Taking the Word to the World

Three and one half minutes rocked the world. The memorable rendezvous was January 21, 2009. It was the day that, out of obscurity, Susan Boyle, with her Celtic twang, encumbered by learning difficulties and shyness, stepped onto the stage of Britain’s Got Talent in Glasgow.  She literally shocked the panel, and mocking crowd, when she started to sing eight words, “I dreamed a dream in time gone by….” One of the judges gave her the biggest yes ever awarded in three years of the contest. She captured and then liberated the hearts of millions. There have been more than three hundred million hits on the YouTube video incarcerating those short moments. Susan’s “I Dreamed a Dream” holds the global record for the most preordered albums of all time. She defied preconceptions, probabilities, and set the stage for anyone and everyone with a dream.

About eight weeks ago my wife and I stepped off the plane in Guam and met fourteen young dreamers. Over the next three weeks of classroom instruction and interaction each of you, in your own way, crawled into our hearts, and took residency in our hope for the future. Then, after we left Guam to return to the States, you continued on to a further fruitful time of ministry for another five weeks. You—we—became family. As you pack your bags and leave in the next few hours, I know tears will be flowing in Guam. But, I also know there are a few tears flowing here in St. Louis as well. We love you! We believe in you!

Next Steps participants 2015, Brother and Sister Brott (our wonderful team leaders), Brother and Sister DeGuzman and Pacific Revival Center; Brother and Sister Prieto and Apostolic Bible Fellowship; Brother and Sister Buckland (Regional Directors, Pacific); Angie Clark; other instructors; and Sister Pat Morgan (faithfully working behind the scenes here at World Evangelism Center)—thank you for all you have done to make Next Steps 2015 such an overwhelming success.

As I prayed for you this morning a song softly pumped its lyrics through my earphones, “Spread your dreams and fly away.” That’s it! Spread your dreams, all across this world, as you fly away today. Fly into your future! Fly as high as God’s Spirit wants to take you! You rocked my world. I know that you can rock the world, at large, as well!

Thank you for being the dreamers that rocked my world!

First Kiss

I did it. First time ever. Or at least as long as I can remember. I kissed the pavement! Early Monday morning, walking briskly along, in exercise mode, I missed my footing, took a Goliath-sized fall, propelling me into my chin. I presently unproudly display a bloodied, burned, bruised, battered chin and wrist. Plus there is the knee hidden in the name of modesty yet painfully punished. I picked my battered body off the ground, with my walk abruptly and prematurely brought to the unfinished line, and limped home. There, I cleaned up and cleared out sundry wounds.

Surely, there are some spiritual implications here. Yep. Sometimes, we fall down. God picks us up. Scarred. Scratched. Battered by the world, bruised by sin, He washes us. He cleanses us. He restores us. He scrubs away our infirmities.

“He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along” (Psalm 40:2, NLT). “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10, NIV).

God’s Test Time

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am” (Genesis 22:1). Unbelievable? God tempted His friend and follower. Not quite. God doesn’t tempt anyone (James 1: 13-14). He tests to prove us.

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Any instructor knows one of the greatest motivational teaching tools and techniques available is to say, “That will be on the test!” Students perk up. Notebooks fly open. Pens are grasped. Notes are scribbled. Highlighters underline.

It was a test that God gave to Abraham, not a temptation to sin. God didn’t want Abraham’s life. (Or should I say, God didn’t want Abraham’s promised son’s life). He wanted Abraham’s heart. He wanted to prove what was already there. Without tests we wouldn’t know what we are made of. Without tests we wouldn’t know what God is made of.

What’s the difference between temptations, trials, tribulations, and tests? I will take a little peek at temptations, trials, and tests.

Temptation:

  • Designed by Satan to draw us away from God.
  • Comes from the flesh.
  • Typically attacks a weak spot.
  • Commonly come from within.
  • Designed to bring out the worst in us.
  • Usually money, sex, power. Girls, gold, and glory.
  • Biblically divided:
    • Lust of the flesh
    • Lust of the eyes
    • Pride of life

The bottom line: Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us.

