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The wasted life is the life without passion for
the supremacy of God in all things for the joy
of all peoples.

John Piper

 WINTER 2016

I have been a follower of Jesus since the age of 17. I love the church locally and globally because it is what Christ died for (Ephesians 5:25). I have consistently surrounded myself with men who sharpen me and hold me to account. I have 5 men that I have been doing life with for 40 years (since we were in college). I am uncle to their kids; I have stood in their weddings and introduced one of them to his wife. I seek to live the Gospel daily and to speak it to others often. It is not a list of rules and it is not a heavy burden. I find my reason for living and my purpose for each day in Jesus. I do not seek titles nor do I seek the praises of men. I have had that in plenty and have found myself empty in its pursuit. In Jesus I found what was worth dying for, but, more importantly, I have found what was worth living for. This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I have found His peace and His love to be far more compelling than anything this world has to offer. If need be, I would give my life without question.

For seven years I have faithfully and consistently been in communication with those living under persecution. I know their stories and I know them intimately. I have held the dying and I have fed the poor. I have stood in the pulpits of their congregations and seen their hunger for God’s Word. I have been under gunfire and bombings and I have faced the interrogations. I have embraced my “enemies” and I have grown to see the power of the Gospel among these “enemies” because I have a presence among them.

In 2009 I began to travel to The Middle East. I have never been in a situation that is more delicate, volatile, complicated, and misunderstood. It is a political and spiritual quagmire. I have seen life and I have seen death. I have held in my arms both. I have seen my enemies and they have become my friends. I take no political sides, but I have learned and I have seen that Jesus really is enough. I have been 12 times and I have grown to love these precious ones.

I believe that the message of Jesus is an unsafe message full of hope and promise for unsafe places. With what is happening around the world and, now, in our own back yard, how do we respond to our enemies? What is our response to ISIS? How do we embrace those who would appear to be our enemies?

The photos in this issue are intended to show contrast and tension. It is that place where life is lived out daily. On the left is an example of where I go and on the right is where I live in the great Pacific Northwest with Mt. Rainier, her crowning glory. BUT there is the child… Beautiful and innocent and, yet, hopeful. It is within this context that WE ALL should live. But how and why do we move forward? The contrast can be insurmountable; it can be paralyzing.

My friend, Jeremy Vallerand leads Rescue: Freedom International. Their mission is to help eradicate human trafficking. Overwhelming, daunting, impossible… BUT here is a quote that drives them forward to venture where few would venture:

“It is not the Injustice that drives us;it is the magnitude of hope.”

 

It is this kind of perspective that gives us hope and it is framing that perspective within a context of faith that is life giving. It is the kind of belief that Jesus is really worth it and that He, alone, can empower the one or the many with His love that is both compelling and complete.

What does a life well lived look like? Is it attaining financial supremacy or gaining positions of great power? Is it Olympic Gold or might it be finding that “perfect one” to spend the rest of your life with? Is it giving ALL that we have to the poor or is it finding a cure for cancer? These are just some of the plethora of questions one might ask themselves in their lifetime. These are the questions we might ask
during those vulnerable moments in our lives.

So what does a life well lived look like? It is living passionately in that sweet spot that God created uniquely for you in order that you might bring joy into the lives of others. It is not living for you. It is living for God in such a way that His great love will spill out into the lives of ALL that you encounter. Even in those places of tension.

“A godly life is lived out of an astonished heart— a heart that is astonished at grace.” This is what causes each of us to live life well. Grace… It is found only in Jesus. So live in close proximity of Him and your life will bring His joy into the lives of those you encounter daily.

 

“You’ll never know what you can do, what you can achieve, or who you will become if you don’t
press into your fear, your fatigue, your fun and your friends. Life is about relationships…”

 

Thirty-seven years ago I lived in Hawaii. The locals (Polynesian) would invite me to their luaus and they would always say, “Hey, bra, let’s talk story.” They were never in a hurry. Why? Because each person’s story mattered. Jesus spoke to people with stories. Why? Because He knew that story is what captured people’s hearts and minds. It’s what opened up the world of possibilities and opportunities. It is what revealed what truth looked like in a way they could embrace. Ultimately, Jesus said that it is TRUTH that will set us free.
Here’s a recent “story”…

We had met in third grade. We played sports together, did fun stuff together, and graduated together. But somewhere along the way he chose a path that would betray him. Heartbreak and broken relationships were to follow. Forty-four years have passed since graduation and 44 years had passed since our last communication. BUT this past spring my phone rang and it was him. I knew the voice, but it was not a voice of desperation but of resolve. He asked if I was still following Jesus? He asked for my help and my advice and my encouragement. He had tried it all, but came away wanting. He asked if Jesus was really worth it? I said, “He was worth it.” And so he made a decision to press into finding out how Jesus was worth it and to begin meeting with those who could help him in his pursuit.

Your story and my story matter. Why? Because as image bearers of Jesus there is truth that can be found in our stories. If Jesus is the hero of our stories then there is a place that those we encounter day-to-day will encounter Jesus and His truth which will ultimately set them free to be ALL that God created them to be.

What’s your story? It matters…