Justine

Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal- a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.

D.L. Moody

 

This morning we said goodbye to my wife’s dear friend and cousin Justine. A year-long battle with cancer was finally ended at 4:20 this morning. While shock is often the first thing that sets in when you receive tragic news, this time Kate and I smiled at one another with sorrowful joy.

I met Justine shortly after Kate and I started dating in college, and I was immediately struck by her snarky intellect, her daydreamy insights, and her ability to drive conversations to deeper levels with nearly anyone she came into contact with. She was a free-spirit who wanted to turn over every rock she found, looking to uncover the mystery of God in all of life.

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Right after Kate and I’s wedding, Justine called and asked if she could interview us about our relationship for a college assignment. We had a blast sharing with her our journey, and a not long after we had the opportunity to watch her step forward in faith in her own adventure and marry her best friend Kevin.

It was not long after they left the altar that we received “the call”. Justine was having trouble eating, and in the tests the worst was confirmed. The doctors had found a tumor, but her young age would make her a great candidate for surgery. That Christmas she went under the knife and we gathered around her in prayer. A successful surgery led to a quick recovery – and the realization that the very thing that had helped her heal had given her one final strike. The cancer was back, and this time hopeful surgery was not an option.

 

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In perfect character, Justine faced cancer like the irony that it was – a disease that was drawing her family and faith closer together while ripping her insides apart. She had an enduring understanding of the Father’s goodness, and saw her circumstances not as a curse, but rather as a reason to give God glory in the smallest aspects of each day.

When the medication took it’s toll, she joked about the mysterious visions she would have. When the hospital stays got long, she would tell insightful stories about those she came into contact with. When infections of various kinds set in, she would pop up on Facebook, vowing to escape the hospital bed and that “One way or another, I’m taking a trip with my husband before I die!”

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Her infectious joy spread throughout her community of friends and family, many of which did not know the God who gave her such unending hope. In the words of Paul, her life was “being poured out like a drink offering” in the hopes that it would be a pleasing aroma to God.

We had a chance to have Justine and her family in our home a few months ago, right as the worst part of her cancer began to take it’s toll. While she was not mentally with us for much of the weekend, there were various moments when we saw the true Justine in her laugh, her jokes, and in her eyes when she would look at us. Though the body was weak, her spirit was strong.

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Justine leaves behind a legacy of individuals who were incredibly blessed by her love and the joy she had in Christ. Her ability to find true joy in the hardest moments led others to see that there was a hope on the other side of eternity.

Justine is now there, with her Christ, who has wiped the final tear from her eye. She is with Jesus, who is seated on the throne, and has shown her that He is the One who overcame death and the grave. One day we will be resurrected with her, to bask in that glory forever.

 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Trevor

Trevor,


Man. You did it. You stood up before the love of your life and said that you would spend the rest of your life with her. You made a vow before God and witnesses that the woman that you have spent the last several years growing with would be the one you would take forever.


I’m proud of you. There were days when I wondered who would be the girl to finally steal your heart forever. It has been a blast to watch you two grow closer together over these last few years. While I know there have probably been joyful highs and confusing, frustrating lows, trust me when I tell you that life starting today will be different but amazing. 


It takes one thing to make this work – the love of Christ. The One who sacrificed everything to give you true life will give you the strength you need to love Haley as she deserves to be loved, led and served. This new stewardship will bring you joy beyond what you could possibly understand until it comes. I will be praying that you only grow deeper in your love of Christ and that you will see daily the graces that He will pour over you through your wife. Remember, she is the treasure hidden in the field. Buy it all. 

Pray for her as she serves and loves you. Lead her when the path is both light and dark. Never question if this road is the right one – God’s sovereignty is strong enough to help you carve your own path. Take chances, make mistakes, and push ever onward and upward. 

Proud of you, man. Can’t wait to see where and how God will lead you two for the rest of your lives. Welcome to the greatest days you will know. I promise, they will be even more fun than our adventures. 

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Brad

 

 

Wells.

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:3-4

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A common theme in scripture is the idea of drawing from a well. An act that the people of the Bible’s original context were very familiar with. Water is life, and the ability to gather water could be the difference between life and death. 

Whether it is Rebekah drawing water for Isaac’s servant from the well in Genesis or the request of Jesus for the Samaritan woman to give Him a drink, we see how God uses a life source to point us to the true source of life – God Himself.

As humans, we were created with a longing for the original well of neverending water – the joy of the Lord. The act of drawing water is always an act of obedience – we must approach the well and drop our bucket down, believing that we will draw it back full. 

