Sunday, 5 January 2014

Hope: the Gift of Grace

Hope: The Grace of God

First off, I would like to personally say Merry be-lated Christmas and Happy be-lated New Year! I am fully aware that my last blog raised some issues to the surface and was unsettling to many readers. I know many of you are expecting an apology or a message saying, "I am sorry, you must have misunderstood me..." If anyone feels condemned, I apologize because that was not the message. But if you felt conviction, than you need to do some soul searching. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV). The difference is this:

Condemnation= "I am not good enough so I might as well give up!"

Conviction= "I know I am not good enough, but God's grace will get me through this despite of my sins and imperfections."

My goal is not for you to loose hope! The Christian life doesn't start when we are finally perfect and all of our sins are finally managed. For example, when we became Christians, our sins and our temptations didn't go away, did they? We did not become Perfect. We became Forgiven! You see, at just the right time, when we were still POWERLESS, Christ DIED for the UNGODLY. (Romans 5:6 NIV). But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still SINNERS, Christ DIED for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV).

I do not know about you, but I find much comfort in those two verses. And to be honest, they contain the message of the Christian faith! God did not start loving us when we get all of our problems and addictions sorted out. He Loved us when we were still his enemies and that fact alone should blow your mind away! Now, what I want you to do is to sit and think about that for a while before reading on...

Pretty deep huh?? I am going to come back to this later so hold onto that thought.

I am about to share a story from the New Testament found in the book of John that displays this beautifully! If you have a Bible in your house I want you to read this for yourselves or if you don't, there is an APP for that called, 'Bible App' and download it on your IPad or smart phone and turn (or scroll to) John 8:2.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (John 8:2-5 NIV).

Now, it doesn't matter what your worldview or religious beliefs you have, I believe we all will agree that adultery is a big 'no-no'. Today in modern-western culture, if this took place you got a slap on the wrist and a stack of divorce papers to sign. In first century Judaism, this was worthy of the death penalty- especially if you were the woman. If you were the man, your arms were strapped to a wooden pole and lowered down waste-deep into a pool or barrel of human and/or animal feces for a period of time. But notice the religious leaders only brought the woman...where is the man? They didn't bring him to the public trial. My hypothesis, and I could easily be wrong, is that she committed adultery with one of the religious leaders who brought her to Jesus. But look at Jesus' reaction to this half-way into verse 6:

... But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. (John 8:6 NIV)

Either Jesus has a really bad case of attention deficit disorder (ADD), or there is something much more powerful at work. Look at how he answers them:

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. (John 8:7, 8 NIV)

Jesus looked at the angry, self-righteous mob dead in the face and said to them, "Before you get on your self-righteous high-horse, take a good look at yourselves!" In that moment Jesus just took every bullet out of their religious gun. And as you keep reading the story, one by one, each man dropped their stones and left until it was just Jesus and the woman in the middle of the market square. And this is how this scandalous event is concluded:

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and LEAVE your life of sin.” (John 8:10, 11 NIV)

Now, I want you to put yourselves in that woman's shoes for a moment. You just got caught in a very disgraceful act of unfaithfulness to your husband (a man you vowed to be loyal to until the day you died) and you were just publicly paraded into the streets to where now the whole community knows of your sin. Your secret sin is now fully exposed and now you are facing the perfect Son of God face-to-face with your very life in his hands knowing fully what you DESERVE. In that moment, would you want what is JUST or FAIR? No!! You want what you absolutely do not deserve: GRACE! Notice Jesus did not say, "Go! And when you sin, keep on doing it because I am such a push-over like that." But Jesus clearly states, "LEAVE your life of sin." Earlier in John's letter in chapter 1, he says that Jesus is the full embodiment of GRACE and TRUTH. He isn't one or the other.

TRUTH says, "We are a sinners and all deserve God's judgement!"

GRACE says, "Although I acknowledge you are all sinners deserving judgement, I love you so much that I am will to be crucified on a Roman cross so your sins can be forgiven when you place your FAITH in me. "

You and I do not go to a surgeon or doctor for them to tell us what we want to hear. We pay them a lot of money (for good reason) for them to show us what is wrong with us and for them to operate or prescribe us something that will cure us. God is the same way! He shows us our sins, but like a good surgeon or doctor, He gave us a cure and solution to the sin in our lives: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

The Apostle Paul says it perfectly:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1, 2 NIV)

In one of my favorite books, "Among the Gods: Chronicles of the Kings," the author, Lynn Austin, worded perfectly, "You cannot say you serve God by doing the opposite of what God does!"

