Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Last November I spoke at the Church camp one afternoon. The theme for the camp was radical and I spoke on Gideon and Esther, 2 people that were radical in their pursuit of God's call at one moment in their lives. They both had to set aside their own plans to fulfill God's at a time that was not particularly convenient to them. They both saved their people because of their radical obedience at the moment. The question that I had to ask myself was "What does radical mean?" The answer is that it means from the root or to return to the original purpose. They both accomplished their purpose because they allowed God to direct their activities.

I do not know about you but sometimes I get tired and burned out. I feel like my efforts do not make any real difference. Some days I dream that it would be nice to go back to the 9 to 5 world, have a 401K and employer paid health insurance. It would be nice to just go someplace for relaxation and enjoyment rather than to travel someplace to work. It would be nice to have a steady income. Those thoughts come but fortunately they do not last. I know that I am where I am supposed to be and doing what I am called to do. As for tomorrow. God has that planned and I do not need to worry about it. There is however something that I need to do regularly and that is become radical. I need to return to the root or the original purpose of God for my life. He has called me to know Him and walk with Him.

My theme verse for this blog is Micah 6:8
"He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness.
and to walk humbly with your God?"

God calls us to do justice. There are many people that are oppressed, voiceless and powerless in society. It is our job as Christians to listen to them and encourage them. We are to point them to hope when they have none and to help  them receive it. We are also called to love mercy. There are many people that feel like they are beyond redemption. They believe that the only hope they can have is for God to go easy on them because they know that they deserve punishment. It is our job to help them find forgiveness and freedom. God's desire is not to punish people but to redeem them and restore life in them. As the Body of Christ, we get to participate in both of these high callings and it is amazing to see how God works when we become involved in these ministries of justice and mercy.

There is a final part to this verse and some days I forget that it is the most important part. We are called to walk humbly with our God. We need to maintain a closeness to Him. We need to position ourselves to hear His voice. We need to remember that we are 100% dependent on Him for strength, wisdom, and favor to be able to fulfill the other two parts of this verse. Without the direction and involvement of Holy Spirit, we cannot accomplish anything. Unless we spend time in His word and seeking  Him in prayer we will nit have wisdom when situations that are beyond us come up. Without being filled to overflowing with the love of God directed at the people we are working with and for, our efforts will seem hollow and be ineffective. Humility demands an acknowledgment of dependence.

In the final segment, there is another operative word. "walk". While there is certainly a time and place to rest in the presence of God or sit at the feet of Jesus, we are called to walk. God is moving. He is at work in the world. He has called us to move and work along side Him. He has the power and authority to accomplish the work. The resources for the work are His also. Our job is just to go and obey whatever He says. We often want to pray about situations but God calls us to walk into them with Him. Prayer is the beginning but not usually the end. Gideon feared the enemy and wanted to hide in a wine press while trying to work, God called him to get just enough men to go and testify of Israel's deliverance. He needed to be on sight where God was at work. He needed to trust God and participate but the victory came in such a way that only God could have done it. We are called to be like Gideon and walk or go with God.

Sometimes we have a hard time hearing God's voice. We do not always feel as close to Him as we do at other times. There are days or even weeks when it feels like He is silent. For those times, we need to be like Esther. We need to find a Mordecai , a person that is in tune with God and has His heart for people. We need to align ourselves with him (or her) and let them lead until we hear God again for ourselves. I think sometimes God lets us be in a place of dependence on others so that we can learn to function as a body. This dependence is part of learning humility. In the west, we have a strong desire to do it by ourselves and to prove we can do it on our own. This is contrary to God's plan. He called us to work in unity. He created us to need each other and to depend on one another. He also created us to work under authority,  first His, but also under a structure of leadership that is submitted to Him. As Esther listened to the wisdom of Mordecai, the Jews were saved and an evil authority structure led by Haman was brought down.

