The Poor: Peru Mission Trip #2

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Red beads click around a little girl’s neck as she skips down the hill. Children clothed in plaid uniforms and back packs head from shanty to school. Women clip laundry to twine in simple drying arrangements. Abandoned dogs scour streets, roosters peck on cardboard, and turkeys hop over ruble. City life is happening all around us as we go. We go to the people today to tell them about Jesus.

We walk up a dirt path that is so far from the indulgent lifestyle we are accustom. When our shoes push against over-worked earth, a funnel of dust swirls behind us. We reach the top and enter a squeezed-in-town with crudely built homes. Each dwelling place is constructed by individual families. They are made with boards and concrete and they hang off steep terraces of ground. Electrical wires cling to weathered poles and shoot through the shanty town. There is no running water here, only barrels of water dropped off for the people. This dry land makes me thirsty from the inside out.

My eyes scan a town with a paucity of resources and I know.

This is what Jesus came for.

This is who Jesus came for.

He came for them, He came for us.

The King of the Universe, clothed in splendor took off His royal robe, laid aside His crown and squeezed all of the fullness of God into a place like this… dirt floors, smelly troughs, loud noises, and meager surroundings. He calls my name right here and how I long to recognize Him here.

 

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The squeezed-in-places, the dry-well-places, the moments that are loud and messy and uncertain, this is what He came for. The longings, the heartaches, the doubt and the wounds that our sin carves deep, that’s why He is here. And all this life suspended on rocky soil and empty paths, isn’t this why we come? Isn’t this why we take the Gospel to those with no foundation and say with all the longing in our hearts, “Come, Lord Jesus”?

I may not know this kind of physical poverty, but I do know what spiritual poverty feels like.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me  to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” Luke 4:18-19.

Jesus is here for the poor, the brokenhearted, the captive, the blind, and the oppressed. However, when Jesus speaks of the poor, he isn’t always referring to those who live in shanty towns or have limited income. He also refers to those who are poor in spirit (see Matthew 5:3).

I remember being poor in spirit.

I remember my own personal depravity.

I will never forget my water into wine moment where Jesus created something new out of something old. When I said, “Yes,” and He did too. When He mended this broken heart; rubbed salve over blind eyes; and broke chains of oppression in my life.

A signal to return down the mountain interrupts my thought process. So I shuffle forward and I am quiet, humble, and overwhelmed. I know now… the truly blessed ones are the ones who know they are destitute of righteousness. And oh how I  know this.

“The Lord helps all who fall; He raises up all who are oppressed. All eyes look to you and you give them their food in due time. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing,” Psalm 145:8-16.

 

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Worship: Peru Mission Trip

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Jonathan Edwards, the most significant American churchman of the 18th century once said, “If we are going to be excited about anything shouldn’t it be our spiritual lives? Is there anything more inspiring more exciting in heaven or on earth than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We should be humbled that we are not more emotionally affected than we are.”

Emotionally affected by the scandal of the Gospel. Emotionally affected by its redemptive rescue for worldly wretches. Emotionally affected by His saving power not because of what we do but because of what He has already done, (see Titus 3:4).

A couple of weeks ago I, and seventeen others from my church, board an airplane to a small village in Peru, South America. I recite the Gospel in my sleep. I roll it over in my mind. I can’t wait to engage people. I am living sent. The anticipation sprouts radical excitement down deep. The laughs, the tears, the mama guilt, the prayers…all usher me into this moment of praise and adoration and anticipation of proclaiming the Gospel “to the nations…”

One of my greatest joys on my first international mission trip is our time of corporate worship with the local church. The church in Chorrillos, Peru isn’t a big, beautiful building with stain glass windows and wooden pews. The church is a modest second story room with concrete floors and plastic chairs. This place reminds me of the “upper room,” as described in Acts 1:13-14. 13 “When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. ….. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer…” We climb narrow stairs and pile into the upper room. We squeeze in a circle and prepare our hearts. The Pastor tunes guitar strings as if to tune his spirit for the worship that is about to begin. We sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart,” in two languages. He sings with intense passion in a language I cannot understand. He is simply being with Jesus and I can feel God’s presence here more strongly than I have in a while. All my senses are full of His greatness. God’s glory has fallen down into this place like rain and is soaking us from the inside out. I raise my arms like a child as if to grab His hem and cry, “Jesus, I don’t ever want to be dry.”

