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Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

Archive for the tag “Christian”

Love Me Today

1 John 4:7-8 – Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

For tomorrow just might be too late.

This year has brought about a lot of loss. Some of it was due to sickness and death. Some other was due to people being fired or quitting. Still others were in my life only briefly this year like those I see when I go to Peru each year.

This life is a series of hellos and goodbyes.

We don’t have a lot of time with the people in our lives. Some more than others and some less.

If you haven’t noticed, I have not posted a blog in the past almost month. It started as a bout of writer’s block but it ended as an experiment. I wanted to see what I would fill the time with. Granted, writing my blog is a small part of my week, but when the space is there, what would I fill it with?

What would God want us to fill it with?

That is an easy answer, people.

How much more time am I giving my family? How about my friends? How about the stranger or the sojourner or the widow or fatherless?

Am I spending my extra time with them?

Am I discipling others or seeking discipleship myself?

Or am I wasting the time?

Romans 12:10 – Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

What I found is that very little of my extra time was spend on the family, friends, or others.

You see, I filled a little bit of that time with extra Bible study, some extra time at with work, and then I downloaded a game and spent too much time playing that. Even on our date night, both Mimi and I spent quite a bit of our time on our phones.

When God returns, do you really think he will say, “I am really glad you spent more time reading my Word and less time putting it into practice,” or “I am so thankful that you posted that Bible verse to Facebook instead of learning how to live it out!” or “Great job on getting to level 20 on your game! I am so happy you got that down time to play that game a couple hours a day. Now excuse me, there are a bunch of people who never knew Me that I need to go deal with because you never had time.”

This is especially worrisome for me as a dad with a wife and 6 kids/step-kids. Am I truly being a husband and dad to them or, when Christ returns will He point out the wisdom that I should have been pointing out all along?

Honestly, this has been an issue for both my wife and I. We spend way too much time on other things and not enough on us. We talked a little bit this past weekend about how we are starting to feel a little disconnected from each other. I believe this has a big impact on that.

Micah 6:8 – “This is what the Lord requires of you: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

Now, admittedly, it would be very difficult to completely do a media fast as my job is based completely online and my primary ministry is this blog and my wife works in social media as a job and is a pretty big blogger out there in the blogosphere. And, believe me, I do not miss the irony of the fact that I am posting this online.

But that means we need to figure out creative ways to unplug and spend more time with each other and those whom God has placed in our lives.

And maybe you do as well.

During the time that the Bible was written, I would say it was actually easier to spend time in community, but I don’t believe it was. You didn’t travel far from home and you spent your entire day from dawn to dusk working to make a living and then would go home and fall asleep. The only real time was at dinner, which would be spent as a family unit. This happened up until the technological age.

So, what can we do?

We live in an age where technology is intertwined with our lives. It is difficult for us to remove it completely. I do believe that we are called to make time for those we love, much more time than we spend on those who have little to no effect on our lives.

We should love people today, not tomorrow.

My mom died this year. While we had a great relationship, the one thing I wish I had was more time with her. My neighbor is fighting cancer. I wish I had taken more time to pray with him and spend time with him one on one. That is definitely something I will be doing in the coming days. And spending time with my wife, something I have not done nearly as much as I should have done the past couple years, is something I will start making more a priority as we continue to learn to love each other more and more.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 – “My beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned.”

Oh, and Mimi Noble, I love you and look forward to showing you that over the next however many years of our lives together. Not just on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and our blogs, but together in the private moments we have alone.

I want to love you today, for tomorrow might be too late.

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If it were the last day of your life

This week has reminded me about how fragile this life is. On Easter morning my passed into eternity. Each holiday, my mom would make would make an amazing spread of food.

This year the job fell to me.

In the past years, my kids, wife and my wife’s kids would travel to PA the weekend before Thanksgiving to have an amazing meal prepared by her. She would make ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, cherry cheesecake, and many other things.

So this year I started planning the dinner the week before and I baked everything off Saturday and cooked everything after church on Sunday.

But it wasn’t the same.

We were missing someone.

Afterward I thought about what it would be like if I knew it were the last day of my life.

My mom taught me one thing, live life to the fullest!

She enjoyed life and she enjoyed the people that came her way. She wasn’t one that would be seen out in the mission field but she would be seen out in the community. She cared about people and everyone knew that.

I got to thinking, though. What would my life look like if it were the last day of my life?

Would people look back on it the same way I look back on my mom’s?

God has called us to live this life. We aren’t to live a past life, our past has been redeemed. We aren’t to live a future life because we are never promised anything beyond today.

My life changed drastically about 6-7 years ago and since then I have done everything possible to live in the present.

But what about you?

One thing Americans do well is hide away from life.

