Thank You, Father – Guatemala Recap

Father,

Back in 2012 you brought me to Guatemala for the first time. From the moment I arrived, you gave me a strong love for the people, the country, the church. Who knew that some four years later, I would move to Guatemala for over a year to be a part of your work in this country? Only you.

I remember March of 2016 when I was in Guatemala on my 4th mission trip to the country. On the ride from Guatemala City to Xela, Pastor Jeff began sharing with me what you were up to in the church. He shared with me how he felt like you were leading them to start a young adult ministry, but there was no one to lead it. As we continued to talk, he asked me to pray about coming for a year, to start the ministry. I remember my first response was to tell him that I’d love to come one day with my wife. I was kind-of obsessed with marriage at the time; thank you for freeing me from that. After sharing the marriage thought with him, he rebuked me and asked me to keep praying about it. So I did.

That mission trip was followed by a jaw surgery that left me on my back and only consuming liquids for six weeks. A lot of time to pray. In that time, you began to give me vision of what you wanted to do in Guatemala. You gave me vision that the men of this culture could learn to follow Jesus before getting married and having kids so that they could love their wives and children like you do. You gave me vision that the women of this culture would learn what their Heavenly Father said about them, that they would receive their identity from Jesus, so that they could be secure wives and mothers. I knew these were dreams from you, visions from you, so I prayed you’d make it happen. You gave me faith, and I said yes to the opportunity to move to Guatemala.

July 22, 2016 I left home and moved into the men’s discipleship house in La Esperanza. In my room were four others who only spoke Spanish. Welcome to Latin America. From the beginning, they loved me, welcomed me, and taught me Spanish. I remember when Jonathan would sit on my bed with me and we would work on translating letters he had received from American missionaries. He was so patient with me and you used things like that to teach me Spanish.

For six weeks, I began to get involved in the church, but was not yet leading anything. Those weeks were for prayer. You reminded me of the vision you gave me and encouraged me to pray it into existence. So I did.

Then, on September 7th, 2016 you sent Sam, Dani, Emily, and Stephen to Guatemala and we began to live together and pray for the young adults of Xela and La Esperanza. On September 9th, 2016 we had our first young adult gathering – our first Ignite. Us five were there, along with a few others, I taught Ephesians 1, and we prayed this ministry would be the Lord’s from the beginning. We did not want to do anything that was not led by your Spirit, not focused on you.

The next few months came with a lot of difficulty, discouragement, and turnover of team members, but you were at work behind the scenes. I remember being frustrated because I didn’t know anyone in this country outside the church and I didn’t know how to invite people to Ignite. Yet you reminded me of how Jesus changed the world – one life at a time. You challenged me to simply invite the people I came into contact with. You challenged me to love and disciple those who were coming. You challenged me to prepare every message with excellence, because it’s your Word I’m preaching, it’s you I’m representing.

And I’m in awe of what you’ve done.

The last six months have been so much more than anything I imagined. Yes, Ignite has grown in numbers, but what you’ve reminded me of is that each of the people coming have a story. Each number represents a soul. A soul you love, a soul you died for. You have done an incredible work. You have fulfilled the vision you gave me.

You gave me vision that men would learn to follow Jesus so that as they one day have wives and families, they’ll love them like Christ loves the church.

I remember what you’ve done. [Names changed]

[Evan] has been coming to Ignite for a few months, and he’s grown in huge ways. When he started to come, he was either a baby Christian or not a Christian at all, but he was interested. Through your Word and by your Spirit, you’ve drawn him to yourself and his life is starting to bear fruit as he trusts Jesus. His prayer is that you would continue to grow him, that he’d believe your promises, and walk with you. When his brother came to town, he asked [Joe] if he was going to church, and [Evan] got to bring his brother with him to Ignite. His brother saw something different in [Evan] – and that’s Jesus.

[Vern] also came a few months ago, interested in the church, the community, the Lord. I’ll never forget the day at small group when he shared that he had just come from his house where his friends were hanging out. He knew he and his friends were going to go out and drink, but he chose to come to church instead. Leaving his house, his friends were confused as to why he was leaving them to go to church, but he told them that’s what he had to do. He came, fleeing sin, to sit at your feet. He’s learning to follow you.

[Dennis] first started coming to Ignite six months ago, and it’s been through your Word and the community and friendships you’ve given him that he’s being transformed into the image of Jesus. He’s being convicted of sin and you are changing him. As a result, he’s following you and leading us in worship each week.

You are faithful.

You gave me vision that women would find their identity in you, that as a result they’d be wives and mothers who are secure in who their Heavenly Father says they are.

