Sunday, September 6, 2015

Created for Good Works.

Got to thinking about this verse today and how it applies to raising my three kids. I acknowledge that modeling a more Christ-like life is essential to their future development as men and women in a culture that is increasingly hostile to our faith and conscience.

Here are four principles of Godly parenting that were discussed in church today. 

"We must fuel our children for success!!
Establish healthy boundaries.
Embrace Biblical values.
Embody Christ-like character." 

-The River Christian Community

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Jesus payed a larger price than you probably think.

I sin. But don't get all judgy. So do you. IN fact we all sin. That's why Jesus had to die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice and ransom for our sins. I recently read a short story about a boy who built a toy sailboat with great diligence. While playing with it near the coast, the wind changed directions and he lost it to the sea. Or so her thought. Several weeks later as he was walking past a toy shop, he spotted the sailboat in the window. He went in to reclaim his prized possession. The shop keeper refused to give it to him and demanded for him to pay for it. As the boy left the store with his hand-built special toy he was over heard saying, "You are twice my sailboat. First I built you, then I bought you."

That story really resonated with me last night as I was studying through 1 Corinthians and came to this verse. Do I really understand that price of that Jesus payed for the sinners. It probably isn't possible to over estimate the cost. 

I think that if we spent a bit more time thinking about the price that Jesus payed for us, we could better understand what it means to belong to Him. We might appreciate the pain our sin causes. We might be more in love with this gracious Father God who sent His Son into the world to suffer and die for us that his righteousness might be imparted to us.

This should inspire all of us not only to live more righteous lives, not out of fear of God's judgement but in reverence for His perfect loving nature, in gratitude for the price Christ payed on the cross and out of love for a Lord and Savior who came into the world to justify us even when we were and are in staunch rebellion against Him. This should inspire us to tell others about Him. This should inspire us to actively pursue His will and His calling in our lives. We should be inspired to live completely and totally for Him, after all, we are twice His.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Medical Mission Mentors: A Thank You Note

Dr. Sorg and I strategizing on how and where to set-up our mobile clinic in rural Haiti in 2011

Some days I feel like writing but don't have a plan. I know what I want, but I don't know how to accomplish what I want.

I want someone who can help me figure out how to follow my dream of being a career medical missionary. I have an excellent, albeit extremely busy mentor, Dr. Jack Sorg of ABWE. He was a missionary surgeon in the Amazon Basin for 20 years with his wife Sandy. He travels all over the world still, working for ABWE and leading teams on foreign medical mission trips on almost every continent to strengthen and extend the churches that already there.

I turn to him for advice as often as I need it. He is a great resource for me of spiritual and professional wisdom. I praise and thank God for this man and his availability to me.

We first met 5 years ago shortly following the tragic earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We wound up on a team heading up into the rural villages surrounding PAP and seeing to the medical and spiritual needs of those who had been all but cut off from the infrastructure that had previously existed in Port-au-Prince.

That was my first experience with medical missions, but before I even went, I knew that this was something that I had been called to. I was just a paramedic then. I was taking my pre-requisities for PA school during the day at a local junior college and working nights on an ambulance in Stockton, CA. I exhausted my Montgomery GI Bill before I even started PA school at Stanford. With 3 kids and a mortgage, having visited Haiti twice and no income, it would be 3 years before I saw Dr. Sorg again. It was at a conference where I met up with him and another missionary surgeon whom I revere for his generous spirit and willingness to speak into my life when I need encouragement, Dr. Bob Cropsey.

I guess I just needed to take a moment and express my gratitude for how these two men have made a positive impact in my life over the last few years and how I increasingly lean on their wisdom and insight to further prepare me for this dream I have.

If you are looking for a mentor to help you get started in medical missions, this site is a great place to start:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shatter Your Plans on the Floor

"Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Tower of Babel (Vienna) - Google Art Project - edited"
I would not have chosen to do it this way. I never really wanted to be a Physician Assistant. It should have never occurred to me to use medical training to fulfill the Great Commission, yet it did. I had no plans for anything apart from making a living, raising some kids and watching some hockey on my days off.

I did not aspire to leave my firefighting job after working so hard to land it. I did not want to turn down a flight medic position (a job I had dreamed of since I was a teenager). I did not wake up one morning and just decide that it would be in my best interest to quit my career as a paramedic so that I could live on a fraction of the pay, live out of a suitcase for two years while my family barely scraped by a hundred miles away. I never considered that it would be this great idea to miss four solid months of work due to debilitating and paralyzing illness and injury during my rookie year of being a PA. I did not decide that it was best for me to go to rural Haiti, travelling on rocky mountain back roads in an SUV a month after spinal surgery. I did not conclude to have such financial insecurity in my first year as a PA.

