Many of you may know me in real life, but some of you probably just know me through these articles I write here at Pulling Weeds out of Potholes. Whatever the case, I am thankful that you take time out to read what I have to say. Today's post is different. Today, I am writing to share with you a great opportunity that God has blessed me with and to ask you to partner with me in watering the thirsty.

Last summer, Riverside Christian Church put on the Rock 4 Water, a music festival in the Riverside Park in Antwerp, to raise funds for Hope 2 Liberia. When I originally had the idea to raise money through a concert to provide safe drinking water for people in Africa, I had no idea where that money would go to. Through the recommendation of friends, I eventually found myself sitting in an office in Muncie, Indiana, with two guys, Sam Wrisley and Dave Rawls, who have an amazing passion for our Lord and His work. They shared with me the idea behind Hope 2 Liberia.

It’s Hope 2 Liberia’s vision “to provide safe and living water for the nation of Liberia, resulting in better health, available education and stronger leaders; all culminating in a renewed sense of hope.” They do this through establishing Hope Centers. A Hope Center provides safe drinking water and a place for the local church to meet. If you are interesting in learning more, you can read about Hope 2 Liberia at their website.

This is where the opportunity that I have been blessed with comes in. I have been asked to go to Liberia and teach at a conference for the new church leaders in the area. The work that Hope 2 Liberia is doing is showing fruit, both spiritually and physically. People are receiving the Word of the Lord and receiving safe drinking water. What is being done right now will impact the Kingdom of God in Liberia for generations.

Liberia is a small country in West Africa with a population of 3.3 million. Each year over 65,000 Liberians die from malaria alone. Many more die from dysentery, cholera, typhoid and infectious hepatitis due to compromised water.

One out of four children under the age of five dies due to water-borne illnesses. Unsafe drinking water is the cause of the majority of disease in Liberia. Having recently emerged from a 14 year civil war, Liberia's infrastructure has been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of its citizens were killed, maimed, and displaced due to this devastating conflict.

With little infrastructure in place, an unemployment rate over 85% and a lagging economy, the people of Liberia are in need of help. It is time to take a stand, make a choice, and help end the needless deaths of innocent Liberian People.

Although this is a trip that will include teaching at a conference of local church leaders, I will also spend the rest of my time serving to establish more safe sources of water for the people of Liberia.

Will you serve with me? Your help will assist in providing training for church leaders and safe drinking water to the people of Liberia. It might be cliché, but honestly, together, we can make a difference.

First, I ask that you would pray for me and the three other guys going on this trip. It is a small group with a focused mission. We plan on getting a lot done through the conference and working on providing additional sources of clean drinking water.

Second, I ask that you would consider supporting me financially. Without the help of people like you, I will not be able to afford to go and help the people of Liberia. Hope 2 Liberia is paying half of the costs for my trip because they want me to teach, but I have to raise $1900 on my own. If I raise more than that, it will just go to buy more water systems and increase the blessing. If you choose to financially support me, you can send me a check written to Riverside Christian Church to my address at Regan Clem, PO Box 256, Antwerp, OH, 45813. Riverside is providing financial oversight for my part of the trip. This allows you to make a tax exempt donation.The trip that I am going on is from February 25-March 5. If you would like to financially support me, please do so by as soon as possible. Together we can water the thirsty!

Also, if you have an extra Study Bible, the kind with chain reference and a concordance at the end, we would love to have it to give to the pastors over there. They don't have the resources and the technology that we have, so a Study Bible is an extremely beneficial tool for preparing sermons and lessons. If you drop your Study Bible off at the West Bend, they will make sure I get it and I will make sure that it gets to a pastor in Liberia who would appreciate it. FYI, they speak English over there.

Thank you for your time and may God bless you. If you have any questions, feel free to email me or ask them in the comments.

Thoughts On God

Many people like firm policies and procedures. Many areas in life actually need them. This often translates into people imagining that God has firm policies and procedures, which leads to people developing destructive thoughts about God.

First, let’s get this out there. God’s goals never change. Who He is at the core of His being never changes. His attributes never change. But life here on earth is in a constant state of change, so the way He works and relates to us outside of Scripture is always in a state of flux. He does not operate with a policy and procedure manual; He operates through relationships with you, me, and everyone else in creation.

I have read stories of God healing an individual by having the sign of the cross done over them. Others have received healing through the laying on of hands. Still others just feel the presence of God during their quiet prayer time and receive healing. While others never receive the healing they greatly desire. God does not have a set procedure to receive His healing.

The same is true with knowing God. There is no set procedure. A devoted seeker of God will typically go to the Scriptures to learn about God, but God desires more than us just knowing about Him. He wants us to truly know Him. It’s the difference between me being able to tell you facts about Tim Tebow’s life. He was born in the Philippines to missionaries despite doctors recommending that he be aborted, was homeschooled, spent three summers as a missionary in the Philippines, was a high school standout in Florida, went on to become a college star with the Florida Gators, and now plays for the Denver Broncos. But that isn’t knowing Tim Tebow; that’s just me knowing facts about Tim Tebow. If I were able to tell you about that time that Tim and I tossed a football down on the beach while on vacation, went out to eat, and stayed up late talking about a variety of subjects, then that would be knowing Tim Tebow. (That’s just an illustration. I do not know Tim Tebow personally.) There is a difference between knowing about someone and really knowing them.

