Saturday, May 24, 2008

I've been meaning to sit and write for a long time, but it hasn't worked out with this crazy time schedule I've been keeping.

So many things to blog about, but I'm going to take it one subject at a time.

Last Saturday, one of our American students was baptized in the Med. If you wanna see pictures, Andrew's got them posted to his Facebook profile. I love the picture he has of Ben coming up out of the ocean.

Several months ago, Ben came over to have lunch with Andrew and I and told us this was the first semester he'd had time to properly read his Bible. He'd realized as he read his Gospels that Jesus wanted us to obey Him by being baptized. We talked with him a bit, and he told us that as an infant he had been baptized. However, as he read the gospels, he saw baptism as a decision he needed to make, that He personally needed to proclaim to the world the work that Jesus had done in his life.

And so, we rejoiced last Sat. We sang, we heard testimonies of our students, we watched Ben as he was baptized, and hugged him as he glowed with joy.

I was just 5 years old when I was baptized. I still vividly remember that feeling, and because the concept is simple, I understood what I was doing. Throughout my life, as I've seen other baptisms, I've relived that moment again and again, and weep every time with joy as I watch someone else as they publicly declare that they have entered the kingdom of light.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Worship should happen not only when we are happy, or sad, or rejoicing, or crying, but it should also happen when we don't feel like it.

I have a friend preaching tomorrow, Pentecost Sunday. Tomorrow, I'm leading worship in our church. Both of us have had long weeks, with lots of problems. Frankly, I don't know if I'm up for leading worship, and I imagine he feels stressed and worried about preaching.

However, we weren't called to minister/worship/preach/witness when we feel good. In fact, Paul discusses this in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, and this has been my mediation today.

Its too long to quote as a whole, but these are my words of comfort this afternoon.

"BUT we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body."

Today, I am perplexed, I definetly feel forsaken, but I'm not despairing, and I've not been destroyed. I know that I'm dying a slow death to myself as I walk in ministry, in music, in worship, in teaching, in counseling, in serving others, in hospitality. HOWEVER, I know that the power to continue, the Gospel power that I have is from God and not from me, and so I continue to serve, love, sing, teach, and most importantly worship.

As I opened my Bible to find the passage quoted above, it opened to Is 64, a comfort in time of need.

"...that the nations may tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. For from of old, they h ave not heard nor perceived by hear, Neither has the eye seen a God besides you, Who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him. You meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness, who remembers You in your Ways.......

For this reason, we are pushed beyound all recognition, but God, the Great I Am, will never forget us nor forsake us.

Come Lord Jesus Come.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

As you can tell, its been a busy spring. I've scarcely had a moment to write, even though I've had more than my fair share of moments to ponder different things and see God working in dry land.

When I went to Moody, personal evangelism was a favorite class, but not a favorite pastime. I had this really incredibly passionate proff, Dr. McDuffee, and he spoke a lot about sharing the gospel. I don't remember much he said, but I do remember his passion, and I like him for it, even though I could barely understand why he had such passion.

He would even go out on the streets of Chicago and preach. I admired him for his guts, but still thought he was pretty nuts.

13 years later and I'm here in Southern Spain, and I think I've gone as nuts as he was and probably still is. How did I get from point A to point B?

Frankly, it all started in Africa, when Andrew and I trucked over the Uganda to do a project for ACTION. We ended up in the north, in the worst part of the world I've ever been in. I met AIDS victims, war victims, former sex slaves, former ex militia, and they all told me one thing, God changed me.

I would hear the people singing in church, "there is power in the church today" and for the first time in my life I really began to believe it. I'd been quite a doubting Thomas and I really did need to see evidence, and than I began to really believe.

Before that moment, I had seen God work in my life on a personal level, healing me from various hurts in the past others had inflicted on my psyche. But while in Africa, when I talked to three ladies that had AIDS, and how when God saved them, he also healed them to the point they could walk and talk, feed their families and care for each other, I really began to believe.

So we came back, fired up about God's power. I continued on my personal journey...and there's more to that, but essentially, I've gotten to a really unique point this spring. I am unashamed and fired up about the power of the Gospel.

You see, I realized first that I was ashamed of the Gospel. Its awkward, its bumpy, it offends people, its bloody, its painful, it requires change. Many of the TV shows out today talk about how people can't change. True, without the Gospel, is there really change? Anyway, I digress.

Living here in this culture, where shame controls live and what you do...has opened my eyes to what shame really is. Whether or not we believe in shame, we actually do have it, and do operate our lives around it. We as Westerners may not take vacation, because we are afraid of what people will think about is. If we really boil this feeling down, its shame of what other people will think.

All this to say, I was ashamed. But after seeing the power of the Gospel, in Africa, in Spain, I have lost my shame. And now I fully understand the statement Paul makes in Romans 1:16, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

I guess I had never really thought about that verse before, even thought it was long ago committed to memory. But since I've lost my shame, my desire to share the Gospel is tenfold.

And, this month, I taught the youth about some of these concepts, and together as a youth group we prayed one night for four different people. We prayed only that we could have opportunities to share the gospel, and boy did I have them this month.

Almost every week I had one. Most recently, my 15 yr olds in my English class asked me about spiritism and what I thought. My boss at the Academy asked me why our "religious group" was different. I ran into some guy that runs a tea shop here in the Arab quarter, made some comment about how I believe in a God that holds my future, and proceeded to have a long conversation about what I believed. I found out he is a Spanish Moslem, having converted from being an Evangelical.

I can't stop talking about what I believe. Do you believe in the power of the Gospel? If you do, you will lose your shame, and witnessing becomes as natural as breathing, even if it isn't your "gift". As a believer, its your calling.