Trusting God and Taking Steps of Faith
The Valenzuela family had already left the United States and moved to Spain to plant a church. Tiffany Valenzuela shares her journey from fear to faith as she wrestled with God to trust Him in moving from a place of relative comfort and security where they had settled 30 minutes outside of Madrid. Now God was calling them into the inner city of Madrid itself. With their budget barely keeping up with their current expenses, the move to Madrid where rents were double, if you could even find anywhere to live, seemed impossible. Plus the kids were happy in good schools. But on a bike ride one day, God spoke clearly to her heart and listened patiently to all her objections, then waited for her to surrender in faith. If God could provide for them in many other difficult situations they had encountered, He would provide for them now. Taking steps of faith resulted in an apartment opening up and God miraculously providing the resources to move. “We can trust our Father, and He’s going to provide for our needs. These steps of faith really do please Him. That’s His beautiful heart for faith.” Find the Valenzuelas in Madrid at www.vtribe4jesus.com
Pastor Daniel talks with his pastor and mentor, Chuck Lind, who is now retired as senior pastor from Calvary Chapel in Olympia, Washington. Retirement for Chuck is probably not what you’re thinking! Currently Chuck is leading a weekly Bible study for seniors, a bi-weekly study for younger guys, one for older guys, preaching on an as-needed basis for Calvary Chapel pastors all over Washington state, mentoring a group of young professional men in his home, and volunteering at a local elementary school. How do you pursue and proclaim Jesus in retirement? What does the Bible tell us about retirement and what we should be doing? Chuck describes a key to the transition from a full-time vocation to retirement. Your identity is not what you do, it is your relationship with the Lord. “My identity is that I’m a follower of Jesus, and so I can do that anywhere.” Though you may not have the energy you used to have, you have access. Most of us have grandchildren. Chuck does a weekly Bible study with his grandsons where they go through the Bible and just talk about it. He answers their questions. “I get to spend time with them, telling them stuff that I’ve learned over the years.” As a retired person, you have the ability to spend time in prayer for other people. You can go visit people in nursing homes. There is a great need in this area. What about pouring into the younger generation? Chuck talks about ways to make an impact. It can be challenging reaching the younger generation because sometimes they just don’t want to listen. See if there’s a place you can help with the youth group in your church, where you can invest in a small group of young people. The Bible values the wisdom of the older generation. Do you have any advice for the younger generation? Chuck suggests finding an older man or woman to talk with. Even once a month, talk with them about what you’re going through. Ask them about their life and the things they experienced and the lessons they have learned. What advice would Chuck give to his younger self, from his vantage point now as an older person? “I would listen more to what people had to say…Maybe not thinking I knew what was what best for everybody instead of just steering them to the Lord. Being patient with people and just love them.” What about some final advice for those in retirement? “Ask the Lord to show you places you can be used. Even if you have to sit and wait for awhile.” Try things and see if they work. We are supposed to be busy. We were created to be busy. Basically, we’re just looking for opportunities where people can see our good works and glorify God. And it’s way better than sitting home watching TV.
Have you ever felt like your world is collapsing and it’s all you can do just to keep from being buried alive? I want to talk about disappointment today. Not the kind when you forgot Chick-fil-A was closed on a Sunday ;) but the kind that truly rocks your world and causes you to question the very belief structures that were your foundation.
I’ve been rereading the story of ‘The Raising of Lazarus’ lately. You may be familiar with this passage in John 11 and how it exemplifies Jesus’ empathy with our pain because it says he wept (when visiting his friends who had just lost a loved one). But I noticed a few other things this time. Firstly, the fourth verse states, “But when Jesus heard about it [his dear friend Lazarus being very sick] he said, ‘Lazarus’ sickness WILL NOT END IN DEATH…’” But then Lazarus dies (verse 14). Mary and Martha (Lazarus’ sisters) had petitioned Jesus for help and He, by all appearances, had done nothing. He didn’t show up in time. How is this the same Jesus referred to in Luke 6:19 which says, “Everyone tried to touch him, because healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone.” Talk about confusing and disappointing…
There have been similar situations throughout the Bible. God, you said you would rescue your people from the power of Egypt and now they’re being crushed even harder than before (Exodus 5:22-23). And remember Job? God, I know the rain falls on the just and the unjust but what the heck! Job lost all ten of his children in a single natural disaster. God, you said Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death, and now he’s dead! How does one make sense of that? Well…it must mean that this is NOT THE END OF THE STORY. The same is true for those previous examples and for your story as well, whatever that may be. I’ve heard it said that God’s past faithfulness demands our current trust. He sees the big picture. And usually we can see in hindsight only AFTER we’ve passed through something.
