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Preview: Radical Living in a Comfortable World - A Blog by Seth Barnes

Radical Living - Seth Barnes - Adventures in Missions

Radical Living - Seth Barnes - Adventures in Missions

Last Build Date: Sun, 18 Feb 2018 19:59:28 GMT


Learning to Be Papa Daddy

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Being a father came pretty naturally. I have loved so many aspects of the role - especially playing, teaching and discovering. When our children began having children, Karen and I asked ourselves the question, "What do we want them to call us?" Grandad is too stiff. Maybe Grandaddy. Borrowing from other languages helped us. We landed on Nona for Karen. But we continued to struggle with names for me until we landed on Papa Daddy. Somehow Papa Daddy invokes a soft, approachable older man. It's a name that sounds familiar and safe. It was the name we stuck with and the one that the grandkids now use. Living out the persona that goes with the name has been more complicated. It works best when I'm taking the grandkids on a walk through the woods or reading them a story or playing airplane with them. I wear many hats in life. I wear the leader hat a lot. I build enterprises and deploy people. That hat looks so different than the Papa Daddy hat. The leader hat comes with a truckload of goals and expectations. The accountability that leaders require of their followers can feel harsh. It doesn't play well with a generation that grew up in dysfunctional families led by absentee fathers. I try to show my human side to our staff. I try to be interruptible. I try to encourage them. And sometimes, I surprise them by closing down the office and taking them all to the movies. When I'm with staff on trips, we hang out. They may even see me wearing a Papa Daddy hat. Recently I was corresponding with a young leader and he made a statement. Maybe it was a challenge. "The version of you that I like that builds the most trust with me and my peers is seeing what I would call "papa Seth who takes us to the movies." That raises a provocative question. What will serve this young leader and his peers the most? And this is closely followed by another question: Can I become what they need? What about when they want to be celebrated and they haven't accomplished anything? What about when they want to shirk responsibility? The Grandad role is a privileged one. You get there because you've lived out the Dad or the Mom role. You don't get to the skip this step. You get to enjoy your grandkids and leave most of the hard work to the parents. It's especially sweet when the parents are doing their job.  But what about when there isn't that leader? Work has to get done. Expectations have to be met. And when followers don't follow, there have to be consequences. Richard Rohr calls this work of boundary-setting and protecting "the sacred no." If the answer to every question is “yes,” then boundaries are not established - things lose their value. Historically, the boundary-setting job of answering “no” has been fathering work. We can see what happens when fathers go AWOL in our society at present. A good example is the me too movement - a righteous call for accountability that fathers should have established.  There is a generation looking for more love and maybe less expectation/accountability. What do we think about that? Perhaps we need to rebalance. Maybe we older people need to think about changing our style. And that begs the question: Is it possible for leaders to jump from a corporate leader role to a kinder, gentler role?  I'm going to go with the idea that, yes, it's possible, and good. But first there need to be a few men (and women) to do the hard work of fathering. Someone needs to make sure that the walls and boundaries that protect the families and the tribe are maintained. Someone needs to do the work of saying "no." Now that we have stronger leaders at work, I am hoping that I can respond well to the challenge to become a softer, more cuddly version of myself. I'm not prepared to abandon our high expectations, but I really want to be freed up to be more fun and relational. People need a Papa Daddy in their life. [...]

Andrew Shearman - A Gift to Your Spirit

Tue, 6 Feb 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Andrew Shearman believes in a God who is hopelessly in love with his children. He's a family man, a Father who wants his kids back.

I met Andrew when I was a young man and he set me free with his view of a loving God. We think that God is angry with us. We've gone prodigal and are sorry for our bad living.  

I regularly get random emails from people I don't know who are laboring under the crushing weight of their mistakes. I wrote this post nine years ago about being sorry for sin and 545 people have written comments asking God to forgive them. 

God is not angry with us. The Bible tells us, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus." (Rom. 8:1) If I could give you any gift, it would be to introduce you to the God who Andrew knows. He's a God who longs for you to live a free life. He wants relationship with you.

Andrew believes that the Bible is inspired by God - a love letter to us. And he communicates the truth it contains better than anyone I know. 

We recorded 42 five-minute videos of Andrew sharing what he's learned through a lifetime of living out his faith. Watch just one and you'll be hooked - the message will breathe hope into your spirit. You can see them all here.

Our Experience Building a Culture of Grace & Intimacy

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

We all crave grace. And we crave intimacy. But how many of us ever find them? Getting to intimacy is scary - it requires risks and pain. Our quick-solution culture doesn't prepare us very well. And most of us lack experience with grace. How are we to find what our hearts crave? I've been afforded a wonderful petrie dish to experiment in to see how a culture of grace and intimacy can be built. With a sample size of nearly a thousand groups over more than a decade, the team I lead (the World Race) has tried every path imaginable. Every year, we launch over 100 teams people each that spend between nine to 11 months living and working together overseas. During that time, the vast majority experience a level of deep community unlike any they've ever been a part of. What we've learned is giving us hope for the future of the Church. It shows us a pattern for churches that Millennials will flock to. The problem The problem for any of us is that we don't get to intimacy without first becoming vulnerable. When you show yourself weak to another person, it's a signal to them that it may be safe to follow suit - to reciprocate. And that's when the relationship begins to deepen. A lot of things get in the way. We may not feel we can take that kind of risk. Or we may have a broken paradigm of intimacy, associating intimacy with sex. Most churches have a culture of superficiality with the result that 70% of young people graduating from college are leaving the church. They have a nose for authenticity that their Boomer parents can't understand. They smell hypocrisy and stay away. Of course there are no shortcuts to intimacy. Sex without emotional intimacy is a hollow act. A better paradigm embraces the possibility of sharing our brokenness, trusting that others will respond with grace. Jesus intended for his people to have a culture of grace and intimacy. If you didn't know anything about him, but just read about Jesus in the Bible, that's what you'd see. He confronts the hypocrites, gives grace to the broken and pushes for deep relationship with God and man. Our process The process, begins with a commitment to grow in grace, a commitment that is repeatedly tested and proven. If we can't make room for the mess others bring, then forget it.  We call that commitment "having a yes in their spirit." They have to say "yes" to God as he leads them deeper. The first test of that "Yes" is if they can embrace our cultural norm of safety. That jumpstarts the process that leads to a culture of grace. We have watched as some teams got there quickly. When they did, it was lightning in a bottle - kind of like watching people fall in love with one another. They bonded deeply and felt safe and encouraged. We also observed as other teams preferred to keep relationships at a superficial level. Having been raised in cultures that were not safe, they didn't test the norm of safety. "We like each other and prefer not to complicate things," they would say. How it works Norm of safety. Each team member agrees that their team will be a safe place. If anyone bring sarcasm or judgment to the team, then they have undermined safety. Risks. We test if it is really safe by taking risks with one another. If we see unsafe behavior, we take the risk of calling it out. Jesus gives us a great example of this when he says, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Vulnerability. Assuming that others will protect our safety, we take the risk of being vulnerable. We share parts of our lives where we failed, where we were weak and feel inadequate. Reciprocity. Vulnerability triggers a psychological response that God built into humans called the principle of reciprocity. Jesus described it like this "Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full...The amount you give will determine the amount you get back." (Luke 6:38) Trust. When we experience other people giving to us, we begin to trust them. And trust reinforces that safety is not just a norm - a rule to be [...]

What Does It Mean to be Interdenominational?

