Back from El Salvador

In case anyone missed it, we have returned from El Salvador!  The trip was fantastic and we saw God at work in a lot of different ways.  Right now, we are catching up on all of the things that we were not doing while we’re in El Salvador (work, school, etc).  We both plan to share some of our experiences here soon, but have to catch up on a lot of other things first.  Keep an eye out for a future post with more details about our trip!

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Have you ever wished that God gave you a specific to-do list on how to live according to his will?  In a way 1 Thessalonians 5:11-23 does just that.  It outlines specific ways that we should act if we are saved.  These can all be under the general be said to be traits of our sanctification (4:3).

There are a variety of applications that can be drawn from this list.  If we look at them all together we notice that many of these applications directly require other people

I think that this highlights our need for community and relationships.  Yes, we do need to be in deep, real relationship with God (V16-22) but we also need one another.  God has designed us to be living for Him together.  Without each other, it would be incredibly difficult to live the life God has laid out for you.

This means a) being part of a bible-believing church. If you are not part of one, I highly encourage you to become part of one.  b) be in regular, open, relationships with non-christian friends.

Both types of community are required for us to fulfill Gods will.  Which are you missing?

Being a Cafeteria Christian

Have you ever heard of a Cafeteria Christian? This is the kind of Christian that walks up to the metaphor biblical cafeteria counter, and picks up the stuff they like, but leaves the stuff they don’t like behind before moving onto the dining room floor to live out their meal. This idea has always bothered me, both when I do it, and when I see other people do it too. A while ago, I read through Malachi and this verse stood out: 

So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law – Malachi 2:9 (NIV). 

Partiality. Wow. They were being Cafeteria Christians too! And they suffered because they did not follow the whole law, but they had chosen parts to follow and parts to ignore.

Now, I can easily feel tempted to say, “but that doesn’t apply now” because of Jesus. Let me clarify one thing first: Jesus has already fulfilled the law, and therefore we are not under the law like the Jewish people of the Old Testament. We do not need to feel condemned by the law and that is an amazing thing! Our church has been walking through a series about the 10 commandments, and we get to this point every week: Jesus fulfilled the law so that we are not going to inherit the curse from the Old Testament, but we inherit Jesus’ perfect righteousness instead. This still doesn’t mean we can neglect parts of Scripture. 

As believers, we still have expectations and standards from God that we should uphold so that we can live the kind of lives He wants us to be living. Let’s acknowledge that it is not honoring to God to pick and choose what parts of the Bible we want to adhere to based on what we do and do not want to do. Can’t we just follow the real Jesus, which includes the stuff we like AND the stuff that is hard to swallow?

These verses are some of my prayers for myself, and for all of us. Let’s choose all of Him and walk in His complete way through our days.

Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. – Psalm 119:133

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit – Galatians 5:25

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the trust with set you free.” – John 8:31-32 

 

A Pre-Programmed Note

As you may know, Amanda and I are in El Salvador right now.  While here, we do not have internet access.  Fortunately for those keeping up with your readings, WordPress has a nifty feature that lets me write a post that will be published at a predetermined time (pro-tip: almost all of the posts that I write are actually written a week ahead of time, which gives me time to think about what I am writing, or at least that’s the idea, and also makes sure that I don’t forget to post if I am busy on a Thursday or something).

While I was writing this and being conscious of the fact that I will not be here to see it launch,but had to plan ahead even more so than I usually do, I was acutely aware of God’s plan for our lives.  It is interesting how he plans things the way that He does.  I have heard countless stories of how little, seemingly random instances have lead a person to be prepared for what God has in store for them in the future.

Amanda is one of those cases.  She was not someone who thought she would want to work with kids, but through random occurrences, ended up being prepared to work with kids and now she is preparing to work with them as a career (there is more to this story, but I will let her tell it).

I am another one of those cases, though I often forget it.  Even as we are going on this trip to El Salvador, I feel prepared because of my experiences in other missions fields.  More on my story in another post too, I suppose.

