Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sportscenter from the pulpit...

Sports are a huge part of my life. A very large portion of my childhood memories revolve around sports. Even now, when I am not actively participating in sports, my family enjoys watching the masters, college football, March madness, and any other big sporting event. It is an event at my house. We all settle in with food (of course) and get ready to enjoy the commentaries, action plays, and to watch history in the making. We have witnessed Tiger Woods at the top of his game. We saw Michael Jordan dominate the world of basketball. We’ve seen more than our fair share of college football upsets. We’ve seen hours of little league basketball.
Have you ever seen a basketball game? A college football game? Have you seen the game where the players all stand on the sidelines, completely trained, dressed, and able to play, but only the 2 coaches play the game? They play one on one basketball while the Lakers and the Celtics sit on the sidelines watching. Some of them cheer their coaches on. More often the players find themselves criticizing the moves and shots while their coaches are battling it out in this intense one-on-one game. Can you imagine it? You may be thinking that you’ve never seen this game. I’m convinced that this game is so popular and, sadly, widely known that you have no only seen it, but you have seen it every Sunday. It is the American church.
We sit in the pews. We are completely able. We are strengthened through the Holy Spirit and the bible promises that in Christ all things are possible. We are dressed for the game, equipped for the game, commanded to enter the game, and yet we are seated. We are believers so we have made it from the bleachers to the players’ bench, but here we sit. The game is evangelism. The winner gets a crown. We’re sitting here on the sidelines. Complacent. Sometimes we cheer our coach/pastor on. We participate in Pastor’s appreciation Sunday, we stop by the voice our approval after the sermon, we even send a friendly email with a clever scripture reference to let the pastor know we are on his side. But, I find, more often than I would like to admit that we sit on the bench criticizing his every play. What was he thinking with that play? That sermon? About tithing again? If he preaches about marriage one more time… We even get mad at his game decisions. We get mad when we’re sick and he doesn’t call. We get frustrated with his schedule.
He battles week after week to herald the gospel to the community, to minister to the needs of the body of believers, to disciple believers, to teach, to baptize, to lead, to guide, to counsel, and on and on the one man army battles.
The great commission was not written to pastors. It was not written to deacons. It was written to all believers. Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, “All authority have been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” –evangelism is every believer’s responsibility. Teaching and discipling believers are each believer’s command from Jesus.
But the church does not function from evangelism alone; there is work to be done. The game is going on and we are sitting on the sidelines. The Holy Spirit has given each of us gifts and talents when we were born again and we have been made ready for the service of the Lord. Not that we are saved by works or anything but the Holy and precious grace of God, but James would argue that a sincere faith produces works. James 1:22 “But prove yourself doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”
We will never win the game only playing one player at a time. Would you be willing to get off of the bench, get a little sweaty and dirty, and help win the game?

Habakkuk 1:5

Thursday we take a day long trip to Washington DC for evangelism and people group interaction. Pray that God would give us opportunities to share his gospel and that people would come to know christ as a result of these opportunities. Pray for good weather and pray for the safety of
families as they begin the world of evangelism with children.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

These are the days of our lives...

Another week has almost come and gone. These days are so filled that it is so easy to look up and another week has flown by. I think I'm learning more and more as I enjoy my "adult" life that this phenomenon has less to do with this hectic time of training and orientation and more to do with life. How quickly hours fly by, days seem to disappear, and weeks turn into months in the blink of an eye. Many authors and songwriters have tried to put this experience into words and lyrics. We watch television shows like grey's anatomy that attempt teach us to embrace every moment while we have them. We watch the news and learn that each day is a gift and that people all over the world didn't receive the gift of life this morning. And you know what strikes me most? That the knowledge and the words of time's relentless passing changes nothing.

It changes nothing. We eat. We sleep. We stand in lines. We wait at traffic lights. We exercise (or worry about exercising if you're like me). We worry. A lot. We worry about bills, dieting, education, marriages/relationships (or lack thereof), our families, our jobs (or lack thereof), our churches, our communities, the economy, and on and on. We talk. We watch tv. We surf the web. We shop. and when that doesn't fill your twenty-four hours, somehow you find people, whom you'd probably rather not be dealing with to fill the remaining hours of the day.

But it's not all work and no play. We have fun. We make memories. But i've realized if we're not careful, or if I'm not careful, the memory-making experiences come far less often than the mundane.

So did we miss anything? The bills are paid, the calories counted, the tests are studied for, the news has been watched, we even squeezed in Wednesday night choir practice, our children have been cared for, our relationships are surviving. That's it. We are surviving.

Is that what He intended? Did he bless us with family and friends to give us more people to worry over. Has our job become a burden rather than a way that God has provided for us? Has the blessing of technology become just another day I have to be on hold with dell waiting for someone who can speak english to tell me why my laptop is vommitting explorer windows? Is time merely passing us by?

