Archive for the ‘missions’ Category

I found myself welling up with hatred.  Strange thing to hear from a pastor, but it’s true.  As I was watching a basketball game, the team I was cheering for (my college team) was struggling to stay in the game.  Playing in their conference tournament in what was supposed to be a neutral venue, the fans started turning on “my” team with incredible intensity.  Most of the loud crowd showed up at the end of the game preparing for the next matchup that featured their college team, which happened to be, located only 30 miles away.  So much for a neutral venue!  You see, they wanted my college team, the favorite and number one seed,  to lose so that their team would have an easier road to the Big Dance.

Even watching on TV, I saw how mean these fans were.  They were against the better team winning and I took it personally.  I felt like they thought they were so against us and that really really peeved me.  It even seemed like the officiating was biased.  After all, these were probably some of the same referees that worked the games of the team only 30 miles away from this “neutral” venue.

These are people I don’t know and that made it easier to not like them.  I found myself justifying it in my heart and  I became a hater of the entire state where this game was being played.  “I’ll never step foot in that state,” was one of my thoughts.

As I began to reflect on this, I was convicted and I began to realize something.  What I was feeling was no different from how many people outside the church feel about some of us who call ourselves Christians.  It could be because we often look at ourselves as competitors…and as better than the other team.  It’s the church vs. the world.  I’ve heard from non-believers that they feel like Christians are opposed to them and are “cheering against them.”  Some of this may be because we hold up a standard consistent to God’s Word that causes offense, but some of it may be purely out of our preference.  It’s one thing for me to believe that abortion is biblically wrong, it’s another thing for me to show unbiblical anger toward anyone involved in the pro-choice movement.  Another less extreme example would be the debate over climate change.  Somehow the church has been portrayed as anti-environmental and uncaring toward the earth.

The result…the folks in the grandstands that are not in the church look at all of us who are in the church as enemies.  Many hate us.  The people we are called to love and reach to and bridge the gap for, see us as opponents in the arena of life. I’ve heard that in Israel there are two words that Jewish followers of Jesus avoid using because they have a negative connotation there.  These words are Christian and church.  I wonder if the same is true where we live, and if it’s part of our mission to help people see us not as enemies but as friends.

Have you ever had someone say that “you’re one of those Christians” meaning that you are against them?  What have you done to change that?  Let’s put ourselves in others shoes and see whether or not they feel loved, accepted and forgiven…or if they feel like we are opposing them and rooting for their defeat.

-Peter

I can’t help but to think how helpless I am.  Even with all the willpower I muster up I still know that unless the Lord Himself works in my life, my efforts are really, really weak.  Yet, the fact that God uses ordinary human beings: jars of clay filled with something we cannot earn- His presence and glory, is a greater thought than how broken I am.

That’s why we have to do something with our healing other than bask in it.  I’ve known many who have been so blessed by their experience with God but then see them do very little with it other than flaunt their new found life as a trophy.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t praise and rejoice…but that it’s got to get beyond us and flow to others.  Grace found, grace given!

I was recently reading in the gospels and saw how many times Jesus healed the broken and immediately sent them back to their hometown or out to others.  The woman at the well, the invalid man on the mat, the guy filled with so many demons that he said his name was “Legion.”  All of these were wounded healers, not fully complete, but on the journey toward healing.  What I mean is that instead of going with Jesus and becoming part of the entourage, they took what they had been given and brought it to others.

I think all of us are called to be wounded healers.  Whether we have had a tough upbringing and God brought us through that…or if we had some physical challenges and God is working through that…or if we are seeing God in the midst of questions and challenges.  C.S. Lewis once said,  “Think of me as a fellow patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier could give some advice.”

A lot of times we think that we just need more of Jesus, and I agree, we do.  But, I wonder if our next encounter with Jesus is in our encounters with others who need the Jesus that we have, who need the healing we are experiencing.  Could it be that as we confess our life and show our brokenness being healed that we are further healed.  Maybe it’s not only our sin that we confess to one another, but our forgiven sin, our healing, our woundedness.

The man set free from demons begged Jesus to go with him, and I can understand why.  Who wouldn’t want the nurture of the Savior, the touch of the master again and again. Jesus wouldn’t let him though.  He said, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you.” Go…and become a wounded healer.