Physical, earthly wells dry up. I think this is what Jesus was getting at when speaking to the Samaritan woman, promising her that she would receive from Him neverending water.
How do we get this water? The easy answer is scripture and worship. The hard truth is that we must approach the well and draw from it, trusting that it will come back up with true, life-giving water. We must take the step to find those wells, have the faith to drop our bucket into the unknown, and exert the effort to pull the bucket back up. 
The good news is, He promises to deliver. Every single time.
  

Brad Goes to South Asia (Update 1)

“Hmm…no, I don’t think I’ll ever go to THAT part of the world.” 

 

I remember telling Katelyn this one day as we discussed what our next overseas mission might be. We had just returned from West Africa, where we had seen the roots of a new church begin to take hold in the unreached people group. It was an incredible trip that opened my eyes to the work of God in places I had only imagined existed.

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Flash forward a few years, and the effects of that trip still sit with me today. For the first time I got a glimpse into what Paul truly meant when he wrote to the church in Colossae, “ For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you… For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.” (Colossians 2:1-5)

As often happens, God takes my experiences and passions, and turns the ratchet a couple more degrees. He also loves to laugh at my never will I ever thoughts. A couple of months ago, I was approached by a member of the pastoral staff at my home church to consider joining a small team on a journey to that one country I said I wouldn’t visit.

In a few weeks I will be joining 4 other men from Pleasant Valley Baptist Church on a journey to a city in southeast Asia where we will spend a week working with local pastors in a training conference.

 

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Pray for the people of Asia as the gospel spreads.

 

An Intentional Week

This four day conference will consist of several elements:

1. Bible Story Training – a firm grasp of the grand narrative of scripture is essential for a believer to truly understand what Christ has done for humanity. God has revealed Himself to us as a written Word, and as pastors we must be able to share the gospel message in the context of the biblical narrative.

Each morning our team will be spending time with these pastors, helping them to learn how to story through scripture to their congregations and to other non-believers. By taking the stories of scripture and placing them in their context, we pray that many will come to faith in Christ.

2. Doctrinal Training – these men are pastors of churches of varying sizes and spiritual maturities. In Colossians, Paul encouraged the believers in Colossae to stand firm in what had been taught to them by their Christian leaders. The Colossian church was being bombarded by a faux-spirituality that combined the teachings of Jesus with the pagan understanding of Gnosticism.

Through the story method, we will be teaching these men basic church doctrines that will help them persevere in a hostile culture. By being able to weed out false doctrine and grow in godliness, these men and their churches can be a light in a dark place.

3.  Personal Spiritual Disciplines – I am incredibly excited for this portion of the week. Each afternoon we will spend time with the pastors and their key church leaders, working through various elements of the Christian life. These areas will include spiritual disciplines, small group bible study development, family/church relationships, spiritual leadership and much more. 

Elements of the Christian walk that we often take for granted are key for these Christian leaders as they train up future pastors, missionaries, and church leaders. Knowing how to both be a disciple and have a disciple will be key for the growth of these churches.

 

Loving the Family of Christ

These men and their respective churches are part of our family as believers. They are hungry for spiritual knowledge and eager to lead their people better. In a world where it is easier to simply conform to the culture, they are taking a stand for Christ. It is His promise and His shed blood that lead these men day by day. This will be the first of several week-long opportunities that these men will have to engage with members of Pleasant Valley this year. I am excited to see where they will be in a year’s time!

 

Join Me In This Mission

As with any endeavor like this, there are many ways in which you – the reader – can actively participate in this mission, even from where you are.

1. Pray For These Men and For Our Team – this is going to be a huge week for both preparation and logistics. We have team members both here in the States as well as in our target city who are paving the way for this week to be successful. I want to invite you to join our prayer/update list to stay updated throughout the week we are in overseas. Sign up below!

 

2. Help Provide Financial Support For The Team – any trip like this includes cost, and I want to encourage you to prayerfully consider helping us make this trip possible. Any donation will help us with travel expenses and pastor training materials. We will also be taking a large amount of bible resources with us for these men to have and use in their ministry contexts.

Currently I am needing to raise $1500 to complete my portion of funding for this trip. I invite you to join me in making this pastors conference a reality. Follow this link to a contribution form that you can fill out and send in to Pleasant Valley Baptist Church. Also, feel free to get in touch with me at bradleebartlett@gmail.com for other ways to contribute!