We wake up early to get in our cars and drive an average of 30 minutes to work (if you live the DC area where I do, that time is increased to 52 minutes average). At work, we hide ourselves away in our cubicles or offices as we focus on a computer screen that only has work stuff and Facebook on the screen. When work is done, we get back in our cars and drive home only to have dinner in a disjointed way. The kids have to get to work or sports, so they ate early. Your spouse may or may not be home because, if you are in the 69% of American families, you are a dual-income household. After eating, you turn on your laptop to get on Facebook or turn on the TV and watch the Big Bang Theory until it is bedtime and then you start the whole thing all over.

If you are one of the people who enjoy exercise, you go to the gym and spend time in your zone exercising and not really in community with others.

But we have been designed for so much more!

We have been made in God’s image!

Just what does that mean?

It means we should not…we cannot…go on living our lives for ourselves!

There is a God who sustains us. He owns us. He defines us. He rules us. One day He will judge us.

To that end, God has given us some guidelines to living a life that is given over to Him, enabling us to live a satisfied and content life without the drama of the world system.

I wish I could say that I came up with these five ideas, but I have to give David Platt a lot of props here. He came up with 5 principles for living a life that will be lived to fullest for our purpose, to worship an eternal God.

  • Work diligently

In the beginning of Genesis, God created man to work the garden. God gave man the duty to work even before sin entered the camp. That means work is a gift of God’s grace! But we don’t see it that way. We see it as something we haaaave to do, not something we are ordained to do.

Genesis 2:15 – The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

We, including myself (especially myself), do everything we can to lessen our amount of work so that we can do other things. Do you believe that going to Bible study at church is more important than the job God has ordained you to do? If you see it that way, then you might be legalistic and pharisaical in your thinking.

I’m not saying Bible study isn’t important. It is. But so is the work we have been called to do.

  • Live Simply

Money is not evil. Money in the hands of a sinful people (which is everyone last time I checked) is.  Most people, including most Christians, believe that money is a blessing from God. The Bible tells us that money can be both a blessing from and a barrier to God.

Money is like the water in the ocean. If you get thirsty while in the ocean, you might think that the water around you will sustain you. Since it is high in salt, it won’t. The more you drink, the more thirsty you become. Eventually you dehydrate, which leads to severe headaches, dry mouth, and low blood pressure. Your heart rate begins to rise. You become delirious, go unconscious and die. In drinking what you thought would bring life, you find death.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 – But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Where do we draw the line in our lives that says, “I have too much ‘stuff.’ I need to stop saying ‘I need’ when in actuality it is really that ‘I want.’”

Stop letting your “wants” drive your purchases. Look only to what you need.

  • Give sacrificially

2 Corinthians 8:15 – as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.”

The Corinthian church would give sacrificially of themselves to see everyone had what they needed. Imagine what it would look like if all Christians around the world, all the Christian communities, would do the same! We shouldn’t give from our comfort, we should give from our discomfort. Unfortunately, most Christians do not know what it means to give sacrificially. They, and I include myself in this, give after they have already paid the bills or after they have factored in how many triple shot skinny half-caf mochas with no whip they can purchase. Around the world there are many without clean water or food. Even here in our own communities there are people who are losing their homes, children who are going to school hungry, and elderly who are finding they cannot afford their medications. We should give sacrificially to others, like the Corinthian church. If the most corrupt church in the New Testament can be graciously giving sacrificially, then today’s church, and Christians, certainly can!

  • Help Constructively

We cannot neglect those in need, but we also cannot subsidize them to stay in need. We cannot simply help people get through their day without teaching them how to get through the rest of their lives. Paul explains that we need to take care of the widows, for example, but goes on to say that not every widow in truly in need. We are not called to simply give a hand out. Commitment to helping get someone out of need is to share life, not just a meal. We also need to look at diversity as we understand why people are in need. Poverty and need cross all racial, ethnic, religious, and other boundaries. Yes, people can say that one group is more prone than another to being in need, but the truth of the matter is that there are people all around us in need and those are the people we are called to help, regardless of color, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc…

  • Invest Eternally

Matthew 6:19-21 – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus gives us a choice. We can spend our money on this earth’s pleasures that will not last or we sacrifice our resources for a long term treasure that we store up in heaven. Think of the story in Mark 10 of the rich young ruler. Many people think Jesus is calling him to simply sacrifice everything he owns. Truth is that Jesus is calling the man to satisfaction. Jesus isn’t calling this man away from treasure, He is calling him to eternal treasure.

Think of it this way: If you have $10,000 and put it in the bank, in about 20 years you will have about $100,000. But now, if you took that same $10,000 and gave it to a church planter or missionary in Peru (hint hint, Paige and Stalin Solis: https://www.modernday.org/field-workers/solis-paige-solis/) you could see hundreds or even thousands of lives changed! That is truly the investment we need to be making!

So if it were the last day of your life, would your treasures simply fade away or would you leave a lasting legacy of Jesus that would continue to receive compound interest long after you are gone?

