Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bolivia Bound!

Tomorrow the adventure begins! I leave Houston at 1:05 p.m. and arrive in Cochabamba, Bolivia the following day at 11:15 a.m., Lord willing, where I will be met by a staff member from Casa de Amor. There are always so many unknowns when it comes to stepping out to a new country, a new people, a new ministry. Yet in the midst of all the unknowns, I do know that this next step is God's will for this season and that gives me great assurance. He has led so clearly, opened the door of opportunity, and provided abundantly to make this trip possible. I am greatly looking forward to all that He has in store!

If you would join me in prayer as this new adventure gets underway, I would be so grateful! The Bible is clear that "the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

Here are my specific requests:

- A teachable, servant-hearted spirit

- An attitude of flexibility and patience

- Wisdom in meeting the many needs of the children

- Health in the midst of germs and disease

- Safety and protection from evil

- Opportunities to share the Gospel along the way and while there

- Good rapport with my co-laborers

- Spanish language abilities and growth

- Focus on the Lord Jesus and His purposes

Thank you so much dear friends! I appreciate you so much! Hopefully the next time I report in it will be live from Bolivia! Stay tuned.... :)

Discourse on the Word "Calling"

Well, my bags are packed and I am soon to depart for Cochabamba, Bolivia tomorrow! I am excited to begin this new chapter of learning and adventure, yet I know from experience that it will not all be fun and games. There will be hard times and difficult moments along the way because that is just how life goes. What comfort there is in knowing that God works all things together for good to those who love Him and that I can rest in His purposes!

I will be sharing some specific prayer requests for my journey in the next post. Meanwhile, since it may be a few days before I have the chance to give an update from Bolivia, I thought I would post an article that I recently wrote in hopes that it will be a blessing and encouragement. I will warn you it is long! But you have several days to read through it, if you like, since it will be a little while before I am back on Blogger. :)

My thoughts are not necessarily new or earth-shattering; in fact many of you have probably already come to similar conclusions. This article was mainly an attempt to document a journey of thinking God took me through this past year. It is more like a personal journal entry written for the purpose of organizing my thoughts and Bible study findings. I hope that if nothing else, it will stir you to study God's Word for yourself on the topic and "press toward the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Discourse On The Word “Calling”

While I was at school this past year, I was challenged inwardly be a statement I heard on more than one occasion: “Make sure you marry someone who has the same calling in life as you do.”

At first, when I heard that counsel, it made sense to me and I agreed with it. But the more I pondered it in my heart, the more questions and doubts I had.

“What is my calling?

“I’ve said for many years, I am called to be a missionary. Does this mean I should marry a missionary? I’ve often said I will only marry a missionary or someone involved in full-time ministry. But what exactly is the definition of a missionary? What is full-time ministry? Is it really my job as the woman to have as a pre-requisite that the man who marries me shares my calling? The woman is supposed to be the follower; not the leader! So, doesn’t it make more sense to follow his calling? But what if his calling isn’t in missions? Do I give it up for the sake of being his wife? Or what if he starts out in full time ministry and then changes gears and works a secular job? Of course, if I was his wife, I would follow him wherever; even if it meant leaving a foreign field and living in America again. So if this is my attitude in the middle of marriage, shouldn’t this be my attitude before even entering a marriage? That it doesn’t matter so much what he does as who he is?”

Around and around these thoughts swirled.

When I was in the beginning stages of a courtship with a young man at the beginning of the school year, a trusted friend challenged me with the question, “Are you attracted to this guy because of his vocational choice of being a pastor in South America? What if one day he says, ‘God has told me to stop being a pastor and to open a tortilla factory.’ Then what? If you could see the future and knew this would eventually happen, does it change your feelings for him now? In other words, are you attracted to this guy because of his connection to the Latino culture and his desire to be in ministry or because of who he is as a person? Are you ready to be this guy’s helpmeet no strings attached?”

Well, as it turned out, we called the courtship off due to the discovery of several major, irreconcilable differences we had. However, I continued to ponder the counsel of my friend in future months.

I remember my brother-in-law, Nathan, asking a similar question to my sister during their courtship. “If there would ever come a time when God would move us out of ministry in Ukraine and back to the United States, how would you feel about that?” My sister wisely stated, “When I marry you, I will go where you go. I am excited about ministering in Ukraine, but my first ministry will always be to my matter where God takes us.”

Of course, I agree with that statement! So again, I asked myself, “If that would be my same response to a hypothetical situation after getting married, could I have that same attitude before getting married? That it doesn’t matter what this man is doing for a living or where he is located, because vocations and locations could change. It matters who this person is; his relationship with the Lord, his character...because once I marry him, he becomes my main ministry.” It made sense.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t escape the fact that despite these revelations, I still found a person who wanted to be in “full-time ministry” more attractive than a person who was going to be a plumber or an accountant.

