Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memorial Day: The Homeless Veteran

It was Memorial Day on Monday, May 25th. I am very thankful for all of the men and women who have served our country. It is a great privilege to live in the USA and we have that privilege mainly because of our armed forces. So I want to say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

I have always very much appreciated our troops and our veterans. I believe this is mainly due to the fact that my Grandpa Juni served in the Korean War. He would rarely talk about the war, but when he did he had all of my attention. When hearing him speak of the war, it was easy to tell he carried the things he had experienced in the war for the rest of his life. Some good, some bad, and some really bad.

War can be hell. Our troops carry the things they witness and experience for the rest of their lives. That is a lifelong sacrifice for their country... And that's the sacrifice of those that were lucky enough to make it out alive. John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." All of our servicemen and women have known death was a possibility, and they served anyway.

That is amazing. That is service. That is love.

This is no little thing. It is a huge sacrifice. Thank you! And thank you to your families as well. The person going to war or training for war is not the only one sacrificing, their families are as well. Don't forget that!

Because of my upbringing and my beliefs I try to be aware of our serving military, as well as our veterans. I always thank them for their service. I try to strike up conversation with them. I let them know I never served in the military, but my Grandpa was in the Korean War and one of my best friends, Jake, just finished a tour in Afghanistan.

Gpa wedding
Photo by Bethany Terry
Jake wedding
Photo by Jennifer Christi Photography

I have never had one troop or veteran not smile or show thanks for my recognition of their service. Many of them will say, "It was my honor." Or, "It was no big deal." Or, "I'm glad I was able to." They show great humility.

I'm sure being recognized and thanked for their service is a breath of fresh air for some of them. There are some people who bash and hate our troops. I can understand opposing and hating war, but try to do it in a way in which the people who were willing to give up their lives are not hurt any more than they already have been. That's messed up.

Go talk to a Vietnam War veteran and you will understand the hurt and pain caused by such words and actions. When these troops, many of them still boys, came home from Vietnam they weren't welcomed home and greeted with thanks or parades. They were greeted with ignored indifference or hateful protests. Many of them were cursed, threatened and sometimes even assaulted.

I can't begin to imagine what they must have been going through. Happy and thankful to be home from war, only to be told or shown by many American citizens that they were unwelcome or hated. Many soldiers tossed their uniforms in the garbage or in the ocean before they came back home in order to avoid being treated in such ways.

I recently spoke to a Vietnam War veteran who experienced some awful receptions when he got back home from the war.

The Saturday before Memorial Day, May 23rd, Jenny and I went to Fargo to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had a really good time together. We ate some good food, browsed a thrift/antique store, visited a book store, played mini golf, and drove some go karts. But, one of the highlights of the day was when we met a homeless Vietnam vet named Rambo. He told us that his friends call him Rocky.

Rambo/Rocky had quite the story. He had lived a very tough life... and it showed. He was very friendly and enjoyed talking with us. He would say hello to almost every person who walked by his bench. (And there are a lot of people that walk down Broadway in Fargo.)

Jenny and I talked to him for at least an hour, maybe even two. I can't give an exact amount of time, I never looked at my phone to check and I rarely wear a watch. I wonder if Jesus ever checked the sun dial when He was talking to people.

I doubt it.

When we are truly serving Jesus nothing is our own any longer, including our time. He is either Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all. And it's not about works. It's about relationship with Him! Day in and day out. Moment by moment.

While conversing, Rocky told us he was concerned he had committed the unpardonable sin. I told him that people who have committed the unpardonable sin wouldn't be concerned about whether they had committed it or not. They would be happy they had committed it and they would have no remorse.

We asked Rocky if he was sorry for the things he had done. He answered and said, "Of course I'm sorry! I wish I could take them back. I wish that every single day."

I shared a couple of scriptures with him and then he pulled out one of those little pocket Bibles that have the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs in them. He asked me to show him the scriptures I was talking about. So I did, and we read them together.

Pocket Bible

We talked about God sending Jesus for us. We talked about the Easter story. We talked about Jesus dying on the cross and raising again.

He believed the Easter story was true. I told Rocky, "If you believe the Easter story, then you are halfway to heaven already!"

We then looked at Romans 10:9 which says, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

Rocky truly believed that God raised Jesus from the dead. (He believed the Easter story.) So I let him know that all he needed to do now was confess Jesus as his Lord.