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

Interdenominational means "relating to more than one religious denomination" but does it really? Do we relate to other denominations? Are we deeply connected to those followers of Jesus whose beliefs are different than ours?   We are born into a polarized society. We are represented by politicians who fight out their differences on the front pages of our newspapers.   And in Jesus' day, the politicians and religious leaders were just as polarized. They were always trying to tempt him into playing the game of "who is right and who is wrong?" Of course, Jesus would have none of it.   Religious people would ask "Who sinned that this situation exists?" Or "Do you back the Roman government by paying taxes?"   And Jesus would deftly sidestep their traps and point to the real issue at stake. He understood that his mission was not to bring people into a right set of doctrinal beliefs, but into right relationship with God and one another.   Jesus, as he was about ready to be killed, passionately prayed to the Father that, "they be one as you and I are one." (John 17:21) He called us as his disciples to bring the body of Christ into unity.    This wasn't just a little thing to Jesus - it was at the core of his message. And I think he would say to us, "The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing."   The Lord was speaking to a megachurch pastor about this issue in his quiet time. The pastor heard God say, "In denominationalism, people gather when they agree and divide when they disagree. But in my body people gather around families. They say, 'that's my father, my brother, my uncle and so forth."*   How many times has the Catholic church split in its history? And how many times has the Protestant church split?   Of course the answer is that the Protestant church has split thousands of times. Originally Protestant meant "pro testament." But it soon came to mean "protester."    The good news is, yes these may be our roots, but they don't need to define us. Instead, we can be the answer to Jesus' prayer for unity. We can choose to focus on relationship, on the connectedness and unity that you see in a body.   When we say we are inter-denominational, why not commit to setting aside differences? Why not focus on being followers of Jesus and doing what he taught and did?   Gal 5:6 says,  "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."   I don't know about you, but I'm not going to focus on peripheral stuff. I'm going to focus on essentials. If you have trusted Christ as Lord, I want to join you in spirit. I want to find a way to be in unity with you.    This may require my repentance, it may require a greater level of humility. And I'm good with that. That's the faith part of the equation. I have to trust God when I humble myself. He can guard my reputation better than I can.   How about you? What will it cost you to be the answer to Jesus' prayer that his children would be one?   ----------------- * See this message.   [...]

How To Live a Life that Glows in the Dark

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

  Do you ever feel like there must be more to life? Does the script of your life feel humdrum? What if God had a different script for you? What if the life he intended for you to lead was amazing?    God actually promises us a wonderfully fulfilling life if we'll just exchange our priorities for his. I stumbled across this exchange as a college student. It changed everything for me.   Recently I was reminded of this when I watched Angelina Jolie's new movie First They Killed My Father. It tells the story of a little girl who lived through the Cambodian killing fields. Her story hit home for me - I was there in 1979.    When I heard about what Pol Pot was doing to his country, I left college to help the million plus refugees that were fleeing the genocide. I saw them spilling over the border into Thailand barely alive.   I was motivated to take this radical step in part by God's promise in Isaiah 58: What I’m interested in seeing you do is:    sharing your food with the hungry,    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,    being available to your own families.Do this and the lights will turn on,    and your lives will turn around at once.Your righteousness will pave your way.    The God of glory will secure your passage.Then when you pray, God will answer.    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am...’ If you are generous with the hungry    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.I will always show you where to go. What a promise around which to build a life. As a college student, I wanted God's guidance. I wondered what to do with my life. I wanted to hear his voice. And I saw that he promised to guide me if I would just do one thing. If I would just care for his children, he would guide me and speak to me.   And, he promised that my life would glow in the dark!   That promise holds true for his sons and daughters today as well. All around the world we have opportunities to make this exchange. To trade our priorities for God's.   In Cambodia, the country still recovers from the horror that ended in 1980. And today in northern Uganda, millions of people seek shelter from surrounding countries racked by war and famine. One of our teams is headed there as I write this.   So many people are in pain. Nearly 1/2 of the world’s population live on less than $2.50 a day. 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.   We have been given an abundance of resources in America. We have everything we need to make a difference.    Many of you reading this already get it. You've made the exchange and are leading others in making it. Your lives do glow in the dark. You already are someone's hero.   We get to be Jesus' hands and fee, "equipping his people for works of service." (Eph. 4). Luke Hanna, a racer in Nepal, gives us a good example. One day sees a scab-covered street urchin and hears God say, "Pick him up."   Luke described what happened next: I bent down and took his malnourished body in my arms as his bony legs wrapped tightly around my waist. He laughed and cheered as he gently laid his scabbed head on my shoulder.    I can think of 7 or 8 different infections that I am curr[...]

To Combat Comfort-Addiction, Become Interruptible

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT

My parents now live in Smoky Springs, a retirement home here in Gainesville, GA. Some of the residents are spry and alive. But many of them have checked out. Life for them is measured by the distance between lunch and dinner. Their mental capacity is still good, but their experience has narrowed to something not unlike zoo animals.

Who can blame them? Old age is, they say, not for the faint of heart. It's hard to see your faculties diminish year-by-year. In the face of pain, it is normal to seek comfort.

This is not an academic question. I turn 60 this year - people like me need to be thinking about the paths we will choose in the last third of our lives. How will we navigate in a society addicted to comfort and awash in resources? 

To an extent we are pre-programmed to do what everyone else does - to respond according to the norms culture gives us. We grow up living in the narrow realm of our own experience and relationships. The possibilities available to us are a subset of that small world. We get programmed to respond to stimuli in predefined ways. Culture is our operating system. 

But it doesn't have to be that way. We can build a back door in our operating system by learning the habit of interruptibility.

The interruptible person lives in the present, in liminal space (where we make a conscious choice instead of merely reacting), and is available to consider the questions and needs of others. They recognize that their own experience is limited and their true needs are few. Interruptions may actually be the mechanism through which God speaks to them.

God wants to set us free from our small world and our limited thinking. But most of us are not available to be interrupted. We've made choices and commitments based on comfort. We can be found living in a narrow range of possibilities.

God wants to invite us into kingdom living. He wants to invite us to partner with him to live as free sons and daughters. He may be speaking to you today, "Will you please speak to your brother? Will you seek reconciliation? Can I interrupt you?"

God may be asking you, "Will you run my errands?" Perhaps he's whispering to you, but it's hard for you to hear him. Are his whispers being drowned out by the noise in your life? And if you hear him, does your programming makes it hard to respond? Are you interruptible?

Four tests

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Can I hear the voice of the Lord?

2. Can God ask me to change my commitments?

3. Am I available to leave home on an assignment God gives me?

4. Do I regularly submit my plans to God and let him change them if he wants?

God is Moving in Iran

Thu, 4 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMT


Quick - where is Christianity growing the fastest in the world?

Answer: Iran.  Who would have guessed that? Iran, of all places, that hotbed of Islamic revolution and fervor.

Operation World says that Iran (whose leader once called America "the Great Satan") is experiencing faster growth in its church than anywhere in the world.

Every day the headlines from Iran show unrest. Revolutionary guards were just deployed yesterday to put down the uprising. People don't like the rule of the Muslim clerics and are now dying in the streets in protest.

But for years now, Iran has been undergoing change. Unreported in the national media is the spiritual change that is transforming the country.

The National Catholic Registry quotes a source that says "there are 3 million Christians in Iran."

Reza Safa, who used to be a Muslim in Iran, is now an evangelical pastor. He declares, “Despite severe persecution by the Iranian government against underground churches, God’s Word is spreading like a wildfire all over Iran."

More Muslims have come to Christ in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries combined. Safa believes that Iran will be the first Islamic nation to convert to Christianity.

How did all this happen? It looked bleak in 1979 when the Iranian revolution established a hard-line Islamic regime. All missionaries in Iran were kicked out and some pastors were killed. 

But, as Patheos reports, "Despite continued hostility from the late 1970s until now, Iranians have become the Muslim people most open to the gospel in the Middle East."

We in America need to recognize that often the media is missing the real story - God's story of changed lives in places where we least expect. He is on the move in Iran and in other countries like Afghanistan (ranked 2nd after Iran). 

