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Easter Week Devotional Post 1 of 5 (A Chapter from Retweeting Jesus)

The next 5 posts are 5 chapters from the devotional I wrote titled, “Retweeting Jesus”.  I hope you are challenged and encouraged by each chapter.  These 5 posts are about the “tweet-able” phrases that Jesus spoke while being crucified.  I pray that you draw closer to the Lord throughout this week as we prepare for celebrating His resurrection on Sunday!  Have a Holy Easter. Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 10.15.14 AMPg 2 Pg 3Pg 4Pg 5Pg 6Pg 7


The Greatest Injustice in the world…

ReturnHopeLogoThe greatest injustice of all, would be having a world full of well fed men, women, and children with no disease, fresh water to drink, a rich supply of clean clothes, every orphan and widow provided for, yet all of these cared for people, still facing a reality in Hell because we didn’t give them Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.

That is the ultimate injustice.  That would be the greatest trick of the devil.  To have all this good work take place, but none of it matter eternally for those who were cared for.

ReturnHope wants to do something about this “greatest injustice.”  However, this injustice can only be conquered by using a specific strategy that will impact not only women and children eternally…but men too.

It seems to me that there is a lot of ministry taking place around the world.  Good ministry work.  It seems most of this good ministry work is focused on the care of the women and children.  I haven’t met anybody who is okay with watching women and children suffering.  But if we want to solve the problems of the world…it is going to have to be through the changing of the lives of men all around the world too.  Let’s admit it.  Men cause war.  Men have testosterone.  Men are the muscle of the world.  World problems are caused on a majority basis…by men.  Change the men…change the world!  Change the men…and women and children will be blessed too.

Injustices can only be fully conquered when the man is impacted along with the entire family for Jesus Christ as Lord.

ReturnHope wants to take on the impossible task of being used by God to change the hearts and minds of the men of our world and turn those hearts and mind towards the Lord Jesus.  In this endeavor, think of how blessed the women and children of the world would be too!

In the American Church…there is a comparable man problem that relates to my point.   If your Church reaches the mom of the family, the mom and kids will become the church, but the man of the family, more than likely, will stay home and not become the church and miss out on the growth opportunities that being the church creates. If the kids are reached, then mom will likely join the church too, but dad will end up staying home.  What this creates is a frustrated mom and child(ren) because the heavy influence of unchurched dad outweighs the influence of the church on the mom and kids. (One hour of Church added with another 2 hours of small group influence for the mom and kids cannot compete with the other 168 hours of the week controlled by unchurched dad’s influence.) So, a church that aims to reach the man for Christ, can be confident that mom and the kids are highly likely to come too.  It’s a whole family philosophy of how to design a strategy of the church…and the same should be for a world mission’s strategy!

The last 15 years of my life I have been privileged to travel to places like Peru South America, Uganda Africa, Jerusalem Israel and other amazing places.  In these locations,  I’ve encountered injustices that are ruling that culture. The same cause is evident in all these locations.  The cause is… men aren’t leading or being impacted by the good news of Jesus Christ.  Men are not being partnered with, or challenged to become responsible to their God given purpose to work, provide and steward the family that He gave them.  Men seem to have been given up on, and I think, that is a perpetuator of injustices.

So much good work is being done around the world towards the injustices of lack of clean water, nakedness, lack of shelter, disease, orphan and widow-hood.  A majority of this good work is being focused on the women and children.  Now, understandably, it is a very good thing to help the women and children.  ReturnHope International is going to do a lot of ministry for women and children everywhere…But…I beg of all people involved in the family of ReturnHope to be focused on being used by God to change the lives of the men of the villages around the world too.   As we do all our work, I beg of the ReturnHope family to always be thinking about how our work is being perceived by the man of the family, or the men of the village we are impacting.   If we are not careful we can easily create welfare situations where women and children become dependent on the American difference maker.  Please Lord, don’t allow ReturnHope difference makers to mistakenly fill the position of the man of the family in the foreign culture!  We want the native man to step up into his God designed role for him to be the provider and care taker of the family that God asked him to steward.  As we do our work for women and children, let’s never stop thinking about the man and how our work might be affecting his heart, mind and self esteem.  Let’s involve the man by walking alongside him as we do good work together for women and children!

We must go after the grown men too.