I brought this topic up for discussion with a married couple on campus who had become close friends and mentors for me...just to get their perspective on the issue. The first question out of the man’s mouth was, “Well, what is ministry?” Bingo! Exactly! That was the same question I had been wrestling with. They encouraged me, when considering a fellow as a potential spouse, to really examine his life. A person living in “full-time ministry” is one who has a heart to serve the Lord wherever he finds himself in life, one who will be faithful to share Christ with the people around him, whether he works an office job or preaches from a pulpit in a church several times a week.

A missionary is not only someone who receives his paycheck from a mission board or supporting churches; nowadays, there are many “missionaries” who earn their own “support” working in foreign countries on business visas. They are called “vocational missionaries” and do this either because the country is closed to blatant Gospel work and the only way to get in is under a secular job title, or because they’re not necessarily cut out to be preachers or church planters, but they still want to use their occupational specialty to further the kingdom of God (i.e. graphic design, communications, construction, etc.). So are vocational missionaries not real missionaries because they work a regular job and do ministry on the side? Of course not! We know the story of Priscilla and Aquilla in the New Testament who were tent-makers as well as ministers of the Gospel and helpers to Paul.

So that then raises the question, what about people in America who work regular jobs, but who share Christ at the office, who preach on the streets, or who participate in children’s ministry at their church on a regular basis? Does this “count” as full-time ministry? What about those, like I’m acquainted with, who work at Care Net Pregnancy Center, or Compassion International, or the Rio Grande Bible Institute? Whether their salaries come from the ministry itself or from supporting churches, are some considered more “true-blue” missionaries than others?

Around our strawberry shortcake that night, my friends helped me to understand that ministry is a way of life; not a place, not a job title, not the activities that fill one’s day. So, it’s not wrong to be attracted to a fellow who is involved in ministry, because this shows his heart for the Lord and kingdom work! It is important, however, to hold the right definition of ministry and not narrow it down simply to a vocation: traditional missionaries on the foreign field, evangelists, and pastors. Because, as we said before, vocations could change.

In considering a young man as a potential spouse, I need to look at his life. If he works a regular job, is his interest only in making money and living “The American Dream?” Obviously, such a focus is completely opposite from a lifestyle of ministry. If, on the other hand, his job is simply his launching place to sharing about Christ with others, his way of making money to provide for his family and to support kingdom work around the world, that is a ministry lifestyle. Of course, his convictions on family life need to be taken into consideration as well if I truly want someone whose first ministry will be his family. Which I do. Very much.

As the semester continued, puzzle pieces started falling into place about this whole topic of one’s “calling.”

As I continued pondering these things in my heart, it occurred to me that the very first work God gave the very first man to do was “secular”...if you want to call it that. He told Adam to tend the garden and name the animals as part of the dominion mandate. Now, obviously, this was before other people lived on earth and therefore there was no need for “ministry” to bring others to know the Father. Nevertheless, it struck me that Adam’s obedience to this vocational work God had given him to do brought God great pleasure. And isn’t that what the purpose of life boils down to anyway? Glorifying God?

So is God more glorified by a person who works a job as a chemical engineer in Massachusetts or one who directs an orphanage in Africa? Good question. I would propose that the vocation itself doesn’t necessarily bring God pleasure; it’s the person and his attitude, and his motive that determines whether or not God is glorified. Granted, there are specific commands in Scripture we are given to obey and the Bible does exhort us to invest in works that are equated with gold, silver, and precious stones rather than wood, hay, and stubble. But my point is that God is not necessarily impressed with one vocation over another. He is looking for men whose hearts are perfect toward Him, who love Him and follow Him and proclaim Him no matter what job they work.

So if God is not impressed with one vocation over another, why am I? I guess because in the circles I have been discipled in, the vocation of pastor or missionary has been promoted so much, I tend to think of these jobs as being the highest and best for a Christian. True, those who pursue such paths tend to have the same desire to live in the light of eternity as I do, and this also influences my attraction toward those who have chosen this vocational pursuit. However, there are many, many Godly people who are not working as a pastor or missionary and still living in the light of eternity! How important that I don’t put the kind of husband I want into a vocational box!

The last missionary club meeting of the semester seemed to solidify many of these swirling thoughts into a concrete understanding. The topic was on one’s calling. Coincidence? I think not. I don’t remember a whole lot of what the speaker shared but this one statement claimed my attention: “Our calling in life is this: to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and to bring Him glory.”

That sure simplifies things! It makes so much sense! Why was I getting all caught up in the idea of a calling being primarily vocational? My calling is to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and to bring Him glory. Anything else I do with my life is extra, and should be founded on this calling.

Sometimes, God has to take us back to the clear-cut basics to slice through the fog of all the extras.