The Pastor. Those sitting in the upper room ~ like Edwards says are simultaneously emotionally affected and humbled by the One who “meeked” and shamed Himself in our place. I am blown away by the greatness of our Lord, by the fact that God in all His mighty plans had cared enough for this Pastor, had cared enough for us, to put us together in this moment of praise.

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While melodies continue to explode into the rafters, my mind wanders into the throne room. I imagine the etiquette of worship there. I imagine the strange, beautiful creatures with wings and eyes all over. I imagine they put down their wings as they drop quietly by the throne in reverent exaltation of the Lamb. I imagine shouts, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts,” as incense hovers and pillars shake (see Ezekiel 1:1-28; Isaiah 6). Every living thing is engaged in worship as they focus on the person of Christ. This is the same God I sing to in this moment. The inevitable goose-bumps rise and I wonder what heaven thinks about our worship?

As music fades into muted tone, we breathe a word “Amen.” I lift my head and open my eyes and I am humbled by how emotionally affected I am.

 

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Let Your Light Shine

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“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” the kids burst into song. I hear their sweet voices echo from the backseat and I begin to think. My candle is lit; I am on fire for God. My purpose, our purpose is to spread His light. One little candle can light up a room but Jesus can light up an entire world … and my small flame can be a part of that. I am continually blown away that my Lord Jesus who can do this all by Himself chooses to let me be a little part of it.

I want to be challenged, to learn more every minute, to share God’s love with people walking around unaware. I want to feel needed, used by the Lord, able to make a difference no matter how small. I want to give my life away, to comprehend losing my life and what it means to find it (Matt. 10:39). I want to serve the Lord daily, with every breath, every moment both inside and outside my home. Opportunities to tell people God loves them and desires to lift them from this dust and into His glory.

One of my great joys (outside my family) is to disciple my friend, Betty. Betty is only 58 years old but the hardness of her life wears across her face. We scoot a chair underneath her modest kitchen table and crack open our Bibles. The worn, scribbled on pages flip with grace to the book of John. We start here. I want her to find Him in between the lines…I want her to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3).  Most days I am a mess and feel anything but qualified to lead a bible study. I make a lot of mistakes but God will use me, in spite of all that. He can use you too.

We finish our study and close our Bibles and begin to talk about our ministry at the Castaway Motel. I ask my trusted friend, with slight hesitation as I’m not sure my heart can handle her response, “Do you think our ministry to share Christ with people is making a difference?”

She takes off her reading glasses and places them gently on her red King James Bible. I feel my eyes quiver a bit upon her reply, “Well, yes. Even if just one person accepts Christ as Savior, that’s enough…don’t you think?” Maybe I wrongly define success by vast numbers and make-shift tent revivals. Maybe I forget to be obedient in the small and anticipate His faithfulness in the big. Maybe I forget I’m the seed planter, not the crop grower.

I don’t cry often anymore but this touches me. The tears push themselves like a parade down the side of my face. I say, “Yes, you’re right. I just needed a gentle reminder, I guess.”

Over and over God ministers to me through someone I thought I came to minister to. He shows me His heart and His Word in new ways right here in the life I am living and through the people I am serving.

How blessed we are to be called His servants. I am thankful that He who sits so high would bend low upon people like us and use us as his vessel. How blessed we are to experience the breath of God as he fans our ember into a roaring flame, set ablaze for the glory of God.

My sweet sisters, don’t ever underestimate your little light. Keep letting it shine because God will use it and direct it where it will shine the brightest.

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What Would Your Day Say About You?

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Discuss three things that happened today. How did you feel? Frustrated, mad, happy, thankful, or fearful? The question my husband and I discuss in our couples bible study.

Well, I’ll go first,” I say with an abrupt tone. The dog pooped on my friend’s front porch and that made me frustrated. Second, due to the inconvenient fact that no Kleenex were present in the car, I was forced to blow my nose into my scarf while passengers in the neighboring car looked on in horror. I felt embarrassed. Last but not least, the kids smeared dirty water all over the ping pong table outside, the dog licked it, then threw up on the floor. That made me mad.

