This is my first post as a married man! If you are wondering why I haven’t posted most of the summer there are two reasons for it. First, summer is our super busy season here at YMI. Second, summer was my super busy season for preparing for my wedding! So, I want to write about my wedding experience first and the blessing in my life that Taylor is. Next time I will blog about the amazing ministry that I saw done throughout YMI’s missions ministry this summer and how God worked.
I promise not to make it sappy. But I love my wife. She is truly my partner in ministry, in life, and in adventures. Her beautiful name is Taylor Noelle (Whitehouse) Keith. She is an amazing musician and one of the most friendly people you know. But as any person in ministry knows, it isn’t easy to do it alone. That is why I am so blessed that she is missions minded. Our goal is to serve the Lord in missions. For the next several years it will be in the USA with YMI, but in 7-10 years we would like to go international.
For those of who who made it to our wedding thank you so much! It was such a blessing. Our prayer is that you were blessed as we sought to keep Christ at the center of the wedding and will continue to do so in our marriage. For those of you that didn’t make it here is the cliff notes version of some of the blessings that day. First, God preserved good weather as it was an outside wedding. It was forecasted to rain, but it stayed nice all day. Second, it was simply beautiful. Our friends the Poseys arranged our flowers. Our parents spent ours on making decorations. And the bride was stunning. All this paled in comparison though to the beauty of Christ and the focus on our redeemed hearts. This was the message proclaimed and how the gospel gives us these hearts to offer one another in love.
But as with any wedding the central thing shared is the vows that Taylor and I pledged to each other. So I ask as I share my vows here that you hold me accountable to them in the years to come.
My Dearest Taylor,
I am so blessed to stand before you today with our friends as witnesses and most importantly with God as our authority. As I reflect over the blessings in my life I am blown away by the goodness of our God. He has saved me from my own sinful state and made me a new creation. And now He has blessed me beyond measure by giving to me, you to be my wife and helpmate. He has truly used you to teach me more about Himself in so many ways. The grace you have shown me and the forgiveness you have given me in my failures have made so much more real the reality of God’s grace in our lives. Your expectations for me to be a holy leader have forced me to come face to face with the gospel when it would be easier to look the other way. Your passion to devote every aspect of your life to God has inspired me to surrender all that I am to our awesome and faithful God. Thank you for demonstrating what the gospel is in our relationship.
I am so excited to start our life together seeking God’s guidance where ever that may lead, to trust His provision and pray for His sovereign intervention when we have reached the end of ourselves. I promise to walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called and to encourage you to do the same. I commit to love you as Christ loves the church and to sacrifice and put your needs first just like Jesus Christ did by giving His life for the forgiveness the church’s sins. I covenant to lead you to the foot of the cross and to always seek Jesus with you even when that is hard or life is hurtful and it would be easier to run to worldly comfort.
Because I am not perfected yet, I know I will fail you. But by God’s strength and with my new life in Christ my Master, I will grow to be the man you need and to demonstrate the Gospel in our relationship. That is why I chose Psalm 62:1-2 as the verses to put on the inside of your ring. For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. We sang it earlier, but even when I fail, and when the world feels like it is coming to an end, remember our God will never fail you. He is our Rock and our salvation. It is only in Him that you will not be shaken and that your soul will find rest. So learn to wait for Him and His timing as it is always perfect.
From now on, I am yours alone. While you are alive there is no one else. I covenant to be faithful to you and to care for you. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, rich, poor, good health, bad health, happy, depressed, safe or unsafe; I promise to put you before myself and to care for you and nurture you to God’s best. I surrender to you my body to warm you, to protect you, and to comfort you.
I know that you are not mine, but Christ’s. He is your Master and as He entrusts you to me and as He entrusts our children to come to us, I commit to you this day to be a faithful steward of this privilege and to give you back to the Lord more confirmed to His image. And to release our family into His hands as He guides them to His purposes.
