Back To Africa

I can’t believe it’s been one year since I’ve went to Africa.  It seems like yesterday Cherie and I landed at the Nairobi Airport got off the plane and stood in line at the customs “desk” to enter the country.  I remember it hitting me very quickly that it’s possible to sweat just standing in a line.  This was only a hint at the amount of perspiration that was to come though…believe me.

Well this I’m so excited and blessed that I get to return to Africa and the wonderful men, women, and children of Joska this year!  In fact the Thanksgiving meal I’m about to destroy in a few hours will barely be digested by the time I load the plane it’s that soon.  It will be tougher to leave home since BG and Cherie will be staying behind, but I know that God will protect and keep them healthy while I’m gone.

It seems fitting that as the last bit of Western American thanks is wiped off my mouth I will soon touch down in a country that seems to have little to be thankful for.  For some it’s hard to imagine these oppressed people finding gratitude in the rubble and chaos of the world around them.  However, you only need to talk to them for a nanosecond to realize they are thankful for things we don’t even put on our back-up thankful list.

Their short list consists of:

  • Food of any kind
  • Shelter of any form
  • Clean water
  • Life for another day
  • A day without rape
  • A child born without AIDS

However, they praise God for these things with such sincerity in their souls that it makes you realize there are genuinely thankful for every little bit they have.    I love the distilled joy these people demonstrate.   A joy rid of any of the sediments of our materialistic world and filtered down to the essence of love and contentment.  They are able to get to the heart of thanksgiving and the heart of God faster than we ever will.

So yes I am leaving on a plane and leaving my family behind for 10 days, but when I return I will be filled with more clarity and love for life and God then I could ever have imagined.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am very grateful for all that God has blessed me with in my life.

I am grateful for the church that supports me on these missions’ trips.  I’m grateful for the family that loves me enough to let me leave even if it hurts.  I’m thankful for the friends and family that will be praying for me as I travel.  I’m thankful for the people I will meet and the love I will be shown when I arrive.

However I am most thankful for the love of Christ that propels me to go on these trips will also be the Love that is reflected back to me in the lives of these children.

To close, I think it’s only fitting to be reminded of the greatest moments of thanks in all of the World.

 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”   20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.  - Luke 22:19-20

 

May we be constantly brought back to the sacrifice of Jesus and the underserved Grace we receive through Him. Thank you Jesus for all you have done for us.  May this be the Grace that is taught and shown to these children that we are able to minister to.

Well, Happy Thanksgiving everyone and be praying for me.   I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

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911: Cannonball Run

Well it finally came!  Sunday at the Parkview Campuses was the final weekend of our Cannonball Capitol Campaign series and it was an awesome day.  Over the past 5 weeks Pastor Tim has cast a vision of the future of Parkview Christian Church and encouraged us increase the generosity in our lives knowing that we can “never out give God”.

Now I’ve been a part of several campaigns like this in the past.  I was honored to be a leader of a campaign and as a participant, but never have I been the leader of a church during one.  I must admit it was exhilarating to see God at work.

Over the course of the series I’ve seen hearts clutching their “stuff” slowly release their grip on the here and now for the future hope.  I’ve seen people who would have never considered tithing, step out in faith and begin to trust God with their finances.  I saw little kids now look at Christmas and giving differently after seeing pictures of children their own age in Africa waiting to get into a school for food and education.  And I’ve seen the Lockport Campus God has called me to lead now see their community not just as a place they live, but a place they have been CALLED to live.

However, I’ve also seen this be a time Satan prowls around a little more loudly and Sunday was no different.

As our youth choir was singing their souls out and Kevin West directed our congregation to come forward and place their Cannonball commitment cards into a glowing jar the fire alarms went off.  Yep.  You read that correctly.  Full on fire alarms!  It turns out it was because of the fog we used to enhance the lights, but that was not the cause if you ask me.

We’ve used that fogger countless times in the past 3.5 years and never have we had an alarm even whimper.  However, I think Satan thought what better time to interrupt a Spirit directed moment than with a little visit from the fire department.

So we evacuated the kids and ushered the adults outside until the Lockport Fire Department gave us the “all clear”.

Then you know what we did?