You are another one of those cases.  Be encouraged because God is preparing you and that is exciting news.  He has a plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11) and he is working all things for good (Romans 8:28).  You may not recognise it now but maybe in 20, 30, 90 years.  Or maybe never.  Regardless, God is still working all things for the good of those who love him.  I believe that when the bible says all, he means all, and that is one of the greatest encouragements that we can get!

 

God’s Will

God’s will for your life is not complicated.  In fact, he tells us exactly what his will is in the bible.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit

– 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

So what does this mean His will for our life is? Easy, to glorify Him and this is done by sanctification.

Note that this is a letter to the Thessalonian church who already believed in Christ and had been saved.   They were not, however, living lives that were fully glorifying to God, but instead they had turned to sexual sin.  When sexual sin sneaks into our lives, we are not glorifying God.  This is true if all sin, and not just sexual sin.

Sanctification, by contrast, is the processes of turning our back on sin and walking toward Christ.

It is interesting to note that God and sin are in opposite directions.  As long as you are walking toward one, you back is actively turned against the other.

The not-so-easy part is discerning how following Jesus will look in your life.  His will is to be glorified by having us walk away from sin, and toward Him and we will ONLY know how to do this if we listen to Him.

This might not be the will you were hoping for, but when you remember that God, the all-powerful creator of the universe, has a will for you to be more sanctified, what can stand in our way?

When I think about it this way, I recognise that there are no excuses for my sin.  If I am doing anything that is pushing me away from God, He is stronger than that sin.  He has already defeated that sin.  He is better than my over desires.

I am done making excuses for myself.  God doesn’t buy into my excuses and isn’t deceived by my lies.So will you join me in my post-rambling (I know this was pretty rambly) challenge to walk toward Christ, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and putting aside the excuses?

El Salvador – Staying Connected

At this point you probably know that we leave this week for our trip to El Salvador.  If you would like updates while we are there you have two options:

1. Request access to the Facebook group: “Citylight El Salvador 2016“.  One of the admins will allow access to the group.

2. Send us your email address and we can add it to the email list for the group.  If you are going to use this option, please give me your email address before Wednesday morning as these emails will all need to be added to the list before we leave for the trip.

Thank you all for your prayers and we look forward to sharing all about what God is doing in El Salvador.

Marriage is…

Many people have asked me “How is being married/married life/etc.?”, and for a long time, I said something like “It’s hard but good!”. I recently read a blog post by a married Christian missionary that questioned why we always describe our closest earthly relationship as hard. Our two year anniversary is this week, and I’m now stumped by what to say to this question. Marriage is… interesting? awesome? brings it’s challenges? How can I describe the relationship that I have invested so much time, energy, love, commitment, tears, laughter, etc. in with just a few words?

This then got me thinking about the other deep, intimate relationship I am in right now; my relationship with the Lord. No one has ever asked “How’s being in a relationship with God?”, but if they did, would I think “hard, but good?”. Maybe, but this means I need to re-frame how I view my relationship with God. I don’t want my personal relationship with Jesus to be remotely described as hard. Jesus says that his burden is easy and we can rest in Him (Matthew 11:28-30), but Paul does describe a lot of the persecution and suffering that we will experience in this world. However, I don’t think suffering should lead to us describing our relationship as “hard”. Jesus always is loving us, forgiving us, and calling us to Him. We are always moving, either away from the relationship, or (hopefully) we are striving to be closer and more connected to God. Maybe turning from sin is “hard”, but the freedom we can feel in Christ is a huge gift and blessing!

