January 30, 2009

Take no thought for your life.

Matthew 6:25.

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

"A warning which needs to be reiterated is that the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things entering in, will choke all that God puts in. We are never free from the recurring tides of this encroachment. If it does not come on the line of clothes and food, it will come on the line of money or lack of money; of friends or lack of friends; or on the line of difficult circumstances. It is one steady encroachment all the time, and unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the standard against it, these things will come in like a flood. “Take no thought for your life.” ‘Be careful about one thing only,’ says our Lord—‘your relationship to Me.’ Common sense shouts loud and says—‘That is absurd, I must consider how I am going to live, I must consider what I am going to eat and drink.’ Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing the thought that this statement is made by One who does not understand our particular circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things so as to make them the one concern of our life. Whenever there is competition, be sure that you put your relationship to God first."

One of my friends sent me this and I felt it was extremely challenging/appropriate and a great reminder of just how much the Gospel flies in the face of all logic and common-sense. I hope it encourages you.

* The image above was taken at a dump in the Dominican Republic outside of an extremely wealthy resort area. All of the local resorts would dump their trash and numerous families lived off the leftovers. This boy was no older than 8 or 9 and was digging through the dump to find anything he could sell or trade.

January 20, 2009

King of Glory

If this God we claim to believe in is truly the "King of Glory", then He chose to manifest His glory in some of the most unbelievable of places. I'm spending a week with Compassion International in Rwanda, Africa. I'm sharing some ideas with them on how to start being more effective at reaching a youth culture. Their work is unbelievable and undeniable. Almost 90% of every dollar donated reaches the life of a child in desperate need of it. They use that money to enable the local churches to provide proper care for the kids, from birth through high-school and sometimes college. This is my second trip with Compassion (Dominican Republic in July of last year was the first). It's a complete God connection that I'm even here, but that's how He works. I didn't make a phone call to the right person, submit my resume, etc. He just opened the door. Read more about Compassion at http://www.Compassion.com. If we choose to really TRUST God, we should come to expect this kind of door opening action in our lives. I'm convinced that the reason we see so little of the miraculous is that we allow God so little room to prove Himself.

I believe God can do anything and that nothing is Impossible for Him. He can heal us miraculously on the spot from cancer (or anything else), He can speak to us through dreams, visions, prophecy, etc. He can save the souls of entirely undeserving humans, especially when those humans have stooped so low that in four months they brutally wipe-out 1 Million fellow country-men. What's even crazier is that Rwanda was a 95% "Christian" country. That's what happened here in Rwanda back in 1994. If you haven't seen "Hotel Rwanda" or read a book on the Genocide here, you should at the very least read up on it at Wikipedia. It's absolutely stunning the level of inhumane brutality. No one was sparred the unbelievable killing spree that left One Million "Tutsi's" dead and many more raped (many by HIV positive men), scarred, and orphaned. I visited a Compassion project with 280 children in it this past Saturday. Over 40 of them were orphans due to the Genocide, and that was 15 years ago.

Without a doubt, the greatest miracle I've witnessed so far in my life is that of a country rebuilt after the kind of devastating blow it received. You would never have guessed that the Genocide of spring 1994 ever took place save for the memorials and all the Rwandan's that could tell you about it. I met two of those survivors tonight. Compassion runs a program called LDP (Leadership Development) and it provides higher education for bright youth graduating out of the Child Sponsorship Program. I heard testimonies of two of those kids. First of all, they're incredibly bright. Unbelievably smart and full of heart. They're dreams are to be doctors, pastors, managers, etc. - all going back into their community to share love with those they grew up with.

In one of these cases, the child was only 9 years old when the Genocide hit. He was displaced from his family and wasn't reunited with them until he was 14. He lived with his aunt (his uncle had also been killed). He shared how much Jesus had protected him and taken care of him even after having lost his parents for so long (they fled the country and made it back years later. Two years after they returned both parents died from a heart disease). This kid had a genuine smile on his face and was so thankful for what Jesus and Compassion had done for him. Unbelievable. How spoiled our culture is and how much we need to meet kids like these to remind us that the words of the prophet Jeremiah still ring so true: "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

It's late here and I have another full day tomorrow but I hope to post more soon about my trip and what God has been teaching me.

Bless God.

