Engaged by God’s Goodness

2010 has been another year of life lessons where God regularly humbles me with reminders that I’m not in control of very much at all. Several key changes serve as the reminder — I transitioned to a new role and environment at work; my small group for 4+ years, The God Lab, moved on; several friends moved away; I began my dating relationship with Ngoc; I am fundraising for Jesus Christ and clean water while prepping to climb a mountain; and I had some changes in my financial situation.

I’m reminded that God is sovereign and puts everything together according to His plan and His timing. I don’t realize His handiwork at the time, but when I look back on 2010 I can see His goodness shine through each life event. In particular, I’m reminded of the word “favor” that shows up throughout the Scriptures. For no good reason, God shows me favor; He grants goodness in my life.

Most notably this year, God has poured out his favor on me through Ngoc. Ngoc is everything I desire in a partner. Most importantly, everything about her compels me even more toward my savior, Jesus Christ. She is wonderfully trusting; she covers the many areas where I am lacking; she models love so beautifully; she is playful and doesn’t get upset when I make messes and break things; she loves God first; she’s pretty; she has noble and admirable character; and most of all she is with me.

Her and I spent the weekend before Christmas in Williamsburg where I proposed. Ngoc and I are ENGAGED! We’re excited about a lifetime together filled with many more stories of God’s goodness. We both know that God has divinely built us for each other and has now brought us together in His perfect timing. I’m happy to share the first story with you, A Sweet Beginning, with a collage of our engagement.

I look forward to sharing many more stories of dreams and visions fulfilled.

Jason & Ngoc - Engaged!

I consider it an extreme honor

Haiti has been hit with an earthquake which has brought massive devastation on the already incredibly poor country. With untold numbers of causalities and dead bodies lining the streets, the people and country are in deep need. I am so very impressed with the compassion of the world to come alongside the country which is hopeless without this undeserved grace. Haiti doesn’t have anything to offer the other countries of the world neither before this disaster and even less-so afterwards.

Not surprisingly, I’d love to go over there and help in whatever capacity I can. I have been blessed by so many others that I am compelled to do the same (not from a sense obligation or guilt) because love begets love. As I think of this idea of sacrifice, love and faith in light of what I’m currently studying (the Gospel of John) – other ideas begin to connect.

My Hope and Salvation (Jesus Christ) humbled himself as the Creator to become the created. He was deity who chose (for no good reason) to come as the most ordinary to relate to his beloved (all of us). Jesus said of his faithful forerunner, “Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt 11:11). John fearlessly lived out his faith by fulfilling his calling – to proclaim repentance and the coming savior of the world, Jesus the Christ. His public calling for repentance angered the powerful – religious, noble and military – which led to his martyrdom only a little more than year after he began. Jesus faithfully obeyed God the Father for three years before humankind rejected his message and demanded a gruesome torture and death because his message was so contrary to our natural selfishness.

I thought of these ideas as I’m running up the final hill to my house the other morning. And, I asked myself, “If I go to Haiti, what opposition would I run into?” Most notably, I believe that my physical safety could be jeopardized and that well-meaning and caring people would advise against such an endeavor. Then, this verse (Phil 3:8) finally made sense (going from head to heart) – “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

For me, there are many things I want to believe and then there are the times when I realize that I actually do truly believe them. The ‘rubber meets the road’ (when life gets difficult and tragedies hit my relational life, financial situations and family members) is where the training is proven. So, that morning I honestly said to myself and God, “I consider it an extreme honor to die in the name of Christ (for I am entirely unworthy), if I can live out God’s call for my life even one day.”

I trust you (audioblog)

Control – why do I want to be in control? It makes no sense really, because there is nothing in which I have control except for my own actions in and reactions to the situations of life.

What does it look like to let go of the stresses of my life? For me, I am left to wonder about life when circumstances, pain, and uncertainty hit close to home. When this happens, how do I react? First, I am frustrated at first that things are out of my control. I then question God about what is going on – I want to understand; I want to feel like life (a.k.a. God) is fair. Finally, my God reminds me who He is, His nature, and where I need to be. It’s then up to me to make the decision as to how I will react.

This is my second audio-blog which was recorded on my drive home from the hospital after my mom’s surgery. Enjoy the background music and the noise of the car ride for the 9:32 of this audio-blog.

Audio-blog: I trust you

Beyond what you can bear (audioblog)

My life is driven by my own world view which is driven by the truths of Scripture (as I make the time to reflect). Over time, I wrestle with some ideas around the nature of our world, our God, and how our existence meshes beautifully with the goodness of God. However, there are tough life experiences that call our understanding of God into question. These questions can then lead to a deteriorated (or invigorated) relationship with our God.

This is my first audio-blog which was recorded on a long drive when I was visiting my mom as she was undergoing surgery. If you are going to take the 14:19 to listen to this audio-blog, take the time to read through some of the passages of scripture and ideas that I’m going to wrestle with in this recording. Please enjoy the background music and the noise of the car ride.

Verses:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
  • Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Ideas:

  • Sin of commission: is to know something is wrong, and do it anyway; deliberate disobedience to the known will of God
  • Sin of omission: sins of failing to do what we should have done
  • Temped: being compelled to sin (to act in a way that not in complete alignment with the will and nature of God and His goodness)

Audio-blog: Beyond what you can bear

Ethiopia: Christ is too simple for the adult

While in Ethiopia, my translator, Bareket, shared why he is compelled to teach children of the love of God through Jesus Christ. He started off with a little story.

