Laying Foundations

Laying Foundations This morning was spent leveling ground and putting down forms to hold the poured concrete. After that was done we had a fast and furious two hours of mixing and pouring concrete. Needless to say it was pretty amazing seeing the fast and furious pace of our team carrying buckets, running the mixer, and spreading the concrete into a floor.

Now if you are following along on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve been updated as the day went on. (Hint, go do that now)

In this day, not many people are part of building a structure from the ground up. This is common practice in communities around world, coming together to be part of a home or barn being built. It’s truly something special to form a home where before was a community trash pit.

Jesus himself was called the cornerstone, as our faith salvation rest on the foundation of his sacrifice for us.

Today we helped a family have a foundation for their future together. Mom helped in the construction process while dad was at work. Their son played soccer with us between buckets of material being mixed.

This foundation we have laid in Guatemala was for the good of this family, and for the Glory of God in their lives.

A Day of “Firsts”

As I lay in my bunk here in Guatemala, my mind is filled with all the “firsts” on this mission trip.

For over half the team it is the first mission trip they’ve been on, and about the same amount’s first time out of the United States. It will be the first time some have ever done a community outreach, much less lead one. For me, it’s the first time I’ve had my kids with me on a trip like this, which has always been a dream of mine. It’s the first time I’ve had someone sleep in the room with me that might actually snore louder than yours truly:)

It will be the first time a family has a home all to themselves and a gift built for God’s glory and our Joy.

I know there will be many more as the week goes on. Pray that we have eyes to see where God is moving and they we may have ears to hear his voice direct us.

Faith Makes a Fool of What Makes Sense

Recently I’ve been thinking a praying a lot about the wild nature of Jesus. The Men’s Group read John Eldridge’s “Beautiful Outlaw” a year ago, and now myself and the other PD Chaplains are leading some officers through the same book. In a nutshell, it’s all about an abiding relationship with Jesus….. not just the Jesus we think we know, but digging deep into all aspects of his character.

As I reread this book for the 3rd time, I’m struck by how often I put Jesus into a box and begin to think I fully understand Him. Sadly, it makes me feel more like a religious leader that Jesus challenged and scolded. Too often, we try to sanitize Jesus into a prim and proper pastor like figure who defended the earth to help impart perfection upon those who are worthy of cleansing. It’s almost like we want him to be Mr. Clean instead of God in flesh who came to earth as a child, grew into a man, and then ascend to heaven after dying for the sins of the world.

This was brought to bear when I listened to a song from Hillsong, that expressed what my heart and head were trying to reconcile.

Faith makes a fool of what makes sense But grace found my heart where logic ends When justice called for all my debts The Friend of sinners came instead

Your ways are higher Your thoughts are wilder Love came like madness Poured out in blood-washed romance It makes no sense but this is grace And I know You're with me in this place Here now

For so long I’ve battled the tug of war between trying to see faith as logical and reasonable, but also knowing that the mystery and beauty of the God I love overwhelms me in a way that can’t be explained. I don’t want to be in that war. I want to let my heart and mind combine in a way that makes me whole. I believe with all that I am, this is the way Jesus lived and molded for us to live as well. He was the friend of the most depraved sinners, yet he would also encourage and amaze those in the synagogue. He was compassionate to those most in need of grace and then he would correct those who’ve been shown grace but refused to share that joy.

Essentially, I want to be more like Jesus. I know, revolutionary but that is my heart and I will go to my grave trying to be more like him each day.

He's the Builder, Not You

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
—C. S. Lewis.

Sanctification is a life long process. Stay strong, stay in the Word.
Let Jesus do the work through the Spirit. Live Free from Oppressive Rules — Instead Delight in Relationship.

The Gift of Slowing Down

A few weeks ago, I hurt my back. It was a culmination of several things that led to me being in a lot of pain and not really able to move very much. Needless to say, my recently attained workout disciple was interrupted, it was hard to focus, and I was a bit worried about what long term issues I was going to be enduring. This was of course compounded by me being a bit of a stubborn guy who refuses to let some injury stop me from doing my normal routine.

What I discovered in the next few days was an ever increasing need to take care of my back. This required getting more rest at night, getting up early to stretch, and being more conscious about my movement and my day. My back has gotten much better, but the residual damage is still there and will demand a continued diligence on my behalf, for it to get better.

