A Life Worth Living

imageIt has been almost six months since we decided to move to the Middle East. Many have asked of how we ended up living and being involved in one of the most “difficult” and “hardest” regions on the planet. The simple answer is that it was all His idea. Both my wife and I have felt that our lives haven’t been our own for a long time. When you have this deep conviction it is easier saying yes. Our no has been Crucified with Him. We get people praising us for living what seems like selfless lives. The honest reality is that we are doing what makes us come alive. He has orchestrated our steps and has led us down the road of Love.

We have had the privilege of working with His persecuted Body. Our days and nights consist of hearing people’s journey of Faith. They have had loved ones killed and everything they have worked for destroyed all because of their unbreakable conviction of not bending their knees to fear. I honestly can say that  I complain a lot less since I have been here. In the face of so much loss and pain what can I complain about??? Our brothers and sisters have lost everything but the ability to love. The way they have welcomed us to their homes and families is truly humbling.

If your asking yourself what can you do to help or how can I make a difference  I say to you is that you CAN love. You can love fearlessly and fully. Start with those around you. Do not let yourself be filled or swayed with fear by the Media and ask your God what He thinks about the Refugees. Ask Him how He sees them and go from there.    -Joel

 

 

The Gospel Revealed through our Enemies

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A man’s character is revealed through how he treats his enemies.  A man’s love extends only as far as his nearest enemy.  Or does it?  There are many religions in the world that refer to conflict, human interactions, and behavior choices. During the time of Jesus’ life racism was as strong as ever. Especially between the current reigning empire of Rome and the ever persevering minority group of Jews. They were excluded, forced to walk in filth on the roads instead of on sidewalks with others, they would be heckled, ridiculed, robbed, spit on, and more, even by Roman ‘police officers’.

Jesus did not avoid these issues when while spending his days with us here on earth. Kingdoms and individuals, political parties and people groups all have enemies, and all choose to respond to their enemies in certain ways revealing what lies within their make-up. In regards to individuals, Jesus’ revelation on how we should respond to people who have hurt us, robbed us, and taken something from us is VERY clear.

We may not be slapped in the face, and someone may not take our clothing from us, but there are plenty of offenses that happen to EVERYONE in daily life. No one is immune to opportunities for woundedness and accusation to take root in our hearts. Jesus, again, very clearly gave instructions for appropriate responses in these situations. The places of grievances and bitterness in our lives are the very thresholds of which the body of Christ stands on to shine something that lives inside of them that exists beyond human justice and selfish reasoning.

Here are a few examples of teachings for instance:

“Love your enemies. Pray for those who give you difficulty and hard times. In that way you will be acting like My kids. For I give good to everyone, naughty and nice alike. Even corrupt politicians love the people that love them, how does that make you any different? But love with perfection as I do.”

“If you do not forgive others, I will not forgive you.”

“Do good to those who hate you.”

What would this like if we acted like this toward the people who hate us? What would it look like if we acted like this as a nation towards countries that hate us?

I heard a man here talk about all that happened to him from under the hands of ISIS here in the middle east. He said to me, “If you knew everything they did to me, you would be friends with no Muslim.” This statement revealed not only the hurt of the individual but also his lack of the knowledge of God. God himself was beaten, betrayed, abandoned and murdered, and still the words on lips that revealed the content of his heart were “Let none of this be counted against them.”

In his innocence, God did not bear up under scorn and cry “I must have justice! I must have payment!” Instead, in complete selflessness, God denied what was rightly due him, and gave himself–his life–as an offering for their freedom, their peace, and their wholeness.

So often–myself included–we get caught up in this loop-hole of a thought process of self-justification, self-consideration, self-sympathy.  We are in the right; others are in the wrong.  The very ones we accuse in our minds are the very one’s God thought were worthy to give his life for. ‘Being right’ is not the answer; ‘being love’ is.

It is in the opportunities of offense, injury, and hurt we have a divine opportunity to confound the mind of our offenders in reckoning ourselves having been already crucified with Christ and not acting on our own behalf, but in his likeness living in us, as us, and through us.