This is an impossible task.  This is a task where we must begin by only praying and planning and then moving forward with what will be trial by fire.  Chuck Swindoll said that when there is an impossible task that needs to be tackled, He will find an impossible person…crush them…and then use them to take on the impossible task.  I’ve been told by quite a few that, “I’m impossible!” 🙂  The last 3 years, God has been crushing me and allowing me to be crushed by others. (I wrote about this on this blog site if you’d like to read it…click the following links…its two part and its called “The Crushing part 1” and then “The Crushing part 2”)  I believe God has allowed this crushing to bring me to the point of right here..right now.  He is asking me to take on the leadership of ReturnHope and team with you to use our talents to begin this impossible ministry.  I imagine that when this life is over…our efforts will have been fully worth it…whether we failed or succeeded.  Let’s spend the rest of our lives in this pursuit and then we’ll do high fives together about it all in eternity together…red, yellow, black, brown and white….male and female!!

Please start praying with me about our first encounter with a group of village men in Uganda.  These men will be sitting in a big circle most of the day in a distant village.  In the middle of the circle will be a large bowl of home made alcohol.  Each man in the circle will have a long straw that reaches from the bowl to his mouth.  SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThis drinking begins in the morning and goes all day.  At night…well…this is when evil reigns.  These men in their drunken state rape their wives and abuse their daughters, beat their kids and fuel injustices towards total hopelessness….does this cause you to hate them?  If so, then I ask you to pray for them and change your heart towards them.  The men in this picture are only doing what they have been taught by their fathers, who were taught by their fathers…  Pray that ReturnHope will break this vicious cycle by also reaching the men sitting in these circles.  What is exciting for me is to explain to you what you cannot see in this picture.  All around this picture are groups of other men who are not drinking and being responsible, groups of women singing and playing with their children and/or cooking lunch or dinner. Children are playing soccer or climbing in the trees and they all want to know you, and spend time with you.  On every trip ReturnHope goes on, you will be able to choose which group you want to get involved with and interact with.  It is truly an amazing adventure and trip that will change your life.

So…

ReturnHope has a man on the ground in Uganda right now who is scouting out our very first village.  We will enter this village by providing a fresh water well (Money is already raised for this well!) and beginning a relationship with the village leaders…the men, and also the women and children! The date isn’t set yet, but we are getting ready to go!  I personally am going to be working on the men of the village.  ReturnHope will need people who want to do good in the villages for the other people all around the village too.  My gut tells me that this first trip might be more spontaneous that most of you are prepared for, but that is just a hard reality of the first trip ReturnHope takes.  Once the first trip is complete, we will be able to plan ahead a bit more!

In the mean time I am asking you to pray specifically for the men we will encounter in this first village.  Please pray frequently, so that when we arrive and meet these men, they will have been prayed for by hundreds of you…Hopefully thousands of you.  Please pray that the Holy Spirit will help us pick God’s first circle of men that He wants us to influence.  Pray that these men’s hearts will be prepared for our encounter. Pray for a man in the village who is a pastor who ReturnHope will equip with material and training to be even more impactful in his ministry work for the Lord.  Pray that as we encounter these men, they will give their lives to Jesus and accept the challenge to work alongside us to conquer the injustices they face in their own villages and country!  We as Americans cannot do the work ourselves, we must walk alongside the foreigner and team with them.  We must be learners alongside them as we teach each other.

This will not be a one time encounter.  When we enter a village, we enter into a life long covenant and relationship with the people of the village.  We will return on occasion to continue with these villagers as our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ who someday will live lives that are not controlled by injustices.  The relationships that we build with these men, women, and children will last an eternity.  We will all impact one another in a mighty way.  It really is a beautiful picture of returning hope to one another.   I believe it is what God intended for the Body of Christ to be…aka…The Church.

Every time you eat…I’m asking that you would pause and pray for this endeavor.  When you read your Bibles, pray again.  When you meet for your Bible study, ask the group to pray specifically for our success in impacting this first village of men, women and children that we encounter.

Again, we (you & me — ReturnHope) are beginning in Uganda Africa.  As soon as we pick our first village…I will inform you of its name and location and when we are planning on leading a group over!  Our trips will consist of impacting Men, Women and Children.  I will give updates all along the way.  I pray that you will share this post with the people in your life who are looking for a purpose to get involved in that lasts eternally!

Will you pray everyday about all of this?  Will you go with us over there?

It has begun.

Let’s ReturnHope to places that are imprisoned by hopelessness…and then ask them to pay it forward by returning hope to others too!

What a cool and challenging adventure!

 

 

 


THE CRUSHING… Post 1 of 2

Speaking this morning with a good friend over a great cup of coffee, we talked about something that Chuck Swindoll said at the Catalyst Conference in 2009.  If you don’t know who Chuck Swindoll is, then click his name and it will take you to his webpage.  Chuck Swindoll is 79 years old and is my favorite communicator.  He has been in full time ministry for more than 50 years.  He is finishing strong and I’m inspired by this man’s character, wisdom and love for the Lord.