Will the Church in Iran be the same catalyst for political change that the church in Romania was in 1989? Spiritual change in a nation inevitably manifests in more visible ways. However you read the tea leaves, the news from Iran is good. 

Something that the USA and Iran hold in common: the god of fear is being challenged in both countries. If you find yourself fearful, the words of Jesus still ring true wherever you find yourself in the world: "Fear not." 

In 2018, let's stop living in fear and join him!

How to Plan for 2018 & a New Year

Fri, 29 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Most people are not great planners. They prefer to have other people do the planning. 

But when it comes to living the life that God wants you to live, it's important to get out of the day-to-day patterns and think globally. God gives us downtime in our lives so that we will look back and learn, then look forward and change the way we live.

God wants us to thrive. But often bad habits and toxic relationships pull us down. Scripture exhorts us to be "holy and whole" in body, soul and spirit. Our bodies need exercise, rest and good nutrition. Our souls (that is our will, mind, and emotions) need nurturing, and our spirits thrive when we go deep, when we connect with God and others.

So many people write about how to take stock and learn from life. Tim Ferris is one of my favorite productivity gurus. Here's what he advocates (it helps if you journal. I'll be going back through my journal). I would add, as you do this review, pray about what God may be saying to you about it and what he wants for you to learn.

*    *    *    *

I am often asked about how I approach New Year’s resolutions. The truth is that I don’t make them anymore, even though I did for decades. Why the change?

First, I realized that without accountability to someone else, resolutions rarely get accomplished. 

Second, I have found “past year reviews” (PYR) are more informed, valuable, and actionable than blindly looking forward with resolutions. It looks like the following and only takes 30-60 minutes:

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people and activities that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month.
  4. Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
  5. Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in 2018. Get them on the calendar now! That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2018. Don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.

And just remember: it’s not enough to remove the negative. That simply creates a void. Get the positive things on the calendar ASAP, lest they get crowded out. As Peter Drucker said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” 

*    *    *    *

What does your body need to thrive in 2018?

How about your spirit? How will you connect deeply with God and others?

And your soul - how will you nourish your mind and emotions? How will you connect your will to God's will?

What to Do With an Unsafe Family Member

Sun, 24 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Welcome to Christmas 2017. It's an interesting time with intersecting relationships. Blended families and extended families and oddball friends find their way into your living room as the Hallelujah chorus swells in the background. And everyone knows what could happen if ghosts of unpleasant Christmases past come to visit. You've worked so hard to create a safe place for your family and then during this one special time of the year, you open your doors to people in your life who have been unsafe. All of us struggle at one time or another with unsafe family members (people who have been emotionally manipulative or abusive, not just those who have hurt your feelings). Knowing that the stakes are high and that relationships have been fragile in times past, we put on our best behavior and then hold our breath. We hope that no one will transgress the boundaries we've set and that we can all exhale at the end of the day.  Last night I was talking to one of our guests about Pablo Escobar and the Colombian cartel. We had a nice evening and I went to bed, only to wake from a dream where I was running to escape from the cartel who were intent on killing me. Good grief. How is your Christmas going? Whatever night terrors haunt you, it should be abundantly clear to you by now that your home is under attack from an enemy who wants to destroy you. He wants you to live in such fear that you'll be consumed with creating a safe place. Being human is hard. We humans are not superheroes. We are flawed and vulnerable. Not hiding can be hard. Lots of people are not safe to be around. It's hard to know if we'll be accepted or manipulated or in some way used.   Unsafe people often lack self-awareness and show up in your home preoccupied. Running at a deficit, with their own needs demanding attention, they are energy drainers. They leave a trail of bodies in their wake.   Maybe it's time to have the conversation that you've been dreading. Living with an elephant in the room is stressful. Consider establishing boundaries and moving toward the freedom you were made for.   How?   How do you do this? First, recognize the history you have with this family member. If it's been painful, consider that you may need the perspective of someone who can be more objective than you. If you have of a good counselor, they can often help you discern just how dysfunctional the relationship is. Has it gone over into abuse? What do healthy boundaries look like? Here are three strategies to consider: 1. Assess the cost Is the relational wreckage in your rearview mirror part of a pattern or was it a one-off? Perhaps you are naive. Perhaps you struggle with discernment. You may need more help "reading people" than you've had in the past. Or perhaps you don't trust yourself. Feel free to ask for help.  Ask those you trust to discern the difference between a risk worth taking and one that is unacceptable. Also, assess whether the relationship in question is worth it. Is God leading you in that direction? Take time to pray about it and ask God to direct you. 2. Anticipate a response We all make mistakes, but when we hurt one another, it's what we do on the other side of that hurt that will show how much we care about the relationship. You want to trust those who are trustworthy. A friend shows themselves to be trustworthy by caring about how they impact you. You can look at how you feel after having been with them to know if they care. Do you find yourself rehearsing what you are going to say to them the next time you're together because you're afraid you'll come off in the wrong way? Do you feel accepted? 3. Have the hard conversation If you sense that there is an issue that needs to be addressed for your relationship with your family member to progress, consider the possi[...]

The 3 Incarnations of Jesus

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT


At Christmas, we celebrate the incarnation. Jesus took on flesh. The Latin word carne means "flesh." Thus incarnation means literally "putting on flesh."

1. Jesus himself

That's what Jesus, who is spirit, did. He came to earth undressing all the way and then dressed in the muscle, bone and sinew of a human. He walked amongst us.

Only as someone who looked like us could he show us another way to live. It was a miracle, one that we celebrate and sing about every year. God becoming man - the incarnation.

2. Sent ones

But we can see Jesus taking on flesh in two other ways as well. He calls us as disciples to "go and make disciples of all nations." And as we go, he tells us to do as he did and become weak, like little children. He tells us to take on the culture and customs of those to whom we go to.

A missionary is a "sent one." Jesus commissioned us to replicate the incarnation. Hudson Taylor gave us a good model when he went to China. He took off the suit of a westerner and put on the garb of a local.

Only by taking on the appearance, language and culture of those whom we would disciple can we show them that we love them.

3. The body of Christ

There is a third kind of incarnation. That is when Christians are joined together as the body of Christ. 1 Cor. 12 talks about the different functions of a body: "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ."

This third incarnation is something that you see whenever followers of Christ get together and synergize. Because we get together in ways that don't show unity and because we call the buildings in which followers meet "churches," this incarnation often seems to not look much like Jesus.

But it was Jesus' dying prayer that we would come into unity (John 17:20-23). It's what is happening these days in places like Iran where the church is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. This is the manifestation of Jesus that would show the world that he is the son of God - in a way it would be his second coming. 

Why Your Weakness is Actually a Place of Strength

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMT

I don't like feeling weak. And for that reason, here's a verse I love and hate. "For Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." ( 2 Cor. 12:10)   One, of the great mysteries of our lives is to understand the truth in this passage. It's a paradox - God equips us with weakness and uses that as a place of strength. How does that work?    I think it works because when we are weak, we need God. We have the opportunity to depend on him. We have the chance to lean into him and invite him to be strong in our place of weakness. And in so doing, we have the chance for what we both want - greater intimacy.   Let me share with you areas in my life that I have felt weak of late and invite you to make your own list.   Getting sick: I had a cold that hung on for two weeks! I'm finally getting over it.   Our house: We needed expensive repairs to the upstairs. Karen and I lived like refugees on a mattress downstairs for months. And today the water pump needed to be fixed.   My role: Things are always changing at the office. I love the ministry God has given to us, but it's best for everyone if I stay out of operations while still encouraging our staff. This is harder than it looks. I have had to pivot as a leader multiple times as the ministry has grown. I've had to study "How do I grow in my capacity to lead in this new place?"   Leah's new job: We're excited about the chance Leah has to get a new job stocking shelves at the local grocery store. The transition has challenges. Karen and I now have taxi duty - more responsibility!   My friends: So many of them struggle. Health issues. Marriage issues. I carry their struggles in my heart. And many of them live at a distance. I often feel alone and more isolated than I want to be.   In each of these areas where I feel weak, God has a chance to show up if I will lean into him and ask him for his grace. He loves it when I do that. It is what he is waiting for. In a way, it's like me asking him to dance. He wants intimacy more than I do.   Where are you weak? Almost all of us have relationships where we need grace. And we have roles where we feel inadequate. There are resources we lack.   Let me encourage you to read 2 Cor. 12:9-10. Paul says that God's power is made perfect in his weakness.   In America, we belong to a cult of power and worship at the altar of strength. "Everybody loves a winner" we say. We elect powerful politicians. We climb career ladders. The result? We substitute our power for God's power and we don't need God.   It's cultish behavior and looks nothing like Jesus.   Jesus began his ministry by describing how it's the weak who are blessed. I think it's because they need God and are therefore motivated to move toward intimacy.   Where are you weak? Make an inventory. Then, consider Jesus' point that that is where you are actually strong if you will just invite God to do what you cannot.    It's a good thing to live in a weak place.[...]

