Archive for June, 2008

The Ubauna Jesus Caravan - Gospel for Brazil Team Man, We’re excited! We’re pumped!  We’re psyched!  We’re fired up! We’re full of anticipation!  We’re ready to feel God, touch God and see Him reveal His Will for this trip!  We’re ready to see Jesus heal the sick, see Jesus cast out demons, see Jesus move and to see Jesus’ power unleashed on the people of Brazil.  We’re ready to see the Book of Acts played out before our very eyes.  We’re ready to be stretched spiritually, to grow spiritually and experience spiritual awakenings. We’re ready to feed the poor and clothe the poor.  We’re ready to see our close friends in Brazil, to hug them, to sit with them and talk with them and tell them how much we’ve missed them.  We’re ready to see all the children from Children’s Church singing and dancing and smiling because they are full of Christ.  We’re ready to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ from the Grace Refuge Church in Fortaleza. We’re ready to be used by God and to be His Arms and Feet!  We’re ready to hear and see lost souls say the name of Jesus, to hear His Truth, to seek His Word, to seek His forgiveness, to accept His Gift of Salvation, to become our brothers and sisters in Christ, to be baptized, to be newly created and filled with the Power of Christ.  We’re just….ready! 

So, why are we so excited and so “ready”?  We just got back from Wilmington, North Carolina last night after meeting with the team of Gospel for Brazil missionaries going to Fortaleza and Ubauna from July 9th through July 18th.  We got to see everyone but Jessica (we already know her but missed her anyway) and spend time just being a group of disciples on the verge of an awesome adventure.  We can’t wait to go flying down the airways and highways of Brazil with this bunch of Jesus Freaks that are seeking God and obeying His call to fulfill the Great Commission. 

Picture:  Sitting Down (left to right):  Christy, Tiffany, Erin, Arimar, Loretta.  Standing (left to right):  Amber, Garry, Travis, Patrick, J.P. and Joe.  Not pictured but just as important:  Darryl, Jessica and John.

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From June 27th through July 06, our youth group at Calvary will be participating in a mission trip to South Africa.  Please keep this group in your prayers, and intercede on their behalf to our Lord God:

Josh Hawk – Youth Pastor
Donna Connell – wife of Senior Pastor
Jacob Connell – Adult son of Senior Pastor
Amber McCreary
Tracy West
Emily Curry
Audra Jordan
Drew Edwards
Kirsten Fountain
Adam Blocker
Allie Holden
Cheyenne Hunt

Specific prayers:

– The Holy Spirit’s Hedge of Protection will surround each and every member of the group during and after the trip. Pray that all will be protected from any attacks by satan or his dominions in any attempts to keep them from fufilling God’s Will for this mission trip.  Pray that each member will be healthy, free of sickness, parasites, disease and full of strength so they can carry out their God driven, given responsibilities.

– Each person going, especially the youth, will understand that the goal is to reach lost souls and tell them about Jesus Christ and the Gift of Salvation that He desparately wants to give to them. Pray that they will understand that the goal isn’t to build wells, feed or clothe them but to minister to their souls. Do that first and foremost and then cater to their worldly needs. This is a vital prayer request because many missions have become humanistic instead of Soul-reaching.

– That the youth will allow God to open their eyes and place in their hearts a passion for reaching lost souls and fulfilling The Great Commission.

-God will prepare and has prepared the hearts of those without Christ in Africa that the group will come into contact with so that they may hear God’s Truth and seek repentance and redemption through Jesus Christ.

-Pray that all luggage will make it safely and undamaged to and from Africa.

-God’s Will be done and His vision brought to life.

 

 

While listening to my pastor teaching about the Gift of Giving yesterday morning, a myriad of emotions flooded my soul.  I was angry, sad, confused, frustrated, humbled, happy and filled with joy all within a span of 30 minutes, often going from one to the other and back again. 

I was happy and humble because of all the wonderful blessings that God has given to Christy and me because He loved us enough to deliver us from financial bondage.  I thought about the really hard times we’d had financially, and truthfully, I still can’t believe that it is all in the past tense of our lives.  I was filled with joy because I am able to give to God and show our obedience to him through our tithes and offerings, and because we can give to others to share those blessings with those that may be in need.  What a joy it is to give to God. 

