This Thanksgiving we had the joy of being in San Antonio with our “ family.” Our family has grown over the past years in exponential and wonderful ways. This past year we were blessed with the addition of Caitlin to our family when she and Michael were married. What a great reminder that God answers prayers. The family has also expanded in other marvelous ways through the good news of Jesus Christ. We gathered at my parents’ home with nearly 30 people to give thanks to God for His mercy that is new every morning and for his steadfast love. My Dad asked everyone to share what they were thankful for and the group shared blessings of salvation, family, our country, the church, and yes a nephew even said desserts. I however, was thankful for the gathering of God’s people and the fact that my parents are such a wonderful example of believing that all who know Jesus really are our brothers and sisters, our “family.” There is a strong inclination during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season to be very protective of our family holiday dinners or our time of exchanging gifts as a family. Others know when we serve them in the city, community, or the church that they are loved, but nothing expresses the love of Christ more than inviting them into your home and letting them invade your private time as a family. I am thankful that my parents are hosting in their home a Moldovan pastor who was radically saved that is now leading a seminary of 30 pastors in Moldova and a pastor from another city who was staying for a time of restoration. In addition, two army basic trainees, Laura’s parents and several other couples spent the day with us. “T”, a man from our inner city ministry, also joined us. He stands alone for Christ among his peers and family. His family is going in a different direction yet “T” walks with my twin brother Mel in the streets of the inner city. Mel and “T” have nothing in common culturally, economically, educationally, or racially, but their faith in Christ unites them as brothers. I remember last June when “T” called to wish me a happy Father’s Day that he told me that my mom and dad and Mel had given him his first birthday party and his first birthday present. I marveled that a man in his 40’s had never been honored on his birthday. This Thanksgiving “T” was without a job and during the week of friends and family being together, one of our relatives mentioned that the company she works for is hiring and that “T” should apply. What a joy it is to see the body of Christ meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. What so often is missing is an intentional desire to be available to others in their times of need. This is not a cost but a blessing from God. As He poured His life out for us so we should pour our lives out for others.
No one does this better than my parents who are two of the greatest servants of Christ I know. Their home is always open, they serve the least of their city, they have been married over 50 years and they love the Lord and their family. Most of all, I am thankful that their” family” is God’s family! How much richer and sweeter are our times together when we realize it really is about loving God and others before ourselves.
Each of us is living a legacy before the next generation. They are watching what we say and more importantly what we do when the Lord blesses us. Do we serve ourselves or do we serve God and His family? Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your selfless service that encourages me and teaches my children what it means to be servants of God. I love you and thank God for you for showing us what “family” really is.
The story of the Macedonians in the Bible is one of the greatest examples of a people who lived to give. It says in the Scriptures that they gave beyond their ability. There was a desire to demonstrate tangibly that which God had done internally in their lives through Jesus Christ. Giving is one of the greatest indications of what we are living for. If our lives are still consumed with self, our giving will be what is required and will in no way impact our lifestyle or daily living. If we see the life of Barnabas, the son of Encouragement, we see him selling his property which was a temporal investment and giving to the body of Christ for an eternal investment. There was, or course much thanksgiving for his authentic encouragement through generous giving.
As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, Jesus Christ is our ultimate example of giving His life so that we might have everlasting life. He also gave to meet the physical needs of His people as well. He is clear that when we give to the least of these, we do this unto Him. I wonder if you have prayed about giving Jesus your most significant gift this Christmas, first your life if you do not know Him as Savior and Lord. If you are a Christian, add up exactly what you are spending on Christmas and your gifts to family, co-workers, customers, etc. and then commit this year to give more than that to a ministry to the least. I am thankful for the many who give a gift at Thanksgiving or Christmas to ministries like ours in the form of “Koats for Kids” or a present for an inner city child. I wonder, however if we could honestly say that this was unto Jesus and was our priority. God is all about priorities. He demands preeminence. Maybe we would be better off writing prayers for our loved ones who already have too much and writing checks to the poor who have already been praying for God to provide.