One day a preacher came home and told his wife that two and a half people came to know Jesus Christ that day. His wife was confused about what he meant by a half a person and asked if her husband implied that a couple and their small child accepted Christ. He replied, “No, the two and a half people refer to the two children and one adult that chose to follow Christ. For the two children have their entire life before them live for Christ’s glory whereas the adult has already wasted half of her life.” Bareket went on to explain that it is much more difficult for an adult submit to Christ because the adult carried much baggage and believes many lies that must first be dispelled before he will be convinced of the truth of Christ.

Bareket focus on teaching the little children of Christ’s love. He reiterated to me that the gospel is so simple and easy to grasp that it’s easier for children to accept than adults because the adults are confounded by its simplicity. Children know they cannot understand everything and don’t need to; however, us adults think we are something greater and need to be able to understand all aspects of everything before we commit. I’m just glad that we don’t live by this mentality for anything else in life – for we’d never commit to anything (name any risk – investments, projects, pursuing new ideas, etc., marriage, children, or our word).

Ethiopia: Story of confidence in God’s power

The third day in Ethiopia, Lacey (http://kansasandcosmos.wordpress.com/) shared a story with our team that I wanted to relay to the world. It’s a story of good and evil, of deception and fear, of control and manipulation, of good over evil – the fairy tale, however, in truth and reality.

I’d like to caveat the following story for the western mindset. In America, there isn’t witchcraft, voodoo, or other eerie mysticism. That isn’t how Satan chooses to control us; he chooses much more intellectually benign things like busyness, money, status, hedonism, and pride (our own pride in our intellectual ability to reason away the reality of the spiritual).

God opened my eyes to the spiritual world in a very real way one day while I was in a rural Ethiopian village to tell the people about our upcoming clinics and share the Gospel. I walked past a hut where my translator said they worshiped a spirit, and dark smoke filled the air surrounding the home. We also came across a large tree with fabric tied around the trunk, and I found out some of the local villagers worshiped the tree. But the biggest revelation came from two small lemons on the side of the road.

As the translator Jerusalem and disciple maker Haiminot and I walked down the dirt road, we passed another house with smoke coming from it. Jerusalem told me the family of that house worships the devil and tries to put curses on people in the village. As we continued our journey through the village, we saw two small lemons on the side of the road. I thought it was odd to see the fruit in such a random spot in rural Ethiopia, but didn’t think much beyond that. I was about to continue walking, when Haiminot stopped to pick up the lemons. Jerusalem told me the lemons were actually used by the family whose house we just passed in creating their potions and curses, and then they throw the lemons on the side of the road. Whoever picks up the lemons or accidentally steps on them is supposed to get the curse. (Sidebar – this is exactly how Satan works, he uses fear and manipulation to control.)

Without any hesitation or fear that maybe he really could get a curse, Haiminot carried the lemons with him throughout the village, playfully tossing them in the air. We continued our walk down the road and Haiminot saw a young farmer who he said we needed to go speak with. We all sat down on the ground, and even though I couldn’t understand the conversation between Haiminot and the farmer, it was clear they already knew each other. After sharing the Gospel, the young man didn’t want to accept Christ, but said he did want to invite us into his home to learn more. Unfortunately his wife wasn’t home so we couldn’t speak further, but Haiminot said he’d return at a later day.

During the conversation, the young farmer asked Haiminot why in the world he was holding the lemons when he knew what potential they had. Haiminot replied that because of Christ, he doesn’t need to worry about a curse having power over him since Christ rules the world. I later found out that this young farmer was actually the son of the family who throws out the lemons.

Every villager we met had a huge fear of two small pieces of fruit. When they saw the lemons in Haiminot’s hands they would take a step back away from us. Children would say, “Dirty! Dirty!” and adults would fearfully shake their heads “No” when Haiminot asked if they wanted to touch the lemons. The two small lemons became a huge testament to the villagers about trust and reassurance in the power of Christ to protect us. After a long day of walking throughout the village, Haiminot went home…and ate the lemons for a snack, confident in the power of Christ.

Ethiopia: WOW, God loves me dispite of my future

One of my teammates, Anne, shared a profound truth with our team one morning over breakfast in Ethiopia. She opened with the idea that God is not stuck in the present like we are; he knows our past, but even our future. Of course, he is God, no big deal. But, then she put that together with another truth of God, He loves us. These two separate are easy to digest, but put them together and the purity of God’s love for me begins to reveal itself.

How amazing is this – God loves me despite of my future. He loves me right now even though he knows I will reject him, I will backstab, I will lie to his face, I will live an adulterous lifestyle worshiping the things of this world (His creation and not the Creator), I will abandon Him, I will…

This idea isn’t too hard for me to grasp until I begin to personalize it. For, this is intensely personal to God and I need to empathize a little to grasp God’s profound love. So, would I love anybody with such fervor, devotion, and unrestrained selflessness if I know that the object of supreme affection and dedication would betray me in a few short days, months, or years? How can I love somebody when I know (s)he is going to betray that love? How can I love when I know that love will be taken for granted, forgotten, rejected, and even scorned? Would I marry somebody if I absolutely knew all of her flaws, when she would reject me, that she would live adulterously, that she would abandon me, divorce me and marry another, that she would backstab, that she wasn’t completely committed, that she would not love in return? How could I? I do not know; but, I know it’s not possible for me to do that (without the divine intervention of my God).

Here we are, each of us, with the truth that God loves us despite of our future. He remains completely committed, continuously pouring out himself selflessly. His love is so deep; it’s incomprehensible (like really, give it a try). He chooses to love when he already knows the future pain, rejection, and heartache he must endure. What am amazing God we have. May we glorify His name throughout the world and at all times.