Category Archives: Prayer

Thoughts About Nepal

nepal-flagFriday night, I drafted a blog entry about Nepal because in less than four weeks, Sonia and I are scheduled to travel there on behalf of seeJesus. Our itinerary includes serving missionaries, pastors and churches in Kathmandu and Pokhara. So, you can imagine how shocked I was when I heard the epicenter of a massive earthquake was located in between both of those cities. I emailed my missionary contact in Nepal and was relieved to hear that Kate was fine and all of the missionaries in her organization were accounted for. I have never been to Nepal but have a greater affinity toward the country and the people as I have been studying and preparing for this trip. Obviously, my greatest concern at this time is not the trip but instead the welfare of the people and the hope of the gospel in their suffering. I am not exactly sure what I am thinking or feeling but for now, here is some of the information I was originally going to post about Nepal. Most of it is from Operation World (7th edition, 2010).

Geography: A mountainous Himalayan state between China (Tibet) and India. It contains 8 of the 10 highest mountain peaks in the world.

Peoples: As many as 100 ethnic groups, consisting of over 300 peoples, sub-groups and castes. Caste is often as important a distinction as ethnicity in this strongly Hindu culture.

Economy: One of the world’s poorest countries, with around one-third of the people living below the poverty line, on less than $1 US/Day. Agriculture occupies up to 90% of the population and accounts for 38% of the GDP.

Politics: The ancient and hereditary monarchy ended in 2008 as Nepal became a multiparty constitutional republic. Never ruled by colonial powers, Nepal’s political isolation from the outside world ended in 1951. In 1962, the king assumed executive power in a government system with no political parties. The 1990’s and 2000s were characterized by painful uncivil unrest. A Maoist-dominated government took office in 2008 after years of internal conflict. The prime minister resigned in 2010 and the government remains insolvent, and constitutional reform has been delayed.

Religion: Once the world’s only Hindu Kingdom, Nepal is not officially a secular democracy. Foreign religious NGOs can operate freely as long as they do no proselytize. Hindus (75%), Buddhist (16%), Muslim (4%), Christian (3%), Other (2%). Currently, the fastest growing Church in the world is Nepal’s. I will blog more about this in the near future.

Prayer: There is a 40-day global prayer initiative centered in Kathmandu that happens to be going on right now. In fact, we were possibly going to partner with them when we arrived. Pray for those involved with this movement as well as all the believers there. Pray that the 40-day initiative would continue with greater focus and that God would fulfill his sovereign plans through the laments of His people.

The following prayer requests are from INF, the organization that I am scheduled to partner with in Nepal:

Please pray:

  • for the quick rescue of all of those trapped and injured, comfort for those who have lost loved ones and shelter for those without homes
  • that, as clouds are gathering, rain will not exacerbate the situation
  • for safety for those who will be spending the night outside
  • for God’s peace for all those with loved ones in Nepal
  • for the leaders of INF as they assess the impact on our staff, volunteers, patients and the communities we work with
  • for the government of Nepal as it responds to this crisis
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Learning to Lament

A few more thoughts on the book of Ruth…

While Ruth is the primary focus, in many ways her mother-in-law, Naomi, is actually the one many of us can relate to. Naomi suffered great loss. She lost her husband and then she lost her two sons. This was devastating. The family name, land ownership and personal inheritance was carried on through the males in the family. So in a matter of a few years or less, Naomi lost her entire family, her housing, her financial security and her social security. She was utterly ruined.

If Naomi’s story feels familiar, it’s because we all know that tragedy is real. We see it everyday in the news and experience it personally on small and large scales. Ruin, loss and suffering is part of life. As Christians, we live in a broken world but we still have hope that God is in control. At times, this can be comforting but often times, it can create tension. How do we respond to a sovereign and loving God when we live in a world of ruin?

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A Praying Life

On my shelves, I have dozens of books on prayer but, “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller has quickly risen to the top as my favorite. Books on prayer tend to lean toward two extremes: they either focus on methods to improve weak prayer habits or on the theology of how prayer works. These two extremes make prayer feel more like a production or a problem (as David Powlison says in the foreword). My lack of prayer production and endless problems have often left me feeling guilty and cynical. It is at this low place that “A Praying Life”(APL) has filled my prayer life with a renewed vigor and voice.

The overall premise of APL is that prayer is not an end in of itself but is instead a God-given means to building and enjoying a relationship with our Father. As Miller says,

A praying life feels like our family mealtimes because prayer is about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication or words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God. Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God…Consequently, prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center (p. 20).

