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Saturday, February 17, 2018

You will know.

I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:7 ESV)

Have you ever come through a storm of life and the only way you made it through was because of Jesus? Reflecting back on my life, I can summon to mind more than a few times like that. It may not have been a life or death situation. Maybe it was a season of life that was full of stress and unexpected trials, but you came through it stronger in your faith and closer in your relationship with the Lord.

Reading in Exodus 5 and 6, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and relay to him the message of the Lord. Instead of Pharaoh heeding the Lord's command, he rejects it and increases the burden on the Hebrew people. As I am sure you can imagine, this makes the Hebrews resent Moses. After all, things weren't "this bad" before Moses showed up. But then God says to Moses, "But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh" (6:1) and then "and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment." (6:6).

I wonder what would have happened if the first time Moses walked into Pharaoh's court and demanded the Hebrew people be let go, he would have let them leave? Would David still be writing about the deliverance from Egypt in the Psalms? Passover certainly would not be celebrated as there would not have been a first "passover" of the death angel. Would the victory have reflected on Moses' negotiating skills and leadership rather than on God's power? The people would not have left with the riches that were placed upon them by the Egyptian people as the made their way out. Would they have known the true power of God?

Reflecting back on my life again, I wonder if God allows us to bypass the easy way out so that we can know He is the LORD our God. Does the storm rage on with Jesus asleep in the front of the boat so he can then stand and say "peace be still" and the wind and waves obey? Does Lazarus die so Jesus can bring the dead back to life and show people God has power of death and the grave? Are you in a situation that seems hopeless? Are you wondering what you have done to deserve such hardship? Maybe, just maybe, the situation that you are in is going to seem hopeless until our Sovereign, miracle-working, all-powerful God steps in and delivers you from it. Then you will look back and know that the He is the LORD your God.

-JD

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Inadequacy of the Called

Last nights reading brought us to the call of Moses, a familiar story to students of the Bible. God comes to Moses in the form of a burning bush and instructs him to return to Egypt. The task that the Lord gave to Moses must have surely felt overwhelming. Returning to his place of birth. Returning to his people. Returning to a place that he left as a wanted man. From the text we see that Moses was not only concerned as to what he will say to Pharaoh but also how he would convince the Hebrews that he had truly come on behalf of the the Lord. Many of Moses' excuses seem to come out of honest humility. Place yourself in Moses' sandals for a moment. Sure, at one point you were a member of the royal court of Egypt but now you are a simple shepherd of Midian. The Lord tells you to go and instruct one of the greatest leaders of the known world to allow his entire workforce to leave?! I don't know about you but I would have felt massively inadequate. But regardless of the origin of the excuses that Moses gave to the Lord, they did not sit well with the Lord. In fact, the text states that God's anger was kindled against Moses. Moses main excuse was that he was not an eloquent speaker, to which God responds, "Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:11–12 ESV) God answers Moses' questions by simply telling him to go and that He would take care of the rest.

How often do we, like Moses, hear the command of the Lord to go and instead of rushing to what the Lord has called us to do we sit and make excuses of why we are not qualified to do so. Sure the task may beyond what we thing we are capable of on our own but God has not called us to go on our own. You and I can always come up with excuses as why to not follow the Lord in the calling he has placed on our lives. There have been plenty of times in my life when I have told the Lord, "there is no way, I'm not smart enough, qualified enough, outgoing enough, charismatic enough, etc." Most times it truly comes out of a sense of humility (sometimes stemming from self doubt), not from a desire to not follow the Lord. However, it is still a revelation of the lack of faith and lack of trust in the God that has called. In the great commission in Matthew 28:20, Jesus tells his disciples, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In Jeremiah 1:7-8, God says to a young Jeremiah, "But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.” I am sure you have heard the quote, "God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called." That is basically what He says to Moses here, "you just go and I'll take care of the rest." He is still telling that to us today.

I had the opportunity to put this into practice today. I had to make a couple of hospital visits today. Hospital visits make me a bit nervous. I am always concerned that I'm not going to know what to say or not going to be able to carry the conversation and have to encounter the dreaded awkward silence. But before I got out of the truck I prayed that God would give me the words to say. He reminded me that I was not there to minister to them in my ability but I was there to express His love to them by showing compassion and letting them know that they were being thought about and prayed for in this hard time. In both instances I was able to sit, listen, and pray for two precious people who are going through a hard time with a loved one. I left feeling blessed, because I was able to simply be a conduit of God's love. That is what God calls us to do, to be a conduit, allow him to minister to other through us. What has God called you to do that you are still offering up excuses about?