I am so excited to marry you. I love you Taylor Noelle. You truly are the love of my life. Tu eres la chica de mis suenos
In the midst of this crazy summer of ministry, I wanted to write my update letter to let everyone know what is going on: July 2013
This week has been one full of adventure and excitement here at Youth Missions International. We had a short term missions trip planned to go to Alexandria Egypt. Our team was going to do sports ministry in one of the oldest cities in our Christian faith. The team was super excited and our contact there was ecstatic to have them come help him in his ministry.
Sadly this trip was not meant to be. If you have been following the news at all it you will know that revolution is taking place right now in Egypt. The nation got 22 million signatures to ask the president to step down from his position of power and to hold and election for a new president. He declined and the military seemed to be supporting him and saying they will use force against the protesters. This all went down on June 29th, 2013. Our team was suppose to leave on July 10, 2013. We had to make a decision fast and need wisdom from the Lord. As we prayed in a matter of hours it went from a tense situation to a very clear cut situation. We could not send the team to Egypt. Disappointed as we were, there was a sense of relief as well as the safety of the team would have been on the line the whole trip. This was the first time in six years that we had to yank a team for political reasons.
So the question became where do we send them and what do we do? As we prayed about it, we knew this team had been training and preparing for the last year. They were wanting to serve a missionary and share the gospel. We did not want to postpone the trip or cancel it. As we looked at our partners around the world we asked a couple of them about receiving the team last minute. And one of our partners in N. Ireland actually had a need. He had a team back out on him and was left short handed and so our team was exactly what he was looking for! God works in amazing ways. As an organization we are committed to responsible missions and to true partnership with the missionaries and churches we work with so every international trip we send we pre-trip with a staff member. We do not compromise on this standard as an organization. This put us in a real bind in this last minute situation. That is why this location in N. Ireland was perfect because we had already pre-tripped this site! Not only did God provide a location that needed ministry but it was one that we already had relationship with. This is how our God works, sometimes you prepare for Egypt and yet he has a plan for you in N. Ireland.
Just another day of excitement serving the Lord here at YMI!
What is the Gospel? Have you ever asked someone this question? If not you should try it ans see how they respond. You should ask yourself that question and see if you can answer. The word gospel was actually super common word in the first century. Gospel means good news. We use this phase all time; “I have good news and bad news”. Just like today the phrase good news is a common statement of hope. Everyone likes good news. So then what is the gospel about? It is the good news of Jesus Christ. The book of Mark starts out “the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.
What is the good news of Jesus then? It is His life, death and resurrection. Paul says that this Gospel is the power of God to salvation for all who believe for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. This means that the Gospel is not tied to one culture! That is one thing I love about what I do at YMI. I get to work with churches and missionaries from all different cultures. I get the blessing of seeing the gospel lived out and expressed in different ways but seeing how the message is still the same. This past week I have had the blessing of working with a Hispanic church plant in Kingsbury, CA; a Brazilian multicultural church in Minneapolis; suburban churches; rural churches; and predominately white churches. The single thread that ties all these churches together is the gospel of Jesus. When the rest of the world can’t get along, the church crosses lines and proclaims the Gospel! This always gets me excited. God is much bigger than American culture or African cultural or European culture. There isn’t one correct culture because God transcends all cultures and transforms them.
Have you been outside your culture lately to experience the body of Christ? Have you shared the Gospel cross-culturally lately? If not you should! It will teach you to appreciate the vastness of God more and more. The gospel is static and does not change but the way it is expressed does and it is what makes the church a beautiful bride.
What is the Gospel? Have you ever asked someone this question? If not you should try it ans see how they respond. You should ask yourself that question and see if you can answer. The word gospel was actually super common word in the first century. Gospel means good news. We use this phase all time; “I have good news and bad news”. Just like today the phrase good news is a common statement of hope. Everyone likes good news. So then what is the gospel about
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Summer is coming! I hear this about everyday here in the YMI office. This reality hit me last week. Not only is summer coming, but summer is here. This last weekend we trained our last church team for the year. The church was in Littlerock, WA and is doing a domestic based trip. It was an excellent training and the team is super excited. So now at the end of the mission training cycle here is the break down:
15 churches trained (280ish youth and adults)
12 domestic based trips
3 international trips
12 different local churches supported and resourced with teams.