This is not an over-night fix for many of us. It wasn't for me. A relationship with God is a PROCESS, not a QUICK FIX. To think of it in medical terms: our salvation was the surgery performed on us. Our sanctification process is the trips to the rehabilitation center strengthening out what was operated on us. It is a long painful process. Anyone who has rehabilitated an injury will openly say, "It sucks!! But it was needed. And eventually, it paid off!"

 My challenge for you and for me is to not reject or abuse the gift of God's grace, but to accept and live it out! I want to also challenge you to read this prayer out loud that King David wrote in the the book of Psalms. This isn't a commandment, I personally pray this out every morning when I wake up because I know that I need God's grace and strength to get me through each day (both good and bad). There isn't anything magical or mystical about it, it is just a daily declaration of dependence saying, "God, I need your help!" And it honors and delights him when we place our dependence and trust in him.

"Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23, 24 NIV)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Rebellion and Sin

 Many of you in one point of your life or another thought to yourself, "if there was not any rules, I would experience full freedom." Or in other words you thought, "rebellion equals freedom." This might have take place in your early adilsesance or your teenage years when you disagreed with your parents curfew, or when you didn't like that your Chemistry teacher wouldn't let you burn your homework in the bunsen burner. But as you grew up and became an adult, you came to a realization that well, rebellion doesn't lead to freedom because you know that prisons are full of people who rebelled against the law. But we think as adults that 'if I disagree with a rule, I'll just ignore it'. Or if you are like me, we pick and choose the rules we like and suit us best, and to the others we feel like we are being manipulated to make someone emotionally stable and we toss them out the window. Basically we are all saying, "rules want something FROM us; not FOR us." And this is not only relevant in everyday life with parents or with the law instituted by the government, but with religion and with our relationship with God as well. Where does this mindset come from?

For many of you, especially if you're not religious, it is this kind of mindset that has chased you away from Christianity. Because from an outsider looking in, it just sounds like a bunch of 'thou shalts' and 'thou shalt nots'. You are not alone. I myself left Christianity as soon as I could because I did not like  rules and I never trusted the rule givers. All they were in my mind were just obstacles in my way keeping me away or holding me back to where I wanted to be. This was part of our human nature all the way back to the beginning with Adam and Eve.

 I know that to many skeptics this story is a hard pill to swallow. The reason I believe  it was actually historically true is because Jesus referred to them as historical figures and he was raised from the dead. I personally would like to do that one day, so I'll go along with what he says is true. Plus you have read stories that inspired you that were not the slightest bit factual before. So if the creation story is too much for you, treat it as a story with a virtue. In Genesis chapters two, God has already made the heavens and the earth perfectly suitable to place his prized creation, humans, on the earth to live. God gave Adam and Eve everything they could ever want: perfect weather, free food, perfect health, clean water, get to walk around naked with no shame, sex (those last two grabbed your attention), and a perfect relationship with God. They experienced freedom to an extent we will never know! No Ten Commandments, no tablets of stone, just ONE rule: "You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil". But this rule had a warning attached to it: "for if you eat from it, you will surely die (V.17)." But many of you know where this story is leading to:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " "You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1-6)

 I remember first reading this story and thinking to myself, 'God, this isn't total freedom. Perfect freedom you would have NO rules. Why create the stupid tree?' To my surprise, God gave me a revelation:

"Cam, it was not the rule Adam and Eve did not like. They, like you, thought though I gave them so many incredible things, I was still withholding something good from them. It was due a lack of TRUST they had towards me. I created the tree because I wanted to give them freedom to CHOOSE me. If I didn't give them freedom if choice, I could never experience true love with my prized creation. Perfect love, has to have the ability to be rejected. My heart was crushed when they rebelled. Not only did I know full well what consequences will surely follow (death, disease, poverty, earthquakes and natural disasters, etc.) But also because until the day I came as a sacrifice for sin, I would not have ever been able to experience fellowship with people again on a deep, personal level. It was mission to WIN back those who have gone astray, not PAY them back."

When I heard these words, tears flooded my eyes. My heart broke with God's in that moment. Here I was, thinking my whole life up to that point that God made rules for us to follow to look for an excuse to punish us when we failed. But the complete opposite was true. God desires us to repent and turn back to Him!

