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.

Worship with the World

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It is always amazing to me that no matter where I go in the world and gather with other believers, no matter language barriers or equipment limitations all you need to feel like family is to start worshiping the father.

I’ve been to many different nations speaking many different languages, but the moment music starts and the worship begins you sense that same familiar presence. The presence that binds us together. The Spirit of God gathering with His kids and connecting them in a common purpose to declare His goodness. Literally every time it puts me in awe of God and His family and I immediately realize how truly big our family is. When you worship this week whether in a large gathering or small group realize that all over this planet you have brothers and sisters doing the same.

You are not alone.

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12 miles

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What is 12 miles? The distance that many of the members of this church walk, one way just to get here.

You see this is the only church in the area. This culture is very pedestrian in the sense that many of them aren’t fortunate to have a car or moto so they walk. Even so 12 miles one way? So let’s get this perspective. They are almost walking the distance of a marathon to attend church.

Now before you think I’m about to bash those of us who live in the west and give you some speech about how when I grew up we had to…etc. slow down, that’s not my intention.

However, I do want us to investigate the question that in our current mindset, our life of options and conveniences if someone told us we could only go to church 12 miles away and we had to walk would we do it?

Do we love the gathering that much? Are we that committed to the cause of Jesus, His Church, that we would walk it?

Seriously, how motivated, how inspired, how spiritually hungry, would we have to be to make that walk?

Are we that excited and motivated about our relationship with God, are we that moved by our love for our church? Are we burning with the spiritual hunger and passion enough to take that walk?

As I write this to you, I’m challenged in my own relationship with God? Am I that hungry for him? Am I committed to that level?

Again, it is not my desire to condemn you or make you feel bad, it’s a question I’m asking us.

Warning: before we make excuses like…

Well they don’t have the distractions we do, true, there distractions are more like roads that are dirt and difficult to traverse.

Well, they don’t have all the options we do, don’t get this twisted, they are human and can easily choose other things that are more convenient and make for a much easier day.

I could go on but let me stop and make an observation. Our blessing doesn’t make us bad, and their lack doesn’t make them good, and that’s my point.

I didn’t say every African goes to church, and I didn’t say every African Christian would walk or has to walk twelve miles.

What I’m saying is this is not an externally religious obligation that motivates at this level. It’s an internal heart motivation based on a relationship with the one who has saved our lives.

The question I’m asking myself and the question I want you to ask yourself is our relationship with God and His Church worth a twelve mile walk?

God give us the heart that we would walk to the end of the earth for you.

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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.

Global Reach for Justice Africa 2014

I have the same anticipation that I get every year, when we begin our Journey to the Great Continent. As usual we will make stops in Uganda and Rwanda. Two places that God has truly put in our heart.

Global Reach for Justice is a local church ministry partnering with local churches around the world to effect positive change.

It is our goal on this trip to help the marginalized and to train leaders to continue to do so. To do our part in the over all scheme of Gods will in this nations.

Really I we want is to know that we have made a difference in one way or another.

This year I am doing something I have never done before. A mentoring trip. Two young men who see missions as a part of the dream of their life, a purpose for their life are going with me for the purpose of making a present difference, but more importantly to learn and develop thoughts, strategies and plans for their future in being global leaders. People who see the world as their home and fearlessly pursue the will of God to Go into all the world and carry this message.

My goal on this trip is to train, develop and poor into their lives the minimal knowledge and understanding that someone else gave me, so that together now and in the future, we can continue to help people around the world.

Leaders we can’t fear new leaders growing and developing we must empower them to do so. So we can see everything God wants us to do come to pass. Instead of fearing that they will be different, or that they will do it better we better hope that they do, or the dream will die.

Make sure what you are doing is not just providing for the present but that it is looking into the future and preparing to make a difference in the world has yet to come.

What is your AFRICA? Who are you taking with you?

Open House – The Only Way to Live 3

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Matt 5 (MSG)

Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
 

Matthew 10:5-8 MSG

 Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge: “Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. 

II Corinthians 5:20 NKJV

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 

BIG IDEA:

It is clear that Jesus was not here just to save us. It went farther than that. His ultimate goal was to impart the message of what He was doing into a team of people who would pass this message perpetually through the generations so the love displayed through Jesus actions would find its way through this entire planet and into the future. Currently the “believers of today,” we are that team. 

So in essence Jesus is saying share this message and the spirit of this message with this world so they have the opportunity to believe, and their lives can be changed by a relationship with God through Jesus. 

BIG QUESTIONS:

WHY do we struggle with open house living?  WHY do we close the door behind us?

1. Do we forget the importence?
2. Do we make life about other things first?
3. Do we forget to care?
4. Are we distracted?

>This thought reminds me of a story Jesus told when he was teaching people about the way the kingdom works. 

A life changing Story:

It was a story about a farmer who was planting seed. He said the man scattered seed. Some fell on the side of the road, and before it could take root the birds came and carried it off. Some fell on stony soil, this seed quickly sprouted up but roots were shallow so the sun came up scorched and killed the growth. Some fell in the weeds and thorns, the seed took root and began to grow, but being surrounded by thorns and weeds the plant was choked out and died. Finally the seed that fell on good, prepared, rich soil took deep root, and due to the nutrients in the good undisturbed soil the plant grew, and produced major growth and life. 

Thought:  I think the weeds and thorns are what we deal with in today’s culture more than any other thing

Mark 4:18, 19 MSG

“The seed cast in the weeds represents the ones who hear the kingdom news but are overwhelmed with worries about all the things they have to do and all the things they want to get. The stress strangles what they heard, and nothing comes of it. 

(AMP)

Then the cares and anxieties of the world and distractions of the age, and the pleasure and delight and false glamour and deceitfulness of riches, and the craving and passionate desire for other things creep in and choke and suffocate the Word, and it becomes fruitless. 

(NLT)

but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 

HOW do we begin to live this open house life?

1. Throw the door wide open

(Take the pressure off)

What we can’t do…

We can’t change someone
We can’t save someone

What we can do?

We can love everyone. 
We can be generous to everyone

We should focus on what we can do, and leave what only God can do to him. 

>We are NOT trying to MAKE A POINT
>We ARE trying to MAKE A DIFFERENCE

2.  Remember what Jesus did for us and share

>Don’t ever forget where Jesus brought you frame and what he did for you, share your story. Every member a messenger

>You don’t have to be a great theologian what you learned this morning you can teach this afternoon

>Take the pressure off just be you and share your story

3.  Intentionally open our lives to people seeking for answers and love
Be aware

>Pray this prayer…”who’s it going to be today?”

>Share the love

4.  Look beyond our prejudices, our inconveniences, and their sin

>Aknowlege that at times we all have some sort of prejudice. Prejudice simply means to pre-judge. 
Fire yourself from the job of judge (Gods Job)

>You can disagree and still love

>expect to be inconvenienced and be ok with it.

>Create some margin in your life.

>Love covers a multitude of sin

5.  Make this a way of living. 

This is not a strategy its a lifestyle. 
It’s not a method its a way of living
it’s not a religeous obligation, it’s the overflow of love from Jesus. 

BIG THOUGHT:

>We are his mouthpiece
>His ambassadors
>His representatives to the people of this world.  

LAST THOUGHT:

We have been placed in our circle of influence. We may think life just landed us in our current role but God is far more strategic than that. You are there to make a difference for the kingdom of God, you are there to love people the way Jesus loves you. 

Do you know Jesus? You can have this love and life we are talking about. It is truly the answer you are looking for.