Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

God loved you and I so much that while we were still sinners and still disobeying Him, He sent His only Son to earth so that if we would believe that the little baby in the manger, the young boy in the temple, the man feeding thousands, the teacher on the hillside, the Savior on the cross, the risen LORD, if we would believe in Him, we would not be dead, lost, hopeless, or separated, but we would have life forever, joy, hope, and love!
This is the message of Christmas!  This is the message the world needs to hear!

There is a Christmas song that plays on the radio a lot, "Feed the World," In this song there is a line, "Do they know it's Christmas time at all."  This line is just a reminder that there are people all around the world that do not know the true meaning of Christmas!  We need to "Feed the World" with the bread of life!  Wherever you are this year, near or far, be the missionary and go "Feed the World."  Everyone should know it's Christmas time!

From Jason & Lindsey

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life Changing Update

       The Carib people have a phrase, “A pot toe Papa, ee sha no wa toe o nay pung.” Translated it means, “God is like breeze. He is Spirit.” We are told it is hard for them to understand the concept of God because they do not understand spirit. John 3:8 says, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” I think if we are honest with ourselves we would all say we often struggle to understand God. His ways are so much higher than ours and His thoughts are vastly beyond our understanding. Take this journey Lindsey and I are on here in Guyana. In the past three months God has used us to lead a very sick and dear woman to salvation just weeks before she would go to meet her Maker. We have been training a village pastor how to go visiting and how to hold services. Even this past week we were privileged to walk a young lady through the waters of Baptism. To think that God has chosen us to go about His plan is mind blowing. That the Creator of the universe would call us to take the Gospel to the Carib people is amazing! And then at the same time, after just three months, to have God call us back to the States has been equally curious, yet Spirit led.

       While Lindsey and I have been living in a small area called Canal Bank, we have been working about an hour away in a village called Falls Top. Making the trip to Falls Top has been quite an adventure. We have been hitchhiking a ride on the back of a truck. We then travel at speeds of up to 60kph on muddy roads, while sitting on barrels of gasoline holding on for dear life. I find this rather exhilarating, yet at the same time my prayer life has been strengthened! Another challenge we have faced while here is learning to speak the Carib language. We have a wonderful teacher named Alan, who has really done great teaching us. However, because he has to travel an hour by river to get to our meeting point, he is only able to meet us on Saturday and Sunday. So when we are supposed to be working 30 hours a week on language we are struggling to get 15 hours. Over the past month, Lindsey and I have sat down with missionaries here in Guyana and with our supervisors from Wycliffe. We have been talking about what would have to happen for our OneStory project to be completed in the 3 year time frame. We arrived at the answer, the missionaries would have to live in the village of Falls Top. In this way they would not have to travel as much and they could find other language teachers to supplement their learning.

         While living in a swamp in the rain forest has proven to be difficult, the isolation of Falls Top would be even more challenging. The Bible teaches in 1 Cor. 12, that the body of Christ has many parts and those parts have been gifted differently and specifically. Through many prayers, tears, and trials, Lindsey and I have come to the place where we know living in Falls Top is beyond what God has gifted us for. Now we believe that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength, but at the same time the Spirit's gifting is specific to His calling. God has called us to “go,” but whether we understand it or not He has not led us go to Falls Top to live but to come back to the States.

       So do we understand everything God is doing? Not at all. Have we failed God, Wycliffe or even you our family? Not at all. Is God turning His back on the Carib people? Not at all. Is God finished with Lindsey and me? Not at all. We may not understand everything but God sees the whole picture! We are working with Wycliffe to revamp the Carib OneStory project so the next team in will be ready to go. We are also working with Wycliffe to see what God's next step is for Lindsey and me.

       Honestly, this is an uncertain time for us, and even somewhat disappointing because this is not how “we planned” our next three years—but then again, “A pot toe Papa, ee sha no wa toe o nay pung.” God is like the breeze! We may not understand Him, but He calls us to obey and He promises He is always with us!

       We ask for your continued prayer and support while God is revealing His plan. We will be working with Wycliffe to update you about a timeline of events, and what the next step for us and you as supporters should be. We expect to be back in the States on November 11th. Thank you so much for your love and encouragement!