I led him in a prayer and Rambo gave his life to the Lord for the first time. His whole countenance changed when I told him he could know he was going to heaven now. He even double checked with me and asked, "I can have assurance of that?" I answered yes, and Rambo told us he knew it was going to be a good day.

It was a good day, he had just made the most important decision of his life.

While Jenny and I were eating lunch, I had told her I really wanted to talk to someone about Jesus that day. And minutes after we left the restaurant we ran into Rambo, a Vietnam vet with an amazing story who was in desperate need of an awesome God.

While we were talking, Rocky told us his doctor said he will be lucky to be alive through the end of the year.

I'm very thankful Jenny and I were friendly to this man and loved him. I'm glad we took the time out of our day to reach out to someone and thank them for their service to our country... and then serve him in one of the only ways we knew how.

We talked with him. We were friendly and loving towards him. We prayed with him. We prayed for him. We got him something to drink and gave him 20 bucks.

The things that matter most in my life I will spend money on AND I will spend time on. People will make room for the things that matter most to them. (Whether that means making room in their budget and/or in their schedule.)

I am very thankful we made time for Rambo on Saturday... even if it did take time away from us celebrating our wedding anniversary.

But now that I think about it, is there a better way to celebrate a wedding anniversary than to love someone and lead them to Jesus?

I don't think so.


Honor a veteran or a troop this week- Don't let our troops and veterans only be thanked one, or two, or three times a year. That's not right.
Talk to someone about Jesus this week! (If you don't think you can do it, ask God for boldness!)
If you already talk to one person a week about Jesus, then talk to two people this week- Jesus was busy doing His Father's business, we should be too. Some of us are so busy doing our own business that we never get around to doing His... It's time to change.

- Joel

Thursday, May 7, 2015

National Day Of Prayer

I attended a National Day of Prayer event at noon today, May 7th, in the town where I live. There were a fair amount of people in attendance, around 40 or 50 adults or so. It was an enjoyable time of prayer. It was cool seeing people from our town come together and take time out of their day to pray.

After the service ended, I talked to a couple of friends and then decided to head back home. When I was walking out of the church, I overheard two older ladies talking to one another. One of the ladies said, "I sure do wish more pastors would have come and attended this meeting." The second lady said, "Well, maybe they didn't know about it." The first lady answered back, "Oh I'm sure they knew. It was even in the paper and everything." Then... silence.

It saddened me to hear their conversation. That conversation shouldn't have happened in the first place. Where in the world were the pastors and spiritual leaders of our town?!

It's one thing to have pastors discussing that they wished more of their people or congregation had come to the prayer meeting. It's a whole other thing when the congregation is wishing more of their pastors had come to the prayer meeting.

That's sad. That's backwards. That's messed up.

How can we expect our churches and our towns to change, let alone our nation to change, if the pastors themselves aren't given to prayer!? I'm pretty sure pastors are to lead by example in word and in action... at least that's what good leaders do. Great leaders even tell people to follow their example!

That's what Jesus did. (Matthew 16:24, John 13:15)

That's what Paul did. (1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 3:17)

I realize some of the pastors may have had something come up or had prior arrangements. Maybe some of them locked themselves in their office all day to pray on the National Day of Prayer. Maybe some were praying in a different town than where they pastor. (I was praying in DL and I pastor a church in PR.) Maybe they were leading a prayer service at their own church. Or maybe they were playing golf.

Who knows? Well, they do... And so does God.

But, no matter what the reasons are, it's pretty sad to only have a handful of pastors from our community attend a community prayer meeting.

Thank God there were a number of leaders from our community who did come to pray though. We are all called to be ministers of the Gospel. We are all called to pray. (Whether you are in full or part time ministry as a job/calling or not.)

I hope the pastors and spiritual leaders of our town are men and women given to prayer. I hope regular prayer is a discipline and form of worship they have committed themselves to.

Having a National Day of Prayer is awesome. I don't want to diminish or downsize that, but praying only one day out of the year for our nation is not going to be enough.

What if every day was a national day of prayer?! What kind of change would we see in our country if that were the case?


What if every day was a personal day of prayer? What kind of change would we see in our own lives if that were the case?

2 Chronicles 7:14 says,
if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

If My people humble themselves, AND pray, AND seek My face, AND turn from their wicked ways... THEN I will hear them, AND forgive them, AND heal their land.

