Thursday, February 27, 2014

"SUN, STAND STILL" (Claim it like Joshua).

On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
    and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

I sat cross-legged on the multi-purpose floor of the devotional area of the school with about a hundred middle and high schoolers. Our Big Student Ministry leader from Journey Church was talking about Joshua when he commanded the sun to stand still so his men wouldn't be overcome within the darkness of night.

 Taking a deep breath I had to just close my eyes and softly smile as I reflected on the class I had given to these very same students two days earlier. We had been discussing issues of faith and science. How they interact, where our faith is grounded, and how God operates outside of the laws of physics. I had described it like building a diorama. 

We place the little men and women with bits of scrub that become trees, legos that become builders stones, and create settings of early civilization. The figures in that scene can't control their movements, and they are limited to what they can see... and yet, as the creator of that scene, we can reach into it, take up that little man or woman... and make them fly.

We are not limited by the paper and paint construction of that creation. And neither is God. He is not limited by the boundaries and restrictions that hold us on this diorama that we call earth. God exists outside of the box. Miracles occur when he reaches in and makes us fly.

Just a few short days ago our family faced some impossible odds.  Our partnership dollars for personal support (rent, fuel, electric, food...) had fallen to a point that was simply unsustainable. We were faced with some sobering and dire options. And so we began to pray. We began to talk to our closest supporters. I came home from working at the school one evening, walked to the empty apartment, leaned my phone against the wall, hit record, and spent 5 minutes telling our story. One take. 

God put us here. We needed Him to make a way.

A download to Youtube and an email blitz. Kellie and I began to talk about what it would look like if funding didn't come. We decided there was no going back to the old life. We needed to be open to wherever God called, whatever door He opened. We also began slashing expenses.

We are just little men and women on a paper and paint landscape. 

I remembered words from a sermon I delivered late last year. Sometimes we have to let go of something we love, before we can take hold of what God has to give us. These words hit me like a stone and I spoke them again among a room full of friends and my heart broke. It was time to let go.

We sat on a property with two large homes and an apartment. We faced years of red tape and invested funds to before we could hope to open our doors to orphans. And yet... orphans are everywhere. We are called to help now. They can not wait. It was at that moment I realized that God has us right where he wants us. We are living out James 1:27 right now. 

Our work at the schools, at the church, with C.R.I. reaching into the villages... we are caring for widows and orphans in their distress. God is using us here. Our eyes began to open. And so... we are making moves to let go of the big property, to draw in close to our 4 missions, and to work hard loving and caring and teaching... right where God has placed us.

God has known all along. Our path has taken us far and wide, and our feet will settle right back where we landed. The story continues to unfold, and there are incredible and unbelievable details to be shared. A chain of events and a convergence of meetings... have led full circle to bless a host of people with exactly what they needed... through our wandering.

While we were convinced we were spinning out of control, we were securely in the orbit of God. 

And so... while some of the details still need to fall into place, we look at the story of Joshua and we say to the sun... stand still! The darkness has not claimed us. 

We claim it like Joshua.

So the sun stood still,
    and the moon stopped,
    till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.  There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Notes From Seminary: (2) Keep Your Neck-tie Clean!

My Answer:

Sanctification has been a topic of hot debate within my own deeply entrenched Church of God Reformation Movement family for decades. Even as a small child I sat in the shag carpet of my great-grandma's parlor and listed as she and her son-in-law, my grandfather would debate the topic after every Thanksgiving and Christmas meal. I learned many years ago how to dance a snappy middle of the road answer that really just dodged the question... I would refer to Paul dying daily and talk about how God was making me new and drawing me closer each day. They both liked that answer and I could sneak out of the room for more chocolate cake.

When I read about Schell emphasizing a Holy Spirit cleansing, I can hear the words of Great Grandma Elsie. She believed that the Holy Spirit sanctified and cleansed you in one fell swoop... and that you simply could not sin beyond that point in time! She would have loved Byrum's insistence that the experience perfected you! When my grandpa would argue that we still have a fallen nature, and after sanctification, were still being perfected... she would laugh at him, point her finger and tell him that he clearly had not been sanctified. 

I think I would rather have heard them argue about neckties. His were always worn and fuzzy at the top from rubbing against the scruff of his neck stubble. It may be however, that they both could have agreed that ties were superfluous and just plain decorative without a purpose. It was fascinating for me to read the evolution of the conflict. Ties are just prideful and decorative... so are cuffs. So get rid of them. But oh... those shiny buttons are even more vain! And then seeing all the men with their scratchy necks like my Pop's ruining their suit jacket's because their was no need for a collar now. 

I think we should just be relieved they stopped there! This race to be the most sacrificial and humble was shedding clothes at an alarming rate. I am thankful the tie returned.

Do we still have these debates in our church today? 

Well... when I first went to church camp, shorts weren't allowed. Not at all. And then we could wear shorts below our knees. And later to our fingertips. But never at church. I have seen the shorts debate ripple through a large congregation like tremors from tectonic plates. 

And slacks on women. Or too much make-up. Do I dare even mention the word, "neck-line" or an even more dangerous word, "hem length." Or swimming, which my church called, "mixed bathing." How about song style? Order of worship? Oh... here was a big one in my hometown, what version of the Bible are you reading?

Now, I don't mean to suggest that these aren't valid topics to discuss. In fact, reading through the history, I understand the neck-tie concerns. Most concerns start from a valid question. The problem is when we lose sight of the core mission while we rage over these distractions that would frankly take care of themselves if we were living out the heart of our belief.

Are we loving God with all we have, all we are, all we will ever be? Is that love evident and flowing out of us onto those with whom we come in contact?

As for this preacher man... I don't always wear a neck-tie, but when I do, it is always clean. Well, at least until I soil it with chocolate cake.

The questionIn this week's reading a diversity of positions on theological and ethical issues is evident. On some level these, differences recall the anti-cleansing controversy and the necktie quarrel you covered in last week's reading. Give both sides of each of these disputes. Are there similar debates being waged in the church today? Explain. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Building with Rejected Stones

These are the families and churches that made substantial donations specific to our orphanage, Casa de la Abuelita in calendar year 2013. These names now represent part of our Founders Wall. Each tile represents a minimum of $1,000.00 that will be applied to purchase the property. Currently we have an agreement to pay monthly rent with the amount coming off the purchase price, and we have agreed to make annual lump sum payments over the next 10 years.

Each tile purchase helps secure our mission as it is applied directly to the note. Every thousand dollars we pay off gets us a step closer to securing this property free and clear, to  provide a safe haven for children who were abandoned and rejected.

We believe that God will build with these rejected stones, using each child that will now gain a story of redemption to expand and further his Kingdom. We stake our lives here.

This is where the 4 center tiles will permanently hang that proclaim our logo and our mission:  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. -James 1:27

We move forward in faith, knowing full well that God will prompt many of you to purchase tiles and fill up this wall. He has placed us here for this purpose, at this time, and it is no mistake that you read this now. 

We are His children. He has adopted us and called us His sons and daughters. We were once lost… and now we are found. This is our religion. This is our purpose. It is time that we love our neighbor as ourselves… we fulfill our birthright and we look after people in their distress.

It's a big wall. We have big plans. We think your name belongs here. Changing the lives of children… for generations.

This is your open door.

Do you see that angled wall on the left? That is our Founder's Wall. Tiles will be going up this week. We need your name there. Partner with the Shepherd family. Designate your funds "Casa de la Abuelita" Tile Project. You can give as a lump sum, or in installments.

Then come and see the mission. Come and hold a child. Come and see this mission that you have made possible.

 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
-James 1:5-7

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