Jan 30, 2016

Christians Are Sheep

Here's a piece I finished this week on a quote from David Sitton. It begins with the quote and then I start sketching out ideas of how it may or may not look.

Begin sketching
For me, ideas form as I see variations of what the end might look like
Bring the idea and sketch into the computer and begin building it
And here's where it all landed!
All in all, it took about 3 days from start to finish.

Jan 5, 2016

We Want You[r Joy]!

As missionaries and missionary-helpers, sometimes it's difficult to know what to say to a broad spectrum of people. Our scope of relationships reaches far beyond our immediate context. This is even more so, in our day, with the global reach that the internet has for us in our communication."How do we encourage our friends and partners in ministry?" I've wondered. For some, 2015 was a year of the deepest of sorrows. For others, it was the year of highest joys. And many of us likely tip-toed between those two extremes. 

Here, I will glean from the missionary, Paul, in his letter to the church in Philippi, a church he was crucial in starting (Acts 16:11-40). 

Paul describes his desires for the people in this church. He's seeking their joy, encouragement, understanding, progress in the faith, confidence in Christ, imitation, and so on. What I notice is that Paul's own joy is intricately tied to the joy of the people of this church (Philippians 2:2). And at the foundation of their joy together lies the substance of their joy, Gospel partnership.

Paul's joy is off the charts compared to what we're used to: He considers death to be gain because, in death, he'll get to be with Christ (1:21); he's joyful in his imprisonment for the Gospel (1:12-20); his prayers for the church are colored with joy (1:3); he entitles the believers "my joy & crown" (4:1).

But his labor exists precisely for the joy of Christians (1:25). He was hopeful to hear of their partnership in Gospel work (1:27). Multiple times he commands them to rejoice (3:1; 4:4). He is filled with gladness and beckons them to follow him in his joy-journey of love and sacrifice (2:17-18).

Have you ever considered that your joy impacts the missionaries you know? Your love for Christ and for His work in the world pushes us onward. When you partner with us and with each other (other Christians) in this mission, we get excited! We get excited because others smell the aroma of the glory of Christ and want to join us in this joy-journey.

You see, those who have counted the cost of following Christ, to the point of leaving all to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the uttermost parts of the world, have thought long and hard about that decision. They consider it a worthy thing to sacrifice for. Though Paul was not sent out by the Philippian church, he wants them to think long and hard about how the Gospel really does impact them as a group of people. How they understand that is what he is laboring for! Above anything that Christians can unite about (movies, sports, politics, music, age groups, etc.) it is Jesus Christ who surpassingly exceeds all of our other unities.

The Philippians were one of the pit-stops for Paul on his global expansion of Christ's kingdom. And we continue to run this race today. We want you, our family, friends, and brothers/sisters in Christ, to understand that this Gospel is a worthy endeavor to fight for. The person and work of Christ is the intersection where Nati and I greet you and call you to come for joy in 2016!

Dec 31, 2015

Matt & Nati's Favorite Books from 2015


Nati

  • Favorite Bible Book of the year: Hebrews. I've been slowly going through the book of Hebrews and it's been such a good reminder for me that JESUS IS BETTER than all things in life (especially religious systems)! Although I'm not a Jew and I've never struggled with going back to Judaism because of persecution and hardships, these beautiful warnings and truths as true for the Jews back in the New Testament as they are as true for me today: God as spoke to us through Jesus, the One who is great/better than angels, Moses, and Abraham, the One who is our perfect King and High Priest and is Himself our perfect sacrifice, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, He is the Mediator of a new covenant (unlike the old covenant/Ten Commandments) and we are a part of His Kingdom that cannot be shaken! Jesus is and always will be better than anything else I can want/try to bank on. Jesus is better than my self-reliance and my own works. It's in Christ that I am free from all these things: Jesus is so much greater and there is great joy in that!   


  • Favorite Non-Bible Book(s) of the Year: C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. It's been one of the greatest reading adventures I've had my whole life! Lewis did such an amazing job brining us into the story and pointing us to the Bigger Story (of the Bible). Every time Aslan came into the picture I just wanted to run, hug and cling to Jesus, Himself. I am that needy and helpless daughter of Eve that is in completely dependance of Aslan to come and save the day.

