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As Gandalf talked with Frodo in the mountain, he shared this advice with the young hobbit who was despairing the situation they were in, and even though it is from a book/movie, such advice is so valuable for us.

 

 

 

 

 

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This picture is from a flower clock that I saw when I visited Geneva Switzerland in June 2004. Clocks are reminders that time continues to tick away. When I was young, I felt like I had all kinds of time. Now that I have more yesterdays than I will have tomorrows in this world, I realize how short the time we are given actually is.

I have been given time to live in this life at this specific time in human history. I do not want to waste my time wondering why I am living now as opposed to some other time in history. My time in this life has been appointed to me now. I have been given time to live out what was written in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His craftsmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which Go prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Each day I try to remind myself not to waste a day. I have today and that is all that is certain. My desire is to make each day count. As a teacher, it means looking for opportunities to encourage my students and instill a sense of hope for the future as they try to learn English. As a servant of Jesus, it means taking time to pray, sending that message of encouragement, sharing God’s love with others. More and more for me it means valuing the little things as well as the big things. Opportunities are not found only on a ministry trip to another country, they are waiting for us each day as we go about our daily lives. We never know where, when, or how the small things for us can lead to something much bigger. But even if it is only a small thing that does not seem to lead much, I try to remember what Jesus said in Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat……….. I tell you whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for Me.” As I try to show His love, Jesus considers it as being done to Him. That alone should be sufficient motivation to make each day count by showing the love of God to others whether in little ways or big ways.

Where will the road go?

 

 

 
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He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” A quote from Lord of The Rings that illustrates the thoughts I normally have as a new year approaches.

I often wonder if the Lord had shown me all that was about to transpire in my life when I stepped out to follow Him, if I might have backed off out of concern or from feeling overwhelmed. At times it may feel frustrating to not know the whole answer and be told to trust, but when I think about how in Psalm 119 it says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path”, I realize it is for the best to not know all before we step out. His light for us on the path guides us step by step. A lesson I have learned, and yet still need to learn, is that it is WHO is guiding us that is more than the path itself. If I can remember that it is Jesus who loves us and died for us who is our guide, it makes the experience of the journey more worthwhile.

One example is my involvement with my Brasilian friends. My interest in Brasil was peaked by my friends Isis and Eduardo from Brasil who lived in my city while in graduate school. Through my friendship with them and others from Brasil, I had the recurring thought that someday I wanted to go to Brasil. My church sends a group there each June and after hearing there would be interest in having a teacher go, the wheels were set in motion for my first trip in June 2013. As a result of that trip, I studied Português for one year at the University of Nebraska. This led to me meeting more Brasilians at UNL, continuing to practice my Português, and best of all enjoying friendship with many Brasilians at UNL. Following the path that God has before us is a process of letting it unfold as we follow His voice. My current involvement with my Brasilian friends portrays that so well. I met some friends from there, stepped out to go on a trip there to serve, ended up studying the language, and now many friendships and opportunities are part of my life.

As I write this, I wonder, where will the path lead this year as I step out my door. Where will Jesus guide me to this year. As Bilbo said at the end of the Return of the King movie, “I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”

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The picture above is from Ouro Preto in Brasil. It is a road with many curves. It reminds me of what a professor said once. God does not always lead in a straight line. He shared this in my Pentatuch class as he showed paths of Abraham’s journeys laid over a map of the bible lands. Abraham followed God all over the place in his journey to where he was called to go. Fitting that God first said to Abraham to go to the land that I will show you in Genesis 12. In other words, get going but you won’t know where to yet, just follow my call.

Each year when New Year’s is getting close, I wonder where God will lead me, more specifically, who will God bring into the path of my life. My Christmas Eve celebration portrays what I am trying to say very well. I enjoyed Christmas Eve at the home of friends from Brasil along with other friends from Brasil. Interesting for me is the fact that I did not know any of them last year at this time.

Last year at this time, I was preparing for guests to come from Brasil, had just finished my first semester of Português, and enjoyed spending time with some students from Brasil. Early last year, one student told me of Juliano a professor from her university that was coming here as a visiting professor and asked if I would be willing to help him. We skyped together a few times and messaged on facebook. Juliano arrived in Lincoln in August. I have enjoyed spending time with Juliano and his family.

I also had the opportunity to meet Rodrigo and his family in August. Rodrigo is also a visiting professor from Brasil. It has been a pleasure to spend time with Rodrigo and his family too. Rodrigo and I began meeting for lunch at the East Campus Student Union and through those lunches I met some undergraduate students from Brasil. That culminated in hosting a Thanksgiving lunch at my church with Brasilian food thanks to Juliano’s wife Wal and brigadeiro thanks to Rodrigo’s wife Flavia. It has been my privilege to get to know the students and to have lunch with them. The week of Thanksgiving, I was able to help one of the students with her mother’s visit. That made my Thanksgiving week a memorable one.

As I sat with my friends on Christmas Eve, I reflected on the the fact that I knew none of them one year ago, and yet, I consider them my good friends. Friends that I hope to visit in Brasil in the future. I also thought about all of the students I met through them. Then I wondered something. Who will God bring across the path of my life next year? What adventures lie ahead for me in 2015?

