I’ve done my part, now where are you God?

31 01 2018

This title is a rough interpretation of Moses’ words at the end of Exodus 5. Moses, the man who’d been called by God from the midst of the burning bush and performed miracles with his shepherd’s staff, is now challenging God to uphold His word. As bold as this appears, and it is quite bold, I’ve been there. I’ve prayed for something and never saw it come to light. I’ve often wondered why God would allow such pain, suffering, and injustice.

First of all, I’m reminded that if God is to eliminate all evil, He’ll have to do something with me. I deserve hell. Furthermore, in a sense, He did do this once before, with Noah and the flood. It didn’t work. As soon as the water recedes, humans go on sinning. Evil shows up and pain ensues. Tonight, with my middle and high school students, we looked at this passage from Exodus 5 and took a stab at some tough questions. Is it as simple as, “That’s just God’s will?” “These things happen for a reason?” “It serves some mysterious purpose?”

Maybe. But I like to think that God is working to make the world right, to usher in shalom. I don’t believe that God wishes anyone to perish. I don’t believe God intends for anyone to hurt. The world didn’t start that way. The first humans were sinless and given charge to care for, to rule and reign over, the earth. But they messed up. So, God used another human, a “Second Adam,” to rule and reign. Jesus is the King and His Kingdom endures forever. It’s just not quite the time for its fulfillment. But one day, one glorious day, there will be no more crying, no more pain, no more death. That’s a promise I’m compelled to believe. I said that the world didn’t start with pain and hurt. It was perfect. It sounds like the world will eventually be a lot like it was when it started.

God used a perfect man to bring about His kingdom and the fascinating thing is that He now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is using people like you and me, to set things right, to rule and reign, to usher in shalom. Go. Make disciples. Proclaim the Good News and long for the day when, not only will He wipe every tear from our eyes, there just won’t be anything to cry about.

p.s. What I didn’t share with my students tonight, is that today is the anniversary of the death of a great man, a true friend. It’s been 7 years and I still miss him, but I look forward to our reunion.

“Whoever thinks he has the ways of God conveniently tabulated, analyzed, and correlated with convenient, glib answers to ease every question from aching hearts has not been very far in this maze of mystery we call life and death…He (God) has no stereotyped way of doing what he does. He delivered Peter from prison but… left John the Baptist in the dungeon to die…At this writing I never knew less how to explain the ways of providence but I never had more confidence in my God…I accept whatever He does, however He does it.” – exert from Vance Havner’s diary concerning the death of his wife.


Advent Meditation — Love

24 12 2017

So much has been said about love. Poets pen emotions into words. Musicians charm the masses with their instruments. Vocalist croon sentiments causing folks to go weak in the knees…all attempting to define, or capture the essence of, love. But perhaps love isn’t expressed so much in word as in deed.

This advent season we have peered at the horizon with hope; we’ve rested in peace, with a stillness in our hearts; and we have danced and laughed with exuberant joy. Today, we recognize it was love that began it all. What would compel a God to send His only begotten Son into this sinful, cruel, broken world? In a word, love. But it didn’t begin at Christmas. God’s love has been there all along. The blood-red thread of redemption runs from the Garden and the sacrificial lambs of the Old Covenant right through to Emmanuel, the Lamb of God, hanging on a cross.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.

But not only us. You see, the love that caused Christmas, loves the whole world. Today, as we light the Candle of Love, may we be so captivated and motivated by the love of Christ that we don’t stop proclaiming “good news of great joy” until the whole world knows the Love of God.

Advent Meditation – Joy

19 12 2017

It was an ordinary night…the shepherds caring for their flocks, probably grumbling, as old men do, about the government and the census being taken by Augustus.

Yet it was a night like no other…suddenly, an angel, beaming with the glory of God shared with them, “Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.”

In essence they were saying, “Don’t be afraid, rather be joyful”

Joy, it is an especially peculiar thing. Unlike happiness, joy is not manufactured. Man can strive toward happiness, and if he plays his cards just right, may very well attain it…a happy home, a happy marriage, a happy life.

But joy, birthed in spontaneity and expressed at the crossroads of laughter and freedom, is more mysterious because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tear-stained cheeks. Joy can be a baby boy sleeping in an animal food trough or a sinless Savior nailed to a tree.

As we light the candle of joy, may we, in the midst of our ordinary days, or the extraordinary days, may we never lose sight of the joy, the freedom, that comes through Jesus. And may we be ever mindful of sharing the true joy of Christmas with everyone we meet.

Advent Meditation — Peace

13 12 2017

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Peace on earth, good will to men…Is this a reality? Lately it seems that our world is anything but peaceful. “Wars and rumors of wars,” is a more common theme. Seemingly daily we are inundated with stories of terrorism and violence.

But let us remember Jesus’s words to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” How then, do we reconcile a hostile world with the peace that Jesus offers? We must understand that peace is not the absence of conflict, but is the presence of Christ. It is an inner stillness of the heart; A confidence that no matter our circumstances, everything is going to be alright.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Today, as we light the candle of peace, we do so knowing that peace has not yet come to every heart. May we pray, may we give, may we go until every tongue, tribe, and nation knows the peace that comes only with the presence of Jesus Christ.

Advent Meditation – Hope

4 12 2017

At this time of advent, as we anticipate things to come, we would do well to first look back. Let’s journey to the first century. After all, the nation of Israel would often recount its history.

  • They would tell of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • They would celebrate how the Lord used Moses to lead their ancestors out of captivity.
  • They’d recount the triumphs of Joshua and exploits of David.
  • They marveled at God’s power on Mount Carmel.

These and so many more.