I share this to drive home a point.

It’s much better to live a life of discipline without the pain, but when the pain comes, it can be a gift.
Most of us live with good intentions, but we fail to follow through with them. That is so true with much of the stuff that swirls around in my head and on my todo list. The juggle of obligations can come crashing down at any moment with a single misstep.

When Jesus was trying to communicate how following him was different than mindless, soulless religion he described it by calling it rest.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Now this passage isn’t about pain relief, but rather relief from trying so hard to follow a pattern of life forced upon you. Instead a life of following Jesus is one of freedom and lightness of burden. It’s a life of embracing each moment as a gift and then using that gift to make light shine in the darkness all around us.

I think we have lost the ability to rest and add so much to our lives in the hopes of finding value in our existence. That struggle can lead to so much pain in our hearts and ultimately rob the joy from our lives.

My prayer is that we can avoid the pain and embrace the freedom of a life lived knowing we are loved by the creator. However, if it takes some pain for us realize this, then that temporary suffering is a gift from the father who love us more than we can fathom.

Savages for the Kingdom

A few weeks ago, I was reading about John the Baptist in the Gospel of Matthew. His ministry was one of boldness and a foreshadowing of the powerful Messiah cousin he was paving the way for all to see.

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'"

He was a herald of God’s word, calling all who would listen to repent. He lived a meager and some would say savage existence out in the wilderness.

“Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. “

He was a messenger of hope and grace to those who would humble themselves, own the depths of their own sin, and ask for forgiveness from a holy and merciful God.

Those who refuse were rebuked, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

As I read these passages from Matthew 3,I am convicted. Am I a savage for the Gospel? Will I call people to repent? Will I rebuke those around me who presume they are righteous?

The Christian Church has historically been a place of refuge for those in need and for those who are humble of heart. It has also been a place to train savages to go into the wilderness to seek and save the lost. We are part of a tradition of seek and rescue missions on the fringes of society.

So lets throw off the status quo and model our lives after John the Baptist. I’m not saying we change our diet, but I am saying that we become more savage for the kingdom of God.

Prayer the Lord's Way

In the last few weeks, the U.S. has witnessed a once in a lifetime eclipse and a once in a lifetime flood. In between these events, school has started for our youth ones and the campus will be full of college students soon.

This kind of emotional rollercoaster can lead many Christians to feel bewildered, lost, and helpless. How can we fight back a flood, or be there every day to keep an eye on our children.

The answer is always more time with Jesus, through prayer and quiet time in scripture.

God’s word rocks my mind and melts my heart more each day, and I’m convinced daily that my voracious reading habit needs to be pointing to time in the Word more than any other book.

In the passage below, from Matthew, as with the entire Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is continuing to preach that our hearts must be changed. We can’t let the wicked idea that rules and appearance cleanse us of our depraved birth. Only Christ can free us from the cycle of self rule and self agendas. This is made so clear in the model of how we are supposed to pray.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Line by line, we are drawn into the correct way of thinking & feeling. God invokes awe at every thought. We long for his perfect kingdom to reign over the fractured world we live. He is the provider of everything we need; every gift, every talent, every skill.. he is the originator of it all.

Our daily missing the mark is covered infinitely with Grace, which humbles us to show the same Grace to others. The Spirit living in the children of God is the only defense against war of temptation.

Such powerful truth to center on for a few moments each week, and a reminder that we must draw near to God each day.

This prayer has been recited by billions for thousands of years, but what remains the most clear truth after Sunday in worship, when we carve out time for God to speak above the noise, we are changed.

Rodeo and the Gospel

The Berry’s experienced our first Frontier Days rodeo this year. It was a great time watching steers get wrestled, calves get roped, and bulls angrily toss men about. I had not been to a rodeo since I was a kid and to share it with my own now was kinda surreal.
All that said, I was most impressed with the culture of the West and the announcer’s prayer before hand. Growing up in a more “redneck” culture of Indiana, going to college in a large metropolitan city, and living in the foothills of Appalachia: you could say I’ve experienced quite a bit of America.

What strikes me is that most that the news hardly ever tells the whole story of the people that call this land home. Much like multiple degreed theologians who don’t lead a congregation, espouse “new thought” from their offices void of real relationships.

