A Leader’s Lament

motherteresatogether

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!

Failure: The Beginning of Grace

F

When I was a freshman in college I was a very responsible student. There were moments in college when I was not a responsible student, but when I entered college I was very serious and I hated getting bad grades.

My freshman year I took a history class that was one of the most difficult classes I’ve ever taken.

It was on American History and there was no text book. The seemingly uninterested professor would walk in, ramble for an hour and a half and then we would take tests on his lecture. And that was it.

The only way you could do well was by taking really good notes. For an hour in a half you would write down what he was saying and he talked fast, without a lot of passion and he was not a very nice guy and my attention span was about 30 seconds.

When people would ask him questions he would say, “Well you weren’t paying attention and I don’t repeat my lecture.” He was just degrading.

The first couple of tests I took I got C’s. And I’m not a C kinda dude. It was very irritating.

There was one paper at the end where we had to write about a historical person and this was going to be 50% of our grade.

I knew I had C going into the 50% of the grade project. I wrote a whole paper on the life and leadership of Harry Truman. I worked through Thanksgiving break and I worked hard. I’d never worked so hard on a project.

When I got my paper back this was on the cover of my paper. “F”

I needed therapy for this one. This one hurt. It was just excruciating and he was such an intimidating professor. I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t want to ask him why he gave me an “F”, but I did.

I set up an appointment to meet with him in his office. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done. As I walked in, I kept my head low and I swear I could hear Darth Vader breathing.

As I approached his desk I said, “You know I worked really hard on this paper and I don’t know why I got an F.”

He grabbed my paper from my hand, quickly glanced at it and said in a very degrading voice, “Well your references were wrong.”

I’d used one book primarily for those references and as I showed him the book and he shot back, “See I have the same book and your references were wrong. You made them up.” He was challenging my integrity.

As I looked at my book and I looked at his book, I realized that I had happened to have the paperback version of the book and he had a hard cover and so the pages were different.

I gently and humbly showed him the difference and Professor Darth Vader realized that all my references were right and he looks down at my paper and, I’ll never forget this, he drew a line down the right side of the “F” on my paper, and made the “F” an “A”.

I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say? I wanted to say, “May the force be with you!” But I didn’t! I walked out quickly before he could change his mind.

My point is this. In life sometimes we feel like life’s a big “F”, that we failed. And we’re afraid to go to God because our image of God is that he’s an angry, bitter professor. But when we go to God, just as we are, he offers us his grace and he turns our lives from an “F” into an “A”.

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” Titus 2:11

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:23-24

Songs That Make the Whole World Sing

Graphic of a digital sound on black bottom

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.

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!”

6 Questions That I Would LOVE to hear your answers!

1. When it comes to fixing something that is broken in our world, what are you most passionate about?

2. Who have been the most influential people in your life and why?

3. When it comes to having hope, (10 being a lot of hope and 1 being no hope), how would you rate the future and why?

4. With over 300,000 churches in America (with 4000 closing their doors every year), what impact do you think the church is having in our culture when it comes to Jesus’ mission statement in Luke 4:18-19?
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
    Because He has anointed Me
    To preach the gospel to the poor;
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
   To proclaim liberty to the captives
   And recovery of sight to the blind,
   To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
   To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

5. What specific things could the American church do better to represent Luke 4:18-19?

6. With all the problems in America, does the American church have an obligation to address global poverty? If yes, why? If no, why?

I can’t wait to hear what you think!

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.

—————————————————————-

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.

Yet I Still Dare To Hope

“You have tested us, O God;
you have purified us like silver.
Then you put a leader over us.
We went through fire and flood,
but you brought us to a place of great abundance.”
Psalm 66:10,12

As I am in Niamey, Niger surrounded by the destructive damage done by the flooding of the Niger River I am observing a few things.

One, the depth of character that I see in the community of believers who have been turned upside down by this tragedy.

David writes, “You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver.”

When a silversmith purifies silver he holds the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames are the hottest as to burn away the impurities.

The silversmith has to sit in front of the fire the whole time the silver is being purified because if the silver is left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

So how does the silversmith know when the silver is purified?

The answer is when the silversmith can see his image in it.

When you feel the heat of the fire, remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.