I am Guilty

The past few months has seen a lot of men and women have been publicly outed about ways that they have harassed others sexually or verbally. Lives have been turned upside down from these allegations, some of which have happened decades ago.

Let me make this very clear, if someone has verbally or sexually (or any other way) harassed another human being, then that person has committed a sin. I do not condone that behavior. It is clearly not a behavior that would be condoned by the church or Christians.

But I want to tell you something. When it comes to sinful behavior, I am guilty.

The Bible clearly tells us:

Matthew 5:28 – But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Adultery, fornication, and pornography are rampant throughout the church.

Humbly I tell you that it has been a few years since having an issue with anything, but that isn’t to say that I have conquered anything. It is only through the grace of God that I’ve overcome.

I’ve spent far too much time talking to men, both in the church and outside of it, who continue to struggle with the issue.

So, I say all that because I know, firsthand, the struggle men have with this.

Again, let me make this very clear, I will NEVER condone men’s actions in this. It is sinful. It separates the men from God’s intended testimony for their lives.

My friends who are more progressive would tell me it is up to the men to control their behaviors, and they wouldn’t be wrong.

But they also wouldn’t be right.

The men need to be held accountable for their actions. If they do something wrong, then they need to repent.

But women also have a responsibility to not intentionally cause men to stumble. (I realize this statement will not go over well, especially with my progressive friends).

You see, it works like this: God called us into relationship with Himself and each other. This happened in the Genesis story. When the Fall happened, the relationship was broken. Jesus came to reconcile that relationship. We are called again into relationship with God and each other.

With regard to “each other,” this means we need to support each other. Men should not be mentally, or physically, harassing anyone. Each woman is made in God’s image and deserves to be treated as such. And women should not be intentionally enticing men. The men are made in God’s image and deserve to be treated as such.

When the relationships continue to be broken, it is because the Gospel message is being ignored.

And it was never so clear as it is in the sexual realm.

Today over 27 million people around the world live in slavery. We tend to give it a cleaner name, “sex trafficking.”

Psalm 24:1 – The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein

While I am not an expert on the topic of ending slavery, the gospel is pretty clear about this. The world is the Lord’s, and everything in it. Many cultures do not believe that God created all people with dignity. Many other cultures, including Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist, do not hold women with value. Women are devalued.

Sex trafficking is also devaluing women. Once a woman is seen as less dignified or less worthy than a man, it is very easy to see the woman as an object and not a human being.

Unfortunately, many women take the wrong approach with creating value. They believe that that no matter how they dress or act, they are building value for themselves. But they aren’t. They are helping men to see them as objects to be used (even if just mentally) and then discarded.

If men and women do not take each other into account when interacting with each other, then objectifying becomes easy.

If women want to stop being objectified, then stop dressing like you want to be. Does that open women up for the possibility of being hurt by men’s actions? Of course, but so does being an object in men’s fantasies.

I have heard countless men tell me that pornography is a victimless crime. If the word “crime” is in phrase, then it is important to rethink your actions.

First, pornography adds to the objectifying of women. IT is very easy to turn on a website and look at a woman without her even knowing you are watching her. When she takes her clothing off and the guy gets his fantasies fulfilled, he has turned that woman into something less than human. He turned her into an object.

Next, imagine what it does to the relationships that man has. The women on the screen has several camera angles and can do multiple takes to get the scene perfect. Having sex with your wife is not perfect. Things don’t always go as planned. You don’t have several takes to get it right. The only angle you have to view her from is where your eyes are.

Now let’s take this a step further.

Over a third of the women who are trafficked are used in pornography. In another study of 900 prostitutes, it found that over half have been trafficked. Men and women who indulge in pornography are creating the demand for more prostitutes and, in turn, more sex trafficking.

Philippians 2:7-8- but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

When one goes to a college campus, the activist groups that have the largest attendance are those that fight slavery. But on those same college campuses over 90% of men and 30% of women are viewing porn. On Christian campuses and seminaries 80% have viewed it with over 60% viewing it weekly!!! It doesn’t matter how many red “X” we put on our hands if those same hands are getting off to pornography!

Fighting slavery begins with believing and applying the gospel. We are made in God’s image and to be esteemed and never enslaved. In the gospel , God takes slavery, a clear product of sin in the world, and turns it around to show a powerful image of His salvation for the world. The root word here, doulos, is a word used to talk about slaves that had masters. Quite literally those passages mean that Jesus became a slave of humanity to save humanity. When you read these words, it makes more sense to read in John 13 when Jesus tied a towel around his waist, knelt, and washed the disciples feet.

Mark 10:45 – For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The Christian gospel does not depict God as Master doling out a list of demands for men and women to do as slaves in order to appease him. Rather the gospel depicts God as a Master who says, “I will meet you where you are, in the depth of your sin and suffering, and I will save you. I will restore you. I will redeem you – I will purchase you by the sacrifice of my life – so that one day you will be free from all this pain, sin, and suffering.”

