Sunday Ponderings



There is a lot on my mind and there is a lot off my mind.  Does that even make sense?  In the past few months I have experienced excitement, fulfillment, and absolute frustration, sometimes at the same moment.  Ministry is tough.  There is a battle going on for the souls of man and when we jump in to be a minister of the Gospel, well you know the devil is not going to just stand by and watch.  I find myself wrestling with the Church — what is it and why don’t we look like it?  I find myself looking at my own sinful heart and the hearts of those around me who claim to be followers of Jesus and I wonder — really?  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to set myself up as some spiritual giant, I just wonder if when Jesus said “they will know you are my disciples by your love” what exactly He had in mind.  It is true I see people loving each other — at times.  It is true that some of the most amazing examples of this I have seen in the lives of some of our missionaries who have gone to difficult places because they love the people there.  Is that what it looks like?  What if the church really loved like Jesus?

In the past three months I have seen some really difficult things in our community.  I have seen people die suddenly, people attempt suicide, people drink themselves to sleep at night, and others just trying to figure out what it takes to make it through one more day.  Where is the church in all of this?  Is the Church standing on the corner shouting at the world saying “you must change and be like us” or do we really have the love of Christ in our hearts overflowing to our communities.  I believe that the Church is in each community for a reason and must actually engage in the mission there.  I also am constantly challenging those around me to look at this community and consider how we as the Church might make this community a better place.  It seems to me that when we start loving people where they are, then maybe they will want to hear what we have to say.  The walls need to come down and we need to go to the world.

Recently I was at Council for the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  During that time we sang a song many different times.  So often I found myself unable to sing it because I was so moved by what it was declaring and in such agreement with the prayer for the work of Christ’s Church worldwide.   The line was this:

“There is no power in hell or any who can stand.  Before the power and the presence of the Great I AM.”

That image comes from an interaction God had with Moses.  Moses wanted to know who would authenticate his message and God said “tell them I Am sent you.”  That is so simple and so powerful.  We don’t need any fancy methods, techniques, mission statements with clever words — we need the power of the living God.  The gates of hell will not prevail.

The same is true when in our own personal lives we can’t seem to breathe.  Who is it that has given me breath?  Who is it that I submit my life to?  The Great I Am.  And I know I long to see the Church be the Church again as a living testimony of the power of the Great I Am.   That means you and that means me.

Here is the song — Maybe it will minister to you like it has to me


The Privilege of Serving the King

It is Monday and yes I have had to remind myself of that a few times.  My wife and I returned late last night from our trip to Tampa.  This was not a vacation trip, even though we were without the kids.  It was an opportunity to be with the Christian and Missionary Alliance family.  I walked away excited about what God is doing among us.

Over the course of the next few days I will be unpacking some things I heard from God.  This is always such a refreshing time for me and I know that I received some pertinent items from God.  Today my mind races with many thoughts.  My hope is that it starts to settle a bit in the coming days.  I think a few more pots of coffee will help with that. To be honest, ministry has taken a real sharp turn since our church fire.  It was nice to get away and gain some perspective.

Missions Parade

Missions Parade

As I reflect today, I am incredibly thankful to God for His kindness toward me.  I also am praising Him for the many who leave all they have to go to the ends of the world to carry the message of the Gospel  to those who so desperately need it.    In fact, it is always such a moving experience to watch the missions parade on the final day of our time together.  They walk around holding flags and banners indicating the countries they serve in.  To God be the glory!

So, thank you God for loving me enough to call me to serve.  Also, thank you God for calling willing servants to the field.  May God’s work continue in my life and in the many others on mission with Him.  It is truly a privilege to serve the King.


The Mission Continues

As a part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance missions is a very important part of my life.  As I read stories about the pioneers of missions I am always amazed at the sacrifice so many of them made in order to share Jesus with the world.  They left comforts of home and people they loved in order to tell people they had never met that Jesus is alive.  That is the heart of missions and the call of every believer.    They truly understood what it meant to follow Jesus Christ.