Why Do We Travel?

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

I was inspired to travel in part because I was born to a traveling family. My parents met in Yosemite, and raised me in Italy and five American towns before I decamped for college. But there was something else that beckoned me to hit the road and explore a world of mysteries after graduating. And since then, much of my life has been devoted to helping others learn how to journey well. What is it in us that calls us out onto the open road? Lance Morrow wrote an essay that helped me understand why we travel in Time Magazine in 1982. It was so good that I cut it out and saved it. It remains the best treatment of the subject I've ever read.  --------------------------------------- Why do we travel? To penetrate mysteries? The earth does not withhold many secrets anymore. Everyone who did not, for one reason or another, travel to China last year is sure to go this year. A tour bus runs down nearly every street in the global village. When does travel degenerate into snobbism or a stunt?  The metaphysics of travel has changed. Television turns us all into what the author Paul Fussell calls "stationary tourists," electronic cosmopolites. The webbing of satellites around the planet, the "remote feeds" from almost anywhere, give us the illusion that we are world travelers, or at least that we are all caught in the planetary claustrum and interconnection. National Geographic specials take us farther, more vividly, than we would have the courage or knowledge to go if we were traveling in body, not just in mind. We sometimes sense that we have reached a moment of critical mass when travel is somehow no longer necessary. The terrestrial explorations have been done. Do we really need to wander through one another's cultures, smelling the cooking? Could we just hook up to each other by videophone, perhaps with a sensory attachment, and simply dial Bali, or Maui or Angkor Wat? Must the body go there when the mind can almost make it by other means? If we do bestir ourselves, we ride out to big airports and climb onto big planes that are as amiably de-cultured as Muzak, as white sound. The jumbo jet is the airborne equivalent of the interstate highway - fast and convenient, but a sort of whispering vacuum. One might as well be stuffed into a cartridge and shot through a pneumatic tube, like interoffice mail. We travel to be in some sense transformed. Travel is process, a transit, a sheer going there as much as an arriving. Travel equals transformation over time. It is everything experienced from start to finish. What happens to travel when it consists of getting on a big plane and eating a tray dinner and having a drink and watching a movie? And then getting off the plane at an airport much like the one we left and riding to a big hotel and finding a room where the toilet seat wears a preposterous paper sash FOR YOUR SANITARY PROTECTION? Our amazement at the world simply curdles into irony. The standard threnody for grand travel always sounds like that. In his book Abroad, Fussell argues that "travel is hardly possible anymore." Once, the traveler embarked upon the world with a sense of spaciousness and mystery. The modern world's adventuring began with the great explorers sailing west from the Renaissance. Next came the age of grand Continental travel, and then a highly literary travel culminating in the wanderings of men like Evelyn Waugh and D.H. Lawrence in years after the first World War. The upper-class English had a genius for travel; they took their imperial self-confidence with them into the world, aloof, invulnerable, their servants laboring under steamer trunks and their gazes trained on cathedrals and pyramids, traveled almost as a means of confirming their own moral superiority. In such cases, travel did not broa[...]

A Prophet Gets No Respect In His Home Town

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Black Friday is a day when we cheapen and devalue things. And it's part of a season where many people do the same thing to those they are closest to. Thanksgiving and Christmas are times of celebration, times of being around family. But that kind of proximity can feel claustrophobic at times. We can feel trapped by how our family sees us. They have watched us grow up. They have seen us at our worst and may limit us with their expectations. Do you at times feel disrespected by those who know you? Do family and friends tend to see you through the lens of past failure? If so, you're in good company. Jesus experienced it and pointed it out to those disrespecting him. Jesus was 30, had been baptized, tangled with the devil in the desert and was ready to begin his public ministry. As Luke reports, Jesus first showed up at his home church. He read Scripture there and people loved it. But what he did next set their teeth on edge and made them want to kill him. Jesus said a provocative thing - "You will ask me to do here in my hometown what I did elsewhere. Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown." And then he cited the example of Elijah.  Disrespecting prophets It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The crowd was furious and "drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff." Jesus escaped, passing through the crowd. And that leaves us with two unanswered questions: How did he escape? And, what was it about his response that made them so mad? Jesus made lots of people mad, but these were the people who had watched him grow up. They had passed by the carpenter shop in which he apprenticed with his father. They had seen him carrying wood around and delivering furniture. They'd seen him on the streets and in the marketplace. Over the years, their expectations had been set. Jesus had become familiar. He'd become ordinary. His greatness had been hidden. Those who knew him thought, "How is it that this young woodworker says he can do miracles? He says we don't recognize God's messengers. How dare he talk down to us!" We disrespect with low expectations And so it is with any of us. We become familiar with one another and we begin to predict behavior based on past actions. We look at a data set and we extrapolate the average. Families are the worst. We disrespect one another with our low expectations. Greatness implies a deviation from the norm. Greatness lies on the outskirts of the bell curve. Yes, if we are living a Groundhog Day life, those who have seen us are going to expect us to keep living it. But realistically, we have to be able to live this way or we would forever be making decisions as though we had no criteria. We'd be hopelessly naive and find ourselves in dangerous places without discernment. Status quo and sneers The problem comes with the contempt that familiarity breeds. We grow up like Jesus did and people think, "Because you've never stirred the pot, you're not going to. You're not going to threaten things that are important to me. You are going to leave the status quo be." And those words of theirs lock us into place. They freeze us in time. We will always do what we've always done as long as our elders keep patting us on the head as though we were still 14 years old. No upper lips may be turned upward in a sneer, but it's still contempt - a diminishment of who we are as an individual. It's a way of exercising power - keeping things as they were. But God delights in upsetting apple carts. His son certainly did. Right out of the gate, he called a spade a spade. And his neighbors wanted to kill him for it. Better to leave and live free It's because of this dynamic t[...]

Working on Problems that Matter

Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

We all work on problems, but how many of them really matter? That is to say, a problem that matters to God. 

Many of us have problems that don't matter to anyone other than ourselves. For example, the problem of finding a video game that is more stimulating than the last one. Or the problem of trying to lower your golf handicap. 

Martin Luther King worked on a problem that mattered, the systemic oppression of an entire race of people. We have the opportunity to follow his lead and work on problems that matter. Here are a few:

Widows who are distressed

Orphans needing love

Young people who feel like orphans

Poor people needing food and water

Oppressed people needing freedom

Young girls caught in the sex trade

Sick people needing healing

People of all stripes needing Jesus

Lonely people needing community

Young people needing discipleship

We need better problems, problems that matter. How much time do we spend thinking about and working on problems that matter?

We can put our problems in perspective. We do that by coming into contact with the problems of other people. If we don't see their problems, we can't know how small our problems may be.