I sat in the stands wearing shorts and my standard button up North Face shirt, right next to a few gentlemen sporting worn out Wranglers and large cowboy hats.

I’ve been around hard working men and women my whole life. Often the measure of their calluses far outweighed their bank accounts. Choice language would fly at the drop of a hammer and laughter flowed like beverage from a can.

What filled me with the most joy was when the announcer asked all to stand as he prayed for the event, those competing, thanks for salvation from Jesus, and for God’s glory on display.

As we have been walking through Galatians on Sunday mornings, this truth has been ever present in the front of my mind.

The gospel is for us, not about us. It isn’t about anything that we do, feel, or choose. It is the Good News about Jesus Christ and what he has accomplished for us. — Michael Horton

So, as we go about our day, let all remember that the gospel is for all — no matter how the person appears on the outside or what flows from their mouths. The Good News is that none are good enough, but Jesus paid for us anyway, and longs for our relationship with the father to grow closer day by day.

Joy of Remembering

During a trip to Estes Park, I had the joy of sharing a very special spot with my whole family and some friends. It’s a place of great change and contemplation for me. A place where God had met with me on many occasions. A place where I take the time to sit and listen, instead of always talking.... weird I know:) For me, it is a place of remembering.

It was here that 9 years ago, I felt confidence in the calling on my life to preach the word. Being a pastor had gotten tough and I wasn’t sure if I should continue, but this spot is where God began to shape my mind heal my heart.

Years later, after moving to Wyoming, I was back in this place. I took the same route high along Elk trails beside the Alluvial Fan in the Rocky Mountain National Park. It seemed appropriate to follow the tradition of Old Testament men to build a monument to remember what God had done in my life. This place of confidence was now only two hours away from my new home and a place I vowed to return to often.....and eventually share with my children.

That came to fruition in the last week of June. Our friends from Ohio came to visit and we took them to the Fan. After playing around the rocks and in the water, we started the steep hike up to “my spot”. My rocks were still stacked in that place, and I immediately felt a sense of awe at how faithful God is to help me remember. Amber, Eli, and Savannah all added a rock. I was kinda overwhelmed and didn’t realize how special of a moment this was, until looking at the pictures later. The place I had spent hours praying for my wife and my kids was now a place they had actually touched.

I seek out this place each time we go to the park to remember. To remember God is good. That he speaks to me. That he loves me. That he will never let go of me. That his leading is more important that my own understanding. That he desires to meet me in the quiet. That my family is a gift and I have a joyful responsibility to lead and protect them.

Where or what do you do to remember God’s goodness? Do you have a “spot”? Maybe you should seek one out?

My prayer as a pastor is for all to have the confidence that God loves them no matter what, but sometimes we need a little help to remember.

Gospel in Nepal

The more of the world I see, the more I am assured that God’s image bearers are more alike than most can even imagine. Too often we only see the language, cultural, and political barriers, but if we dare to slow down and pay attention, we begin to see the shared rhythms of life.

Two weeks ago I was honored to be part of a team who took that time in Nepal. Time to spend with fellow pastors who want to better serve their churches by being faithful to the Word. Men who love Jesus in a country wrought with the darkness of false gods at every turn. But isn’t that the truth in every country?

You see, that’s what brings us together on this mission of sharing the Good News of Jesus. Each day we would begin with worship and prayer, then spend hours pouring over Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia. Their passion for sharing the gospel was tempered and honed with the study of God’s Word. The doctrine of justification by faith alone was clarified and became a second breath as they long to further share the security of grace in their churches.

The city of Khatmadu is a bustling flow of some of the kindest and most endearing people on the planet. This fact propels these pastors to contend for them in every aspect of life. They live with their church each and every day, and want nothing but the reality of Jesus’s love to reign in their lives. These amazing Himalayan shepherds will forever be an inspiration to me.

It's Harvest Time

sunset
I love fall. It’s my favorite season, and it has been long before I ever went on a western hunt:) The crisp, cool nights. The amazing colors of the leaves. The sunsets and sunrises during the harvest.

That harvest image is one that we are all familiar with isn’t it. The time when livestock is sold, wheat is cut, and corn is put in the corn crib. We see it in the very decorations that permeate every corner of every home and store.

