Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Butterflies and Bats

As the day of our departure for the Philippines quickly approaches, the butterflies in the pit of my stomach seem to be transforming into bats as the excitement and the anticipation of our journey build!  As we prepare for such missions, I always reflect on the “why?” Why do we go? What difference does it make? 

Three themes from 1 Corinthians 5 come to mind when I consider our reasoning for engaging ourselves in such a journey.

1.       God’s love compels us!  I am a wealthy benefactor of the love of God, having received His forgiveness, experienced His goodness and am blessed to be called to live out His righteousness. Having experienced God’s sweet and abundant love, I am driven to reach out to others so that they too may be blessed to know the love of God as I have.
2.       I am a new creation in Christ, called to live for others, not myself!  As someone who has been richly blessed by God’s goodness, I am called to live for Christ by serving others.  My Christian walk is not just an opportunity for me to be blessed, it is a responsibility that calls me to seek out others in need spiritually and materially so that they may know the love of God in their own lives. 
3.       Because God is in the reconciliation business, He has called me, as His follower, to be a life-long reconciler, seeking to always live as an ambassador for Christ.  My life needs to be characterized by a continuous desire to be a person of peace, called to preach the Message of peace wherever I go, and whatever I do. 

Our 2-week trip to the Philippines gives our team opportunities to be the righteousness of God by being obedient in reaching out to others in His Name.  We will serve, equipped with goods of temporal value and a Message of eternal value.  We will do the work of God not as the proud and the mighty seeking a conquest, but as the forgiven and the humble – people who depend on God, and who have been called to make His love known by acts of service and love with our eyes fixed on Jesus and hearts fixed on helping all those we can who are in need as fellow sojourners on the journey we call life. 

When I consider all that God has done for me, I can only respond by sharing with others.  Please pray for us as we seek to be salt and light and to live out the Gospel we proclaim to others.  I look forward to sharing the highlights of our journey, as we soldier on in love for Jesus’ sake over the next two weeks! Please keep us in mind and keep us in prayer as we go to do God’s work, butterflies, bats and all!

Your Friend and Brother,
Sam Jackson

Angelstone-Grace-YWAM Mission Philippines 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Love God With All Your Strength - Pay Attention to Your Body!

Over the course of my life I have generally remained in decent shape and have especially enjoyed working out as a lifestyle. Over the last two years, however, anxiety and worries over various concerns had such a hold of my time and effort that I found it easier and easier to drift from caring for myself physically. By the time I got to the doctor for my annual checkup – which I had put off for 2 years - there were warning signs all over my labs and readings that I needed to pay more attention to my body. It is often easy as a Christian to so focus on the spiritual that one neglects the physical. As I contemplated the need to get back into the groove of caring for myself physically, it occurred to me that the Scripture makes it pretty clear that this kind of care needs to be a priority as well. The Greatest Commandment is stated in various ways, but in its most comprehensive form says. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” There it is, “all your strength.” God wants us to care for our bodies too. Now, before you dismiss this essay as another opportunity to be “beaten into shape, guilted into conformity or called to transform oneself into a perfect physical specimen” let me be clear, that it is NOT my desire to communicate that kind of message. It is my desire, however, to recognize that we are each stewards of their own bodies and we each need to pay attention to our physical health and well-being. For example, I already know that I have a few areas of health I need to give special attention. I’ve told Luz that I want to be so attentive to those areas that should I die, she can honestly say, “The Lord took Sam because he did everything he could to care for himself” not, “Well, I guess it was Sam’s time, but I sure wish he’d have managed his health better.” My doctor’s appointment reminded me that I was not truly loving God with “all my strength” but was allowing other areas beyond my control to choke out my desire to take care of my body. I just can’t let that happen. So, I’ve recommitted myself to love the Lord with all my strength by taking care of my body through exercise, vitamins, meds, and nutrition to the best of my ability. I’m also seeking to maintain this by focusing my efforts on things I enjoy, not torturing myself with things I don’t prefer to do. I really enjoy calisthenics, so my children bought me “The Rack”, a device that lets you go crazy on variations of callisthenic exercises. I also really like those ellipticals and other different cardio devises at the gym and I love walking. However, I’m not really crazy about running. Even when I “liked” to run back in the day, it wasn’t until mile 2 of a 5 mile run that I would be into it. For that reason, it would be less than wise to build the bulk my program on running, so it’s the machines and walking I focus on. I also look for opportunities to walk naturally. In Atlanta airport this weekend, knowing I had long layovers, I walked to my concourse instead of taking the train and spent a lot of time just walking around. I park further away from shop entrances, etc. Simple but effective. I’ve also looked for ways to “cross-train” spiritually and physically. One can pray while one walks or runs. I also found that in the morning, I really wanted to begin the day with a devotion and a time of prayer, but I also wanted to do something physical. Through a regimen my friend Omar Reyes has dubbed the Faith Warrior Workout, for 15-20 minutes in the morning, I do various sets of pushups and pray for the concerns of the day and people in my life during the “rest periods.” It has had an amazing effect! If I’m a little “smoked” after a hard set, I pray longer! But I found by praying longer, my next set is often more dynamic than the previous one. This simple regimen pays huge dividends one can literally measure! Let’s say that you undertake a program like this 3 times a week for 10 minutes each. During that time, you do 4 sets of 10 pushups and pray for 3 people each time – 40 pushups, 3 people or issues to be prayed for. Doesn’t sound very impressive until you look at it differently. Multiply 40 pushups per session times 3 sessions per week times 52 weeks a year: that’s 6,420 pushups per year! A whole lot better than zero! On top of that, you would have prayed for 468 people or issues that might have gone unprayed for previously! With even a modest effort in this area, one can yield mighty cumulative results. And that’s just at a modest level – imagine the numbers when one grows in ability and intensity! If you’re breathing, it’s not too late! Weeks ago, I recommitted myself to pay attention to this often neglected part of the Great Commandment so that the Lord’s light can more brightly shine in every area of my life, especially in terms of my physical fitness. I pray that you might take a little time to allow little more light to shine in yours too! With much love, Sam

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tears In a Bottle

Humans grieve. There are times when are sorrows are of such weight and the emotional burdens of life so great that the only helpful response is to let the tars flow. This response is often contrarian to the “deal with it and drive on” culture some of us place upon ourselves. Perhaps we are driven to such denial because we feel as if our tears don’t really matter to anyone. This morning, I read words from the Psalmist that brought a wave of comfort to my soul as I contemplated moments in my life where I was burdened to the point of tears. Psalm 56:8 says, You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Mighty King David, a warrior without peer, cried real tears and was assured in the depths of his soul that his tears mattered to God and that God was so concerned for him that his tears were kept on record. In some cultures, people store the tears of their most painful moments – and sometimes, keep tears literally in store for friends – so that the importance of standing with someone in times of grief is never forgotten and the duty of standing with friends in times of trouble is never unfulfilled. The Scripture commands those who desire to walk in the light to be aware of the trouble of those around us, mourning with those who mourn. When we feel alone, Psalm 56:8 reminds us that God is with us and cares so much, He keeps a record of the very tears we shed – we are that important to Him. If you become aware of another’s grief and trouble, don’t let them walk alone! Stand with them and assure them that someone cares! If you are grieving and feel alone, remember God loves you and cares – so much so, that He’s keeping a record of the trouble you’re facing and promises that your pain and grief will be comforted. So knowing that God cares and that we should care for each other, let’s seize today’s opportunities to bear one another’s burdens that we all might be able to experience a little joy!