Shall I continue?

I must confess y’all, I didn’t particularly care for that exercise.

If my day could talk, it would say, “You spent most of me…

Mad,

Frustrated,

Embarrassed, and

Overwhelmed.

My sweet friends, I don’t want to simply cope with life. Survive the day.

I don’t want to pinch myself awake until numbness wears off.

Do you?

Then I remember something about the Apostle Paul. He said, “Do it all to the glory of God,” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This verse opens the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God. What I do and how I do it, matter to Him.

Every word.

Every action.

Every reaction holds the potential to be worship in the raw. Glory to God in spite of poopy porches or snotty scarves! I admit I need practice in this area.

Paul tells us we must set our minds on things above (see Col. 3:2) and practice living for His glory, actually and determinedly.

Underneath the schedule.

In between activities.

In the middle of the mess ~ we must meditate on God’s Truth, talk it over with Him often in our prayers, and remind ourselves frequently as we scale the walls of “to-dos.” It takes intentionality and resolution and determination. Aggressive faith. We must offer all our acts to God and believe He accepts them. Then hold firm to that position and keep insisting every act of every hour of the day and night be included in the transaction. Go to God in closet communion and tell him we mean every act for His glory then supplement those times by a thousand thought prayers as we go about the job of living (paraphrase Pursuit of God, Tozer).  

Oh yes, that’s it. A thousand thought prayers. Daily. Hourly. Seconds bursting with the overshadowing Presence of God. God help me to do this … then as I perform the elementary, I will hear the voice of the angels worshipping the lamb, “Holy, Holy, Holy … the whole earth is full of His glory,” and I will sing along with them (because I’m adding to His glory, not stealing it away)!

Then my day’s reflection will become one of:

Refreshment,

Comfort,

Encouragement, and

Peace.

So as you reflect on today ~ What would your day say about you?

 

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God Calms the Chaos: Be Still

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Overloaded. Stressed. Busy. Lonely. Overscheduled. We don’t compare notes or even talk about it much. Maybe because we think we can be all and do all, all of the time. We are pretty good at figuring things out, multi-tasking, checking boxes, and getting things done. We promote ourselves as self-reliant, resourceful networkers when underneath it all, we are disconnected and exhausted. I think it’s the pressure to be a performer on the stage of our life: a great mama who helps glue and create science projects, a sacrificial wife who forfeits a shower to help her husband at work, a trailblazer for God whose sacrificial service is unmatched. Maybe we even push ourselves to do a little more because our self-worth’s at stake. Oh my sweet sisters, this creates a breeding ground for … Chaos. Un-reasonable expectations. Impossible goals. Does any of this sound familiar?

I consider myself an unfortunate expert of sorts. I trip into the trenches of chaos weekly. I run full speed on the treadmill of discord until my legs buckle and refuse to move another inch.

Why do I run towards the empty?

The spaces void of anything good?

Why don’t I escape to the quiet, the stillness of my room, shut the door and pray to my Father in secret? Why don’t I call on the One who spoke something into nothing? The One who spoke the very nature of chaos into order?

That is our God after all. His strength. His order. He waits to calm stormy seas that swirl deep within…All we have to do is ask.

But will we?

He desires to be our dwelling place even while our feet trod the road of simple earthly duty. God winks at our weakness and overlooks unfinished to-do-lists that seem to label us failure. Praise God He isn’t looking for a woman who can get it all done in 24 hours! Instead, He is looking for a woman who will come behind the veil and push into His presence one quiet moment at a time.

“Be still and know that I am God,” He says.  He says it as if he means to tell me that my strength and safety lie not in the noise but in silence (see Pursuit of God, paraphrase, Tozer). We must step out of the worldly parade long enough to get still with Him. A worldly procession that shouts your success is how much you can accomplish in a day. God’s intelligible word says just the opposite. Ecclesiastes 4:5-6 tells us wise people practice moderation and contentment and quietness. We don’t want to be fools with fistfuls of frantic; we want to be wise with limits and stillness.

God calls himself, “I am that I am.” May I apply that to us today? As the noise of life creeps up a decibel level, imagine our Savior’s voice: I am the stillness that is your hearts cry. I am the green pasture that awaits instead of a busy parking lot. I am your soul-rest from normalcy and monotony. I am the organizer of your chaotic mess. I am the only sustainer you’ll ever know. Come and find me. Call out for me. Get still with me. You will be so glad you did.