Both my earthly marriage and my spiritual relationship with God are wonderful blessings that are exciting and interesting. My relationship with my husband has it’s moments of challenges and difficulties, but that is because I am a sinful human in a relationship with another sinful human. My relationship with God is only imperfect because of my sin, but He still loves, forgives, and cares for me despite my failings, and that is SO AMAZING. In our marriage, we try to love, forgive, and care for one another, especially when mistakes are made, but let’s be real, we mess up quite often. The fact that God a) doesn’t mess up, b) still hasn’t stopped having His everlasting love, and c) is always drawing me to Him, is just such an amazing blessing that sometimes it’s hard to wrap my mind around it!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:16-17

I know many of us have this verse (or at least the first sentence) locked in our memories from childhood, but when you take a second to really look and see the love God has for us, it is so beautiful. Our Heavenly Father sent His son, Jesus, on a mission to death so that we could be reconciled and saved. I’m not sure about you, but that always makes me smile and get all warm on the inside 🙂 The God who did that wants to be in a daily, personal relationship with us, which means we can daily feel His love, peace, encouragement, and hope.

This is the verse I read this morning, and I will leave you with these parting words of faith and encouragement:

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. – Psalm 143: 8 

 

 

El Salvador – 1 week away

One week from today we will be landing in El Salvador! It is only in the last few weeks that it has really hit us that the trip is so close.  For today’s post we want to share some of the ways that God has already been working though this trip.

One of the coolest things that we have seen is that the very fact that we are going on this trip has opened a door to many conversions. We have been able to talk to believers, non-believing friends, co-workers, and many others about the fact that we are going on a mission trip. In some conversations, it simply is a way to identify ourselves as Christians, while other times it has come up, the conversations have evolved into long and in-depth ways to discuss faith and God. It is such a good way to talk to people who actively do not follow Jesus without it being an awkward “Christianity” conversation!

We have also been able to grow in trusting Him.  The big way that this is happening is through finances, but we are also trusting in Him more in the little things as well. It is hard to try to arrange going on a trip in the middle of work/church commitments/grad school/being adults/etc. but we are trusting that He will provide us the time to prepare and the time to step away from our life here while we go serve Him in El Salvador! He has already given us the time to prepare, and He will bless us with time to pack, pray, and prepare in the next week as well!

Thank you for your support and your prayers this week.  You can continue to pray for us in these ways:

  • Continued discernment for long-term missions and ministry
  • Final costs for the trip
  • God will actively work in and through us while we are in El Salvador
  • God will work miraculously in the hearts of the Salvadorans and in the social structure
  • Growth in Jesus
  • Health and safety! Safety is obviously a big one with any travel, but there has been a lot of sickness going around near us, and we want to be healthy before and during the trip!

Thank you again for your love and support!  We are getting so excited to see how the Lord will use us! We look forward to sharing our experience with you when we are home!


If God is leading you to support us financially, you can give at citylightphilly.com/give and mark your donation as for the Buckley’s El Salvador.


If you have any questions or comments about El Salvador or our trip, feel free to leave them on this website or email us at buckleyfamily14@gmail.com.  We would love to hear your words of encouragements, know that you are praying for us, and be able to connect further.

What Makes Me Cry

I am not really emotional.  In fact, Amanda will likely tell you that I am incredibly muted and don’t show too much emotion.  Secretly, I sometimes even wonder if there is something wrong with my amygdala but the curiosity quickly passes.

A good joke will make me force a smile.  The best gift will bring me joy, but my face and body likely won’t show it.  The cheesiest of love stories might warm my heart, but rarely will they make me smile (don’t tell anybody but there is a part of me that likes chick-flicks and hallmark movies).  I still experience all of these emotions, but on the outside, I typically don’t show them.

We recently watched a movie where the display of familial love was beautiful, the injuries and deaths were sad, and the hope was heartwarming.  Even still, I don’t think I shed a tear*.  I did, however, start to get choked up until I saw them relinquish their efforts and trust in God.  True faith makes me cry (it will be our secret).

It is sometimes really hard to not be emotional.  You let people down when you don’t seem excited.  You can bore people when they don’t think that you are enjoying the conversation.  People can find it hard to read what you feeling and thus makes it difficult for them to react appropriately.

Even with all of that, I would not trade my extreme reaction to faith for any other emotion.  In 1 Thessalonians 3, Paul writes:

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and brought us good news of your faith and love, and that you always have good remembrance of us, greatly desiring to see us, as we also to see you—therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God, 10 night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith?