What will I say when I get to heaven? What will I say to my friend, the unbeliever, when they ask me why my faith matters when there's nothing different about my life? An old newsboys song use to say,
"shine make ´em wonder what you´ve got
make ´em wish that they were not
on the outside looking bored
shine let it shine before all men
let´em see good works, and then
let ´em glorify the Lord"

Shine? Who's got time to be joyful? I'll have time when I'm older. I'm just really in the thick of things right now. I'll have time when I graduate. I'll have time to enjoy life when my children leave home.

And that day never comes.

Today is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.

Take time to enjoy the people God has blessed you with. Make phone calls you've been meaning to make. Send people an email to let them know what they mean to you. Spend time listening to your children's funny stories when they get home from school. Spend time learning the things you've always wanted to learn but never had the time. Spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus who is our source of joy. When time passes you by, because it most certainly will, know that today you were ready and be able to smile as you watch it go by.

I am learning every day to live for today. To live for HIM today.


"God's voice is still and quiet and easily buried under an avalanche of clamour." ~ Charles Stanley

Pray for God to soften the hearts of his people, even now as I prepare to take his love to Colombia.
Pray that I would not be overtaken with the mundane, but that I would let God overtake me with his love and with his joy.
Pray for immunizations tomorrow. Round 2 of 3.
Pray that God would call out more laborers to the fields. (Every second, more than 1,000 Chinese people will die without ever knowing the saving grace of our Christ Jesus.)
Pray for opportunities for me, and for you, to share our faith, even tomorrow, and that we would be attentive to these opportunities.

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work." - Oswald Chambers

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can I tell you a story?

This story begins before there was anything. There was God alone. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. There was nothing on the earth. It was dark and empty. Then God said, "Let there be light." So the light appeared. And God saw that it was good and he seperated the light and the darkness. He called the light day and the darkness he called night. There was morning and then there was evening that first day. ......

I'm sure you know by now what I'm saying. But what if you had never heard this story. What if you were being told this story for the very first time. And when I was done speaking with you, you would only have my words to remember it by. Imagine you have no book with this story in it. And even if you did, you couldn't read the words. Is it worth me telling you the story?

2/3 of our world are oral peoples. They do not read, write, or learn through books or the internet. Their history is not recorded in textbooks. They are oral people. They tell stories. They sing songs, they have ceremonies, they learn dances and crafts that their grandparents taught them. This is how they learn their history, their culture, their religion. Through words. spoken words. Does God want them to know about his saving grace? Did he intend for only those who can read the bible to believe in him? I hope not.

There are 6,814 living languages. This means that these are languages that are being used and spoken every day by real people. And do you know how many languages have a bible in their language? All of them? 3,000? 1,000? no. 432 of them. 432 of the almost 7 thousand languages have a bible in their language! Are you understanding this? Am I understanding this?

If you haven't already realized, we learned about bible storying this week. How to evangelize through stories. How to disciple through stories. How to train new leaders and believers to evangelize through stories.

I have never learned about storying or was even aware that not everyone had the bible. Not only that, but i certainly never thought that the majority of the world had no access to scripture.
But how awesome it is to have a God who knows all and loves all in that He would send his perfect son Jesus and how did Jesus teach? You guessed it. Stories. I'd never even thought about it. Jesus taught in parables... which are stories! Can you believe it? God was thinking of his children even 2,000 years ago. He had not forgotten his children in the African Bush, or his peoples in the brazillian jungles. Oh that we would have a heart like his. That he would give our eyes are refreshing view of his children around the world waiting to hear the story of Jesus.

They are waiting to hear the greatest story of all. The story of Jesus. And who doesn't love a good story? And the best part is that we already know that it certainly does end with a "and they lived happily ever after..."

The End

Habakkuk 1:5

Pray that God would prepare ready hearts in Colombia.
Pray for another round of immunizations on Tues and Fri this week.
Pray that God would allow me to filter this overwhelming amount of information and be able to retain what I will need in the future.
Praise God that shots were not as painful as I had expected.
Praise God that I will be seeing my family this week.
Praise God that He is a God of stories and HE is the greatest story of all.

"Evangelism is going in and picking up the spoils after the battle has been won in prayer. " - Randy Sprinkles

Monday, May 11, 2009

How an outspoken atheist changed my entire perspective on evangelism

Penn Fraser Jillette (born March 5, 1955) is an American comedian, illusionist, juggler, and writer. Jillette is an outspoken atheist, libertarian (he has recently stated that he may consider himself to be an Anarcho-capitalist), as well as adhering to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, as stated on his Penn Says podcast, and skeptic. One of his car license plates reads "DOG ON" ("NO GOD" backwards). In 2005 he wrote and read an essay for National Public Radio claiming that he was "beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God....I believe there is no God." His atheism, he has explained, has informed every aspect of his life and thoughts, and as such is as crucial to him as theistic beliefs are to the devout.