With every modern culture relying on the harvest for sustained life, Jesus used that imagery as a bridge to a greater and more eternal harvest.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. — Matthew 9:35-38

We are all called to be laborers in the harvest of the kingdom. I’m sure we all have people in our lives who are under harassment or feeling helpless. Maybe it’s even you.

*Without a laborer, filled with the hope of the gospel, how will these precious image bearers of God find refuge? *

Our purpose on this planet is to bring hope and the joy of a life with Jesus into the darkness. WE have the hope of Spring in our hearts because of the cross. Darkness doesn’t win. The light of Christ sustains EVERYTHING.

I pray that we will all be part of the harvest. That spiritual labor will pour from our hearts and move our hands and feet. Let this season not just be about pumpkin spice, but let it be one of reaping the gospel seeds you’ve been planting in those your are cultivating each and every day.

Every Promise

Every promise of Scripture is a writing of God, which may be pleaded before Him with this reasonable request, 'Do as Thou hast said.' The Heavenly Father will not break His Word to His own child.

Charles Spurgeon

Head in the Clouds

To this day, I remember my first deep thought about God. It happened one afternoon when I was about 6 or so. I was playing on one of those awesome summer days in Southern Indiana. The sun was shining, I was sweaty from running around in our yard, and I had laid down to catch my breath. The grass was cooler than the air, and the sky was filled with big fluffy clouds.
(not Indiana but a pic I took today near my Wyoming home)

I looked up and thought about the bigness of the world and how could God keep track of it all. I had no affection for Christ at this time in my life, but I was drawn to thoughts of things other than my little self.

I had similar thoughts today as I drove home. The sun was shining, I had a lot on my mind, and then it all went silent as I peered through the windshield at the clouds. I pulled over and took the pic above. I was compelled to. I couldn't help but return to that 6 year old thought.

God is huge. I am not.
He is sovereign.
I am not.
He is good.
I am not. He is full of grace I am not.

He is all I need..... Forever and Amen

(As I pulled into the drive I took these pics.) What a joy to be constantly reminded of my smallness. Bright sunshine on one side and rain/snow clouds on the other.

Lord, help me to see my smallness compared to you. Help me to never stray too far from you. Help me to enjoy you now and forever. I'm a mess most often and too easily wrapped up in work or distracted by other things. Keep the clouds rolling in my view and keep my head in those clouds where thoughts of you reign.

Technology is a Reoccurring Joy

John Piper recently answered the question, “How do you use iPhone in Christian Growth”. The main thrust of his answer was one of joy found in access to so many rich sources of biblical knowledge at his fingertips.

“My iPad and my iPhone are incredible gifts from God. I could almost come to tears over how precious they are to me.”

I have been quiet the geek for many years now. Sadly for longer than I’ve loved Jesus in return for his love for me. As a young lad, I sold both my Star Wars and He-Man collections to purchase boxes from Nintendo and Sega. The first loan I ever got from a bank was to purchase a 486 speed desktop computer, and that's with no vision of an interconnected network. I even stood in line for the first iPhone, but honestly, who is surprised by that one?

All of my geekness aside, the rapid speed that technology is spreading around the world is alarming and inspiring at the same time. When I was on my first Mission Trip to Honduras in 2004, we were allowed to send two emails home to the entire week. Several years later on a return trip, I was video chatting with my family from my iPhone.

In January, I was in Uganda teaching Hermeneutics. The only technology I took with me was a huge iPhone and the little keyboard I'm currently typing this on. I make documents for class, researched topics, and had access to my entire theological library.... All in a pocket sized device.

Since returning, I've been getting a few messages weekly from some of my students and from the pastor of the church, in which I preached. They are such an encouragement to me.

From: Gita Julius.
Hello Pastor,
Easter celebration in our church was very good, we stated on Good Friday with the all night of worshiping, praising and praying to the Lord,
We be-live that He raised from the death and He will never die again. The death no longer has dominion over Him, so brother, your heart may not tremble because we will be with Him in the glory.
Greetings to you all. 

For all the dangers we can find in technology, there are at least an equal number of joys to be found. The task before us is how to leverage this advancing gift for the kingdom.

