Zacapa 2014: THANKFULNESS

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I have had the outstanding privilege of serving young adults for the last eleven years. For the last four of those God has graciously granted me the opportunity to travel to Latin America in service to Jesus and His Church abroad. This week has been far and away the most intense experience of my life. So intense I am finding it difficult to collect the appropriate words.

I feel I have seen and experienced more of the powerful presence of God over the last ten days than I would have dared to imagine. So much has transpired that I’m not sure I will ever be able to absorb, record, or articulate all of it.

However, one resounding feeling rises above the chaotic din of stress, joy, and relief for this experience….

THANKFULNESS.

God is faithful. When you pursue Him. When you put your trust in His hands. When you decrease so that He gets the glory, honor, and credit—He always comes through.

Every. Single. Time.

Zacapa 2014: WHAT A JOY

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For ten days now Jamie and I have had the distinct pleasure of traveling with a group of the most selfless, courageous, and loving people I have ever known. They have endured physical discomfort, an endlessly rearranging schedule, and intense spiritual warfare—the likes of which we rarely ever recognize in the states.

I have watched them daily push through fatigue, sickness, and injury to proclaim the love and joy of Christ. I have cheered them on as they left personal fears behind—being God-prompted into never before contemplated situations. The shy have became powerful proclaimers of truth; the insecure, bold beacons of grace.

Through sweat and dust and heat the life-giving Spirit of Christ has remained at the centre. The presence of God the all-encompassing Source. The Gospel the Great Calling; and the lost the Chief Mission.

This week eighteen students from small town America (Russellville, AR) along with Jamie, myself, and our accompanying locals had the chance to serve alongside Greg Miller Ministries. Doing so we shared the Gospel will 2,780 people, prayed individually with 495 of them—and lead 207 to Christ. As well as helping to facilitate a worship experience where 250 more people were saved!

Rebekah, Dakota, Dimas, Brian, Ashely, Stacey, Morgan, Cara, Jeff, John, Jacob, Aaron, Katelyn, Ian, Tosha, Emily, Madisun, & Lizette….WHAT A JOY it has been to serve alongside you on this trip!

More to come soon….

Thanks for reading,
Nate

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Countdown Zacapa – 6 Days

Less than a week to go until Jamie and I will be Guatemala bound—18 young adults in tow! We are so seriously excited!

It is always such a privilege to travel to another country and help a long term missionary. This year we have the opportunity to partner with Greg Miller Ministries. I had a chance to meet Greg last fall and he is an awesome guy with a huge heart for the nation God has called him to.

This morning I recieved word that Guatemala experienced an earthquake today. A lot of thoughts immediately went through my head, first among those the well-being of Greg, his loved-ones, and a close family friend who’s family lives in the mountains of Guatemala.

The good news is that everyone we are connected to there is ok. The bad news, however is that not everyone is ok.

All of this only serves to point out a very real truth when you’re taking about investing in short-term missions. Things can change on a dime. You have to be ready to be flexible and fluid. Plans can change.

Ultimately, the goal remains the same. We’re headed to Guatemala in just a few days to serve the Church by serving Greg and his team. If the finer details change along the way, that will be ok. We will still go. We will still serve. Thankful for the privilege this opportunity brings.

Countdown Zacapa – 14 Days

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Am I good enough?

This is a question people ask themselves all the time. Maybe not precisely those words, but some form of self-doubt and/or creeping insecurity nags at us from time to time. It’s nearly inevitable.

The short answer is “yes.” The shorter answer is “no.”

No, you are not good enough, at least not on your own. The horrible reality is that so many are out there trying to make it on their own. It’s tragic. And a lot of heart break and bad decisions play out as a result.

But yes, you are also good enough. Wait a sec here…….. DIDN’T YOU JUST CONTRADICT YOURSELF?

It’s true that on our own we are not good enough. But the whole point is that we don’t have to be on our own. We weren’t meant to be on our own. Life isn’t supposed to be a lonely affair full of solo sunsets and one-sided conversations.