Jesus does go on to raise Lazarus from the dead, and the ‘delay’ in healing brought about so much good and glory to God. In the next chapter, we see in John 12:9-11&19 that, “When all the people heard of Jesus’ arrival, they flocked to see him and also to see Lazarus, the man Jesus had raised from the dead. Then the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus, too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus… Then the pharisees said to each other, ‘There’s nothing we can do. Look, everyone has gone after him [Jesus]!’”
So when disappointment strikes, take a dose of perspective. I don’t mean to sound flippant. God sees the stuff we go through, recognizes that it’s hard and He cares. Back to the story in Exodus 3:7-8 God says, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I AM AWARE OF THEIR SUFFERING. So I have come down to rescue them…” But regarding perspective, just remember that God’s goodness to me trumps whatever ‘badness’ I’m experiencing. We are never abandoned by God. He’s our infinite blessing, the everlasting fount. Our Comforter, our Advocate, our Hope. No matter what, I have freedom from fear and from every stronghold the enemy had in my life. I am new. I am never alone. I am represented. I am seen. I am known. And I am loved, perfectly and eternally. I’ll close with 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
Esteban is very clear about the calling of God in his life. “God led us [he and his wife, Tifini and their 3 children] out of the USA and on mission in the city of Madrid.” But it has been a long journey getting there. Esteban did not grow up in a Christian home. “At the age of 19 after a life of selfishness, substance abuse and sin, I met Jesus when my life was broken.” From that point on, his life became one of serving Jesus. He and Tifini were married in 2005 and worked together in real estate appraising while serving in their local church. Everything changed in 2009. Shortly after the birth of their first child, Esteban was falsely accused of crimes relating to his work. He was charged, arrested and released on bail to await trial. During the agony of that time, God began to speak to Esteban of the story of King Jehoshaphat from 2 Chronicles 20, a story of deliverance. God told him, “You’re going to stand still and watch me deliver you.” God held Esteban and his family together by speaking His word to them and comforting them, even though it was a very fearful time. “In 2010, God put Spain in our hearts.” For a year, he and his wife spoke to no one else about this calling. They just prayed and trusted God. But Spain came up everywhere. “God made this call inescapable.” 2011 found them still in the midst of the legal battle, being faithful to what was in front of them, suffering, trusting, growing, waiting. Their second child, a son, was born. Then in June 2012, 38 months after his arrest, all charges against Esteban were dropped, without a single word of defense from him. This was a time of great celebration. But the experience changed their lives forever. And now the question became—when is the right time to go? Through time and a series of events, a scouting trip to Spain, the birth of their 3rd child, and a trip to the Calvary Chapel Missions Conference in 2014 where the speaker mentioned Spain 30 times, they began to take concrete steps in following God’s call. In January 2015, they moved to Spain. It would be another 18 months before they got to Madrid, but these months saw God flatten obstacles and open doors that were miraculous. Today they have an apartment and a building for their church to meet, both in the heart of the city of Madrid. “Ploughing, sowing the seed, tending the ground…the work of a farmer is one of patience, endurance, sacrifice and waiting. Only God can produce the fruit. All by God’s grace, all for His glory. We would not have been able to do one single thing had it not been for Him being with us, guiding us, encouraging us. When Jesus is your treasure, it puts this world in perspective.” Perspective is something Esteban knows a lot about. You can reach Esteban and Tifini at VTRIBE4JESUS.com.