 As a whole, us Americans have rebelled against God. I know in our culture, we are repulsed by His law with rules such as no sex outside of marriage, no drunkenness, no drug ingestion, watch how you steward your finances, do not get divorced, homosexuality is wrong, abortion is equal to murder, etc.  We think we should have sex with who we want; get drunk with friends because it's fun; do drugs so you can medicate the pain; spend our money however we want; if men or women are gay let them be; don't take your marriage vows seriously-just be happy; and if a woman doesn't want her child that is her choice. The ironic thing is, though it is 'free' to voice your opinions on that you stand for these issues, but I know many of you will hate me and say I am narrow-minded if I openly say I do not agree with them. Please, I beg you, hear my heart on this: I am in ministry full time helping men and women around the world who are plagued with scars, broken relationships, broken marriages, broken families, broken lives from all of these things!! I do not judge anyone who does these things!! 'For ALL have sinned and fallen short of God's standard.' I know God's heart longs for these people to turn from these and repent. I, myself, am a living testimony of this! But why would I stand for the same things that I am spending sleepless, tear-filled nights helping and praying with people who has ruined their lives from?? I cannot bring myself to do it. Again, I not I hate them for doing these things, nor do I hate you if you supporting them. I hate seeing the bondages and addictions that we bind ourselves to that are extremely harmful to us. God wants to protect us from these things! He wants us to experience freedom with no shame, no baggage, no addictions, no diseases, and no guilt. But like Adam and Eve, he will not stop you from sinning, he has given you freedom of choice. My desire and his is to see everyone turn back to Him. Only under His ruling we find pure freedom. And even if you have strayed from His commands, he has his arms opened wide to embrace us and heal us.

  "Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!" Ezekiel 33:11

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Brazil Trip!

   I must admit, sitting in the busy airport in São Paulo, Brazil For a seven hour lay-over gives me plenty of time to think and reflect on everything God has done one this trip. For those of you who do not know, a few weeks ago, Jason and I flew all the way to Curitiba, Brazil one day after our two week outreach in South Dakota. Luckily for us we had a lot of prayer-power, rice and beans, and delicious Brazilian BBQ to get us through these intense three weeks of ministry. And thanks be to God when we landed in Curitiba, we got to join an all-star team of men on-fire for God's mission to see this city forever changed: Bram, Ghili, Caio, Davi, and Masui. In total, we did over fifty school assemblies, two street evangelism shows,  two shows in two slum ghettos who've probably never heard the Gospel before, one skate park show, one show in the local weight gym we trained at, and both of us (and the team) preached at multiple churches around the area... I think that covered it... Oh wait, and one big show. I believe Impact World Tour are still adding up the total first time commitments to Christ which is close to 2,000 (all glory to God).

As you can probably imagine, with a packed schedule as that will come MANY testimonies of God's goodness in people's lives. And there are. So many I would have to write a book and not a blog. But for the sake of keeping all of you awake, I'll just share some of the ones that really touched my heart and strengthened my faith in God. And I pray as you read them, your faith will be strengthened as well and find encouragement in them.

As I was flying over on the plane, I was having one of my quiet times/study times and my biggest prayer request to God was, "...and Lord, I do not want people to see me here. I want them to see you!" And at our very first school assembly, God made it evident he was listening to my prayer. The show went very smoothly. All of us were able to to do all of of our strength fetes with no complications. I shared my testimony at the mid-way point and Jason preached (and he did a very good job I must add). As I was sharing my testimony I always wrestle which parts to share and which ones I should skim over because I know in some cultures my testimony will offend a lot of them (believe me, it offends me too). but little did I know a lot of things I put myself through, a lot of them either on their way to committing the same sins I have done or have already have and were looking for hope for redemption. I finished my testimony with, "... Look, I am not up here telling you things I am proud of my past of for I am thoroughly ashamed of the man I once was. But I stand before you today as a living proof of the power of how God's grace transforms the worst of sinners! A dead Jesus couldn't change me, but a resurrected Jesus did! And I am not the exception! He can and will do the same for you too! Just please for you own sake, don't get to where I was before you make that choice!" After the show, the Holy Spirit was evidently moving in many of the students as the came forward at the alter call ready to make Jesus Lord over their lives. As many of you who have been to Team Xtreme shows, alter calls are usually followed by prayer requests mixed with photos and autographs (which I think is silly because we are not famous. I just make sure I always cite a verse or write 'follow Jesus' by my name). It was during this time that girl came up to me and in perfect English say, "I just wanted you to know that when I see you, I see Jesus." And walked away. It was hard not to start tearing up. All I could say was, "Thank you. Thank you, Lord for listening."

