THE 6 C’S of CHANGE (Part 2) Finding Courage in a Modern Day Crisis

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Esther was a Jew who grew up as an exile in Persia hundreds of years before Christ.

King Xerxes was the powerful King at the time who ruled over 127 provinces.

Queen Vashti was the beautiful wife of Xerxes who refused to show off her beauty in front of King Xerxes party guests which set in motion the rise of Esther.

Mordecai was Esther’s older cousin.

Haman held a royal title with the Amalekites, who were long standing enemies of the Jews.

These are the characters of an epic story that brings us from a wicked, evil plot to a risky, life-saving commitment.

At the end of a 7 day binge party, with the King’s judgment impaired by alcohol, Xerxes makes an arrogant and voyeuristic order to have Queen Vashti, his extravagantly beautiful wife, to parade provocatively in front of all of his guests.

Sadly, the Persia of Xerxes’ day was much like what too much of our world is today. Women were used, abused and exploited with very little rights.

She refuses to do it, which infuriates and embarrasses the King and she is banished from his presence, demoted and no longer queen.

The King begins to look for a new queen.

Those who become candidates to become the new queen have to go through twelve months of beauty treatments before being seen by the king.

Esther becomes one of the candidates.

And because of her beauty Esther is chosen by King Xerxes to become queen.

Meanwhile Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin, saves the King by alerting him of an assassination attempt on his life. This heroic deed is recorded in the record books, which becomes an important part of this story.

At the same time, Haman is given a high position in the kingdom by the King and becomes annoyed when Mordecai refuses to kneel down to him. Haman’s anger leads him to plot the execution of all the Jews of the kingdom.

Here’s the CRISIS: The extermination of the Jews.

To try to stop the execution of all the Jews, Mordecai calls on his younger cousin, Queen Esther to intercede to the King.

There are two problems to that request.
One, the King does not know that Esther is a Jew.
Two, she could be killed because it was illegal, upon penalty of death, for anyone, even her, to appear before the king uninvited.

As a Jew, Esther is convicted to do something, but there is much risk to actually following through.

And here we have this very familiar, human tension: We have CONVICTION, but will it turn into a COMMITMENT to act?

In the words of Thomas Carlyle, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into commitment.”

Esther is queen and she knows the right thing to do. But life is good, life is comfortable and here in lies the tension.
Have you ever known the right thing to do, but you are comfortable, and to do the right thing might inconvenience you?

Mordecai is concerned about this tension between conviction and commitment and he sees Esther’s reluctance to approach the King so as an older cousin he challenges her with some stern, challenging words.
“If you keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver the Jews from some other source, but you and your relatives will die; what’s more, who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?”

With these words, Esther makes the COMMITMENT to appeal to the King.

And the COST is she could be demoted as queen
The CONSEQUENCES could be she could be killed.

Before she approaches the king, she asks Mordecai to organize a time of prayer and fasting for her. She is well aware that she needs God’s favor if she is to succeed.

She needs another C word: COURAGE

To do anything significant and worthy we must allow courage to win over fear.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

The great 20th century theologian Karl Barth is famous for saying, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

courage

Meanwhile, Haman’s hatred for Mordecai is growing so he has a special gallows built beside his house on which to hang Mordecai.

At the same time, King Xerxes cannot sleep and asks for the record books to be read aloud to him. (I could think of better bed time reading material.)
But while the record book was being read out loud the deeds of Mordecai in saving the king in the past are read.

In an ironic and almost humorous twist of fate, the King asks Haman what should be done to a man who the King wants to honor and Haman, in his arrogance, thinks the king is referring to him and advises a lavish display of wealth and praise to be bestowed on the man publicly.
The King orders Haman to do this for Mordecai. Imagine the shock and humiliation Haman must have felt,

COURAGE: Esther finally goes to the King and reveals that she is a Jew and Haman has plotted to kill them all.

CHANGE: The kings responds by not killing Esther, but honors her request and save the Jews and Haman ends up getting hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. (That is the definition of irony!)

God brought Esther into the palace for such a crisis as this so that the Jews would be saved, but she had to go through the 6 C’s of CHANGE, where a conviction had to move to a commitment where she had to count the cost and be willing to face the consequences.

It’s an amazing story of a crisis that led to a miraculous change:

But there is another CRISIS I would like to talk about. It’s a modern day crisis that you and I are in the middle of.

The CRISIS:

There are 163 million orphans in the world and counting

Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS

There are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster system

There are over 100,000 children in U.S. foster system waiting to be adopted

An estimated 80% of children who are sex trafficked come from the U.S. foster system.

