiences in Africa and Central America only confirmed God's leading in my life.  For the past 21 years I've been following Jesus.  It's been an incredible journey.  There were days early on when I was looking ahead, wondering where God would lead us.  I'm so thankful that somewhere on this journey I discovered the joy of following God in the moment.  It was no longer just about the future. It was about now!  It was about walking WITH Jesus!


Yet as I opened the email confirming the purchase of our tickets to Ireland I could not help think how the future is now!


Can I be honest with you?  I'm scared!  I mean it's overwhelming isn't it?  Moving halfway across the world to a place you don't know!  But I'm not scared because I don't think God knows what He's doing, or because I don't want to follow Him to Ireland.  I'm scared because once again I don't have the answers, and once again I'm going to have to put my trust completely in Him!  I can't wait!  Actually... wait a minute... I'm already doing it, walking by faith... not knowing where I'm going... and  I'd seriously recommend it!


Allow me to share what my Pastor/DS, Randy Craker shared with me, words from Joshua 1:9.  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”


You really ought to try it... remember GOD is with you wherever you go!  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Psalm of Thanksgiving....(inspired by Psalm 136)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
to Him who calls us to join Him in His mission,
His love endures forever.
to Him who sold our home in one week for full price!
His love endures forever.
to Him who sold both our cars in only three hours.
His love endures forever.
to him who enabled us to pay off ALL our debt.
His love endures forever.
to Him who met us so faithfully in our deputation services.
His love endures forever.
to Him who provided at every turn,
His love endures forever.


Question: what would YOU add?