Monday, January 15, 2018

Lightbulb of Hope- Patrick's Story by Eileen Knowles



The other day on Facebook a story I had shared a few years back about a 15 year old deaf boy in Uganda showed up in my feed. I watched it again and cried.  Patrick was born deaf and had never been able to carry on a conversation with anyone. Every day, his dad would motion to him to go outside to work in the garden and that was the extent of his "conversations". 

Patrick's days consisted of working in the garden and then retreating back to his hut to spend his days alone with just his thoughts. That all changed when another man in the village who was deaf came back home and started a sign language class after receiving intensive training in the capital.  The transformation Patrick goes through in just a few short hours is amazing to watch.  After he enters class the first day, and begins learning alongside other deaf students, his face and demeanor goes from hopeless to happy in a matter of minutes.  It's absolutely beautiful!

The part of the story that makes me emotional is the moment when the "lightbulb" appears to go off in Patrick's mind.  You can almost see it...it's that moment when he realizes that he is not alone any more, he sees a glimmer of possibility breaking into his small world that his life and situation may no longer be hopeless and isolating.


This morning, I watched a follow up video to Patrick's story. The interviewer goes back to the class after Patrick and the students have had 10 weeks worth of training together.  Please take a minute to watch.

 

Yesterday, at our volunteer rally at church, I shared how this story is such a great example of the healing power of life connected in community. When folks find a place to learn and grow "lightbulbs" of hope begin to shine bright in a person's life. We begin to realize that we don't have to remain alone in our own thoughts.  We realize there's a group of people who are willing to journey with us...to grow and learn alongside us. We come to understand that our situations are not as unique or as hopeless as we once might have thought.

I loved in the video when the narrator said that Patrick and his classmates could now begin "making plans" for the future.  That's one of the benefits of hope, it will often prompt us to begin looking ahead in a whole new light and with a renewed and fresh perspective.

Patrick's story is a great reminder of how hope and community come together and transform even the most challenging of situations.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Don’t be a Hard-Hearted Christian – a New Year’s Challenge

As we kick off 2018 maybe you are like me and you are soul-searching and praying, and asking God to help this year be better than last.  Overall I’ve had one of my best years ever growing closer to God and walking with joy, but recently it’s been much harder, and I’ve been begging God to help me see what was in the way.

I was introduced to an insight from Mark 8, with a story of Jesus and His disciples in the boat travelling:

But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food.  They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”  At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 
Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread?  Don’t you know or understand even yet?  Are your hearts too hard to take it in?  ‘You have eyes—can’t you see?  You have ears—can’t you hear?’  Don’t you remember anything at all? When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”  “Twelve,” they said.  “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”  “Seven,” they said.  “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

It could be easy to miss this, but Jesus is coming at them with a very familiar charge that they recognized from a well-known passage from Isaiah the prophet, chapter 6:

Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Make the minds of these people dull; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed.

This was a big rebuke…  But do we realize what just happened here?  The disciples, in the boat following Jesus had allowed themselves a moment of hard heartedness and spiritual deafness and blindness.  And Jesus called it exactly that.

Hard-heartedness threatens all of us!
We can be active, passionate followers of Jesus and still give way to hard-heartedness. 

But what exactly is it?

Hard-heartedness is when I refuse to let God’s faithfulness in my life grow my faith and trust in Him, and take me to a new level of trust and expectancy.  The disciples had just seen Jesus feed thousands with miraculous provision.  And He did it twice!  They’ve seen miracles over and over, and so now they think He’s rebuking them and that He’s concerned about their supplies?  They are missing an important point because they won’t let God’s faithfulness in the past grow and shape their vision for today.

Every day I can look back and see God’s faithfulness.  And in this recent season of some stressors and difficulties I can look back and completely say: Father, You got me through it once again.  I should never have doubted you!

Let me ask you….

·      When God comes through in your place of worry and stress, do you feel guilty that you didn’t trust Him more?  That happens to me.

·      When you pray about things, do you leave your prayer time with peace and assurance, or do you feel like you are still carrying the stress and concern? 

As we start the new year, let me challenge you: 
Let’s fight the good fight of FAITH, and BELIEVE GOD!
Let His past faithfulness grow our vision and our trust so that what’s in front of us shrinks under the assurance of our Father’s love and constant presence!

Faith releases us to live a life of peace and joy, that glorifies God and attracts the lost.  That’s what He deserves from us this new year!


Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Surprise Gift that Came from my Failure...

So this Christmas season has been tougher than usual for me.  

I’ve been behind and overwhelmed, and feeling a bit like a failure in a lot of ways.  I have three small children, and Christmas is a big deal to them, partly because we always make it fun and really celebrate Jesus and enjoy all that the season has to offer.  But this year I’m struggling on the get it done side, and so we didn’t even have our tree up or decorations out until this past weekend.  (Very late for us!)