Test or Trial:

  1. Usually test our strengths.
  2. Bring out the best in us.
  3. Usually come from outside/without.
  4. Designed by God to draw us closer to Himself.
  5. Regularly is a God-given opportunity for you to practice and test your spiritual relationship with God.
  6. Sent from God
  7. All of life is a test. Always being tested. God watches your responses (Rick Warren).

Remember:

  1. Character is both developed and revealed by tests.
  2. True faith is tested.
  3. Trust is not necessarily spoken it is demonstrated.

Here’s the bottom line: God tests us to help bring out the best in us.

In the first few chapters of Job there is this conversation in heaven concerning him. He has no idea. In fact, you have no idea the conversations that may be going on in heaven about you.

We can pass the test, with flying colors, and get the gold star/seal just like Job (and Abraham): “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:10-12).

God’s test will bring out the best in us!

photo credit: Jim’s Wood Turning via photopin (license)

You may have thought from the title that this is a blog about gripes concerning young people. Nope. Far from it! Recently, I spent three marvelous weeks on Guam, where they say America’s day begins; probably because the island is fifteen hours ahead of us in places like St. Louis.

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Each day, a couple hours after the sun rose, we staggered into a waiting classroom. We covered over seventy sessions equipping young—and not so young—minds for missionary and ministry service.

Each day I looked into the faces of fourteen amazing, anointed, able, apostolic, developing individuals.

I …

  • Sensed their passion
  • Saw their vision
  • Felt their burden
  • Listened to their devotion
  • Studied their gifting
  • Discussed their future
  • Dreamed of their destiny
  • Heard their prayers
  • Applauded their inspiration and perspiration

I was…

  • Touched by their kindness
  • Impressed by their togetherness
  • Strengthened by their courage
  • Motivated by their desires
  • Humbled by their sacrifice
  • Stirred by their desires
  • Awestruck by their possibilities
  • Enthralled by their sensitivity

They left me…

  • Convicted
  • Corrected
  • Challenged
  • Captivated
  • Changed

Three weeks with these world-changers wildly, well, and wisely spent. An amazing investment!

Blessed in Bereavement

While in Guam, on Next Steps 2015, the missionary’s Dad passed away leaving a tremendous heritage. My missionary friend could have gone home. He didn’t. He had a choice. He stayed. What sacrifice. What commitment. I’m forever grateful.

One morning the Next Steps team gathered round. We prayed. We gave flowers. We hugged.

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Blessed with prayers. Blessed with concern. Blessed with flowers. But, Bailey, blessed with words. Words worth sharing:

“I heard one time that from pain we grow, and through growing we learn, and after learning we teach.

Through every painful experience that you have been through, God wants to use you to teach others to grow in Him. Knowing that God has His hand on your lives and on your ministry, you confidently grow and heal and learn to use this pain for His glory.

As you see the bloom of these flowers, know and understand that although they made fade, the word of our God stands forever. The promises God has given you still remains, His call is still active. Stay strong. And lean on His word.

The Next Steps team, and the Next Steps individuals are praying for you constantly. We love you very dearly.”

Thanks, Bailey! You’ve taught us in a few words we can be blessed in bereavement. Thanks, Brother and Sister David Brott, you’ve blessed us even in your bereavement.

photo credit: Red Carnations in a vase via photopin (license)

“Mop water and pray,” she said. “Mop water and pray.” I listened, mesmerized by her words. Sister Laura Long stood and recounted what it was like to endure the magnificent power of a category five cyclone. It hovered directly above the Bible school, where many sought refuge from the wind and rain. For hours, mothers clung to their children and flinched as the storm pounded the doors and windows. The shrill of the wind was deafening. Sister Long’s husband used his body to brace the door. Water shot in through the bottom. Both AIMers, the Long’s were stationed in Port Villa, Vanuatu to serve with missionaries Peter and Robyn Gration. At the mercy of a storm raging at 200 miles per hour, all they could do was “mop water and pray.”

But that was over a week ago. Along with two others, I had landed in Port Villa to form a CSI response team. Over the coming days, our job was to assess the damage done to the national church infrastructure and develop a disaster relief plan. After being briefed by the Long’s, our team hired a local pastor and together we drove around the island. On day one, we counted three churches that were either completely or mostly destroyed.

