Affecting Moments, Writing History

As a closing to 2013 I wanted to share the thoughts of a good friend of mine, John T. Bushling.  John faithfully produces a weekly devotional along with an invitation to join him and others around our world to pray.

The bright spot of Monday morning is to open my inbox to find another edition of “Good Monday.”  Often, John has just the right word for that week and I am grateful to receive this encouraging thought.  In his last email for the year of 2013 John challenged us to look forward to 2014 and beyond and to do so with the heart of a difference maker.  Today on the last day of 2013 I wanted to share his thoughts with my friends and hope that it will stir faith in your hearts to “affect the history of this moment.”

Let me introduce you to John . . .

39c4dd2Good Monday,

End of the month, end of the quarter, end of the year…in less than two days all of 2013 will be history.  You can’t change history.  You can affect the history of this moment; an unwritten history is basically out of our control except…

We CAN commit our ways, our next moment, our tomorrows … 2014 and beyond to the Lord.  I don’t trust my decision making to myself alone.  God spans both ends of eternity and He sees beyond our understanding.  I trust Him.

Psalm 37:5a – Commit your way to the Lord; (NIV)

Proverbs 3:5,6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  (NIV)

Almighty God, Nothing escapes Your understanding or notice.  You can affect our times for Your purpose.  Help us Father, to commit our times, our family, our business, our ways to You.  Help us to trust in You alone.  Thank You for being mindful of us.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Thanking the Lord for your year past and the year ahead.  Praying our God’s blessing on you and your family.

John T Bushling

Here is to looking ahead to 2014 and beyond with a willingness to commit the next moment and tomorrows that follow to God so we can affect the next moment… not so much to be history makers but rather as history writers.  We may not become great in the eyes of our world and change everything that is in need of changing.  Such empty words need not follow us into 2014.  What we can do is impact the moment in which we experience life together with the love and grace of God as we change the course of that day for those around us.

Enjoy the moments that come your way in 2014.

Happy New Year!

David Bennett

*All scriptures are from the New International Version – 1984 edition of the Bible, Zondervan Publishing Company
*Good Monday used by permission, John T. Bushling
*If you would like to know more about the mission that we are on and how you can be a vital part of it, please feel free to contact us.  We would love to share with you what we are doing and how you can best help us out in the journey.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

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Resolved to be Risk-Takers

This journey of faith continues to define us as we daily move forward in the walk Christ calls us to live.  Admittedly, stepping away from a secure position as a Lead Pastor of a church is not advisable when you have nothing to step to.  I would never have recommended anyone to do what we did.  There simply was far too much risk involved.  Yet, we recognize that sometimes Jesus calls us to be risk-takers.

How do you explain to others that what you are about to do is worth the risk you are taking, especially when you don’t know exactly what it is you are going to do?
And when understanding begins to dawn you fumble for words to share the vision.  Nothing you think of seems adequate to express the idea you hold in your heart.  Your best attempts come with a totally silly feel to them that embarrass you as you hear the words come from your mouth.  It just seems impossible!

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This is where we found ourselves just a little over a year ago.  Family and friends thought we had lost our minds as we set aside the security of a job we’d held for 23 years to begin a new adventure.  David’s Mom expressed what most thought, “But David, how are you going to live?  I mean, how will you pay your bills?”  Yes, it’s true this adventure started out void of any plan, income, or destination.  Some might describe it as a whim, a fancy of sorts, where people hit their midlife crisis and do weird things.  It seemed like an insane thing to do, and the people around us had no problem pointing out the insanity!

Actually, this reality didn’t bother us at all because we knew the motivation was love for us.  Their questions were good as they forced us to dig deeper in our own hearts to discover the reason why we would take these steps.  The questions pushed us to this crazy thing called prayer to find answers we didn’t have.  If it wasn’t a midlife crisis, then what was it that had driven us to this action?