What problems are you currently working on? 

Running from Intimacy

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

We were in a room where, sobbing, my friend shared a secret - he'd been abused as a child. He had felt so scared and ashamed. The small group sat listening, and when he was finished, embraced him.

Years later, the man has deep friendships that trace their origin to that room and that day and his place of vulnerability.

We all want deep connection - intimacy - but do we understand the path to it and its cost? There is no depth to love (or intimacy) without the potential for pain.

Intimacy requires vulnerability. You will never get to an intimate place if you don't first venture to a vulnerable place. Jesus repeatedly showed this.

Vulnerability requires risk. You step into the place of potential pain knowing that you may hurt more a minute from now than you do right now.

Going willingly to a place of potential pain requires either emotional reserves or desperation.

How do we build emotional reserves? By embracing truth and connection. Perhaps it begins with the recognition that you were wrong.

But desperation is a place many of us live. Unable to endure the pain, we find ways to numb it. 

When the desperation rises beyond our ability to numb it, we find ourselves more willing to embrace truth and seek connection. And it's at that point that many of us become willing to risk. Maybe we say, "Yes, I was wrong - I messed up when I did that, will you forgive me?"

The payoff is the potential for intimacy.

How many people are you deeply connected to? The average man in America has two friends, friends who may not guess at his inner desperation.

How many have you trusted with your pain? Hiding from or numbing the pain is natural, but running from intimacy is no way to live. Intimacy is what gives richness to life. 

Today is a good day to think about how to find the intimacy you were made for.

6 Questions That Get You to Destiny

Tue, 7 Nov 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Do you have a destiny? Or is God more hands-off with your life, leaving you to figure it out? It's an important question. If God has a plan for your life, then you can wake up every day seeking to live your life on purpose. Scripture & destiny We see in Scripture God saying, "I know the plans I have for you." (Jer. 29:11) And it makes sense that an all-knowing and personal God would have plans for us. This idea of destiny is embedded in the popular imagination and even our national history. Our country has been built around the concept of "manifest destiny." Whether we trust God to lead us or not, believing that we're special and that he has a plan takes some of the angst of modern life away. We know that our lives were designed, not an accident of nature. We read that "we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  (Eph. 2:10) And that sounds like good news. Life is complicated and filled with hard things. Often we struggle to find our way. We suspect that we have a destiny, but we don't know how to get there. It can feel like we're looking for a hidden treasure map. Yet while the idea of destiny may be part of our zeitgeist, there isn't scriptural support for the notion of a treasure map per se. There is not some divine game plan that we have to guess at or be fearful of missing. 6 questions That said, there are some questions that can help us cut through our confusion and clarify our destiny. I have been asking myself these questions for years, but recently I've seen that the priority in which they are asked and answered is as important as the questions themselves. In other words, by skipping a question, I can get ahead of myself and miss God's guidance. If I haven't wrestled with the first question and have skipped ahead, I will always have identity issues and will try to answer the "who am I?" question with the answers to the other questions. 1. WHO?    Who am I? 2. WHY?    What is my purpose? 3. HOW?    How will I accomplish it? 4. WHAT?  What is my plan? 5. WHO WITH?   Who are my teammates? 6. WHERE?   Where will we go? Prioritizing the questions To understand the priority of the following six questions, it may be helpful to look at the lives of some key figures in the Bible. For example, Paul. When Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus, he talked to Paul about who he was first. He confronted Paul on his mistaken identity and told him what his purpose and plan was. (Acts 26) Paul later learned the specifics of the plan and who his teammates were. He wasn't even clued into his destination until once he had gotten started on his road to walking out his destiny. This underscores the fact that Jesus is much more interested in who we are than what we do. And when it's time to do something together, he's more interested in our dependence on him than in the quality of our plan. Other heroes of the faith were similar. Look at Moses, Joseph, or David. They had to struggle with identity before they were in a place where they wouldn't confuse their assignment with who they were. And even then, the details of how, what, and where were not revealed. God didn't want to undermine their dependence on him, so he revealed the details later, often on a daily or moment-by-moment basis. In dependence, we get to deep trust, and that in turn gets us to the intimacy that we were made for and that God so wants to give us. Yes, God has a plan for your life. And it begins with understanding who you are as a s[...]

What it Takes to Walk Into Destiny

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT


"Let my people go!" has been the cry of liberators down through the centuries. It was William Wallace's as well.

William Wallace (aka Braveheart) was a Moses for the Scottish people. He confronted the king who was oppressing them with a message of liberty.

Yet, like Moses or Gandhi or MLK, Wallace did not get to see his people walking in freedom. Liberators rarely get that privilege. They expend their lives breaking the existing power structures that subjugate the masses and then they die. 

Of course those in power almost never go off quietly into the night. They strike back and kill. And it is left to the next generation to walk over the Jordan and into freedom. In Wallace's case, there was a nobleman's son, Robert the Bruce, who picked up the standard and finished the job.

But Robert the Bruce was not an obvious successor to Wallace's efforts. He had to consider the cost of freedom and choose to pay it. Destiny comes at a price. Real freedom almost always requires sacrifice - sometimes of lives. They don't call people "freedom fighters" for nothing.

So that begs the question: What freedoms if any would you be willing to die for? 

The original pilgrims forfeited their lives for freedom, nearly half dying in the first winter off the Mayflower. The Greatest Generation fought and died so that their children, the Baby Boomers, got to live in peace. 

God's strategy for freedom is often multi-generational. It's true in nature - almost any animal or any bird will fight and die to protect its young. And so it is that we get to fight for our children too. 

Robert the Bruce might never have led his nation into freedom without William Wallace. It took him years to fully understand Wallace's radicalism and courage. And it took time after that to walk into destiny. Perhaps Robert the Bruce was more political in his outlook. He had a lot to lose, but at some point, he chose to put in on the line to fight for freedom.

You may not be a Braveheart, but maybe you can be a Robert the Bruce. Maybe there are people that you need to lead into freedom. Is there anyone who has preceded you and laid down their lives so that you could walk in freedom? What price do you put on it and what price are you willing to pay?

When You Realize Who You Really Are

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

All your life you think about the question, “Who am I?” Or at least it’s true for me. When we can get clear of the clutter and confusion of everyday living and peer into the deep well of our soul, what is it that we see reflected back?

For me, there are two design principles that our Creator used when he built me.

First: I’m deeply loved. I’m connected to a vast universe that was created out of love. And, I'm connected to the Creator himself. I’m not isolated or deficient. Those connections are an essential part of who I am.

Friends and family remind us of that deep connection. And loneliness is what you feel in the absence of the reminders. 

Second: I'm called. I’m purpose-driven to be a booster rocket. God designed me to get things off the launch pad of possibility and into the thin air of reality. I have an ability to dream and to help people dream. God designed me to help them build the dream on the launch pad of possibility.

There I do the hard work of defying gravity. God gave me a passion for pulling dreams of the ethereal, uncommitted world of imagination and to begin speaking about them as though they were real. It’s an act of faith. The Bible calls it "the substance of things hoped for." (Heb. 11:1)

It extends to identity. When people begin dreaming of themselves as a beloved son or daughter, this is at first an act of faith. Perhaps everything they’ve experienced has given them evidence that it’s not true. But then if the truth is that they are loved, to dream it and believe in it usually requires the faith of others.

This is identity work. It often requires help from someone older and wiser who can love you to a new level. A surrogate father. A caring counselor. Deliverance ministry. Righteous teaching.

Have you finished your identity work? Do you know that you're loved? And if that's a settled issue, have you moved on to your purpose? Do you know why God put here on earth?

Don't get tangled up in answering purpose questions if you haven't settled the bigger question of who you really are. You are enough. You are OK. You don't have to prove anything.