For Christians, it is the portrait of Christ in the gospel that compels us to fight for the detonation and destruction of slavery in the world. He is the pursuing Savior and, as men and women who identify with Him, we must pursue the enslaved. We cannot be silent and we must not be still. We don’t have that choice. We are compelled to pray, to give, and to work to see all slaves freed. To fight in all these ways with the truth of the gospel on our minds, the power of the gospel in our hearts, and the love of the gospel in our hands.

Peru 2017 Day 6 – The Final Ministry

We woke up REALLLY early today, 4:30 AM. Our job was to go downstairs at the Dream Center and make 2,000 sandwiches so that we could make 1,000 bags of food (2 sandwiches per bag) for the people of the hospital we went to last night. We were also making them cups of oatmeal to have with their sandwiches.

The bread came around 5:15 and we started in by breaking into 4 groups of people. The first group would cut the bread. Group two would butter the bread. Group three put on the jelly. And group 4, my group, would package the sandwiches and place them in the containers for shipping.

It took us until about 8:30 to get all the sandwiches made and packaged.

After that we loaded everything into the bus and truck and headed to the hospital.

We set up in 3 different areas. The hospital was definitely much more busy than it was last night! In my area, we gave away about 425 sandwiches and cups of oatmeal.

After we were done, we had an opportunity to pray with people.

Now this next story I simply need to share. Last night, one of our group went off on his own and ended up in a hospital room that had about 50 beds in it. In one of the beds was a 17 year old girl and her dad was sitting next to her. The man, trying to get his daughter to smile, was telling her about the “white angel” who came from America to see her and pray with her.

The girl was brought in and hadn’t eaten in almost 2 weeks. She had severe stomach issues and was simply sick. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. She has been bedridden for much of that two weeks!

Fast forward to this morning. I went with our group member who prayed with her last night. We were going to try and give her some of the breakfast we made with hopes she would eat it. When we got there, she was sitting in her chair. She was smiling and joking around and told us that she was better and was going home soon!

Yesterday she was unable to eat and was confined to bed and today she is scheduled to go home!

I know that my agnostic and atheist friends will look at this differently, but that was all God!

Our God heals!

We prayed with her and started to leave.

But then Mimi happened.

I had forgotten that my wife had brought a suitcase filled with toys and games for the kids in the pediatric unit. I followed her over there and watched my beautiful wife in action. She was so happy making children happy!

I love watching her with that big smile across her face and seeing children flock to her, hugging her, and loving her.

After this was done we went back to the Dream Center to relax, eat lunch, and get ready to leave tomorrow. Tonight we head to church one more time before heading out and then we leave for America at 3 in the morning.

In my next post I want to share a little of my heart about the people I have met over the past 5 trips here and what I would like to see happen for my friends. I’ll also share a little about how I’ve grown and how I hope to grow in the future.

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Peru 2017 Day 4 – More Relationships

Today brought about a lot of amazing things. Yesterday we went to many places I have been before. Today we went to places I have never been before. And on top of that, we ended with a party that turned into church.

We started our day going to a refuge that takes care of mothers and children with HIV. We made 20 gift bags for the mothers and had a lot of care packages for the kids. As soon as we got there, we were able to hand one out but then found out the house mother was understaffed. We started right in doing the day to day tasks that need to get done. We cleaned rooms, swept the hallways, prepared lunch, checked in the produce order, and whatever else needed to happen.

It was great. The relationships we made were not with the moms and kids as much as it was the team at the refuge. We were able to connect with Carol, the house mother, and some of the seminary students she had with her.

 

We were there for a long time and realized we were on a time schedule. The Peru/Colombia game was tonight and we had to be back before dinner or we would be stuck on the streets for hours. Lima is a city of almost 10 million people, so having a game like a World Cup Qualifier round 2 blocks from where we are staying means that the roads will get congested.

We went back to the Dream Center, picked up lunch, and headed to our next destination. This would be a short stop before moving to our final destination, but it was well worth it. We stopped by a church that Camino de Vida, the church we support in Peru, is getting ready to open in December. It was an old theatre where plays and musicals would happen. They are leasing the property and totally renovating it to fit their needs. It will seat about 900 people. We met up with Nick Balcombe, one of the pastors, and he gave us the tour. They need $250,000 more to get the place renovated and opened. If you are interested in supporting the vision God has given Camino de Vida for the new church, please check out their website at www.caminodevida.com

After the tour, we went to a place that was extremely special. When we were coming down, we were asked to bring down some feeding tubes. I laughed when I said “some” because I was expecting maybe a small case of them. No, we received 6 cases which turned into 2.5 suitcases of feeding tubes. We went in and got a short orientation and then went to visit the kids. Those kids are beautiful! If no other reason, the purpose for those children on this earth was to show us gringos just how to love. They have so much love in their hearts!