One thing we discovered in this journey is not everyone is concerned about your future, and their questions aren’t meant to help you.  All they really want to do is keep you from doing something extraordinary.  Ok, maybe that last line was over the top and cruel, but it is how you feel in a few of these conversations.  Who knows what the real reasons are?

  • Maybe they don’t want to be challenged themselves to a life of faith in Christ.
  • It could be they have experienced some sort of trauma keeping them from risk-taking.
  • It might simply be they are one of the people in this world whose personality kills the sense of adventure in themselves and any others they can influence.

Matthew Barnett posted on his Twitter feed this statement, “Trying to convince a doubter that your leap of faith makes sense is a massive waste of productivity and mental energy.”  What a true statement.  Sometimes, in our efforts to convince the naysayers, all we really do is get frustrated and waste energy.

It isn’t that we think it’s a waste of time to help people who love you to understand the steps you are taking.  They care, and you need their understanding and support.  In fact, experience has taught us some of those you talk with become your biggest supporters for the journey.  When you feel like giving up they are the ones who step up to challenge you to go one more step.  They are worth the energy spent to explain Jesus’ calling.

However, it is a waste of productivity trying to change the minds of people who doubt that you heard from God.  If they don’t think God is in the idea then you just have to wait for God to show that He is.  And that is up to God to do; don’t even go there out of some narcissistic reason to validate yourself.  You don’t need the frustration or waste the time.

As we move further down the path of faith we discover more evidence that the Holy Spirit is going with us on this journey.  There are some days when that is such a relief to our souls.  Multiple times we have seen things that let us know Christ has gone before us and prepared the way.  Here are a few simple examples:

  • 4 days after our final service at Bridge of Hope we were asked to be an interim pastor in the greater Canton, OH area.  God knew the need of that dear church, and He knew our need of income.  The interim time ended just as we had been accepted into U.S. Missions and knew we needed to focus all our time there.
  • After arriving at our current destination we had to shop for a washer/dryer.  Money was going to be a factor at some point, and so we searched for the right situation.  Our prayers were answered as we found a good deal, and the salesman also gave us a slightly damaged microwave for free.  Coincidence? Maybe, but we rather think that God was answering a need.
  • Every time someone becomes a part of our Support Team we are humbled by the reality that another person has chosen to stand with us and say that they believe we have heard from God.  As a pastor serving the local church we never understood what this meant to a missionary.
  • When church planters seek us out for a little advice or a bit of training it encourages us.  There really is need for what God put in our hearts to do, and there are people waiting for someone who can give them the time.  Incidentally, these conversations happen at just the right moments.  Amazing!

This is the kind of thing that gives us the resolve to move forward, growing in strength with each step we take.  When these moments come that defy explanation, we find ourselves compelled by the Holy Spirit and this walk we are on to finish the course and see it through to the end!

*If you would like to know more about the mission that we are on and how you can be a vital part of it, please feel free to contact us.  We would love to share with you what we are doing and how you can best help us out in the journey.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Hopeless Brats . . . Wonder if I have ever been one of them?

ImageMaybe the problem we have with hope in our society today is we skipped the steps of suffering, patience, and character building from which hope is birthed.  Paul said to the church in Rome,

“We also celebrate in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces patience, patience produces a well-formed character, and character like that produces hope.  Hope, in its turn, does not make us ashamed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the holy Spirit who has been given to us.”[1]  (Romans 5:3-5)

It would seem Paul saw a connection between suffering and hope.  The suffering that we go through in life develops in us something that doesn’t get created any other way.  Suffering and patience work together to create well-formed character in us.  We can try to skip the steps and put on the façade of character, but true character is slowly formed in us over time and through endurance.

As we go through experiences in life they leave their mark upon us and difficult circumstances tend to leave deeper marks.  This is the place of character building.  It is where well-formed character is produced in the one who endures the trauma of being reshaped.  Suffering changes us forever, leaving behind character in our lives that would never have come any other way.