Do you have anyone in your life who can help settle those questions? Andrew Shearman was that for me. He helped me to see that I was born to be loved. Let me invite you to listen to him in this video.

A Global Network of Kingdom-Focused Hostels

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

For a while now, a number of us have been incubating a dream. Scott Kwak was the first one to step out in faith and commit to it.   We believe that God wants to see His people bringing His Kingdom to dark and neglected places around the world. We believe that to do so, He wants to use a network of Kingdom-focused hostels & guesthouses run by alumni Racers and their parents.Scott built the first one in Siem Reap. Where else are you going to pay $14 for a room just a 25 minute tuk-tuk ride from Angkor Wat? Where else can you get a bed in a top 10%-rated guesthouse? Where else can you connect with people from your tribe who can help you find ways to plug into ministry wherever you are?Since starting in 2016, Scott and his new wife Christina have not only housed multiple World Race teams in the guesthouse, but have been breaking even and have had strong occupancy rates. A year ago our team went to Thailand and Cambodia to see how we could begin to build a global network of such hostels.Hostels in our network will be known for their warm ambience, focus on sustainability and Kingdom-advancing relevance. They'll be places where Racer alumni can pour into new generations of Racers seeing the world with new eyes. New Strategies The Bible tells us that, "He is not willing that any should perish." (2 Peter 3:9) Jesus commissioned us to go and make disciples of all nations. The dream we share is that a generation of young people would rise up and do just that. When just 1% of the population in places like Thailand follow Jesus, why would we do anything else? When so many young girls are caught in the sex trade, why wouldn’t we sell out to setting them free?You may be saying, "Yes, but how?" How do you bring hope when language and culture are so different? It's a fair question.Old methods no longer work. We need to innovate. We need new strategies. That's where the hostels can make a difference. Imagine a place where you can go and the concierge is more focused on helping you meet the needs of others than he is in meeting your needs. Imagine a place where it feels like home away from home wherever you are.We all need some practical stepping stones to help us connect to our dreams. That's why our group went to Southeast Asia. We want to make it easier for you to build the Kingdom around the world. We're taking the Cambodia model and expanding it. What's Next? Scott and Christina have turned over the reins in Cambodia and moved on to Thailand to repeat the process. We have a team of long-term missionaries there working with them. And we're expanding into other countries.In the next round, we're looking at expanding to countries like Nepal, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. We're going to ask future squads to send teams to run them and we're going to ask parents to go or invest.Innovation is what allows us to stay relevant as the world changes. Our mission stays the same, but our methods will constantly need to adapt as the world looks different today than it did yesterday. What do you think? We're looking for people who can see the vision and want to partner with us in building it. If you'd like to learn more, let us know.[...]

The Importance of Grandchildren

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Today our eldest daughter Talia gives birth to our third grandchild - a baby girl. The C-section is scheduled for 10 am. Even though it's still early as I write this, the family text string is abuzz with activity.  It helps that the first two grandsons were such a success. Mars has the makings of a young entrepreneur and Remy is precocious in his people skills. Karen and I love being grandparents. I love taking Mars and Remy on adventurous walks in the woods or playing horsey with them in the house. They constantly delight us with their imagination and new discoveries.  And as far as I can tell, our experience is not unique. I think we are all hard-wired to one day feel the thrill of the grandparent stage of life.  Yes, many of us may not have biological children. But the opportunity to have spiritual sons and daughters who we pour into is available to all of us. Paul writes to the new believers in Corinth, "you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel." 1 Cor. 4:15 What Paul means is that he gave those he's writing to new life in the spirit. He taught them how to begin living an abundant life. And he did so with the expectation that they would impart to others what they had received from him (2 Tim. 2:2). Having spiritual grandchildren is one of the best things you can do in life. The same deep satisfaction that Karen and I experience in being grandparents is available to all of us. Here are four reasons why: 1. God made us to be fruit-bearers  Jesus tells us, "I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last..." (John 15:16) God puts the desire and capacity to bear fruit in our DNA. Too many Christians never move past the early stages of their faith into a space where they are walking out their destiny as fruit-bearers.  When you find yourself functioning as you were designed, it is deeply gratifying. 2. They connect us to purpose We all have a set of values. Those of us who follow Jesus make his values our own - he calls it a "gospel." We believe that there is a kingdom where a life of love and joy are available to us all. Jesus has called us to share this free gift with others and to lead them into life in the kingdom. This gives us purpose.  When you help others to walk in the freedom that Jesus promises and they in turn do the same for others, then you become a spiritual grandparent. When you see your spiritual grandchildren continue that generative process, you see the power of the gospel. You see what it is to partner with God in accomplishing his purpose. 3. They become stewards of our inheritance We all die and have the opportunity to give away the things that are important to us - to leave an inheritance to others, whether tangible or spiritual.  What do you value in life? Yes, there's the stuff that you own. But what values are so important to you that you would die for them? And who are you giving them away to? Do you have a plan? Grandchildren are the natural stewards of the inheritance that we leave. They are the ones who will carry it forward into the future after we are gone. 4. They become our companions We all need to belong. Over 40% of older people report feeling lonely. They need companions. Someone to share life with. Grandchildren are the perfect antidote to the problem of loneliness. In Spain, grandparents often walk their grandchildren to school. They teach their grandchildren about life. My mom's dad taught me to fish. And[...]

Las Vegas: A Prayer

Tue, 3 Oct 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Another city. Another tragedy.

We grieve with the families who are changed forever. We grieve for a nation newly gripped by fear. We weep with those who weep. Hear our prayer:


We ask for you to surround these families and all those involved in this horrific event. We don’t understand the enormity of this situation. In this moment, we don’t try to. We simply ask for peace for the broken hearts.

We know you draw near to the broken hearted and we thank you for that promise. We know your heart is broken too. We feel your grief, and we share our tears with you as liquid prayers. We cry out to you. We are at a loss for words, and so we simply say, help us. We are lost and wandering in this world and we say take us into your arms.

Give us your grace to get through this. Empower the people to love one another well in the time of grief. We pray for the days and months ahead when the hole in the hearts of family members becomes gaping, please fill it. 

Bring them out into the place of your grace and mercy. Show their tender hearts how to heal. You lost a son, so you know the pain they face ahead. Surround them with support from others. Give them your peace that passes understanding. Help us to love them well, as you love them. 

Oh God, hear our prayer

You Need to Walk Through Brokenness Before You Appreciate Grace

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Young people these days are growing up in a world overflowing with opportunity and options. Even pain becomes optional. We find ways to numb it or avoid it. As Beth Moore says, "We've lost our tolerance for pain and given ourselves to whining."

The irony is that the whining about pain delays the healing of pain. Only by going through the pain do we stop focusing on symptoms and begin addressing the root causes.

God's intent is that we live free, but it comes at a price. As Paul counsels, "It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom." Galatians 5:13

The world we've created is broken, so we need a journey into brokenness to recover reality. We need to exhaust our own resources and declare bankruptcy. We need to feel emptiness if we are ever to crave filling.

The only way we can ever abdicate control is if we see that a life based on control ends up in brokenness.

What is a parent who loves their child and only wants the best things in life for them to do? Probably the best thing we as parents can do is to allow them to journey to a place where they are bankrupt and in pain and fall at the feet of Jesus.

They grow up as members of the wealthiest generation in the history of the world, and of course they prefer to hang onto their options and resources until the last possible minute.

It's a struggle as old as time. Read chapter 5 of Galatians - in it you can see that an entire church needs help with it. Anything else but bankruptcy will lead to religion. Any easy prayer besides the prayer of brokenness and desperation will lead to a side door of sin management.
We must walk with people into their brokenness before we offer the solution of grace. If we take shortcuts, then we just create religious people who want to know what else they have to do to please God.
It is easy to get distracted by the conversation around identity or the need for trust-building. Jesus didn't waste much time in those conversations. All he wanted to know was if you were ready to sell out and follow him.

