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He is a Hero in My Book

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Earlier this year, I was challenged to share with a group of men one of my “heroes.” I could choose someone from history, alive or deceased, a relative, a friend or a public figure. My mind first went to my father. I did also consider Nelson Mandela as a hero I respect. However, I chose to write about my father, Tom Jarboe. I have seen the qualities of a godly leader in the life of my Dad. He served his country in the Korean conflict. He worked as a schoolteacher, coach, principal and finally as Superintendent of the Friona Public Schools. He served as an elder in the 6th Street Church of Christ for 14 years. I have not seen my father do anything but serve others. I have always looked up to my father, sought to make him proud and have tried to follow his example.

My father loves his family and always made sacrifices to lead, teach and care for his wife, children and grandchildren. He has a special love for his grandchildren and I see his influence in their lives, which will be felt for generations to come. However, he also reached back and touched past generations. He loved his parents and their families as well. I remember growing up and seeing my father almost every Sunday night, sit down at our kitchen table to write a letter to his aging parents.

He is a community leader and respected in his professional circles. He taught me the importance of hard work, responsibility and care for those who looked up to him as a leader. He always seeks to be a godly man. He served as an elder who put his focus on pleasing the Lord and caring for people. I would see him minister to people who faced difficult spiritual challenges. I remember a particular phone conversation I happened to hear, where he was helping a family through a serious crisis. I heard the strength and confidence that he gave them that all would be well.  When I now hear of that family, I think how God used him to make a small contribution to provide them the strength and spiritual health they now enjoy. My father is a man of prayer for his family and for others.  He loves people. I enjoy seeing him laugh and talk with people, sharing his stories, memories and experiences.

My father served as a school principal during the days of corporal punishment; but many of my friends would tell me that they would prefer my father “just give them the licks” rather than talk to them. He had a stern and sincere way of talking to someone in trouble and bringing them to tears of confession and repentance. The influence my father had on students was significant. Although they were somewhat afraid of my father, they had great respect for him and knew that he cared about them.  Hundreds of students, parents and now their children and grandchildren have been touched by the servant leadership of my father. My father is very personable – he always knows people wherever he goes. Two years ago my parents moved to a new community and I have seen the almost immediate respect that he earned from those around him. He is someone who people trust and look to for guidance.

I have seen my father now struggling with his health and facing new challenges. He works hard to care for my mother as she struggles with her health as well. I have seen him show great patience and loving care even under difficult circumstances, when he needed care himself. He expresses a love for my mother that has grown over the 60+ years of their marriage. I have seen him struggle with questions of significance and feelings of worthlessness. But he is seeking to live out his life with faithfulness, bravery and determination.

I look up to my father as a real man. When he was able, he hunted, fished, played golf and spent time with his friends in various activities. He still works in the yard and garden, showing his sense of responsibility to take good care of the blessings from God. Some of the best times I have had with my father growing up were times working together, hunting, fishing or playing golf together.

I was asked to present “my leadership hero” to this group of men and to determine five to six words that describe my hero. The words that describe my father in my eyes are: responsible, hard working, caring, strong, loving and full of integrity. After I shared the words that best describe “my hero,” the men begin to speak to me about the ways they see those very same traits in my life.  At first, it was hard to hear and even harder to accept; however, I realized that it was not anything that I had done. It was just that I had decided to follow the lead of those around me who were seeking to follow Jesus. My father continues to blaze the trail for me by saying through his actions the words spoken by the apostle Paul, “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). If I had started out my life trying to be seen as a hero, failure would have been guaranteed. Providentially, I just tried to follow my Dad as he followed the One leading us back to God.

The Reason for the World

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On a recent Sunday morning, I sat around a table communing with the Lord and with my parents. I find power in sharing the Lord’s Supper table with my family.  As we took the Lord’s Supper together, I shared with Mom and Dad a song that I recently found that has been instructive and comforting to me. It is a contemporary Christian song written by Matthew West, entitled, The Reason for the World. . My parents have a strong faith and continue to live their life with faithfulness and service to others. They have often told me that “growing old is not for sissies.” I am doing my best to listen and learn, so I can follow their example of courage as they find meaning in the twilight years of their life. As we face transitions and challenges in our lives, the temptation is to ask, “why?” I have fallen into the same trap and come up empty handed trying to find answers to the purpose of the difficult times of life.