It is this character working in us that gives birth to hope.  For without the suffering and the subsequent development of patience there is no character.  And if there is no well-formed character then there is no hope.  When we endure suffering, are patient enough to see God, and allow well-formed character to grow, then hope bursts forth in our lives.  Hope is given birth in that moment when we have hit the bottom, all is dark around us, and somehow we recognize Jesus is with us.  This happens when we stop trying to avoid suffering or pretend that it is not part of faith.  Hope, which is not ashamed, is poured out in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

In our impatience these experiences cause us to look down upon ourselves and decide we simply are not good enough.  We blame God for what has happened or not happened and hold Him accountable.  Rather than endure to the end, we find a way out and circumvent the development of the well-formed character the suffering was sent to produce.

Maybe the problem in our culture today with hope is that we have not been allowed to suffer enough.  It could be we have raised character “brats” who have no real character at all; at least well-formed character.  In our endeavors to love our children we strive to spare them the pain of disappointment and hurt.   In doing so we shortchange the process that would create such character.  We make them the hopeless “brat” they have become because we didn’t allow suffering to work its refinement in us or in them.

Paul called the Church in Rome to a life of well-formed character.  He challenged them to not be afraid of suffering and to be willing to endure the road of patience.  Why?  Because Paul wanted hope (a fruit of the Spirit) to be produced in their lives as they realized the depth and greatness of God’s love.  Today, that same man and the words he wrote many years ago calls to us with the same message.  Let your suffering develop in you patience, which grows well-formed character and produces hope in you.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.


[1] The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation, N.T. Wright, p. 318

Who Are My Gentiles? (Part 2 of 2)

The people in Jerusalem listening that day to Paul connected with him until he told them about the commission he had received from Jesus: to go to the Gentiles and share the Good News of Christ’s love with them.  This is when they went from listening intently to wanting him dead.

And that is when the thought hit me, “Who are my Gentiles?”  Who are the people groups (that when someone tells me God is sending them to this group to share the Good News) that cause me to want to walk away from the one being sent?  I want to get rid of the person who wants to go.  Maybe I don’t call for their death, but I wish that somehow they would be stopped from going.IMG_0674

As we have traveled around and shared about the mission that Christ has called us to we have found a great reception from the people listening.  Most are enthusiastic and supportive as they hear about our being called to plant churches among the “University District Villages” of America.  They are excited and many have become a part of our Support Team helping us to carry out the mission.

But there are others in the crowd whose tone of voice and facial expressions tell us a different story.  There is no joy in their voice.  There are no smiles.  Foreheads strained and wrinkled, voices tight and guarded; they struggle with the thought of who lives in these villages.  Their minds race with images of people that they are not sure they want to see in heaven one day.  And while they are careful to not call for our demise, they are quick to exit the conversation and get away from us.

Going through this experience in the last several months caused me to pause in reading the scriptures … a text I had read many times before became real in such a different way.  Passing over it I never saw the personal connection it held or understood the reason it was really there.  It prodded me as I couldn’t get past it, a Holy Spirit pause that forced me to look inside my soul and see who the “Gentiles” might be in my life.

Who are the people (when I see them in public) I shy away from and even feel animosity for?  Who are the ones I find myself thinking, “they got what they deserved” when I hear of a tragedy that came their way?  What group of people do I secretly hope are unable to escape the hell I think they deserve?

It could be the people of Islam who stir such a thought.  Maybe it’s the educated, or for that matter, the uneducated. What about gays? Homophobes? Religious or non-religious? Conservatives or liberals? Abusive people? Christians, or at the least, certain types of Christians? Wealthy? Poor?  It could be white, black, red, yellow, or brown people.  On and on goes the list of those we secretly don’t want to hear the gospel.

IMG_0147And then I am reminded of some important truths of God.  I am reminded that God loves the world and gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved.  My mind races to the text where it says we all have sinned and come short of God’s glory.  I am flooded, like the room with the morning sun, with the purpose Jesus gave us all: to make disciples of all people, no exclusions.