The speaker pointed out that on various occasions throughout Scripture, God did call certain people to specific tasks. Noah. Abraham. Moses. Paul.

So, can a calling involve a certain vocation or specific task? Yes. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that our foundational calling is that of having a relationship with the Lord.

The more I thought about the time in my life that I’ve looked back on as when God “called” me into missions, the more I realized that I have, in recent years, changed the description of what happened that day to a calling rather than the simple question that it was. I distinctly remember the setting. I was in my room having my quiet time. It was around the time I was in a drama at church about the life of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and the other missionaries who were martyred in Ecuador several decades ago. There were lines in the script that really gripped my attention about people dying without Christ. Then, as I was reading in my Bible that unforgettable morning, I read these words: “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?”

In that moment, the Spirit of God very clearly spoke to my heart and asked me if I would be willing to give up the comforts of life here and go to another country, if He wanted me to, to rescue those who were being drawn unto death...not just physically, but spiritually. I spent a long time in prayer and thought as I counted the cost before answering Him, but I clearly remember saying, “Yes, Lord. Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to Thy Word.”

Did He call me to missions in that moment? I used to think so, but now I have to say, “No. He asked me if I was willing to go if He wanted to use me in that way. It was a test of my surrender.” Several years later, when missions had become so important to me and I couldn’t bear to imagine my life spent in any other way, He asked me the reverse question. “Would you be willing to let go of your desire to go to another country and be just as content to proclaim Me here in America?” This time, it was even harder to surrender because I desperately wanted to hang on to my dreams. But I saw that even dreams of serving the Lord in a certain way can become idols. So that night, I laid my desires back on the altar and told Him I was willing to stay here if that was His will.

My point in sharing this story is to clarify that for me, God did not call me into missions. He asked me if I was willing to go. I do believe He has clearly led me to pursue ministry both here and in other countries, but as I will point out later, I think there can be a difference between being led and being called.

Upon my arrival home after a busy semester, with plenty of time on my hands for Bible study, I decided to dive into a study of this word, “calling” (and its derivatives) to really get an understanding of Scripture on this topic.

My discoveries have been nothing short of fascinating!

First of all, I looked up every reference to the terms “calling,” or “called” in the New Testament. Then, based on these verses, I compiled the following lists:

What is our calling as Christians?

(the order as read in the New Testament)

  • Called to be saints, “the called of Jesus Christ”
  • Called according to His purpose (first foreknown, then predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, then called, then justified, then glorified)
  • Called unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ
  • Called into the grace of Christ
  • Called unto liberty
  • Called in one hope of our calling
  • Called in one body
  • Called unto His kingdom and glory
  • Called unto holiness
  • Called to glorify the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in us according to His grace
  • Called by the Gospel
  • Called to eternal life
  • Called and saved with a holy calling according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began
  • Called of a heavenly calling
  • Called out of darkness into His marvelous light
  • Called to follow His steps who did no sin (even in the face of suffering)
  • Called unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus
  • Called to glory and virtue
  • Called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb

Categorized by preposition:

  • Called out of darkness into His marvelous light
  • Called of a heavenly calling
  • Called of Jesus Christ
  • Called by the Gospel
  • Called in one hope
  • Called in one body
  • Called according to His purpose (first foreknown, then predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, then called, then justified, then glorified)
  • Called and saved with a holy calling according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began
  • Called to be saints
  • Called to glorify the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in us according to His grace
  • Called to follow His steps who did no sin (even in the face of suffering)
  • Called to glory and virtue
  • Called to eternal life
  • Called into the grace of Christ
  • Called unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ
  • Called unto liberty
  • Called unto His kingdom and glory
  • Called unto holiness
  • Called unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus
  • Called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb

It is very interesting to me to note that based on the majority of verses in the New Testament, the Biblical usage of this term “calling” is quite different than how we commonly use it today (i.e. specific vocation/ministry/task). From these verses, we see that the term is always and only used to refer to believers; who we are called to be in Christ, how He calls us to live, what we are called to do (in a general sense), and where we are called to go when we leave this planet. It is noteworthy to mention that these callings are always by God, for God, to God, and through God.

Now, is it wrong to use the term “calling” to refer to a specific task or position? No. There is certainly Scriptural reference of this definition as well.