There are no words in times like these.

No comfort in the greeting card
‘Cause God is good
But life’s still hard
And your heart just wants a reason for the world

But maybe the reason for the pain
Is so we would pray for strength
And maybe the reason for the strength
Is so that we would not lose hope
And maybe the reason for all hope
Is so that we could face the world
And the reason for the world
Is to make us long for home, home, home,

For God so loved your broken heart
He sent his son to where you are
And he died
To give a reason for the world

So lift your sorrows to the one
Whose plan for you has just begun
And rests here in the hands that hold the world

‘Cause maybe the reason for the pain
Is so we would pray for strength
And maybe the reason for the strength
Is so that we would not lose hope
And maybe the reason for all hope
Is so that we could face the world
And the reason for the world
Is to make us long for home

Well I know your past the point of broken
Surrounded by your fear
I know you’re faint and tired and lonely
From the road that you walked down here
But just keep your eyes on heaven
And know that you are not alone
Remember the reason for the world

No ear has heard
No eye has seen
Not even in your wildest dreams
The beauty that awaits beyond this world
When you look into the eyes of grace
And hear the voice of mercy say
Child, welcome to the reason for the world

Is it possible that the ultimate goal in life is not just to arrive in heaven? Is it possible that God’s purpose through both the joys and sorrows of life is to transform us into the image of Christ? Is it possible that the reason for the world is to prepare us for continual service in God’s reign. When I was younger, I would think of heaven as “eternal rest.” I have to confess that seemed boring to me. One of the greatest blessings that God gives us is a reason for our existence, a purpose for being.  And the reason for the world is to prepare us to serve and glorify our Father for eternity.

Four Eternal Truths

Foundational Truths for Our Understanding of Missions

 Our understanding of missions is rooted in the nature and identity of God. The more we understand God and His nature, the more clearly we see our mission in the world. Four eternal truths help us establish a strong theological underpinning for our mission activity.

  • God is a Missionary God. Our Creator is one who sends and is sent. “For God so loved the world that he gave [sent] his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God called Abram to leave his country, his people and his home, so that He could bless all peoples on earth through him (Genesis 12:1-3). Joseph revealed himself to his brothers in Egypt declaring, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:4-7). God now sends His church to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).  Jesus, the Son came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). We have been created in God’s image. Those restored to His image are sent into the world to fulfill His mission.
  • God Calls His Servants to Join Him in His Mission. “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe — as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).  Only God can provide the increase, yet He calls us to plant and water. I am always amazed when I hear that God has called me to be His “fellow worker” in His mission. This understanding motivates me not to ask the Lord to bless what I am doing but rather to ask Him to involve me in what He is blessing.
  • The World is In Need of a Savior. The statement may not be “politically correct,” but without Christ we are lost and separated from our God. Jesus looked upon the multitude and was moved with compassion because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. His Messianic ministry then becomes our ministry of preaching, teaching and healing; bringing the love of Christ to the needs of the world. The cry of those separated from Christ calls us to “ask the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into His harvest field “(Matthew 9:35-38).
  • Jesus Promised to Build His Church. Jesus affirms, “…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Our role is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20); Jesus will take those disciples and build His church. It is not an either or proposal, but rather a “both and.”  Yet, we must not overstep our role. Jesus builds his church. I have spent too much time trying to “build the church,” without understanding that is God’s role. I am to equip others to be his obedient followers and He takes these disciples and builds them into His church. We must not fear, doubt or question this clear promise of God.

 

As we struggle to grasp the nature and character of God and His kingdom, we gain a deeper understanding of our identity and role which is rooted in eternal truths that do not change with time, culture or generations.