Run From Distraction

Run From Distraction

Often I feel everything I write is more about my flaws than anything else. I guess being a mess is just part of who I am, which oozes confidence fore sure:)

When I was in Uganda, there were far fewer distractions because TV isn't a thing and the Internet was sparse or slow at best. I read more, I prayed more, and I talked with people way more.
porch1

The same thing happened on vacation with Amber. Laughter with her replaced laugh tracks and status updates or news feeds.
porch2

So here I am again, telling myself and anyone who reads this that we are a collectively too busy and too worried about things that don't matter society. I'm not saying that TV is the devil box, or that all social media is bad, but I am saying that God has wired us for relationship with him and with others. When we place any barriers between this truth and our lives, we become rapidly lost and disconnected.

I feel like a broken record. I feel like I should know better. I feel like I'm not alone in these feelings. I know Jesus taught us all how to live.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.* Matthew 6:25-34

We were made for relationship with the father. Think about all the tension points in our lives and what is at the core of them. Is it working to obtain stuff? Is it striving to achieve position or status? Is it maneuvering to be more acceptable? Is it longing or connection with others?

At the core of our stress is attempting to replace God's rightful and sovereign position as Lord of our lives with self.

We are made to hold the universe of our lives in our own hands. We are made to cling to the creator for each and every day. Whatever you are motivated by or worried about, if it distracts you from how you were meant to thrive you can't function for long.

The solution is found in the words of Christ. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Everything else must flow from this truth or we are lost.

Hunger for Truth

bible image
I'm writing this while flying over the tip of Greenland. You read that correctly, and I'm amazed by the world of technology that allows for the flying and the writing.

It's hard to encapsulate the last two weeks as I sit here. So many stories, so many moments of grace and beauty, so many times that I was moved to tears in my quite time with the father.

Often when we go to a new place, we marvel at the differences, expound on the things that aren't like home, and sadly we often see each culture through our own instead of through contextually acute eyes. Uganda is different in many ways than my Wyoming home, but not that much different in the greatest aspect....... Truth matters and is slipping away from both.

The trip I was on and the singular mission of Training Leaders International is to teach to things, Hermeneutics and Homiletics, the study of God's Word and the Expository Preaching of God's Word. This is also the singular mission of every pastor, or at least it should be, and it must be the central discipleship plan of every church. We put God's Word at the center and strive for all who would listen, to seek the risen King on every page.

In Uganda and East Africa, the wickedness of the prosperity gospel is having horrific results in this hearty nation. When a people are fed a steady diet of "plant seeds of wealth and God will return in seven fold" they quickly begin to feel that God has forgotten them, when the wealth doesn't come. Sadly, these false teachers do get wealthy< and in turn, live a lifestyle completely unattainable by most of the society.

When the very Word of God is twisted in this way, it makes for a crisis of sound theological training for pastors. It's not just a conference to attend, but joy on this planet and eternal life rest in the balance, for we know that it is through the preaching/teaching of God's word that we are saved.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:14-18

We in the United Stated aren't free from this dilemma either. The prosperity gospel has it roots in our land and still has it's wicked grasp on many. However, it seems pretty clear that an even greater tragedy is sweeping our nation and most of western civilization. Lack of Biblical Truth that leads to an UnBiblical World View.

Albert Mohler recently published an article on Biblical Illiteracy in the United States. In it, he lays out a dangerous reality in our increasingly secular society, people who attend church and claim Christ as savior increasingly know very little from the Bible.

According to data from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. “No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don’t know what they are,” said George Barna. The bottom line? “Increasingly, America is biblically illiterate.

We wax eloquent about the ills of society, how we can fix them, what new cause we should stand with each week, and allow our world views to be shaped by 24 hour news and Facebook likes rather than intelligent thought and Christ centered reflection.

Every Christian should know the cause of all evil..... SIN. This world is broken in every way and will be made perfect only when Christ returns. Until then, we place our hope and trust in Jesus alone, we love our neighbor as ourselves, and seek the face of God in his Word, where we find a hope and a joy that can never be squashed.

Do you Hunger for the Truth? Do you long for this world to be redeemed? Do you long for all to be children of God?