But those emotions would quickly fade, and I’d be filled with frustration and confusion at how selfish Christians can be, and how we are missing out on so many of God’s blessings because of our disobedience financially.  God loves cheerful givers and he wants all his children to have giving hearts.  These emotions then turned into anger because Christians are hindering God’s kingdom from growing because there isn’t enough money to reach all the lost souls in this world and to cater to all the needs in this dark world.  What could we do if Christians began to become obedient and faithful in tithes and offerings.  There would never be another need that went unmet or ministry that had to suffer because the cupboards were bare.

Do I have the Gift of Giving?  Yes…I do but that wasn’t what filled my mind and heart as I left church.  It was a couple of thoughts: one, I can and need to do better myself.  Although I tithe faithfully, I can still do more, give me.  Secondly, it was the sobering thought that we are stealing from God when we don’t tithe as commanded.  We are literally breaking the Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not steal” and throwing our disobedience in the face of God.  Oh, how ungrateful we have become that we steal from the God that has given us EVERYTHING, including the Salvation that we have.

So how does it make you feel that we, as God’s children, are stealing from God and hindering the growth of His Kingdom? I hope as you think about this and your current obedience, or disobedience, to God in terms of finances, you are filled with these same emotions and they move you to do more, and give more to God. 

"Have you come here for forgiveness?  
Have you come to raise the dead?  
Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head? 
 Did I ask too much...more than a lot
You gave me nothing, now it's all I got.  
We're one but we're not the same.  
Well we hurt each other and we do it again.  
You say... love is a temple, love the higher law
Love is a temple, love the higher law. 
You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl 
But I can't keep holding on to what you got, when all you've got 
is hurt.  
One love, 
One blood, 
One life 
You've got to do what you should. 
One life with each other, 
Sisters, 
Brothers.  
One life but we're not the same, we get to carry each, carry 
each other. 
ONE, ONE, ONE, ONE
"One" - U2

Mercy.  It is the cornerstone of our relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Without mercy, we would have no hope of redemption.  We would walk through this life unforgiven, and separated from God.  We would come into this world as sinners and would die condemned to the lake of fire. 

God has no obligation to offer us anything.  If He condemned us all to hell, we would deserve it…but God loves us beyond human comprehension.  That’s why He showed Mercy on us by sending His Son, Jesus to die as the sacrificial lamb on the cross at Calvary.  On that day, Jesus was God, was His Mercy.  Jesus Christ became the physical manifestation of God’s Mercy.  

Without His Mercy, there could be no forgiveness, no salvation, no redemption, no hope, no faith and no love because these things are only of God.  Satan offers none of these.  Satan is the anti-thesis to all things God.

Sounds like basic, Christian Mercy 101 doesn’t it?  So why is it then that we Christians have gotten it so wrong?  If the collective Mercy within the Church was put onto a piece of paper, handed to God for Him to grade and then returned to us, I believe we would see a huge “F” written in the blood of Christ at the top of the page. 

Mercy wasn’t a theme, an idea or a concept that Jesus spoke of during His days.  It was the Spirit of God put into action.  Jesus healed with Mercy, He offered forgiveness with Mercy, He taught with Mercy, He raised the dead with Mercy and He lived with Mercy.   He didn’t tell us to give Mercy, He gave Mercy and He showed us how to have mercy on a lost world.

So why doesn’t the church offer more mercy to those lost and in need?  We talk about it a lot but are we really showing Mercy to those around us?  Would people outside of God’s Church say that Christians are merciful?  They might but my guess is that the majority of unbelievers, and even a lot of Christians, would say “No.”  How can we be seen as merciful when we boycott funerals and yell judgmental hatred to those family and friends that have lost a loved one that may have been homosexual, etc?  How can we be seen as merciful when we refuse to go to other nations, and refuse to support international missions because we tie up our money and resources into trivial ministries and business pursuits?  How can we be seen as merciful if we tell people that have just lost ALL they owned to a catastrophic hurricane that they deserved it because they were living in sin and it was God’s punishment?  How do you tell an AIDS patient that he deserves to die a horrific death because God is punishing Him for his gay or drug addicted lifestyle?  On and On I could go with examples of a Christians “mercy”. 