I would have to call this next story, "The Tale of Two Churches" because at the two churches I was asked to preach at were two crazy, God-taught experiences for me. For those who know me, I love to preach! Not because I get to stand up with a microphone and have the spotlight on me: I love it because I get a chance to share how amazing our God is and how much he wants to be involved in our everyday lives and then explain what that looks like. The first church I went to was EXTREMELY traditional. I could tell right away that they were probably a little skeptical that they were going to give a platform to some American guy in his early 20's in blue jeans. But hey, I'm getting used to it. But luckily for me, God has been preparing me for this message since the day I arrived so I had my outline ready and it was a go. My translator did an amazing job as we shared on the Grace of God and of how it was a gift not just for ourselves but for a gift for us to extend to those around us. And thanks to God's grace, the pastor was pleased with the message and we prayed and thanked God for the night and we parted ways. Now the next church did not go as planned or as organized in my mind. I was asked to change plans and churches two hours prior to me having to go deliver God's message. I was originally planned to share my testimony and if you are a speaker, it doesn't take much preparation to speak 20minutes about God's change in you. Planning for a sermon is totally different! I have given last-minute sermons before, but I do not prefer that approach ever; like planning those ahead! My translator was different and like any good translator, he wanted to look over my notes before we delivered the message. The problem was, I did not have any! And this church turned out to be a Cam-Nirvana! It was full of youth in their teens through early twenties playing reggae worship music. Heck, the pulpit was a surfboard!! And here I was, in my dream environment and I had NO message prepared, and it was driving my translator crazy! Needless to say, I was desperately praying! At one point I though about going Old Testament by trying to find an animal to quickly sacrifice to get an answer. The. Of course, God gives me my message 2 minutes before going on stage. Long story short, it was the shortest message I have ever preached: 19minutes and that is with translation. It was more a commissioning to get the church moving than a teaching. As the worship band came back up and started playing closing music, I remember sitting down feeling like a failure. Many of you do not know this, but speakers are usually their own harshest critics. I even asked God, "Did I hear you right?" As soon as I said that I looked up and there was a lady in her mid 40's standing toe to toe with me. 'Uh oh. My first critic.' Then she spoke through my translator something I was the least prepared for, "When I was a little girl, God gave me a vision of an American man who would one day telling me a message he had especially for me... And that man was you! You were standing in my living room and you gave me the message you just preached tonight." I was stunned!!! I could literally feel all of the circulation leaving my head. Before I could say anything, she leaned down and gave me a hug while I was still sitting in my chair. 'Is this happening? I thought I absolutely sucked tonight.' Then I heard God assuring me, "Hey, you did what I wanted you to. The youth in here were going to give you max 20minutes of their attention anyways. Don't dumb down what my Spirit is doing!" As soon as I heard that instantly snapped out of my funk and began joining in the worship with everyone else. Luckily, I know enough Chris Tomlin's songs to sing the English lyrics along with the Portuguese-speaking band: a perfect end to another God-inspired night.

This last subject was a big wake-up call! Early in my second week of ministry in Brazil, I get word that one of my friends back home, Dylan, lost his life being a passenger of a driver under then influence in a car accident. He was not the first friend I have lost, I have buried six friends in the last eight years and each case has rocked me in their own way and all came unexpectedly. Dylan's death in particular was different. He is my first friend I've lost as a Christian whom I have not been a true witness to. That fact alone saddened me the most! Here I am, an international missionary being God's light to the world, yet failed to reach a friend because I was too caught up in myself to bother to reach out to him. As a result, it made me more desperate and motivated to be as much as Jesus as I can in EVERY situation no matter where or whom I am with because we are all on the clock! We do not know when ours or our friends' times out. We cannot save our friends or the people we witness, but we can live in ways and share Jesus in a way to make salvation an attractive choice! That being said, I pushed every second on this trip being as bright of a light as I could. Because as disciples of Jesus, we are called or 'live' sermons not just 'preach' sermons. Weather we know it or not, Christians, the world is watching us! At the end of the trip, I God really showed me how many people really do take notice! At the closing prayer time with both GX Brasil and TX Brasil teams along with the local pastors, one young, local pastor in particular started speaking to commemorate the team's success, "I first want to thank God for all of the amazing things he has done in these past 20 days of ministry. I asked Him how I could be a better light to be to the new followers of Jesus in such a dark generation as this." Then he pauses and tears start to well-up as he continued, "then I looked and saw how these men of God; Jason, Masui, Bram, and Cam daily hungry and immersing themselves into God's word and His presence; I knew God was giving me four living examples of how that can be done. So I will follow their example!" As I was listening, I, too started to get a little emotional. Shortly after that I got a letter from my young friend and translator, Caio, thanking me for being an example of God in his life. I am not telling you this to 'toot my own horn.' I tell you these stories because as I said earlier, "the world is watching you!" People do not live forever; therefore we should shine our lights every second we have! Every person you come in contact with is a person we have an opportunity to exemplify or extend God's love to! Do we get it right all the time? Absolutely not. But it is worth the shot! What do you want others to say about you?