I really enjoyed spending time with Augusto. He is blind and has several developmental disabilities. The way to interact with him is to rub his back. Every time I did and said his name he would smile and laugh. A few times he would reach out and hold my arm as best as he could.

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Nate, on our team, fell in love with this one kid. He is musically inclined and that gave Nate an opportunity to love this kid with the gift of music.

We left there in order to get back before the traffic got too bad. When we arrived, we starting making blankets our project on Thursday. We grabbed two very large bolts of fabric and cut the blankets. Altogether I would say we made about 60 blankets. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to make more.

Then the night really started. Tonight was the Peru/Colombia World Cup qualifier match. Peru needed to win or tie. They tied.

A few of the women who live in the house we are staying and their friends came over and we watched the game together and afterward we partied.

Then after we were all partied out, we ended the night in worship.

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This day couldn’t be any better.

The goal of missions is relationships. We may never be able to end all the hunger or homelessness in the world. But we can feed people the Word and end the homelessness in their hearts. We might never be able to provide clean water to everyone but we can provide people with the new wine of the Spirit.

We built long lasting relationships with people today and I love that!

Tomorrow we will be doing one of my favorite projects here in Peru, a wheelchair distribution.

Peru 2017 Day 2 – The Tourist

Every time we come to Peru, and this is my fifth time here, we spend one day as a tourist. It is always on Sunday because that is the easiest day to do it.

Last night was rough. The city was awake and extremely loud last night. I slept perhaps 3 hours the entire night. At one point I got up and stared out the windows and watched a drug deal happening. I also watched what looked like some prostitution going on.

But I didn’t sleep.

It was a rough night.  And I am sitting here at the table in the living area at midnight writing this.

The morning came and we got together and started our day at La Victoria. We ate breakfast, did our devotional and then talked among our group. This group has been amazing because we have had a lot more deep discussions about faith, hope, theology, and our purpose.

We sat around in our group this morning and discussed, for about a 30 minutes death, dying, and the purpose of spirituality. Then a couple of the interns came in to talk to our team about the internship program. We have a couple young 20-somethings and I wanted them to get an idea of what it would be to take a 6 month long-term ministry in Peru.

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After that, we went downstairs for church at the chapel. This place has 350 attending regularly. We enjoyed listening to a visiting pastor from Chile who was up for a conference.

From there, we went to the city to be tourists for the day. We went to a hamburger place and were there for a quite a while. One reason is that we were simply enjoying each other’s company. But secondly, it was Stalin’s birthday.

We then went to the market to get some souvenirs to take home to friends and family.

After that we went to church and enjoyed an amazing service at their main campus. This church is on fire!

I wish that my own church, and honestly all the churches in America, would take a lesson from Camino de Vida in Peru. They have locked down the way to reach young adults. In the videos and pictures I will share below, I hope you see the amount of young adults.

Camino de Vida video 1

Camino de Vida video 2

Camino de Vida video 3

After church, at 9 pm, we headed to dinner to get crepes and then off to the Dream Center to head to bed (or blog, in my case).

Tomorrow will be a great day. We will be visiting the Grace House (a home for women battling addictions and brokenness) and Hogar de Ninos, the children’s home, where we will be sharing dinner together.

Peru Mission 2017 Day 1 – Fluid

So Mimi and I are taking another team to Peru this year. We left on Friday morning and arrived late Friday night.

We had our schedules and itinerary in hand and we headed out the door.

The first flight to our layover in Miami was bumpy but uneventful. I sat in the back of the plane while the rest of our group sat in the middle and front. In the back with me were 13 women heading from Baltimore to Miami to have girls weekend away. They all had really flashy shirts and were very loud, but fun. I also had about a 4 or 5 year old child sitting behind me, kicking my seat much of the flight.

Mimi sat on her own in the middle of the flight and, since she doesn’t travel well, fell right to sleep and woke up in Miami.

We get to Miami and were to meet up with a woman I had met a few years earlier at a church planting conference. While we had a few glitches there, it was pretty easy to get together and we headed off for some lunch and our first devotion of the journey.

When we got to Lima, we located Paige and Stalin, our guides, and they took us to La Victoria, the area of the place we would be staying.

La Victoria is a very different area than where we have stayed in years past. It is the inner city. Smells of marijuana and prostitution are done in the open here. There are gangs in this area and random packs of dogs roam the streets.

This section of the city is up almost 24 hours a day.

As I sit here right now typing this, I hear about 5 different songs playing throughout the city, someone is shooting off fireworks, and car alarms go off quite frequently.

The place we are staying is a chapel. It is 5 stories and in the middle of the city. The outside is black and white and all of the windows have bars. There is a man who sits just inside the door and opens it for people who are allowed in. Every Sunday, this chapel, the smallest of the 5 campuses of Camino de Vida, has 350 regular attenders.

The first level of the chapel is the church. It is really just a big black box style. They can transform the room into whatever they want it to be for the day. It can be church on Sunday and then on Monday turn into a wheelchair build site.