Prayer is the key to the Father’s heart and APL unfolds this key in five main parts:

  • Part 1: Learning to Pray Like a Child
  • Part 2: Learning to Trust Again
  • Part 3: Learning to Ask Your Father
  • Part 4: Living in Your Father’s Story
  • Part 5: Praying in Real Life

The first three parts focus on learning to re-relate to God the Father as his children through prayer. Children are not afraid to ask their parents for what’s on their hearts. They are not self-conscious about the proper way to say things. Nor do they doubt their parents’ trustworthiness to listen and respond. We, too, must learn to be real in our prayers not being afraid to ask our Father even if our thoughts and feelings are messy.

Miller does a great job addressing reasons why we fail to ask and trust like children. We fail to acknowledge our helplessness, give into the hopelessness of cynicism, disconnect personal prayer from the real world (Enlightenment-influenced) and fail to trust that God is both transcendent and immanent are just a few of the underlying problems that are tackled.

Part 4 places our personal prayers properly in the context of the greater redemptive stories that God is weaving all around us. Seemingly unanswered prayers are caught in the tension between the future hope in the Father’s promises and the unmatched reality of what we see in the present. This tension is what Miller calls the desert and it is in the desert where the children of God learn to pray. Personally, I found this section helpful in describing and processing our adoption process. So many of my frustrations in praying for our adoption were identified and addressed by Part 4 (esp. 181-183). If you are in the process of adopting, make this book a must-read before your child arrives.

Part 5 offers some suggestions for using prayer cards and journals as tools to help in the process of relating to the Father. I have found them to be beneficial without being restrictive in my own praying life. Part 5 also addresses some challenging issues when praying in real life. I found the section on how to listen to God through both his Word and the his Spirit very helpful. And the last chapter on what to do with prayer stories that seem to have unhappy, unanswered endings is nearly worth the price of the entire book.

Overall, APL is full of Scriptural exposition, godly wisdom and Miller’s personal testimonies of his failures and God’s victories. Obviously, I cannot recommend APL more highly. It is a great book for people at all different stages of faith. I am currently going through it with a men’s group as well as our church staff. I know one pastor who is reading through it with a non-Christian “seeker” who did not make it past the introduction because it spoke so deeply to how he felt.

When prayer becomes an invitation to involve God in everything, then “A Praying Life” becomes a great book on how to parent, how to do ministry, how to have a great marriage, how to play sports, how to cook meals and even how to adopt. If you want to learn how to “do” all of life through prayer, then buy and read what is soon to be a modern-day classic by Paul Miller.

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Behind the Scenes

This video is great! Not just because the commercial is a classic but also because it reveals all that it took to make it happen. The technical orchestration is amazing but pulling it off requires a lot of people working hard behind the scenes. Every time I’ve watched the commercial, I’ve never appreciated the efforts of those invisible people, yet without them there is no commercial to watch. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work on their part to pull it all together just so we can enjoy 30 seconds of fun advertisement.

Every week, I send out an adoption progress report to friends and family who are committed to supporting us in prayer. From the very beginning, Sonia and I knew that this adoption was dependent on the Lord and therefore prayer was going to be key. So we asked loved ones to join us in praying through this process with intentional precision. These 65+ people are the behind-the-scenes “crew” who are helping to make this adoption a reality. They may not be seen but their role is vital and we are overwhelmingly grateful for their support.

In 2 Cor. 1:11, the apostle Paul says, “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” Paul depended on the prayers of the Corinthians to help him through the trials that he faced. He knew that God’s help came through “the prayers of many.” These prayers were not just for Paul’s blessing but also that others would grow in thanksgiving as the Lord fulfilled his purposes through their intercession.

Throughout this adoption, Sonia and I are dependent on help through the prayers of others. This is not only for our blessing but also that our prayer supporters would be in greater awe of him as he answers. Every gracious response to every small but important request along the way will deepen our praise of him. So while Eden’s arrival will be a significant answer, it won’t be the only one. Her homecoming will be the consummation of months of increasing praise and thanksgiving as we have experienced the delight of our Father in answering the prayers of his people.

A special thanks to those of you who have helped us by your prayers throughout 18 email updates! I pray that your delight in the Father would abound as you continue to walk with us in this way!

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Life Passage

I believe the two most important keys to parenting is prayer and the Word. While this may sound like typical Sunday School answers, the longer I parent, the more I am convinced of this. If one of the primary goals of parenting is to shepherd our children’s hearts and if only God can convict and change those hearts, then we are helpless to do so apart from intercession and the Bible.

One of the ways that Sonia and I have applied this is through the giving of “life passages.” Before each of our children were born or received, we asked the Lord to give us a specific passage of Scripture for each of them. For Kristin, he gave Psalm 1:1-3. For Evan, Psalm 139:13-16. For Eden, Psalm 16:5-11. And for Jaren, Psalm 86:11-13. If you knew each of our children’s personalities and histories, you would see the Father’s wisdom in how he perfectly matched His Word to each of them.