Then I find myself in a place where I either have to resist God or fall on my knees in repentance before Him.  The cool morning breeze of the Holy Spirit flows through my soul and leads me in a search of my heart to see who my “Gentiles” might be.  Today, might I suggest, that you join me and begin to search your heart for the “Gentiles” of your life.  And when God reveals them to you, pause, repent, and then ask Christ to give you love for them.  Watch as His light floods your soul and the breeze of His Spirit flows through you.  You will be amazed at the change in you and just what He might call you to do next!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Who Are My Gentiles? (Part 1 of 2)

IMG_1641A cool Sunday morning breeze flows through the screen door, with beautiful sunshine flooding the room, creating a great atmosphere for an interesting question to come to my mind as I read from Acts 22.  Here it is, “Who are my Gentiles?”  Funny how it doesn’t seem to have the punch it did in prayer, but read on and I think you will understand just how big a deal it is.  Let me take a moment to set the stage with a little background info.

The Apostle Paul had gone to Jerusalem to bring a report on his mission trips to the elders of the Church.  After receiving his report, the Elders informed him of accusations around the city that Paul was consorting with Gentiles and telling Jews, who lived around them, they didn’t need to follow the laws of Moses.  Of course, the Holy Spirit had told him numerous times that trouble awaited him at his return to Jerusalem.  The Elders encouraged him to go to the temple and join others in a purification rite, hoping this would calm the accusers down.

It didn’t work.  Having been arrested while going through the Jewish purification rite Paul is accused of bringing Gentiles with him to the temple.  They drag him and the men with him out of this holy space and begin to beat them.  Read Acts 21 for all the details.

An amazing story unfolds in Acts 22 as Paul tells the people of how he was a Jew that stood out among other Jews.  He spoke about how aggressive he was in his faith, even to the point of pursuing, imprisoning, and killing people who dared to move from the roots of Jewish faith.  Paul told them how he was the one who held the cloaks and gave his approval for the stoning of a man called Stephen, a man known to many as part of a movement called The Way.  The people were listening and tracking with him as the tale unfolded.

Then Paul told them about how on the way to Damascus to arrest more people of The Way he experienced the most unusual thing.  He described how Jesus appeared to him and gave him instructions.  Paul told them about how he was blinded by a bright light, a light those traveling with him saw as well.  And he told the people about how he had come to believe in Jesus.  All through which the people listened intently as he spoke without interruption.

They listened until he told them about the commission he had received from Jesus.  This is where it gets really interesting.  Paul told the people about his encounter while praying in the temple, how he fell into a trance and God spoke to him during this time.  God said, “Go away from here! I’m sending you far away – to the Gentiles!”  It was at this point the people listening that day began to shout and call out for his death.  This is when they stopped listening that day.  When Paul began to talk about the commission from Jesus to go and teach the Gentiles, the Jews listening that day only wanted one thing; they wanted him dead.

(Tomorrow we will post the impact of this story as I read it from Acts)

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Difficult Places (Part 3)

What are you referring to when you talk about planting churches in difficult places? (Part 3 of 3)

Friendship is powerful and opens closed doors.  When you have proven that you genuinely love someone they generally will listen, even if they reject what we share, and some will.  Let’s be honest about it; not everyone wants to believe even when they see genuine examples of Christ’s love at work.

As the Holy Spirit provides opportunity for friendship we find ourselves in a place of influence to share the love of God.  This reality is so crucial to reaching people no matter where we find them or what culture they reflect.  Authentic friendship, it cannot be some substitute built around winning them to our Christian faith.  Others will smell that motive out long before we get close enough to be friends.  And if they don’t, one day, when it is revealed, they will be scarred to the point that makes them cynics who are virtually unreachable.  Friends influence friends; that is a reality.  It cannot be forced or simply a front; it has to be real … you have to care about each other.Photo1_3

One important thing we believe is that those with whom we share the Gospel will have the opporutnity to make a good decision about their interest in the Gospel.  How is this accomplished?  We do this by being a good friend in their life.  We know that every person has to make their own decision concerning Jesus; we simply cannot believe for them.  Thus, it is important that our friends are able to understand the message of the Gospel.  If they understand the message of Christ then they can make better decisions about Jesus.  And when they can both hear and experience the Gospel it provides the listener with even more ability to make life decisions.