When children “age-out” of orphanages around the world they often become homeless or become part of the slave trade or sex trade.

My nephew and niece, Jacob and Kelly Ricketts adopted two beautiful boys, who were 1 and 2 years old at the time and the boys had already been in 8 different foster homes.

The plight of abandoned and orphaned children in our world globally and locally is the CRISIS of our day.

CONVICTION: From the teachings of the prophets to the teachings of Jesus and those who followed him, the scriptures have been very clear that we should live with a deep conviction to be a defender of the orphan.

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6

“Defend the cause of orphans…” Isaiah 1:17

“…speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Proverbs 31:8

“Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world.” James 1:27

“Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don’t stand back and let them die. Don’t try to disclaim responsibility by saying you didn’t know about it. For God, who knows all hearts, knows yours, and he knows you knew! And he will reward everyone according to his deeds.” Proverbs 24:12

And here we are again at the tension between CONVICTION and COMMITMENT.

COMMITMENT: God is asking those of faith to move from conviction, knowing the right thing to do, to commitment, actually doing the right thing.
God is asking us to get involved in another C word, and that is to CARE!

Change the future of a vulnerable child.
Accept an orphan or vulnerable child into your family.
Reinforce orphans and the families who have accepted them.
Energize others to care for orphans.

Change the future of a vulnerable child globally by sponsoring a child through Compassion International, by supporting a home that rescues girls from the horrors of sex trafficking or invest in an orphanage where abandoned children are given love and support.

Change the future of a vulnerable child locally by being a mentor through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or volunteer at a local Boy’s and Girl’s Club or sign up to be a student leader at your local church.

Accept an orphan into your family globally by adopting the most vulnerable and at risk children.

Accept an orphan into your family locally by adopting or fostering a child or becoming a SAFE family.

Reinforce orphans and the families who have accepted them by taking mission trips to orphanages and supporting adoptive, foster and SAFE families. Become a CASA. (Court Appointed Special Advocate)

Energize others to care for orphans by sharing with others what you have learned, being a voice and an advocate to get those around you involved.

What will this commitment cost us?

COST: Our TIME, TALENTS and TREASURES.

But I don’t know what could be a better investment of these things?

Jesus said, “Don’t invest your time, talents and treasures in temporary things that are fragile and vulnerable to going away.”
Jesus gave great investing advice when he said, “Invest in things that will outlast this world. Invest in heavenly treasures where the dividends continue to pay throughout eternity.”

ORPHANS are those eternal treasures he was talking about.

If those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ lead the way humbly, we can change this crisis.
Imagine if every person of faith made a COMMITMENT in this CRISIS to CARE?
Hundreds of millions of volunteers using their time, talents and treasures would be mobilized.

If 1 out of every 3 churches in America would find 1 family to adopt 1 kid there would be no orphans in America.

History has shown that people of faith have tended to be late to arrive to the major crises of the world, but it’s not too late.

There is a Chinese Proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

If the 138 million Americans who call themselves serious, committed followers of Jesus would engage locally and globally in this CRISIS, we will begin to see some miraculous CONSEQUENCES:

The consequences in the words of the prophet from the 58th chapter of Isaiah will be, “Those of us of faith will be known as those who can fix anything and we will be known as restorer of old ruins and re-builders and renovators who are making our communities livable again.”

Jesus said that when we have that kind of reputation, then God will be glorified.

And the orphans and most vulnerable will be the leaders of CHANGE:

Dr. Scott C. Todd gives us some prophet words when he writes,
“No major spiritual, social or economic change of any significance can happen in this world without the permission of children.
We tend to think of children in terms of needs and vulnerabilities. They need guidance, education, nourishment, and protection from the evil threats of this world. Absolutely true. But we also need to recognize the catalytic power in children for change. They are God’s agents and opinion-shapers. We need to engage, invest, sacrifice and re-focus and recognize the power of children to change the world.”

From CRISIS to CHANGE.
It will take COURAGE and CARE.

You may be wondering why I shared with you the Esther CRISIS before I shared with you the orphan CRISIS.
Well, one reason is because it’s a powerful study of COURAGE, but the main reason was because Esther was an ORPHAN and her older cousin, Mordecai adopted and invested in her.

I wanted you to see the power of an orphan.
An orphan saved an entire nation, but it took someone believing in her.

