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.

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

The Irony of Insecurity

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When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to work on a construction crew. I helped roof houses for the most part but at times helped in framing a house, probably more clean up than anything.

I learned a very important fact however in this process. It was apparent that in order for the house to be built properly, the foundation had to be laid properly. Trying to frame a house on a foundation that had flaws or was not level was an impossability. Literally, when it is time to start framing if the foundation is not right, it has to be done again before anything is built on it.

The irony of insecurity is that its like building on a faulty foundation. Meaning, when you’re insecure its like a builder who is more concerned by the appearance of the house than the reality of the house. So let the chips fall where they may, as long as it looks good, its fine.

The problem is that when pressure, storms, someone living in the house comes, there are things far more important than appearnces. like safety, stability, strength, endurence. These things become incredibly important at this point, but if the foundation is faulty than the future of the home is in question. At some point it will come crumbling down, if the foundation isn’t fixed.

Insecurity in large part is an undue emphasis on appearnces. When we are insecure we function in pretend mode. Herein lies the irony. Insecurity causes us to pretend to be secure. We build on a faulty foundation. Our priorities are out of whack. Peoples opinions take first place in our lives, what it “looks” like becomes far more concerning to us than what it “is” like.

So we go about making the house look good. We put the right brick on it, we paint it pretty colors, we deck it out with the most current, trendy decor. Problem is, it is not what it appears to be. Once the family moves in and life gets started, cracks start showing up, things start breaking down.

Insecurity is a life built to look secure, but in reality is emotionally falling apart.

We look happy, but are truly sad. We look like, “the life of the party,” friends all around, but lack the security to have solid, lasting, vulnerable, loving relationships.

We look like we have it all together but have constant concern that someone is going to see the cracks.

We Look like we love mentoring that young upstart employee fresh out of college while fearing everyday they are going to take our spot, even to the point of subtly sabotaging them.

We look like our life is full, but it is a big gaping whole of emotional emptiness.

The reason I write about insecurity is because I think its terribly sad that people with such potential to be solid, secure, and confident, are raging fear mongers on the inside, and are getting in their own way, and keeping themselves from significance, and success.

So, put the breaks on. Get off this pretend ride. Tear this fake facade down, get rid of this faulty frame work, all the way down to the foundation, and start fresh.

How?

1. Realize your foundation should be laid based on the specs from the designer.

>God built you to know who you are, and to be someone unique and
special
>It’s in a relationship with Him that brings security, and confidence.
when you know the designer, you know the plan, and you don’t have to
pretend.

2. Listen to the builder.

>Its amazing how many people will hire a builder and then not listen
them.
>Out builder is Jesus Christ the son of God. When we know Him, and
listen to him, he puts us right with our designer and helps us apply
the plan in away that produces security and confidence, not in our
own ability but the ability of the builder to make a great product out
of the framework of our lives.

3. Stick with the plan.

>The plan is the Bible the word of God. Knowing the plan causes us
to be saturated with confidence, and security. Know that the plan is
flawless, and will ultimately give us the outcome that is best. A grand
palace of a life, not built on pretense or appearances but on a strong,
good foundation. Let the storms come, let life happen, the house will
be strong!

Everybody Needs love

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.
 

…Open up with God, this generous father in heaven.

Today is a celebration, a party if you will, to celebrate the fact that Jesus took our place in death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, but beyond that he overpowered death, hell, and the grave and burst the tomb open, and on His own volition his own power he came back from the dead.  He lives!  He is alive!

This is not a theory, a fairy tale, or a mere story.  This is an historical fact the varacity and validity of which would hold up in court.  It has historical merit, legal merit, and is a reported fact, that he which was dead is alive for ever, and because He lives, we can also live.  

We can live, in victory over sin, death, hell and the grave, and we can win victory even over the circumstances in life.  

God loves us, and God wants us to win.  He has given us a plan to win, a way to win, because God is generous, He is a father and He is generous.  

Definition:  Generosity is the expression and very nature of love.  John 3:16-17 reveals the heart and charecter of God in his approach to human kind.  

For God so loved the world that He have His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.

I’m Sorry that…

There is such confusion about the nature of God today.

Many religeous leaders and churches by their theologies and practices have mis-charecterized the nature and heart of God.

Im sorry that we live in a culture that is listening to deception that paints God as the bad guy, and paints humankind as the picture of perfection, that somehow on our own will evolve into deity ourselves.  

All of these things, we deal with in our society almost every day, however it doesn’t change the truth about God.  Just because someone doesn’t believe or believes wrong doesn’t change who God is, how He relates to us, or what He has done for us.

