Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eye of the Tiger

Becky and I went to Clemson, SC this weekend to visit with our friends Jay and Anita Wood and to speak at the Clemson Church of Christ this morning. We were really looking forward to this trip as many of our friends from Palmetto Bible Camp worship at the church in Clemson. In fact, our friend Danny Vaden is the preacher there and Matt Fields is the Youth Minister.

We ran into some pretty gnarly traffic coming into Columbia and my car has an issue with a loose belt that occasionally makes the engine overheat and the air conditioner not work. What this all means is that we ended up sitting still on I-26 with all the windows down and the heat on full blast to keep the engine from going supernova on us. Oh yeah, and it's already like 110 degrees outside to start with. Thank you God for GPS! (seriously, I'm not joking) We got off at the next exit and let the GPS on my Droid phone guide us about 10 miles around whatever was causing the congestion and we ended up right back on I-26 in the middle of Columbia with no traffic what so ever! Being able to get the car moving always seems to make that belt connect again and drive the components that turn the radiator fan and the compressor on the air conditioner. As long we are moving we're fine; if we sit too long we overheat. I really need to replace that belt...tomorrow...

Same thing happened on I-85 just outside of Anderson and once again the GPS did a great job in guiding us around the problem and right to Jay and Anita's front door.

We had a great time Saturday night hanging out with the Woods! Anita made pork chops (awesome!) and we did a lot of talking while working on a puzzle together at the dining room table. Anita displayed that she is a lot smarter than Jay, Becky and I by going to bed at a reasonable hour. The rest of us stayed up till 2:30 in the morning talking and searching for just one more piece of the puzzle that would fill that annoyingly empty spot on the table. Anita is originally from Ecuador and was very gracious and helpful to Becky and I by answering all of our questions about the Spanish language; now we are fluent! (not really but that would be great)

This morning we got up and enjoyed this really good hot, gooey, cinnamon roll bun thing that Anita made for breakfast. In fact she wrapped up the half we didn't eat and we brought it home with us (yum).

The Clemson church was really cool. They are a close knit group of believers who obviously love and care for one another very much. I made a short presentation before Danny Vaden preached a great sermon and I think we were all blessed to be there. Many thanks to Danny, the Elders and all the Brothers and Sisters at Clemson Church of Christ for making us feel very loved and welcomed.

Oh yeah, how could I forget? Danny is doing a series of fasts this year and right now he is fasting from sound; which means he walks around with a pair of large earmuffs on his head that are designed for shooting guns without losing your hearing. I can't lie; he looks really funny with those things on but I love what he is doing. Check out his blog at...

http://www.yearoffasting.blogspot/ .com.

After service we all went right down the street to have lunch at the Mellow Mushroom (pizza joint) which was really good. Becky and I split a large mighty meat pizza and a chef's salad. Afterwards we went back to the Wood's house and took a much needed nap before hitting the road for home. We ran into a lot of rain on the way home and got some Lenny Kravitz song stuck in our heads (which was really weird because we never had the radio on at all and still can't figure out where that came from).

Now we are home, unpacked and ready for bed. We had such a good time! It was very relaxing and fulfilling. What a blessing to be able to travel and enjoy worship and fellowship with the family of God in different places.

Thank you so much Jay and Anita and thanks so much also to the Clemson Church of Christ. May you all be richly blessed in Jesus Christ!

Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Sign the Lease

Well, we thought we had some renters lined up to rent our house. We thought that all of our house disposal problems were over (at least for the next year that these people were going to rent our house for). You may have seen on Facebook or on that our troubles were over... But alas, they are not.

Our renters had given a verbal commitment to rent our house and had passed an income level check and a credit check, but one minor detail had not yet occurred...

They hadn't signed the lease.

They had until last Thursday (July the 28th) to do so and we just assumed that they would, but they didn't. They instead decided that they wanted to rent a condo rather than a house. That's cool, no problem, no hard feelings. In fact after mowing my almost half acre lot for two summers I sometimes wish we had rented a condo instead of buying a house.

But the moral of the story is that God is really, really good and if He wants us to live in Nicaragua He will take care of this issue and every other one that we will face. Me jumping the gun out of excitement and then having to make a great big sandwich out of my words does not in any way nullify His faithfulness.

Please join us in praying for faith and patience as we wait to see how He will handle this.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Psalm 119 - Becky

I want to share with you some thoughts about my random Bible reading for today.  I used to try to follow along with a Daily Bible or at least to go in chronological or some other order, but I have found that it works better for me right now to read bigger, "stand alone" sections every few days instead of reading smaller bits of a continuing story every single day.  Don't worry; I do try to read a big enough chunk each time to get the full context.  Actually, for things like the "Pauline Epistles" (especially, say, Galatians or Ephesians) I highly recommend reading entire books in single sittings to achieve greater understanding.  Anyway, this morning I randomly opened up to Psalm 119, and, to be honest, I was not so thrilled about it.  For one thing, I knew I needed to read the entire Psalm (which is long) to get the big picture.  Also, the whole thing is about following God's law (which can be a major guilt trip if taken the wrong way).  However, in reading it this time I was intrigued, encouraged, and challenged.  Below are just some of the ideas and questions I gleaned from it.  For those of you who have studied it too, I welcome your thoughts as well.