I guess I just want to close by asking how you are doing. Are you working for justice while showing mercy? Are you walking in dependence on God and moving with Him? Have you seen Him move lately and bring victories to hopeless situations? Do you have a Mordecai to help you discern the will of God when you are struggling? I go through time that I need to return to these question, return to radical and I find that it re-energizes me. I get a fresh viewpoint. I have renewed expectations. I come back to believing in the importance of the things that God is calling me to. I fall in love all over again with the life that He has me living. I came back to Illinois tired and grumpy. I am returning to Guatemala next with with a sense of anticipation and excitement for the last couple months of work for the year. I hope that you too experience these things in your lives. I pray God directs you to move with Him in ways that you maybe never have before and that you sense a fresh excitement as you discover the radical you.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bloom Where You Are Planted.

A couple of years ago I was talking to Peter Furler. He had come to Guatemala with an organization called Lifelight to do a concert. He is an avid motorcyclist and so he and several members of the band rented motorcycles to tour a little of the beautiful countryside. They were riding up and down mountains on highways on motorcycles much smaller than anything I would feel comfortable on even on Illinois flat roads. He normally rides a BMW or at least that is what I see him on in pictures. Bigger motorcycles do present their own challenges but I never feel safe if having power to escape a situation is not an option. I commented on that and he told me that you have to bloom where you are planted. In other words, you cannot change every circumstance but you can choose to grow wherever you are and in whatever situation you find yourself. You attitude is a choice.

I have been involved in the Christian Youth Center of Morris  since it began. It is a ministry that is close to my heart and always will be. I miss it and especially the kids when I am away from them. When I come back to Illinois I always spend whatever time I can there with the kids. I love it but I must admit that it is changing. The kids that I have known for many years are getting older. Many of them have stopped coming because they are out of school, moved away or left for other reasons. Now I often feel like I barely know most of them. Even those I know I wind up getting names wrong. It is an awkward situation. Sometimes I think it would be easier to just not bother and I wonder if it would really matter.

Over the years I have worked with hundreds, maybe thousands of kids in this ministry. Many left a lasting impression. Some because they were so involved and were an encouragement to me in the way they chose to pursue God. Unfortunately there were others that left the lasting impression for different reasons. They came but they chose to live life on their terms. They were angry, hurting, self destructive young people. They could not allow themselves to feel love or compassion from anyone because their trust had been betrayed too many times. They were wounded and nobody was going to break through the walls they put up. No matter how often they were told and shown that they were loved, they could not receive it. I watched countless leaders try to break through their tough shells but they would not open up because they thought that they were being set up. Their lives to that point had told them that was all they could expect. Their was no such thing as selfless love. People only wanted to get close because they wanted something from them. It was heartbreaking to see how deeply they  hurt and how much their trust had been violated.

I have thought about many of these kids over the years. Occasionally I will see something about them or be reminded of them. Sometimes this prompts me to pray for them. Occasionally I will see something on Facebook or hear something from one of their friends and it will encourage me. There is one that came to CYC for a couple of years and I know that they struggled with some things. I did not know how to help but I tried to be there when needed. I realized that they needed more than I could do but still wanted to help when I could.

A few months ago I saw a post on Facebook and I realized that God had intervened in their live and things were changing. Since then I have seen many other posts and realize that God has a plan for each of these kids and we may not ever see fruit from it. We may never know how He reached them and did what we could not but we need to keep praying for them. I do not know if the time at CYC had any part to play in their decision to follow Jesus. We need to keep making ourselves available to wounded, hurting kids, even though it can be painful or frustrating. We need to live beyond our understanding and share love and truth with them  as often as possible. Holy Spirit is the one that is leading them to their Father. Our job is to be available when we can.

I do not know how every kids story will turn out. I do not know what percentage of these wounded, confused kids will look to Jesus for the answers in their lives. I do not know what will happen. I can just choose to bloom where I am planted. Let God use me however He wants today. I can choose to let Him redeem my time whether in Morris or Guatemala. I can remind myself that God's timing and mine are not always the same and I can continue to pray for those that have crossed my path over they years. Jesus loves each of them more than I ever could. He is at work on their behalf. Lastly, I can be His hands and feet to demonstrate His love wherever He places me today.