We opened some doors, cleared out the fog, and held the 2nd service right on time.  We worship, we took communion, and we stepped up and committed to being generous regardless of what kind of roar Satan mustered.  You see you can try to distract the work of God, but you can never shake it.  His work always moves forward like an unstoppable force.

I read 2 Timothy 1:7 to both services this past Sunday and I believe it to be even more true now.  Paul tells his young student Timothy, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self discipline.”

Never forget that we have been created with a Spirit of power that cannot and will not be stopped regardless of Satan’s weak attempts.  He’s a knocked down defeated enemy of the living God and we do not fear him as followers of Christ.  We need to remember that…I need to remember that as we make Cannonball splashes these next two years.

For me I may just think back to the 911 Cannonball Run on November 20, 2011 as my reminder that God cannot and will not be stopped.  Maybe you have something different, but make sure you have a reminder in your spirit of the power of our God and how good He is to us every single day.

So go dive in and don’t worry about the whitewater becomes sometimes that were the best waves are at!

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Joy Suckers

I’ve always been motivated by a good kick in the pants from time to time.  Whether it’s a stern encouragement from a coach, a less than favorable grade from a teacher, or just “that look” from my mom I used these things for motivation to do better.

From time to time in my spiritual life I need a good kick in the pants from God too and the Apostle Paul is usually there to oblige.

Here is my most recent upper cut to the face.

 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.  Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?”  - Galatians 4:8-16

This hit me so hard lately because I’ve been in a bit of a spiritual funk.  Not a huge one where I’m doubting all that I know, but just a spiritual fatigue that has zapped a bit of my zeal for God.  I guess you could say some of my joy is missing.

In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul was asking where was all their joy?  They had started to forget what Paul had taught them about the Gospel and instead had begun listening to a group called the Judaizers.  In short, this group believed that believing in Jesus alone for salvation was not enough.  They taught it was Jesus + other things that saved you which hacked Paul of something fierce.  The reason this was so frustrating to Paul was not that they were not listening to him, but that they were not listening to God’s design for salvation and as a result, their joy was being sucked out of them.

He says in verse 12 how is that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?” which basically means, “What the heck are you doing?  You are turning back to all this garbage that sucked the life out of you after I told you Jesus is all you need!”  I had to ask myself this same question.

What are the areas that I crawl back to in my life that are nothing more than joy suckers?

What are the things that I have left behind by being made new in Christ, but yet find myself coming back to in moments of weakness?

It didn’t take long to get my answer.

I quickly realized, I had allowed my joy to be taken by my pride, my fear, my fatigue, my doubt, and my stubbornness.  It shouldn’t be shocking that my spiritual funk was directly related to my joy tank being syphoned out by my sinful nature creeping back in.  I realized that I needed to refocus myself back to the truth of the real Gospel of Jesus and find my strength and joy in Him.

I needed my spirit to be renewed knowing I am a new creation in Christ and the old Brian is dead.  That my purpose and meaning come from being known as a child of God and that true happiness is found in my pursuit of holiness.   I needed to remember that Jesus was enough and I didn’t need to add anything to Him to be more accepted or loved by Him.

When I did that my world seemed to tilt back to the way it should be.  Not a world void of tough times or challenging moments, but a world that is refocused on Jesus alone.

Now, it’d be great if God equipped us with a joy gauge we could look at from time to time to see how our joy level was doing, but sadly I haven’t found it.  However, he did leave us with His word, prayer, and a community of believers to live life amongst.  I pray you and I can lean into these more and prevent having our joy robbed.

A kick in the pants is a good thing, but it’s better when it comes from those that love us and have concern for us.  If we aren’t careful, we can find ourselves kicking our self out of a spirit of guilt and shame and those are two things God never designed for us to feel as Christians.

Take a moment now and ask God to search your heart for the areas you’ve let joy leak out. Ask Him to forgive you for those areas of sin you’ve returned to, but then to strengthen you with his Love of grace as you pursue thing differently.  Remind yourself that He alone is worthy of our praise and He alone is to receive our worship because He is all we will ever need.   Then move on with your day refreshed by the renewing power of Christ working in your life.

Boy I needed that today…how about you?

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