Here is a story that encourages me and I hope it encourages you.  The key in this is this phrase: “I must obey Christ.”  Where is He calling you to go?   Because of the willingness of these people to go, many Vietnamese people now know Jesus Christ.

The second video I want to share here is from Gabon, a place that I have been.  Again as the result of someone’s love for Jesus Christ and the response of God’s people, the people of Gabon were reached with the Gospel. If God calls you to something He will enable you to do it.

The work is not done yet.  We need to make sure we are obedient to God and continue to reach people for Jesus Christ.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2

Important lessons come at unexpected times and places.

Time to reflect

Periodically I will look through a folder in my desk I have labeled “encouraging notes.”  Over the years I have collected these things from people so that when I feel a little depleted I can look at them and find some encouragement.  Reading through them brings back fond memories of people I have not seen in years and experiences that shaped who I am today.  One letter I came to was from my youth pastor in my graduation letter.  He said this, “remember, God’s the man, you are not.”  To the average reader that might not mean much.  To me, it brought me back to one of the most significant lessons in my life.

While in High School I took a trip to Reynosa, Mexico.  This town is on the border and is a stark contrast to its neighboring town in the United States.  The area is poor.  The people are longing for something more and are anxious for interaction with us.  Our goal was to go there and serve the church with both building and ministry projects.  They were trying to reach people with the Gospel.    I thought that I was going to have a pretty significant impact on this trip since I had taken some advanced Spanish and I loved God.  That seems like a pretty solid gift mix for a trip to Mexico.  But, as G.K. Chesterton said, “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”   In other words, I might have all the skills for the trip, but it doesn’t mean that is what God has in mind.

Our trip was by bus and it was to take 28 hours to get there.  If you have ever been on a bus for that long, you know that there after a few hours it gets old and starts to smell.  We got part way into our trip and our bus broke down.  We had a convoy, which was convenient, but we didn’t have much extra room, which was not convenient.  We split the bus up among the other 4 busses.  I got stuck on a bus with people I did not know.  They welcomed me by squirting me with a squirt gun.  I was not amused.

We got to Mexico and things seemed to be back on track.  The first morning we were to go to the church for their  5 a.m. prayer meeting.  The church met every morning to pray for an hour.  This in itself is an experience because it is a dark room and the people pray out loud while walking in a circle.   It is also amazing that so many people give up sleep and time to pray together.  We have so much to learn from them!  However, that first day I started to feel a little dizzy as we approached the church.  I got up to exit the bus and I fainted down the stairs of the bus.

I don’t know if you have ever fainted before, but it is a very confusing experience.  I woke up on concrete.  It was dark and I remember seeing a dog running around to my right.  Above me were some people who I knew.  They looked concerned, but I remember being completely unsure as to what was going on.   It took me a few seconds to even recall where I was.

After some water and time it was determined that I was going to be alright.  However, just to be safe, my youth pastor wanted me to rest in the hotel room.  I did not want to rest in the hotel room.  I had not traveled that distance to simply sit in the hotel room all day long.  I lost the argument and I sat in the hotel room.  I was alone in a Mexican hotel room with no guitar to write a song about it.

We are not as big as we think

What I did, though, is pout and complain to God.  I remember being completely confused about this.  Why was I having to sit here when I could be used by God for something amazing out there?  What did I do to deserve this punishment?  It was then that I opened my Bible up to Romans 12:3.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you:  Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

It was like someone had taken a fire hose and sprayed it on my face and my life was now completely exposed before a holy God.  I knew that in my mind I was pretty important to this trip.  I knew that according to my agenda I needed to be out there doing the work of the Lord.  God was reminding me that His concern was not just for the work, but for each individual person  including me!  In fact, I grabbed my pen and feverishly wrote this down: “I guess I am not as important as I thought.  God is the man, I am not.”