We see these places as difficult because they require everyone to learn, grow, and change.  When we say everyone we mean all who are involved:  our missionaries, the followers of Jesus who join them in this work, and those to whom we have come to share the Gospel with.  As we intersect (converge) through everyday life situations we peel away one layer at a time until trust is built.  It is like taking down layers of past experiences and opinions, one layer at a time, until the real person can be seen and the true Gospel can be found.

Once trust is built we simply live the Gospel and allow the truth of Christ to go to work.  We share our faith in natural ways, never hiding who we are, while being sensitive to the people around us.  Trust grows and with it understanding and the love of God which changes everything.

The difficulty is more in the learning process than anything else.  It is in the breaking down of barriers that keep relationships from developing.  It is the willingness of those involved to do the hard work of love that dispells the bias of misinformation.  We then can patiently work through the things that divide us and grow in our appreciation for one another.  Then the Gospel does the rest and, just like in any other situation, people have to make their own choices in what to do with what they discover.

Missionaries do this everyday where they work as they cross cultures and share the good news of Christ’s love with those they live with.  Today America is a mission field and needs us to use such approaches as we establish new communities of Christ in new places to reach a new people.  This is what we mean when we say that we want to establish new churches in difficult places.  It is what Jesus has called us to do.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Difficult Places (Part 2)

What are you referring to when you talk about planting churches in difficult places?

(Part 2 of 3)

ImageOur personal focus (Kandy and myself) is the people of the University District Villages of America. That is a mouthful to read and say, but each of the words is important and descriptive of the people Christ has called us to. One day I will write what I have discovered about each one of them, but that isn’t the focus of this series of blogs.

In short, we are interested in being an influence to other influencers. In the university district you will find there are many different types of people who make up the variety of villages within its boundaries. They are the men and women who work in and around the university, who are the influencers of others: the professors, administrators, teacher assistants, admin staff, coaches, security staff, and business people who serve the school. It is a vast and diverse group of people with some common ideals that tie them together.

Few would argue the thought that the American University is one of the most influential places in our culture. Daily it influences the people of this village. Their influence is felt in the cities where they are located. You even feel their influence across the states where they are established. If you pay attention and follow the dots you will see the influence of the American university around the world. The university is a place of great influence.

OK … so the university is a place of influence, what is the big deal? The big deal is that in all of it’s influencing, the American university is often void of the influence of God. There is a spiritual presence on the campus, but it isn’t always the spirit of God that is present. This means that in all the influencing going on through the university, very little is being influenced by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This grieves our hearts as we see a people who often times feel marginalized by the church because they hold a very different worldview. There it is again, that word “different,” a word that sometimes scares us because we don’t understand what “different” really is or what it means.

Let me say something important. The problem isn’t that churches have not been planted before in these areas or that churches do not exist there today. We have planted churches and some have done well, especially when we are talking about establishing churches to reach the students of the university. Unfortunately, more often than not, it seems that most of the churches have struggled to make it and fail in the process. Our hearts are glad for those who are reached through these works. We also recognize there are many people in the universtiy districts who for various reasons remain unimpacted by them. Could it be as simple as we don’t understand them and they don’t understand the Church?

Through Converge Group we want to treat the universtity as a mission field like we would any foreign mission field we send a missionary to. It is important to discover the nuances of any culture so that you understand them and can communicate better with them. We are talking about loving people enough to know them. This is what missionaries do all across the world.

We feel that we can best impact the people of the university village by taking time to get to know them first, genuinely care for them, and become part of their world. These are some of the difficult steps that must be taken when crossing cultures and finding ways to share love with others. It is what growing in love for your neighbor is about.