My Tower of Babel (and we all have one) crumbled, as they always do. Apparently some people build more sturdy towers than me, because the second I place one brick on top of another, it seems, God knocks it over. I suppose (and I am) thankful that He does. I'm learning to not ask why. And I don't look at it as if I'm being bullied.

Here's how the story goes down: Some guys want to build a city and tower that would reach the heavens and unite the world. Literally, they said " that we can make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:4)

That's all well and good, right? Nope. Not for God's people. Who do we as His adopted children exalt in our efforts, our accomplishments, our life goals? GOD. Yahweh!

I'm not saying that I've failed at anything (of course I've failed at lot's of stuff) but what I'm saying is that God is at work. He sets my path straight. When I focus on my own schemes and dreams, I tend to look away from the perfect plan of God because what I want is, more often than not, quite self-serving.

If we seek the Lord's Kingdom, that tendency to pursue more self-exalting things becomes less and less of a burden. As we seek to exalt the Lord in our lives, our struggles and troubles and failures, and hardships and set-backs adn even our tragedies begin to make more sense. Of course there are many "why?" questions that will never be answered. I think one of the primary functions of this faith is to eliminate the need to have our "why's" and answered and just continue on, enduring for His glory, even when our plans fall to pieces.

What do you think? I'd love to hear from you and your ideas.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Wisdom of God > My Wisdom

I struggle to always keep in step with the Spirit moment by moment. To submit and give up everything truly is radical and terrifying. However, when I think deeply about it, walking in my own wisdom, contrary to the spirit leading, is even more frightful. Though I struggle, I know that ultimately I want nothing more than to live in total surrender and abandonment to the spirit every moment I have left on this earth.

The spirit may leave me in total sacrifice financially, or he may lead me toward humiliation in the opinions of people around me. The spirit may ask me to move to a different city, a different state, or a different country. The spirit may ask me to stay where I am and spend my time in very different ways than I do now. The spirit could lead me towards actions like into Samuel six, where David danced before the Lord "with all his might". Others were shamed by his undignified display of worship to God, yet David said that he didn't care and that he would become even more undignified for the sake of the Lord.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Adventure or Nothing: A Young Woman's Pursuit of Happiness

I've been inspired by several noteworthy women in my life. Some notable examples are women like my Susan B. Anthony, Lottie Moon, Helen Keller, Elisabeth Elliot (and of course my mother and wife). Today, I met another one. I can't even use her name here, but I have permission to tell her story.

She grew up here in the Central Valley of California like me. This is a dry, withering, drought infested, economicaly depressed and increasingly drug riddled area with high levels of poverty. I don't get to witness much good in my area. My work has never allowed it, working in ER's, on the streets as a paramedic, in a rural health center, and in homeless ministry. I really need to branch out more, or get the heck out of this region.

But this woman, half a decade younger than me saw life that way as well. She woke up one day pregnant and on the streets after her boyfriend kicked her out. She determined that she wasn't going to end up depending on the government to support she and her children and enrolled in nearby college.

On a whim she applied for a job with a large multi-national company in a major Midwest city. She never thought she'd get the job and was shocked when it was offered to her. She is making a good sum of money and has found a house in a nice suburb of that city. She is still a single mom and came home to take care of some final details but has been living in this city so foreign to her for two months. She related to me that the city is a scary place to her. It's never someplace that she could have seen her self but realized that there was no future for her or her children here and decided that it was worth the risk.

The gravity of such a move struck me like a bolt of lightning as I sat there dumbfounded by what I was hearing. This woman, barely old enough to have a college degree had already accomplished what so many more privileged people fail to do every day. She admits her fear, but tells me that her faith in God is stronger than that fear and grows more every day. I have heard stories like this in my life, I've heard a lot of bragging about personal accomplishments, but never have I spoken to someone so humble, so capable and so faithful that she didn't even doubt this opportunity. She didn't worry about whether it was God's will for her life. She didn't poll as many people as she could find, she didn't try reading tea leaves. She trusted God and took a huge step of faith at a moment's notice when she was asked in that unexpected phone call, "yes or no?"

Helen Keller, Lottie Moon, Elisabeth Elliot, Susan B. Anthony and the multitudes of other courageous women whom loved and trusted their Lord would have applauded this woman's character along with me, of that I have no doubt. What a blessing to meet her! I will forever be inspired by her faith, strength, courage, humility and love for her children and I aspire to be more like her in so many ways.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Send us.