We, as a ministry, are hosting two huge Thanksgiving events in San Antonio and West Virginia and will be hosting our annual Christmas Day event in South Dallas. We need $15,000 to help sponsor these events. The Lord is at work and prayerfully you will join Him as He lives to give and so should we. You are in our heart and prayers. If God leads you to give a gift to the Lord through our ministry, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God is able.
The past 2 weeks in Europe was an amazing time to minister, rest, and continue my treatment in Germany. We saw again on this trip some of the most beautiful church buildings and castles we have ever seen. It is amazing to see how the Royalty of Europe were obsessed with their legacies, thus building extravagant palaces with statues of themselves and life size oil paintings just to remind everyone of their own importance. They would go great lengths to continue their prominence from arranged marriages to people they didn’t love and alliances with enemies to enable their family to continue in power. Many of the castles had rooms decorated in different cultural themes and one German Royal built a huge mosque on his property to bring peace and harmony to his palace and people. As you well know, all of these castles in Germany and Romania are now museums and one was even being used as a college. Can you imagine the horror these Royals would feel to see commoners overtaking their palaces? There is nothing new under the sun and clearly this is proof that the things of this world will all pass away and only what is done for Christ will last.
Let us not miss the glaring fact that the churches of Europe are also empty and are in need of great prayer and assistance. When we arrived in Lucerne, Switzerland the streets were empty during the morning hours when people would normally attend church. We heard them playing Amazing Grace on bagpipes to a crowd that was drunk and celebrating after a huge marathon. Amazing Grace is viewed as nothing more than a folk song like many others with no real understanding of God’s amazing redemption and sustaining grace.
The sad thing is that we as a nation are more known for our business, entertainment, and fashion in Europe than we are for the gospel and advancing the kingdom. Every town has a McDonald’s and Burger King. Coca Cola is everywhere and Hollywood’s influence is as powerful there as it is here. I cannot help but ask myself the obvious question, “What are all the Christians doing, who do global business? Why is there no kingdom impact of their lives and influence in these cultures? Why are there so few powerful evangelical churches that are advancing the kingdom of God into this culture?”
Possibly because we are not doing it at home and the evidence is seen by large buildings filled with attendees and not devoted followers and disciples of Christ. We must look at the evidence honestly and let God bring awakening to our hearts. We need to return to the faith of our fathers who would seek God over money and others before themselves. The evidence is clear that America is consumed with capitalism, but not evangelism. Each of us must ask God when we travel or do business overseas, “how will this advance His kingdom and not mine?”
Prayerfully, we will follow the examples of men like Dr. Kevin Seidler and Bob Mirabito, who are businessmen advancing the kingdom mightily through their ministry, Serving Him, whether in South Dakota or with H.I.S. BridgeBuilders in Romania. Their $2.5 million dental clinic with a suite of hotel rooms hosted our team while we were there. Kevin understands fully his role as a dentist is to use this gift to advance the kingdom locally and globally, making disciples and building the local church. I am also extremely grateful for Allen Hobbs, B.J. Woods, Mike Drury and Chris Anderson, who all serve on our International Board and together, as godly businessmen, are advancing urban transformation to one of the poorest communities in all of Europe. Please know that we, too, are daily learning and seeking how we can each be more about God’s kingdom. If you would like to pray with us about how you can join us in this movement, please contact me at 972-715-8410.
Medically, we are on the new treatment from Dr. Kief. We praise God for our prayer time with Dr. Kief, who affirmed his faith in Christ and that he was just a tool of God’s. We are taking 3 to 4 times the amount of serum and will do a CT scan in mid December to check the status. The doctor was very encouraged by our blood work and very expectant. We believe we are healed only by Christ and Christ alone. We praise God that we were sent as His ambassadors to Europe and look forward to many of you joining us on our next mission trip. You are in our hearts and prayers.