Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"I Want Beans Please!"

Beginning on the Sunday before Easter, God began giving me a little wake-up call when our family took a short road trip with the "Ugandan Thunder", a boys choir comprised of eight young boys from Uganda who are touring the Southeast this summer. The boys provide an amazing ministry, of singing, dancing and praising God.

Our road trip was to a small country church in Gray, GA which is basically out in the middle of nowhere. As we got close to the church, I could see a little small white building with a steeple that didn't look much bigger than a small home. As we turned into the parking lot though, it was obvious that this was no ordinary country church.

Just behind the original church building that I had seen from a distance was a newer gym building that I discovered later was now the worship center. I know that buildings are just buildings, but it was obvious that this part of the body of Christ was impacting their community. The place was crawling with people. I thought of the image of a huge lighthouse that could be seen for miles. It was encouraging to my heart to see God working in that small community.

While I was busy taking all of that in, the members of the church were piling in with food in hand to introduce to Ugandan boys to a favorite Southern tradition... a covered dish supper! Now I've been to my share of covered dish suppers (and have the shape to prove it!), but I have never seen so much food at a covered dish supper in my life. It was amazing to me, but it was overwhelming to those Ugandan boys. It was like sensory overload... they had probably never seen that much food in their life!

As I walked down the line with one of the boys to help him fix his plate, I told him to just tell me what he wanted and I would put it on his plate. His response cracked me up... he said "I want beans please!". The reason I found that so funny was that these boys eat one meal a day when they are in Uganda if they are blessed. That meal is posho, a finely ground grain that is a distant cousin to grits. It tastes really bland and is basically just "survival" food. On a really good day, they might get a scoop of beans on top of the posho to give it some flavor.

When this young boy saw ten tables full of every kind of food you could possibly imagine, he wanted beans. I did persuade him to try some other things and I think they all pretty much caught on to the concept of "all you can eat" by the time dinner was over. It was certainly an unforgettable experience for me to be a part of that with the boys.

After dinner, the boys did their concert (I prefer the word "ministry" really) and it was amazing. I wept like I haven't in a long time. It was amazing to me to watch those boys who had so little, be so thankful and focused of worshipping God. I heard a pastor say once that "we will never understand that Jesus is all we need until Jesus is all that we have". I was witnessing that while I watched those boys exhaust themselves in worship to God.

As we drove back home after the service, It was if God was standing at a white board and teaching me two very distinct things.....

First, when it comes to all that God is, and all that He offers to me, I'm no different that that little Ugandan boy staring at the ten tables of food. My instinct is to just settle for beans when there is a feast right before my eyes. I'd rather be comfortable and my hunger can easily be satisfied by just a few bites of what I know. All the while, God is saying "taste and see that the Lord is good" - Psalm 34:8, and His desire for me is to partake of all that He is. I need to get out of my comfort zone in my walk with Jesus....I need to know Him more and experience the fullness of a life immersed in Jesus.

Secondly, I need to learn to be content and to praise God regardless of my circumstances. These boys, who live in shacks with no running water, no TV, no phones, no toys, no entertainment, and very little food, sing with the most grateful spirit you can imagine and dance mightily before the Lord. They get it.... Jesus is all they have and He is all that they need. If I'm not careful, I'll find my prayer life evolving into nothing more than a "wish list" of things to make my life and walk more comfortable. These boys can't even comprehend "comfortable". Thankfulness is a great first step towards contentment.

As I considered these two truths that God was revealing to me about myself, I understood the passage from Ephesians 1:17-21 in a new light "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."

I wonder how I'm doing living out the last part of that passage "the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." Am I full with Jesus? Have I tasted everything He is? Is He all that I want, or am I just asking for beans?

Whatever It Takes,

Monday, April 13, 2009

Phone / Internet Problems at Skipstone!

