Saturday, August 30, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
John the Baptist said it best, "He must become more and I must become less." Today and tomorrow, when you get humbled by something you do or say or don't do or don't say, don't fight it. Just confess your sin to the Lord and say thank you to the Lord that he is continuing to make you available, humble yourself before your wife or husband or friend or boss by saying sorry or admitting you were wrong and then be free.
We all know the proverb, "Pride comes before the fall" and "Honor comes to the humble." Humble yourself under the Lord and HE will lift you up.
May our attitude be as our Savior, our example and our pastor...
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Read this update from Luke and Elise, our good friends and teammates in Africa:
Greetings from increasingly hot Lusaka, Zambia. I (Luke) wanted to write a quick note and let you know the latest on new ministry opportunities and development with us. As Elise has mentioned in a previous update we have been investigating ways to “mobilize” the churches we are working with. We have realized, during our two years here, that there is much knowledge transfer going on in churches but very little mobilization of the congregation. While knowledge and study of God’s Word is essential, if that knowledge cannot be transferred into practical actions are we really helping the Zambian we came to serve? It to this end that we have been intent on developing outlet ministries that allow different congregation to see the power that exists when we take the knowledge of the Word of God to the streets. This has mainly been in the areas of door to door and open air evangelism, as well as hospital visitation.
The past two weeks I have gone over to the main hospital here in Lusaka, UTH, and spent time visiting with various patients. I always take a member from a local church with me because of the language barrier and most importantly because we are hoping they will catch the vision for themselves. Yesterday, 25/08, we went to the pediatrics ward and all I can say is that I left broken hearted. So many little ones with tubes stuck all over their bodies and anxious mother with looks of desperation covering their faces. We went to visit a little 8 year old boy named Enzo. This little guy has a significant hole in his heart which means you can literally hear his heart murmur without a stethoscope. With or without treatment the diagnosis is that Enzo will probably die in the next year but the hope is that treatment might prolong the inevitable. We went to love on little Enzo and pray a pray for healing in faith, what a privilege to serve this little one in this manner. While there we also meet a little girl name Musonda who, just like Enzo, also had a heart condition as well as problems with her lungs. As we prayed for her she labored heavily to take each new breath in, but when we finished she rewarded us with a big smile. Her mother, a Jehovah’s witness, was reluctant at first to let us pray for her but finally agreed. After we had finished we noticed that all the other patients in the ward has gotten up and left the room we were in. We took this a clear rejection of our prayers and proceed to leave the ward. As we enter the hall, Musonda’s mother came running after us and frantically explained that she was concerned that we had only prayed for her daughter, what? As I asked the Zambians who had come with me to explain what she was so concerned about, they told me that there is still much superstition towards whites (we are sometimes thought to be Satanists) and she believed bad things would happen to her daughter if we only prayed for her. We assured her that we had just prayed for a little boy in the next ward named Enzo but she would not be satisfied until she asked him for herself. These are the little ways satan has bound these people in fear and keeps them from receiving the healing message of Jesus Christ. Continue to pray that the name of Jesus would break down these spiritual barriers and that He would continue to equip us to do battle for His name sake.
We are also still organizing a meeting with the head of all prisons here in Zambian with the hope that we will be granted permission to begin work in the prison system here in the country (amazing opportunities for ministry). I continue to help lead, with my good friend Brent Roberts, a small group ministry with Great Commission Baptist Church. We are excited as we have identified two future leaders in the group and are hoping they will partner together to start a new small group within the church. This is such an answer to prayer as our mission, from the beginning of our small group ministry, has been to see replication happen (praise God). We also began work a couple of weeks ago on creating a curriculum for evangelism that will be piloted at Evangel Baptist Church, which is the church we are currently attending. I have begun a five week program on evangelism with the men’s group each Saturday morning a 7:30 and I am excited at the evident eagerness to see a heart for evangelism fostered at this church. Please pray as the long term vision for this program will be to implement it into all levels of the church—leadership, men’s/women’s ministry, youth programs, AWANA, small group, etc. Elise and I feel that this type of training and educating is why God has called us to Zambia. Also, as you continue to pray for us you might be interested to know that last Tuesday 08/19 the president of Zambia passed away in Paris, France. This has been such an interesting time as the government has decreed that there will be 21 days of national mourning which will end with his burial on my birthday September 3rd. Things remain very stable here but the implementation of the new government would prove to be troublesome. I am sure that violence will be avoided at all costs but as we have seen in other instances bathing these types of situations in prayer is essential. Pray that Zambia would continue to remain a beacon of stability in a somewhat unstable region and that the Christian heritage they claim would continue to be the cornerstone on which this great country rests. FYI—please check out our blog at: www.whitfieldwateringhole.