New Testament references to a specific calling:

  • Barnabas and Saul were separated for a specific work the Holy Ghost called them unto. (Acts 13:2-3)
  • Through a vision, the Lord called for Paul and Barnabas to preach unto the people of Macedonia. (Acts 16:9-11)
  • Paul noted that he was called to be an apostle, and later stated, “He hath saved us and called us with an holy calling...according to His own purpose and grace...whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” (Romans 1:1-7, 1 Cor. 1:1-3)
  • Aaron was called of God to be the first high priest. (Hebrews 5:1-5)
  • Abraham was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance. (Hebrews 11:8)

As I thought about other people who were specifically called by God for a specific task here is the list I came up with:

  • Noah
  • Moses
  • Joshua
  • Samuel
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Ezekial
  • Jonah
  • Mary of Nazareth
  • The 12 apostles

There were probably others that I’m just not remembering, but it is interesting to note that the people called in Scripture by the Lord for a specific task were relatively few in number. However, we see in the New Testament that all of us believers are called to be saints, to be in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ, to walk in holiness and liberty, to fulfill God’s purposes for us, to glorify the Name of Jesus Christ in us. I believer that inherit within this calling, therefore, is the call to obey the Lord’s commands which include loving God wholeheartedly, making disciples of all nations, being witnesses unto Him, preaching the Gospel to every creature, doing good works, visiting the fatherless and widow, raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and so much more. Granted, some men are specifically given the instruction by God to be pastors or evangelists in a vocational sense (Ephesians 4:11), but I believe that all Christians should be involved in ministry and obedience to the Great Commission no matter where they live and no matter what they do to earn a paycheck. Our “calling” is the same; to glorify the Name of Christ and engage in Kingdom work.

Here are some other thoughts I scribbled down in my study of this topic:

There is a difference between our calling as Christians and our spiritual gift/measure of grace given. One is general and one is specific.

There is a difference between having a desire for being or doing something and having a calling to that same thing. Let’s not get the two confused and say that God called me to a particular work simply because I have the desire to go and do it. Nothing wrong with such a desire; the Bible makes it clear that when you “delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart.”

I propose that to have a calling to a particular work means that God specifically spoke to you. In the Bible, He always did it vocally, whether through a dream, a Damascus road experience, a burning bush, etc. However, now we have the Word of God as our guide. I therefore believe that it is possible to receive a specific calling of God through His Word speaking to one’s heart, as a result of a sermon heard, or through a distinct impression that He is speaking to your Spirit.

Sometimes, God’s calling to a particular place or work will be temporary. Such was the case with Paul and Barnabas being called to preach to the people in Macedonia. They did not devote the rest of their lives to that place. They simply followed God’s calling there and then when the work was finished, they moved on to the next location as God led.

Sometimes, God will lead and give direction but I don’t know that it is right to use the word calling in such a context. Nevertheless, there would seem to be overlap in the two ideas.

Now, what about women? I’ve often heard it said that a woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and mother. I am not arguing with the intended meaning behind this statement; that being a wife and mother is a noble and honorable position and one to be embraced with wholehearted enthusiasm. However, if a woman remains unmarried and yet “cares for the things of the Lord” all during this time, does that mean she is living a “lower” calling? Women like Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Gladys Aylward, and Corrie ten Boom come to mind. I agree that women were created to be the helpmeet of the man and that this is the normative pattern God has established for women. Nevertheless, there are those who never do for a host of various reasons. Was their life a waste? A mere shadow of what it could have been if they had married? Did they miss their high calling?

What about women, whether young or old, will eventually get married, but for right now, they are in the season of being unmarried? During this season, are they living according to a “low calling” while they bide their time waiting for God’s choice in a husband so they can live the “high calling” of being a wife and mother?

Do you see how this word can get us in trouble? If we stick to the Bible’s use of the word “calling” we will see that all Christians, men or women, young or old, married or unmarried, share the same calling from God. Forgive me if I seem repetitive, but it bears repeating! We are all called out of darkness into His marvelous light, called by the Gospel, called to the fellowship of Jesus Christ, called to His Kingdom and glory, called unto liberty, called unto holiness, called to glorify the Name of Christ in our very beings, called to eternal life. It doesn’t get any higher than that.

So back to women specifically. “The unmarried woman cares for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 7:34) It’s a statement of fact that communicates the Lord’s will for an unmarried woman. Therefore, the unmarried woman who is living according to this verse is living according to the specific purpose God has laid forth for her and is bringing Him glory! That is what it’s all about, right?

The married woman, on the other hand, “cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” We know from other passages that God’s will for married women is to bear children, guide the house, love their husbands, love their children, be keepers at home, and obedient to their own husbands that the Word of God be not blasphemed and that the adversary have none occasion to speak reproachfully. This is God’s stated purpose for married women; that’s not to say they don’t “care for the things of the Lord” as an unmarried woman, but simply that the way they care for the things of the Lord is different, with a focus on husband and children that an unmarried woman simply doesn’t have.


So, back to the original question that started this whole journey. Should I marry a man that has the same calling in life as myself? That would depend on how the word calling is defined.

YES, I should marry a man who is called by the Gospel of God to be a saint, called to the fellowship of Jesus Christ, called to glory and virtue, called to holiness and liberty, called to His kingdom, called to glorify the Name of Christ.

