Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Same Spirit

Today was a great day in Medellin.  We spend the day in Mentor training with the network of pastors and some from the churches the pastor who are invested in the mentoring process.  My group was a group of three Colombian pastors, a member of the FBC, Euless, team, and an amazing Pastor to pastors in this Colombian network who also is an exceptional translator.  The gentleman leading our group is a seminary student and staff member from Euless, Texas.  His task is to help us learn how to mentor others in the circle of influence God places us in.  In other words, how can we, as Pastors, mentor those in our church and train them to become mentors of others.

At our church in Wauchula we constantly talk about the importance of father passing on their faith to their children.  In essence, this passing on of the faith is mentoring.  Daniel and I try to go to breakfast every week, and while we are enjoying some of the finer delicacies of the dollar menu we talk about what God is doing in our lives and how we can grow closer to him.  I honestly cannot wait to get back and go through this amazing material with him.  Being able to take my son through a disciplined approach to discipleship will be a life changing experience - for both of us.

I am also excited bringing back the mentoring process to some folks in our community who have been experiencing the power of God in their lives.  I am thinking of several men and women in our church who have been searching for a way to invest in the lives of others and multiply their faith.  What I am learning this week is a great catalyst for that multiplication.  What better way to get people excited about sharing their faith than to equip them with all of the tools they need to help someone grow into a fully devoted follower of Christ.

One of the most humbling experiences is realizing that the Pastors here have the same joys, struggles, hurts, and passions that I do.  The fact that we are literally oceans apart makes no difference.  We serve a Mighty Big God who transcends all space.  We all worship the same God and are motivated by the same Spirit.

I praise God for my brothers and sisters in Christ in the United States.  I praise God for a family that loves the Lord, and I look forward to the day when our youngest chooses, by faith, to follow Christ as well.  I also praise God, though, for the brothers and sisters in Christ in Euless, Texas, and in  South America.  Through them this week the Lord has helped me see that people everywhere need Jesus, and the key to being who God wants us to be is simply to join God in the work He is already doing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Buzzards in the Belfry

Friday night on the streets of Medellin is much different from Friday nights on the streets of Wauchula. While it is true that Friday Night Live can get pretty busy, and Giovanni's can get pretty full, there is no comparison to what we experienced riding in a taxi on our way to the first session of our Mentoring Training.  Let's just say that it's hard to admire the beautiful city of eternal spring when you've got motorcycles coming at you from all - and yes I mean all four - sides, and your taxi driver is maneuvering his way through them as if he is riding a Gator through an orange grove.

As we pulled up to the church (after getting turned around - that's Spanish for lost) we saw a most interesting sight.  Sitting on top of the church were some buzzards.  Now I've been on enough back roads to know that buzzards usually know when something is dead long before we humans do.  I know you've seen them circling waiting to take the dive.  Something is dead somewhere.

We exited the taxi and walked across four lanes of busy Medellin traffic, making me feel like I was back in the old Atari Frogger game I used to have as a teenager.  Once we were inside the church, however, the busy streets were a quick memory.  Pastors and their wives from the network of churches had gathered to be taught the practice of Mentoring by our new Texas friends.  What a great time of fellowship and partnership in the Lord.  These pastors and wives had brought lay leaders as well, and were looking forward to the beginning of a spirit-filled weekend.  The depth of the team from Texas and the humility with which they approached the training was inspiring. I can hardly wait until tomorrow morning.  While I miss my family more than I can express I am also gaining valuable insight into how to mentor my own children, as well as others God allows me to lead.  I'm also learning a lot from the Texans (although I hate to admit it) about healthy, spirit-filled, mission minded followers of Christ.  Perhaps we'll talk more about that later.

As I finished the night with conversation, I couldn't help but remember the buzzards on the church roof.  Perhaps some animal had suffered an untimely death, and they were standing on ready.  There was certainly nothing dead about what was going on inside that building tonight.  I do wonder, though, how often we as Christ followers proceed with life as if everything is great when the "buzzards" know something is dead.  In my own life I have noticed recently that sometimes it is not until later that I realize a part of me that used to be very alive is now gone.  It's that way in relationships, in communities, and I am afraid it's that way in churches as well.  Churches across the world are great at keeping dead things propped up as if they are still alive.  I wonder if we need a few buzzards to let us know the status of our spiritual lives.  The truth is that others notice long before we do.  We are so good at pretending.

Tonight as I heard one mentor share his story I was impressed with how open he was.  He was done with pretending.  His only goal was to share his story so that others could learn how to share theirs.  Believe it or not, this mentor had actually lived in Oxford, Mississippi, and loved it.  I had to wonder if there weren't some buzzards flying around - not really.  He was the real deal.

It's time to stop pretending and time to start praying for the Lord to restore to us the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:10).  Before we can honestly pray that prayer, though, we have to admit that we've lost the joy in the first place.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Life may be crazier that a taxi cab on a Friday night in Medellin, Colombia, but our God is still on His throne, and His sanctuary is still a place of refuge.

Get rid of the buzzards by experiencing new life today!!

More Than A Song

At the risk of the ridicule I might get I still have to ask.  Does anybody remember that Ray Boltz song, "Thank You?"  I know, I know he sang so many, and the videos are kind of sappy now.  That was a long time ago, etc., etc., etc.

I had an experience today that reminded me of the song - actually that the song is more than a song.  For the next several days I have the privilege of being in Medellin, Colombia, serving alongside two other members of our church, some members of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, and several representatives from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  What an amazing organization the International Mission Board is!!  God continues to do great work through the faithful service of missionaries who have committed their lives to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

While we were walking today I was in a group with the team leader from FBC, Euless, and one of the missionaries from another city in Colombia.  This missionary told this story.  Some people he had introduced to Jesus were growing in their faith.  They heard that the missionary would be seeing the Pastor who had been influential in his life (previous trip).  These new Christ followers told him to tell his Pastor thank you for the investment.  Then, he turned to this team leader from FBC, Euless, and looked over at me.  It seems that this team leader had been the missionary's tenth grade Sunday School teacher.  So he looked at his former teacher and said, "So really I want to tell you thank you from the people I am working with because without you I wouldn't be here, and they might not know Jesus."

Now, friends, let me just tell you, that got my attention.  Here was a man who was leading a team of short term missionaries in an experience with a young man he had taught in the 10th grade.  Have you ever felt like your efforts at ministry weren't worth it?  Think again.  You never know what God might be up to.

There are people in my life who I am thankful to God for for the impact they have had on me.  This story makes me realize the importance of making sure my children know that there are a long line of investors who have played a part in where we are today.  Of course, there have been some investors who had impure motives.  Others may wonder if they made a good investment after all.  For those who made solid investment in my life, however, I am thankful.  The next two steps are to let others know who they are and then to make investment in the lives of others so the door will be open for continued work throughout the days to come.