-JD

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Covenant

For Lent this year my wife and I are using the SHE READS TRUTH & HE READS TRUTH study that walks through the book of Exodus. Russ Ramsey wrote a great piece on Understanding Exodus Through the Cross here. Yesterday was the first day of our reading through Exodus and it was these two verses that stuck out to me: 

[24] And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. [25] God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. (Exodus 2:24–25 ESV)
Two things about this passage stood out to me:

  1. God hears- God heard the cries of His people. In my experience I think it is hard to keep our view of God in balance. It is easy to view God as the all powerful creator who is up in Heaven or as our loving Father who is near. But he is both and is always and at all times, both. I am reminded of Paul's sermon at Mars Hill in Acts 17 where he makes the two statements, "The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.... Yet he is actually not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:24–25, 27 ESV) God does hear, but not only does He hear, he also has the power to act. For believers today we need to remember that God hears us when we cry out to him. Often in the midst of our storms it can feel as through he is far away and cannot (or does not) hear us. But he does and he desires to hear from us.
  2. God keeps His covenant- It says that He remembered his covenant. If you read through the Old Testament you see how serious God takes covenants, especially when they are broken (go read the first two chapters of Amos). Our God is a covenant keeping God. He honored the covenant that he had made with the Hebrews forefathers. When Christ came he instituted a new covenant. In Luke 22:20 Jesus says, "And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood." Also the author of Hebrews writes, "Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15 ESV) We can rest in the knowledge that the forgiveness of our sin and salvation was brought about by a God who keeps his covenants. Our salvation, our freedom, purchased by the blood of Christ, is secure.
I hope that you are joining me in this season of Lent! It is not to late to join in. If you are interested in following along in our journey through exodus you can check it out at shereadstruth.com and hereadstruth.com and catch up or just jump right in.

Grace and Peace,
JD

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love and Lent

Lent starts today. I have, for a few years, seen friends and acquaintances observe this season and have been encouraged by the testimony of their participation. Growing up Baptist, we did not observe the Liturgical calendar and therefore I had very little knowledge of what Lent was, let alone how to observe it. It was a "catholic" thing. I am sure in my studies at university and graduate school that I was introduced to it in Church history. However, it was not until a few years ago that I seriously started learning about it and not until this year that I made the decision to observe it in whole.

If you are unfamiliar with Lent, I encourage you to look it up. There are many resources available on the internet (make sure you choose a reputable source) that can give you a better history that I can in this short blog. But I like this description from The Village Church's 2017 Lent guide (tvcresources.net):

Lent is about the gospel. It is a time to narrow the focus of the Church to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to turn from our sin and trust in His atoning work. The season of Lent lasts approximately 40 days, excluding Sundays, between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The 40 days have obvious biblical parallels in the flood narrative (Gen. 6-8), the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai (Exod. 24:12-18), Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:1-12) and Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11, Mark 1:9-12, Luke 4:1-13). The last of these accounts is most relevant to the season. 
Originally a preparation period for those desiring to be baptized, Lent eventually became embedded into Christian tradition as a season for the Church to symbolically follow Christ into the wilderness. It is a time for fasting and self-denial, though not for denial itself. It is a period to empty ourselves of lesser things so that we might be filled with the greater things of the gospel. Whereas Advent is a season of ever-increasing light awaiting the incarnation of Christ, Lent is a season of ever-decreasing light approaching the cross.
Celebrated each spring as the days begin to lengthen (the term Lent is from a Saxon word meaning “lengthen”), Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 46 days before Easter Sunday. It is marked by periods of fasting and feasting. Each week, participants traditionally fast during the week and feast on Sundays. This pattern continues throughout the season as the Church journeys toward the Holy Week commencing on Palm Sunday. The final period of Lent is often referred to as the Triduum, beginning Maundy Thursday and continuing through Easter Sunday. 
In our context, it is easy to get lost in the cultural expectations of Easter and miss out on the meaning. Lent is a reminder that the resurrection only occurred after the crucifixion. Rather than skipping over the ministry and crucifixion of Christ, Lent is a season to prepare ourselves for the joy of Resurrection Sunday as we enter the sorrow and pain which preceded it. 

