Aliens in a Strange Land

In Galatians 1:3-4, Paul writes that Jesus “gave himself to rescue us from this present evil age.” It seems like every day we’re confronted in new and more blatant terms just how evil this present age is.  On the one hand, it can be heart-breaking to see a culture in constant decline and that reality should push us towards it with the desire to communicate hope in Christ.

On the other, it serves to remind us that disciples of Jesus are not of this world (1 Peter 2:11) and this place isn’t home.  The deteriorating condition of the world should push us closer to Jesus, longing for another land with a Father-King who rules with strength and grace, protecting His children and welcoming them into His presence, face-to-face.

…but does it?

Are you homesick?

I know too often I’m not.  That’s what is frightening.  It’s when I don’t long for home.  That’s when I know I’ve gotten too comfortable in a world I wasn’t ultimately designed for.  It’s when I have to pull back a bit and remember I’m not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).  That comes through the Word–spending time absorbing the Truth, meditating on the reality of another Kingdom that I’ve been born into and fitted for, and praying for a fresh perspective on why I’m still here.  Only then will I be ready to engage the world in a way that brings glory to God and healing to the hurting.  Only then will I experience what it means to be rescued from this present evil age.

A Week in Peru

What a great week we’ve had. We’re back in Lima and enjoying some much-needed rest before heading back to the States later today.

It’s great to see how God is working in this region and in some surprising ways. Each day was filled with opportunities, some that seem bigger than others, but all with the fingerprints of God all over them. More than anything, we were able to see how He is orchestrating the ministry here.

If we zoom in on the details of everyday ministry here, it is possible to get frustrated and even discouraged. Then we have to remember that our ways are not his ways nor his thoughts our thoughts.

When we “fly up to 30,000 feet”, we see a TREMENDOUS amount of work being done and additional pieces of the puzzle flowing into place. We have to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. We aren’t interested in short-term gains at the expense of long-term loss. As we see a mixture of big and small gains, I am reminded that God’s Word never returns void and WILL fulfill it’s purpose. I am tremendously encouraged to see what great things God is doing in the Yauyos Region of Peru and so happy I am called to be a part of it! Please continue to pray for us. More to come.

Goats are Cool.

 

It just doesn't get any cooler than this!

With one week left of our “Give a Goat” drive, The Gathering has currently raised enough money to purchase 54 goats and also 61 nets through Samaritan’s Purse!  That is exceedingly cool.  Thank you so much to the people of The Gathering for getting behind what had to have sounded like a crazy idea when I first presented it.  But in true Gathering fashion, you jumped on board and now there are many families that will have nourishment and protection that they might otherwise have not had.  Even more importantly, they will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Christ as they are presented with their gifts.  Thank you so much.  I am a blessed man to be able to lead such a great church!

On Mission

The report yesterday on the mission day in Atlanta was awesome.  I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for The Gathering.  So many important doors are being opened and it’s incredible to watch our people excited about walking through them.

On Saturday, we had 7 people join with a great team from Birchwood Baptist Church to go down to a refugee mission in the outskirts of Atlanta.  People from 25 countries are living in this complex and they are so hungry for love and attention.  These are people who have found refuge in this Country not for reasons of convenience, but, as one of our team members pointed out, “they’re here because otherwise, they would probably be dead.”

Man, what a great opportunity!  I want to encourage all of the members of The Gathering to get excited about being on mission!  We have opportunities for everybody: locally to your own neighborhood and workplace, city-wide through HaCoBaCare, regionally through the Atlanta Refugee mission, and internationally in Peru.  The only thing keeping you from being on mission…is you.

2010: Year of the Mission

I met with our Mission One:Eight Team this past Wednesday night and left so encouraged and excited about the coming year at The Gathering.  God has moved in some pretty big ways over the last couple of months, removing the inward focus that largely characterized what this church has been, bringing a fresh wind of excitement over reaching out to the world with the love and redemption communicated in the Gospel.

This church has realized it was never meant to serve as a club for the religious separatist, but must become a center for those actively carrying out the Great Commission through every door that God opens for her.  It is so refreshing to sit with people who are excited with anticipation over what God is going to do through our mission giving and our mission going.  It is a wonderful place to be where people are asking the God-honoring question, “Why not?” regarding missions rather than the spirit-quenching “Why?” that so often characterizes religious people.

I believe that 2010 is going to be the year of the Mission.  There are so many opportunities that are before us and we can’t wait to see what God is going to do with them.

Already, we are engaged in a church-planting effort in Peru, ministering among the Yauyos People located high in the Andes Mountains.  We were overwhelmed to experience God already at work there and had simply invited us to join Him in His work.  At our last Family Ministry Meeting, the people of The Gathering enthusiastically embraced this mission opportunity, understanding that a church without a mission is no church at all.  We have been called and we are being sent!

Locally, we are becoming more aggressively involved in the ministry of HaCoBaCare.  This ministry of the Hamilton County Baptist Association to those in need in the Chattanooga area is reaching more people than any other ministry of its kind in our County.  As our efforts increase, it is our hope that even more people can be affected by this Gospel ministry, both physically and spiritually.