Friday, 1 November 2013

Did I say that right? - The Formula to Powerful Prayers

   If you are like me, you probably have had a moment in your prayer life when you knelt down to pray and often wonder, 'Am I saying this right?' Or 'Is there anyone up there paying attention?' Or 'Does this even work?' To encourage you, if you are here, you are not alone. We have all been here at one point or time regardless weather you believe in Jesus or not (because regardless what you believe you pray to someone(s) or something(s)). Even though I do not know your beliefs, please allow me to enlighten you to what I and other Christians around the world believe about what our God tells us about prayer. I will warn you ahead, some of this may or will offend you. But Godly sorrow brings repentance and it has convicted me as I typed this revelation out for you from study, prayer, and from listening to many teachings on this subject.

   Early in Jesus' ministry, some of the disciples (his closest followers) came up to him and saw him praying and were so amazed about what they heard and saw they asked him, "Jesus, can you please to teach us to pray like that?" Now keep this in mind, these were good, Jewish boys who grew up in the synagog where they were taught to pray to Yahweh often; probably to the point it became a robotic and an empty experience. But there was something very different about the way Jesus was praying that made it seem...intimate and relational. I can picture Jesus standing back up, wiping the dust off his knees with a smile saying, "Okay! Let me break it down for you. Matthew, write this down." And then Jesus launches into this amazing teaching:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5-6 NIV). In today's culture, I do not believe we have to worry about the first half of this verse. Face it, if stand up and praying out loud in the grocery store, you would be considered a freak anyways. But in the culture
Jesus was reaching to, it was normal for one of the Pharisees to stand on a street corner and yell out a prayer to look 'super spiritual' and for people to look at them in awe. In other words Jesus was saying, "if you want to impress friends and strangers, go ahead! That's your reward. But you are not impressing God at all. Go, find a quiet place, and your Heavenly Father takes notice and reward you." Now I already know what you are thinking, "Sweet! So whatever I pray for alone God will answer it!" And I will assure you that is NOT what he talking about at all. How do I know that? You most likely never dated that dream girl in high school; you didn't get your dream car when you were 16; you didn't win the lottery; have Carry Underwood sing a song to you...okay maybe that was just me. But if you keep reading and listening to what Jesus is saying here, prayer is much more than getting what YOU want.

"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."(7-8). A good picture (if you are aquatinted with the Bible) of what Jesus was saying 'babbling like
pagans' is the prophets of Baal on top of Mount Carmel trying to compete with the Prophet Elijah to see whose God was real by summoning fire from heaven to burn up their offering. The scripture says that they were frantically praying and slashing themselves to get Baal's attention from the early morning until mid-afternoon and no one answered them (1 Kings chapter 18). A direct contrast to that, the prophet Elijah only had to say two sentences for God to answer him. Yes, Baal isn't a real god, but you get the picture. In modern day world, we do this all the time as well even when pray to a God who IS real. We think if we repeat a request over and over and name all of the good deeds we have done to try to twist God's arm and 'faith' Him to doing what we want him to do. To which I say, "How small is your God? Do you really want a God so small you can probe, guilt, or convince?... I don't!" Elijah needed the fire to come from heaven because if God did not answer him, people in Israel would have no clue which God to serve and then all of the prophets of Baal would either have killed him there on the spot or sent him back to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and then they would kill him. I personally don't think we have been in that extreme of a situation. And verse 8 is probably  already puzzling you because you are thinking, "If God knows what I need before I ask, then why
ask? If it isn't about informing God about what is going on, or asking him for things as if he is Santa Claus; then why pray?" And Jesus responds by giving us this model of what our prayers SHOULD look like. This isn't a 'say this prayer and magic things will happen' because that is superstition. That is religion. That is not what a relationship with God looks like. Think of it as an outline.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name," (v9). What Jesus is explaining to us is he wants us to know exactly WHO we are talking to! He is telling us to remember, this is the same God who created everything and not only is He inviting us to call him 'Father'- something so intimate and relational- but he is also wants us to declare how big, majestic, hallowed he truly is. That is a lot different than, "Thank you God for this day. Now this is what I want..." I know many of you reading this (if you got this far) think I am the biggest, insensitive jerk ever. But the truth is, we are ALL guilty of this! Myself included. I'm being just as harsh at myself as I am sounding to you. Jesus continues, "not my will, but YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."(v10). At this point in the prayer we need to pause. Because, in my opinion (and I think God will agree), if we are not
willing to declare God's greatness and place ourselves under His will and His kingdom...we do not need to go any further with our prayers. An extreme example of this is right before Jesus was about to be handed over to the Romans to be crucified, he was praying, face-down in the Garden of Gethsimony, sweating blood, prayed,"Father, if this cup of crucifixion could pass from me, please let it. BUT NOT MY WILL, but your will be done." And if Jesus, who is God, submit himself to His Father's will to die on a cross for all of humanity's sin, we as humans need to submit to His will even more.