The words are not eloquent, but the message is profound.  I was not essential to the plan, but God was willing to use me for it.  I was not a vital component, but I was a loved component.  The message to me was to surrender and understand that it is not just everyone else who needs a Savior, it is me also.  It was time to get off the pedestal and serve like Jesus did.

Sometimes you just need to be an electrician.

There are times in life when you find yourself in a position you never thought you would be in.  I have my comfort zones; those areas that I know something about and am comfortable being in.  God has a way of stretching us and making us useful, even when there are no obvious ways.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to take a trip to Gabon, Africa.  Specifically we were headed to Bongolo Hospital  to help with a construction project there.  I am not a contractor and don’t have any background in construction, but I thought I could maybe do some ministry there.  As it turns out, I didn’t need to have experience.  In fact, I learned that if I had ever touched a hammer before, I was considered an expert.

One of the areas that we were to try to help finish was the HIV/AIDS clinic there.  One of the biggest issues was the electrical wiring.  Over the course of months they had several groups come in and work on the wiring, but no one had ever finished. This meant the next group came in and didn’t know what the other group had done.

I went over there with another man from our team to try to make sense of all the electrical.  Step one was trying to figure out what had taken place prior to our arrival.  There was one man who had an understanding of this, at least more than anyone else.

He came in and started feverishly pointing and using a screw driver to open up ceiling tiles.  We had no idea what he was talking about because he spoke French and we didn’t.  Thankfully someone came and translated for us. Basically, we needed to finish putting in 220 volt and 110 volt wiring.  That was fine, except I had no idea how to do it.  The closest I had ever come to this was changing a few outlets in my house. We got started, but immediately ran into snags on this.

What does this all mean?

First, we had the huge wiring mess that ran from a box upstairs to a bundle of wires and then into the building.  This became tricky to figure out because a wire that was red at the box might change colors two or even three times before its final destination.  Apparently whoever was doing the wiring wasn’t worried about color coding the wires.  We sometimes had red wires that had power, sometimes black and sometimes green.  There was even the occasional blue wire in there.  What a mess!

We played with it by turning on the power and testing it with some rudimentary tool that we had.  At one point I heard my partner yell in pain as he received a jolt from the box as he poked around in there. I also made sparks a few times.  Then after we turned the power off, I still got shocked a few more times.  Figure that one out.  I started to wrap my fingers in electrical tape, since I had seen someone do that before.  It seemed like the right thing to do.   It took us two days to sort out the wiring mess and we finally started to label them and make some progress.   Having no electrical training actually turned out to be better than having any because any rule books on this were just thrown out the window.

Watch out!

Once we started to figure some things out, we also had to deal with the people who would hang around there.  Right outside the door was the emergency room waiting area, so there were plenty of people milling around there.  At one point, as I was wiring a switch for a fan, a man walked in and started to watch me.  I acknowledged him and he said something to me.  He quickly realized I had no idea what he is saying to me.  That is alright, he was content to just watch.  At one point I needed to step aside for a second and I had turned the power on for some testing.  All I could do was try to tell him that touching those wires would be painful.  I pointed at the wires and made electrical and explosion noises.  He got the message.

Our wiring diagram

We struggled to make sense of things and left multiple diagrams in order to help the next group finish it up.  We found out months later that they had been able finish it up and start to use the building.  The whole point was to minister to people in the name of Jesus.  God has a way of taking us out of our comfort zone sometimes and using us in our weakness.  I would not be allowed anywhere near the electrical wiring at any construction project here, but there it was what they needed.  When these things come up for us in life, it is God who leads us in it.

One last piece of this for us was interacting with the children who were there.  Yes, they came in and painted things because we left the paint out.  But, they also just watched in amazement and tried to communicate with us.  It was moving for me to experience such unbridled enthusiasm to see what we were doing.

The lesson in this : Sometimes God will take someone without electrical training and make the a master electrician in order to accomplish His purposes.