Easter is a big day in the life of the Church and the Christian. Lent helps us to focus our minds and prepare our hearts for Easter. I encourage you to pray about joining me in this season. Lent is not hard to observe. I am sure you could find a list of "rules" if you wanted to but I believe that is not necessary and makes it more of a checklist than a season of preparation. There are two things that I do encourage you to do. This first and well know part of Lent is  fasting or self-denial. Some people fast from food or certain types of food for the season, while other fast from a variety of different things. It is not about what you are fasting from but the fast that you are denying yourself and when that thing is brought to remembrance you reflect on the reason that you are abstaining and on the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. The second thing I would suggest is spending time in the Bible. There are more than I few studies that are geared towards Lent and follow the 40 days until easter. My personal favorite and the one that Bethany and I are doing this year is from SHE READS TRUTH and HE READS TRUTH both are available for free online or you can purchase for you smart phone or order the hard copy of the book (you can listen to the founder talk about the study here). This year we are combining both our fast and bible study. In our daily routine we usual watch TV in our room after the kids are down. However, we are putting that aside for Lent and spending the time we would normally watch a show to be in the word and prayer together. You need to find what works for you, maybe its food and instead of eating lunch during the week you fast and spend time in the word. I could list many examples but what truly matters is that you are preparing your heart and mind. Will you join me?

-JD

p.s. I am going to try and write daily about my reflection of the passage that I read as we work our way through Exodus

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A new calling and another move...

Dear Friends & Family,

We hope that your Christmas season is going wonderful, and that the Lord has blessed you like He has blessed us! We wanted to write you to tell you of a very hard decision that we have had to make. Bethany and I have been praying hard for the past couple of months about what the Lord has for us long term. We both feel a strong call to missions on our lives, and we have such great love for the people of Guatemala. However, after being home these few months, I (JD) have seen how much my parents need me to be with them right now. This last year has been very difficult for them. We all had to go through a very difficult situation that I have not previously told to many people. The last couple of years, my brother got into partying, drinking, and drugs. One night, he, along with two or three other people he hung out with, killed a man. Daniel was the primary suspect. He was charged with capital murder and later was able to plead out to life in prison. Thankfully though, his first night in jail he truly met the Lord for the first time! He got saved that night and is now living for the Lord! He is daily in the word and is growing in Christ.
While we are overjoyed that he is now serving the Lord, it was extremely difficult for my parents and I this last year. Bethany and I have been praying for a while now and seeking God’s will in this. We prayed that God would make it obvious whether or not he wanted us to move back. In all of our decisions about Guatemala, God has shown us His will in a big way. One evening, we prayed specifically that God would give us direction and clearly show us where we needed to be. The next morning, we got a call that our landlord wanted their house back. This confirmation, along with counsel from multiple people, has led us to make the decision to move home this next year. We have decided to come home at beginning of March. This was such a hard decision for us- so much harder that even deciding to move to Guatemala. We love the country and the people of Guatemala. It pains us to have to leave. But we know that God is calling us home for now to minister to our families.
We ask that you continue to pray for us as we make this transition back to the states, as this will be our third move in a little over year. We are uncertain on what the future holds, as far as jobs and housing, but God has been so faithful to us and we are certain He won’t stop now. We also ask that you would prayerfully consider continuing to support us through March, as we will have bills to take care of in Guatemala until the end of that month.
We cannot say thank you enough for your partnership with us while we were in Guatemala. We know that God called us and used us in mighty ways during our year in Guatemala, and each and every one of you helped to minister to these precious people through your support. Thank you for being a vessel of Christ and giving so generously to our ministry. We praise Him for our time in Guatemala and all that we experienced and learned while there. We covet your prayers as we make this transition, and continue to pray that the gospel message continues to spread through the country of Guatemala through Clubhouse Guatemala.

Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the Glory),


JD, Bethany, & Karis Jones

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Producing faithfulness or the loss of our house.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4, ESV)

Most of you know the setbacks that Bethany and I have had since we arrived in Guatemala. From our car getting stuck in port, cutting short our time at language school to having a lot of our belongings stolen on the container. Through all of this God has continued to show Himself faithful and taken care of us. We were dealt another blow a couple days ago. I received a phone call from our executive director, who informed us that our landlord wants their house back February 1st. We were devastated with this news. Bethany has worked very hard since we have been in Guatemala to make this house our home and we had just started to feel at home before we left to come back to the states for the holidays. Unfortunately we have no choice but to move now and  will have less than a month when we return to Guatemala. 

We have endured a lot since moving Guat and we will make it through this as well. Continue to pray with us that God would give us direction and wisdom as we follow him..

Gracias,
JD, Bethany, and Karis

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A little R&R...

Hey everyone! As I have previously stated I am not a good blogger. But I just wanted to give everyone a quick update.

Most of you know that we are back in the states right now. We are in until the 27th of December. I have had a few people ask if we are back permanently and the answer is no. We are just home for the holidays and to raise support before we start into next year.

This past year was great and we are looking forward to next year! God is doing great things with Clubhouse and we are privileged to be apart of it!

JD