Leaving Athens!

My family and I have truly enjoyed the scenery and fellowship that we have found in Athens, Greece. Tomorrow is our last day of exploring and then we are headed to the UK for four to five months. As we travel around the UK, we will be sharing pictures and our stories with you all. Please continue to pray for our outreach and our safety while traveling abroad for this next couple of years.

Here are a couple of pictures from our last week here in Athens. Please enjoy!

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Our Motives Matter

The Bible teaches us that there is a direct correlation between the outcome of our prayers and the motives behind our prayers. It is written, “You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires. You adulteresses [disloyal sinners—flirting with the world and breaking your vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend [that is, loving the things of the world] is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God,” (James 4:3-4, AMP).

How many times have we prayed for something and asked the Lord to speak into our hearts and nothing happened? I know it has happened to me many times in my past, however, if you stop and truly think about the motives behind your prayers, were they righteous or were they selfish? Were our prayers for the expansions of the kingdom or ourselves? The reason why I am asking these two questions is that it is important. Before we lift our hands in the air or bow down on our knees in prayer we should have a full understanding of the motives and possible emotions behind our prayers. We know that our God is a God of righteousness and where there is darkness, He will not be there. The same goes for the heart behind our prayers. The Bible is clear that God does not listen to sinners, but He does listen to godly people who want to do His will (John 9:31). God has also revealed to us in His Word that He listens attentively to the prayers of the righteous (1 Peter 3:12). Lastly, the Bible teaches us that a righteous person can have confidence that if we ask anything according to God’s will He will listen to us (1 John 5:14).

Now by identifying these truths behind how God responds to the motives behind our prayers when our prayers are not being answered maybe we have to look inside ourselves to see if we are the reason why they are not getting answered. Are we seeking to glorify ourselves in this world or are we asking the Lord for something out of selfishness or an unrighteous agenda? Every time we pray, we must focus on why we are praying. Are we praying according to the will of God or are we praying according to our pride or selfish motives? If our heart and prayers do not align with the Word of God they will never get answered. God listens and blesses those who live and act according to His will. This is why the Bible teaches us that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective (James 5:16). If our prayers are not getting answered we really need to take a step back and think about them. What are our real motives behind our prayers? When we can start to do this and identify what we should truly be praying about what we should be praying for, then we start to lean towards walking in a righteous manner and God will hear us.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you open the hearts and minds of all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I pray that you allow us to seek your righteousness and will first before we seek our own selfish agendas. I pray that you give us the discernment to know the difference and to do something about it. Father, thank you for your Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives to continuously work on our hearts. In Jesus name, we pray, Amen!

Forgiving, even under hardships

It is easy to forgive someone for small trespasses, however, when it comes to the big, emotionally scaring situations in our lives we tend to turn a blind eye. We walk away from the people and cut off others. For many situations this may be needed, especially in abusive relationships, however, we must always be able to forgive those who persecute us. The Bible teaches us that being able to forgive others allows us to keep our hearts pure and worthy of our offerings to the Lord. This is why Jesus taught that a believer must leave their offering to the Lord until they reconcile and forgive those who have wronged us (Matthew 5:24). This is not something simple to do though but it must be done to purify our hearts and our minds.

During my short lifetime, I have had to forgive those who hurt not only me but my family. I grew up in a very abusive household. My mother was emotionally abusive to my sisters and me, and my father was an abuser. One of my sisters and I were almost miscarried because of the beatings my father gave my mother while pregnant. Then, my mother took her hurt and anger out on us after she left my father. Hate and unforgiveness was bread into me and my sisters and it has truly scared us for many years. To this day we still carry our scars from our battles. These scars kept me from being a good husband, father, and Christian for many years.

Then, an amazing woman (my wife Amy) told me that until I completely forgive those who have hurt me I cannot fully grow. I would stay stagnant in all my relationships because the room in my heart and mind that held on to my anger and hurt has made me have a lot of defense mechanisms that keep me for having an honest relationship with others. I learned then that I had to leave my issues at the foot of the cross, however, to be honest, it has taken many years and at times I still struggle with things because of my past. Then, as I was reading my daily devotional I was reminded of the truth that we cannot have room in our heart and mind for negative emotions and for the fruits of the Spirit. There cannot be in light and darkness at the same time, we must choose either to be filled with love, mercy, and grace or not.

A perfect example of this is found in Acts 7:59-60. Stephen was being stoned to death for being a believer. He was tied up and was being struck repeatedly by large rocks because he was a Christian. Out of anyone in this world, Stephen could have yelled and cursed at these people because he did nothing wrong. Then falling on his knees [in worship], he cried out loudly, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them [do not charge them],” (Acts 7:60, AMP). If this man of God could forgive and pray for his enemies while being stoned to death, what is holding us back from forgiving someone who trespassed against us today?

