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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Which Shadow Are You Living Under?



At the end of long season of herding cats, also known as Israel, the People of God, Moses was in the tent of meeting talking with God face-to-face. Let’s be honest, he was bargaining with God, much like Abraham did as he stood overlooking Sodom and Gomorrah centuries before.

To protect His people, God was deliberating with His friend the merits of allowing them to continue their journey through the desert without His presence. Their rebellious ways were likely to get them destroyed if God hung around.

Moses wasn’t having any of it. He needed the presence of God in his life. And, he knew the people did as well.

At the end of the conversation, he asks (or rather tells…demands) God to show him His glory.
God’s response is to offer all of His goodness, but to protect Moses from seeing His face.
As His glory nears, He places Moses in the cleft of a rock and covers him with His hand until He passes. Then He allows Moses to see His goodness which, as described in Exodus 33, is richer in meaning than the simple word alone conveys.

This story always makes me think of these words, found in Psalm 91. Though commentators are not clear on who exactly penned these magnificent words, tradition holds that it was likely Moses.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. [Psalm 91:1-4 NLT]

How interesting that God’s refuge protects us from the slings and arrows of the enemy and His refuge protects us even from Himself. We are protected from God’s wrath. We are protected from God’s judgment. 

How many times in my life have I felt like I lived in the shadow of His disappointment, not understanding that the shadow of His wings is a completely different place.

Most of us have had a busy December, working to make Christmas special for the churches we are blessed to serve. Of course, that probably means we are a little weary and in need of rest and refuge. As we hurtle toward the New Year, I’d like to invite you to take a closer look at which shadow you dwell in. Shadow living is awesome when it’s the right shadow!

I’ll leave you with these words, written by the great hymn writer Fanny Crosby.

He Hideth My Soul
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
  A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
  Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
  That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
  And covers me there with His hand,
    And covers me there with His hand.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Whirlwind of Activity



If you want to be close to God, all you need to do is pay the extra money to be buried under the church.

That’s what we learned on our tour of the catacombs on Wednesday. They packed (literally) more than 25,000 people under the primary church building. They would stack about 6 people per “grave,” and then when they were full, would move them to a bigger, vat-like hole and start all over again.

Even when cemeteries became an option, people with money wanted to be close to God.
I didn’t know that’s how it works (please sense my sarcasm).

We also saw a painting that was a Peruvian artists’ take on the last supper. Apparently he needed to repaint the great masterpiece because there must have been a Peruvian at that great feast where Jesus served guinea pig as the main dish.

Hmmm.

It’s so much easier to take the Bible at its word! (No offense Peru.)

Last night we held our opening concert. About 200 people attended. I wasn’t worried about the mechanics of the music. I knew we were rehearsed, and we have a great team.

I wasn’t sure how we would be received singing in English (though we did project Spanish lyrics). There were many in the audience who knew at least some English. We seemed to be received well. The lead pastor of our host church is adamant that we come back next year and do this again (and we haven’t even gotten to the main event…maybe he should withhold judgment).

After the concert, many wanted pictures with us. All of the teen boys surrounded Cory and were talking with him about the “cool” instrument. Duane was all alone…poor Duane.

This morning we head into the Pre-Conference Workshops for Senior Pastors and Pastors’ Wives. Pray that we are able to motivate, encourage and challenge through the language barrier.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Martes (Tuesday) in Lima

The day started exactly on time...from Peru standards...an hour later than we anticipated, but we didn't mind.

We headed toward the coast. The plan has been that midday is our sightseeing/shopping time frame. All of the people we are working with in Peru have jobs, and aren't available during the day, so we are trying to use our time wisely.

We spent some time meandering through the open air market, buying our souvenirs for the trip, before heading to a restaurant on the beach of the Pacific ocean for lunch. An all-you-can-eat buffet with food from Peru, China, Italy and others enticed our appetites to excess.