Luke <><If you want to invest your money in eternity in a way that will reap rewards for years to come, invest in this young couple... They are amazing.
And just an added thought: there is nothing they are doing that we can't be doing back in America, per se... And what is even crazier, most of it is biblical:)
Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I was watching little league baseball today. It was the U.S. Championship for 12 and under on ABC that is on every year. I love watching it because it brings back great memories of playing little league baseball. The stage is huge with 20,000 people watching at the park and many more watching on National Television. It is almost not right to subject a kid to that kind of pressure.
So, Hawaii was playing Louisiana in the game that both decides who is the U.S. Champion as well as the one who gets to play the International champion. This year it is Mexico. The teams play 6 innings, so in the top of the six, down 5-1, Hawaii comes to bat.
The star pitcher for Louisana had pitched 5 amazing innings, but had to sit down because of his pitch count. (So, hang with me here...) Louisana brings in a relief pitcher, Gunner Leger. All he needs to do is get three outs and it is over. The first Hawaiian hitter gets a single, and the next a single, and over and over again, singles, walks, doubles and before you know, it is 5-4. Gunner gets another out and it still is 5-4. He walks a batter. Bases loaded, 5-4, 2 outs... They bring in a reliever and Gunner goes to 1st base. The new pitcher jams the hitter who hits a ball to first base (Gunner) who knocks it down and then loses it, and the tying score crosses the plate. Another single and now Hawaii has the lead, 7-5. Lousiana finally gets another out on Hawaii and gets one last chance to beat Hawaii.
The first guy up for Louisana is Gunner Leger who (I wish I could say hit a homerun) strikes out to go 0-4 (0 hits for 4 attempts). Two more outs and Louisana loses and Hawaii wins. It was an amazing game, but you have to feel for little Gunner Leger. I write all this because it is the same and opposite of the last story of Nastia, the gymnast.
Where she trained her whole life to win the gymnastic gold, and did, he trained his whole life and lost and lost hard. It is one and the same when your life is in this life... What good is it if you gain the whole world (or lose the world) and yet still, lose your soul? May our victories be used to bring glory to God and may defeats humble and soften and bring us back to God. May we learn to ride the ups and downs of this world because our mind and our heart are on things above. May we live differently because of our hope and confidence and may the things we encounter and experience always turn our eyes heavenward.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
What is worth it all? Tonight I watched Nastia Liukin win the all-around gymnastics competition in only seven minutes on nbcolympics.com. It was an amazing display of execution, coordination and just plain old nailing it. What caught my attention was at the end of the highlight video, the announcer shared about a conversation with Mr. Liukin, her coach and her dad. The coach/dad said, "We have been training our whole life to be the Olympic all-around champion." That phrase stuck with me because of the weight of what that means for the practicality of her life and her friendships and what she eats and drinks and talks about around the dinner table. Her whole life was/is gymnastics. To compete at the level that she does, there is no other hobby or interest or past time or really anything. She has sacrificed everything for this dream. I was thinking about this in light of what we have been talking about, and what is worth your whole life. Ultimately, her crown will fade away, and the euphoria will grow cold and possibly in 100 years, some will remember her name. But, what is worth it all for eternity? What is worth all our life in this life?