God is a generous father…

1.  History proves Him Generous and Kind

Adam and Eve…even in the fall God showed them mercy

Noah…Even in the degredation of mankind and the judgement of the total earth, God showed mercy

Abraham…He blessed abraham to be a blessing, when he asked for the sacrifice of His son, he was generous to Abraham, and to all humanity.

Joseph…Joseph’s life was thrown into negative circumstances by a hateful family, but God took what they ment for evil and made it good for Joseph and his

2.  The bible shows us how kind and generous God is

God is love…He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (I John 4:8 NKJV)

God gives hope…Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, (Psalms 146:5 NKJV)

God is faithful...God wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love, keeping the promise he made to your ancestors. God stepped in and mightily bought you back out of that world of slavery, freed you from the iron grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know this: God, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon. He keeps his covenant of loyal love with those who love him and observe his commandments for a thousand generations. (Deuteronomy 7:7-9 MSG)

God is good and Kind...Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 NKJV)

God is a benevolent father…Romans 8:15, we have not been given the spirit of bondage again to fear, but of adoption whereby we cry abba father.

God is a lover of humanity…John 3:16 For God so Loved the WORLD, the WHOSOEVER believes…

God is all powerful, and the ultimate judge and his mere restraint proves his love, compassion, and patience with us.

3.   The celebration of this day reveals the love and Kindness of God.

The fact that millions of people are in churches all over the world today celebrating Jesus and what He has done, reveals the incredible influence of the love of Christ around the world.

The fact that in our hearts we know we are loved, we know there is something more than mere existance.  We know that there is someone greater than us, we know deep within that our hope, security, and purpose are found in God.

God gave us a way to be in relationship with Him which proves His love, generosity and kindness towards us.

Everybody needs love…not the confused emotion based “love” humans espouse but the true deep uncoditional love that Jesus has for us.

Everybody needs hope…Not hope that is continually deferred through all the broken promises of this life, but that hope that is founded in Gods eternal existance, that hope that never disappoints because it is given by God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Everybody needs peace…Not the mere calmness that comes with everything going your way, not the passivity of an overmedicated society, but the peace that comes from Gods love and expression of love in the plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ.  

Peace that comes from knowing you are forgiven and able to forgive.

 Peace that comes from that lack of shame and condemnation in life.

 Peace that comes in knowing that the battels we face when we have a relationship with Christ belong to God, and He will fight them for us, if we just trust him.  

The peace that comes when you know God your generous Father is protecting you, providing for you, preparing you, and positioning you for great things in life.

EVERYBODY NEEDS JESUS…

John 14:6 says I am the way, the truth the life, no man comes to the father accept through me

Worthless Treasure

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I love people. More than that, one of my favorite things to do as a leader is discover and develop the potential in a persons life. 

I truly care about the people I lead. I do my best (not always perfect at it) but I do try to invest in, care about and develop them to live a more fulfilled life. 

I’ve had the privilege for 25 years to occupy my life with this endeavor. At times I’ve had success and others times I’ve failed. 

Having had this many years working with people I have learned a few things. One thing I have seen over and over again is people, including myself, at times have failed to reach their potential because of insecurity. Insecurity buries potential beneath the rubble of fear. 

It is my contention that potential is like buried treasure inside each of us. It’s great to know you have wealth and treasure hidden away somewhere but it has very little value when it’s buried. To see the value in treasure you spend it or invest it or even save it for a later purpose but to simply bury it away and then claim to be wealthy is a farce. I submit to you the proof of the pudding is in the eating. 

Potential, our buried treasure, needs to be dug up and used, but we hide it away for fear it won’t be accepted. We bury it because we are afraid we will look foolish, or that someone will think that we are acting like we are better than them. 

The fear of the lack of people’s approval, the fear of rejection, the fear of losing everything, so we gain nothing by doing nothing. 

Layers and layers of insecurity burying the treasure, God given I might add, that gives our life value and meaning. 

So yes we have treasure, but it has no worth because it’s hidden. It’s worthless treasure. I can’t think of anything more sad. 

I encourage you get a shovel, take a risk and start throwing the dirt of insecurity off of your dream, dig it up, and start investing in life. I believe worth and value will flood your life and you will be confident to produce your potential, once you use your potential by clearing away the thief of insecurity.

The Isolation of Insecurity

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Proverbs 18:1 He who isolates himself, rages against all wise judgement and seeks his own desire.