First Things First

One of the most significant questions we ask is “Why are we here? Why do we exist? What is our ultimate purpose in life?”  I don’t propose to have a “lock” on the answer to those eternal questions, but those questions point to the issue of priority. What is our most important purpose in life? In the past, l have answered this question with the statement, “We are to share the good news of Jesus with the world.” Mission or evangelism was the number one priority in my mind. However, several years ago, I allowed the word of God to change my perspective on what is the “first thing” in the life of a Christian. God himself identifies his priority which must become my priority.

Look at Isaiah 48:9-11. Israel has once again been rebellious. God is about to bring His wrath against Israel. He says, “For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you…For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.”  God’s priority was for His name to be glorified throughout his creation.  God’s priority becomes our priority.  Our purpose in life is to glorify God.

Jesus reminds us of our identity.  “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven(Matthew 5:13-16). Our reason for existence is to glorify our Heavenly Father.

If we are putting first things first, we must remember that we are to glorify the Lord in all that we do.  When we have these priorities out of place missions can actually become an idol. We can actually allow what we define as “missions” to become “the Lord” and allow ourselves to be motivated to let the end justify the means. The reason that we are involved in missions around the globe is so that God might be glorified. Somewhere in a hut or a hamlet, in a heart or a home, God is not being glorified. Let’s be the presence and the witness of God’s good news, so that He will be praised everywhere. May we live in such a way that God is always glorified.  1 Corinthians 10:31.

The Rebel Jesus

For several years, Jackson Browne and I have been “mowing buddies.” I know you have never thought of Jackson Browne as being involved in lawn care and some of you have never thought of Jackson Browne at all. I listened to his music during my college years and now have a habit of listening to him as I am mowing the lawn. One of my favorite songs by Jackson Browne is “The Rebel Jesus;” a Christmas song.  I am not a Scrooge or a Grinch. I enjoy the Christmas season.  I get excited when Starbucks starts serving coffee in their red Christmas cups and I’m always a little sad when Christmas is over. Our family has had a great time this Christmas. We, like others, are becoming more reflective as a year ends and a new one begins. Unfortunately, during the holiday season we often allow consumerism and materialism to control our thoughts and our activities. This is where Jackson Browne comes into the picture. The rebel in me says life should be characterized by simplicity, service and giving to others. As a new year begins, I need to be reminded of the importance of being a “rebel” in a consumer driven society. I need to be reminded that the Jesus I follow is in fact a rebel and goes against the flow of today’s culture.

The Rebel Jesus

Lyrics by Jackson Browne

 

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
While the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tables
Giving thanks for God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by ‘the Prince of Peace’
And they call him by ‘the Savior’
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
And they fill his churches with their pride and gold
As their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgment
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In a life of hardship and of earthly toil
There’s a need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus

A Simple Prayer

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

It was just a simple prayer, but it communicated more than words alone could ever express. Our daughter, Meagan is in her final year of medical school and doing her rotations in various specialties at Texas Tech University Health Science Center.  I was in Lubbock to help our son, Ryan move in to a house after returning from Italy. As we were working, Meagan said, “Daddy, I have a favor to ask you. Would you go to the hospital with me to pray with a man in Spanish?” She explained, that a man in MICU and his family had been asking for a Spanish-speaking priest who could pray with them. They had been able to find a priest but he only spoke English.  I couldn’t refuse my daughter’s caring request.

Meagan entered the room first and told the patient that I was a minister who spoke Spanish and would like to pray with him. She asked permission to tell me the details of his medical condition. She explained to me that he was in his 50’s and had a terminal illness. He had never been in the hospital before. We put on gloves and gowns before we entered his room.  Two family members were with him and I asked permission to read and pray with him. He could not talk but shook his head, “yes.”  I read Psalms 23 and prayed for healing, peace, faith and grace.

I learned a couple of lessons in those few short minutes.  First, I was taught by the faith, compassion and persistence of my daughter. As I prayed, she looked into the patient’s eyes and said she could only see fear. We both were touched by his desire to have a connection to his Creator at this time full of uncertainty.  It is true that no matter where we have been in life, when we come face to face with our mortality, we search for our Heavenly Father. The second thing that I was reminded of was the power of a simple prayer in one’s heart language.   He could not talk but his request spoke volumes. I don’t know his standing in his relationship with the Lord. I will let the Lord be the judge.  However, the patient’s request reminded me everyone’s need to hear from and be heard by their Father.