[Joy] has been with us from the beginning. At the beginning, she was quiet, reserved, but wise. Knowing Jesus already, she needed to really understand the truth about who she is in her God. You began bringing friends into her life and through them and each of the teachings, you started to show her who she is in you. In the last few months, she’s grown in massive ways. She’s confessed and repented of sin, she’s a leader in Ignite, and she’s an incredible friend to the girls in the ministry. She knows who she is in You.

[Samantha] came to Ignite the very first time we met as a ministry. A strong Christian already, she was hungry to grow. I’ve seen her mature in her faith and grow to be a pillar in Ignite. One incredible thing about her is she realizes when you are speaking to her. After almost every message on Friday, she’ll share with me how you answered a prayer that she had been praying throughout the week. You are using your Word and through your Spirit, you’re speaking to your daughter. She’s hearing you and growing in confidence that you’re her Father who loves her endlessly.

[Grace] has been coming for about six months. After going through a difficult season, you drew her back to yourself and a church that teaches your truth. You’ve grown her into an incredible friend – a faithful and loyal friend to the girls. In that way, she is representing you so well, because you are a faithful and loyal King.

You are faithful.

Thank you for doing exceedingly, abundantly, more than I could ask or imagine. As I look back, all I can say is “thank you”. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for equipping me. Thank you for building a team. Thank you for Sam, Dani, Jeff, Alam, Brandon, Hassan, and so many others. Thank you for my supporters back home. Thank you for blessing obedience. Thank you for the lives you’ve changed for eternity.

Just as you’ve fulfilled so much of the vision you gave me, I pray you would fulfill the rest.

You gave me vision that men would learn to follow Jesus so that as they one day have wives and families, they’ll love them like Christ loves the church. You gave me vision that women would find their identity in you, that as a result they’d be wives and mothers who are secure in who their Heavenly Father says they are.

Men are following you, women are finding their identity in you. You’ve fulfilled that part. Now I pray that the fruit would remain. I pray that as these men and women get married, as they have children, as they have grandchildren, they would continue to represent you well. I pray that marriages would be strong, that they’d be true representations of Jesus’ relationship with the church. I pray children would be raised with parents that represent God the Father well. I pray for generational change.

I pray this all in faith, because I’ve already seen you fulfill the first part of the vision. You will finish what you’ve begun.

You are faithful.

Thank you.

Your Beloved Son,
Jacob

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What If…

Who wants to see God do the impossible in their life? Who wants to get to the end of the road, look back, and say, “God did way more than I could have ever imagined.”

I do.

I hope you do.

Here’s what I’ve learned – everything hangs on our response to one question:

What if?

When Peter saw Jesus walking on water, he said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Can you imagine his thinking?

Okay, it looks like a ghost, it sounds like Jesus, but I don’t think humans can walk on water.

But what if it’s him?

If that’s Jesus, I want to be where he is.

Peter asked a “what if” question to Jesus, and Jesus responded with a word: “Come.”

And Peter came. Peter stepped out of the boat and began to walk on water to his King.

Now we know that he began to look at the waves and started to sink – and Jesus reached out and saved him.

Sure he fell, but have you ever walked on water?

Here’s what I want to share – our response to the “what if’s” in our lives will determine how much we see God do in and through our lives.

Throughout my Christian life, I’ve had my fair share of “what if” thoughts.

But each time a thought enters our minds, we choose what we’ll do with it.

Will we respond with fear or faith? With what we see or with what God says?

What if I feel lonely – but what if God is still enough.

What if I feel forgotten – but what if God sees.

What if I feel like a bad leader – but what if I’m only responsible to the best Leader ever.

What if I doubt my impact – but what if the results are up to God.

What if I fear starting a Spanish conversation – but what if God gives me the words.

What if I fear stepping out in faith – but what if the Father is there to catch me.

I don’t know what your “what if” thoughts are, but I know that you have some.

So my encouragement to you is simple – choose faith.

Instead of asking “what if I fail”, ask “what if God shows up”.

Because there will always be 1,000 reasons why you “shouldn’t do” what God is telling you to do.

But there’s always 1 reason you should – because God is telling you to.

So step out, believe God, and see him do what only he can.

What if he changes the world through you?

Reflect, Rejoice

It’s heathy to look back. It’s healthy to look ahead. But something I’ve learned this year is it’s even more healthy to be present in the moment.

I’m a dreamer, a planner, a goal-setter, but if I’m not careful, all my focus goes to the future and I forget that today I’m living a dream that was in my heart years ago.