We have the power to let yesterday go in the relationships we hold with people around us.  I’m not saying this is easy, but it brings to mind Corrie Ten Boom who forgave one of the very guards that held her in a concentration camp, but she knew it wasn’t of herself but it was God giving that man forgiveness through her.  Displays of forgiveness, selflessness, generosity, and blessing without them being deserved or earned, or even in the face of hatred, is giving others the experience of heaven here on earth.

I feel like this would be most profound on a political and international level as well. Sometimes we are holding onto power so tightly that we don’t actually utilize the opportunities we have in using the power we’ve been given.

This loving response to injury does not only reveal his glory here on earth, but is our own path to liberty and restoration; individually and nationally. Restitution follows forgiveness rather than being a prerequisite for it.

Frolicking with God in the Middle East

Joel and I have written ‘off the grid’ about our adventures in the Middle East for three months followed by spending the holidays in Puerto Rico and now we’re writing again to announce “We’re heading back!”

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GOING BACK        That’s right, in the midst of our goodbyes with a plan to return in our hearts, the Lord orchestrated an open door for us.  While spending our last day in the old city of Jerusalem on Thanksgiving, God had a date prepared for us with one of the most prevalent Christian influences in Iraq.  20141127_122857Unplanned, we spent our morning with a man known as the Vicar of Baghdad or Canon Andrew White.  After exchanging hearts, he extended an invitation to join him in his efforts towards peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.  In tandem with this effort is relief towards the poor, the displaced, and the suffering.  Andrew started an organization called Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East that focuses on providing food and medical care, while also meeting with leaders on all side of the divides that are alive in the Middle East, aimed at restoring the essence humanity in their midst; the compassion that enables peace.

Dome_of_Rock,_Temple_Mount,_JerusalemJoel and I are possibly going to be involved in Israel, Jordan, and Kurdistan region in Iraq but we will see what God has planned for us as the time nears and as we arrive back on the ground there.  All we know is that God is inviting us in the overflow of his heart towards a very hurt and defensive region that he loves so much.  His glory and his image covers the land, and everyone is invited to participate in the heaven that Christ embodies toward all of humanity.  God is not waiting for human dispute to end before continuing in his celebration of who he is and what he’s done; we get to participate in his rejoicing.  God is not worried, intimidated, or uncertain of the path towards peace.  His love is mature and patient without end towards a people who are hurting and have experienced much pain.  Freedom is free and available to all.  Hopefully we will get to be a part of highlighting the way to that peace.

20141021_155734OUR PLANS NOW      Joel and I have another three months in America before our return.  We will be traveling across the country in our sporty Montero with stops in Ohio, Paducah, Cairo, Missouri, and more, on our way to northern California for two months.  We have a return trip scheduled towards May through Oregon, Minnesota, and back to South Carolina.  We look forward to seeing friends and family, meeting new faces, and seeing some of God’s beautiful creation along the way.

OPPORTUNITIES     We’re inviting you to come with and join us along the way!  So many people have been so encouraging, supportive, and have believed in us!  Our hearts are forever entwined with yours as you’ve sowed into our adventures with God, and this glorious journey continues!  I’ve attached some more information to our happy giving page of how you can sow into God’s plans for our lives in this season if you like.  One way we always need is prayer!  Thank you so much for responding to the spirits leading in basking our journey in prayer.  We couldn’t do this without the Christ in you and we love having your blessing and strength along for the ride.  Prayer matters and changes reality, isn’t our partnership with God awesome!?

John-Crowder1Here’s another opportunity we’re going to post on our announcement:  Do you want to come join us for a week?  A mutual friend of ours John Crowder is hosting a trip to come and help the Syrian refugees and minister to the church and the lost in that place.  Never worry about finances.  Ever.  Only say yes to the desires God births within your heart and he will make a way.  I only say this because when its him doing it, its worked for me every time he’s sent me.  We’d love to have you.  We’re going to be ministering in a town that Joel and I have visited and we’re super excited to partner with the church there as well.  It will be the adventure of a life time to be a part of what God is doing on the ground in the Middle East.  The deadline to sign up is March 1st.  Here’s the link… see you there.

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With love and blessings always from us to you, thank you!