Pastor Daniel talks with longtime friend and fellow Washingtonian, Jason Sanchez, Director of House of Blessing Orphanage in Bachiniva, Mexico about parenting. Jason and his wife (and co-director of the orphanage) Jackie are parents of a seven year-old daughter, Ayantu. Jason shares about his own experience, both being parented and now parenting. How do we pursue and proclaim Jesus in raising up our children? What does the Bible say about parenting? “The Bible is very clear about parenting. We are to raise our children in the ways of the Lord.” The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, in speaking of the ways of the Lord, says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise…You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:7-8) That pretty much covers every area of life. How is that accomplished? What does this look like practically, in daily living? Ayantu loves to memorize scripture, so that is one way Jason and Jackie have taught her the ways of God. Children have a great capacity to memorize, and this is a natural way to plant God’s word in their heart. Consistently going to church together is another way. After church, talking about what they have heard and what they learned from it. Communication is essential, both talking and listening. What is the role of grace in parenting? Obviously it is not just about memorizing rules. Jason shares the importance in each situation of “knowing their strengths and weaknesses and thinking it through, asking, ‘What is really going to teach them?’” Each child is unique and it is our responsibility as parents to know them and learn how they think, who they are as a person. It is critical to demonstrate a balance between the law (their obedience) and grace and mercy, a balance which Jesus modeled perfectly. “Sometimes He would just say it: Do it this way. Other times He would talk it through: Why are you acting this way? What is in your heart? One of the greatest benefits of parenting is seeing God’s grace from a different perspective. “Seeing your child go through grief, or any difficult situation, and wanting to do anything to take that away. That’s how much God cares for us.” God knows and we can absolutely trust that God intends this pain for something greater. What are some things that have helped you as a parent? Mostly, for Jason and Jackie, it has been time (and the experience that comes with practice) and talking together as parents. The powerful alliance of husband and wife in parenting is a great gift and benefit God has provided through the family. What are some things you appreciate now, as an adult, that you learned from your parents as a child? Jason was raised in a Christian family and went to church each week—not going was not an option. At the time it may have seemed grievous, but it establishes a habit of life that is priceless. Also, a good work ethic. “You want something, you work for it.” Plain and simple. Final thoughts? “Parenting is hard. It’s challenging. You cannot do it in your own strength. You must be seeking the Lord. It’s a huge responsibility. Don’t take it lightly.” Well said.
Julie shares the story of how what seemed on the surface to be a confusing set of circumstances in her life led to a greater understanding of the way God is constantly at work behind the scenes. “I’m just continually in awe of God’s sovereign hand and how He directs our lives if we submit to that, if we ask Him to.” From a dream job in Aspen, Colorado to serving at House of Blessing Orphanage in Mexico, Julie’s journey will encourage and inspire you. Dreams do come true.
Pastor Daniel talks with fellow church planter Pastor Cameron Barber from Calvary South Sound in Lakewood, Washington about the nature of work as worship. What is it like being a bi-vocational pastor? Cameron talks about working as an auto mechanic, landscaper, armored truck driver and courier, among other jobs he has held while also working as a pastor in the ministry. How does he see work as something of value? What does the Bible tell us about work? “The Bible tells us that, from the beginning, Adam was working. He was naming and categorizing animals…he had responsibilities before the Fall.” The idea that work is a result of the Fall is not true. “God designed us to work. Work is not a curse.” Work has suffered as a result of the curse, but God has redeemed it for us. “It is our job to go back into that marketplace and to love people right where they are. God has redeemed work.” Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” How is seeing work as worship valuable? What exactly is the value God brings when He says you can worship Him through work? Cameron shares his view of the aesthetics of work, that work is inherently beautiful because God has made it so. It’s a transformational concept that Pastor Daniel really likes a lot! Cameron says, “I will always be a bi-vocational pastor because I see the fruit of it. But I’m a pastor. The gospel is always going to come out.” Through natural interactions in the workplace, conversations happen in which Jesus and the gospel are reasonable. Because you are putting it back out there for people to hear. Paul did this all through the book of Acts. He was the first bi-vocational pastor. He made tents for a living. “God opens doors everywhere. And it is probably the most effective tool for the gospel, for missions, on the planet.” What are the effects of approaching work as worship, God using us where He has placed us in the marketplace? Pastor Cameron shares his heart for the mission field of America. “In reality the greatest mission field is here at home. And it is accessible through work.” What are some practical tips for approaching work as worship? Understand that your purpose in life is to glorify God in all you do. Be the best employee you can be. Realize people are broken. Listen to them. Tell people you work with that you love Jesus and live for Him. Be open to the opportunities God puts in front of you. “It is amazing the number of times you can connect what people are sharing with you to the gospel. That’s God. I don’t do that. It’s Him.” Some people won’t want to hear it, but it’s not our job to look at the result. It’s our job to plant the seeds of the gospel. Be encouraged by this great message as you go to work this week, or even today, May you do it for God’s glory.