In His Grace,

Jason & Lindsey Lawson

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Show Yourself Approved

I woke up this morning and something was different. Things were quiet this morning, too quiet. Was it that the rooster had mysteriously died during the night? No, I was not that lucky. Was it that boats were not running up and down the river today because of some holiday that I did not know about? No, boats were still running but something was different, something was missing. Finally it hit me, there were no children laughing or giggling. Every morning since we had been here started with the same sounds, children playing in the river, getting their morning baths and just having the time of their lives. So why was this morning different? Where were all the kids?
Today is the first day of school! All of the children of Port Kaituma were packing up their meager school supplies and with uniform on they headed off to school. This was the first time in my life that I had ever seen a school bus boat. I guess all of the children had gotten up early to get their bath and now they were heading off for a day of learning and hanging out with friends. I don't like this! It's too quiet!
My senior year of school I took Honors English. I had never taken Honors English because reading was not my best subject and there was a summer reading list for that class. That meant homework before school even started! Who wants to do homework during summer break? That could really hinder my time doing very important things like hanging out at the pool or with friends. But somehow I was talked into taking Honors English my senior year and I was to read three books over the summer. Much to my dismay none of them had a movie out and it would take me all summer long just to read the cliff notes of these books. So I did what any self respecting and diligent student would have done. I read one of them and glanced at another and prayed over the third book. I prayed a lot because I knew that I could not even tell you the story line of these books and we were going to be tested on these books the first week of school. Needless to say I walked into my Seniors Honors English class that first day with much fear and trembling. I sat at my desk praying that we would have a freak snow storm in August or that someone would pull the fire alarm but that never happened and some of the first words out of my teachers mouth was, "Ok, who did their summer reading?" After the tests were graded, it was obvious that I had not read my books. I was ashamed, along with most of my class. Being called into an honors class is just that, an honor. My teacher knew I was capable of doing the work but at that moment I was not worthy of that honor.
Spiritually we have been called to a very similar honor. God has called us into His service and He has given us a reading list of 66 books. Lucky for us they compiled it all into one volume so it is easier to carry. We know it as the Bible. So God has called us to be His ambassadors, His representatives. This means that we are to go wherever He tells us to go, confront any obstacle that is in front of us. When someone stops us, we are to use His name as the pass. The tools of this job are found within this 66 book reading list. The question is do you know which tool to use and when to use it? God is the teacher but are we willing to learn?
Paul speaks to Timothy about this great honor, in his book II Timothy 2:15. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." Paul was telling Timothy that you should never stop learning the Scriptures because it is the word of truth. If we were to handle the Scriptures inaccurately then it would be the word of false not of truth. How terrible it would be to be an ambassador of God who represents Him in a wrongful manner. To then stand before God Almighty ashamed of our actions and ignorance. How humiliating it would be to have taken the honor God has bestowed on us and to hand it back to Him tattered and broken because we were lazy and selfish. God has called us for a purpose and He has been teaching and training us to do that purpose but if we have neglected to study and learn then when He calls us to act on that purpose, we stand there ashamed. No that won't do! When God calls me, I want to be ready! I want to show Him that I can accurately handle the word of truth. There is no greater honor than to understand that God wants to use me! Don't waste that honor. God has given us the answers but we must be diligent, learning to accurately handle the word of truth.

What If You Saw Jesus Smoking?