-Peter

‘Tis the season of giving, yet it is more often the season of getting.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

I am reflecting on Jesus’ words about offering a cup of water to his little ones.  Water is so easy to give when we have it available.  In fact, so easy that we don’t really think of offering it.  But in the time when Jesus wrote this and in places all around the world today, water is not so easy to come by.  1.1 Billion people in the world do not have access to clean water.

When I was in Rwanda a few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit one of the completed clean water wells that our church had the opportunity to fund.  It was amazing seeing the faces of the people as they came and pumped fresh, clean water into their jerrycans.  They described the dirty water that they used to gather to drink and wash from.

Today, I got an email from Mark Warren of Global Benefit who told me that Grace Capital Church’s funding has provided for the completion of  another new well in Rwanda.  This one provides water for 4000 people every day!  Jesus said a cup of water just to one of His little ones brings rewards, so I am looking forward to seeing God pour out blessings to our church- to people who give rather than just receive.

In the busy season of Christmas shopping, it’s time for all of us to reflect on those with far less than we have…people that will never have a fraction of the material wealth that we have.  But they can have water if you and I help give it to them.  After all, it’s what Jesus asked us to do.

-Peter

*Thanks to everyone at Grace Capital Church and Impact Youth for being so outward focused.  Your giving continues to bless thousands of people in the continent of Africa.  To date we have raised over $35,000 and completed two new wells in Rwanda as well as rehabbed 6 other wells in the Central African Republic and in Sierra Leone.

I made a phone call the other day, kind of out of the blue.  Something in me wanted to call a man that I had spoken to in the past about some business.  As the conversation went on, I knew that the call was much more than business.  It was clear that he was struggling with some things and needed some prayer.  I’m always reluctant to ask someone if I can pray for them, especially if I’m unsure of how they’ll respond.  This was true in this case.   Although I’m a pastor, I’m not this man’s pastor and I’m not even certain that he goes to church.

How many times do we miss the opportunity to reach out with the love of God, so consumed with our own lives and our own plans that the people right in front of us is invisible?  I think this is so true of many of us in the church.  We look at the blessings of being a Christian without understanding that we are blessed to be a blessing.  It’s really why we exist as followers of Christ- why the church exits in the world.

Someone once said that the church is the only organization that exists for those who aren’t members of it.  I like that quote…but I need to live it out more.  To be outward focused instead of inward focused is more than a matter of self-discipline.  It takes a constant remembering of where we came from and how God brought others into our lives when we were not following Him.  It’s how God came to us in the form of another person- to bring life.

The Christmas story speaks to us about God being “incarnate” in Christ; meaning God became man in order to relate to us and reach us on our level.  “He came to his own, but his own did not receive Him.  Yet to all who did receive Him, he gave the right to become children of God-” (Jn 1:11-12)  Incarnation didn’t stop with Jesus.  The church and those who are members of it, need to continue the process of restoring the broken, completing the task of Jesus.  Until we return to this mission, we will just be living our faith for ourselves alone.  And eventually that becomes a real drag!

It’s so easy to focus inward and miss the bigger picture of the world around us.  Like a light that is under a bushel, it makes no difference, shines in a very limited space, and even has the potential for internal combustion causing pain and damage.  But when we are engaged with the community that God has called us to reach, light shines so that the world may see our good deeds and praise the Father in heaven.

I’ve missed it so many times, but I’m grateful I made that phone call the other day.  Even though I believed I was calling for one thing (something that was about me), I obeyed the Holy Spirit who loves to draw people to Jesus.  God offers us many opportunities, and this is the season for giving, so let’s be a “go church”- a people that look outward not inward. This is why we exist!  We’ll be talking more about it beginning this Sunday in our new series: Them.  http://www.gccnh.com

-Peter

desert-cross

Today I was reading from the book of Luke and was reminded of what it must have been like when Jesus said goodbye to his friends and disciples.  It wasn’t a time that he packed his bags and found a new job in a new city, but a time when life was literally cut short.  Voluntarily, Jesus went to the cross- but that didn’t make it any easier.