Some may want to argue that this involves compromise and we shouldn’t cross that line. It isn’t that we deny our faith or compromise ourselves in terms of our walk with Christ. This is about the truth of Scripture rather than the expressions of worship that are dictated by tradition and culture. It is about returning to the basics of truth found in God’s Word rather than living out the ideas of people on how to live that truth. We are simply looking at doing what missionaries do: take the message of the Gospel and find ways to live it in the context of the culture of the people.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Questions Asked About Our Mission – Difficult Places (Part 1)

What are you referring to when you talk about planting churches in difficult places?  

Image(Part 1 of 3)

It would be great to say that no matter where we try to establish new churches we succeed, but that isn’t true.  There are some places where the evangelical church has a difficult time establishing new churches.  These are normally areas where the culture of the people is vastly different from the culture within the average church.  In essence, there is a breakdown between the two cultures, leaving them with an inability to communicate in helpful, positive ways.  The end result is either a negative critical co-existence or, more often, simply ignoring one another as if the other doesn’t really exist.

We believe that Jesus loves people who think, feel, and live differently than most Christians.  Yep, you read that last line correctly.  Jesus loves people who think and live differently from you and me.  After all, the Scripture tells us in Luke that Jesus came to seek and save the lost, even when the lost don’t realize they are lost.  It would seem that if Jesus cares about them then it is important that we care for them.

One great way to let people know you care is to get to know them and learn to appreciate them for the person they are; value them as people, as we honor them by listening and learning about them.  Discover what they think, how they believe, and why they feel the way they do.  This needs to be just as important as wanting to share with them what we think, feel, and believe.  To us, this is called friendship; it’s building relationships, sharing our hearts, and loving your neighbor.

The issue of difficult places has everything to do with culture and customs as they define who we are and what we think.  Whenever a person tries to cross into another culture there are going to be moments where they struggle to understand and to be understood.  The more diverse the cultures the greater the gulf that separates them, which in turn raises the difficulty each has in being comfortable with one another. The result is a breakdown that leaves people divided along the lines of their own understanding with the difficulty of finding a way to cross over to the other side.

It’s important that we understand the difficulty we are talking about is not seen as one that exists because the people themselves are difficult.  It is because the lack of understanding that exists between the people involved.  The hardship in planting a church is because we are trying to bring thoughts from one culture into another and have to discover the best way to do that.  Through time and observing we learn, change, and grow in understanding.  The difficulty we are talking about is exactly this:  the learning, changing, and growing.

As we explore Part 2 and Part 3 of this blog series we hope you will understand a little better how we plan to work through the difficulty ahead of us.  As we learn we can adapt and change growing in trust through the experiences of life.

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or are affiliated with.

How Many Times?

The setting is solemn; it’s before Passover and Jesus has humbled Himself before his disciples and humbled His disciples all with one act.  He pulls a towel around his waste and takes the basin of water.  The teacher is going to teach through his actions this lesson that will never be forgotten.  Jesus begins to wash the dirty dusty feet of His disciples as they recline at the table.  He is working; they are not.  He is doing what they should have done for him.

We aren’t told how many feet of His disciples had been washed before one of them interrupts their Master.  Peter, recognizing that this is all backwards, questions Jesus.  In essence he is telling Jesus not to wash his feet.  This is one of those acts that I refer to as inverted pride, when pride masks itself in a form of humility but, in reality, is only trying to hide it’s self.  However, Peter’s pride isn’t able to hide from Jesus.

Jesus simply replied to Peter, “You don’t understand yet what I’m doing, but you’ll know afterwards.”  Of course Peter tries to save himself with some more foolish comments, to which Jesus simply takes him to school and gently puts this disciple in his place.  I would love to think that Peter got it right after all this, but the truth is, later in the same chapter, we find this same disciple at it again.  This time it’s even worse …. just read the chapter and connect the lines of thought.

Now here is the thing that really penetrated me so deeply as I read these words this morning.  How many times am I just like Peter?  I observe the actions of my Lord and object to them because I realize that I got it wrong.  He is working when I should be working.  He is doing for me what I should be doing for Him.  And instead of being humbled by it all, pride wells up in some inverted way within me and tries to fool the teacher.  And when called out, in such a gentle way, pride rears its head, fully exposed, and goes for the whole enchilada.