While we were shopping we heard news that the bank we'd stopped at to pay the sound company had processed our $1,500 US dollars as $1,500 Peruvian soles, about a $1,000 difference.

Vali (pronounced valley), was a bit panicked and stressed. We were able to talk about the sovereignty of God in the midst of all situations, and to trust that He knew what He was doing with His money, and if it got fixed to our satisfaction, then praise Him. And, if it didn't, then praise Him anyway.

On our movie-chase-scene-like ride back to the bank after lunch we received a call from Vali's mother-in-law, who knows everyone. She had made one call (after multiple calls and hours by Vali and others), and resolved the situation with the bank, including a priority exchange rate for our trouble.

God is always good.

This evening we rehearsed at the conference venue with the Peruvian band members. We were incredibly blessed by the excellent musicians who are joining us. Our bass player, Alvaro, has nicknamed me "D-Sharp" because of my hair!

Dinner was Chifa (Chinese food).

As we race toward the opening worship conference on Thursday night, pray for the details to continue to come together. The plan is always in flux. We're always on Plan A because God is in control, we are still discovering the details of that plan!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Selfie Christianity



I’ve never seen a good selfie, mine or anyone else’s. You know what I’m talking about. They are posted all over FaceBook and every other social media site.

They are never very flattering. I mean, how many selfies have you seen that should be framed and put on a wall? When I take a selfie, my nose suddenly looks like the honker of a goose. In order to make my nose look decent (and, let’s be honest, I don’t really love my nose…thanks mom for passing on that gene to me) I’d need a selfie stick the length of Texas. And then, some other part of me would look bad.

Some selfies are taken by “dumb” smart phones, which means the shot is taken by clicking a reflection in the bathroom mirror. Really? I don’t need to see your filthy bathroom, or you without your shirt on…wait until you get fully dressed please.

My smart phone allows me to “turn the lens around” at the push of a button so I can take my selfie more conveniently. It’s also more convenient if you have spinach in your teeth, it acts like a bathroom mirror (yes daughter, I’m thinking of you).

As a culture we have become so self-absorbed that the best pictures we can take are of ourselves; as if the world is just waiting with baited breath to see another bad picture of myself posted so they can “like” it.

This self-focus bleeds into other areas of our life as well. It feeds the lie that life is all about me, and everyone else should notice.

STOP!

It’s time we stopped living out our Christianity like we’re taking a selfie. It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus and what He wants. It’s about living the life He’s called you to live. There is no part of it that is about you, your convenience, how you feel or how your needs are met!

It is about loving, serving and living in a way that reflects the beauty of our Savior.

A friend of a friend of a friend (does that distance it enough?) recently told a friend that she doesn’t really get up to go to church anymore because it’s her only day off and it just isn’t worth it.

That’s a Christian selfie.

Church isn’t about you. It’s about Him and how he wants you to relate to His people. It’s not about what you get out of it, but what you put into it. You will never be fully his if you aren’t involved in the things that are uniquely Him. If you’d look outward instead of inward you might find that you are there for someone else! The Apostle Paul, in Romans 13, tells us to love others as well as we love ourselves.

Another friend of a friend of a friend gets put out when people ask her for money to go on a mission trip. Her thought is that everyone knows she has money and asks because they think, “Oh, she can afford it.”

Christian selfie.

Whose money is it anyway? Has she ever thought about praying that God would let her know if this is the best use of His money? She’s been given her wealth for a reason…maybe it’s to advance the Kingdom of God.

What? Your church doesn't do it your way? Christian Selfie. What about not serving because I just don’t have time? Christian selfie. What if Jesus didn’t make time to spend 33 years on earth to make a way for us to spend eternity with him?

Church…it is time to stop focusing on yourself and start living completely for Him. It's time to rid your life of the Christian selfies that keep you from becoming the man or woman he calling you to become. The days are growing darker and our King has a purpose and plan, created long ago, for us to shine our “flash” out into the darkness to point the way.