While all of the Bible is God-breathed and profitable for all, these selected life verses are to serve as a lifelong encouragement, a guiding truth and a Spirit-empowered life theme specifically for each individual child. At times when they are led astray, I trust that the truth of God’s Word will convict them and guide them back to his path of life. At times when they doubt His purpose and love for them, I trust that the truth of God’s Word will encourage them and dispel the lies of the enemy.

These verses are not only for our children’s benefit but also for their parents’ as well. I don’t know about you, but if you’re like me, you may sometimes find it difficult to know what to pray for your children. As much as we know and love our children, don’t we sometimes find ourselves repeating the same, general, rote prayers for them over and over and over again? When I get stuck, the Word helps me to pray for them specifically in alignment with his will and his truth. Praying scripture and more specifically their life verses for them not only helps me to be precise in what I ask but also to ask in accordance with the things that glorify the Father.

Whether your child has come to you through pregnancy or through adoption, God’s Word is vital for raising them. Study it. Give it. Pray it for your children.

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I-800A

It’s been a while since the last update on the progress of our adoption. We are now entering the tenth week since beginning the paperwork process and by God’s grace, things have been moving along swiftly. Last Monday, we mailed our I-800A application along with our completed home study to the US Immigration Office. The I-800A is a petition to allow our family to bring an orphan into this country. The approval of this petition is a key milestone. Our dossier is ready but requires this final piece before moving on to the next step in the process.

We are now at the mercy of the US red-taped bureaucracy so please pray that the petition would find its way through the system quickly and be returned promptly. Typically, turnaround time is anywhere between six to eight weeks for an approval letter (I-797). Lord willing, we will be traveling some time this Fall but it is hard to predict since more and more of the process is at the mercy of government agencies. We are forced to wait on their timing and I have to admit, that can be quite frustrating. As I was about to post this entry, one of our prayer supporters emailed this, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psa. 27:14)  What a great reminder that we wait on the almighty God! Thus, we wait with confidence and courage knowing that he is in control and that his timing is perfect in all things, including in this adoption.

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Lifesong in NOLA

2011 Lifesong Katrina Team

This past weekend, Lifesong sent it’s second team ever to the Katrina disaster area, this time to New Orleans in partnership with our denomination (Evangelical Free). Please pray for Kenneth, Tom, Johnny, Brian, Kelley, Daryl, Rod and Hach as they serve our Lord by living out the gospel in word and deed with the people of NOLA. They will be praying, evangelizing, serving, and re-building until their return this Saturday, May 28. If you would like to keep up with what the Lord is doing through them, check out their blog here.

            

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Rock of Redemption

Really, what is this?

This is a rock. Probably one of the uglier ones you’ve ever seen, but still, it’s a rock. No one in my family will touch it because they’re afraid it’s either radioactive or petrified dinosaur poop. No matter what they say, I love this rock because it comes from a jungle plot in a city called “Bon Bon.” This rock reminds me to pray about an opportunity we have to partner and participate in a new church that is to be planted there soon. I’ve always dreamed about Lifesong being a church plant that plants other churches but I never imagined that the first one could be in Haiti.

This is Bon Bon, the site for a future church plant

While some may bash the church, church planting is still the God-ordained way of making disciples of all nations. And although the church may not be perfect, the people of God are the means by which the transforming power of the gospel is both embodied and proclaimed. When churches are planted and Christ is exalted, transformation happens. People are transformed. Communities are transformed. Even the physical lay of the land is changed. Some day when the church building is constructed on this site and the body of Christ is thriving there, I will still hold onto this rock (even to my family’s dismay) to remind me of God’s power to redeem all things for His glory.

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Pray Continually

What does this have to do with the praying life?

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This morning, there was a buzz in the air throughout the Cambry guesthouse…and it wasn’t the mosquitos this time. Although we’ve been in Haiti for a few days, today was our first day of hands-on ministry and everyone was excited. The Savannes and Les Cayes teams quickly loaded the big yellow school bus, got settled in the dark green bench seats and waited for the bus to start…and waited…and waited.  Apparently, we were ready to go but the bus was not.

While waiting for a mechanical miracle, I noticed Bob quietly walking away while texting on his phone.  I jokingly asked, “Calling for your local mechanic to come and fix the bus?”  He humbly replied that he was texting his prayer supporters back in the States to pray that the bus would start.  I am ashamed to say that we could have waited there all morning and that thought probably would have never crossed my mind.  So, I sheepishly reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone and said, “um, yeah, me too.”  Less than five minutes after Bob’s texts went out, the bus started.  He looked at me, gave me knuckles and said, “Isn’t our God awesome?”

Some may wonder why bother praying for something so mundane. I now wonder “why not?” Apparently, our Heavenly Father delights in His children praying continually about everything. Some may call it coincidence. I call it God’s answer to the prayerful texts of a righteous man.

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