If five years ago you were to tell me that on my 23rd birthday, I would be serving in Guatemala, would have preached 30 messages from the Bible, would have served on staff in one church, helped plant and serve on staff in another church, and seen God use my life in big ways, I would not believe you.

But God has big plans. God is so faithful. God does good work.

I chose to take a step I felt him leading me to take, to leave UNL and head to Bible college at 18. This was not comfortable, not easy, but I was confident that’s the move God had for me.

Now five years later, I’m more confident than ever that that was the right move. I’m convinced that following God is the most adventurous thing one can do.

So today as I look back and think on all God’s done, all I can do is thank him. Thank him for being a faithful God who will not lead his people astray. A faithful God who will be with us wherever we go. And a faithful God who does immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. I look at this moment, this day, and say “thank you, Jesus”.

As this next year begins, I enter in with confidence. I know I’m going to fail. I will not be a perfect leader. I will not be a perfect friend. I will not be a perfect servant. And that’s okay, because I serve a perfect God.

So maybe this post is simply here to encourage you. To remind you that your life is meaningful. God did not make a mistake when he put you where he put you. You’re here, at this time in history, for his purposes. And his purposes are good.

So wherever you’re at, whatever stage of life your in, simply trust God. Seek him and find him. He will not lead you astray. But don’t let his guidance be more important to you than God himself.

Let’s choose to worship Jesus, to seek his face, to know his heart, and let our lives be a reflection of him wherever we’re at, wherever we go.

He loves you. He’s for you.

Take risks, make mistakes, and get back up.

And be present in the moment.

Let it be.

 

When Sitting is Active

Be available.

This is the anthem of the last few weeks and I pray it’ll be the anthem of my life.

One thing is constant and it’s change.

Yet Jesus says, “One thing is needed…” to sit at his feet.

So I’m supposed to remain at Jesus’ feet, spending time with him, listening to and obeying him, in this ever-changing thing called life.

I want to see God use me for the impossible. I long to see him do miraculous things through my life – things that can only be accredited to him.

I long to see him change the world one person at a time through me.

I want to live a life that shows his power and gives him all the glory.

I desire to represent him in all his love.

These are big dreams that take an active relationship with the Lord.

But a question that’s passed through my mind often is, “How can I be active, be available, and always be at Jesus’ feet?”

Isn’t sitting at Jesus’ feet a passive activity?

Yes. And no.

Oftentimes spending time with Jesus takes place in the quiet place where no one sees – in the darkroom where photos are developed.

But the Bible tells us to pray continually.

We’re to be in communion with God while we’re at the market, walking the streets, or doing our jobs.

God desires that we sit at Jesus’ feet while actively changing the world.

That’s confusing.

The other day, I’m praying about what steps to take in Guatemala, asking God to help me lead our team well, and feeling some pressure to make all the right decisions.

And here’s what God spoke to me:

Control what you can – sitting at my feet. As you stay at my feet, I lead you up the mountain, but you don’t realize the climb because you are focused on me. Let this be the truth of your life. Pressure is off because you’re with me.

What an amazing picture.

As we stay at Jesus’ feet, focused on him, he’ll lead us to the places he wants us, to the people he has for us, and we won’t even realize the crazy path he brought us on because our focus is on him.

Our eyes are fixed on Jesus.

We hope in the unfailing love of the Lord.

We are taking refuge in the fortress named Jesus.

We are delighting ourselves in the Lord.

And he is giving us the desires of our hearts.

Let it be.

The Problem With Instant Information

We live in a time and country where we can get any information we want in seconds… literally.

What’s the breaking news in Kenya? We used to have to be in Kenya to find out what’s going on there. Now we can Google it.

What’s the weather in Russia? We used to have to travel to the other side of the world to find out. Now we can type Moscow into our Weather app.

What’s a third of 2,014? Who needs long division? Just Google it.

Immediate information, instant gratification.

This is all really nice – at times.

But there’s a backside weakness, and it’s this: we’re losing our faithfulness and patience as a culture.

As kids growing up in this culture of “I can have what I want right now”, it’s all we’ve ever known.

But that’s not how real life works. That’s not how the Kingdom of God works.

Things are not often immediate.

Our choice is to either bail when things get hard or to stay and remain faithful.

Has God put a dream in your heart? Something that you are desiring to see him do through your life?

If yes, then what will happen if that dream takes a lot longer to come true than you thought it would?

Will you back down or double down when things get tough or dreams are slow to come true?

I believe God is looking for those who will choose to double down in the hard times, believing God will develop perseverance and character in us so that when those dreams do come true, we’ll be able to steward them well.

