by Angelina Johnson on April 3rd, 2018

​We had driven all the way to Arizona from Texas. We had hiked in the Chiricahua National Monument and climbed at the Dragoon Mountains. Finally we arrived at the Grand Canyon. We herded 25 students to the visitor center, hurried to a shuttle, and then arrived at the head of the trail. After traveling all this way we were disappointed to see the canyon covered by fog and clouds, but still we started walking. Snow swirled around us like we were in a snow globe; we walked in awe. We stopped for lunch and the snow turned into rain. We were worried about the kids’ getting soaked without the proper gear, but we had said the theme of the week was “Do Hard Things: teenage rebellion against low expectations”, so we kept going. As we started down the switchbacks we had to brace ourselves against the wind. The rain turned to hail but we kept hiking through what felt like pins and needles pricking us. Then finally we reached Skeleton Point. The clouds had cleared up and we could see the canyon with its multiple layers of rock and the Colorado River winding through it. As we started back up the canyon the sun came out and a rainbow stretched across the sky.
 
That view made enduring all the storms worth it. What a sweet reminder of God’s promises. These students had their own storms to endure; coming to a foreign country from China, learning a new language, not feeling like they fit in, conflict in their host families, and dealing with addictions. On the trip we had other storms, like a robbery of gear that totaled $3,000. So how do we endure these storms? We look to God’s promises. He fulfilled His promise of sending a Savior and will fulfill His promise of returning.
 
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed.” – Romans 8:18
 
This is what we celebrate over Easter! Jesus’ suffering was not the end! HE HAS RISEN! HE HAS VICTORY OVER SIN AND DEATH!

Posted on March 8th, 2018

​   Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.  Matt 19:13-14 ESV

​   This past weekend on our program with Texas Baptist Children’s Home at Colorado Bend State Park, we worked with a younger group of kids than is typical for us. I was struck by how unassuming, trusting, and innocent these children were. One of the little boys walked up to our staffer, Nick, on the first day and asked him, “Can we be friends?,” to which Nick responded, “Of course!” “Can I follow you around then? Because that’s what friends do!”  The little guy then proceeded to follow Nick pretty much everywhere! 

   In his classic book Christ and the Young People, Francis E. Clark had this to say: “We get the impression from the Gospels that Jesus was completely approachable. He was available and open to interruptions. His disciples sometimes tried to stand between him and the people, but He wouldn’t allow it.” Children need adults in their lives who are approachable like Jesus, who will stop whatever they are doing to just be friends with them and care about what is going on in their lives.

   Sometimes as adults we can get so caught up in our busy lives that we don’t take time for the little children God puts in our path. It doesn’t really take a lot of talent or ability to bless a child, just humility and a gentle spirit. It is my hope that you will find opportunities in the coming days and weeks to gently lead little children towards Jesus, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven. 
 

 

 

by Jason Mann on February 7th, 2018

​   28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Matt 11:28-20 NKJV

​   Every time we lead a back-country backpacking trip, we check in with participants the night before and have them show us the contents of their packs. Inevitably beginners tend to pack way too much stuff! I remember one anxious first timer who wanted to bring along about seven pounds of protein bars in addition to his normal food allotment for a 3 day trip! Our guides have learned over time to pack minimally.  Those extra few ounces seem to weigh so much more 10 miles and 3,000 ft of elevation in. One guide even took it so far as to cut the handles off his toothbrushes just to shave off a fraction of an ounce! 

   The same can be said for our spiritual journey as well. I know I personally have a tendency to carry burdens that are not mine to bear. Sometimes it can be difficult to recognize the spiritual junk we have accumulated over time; we just feel tired and weighed down. 

   In the book of Matthew, Jesus makes a simple yet profound statement. He offers to exchange our burdens for his yoke that is light and easy.  When we let go of our cumbersome baggage and take up our cross in submission and gratitude, an incredible thing happens; by God’s grace our load lightens, our pace quickens and our spiritual strength is renewed. May you find the courage to lay down your burdens, take up your cross, and follow Him.
 

 

 

Posted on January 8th, 2018

​  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT
 
After a recent caving trip with a group of college students, we stopped to talk about the experience.  I asked the students a series of simple questions. “What’s the opposite of up? What’s the opposite of hot? What’s the opposite of light?” When I received the obvious answer that darkness is the opposite of light, it sparked a conversation about how darkness is not actually an opposing energy force to light but an absence of it.
 
​  The same is true of spiritual light and darkness. Spiritual darkness is simply the absence of spiritual light. In the cave when we had turned off all our lights, the darkness was overwhelming and complete, but a single pinprick of light from a headlamp immediately extinguished the darkness for a far as the beam could reach.
 
​ It is my belief that in the church today we often discount the power of Christ because we don’t understand the nature of the spiritual battle we are in between the forces of light  and the forces of darkness.  Either we discount the reality and the severity of the battle, or we tend to give the enemy too much credit, as if he is an opposite near co-equal power to our sovereign Lord. The reality is that even though we live in a realm of extreme darkness, we are to be bearers of the true light of Christ. When that light shines into the darkness, the darkness has no choice but to flee. It can never extinguish the light! This new year, may you boldly carry the light of Christ into the dark places of this world, trusting in His power and all sufficiency to prevail over the darkness.
 

 

 

by Jason Mann on December 11th, 2017

​For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Eccl. 3:1 ESV.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  IS 9:6 ESV.

Have you ever wondered why the negative and traumatic things we experience seem to stick with us the most? Think of your earliest memory. For me it’s breaking my elbow at age 4 when I fell off my toy tractor; it’s forever seared in my brain.  Recently I heard about a scientific study that suggests our  brains are hardwired to be 5 times more likely to remember negative things than positive ones. The study also suggests that if we will savor positive experiences for at least 20 seconds, we become much more likely to remember them long term.

​      As we move through the holiday season it’s easy for us to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and focus on the negative, while there is so much we have to be thankful for. I firmly believe the Lord wants us to slow down and savor the blessings that the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year holidays represent. If we don’t intentionally do this, we can so easily get swept into the cultural tide of commercialism and greed that flows like a swift undercurrent this time of year.

   This past week I spent a five-hour block in solitude in nature for a class project. I found that it took me the first hour or two to just slow my mind down and detox from the busyness of life, before I could really hear from God.   As my mind became uncluttered from distraction, I was finally able so sit and savor and just soak up God’s goodness. My attitude changed from one of discouragement to thankfulness and joy as I read God’s word and ruminated on His many blessings. May you too find some time this holiday season to get alone with God and simply savor his blessings.
 

 

 





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