Monday, March 16, 2015

What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?

Life Box Missions
Prior to 2006, no one would have thought I was a risk-taker or an adventuresome man. I happily lived in my self-made box, ruts and all.
But God changed all that.

Business, PB&J, Servitude: Inside My Box

Being raised in a home with parents who loved God and loved each other, I had dedicated my life to God at a young age. Denise did the same. And we served God when and where we could, especially in our local church. But life was safe. There was little risk and absolutely no adventure.
When I heard that men need an adventure to live, I thought that meant everyone else.
My life was routine and predictable, and, looking back, I admit it was somewhat boring. Breakfast (Lifecereal and yogurt) and lunch (peanut butter with jelly or honey sandwich, baby carrots, and a cookie bar – homemade peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip) was the same five days a week, 52 weeks a year, every day that I worked. On Saturday I “branched out” and had Captain Crunch for breakfast.
I listened to the radio when I was getting ready for work, and I knew based on what was on the radio whether I was early or running late.

Course Set for Retirement

Phil Reed Afraid
It wasn’t that I was afraid of change, I just didn’t prefer it. Or like it very much.
I worked for three different companies over 23+ years in the business world (in different communities) prior to going on the mission field when I was almost 46. Each time we moved and I changed jobs, it was because we felt it was God’s plan. I was planning to retire with the last company I worked for and was looking forward to doing so at age 59 (now less than 10 years away). I loved my job but willingly left it behind.
Most people would have said that as a young man I was timid, unless I was playing piano. I didn’t mind if my fingers did the talking, but don’t make me talk in front of people.
My last job helped me develop public speaking skills. I grew to enjoy it! Really!
That was all part of God developing me into who He needed me to be so that I could fulfill His purpose for my life.
In addition, I was a “homebody”, and proud of it. The thing that Dorothy learned in “The Wizard of Oz”, that “there’s no place like home”, was one of my theme songs. The other was, “do it yourself.” I was independent and wanted to do everything myself.
Two different times we had something happen in our lives that caused us to pray about whether we should be involved in missions or ministry, and both times we heard, “No.” We realize now that God actually said, “Not yet.”

My Changed Perspective: Ukraine

In 2005, our pastor went to Ukraine on a short-term missions trip. When he came back, he told me that I should go with him next year. So I did just that. It was my first missions trip and my first time going overseas.
And God rocked my world.
I fell in love with the people of Ukraine. Seeing their passion for God brought a renewed passion in my life. Don’t get me wrong, Denise and I had always given generously to missions and been very involved in church life, but this took things to a whole new level.
I enjoyed being part of the ministry that took place in Ukraine. We saw God do amazing things. It was the biggest adventure I had ever had. For me, it was crazy and way out there, but there was a sense of fulfillment in being part of such ministry, different than anything I’d ever experienced.

My Heart Halfway Across the World

Ukraine Calling Missions
While I was flying home, I wrote in my journal, “Had a great time, don’t think I’ll go back.” And I was serious.
I figured that I would go somewhere else on a missions trip in the future, just not back to Ukraine (I never made it anywhere else.). Meanwhile, our pastor told another man who was with us on that plane, “I think that Reed’s are going to be missionaries to Ukraine someday.” Neither man told me about that conversation for several years, but over the next several months, God made it very clear to me that He wanted us to become missionaries to Ukraine.
When I told Denise, she said, “Everyone wants to go back.” But when I told her it was more than that, her response was, “Okay” (remember, she’s the flexible one). And so the big changes in our life began.
As I returned to Ukraine with our pastor in 2007, it was with a different perspective. I was able to think about what it would be like someday when I live here, doing ministry full-time. In 2008, Denise came with me because she wanted to see Ukraine for herself. The question I asked her repeatedly was,“Can you live here?” Her answer, thankfully, was always “Yes.”
I am thankful for a wife who literally has gone with me to the ends of the earth!

No Home: Preparation for Life in Missions

In 2009 and 2010, we prepared to leave the US to live on the mission field. That really became preparation for our life overseas for two years. Then we were home, raising support for two years and we were on the road more than we were not. We didn’t even have our own place, so this homebody had to adapt. God has a sense of humor. I had to learn that home was where my family was and wherever the will of God had me at the time.
In addition, this is something that I could not do by myself. This required me to step out of my comfort zone and ask others for help, allowing them the opportunity to partner with us. And, praise God, they did!
Thankfully, we were able to return to Ukraine last summer. There is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that what you are doing is what you were born to do. That you are fulfilling your purpose in life.
Every season has provided opportunities to know God at a deeper level and to learn to trust him more and more. I am still learning.
As we traveled around the Midwest raising our support, I realized that I really love preaching and sharing with people publicly. What a change from the timid young man that I used to be. As I preached in our itineration services, nothing is too hard for God!

An Adventure for the Willing

Open Box Missions
In all these seasons, my routines are non-existent. Flexibility is important (remember the missionary adage, “blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break”). I am proof that God can change us into who He needs us to be. But we have to be willing.
I am living the greatest adventure of my life.
And I am loving it.
I have no regrets. None. Zero.
If God is asking you to step out of your self-made box. Do it! The Kingdom of God will advance and you will grow. And others will be blessed.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I am proof that God can change us into who He needs us to be. But we have to be willing.
This story was originally posted on the EurasiaNorthwest site, where you can learn more about the ministry and vision of our area.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Book Review - I'll Hold You In Heaven

Recently I picked up the book "I'll Hold You In Heaven" by Dr. Jack Hayford because the title and topic intrigued me and the eBook was only 99 cents.  It was a great read and worth more than that.

Dr. Hayford, in his compassionate, pastoral way, uses this book to give hope to those who have experienced a stillborn child, the death of a newly born child, a miscarriage, or an abortion.

Using scripture, he carefully demonstrates that the lost child is human and that the lost child has an eternal soul and, as a result, their death took them straight into heaven and the presence of God.  He also showed that God knew each of us before we were born and He has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives.

Psalm 139:13-16 (New Living Translation) says "13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed."

Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT) says “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.

He then shares that the only way that the parents of a child who has died will see them again is if they themselves also get to heaven.  And the only way for any of us to get to heaven is by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and personal Savior.  He died to pay the penalty for my sins and for yours.

He shared one very touching story.  His church had started a ministry with a vision to provide pregnancy counseling without imposing a spiritual demand on the inquirer, but simply to discourage abortion by showing love and trusting God to work in their lives.  One expectant mother called, who had been abandoned by her boyfriend.  Over time, she decided against an abortion and she accepted Jesus as her Savior.  One Sunday morning, she came to dedicate her little girl to the Lord.  As they were preparing to take communion, Pastor Jack shared her story and said, "This is as dramatic a case as I think you'll ever see, in which brokenness is made whole through the love of Jesus.  This baby would have been broken in the womb, but she wasn't.  Because you prayed, you gave and you loved, she found new possibilities; and here in my arms is wholeness, not brokenness."

Jesus came to heal the broken-hearted and He still restores broken lives today!

That is the message we have to share with the people of Ukraine.  God has placed us here because He wants the good news of his redemptive purpose to be shared with people all around the world.  Our assignment is here.

Denise and I experienced a miscarriage before we adopted Laura.  Dr. Hayford's words spoke directly to me.  And because both of our girls are adopted, we are so glad that their birth parents chose life!

How about you?  Do you have a child in heaven as we do?  Will you join them there?  Do you know what God's purpose for your life is?