Whether in Uganda or in Wyoming, their is a singular mission. We must all ban together, and keep the main thing of Church and Ministry, the clarion call Paul gave to Timothy:

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5

The Word Unites the World

All King These are some of the kids from King of King's Church, where I preached Sunday. It was an amazing experience and one in which I felt more humbled as a preacher than ever before. Not so much because of the location, the emotion of being away from my church in Wyoming, or the people themselves.
I was moved by the weight of God's Word.

This happens at some point most weeks as a prepare to preach or when I'm actually taking my spot on the stage, to open the Word I so dearly love. I've preached in multiple states, on barges in the Ohio River, at camps along rivers in West Virginia, at the beach, on the top of a mountain, to pastors in Central America, in nursing homes, at a village in Uganda, in my hometown city park, converted gas stations, and more in between.

What I've learned over the years is that no matter the worship style, age range, temperature, view, language, region, or continent, the ONE thing that is constant is God's Word.

That is the mission of Training Leaders International and Africa Renewal University. To impart the global unifying truth, of the very Word of God, to pastors and leaders in churches and businesses, in Uganda and around the globe. This mission changes the trajectory of whole generations by showing them the centrality of the gospel and how to disciple others through the word.

In my Hermeneutics class there is a young man named Cephas.
Cephas
He has an amazing story of being raised Moslem, being confuse after hearing the grace of Christ preached, attempting suicide, and then putting the Koran and the Bible side by side in an intense study. The result of his salvation came from reading the Gospels and finding that Jesus was a savior filled with hope, love, and an eternity secured in Him alone. Mohammend only promised blind obedience, hopelessness, and internal despair.

He was rejected by his family for years, grew in his faith, became a changed young man, and then was able to be a witness to his brothers, who are all now walking with Jesus. Now he is here being equipped for ministry and praying about where God will have him serving.

The Word of God is what was able to bust through his lonely and confused heart. Not some program, not some well orchestrated service, or some deeply entrenched doctrinal statement that is preached more than the bible.

The very words of our God.
Inspired Inerrant Eternal Universal

East Africa is as diverse in cultural background as the United States, and I imagine that is true for each region of the world. Thousands of languages, billions of people, and a myriad of cultural contexts...... But one true scripture that is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

There are many physical needs around the world, to that I am greatly aware. However, if those who break our hearts because of circumstance, don't also cause our hearts to break for their need of God's Word, we are doing little more than delaying their inevitable & eternal demise, void of God's love.

The Kingdom of Heaven promises relief, but it also demands response. I pray that this truth is a beacon, drawing all who are weary to the arms of Christ, and to the confidence of his love found in His Word.

Core Concepts

In my hermanutics class, yesterday we open the wonderful door of context. Often the rightly claimed core of Hermenutics is described in three key areas:

CONTEXT - CONTEXT - CONTEXT.

When we approach a text of scripture, we are apt to immediately begin to read it from our own culture, our own experience, and our own ideals. This is dangerous, because the bible was written in a specific place, inside a specific culture, to specific people, but it has universal & eternal application. The essential nature of how we approach the word of God should be with humble hearts, sharp minds, and with the attitude that God will speak, not an attitude that we are reading to add our opinion.
Context This little diagram shows how we start from the passage and work our way outward to finally incorporate it on the entirety of scripture. As we study the specific, we must never lose site of the entire message of Christ.

The quest is to assert the meaning of the ancient scripture and then apply it to our modern lives. Meaning refers to what the author intended to communicate through the text. Because a text’s meaning is tied to the author, it will be the same for all Christians. That has been one to the great joys in teaching here. No matter text or all the different backgrounds in the room, the meaning is the same.

Application refers to the response of the reader to the meaning of the inspired text.  Application reflects the specific life situation of the reader and will vary from Christian to Christian, although it will still have some boundaries influenced by the author’s meaning.[^fn-sample_footnote]

The way to approach any scripture is "What does this passage mean and how do I live out or apply this meaning to my life?” rather than “What does this passage mean to me?" No one grows or finds solice in an opinion of scripture and often great damage is done instead. However, we are changed when God's meaning in His word drills into our hearts through application.

We study Scripture not just to learn more about God, but to know and love God more. He gave us his Word not just to fill our brains with biblical facts, but to change our lives.[^fn-sample_footnote]

[^fn-sample_footnote]: Grasping God's Word