Does he have to be a missionary going to South America to work with orphans?

NO. This is the vocational work God has led me to pursue for this next season of life as an unmarried woman, but it is not a pre-requisite that my future husband must share this same pursuit. If God allows me to marry one day, my role will be to serve as the helpmeet of my husband; to go where he goes, to support and enable him to be all he can be in whatever vocation he chooses or is called to and in his role as leader of the family. While I will still seek to make disciples in obedience to the Great Commission, my first and most important disciples will be my children. And Lord willing, our family will strive together to view ministry as a life-style.

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11



It was interesting to me that after I had come to these conclusions through the Holy Spirit’s working and was preparing to write this article, I re-read that email my friend, Joshua Steele, had sent me about the possibility of a tortilla-making husband. :) For some reason, I hadn’t remembered all his other words of wisdom, but now they confirmed my own thoughts and beliefs:

Calling. Here we come to the second of my concerns. I'll start with a quick story. When Kelsie and I were still courting, everyone knew we were headed back to Ukraine. A woman in our church came up to me one day and asked if I was sure I should go back to Ukraine. When I said yes, she asked, "But what if Kelsie doesn't feel called there?" That question is illustrative of a major flaw in her understanding of God's calling in the lives of believers. These days, it's common to hear someone extol a couple because "they're both called to X." But here's the point: in Scripture, God does not call married woman to a ministry. God calls men to a ministry, and He calls married women to their husbands. I know of a lot of young ladies who are searching for a man whose calling matches their own. This is a dangerous and unbiblical search. Certainly God may call a single woman to serve Him in a certain way prior to marriage. But marriage itself is a calling, and the woman's role in that calling is to be a helper to her husband. Many woman foolishly enter into marriage because of what their husband is doing at that time, and then cry foul later on when he changes his occupation.

I've been in ministry for many years and in that time I've seen a lot of people quit. Money is often a big player, especially for foreigners. It's quite plausible that “José” may be forced to seek secular employment in order to make ends meet. In time, he may leave full time ministry all together. I'm not saying this is likely, but it's possible. The real question is how such changes would affect your decision if you could know about them ahead of time. The day you marry “José” is the day you give up your calling to Latino missions and begin your calling to help “José” in whatever he does.

Amen, brother! Couldn’t have said it better myself. :)

Again, the Lord brought further confirmation of these convictions when I re-read the answer to a letter in a No Greater Joy magazine from years ago that rang true with what I had just written here:

Dear Mr. Pearl, I am a young man of 16 years. I really want to preach the Gospel. So I am trying to plan and prepare myself to. I am a certified farrier, a certified horse trainer, and a classical guitarist. Where could I be best used in the mission field? What do I need to do to prepare myself? What language or languages do I need to learn? Would I have to provide my own support? Do you or any of your associates offer training? You know more about what I need to do to prepare myself, so please tell me even if I don’t ask. I really love the unadulterated word of God, and support all your material and will use it if possible. I hold no allegiance to any man-made doctrine and will let the Bible be my truth. Sincerely, Benjamin H. Munson

Dear Benjamin, Stop thinking of ministry as a vocation; start thinking of it as a lifestyle. Continue to pursue your talents and abilities in farriering, horse training and guitar to pre- pare to make a living and be self-supporting. Never expect someone to support you in ministry.

Study the Bible; teach it to someone as you study, say, one to four people. When I was seventeen I taught at a rescue mission and witnessed to people on the street, teaching the Bible to anyone who would listen.

Ministry happens in the course of life, if you have the heart to minister. If you have a life that truly ministers, people will seek you out. Ministry may take full time, but if you have the ability to support yourself you will always be free from the controls of religion.

I say again: study the Bible and teach it as you study. There is not a Bible college or training that can make you a minister.


Michael Pearl

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Welcome to the Kangaroo Klub

Trying out my new ERGObaby Carrier in preparation for ministry at Casa de Amor in Bolivia.

What a blessing that little Silas was staying with us for the day!

He made the perfect guinea pig!
(Or should I say kangaroo joey?) :)

Yup. Gotta admit I like this baby-wearing business. Bring on the snuggles!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Free Book from GFA

Usually I don't recommend books I haven't first read, but considering that this free book offer comes from Gospel For Asia, a ministry I greatly love and trust, I thought I would notify you about it! I just ordered my copy today. If you are interested in doing the same, click here.
When you place your order, you will also be allowed to download the book as a PDF which can then be read on a Kindle.

God Loves a Cheerful Giver

This is Sheldon, one my little friends from church. During Patch Club the other night, he paid close attention to the explanation about Casa de Amor and the stories of the little street children who come to live there.