Further, we have a new possibility that we are exploring with another strategic partner in our area to reach out and minister to refugees located in a camp in the Atlanta area.  This mission is unique in that it is an opportunity for many to be engaged in foreign missions only two hours from our home!  Though we have not moved on this particular ministry, we are praying through that as a possible door that God is opening up for us.

The days of sitting and being spiritually fed to obesity without getting out and exercising our faith at The Gathering are over.  With opportunities like God has put before us, there is something for literally everyone in our covenant community to get involved in.  If you are a part of The Gathering, begin praying about how God can use you in our Mission One:Eight in 2010.

There is a new day that has dawned at The Gathering with a new spirit of love, compassion and cooperation being experienced as never before.  Our worship experiences are sweet times of refreshing from the Lord and our focus is clear.  Praise God for cleansing downpours and fresh movements of His Holy Spirit!

Hearts to Peru

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I’m really excited that the people of The Gathering have recognized the work God is doing in the Yauyos region of Peru and have opted to follow His call for us to join Him. Last night in our ministry meeting, we officially adopted that area as a mission focus of our church and are joining our partner churches on mission there.  It is always encouraging when God, who needs no help, chooses to let us enjoy what He enjoys by inviting us to minister to His people.

Enjoying our first meal in Alis while hanging with on of the local kids.
Enjoying our first meal in Alis having fun hanging with one of the local kids.

As it stands, I am set to head back down to Alis October 22-28 with the pastors of our partner churches to begin training the leadership and encouraging the Believers.  The strategy is not complete, but members of The Gathering will have opportunity to go down to Alis throughout the coming years to work at building a strong, reproducing church and to plant other churches in the surrounding villages.

It has been so obvious to us that God has opened this door for us and to not walk through would be disobedient on our part.  I would like to ask you to consider helping us in this mission.  We are establishing an account through the church in which people can donate money that will help make it possible for our people to participate in this mission.  Please let me know if you would like to make a contribution and I will get you the proper information.

I am working to get our Peru Vision Trip video report online on our website.  When I am able to get it uploaded, I’ll post a link.

The Power of Worship

This morning, I talked with the guys at our men’s discipleship breakfast about the power of worship I experienced while Karen and I were on our cruise last week. It was amazing because everywhere I looked, I saw the magnificence of God’s creation: ocean in every direction, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, cloud formations planted right into the distant, watery horizon. It was breath-taking. At every moment, I found myself engulfed in worship, praising God for His majesty and the display of His nature right there before me to see.

I am reminded of Psalm 19 where David must have been in one of these type situations in nature as the worship of God burst forth from the depths of his soul:

19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

An interesting thing happened to me as a result of this spontaneous worship I experienced aboard ship: I was “sucked into” the very presence of God and put into a place where I was able to experience some things over the next few days I don’t think I would have been prepared for otherwise.

God took me on a journey for the next several days aboard ship and during our ports of call, where I was exposed to some of the most horrible injustices and poverty I’ve ever seen. My heart broke as I listened to stories of the ship’s staff of their families back home, the long months away from them so that they can escape the poverty that engulfs their homelands and provide a living for their families. I saw scum-filled areas in Jamaica where people are subjected to abject poverty. My stomach was turned as I watched rich vacation-goers (which included all of us!) eat as much as possible and then send the rest to the trash by servers who can only imagine having such luxuries, probably wishing their families back home could have the left-overs.  The contrasts were shocking.

Though I experienced a great time of refreshing and relaxation on vacation, it wasn’t an escape. Through the worship that I experienced, being sucked into the presence and reality of God, I was taken on a journey of discovery, where my eyes were opened and my life was changed. It is interesting to see how God can and will often take something intended for our own purposes and use it for His purpose and glory…and it most often comes through the power of worship.

The President to Attend Worship Service in Chinese Church

I have really found myself burdened for the Chinese people lately.  With the Olympics getting ready to start, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing some kind of show about China and her people.  I know that the Olympics bring a rare opportunity for that country to be open to the Gospel like perhaps no other time for the very simply reason that so many Believers, like Joe Smith who is a part of the Olympic team, have actually been invited into the Country by the Chinese officials.  It’s as if the great spiritual wall of China is beginning to form some pretty big cracks.  So I ask you to join me in praying that the wall will be completely torn down.

What I see as a pretty amazing opportunity is the news that President Bush will be attending a Chinese church while attending the Olympics.  I can’t imagine a better way to spotlight the necessity of human and religious rights for the Chinese people than for the American president to actually attend one of their services.

According to a report on Breitbart.com citing of the President’s top aides, George W. Bush plans to attend church while in China for the opening of the Olympic Games next month, and will speak about freedom of religion. “When he goes to church on Sunday (August 10) he will make a statement afterwards in which he discusses his view on religious freedom in China,” said national security council director of Asian Affairs Dennis Wilder. “You can deliver the message of freedom without politicizing the events of the game,” Wilder said. “The president will have diplomatic meetings with the Chinese leadership that are separate from the games. And in those meetings with the Chinese leaders he will of course bring up these issues.”

Please join me in praying for the President as he carries out these meetings.  Also pray for the opening up of China for the Gospel to spread across that Country and for revival to break out among a people who are blinded to the Truth that salvation comes through no other means than the atoning work of Christ on the cross.

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