The second level of the chapel is a kitchen and offices. The missions offices are housed on the second level of the place. There is also an occupational therapy facility on this level.

The third level has a sewing ministry where they make all the shirts for their missions program. They also have a meeting room and a place where people can come and get clothes for free.

The fourth level is where short-term missions teams like ours stay. There are bedrooms for the women and bedrooms for the men. They also have a “living room” where short-term teams can hang out and unwind.

The fifth level is storage. All of the maintenance equipment and paints are kept up here. They also have a small outside living room that overlooks the city. I am hoping to get to use that a lot more later this week.

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We arrived about 1 AM and went straight to bed. I couldn’t sleep and spent the majority of the cold night laying there in prayer, thought, and yawning.

The next morning came and we ate breakfast and had a quick devotion before we gathered together for orientation. We learned that a few days ago someone had come and sprayed graffiti on much of the building.

I have to say that my heart sank a little when I saw it. 2 years ago my team painted the building, the sidewalk and the bricks. It was a long couple of days, but we did a really nice job. Seeing it tagged with graffiti was a little upsetting.

We were told that we would be spending the day painting the building again.

We gathered all the materials and started in at painting at about 11 AM.

We finished the outside of the building by 12:30 and sat down to eat lunch.

It was a little late to do our original plan of evangelism, so we decided to help Paige get the chapel ready for church tomorrow. This meant a lot more painting. She wanted a few levels of the steps painted as well as one of the offices so that they could move furniture out of another larger office to use for kids ministry in the morning.

We broke up our group and started going to town on the painting.

We finished about 5:30, got cleaned up and headed off to dinner.

It is now 10:30.

The city is alive and very, very loud. Many people are sleeping with ear plugs or ear buds in to drown out the noise. While I am exhausted, I want to take in the sounds of the city. I might not sleep, but I want to experience what the people of La Victoria experience daily.

Tomorrow we will be tourists. We are going to start our day at the chapel and attending church and then heading off to enjoy the touristy side of Lima.

More on that tomorrow.

What Does Dying Look Like?

No. I’m not. At least no more than anyone else, a little closer to the grave each day. But, as far as I am concerned, that is my prognosis.

1 Corinthians 15:22 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

But the past couple of days have given me pause to reflect on death and dying. Not just in human terms, but also in the church.

My first story starts as I was waiting for a simple medical procedure to be done. I was in the waiting room, a well-lit place with gray and cream walls and these stupid molding squares every foot or so. I was in the waiting room thinking to myself as I was about to get a biopsy done on my esophagus, what if someone comes back with a terminal illness diagnosis? The place that would be seared into my mind would be an ugly waiting room with gray and cream walls and squares on the walls.

They called me back and took me into the next waiting room, a small procedural area with hospital beds surrounded by curtains and people in those curtains recovering from their procedures. I could hear almost every word that was said between the doctor and the patients.

The majority of the people going in there were getting colonoscopies. One person was in there for her very first one. She was nervous, especially about the farting afterward. But the other 3 beds were taken up by people who have had multiple ones this year. One bed had a girl who couldn’t be much older than a junior in high school. She was on her second colonoscopy this year. Another bed had an 80+ year-old woman in it and she has had 2 this year. The man who came in and sat next to me in the chairs until a bed was open was on his third for the year!

The man next to me and I struck up a conversation. It started with small talk and platitudes. He asked me what I was in for, I did the same. He asked me my age, I did the same.

But then it took a little deeper turn.

He said to me that he never believed he would have to be getting multiple colonoscopies in a year. He said on his first one they found multiple polyps. After testing them, they were cancerous. They realized that they missed one that couldn’t be removed with the equipment there and he had to have it done at the hospital so they sent him in again. During that one it had spread a little more and they removed several others. This third time he was in to see if any more had grown.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 – And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

He stared me in the face and told me that he never expected to be staring a potential life-threatening disease in the face.

Now he was upbeat about it. He said he has no regrets for how he lived his life and he was proud of the people his children and grand-children had become. But you could tell there was a tone in his voice that said he just didn’t want this life to end.

One could easily say that this man is being overdramatic. The doctors didn’t know if he had any further issues, so why would he be getting all bent out of shape?

It is because death is final.

At least here it is.

As a Christian I know that this life is simply a small vapor in the wind and then I move on to the next life. But all of the people we have come to know and love in this lifetime, we worry about how they will react to our absence.

Ever since birth, this life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. Some come for a few moments, but others come for a lifetime. It is those lifetime people that we worry about.

I went through with my procedure and he went through with his. After that moment in chairs together we never spoke. I wish I would have gotten his phone number or email or something. I would really like to be able to check in with him from time to time. But I didn’t. #Fredfail

I will always remember this man. He was stoic but scared. Peaceful but a little anxious.

John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live

There are many stories like the man I spoke to while at the surgical center. Too many to count.