It won’t be instant, but it will be when God wants it.

We can be people who remain faithful when we see no fruit, realizing fruit starts to grow underground, where it’s unnoticed, before it can be seen and enjoyed.

So take that dream God has placed in your heart and be faithful to him, confident he’ll bring it to fruition as you remain faithful.

Consider your end, and take steps today that will lead you to that end.

Why Guatemala?

When making a move, it’s always important to be able to answer the question, “Why?”. Because one thing I’ve learned after making some uncommon moves in my walk with God, it’s that you’ll be asked this question.

Why would you stop going to a university and start going to a Bible College?

Why would you leave your job at a church you are growing in to be part of a church plant where there’s no promise of pay?

Why would you want to be sent out by this new church where God’s up to huge things and move to Guatemala?

“Why?”

Church answer? Because God called me to it.

But what does that even mean?

God is a God who speaks. He’s a God who guides us well. He’s a God who places desires on our hearts.

Oftentimes, people will come to me and ask how they can know God’s will for their lives. And these are genuine questions.

Many Christians actually want to please God in their decision-making, so these questions usually come from a God-honoring heart.

What school should I go to?

Should I date that person?

Should I move to that city?

What career should I pursue?

These are great questions, but I believe there’s a more important question and it’s this: “Who should I be when I get [there]”.

Do you want to know what God’s will is for your life? The Bible tells us.

  • Your sanctification – that you abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
  • That you’d come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4)
  • That you’d rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  • That by doing good, you’d silence the talk of foolish people (1 Peter 2:15)

Notice that these all have to do with who we are, not what moves we make.

See, we can go to the perfect place where God wants us, but if we’re not the people God wants us to be when we get there, the “right” place can become the wrong place.

So maybe, if we’re walking with God and pursuing holiness – not living in sin, but rather living righteously – we can do what we want.

St. Augustine said it this way – “Love [God], and do what you will.”

Because the heart that truly loves God will honor him in each decision it makes.

The Psalmist put it this way in Psalm 37:4 – “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

It’s more about who we are than what we do.

So why did I stop going to a university and start going to Bible College?

Because as I sought God, he gave me a desire.

I stepped, he showed up.

Why did I leave an awesome church to be part of a new church plant?

Because God was placing new desires on my heart and this opportunity lined up perfectly. I was walking with God, heard the vision, prayed hard for a few hours, and knew – because I couldn’t get the desire out of my heart.

I stepped, he showed up.

Why am I heading to Guatemala?

Because each time I’ve been, I knew God would bring me back. I have a deep love for the people of the country, a love for the ministry down there, and a desire.

A desire to reach my generation in another nation. The young adults of Guatemala are, from my experience, unreached. But I have a desire, from God, to see them loved, encouraged, challenged by Jesus.

What if this generation could be the change?

What if God could restore the family unit through them?

I believe he can, and I have a desire that he will.

So long story short – I’m going to Guatemala because I have a desire.

It’s a desire birthed out of a walk with God that is real.

Am I perfect, absolutely not. But I love God and seek to honor him by pursuing holiness day in and day out. And as I pursue him, he has a crazy way of giving me what I desire.

I believe he does so because he knows he can trust me.

But more than that, I believe he does so because he’s a good Father. And every good father loves to bless his kids.

We’re stepping, he’ll show up.

Let it be.

 

As I head out, I am asking for your prayers. Pray God would unify us as a team, that we’d choose to pursue Him first and foremost. And pray that God would begin to work on the hearts of those we come into contact with in Guatemala. Let’s ask God to lead us to the exact people he wants us to minister to.

In addition, this can’t be done without financial support. If you’d like to sow into this ministry financially, it’d mean the world. To do so, please visit this page where you can set up a one-time or recurring donation. We can team up to see a generation reached.

Perfect in Weakness

Time to be real. I feel like God’s called me to teach his word and love people, plain and simple. But it’s not plain and simple. It’s hard.

Today, I’m thinking about the next message I’m going to teach and wondering how I’m going to prepare. Thoughts like “I don’t know what I’ll say”, “How in the world did the last message come together”, “I wasn’t trained on how to prepare a message”, and “Can I really do this again?” flood my mind.

I don’t know where to start!

So, I naturally go to the news site to get my mind off my worries. And I see all too common headlines: “Another Mass Shooting”, “14 Dead”, and “Link to Terrorists”. The world is dark, and I begin to pray – I ask God to have mercy on our land. I ask him to forgive us for turning our backs on him as a nation. I ask him to give our leaders wisdom. I’m mad, no I’m furious.