A couple of days ago, this kind-hearted little boy walked into my house with a bag of coins clutched in his hands. In his adorable Chinese accent, he told me he wanted to give the children in Bolivia his own toys that he didn't need anymore, but his mommy told him I wouldn't have space for them in my luggage. So instead, Sheldon decided to empty out all the contents of his piggy bank as well as his little sister's bank and bring me the money so I could buy toys for the children when I arrive. $129.85 worth of toys to be exact.

Sheldon's sweet generosity and caring concern for needy children far away touched my heart profoundly. Five years old and already learning to give freely in Jesus' Name. How valuable children are in the work of the Kingdom!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Melissa Pics

Because we can never have enough! :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In Celebration of Dad!

Praising the Lord today for blessing me with a wonderful father!
I am so grateful for my dad's active presence in my life, his faithful provision, and his guidance of our family.

May the Lord continue to fill you with wisdom for all you say and do
and draw you closer to Himself, Dad!
I love you!

Thank you!

Many thanks to those of you who posted a comment on my birthday wish post! It was wonderful to hear from so many of you!

If you are one who reads this blog but still have not made a comment letting me know, it's not too late! Just click here to do so!

Thank you for your words of encouragement and blessing! I am glad to know you are out there. :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Faith of Children

Last night, I was asked to give a presentation to the children of the Patch the Pirate Club at our church about my upcoming missionary venture to Bolivia. I started out by showing them a map of the world so they could see where Bolivia was located in comparison to Texas. "Whoa! That's far!" came their exclamations of awe at the thought of such a long distance and plane ride. They loved the feel of the word "Cochabamba" on their tongue and practiced saying it several times.

Next, I proceeded to teach them the phrase, "Casa de Amor." Showing them pictures of a few of the babies and children who have received tender care
at this "House of Love," I explained what it means to be abandoned and why it is that many such children go to live there. My little crowd of navy-and-white-clad sailors sat in rapt attention with eyes as big as saucers as they heard the sad tales of children with no mommies and daddies to love them, who live on the streets or are left at the hospital after birth, who don't always know when they will eat again, and who have to beg on the street corners just to survive. I told them that although their stories start out so sad, they end happily as many are adopted into kind families who will love them forever or they get to grow up at Casa de Amor.

After explaining what I will be doing at Casa de Amor, I shared with my young friends how very much I would need their prayers. "And you know what?" I dropped my voice to an almost-whisper. "Having children like you on my prayer team means so much to me. Because I think that God really listens when children pray.
The Bible tells us we should have faith like a child. You see, we adults sometimes don't have very strong faith. We don't always think God can do this or that. But of course He can! He is very powerful and can do anything! You children know this. You believe God is powerful! You believe that when you pray God hears you. And so, I ask you to please pray for me in Bolivia." I went on to share a few specific requests with them and then I gave each one a prayer card to keep in their Bibles.

The presentation over, I was gathering up my visual aids when the Captain of the Patch club came up and told the children that he would like to pray for me right then and would anyone else like to come up in front and join him?

Now, I have to admit I didn't think there would be a very enthusiastic response to this question. I mean, there are few adults in our church circle who seem to want to voluntarily pray out-loud in front of others...I assumed the children would be the same.

Was I ever wrong. (What was it I had just stated about the faith of children?...)

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, more than half a dozen little hands shot into the air. He began calling on various ones to come up and join us at the front and as he did, more and more hands were raised. I think that almost all 17 sailors would have chimed in on the prayer if they could have, but as it was, the captain called upon six or seven of them. Ranging in age from 4-11 years old, they gathered around me and one-by-one, began to pray. My heart was so touched by their earnest pleas! They prayed for the requests I had stated as well as ones they came up with all on their own.

"God, please help Miss Katrina care for these little babies and show them love so they can know Your love one day."

"Dear Lord, please keep Miss Katrina safe in her car when she drives to the airport."

"Help her to have patience."

"God, help Miss Katrina not lose her money."

"Please Lord, keep her safe and help her not lose her passport or other papers."

"Please let the plane not have any crashes."

"Dear God, please take care of the children who don't have mommies and daddies."

"Lord, allow these babies and children to experience Your healing in their lives and grow up to love you."

I can't tell you how very blessed I was by the faith of these precious children! Their desire to talk to God on my behalf and pray for the little ones they had just heard about meant the world to me. Truly, children make some of the best prayer partners.

We've all probably heard it said that children are the church of tomorrow. Well, I would like to propose that they are also part of the church of today. A very valuable part.

"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them..."

Matthew 18:1-2

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Repeat Birthday Wish...

Two years ago, I sent out a petition via my blog the week of my birthday with a special wish. It was a request to know who makes up the readership of this little corner on the web. What a blessing it was to hear back from so many dear people letting me know that the blog was not a waste of time but that it served as a form of contact and encouragement to many across the world!