 

3. Go! – one of my hopes in taking trips like this is to encourage others to take the step of faith to go as well. The call of every Christian in the gospel is to go and make disciples of every nation. God has chosen His church to be the vehicle for hope and salvation in this world. I hope that you will take the opportunity to join an upcoming trip or ministry opportunity with your church.

 

 

I will be updating periodically as we prepare for our trip, as well as sending updates from the field as time/opportunity arises. Thank you for making it to the end of this long post – I promise future posts will be more smaller and easier to digest! I can’t wait to see what God will do through our team, and I’m excited to share with you once we get back.

 

Brad

3rd Half Marathon – Done!

Had a great morning running my third Half Marathon here in Kansas City. Couldn’t have picked a better running partner! 

While I’m so proud of Kate for finishing her second half, I am even more impressed with what an encourager she was to each and every member of our World Vision team at Pleasant Valley. From early group run on Saturdays to boosting other runner’s confidence as race day drew near, she reminded me of what Paul speaks of when he talks of the women who aided his ministry. Love having Kate be a living example of a gospel truth! 

Not to mention, she finished before me – as usual. 🙂 Proud of you, kid. 
   
   

Grafted In – Romans 11:17-19

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”

Romans 11:17-19

I’ve been doing a lot of running lately. My wife and I are training for the Kansas City Half Marathon coming up in a little over a week, and with training comes long runs. This is the first year that I’ve taken to running without headphones lodged in my ears – which is great for the short runs, but on those 8-10 mile jaunts, one has to get a bit creative to avoid going crazy!

The training has taken place over be last few months, and recently I’ve begun to notice the seasons changing over. Summer, which had blossomed the local foliage into bright greens, has started to lose the battle to fall’s orange and red. What was once a path overgrown with weeds is now covered in leafs and broken branches.

I find it amazing how God created nature to work through this growing process. Things are always growing, pushing out, and then falling away to make room for the new life. A tree goes decades, shedding its leaves and growing new ones each season. While death was never meant to be part of the process, there is much we can learn from its effects.

Ive noticed parallels to our own lives. We move ahead season by season, and begin to forget the One to whom we owe our growth. Often, too late, we think we are doing fine, only to discover that we have lost the connection to the root, and have fallen off and become a broken branch on the path.

This passage brings to mind two thoughts.

1. We must not forget the root who nourishes us. We are part of a family tree of God, made up of branches from all kinds of trees. This should humble us to gratitude toward God’s mercy that He has reversed nature’s path, and has brought the broken branch back into the tree itself.

2. We must not forget those branches that came before us. This passage gives us a solemn warning that there were branches that were once in our place, but have fallen away for one reason or another. We are not a part of the tree due to anything in our own ability, but merely by the grace of God’s providence.In fact, we don’t even deserve to be part of the tree! This should not lead us to boast, but to desire to bring other branches to know the nourishment of the Vine, even if they look up to us from the ground and claim they are fine where they are. Having the Word of God on our hearts helps us to keep nourishment coming from the root of the Tree, Christ.

Christian, rejoice in your place on the tree. Glorify God in it, and pray that more would be added daily to create a garden worthy of God’s praise.

You Are My People – Hosea 2:23

“And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord,
I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, and I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”

Hosea 2:23

The minor prophets contain some of the most condemning words in all of scripture, spoken directly from the mouth of the Lord. The book of Hosea presents a dire situation for the chosen people of God. From warnings of pestilence to promises of abandonment, we see God lament over His chosen people who continue to rebel despite every act of grace undeservedly shown on their behalf.

However, we also find in these scriptures some of the sweetest promises of God – the cries of a father who is waiting for his runaway daughter to return home. No matter the crime, no matter the severity, he will still welcome her into his arms with grace.

 

I confess that for as many triumphs I have had in my walk with God, I have had just as many flights from Him in times of sin and shame. It’s as if each time I fall I can hear God say “Your name is now Not My People.”

In the final act of earthly adoption, the judge drops the gavel and declares under law “You are no longer a member of your old last name. You will now by known by this new last name.” In my sinful state, I read the words in Hosea and feel the gavel upon my head – and I agree, God’s people wouldn’t act like this, wouldn’t sin like this, wouldn’t live this way.

And I will have mercy on No Mercy

 

Christian, take heart in the truth of the gospel. The same God who condemns the rebellious has made a way in Christ to redeem and recall His wayward sheep. No Mercy will be shown mercy by the Author of Mercy through Christ Jesus’ sacrifice. Not My People are given a seat at the table of God for the wedding supper of the Lamb.

Rejoice in your God, who’s gavel drove the nail through Christ’s hands and sealed your adoption into His Son’s family. You are now God’s People.