About a ten minute boat ride up the river you come upon a little place we like to call, Port Kaituma. Actually everyone calls it that because that is what it is called. Just try to imagine a town where roughly several thousand people live. It is in the middle of the Jungle but do not let that fool you, it is a happening place! It is actually where several worlds collide. You have the Canal that literally ends at the water front. (Port) The Canal leads to the sea therefore you have the fishing industry which makes it's way to PK. You also have several large sea worthy vessels that make port here with supplies for every store and home in PK. Then PK also has the only air strip around. I use the term airstrip loosely seeing as just the other day it was closed down because of cows on the pothole filled runway. This airstrip makes PK a huge link to the capital city, Georgetown. Finally you have a thriving lumber industry which also starts somewhere in the rain forest but comes to an end in good ol PK. So all of these worlds collide in the same place.
To envision this, just imagine red mud streets during the rainy season and red dust streets in the dry. Houses and stores made of anything from scrap boards to concrete. Everywhere you turn you are looking at trash which has been thrown on the ground. In the jungle there is no sanitation services so what is not burned is thrown on the ground and eventually everything makes it to the river. Then from the river it floats down to our house but that's a different devotional. As you walk down the road you see people, male and female, adults and children in various states of dressed and undressedness, going here and there about their business and listening to rather loud music. Babies are busy drinking their breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, snack, high tea, brunch, etc. The smell in the air is that of fish mixed with trash and sewage, did I say that, in the jungle there is no sanitation services. But no one really seems to mind, everyone is just doing what they do.
The other day as I was sitting at the port a man walked by who in my minds eye looked just like Jesus. His hair was shaggy and not combed but not nappy either. He was very strong looking but that could be because he was carrying a huge load of cargo from one of the ships. Like many of the other men at the port he did not have a shirt on but he was fashionably wearing this years model of rubber boots. What little I saw of him, he seemed quiet and composed which is not true for most of the men working on the ships. Plus he was always around the boats much like Jesus. But the real thing that got me was that he seemed gentle and his eyes seemed caring! Ok, maybe that is stretching it a bit but needless to say he resembled the mental image I have of what Jesus would have looked like.
From that time on, I would look forward to seeing "Jesus" when I went to PK. As always he would be running around, carrying something or just laughing with other people. Then one day it happened! There Jesus was in the front of a shop and he leaned over to someone and lit his cigarette off the end of the other mans cigarette. He then walked off smoking while my heart was broken. Jesus did not smoke cigarettes! They are gross and cause cancer and and and!!!!
This event put me in a place of heart searching. I know that man was not Jesus but at the same time he looked like Jesus and from what I had seen acted like Jesus. Up until now that is. I felt like Jesus was trying to teach me something, the real Jesus not the man in PK.
John 1:10-11 says, "He (Jesus) was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him."
When Jesus walked the earth, those who were the religious leaders, the ones who had been waiting and searching for the Messiah saw Jesus and they were the very ones who were put off by him because He did not fit their mental image. They had a preconceived notion of who and what the Son of God was going to be. They could not see past the fact that this Jesus healed on the Sabbath, He picked grain on the Sabbath, and He did not become the political ruler. There He was, the Son of the Living God! The Messiah! The Prince of Peace! Right there in front of them yet they did not know Him. How sad to be so close yet to be so far away because of their own preconceived ideas of who He was going to be. They were so sure that their mental image of the Son of God was the truth that they killed the Truth in the process. A savior so close they could have touched Him yet they did not receive Him.
This all makes me wonder. What would I do if I saw Jesus smoking? would I still worship Him or would I disown Him? Would I say that couldn't possibly be Jesus because I just know He would not smoke! Yet how often has God come to me to be His ambassador among the lost and I say, no way! God could not possibly call me to go there or to do that! That's not God, at least not the God that I serve! That couldn't possibly be Jesus, with a cigarette hanging out of His mouth! I know who Jesus is because I can envision Him in my mind and that is not Him!
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 They may have seen the only begotten of God but many did not recognize Him. What would you do if you saw Jesus? Fall down and worship Him? Stand and praise Him? What if He pulled out a cigarette and started smoking it?

Ants at Falls Top

Lindsey and I were taking a walk in the village of Falls Top, where we are attempting to learn the Carib language. It was a hot day and with our head full of incoherent words in a language we did not understand, we decided to walk through the jungle, down to the river to cool off. Walking in the jungle is not always the most comforting thing. When the weeds grow up to the point you cannot see your feet that is a little alarming to think what could be crawling or slithering down below.
We made it down to the banks of the river and began the process of emptying our minds. This was not a hard task seeing that this was the first day of Carib language learning therefore our mind was full of gibberish. We just let it all drain out of our mind and then stood there motionless and mentally exhausted.
Once we finally regained a functional state of mind, we began to look around at the general splendor of the jungle. The sights and sounds are quite breathtaking. Looking around our eyes came upon a perfectly single file line of ants. These ants were busy going from one side of the trail to the other in such a uniform manner that they had worn a rut in the dirt trail. No one was out of line, no one pushed or shoved, everyone just did as they were supposed to and kept on walking. As I watched the little boy in me wanted to come out and I wanted to either drop a stick or spit on the trail to see what they would do. But not wanting to upset the eco balance of the rain forest with my boyish longings I politely stepped over the ants and continued on to the banks of the river.
Sitting there with my feet in the river and little fish nibbling at my toes I noticed one single ant had gotten separated from his pack, tribe, or family and was now down at the waters edge. I was curious to see what was about to transpire. Sure as the world, this little ant walked right up to the water and began touching the water with his (or her) front legs. Just as soon as the legs touched the water the ant was swept off the bank and into the water. The ant quickly began to struggle, good for him ants float, bad for him, ants can't swim. Therefore he was above water but he was going further out into the river. I watched him with a sadistic desire to see if a fish would swim up and eat him but then the animal lover in me came out and I pulled out my bandana. I lowered the corner of it down into the water until the ant had successfully grabbed hold of it and I raised him up and placed him back on the safety of the bank. It was almost as if I could hear this little voice saying "Thank you so much you gigonormous creature!" But then before you could say "You're welcome," the ant turned around and stuck his two front feet into the water again and whoosh he was back on his whirlwind adventure to the great unknown of the river. This time I simply watched hoping a fish would eat him so I could tell people a cool story, but no such luck.
Later as I thought about my unfortunate little friend, God began to unravel a Spiritual truth for me. The Bible tells us that God has a plan for our life (Jer. 29:11) and that He even created and crafted us for that purpose. (Eph. 2:10) It is as if God told us to go from point A to point B and like those ants crossing the trail, they were doing what they were created to do. But just like the little wayward one, we all have gone astray. Isaiah 53:6 says, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way;..." Everyone of us has fallen short of God's plan for our lives, (Rom. 3:23) and the penalty for that waywardness and sin is death. (Rom. 6:23a) If that foolish little ant was stupid enough to leave the line of ants doing what they were supposed to do then he deserved to drown or to be eaten by a fish. No one forced that on him, he chose to walk that path and the consequences of that path is death. Just like us! We were foolish enough to walk away from the plan God had for us and the penalty of that disobedience is death! Satan did not make us do it, our DNA did not make us do it, God certainly did not make us do it, we and we alone are guilty and deserving of the punishment.
BUT! God so loved the world!!! (John 3:16) BUT the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our LORD!!! (Rom. 6:23b) BUT God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8) God looked down on a world that was full of sin and filthiness and He felt compassion! He stretched out His hand and pulled us out of certain death and placed us on the sure foundation of eternal Life! Praise God for His love!
Sadly, how often are we like this little ant, who, just as soon as he had received a second chance at life, ran right back into our wicked life? It is as if we receive this beautiful gift of Life from God, a gift which cost Him dearly! We receive this gift and then spit right in the face of God! We continue right on with the evil and wickedness that entangled us to begin with. That is truly heart breaking!
But unlike me who watched my little friend sail off into the sunset, God lovingly reaches down again and again and pulls us out of the sin that entraps us. Not that we need to be saved again, for Jesus only needed to die one time to cover all our sins, but God pulls us out of the mess we have made and sits us on solid ground and says, go and sin no more! To those who reject His bandana of love, death is their future. How sad to know that so many will push God's hand out of the way so as to get to Hell faster! I wish they had the sense of an ant to know that salvation is extended to all people!

