Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Through Childlike Eyes

Dear Capernaum Brothers and Sisters
In celebration of our recently published club talk handbook, I would like to share with you a club talk I gave last week. It was on the incarnation but I did it differently than any time I’ve done it before.

Our Del Mar/Branham High School club meets on Wednesdays and it is spectacular. Our Area Director, Shelley Smith, has done a first rate bang up job of pulling together about 30 kids and some wonderful leaders, and it is the club I volunteer in. As a matter of fact, it is the first YL Capernaum club that began on March 10, 1986 and 23 years later it is still going.

So it was my turn for the club talk last Wednesday, which I always count as an honor and privilege to speak to kids about Jesus. We meet in our beautiful Lighthouse Club Room every week. I began the talk by placing myself in our sound room behind kids so they couldn’t see me. Using a microphone, I addressed them as God. I told them I’ve seen them and heard their cries, questions and longings. I called out some of their names addressing in a “veiled” way some of the things I knew they were dealing with.
Manny, I know you are concerned about your friend in the hospital.
Carmella, I know you wonder if I exist
Stashu, I know you wish you could talk and people would take time to understand.

I did this with a few kids and then I said, “I want you to know I am coming to visit you.” Then I walked out of the sound room.

One of our leaders stood up, playing the role of John the Baptizer, and cried out loudly, “There He is! Jesus! He is God, wrapped in skin. It is Him.” The funny thing is that our leader Eric looks like how I would picture John the Baptizer. Then I went to every kid in club with a personal message for each.

One beautiful girl named Gracie has Down Syndrome. At the beginning of club we celebrated three kids’ birthdays. Her birthday was coming up in three weeks and she could not understand why we were not celebrating her birthday. She burst into inconsolable tears. So I came out and went to her and said, “Gracie, I am Jesus. I know your birthday. As a matter of fact, I picked the date of your birth and then I made you. I celebrate your birthday every year. I will not forget it. Your birthday will be celebrated here.”

I wish you could have seen Gracie’s face. Her eyes, they sparkled in holy sacred wonder. I realized in that moment, this was not a club talk. In that moment for Grace, I was Jesus. As a matter of fact, every kid responded this way. Some jumped up to hug me, but each and every one of them met Jesus in a life changing way that day, and so did I, because they were Jesus to me.

“Unless you become like little children, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” A child simply believes and responds with wonder. How often we make the Gospel complicated, or make Jesus complicated, or make our own relationship with Him complicated. I want to be like Gracie. Jesus must be who He says He is and He said these wonderful things to me and it must be true because Jesus said it. I love you Jesus!

Wow! What a way to live. I gave the club talk but my beautiful friends gave me Jesus. May we not be swayed from the simplicity of purity of devotion to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 11:3)

One of His children,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wrestling with Life

As soon as Jesus got out of the boat He was met by a man who came out of the burial caves. This man had an evil spirit. Mark 5:2

Jairus, an official of the local synagogue came up and when he saw Jesus he threw himself down at his feet and begged him as hard as he could, “My little daughter is very sick. Please come”….Mark 5:22-23

There was a woman who had suffered terribly from severe bleeding for 12 years…if I can just touch his clothes. Mark 5:25,28

While Jesus was saying this some messengers came from Jarius house and told him, your daughter has died. Mark 5:35

Jesus paid no attention to what they said, but told him, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” Mark 5:36

My YL Capernaum teammate Colleen and I read Mark 5 yesterday. We read it after we had talked about a litany of many dear friends of mine involved in suffering and tragedy. In early August while I was in Macedonia, a former club kid named David, whom I dearly loved and had known for 21 years, died. Later on that month another club kid named Petey, lost his mother and cried out at the funeral, “It hurts so much. Why? Why?”