This piece of Scripture reminded me about the years of anger and unforgiveness that kept me from being happy. My parents continued to live their lives as nothing happened but it was me that lived unhappily. I gave power to my anger, anxiety, and my unforgiving heart instead of giving power to the Lord in these areas of my life. For this reason, I am writing this short message for you all. Give power to God instead of the things that hold you back from giving yourself fully to Him. It has taken me many years to understand this simple lesson from Jesus and all those Christians that lived and died before my time, however, maybe my history can help you change your future. Choose to forgive and leave your sadness, anger, and hurt at the cross where it belongs. Then, allow the Holy Spirit to lift you up and fill those voids with Christ’s love, mercy, and grace. This is why it is so important to forgive others, especially during our most trailing times.

Father, we come to you together bent down on our knees. I pray that you give us the courage and strength to forgive and pray for those who persecute us and who have hurt us in the past. Father, I pray that you take their power over our lives away from us and allow us to leave these burdens at the foot of the cross where they belong. Father, sanctify us and exchange our hurts for the joy and happiness that can only come through your Spirit. For this exchange and many more blessings that we cannot see in our daily walk with you, I say thank you and in your Son’s name, we pray, Amen!

Our first week in Athens!

I just wanted to share a little about our experiences in Athens this far. Our children have really enjoyed the sights near our apartment. We have seen many sights and have met some truly kind people. The food and… Coffee are amazing! We have visited the Socrates prison, Athena’s temple, Zeus’s temple, and the Acropolis.

We are looking forward to the next week or so we have left in Athens and sharing our experiences with you all.

Uneducated and Untrained

There have been so many times in my life where I felt that I was falling short as a Christian. I did not want to share my faith because I felt unqualified and untrained. As a Christian, I lived a life of defeat when I should have been living a life of abundance and victory. I started to care more about what other Christians said that I should be doing (going to Bible college, ministering, and leading), instead of simply understanding who I was in Christ and fully accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit. Over time, I went to seminary twice and earned multiple degrees in religion, chaplaincy, and biblical studies. However, what has made the largest impact in my faith and Christian walk is two simple things. They are knowing who I am in Christ and the fact that I stopped getting in my own way and let the Spirit lead my life. This walk that I am on did not come fast or easy, I can assure you, but through my faith in Jesus Christ, it was possible.

I was reminded of this when I was reading the book of Acts with my family. We were reading how Peter and John were performing many miracles and healings through the power of the Holy Spirit, and their foundational faith in Jesus Christ. Many felt convicted because of their boldness and many felt jealous because they were given the same power as these men of God had. The Scripture tells us that these two men were having to stand against the Jewish High Court to defend themselves for doing good (Acts 3:1-12). They healed a man through the power of the Holy Spirit within them and they were proclaiming Christ. However, the important thing that I want to address is what happened next. The Jewish High Court saw their confidence and boldness, knowing that they were “uneducated and untrained” men (Acts 4:13). Then, the Scripture continues to state that this Jewish High Court was astounded and began to recognize that Peter and John had been with Jesus. This High Court saw the fruits of their faith when they saw the healed man standing there with them and they had nothing else to say (Acts 4:14).

When I read this with my family, I started to think back about all those years I spent in seminary and the most effective tool that I have in my ministry and life is the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These two apostles did amazing things during their lifetime, however, their training and power came from their faith in Jesus Christ. They were untrained and uneducated, yet the Lord used them in mighty ways. They preached the Gospel and shared the only way to salvation, which is through Christ with everyone they met. The reason why I am writing this message is to remind not only myself but everyone reading this that we can do nothing without the power of the Holy Spirit. You can go to seminary for many years, you can study and earn multiple doctorate degrees, however, you will never be fruitful in the Body of Christ without being lead, strengthened, and covered with the Holy Spirit. It took me many years to get to the point where I am now, and I pray that this short message can help someone today. Remember who you are in Christ, and let the Holy Spirit do His job. Do not worry about what others say you should be doing, worry about what the Bible tells you to live. The rest will fall into place in your Christian walk. Do not put yourself down because you are uneducated or untrained, God can and will use you! So, give thanks for the life you live and keep moving forward!

I would like to end this message with a small prayer. Dear Heavenly Father, please allow us to see ourselves through your eyes. Help us understand that regardless of our condition, education, and training, you can use us to do your will if we are willing to do so. Father, guide and strengthen us and protect us from ourselves, our pride, our insecurities, and any lack in our faith. We know that you have always used the least of men to do many miracles and blessing, and I simply pray that you can continue to use people like us to do the same today. Amen!

Leaving Malta

My family and I are very sad to leave Malta tomorrow morning. We head to Athens for a couple of weeks and look forward to making new memories. However, Malta will be missed. Malta has been the only place that has made our family feel at home, similar to how Okinawa did. The people were friendly and amazing (it helps that they speak English) and there is something free to do around every corner.

These are some pictures that I wanted to share with you all from yesterday!

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Silema, Malta

We are sad to say that we leave Malta in a few days. Our family has really enjoyed the scenery and how nice the people are here in Malta. So, we just wanted to share some of our favorite pictures that we have taken around Malta. Please enjoy and if you have any question about this country, traveling abroad with children, or just want to say hello, please feel free to leave a comment!