A photo from our most recent medical mission to Haiti in May 2015
I find that there are days, long days that start early with frustrations that seem insurmountable. Frustrations about finances, security, social standing, and reputation mount on me. I find that in those times I tend to either withdraw into my thoughts, seeking escapism rather than facing the insecurities or I step out, face them and look to The Lord for answers. When those answers don't come immediately, I still become frightened.

I've made career decisions, very recently, career decisions that seem foolish. I turned down a position to be trained in neurosurgery. I would have gained such valuable experience and expertise that career-long earnings and job security would be concerns of the past. 

I had to take a stand and ask the questions "What am I doing this for? What am I pursuing and where do I put my trust?" I have financial insecurity now. My paychecks bounce, my checking account has become overdrawn for the second time in the last 6 weeks because of this too. I don't understand why this is happening. The frustrations for my wife and me are mounting. After graduating from one of the finest schools in the world, we find ourselves worse off financially than we were when I was a paramedic, working nights and and going to school full-time by day. 

And I have to remind myself why I turned this position down. I chose to stay in this job position. I pray every day that the Lord opens a door into another job. One that prepares me for the mission field both with knowledge and experience but also with financial security. I know that there will be other job offers. I'm assured by other physicians that there are other jobs out there that will prepare me. 

The problem for me is that is seems that there are so few people that understand our calling into missions. And we need that encouragement right now. No, we REALLY need that encouragement right now.

We are buried in debt now and feel hopeless at times to ever climb out of this financial hole. How could someone who only wants to bring God glory, share His Word with the unsaved, bring medicine to the hurting, malnourished developing world face so much opposition? Some would say that it's because I'm not meant for missions, that God has something else in mind for my family.

It certainly seems that way at times. But here is where we must take our stand. There is NO guarantee that life will be easy when you follow Christ. In fact, one may argue that the only guarantee any person may have when deciding to follow Christ is that life will be very difficult.

Recently, I was watching a webcast in which Dr. Kent Brantley was giving some updates on Ebola medicine and at the end fielded some questions. During this time he relayed a question that he had heard about his own fight with Ebola. He had been asked if it was his faith that healed him of the Ebola. He got very serious for a second and said that following Jesus, being filled with faith and being a Christian doesn't protect you from anything. 

Then he shocked me something that should have never shocked me when he proposed, "I got Ebola because of my faith."

I started thinking about his trials, the trials of Steve Saint and his father, and numerous others who followed Jesus into turmoil. 

The fact is that I'm sick to death of half-heartedly pursuing this. I'm sick to death of being embarassed because of everything that we struggle with financially. The world tells us that this isn't how we were meant to live, but experience tells me, the Bible shows me and the Gospel compels me that difficulty and trial is part of it. 

So we walk along, unsure of ourselves, knowing not what the future will bring. Afraid to fall into obscurity, becoming entirely irrelevant, we just keep going. Our faith isn't the size of a mustard seed, it's much much smaller, but we still believe. We feel very alone, but we believe. We have no one to walk beside us and provide direction. We have no one that seems convinced as I am that God has called me to missions. I mean if I were to follow conventional wisdom, the fact that my church seems not to be interested in preparing us for the mission field, our friends (save a few really staunch devoted supporters of our calling) are not interested in praying with us, walking with us or encouraging us to move into the mission field. In fact, there are days when I feel entirely alone in this. Days like those I doubt. I seriously doubt! But God will do something to draw me back onto the path, reigniting that passion for medical missions.

If you are reading this and you care at all, if you have any encouragement, advice, want to walk alongside us, please let me know. Until that day, we will wait to be sent.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Call to Our Churches: As The Native Among You.

More than 13 million people worldwide have fled conflicts and crises in which religion has been a key factor, according to the 2015 report from the US Commission on International Religion Freedom (USCIRF). Timothy C. Morgan, 13 Million Flee Religion-Linked Conflicts Worldwide (Christianity Today)
The question that we should be asking ourselves after these opening words from this article is: "Where are all of these refugees going?"

According to the USCIRF, about 100,000 or more per year should be coming to the US. Our current ceiling for accepting refugees annually is about 70,000.

Personally having met many refugees who successfully found asylum in the United States in the 80's from the Khmer Rouge and knowing children of refugees from other nations in Southeast Asia, this issue of housing and integrating refugees is definitely not a new one.

We've had regular influx of refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Iraq and several other nations for several years. But finding your way in the US isn't easy. The film "The Good Lie" is an excellently done glimpse into the challenges of settling in a new nation.