Those actions are not to be a one time event, they are to become a lifestyle.

In the book Turn by Max Lucado, he says:

Page 45- "When we work, we work. But when we pray, God works. Scripture attaches breathtaking power to prayer." (Matthew 17:20, Mark 11:23-24, James 5:16)

Page 47- "God is not moved by men of standing, but by men of kneeling."

Page 81- "The healing of the land begins with the people of God. The nation changes when God's people change. The culture changes when the church changes. And that change begins when we repent. Genuine national repentance says: America needs to change and the change begins with me."

Change begins with me. Revival begins with me.

I am all about change. I want revival. I want to get anything and everything out of my life that God doesn't want me to have in my life.

My prayer is John 3:30 which says,
He must increase, but I must decrease.

I want to get out of God's way. I want Him to use me as He sees fit. I want to disappear in the Lord.

But, I guarantee with positive change, with revival, with growth in the Lord, there will also be some tough change for us as Christians. Revival and persecution almost always go hand in hand.

2 Timothy 3:12 says,
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

All. Will suffer.

If we aren't suffering persecution... then are we living godly? (I don't like that question any more than you do.)

2 Timothy 3:12 in the Message Bible says,
Anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there's no getting around it.

Are we living all out for Jesus? If we are, then it is just a matter of time until trouble, suffering, and persecution find us.

I don't say this to frighten us, but I do want us to be aware and be prepared. I don't necessarily want us to be shaken, but I do want us to be awakened.

It is not that we are praying for these things to come against us or thanking God for these hardships and troubles that will come our way. (They will come without us praying and believing for them.) But we can thank God for being with us and helping us get through those tough times. And God can and will deliver us from those situations.

God is for us! We are more than conquerors! No weapon shall prosper! All things work toward our good! (Romans 8:31, Romans 8:37, Isaiah 54:17, Romans 8:28)

In John 16:33 Jesus said,
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

In this world, Jesus said we will face tribulation- pressure, affliction, persecution, trouble, anguish.

This stuff will happen. BUT...

Be of good cheer- be comforted, have courage, have boldness and confidence.

We can have peace. We can live lives of rest and peace when we are connected to God and in communication and fellowship with Him, when we are people of prayer. God will give us the cheer, courage, boldness, and confidence we need.

Ask God if you are to put aside time to pray/how often.
Ask God what/who/where to pray for.
Ask God how to pray.
Ask God if there are any hindrances or time wasters in your life that are holding you back from praying regularly.
Ask God if there is anything that is keeping your prayers from being answered.


Don't pray just because I said so, or because it's a good thing. Pray because God told you so. Obedience is better than sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22)
Make sure your prayer is a conversation with God. It should go both ways. You are not talking AT God, but talking WITH God.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cat Poop Coffee

A minister friend of Jenny and mine recently gave us a small bag of the famous cat poop coffee. Well, that's what the coffee is known as (even though the animal is not technically a cat.) It is one of the most expensive coffees, if not the most expensive coffee, in the world. The coffee is called Kopi Luwak.

Coffee berries are eaten by a cat/monkey/weasel/mongoose looking animal called a Civet. The coffee berry is digested, begins to ferment, and then is gotten rid of... if you know what I mean...

Once the beans are passed on... people 'harvest' the beans out of the excrement. Not the best job around. After being harvested, the beans are washed, dried, and then roasted.

There are different species of civets throughout Africa and Asia, but the ones used to make this coffee are in Southeast Asia and are called Asian Palm Civets. The largest farms and manufacturers of Kopi Luwak coffee are in Sumatra, an island in Indonesia.  Kopi is the Indonesian word for coffee. Luwak is the local name of the Asian Palm Civet in Sumatra.

I may not have the most sophisticated palate around, but Kopi Luwak was actually very good! It had a very different flavor than any other coffee I've ever tasted... go figure! It was super smooth, contained very little acidity, and had a very unique aroma and aftertaste.

Cat Poop Coffee!

I would definitely drink this coffee again! I'll probably have to save up for awhile though... it runs anywhere from $150-$600 per pound! And if you want the coffee beans harvested from civets still living in the wild, then it will be closer to $1500 per pound!

My first car was $500. My friends called it the rolling turd. Little did I know I could have bought turd coffee instead of a turd car for about the same price.

Enjoy some tasty coffee and have a great day!

If you want to read more in depth about Kopi Luwak coffee, then check out this link.