Everybody Loves a Gift

This morning as I sit in the cafe of my hotel here in Rwanda, I think about all the gifted people Ive met in the last two weeks. This trip is almost over and as always I am moving into that contemplative mode. I am thinking about what I have seen, what we have done, those we have encountered and the wonderful relationships that God has allowed me the opportunity to continue or begin.

As I think about all this one of the things that popped into my head was a question. Why does God give us gifts? By gifts I mean, talents, abilities, skills, propensities, and certain personalities, or even spiritual gifts, that we read about in the Bible.

I have come to a conclusion: The gifts are given to us, but not for us.

I have met artists on this trip, one in particular who has become a very good friend, and I look forward to our continued developing relationship. His Name is Ludigo http://www.ludigocreations.org He is truly a gifted individual, not just as an artists but also with an entrepreneurial mind. He was telling me that much of the art world is moving to more of a cause minded approach, which he says is an antidote to the natural insecurity that many artists deal with. It gets the focus off the gift or the art and on to the cause, which gives more meaning to the gift itself and more confidence and creativity to the artist.

I love this concept, and it reinforces my conclusion that God gives gifts to us, but not for us. Do we get pleasure in employing our gifts? Yes. The pleasure however should be in the reception of the gift by someone else not merely in the gift itself or what it does for us.

This mistake is made in the church all the time. We can make the mistake of putting the focus on the gifted not the gift giver. We make the mistake of putting emphasis on the gifted and not the purpose of the gift.

The gift is not our purpose, it is merely a tool to express our purpose. I think we avoid all these mis steps if we understand, God gave gifts to us, for others. Not for us to set around and rave about the gifts but to use those gifts to make a difference in the lives of others.

Don’t misunderstand me, we should take huge delight in the gifts God has given us and enjoy them to the fullest, but never lend to the gifts some kind of virtue.

Remember if you are gifted it is what it implies. You were given something. You can’t take pride in something you were given, you didn’t earn it, and you didn’t create it, so the proper response to it is to be grateful for it, and be intentional in using it.

I want to encourage you if you have gifts in your life, use them. Don’t sit on them, don’t sideline them, don’t avoid them. Use them, but, in using them do so with the understanding that they were given to you for others, for the kingdom of God, for the church, for the community, for expressing the purpose of God in and through your life.

Everyone likes a gift, so give yours out and make someones day.

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30th birthday

Was like. 

Last night, what I would guess was around 20,000 people gathered to celebrate 30 years of Watoto church ministry. 

To try to describe this would sound at best like sheer exaggeration, and at worst inarticulate, however I will try to let you in in one of the greatest experiences of my life. 

A night filled with beautiful, passionate voices, and skilled traditional, as well as modern dance weaving a story throughout the night of the burden, vision, and fulfillment of a dream given to Gary and Marylin Skinner who, when receiving it must have been overwhelmed by it, while not being able to see in full what has actually become of it.   A dream that has fought cultural, spiritual, and economic battles to exist, and might I say has come through in victory on the other side. A dream that is consistantly and continually giving a hand up spiritually, economically and culturally to an amazing city of Kampala and Nation of Uganda. 

Everything about the beginnings of this, it’s place in history, the nationality of its leaders, the dream itself screams “this wil never work!”  Yet 30 years later to call it a success would be to underestimate it on every level. 

The stories as told through music, media, readings, narration and the fact that the story tellers are not acting out the life if another, rather were telling their very own story. The sincerity and authenticity of that left me in tears most of the night. 

Stories of the most graphic unspeakable horrors that can be perpetrated on one human being to another. They didn’t stop there but went on to finish the stories with the hope and forgiveness that only Jesus Christ can bring in any circumstance. 

I want to give specific examples but it would be impossible because one would lead to another and another and another. Stories of devastation followed by hope and forgiveness. I guess you should have been there. 

All this was capped off with Israel Houghton leading one of the best worship sets I’ve ever heard and what must have been 20,000 people singing, dancing, rejoicing in our great God and Savior Jesus Christ in a unity I have rarely felt anywhere, ever and the energy level was off the charts. To tell the truth the rapture of the church would having been fitting at the end of that night. Just another level. It was all culminated in a song befitting these victorious Ugandans and their understanding of the testimony God has given them. “I am not forgotten”

I am not forgotten 
God knows my name 
He knows my name

And I will praise Him for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Light in the darkness
The father to the fatherless 
Strength in my weakness
He knows my Name

At the very end the combined Watoto children’s choir and the Watoto church choir which must have been 250-300 people strong. Sang a song about rising from the ashes, and as they sang hundreds of floating lanterns rose from the back of the stage and filled the night sky, leaving us with a visual affirmation of a people who have and are rising from the darkness carrying a great light. THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!

We left their last night lifted, strengthened, refreshed, convicted, and empowered. 

Let me just say this, without being presumptuous, for the sake of the spiritual hunger in your church, for an opportunity to make a difference in the world, for perspective and hope, do yourself a favor and get connected to Gary and Marylin Skinner and Watoto church. So many ways to get involved, so much benefit to your church in eternal, purposeful ways. 

I love the church, and Watoto church like all of us is not perfect, but are what I believe Is one of the best examples of what God intends for the church to be. 

The idea that #wecandosomething is the way they live every single day. 

http://www.watoto.com
http://www.watotochurch.com

Uganda

Today was our first full day in Uganda, and it was an excellent time. We woke this morning and had breakfast with some of the team here and just talked about what God was doing in our lives.

We then had the good fortune of being able to visit the bulrushes the ministry to rescued babies by Watoto church. One of the most unique ministries I’ve seen in the world.

A ministry that truly rescues babies from trash heaps, public toilets, some who’ve been buried alive and others who were picked out for sacrifice to whatever god would demand such a thing.