Jesus tells an amazing parable about the kingdom of heaven where a man who finds a treasure in the ground, sells all he has to buy the treasure. In essence, what he found was worth more than everything he had but he couldn't have it unless he sold everything. The kingdom of God will cost you everything but it is worth more than anything. You couldn't buy this treasure with half of what you have or a quarter of your life. It costs you everything. Jesus tells us to count the cost if we are going to follow Him. We are to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him. It is not about us, anymore. But, in return we get life and life abundantly.
Mt 10:39 - Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Mt 16:26 - For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I think Paul pretty much sums it up with these verses:
1 Co 15:9-10 - For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
1 Ti 1:12-17 - I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Michael Phelps has been using special Speedo swimwear which has been claimed to have shaved off time during his races. As a result, he has been disqualified and will lose his medals. Well, actually, this is not true. I mean, the Speedo thing shaving off time is, but it is perfectly legal and will most likely make a lot of money in the future for the Speedo corporation. But, Michael Phelps is not disqualified. But, what if it was true? What if my faulty headline was actually a fault of his. What if Michael Phelps intentionally (or unintentionally) cheated and lost all of his gold. All that hard work, discipline of training and sacrifice for nothing... Imagine the weight of that loss for him, our country and the swimming community.
I read an article about this amazing swimmer the other day and it reminded me of something...
Here are two excerpts, the first in regards to his training and the second in regards to his coaching:
"When I didn't medal (in Sydney, Australia as a 15 year old) I was like, 'All right, well, then I'm going to do this.' " Within seven months, he set a world record in the 200 butterfly.
Even now, Phelps trains every day — including Sundays, figuring it gives him 52 more days a year in the pool than many of his competitors.
In peak training phases, Phelps will swim at least 80,000 meters a week nearly 50 miles in a week.(50 meters is one lap, so he swims 1600 laps in a week which is 228 laps a day which is 7 miles a day, swimming). That includes two practices a day, sometimes three when he's training at altitude.
Bowman hasn't just coached hard. He's coached completely. Any phase of Phelps' life that pertains to swimming falls under Bowman's aegis.
"Bob teaches him, advises him, guides him, pushes him," said American national team head coach Mark Schubert.
Phelps' stroke mechanics all have been sculpted by Bowman. He's tinkered for years with every component, until Phelps' form has approached perfection.
Workouts? Of course Bowman is in charge there, too. But also warm-ups, warm-downs, stretching, massages, calorie intake and meal times, too. The daily routine runs on Bowman Standard Time.
Take, for instance, Bowman's recitation of Phelps' schedule Thursday in Beijing:
"We had breakfast at 8. We usually have breakfast at 7, but this morning, it was at 8. Before that, he usually takes a shower, so at 7:30, he was up and showered. We went at 8 for breakfast. At 8:30, we were on a bus to [the Water Cube], then we did some stretching and warm-ups for 30 to 40 minutes. Then he puts on his [competition] suit and does more warm-ups. Then he swims, and after that, he has lactose testing to make sure everything's in order. Today, he had a massage -- normally he has doping, [but] he didn't today. He always has a massage. Then he'll eat, take a nap and then come back on the bus and do it all again, usually twice a day. I always plan those warm-ups so they are exactly timed. He starts stretching two hours before [a race] and is in the water an hour and a half before. He's always done those things, really."
That sound hands-on enough?"
So, after I read about his training and his coaching, I thought instantly of passage of scripture from 1 Cor. 9:24-27:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
I thought of the strict training: 7 miles a day swimming, weights, disciplined eating and a sacrificial lifestyle for four years.
I thought of the prize: yeah, there is a silver and a bronze, but people really only care about the gold.
I thought about the crown that will not last: where will those gold medals be in 100 years. In a museum? In a box? On a son or grandson's mantle?
I thought of myself and I said, "Do I approach my Christianity with the same drive, dedication and commitment that Michael Phelps does with winning in the Olympics? Is it my whole life's goal to win the prize that will last?" Do I have "coaches" who guide me with the same intensity?