In spite of Christian leaders calling for Christians and other religious minorities to remain in the countries, it seems as if most in the Middle East and other nations where violence and oppression against minority religious groups is a mainstay have decided the the risk is too high and since 2007 the US has accepted 84,900 Iraqi refugees alone.

Why should we be involved?

In Leviticus, when God is establishing the law for His people He specifically makes mention of the foreigner when He says:

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)

When I read this article that I quote in the very beginning of this post, I can't help but wonder what re-settlement is going to be like for these families. Where will we put them, will they end up in ghettos? Will we be willing to help them acquire the skills and knowledge to navigate our complex society? Will there be jobs where they will be able to make enough to support their families? This is something the church, at-large, must bear a great deal of responsibility for.

I want to make a call out to the churches of my home town and beyond:

Let's open our homes to refugees! Let's actively seek out opportunities to welcome them into our lives no matter how inconvenient, uncomfortable and cumbersome it might be!

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Where Is The Urgency?

“The trouble with deep belief is that it costs something And there is something inside me, some selfish beast of a subtle thing that doesn't like the truth at all because it carries responsibility, and if I actually believe these things I have to do something about them. It is so, so cumbersome to believe anything. And it isn't cool.” Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
What do you believe in? What would you die for? It's a heavy heavy question and heavy heavy questions aren't really all that fun to answer if you don't like to think. Thinking takes practice. Thinking takes patience. Thinking requires getting rid of distractions and just... thinking.  Believe it or not, we have to learn how to think. People who think a lot seem to be a bit more serious and even slightly more awkward than people who don't. But we need to think and we fail to think.

Organize your thoughts for a moment. What do you you believe in? Do you believe that you are alive? Do you believe that what is happening around you is actually happening and that your current surroundings actually exist? Can you prove it?

What if your life is actually happening and there are two story lines occurring around you all the time? One story line is what you are living in day-to-day. That includes waking up, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, going to work, picking the kids up from school, studying for an exam. Then there is another deeper thread that is connecting humanity together. This one is even more important because it has eternal consequences. Either you believe that these two story lines exist or you don't. I'm not going to try and convince you of either.

What I want us to think through together is the "what if?" What if there is a deeper story-line that has eternal consequences? What if that underlying deeper story-line is intricately interwoven into the day-to-day happenings of your life? What if the eternal implications were life and death, a life everlasting in relationship with a creator God who loves you more than you can ever imagine or a life of everlasting in separation from that creator God who loves you more than you can ever imagine?

Again, my point isn't to prove to you that this is the truth. I want you to consider the implications if this is the truth.

So let's just say that the deeper story-line is interwoven with your day to day tedium like washing dishes, studying for your test, picking out the right shoes for you outfit today. We have to live life in the tedium, it's crucial otherwise we'd be naked and hungry. And it's easy to ignore the deeper story-line in our lives. I'd venture to guess that most of us do. There are a ton of people out there who would like to sell you their version of a deeper story-line whether it has to do with new-age philosophy, eastern religious thought, Islam, Christianity or secularism (which one might argue has no deeper story-line). People are living and dying every day for these deeper story-lines while we go on living comfortably either ignoring them altogether or broaching them halfheartedly.

It's the halfhearted pursuit that concerns me the most. When we know that there is something so incredibly important that our eternity and, more importantly, the eternity of others depends on how it plays out but only pursue living out that story with the slightest modicum of intentionality, we are in essence defeating ourselves and committing a crime against our own moral standard.

Let me explain. There is s disease that is killing people throughout the world. You and a handful of others know what the cure is for that disease and have the knowledge to save humanity. Some people say that there is no cure, some say that there is no disease, some say that their cure is the real one and your cure wont work, but for argument's sake, let's say that you do actually have a very real cure for a very real disease. You have some options with what you do with it. You can depend on others to pass on the knowledge/cure. You can withhold the knowledge/cure because you don't want people to think you are crazy for saying you have it. You can occasionally tell a few chosen people over the course of your lifetime about the knowledge/cure or you can make a choice to live to see as many people cured as possible. Which would be the most moral choice?

The moral choice is obviously to get knowledge of the cure out to as many people as possible, even making it part of your life's mission. That is the sense of urgency that Christians should be living with everyday. We don't, or at least most of us don't, and that should bother us. So why don't we treat the Gospel with the same sort of urgency? I'm sure that we can come up with several reasons if we were to sit down and brain storm.