A lot of them are happening in our churches as well.

That leads me to story number 2.

Over the past year I have interviewed at a couple different churches with hopes of becoming a pastor. In every single instance I made it to the final round only to get beat out by someone else.

But each time that I interviewed at a church I would sign up for their email list. I like to keep in the know about other churches, I believe it makes me a better minister as I am not the smartest person on church leadership (I could have put the period after “person”, but I decided to qualify it a little more)

Many of the churches that I interviewed at were smaller with older congregations. That isn’t a problem as long as you constantly are replacing those who are dying out of your congregation.

In the past 3 weeks I have received 6 funeral notices for one of the churches I signed up for! That doesn’t even count the other couple of churches I get emails from.

The church is not an easy organization to manage. You have several demographics to hit upon and you are expected to hit them all equally as well. You are expected to be the 7-11 of biblical knowledge. Most churches don’t do that well. They are skewed to one demographic over another. They are either an old church or a young church. A white church or a black church. An English church or a Korean church.

The churches are focusing on being niche-based rather than all-encompassing.

And this leads to some churches dying while others find the right niche for the moment.

Unfortunately, the right niche is usually fad-based. Right now, the right niche is to have a great sounding worship band followed by a charismatic message and do it all in about an hour. But that is changing. We are starting to see the death of the charismatic, evangelical church now as this fad fades.

You also have a lot of other types of venues popping up like the tattoo parlor church, the movie theatre church, the cowboy church, and child-focused church.

The one thing I have noticed time and time again is that those churches need to constantly reinvent themselves to stay relevant.

Now I am probably going to get a lot of unhappy comments when I say this, but does the church need to be relevant with the fads of the day, or do we need to learn to be relevant in how to be approachable to the unbelieving public?

Revelation 3:1 – To the angel of the church in Sardis write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead

Let me explain.

Relevance can be seen as adding a high-powered worship band and skinny jeans and fauxhawks on the ministry team. Those will bring in people who are searching to be entertained and don’t have to worry about making personal changes to their lives so long as they get their weekly dose of entertainment.

Or…

Relevance can look like the body of believers going to church and enjoying each other’s company before a pastor gets up in front and teaches from the Bible on how to interact with the world outside of the 4 walls of the church.

That was kind of painful for me to say. I enjoy my latte-infused, Bethel Music Group energized, skinny-jean with a fauxhawk preaching churches. Unfortunately, many times they are simply places to hide ourselves away as Christians even though we say we are being a light set on a hill, all too often, because we don’t teach people how to interact with unbelievers, when the unbelievers come to our churches they simply get burned by those who proclaim to be the light.

And that is why the church is dying. Well, that’s my take at least.

If we spent a lot more time teaching people how to interact with the unbeliever rather than being safe houses for the marginal Christians, we would find that we may have smaller congregations, but they would be a lot more fruit-bearing.

So whether you are alone in a gray and cream room with ugly squares on the walls or in the most beautiful high-tech church in America, there is something in common.

Death.

Psalm 115:17 – The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence.

And many times that death is slow and painful. And even if you do survive, whether it is a life-threatening disease or a church focused on doing church in the church, you will never be the same afterward. The light goes away. It is the equivalence of losing the lamp stand in Revelation.

I’ll end with this example that I got from Louie Giglio. The last 2 letters of the word “SIN” are “IN.” Churches who are “in sin” are “in church.” The first 2 letters of the word “GOSPEL” is “GO.” Churches that are being relevant at the individual level and going to places outside of the church are gospel churches.

And that is the church that Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against.

Christians and Civil Disobedience

Can you imagine the anger?

Acts 5:29-32 – Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles tell the Sanhedrin that they have to obey God rather than man. The Sanhedrin believed they were appointed by God Himself to bring about God’s will on this planet.

Later in the Bible, however, Peter tells us that we are to submit ourselves to every earthly power.

1 Peter 2:13-14 –  Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

Where is the balance?

Both statements were made by Peter.

It is very easy for someone to look at Peter and say that he is simply switching his view. I mean, here is the man who told Jesus he would not betray Him ever and then turned around and betrayed Him three times in one night.

But I don’t believe Peter is simply flip flopping here.

Both statements have been cause for great problems along the timeline of history. If taken out of context, Christianity can turn into an extremist religion blowing people up for a cause or it can turn into a Sanhedrin-like party that favors politics over Christ and believes that the two are interchangeable.

Neither translation can be helpful to the cause of Christ.

There has got to be a middle ground that maintains the identity of Christian, providing an uncomfortableness to the world around us without blatantly disobeying every authority that comes our way while not turning Christ into the next GOP candidate.

There are 2 very simple litmus tests to determine if your civil disobedience is Christ-honoring.

  • Is it Scripturally-based?