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Nourishment for the Soul

I found myself reading about the prayer life of George Muller this morning. Oddly enough, I forfeited my own prayer time with the Lord reading about him. But it brought such soul satisfaction that I wanted to share with you …

Before this time my habitual practice had been, at least for ten years previously, to give myself to prayer immediately after having gotten dressed in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it, so that in this way my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that, by means of the Word of God, while meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experiential communion with the Lord.

I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but simply for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result almost invariably is this, that after a very few minutes I have been led into prayer of some sort, whether confession, or thanksgiving, or intercession, or supplication; so that, although I do not give myself specifically to prayer, but rather to meditation, nevertheless my meditation upon the Word turns almost immediately more or less into prayer.

After a time of confession, or intercession, or supplication, or giving of thanks arising out of my meditation upon a few words or a verse, I then go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or for others, as the Word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the goal of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and my inner man is nourished and strengthened spiritually, so that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I find myself in a peaceful and happy state of heart. In addition, not only am I fed spiritually, but also during these times of meditation the Lord also communicates to me truth which later I find to be spiritual food for other believers—even though in the first place it was not for the sake of teaching or preaching or the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but simply for the profit of my own inner man.

The difference between the way I prayed before and the way I pray now is this: Before, when I awoke, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer. But what was the result? I often spent 15 to 30 minutes or even an hour on my knees in prayer before deriving any benefit from it, and often, I would really begin to pray only after having had my mind wander for the first 10, 15 or 30 minutes. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way because my heart, having first been nourished by the truth of God’s Word has been brought into experiential fellowship with God. As I commune with God around His Word, I then speak to Him as my Father and my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point.

I never read about this method in a book, nor did anyone ever tell me about it. And yet, now, ever since God taught me this concerning meditation and prayer, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God should do every morning is to first obtain food for his inner man. Just as our outward man is not capable of working long unless we eat, and as this is one of the first things that we do each morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food as well for the inner man.

Now, what is food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not merely reading the Word of God without comprehension, so that it simply passes through our minds like water running through a pipe, but instead, taking time to consider what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.

When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time from the heart, generally requires a certain amount of inward strength or godly desire, and the time when prayer can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God—where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us.

We can profitably meditate, with God’s blessing, even though we are ever so weak spiritually; in fact, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. When we pray in this manner, our minds will wander far less than if we simply give ourselves to prayer without first taking time to meditate.

~ Kelli Zaniel

Don’t Focus on the Hard

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We hadn’t spoken in a while.

The Christmas rush, the holiday travel, the sinus infections.

We reconnect on a Wednesday afternoon. The phone rings. My six year old answers and exclaims, “Mama, it is Ms. Betty!” Ms. Betty is a friend from our ministry at the Castaway Motel. I now call her part of our family. My multi-tasking-self holds the phone in one hand while making mac and cheese and PB&J’s in the other. In this moment, my mind floods with the insignificant…Christmas returns, new brake pads, and puberty talks. Well I suppose the puberty talks are significant…but hunny that’s for another day.

Ms. Betty is a story teller and this day is no exception. I cut off crust and make butterfly shaped sandwiches and she begins. She just moved from a run-down motel into a modest apartment for seniors. She is now removed from the prostitution and drugs that plagued the residents, her neighbors. This is a better life for her, a safer one.

She saves money and purchases a queen mattress and box springs at the Salvation Army. The nice man brings the mattress to the third floor and places it where it needs to go. Finally, her apartment is comfortably furnished just in time for Christmas.

T’was the night before Christmas or so the poem goes, not a creature is stirring not even a bedbug? Ahem, yes the mattress and all surrounding furniture begins to stir with bedbugs. This is one thing I’ve grown accustom to in ministry. Going with Christ to the least of these in Reno usually means going to the bedbug infested places too.

Bless her heart.

She saves.

She budgets.

She spends wisely. And instead of a wink from jolly Old Saint Nick she gets a bite from the mattress critters. Lord have mercy!