One of the first things that caught my mind was in verse 41: "May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise."  Those of us who read this now through the lens of Christ might pass this over because we are so used to hearing about salvation and the fulfillment of God's promises.  However, when David wrote this, Christ had not yet died, and I'm not sure what God had told David about the whole salvation thing.  I'm very interested to know what David was talking about here (and in the numerous other places in the Psalm where he mentions salvation).  The quick answer that comes to my brain is that David was referring to the promises God gave to Abraham and Moses, particularly the stuff in Deuteronomy about the blessings the Israelites would receive for following God's laws.  I get the feeling from various accounts of David that he took this stuff very seriously.  I just wonder what he actually knew about the salvation that would come through Christ's sacrifice.  When we read Psalm 119, which type of "salvation" should we be thinking about?  Like I said, we are accustomed to thinking of salvation through Christ, but is there some other level of salvation from God that David knew before Christ even came?  (I certainly don't believe in salvation apart from Christ, but is Christ's salvation a part of some bigger, general kind of salvation?)

Another thought I had that partially answers this question is that there is benefit simply from following the laws themselves.  In verse 45, David says, "I walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts."  In general, we tend not to associate laws with a word like "freedom."  Again, this makes sense in light of Christ sacrifice, but that hadn't happened yet.  I propose that these laws (or "precepts" or whatever) are not so much devices to control us and to keep us from doing what we want (i.e. experiencing "freedom") but are statements about the way the world works.  (C.S. Lewis talks about this in "Mere Christianity," which we are studying in our Sunday AM class, but this idea has been rolling around in my brain for a while now.)  These moral, spiritual laws are, in my opinion, akin to laws of science like Gravity and Relativity.  Verse 152 says, "Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever."  As long as there is a physical world, things that go up will always come down again.  In the same way, it is always a good idea to treat people with the love in which you would have them treat you, and there will never be a situation in which you should cheat on your spouse.  What I wonder is, if gravity can be observed scientifically and even measured, can the same be done with spiritual laws?  Well, I know that we can observe them, but it would be interesting to see if they can be tested and analyzed scientifically.  Maybe it doesn't work that way; I don't know.  I guess maybe that's what the Pharisees tried to do, breaking the laws down into formulas.  Still, it would be encouraging to have everyone agree that, yes, this is how the world works and so we should live accordingly.

I say that, feeling frustrated that the world just doesn't "get it," even though God's laws really are as obvious as gravity.  However, I myself don't follow these laws perfectly (far from it), even though I know how good and true they are.  The third thing I noticed in this Psalm was David's cry for help from God so that he would be able to follow the laws.  He uses phrases like "do not let me stray from your commands," "turn my heart toward your statutes," "let no sin rule over me," etc.  Over and over again he asks God to come in and control him.  On the surface, that looks even less like "freedom," but if you think about it in terms of freedom from sin, it makes a lot of sense.  I have had numerous discussions with people about free will versus God's control over our lives (though I really don't wish to get into that here), and many people have brought up that God doesn't micro-manage our lives.  However, I say that the absolute best thing for us would be to have God micro-manage our lives.  We know from experience that, despite our best intentions, we simply can't follow God's laws perfectly on our own.  What a relief it would be to have God swoop in and make us do everything we're supposed to do!  (I understand that would affect the love element on our part, but I am talking about God controlling people who have already decided to love Him.)  I love verse 109: "Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law."  I know I live this way all the time, doing things that are stupid even though I haven't forgotten what I should be doing.  What I really want is for my life to be in God's "hands."  Thankfully, we do have salvation, and we live in a time when we do know about Christ.  We don't have to be plagued by guilt all the time, so I can read this Psalm without breaking down in shame.

If anyone has any thoughts to add, especially if you have any more information about the context of this Psalm, please share.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Update From Tommy

Just wanted to give you all some updated information on what is going on with us.

I was laid off from my job a few weeks ago. I know that sounds like a bad thing but it has really been a blessing.

We are leaving the United States on September 29th. We have our flights booked and are making final preparations for departure.

That being said, we are still fundraising and have not reached our goals yet. If you have joined us as a monthly sponsor or made a one time donation...


If you haven't, we really need your help. Our monthly budget is going to be revised down to around $2000 a month so that's just 200 people helping us out by giving $10 a month. If you are able and willing to give more then that's fine too. I just don't want anyone to think that $10 a month won't matter in the grand scheme of things. It will.

Our house is still for sale and is also now on the rental market for $1300 a month through Carolina One Real Estate here in Charleston. Other than fundraising this is the last big visible hurdle that we need to get over. Please pray for this particular issue. I have cashed out my 401k and the longer it takes to get something done with the house the more of that money we are going to have to burn through making mortgage payments.

All of this is really small potatoes in light of who our God is. We are being constantly blessed and sustained in this work. Please don't hesitate to give God everything you have and serve Him with all your heart.

He is worth it!