  "Give us this day, our daily bread," (v11). God knows we will ask him for things. He does not tell us not to ask him for anything. But why I believe he wants us to go through such great lengths of declaring his greatness and submitting to his will first, is because one: it helps us put everything into proper perspective; and two: it puts our hearts in a position of humility and not entitlement.

"Forgive us of our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors."(v12) Forgiveness of sins is a major request from God. But Jesus makes it absolutely clear through teachings and parables, that if we are not willing to extend forgiveness to others, do not expect God to do the same for us. I know as some as you read this verse a face comes to mind, and that is the Holy Spirit telling you who you need to extend forgiveness to. Forgiveness is not letting someone off the hook, it is acknowledging what they did is wrong, but it is not condemning them for what they did. And many of you know when you forgive from your heart, YOU are the one really set free, not them.

"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one," (v13). I think as human beings we find temptation easy enough on our own. And Jesus is probably referring when the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness for 40days without food and being tempted by the devil himself and saying,"Hey, I've been there, and that wasn't fun."- I bet when I get to heaven he is going to read this off to me and say, "seriously?" Oh well, we will see. 'Deliver us from the evil one' could also translate from the Greek, 'deliver us from evil.' Meaning, "Lord, after I get done praying, I am with full intentions, try my hardest not to sin against you." This doesn't mean we recite this and ask for forgiveness so we can go out and sin as much as we can and then ask for forgiveness later. Catholics go to a priest and do this. And Protestants, we do the same thing and skip the priest. I believe if Jesus saw that he would physically puke! Jesus died and sacrificed too much for us to abuse the gift of grace! I am so convicted as I am typing this because I am so guilty of doing this. We all are. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to Galatia (to which we refer to the book of Galatians- it's in the New Testament) he addresses that if we walk with or keep-in-step with the Holy Spirit, we will not gratify our sinful, fleshly desires. Go read it for yourselves! It's in chapter 5 and it is incredibly insightful!

"For thy is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever, Amen." (14 KJ) This last phrase, Jesus never said it and it is not found in the original Greek text. Before you freak out, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. When the first Bible translators in Rome read this, they realized Jesus never closed the prayer, he just jumped into another teaching. They thought this teaching was so rich, that they should at least add a closing to it to separate his two teachings. Really all it is doing is summarizing the entire crescendo of the prayer to a final conclusion.

Before I end this blog, I want to go back to the 'reward' for praying this prayer. Jesus said that if we pray this way as we are alone we are rewarded and I know you want to know what that is. And your reward is this: peace.
Peace knowing that you live for and worship a God that is so big, so in control, so loving, so awesome, so relational we get to call him Father, God whose will can never be manipulated or changed, who is so much bigger and better than anything we can ask him for. He gives us the opportunity to ask him for anything, but we also need to give him the opportunity to give us any answer He chooses: even if it is 'no'.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Be Bold!

Pray for Boldness!

  As I am typing this out, I am on a connecting flight from Kansas City to Washington D.C. on my way to Curitiba, Brazil for another short mission trip. I've been reading a few books and listening to some teachings while I've been in the air and God nailed me and told me to start writing: so that's what I am doing.
  If you have read my last blog about my trip in South Dakota, you would see how troubled I was on how complacent we as disciples of Jesus have become complacent and categorical when it's come to spreading the Gospel. Now I am not asking you to invite your un-churched or non-Christian friends to church. If you haven't figured it out yet, you will come to find that there is something about the church building that automatically makes them repulsed to go inside. This can be due to bad past experiences, different religious upbringing, uninterested, hungover from a wild Saturday night, the list goes on. (Keep in mind I, who is typing this was one of these types of people.) What I am going to try my best way possible to do is motivate, equip, and inspire you in a short blog to share the Gospel yourself to your friends! That's right, YOU!