 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:13-16

Lessons Learned with LST in Romania

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I try to always be alert to the lessons that the Lord is teaching me each day. However, I have to admit, I am often a very poor student. I tend to a better student when I am in a new culture and meeting new people. Here are a few lessons I learned during our recent Let’s Start Talking project in Sfantu Gheorghe, Romania. 

  • The Power of the Story of Jesus – I often fall into the trap of believing that the word of God needs my help. I unfortunately am tempted to put more trust in my illustrations, explanations and abilty to teach the word of God. The simple but powerful method we utilized in Romania was simply reading together from the Bible, the Story of Jesus. Questions, comments and discussions that took place during our reading sessions reminded me once again, I am simply a tool, a vessel, a jar of clay in God’s hands (2 Corinthians 4:7). The power is in the good news message that God has given to me (Romans 1:16-17). One of my readers was a young man named Gabriel (I have his permission to use his story). Gabriel is 17 and in his senior year of high school. He is from an Orthodox background. I was impressed with his spiritual insights. He shared with me his perspective of the “big story.” In his view various Christian groups may have their own story that may differ some, however he said, “We all share one big story that is most important.” I asked him to tell me the “big story.” He said, “it is exactly what we are reading about, the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He is the ‘big story.'”  I seem to have read that in Paul’s writings as well. Paul resolved to know nothing while he was with the Corinthians expect Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2).
  • The Importance of Relationships – One of the friends I met and read with for two weeks in Romania was a single woman who worked at night at the local newspaper. She sadly was estranged from her sister and would only see her mother briefly each week. She did not want to read at first thinking that her English was not good enough. I convinced her to give it a try. She understood more than she could speak. During a conversation about the “friends of Jesus.” I asked her about her friends. She said, “I do not have any friends. That is one of the reasons why I like coming to read with your group. I enjoy having someone to listen to me and to talk to each day.” I had fun with her as she could not stop laughing at her confusion over English numbers. I will continue to pray for her that she will come to know Jesus as her friend and as He brings her into a relationship with a loving family. I thought about hours we may spend in planning, strategizing, preparing and talking about reaching out to the world. Somewhere in all of that talk, I need to return to one on one relatiohships with people who just need a friend and need to be introduced to the Best of Friends. 
  • The Joy of Ministering with Family – My wife, Sherry works with Let’s Start Talking (LST) as their Project Site Coordinator. I have known of and partnered with LST for years. However, seeing more of the inside of the ministry, I have even gained a greater respect for this simple and powerful method of “sharing Jesus and sharing ourselves.” It is one method of helping people find a way to connect with others and share their faith in Jesus.  Our son, Ryan has been serving in Prato, Italy for the last year and a half as a part of the Adventures in Missions (AIM) program. Mike and Anto Mahan are the missionaries who coordiante Ryan’s work along with his four teammates. It has been a good and challenging experience for Ryan. Mike and Anto gave Ryan and his teammate, Josie Collins permission to join Sherry and I in the two week LST project.  It was a good experience for us all. Working, praying, cooking, planning and sharing together was an encouraging experience. We all took a step outside of our comfort zone and grew to be a little more like Jesus because of it. I have a wonderful wife who has been side-by-side with me through 28 years of marriage and ministry. God is blessing us at this stage of our life and family to find new ways to  challenge ourselves and grow in ministry together. 
  • The Strength of Faithful Christians – We worked with and met with the brothers and sisters of the Agape Church in Sfantu, Gheorghe. They may be small in number but they are faithful in spirit and in their walk with the Lord. We were encouraged by Maria as she would come by each day to read with Sherry. However, she only wanted to read if we had the time. She did not want to take the time away from someone else with whom we could be reading the gospe.l Stafan served us in multiple ways by picking us up in Bucharest, waiting for seven hours as one of our teammates flight was delayed and driving through the night so we could join the family of God on Sunday. As we sang in Romanian, Hungarian adn English with the church for the two Sundays we enjoyed being with them, I thought of the multitudes of faithful Christians around the globe, seeking to live faithfully as salt and light in a dark world. I was reminded that the only responsibilty of a steward entrusted with the story of Jesus is to be faithful to the task ( 1 Corinthians 4:1-5). We cannot control the results. We are simply to remain faithful to the task that God has given us. Learn the lessons along the way as God transforms us into His image. 