How many times have you “felt” like you were being oppressed? An African-American man is shot by a police officer or a homosexual is told they have to use the bathroom of their birth-gender or a Christian is told they must provide a wedding cake to a gay couple getting married. In all those cases, we find people who are standing up against the status quo in order to make their cases known. You feel angry, upset, sad, or hatred.

Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

But if we look deeper, could there be more to the feeling?

What does Scripture say about it? We know what the laws and the constitution of the United States says about everything a person does or does not do in America. But what would Jesus have to say about it? What situations can you pull from Scripture to defend your feeling?

If you are simply angry because another Christian seemed to get the raw end of a deal because they wouldn’t make a wedding cake and you saw the entire story on Facebook, then you are missing the point of having Scripture.

Scripture is given to us, in this case, to determine if our feelings are justified.

The apostles were not following their feelings. They were following direct orders from Christ Himself.

  • Can you carry out your civil disobedience with humility?

If you are acting out in civil disobedience and expect the government to turn a blind eye to it, then you are following a spirit of entitlement, not the Holy Spirit. The apostles disobeyed many of the leaders of their day but fully expected to be punished for it. Many were jailed, beaten and even killed for their disobedience.

Romans 12:3 – For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Are you prepared to do the same?

Or do you simply want to be heard and have repercussions?

Whenever you see someone in Scripture disobeying the government for the higher power of Christ, you always see them do it without anger or violence or bitterness. They do so in humility to the One who is owed all glory.

So how about you?

What are you fighting against in this day and age?

Could it be liberals? How about Republicans? The church? The anti-church? TV, movies, video games, fashion, attitudes, laws, rules, authority?

Test yourself before you start trying to enrage others with you to determine if it really is Christ-honoring.

Thankful Heart

I was listening to Petra on the way to work today and their song “Thankful Heart” came on. Now keep in mind, as I am driving, I am dreading going to work. I’m not feeling too thankful to be heading into work.

Let me just tell you, conviction is painful.

Acts 8:23 – For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.

A few months ago I sold my company and went to work for the people who purchased it. I went to work for them under the auspices of helping them get off the ground. As an award-winning recruiter and business development manager, I thought it would be great to help.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been happening. I was told flat out that I didn’t know what I was doing. The new owner brought on a new partner to help him propel forward because he believed I hadn’t been doing well (even though I have already booked more than my targets). The amount of lies and four-letter language and downright verbal abuse from the partners has been difficult to stomach, especially on the rest of the team, some of which came from my former business.

It has led to cynicism breeding in my heart.

As the older and wiser one of the group of recruiters, I find myself doing what I can to be an example, but then I find it easy to slip into cynicism and speak poorly of the partners.

Thankful is not what I am for this opportunity.

So as I was driving to work today, this song comes on and I find myself singing it.

After it finished, I felt like such a hypocrite.

I wasn’t thankful. I didn’t have a thankful heart.

I was vindictive and had a bitter heart.

Ephesians 4:31 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

And then it gets even more convicting.

I speak to a person today who’s restaurant had closed down and he was out of work. He is young and his wife is about to have a baby in 3 weeks. He was laid off a few weeks ago.

In desperation, he calls me back and gives me his story.

Almost to the point of tears, he explains that he can’t afford to have a child right now. They have very little income and no one seems to want to hire him.

I started to think about my situation.

Yes, this employment is not ideal, but it is employment.

Then, as he is talking, the conviction digs deeper.

I learn he is a bivocational youth pastor.

And then he says those words that cut deep to my core, “I know that this is just a season, and I am thankful for the experiences I have had in the past so I just trust that God has led me to you to help me find that next opportunity.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Ouch.

That hurt.

Here I am making a decent living and, yes, the people are flat out evil, but I am able to pay the bills and even save some money. All this while others out there are starting a family and have been laid off with no other opportunities for work or money to come in.

So now I sit in my more than comfortable home after eating a very filling meal. I am watching too many channels on the television while I write this post on a newer model laptop. I am laying in a comfortable bed which I am able to change the sheets on regularly, under a ceiling fan while the air conditioner runs. I have a lot of fun things planned for the weekend and am able to spend a great deal of time with my family.

I am cynical and bitter.

Meanwhile the person who called me said he wouldn’t be doing anything this weekend, hoping to even have enough to buy food for his family.

Yet he is thankful.

I pray to God that I will view my circumstance for what it is, a blessing.

Is it easy?

No.

Are the people decent and able to get along with others?

No.

But I am blessed.

And thankful.

And realize my hypocrisy and evil tendencies in myself.

Next week is another week. And it is for you too.

Are you bitter and cynical? Are you feeling like you are trapped in a dead end with no way out, yet are able to make ends meet? Are you allowing your first world problems to take control of your life?

Then listen to the wisdom I have learned and be thankful.

Look for the blessings in your life, not the negatives.

Celebrate those.

Meditate on them.

Allow God to do what He does best, convict those who are doing wrong, and you simply do what God wants us to do, be thankful for the grace we are given.

Psalm 106:1 – Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

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