With all that said, I still don’t want to devalue knowing about God. The ideas that we know about God will influence how we pursue knowing God on a deeper level. If we think that God is uncaring because He let our loved one die, then that will influence how much we trust Him. If we think God is aloof and doesn’t really care about individual people, then that will influence how much we are willing to trust Him and do the bold and daring actions we are called to do. If we think that God isn’t gracious and merciful, that will influence the way we view our own sins and the sins of others.

The attributes that we believe God has or doesn’t have are integral to the way we actually live our lives.

I am heading to Liberia at the end of February to teach at a conference for church leaders and install safe water systems. In the process of writing these sessions, I am realizing how much I rely on knowing my audience when I prepare a message or a lesson. One of the lessons that I have been assigned to give is “Who is God?” In preparing that lesson, I am struck by the fact we must focus on who God is and His attributes. Deceptions are various and ever-changing, but the truth of God remains the same forever. We might learn a defense against the deceptions of today, but those defenses would be meaningless tomorrow when we are faced with new deceptions.

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

The truth will set us free. Deceptions will do the opposite; they will enslave us.

There is an episode of Mythbusters where they tested a myth that filtering low end vodka through Brita filters would produce top-shelf vodka. They filtered and re-filtered the vodka six times through the Brita filters and took a sample from each filtration. With eight samples (the low end, the six filtrations, and the top-shelf), they then brought in their taste testers. Kari, Mythbusters’ female co-host, totally blew the taste test when she ranked the top-shelf as the second worst and the low-end as the third best. Finally, they got around to Anthony Dias Blue, a vodka expert and the executive director of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. When he lined up the drinks, he had it completely figured out. He had the order completely right from the low-end being the worst, through all of the various stages of filtration, to the best one being the top-shelf vodka.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that drinking vodka will get you closer to God. Like the vodka expert was to vodka, we need to be with God. If we really know who God is, we will not be deceived by all of the deceptions Satan uses to get us off track. We need to know Him so well that we will not fall prey to all of the tricks that can cause us to lose focus on God and live a wasted life.

Our thoughts about God influence the way we live. Proper thoughts about God, if truly believed, lead to proper living. Through proper living, we can get to really know God rather than just know about Him. Let us not be people tossed by every cultural wave and steered off course by every societal wind. Let us live the life we were destined to live, anchored in the beauty and majesty of who God really is.

What Is He Thinking?

A few months back, Dooley Funeral Home in Antwerp started to destroy the nice stairway in front of their building, a stairway that they had just had refinished a few years back. Heck, I would say that it was the nicest stairway in Antwerp, yet Shawn Dooley had the audacity to destroy it.

I was asked by people, “Do you know why they are destroying the stairs?” “Didn’t they just get them redone?” “Those were nice stairs, why would he do that?”

This situation with the stairs reminds me of the way we interact with God. We are often on the outside of knowing the big plan. Things are going on, yet we are often left confused. What is God doing? Why is He allowing me to go through this bad health, these bad finances, this troubling situation, these distraught relationships?

A few years back, I had melanoma. I had to go to a plastic surgeon in Toledo to have it removed from my face. There is this period of extreme stress between having it removed and having further tests done to see if it has spread through my body. For melanoma, once it has moved beyond the skin and entered the system, is as deadly as the most deadliest forms of cancer. So I was worried. Something I shouldn’t have been. And I talked a lot with God. Something I should do much more, even during normal, sunshiny situations.

After all the testing was done, I was given the all clear. Thankfully, I have not had a recurrence of the melanoma. The thing that shocked me the most through the whole situation is that with my melanoma also came the greatest increase in my faith. Through the whole experience, my faith grew tremendously. Actually, I do not think I would be a pastor here in Antwerp if it was not for my melanoma. My melanoma was a blessing, for it was used by God to shape me who I am today. My melanoma changed me.

Do you let your hardships change you for the better? Our times of confusion—our valleys—are much more than just moments of disease. We struggle through broken relationships. We face tough finances. We despair at the loss of loved ones. Life is full of one hardship after another.

Here’s the thing though. With the stairs being destroyed, Shawn knew what he was doing. He had a plan for his nice, new steps that would have access on both sides to accommodate the people who would park in his new parking lot. The destruction of the nice stairway made since to him the whole time because he knew the end goal. Shawn had the whole picture. To many of the people watching, it made no sense. But then in the end, they could also look at the Dooley Funeral Home and see that what was confusing before makes perfect sense now.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”

That is what we have to remember. God is using our valleys to show us something that we would not be able to see without them. Are we willing to see? If we are not, then all that pain and suffering is for naught. But if we go in with our eyes, ears, and heart open, we will come out on the other side of every situation more of who God wants us to be.

Sadly, sometimes our valleys lead to death, but we must remember that for those in Jesus, death is only temporary. It is just a passing, fleeting moment. It is the time when our physical shell is broken and the spiritual seed inside can finally grow into who we are destined to be.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).

We need to reach a point of trust. We need to be willing to be vulnerable with God. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways our not our ways. But they should be. The more we align ourselves to His way of thinking and His way of living, the more we will live the fulfilled life we were created for. We need to rest assured that no matter what happens, He has our back. What is going on now, even though we have no idea why how it will make things better, will be used to bring Him glory.