January 11, 2009

Repairers of the Breach

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:

To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah 58: 6-14 (NKJV)

This is the fasted life that brings true Honor to the Lord. Previously in this passage the Lord is rebuking Israel for putting on the appearance of a fast but then living out the opposite and wondering why God would not answer them. If we seek an answer from God, we should probably start inspecting our walk with Him to be sure we are living in a way that pleases Him. Don't forget that the yoke is light and the burden is easy and that God promises to be our rear guard. If you don't understand the meaning of the rear guard, then consider the Israelites in Exodus 14 that had been freed from Egypt just to be consumed by Pharoah and his army in front of the Red Sea. What God did was buy them time, and then set them free. He literally was their rear guard by bringing darkness to Israel's enemy and bright light to them. The same promise applies to each of us. I think it's easy, at least for me, to forget this promise. But God always sets us up to learn greater trust and dependency on Him. Taking us to the very precipice of disaster, just to come in at the last possible moment and deliver us. I don't know about you, but I want to know this God of the Israelites. He seems quite different from what I've seen and experienced growing up.

What leaps out to me from this passage is the section about raising up the foundation of many generations and that, if we choose to live this fasted life to the Lord, we will be called Repairers of the Breach. I'm certainly no theologian or scholar but the first thought that comes to mind is that Christ is the true Restorer and Repairer. I did a little research on this "Repairers of the Breach" phrase and here's something interesting I found: "to repel the enemy, which would be the act of the bravest soldiers, who would expose their lives to most imminent peril." In other words, the Breach is where the enemy has gained ground into the wall surrounding the city. Repairing the breach would imply removing the enemy from within, and then rebuilding the wall (see Nehemiah for a detailed look on wall building).

I'm honestly not entirely sure what this means for us, but I know it's highly significant. Jesus, would you make us all Repairers of what's been broken and stolen from your church. Keep our eyes on you, give us supernatural strength to overcome the enemy. We have no plan apart from your deliverance. Strengthen our weak hands and feeble knees.

January 4, 2009

Doubt: the great enemy of Faith

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.(James 1: 2-8)

Tonight is a weird night. I can't say I've ever experienced anything like it before. In reality, though, the last few months have been strange months. The best way I can describe what my life has been in the last few months is in saying that God has been preparing me to set sail on a new and different course. A journey that is already taking me to far-off lands (Africa) and one of which I won't know the outcome, or even begin to sail without taking a big step of faith to believe that God will be my guide. As most of you probably know, this is a step that's required me to quit my job (and not submit a single resume or even look for a job replacement) and just trust the Lord to look out for me and the family. As crazy as the idea first seemed to me, it's actually been extremely liberating. To force yourself into dependency on God is the best way of saying, "I surrender". I've given up. I don't want a thing apart from God's perfect will. That doesn't mean I don't have huge expectations for what God will do. I see time and time again in Scripture where the Lord honors a genuine effort to rely on Him alone and always exceeds our expectations.

The reason tonight feels so strange is because tomorrow is my final day working for Tooth & Nail. I've anticipated this day but it came all too soon. When I began working for them nearly 7 years ago I had no real idea as to how long God would keep me there. I always told my boss that he should never fear losing me to the competition but rather to God's will. That when Christ called me into ministry, I wasn't going to hesitate. But even so, I feel under-prepared and like I need to be doing something more. In reality, God's been teaching me that the best thing I can do is just to be still. It's the same thing Moses told the Isrealites when they were faced with a much greater challenge than mine. “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today....The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus 14 - 13&14)

This past week has been what I would consider the last ditch effort of the enemy to try and convince me that I'm really crazy and speaking lies to me like "do you really believe God cares enough to catch you?" or "do you really think God is real?". Lies that I would never believe when my heart is full of faith. But in a moment of weakness, I started buying into the deception and suffered some serious heartache because of it. I've never really had a problem trusting in God or believing that He can do anything but the enemy was making this personal and his timing was superb. I have felt much like Peter, who stepped out on the water fully trusting in Jesus until he took his eyes off Him. Jesus' response was "You of little faith, why did you doubt?". Thankfully God pulled me out of the mess as I confessed my unbelief and asked God to keep me believing.

Jesus, would you please take any remaining doubt in any of our hearts, attach a brick to it and throw it into the deepest stretch of the sea? Would you get us as far away from the greatest hindrance to our faith and fill our voids with your life-breathing ability to break through. Please forgive our doubt and fill our cups to overflowing with faith. We need you. We can't go it alone. I can't go it alone. Teach us to follow your example regardless of how that might look. Thank you for your mercy.

Since this summer, My heart's prayer over this generation of youth has been one word, repeated. "Revive, Revive, Revive, Revive, Revive................!". So, if you're willing, please join me whenever you think about it to ask the Lord to bring forth a hunger and desperation in this generation that would revive the dead and wake the slumbering.

Christ be exalted above all else in each of our lives.