Faith brings about emotion.  Sometimes it is comfort, sometimes it is joy, sometimes it is encouragement.  And for each of them, we can be reminded of our true God, and becoming thankful for who He is.  I can be content feeling my strongest emotions in acts of faith because in those moments I can give thanks to the Lord, and through Him, I can experience the full range of emotions.


This brings us back to something that I wrote about in some of my first posts on this site.  God is a relational God.  He is not isolated in Heaven.  He does not set us up for life, and then let us go.  He does not play with us as some ruthless deity.  He humbles himself (the one being who would be fully justified in never humbling himself) and came to Earth and wants a deep, intimate relationship with each of us.  He wants to walk with us as we experience the many tears and smiles that come from knowing Him and holding the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

 


 

*By contrast, my wife was crying and laughing at probably 90 minutes of the 120 minute movie.  It was rather emotional

God Provides. Do you forget too?

I’ve been chewing on my post about biblical womanhood for a while, and I haven’t been able to get my thoughts just right yet (hence my few weeks of a hiatus). For now, I want to remind you of something that I forget all too often: God Provides. He provides so much for us, and He comes through ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, it takes the big stuff to remind me of this simple fact, and then I remember how He has provided over and over in other ways!

If you haven’t realized yet, Dan and I are going to El Salvador in two short weeks for a missions trip (check out our posts about the trip!). We needed $4000 to go on the trip, and we were not going to be able to put any of our own money into the trip… I was very hesitant about committing to going, so before I jumped in with two feet, I prayed very specifically. My prayer went something like this: Lord, this trip scares me a lot but it seems like you might be wanting us to go. I gotta trust YOU to provide these funds and show us that we are supposed to be going. Help me trust you through this process. Help me feel your hand guiding us to El Salvador. Amen. And then we committed to going. During our preparations, I kept throwing prayers of trust at the Lord, especially when I was overwhelmed by raising support (it’s quite time consuming!).

Actually, it is a huge blessing that I did keep praying throughout the preparation process, but it can be so easy to try to trust in myself instead of constantly trusting God. I obviously had moments where I was less than good at trusting God, but overall, I really relied on Him, prayed often and specifically, and did not let this trip become about what I could do.

I’ll be honest, 3 weeks ago, we had about $1000 in our account. Then one Sunday, we learned we would receive a $1000 grant and that Dan’s church was sending us $1000 from a love offering. Today, we learned that we have $3250 in our account. We still have 2 weeks to raise the rest of the funds, and so we are still praying and reaching out to people, but we are SO much closer than we were and I KNOW that the Lord will provide the rest of the funds too.

I forget that God will provide. I am getting better at remembering to pray for His provision, but I forget that He does come through. The only positive in this is that I get super excited when I see His work! But I think I am missing a part of the trusting part: believing that He will provide. I always will say that He provides, but do I (or you) really believe deep down that He will be providing what you need?

Matthew 6 holds a pretty common passage about how God provides:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34 

Jesus is reminding people that God provides for birds and flowers, and that since we are so much more valuable than flowers, that we should feel confident that He will surely provide for us! His answer is to seek God and know that we will have what we need, and to not worry about it, but simply trust.

As a hard-core worrier, this kind of stuff really convicts me and challenges me to live a different kind of life. But I know that true trust in the One who has made ALL things is the best way to live, and so I am actively praying, reading, and trying to trust with all my heart in HIM. And guess what? He does show me His consistent provision, in both the big (El Salvador!!!) and little ways* 🙂

 

*I wanted to provide some examples of the little things He provided me with in the last week:

  • several days of really great sessions with my clients
  • not having to leave the house on a rainy Saturday
  • having 2 midterms that were not that bad
  • getting out of a 3 hr class early because all we had to do was take our midterm
  • enjoying a dinner with friends
  • having an adorable cuddle-puppy
  • seeing family on a spontaneous trip
  • having time to get work done
  • and I could really keep going 🙂