Every generation had its hero. Every generation had a story of God’s deliverance. But not this generation, nor the one before, nor the one before that. It had been a long, long time, nearly 400 years, since there’d been a “word from the Lord.” But just when the world seems it’s darkest, that’s when the Lord breaks through. A divine message, from a divine being, delivered to Zechariah, “There will be joy and delight for you. [Your son] will turn many to the Lord their God, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.” And there it is, hope, a belief that tomorrow is a better day.

Those of us who have Jesus, well, we have hope, for He has secured our tomorrow. However, at this time, as we light the candle of hope, we must recognize there are still billions without hope. No knowledge of Jesus. No promise of a better tomorrow. May we do all we can to carry the message of Jesus to a lost and dying world, to spread true and lasting hope.

Quito Experiment, Days 5 & 6

15 07 2017

I know I haven’t updated in a couple days but they’ve seen long days. Fruitful days but long days. Also, I wasn’t sure how to put into words all that I’ve witnessed the last couple days…but I’ll try. (Warning, long post)

Thursday and Friday, we spent all afternoon in a local park. The guys played basketball for the most part and the girls used henna to make temporary tattoos for anyone who ventured up. (More on henna in a moment)

Sam, Connor, and Nathan took a couple basketballs to the park and hopped it up a bit with some of the locals. After about 30 minutes, we called time so everyone could catch a breather and grab some water. Then, with help from a translator, I talked about what it meant to be on a team and that in the Bible, there’s a team called the church. I told the group that there was only one way to make that team – I then presented the gospel. One guy, Roberto, had lots of questions. Please pray for him. He says that he follows Jesus but doesn’t like the label “Christian.” I’m sure he’s not a believer but he’s close. I will be emailing him over the next few weeks. Connor sat and talked with Roberto for maybe an hour about his faith. It was awesome to see.

Then we played some more ball. After about another 30 minutes, we stopped, and Nathan shared the gospel with 5 guys. 3 of them left shortly into our conversation but…2 of them didn’t! Ricardo and Vladimir, both from Venezuela, heard what Nathan had to say, prayed, repented, and trusted Jesus with their life! How awesome is that?

This kind of thing was happening for almost 5 hours each afternoon. It was awesome! We didn’t always play ball. Sometimes we just walked the park and struck up conversations with people. In all, us 5 guys, Mark, Sam, Connor, Nathan, and I, shared the gospel with over 40 people and saw 3 people give their life to Jesus!

The girls set up blankets in the park beneath a tree and drew temporary tattoos on the hands of anyone who would come. You really have to see it to understand, but the artwork walks through the story of scripture. As the tattoo is applied, the recipient hears the story of the Bible from Creation to Christ. Then, they leave with a semi-permanent reminder of the gospel. It’s pretty cool. Through this “henna station” more than 50 people heard the gospel. The girls can tell you more about numbers and special stories from their experience. I know of at least 2 people who trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior because of the work, Heather, Eden, and Sara did with henna. Many more left encouraged and prayed for.

There is one more interesting conversation that took place on Thursday. They were literally running through the park distributing flyers. When I saw that it said something of Islam, I immediately chased them down to ask them some questions. We talked for maybe 45-60 minutes. I had a great time telling the the truth of Jesus Christ but in the end, they simply could not comprehend the love of God…A love that would send His own Son to die a cursed death on a cross. Love so amazing so divine demands my life, my soul, my all.

It’s been a great, awe-inspiring couple of days. God is good. He is faithful. Never, never underestimate what young men and women can do to advance the kingdom of God. I am truly blessed to be called their youth pastor. It is times like this that make everything else so worth it. I am already pumped about our next trip, but cannot wait to get home and see where these student go from here.

Tomorrow, we get to enjoy being tourists for a day. We’ll visit the equator and a couple other places. We’ll eat some guinea pig then we’ll fly back on the red eye to Atlanta. Please pray that all the people who heard the gospel will have fruitful follow-up from the local pastors. We gathered information on almost every person we with whom we spoke.

This is my last update of the Quito Experiment. So long and until next time, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Quito Experiment, Day 4

13 07 2017

Wednesday was a long day. Personally, it didn’t help that I had to break open the Imodium first thing yesterday morning. I started feeling a little better, but then…the bus ride. Anyway, VBS started at 2:00, and miraculously, right at 2:00, I felt much better. That lasted all the way to 4:00, when VBS was over. It was as if the Lord gave me strength just for those two hours. I spent the next hour and half curled up on the altar at the church while my team went out visiting families with the pastor.

I am grateful for the team I have. I already knew that Mark and Heather had extensive experience on the mission field, but I am made more aware of that and appreciate all they have done this week. The students have done a fantastic job as well. They have shared the gospel and loved on the children during VBS. Today, we head to a local park all afternoon to share the gospel through sports ministry, creative ministries, and henna tattoos. I’m excited about today. My prayer is that all five of our students take the opportunity to have gospel conversations with the people they meet.

Back to last night…Nathan and I were both feeling puny, so we got a taxi ride back to the dorm. After a night’s rest and some water, Gatorade, and breakfast, we’re both feeling much better. We missed the worship service at church, but I can give you a few details.

Mark shared a sermon from Daniel 3. Nebuchadnezzar tried to steal the identity of the three young Hebrew men. (In fact, can you name them by their Hebrew names or do you only know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?) The church was packed…standing room only. After the message, the team got to enjoy an Ecuadorian delicacy, cuy, or guinea pig.

Please continue to pray today as we go to the park. Pray that our conversations will be fruitful and that God will be glorified.

Quito Experiment, Day 4 = God is faithful, may we be as well