Tuesday, June 6, 2017
However, subtle deceptions in the spiritual realm, used by our enemy daily to distract us from the things of God, are not so funny. Let me say it to you this way. If you woke up this morning and your focus was on God, I can promise you the enemy has done something subtle to deceive you into shifting that focus away from God. Maybe the enemy used your spouse, children, neighbor, boss, peer, and/or one of the news channels to say, “Look! What is that?” Just enough distraction to get you focused on something else, which could end up being anything on a spectrum of bad to good, while he sits back and laughs at the results. Yes, I said, good. Because the enemy is crafty, and if he can get your focus off God by bringing something good into your life, he will. Just because something is good doesn’t mean it can’t be used for bad.
So, as you go through your week keep an eye out for those subtle deceptions that keep you from God’s Word, prayer, fellowship and intimacy with God.
Tag, you’re it!
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV) You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
P.S. Please continue to pray about giving to our Costa Rica trip. The team is coming together and already prayers are being lifted for the missionary women/families that will be represented at the conference. We are fighting spiritually for these women/families as they prepare to enter the war zone spiritually in the days ahead. If your church has a missionary and/or missionaries serving at home or abroad please be lifting them in prayer weekly! They are fighting a battle that far surpasses what we see in the physical realm.
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
...but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
at 6:24 PM
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
We will be opening registration for the missionary women at the Spanish Learning School towards the end of June. Some of you have adult children going through the program and it is our prayer to be able to be an encouragement to them and keep them headed toward the field of service God is leading them to.
In our last blog, I told you I would share some of the stories or comments from previous missionary women and their journey while at language school. Here is one to get us started... This is from the wife’s blog while in Spanish Language School. We at Pure Joy International believe God has called us to travel overseas to remind missionary women and families of His faithful love and concern for them. To encourage them to stay the course and “keep walking”.
MARCH 15, 2014
So, I got this sign the other day at the artisan market as a souvenir and memory of our time in Costa Rica. Literal translation: pure life. Here in Costa Rica, it’s a phrase used by the people to basically say, “It’s all good.” I’ve been reflecting on this phrase, and our experiences here, for the last 7 months. In fact, I used this as the theme for my Spanish devotion presented on Friday in my language class.
As a Christian, there is just so much meaning packed into this little phrase, and what a great tool for evangelism in the streets of San Jose. In reality, if you’re a believer, you are truly experiencing “pura vida” every day, all day, no matter what circumstances surround you because you’ve been justified! You’ve been set right with God, and this status never changes. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8: 1,2)
In reality, though, we are living anything but the pure life. My life could more accurately be described as “la vida loca”! And on this side of heaven, we will never be free from failure and disappointment and struggle and pain. Our journey is marked with a continual movement towards His perfect plan for us. And that journey is one of purification.
What does the Bible have to say about the process of purification? In Isaiah 48, entitled “Israel refined for God’s Glory”, God says this to His people in verses 10 and 11: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (The beginning verses have some very applicable and interesting things to say about the kind of people we are…obstinate, rebellious, worshippers of idols…I know I could see myself reflected in those verses. And the remainder of the chapter talks a lot about who God is and His character. Read and reflect on the whole chapter if you have chance to.)
If God were actually writing a chapter in the book of Cosner, this period of time in language school could appropriately be titled: The Furnace of Affliction. Since day one, we’ve been experiencing hardships and trials. And we’re not the only ones, so this isn’t meant as a way to express self-pity. It is just the ugly reality of missionary life. Over the last 7 months, we haven’t expressed much about these struggles, because processing them has been a struggle in and of itself. There is also the inner fear that if we truly shared how hard all of this was, that people would think we weren’t fit for service in His kingdom, or worse, that we had lost our faith. Neither of those is true.
What is true is that we are imperfect, impure people that God has called to serve in Belize. And He is using some very painful means at times to prepare us even further for our time there. Strip away all the distractions in your life, and you might be surprised at what rises to the top. And I’ve certainly been blindsided by the sin that was living deep within my own heart, and the sin revealed in the hearts of my family.
I could choose to focus on the sin, mine and theirs, and slip into a pit of despair and depression. And to be transparent, that is where I have lived many times since August. I feel worthless, or useless, or like a complete hypocrite. I see extreme selfishness in the mirror, and in the faces of my husband and children, and feel deep disappointment. I’ve never felt lonelier, and rather than banding together, it’s as if we’ve all built our own walls of reinforcement and we’re not letting anyone in. And sometimes, we’re even lobbing grenades over the wall at each other. This experience has left me feeling quite hopeless, to be honest, and questioning everything I thought I knew before.
I need to be reminded of the first verse I mentioned above. THERE IS NOW NO CONDEMNATION IN CHRIST JESUS! I am in Christ, that I know. And He is in me! That means, even if I fall completely apart here, there’s no condemnation. Even if I’m a complete failure as a wife and mother, there is no condemnation. Even if I’m the worst Spanish student ever and fail all my exams and sound like a total gringo when I talk, there is no condemnation. Even if my kids are not exactly what I pictured, there is no condemnation. Even if we can never raise enough support and we never make it to the mission field, there is no condemnation.