Two, I see the depth of faith that sustains their souls.

Sahel Academy, who lost its campus for the year because of the flood, one of the most influential and qualified schools in Niger, has already found new buildings to restart the school year in the upcoming weeks, knowing that the school’s real power is not buildings but committed teachers and potentially world changing students.

This is not easy, but…

They are believing what Psalm 66:12 says that as God takes them through the flood, He is going to take them to a place of great abundance, so that He can get the glory.

Floods come and go, but God’s faithfulness is always and forever.

Three, I see the depth of authentic community.

Difficult times are never fun but when you have a band of brothers and sisters rallying around each other, helping one another, encouraging one another, and even in the midst of this tragedy, laughing together, you cannot help but sit up and take notice.

Today, as I helped these heroic teachers and faculty members move into there new classrooms there was hugging, helping, laughing and a sense of anticipation from everyone about how God was going to use this whole thing to bless very poor country.

The great testimony of the Christian faith is not our perfect circumstances, but it is when outside observers say, “Oh, how they loved one another.”

Four, I see the heroic leaders standing tall, helping people find direction and hope when it is easy to get lost and discouraged.

God calls us as leaders to lead people through fires and floods to help people find hope and faith.

God is looking for leaders.

You tend to find new leaders during these times.

The ultimate example of this is when God brought a leader to us who endured horrific, unjust pain and suffering, which led us to a place of abundant life.

God took the worst thing and drew from it the best thing, which is a relationship with Jesus Christ, who wants to give us abundant life, today and forever.

Niger, Sahel Acadamy, Esprit Bible College and many other amazing organizations and people have been affected by these horrible floods…but, Jesus, the ultimate leader, is raising up leaders, young and old, to bring them through the floods and to a place of abundance.

It is not and will not be easy.

The scriptures guarantee it won’t be.

But as the prophet Jeremiah wrote looking over the ruins of Jerusalem,

“The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

Just A Few Thoughts on Storms

Storms: We all have them.

Financial storms.
Health storms.
Relational storms.
Emotional storms.
Storm storms.

What happens when we experience storms?

ONE, we reprioritize what is really valuable and important.

Things that seemed important, are no longer.

People we took for granted, are no longer.

Storms have a way of putting back in proper order things that are proper.

TWO, we find out who our real friends are.

As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

THREE, we stop talking about God and start talking to Him.

David spends the first part of Psalm 23 talking about God, but when he gets to the valley that has death shadows blocking the sun, he starts talking to God.

FOUR, many times it is during storms where we discover super natural strength.

The apostle Paul writes, “…suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.”

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote,
“All that is gold does not glitter
not all those who wander are lost
the old that is strong does not wither
deep roots are not reached by the frost
From the ashes a fire shall be woken
a light from the shadows shall spring
renewed shall be blade that was broken
the crown less again shall be king.”

The storms and floods that have hit Sahel Academy in Niamey, Niger will not have the last word.

It will rise back up, rebuild and become an even brighter beacon of hope.

It will rise back up, rebuild and train a greater generation to share the love and grace of Jesus.

It will rise back up, rebuild and reach a country whose median age is 15.

It will rise back up, rebuild and heal the broken-hearted and will set those held captive by religion free.

Our prayers are with you and for you!

God bless all the teachers and faculty.

Please do not give up, for there is a great reward.

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 5)

 

 

During a British conference on comparative religions, experts debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith.

They began eliminating possibilities.

Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form.

Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death.

The debate went on for some time until C.S. Lewis wandered into the room.

“What’s the rumpus about?” he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.

Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

After some discussion, the colleagues had to agree.

The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity.

The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, the Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval.

The 5th and most foundational thing every church should do is to be a large, generous distributor of Grace.

Grace dares to make God’s love unconditional.

Grace makes it possible to start over again.

Grace makes it possible for new beginnings.

Grace makes it possible to move forward.

The Apostle Paul who once was the king of religion, experienced life transforming Grace and said, “I am still not all I should be but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…”

So many people live with hidden shame, mistakes from the past, failures of deep consequence and they seem stuck, not able to move towards the future.

I was working at a coffee shop not long ago and a gentlemen working next to me struck up a conversation and asked me what I did for a living.

I told him that I was a professional body builder, but I pastor on the side.