A Righteous Quality

Something that I have struggled with for many years is why is it that I have so much while much of the world has so little. Think about it, if I were to go into storage (that being stuff I have that did not warrant coming with me on the mission field) and look through all the boxes, I would find an assortment of nicknacks and treasures that deserve to be buried for all eternity. But one thing in particular that you would find that really blows my mind is you would find a watch. I know that is shocking that I would have a watch but this particular watch is a special watch, it does not have a band on it. So, I'm sure you are asking what the point of this watch in terms to the point of this devotional? Well this watch was a gift of sorts from the president of the United States of America! Actually how it happened was President George W. Bush did a thing where he sent out stimulus checks to various people in a hope that the economy would be jump started. He sent me one and I was obliged to spend it as my ethical, moral, and civic duty! I went to the store and bought this watch. It was much more expensive than I would have ever paid but since Uncle Sam was paying for it, I didn't mind. This watch was for hikers and would tell them the temperature, the altitude, the barometric pressure, their rate of decent, the weather, what direction they were facing, oh yeah, it told you the time also. I was pretty sure it was the coolest thing ever! Thanks President Bush! The interesting thing was even though it was of very high quality, it still ended up in my storage box with no band on it. Well, as good as the quality was, it just never worked properly. The altimeter was off, the temperature was never right, the compass only worked if you calibrated it, I don't even know what a barometer is, the clock worked as long as the battery held up, which it did not, and the band broke! Therefore this wonderful, quality watch is now lost somewhere in the recesses of our storage never to be seen again. (I hope)
All that to say, why should I have a watch that can or can't do all those things when there are people in Africa who are starving? When the people that are now my new neighbors do not get three meals a day? Just because I live in America I have been able to surround myself with nice quality things, why? Since we now live in a house that resembles a barn more than a house I find myself thinking of nice homey touches like dry wall, molding (not mold, we have that) constant electricity, lamps, rugs, etc. No one around here has any of those things, so why is it in America we have wall to wall all of those things? The answer... I don't know?!?
Yesterday as I was praying God taught me a very important lesson about all of this. The word "Quality" is never found in Scripture. The idea may be implied but I disagree even with that. What is quality? Something nice? Not so much in terms of my watch. Something that holds up? Drywall would never hold up in our barn, I mean our house. Something that cost a lot? Well now you are probably more on the right track. The word "quality" is a man made word that basically means, you pay more for it so that you have the hope of the object doing its purpose better, longer, and more efficient than its competition. It may or may not do that. Quality is just not a Biblical term.
Like I was, you may be thinking, well what about the quality of worship you bring to God? Think about it, what does that mean? Can you raise your hands better than the next person? Do you use better words in your prayers than someone else? If you pray with quality words then shouldn't they last longer? Yet that would go against Scripture when it says we are to pray without ceasing. (I Thess. 5:17) See, the problem with linking 'quality' with 'worship' is that quality represents what you bring to the table. It's saying I brought something good to God.
Allow me to introduce a different word to the conversation, "righteousness." The Bible tells us in Rom. 3:10 that no one is righteous, not even one. The Bible also says that our righteousness is like filthy rags. (####) Righteousness means, to be made RIGHT, we can not do that, my RIGHT is like filthy rags. We need a Savior to make us right, that is why God sent His Son, to do the thing we couldn't do. We are made righteous through salvation. And we are saved by grace through faith, not of works lest anyone should boast. (####) Our worship has nothing to do with what we bring to the table but what God gives us to bring and our obedience to bring it. Therefore, it does not matter where you live, what you have, what covers your walls or how much money you have, worship is something anyone can do because it is what God has given you to give. God smiles at the heartfelt prayer of a woman in a mansion and the woman who prays in her hut. God dances to the singing of worship of the man in a corvette as He does to the man who walks down the path in tattered sandals. Worship is sweet because it comes from God and goes to God!
Do not be so blind to think that the things you surround yourself with enable you to worship God better than the next guy. Sound systems and lights in a sanctuary only allow you to hear and see better but God looks at the heart and no amp or spot light will illuminate that. Worship is the work of God in us and our obedience to give our life back to God. Quality of worship? I don't see it but righteous worship, that comes from God!