I mean, consider if you were going to be competing in an event tomorrow in the Olympics with the same degree of training you commit to your spiritual life now. How would you do? I am humbled and must confess that I would not do very well. But, think of the stakes: We are talking about a crown that will last forever. Is there anything else that compares here on earth? Is there any better way to spend our time? I want that crown. I want the rewards. I want my life to count regardless of the cost here. Realistically, there is no cost I should not be willing to pay for the cause for which I am committed.
How have we got to this place where this kind of commitment is shrugged off as legalism or abnormal or over the top? How has this become anything but normal?
And so back to where I started, the part about being disqualified. Paul says, he beats his body and makes it his slave so he will not be disqualified from the prize. I don't believe that Paul is saying that he was afraid that he would lose his salvation just as if Michael Phelps was disqualified, he would still be a swimmer. Rather, I believe he was saying that he would lose his rewards by allowing his body to master him or by losing sight of his mission or by losing focus of why he existed. In essence, just as it is realistic to think that Michael Phelps would not have won the races he entered (in this context, he would have been disqualified from the gold) if he would not have trained as he did, I wonder what rewards we miss out on (in essence, disqualified from) by failing to train and discipline ourselves in the same way.
It is a hard question to ask and even harder question to answer considering the implications. Do we really believe that Heaven is real, that how we live here matters for eternity and if so, how does the way we live our lives show that? Is Christ really the center of our lives so that everything centers on that one goal that Paul had, "Ga 6:14 - But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
May the center of our life revolve around the cross of Christ. May everything we do and say and think about and purpose furthers this goal of being trained and available to do whatever works God has planned for us to do. May we never be out of shape (in our studying of the word or working out the fruits of the Spirit or growing in our heart for the poor or cultivating accountable relationships) so that we miss out on the prize God has prepared for us from ages past. May we have friendships that know our strengths and weaknesses and push us and challenge us to grow deeper and be available for more than we ever would have been before.
So what now? When my wife and I were training for our marathon, we learned something crazy. We didn't run the marathon, the marathon ran us. It changed how we ate, slept, drank, what activities we did and didn't do, and so much more. Our lives centered around this training. I learned how much easier and more motivated I was to train when I had something I was training for. There are some people who run just to run. I am not one of them. I learned that I need a goal and something I am training for. Second, when we were training for the marathon, we would meet with a bunch of people on Saturday to run with. This accountability was especially helpful during the long training runs. We had coaches who helped us and challenged us and encouraged us during these hard days of running. They gave us a running schedule, helped decipher our injuries and shared stories about their successes and failures.
I think what we learn from the success of Michael Phelps is the necessity of a coach and a goal to train for... Do you have anyone in your life who is helping shape and change and guide you? Are you doing that for anyone else? How about goals? How does the "prize" of all prizes shape your every day?
Oh, and sorry for my faulty headline... Just thought it might get your attention.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
So with a new baby and all, I have found myself the last few nights up at odd hours of the night trying to lull a wide awake baby to sleep. Last night, we were up until 12 pm waiting for the "feeding time" and thus ended up watching the USA women gymnastics team competing in the Olympics. It was a battle between China and USA for gold and they were going toe to toe until Alica couldn't keep her toe on the beam and sent the chances for a gold plummeting to the mat. If that wasn't enough, she fell again (can you believe it?) during the floor exercises and you could literally hear the reaction of the crowd gasp in disbelief.