GOD made you for himself, and for others. With him you are more than enough, not because you are good enough but because he is above and beyond good enough.

When you are living your life with God in it, whether you’re loading into an airplane and flying to another country, or walking next door to help a neighbor—God goes with you. He goes before you. He helps.

So go help somebody. Say something encouraging. Do something meaningful. Stop worrying about being good enough, and start doing something good.

Countdown Zacapa – 19 Days

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In nineteen days Jamie and I are leading a team of twenty young adults to Guatemala. We’ve been making arrangements, making plans, and preparing our team almost eight months….and here we are. Less than three weeks away.

Taking young people to a far away place is one of the deep joys of my life. I love seeing the impact it makes on them. How it shocks them out of the apathy that so quickly can overwhelm us in our selfish culture. It’s a process of pealing back the nuanced layers of desire and distraction that define most of our American existence. In a word, it is a powerful experience.

After six months of regular meetings, tonight we met for the final time before we leave. I challenged them with the notions of sacrifice and selflessness. Not because any of us are looking or hoping to become martyrs, but because I want all of us to live outside of the context we are so over encumbered with here at home.

We go to do something that is not about us and not for us. We are partnering with a wonderful missionary who has been in Guatemala for over twenty years. I can’t wait to get these guys down there.

Please consider praying for us as we travel.

Choice & Warning

I came across this passage during my reading time today:


When you enter the land that GOD, your God, is giving you and take it over and settle down, and then say, “I’m going to get me a king, a king like all the nations around me,” make sure you get yourself a king whom GOD, your God, chooses. Choose your king from among your kinsmen; don’t take a foreigner—only a kinsman. And make sure he doesn’t build up a war machine, amassing military horses and chariots. He must not send people to Egypt to get more horses, because GOD told you, “You’ll never go back there again!” And make sure he doesn’t build up a harem, collecting wives who will divert him from the straight and narrow. And make sure he doesn’t pile up a lot of silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:14-17 MSG)

I’ve probably read that passage through dozens of times across twenty-plus years of consistent bible reading, but something about it finally hit me tonight. All of the things the people were being warned about were things that they would eventually go on to do. From their desire to be like other nations and have a king, to the foibles of the kings themselves. This passage reads like a list of the problems and mistakes made by Israel.

What does that mean for us? It means we should pay attention. God knows our mistakes before we ever have the opportunity to make them. I believe He gives us the opportunity to make the right decisions. I believe He gives us forewarning.

I’ve been asked this before: if God knows our choices before we make them does that mean there is still a choice involved? Yes, I believe so. I believe that we are granted a free will to act and choose. The option to deny God makes choosing Him all the sweeter.

Choice elicits opportunity for desire. Desire is the fruit of the heart. It reveals what we want to do. It reveals our nature. It reveals who we are.

God knows our choices. God knows our options. He loves us deeply, even when we choose poorly, but it makes the journey of walking life out with Him a continual act of worship.

Rescued

“They are your people still, your inheritance whom you powerfully and sovereignly rescued.” (Deuteronomy 9:29 MSG)

Moses is talking to God in this passage. Recounting a series of moments in which he interceded for the wayward Israelites. And this final verse of the chapter paints such a clear picture of God’s work. The powerful and sovereign work of God didn’t stop with the Israelites in the Old Testament.

God rescues! He is the rescuer. He comes into our mess.
Our trouble.
Our problems.
Our pains.
Our selfishness.
Our often self-inflicted upheaval.
Our personal slavery of the soul.
And He rescues.

It may not feel that way or seem that way. Especially when life is beating you up. But God rescues. He does it powerfully. In a demonstration that declares he alone has the ability to do it. He does it sovereignly. With the dignity and veracity of the King of All.

He brings anyone who would come to him into himself. An inheritance. A part of the family.

Yeah, sign me up for that.

Walk-a-what?!?

40 years…….F-O-R-T-Y! That’s a long freaking time to walk. And for what or why?