History is full of orphans who have made this world a better place.
Moses, who left a comfortable, safe life and led Israel out of slavery, was an orphan
Esther, who had the guts to stand up to a king and risk death to save a nation, was an orphan
Saint Nicholas, the patron saint and protector of children, was an orphan
Founding U.S. father, Alexander Hamilton and two U.S. presidents, Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover, were orphans.
Nelson Mandela was an orphan.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an orphan.
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and the key to leading C.S. Lewis to become a follower of Jesus which led to so many important Christian writings, was an orphan
Musicians, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ella Fitzgerald, Faith Hill, Tina Turner, were orphans.
George Washington Carver, scientist, inventor, was an orphan, and if he really invented peanut butter, then I owe him an eternal debt.
For all of you addicted to your cell phones, Steve Jobs was an orphan.

The power of an orphan! The power of a child!

God leads by example on this because spiritually, we were all orphaned, and God adopted us.
“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!” Ephesians 1:5
And when we defend and adopt, we are being exactly like God.

He doesn’t want us to defend the orphan out of guilt, but out of love, because like God, we want to.
This is not about obligation but about opportunity.
This is not a burden but a blessing.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numbers and statistics. Just take a step forward and do what you can.

“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something: Yet, just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can.” Helen Keller

MAY WE HAVE THE COURAGE OF ESTHER TO DO SOMETHING TRULY GREAT! May Esther 4:14 be paraphrased for our generation.

“If we keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver defenseless orphans from some other source, but our spirits will shrivel and God’s credibility will die; yet who can say that God has not brought us, our global knowledge, our compassionate hearts and our blessed resources into this generation to defend the orphan and change the world for such a time as this?”

http://www.compassion.com/default.htm

http://www.ijm.org/

http://www.live58.org/

http://www.127online.org/

http://www.safe-families.org/

Songs That Make the Whole World Sing

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Songs have a way of marking the seasons of our lives.

From cheesy love songs during our teenage years to one hit wonders that we can’t get our of our minds to songs of healing and hope during tough times to songs that challenge us to live more courageously, music is a powerful source of motivation, entertainment and influence in our lives.

These are some of the “Worst” and “Best” lyrics that have motivated, entertained and influenced me.

Best “Picture of Heaven” lyrics

Earth Wind & Fire “Wonderland”

Come on in and enter as a child
Always wear a smile
Love and laughter here all the while
The flag of salvation waves around
Freedom here abounds
The joy in the sound
Calls my name – on this day

Leave behind your shame and your disgrace
Here they have no place
You will wear the garment of His grace
The rising sun will never set again
Sorrows at its end
And every word that spoken shouts amen
Take me there

Best “Challenge to Live Life at its Fullest” lyrics

OneRepublic “I Lived”

Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You build a wall

Hope when the crowd screams out
They’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay

Hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

Best “Sarcasm About Religion” lyrics

Eagles “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture

And we pray to our Lord
Who we know is American
He reigns from on high
He speaks to us through middle men
And he shepherds his flock
We sing out and we praise His name
He supports us in war
He presides over football games
And the right will prevail
All our troubles shall be resolved
We have faith above all
Unless there’s money or sex involved

Frail grasp on the big picture
Nobody’s calling them for roughing up the kicker
It’s a frail grasp on the big picture
Heaven help us

Frail grasp on the big picture
All waiting for that miracle elixir

Best “Honoring Of Fallen Heroes” lyrics

Bruce Springsteen “Into The Fire” Tribute to 911

The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

You gave your love to see in fields of red and autumn brown
You gave your love to me and lay your young body down
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need you near but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

Worst “Love Song That’s Really About Stalking” lyrics

The Police “Every Breath You Take”

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

(Very creepy!)

Best “Promise Of God’s Healing” lyrics

The Reel “Come Back Home”

It’s hard to come back home
when you’ve never really had one
never really had one

Is that why you
keep running from love?
You never really felt it
cause it never really lasted

The very hands that held you
Only let you fall
But…

Love is reaching out
with His arms now
strong enough to hold your pain
His hands won’t let you go
no, your not alone
He won’t ever walk away
His voice is calling out
with a love you’ve never known
“Come back home”

Best “I Was Born To Give You My Entire Life” lyrics

U2 “Magnificent”

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise …

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
But only love, only love unites our hearts

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent
Magnificent

Worst “Pick-Up Line” lyrics

NSYNC “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You”

Your love is like a river
Peaceful and deep
Your soul is like a secret
That I never could keep
When I look into your eyes
I know that it’s true
God must have spent…
A little more time
On you…
(A little more time, yes he did baby)

Best “Lifting Children out of Poverty” lyrics

Audio Adrenaline “Kings & Queens”

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent too brief
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

[Chorus:]
Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

I would love to hear some of the “best” and “worst” lyrics that have influenced your life.