Today, I would like to share the same birthday wish, knowing that much can change in two years. So, if you are someone who reads this blog, even if you've commented before, would you be willing to let me know by leaving a comment on this post? I was taught in writing class to always know my audience, but with a public blog on the web, it's rather challenging to do without your help!

It would make my hear from you!

Just click below where it says, "Comment." If you don't have a blog of your own, you can simply sign in as an anonymous user. Please share your first and last name (or at least the first initial of your last name if you don't feel comfortable writing the whole thing!), and if we met through Maiden's Quest, let me know that too!

In the meanwhile, I am praising Jesus for 26 years of His faithfulness, His love, His bountiful goodness! Anything good you see in me or in this blog is because of Him. He is my LIFE. He is my LOVE. He is my ALL-In-ALL. And He alone is worthy to receive glory on this day and everyday!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What Is the Gospel?

Intrigued by the title of a sermon link that a friend posted online, I listened to this message by Voddie Baucham a couple of nights ago while I washed dishes and ironed. It was so thought-provoking I had to listen to it again tonight with my full concentration and take notes so as to absorb the depth of what was being communicated.

Have you ever stopped and thought about this question: "What is the Gospel?"

At first it's easy to try to give it a simplistic, pat answer.
"The Gospel is good news."
"The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus."

But the more you ponder its depths, the more difficult it is to create a definition, because this word speaks of a concept that speaks of a plan from eternity past that is the entire summation of the Word of God, the plan of God, the heart of God. How do you take something that big, that beautiful, that breathtaking, and cram it into a simple little definition?

Tomorrow night, it's my turn to facilitate the Friday night Bible study discussion with a group of young people from my church. I've been pondering various ideas for what to study, and after listening to this sermon again tonight, I think I'll pick this topic!

Because, as Dr. Baucham points out, "You don’t put the Gospel down to go deal with other issues and then come back to the Gospel. You pick the Gospel up and look at everything through the prism of the Gospel. It is the Gospel that orients my thinking on every other issue so that I can approach it rightly. "

So, if this statement is true...what is the Gospel?

I know you think you know what the Gospel is. I thought I did too. Then, I listened to this sermon and I am stirred to think again. To think more deeply. It's not that my thinking has been changed so much as challenged to look at the concept from a different angle.

The Gospel is simple. But it is also so very complex that we will spend the rest of our lives trying to put it into human terms. And while there is one theological detail in the sermon I happen to have a different perspective on, it is very much worth listening to.

Another great resource I plan to use for our study tomorrow evening is found on the Statement of Faith of the Ellerslie website; written, I would assume, by Eric and Leslie Ludy. Please, when you have five spare minutes, take the time to read it below. It is profound, life-changing, worthy of our meditation and a wonderful companion to the sermon I've been writing about.

"I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16

The Cross

We believe that the Cross is the pivot point in history, representing a correction of the great problem of humanity. It’s more than two pieces of wood and an innocent man hanging needlessly upon them – it is Majesty on High delivering a death blow to the entire army of Hell, the greatest act of heroic love this universe has ever witnessed, the Champion of Heaven absorbing the full punishment of sin and fulfilling perfect justice, and a seemingly helpless Lamb conquering the powers of sin and death and paving the way for a Kingdom take-over of human lives. The Cross represents a brilliance born in the heart and mind of the Almighty, being the perfect enunciation of His nature of Love, Holiness, Justice, Wrath, and Grace, perfectly fulfilling every demand of Messianic authenticity, while at the same time shaming and humiliating the confounded demonic and earthly rebels that unwittingly helped to carry it out. The Cross is both the greatest tragedy and yet the most dramatic victory. It was triumph wrenched from the jaws of apparent defeat, the Son forsaken by the Holy Father allowed to drink to the dregs the wine of God’s wrath and yet simultaneously it’s His affectionate proposal of life and love to His beloved Bride - the ultimate gift of love and redemption. It is Life purchased, Salvation gained, the Host of Hell defeated, and access opened to the long shrouded mystery of godliness. The Cross represents the inauguration of a new covenant, the establishing of a new order – a heavenly invitation to every man, woman, and child to partake of the Body and Blood of God, to receive the very Living Reality of God’s Life within – to exchange their life for God’s Life – to no longer live to themselves but for Christ to live in them.

The Cross is the centerpiece of the Gospel. It’s not for the covering of sin, it’s the heavenly solution for the removal of sin’s presence. It’s more than the forgiveness of transgressions, it’s the channel through which men and women can access the very Life of Jesus Christ, living, moving, and having His being within them, in order to represent God’s very nature, character, purity, and holiness to this world about. The Cross is the device that God has used to take the filthy rebels of humanity and make them pure and holy vessels of His presence.

What is the Gospel?

We believe that the Gospel (or Good News of God) is represented in Scripture with six distinct elements of Messianic triumph and intent.