How to Heal Blind Eyes: 100% Dependence

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

This story from World Racer Nicole Wolf tells of a time when she was sick nothing made sense. She was in Nepal and at her weakest and then God used her in a miraculous way... I’m on a seven-day trek up Himalayan foothills with my team. Objective: bring much-requested Bibles to the most remote hills of Nepalese villages. Share the good news to those who have never heard it. Pray for the witch doctors. Heal every sick person they bring to us. It’s entirely God’s grace that I’m still sick for almost all of it.I have nothing to give, and that means I'm dependent on Him for everything.  We stop outside a mud and bamboo hut carved into the near vertical face of a mountain of rock and dust. The barefoot family that scratches out a living here stands before us, holding sick babies. They’ve never seen foreigners before. They’re all dehydrated, underfed and covered in dirt. I’m empty handed, covered in dust like them. I’m unable to speak their language, so I can’t even give a word of comfort. I have absolutely nothing to give them. If God does not heal, the people will stay sick.All the pressure is on Him, exactly where it should be. I didn’t think this is what I’d be doing on this trip. My fundraising platform said something about empowering communities to help themselves, through their own people. I didn't picture that being desperately asking Jesus to radically heal random sick people.  But I can see in this moment that introducing the people to Jesus who does all the healing is a very good strategy. “Bring us anyone who is sick, and Jesus will heal them”, we said.They bring us all the babies who are not growing. We pray for all the babies. We pray for all the little children with chest colds and headaches. “You need to pray for our grandmother,” the family says, “she’s up making sacrifices on the mountain”. The people here are mostly animists, worshiping all things in nature, and sacrificing often to keep spirits happy. The witch doctors promise healing, but the people are still sick. Finally she comes. “What is hurting?” we ask. “My headache, my heart problems, my knees, elbows, my back hurts…” she tells us through the translator. We pray. She is immediately healed. Unblinkingly, she asks for more prayer. “My cough, my eyes” she says. We pray. Her cough goes away.“Can you see?” She doesn’t indicate an answer. The translator tells me, “She can only see black, like a black cloud”. I have nothing more to give, but I’m completely convinced that Jesus is going to completely heal her, and make His name famous in these hills. I don’t know how He’s going to do it, it just know He is.“Jesus is going to heal your eyes”, I tell her. It’s a very simple faith. Foolish even, to believe something so bold.A more dignified person might call it quits and save face.  But being sick with a parasite made me lose a lot of dignity. I'm fresh off a week of having to wear an open-butt hospital gown, pooping myself, borrowing money and needing someone else to carry my backpack up the mountains. This is how God makes me desperat[...]

How to Make It Through a Storm

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

My friend Cesar is texting me this morning from Puerto Rico as Hurricane Maria's 155 mph winds lash his building. He was on the 15th floor, but when the building began to sway, he moved down to the lobby.

"Both elevators have water dripping. A window was left open and water is coming in."

Text is an amazing thing. You can be going through a hurricane and still give reports from the middle of it.

Jesus tells us that "in life we will have storms."* And then he tells us to take heart. But when you're in a storm, sometimes all you feel is fear. Your fight or flight instinct kicks in.

What do I text back to Cesar? What do we tell anyone who is going through a storm? What would you text him?


* John 16:33

Are You Willing to Die for Your Faith?

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

I have a quick question: Would you die for your faith? Earlier this year Coptic Christians were gunned down by radical Islamics in Egypt. Killed for their faith. That kind of thing happens all the time these days.  If you're a Christ-follower in that part of the world, the question of dying for your faith is not an abstraction. Neither the Copts (who were in Egypt long before the Muslims) nor the Islamics are confused about their faith. But we in the West are. We struggle to believe. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except by me." (John 14:6) We want to believe that Jesus is one of multiple alternatives.  The real question is not "will faith survive in Egypt?" but "will it survive an America where less than 5% of our children believe the Bible?" World Race & the Coptic community When the first World Race squad was in Egypt in 2006 (read the stories here), they traveled to a Coptic community headed by Bishop Thomas. Bishop Thomas is a leader of the persecuted church in Egypt. A couple of years after we visited his community, he gave a speech talking about how Muslims in Egypt are killing Christians. He was immediately denounced by Islamics. A Shiekh said, "Muslims who will spill your blood …. [M]y helpers will sever the legs of all those who assist the traitor [Bishop Thomas].” That's ironic. Thomas says, "we are being persecuted" and his persecutors threaten his life for saying that. Maybe I'm missing something, but didn't they just prove his point? Willing to die for our faith I was catching up on the news recently - the Iraqi army had ISIS surrounded in the city of Mosul. And all of a sudden, there was a familiar face in the middle of all the violence. It was our partner, Dave Eubank. As he shares in this letter, Dave is not confused about how to follow Jesus in a world racked by violence. He is prepared to die for his faith. Nor is he alone - his wife and children trust Jesus with his life and sometimes accompany him behind enemy lines to bring aid to the persecuted (as this documentary shows).  The organization I lead exists to make disciples who are willing to die for their faith. Yes, we work hard to keep them safe and have a world class risk management system, but we look for young people who are sold out to Jesus and we seek to further strengthen their faith.  In a world awash in bad news, we have heard and believed the good news. And we are eager to share it. Not confused A core group of missionaries at Adventures regularly puts their lives at risk. Some of us and many of our partners are not only willing to allow sheikhs to spill our blood in the name of Jesus, but we take that faith and put it to the test on the front lines.  We are raising up young people who are not confused about their faith. When I emailed Dave Eubank, he wrote back, "I was just thinking if you how you follow Jesus and grow people so well - I keep meeting your team and some are with us - you add to His Kingdom and beauty."  Dave is talking about many of you. Many of you are standing with him. His life is a challenge to us. Let me encourage you to ask yourself, "Is my life more governed by fear or by a desire to make Jesus Lord no matter the cost?" Ask the Lord what he wants from you. If you [...]

A Free Course: "Learning How To Cope with Pain"

Thu, 7 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Some of you were raised by amazing parents who taught you everything you needed to know about pain. You learned how to deal with the inevitable hard knocks in life. 

But most of us struggle with pain. We ask questions that seem to never get answered. A generation is growing up misunderstanding the role of pain in their lives.

As a consequence, many young people don't know what to do with pain. But the pain of failure and the pain of hurt feelings is normal. We need it to grow. 

Life happens to us. It’s painful and we draw conclusions, but are they the right ones? Sometimes, our parents didn’t help us. With the best of intentions, they may have sought to protect us from all kinds of pain, some of it necessary. So when we find ourselves in pain, we don’t know how to process it. Some of us get mad at God, “Why did you let this happen to me?” we ask. 

This course helps us to better understand what God had in mind when he gave us the gift of pain. Here's the first week.

Interested in trying it out? I'll take up to 8 people in the first group. Your commitment: To read a blog a day and to reflect on your own life for at least 15 minutes. Just put your name and email in the comment section or in an email to me at the link above.

The Gift of Pain

Sat, 2 Sep 2017 00:00:00 GMT


For those coping with pain, The Gift of Pain by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancy is an excellent book. Brand and Yancey conclude that we need pain. The following is an excerpt from a review by Craige McMillan. 

The middle of Dr. Brand’s book is a detective story. The patients that he began serving felt no pain. Because they felt no pain, his patients constantly injured themselves. Injuries seemingly never healed. Amputations resulted. The medical community had long ago written the chain of events off as part of the disease: leprosy. 

But as Dr. Brand learned, a life without pain is a dangerous life,
indeed. And it is not only lepers, but diabetics, who are often
afflicted with this condition. When he came to the U.S. Public Health
Service, a project was begun to duplicate the body’s warning system of
pain. It was hoped that such a system would give these patients the same
warning sign regarding impending injury that pain provides, thus
preventing damage to the body. None was ever discovered.