What are the reasons then?  First, I believe that we have a lot of hypercrites walking our church aisles that are no more a follower/disciple of Christ than satan himself is.  Secondly, I believe it’s because we have been taught that Mercy is a spiritual gift only given to some, while not others.  During our Sunday service, our pastor spoke on the gift of Mercy.  At the end, we could take a survey (10 questions, 5 pts. each) to see if God had given us this gift.  If you scored less 30 pts., the survey stated to basically “forget it”, you don’t possess this gift and you should pray for sensitivity.  I understood what he was saying but how many Christians will withhold mercy from someone and then rationalize their disobedience by saying, “Oh, I don’t have the gift of Mercy. Sorry.  You’re outta luck because God didn’t bless me with that one.” 

Granted, I do believe that someone can be given the gift of supernatural mercy but if you have Christ truly living within you, then Mercy should be second-nature for us.  Christ was Mercy!  Therefore, if he is truly in me, then I will be merciful.  All Christians are called to merciful and have no excuses for not showing someone mercy.  Only God can save, redeem or forgive someone’s soul.  But we can show Christ-like Mercy and show people the way to Christ. 

This world is hurting and it’s lost.  It needs our mercy, our grace and our love more than ever.  We have to lead this dark world in showing mercy to those that are crying out for just an ounce of mercy.  We have to stop giving them nothing because for most, it truly is all they have.  We have to give them something, someone to build their hope around. 

That something is the Mercy of God and that someone is Jesus Christ. 

 

 

 

Spiritual Imbalance

Posted: June 5, 2008 in Brazil, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, Life, Prayer
Tags: , , ,

Have you ever felt as life was speeding past at 1,000 mph, and you were only capable of going 150 mph?  Or have you ever felt as if you were on a giant treadmill?  You know you’re running and running but you look around and you’re in the same exact spot that you were in a minute ago.  Frustrating isn’t it?  Exhausting isn’t it?

Well, that’s where I find myself these days.  Work has gotten out-of-control, and for the past several weeks I’ve been working 60+ hours a week, and I’m further behind than where I started.  I’m to the point where I find myself just sitting there, wondering what the heck to do next.  They told me it would be this way.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, it’s just I thought they were exaggerating somewhat.  Nope.  Par for the course for an underpaid and overworked state employee.   

So today I found myself calling in sick because I had just mentally and physically “hit a wall.”  While working on some backlog cases (see, even when sick I can’t get away from work), I realized that my life is out of balance.  I am neglecting God, family, friends and myself.  I can count on one hand how many times I’ve read the Bible or earnestly prayed during a dedicated “time with God” lately.  Granted, I pray all day long…about this, about that, for this person and for that person but I know I still need that dedicated time.

While thinking about this, I realized (Christy has been telling me this) that this was a subtle way of satan attacking me before we head to Brazil in July.  He’s devious that way.  Many of his attacks that are most effective happen in a subtle way.  We don’t even realize what has hit us until…BAM!, it’s too late.

So I asked God to take up this battle for me.  I asked him to anoint me with strength, discipline and efficiency to get everthing done before I leave.  I don’t want this workload hanging over my head while in Brazil. 

I also asked Him to tell me how to be in balance, so that my life is centered on Him and I am being effective as a disciple, husband, son, friend and co-worker.  This is what He told me: 

Spiritual balance is not worldly balance.  In this world, we think of balance as a measure of equality.  We view our lives as an enormous scale that needs to be balanced in order not to cause the scales to rise or fall past that state of equality.  We put too much on the work side, and our family time goes down.  We spend more than we make, we find ourselves in financial bondage.  Sounds so easy but in this world it’s a difficult task, and we often fail.  The closer we become to reaching a state of equality in our time, our work and our finances, the better.

But for us to reach the spiritual balance that God desires for us, we have to do the opposite of what we have been programmed to do.  Want to be happier…then you have to love more, give more.  Want to receive more…then you have to give more.  Want to grow spiritually…then you have to pray more, read His Word more and seek Him more.  Want to take control of your life…then you have to give Him complete control.  Want more blessings, more money…then you have to be a blessing to others and you have to share more of your money with others. 

Simply, if I, or we, want to be in spiritual balance so that we can be used more effectively for God, and can be a warrior for God, then we have to seek Him more, pray more, read His Word more and minister to a lost and dying world moreGod wants more of us.  He wants all that we can humanly give him.  We have to tip the scales so far in God’s direction that we can’t help but to be out-of-balance in a worldy sense but absolutely in balance with God. When we find that we are exhausted from seeking Him, praying, reading His Word and reaching a lost world, because we have given all we have to Him, then we will find a place of balance where our spirits can be contented, filled with joy, full of love and at peaceful rest.