Please accept our sincere apologies if you tried to reach us by phone or email today. Unfortunately, our phone lines were damaged during the storms this weekend and we did not realize that our main line was not working until later today. Additionally, our main internet hub was destroyed, so we only have a handful of computers online today. We are working to resolve the problem and will hopefully have everything back up by late Tuesday afternoon. Thank you for your patience!
Chip Moody
VP of Operations, Skipstone

The Blog That Wasn't

I really wanted to title today's blog "Blah, Blah, Blog". We had an incredibly busy week, and instead of a little rest on the weekend, we decided to do something radically different for Easter.... we took a family mission trip!

As a result, I'm starting out the day a tired. In addition to my normal Monday morning routine, we had to get started early this morning to convert two classrooms that were used by a rental group this week back to school classrooms. Needless to say, the rain outside is not helping me feel any less tired!

To say that I've been challenged in a new way in my faith this week would be an understatement. I've seen sacrificial service and obedience to God displayed in miraculous ways. I've gained a new understanding of what it really means to live a "whatever it takes" kind of life. I've come to realize that we need not be angry with our President for saying that "We no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation"... we need to be angry with ourselves! I think the reason that those comments bothered so many of us is that we are afraid that he might be right.

Over the next few days, I want to share some of the things that God used this week to really stretch me in my walk. I've been really inconsistent in trying to get back in the "blogging" groove, so please pray for me this week. God is doing such amazing things, but it has become a major battle for me to fight for the time I need everyday to sit down and share it. In fact, I started this blog at about 8:00am this morning and just now got back to it at 5:30pm.

In the meantime, please enjoy a 4 minute clip of my friend Mark Hall from Casting Crowns as he talks about the song "Altar & The Door". Please say a prayer for Casting Crowns this week as they will be ministering in N. Korea.... yeah... pretty scary place to be right now. I'm praying that God will use them to bring light to a very dark place.

Whatever It Takes,

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Working With One Hand & Warring With The Other

This morning will be yet another attempt for me to climb out of the "quiet" zone I've been stuck in for the last week. Each morning, I've started the day with plans to blog what's on my heart, and each day I have hit "delete" after a few minutes of rambling and not feeling like I was getting anywhere.

My quiet time for the last several days has been centered around the life Nehemiah. As I've tried to understand more about where my journey has taken me these last few days, I can't seem to get away from this incredible passage in God's word.

I've always loved the story of Nehemiah. I think it's because I can so identify with his life, and his calling to do something that most everyone thought was crazy, perhaps even impossible. Listen to some of the things that were said as Nehemiah was attempting to lead the rebuilding of the wall...

Nehemiah 4:2 "....What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?"

Nehemiah 4:3 "...What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!"

Even his own people were growing weary... Nehemiah 4:10 "Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, "The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall." Also our enemies said, "Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work."

I think what is most amazing about Nehemiah was his natural instinct to just go right back to the "word" that God had given him whenever he faced discouragement, difficulty, and even danger. I love his response to his people..."Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes."

So was Nehemiah's confidence in God's plan and God's "word" to him contagious? I love the picture that is painted in the next few verses... (v.16-20) "From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me. Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, "The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!"

Even as I revisited this passage this morning, I've been reminded that I cannot do God's work unless I learn to work one handed.... that is, one hand doing the work and one hand doing the warfare!

Isn't it amazing that we would even think it was possible to accomplish anything with any eternal value or significance without encountering some spiritual opposition along the way? We have been fooled.... we've bought in to the modern day thinking that if we just serve God and do what's right, everything will just be great all of the time. The only problem is that there's no evidence in scripture to back that up!

Fast forward a couple of chapters in Nehemiah's journey and you'll find that he is still working with one hand and warring with the other. His very life was being threatened, yet he stood firm.... "They were all trying to frighten us thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed."But I prayed, "Now strengthen my hands." - Nehemiah 6:9

As the wall is finally completed, Nehemiah was quick to remember the source of his strength..."So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God." - Nehemiah 6:15

It's interesting to note that the great work that God chose to accomplish through Nehemiah was so astounding that it shook the surrounding nations. And the battle plan was simple.... work with one hand and war with the other!

God help me to never attempt to do your work without your power.... Lord, strengthen my hands!

Whatever It Takes,