It is the third section of Dr. Brand’s book that will be of the most
intense interest and use to those suffering from pain. With the
exception of the patients Dr. Brand describes, that is likely to include
most of us at some point in our lives. He writes:

“My work with pain-deprived patients has proved to me that pain protects us from destroying ourselves. Yet I also know that pain itself can destroy, as any visit to a chronic pain center will show. Unchecked pain saps physical strength and mental energy, and can come to dominate a person’s entire life. Somewhere between the two
extremes, painlessness and incessant chronic pain, most of us live out
our days.”

It is in this third section that Dr. Brand weaves together a lifetime
of medical and human knowledge about pain: how it protects us, and how
we can prevent it from overwhelming us. “What takes place in a person’s
mind is the most important aspect of pain,” he writes, “and the most
difficult to treat or even comprehend. If we can learn to handle pain at
this third stage, we will most likely succeed in keeping pain in its
proper place, as servant and not master. Pain and pleasure come to us not as opposites but as twins, strangely joined.”

How to Become a Lifelong Learner

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

It's that time of year - schools are opening their doors all over the world. But who needs school? You may if you need the certificate they provide or if you need someone to help guide your learning process. But if not, the good news is that it is easier than ever to learn the things you're interested in. It used to be that a college education was the key to staying ahead in the job market. Access to thousands of free online courses has set a new standard. Now savvy recruiters look at your attitude toward learning. They ask the question, "are you a lifelong learner?"  Becoming one makes you more interesting, better equipped, and more productive among other things.  How do you become one?  The sum total of human knowledge now doubles every year. And even that rate is accelerating. We need strategies for learning. Here are four: 1. Foster curiosity. Ask questions. Explore new avenues of thought. The world is full of opportunities to learn - seize the ones you come across. 2. Read more. Youtube may be easier, but books give you greater depth and control over the scope of your learning. 3. Redefine learning. It's not what a teacher delivers, but what a student grasps and masters. Take charge of your learning process. 4. Use your time productively. We have 16 hours in a day. Schedule your days and set learning goals. Isaac Asimov is a good example of what's possible - he wrote over 500 books about history, science fiction, physics, chemistry and multiple other subjects.  What resources are available? So many resources available! The following websites are just a few of the bigger ones. Spend some time checking them out - see if it doesn't spur your curiosity. Blinkist Non-fiction book notes Code Academy Free coder training Coursera Top universities offer free classes  CreativeLive Live stream courses for free or pay later to view later Duolingo Learn a foreign language Freebooks Free digital books edX Ivy League level courses for free iTunes U Free podcast lectures taught by top best professors Lynda Over 6,000 courses on just about everything Khan Academy More than 4,000 free videos  Mays Book Summaries David Mays summarized top books Brainly Ask and answer any question Sparknotes Book notes  TED Experts sharing their stuff in less than 18 minutes  Udacity Free college courses YouTube EDU Thousands of free videos [...]

Emilia Was Blind & Now Sees - A Story of Physical Healing

Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Kate Campbell leads projects at Adventures. She led a project in the jungles of Peru last month and met Emilia. What happened next is remarkable. Walking up to her house, I feel a weight of sadness and despair lingering over her home. Her name is Emilia. Her adult son, Manuel, sits at the opening that served as a “door” to their home, staring blankly out into the Amazonian growth, looking beyond to the river. Emmanuel. God with us. As we approach, I sense that God was waiting for us to meet them there. So we stand, me and my gaggle of high school girls, waiting to see what God had for us there. We begin to talk with them, share with them, and Emilia sits down, painfully, next to Manuel, and begins telling us her woes: her husband left her, and now has been dead many years; her son Manuel’s wife also left him; she can’t see clearly, her eyes don’t work; she’s sick in the body and the bones. The Lord makes it clear to me: she’s also sick in the heart and in the spirit. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 I share this Word with her, and the moaning continues, under-the-breath mumbling, incomprehensible, but it’s quickly drowned out by the faithful prayers of the Saints -- these young women, these Ambassadors, stirred by God’s goodness, praying blessing and thankfulness over Emilia and her son. We pray for knees and for feet, and we pray for her back and her bones, and we pray for joy to overflow. We read stories of Jesus to them, and we ask if they understand. They nod with feeble smiles. Go back to their grumbling. Leah decides it’s time to wash her feet. They are dusty with days of wandering her wooden home, of dangling them from a hammock, of brushing them against the dirt path. We get a large basin, and pour out our water, from our water bottles, our drinking water, our source of life, over her cracked, aching feet. We wash, and we pray. “After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet.” John 13:5 We see a joy come over her as we pour out our water, and our prayers, over her feet. And her countenance changes. It’s like the spirit of despair has fled, unable to linger in the presence of the servant’s act. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” John 7:38 We say goodbye, and we pray blessings. We come back the next day. This time, it’s just Emilia. She’s sitting in her hammock. And I feel the authority to step into her home, and make the despair and sadness go running. In Jesus’s name. We pull up a bench, and she crawls, hands and knees, from her hammock, to the bench. The bones are aching again. I sit next to her on this bench, and her mumbles begin to spill out again and as I try to decipher her words, the young women have already begun reading Scripture over her. They’ve already begun praying. Emilia lifts her shirt to show us her back, where the aches have made their home. Leah and I begin to massage it, relieving some pain, praying our prayers. Suddenly, the bench fal[...]

There is a War On - Will You Fight?

Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Dave Eubank is a friend and partner who is working to bring aid to the wounded in Iraq. Dave understands that there is a global fight for righteousness and freedom in progress. He's not confused about the need to fight the good fight. He has heard Jesus' call and responded. He wrote me an update: "Today we treated over 30 civilians who were shot by ISIS as they fled and held a father as he cried for his two daughters shot dead just now by ISIS. He called out to God and wailed in anguish. I could only hold him and pray." There are not enough people like Dave in the world. Who will help him? People read the news about the fight. The world's response is "be afraid." In contrast, Jesus' constant message was "don't be afraid." He commissioned us to share good news in conflict zones. God asked Isaiah, "Who will I send, who will go for us?" (Isaiah 6:8) Who indeed? Recently I received an email from Zeb. He is a former racer who spent a couple of years with our team in India. Zeb wrote: "I'm with Dave now. We're at the front lines in Mosul now. I'm driving an armored ambulance. We're waiting for a colonel and his troops. Under Dave's leadership I've been able to help evacuate many wounded and elderly IDP's (and some corpses) from the front. Just last night we had a family group come in. All the children were burned badly all over their bodies. I prayed and wept for one little 8 year old girl as I carried her to the doctors gurney. She was wailing from the burns which were a couple of days old. It's rough work but I thank God for the opportunity to love and serve Him and others here. It's all for Jesus and His Kingdom!" Some things in life are worth fighting for. I was thinking about how we have to fight to establish safety in our families if we are to raise kids who thrive. A majority of young people are raised in broken homes, often with absentee dads. We need to fight for them. And around the world widows and orphans are in distress. The Bible says that "true religion is to care for them." Many of us here in America have made friends with fear. Some of us may not realize that we are worshiping at the altar of fear. Fear has scaled our fences and tiptoed past our gardens. It has slipped inside our homes and taken up residence there. At our Adventures base this summer, we have trained hundreds of young missionaries. They have heard God's question, "who will go?" And they are answering, "here am I, send me." They may be young, but most are not confused about what's at stake. They have been wounded by an enemy who wants to kill, steal and destroy all that is good. People are in bondage around the world. And God wants his kids back. His strategy is us. He sending us. There's a war on. Sometimes there are bullets. Yes, it is risky. I say, let's go. [...]