I write this to tell you how this man, headed straight for the darkness of a sinner's hell has forever changed my outlook on evangelism. Penn often broadcasts podcasts over the internet to millions of fans and on many occasions has boldly discussed his stance on the existence of God or lack thereof. I submit to you a simple diary-like broadcast as he recounts yet another religious experience.


"If you believe that there's a heaven and hell and that people could be going there or not getting eternal life or whatever and you think well, it's not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward .... How much do you have to hate somebody to not prosthetize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?"

If the Holy Spirit just hit you with a bus of guilt and grief you are not alone. I have been thinking for days of how to write into words the things I feel. And all I can do is repeat over and over "How much do you have to HATE someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them?" In God's perfect word he says "And how can they call on the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

They are waiting. Colombians are waiting for me. But, do you know who else is waiting? The young girl who checks me out at wal mart is waiting. My waitress at Chili's is waiting. The man behind me in the line at the bank is waiting. The bus is driving straight towards them. I am not telling them because it would make it socially awkward. What will I say when I stand before a Holy God? "But you don't understand. That would have been awkward and I don't do awkward Lord." Wrong. I will fall on my face in shame before their God, my God, the God of the nations, and cry out, "I don't know why I didn't tell them. I saw the bus headed for them, and I didn't say a word."

I am not worthy to be a messenger of the Good News. I am not worthy to carry light into the dark places. But the one who called me will carry me through. I am worthy because I serve the great I am. I am covered in the blood of precious Jesus and that makes me pure.

They do not reject me, they reject the gospel. Oh that i would meditate on the promises of your words. That I would become a faithful messenger. That we, your children, would put aside social awkwardness, business, hurried lifestyles, our own agenda, our comfort zone and become faithful messengers of your saving grace.

Pray that I would have the boldness of the first disciples in the book of Acts.
Pray that God would begin preparing the hearts of the people who will hear the name Jesus and his love for them.
Pray that God would give me opportunities, even now, to share His salvation with others and that I would respond in obedience and boldness.
Pray for immunizations to go well. I will be getting about 6 or 7 immunizations this friday and then two more times later during orientation.

"Prayer does not just fit us for the greater work. Prayer IS the greater work." Oswald Chambers

I can never thank you enough for your prayer support and know that souls will be won because of your faithfulness.

Habakkuk 1:5

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Let the battle begin and other tales of spiritual warfare

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." -- I'm pretty sure he was looking into the future when he penned these words and he saw me sitting, suffocating, laughing, smiling, gasping for air, crying uncontrollably, having the time of my life. How is something so good and so bad? Can these emotions be so strong and so real and yet so contradicting? Could life be filled with these times that we will one day look back and say "They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. and I wouldn't change a thing." I like to think that I wouldn't change a thing. Satan is fighting with all his strength to block my perspective in believing that these CAN be the best of times and the worst of times. They can be the most challenging time of my twenty-one years. and Yet, He is faithful.

"But the Lord is faithful and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." II Thessalonians 3:3

This week has been unreal. We have been pushed beyond belief with deadlines, assignments, and commitments and all the while we are forced to embrace learning about spiritual warfare. I suppose they start you off learning about the one thing that can defeat your ministry faster than anything else. It is the ultimate battle of the mind. It is constant and surging among those attempting to live out their faith in a way that would be pleasure and glory to our King.

Jerry Rankin, The president of the IMB, stated," Be careful because it's not the elephants in your life, but the termites that will get to you." How true. We are not usually fighting a war against against drug addiction, perverted lifestyles, or suicidal thoughts, we are fighting against the everyday sins that Satan has allowed us to believe that we will never overcome. I am fighting feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, guilt from past sins, prideful feelings, jealous feelings, and these are just a few that God has brought to my attention as I seek for him to reveal the unclean corners of my earthly heart. As much as these things are true, praise the Lord that we are not fighting FOR victory but we are fighting FROM victory. the battle is won. Christ is victorious. We are no longer slaves to our sins. We have been covered with the Blood of Jesus. Though I am not able, I am inadequate, He chose me. and with the Holy spirit's power in my life His power will be made perfect in my weaknesses.

This is simply the tip of the iceberg of what we are learning here. We have been encouraged to decide whether we would want to be shipped home or cremated and shipped back if we are to die. The idea is overwhelming, but I am confident that the one who has led me here will carry me home. Whether that is in Alabama or Heaven who's to say, but i will be carried nonetheless and That is a peace that passes all understanding.

Pray that I would have phsyical stength, especially back strength through the long hours of class.
Pray that God would make me soft clay in his hands and that I would empty myself of me so that I can be filled with more of him.
Pray that I my burden for the Colombian people would grow daily as I am reminded that they are not simply a people group to the creator of all, but they are his sons and daughters waiting to come hom.
Pray for the Colombians as they are ripped from their homes as a result of drug wars, being internally displaced, poor housing and health, and a lostness masked in Roman Catholicism.
Pray that God would soften your hearts for the nations and that he would reveal his heart for the nations to you this very day.

"Look to the nations and watch-- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told." Habakkuk 1:5