Jaw Droppers

What is the point? What is the purpose? I woke up this morning just like I did yesterday and the day before. I go about my day just like I did yesterday and the day before. I will lay my head down tonight just like I did last night and the night before. This is probably the same routine I will follow until the day that I die. Is there really purpose in this life? I can tell you that life in the U.S. works the same as it does in Guyana, S. America. Sure the task are different and the culture is different but the structure of life is still the same, get up, do what you do, go to bed, next day do the same. What is the point? What make this life all worth while? If we are Christians then our eternal security is set. Why is it that God does not just take us home to Heaven now? Why must we endure this life on fallen planet Earth?
Around two-thousand years ago there sat a group of men and women in a room, massaging their jaws. They were soar from their jaws hitting the floor so much. One day their jaw drops because the Messiah they had been waiting for was finally here! Then their jaw dropped because they saw their Messiah hanging dead on a cross. Then once again their jaw dropped as they peered into His grave which was empty because He had risen from the dead. Next thing they knew, their jaws were on the ground again as the Messiah stood right in front of them, alive and well and then rising up into the sky! Needless to say, their jaws were soar! They sat around looking at each other thinking, "Wow, what a ride!" When all of a sudden, once again their jaws hit the floor as they heard this noise like tornado force winds and they saw these flaming tongues floating through the air coming toward them and finally resting on them. I'm sure they were thinking, "Now what?" They were filled with the Holy Spirit of God, the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus, that One would come after Him. Forgetting how soar their jaws were, they all began speaking at the same time yet the words that came out of their mouths were in different languages and dialects, by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can only imagine how perplexing this was to the disciples as well as all those who were listening and understanding what was being said in their own native tongue.
Peter finally got up and began explaining things to those around. He did not mix words but told them plainly, "The Messiah you have been waiting for, the One who will reign forever and will set things right, you just nailed Him to the cross but you did not win victory over Him because He now lives and reigns with God!" In his sermon Peter quoted King David by saying, "You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of gladness with Your presence." (Acts 2:28) This quote is found in Psalms 16:11, "You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever."
How wonderful is that? To know the paths of life! To know what this life is really all about! David goes on to say that joy and gladness is found in the presence of God! That is what true Life is, the presence of God! Totally undeserved, totally by His grace, yet the absolute most glorious and joyous moments of our Life is simply being in the presence of God! So while yes, each day we wake up, do what we do, and go to bed, we wake up into the radiant smile of the King of Kings who has been watching over us as we slept. We do what we do through out the day, the good and the bad, in the presence of Emmanuel, God with us. And we lay our head down at night, not on our pillow but on the chest of our Heavenly Father. If we listen we can hear His breath and the beating of His heart! God does not take His children home immediately after salvation to experience eternal life because eternal Life has already started here on this Earth! John 17:3 says, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ who You have sent." Eternal Life starts today, with the knowledge of who God is and where God is. Joy can be found on the path of Life which lies in the Holy presence of God. When we come to truly understand this truth, that is when our jaw really drops! Is that the Life you live?