Our afflictions have been many.
- Sibling conflicts, to the point of fist fights (on our FIRST day of orientation, we ended up in the principal’s office.)
- Accidents (my unfortunate hammock incident resulting in a 6 week concussion, Mike’s severely twisted ankle)
- Sickness (weird allergic reactions, chronic stomach issues, Mike’s kidney stones and surgery)
- Marital conflict and long counseling sessions
- Isolation and loneliness, feelings of being forgotten
- Loss of friendships, or unexpected changes in friendships
- Continual conflicts with teachers and administration at our kid’s school
- Not being able to worship in a language we understand
- Losing financial support and not gaining new support
- Extreme fatigue, like mind-numbing, eyes painfully trying to stay open, need a nap every afternoon kind of fatigue
- Depression and anxiety
- Arguments with our kids
- Weight gain
- Struggles with the kids’ grades
- The reality of our pride and selfishness
- Personality differences among the many missionaries
- Doubts and questions about our call
The list is actually a mile long, and I’m sure it’s not yet complete…we do still have 5 weeks left, plenty of time for more afflictions. But I also know this. The Bible says in 1 Peter 1: 3-7, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
So what would my list of blessings look like right now?
- I am saved by grace through faith, and I’m justified completely in Him, and there is now no condemnation.
I’m trying to be honest, and the reality is that my list isn’t very long right now. And not because good things don’t exist in my life, but more because I just can’t see them. I’ve been so focused on my suffering, and on confronting and facing my sin and inner battles, and on the things I don’t have. However, that ONE thing on my list is enough. It’s a hope and a truth I can cling to. And even though it seems like a short list, that ONE thing could take me pages and pages to explain all of its implications in my life.
And the encouragement from 1 Peter is that my long list of afflictions is temporary. It isn’t forever. It’s for a little while. But my eternity is just that…eternity. My inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, and it’s being kept for me until I reach the arms of Jesus. In fact, I believe it IS the arms of Jesus.
And yes, there are wonderful things about being a missionary. We’ve met some fantastic people along the way who are now a part of our journey forever. We’ve had experiences, and our kids have had experiences, that most people don’t get in a lifetime. And we are living, every day, doing exactly what it is that God made us to be doing. The contentment that comes from knowing you are fulfilling your calling is beyond anything I could ever describe to you. (See my previous blog post about Purpose.)
I’m not the person I was in August. I’m being refined in the furnace of affliction. And I know that the Lord is going to use this impure, unrefined person for His glory because He tells me so. In the end, that’s what this is all about…His glory.
at 6:33 PM
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Please begin now to pray about giving towards sponsorship of the missionaries that will be attending. Any amount is always considered a blessing from God and I pray He doubles any of the giving that comes in. For those of you that like the details up front, the cost is $600 per missionary for hotel and meals for 4 days, three nights. Thank you in advance for seeking God on this opportunity. (There is a button on this page to donate.)
Also, do not be deceived by the words Costa Rica and start getting the idea in your mind that our missionaries are over there hanging out at waterfalls, volcanoes, zip lines, butterfly parks, the jungle, etc. Well, some may actually be serving in the jungles (smile). Don’t misunderstand me, Costa Rica is a beautiful country. However, our missionaries in language school, and serving in that part of the world aren’t there to sightsee. They are there to learn a language that will hopefully equip them to be sent out to Spanish speaking countries around the world to share the Good News....and that preparation isn’t always pretty. The enemy does not want them to make it through language school! Some won’t make it through language school! Not because they couldn’t learn the language, but because they couldn’t make the transition from leaving the U.S., families, friends, and resources, to tight living quarters, children not adjusting, marriage issues, etc.
This conference will give the missionary women a place of refreshing. A place to get away and regroup, a place to be washed with the Word of God specifically chosen by God to be poured out on them, a place to worship with other English speaking missionary women, a place to be encouraged, affirmed, convicted and challenged. Counseling will be available along with times of fellowship, rest and free time. God has clearly affirmed to us at Pure Joy International that we are supposed to be in this location, at this time, with the team He puts together, for His purposes.
For those that remember the hardship of language school in preparation for your field work, please feel free to share some of your stories. I would love to allow our readers to have a reality check about the ups and downs of your journey in language school wherever you attended.
We will be making our way to Moscow, Russia in April of next year. Exact dates are not set yet, but I will let you know when they are. Please be praying to discern if God would have you be a part of these teams, or if He will have you be a part of the praying and gifting for the trips. Let me hear from you at email@example.com.