Allow me to submit some of my ponderings: Part of the problem is that it's a weighty topic to give much thought to. It burdens our hearts for people in a way that breaks down certain protective barriers that we have spent our entire lives fortifying. We don't know how people will react. We are afraid of what a message of such urgency would do to our friendships, families, work environments and even our churches. It's not cool to carry around something to heavy and burdensome because once it is shared there is no taking it back and maintaining any sort of ethical consistency with our lives.

We need this sense of urgency in our churches, and frankly, folks, I don't see it. As a matter of fact, the church of America is awash with comfortably neutered Christians who are hard chargers for the gospel at church and maybe even in Bible study but away from church, how do they express the love and life giving truth of the Gospel message?

I'm no less guilty of this than anyone else, but let's pray this together, that God renews a sense of urgency in our hearts to reach out, touch lives and hearts, in grace and the love of Jesus Christ. Let's pray that our hearts are broken for the lost and that we would become willing vehicles of the Holy Spirit to reveal the underlying story-line that unites all of humanity.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Note From Elizabeth

From Elizabeth:

As I think of this upcoming medical mission trip to Haiti I hang on tight to these three verses from the Bible:

1. Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

2. Deuteronomy  31:8 "It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed ."

3. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  "Rejoice  always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

The thought of going on a medical mission  without  being a medical  professional is a tad intimidating and nerve-racking, but Zach reassures me that my organizing talents and french background will be very useful!  I know that God wouldn't send me there without a plan or equip me with what I need to get through it. I need to hold onto that and trust what is said in Deut.31:8, He will not leave me or forsake me!  I have never been to a developing country or witnessed that kind of poverty. I'm not sure what to expect and how it will effect me when I come home to my "comfy" life. All I know is I have a desire to bring hope and love that is in Jesus Christ to these people and that hope is free and doesn't require a medical degree to share it!  I pray that when an opportunity arises to share the gospel that I will not worry about messing up or failing God that I would just trust him to give me the right words and not let my self get in the way.  So if you feel led to pray for us I personally could use prayer that God would give me the wisdom I need to be helpful in Haiti, that our children and our parents who will be  taking care of them be ok in our absence, that God's love would be seen through us and the team going to Haiti.   

Sent from Samsung tablet.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Because first, Christ.

As we spent time both with our church family and our physical families this weekend, we were refreshed and encouraged to learn of how many people are supporting us as we prepare for this mission.

There are so many aspects of this mission that seem daunting from the obvious to the subtle. Obviously, financially, raising $3500 is a big deal. Obviously leaving our kids with our parents for so long will be trying for everyone involved. Obviously the arduous work and traveling into rugged and remote areas in Haiti without the infrastructure and safety nets that we are accustomed too in the US will be a stretch for us.

More subtly, we will be challenged to grow in ways that we can't forsee such as in faith, to overcome the inevitable shock and sorrow of seeing extreme poverty and poor nutrition first hand. We will need to be bold in our acts of compassion requiring sacrifice and moving well beyond our comfort zones. All for what? What drives the hundreds and thousands of people like us to accept challenges, forego comfort and endure risk? Is it for self-promotion, to impress friends or colleagues? Is it so that we have exotic photos to post on facebook or give us good stories to tell in our memoirs? Is it to leave behind a lasting legacy?

All these things are ultimately worthless. What drives us, if I may be bold enough to speak for my wife, is that first Christ loved us. First Christ sacrificed for us. First Christ lived among us, the spiritually impoverished who had little hope and were hungry for the sustenance only Jesus could provide even though we didn't know it at the time. He was rejected, castigated, hated, tortured, hung on a cross and He knew it would all take place. He was willing to endure these things because He loved even those who hated Him. That is our inspiration and our driving force.

I admit, this sounds ridiculous, or "religilous" and contrived. I know how it appears to the world when we (counting the thousands of other medical mission workers doing this often at even greater cost) say that we are doing this for something other than self-serving reasons, so I won't waste time explaining why that isn't the case for us, but I want to encourage others to ignore what people may say or think about them or their motives; to move beyond their comfort zones similarly just to experience it themselves. Only through experiencing something like this can we understand the common need not only to provide compassionate aid to those in need, but to do something that is totally and completely non-selfish with our time and resources.

Because first, Christ.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Haiti 2015

My wife and I are going back to Haiti this May. I will be posting some updates to let you know about our progress and this will our official location for mission photos and blog updates while we are on the mission. If you would like to donate to help us meet our goal of $3500 to go, the link is in the upper right hand corner of this page and you pay directly into our PayPal account.

Thanks. We'll be posting updates regularly until we leave.