But something surprising happened.

My family got to experience probably a once in a lifetime experience.  We got to cut a Christmas tree down IN THE SNOW!  That’s right…  my being overwhelmed and behind put us on a course to intersect with a surprise snowfall that left inches of snow all over everything.  And so we joyfully threw snowballs and laughed and giggled and brushed snow off of trees in order to pick the one for us.  I have never experienced this before, and knowing Georgia weather, may never again!


Isn’t this just like our Father?  Constantly FOR US.

We’re beating ourselves up about how we’ve missed it again.  We’re expecting discipline or correction or something.  Something we know we probably deserve.  And instead He comes in and says again: “Hey, I AM FOR YOU. I am with you. You are precious to me, and here’s a surprise gift from Me!”

I’m not sure when I will ever figure this out… how personal He is, and how FOR ME He is. 

He constantly takes my lack and turns it around…  how He takes my missteps and re-routes them to His glory…  Amazing grace!

Listen to the message from the Angels to the shepherds: (Luke 2)
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.

Born FOR US!

And so is the message of Christmas:  Emmanuel, God with us, God FOR US!


In this season, let us be reminded that God came in the midst of our sin, rebellion and failure, and invaded with radical love.  A surprise gift above all gifts.  The gift that says, “I love you, you are precious to me, and I am FOR YOU!”

Thursday, November 30, 2017

KRAZY GLUE and THE MISSION OF GOD - by Doug Hunt



I have three kids ages 5 through 14.  That means I have had a lot of different toys in my home for 14 years.  That means there have been a lot of broken toys in my home for 14 years.  That means I have heard this question a lot over 14 years, “daddy will you fix this?” Of course there have been more than one occasion where “fixing this” was not within my set of particular skills. But, often, after studying the damage of what needs “fixing”, I would begin my search for the Kray Glue.  For those of us that remember the eighties, you may remember the commercial of the guy hanging there with his construction hat glued to the beam.  The commercial then goes into a list of things Krazy Glue can fix, “a plastic knob, a rubber boot, a fishing rod, a model train, a model plain, a door knob screw…..” etc. IT FIXES EVERYTHING!  So, I would find the Krazy Glue, carefully apply and BOOM! Toy fixed.

KRAZY GLUE, the perfect bond for broken things so that they can accomplish the purpose they were created for.

We have a purpose as the church given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  What an amazingly large mission that none of us can accomplish alone.  After all, we are selfish broken people, who when left to ourselves will just keep living selfish and broken lives, not fulfilling the mission given to us. So, that leads us to a question.

What is the bond that keeps us together?  What is the “KRAZY GLUE” that holds us together to fulfill our purpose?

Listen to what Jesus and Paul said.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

 “You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. This is what I command you: Love one another.” John 15:16-17
I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.” John 17:23

Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Col. 3:14

The answer, Love.

Do you see that phrase, “the perfect bond”?  That means that there is NOTHING that keeps us together and on mission, living our purpose as well as love does.  Love is perfect. Strategies aren’t perfect. Catchy phrases aren’t perfect. Events aren’t perfect. Love is perfect in its unifying, gospel spreading power.

I remember one of my first experiences of seeing the reality of this.  About 15 years ago I was a part of a house church in Boston.  There was young man we met who was a student at Harvard. He was not a Christ follower but for some reason he kept hanging around with us. Honestly, I was a little intimidated by him, worried that he would ask me something I couldn’t answer or that I wouldn’t be intelligent enough to relate to him.  As it went, he ended up becoming a follower of Jesus and it was amazing! Shortly after that we were eating lunch and I asked him, “What was it that led you to make the final step of faith?”  His answer was short and powerful.  He said, “It was your love for each other.  I had never seen anything like that before.”

Love among those in our little house church was the vehicle for the good news of Jesus.

When those who don’t know Jesus see a group of messed up, broken people, joyfully and sacrificially loving one another, then they see Jesus.

If we are going to accomplish the mission of God to make disciples, we must be a church marked by people who joyfully lay down our lives for one another.  This makes the church different.

The world says “accomplish at all costs.”
God says “love at all costs.”
The world says “do whatever it takes to win.”
God say “do whatever it takes to love.”
The world says “look out for number 1.”
God says “lay down your life for anyone.”

If we will pursue to love one another well, then we will be more unified and more effective in accomplishing the mission of God. Love, in the way Jesus loved, is the KRAZY GLUE! (I know that’s cheesy….)

Here is what I do with that:

1    1.   I ask God to examine my heart to see if I am more concerned about getting great things done or loving like Jesus.

2    2.  I ask God to help me slow down to be more attentive to opportunities to listen and love.

3    3.  I look for ways that my small group and other Christian friendships can love each other and then I try to initiate that love.

Need some “Krazy Glue”?...... then love well.