Method #1: Live with love and honor

  Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Watch and see how Jesus lived what he taught and how he expected his 12 companions to live by his example. Therefore if he challenged his 12 closest followers to do this, do not surprised that he's calling us to do the same. To sum it up in a sentence, "You cannot say you serve and love a God and do the opposite of what he does."
Method #2: Tell YOUR story.

  To encourage you, I have been doing this for three and a half years and I don't have a masters in Theology; I just read my Bible everyday. A lot. And like in my first months as a believer when I wasn't confident in my Bible knowledge (because I had none) I just shared my testimony with people when the opportunity arose to do so. People will argue with you day and night about the Bible anyways (plus it is hard to use a book to reach people that they do not believe in in the first place) but no one will argue with your own personal experience of what God has done in you.

Method #3 Use the full Gospel message.

  I'll give you the entire Bible summed up in a bullet point sermon- you're welcome! This is the same outline that I and the other Team Xtreme members use at everyone of our shows.

*In the beginning, God created the world and everything in it and it was perfect! Man had a perfect relationship with his and her creator.

*Sin came into the world and distorted every good thing God created because Adam and Eve rebelled. Therefore the relationship between God and man was severed.

*In God's perfect timing, he reached down to earth to re-establish the relationship that was broken in Eden by sending Jesus, his Son, who lived the perfect life that we could not. Then he was betrayed, crucified, and died for not only our sins, but for every sin everyone has ever or will ever commit. It doesn't matter weather you are Jewish, American, Middle-Eastern, Chinese, Australian, African, European; Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Mystic, or whatever Jesus died for them and for you and for me! So that, we can have relationship with God again! No longer do we have to reach out and search for a way to God, God has made a way to us!

*God proved all of the by raising Jesus from the grave three days after he was buried!

*Everyone is going to live forever somewhere. God says in the Bible in 1 Timothy that it is God's desire for everyone to call on the name of Jesus and be saved and live with Him in Heaven for all eternity, but he gives us the free will to make that decision ourselves. Our only other option is eternity in a horrible place called hell. (I know many are driven away from this because it seems unfair and narrow-minded. But God is a God who is Just and he will punish every wicked deed or sin we commit "for all have sinned and fallen short of God's standard." You cannot be 'good enough' to get to heaven because God doesn't only examine your actions, he takes hold of everyone one of our thoughts as well- and that thought should scare enough of us strait. It wasn't 'fair' for Jesus to die for you but he did it willingly because he loves all of humanity too much to not make a way to save them. It is narrow gate, the Bible says that clearly, but it is a very broad invitation! And just because it feels unfair, it does not make it untrue.) God takes no pleasure in sending people to hell, he says that Ezekiel's prophesy in the Old Testament. But like I said earlier, God is a God of Justice and he will make all things right! Therefore the only thing that will save us is our faith in Jesus Christ.

* Then on the day of Pentecost, God released his Holy Spirit on all men who call Jesus Lord as an advocate to teach us how we should live. This can be easily explained this way: When Jesus became Lord over your life, many of you would say that you have a renewed mind and renewed conscience of what is right and wrong- that is proof the Holy Spirit is now living in you! Ta-da!

*Now, that you have accepted Jesus as your lord (assuming the person you talked to has accepted Jesus in their heart), you now have a new relationship with the God of the universe!! Treat him as you would a dear friend: talk to him and pray daily, read your Bibles daily (brand new Christians I point to the Gospels of John or Matthew to start and read through the whole New Testament then go back read through the Old) because the Holy Spirit will speak to you through the scriptures, get plugged into an environment to be lifted up in your faith with friends that share the same faith as you (can be a church or a Bible study or both), and live out your faith daily and "go and make more disciples of all nations." Matthew 28.