He believed the pastor part and told me he hadn’t been to church in years.

I asked, “What has kept you away?”

He said a divorce, a drinking problem and the way he was treated by the church when he was going through those difficult times.

He said, “I don’t really need to go somewhere and feel judged. I know I’m a screw up!”

We preceded to have an hour long conversation about Grace.

He asked me a great question. He said, “If Grace is the difference between Jesus and other religions, then why don’t churches teach it and live it?”

I told him because we haven’t made Grace the highest priority. It falls in the middle of the other many things churches try to do.

I told him that at the church I go to we teach on Grace all the time because it is so multi-faceted that you have to keep looking at it, living it, celebrating it and teaching it.

Philip Yancey writes “Grace makes its appearance in so many forms that I have trouble defining it.”

“I am ready, though, to attempt something like a definition of grace in relation to God.”

“GRACE MEANS THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO MAKE GOD LOVE US MORE—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes.”

“And GRACE MEANS THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO MAKE GOD LOVE US LESS—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder.”

“Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.”

Grace is inclusive. Religion is exclusive.

In WWII, a group of soldiers were fighting in the rural countryside of France.

During an intense battle, one of the American soldiers was killed.

His comrades did not want to leave his body on the battlefield and decided to give him a church burial.

They remembered a church a few miles behind the front lines whose grounds included a small cemetery surrounded by a white fence.

After receiving permission to take their friend’s body to the cemetery, they set out for the church, arriving just before sunset.

An old priest, body betraying his many years, responded to their knocking.

His face, deeply wrinkled and tan, was the home of two fierce eyes that flashed with wisdom and passion.

“Our friend was killed in battle,” they blurted out, “and we wanted to give him a church burial.”

In very broken English the priest replied, “I’m sorry, but we can bury only those of the same faith here.”

Tired after many months of war, the soldiers simply turned to walk away. “But”, the old priest called after them, “you can bury him outside the fence.”

Cynical and exhausted, the soldiers dug a grave and buried their friend just outside the white fence. They finished after nightfall.

The next morning, the entire unit was ordered to move on, and the group raced back to the little church for one final goodbye to their friend.

When they arrived, they couldn’t find the gravesite.

Tired and confused, they knocked on the door of the church.

They asked the old priest if he knew where they had buried their friend.

A smile flashed across the old priest’s face. “After you left last night, I could not sleep, so I went outside early this morning and I moved the fence.”

JESUS DID MORE THAN MOVE THE FENCE, HE TORE IT DOWN.

RELIGION SAYS, SOME DESERVE THE INSIDE, SOME DESERVE THE OUTSIDE.

Accepting and living in Grace is the only way for us to have compassion and to see Grace in others.

Compassion means “to suffer with”, to endure with, struggle with, and to partake in hunger, nakedness, loneliness, pain, and broken dreams in the human family.

The question has been asked, “What makes a genius?”

The answer is, “The ability to see.”

To see what?

The butterfly in a caterpillar.
The eagle in an egg.
The saint in a selfish person.
Life in death.
And suffering as the form in which the incomprehensibility of God himself appears.

There has always been a debate in the church world about what is deep.

People leave churches because they are looking for something deeper.

What they usually mean is that there is not a certain version of the Bible being used, or there are not certain songs that are being sung, or there is not enough solemn judgment coming from the preacher.

What is the definition of deep? Compassion.

Because compassion means accepting Grace for yourself and seeing Grace in others.

Matthew Fox writes “Compassion is a spirituality of meat, not milk; of adults, not children; of love, not masochism; of justice, not philanthropy. It requires maturity, a big heart, a willingness to risk and imagination.”

To rephrase C.S. Lewis, religion is all around us and it has led to wars, division, judgment and death.

Religion has given God a bad name.

When a church lives in and offers Grace, people are healed, sins are forgiven, relationships strengthened and people are truly alive.

Grace gives God his name back.

Grace is the only thing the church has to offer that no one else can.

If a church wants to grow in depth and compassion, it should make Grace its #1 priority.

These are a few of my favorite verses on Grace. Share with me some of yours.

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” Acts 20:24

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Romans 6:14

“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:8-9

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

“When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” Luke 14:12-14

“Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!” 2 Samuel 9:7