    One of my favorite moments was an interaction between Prince Caspian and Aslan:
    Aslan asks, “Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?”
    Caspian replies, “I – I don’t think I do, Sir.  I’m only a kid.”
    Aslan says, “Good. If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been a proof that you were not.”

    May it never be that we think of ourselves to be sufficient by our own strength to be and accomplish, well,...anything- from missionary, to the uttermost parts of this earth, to stay at home mom homeschooling your kids. From pastor in the States to garbage man in downtown brownsville, TX.

    I love Prince Caspian's response! Was it not to a group of doubting and weak people that Jesus at the end of the book of Matthew drew near to them and said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”?

    What a great encouragement! Jesus Himself says He will be with us always. It is by His authority and power that this great commission is carried out, and by His grace, He chooses to use us, His weak and needy children, to be the vehicle to advance His Kingdom here on earth!


Matt

  • Favorite Bible Book of the year: Exodus. Maybe it's my roots from growing up Catholic, but Exodus spoke to me in a very deep way. For it is where we find the Ten Commandments. I spent a significant amount of time reading and re-reading this book to really grasp what it was about and why God included it in the storyline of Scripture. I felt as though I'd had a handle on the book more than most other books of the Bible I read this last year. I suppose it was a combination of those things. I saw my salvation in Christ more confidently than before. Before being a Christian, I was enslaved to my sins (as Israel was enslaved to Egypt). It was only through the death of Christ that I could enter God's holy presence (as it was only through Moses that Israel could partially meet God at the foot of Mt. Sinai). It is through the Holy Spirit that I now possess the presence of God (unlike the Israelites who had to build a temple, where God would dwell, to offer continual sacrifices to atone for their sins). God led me in a greater exodus, not through a Red Sea, nor to a land called Jerusalem, but He led me through His Son's torn body and seated me in a place called "Heavenly Jerusalem." I no longer go to Moses for my rules, but to Jesus, my new Lawgiver!


  • Favorite Non-Bible Book of the year: C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew. I seriously had no clue Nati would include the series in her favorites! We read all seven Narnia books in 2015 (we literally finished the night before New Years Eve!). I agree with her whole-heartedly. I had zero expectation that a non-God-inspired book could give me the chills to love Jesus more than this series of literature. Neither of us had read these books, ever. I now understand why people talked it up so much.

    I put The Magician's Nephew because it was the first book in the series (chronologically, at least) which I had no movie reference to think about. It opened the imaginatary (is that even a word?) doors to my soul for the other 6 books. In this book, you learn how Narnia was created- by the very singing of Aslan!


Runner-Ups




End of 2015 Photos

Color #Fail
Staff Meetings...
Gifts from some of our missionaries in SE Asia!

Nati and I found a Colombian restaurant in Houston recently! Postobon is the Coca-Cola of Colombia.
Nati's family history has roots in creating this delicious drink!

Ginger Bread house

Christmas Eve service
Nati's been helping teach an ESL class (English as Second Language) once a week for locals
Obviously, this is what you do with a green screen... keep it GREEN
Brownsville has something called a "Holiday Village" at a city park. It was a very festive place to be in South Texas.
Some of the Cuban refugees Nati's gotten to help with English speaking (along with Diana!)
Band practice
Joy Joy Joy
Village ML in Northern Mexico. We recently spent some time with friends in Mexico
Definitely fog free
I married the woman of my dreams
Wait.... yes, I married the woman of my dreams!
Nati's way of wanting me to stay in bed in the morning - hack Matt's alarms.
What Bed Bath and Beyond would be complete without your local religious candles?
#Heavy
Getting our Christmas cards sent out
Thanksgiving party fun
The reality of selfie sticks
Candy Cane cookies
Teach 'em young!
Singing at our Christmas party
Notations for notations
Merry Christmas Faylors!
Exposition work in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus
Elf Yourself
Men's retreat at South Padre Island
Art helps!
Christmas Mexican snacks
Happy Birthday Jesus!
White elephant gift
Name the odd flavor
Merry Christmas everyone!
One of Matt's favorite things to do... making kids giggle