The truth is that ministry can be hard. Travel gets old at times. Dealing with people can be hard and frustrating. Keep track of all the details is not my strong suit. But at the end of the day when you look back at the fact that 280 people have been trained to share the gospel and sent out. You see God work out the little details, you realize that God is sovereign and it makes you feel blessed. So thank to all of my partners in ministry for praying and supporting me financially. Please be praying for the teams that are going out this summer and for the youth sharing the gospel!
Who is the person here that is speaking ignorantly and making good plans turn into stupid ones? Man up! See if you can answer any of these questions. Where were you when the earth was made? How was it decided how big the earth should be or how far from the sun it should be. Did you shape it out of nothing when nothing but space and stars existed? Did you make the ocean or decide where to place the land and then make the different continents. Do you know how to make the clouds form and keep the earth from flooding? Can you snap and make the sunrise? Have you stayed evil by causing it to be exposed by light? Didn’t think so…
Imagine if you had any of these abilities or accomplishments on your resume! Well obviously no one can claim this and feel pretty stupid if they tried. Just reading this and think about our finite ability makes us realize how weak and frail we actually are. That is exactly how Job (pronounced Jōb) felt when God asked him these questions. You may not know the biblical story of Job, but he was a wealthy man who suddenly had disaster strike him and take away everything. He went from Hero to Zero in a day. And then he had great friends come and tell him that the reason this happened was cause he did some terrible evil. In the midst of this Job insisted his innocence and just wanted an audience with God because he knew that some advocate would plead his innocence and he just wanted to ask God “why?”. After a while of this God shows up and asks Job these questions. Talk about being crushed in minutes.
You know the ironic thing about God’s response to Job in chapters 38-42? He never gives him a reason. Job never finds out why it all happened. But Job learned one thing; God is in control and that is all we need to know. Why is the wrong question and is irrelevant. God is in control and has a much bigger picture in mind. It is not about us and we are just created beings there to bring God glory. We need to stop being so self focused and selfish and trust God to work all things out to accomplish His ultimate will. As some of you may have already figured out, the book of Romans is the answer to Job’s question. We do have an advocate in Jesus Christ. He is the one that daily intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Compared to God we are not innocent at all, yet He gives us an advocate in Jesus Christ.
This is the passage we looked at in YMI‘s staff meeting this morning. It was a good reminder as we face many situations in life and ministry that we deem unfair. Whether it is a church partner dropping the ball on what was promised or a group wanting to change your agreement. Or kids dropping from your mission team or a co-worker not coming through for you and creating extra work. Or a relationship you have in your life is not what you expected it to be or creates conflict. The wrong question is why. The right question is God how are you using this and how should I respond? I know you are in control and that I am just a piece of the puzzle so please help me to have your perspective. This also helps relieve the stress of the feeling of needing to be in control Cause when life seems rockiest we know we are out of control and can rest in the sense that God is in control! As you face life’s challenges realize that God is so much bigger.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
Don’t jump to conclusions, I don’t have kids and I am not expecting kids anytime in the next couple of years. But every week I get the privilege of babysitting my nephew and niece. They are 7 and 3 and super adorable. But being a 7 year old boy and a 3 year girl means that you get to fight like a 7 year old and a 3 year old. Now they are good kids as far as the average kid out there goes and they deeply love each other, but sometimes my baby sitting job can turn into a boxing referee position! But over all I love baby sitting and spending time with them. But it has taught me one very important principle that there is no way I could have learned without babysitting: the importance of the gospel in parenting.