Babies who were unloved and unwanted, for whatever reason. There is hope for such children in Uganda because of a special place called Watoto. Watoto this year is celebrating some significant landmarks. 40 year marriage anniversary of the senior Pastors Gary and Marylin Skinner, there 30th year as a church, and the 20th year committed to child care ministries.

Watoto is one of the great churches in the world! We are so excited as a church and as Global reach for Justice to be partnering with such an amazing church and vision.

The team of this great church are compelled and compelling people. I am stirred with passion every time I get around them. Their culture of compassion exudes from their very pours. They love God and love people, and I believe they are one of the great innovators of our day.

I could go on and on with stories of at risk women who’ve been helped and orphans who’ve been taken in and lifted to places and opportunities unavailable to them otherwise, or churches that have been planted and lives changed. The truth is Watoto church is an incredible extension of the hand of God in a beautiful nation, and what’s more they are a huge inspiration to the church at large. If you think your facing an impossible task read the history and bio of Watoto church and realize if God says to do it NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!

I’m inspired to reach my community, region, nation for Jesus. I’m inspired to love people, beyond their problems and weaknesses. I’m inspired to give people and hand up and not insult their dignity by giving them a hand out. I am inspired to do what we can to effect positive change.

Tonight I go to bed happy to have held and fed little Ruth, who will live a fruitful life, fed, clothed, educated, cared for and most importantly loved. It was my honor and privilege to pray for her and declare the word of God over her life and I have no doubt God rescued her for great purpose. Now lets go about the business of rescuing all those around us who desperately need it.

Prayer for our National Leaders (at national day of prayer in Canyon Texas)

Father God we come to you today in the precious name of your son Jesus. The only name given among men whereby we can be saved. In the name of the way, the truth and the life. The name that is above every name. At which name every knee will bow and every tounge will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

We as a community today gather humbly to ask for your blessing. We ask you to put your hand of favor on our land. 

We are so thankful to live in this great nation. We are grateful for the freedoms it affords us. We are grateful for the opportunities to prosper as a people and the freedom to unashamedly and unabashedly proclaim the good news of the Gospel in an uninhibited way. 

We are grateful for those who have, and, are and will pay the ultimate price for our physical national freedom, and even more grateful for the one who paid the ultimate price for our spiritual, eternal freedom from death, hell, and the grave. 

Father we place our President, Congress, and Judges before you now. We bring to you by way of prayer our national leaders. We pray for them in the spirit of honor and respect. As your word says in 1 Peter 2:13-17 MSG

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.  

Lord we honor those in authority in our nation and the greatest honor we could give them as believers is to sincerely pray for them. 

Today we pray for our leader, President Barack Obama. We pray first and foremost that His heart will be turned towards you. We pray that He will hear your voice, that he will know your truth. We pray that as he walks out the remainder of His term He will be led by your hand. We pray he will make decisions based on righteous principles and not on political positions. As your word says in Proverbs 29:4 

A leader of good judgment gives stability;…

We pray for His health, safety and protection and that of His family. We pray that you will surround him with voices of good judgement, encouragement, and strength. 

We ask you father that our legislative leaders will be informed by right and wrong as they make the laws of this land and represent the people of this land. Let our congress men and women love righteousness and abhor wrongdoing. As your word says in Proverbs 16:12 MSG

Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds; sound leadership has a moral foundation. 

Let them lead by principle and not by powermongering. Emmerse our leaders in humility and empower them by love for God, country, and the for the people of these great United States. Let their minds, hearts, ideas, and ideologies be given and surrendered to you and help them to remember the founding principles of our nation, and revere the position they Hold in history. 

Bless each and everyone of them, their families and most importantly their Spirit, soul, and Body. Give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of you mighty God. Let their eyes be opened and minds be enlightend to your truth. 

Father we ask you to bless the judiciary of our nation. Impart justice into the hearts of our judges. Give us a sense of righteousness. Help them to make judgements and bring justice that would honor you. Give them the wisdom of Solomon and let their judgement be founded on the precepts and principles of eternity. Help them to walk in the light of your love. 

We pray for blessings to them and their families. 

Father today we submit all our national leaders to you, in honor of you and in honor of their leadership in this land. 

We pray for your hand to guide us, your heart to lead us and your mind to inspire us to become what you have intended. For all these things we give you praise Glory and honor. 

God bless our leaders and God bless the United States of America. 

And father as the word says in James 5:16-18 MSG

…The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again. 

So we pray for rain in the entire panhandle. Saturate the soil, prosper this land. We believe you to do it. Thank you Jesus. 

Amen

Everyone Doing their Part

Today is an excellent day in Cambodia. The team did a work day at the hope center in Kampong Thom and Janae and I attended the new life staff retreat. We heard some great teaching and had the honor of teaching and praying over the staff.

This afternoon and evening the team are having a game time and ministry time with the orphans and attending and helping with an English class.

We will continue the retreat tonight. Believing God to truly use us to make a difference. Helps us to encourage and strengthen the church here in Cambodia.

Please continue to pray for the team. Thanks for the part you played in sending us.

The Church World Wide

I’ve said this many times but it rings as true today as much as ever. The church of Jesus Christ is alive and well and on the rise around the World.

As I told a room full of leaders and pastors in a village in Kampong Thom this morning it’s powerful to think that we have brothers and sisters all over this world because of our relationship with our father God through His Son Jesus.

The church is truly the expression of the love of Jesus. In all cultures, languages, and nations the church brings hope to the world.

I love Cambodia. The people here are so endearing, and full of faith, even in harsh circumstances.

Global Reach for Justice is doing what we can to make a difference in the world. James 1:27