Who comes first kids or God?

Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.”    —Haggai 1:5-7,9 ESV
 It may sound cliche, but parenting is the hardest thing I have ever attempted to do.  How can I as an imperfect person be responsible for my child’s physical, social, emotional, spiritual and whatever else, development?  No pressure, right?  
It is understandable that, because of this giant responsibility, our kids consume our thoughts, planning, budgets and calendar.  We as parents are trying so hard, with great intentions, to help our children experience life to the fullest.   We busy ourselves with teaching our kids how to be good students, citizens, children, husbands, wives, workers, money managers, etc.   I mean we are doing it for them, right? But is this the best thing we can offer our kids as imperfect parents?
Often we take these important things and make them the most important thing.  Consider the above verse, “You have sown much and harvested little.  You eat, but you never have enough.”  Doesn’t this sound a little like our culture?  I have reached a point in my life as a parent where I am discovering that there is only one thing worth teaching, modeling, and sharing with our children…a genuine, growing, dynamic, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
How would our kids benefit from watching us as parents begin to focus on building God’s house?  What if we invited them into our personal journey/relationship with Christ?  What if we shared some of our doubts and struggles and asked them to share theirs?  Instead of using our kids as excuses for not engaging the work of God through opportunities at church, in our neighborhood or with those in need, what if we included them so that we could serve together?  
There are many theories and thoughts on parenting in this world.  But, in Deuteronomy 6:5,7 the best advice on parenting is revealed: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…soul…might…you shall teach [these words] diligently to your children.” 
So, here is my question: In an effort to do right by our kids, have we allowed them to trump God in our family?  Is it time, as a family, to start building God’s house together?

Summer Reading List

Matthew 6:9-10 says, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” We are agents of the eternal Kingdom. We have been given the mission to participate in establishing His Kingdom on earth, here and now. How do you expand an “invisible” Kingdom? One heart at a time! How do you win a heart to God’s Kingdom? The same way Jesus did, through being intentional with the Gospel and with relationship. Because I believe God is sovereign, I don’t believe that coincidences exist. I believe God gave me my neighbors, fellow soccer parents, friends, family, school parents or whoever else I cross paths with. Why would God be purposeful about bringing these people in my life? Well, I believe that is the question we all need to be asking. What if God gave you your neighbor so you could love them and share the Gospel with them? What if your kids have those classmates so you can get to know them, do life with them and share the Gospel with them? What if…well, you get the idea right?

To help us better understand our role here are a few books I would recommend you add to your summer reading list:

The Tangible Kingdom:Creating Incarnational Community by Hugh Halter & Matt Smay

The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.

The Hole in Our Gospel: What does God expect of Us? by Richard Stearns

Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith by Bill Hybels

Stop trying to help.

While in Africa, I was sitting across the table interviewing Phyllis Stirewalt; she and her husband have been missionaries in Eldoret, Kenya for the past 37 years. I asked what she has learned about God in the past 37 years of ministry to the Kenyans and she replied: “You know, God demands total obedience, and he certainly doesn’t need our help. We’re always trying to help. We, as missionaries or people in ministry, think that it depends on us, but when it comes down to it, we’re not all that important. So that’s the most important thing that I’ve learned.”  I was shocked at her response. This couple has helped to create a movement of church planting and discipleship in Eldoret - 200 churches planted there in the last 37 years. What does she mean “God doesn’t really need us”? And then I recently came across this verse in Isiah 55:10-11 that says “"The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

I now realize that If there is just one thing that I’ve now learned in my travel capturing the stories of God moving in peoples’ lives, it’s that God works around the world without my influence. Now don’t get me wrong, we are to be carriers of the good news of Jesus. (Mark 16:15) We need to care for the sick, hungry, lame and poor. But we aren’t the saviors, Jesus is. We don’t lead God, we join him in what he is already doing in the lives of people around the world. We listen and obey. That’s all God wants from us.

So, I do think the Stirewalts got it right. They are not there to help anyone; they are there to be a part of God’s movement in Africa. So now, maybe it’s time for us to join God movement in what he is doing around the world.  Maybe it’s time to listen and obey.

Pressing Record on God's Story

Have you ever thought about how a simple gift that seems insignificant can become the very thing God deems fit for His kingdom? I just simply fell into digital storytelling here at First Baptist. It was a small need at the time to inform the people in our church community about upcoming events. I found a cheap camcorder in the church and simply pressed “Play”. What I discovered was a gift from the Lord. A passion for storytelling ensued, and it was all downhill from there. I had the opportunity to go with a medical team to Rwanda last year to work alongside Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM). I’m not a medical person by any means, but the leader of the team asked me to come and film the trip and the people. Reluctantly I said yes (the sight of blood makes me quiver). But while In Rwanda, I met a boy named Fabrice. (Check out his story here) ANLM asked if I would do a film about Fabrice to raise awareness for the Medical Dream Center in Kagali. Again I simply said yes. What I discovered about God is that he simply wants me to say yes. To join Him not only here in Boise but also across the world and He will take care of the rest. To use our gifts for His kingdom is an adventure that He calls all of us to. It’s easy to look at the state of the world and wonder where God is. Every evening on the news, we’re bombarded with conflict-conflict between presidential candidates, genocide, suicide bombers, widespread hunger and sickness. It seems as if God has lost a handle on things. But I believe that God is more at work around the world today than ever before. Muslims are finding Jesus through dreams, medical teams are bringing physical healing paired with spiritual healing to remote peoples, unreached people groups are getting access to the gospel, wells are being built to bring clean water to villages, God is ushering in his kingdom here on earth. But, we have an enemy that wants to keep our story and the story of God a secret. No spreading of stories means no knowledge of God, in a sense. That’s why I feel called to share what God is up to around the world. To get the stories out for all to hear and be moved to join in God’s movement. I want to partner with missionaries and non-profits who are bringing the good news of Jesus to a conflicted world.

This trip Nate, and I will be partnering with Randy and Phyllis Stirewalt who have been missionaries in Kenya for over 30 years. God has done some incredible work with them and we want to capture some of those stories to share globally. From there, we will be flying to Rwanda to work alongside Africa New Life Ministries. We will be helping capture some stories of their ACT program, which trains local men and women for the work of the ministry. Also, we will be highlighting the Dream Beauty Academy, which gives local women training and skills aligned with the gospel to provide for their families. You can join this movement via their website at africanewlife.org.

So what is God up to in your story? What gifts has he equipped you with to join Him in His mission here and around the world? It could be something as simple as being able to press “Record” on a camera. It’s been quite the adventure. You don’t have to have a degree in theology to be used in God’s story. Just be willing to say, “Yes.”