When I think of this text or even just the idea of isolation, the culprit that comes to mind is insecurity.

It seems to me that insecurity’s ultimate end is isolation. If I fear rejection, if I am threatened by others, if I am guided by the approval or disapproval of people the ultimate end for me is isolation. It may not be total isolation, or even physical isolation, at minimum it will be emotional and relational isolation.

Not getting out of relationships what you could. Not doing as well as you could on a career path. Possibly finding independence but interdependence seems to avoid you all together.

If we truly look at insecurity, it involves us in pettiness, and pretense. Insecurity refuses to hear what wise voices say, it rages against the judgement of those trying to help.

It is such a contradiction. Needing peoples approval but being so insecure or afraid of rejection, we want people to approve but will not acknowledge that we need them. Thereby isolating ourselves from true, vulnerable friendships.

Insecurity seeks self, is focused on self, is centered around self, and cares only for self.

An unhealthy obsession with self will result in a self implosion, which is the ultimate result of insecurity.

How do we avoid the isolation of insecurity?

1. See people as partners, not competitors.
>Realize interacting with others even competitors can build you and
make you stronger if you take the right perspective. Don’t be
threatened, be inspired.

2. Learn to learn from others.
>Don’t be so busy trying to impress with what you know, that you miss
opportunity to learn something you don’t know.

3. Make it about purpose not about self.
>practice making things about the goal and not about the person.
EVERYTHING IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Know it, believe it, achieve it.

The sad thing about insecurity is that a lot of people who are highly insecure also have a high level of potential, and are incredibly talented. It grieves me to see potential greatness defeated before it really gets started over foolishness like jealousy, fear of failure, negativity, disrespect and approval addiction. Ultimately ending up alone, disconnected, realizing that what they feared has come upon them.

Be the you God intended when He created you with all your specific gifts, talents, personality and potential. Focus on that and you will find confidence not in your own abilities but in the purpose and power of God.

Oh Father Where art Thou?

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I am inspired today by the sheer influence a dad has in the life of his children. A power, when used for good, that can bring out the best in them.

We recently hosted a Daddy/Daughter dance at our church. It was a night filled with fun, laughter, and true connection.

At first I was concerned that the night would be incredibly awkward, due to the fact that the relationship between dads and kids resembles a clumsy person trying to walk across a frozen pond. Legs and arms flailing in all different directions towards an ultimate end of landing hard on your backside bruised and cold.

I have to admit at first it felt a little awkward, but all it took was a little food, good music and talking and before long the place was buzzing with life.

When the dance floor opened, to my amazement, it was packed with dads and daughters kicking up their heals to the Cupid shuffle which is an educational experience for all the dads or a little two stepping to Amarillo by morning, and some moving and grooving to “treasure” by Bruno Mars.

It was a sight to see. Dad’s uninhibited for the purpose of showing their daughters a good time.

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To my great pleasure there was more than a good time going on. As I was dancing with my own daughters, I looked around. I saw dads laughing uncontrollably with their daughters and daughters basking in the glory of their dads glorious uninhibited display of affection, being there just for them. I saw dads teaching daughters how to two step and daughters teaching dads how to not look completely ridiculous while on the dance floor. Not sure we learned that lesson.

More than that I saw dads showing their daughters how they should be treated by a man. The right kind of touch, the right kind of words. The literal display of how truly valuable a girl is. In a world where the objectification of women is at an all time high these dads were showing their daughters that they are not a mere object but they are a valuable, loved, revered individual who is so valued by her father she can not be trivialized by the whims of a lust driven society.

The power of an approving father far surpasses the influence of a culture of confusion if the father can be found. No I don’t mean is the father in the house? No I don’t mean does the father show up for performances? I mean is the father intentionally valuing the daughter in such a way that she will not question her value when faced with the unscrupulous agenda of modernity?

Oh father where art thou when she needs a shoulder to cry on? Oh father where art thou when she needs an “at a girl” to keep going. Oh father where art thou when she needs the confidence to stand in the face of highly pressurized times that demands she devalue herself for societal approval?

Fathers let us be found in an enthralling dance with the treasures of our legacy. The precious jewels in our keeping. Dancing the dance of love, driven with a need to know that our girls will be strong, decisive, assured and confident. They can face the world without trivializing themselves.

Dads talk to your girls, inspire, and challenge them but above all love them. Yes at the expense of your own comfort. Yes at the inconvenience of your time. Yes at the risk of revealing how awkward you really are. Say it, show it, be it.

This power has been given to you use it wisely.