Counting It All Joy,
at 10:28 PM
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Easter Sunday morning as I was journaling during my quiet time, the following dawned on me about Easter. I had been journaling word statements about what it meant to me that He Is Risen! They were going something like this: Our Hope, Our Sovereignty, Our Strength, Our Provider, Our Rock, Our Redeemer. But then these two word statements rose up out of me, “Our way home,” “Our way back to the Father.” Before I had even lifted the pen from the pages I was moved by those last two statements. Had I ever really thought of The Resurrection in that way? I had thought of it from the standpoint of His return to the Father. I had thought of it from the standpoint of our salvation. I had thought about it in as many ways as we do think about it. But, I had never thought about it in those simple, tender words of truth, “our way home” and “our way back to the Father.” Our way home because it is the “only” way home for a lost person, and back to the Father because Adam and Eve had cost us our relationship with our Father in the garden. But the resurrection gave us the choice to have it back. When we are lost in the physical and/or in the spiritual, there is nothing like “finding the way home.”
Next week I will be sharing with you about our next conference which will take place this fall. So, be praying as I prepare the details to share with you. This is somewhat of a unique opportunity and I want to be clear in my communications about it.
Have a blessed week and remember... If you know someone that experienced the power of the resurrected Savior through the Easter Holiday, please make sure to welcome them home!
Love you all,
at 6:33 AM
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Our team went to bat first. The young man hit the ball off that tee with gusto as it rolled heartily past the pitcher and over second base. Immediately, the voices rang out, “Run!” Which he did... towards the same direction the ball went. (Ha,ha,ha,ha) Which made the voices ring louder, “Run to first, Run to first, Over here, Over here!” You could see the little guy experiencing sensory over load from all the voices which became nothing more than noise to him. Then finally, he saw the coach and heard his voice above all the noise and made it to first! Priceless!
My other favorite moment came when another one of our players hit the ball and all the voices started their chant of, “Run, Run to first” as the little guy just stood there in a daze looking at everyone. I could imagine it was like in the movies when you see the people’s mouths moving and their hands waving at a ballgame but the sound has been muted. Almost as quickly as all this was taking place, one of the batting coaches scooped him up underneath his (our little batter) arms and carried him to first base. Again, priceless.
I suspect we experience the sensory overload of voices some days in our life. Whether it is coming from our own self-talk, others (spouse, kids, family, peers, the world) and/or the enemy and his lies. I believe those voices can also leave us dazed and overwhelmed. When that happens, seek Him, listen for His voice and trust/know that He has you. Even if He has to pick you up and carry you to first.
Psalm 105:4 (ESV)
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Psalm 34:4 (ESV)
I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 9:10 (ESV)
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 34:10 (ESV)
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Psalm 34:19 (ESV)
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
....fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Psalm 3:3 (ESV)
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
May your week be blessed.
at 7:38 AM
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
As we begin our journey to remember the cross this Easter we will see the normal things that take place every year. People that have not been to church since Christmas and/or Easter of last year will come through the church doors. Church people will put their signs out in their yards inviting people to the Sunday Easter Service. Others will verbally invite someone to church because for some unknown reason it is ok to invite people to church on Easter Sunday and/or Christmas without feeling uncomfortable about doing so. Children, along with many adults, will be dressed up in the colors of spring. A sense of celebration will be in the air. Grills will be fired up with hamburgers and hotdogs accompanied by Easter Egg hunts in many parks and back yards.
However, Monday following Easter life will go back to usual for most and the celebration will be over till next Easter. Why? Why is this so true for so many in the body of Christ! Because, we lose sight of what the power of the cross and the resurrection means to our daily lives!
Just to remind us... Here are just a few of the basics: Eternal life, a new heart, a new identity, a new foundation to build our lives on, a bank account of forgiveness, and the list is endless! Please consider, for a believer Easter should be a climax celebration of living out these truths that proclaim the victory and hope that are ours daily from year to year.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
John 3:16 (ESV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
John 1:12-13 (ESV) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
1 Corinthians 3:11 (ESV) For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
John 1:9 (ESV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Thank you to those that I have talked with about where God would lead us in the fall. We will be meeting as a staff the second week of April to talk more about the opportunities and to seek His will.
Have a Great Week!
at 1:31 PM
Friday, March 10, 2017
After lifting her family up in prayer, I sent her a short text message telling her that I felt impressed by God to pray for them and wanted her to know He had led me to pray for them.
She quickly wrote me back sharing with me that I had no idea how timely that text was. I am reminded how much the enemy tries to keep us distracted with the things of this world so we are not sensitive to the person of the Holy Spirit giving us direction through the day. How many times during the day would God use us to step up and walk alongside someone, if only for a few meaningful steps to encourage them because He see and knows their struggle, journey, needs, etc.
How amazing that God sees all and directs us, His vessels, to show up on His behalf. Nothing is more exciting than to know we are being used by Him, for His Glory.
Take time to quiet your soul (mind, will, and emotions) today from the distractions of this world so you can hear His voice through the leading of the Holy Spirit. Someone may have a need that God would like to meet through you, His vessel.
Praying that we walk beside one another more often instead of running ahead or behind.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
Also, would you join us in praying about where He would have Pure Joy International to serve Him in the Fall of this year? Thank you so much. And if you sense it is in your part of the world, please contact me.
Blessing to you this upcoming week.
at 4:22 PM