Moses and the children of Israel wandered aimlessly through the dessert. Well, that’s not entirely true. They had a target. They had somewhere to be. An appointment with the Promised Land, but they chickened out.

Twelve guys went in to check it out and only two came back ready to obey God and take the land. Ten naysayers got loud and got their way.

Pessimism talks. And people listen.

But as people of faith, when God speaks we should let his clear directive ring in true in our hearts long after the doubting crowd has shuffled off to the next fad cause.

Listen. Believe. Obey.

I don’t always make the mark. Sometimes I just straight up fail. But we can’t afford to fail like those guys Moses sent out did. They delayed destiny, robbed a generation of their inheritance, and had to walk it off for forty years. YIKES!

You can read the story for yourself in Exodus through Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of the Bible.

grati–W–O–W–tude

What an EPIC week! Weeks like this are rare indeed.

We had the Grand Opening for the church we have been so privileged to help start here in our hometown. It was crazy. Like awesome crazy. The only way I have been able to describe it to people is that it was “happy chaos”.  It wasn’t chaotic because we weren’t prepared. It wasn’t chaotic because anything bad happened. It was chaos because over 910 people showed up…in an ice storm…in Arkansas.  That might not seem like a big deal to you, but in our little River Valley paradise nestled between mountains and the Arkansas River, people just don’t get out in the snow and ice.

And last night we launched our student ministries with an incredible night. It was so good. 

So now I’m sitting here in my “mancave” enjoying the breather. I’m looking forward to my weekend (Friday & Saturday) and getting ready to start it all over again in less than 72 hours. Life is so stinking good right now. I feel blessed beyond my capacity to handle it. It pushes me in the best possible ways. And before I head upstairs to get some sleep I am just trying to share this inexplicable sense of gratitude I am feeling.

It’s always good to be one of God’s kids–but it doesn’t always feel this good. 

Praying with Peter for Protection, Perspective, and Promise

So I just couldn’t avoid the alliteration. Praying is something we could all use more of and my goal for 2014 is to pray more scripture over my house, child, spouse, and life. So I am sharing my first few prayers for the year which are from 1 Peter 1.

I love reading about the disciple Pete. He went from being the knuckle-head fisherman following Jesus—to the missionary who preached at the Day of Pentecost proclaiming Jesus as Messiah with such boldness and passion that the mocking crowd changed their hearts, asking “what should we do?” When Peter instructed them to repent and be baptized, 3000 people were added to “their number.” I say their number (which is how Luke recorded it in Acts 2) because they weren’t a “church”, movement, religion, or even Christians yet. They were still just a group of Disciples. So let that sink in, from knuckle-head fisherman to church planter (literally planting The Church not just a church) in a few years. I think there might be some weight in what the Holy Spirit wrote through him in his first recorded letter, 1 Peter.

So here goes three things we can pray from 1 Peter.

Protection: [from 1 Peter 1:3-5]

Praise You God! Thank You for Your mercy and living hope that draws ______ to You. Through their faith and Your power, God shield and keep careful watch over. ______.

Perspective: [from 1 Peter 1:6-7]

Even through their trials and suffering, God allow ___________ to rejoice greatly knowing these are required to produce genuine faith of great worth! Let their faith be proven and cause much praise, glory, and honor.

Promise: [from 1 Peter 1:8]

By faith (without seeing You) let ________ love You! Let them believe in You and filled with inexpressible and glorious joy for their salvation. Lord let their faith lead them to salvation in You!

Definitely what I want for my son: salvation, eternal perspective, and protection from Satan’s schemes. Will you pray these with me in your homes this week?

I am not here to debate the logics of praying scriptures, whether we should or shouldn’t, if the version matters, if you have to quote the Bible verbatim (kinda hard if you don’t speak Greek or Hebrew anyways), etc. I am in no way qualified or interested. But I believe praying scriptures answers the questions 1) what should I pray and 2) am I praying according to God will. I also believe praying God’s Word from our heart and mouth draws our spirit closer to God and teaches us more about the character of God as we proclaim His promises in the lives around us.

Jamie

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