Archive for January, 2011

Teaching in Nicaragua

January 26, 2011

I was supposed to be in Nicaragua this week teaching in the International Leadership Institute. (ILI) On the day before my departure, I noticed that my passport expired, so I will have to go later this year. ILI holds about 300 training events each year and in 2010 trained over 10,000 Christian pastors and leaders. The students are mostly bi-vocational pastors in poor or rural areas of the world where very few pastors or church leaders ever get to go to seminary.

About 8 years ago the Lord gave me a passion to raise up future leaders for the church. So this teaching opportunity feeds this desire and hunger in me to enable future leaders for the church not only here in my community but around the world as well. Every time I teach in an ILI event, I learn so much from the students and people I meet in other nations. They give to me and bless my life even more than I impart to them.

We will seek to equip these students in being Bible teachers, leading their churches with vision and focus, raising up leaders, mobilizing believers for mission, how to balance their call and family life, stewardship and challenge each student to use the ILI materials to train 50 of their peers in the next year. Pray for the students, the teachers and their churches as they worship, learn together,  and travel to and from the conference. May this ILI event equip the students and churches in Nicaragua to rise up and grow the kingdom in their area for the glory of God!

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A “Day On” & Not Off

January 17, 2011

Today I volunteered at the Southeast Gwinnett Coop. This is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the purpose of the day is to take a day to bless others in the spirit of Dr. King. It’s not meant to be a day to sleep in, go hunting or stay at home and play computer games. So, I went to the Coop and rubbed elbows with the clients and wonderful volunteers. I was blessed immensely! I served as an in-take recorder and processed people to receive their food box. One lady has looked for a job since April 2009! She is loosing hope so we talked a long time about her options and ended with prayer. Every interview begins or ends with prayer – for many of the clients, this is the main reason they come in.

My church provides 2/3 of the volunteers for the Coop. They gave over 9400 hours last year of their time, sweat, laughter and tears. In addition, my church contributed $36,000 from our offerings and about twice this much through groups, individuals and member foundations. By far, we are the largest contributor to the coop. I do not state this to toot our horn, only to show what one large church can do that has a passion and commitment to the poor and hurting. Over 3500 people were served through the Coop last year.

The church is called to walk alongside the poor; to enter their world and offer them hope and tangible assistance to escape the pit of poverty and despair. Dr. King gave us a vision for our life together on earth. He quoted the prophet, “Let justice flow down like a mighty stream, ” and “make mercy the currency of God’s people.” Bringing real hope and change to people’s lives occurs through radical service and sacrificial lives, not one-time, convenient and media spotlighted events.

I pray that all of us who love the name of Jesus will embrace his lifestyle of self-giving, serving alongside the poor and taking “days on” to reach out to the lost, the broken, the lonely and left out. I am glad my church teaches this kind of Christianity. And I pray all our members and our fellow Christ followers will follow Jesus into the path where hurting people live just waiting for someone to be Christ among them.

Washed Down the Drain

January 3, 2011

She came to me and said  she wanted to be baptized. She had attended churches all her life, been an acolyte as a child and had served in our women’s ministry. Yet she could not remember ever being baptized. Now was a good time. She had confronted a long-time sin in her life, one that weakened her marriage and parenting, one that tormented her dreams.

The Sunday morning arrived and we stood with her by the baptismal trough, I mean, the baptism well. The truth is our church does not have a formal baptistry so we use a horse trough. Oh, it’s not about the beauty of the vessel we use. It’s all about the wonders of God’s love expressed in our baptism. She sat in the well and I guided her head back and immersed her body in the waters of baptism while saying, “You are baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

She came up out of the water with joy all over her face. The congregation applauded and I heard cheers of Amen and Hallelujah! She was embraced by family and friends and we reminded her that she is a child of God. Afterwards, she told me she hoped that this was the end of her past life. So I took her over to the baptismal trough and told her to look in. All the water had disappeared down the drain. I told her so had her old life. She is now a new creation in Jesus Christ.

Baptism is powerful. It is a public sign of God’s grace and work in our lives. We can not earn this. God comes to us with love and restores our life. “We have passed through the waters and that’s all that matters. Oh thanks be to God!” (Psalm 43: 1-3a).