But what she says next makes me spill my macaroni. Even though I cannot see her face, I know it’s smiling. She exclaims with contentment, “The Lord is with me. I am blessed with what He has given me. This may be inconvenient but God will use this to make me stronger.” She puts to death her desire for meager comfort, picks up her cross, and chases the heels of Jesus.

I gulp and pause and I know. She has the New Testament contentment and joy Paul talks about. A sincere joy despite her circumstance. The kind of joy and satisfaction in the supremacy of Christ that should be tucked inside the heart of every believer.

Delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4); “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Ps. 100:2); “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Ms. Betty clings to the feet of Jesus with gladness and nothing distracts her… not even the mud pies. Once again the kitchen table turns and she minsters to me. I am so amazed at her faith, her endurance, and her courage.

God reminds me of something as a new year commences. The way is hard that leads to life. But we must be careful of our emphasis. The focus is not on the “hard” but on the “life.” The eternal (John 3:16), abundant (John 10:10), exceedingly joyful (Psalm 43:4) and forever pleasurable (Psalm 16:11) life is so worth the fight that we will someday look back at the very worst, darkest, horrible battles and see them as “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17), Piper.

Lord, awaken my joyful heart. Be magnified in my attitude. Like Ms. Betty, please help me to find joy in you especially when days flurry with disappointment. Help me to be so satisfied in you that I can call death gain. In the precious name of the resurrected Christ I pray, Amen.

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Great Resource

Pastors Francis Chan and David Platt team up for a second Multiply Gathering this Friday November 8, 2013 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00p.m. CST.

This is a free live stream from Austin, Texas. If you’d like to register click here…

Identity Crisis

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know, I kind of abandoned ship for a spell. I’m sorry to leave you hanging! As of late, my faith seems to be a work in progress. Kind of like when Paul talks about “working out your faith.” Yes ma’am, that’s what I’ve been doing, workin’ things out intellectually and spiritually.

A few months ago I sit in a messy gym office where my girls take gymnastics. Mamas gather around in a cramped circle to find out whether or not they can add “team” to their plates. The owner of the gym talks all informative and lays down team rules and regulations. In a pitch to draw us in she says, “Your children need an identity. They need to belong to a group, a team.” Now I am not saying that gym team is bad, no ma’am. But in the moment, the Holy Spirit begins to churn something in the pit of my stomach.

Identity.

That’s my Jesus’ message to me. His message to my girls. The message that’s been chasing me for weeks.

Oddly, my middle school years suddenly come to mind. I being super shy want to fit in. My uncoordinated lanky-leggy self, strolls down halls in my button down with rolled up sleeves, britches yanked up to my navel, and my wavy perm which is later dubbed “a bird’s nest.” Apparently, this business is not cool. I like Homek but I can barely stitch a Christmas pillow for my mama. I like basketball but I need glasses and can’t see the goal. I like kickball but trippin’-n-fallin’ is more my game. I try and figure out who I am by looking around at everybody else. Am I an athlete? A nerd? A brain? Which group do I fit in?

This identity thing doesn’t end with middle school or high school or even college. We continually define and redefine ourselves. We do this through our jobs, our homes, our cars, our kids, and our fitness level. Every day we communicate something, “I want to be seen or I want to be perceived this way.” This is hog wash in the eyes of God and it should be to us too.

Paul tells us in Philippians 3 we find who we are not in the external but the internal. Instead of defining ourselves based on what we do or what group we associate with, the Gospel would have us remember what Christ has done.

Therefore my identity, your identity is in Him, built completely on Him and nothing else. When we go outside of Him to determine our identities we actually engage in idolatry. In the sense idolatry says, “I will not be defined by God, I am going to be defined by other things like gymnastics or music or even my home.” We start holding onto these things so tightly that when God wants them, we won’t give them up because we think they define who we are.

On the ride home with gym bags and musical instruments in toe, I think of what Paul told the Philippian church: remember to whom you are united and the place where your real citizenship rests. Our citizenship, our identity is found in heaven, it is found in Christ.

Period.

We are hidden in Him (Col. 3:3); we are seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).

Sweet sister remember your identity.

Remember who you are.

You are His.

You have, have had, and will always have an identity in the One worth identifying with!

“But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20, NET Bible).

“To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12-13).

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South Reno Baptist Harvest Festival and Trunk-n-Treat

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