  Now you are equipped to share the true Gospel of Jesus yourself! You will come to find out as God has used me, you're going to use all three methods in your life- sometimes all at once. But do method #1 first and foremost because it will make methods 2 and 3 much more effective.I encourage you to pray constantly that God gives you BOLDNESS and CLARITY when you share and that the Holy Spirit will freely speak through you. Keep this especially in mind, WE CANNOT CHANGE ANYONE- that is the Spirit's job- your job is to give Him the platform and let Him speak for himself. And I am going to end this message with a prayer for you:

Heavenly Father, I pray for all of those who read this that you will equip them with boldness and clarity they need to speak your message. I pray for divine appointments for them to share about you in ways they couldn't imagine and that they will allow you to speak through them! God it says in Isaiah 55 that your word does not go out without accomplishing all you set it out for it to accomplish so I pray as we speak, we will keep this in our minds and engrave it in our hearts. Thank you for the privilege we have to share your Gospel in which you entrusted to us! Again equip us to speak your word with BOLDNESS and allow your signs and wonders to follow us through the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. All of this I pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Awake America (the South Dakota tour)

  As I am typing this blog out to conclude our South Dakota tour and reflecting back on all God has done, it has been very sobering. I am ashamed to say that I once used to look at missions through the lens that if you didn't get your passport stamped in some far away country and lived in a poor, third-world community that it did not count as a 'true mission trip'. Like many of you who thinks about America as a 'Christian nation' with more churches than some continents that we might need to mobilize God's Kingdom elsewhere. (I am shaking my head as I write this because I know how foolish it sounds). But sadly, we do think this. We think that if the nation or area is wealthy and prosperous, then no one needs to reach them because they have it all-together. But after this trip (including our tour in Iowa) America is in as much or even more need for the Gospel than anywhere else I have been in the world.
  Our trip began by driving around seven hours from Kansas City to Watertown where we had our Commissioning Night- which is where all of our tours begin. Commissioning Night is when all three teams (Team Xtreme, GX, and Island Breeze) have a night of prayer and worship for God to anoint us for our task ahead and to have the local pastors of the area lay their hands on us and bless us to (in Bible language) work in their fields. And as a young missionary with a pastor and teacher heart, this means the world to me because it's not a scene of us coming to take over, nor is it them micromanaging our every word or action. It's a beautiful picture to me of the Body of Christ coming together and working as One bonded by trust and grace. It didn't matter what denomination you were from or your micro-theology beliefs: Jesus was at the center where he belonged and we were all just going and doing whatever he directed us to do.
  After our commissioning, our first show was in the middle of a mall with all three teams represented. It was so much fun having all of us together on one stage and one event compared to our typical protocol of one of us performing one night each individually. Therefore despite the lack of experience of a three-way combo show, it went so smoothly transitioning from breaking bricks-to break dancing- to Hawaiian Island dancing that it got the whole town excited to see what was more God had in store for them. The feedback could not have been better!
  As the weeks went on, we had many school assemblies where we spoke on common issues that was taking place in the schools such as standing against bullying, making good decisions, staying away from doing drugs, etc. We were not allowed, however to speak anything about Jesus or God which is a staggering thought to me because I've been to not-so-free countries and have been able to do so. On a personal note: I personally believe that by pushing God out of the picture in school is what makes these issues more frequent because the kids have no other source to go to. But anyways, we were able to put on a show well enough that would get them excited enough to bring friends and family to our 5 big shows throughout the two weeks where we spoke freely about the life-changing power of our Lord, Jesus. So basically our American school assemblies are more a pre-show before the main event- which is God.
 All five of our main shows (Webster, Tiospa Zina- where we and GX had a small part of a Island Breeze show, Sisseton, Britton, and Watertown) were all incredible experiences where God rocked the shows and the people watching! In every alter call we had hundreds of first-timers committing to put Jesus Lord over their lives and many of them were un-churched. Meaning, they never been to a church service or heard the Gospel of Jesus before- and this isn't in a third world country where Christianity is illegal: this is in the United States of America! What I am ultimately saying here is- there is a huge need! The body of Christ in America has to wake back up and start reaching, and loving, and being Christ's hands and feet again!
  As I'm finishing typing this out, a song came on my IPad from Chris Tomlin and what he saying in the opening lyrics is so appropriate to what I want to close with because this is my prayer and my cry for our country.

In our hearts, Lord, in this nation
Holy Spirit, we desire

For You and You alone
Awake my soul, awake my soul and sing
For the world You love
Your will be done, let Your will be done in me

- Awakening by Chris Tomlin

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Here is a LATE update from Honduras

"... Can a country be born in a day? Can a nation be brought forth in a moment?" Isaiah 66:8

In our lifetime, this prophesy has come true! Check out this video from our trip!