May I continue to allow these lessons to change me, transform me and conform me to the image of Jesus Christ. Thank you Lord for the opportunity to learn and grow with you.

More of the Story

This morning in my reading and in our LST devotional, I was impressed with Psalm 19:1-2 in the Easy to Read Version, “The heavens tell about the glory of God. The skies announce what his hands have made.  Each new day tells more of the story, each night reveals more and more about God’s power.”  

I  know the context is refering to God’s creation, the sun and moon, as they give witness to God and His power. However, as I read it, I not only heard that message but I was encouraged to be open to what God has in store for me this day. I thought ahead to the activities of the day and realized that this day and the experiences ahead will tell me more of the story. The night will remind me of God’s power, grace and peace. This day, I want to be a student.I want to be open to God’s work in me, through me and around me. I want God to add to His story in my life. 

Let’s Start Talking in Sfantu Gheorghe, Romania

The First Report from our Let’s Start Taking Project in Romania.

Thanks to all for the prayers. We made it safely and well to Sfantu Gheorge (St. George), Romania. Our son, Ryan was flying in from Florence via Rome, his teammate Josie Collins was flying in from spending a couple of days in Germany with friends. When Sherry and I arrived on time in Bucharest, Josie was waiting for us. Ryan was to arrive an hour later. Stefan, a good brother from St. George arrived to pick us up and drive us the 3+ hours to the site. When Ryan did not arrive, I had to connect my iPhone to see if he had tried to contact us. His flight from Florence to Rome was canceled, so Alitalia put him on a bus to travel the four hours to Rome so he could catch a late flight out of Rome. He arrived in Bucharest about 1am. We waited the 5+ hours in a McDonalds (free parking and wifi). Stefan thought it best to go ahead and drive through the night to St. George. We arrived at 4 am and enjoyed 4 hours of sleep before we joined the church this morning for their celebration. God was good to take care of us in the journey and we enjoyed the time to visit, play cards and relax.

This morning was so encouraging with the church. They are accustomed to LST groups coming regularly and they are so welcoming and encouraging. We enjoyed singing in three languages Romanian, Hungarian and English. I was able to share a message during the Lord’s Supper with Stefan translating and I later thought, “we had two very tired, sleepy men trying to speak and translate without much available brain power.” I know some of you will say that it normal for me! J

We had fun finding our way around this beautiful city. We have our information session with the readers tomorrow afternoon and begin reading on Tuesday. The apartment we are staying in is very comfortable and has all we need. A trip to the store has stocked the cupboards, so we are ready to go! Thank you for the prayers. Pray for Sherry, Josie, Ryan and me that we share Jesus and share ourselves with those we read with this week.

Pasir Panjang Family Camp

In Malaysia, outside of Kuala Lumpur the PP Church of Christ in Singapore gathered for their 18th Annual Family Camp. I was honored to speak four times on the Communion, Community and Commission of the church. The Pasir Panjang church is a very unique and healthy church. Henry Kong, their minister has been with the church from it’s beginning 45+ years ago. The church has five elders, many active servant leaders and a spirit of local and global missions.

One of the exciting elements of their camp is the foreign missionaries they bring in to share in the experience. Brothers and sisters from Myanmar, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, India and Bangladesh attended the camp. These missionaries shared in a World Cafe, where they set up tables showing how God is at work in their ministry. Members went from table to table hearing about God’s work around Asia. I see the PP church as following the example of NT Churches like Antioch and Ephesus as they impact their region for the kingdom.

I don’t know that I have been around such a group who are as hungry and thirsty to be obedient disciples. Of course, they have their weaknesses as we all do. However, I see that God is being glorified through the church that meets on Pasir Panjang Road in Singapore.

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