People are funny this way.  When others around them get this whole loving one another thing correct that person’s pride keeps them from really learning.  Rather than simply being humbled by the loving actions of another and receiving the lesson from them, they allow pride to block the beauty of the moment.  Everyone loses when love gets interrupted.

Of course, this is never about you or me; it’s always another person who struggles with such things.  Maybe we can share it on our newsfeed or retweet it so the rest of the world can see it.  As for you and me, we would be more like John or Andrew who must have gotten it right the first time, because they aren’t the ones being talked about … Peter is.

Today I am humbled by the thoughts of times in my life when Jesus tried to help me stop sinning with my mouth, actions, or spirit by saying, “You don’t understand yet what I’m doing, but you’ll know afterwards.”  Think I will just stop talking now to listen and watch.  Peace.

Image(The above thoughts are based on the Gospel of John 13.)

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

Musings from the Great Northwest – Part 3

ImageOur travels through the Northwest area of America brought great encouragement as we met some wonderful people. People, who with open hearts, welcomed us warmly as they shared their lives with us. As we broke bread and discussed the lives we each live friendship was born and Christ’s love was evident.

We walked into a room filled with people neither Kandy nor I knew. There were some busy serving food to those who had come in off the street, others were painting pictures for those dining to watch as the image unfolded, and another played the guitar and sang softly in the background. Conversations took place around us; some were loud while others softly spoke to one another. You could hear laughter from some and saw a tear welling up in another. Church was taking place as this body gathered together from the streets of Freemont. Love was given and received as people experienced the Gospel.

Across town we found ourselves once again in a new place with people we didn’t know. The table was quickly filled as everyone took their seats. It was a tight fit as we squeezed more bodies into the space than it was intended to hold. But that didn’t seem to matter. We laughed at the stories being shared, enjoyed the food that had been prepared, and found new friends with whom to share love. Rob, Sheila, and Ethan are fun people to get to know. They are full of life and willing to share it with others. They opened their home to us and treated us as friends. What better reception could you ever receive?

A few hours to the south on the east side of Portland, it was loud with conversations taking place all around us. We gathered in this public place with a group of young men and women. The eight of us ordered our food and the drinks with which to wash it down. We talked about our lives as we got to know one another. The discussion moved from funny tales of the past to impressions of the places we had visited and the people we met along the way. Soon we found ourselves sharpening one another as we talked about the things of God and what He had done in our lives. With open arms they received us and treated us as their friends. Who could ask for anything more?

And so, we once again discovered that wherever we find ourselves in this world it is the people who make the difference in a place. It’s not the mountain ranges on each side with peaks majestic standing tall, nor is it the bodies of water that bring peace with each lap of the waves. The buildings and bridges add to the landscape and are beautiful to look at. But in the end, when you reflect back on your time spent in an area, you realize that it’s the people that make the difference.

We found the beauty of God’s people and how His Church is still the greatest witness to our world when it is functioning in healthy actions of love. There were some who walk with Him today and know the power of His love and others who have yet to realize the truth of the gospel. We grew together and community took root as love began to change us.

Each one gave us something that no one else could give; a priceless exchange of love and life. Whether in Portland or Seattle, we found people who were ready to love and willing to give of themselves. With family and friends we experienced the love and care that occurs when people come together.

In the Northwest the need is the same as it is in the Midwest (and I suspect time will reveal it to be the need everywhere we travel): people need to see and experience the true church walking in Christ’s love. We can complicate this whole thing to the point where it immobilizes us from any activity that can provide what is needed. This is easy enough to do and our enemy is glad to try and make it happen. We can also choose to live another way, the way of Christ’s love where community is grown and disciples are matured.

Thank you, Northwest America, for being an encouragement to us as we continue in the journey of faith to the mission Christ has called us to!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.