The faith and courage it takes to act

adamhaitiWe’re booking our air today for the first international mission trip ever as a church. Our final total is 17 people – 6 of whom are 25 years old or under. We’ll be in Léogâne​ Haiti from April 6-11. We have some people who are really stepping out on faith – some who can not afford to go, some who have never been on a plane before, some who are afraid of flying, some afraid of getting sick in Haiti, and some who are literally afraid of dying.  Some are concerned with what we will eat, where we will sleep, where we will go to the bathroom, where we will bathe or shower, and what we will be doing.  And I’m sure I haven’t covered all the fears.  Yet by faith, we believe the Lord is leading us to go.

Sometimes I think about the real people whose real stories are relayed to us in the Bible.  So often we read the Bible and we know the stories so well (and the outcomes) that we forget the faith and courage that it must have taken these real people to act, not knowing how it would turn out.   I admire their faith and courage.  Likewise, I admire the faith and courage of the people who are going on our trip to Haiti.  While the stories of the 17 of us who are going to Haiti will never be chronicled in the Bible or even in a book, our own stories are being written.  And the author is the Creator of the universe.

And when the music fades, I want my life to say I let You write your story on my heart. ~ Francesca Battistelli

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Their problem with Christianity

burntchurchIn 2010 Diane and I went to the country of Ghana in Africa.  On the flight we heard about Christians who had recently been killed and churches that had recently been burned by Muslims in neighboring Nigeria.  We were assured that it would be safe where we would be in southern Ghana and it was.  The question for me as a typical American was, “Why do Muslims want to kill Christians?”

While I’m no Islamic scholar, as I understand it the root of the Islam and Jewish/Christian problem goes back to the 7th century.  Muhammad believed he was a prophet of God, but the Jewish and Christian leaders did not believe he was.  When he was rejected, he was furious.  After his rejection, Muhammad then believed he received a new revelation from God and Islam was born.  And as luck would have it for Muhammad, this new revelation was permission (some say a command) to kill “the Jew” (and Christians are considered a branch from the Jews).  And that led to Islamists conquering Christian lands which led to the famous Crusades where Christians did things we think of as incomprehensible (it was a barbaric time) and took back land and turned back Islam.  And that was over 1,000 years ago.

For Christians, it’s not even thought about today.  I’m guessing just about everyone reading this had no clue about those events.  But Muslims haven’t forgotten them.  And contrary to what the progressives want us to believe, the belief in the Muslim teaching “to kill Jews hiding behind stones, trees” is still prevalent in the middle east today.  Most surveys say the majority there still believe that it’s right to kill Jews.  So when you hear Iran’s leaders say they want to wipe Israel off the map, now you understand a little better.

And most evangelical Christians still believe that Jesus is the only way.  And this is still offensive to everyone else who wants us to say their religion is just as valid as Christianity.  It would be wonderful if some of our more liberal Christian brothers and sisters were right that there were many roads and many religions that lead to God.  But when Jesus claimed that He is the Way, and that there was and is no other way to the Father except through Jesus, I believe Him.  If there was another way, why would Jesus have died on the cross?  He would have said, “There’s no need for me to die on this cross, take one of the other ways“.

And now you know why this is especially offensive to Muslims – Muhammad is still being rejected.  And his followers are still killing people for rejecting him.  And when people in our country are starting to be afraid to the point of being unwilling to proclaim Jesus as THE Way, when you think it might be unwise for me to blog about this, when you are afraid to share it, then we are beginning to get just a little taste of what it’s like to convert to Christianity in another country and what it will be like here in America in the not too distant future.  In the words of Franklin Graham, “The storm is coming”.

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Be more like a child

IMG_2815I’ve been bowling every Monday night for several months now.  Our church pays for bowling for any young people who want to show up on Monday evenings.  (I’m not one of the young people, but one of the chaperones.)  Last night I picked up a 10 year old who needed a ride.  It was the type of evening that your car windows would start to fog up if you didn’t have the defrost on.  As the side windows fogged up, the 10 year old wiped the condensation from the window with his hand.  Adults don’t do that.  As a matter of fact, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen anyone do that.  It brought back memories to when my kids were young and did that.  It brought back memories to me getting yelled at for doing that when I was a kid.  “Quit that! It will leave streaks on the windows!”

As I still think about that this morning, I’m reminded of Jesus telling His disciples (and us), “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  I know what He meant.  He meant that if we feel like He wants us to wipe the condensation off the window, we do not worry that it might leave streaks on the window and we do it anyhow.  He meant that if He calls us to do something, we don’t worry about the cost.  We don’t worry if we look foolish or if it goes against what grown-ups typically do or should do.  It doesn’t matter if it makes sense to everyone else or if it does not meet their expectations.  It means being willing to say, “Yes, Daddy” to our Heavenly Father and just trust Him.  And as we grow up, this keeps getting more difficult. 

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Time for the Lord to show up

dirtywater

This picture from Samaritan’s Purse is very common in places like Haiti.

For the last few weeks I’ve been telling people that if they feel like they are supposed to go on the mission trip our church is taking to Haiti in April that they need to sign up to go whether they can afford it or not.  “God will provide the means if you step forward”, I’ve been telling them.  I feel like I’ve put the Lord to the test.  Now, there are 16 people who have committed to go to Haiti, at least 10 of whom are under 40 years old (and 6 of those are high schoolers under 18!)  I don’t think any of them have ever been on a mission trip before.  About half fall into the category of not being able to afford the roughly $1,500 per person.  I have no doubt that the Lord will provide.

But I also have this “other voice” that says things like, “That’s a lot of money”  or “He’s going to teach you a lesson on making promises on His behalf”.  And if you were to be honest, you would admit that voice of doubt creeps in at times with you, too.  As hard as we try not to listen to that other voice, it is so difficult to ignore.