The Power of a Letter

Esther

Esther

Marcos

Marcos

Angie

Angie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Esther and Marcos work at the Compassion Office in Lima, Peru. They help process letters between sponsors and sponsor children. They were both sponsor children themselves.

Angie lives in Ica, Peru. She has just recently been sponsored.

I wrote this poem after meeting them.

The three of them taught me about the power of a letter.

Compassion published this on their website on April 8th under their blog section.  http://www.compassion.com/

The Power of a Letter

Esther grew up poor in the country of Peru
She wanted to dream but didn’t know how to
Her stomach often empty, holes in her shoes
Poverty doesn’t ask, it’s not something you choose

Marcos had a mother, she did the best she could do
Life was hard, his belly hungry, in the sands of Peru
He longed for a father, he longed for a dad
He grew into adolescence, he grew into sad

Angie’s sister was sick, her 4 siblings prayed
Their face full of tears, while at church they played
Momma held her tight, through the Peruvian night
But her sister grew weak, and gave up the fight

Esther found hope, she found God’s love redeems
She found a church that cared, they told her to dream
They gave her food that filled, and shoes that were whole
She discovered new skills, new purpose, a new soul

Marcos learned to read, to write and to finally understand
That he had another Father, who loved him and had a plan
The church taught him, fed him, quickly growing tall
But he still struggled and wondered the meaning of it all

Angie hugs her momma, she squeezes out the grief
She tells her sis is in heaven, it’s the core of her belief
Her dry mouth is thirsty, water comes once a week
She’s thankful for the church, it delivers her relief

Esther has a new friend, a sponsor from another land
They say they really love her, yet letters they never send
Everyone else seems to get one, a new one every day
She sits, watches and wonders, will one ever come my way

Marcos brain is spinning, he’s wondering if life’s worth living
He doesn’t know where to go, is another day worth giving
But his new friends who sponsor, who write him quite often
Remind him of some wisdom, and his heart begins to soften

Angie’s roof is leaking, it’s made of straw and hay
But her smile is a sign that she’ll make it one more day
Her house is very fragile, but she is standing strong
Around the world a sponsor is telling her she’s not wrong

Esther grew into a woman, with great faith and passion
She grew as a leader, it’s what was taught by Compassion
She struggled not knowing her sponsor’s opinions
So she made a vow it wouldn’t happen to other children

Marcos read the letters, memorizing his sponsor’s scriptures
It brought healing to his mind, and to life a clearer picture
He now makes sure that children receive the same gift
By processing words that give them an affirmative lift

Angie is still young, she will have a sponsor for years
But she is still yet to get that first letter, so she fears
Will she be like Esther, waiting day after day after day
Or will it be like Marcos, receiving words that will light her way

The good news is Jesus lives in Esther, Marcos and Angie’s heart
Their sponsors gave willingly and it played a huge part
But don’t underestimate the power that a simple letter can make
God’s wisdom does not return void, it’s a gift you can’t forsake

So if you sponsor a beautiful child made by God’s own hands
Write a letter today and tell them about God’s amazing plans
Write them a scripture, one they will surely memorize
Maybe it’s Jeremiah 29:11, God’s promise they will thrive

…is not this the kind of fast I have chosen:

Fasting is the denial of self to allow us to become more sensitive to God and more passionate towards the things God is passionate towards. And then to act on those things.

Fasting does not change God. Fasting changes us.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

Recently around a thousand people at my church fasted for a week on rice and beans, just to more closely identify to people who do not have the food options most Americans have.

Most of us are not worried about whether we will eat enough today. In fact, most of us are worried that we will eat too much today.

I know there are hungry people in America, but compared to third world hunger, even hungry Americans have great access to food.

For most third world countries, rice and beans are a delicacy, yet in America, we take these nutritional staples for granted.

Rice and beans may be a step down for us but it is a delicacy in poverty stricken nations.

In Haiti moms have come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau.

Haitimothersdirtcakes

A meal of rice and beans costs nearly $1, but a dirt cake only costs a few cents.

By eating these dirt cakes, patties, Haitian children almost certainly ingest intestinal parasites.

The parasitic worms that were in the dirt will devour up to 25% of the nutrients you eat. Without a 2 cent de-worming pill these parasites will linger in your digestive tract perpetually, thus drastically stunting a Haitian child’s mental and physical development.

When I shared these facts about Haitian mothers and children, our congregation was humbled and broken.

We handed out a starter pack of rice and beans at the end of every service, with a list of things to pray for during the fast and a list of organizations they could support.