I found myself thinking about the Olympics and really how unfair gymnastics is to the joy of sports. There are two sports in the Olympics which judge success by a standard of a perfect 10: gymnastics and diving. All the rest of the sports are determined simply by you beating or being beat by the swimmer, basketball player, soccer player or tennis player with whom you are competing. Your success is judged more on a curve, (you could play horrible and the person you are playing more horrible and you are still successful) and not by a perfect standard that anything less than perfect is less than o.k. Did anyone see the amazing flips that Alicia did after that fall? Back flips, front flips, turnaround things that were flawless. But, when she got off the bar, did she celebrate the amazing things that only a few in the world could do, or did she tear up knowing she might have cost the USA team a gold? You didn't need to see it to know what her reaction was. That elusive perfect 10 is the joy killer of sports... And then I was thinking how perfect an illustration that is to understanding Christianity. People try to live the perfect life or as close to perfect as they can, thinking that if they can do enough good to outweigh the bad they can earn themselves a gold medal in eternity (if there is such a thing and if that is the goal). Maybe not a gold but at least a bronze or even just a participatory ribbon, something to ensure that their life was not lived in vain. But if gold is the standard and the only option, Alicia showed us last night that it doesn't matter how many good flips and turns you do, it isn't enough. And likewise, if perfect is the only qualification for a holy God to get to Heaven, I am in trouble. Sure maybe I have done some good things, but the bad things, my pride, selfishness, laziness, and anger far outweigh anything good I have done. I have tried to impress God but I have only ended up like Alicia. I have found that I will never be perfect and it has killed me. But I have also learned (and I am learning) that the life of Jesus, the only one ever to live perfectly, and the death of Jesus, the perfect one taking my imperfection on himself it nailing Him to the cross, enables me to wear the gold medal of grace in eternity by the gift of faith.
Eugene Peterson in the Message puts it a whole lot better than I just did:
Ga 3:9-14 - So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith—this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.” The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: “The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that’s the real life.” Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: “The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them.” Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.
So, I enjoy grace today... and I thank Jesus that through grace I not only am able to stand before God one day perfect in His sight because of what His Son has done, but I also have been given the joy of desire to live holy and obediently and sacrificially for eternity so that I too can hopefully hear those blessed words, "Well Done, my good and faithful servant!" no matter how many times I fall off that balance beam...
Friday, August 08, 2008
I was awed by the opening ceremony, but for $300,000 million, I sure hope I would be. To put that into perspective, a real expensive movie production cost $100-150 million. It was difficult to fully enjoy it knowing that just a few months earlier 70,000 died and a million were displaced. It seems $300 million could go along way in helping a lot of people. I guess out of sight, out of mind, though it was sweet to bring the little boy in to walk with Yao Ming. But, I guess with the amount of money that goes into our own presidential elections, we could probably completely eradicate a disease.
Overall, the world has converged on one spot and though there are many languages, colors and races represented, in the end, it all comes down to God. One day the entire world will bow down before God and he will receive the Glory that is due His name.
Psalm 24:1 (NIV)
The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
Psalm 33:8 (NIV)
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
Psalm 89:11 (NIV)
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
Psalm 93:1 (NIV)
The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty
and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established;
it cannot be moved.
Isaiah 12:5 (NIV)
Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Luke 9:24-25 (NIV)
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
Philip. 2:9-11 (NIV)
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Amazing is not the athlete who can run faster or the swimmer who can swim fast, but the one who knows the number of hairs on each head, the one who spoke the universe into place and the one who holds each one accountable to give Him the glory that is due.
If you want to pray for China, here is a cool link courtesy of Desiring God.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
The name Johanna means "God is gracious." We chose Jay because of Stephanie's dad and added an "e" because we thought it was cute:)
Thank you so much for your prayers! Check back later for more pictures!!!
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Just wanted to say a quick thanks for those who prayed for my time speaking at the Crossroads Junior High Camp in eastern Washington! What a great time teaching, hanging out with the students and watching former students who are now counselors at this annual camp that I went to as high school over 20 years ago... It was a very sweet time also hanging with my great friends Jayson Turner and Aaron Gibbs.
I made it back for the Ammio appt at 12:30pm (to check the babies lungs to make sure everything is o.k. and they are!) and we are set for a 9:00am c-section delivery as the Lord wills... So, check in sometime tomorrow for any updates of the newest little Allen!!!! We had a sweet prayer time as a family tonight, and I thought I would show you Stephanie on here last day being pregnant!!! I married a beautiful woman! Thank you for remembering us!