1)The Sentence of Death Removed

Man is imprisoned in his sin – unable to escape the control of sin, the earthly effects of sin, and the eternal penalty of sin. However, the Good News of God is that the triumvirate of sin’s effect has been canceled through the work of the Messiah, Jesus Christ – the wrath of God has been absorbed by the stricken Son of God – divine justice has been served, sin has been condemned in the flesh. Thusly, the guilty rebels of earth (you and me), if we would only accept this act of divine intervention with faith, have the privilege of legal justification before the bar of Heaven. We can be forgiven of our rebellion, self-will, and lifelong resistance to His rule and reign. Such justification and forgiveness, when accepted through faith, creates a way into the very Presence and Eternal Life of God. The guilty conscience of man can be swept clean and filled with unspeakable joy, and the condemnation of Hell that hangs justly over the souls of every human can be wholly removed and replaced with hope of life ever after with God.

2)The Prison Door to Sin is Unlocked

Man is controlled by sin. And as a result, the pure and holy things he may esteem with his mind and wish to emulate with his life, he is unable to perform and act out. He finds within his being, a barrier to purity, holiness, and righteousness. However, the work of the Cross, the triumph of our Messiah, has done more than merely remove the sentence of Death from the children of God - in fact, for those who believe, it has removed the barrier to purity, holiness, and righteousness IN a believer. That which has always hindered men from living out the commands of God has been removed. The prison door has been unlocked, and now, the people of faith, have the privilege of walking in the light as our God is in the light, and bearing fruit that evidences a regeneration of the human soul.

3)The invitation to live in His Presence

Though man was a rebel prior to coming to the Cross, and though man was saturated with the dark stain of sin when first approaching the throne of Grace, amazingly, Jesus Christ’s work has created the one and only avenue through which sinful man can enter into the presence of the Divine. Not just be forgiven, and not just be freed from the dark oppression of the soul, but actually permitted the privilege of living where the King lives, sharing in the rights and allowances of His Kingdom, the privileges and protections of His Spirit Law, being counted among His people, named amongst His company.

4)The adoption as sons and daughters

Amazingly, the blood of Christ goes even further than even these three astounding realities. It doesn’t leave us mere citizens of a Kingdom, washed clean and set on our feet with dignity, it also makes a way for us to be adopted into His very family and to be called amongst His sons and daughters. Beyond mere forgiveness of sins, freedom from sin, and allowance into His Presence, this is the monumental privilege of sharing in the authority of His Name, the pleasures of His person, and the riches of His personal wealth. We are offered a place not just in His salvation plan, but on His very lap, invited to know Him and become a heart-friend of the Most High God – actually free to call Him Abba, Papa, Father. And thusly, we are privileged to actually share in His inheritance - all of it!

5)The commission to represent the King’s nature and herald the King’s Word to this lost world

We are also chosen to now represent Him to this lost world, to carry His burdens, to stand for His Truth, to preach His message, and to live as He Himself lived. As the One who has called us is holy, so we are to be holy in every thing we do, in order to demonstrate to this world the stunning virtue and excellence of our Champion, Jesus Christ. We are called to be His Body – His very hands and feet to valiantly undergird the weak, His mouthpiece to shout His Gospel, His ears to hear the cries of the needy, and His feet to go into all the world, seeking and saving that which is lost. We are called to follow Him, to do as He did, and to die in similitude to His dying. We are called to absolute purity of heart, mind, and life. We are called to model God’s perfection. And whereas, such a calling is wholly impossible for us to fulfill and carry out, God doesn’t back down in Scripture in clarifying this amazing intent. And this is why the sixth piece to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (see below) is so important – because without it, none of the above features can even be realized beyond a miniscule level.

6)The privilege of becoming the dwelling place of God

The Cross was about far more than forgiveness. It was about more than men being set free, invited into the Kingdom of their King, being adopted as His very children, and being commissioned to represent His Truth to this world. Shockingly, the Cross also purchased the way for us to find the fullness of Life. The Cross created an avenue through which the awesome, all-powerful, consuming fiery Life of God can actually enter into the bodies of believing men and women and make the entirety of this Gospel (as mentioned above) a living, breathing reality. God desires to live inside us, to speak through us, love through us, feel through us, hear through us – live, move, and have His being in and through us. Just as Jesus did nothing but what His Father in Heaven was doing (He only spoke that which His Father spoke and only did that which His Father did), so we are to be baptized with the very living presence of God within, enabling us to do precisely the same thing (speaking only that which Jesus is speaking and do only that which Jesus is doing). Our life is not our own, it’s been bought with a price. And when we yield to this indwelling Life of God, suddenly it is no longer just a human attempt at imitating the magnificence and perfection of God, but it is the magnificence and perfection of God at work within us demonstrating His Life to this onlooking world.

~ Copied and pasted from the Statement of Belief at