At every meal people prayed for those around the world and in our own country who were hungry.

Because rice and beans are a delicacy in poor countries, we were not really sacrificing too much.

But by not eating anything else for a week, it taught many how to simplify. It taught many to be more thankful.

After the fast was over, many realized how much food Americans waste, and how we should and could eat more simply.

wastedfood

Since that week of fasting, grocery bills have been less, because people learned they could still eat well, with a smaller budget.

Since that week, a 20 thousand square foot organic garden was started on our churches property by people who are passionate about people eating healthy food.

It was interesting how children led the way.

One family was going to fast one meal a day, on rice and beans, until their 8 year old son, broke down and told them in tears that if they were really going to be like people who are hungry, they needed to eat rice and beans for all three meals. The family followed his lead.

One woman during the “fast” realized how much she was spending on diet Coke. She decided at the end of the week to stop drinking diet Coke (her husband called it rat poison) and she has used the savings to sponsor another child through Compassion International.

That one week has made our church more compassionate towards the things God is compassionate for.

The definition of compassion is: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

That one week taught us that true fasting is always “accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate suffering.”

We are doing a better job of following the words of Mother Teresa, “Live simply so others may simply live.”

I would challenge churches to try this “beans and rice” fast. It will change you and bless you..

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This is the information we handed out with the starter pack of rice and beans:

“…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Isaiah 58:10

Get the facts about hunger and how it affects children and their families:

>One person in seven battles hunger every day.

>More than 9 million children under age 5 die every year, and malnutrition accounts for more than one-third of these deaths. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

>About 5.6 million deaths of children worldwide are related to under-nutrition. This accounts for 53 percent of the total deaths for children under 5. Worldwide, 161 million preschool children suffer from chronic malnutrition.

       >923 million people worldwide are undernourished, and there are more than 9 million deaths related to hunger each year.

Sources: http://www.wfp.org, http://www.unicef.org, http://www.who.int, http://www.un.org

WHAT CAN I DO?
>Fast and Pray for those who are hungry (Join us for a 5 day fast of eating rice and beans, while praying for the hungry and discussing ways to solve hunger with family and friends. Let us know about your conversations and how the fast has affected you by posting your experiences on GVCC’s facebook page. Remember, rice and beans are a delicacy in third world countries.)
>Sponsor a child through Compassion International. (Sponsored children and their families are given proper nutrition through education and balanced meals. For more information go to Compassion.com)
>Tithe and get involved with GVCC’s Saturday Morning Café. (GVCC is able to buy groceries for our Saturday morning giveaway for 10 cents on the dollar. Your tithe allows us the buying power to have adequate amounts of food. Plus volunteering in the Café will help you see and understand the face of hunger.)
>Volunteer and help support GVCC’s organic garden. (This garden will help supply the hungry of El Dorado county with nutritious fruits and vegetables. Food that is not often available to the hungry.)
>Be a voice for the voiceless. (Proverbs 31:8 says to be a voice for the voiceless and to speak up for those who cannot be heard. The hungry need more voices to speak up for them.)

A Prodigal’s Progress

ArtRembrandtSon2

“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

As Mother Teresa said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’”

A Gratitude Poem – Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I am thankful for today, it’s a gift not deserved
It allows me the privilege to humbly serve
I am thankful for the poor who teach me real faith
They teach me how to walk, in more eloquent ways

I am thankful for the pain that I try hard to avoid
It draws me to the only One who can fill my heart void
I am thankful for my tears that sting my blood shot eyes
They bring healing to my hurt and expose the lies

I am thankful that man is not perfect, as not to depend
It reminds me to put my hope in the One without end
I am thankful for my mistakes, for my sins and disgrace
It keeps me from religion and makes me run towards Grace

I am thankful for the journey, life’s ups and downs
Living fully in the moment,  possibilities have no bounds
I am thankful for friends, who put up with my foolish ways
“He is a stubborn mule, but we love him anyways!”

I am thankful for the beauty, that never goes away
Looking at her smile, that is offered every day
I am thankful for her brown hair, brunette I’m told
It was that way from the beginning, it never gets old

I am thankful for two gifts, their eyes deep vivid blue
They have grown up wisely, I am enjoying the view
I am thankful for their passionate, selfless hearts
Their maturity comes from the side of their mother’s parts

I am thankful for the two who brought me into this world
They allowed me to dream, to make my life unfurled
I am thankful when they would say, “Follow your passions”
It has brought me to difficult places full of God’s fashion

I am thankful for my creator, who wonderfully made me
He makes me walk boldly with a sense of great responsibility
I am thankful for his patience, his utter sense of waiting
For me to grow up, get on board and become consenting

I am thankful for children, showing hope for tomorrow
They teach me to trust, play, love, laugh and marvel
I am thankful for children, who have no limitations
They teach me to dream, to ask, and not to question

I am thankful for forgiveness, a gift offered freely
Makes me let go of past grudges and do it more quickly
I am thankful for the Sacrifice willing to be punished
My life is based on Him saying, “It is Finished!”