You see when I have to break up a fight or when my niece doesn’t obey or my nephew is upset because his sister was annoying him (how do they know how to do that at such a young age?), I realize that I when I talk to them to help them work through it; they need the gospel. Why is disobeying bad? Why are you fighting? Yes, she is wrong in annoying you but how should we respond? I have found that we under estimate our children in their comprehension level. Even my 3 year old niece can explain that she is naughty sometimes and because of that Jesus died and was wrapped in toilet paper like a mummy and came back to life. The issue of disobedience is because we want to be our own master and we fight to be in control and we annoy because we want our way and are jealous. All of these issues come to deeper heart issues that demonstrate our rejection of God’s ways. As I sit there and explain to my nephew that he needs to love the bully who is mean to him and be nice because that bully needs Jesus, it helps him understand that the bully is not his enemy but rather a hurting sinner that he needs to pray for. When my niece yells because she didn’t get her way I sit her down and ask her why she is yelling and then I talk about why it is wrong and how God views it and how Jesus died to forgive our sins. It helps her understand the holiness and the grace of God in small glimpse
Being intentional to use the gospel in our parenting and correcting or even in being a leader in our home is not easy. I have found many of times where I just say knock it off or listen to me or stop fighting. I don’t want to take the time to sit down and share the gospel maybe because I want to put them to bed and rest and I just don’t want to think through how to do it in that situation. It is hard work to always be Christ minded in your speech and correcting. The reality is I am not their parent and I only have them for 3 hours a week or so and I get tired! I can’t imagine what it is like to always be on the clock. But when Solomon said train up a child in the way he should go, I think as New Testament Christians, this looks like sharing the gospel at all times. We want our kids to realize that sin is against God but grace exists with repentance. If we truly want a generation of believers when we are old, then we must start sharing the gospel in our homes.
Have you ever wanted to change the world? To walk down the street and everyone knows you has the trend setter and the changer of culture? As a small boy, I use to dream of that. I wanted to be a difference maker and game changer. As I got older, I realized how unrealistic that is but, I also learned that if I wanted to make a difference, I couldn’t let society dictate my actions. As a staff here at YMI we have been studding sacrifice and we topped it off by reading the popular book by David Platt, “Radical“. I had read this book before, but this time it took on new meaning to me.
Let me explain. The last 3 years, I started serving at Youth Missions International full time. I have trained over 500 youth in how to share their faith in the world that they live. The most common issue that I see is that youth get focused on the desires of the culture around them. It screams “be your own person and prove you can be successful”. They feel the pressure and yet they don’t even know how to answer who they are and more importantly who God says they are.
On top of that, I have learned to value what Paul talks about in Philippians 4 about being content in excess and in want. When he says he can do all things through Christ, in context he is saying he can be content in what ever situation because of Christ. This has encouraged me as I have discovered what is a need and what is a want as I have been a faith supported missionary. Learning to trust God and never seeing Him fail.
As I put these two things together, I realized exactly what Platt is saying, the “American Dream” is killing our faith. We have become complacent We get so focused on the temporal and about the next step that we miss the importance of sacrifice and what it means to give till it hurts. The Christian cannot expect to live a comfortable life if they plan to engage in mission. Everything is at stake and so we must be willing to sacrifice all. But the more I read the scriptures the more I realize that this isn’t radical, but it is what should be normal. We should be the most loving compassionate people we know. We should be the most sacrificial and truth speaking individuals around. We should be the most generous humans that have walked the earth. We have been given everything so we should give everything. That is what Jesus calls us to. That is what Paul teaches. This is what Peter lived. That is true Christianity; it isn’t radical, but it is counter cultural.
Have you ever gotten to a point where you have talked about doing something for so long that you lose focus of what you are doing? I know I have. In fact this last weekend was a good time to refocus what I do. You see I had the privilege of training a church in Pleasanton, CA to go on mission to N. Ireland. I have been talking with youth pastors for the last 9 months about doing mission. So finally after 9 months of just talking, I actually got to train a group to go out this summer.
I love our training here at YMI. We get to challenge youth to share their faith, adjust to other cultures and work together as a group to glorify God. There is nothing more rewarding than helping young people realize that God wants to use them now and that they can share the gospel everywhere. As basic as this sounds most youth don’t believe this or don’t know how. I love seeing the light bulb come on and see them realize that God wants to use them now and He will use them now if they humble themselves.
So praise God for our church partners that I get to work with and train.