There is a particular passage that I caught for perhaps the first time.  It’s when the women are weeping as Jesus passes them by on the way to Calvary.  He looks at them and, with a word of both comfort and challenge, tells them that they should be weeping for the generations to come. It’s as though He is saying, you think it’s bad right now?  There will be a day when the tree (the cross) is not green, but brown- and on that day things will even be worse.

As I have been reflecting on this past year, I can’t help but to notice how things have gone from bad to worse in our country.  Of course, the obvious place to look is the economy, the infighting politically, wartime, and family turmoil.  But that’s not what I mean.  People have become more and more oblivious to the love and grace of God.  They have managed so well at avoiding the most obvious source of all that is good- Jesus himself.

As I reflect, I also think of the church that, in many ways, has become just as oblivious.  We sit around weeping for ourselves, while the world around us has no one to intercede for them.  It’s much easier for us to judge them and live our own “blessed” lives.  At least it has been…but maybe not so much anymore.  In fact, the stuff that is is affecting all of us on the outside may be just the thing we need to shake us up on the inside.

As I reflect, I think of Jesus passing us by as we’re weeping for ourselves, our financial issues and things not going as we wanted them to go.  Maybe we are weeping because we are afraid of what this means for us.  And then Jesus passes by and says- don’t just weep for Me, and don’t just weep for you- but weep and intercede and care for those who have no concept.

As I reflect, I want to go into 2009 with an attitude of intercession, love and hope.  As the government is creating bail-out plans, let’s remember that the greatest bail out ever took place on a cross and that the way is open to anyone who would say yes.  Reflect with me.

-peter

I’m still catching up on sleep.  That’s what happens with jet lag and with the feeling of disengagement.  The trip to Rwanda seemed to go so quickly, probably becasue of how busy we were while there.  It was a good busy- a better busy than the American life offers us.

I want to thank all of you for praying for me on this trip.  I also want to thank the team from Grace Capital Church for making the mission so successful.  Thank you to the Smyths who are doing the most incredible job as missionaries and friends of the Rwandan people and the church.  We are so proud of you guys!

If you ever get the chance to go to Rwanda, please prayerfully consider it.  Your life will be changed forever. I’m home now, but I was at home among the believers there, and you would be too.

-Peter

Sunday in Rwanda is always full for missionaries.  It’s full because there are so many people worshiping God in so many diffferent churches.  It’s full because everyone of these churches would love to have you come and give a greeting.  And, it’s full because the whole day is given to God and to others.

Today I was asked to speak at one of our Foursquare churches three hours from the guesthouse we are staying at.  And not just any three hours- but three hours east up through one of the thousand hills.  The roads were dirt and rough and steep and meandering through small villages along the way.  There were times when I wondered if we would be able to climb them in the Nissan 4WD because of how narrow and how uncertain they seemed.  But, finally we arrived to a singing choir of people who were expectantly awaiting our arrival.  It seems that I was one of few Masungos (white person) that may have made it up to this village.  Most of the children were amused, but some were frightened.

As we worshiped together, we became friends.  My sermon notes were left in the pages of my Bible and I shared what I knew to share about Jesus being the only Way for all of us- Masungo or not.  Way up in these hills of Rwanda, I had new friends- friends in high places.  And many of them became friends with Jesus for the first time also.  I was so thrilled to see many respond to the message of God’s love and grace and accept Christ into their hearts!

Afterward, I was a guest at the pastors home- a meager mud house with two or three rooms.  Served the traditional drink of Fanta and the traditional meal of rice, boiled banana and stewed goat, we ate together and smiled and laughed and prayed.  Saying goodbye was like seeing off a close family member with pictures and embraces and holding the pastors small children.  It’s hard to believe it all happened so quickly, in just one day’s time- these friends in high places.

It took three hours to get there, but a lifetime of memories will be with me.  Mostly because I feel the Lord brought me there to receive their blessing, the blessing of knowing them and of helping them.  You see, the  Foursquare church started a school up in those hills so that the children would not have to walk 1-2 hours by foot.  And now children are coming from the surrounding hills to learn and to be brought to Jesus.  I think the Lord has called me to care deeply for my new friends in high places.

-Peter