4 Guarantees That Cannot Be Taken Away

There are a lot of things that cannot be guaranteed.

Will I live a long, healthy life?
Will I make a lot of money?
Will my candidate be elected?
Will I find the love of my life?
Will I get that dream job?
Will I be labeled “successful” by my peers and family?

I can’t guarantee those things for you.
You can’t guarantee those things for you.
No one can guarantee those things for you.
God doesn’t guarantee those things for you.

There are 4 things God guarantees for us, everyday, if we embrace them.

They do not depend on the right circumstances, the right candidates or the right economy.

They are secure and cannot be taken away.

The first guarantee that cannot be taken away is…

…the GIFT of being uniquely created

Viktor E. Frankl wrote this while in a Nazi concentration camp, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Everyday you can wake up and know that God uniquely made you for something greater than yourself.

You cannot be replaced. You are deeply needed.

You have unique strengths and talents that God has planned from the beginning of time to be used to bring hope and healing to this broken world.

No circumstances can take this GIFT away from you.

Everyday you wake up and look in the mirror, remind yourself that you are one of a kind, and God wants to use your talents, passions and experiences to make this world a better place.

Everyday you can live with the GIFT, hope and confidence that you are not an accident and you were created for this moment and this time in history to do something great.

Do not play it small. Do not wonder why you are here.

You are here on purpose. You are one of a kind.

Embrace this gift!

The second guarantee that cannot be taken away is…

…the JOY of forgiveness

There is nothing more paralyzing than the regret, pain and grief of past mistakes and sins.

Our self esteem plummets as we live with the consequences of what our past transgressions have brought to us.

Depression, addictions and other destructive behaviors try to mask the pain of our past.

Yet…you are no different than anyone else in the room.

You are no better or worse than the people to your left or to your right.

You are not a better or worse sinner than the people in your neighborhood.

You do not have the “corner market” when it comes to irreversible sins.

God sent his son Jesus to die for the sins of the world, and you are not an exception to the rule.

God is bigger than your sin.

God’s love for you is greater than your regret.

When we come to God with our grief, he is there to replace it with his forgiveness and that is a JOY we can embrace and live with everyday and nothing can take that away.

Someone once said, “After grief for sin there should be joy for forgiveness.”

C.S. Lewis said, “I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.”

Knowing we are forgiven by God is the biggest step towards mental health.

Forgiveness is the greatest need for the human race.

The third guarantee that cannot be taken away is…

…the OPPORTUNITIES of today

Bill Keane said something deeply profound when he wrote, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”

We are often so consumed by the regrets of the past or the worries of tomorrow that we miss the OPPORTUNITIES of today.

Scriptures remind us over and over that, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

They remind us to, “Remember how short our lives are so we should treasure and live each day wisely.”

They remind us that everyday, “God’s mercy, grace and power is offered to us, to do His will, to be His light.”

Everyday that we wake up and have breath is an opportunity to experience the abundant life God has offered to us.

Everyday is an opportunity to grow, learn, celebrate, laugh, cry, serve and love a world that desperately needs it.

“For God so loved the world…”, and it changed everything!

When we use every opportunity to “love the world…”, it changes everything, mostly ourselves.

Paulo Coelho, author of the powerful book “The Alchemist” wrote, “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

The fourth guarantee that cannot be taken away is…

…the PROMISE of tomorrow

We can live fearlessly everyday, embracing our uniqueness, celebrating our forgiveness and boldly loving in difficult places because of God’s promise of the future.

The Apostle Paul showed us that “No eye has seen, or mind can comprehend what God is preparing for those who love Him.”

He also reminds us that, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.”

The Apostle John saw that we can live with the security that one day, “There will be no more disease, sorrow, pain, tears, abuse or regret.”

Jesus taught us that as we celebrate our uniqueness, are born again by forgiveness and love the least of these, that we are investing our lives in things that will last forever.