In the church we often hear women talk about being a Proverbs 31 woman because that passage of scripture has a lot to say about what it means to be a godly woman and wife. The reason I say I want to be a Proverbs 31 man is due to how this passage begins. It begins with wisdom for a son about what not to do if one is a king- chase after woman and drink too much alcohol. In other words don’t live a messed up life. Then the advice goes on to what I have found to be inspiring words about what it means to be a godly king/leader.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The exhortation is to be a leader who looks out for the welfare of others specifically those who cannot defend themselves in life- the poor and needy. God wants men to watch out for those who cannot watch out for themselves, to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to care for and about those in need.

Of course here in America we do not have a king. The principle is valid for all men who would be leaders in their churches, communities, families etc. If we want to know what God wants from us, we need look no further than the people suffering in our midst, in our community, in our nation, and  in our world. This makes me think about the children living in difficult circumstances of poverty or abuse. It makes me think about the single moms who are trying to make a go of it for themselves and their kids but need a helping hand and at times need someone to speak up for them. It makes me think about the refugees I meet and the hardships they face as they try to make a new life here in America.

So yes I want to be a Proverbs 31 man, even though in churches we only hear about women being a Proverbs 31 woman.

Psalm 90:12 says- “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” But what does that mean? Are we to just live in morbid fear that we will one day die? The rest of the Psalm following verse 12 gives insight as it discusses living for God.

We are only given a short time here in this life. Our days are numbered. What is important is how we live those days. My desire this year is to be better at making each day count for the Lord by showing His love to others. The older I get, the more reflective I become. I realize there have been far too many days that I have wasted. There have been opportunities to show the love of God to others that I have not followed through on or have squandered due to my own selfishness.

The theme for me as I ponder the New Year is and my desire is to day by day be better at making each day count in my relationship with Jesus and showing His love to others. The number of days that I have left in this life grows shorter as I get older. Making each day count can be about small things, not only big dreams. Often it is in those moments we think of as small that can lead to significant things. A chance meeting with someone can lead to a friendship and opportunities to share Christ with them. I had such an opportunity last summer when I met a new friend from Brasil by “chance”. Actually God had arranged my chance to meet my friend from Brasil. It began with meeting for coffee after being connected by someone else. Our friendship grew and his wife came to visit for the holidays. Over the holidays both of them made the decision that they wanted Jesus in their lives.

However, there have been other opportunities I have missed out on over the years. That is why the theme for me this year is to day by day make each day count. Each day is a gift from God to be able to participate in His wonderful plan.

One of my greatest blessings in my work and ministry is the opportunity I have to meet people from so many different countries and cultures. On this Christmas Day I am mindful of the words of Jesus about God’s gift to us that we remember on Christmas Day. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” When I consider those words- For God so loved the WORLD, it causes me to think about my friends living in Lincoln who are from many different countries and my friends I have met in my journeys in several countries

It is my wonderful privilege to have the opportunity to share God’s love with my international friends. Yesterday I went to Christmas Eve service with friends from Brasil and then I shared Christmas Eve dinner with friends from Honduras. In the past I have shared Christmas in Romania, and with friends from Brasil, Mexico, Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Vietnam. Honduras, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Congo, Hungary, France, Taiwan, Burma, and El Salvador living here in Lincoln. Every time I have shared Christmas with my international friends I think about how each culture is unique and yet they all share one thing in common. God loves the people in all cultures and countries.

God is our artistic creator who created all of us. We, His creation, were alienated from Him because of our sin. God had a  plan to bring us back to Him. He sent His very best, His one and only Son. Jesus is God’s gift to us. A gift sent to show us God’s love.

Merry Christmas

On Thanksgiving Day we tend to give thanks for the good things in our lives that God has given such as family, friends, homes, jobs, education etc. However, can we give thanks in the difficulties of life? Something that Jesus did is often overlooked when we read about the Last Supper.

Think about the drama of the moment. Jesus knew He was going to be crucified, killed, so he could die for our sins. Jesus knew His time of great suffering would begin shortly after the Last Supper. He took the wine and bread which would be the symbols of his blood and body and symbols of the New Convenant between God and man and shared them with his disciples. Before sharing the wine and the bread He gave thanks. That part of the Last Supper is often overlooked in discussions about the Last Supper. We discuss what the wine and bread are, what the meaning of communion is, and other aspects of the Last Supper. Rightly so we focus on the suffering of Jesus that would follow the Last Supper. However, we tend to overlook those simple and yet profound words- He Gave Thanks.

Jesus gave thanks before the wine saying it was His blood poured out for us. He took the bread and gave thanks for the bread before saying it is was His body broken for us. Jesus gave thanks before his suffering for the two things that would represent his blood and body. He gave thanks before he suffered knowing what was going to happen.

Suffering is painful, difficult, and stressful. When we suffer, we usually give thanks after the suffering is over. We rightly give thanks for God’s help to get us through the suffering, but how many of us would thank God before we suffer for the suffering that is about to come? Why did Jesus give thanks? He wasn’t crazy. The bible says in Hebrews 12:2- “for the joy set before Him endured the cross”. The joy was being back in heaven on His throne. The joy was the way for us to be forgiven and in relationship with God would be complete. The joy was knowing that those He created could not be back with Him. His joy was knowing that we could be in heaven with Him forever if we receive Him.

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