CSI Truck

Talking with local pastors and saints, we discovered that the cyclone had destroyed Vanuatu’s system of crops. Because it was a country built on subsistence agriculture, the lack of crops was the most devastating result of Cyclone Pam. Even if families planted new crops immediately, it would be 6—9 months before sustainable harvests were available.

Analyzing the situation, the CSI team decided to create strategic locations to store food, tools, and other goods. Just as Joseph in Egypt stored goods in the seven years of plenty in preparation for seven years of famine, we established “The Joseph Project.” In time, we were able to stock multiple pallets with rice, flour, dry noodles, canned meat, and crackers in expectation of national food shortages.

Into the Bush 1

After hearing of damage done to other islands, the CSI team along with a local pastor and missionaries Long and Gration chartered a plane to establish multiple Joseph Project sites on Epi Island. After a shaky plane ride, we landed on a bumpy grass runway. A truck met us onto which we loaded our gear and supplies. While sitting on bags of rice in the back of the truck, our delegation drove an hour into the bush before arriving at a village called Nuvie. There, we presented dry goods along with hammers, nails, saws, and tarps to the village. Before flying out later that day, we presented resources to a second village.

During our two week stay in Vanuatu, the CSI team worked alongside men in Port Villa’s churches to demolish the destroyed church sanctuary located on the Bible school’s compound. Lastly, we were glad to provide the necessary materials to help rebuild two homes.

Pulpit 2

In all of the damage done by the cyclone, there was great beauty to be seen. I will never forget the pulpit that I saw after walking into the mangled sanctuary of the headquarters church. Though covered in debris, wires, and metal beams that had fallen from the roof, it stood ever so stalwartly. As we began to cut down the twisted beams and shovel the sheetrock and insulation moistened by the rain, I kept looking back to the pulpit. Like a soldier tired by battle, it was bent but not broken. To me, it stood as a testament to the church. What a sermon it preached. Yes, the church in Vanuatu was weakened by winds and rain. It was weakened, but not destroyed. Like the pulpit which stood and preached in the sun that day, it holds true. As the pulpit was bent but not broken, the church in Vanuatu will continue to shine reflecting Christ and his magnificent glory. In the end, after the ceiling had fallen it landed and found a resting place on top of the pulpit. In like manner, God’s great church scattered among the many islands of Vanuatu will hold together a nation and be the hope that rises in the remains of the storm.

Were you to open my journal you would see it all throughout. You could not fail to notice all of the places where the stiff necked soldiered lines of proper words standing at attention turn to jagged, fluid flops of gibberish. What formerly held the promise of prose slumps off into scribble. The thoughts I have been rushing to ink out onto paper are cut short. The paragraphs I meant to pile up into pleasing turns of phrase have turned another direction entirely.

Why?

Because a tiny hand keeps grabbing hold of my pen.

I could take it back. I could pry that pen straight out of those pudgy hands by force of my own superior prowess.

But I don’t.

Instead, I teach her how to pass it back to me.

I am in control. I can give commands but I with all my power, I wait with open hands.

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She tries to create for herself. Even now. Even early. She tries to create while she cannot possibly comprehend what she is crafting. She scribbles for a little while, observes her craft and then, weary of her writing work she hands me back the pen. And that, that very instant is the moment when I with all my knowledge can begin to write again.

I write words beyond her imagining. Words she cannot possibly begin to understand.

The story begins to make sense once more, when the pen is in my hand.

It is this mystery miraculous that He who crafted space waits for us to make room for Him.

He sits enthroned on high, yet we can knock Him off of the throne of our hearts any time we feel like it.

He created time, and sometimes we manage to spare a bit for Him.

He can chase the east wind at the speed of light but He waits with wild tenacity for us to be willing to walk with Him.

It is a mystery miraculous, this mystery miracle love.

As you go on in my journal you will smile much now and then when you see all of the places that she grabbed the pen again.

But greater still the times she placed it back into my hands, so I could write the harder words, so I could etch out plans.

She will grow. And she will know that all the time it seemed

That I took from her

That I cheated her

And did it with a smile

On every page

At every age

I was writing all the while

The rhyming and the rhythm of things she’s never dreamed.

photo credit: Fuji X100S Macro via photopin (license)

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