Yesterday at The Well, our 9:30 worship, I talked about the Israelites being afraid to enter the Promised Land.  God told them to do it, but the “other voice” won the day and they chose not to enter the land.  It did not end well for them.

The funny thing about God showing up is how often He does it through His people.  He almost always has and almost always still does work through His people.  And I know He will in this case as well.  I know several people in our church have said they will help pay for people to go.  If you feel led to help and you go to church here, you will have chances to give toward the trip in church.  If you are a friend of one of those going or if you just feel led to contribute and don’t go to church here, there is a Go Fund Me account set up.  You can find that account here.  Or you can mail a donation to the church at “Wesley Chapel, Rt 2, Box 421, Ridgeley WV 26753″ (Let us know if you want a tax receipt).

And as much as I hate to be using today’s blog to raise funds, how could I get to the time of the trip (if the money wasn’t there) and accuse God of not doing His part when I haven’t done my part.  I know this is part of my part. (And this fund-raising is not for me as I already have the money for my trip, which is one reason I find it easier to ask.  But that’s another blog for another day).

Whether you are called to give or not, I hope you were blessed by today’s reminder not to let doubt win even though it will undoubtedly occasionally creep in.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” ~ Luke 4:18

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Out of nowhere

IMG_2777It’s supposed to be very windy here all day today.  The weather report said gusts to 50 mph.  We already had a 50 mph gust this morning.  It was a whiteout with the snow blowing off the roof of the church.  After that gust, Diane texted me and told me there were shingles laying in the yard.  It has calmed down for the time being.  The shingles are the ones that run across the top of the roof.  They need replaced, but it’s not pressing.  The roof won’t start leaking.  They cover a thing called the ridge vent that actually covers the top, so even though those shingles are now missing, the roof still has a plastic vented cover on it.

I could never have imagined when I woke up this morning that there would be shingles from our roof laying in our yard.  It’s sort of an analogy of life, isn’t it?  Every once in a while we are broadsided by a diagnosis, by an appliance or car breaking down, by the unfaithfulness of friends or family, and so much more.  None of us are immune.

Yet we can be encouraged by four words in the Bible.  And it’s not words you may have thought about before.  Those words are “It came to pass…”  It doesn’t say “It came to stay”.  While we all go though trials and tough times, we can be encouraged by remembering that they will not last.  One day they will be a memory and will have served to help teach us to rely more fully on God.  Even if the diagnosis is terminal, we know that we will one day be healed by the Great Physician.

So when the day is tough and the going is rough, hang in there and ask God for help.  One day you will be able to look back and see how He got you through it.  It will indeed come to pass.

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What we DON’T have to say

IMG_2767 Yesterday Everett and I put a new window in the church sanctuary.  There’s a small room in the back corner that had been used to handle the church offering on Sunday mornings and to keep track of Sunday school attendance.  We’re converting the room to a “Baby Get-a-way” so when parents feel the need to leave the sanctuary Sunday mornings with their little ones, they will have a place to go so they can still see and hear what’s going on in the sanctuary (with a speaker in the room).  Regardless of how much it’s used, I hope the new room will send a message that we want to accommodate people with infants.

The church (universal) often says the right things, but then their actions don’t always match their words.  I don’t feel like I have to argue this point – I think we can just about all agree on that.  Some churches say everyone is welcome, but then some in the church let people know they’re not really welcome.  I’m talking about, for example, if it says in our bulletin that everyone is welcome at the Wednesday dinners, but if I or some of the church people speak poorly to or about people who come (like how many desserts they take, about the way they are dressed, the mess they make, about how they jump up to be first in line, etc), then we are letting them know they are not really welcome, not matter what it says in our bulletin.  And that doesn’t mean those people who jump up first every week might not hear a devotion one evening about “the first shall be last and the last shall be first”.  Some people have confused making people welcome in church with condoning sin or avoiding Biblical truth.  We welcome them, but we also don’t avoid the truth that Jesus teaches.  And if people feel unwelcome by a church that teaches Biblical truth, we can’t help that.

When a church says it wants to be known for caring about the community, they need to be doing something to show the community, not just providing lip-service.  When a church does get involved with the community, they usually don’t have to tell anyone that they care about the community – people can see it.  We won’t have to tell anyone that we want young families in the church.  they will be able to see that we really do because we are changing things up to help them feel more welcome.

When we build our new multi-purpose facility, put in an indoor playground, and open it up to the community on snow days, we won’t have to say anything.  They will do the talking for us.  We will be putting our faith and belief into action, just as we’re doing with the new “Baby Get-a-way” room.

You can now see that we please God by what we do and not only by what we believe. ~ James 2:24

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Beggar at the Door

scottknowlton:

In the few years and nearly 1,000 blog posts I’ve shared, you can count on one hand the number of times I’ve reblogged someone else’s blog post. Today I invite you to read something that will definitely make you think. It’s beautifully written.

Originally posted on Ashley Blanco Speaks:

Taken by me in exclusive San Francisco neighborhood Taken by me in exclusive San Francisco neighborhood

My lifestyle makes my clothes look like rags.

Dingy.

I reek of wine and that Speed is slowing me down.

The world wants to keep me where it can see me. I hear You can turn things around.

Homosexual, I stand at the door. They say they love me but they hate my sin. What does that really mean? Have I become what I do? What do you think of me?

Beggar at the door.

I know how it is to cry in the rain, extending my arms – these arms you gave me, as far as I could to my left and to my right, reaching. Won’t you grab me already? I’ve put my head back in the rain, calling out for you. I could’ve drowned that day.

Anorexic at the door. Never too small, my bones are too big. Is…

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