Then he reminds me that the world is dark, but whenever light comes, darkness has to vanish. So I begin to think and I remember Jesus called believers the light of the world. I think maybe it’s time for us to start going to the dark places in order to shine the light of Jesus and they won’t be so dark anymore.

And then God reminds me the text I’m teaching on next – Mark 4:21-25 where Jesus tells us to un-shade the light, to let the light do its job, to SHINE.

I think he just put a super powerful message in my heart. If it doesn’t impact others, it’s still worth it because it’s already impacted me.

Here’s the deal – God’s amazing. He meets us in our weakness, in our worry, and shows himself strong.

He’s so active in our lives if we’ll just look for him.

Let’s turn off the dark by turning on the light. Let’s do our job. Let’s shine.

The Worst and the Best

In his book A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

How often does life feel this way? How often does what seems to be good turn out to be bad? How often does what seems to be bad turn out to be so good?

A few months ago, I felt like God told me this would be the most difficult season, but the most fruitful yet. Essentially, it’ll be the best of times, it’ll be the worst of times.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but often times obeying God comes at a cost. The devil doesn’t want us to obey, so when we do, opposition comes. Do you know what Abraham’s reward for obeying God was in Genesis 12? Famine. So much for the prosperity gospel.

Difficulty is inevitable, so our response to the difficulty is what will set us apart. If you’re like me, there will be days where you want to do everything but get out of bed. So when we don’t want to get out of bed, how will we respond? Will we let our feelings lead and stay in bed all day? If we do, we’re going to forfeit God’s ability to use us that day. Or, will we choose to rise above our feelings and get out of bed? Will we choose to let God’s Spirit empower us and use us even when we don’t feel like looking at another human?

He wants to be our strength. And as Paul writes, his strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I want you to have hope today. I want you to know that what may seem like the worst, darkest, and most meaningless season can turn into the most beautiful if you’ll just persevere.

A banana tree makes some incredible fruit, but that fruit spends 6-8 months on the tree. That’s a long period of preparation.

Can we trust that God is working even when “it’s” not working?

Let’s be those who rise above our feelings, above the schemes of the enemy, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and let God open our eyes.

Let’s let him show us that what may look like the worst of times is actually going to be the best of times. Let’s let him turn the most difficult season into the most fruitful yet.

What Happens When God Gives Us More Of His Heart

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“God, give me more of your heart. Let me feel what you feel so I can speak how you’d speak and pray how you’d pray.”

This is a summary of many of my prayers. I want to be able to love like Jesus loves and speak how he speaks, but I recognize that can only come if I allow his heart to replace mine.

What I didn’t realize is how much receiving more of God’s heart can hurt. I’m learning that God cares so much more for us than we can ever imagine. He’s jealous for us. When he sees us turning to other lovers, he’s jealous because he knows only he can satisfy. Our tasting the world hurts his heart. And when we have his heart, seeing people turn away from God hurts our hearts too.

Someone once said “There are too many mediocre things in life. Love shouldn’t be one of them.” God is jealous for us because his love is extravagant. When we receive more of God’s heart, our love will grow as well. But the thing about love is when we love big, we open ourselves to hurt big. And that’s okay. Walking in love’s fullness is far better than any pain that comes.

So when we are praying for more of God’s heart, let’s realize we’re going to start experiencing more hurt. But we’ll hurt for the things God hurts for, and that’s fantastic. Instead of sitting in the pain, we can pray with passion, full of the Spirit, knowing we’re carrying God’s heart.

And above all else, let’s realize God’s heart is a heart of love. And his love in us and through us makes any hurt worth it.

Closer Than We Know

As I reflect on the lives of Ty, Terri, and Ryan, I can’t help but see how they lived each day to its fullest. They lived believing heaven was close, that their eternal reign with Christ could begin at any moment.

As a result, their lives impacted multitudes.

What if we all chose to believe that eternity could start at any moment. What if we stopped sacrificing eternal reign for temporal gain and taught others to do the same. I know the city wouldn’t be the same. And I bet the world would be turned upside down, or right-side up.

Living a life focused on others doesn’t come naturally, but God wants us to live that way so he’ll help us if we’re willing.

I’m convinced that when we begin to believe our time on earth could end at any moment, we’ll start living like God wants us to live.

We’ll overflow with love. We’ll exchange jealousy for encouragement. We’ll replace selfishness with self-denial. We’ll combat division with unity. We’ll stop withholding and start giving.

This is the way Ty, Terri, and Ryan lived. This is the way God created us to live. This is the way He’ll empower us to live.

Let’s live in the reality that heaven is closer than we know, because it is.