As we live in a fragile, painful world that does not have a lot of guarantees, the scriptures teach us that as we grieve because of disease, war, abuse and broken promises, that we should grieve with a powerful hope that has been promised to us from the beginning of time, that in the words of Pablo Neruda, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”

Everyday we can offer our uniqueness, be freed from our sins, be energized by our daily purpose and can walk around with a silly grin, not because all things are well, but because…”it may be dark in the night, but joy comes in the morning!”

Each generation seems to boastfully declare they are the last one before God makes all things right.

I do not know the answer to that one.

When asked that question, Jesus said he didn’t know the answer either.

Because we do not know, our job is to know what is guaranteed in this life and to pass it on to the next generation.

That is our job. This is our opportunity.

Let’s make sure the children around us and children around the world know that there are 4 things that are guaranteed and cannot be taken away.

The GIFT of being uniquely made.
The JOY of forgiveness.
The OPPORTUNITIES of today.
The PROMISE of tomorrow.

Carl Sandburg once said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” I couldn’t agree more!

Hope for Haiti

My wife and I recently went to Haiti and were able to spend a day with our child Ruth that we have sponsored through Compassion International.

What a beautiful day. What a beautiful Girl.

In a country that has seen so much pain and loss, Ruth is a face of hope and a face of the future.

Sponsoring her through Compassion assists her in educational, physical, nutritional, social and spiritual development.

Because of Compassion she has advantages that many children in Haiti do not have.

After meeting Ruth, I left Haiti with much more hope for their future.

Ruth told me she loved to write poems. I told her that I to love to write poems.

I told her that I would write a poem for her if she would write a poem for me.

She said that it was a deal.

I would like to share with you the poem I wrote and will send to Ruth.

When Ruth sends the poem she wrote for me, I will share it with you also.

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RUTH: meaning “compassionate friend”

There is a girl down in Haiti, her name is Ruth
She is 10 years old, and she knows the truth
There is a God who loves her, He is living inside
She loves Psalm 100, she has it memorized

She loves to write poems, she loves to sing songs
She loves to dance to music, her faith is so strong
God has made her beauty, He has made her mind
He has made her with dreams and a smile so kind

She lives in Port-au-Prince, the earthquake was scary
The ground shook, but God’s strength was there to carry
Ruth’s eyes gleam with joy, her words full of charm
Her love for life comes from living safe in God’s arms

Her personality is charming, maybe even mischievous
I love to hear her laugh, it is a sound quite contagious
Her heart is full, overflowing with energy
Her heart is full of Jesus, He is strength for her journey

I pray for Ruth daily, I pray this gift she will get
That God has great plans for her, and how He will not forget
He has given her talents, dreams and salvation
And a hope and a future that cannot be taken

Meeting Ruth was one of the best days of my life
It was a day we will always remember, just ask my wife
I heard a voice of an angel, a dancer full of grace
She prayed with deep reverence, such a beautiful face

Our visit was too short, though I am blessed for the chance
Next time I will sing with her, maybe even join in the dance
Can’t wait to see your future, can’t wait to see what you’ll do
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper and not to harm you”

———————————————————————————————————————————–

Psalm 100
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is He who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

A Leader’s Lament

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
I beat the drum often, not wanting others to forget
Not sharing in my passion, they insincerely acquiesce

Only a few things matter, yet my brain is scattered
One word of criticism, and my worth is shattered
When it comes to living, when it comes to teamwork
Everyone talks the talk, but the walk is misgiving

“We” are stronger than “I”, as long as “I” gets the credit
My humility most impressive, I’ll tell you all about it
I want the truth, desperately seeking transparency
Yet words are guarded, dishonesty flowered deceptively

I’m here for you, I’ve got your back
I believe in you, there’s nothing I lack
Unless someone disagrees, unless someone moans
Then I need to step away, I need courage on loan

A fish out of water, is a fish out of air
I have something in common, it’s something I share
Take care of my cause, take care of my needs
Then I’ll let people know, you are a wise man who leads

But leading isn’t popularity, it isn’t first to please
It isn’t taking polls, it’s not putting people at ease
It means having deep convictions, having secure beliefs
It means staying true to course, not taking relief

The hill I climb is lonely, often feeling stranded
The hill I climb is baren, often taken for granted
The hill I climb is noble, the hill I climb is inspiring
As long as it does not get in the way of your living

Females raped and murdered, where is the rage?
It seems important, but message gets back page
The church is the answer, the message of justice we bring
But the words get muted, arguing over the songs we sing

Children die before 5, $20 is the solution
My debit card is low, comfort my main concern
I have the money, but I’m keeping up with the Jones’
Car, House, Boat, busy paying off the loans’