In the past few weeks another club kid named Gerry has been fighting for his life. He is near the end of the life expectancy of a person with Muscular Dystrophy, he is 23 years old. At the same time three of the dearest couples in my life are either getting divorced or are on the edge of ending their marriages. Another friend is fighting schizophrenia. Another friend has a mother who was found incoherent at her bedside and is struggling with dementia. And I have been in an ongoing struggle with a physical issue.

As Colleen and I talked about all of this, we both recognized just how tough life can be: tragedy, suffering, confusion, desperation, disease, and death. It can seem in the context of such stressful times that we could all collapse. What hope do we have? Yet when I read Mark 5, I am greatly encouraged. Do you know why? Because Jesus was right in the middle of desperate, hurting peoples lives. He was there ministering, healing, blessing and encouraging.

I have to remember and you have to remember in dark moments of our lives and in the lives of those we hold dear that Jesus is in our midst, He’s in charge and He has the last word. Not desperation, decline, weariness, disease, depression or death! But Jesus! Say it again, Jesus! He is our hope. He is our deliverer. He is the one we can turn to in our own desperation. Jesus never failed to respond to desperate people who had faith. This is a combination Jesus finds irresistible.

So my friends where are you desperate, confused or afraid? What are you wrestling with what possibly no one knows, personally or in ministry? Lack of money? Lack of leaders? Wondering if it is worth it or if anyone understands? Or even cares? Self-doubt? Too many changes? Weariness? Physical issues? Being too hard on yourself, for your sins or the sins of others?

Whatever it may be, know that Jesus is in the crucible of these life situations with you and He says, “Don’t be afraid, and only believe.” My daughter! My son! Your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed from your trouble. (Mark 5:34) Life is complex but Jesus directs us in the middle of these complexities to look into His eyes and hear His voice. I pray that for you and for me.

Always in need of a Savior,


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Words of Wisdom (Part II)

Chapter 4
A word on one of the strategies of the enemy, isolation. We minister in solidarity with our friends who regularly experience isolation, rejection and misunderstanding. Ministry leads us, by its nature, into identifying with those whom we serve, so we will share in Christ’s suffering as we share in the sufferings of our friends. We will experience some of the pain as they experience isolation, but God has given us a remedy and defense, each other.

Be intentional in fellowshipping with your YL Capernaum brothers and sisters. Fellowship through phone calls, email, visits and praying with each other. Don’t just facebook, be face to face. Beware of thoughts of discouragement. Beware of thoughts like, “Who am I to do this?,” “No one really cares,” “What difference am I making?” “I am too tired to go on.” “I am tired of criticism.” Remember the enemy will do anything he can to get you to quit. Rise up sister! Rise up brother! You are warriors. Fight the good fight of faith. Do you believe our brother John, when he says, “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world.” Live for an audience of One. Listen only to His voice that says, “You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased and take great delight in.” Remember Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.” You are chosen, which is the wonderful good news we give our YL Capernaum friends.

Chapter 5
Never stop going after the most remote and forgotten kids. Do not play it safe, go after the kids with the most severe disabilities, those that no one wants to get near and serve. Your Heavenly Father rejoices over you as you do.

Dream your dream and offer it to God in faith and prayer. Choose the impossible because when it happened you will know it was God who pulled it off. Remember these Scriptures:
What no eye has seen, what no ear has hear, all that God has
Prepared in the hearts of those who love Him. I Corinthians 2:9

Call to me and I will show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.
Jeremiah 33:3

And now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond
All you dare to ask or imagine, Ephesians 3:20

Dear friends, do you believe this? Remember we have a God who created all the stars and calls them by name and because of the power of His might, not one of them is missing. Ours is a God bigger than any challenges we face: the need for leaders, committee, donors, money and the strength to persevere. So dear sisters and brothers as my friend Antwon always said, “Be encouraged!” And so I say to you as my sister Lydia always says to me, “The best is yet to come!” Read and share this letter with all who love YL Capernaum.

May the Father’s mercy, the Son’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s fellowship be yours.

For Him