The world needs billions, seems overwhelming
Billions would not compare, if Christians were tithing
I can’t do it all, but I can open the door
If I learn to say “No”, I can do so much more

Boys without role models, absent of fathers
They are not on my block, so why even bother
But the needs are great, the opportunities do not lack
I am the change I pray for, but my schedule is packed

Options are good, until there are too many
Poverty cries out, “I don’t have any”
America the beautiful, everyone given equal chance
Unless born in the hood, equality becomes a fat chance

More concerned about position, more about my security
My dreams are much more daring, as I live in my safety
Been told to be quiet, told “balance” is for the wise
There’s no more heroes, “well rounded” is our demise

I check my heart, I check by pride
I check my will, putting desires aside
I live in abundance, my challenges are few
When I say I have problems, I ask, “Compared to who?”

People want the world to be like them
I say, they should want the world to be like HIM
As soon as I say my theology is a lock
I have just put God right in a box

My faith is bigger than Republican or Democrat
My faith is stronger than where the world is at
Jesus created this world, then gave his life
He asks me to love this world, then give up my life

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
But one thing I know, one thing I am sure
That loving orphans and widows is a religion that’s pure!

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 1)

The first thing every church should and must do is work with Compassion International.

I am coming off a weekend where Compassion International, once again, has impacted our church in such a way as to make us more compassionate, more generous, more unified and much closer to the heart of God.

What church leaders wouldn’t want that to happen to their church?

When we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, Compassion assists in helping that prayer come true.

The definition of “compassion” is “to feel deeply about something that needs to get fixed, and then being willing to do something about it.”

Many times we feel deeply about something in our world, but that is not compassion. It is only when we are willing to do something to change it, do our lives begin to define compassion.

Compassion International not only brings to us the awareness of the difficulties children experience living in extreme poverty, but they provide practical, effective avenues in participating in taking away those difficulties.

Child sponsorship connects a child to a sponsor who will write letters and pray for him or her, but more importantly it will connect the child to a local church that assists the child in a holistic way.

From making sure they get and stay and thrive in school, to food and nutritional needs, to helping with medical issues, to providing life-saving antiviral drugs that fight the HIV virus, to insecticide treated mosquito nets that prevent malaria, to safe water filters, to building a safe community full of healthy relationships.

On top of all of those amazing things, the child is introduced to a relationship with Jesus and a local church who oversees the local compassion program, who offers them salvation, eternal life and a relationship that will shape how they view the world for the rest of their lives.

Families at the church I go to have sponsored over 1200 children from all over the world. It has affected us deeply. Think about it. We are one church. And as I always say, “We are not a rich church, but we are a generous church.”

One church has impacted the lives of 1200 children, plus their families.

We have sponsored a Child Survival Program in Haiti where pregnant mothers get medical attention and new born children are given the medical care they need to develop into young healthy children who can be sponsored.

The Child Survival Program is run through the local Compassion sponsor church.

Just this last weekend, the families at my church purchased nearly 900 safe water filters at $55 a filter. That’s about $50 thousand in one weekend! They will give 900 families safe water for life.

Once again, these water filters will be distributed through the local Compassion church where pastors and church leaders will give the filters to families and begin to build on-going relationships with them.

What is great is that the local church in that country, not my church, but the local church will get all the credit for helping children, mothers and families, and ultimately when the local church serves its community, God gets the credit and that is the whole point.

And that is the genius and gift of Compassion International.

It has helped my church live out the true definition of “compassion”, it has made us more generous with our time, talents and treasures, it has unified us and better aligned our hearts towards God’s heart whose passion and deep love for the poor we are called to emulate.

My family sponsors 6 children, 3 from Africa, 2 from Mexico and 1 from Haiti. It is the best investment we have ever made!

They say there are 138 million Americans who call themselves followers of Jesus.

Compassion has a little over 1 million children sponsored.

Imagine how the world would change if every American who calls themselves a follower of Jesus sponsored just 1 child.

That would mean 138 million children around the world getting medical, educational, social, relational and spiritual care!

Those 138 million children will grow up and change our world!

Imagine every church in America growing in compassion, generosity, their lives uniting and their hearts beating in closer sync with God’s.

That, my friends, sounds like Jesus’ prayer coming true, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven!”

Every church should and must work with Compassion International.

If you want to know how you can work with Compassion you can email me, burkeyk@gvcconline.net or go to their web page http://www.compassion.com

You might want to forward this to your pastor and church leaders.

Check out tomorrow as I will write about the second thing every church should do.
It’s a pretty big challenge, but it leads to even bigger blessings.