Something that Swindoll said at the 2009 Catalyst conference has haunted me ever since I heard it, and it resonates with me still.  Swindoll talked about the Crushing.  This is what he actually said.

“When God has an impossible task to accomplish, he finds an impossible person and crushes them.  So leave room in your life for the crushing…

Leave room for the crushing.

In every great work of God, brokenness and failure are necessary.”

The Crushing?  What does that mean?  I’m not sure it is easy to explain.  It can only be understood when it is actually happening.  I think…if you do not know whether or not you have been through your crushing…then you have not.  Let me be clear…The Crushing is unmistakable.   Mine started on August 12th, 2011.  I’m hoping that my crushing is just now ending nearly 2 and 1/2 years later.   I am terrified that my crushing might not be over.  It’s still too early in this new venture I’m calling ReturnHope International to know if God’s crushing of me has actually paused or stopped.  Only time will tell.

Your crushing…if you go through one…will not be like mine.  Each one is uniquely made by the hands of God.   The Bible hero named Job went through a crushing.   Noah had to have gone through a crushing.   Jesus went through a crushing.  Abraham, Peter, Samson.  There are some common era people you have heard of that have gone through crushings…

Abraham Lincoln (failed 12 times in governmental pursuits until being elected the 16th President.)  I don’t know if that was his crushing or not.  He lost a child…maybe that was his crushing??

Bill gates was a Harvard Dropout.

Beethoven’s music teacher once said of him “as a composer, he is hopeless.”

Thomas Edison failed 9000 times in light experiments before he succeeded.

Michael Jordan was actually cut from his high school basketball team because of his “lack of skill.”

Winston Churchill failed the 6th grade.

Albert Einstein’s grades in school were so poor that a teacher asked him to quit, saying, “Einstein, you will never amount to anything!”

Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed.

You get the idea?  The crushing isn’t just failure…but embarrassing/humiliating failure.  The kind that people think you’ve lost your touch, credibility and insight.  That is a crushing.  The crushing causes deep humiliation and brokenness.  The crushing takes the fight right out of you.

Back to Swindoll’s quote above.  He asks if you are leaving room for your crushing?  Maybe I should ask…what does leaving room for a crushing even look like?  My guess is that the only way you can leave room for a crushing is to make sure you’re life isn’t so protected that you actually arrive at death’s door safely!   I had a guy tell me one time that his pastor was a calculated risk taker.  I think that is an oxymoron.  What the heck is a calculated risk?  I know what it’s not…it’s not leaving room for the crushing.  Leaving room for the Crushing might start with God asking you to give some things away.  I don’t mean tithing…if you are able to give even 50 or 60% of your salary to the Lord…that is not a crushing you are going through.   If you serve in the nursery every Sunday…it might be close 🙂 …but it’s not your crushing.  To give away something valuable just to be replaced with another valuable…is not a sacrifice and most definitely not a crushing.

The crushing is not fun.  But it’s what makes diamonds, swords, purer gold and where wine  begins!   crushing the grapes with feet color The crushing is deep sacrifice.  It wounds, cuts, destroys and leaves you empty…but…

That emptiness is what God is looking for.  That emptiness is the very vessel that He longs to fill.  That emptiness now shouts to the Lord…”I am ready to be a servant to you only!”

If you haven’t been through a crushing…(you will know for sure if you have)…then my cold hearted guess as to why…is that you haven’t ventured into something that you cannot do yourself.  You have lived in your own abilities.  I’m not sure there is anything wrong with that.   It is said that when people know their death is upon them, they have no regrets about what they have done…they regret what might have been.

I remember a guy standing in a circle of friends who was making fun of another Pastor that always cries when he speaks.  I heard this guy making fun of this pastor and I couldn’t take it anymore and walked up to him and said, “The day you venture into something impossible and find success or the day you go through such a horrible crushing that it nearly ruins you…you will understand why that guy cries every time he shares “The Good News.”

The past 3 years of my life have been a crushing.  There is no guarantee that life gets easier for any of us.   Many people believe that if you obey God, then your life will turn out roses and cherries.  What a lie!  Ask the Apostles how obedience paid off for them on this side of life.  Freakin click here and read Hebrews 11:35-40 and tell me that God kept obedient followers of God safe and sound.

I cant imagine what the last 3 years of my life would have been like without help of friends and family.  I have literally been carried financially in that amount of time.  By friends and family, I mean the Church.  I believe that the hope of the world is in Jesus Christ and that He is best found in the body of God called the Church!  The Crushing Sucks…but there are promises of something better for those who go through it…whether in this life or the next!  I can’t imagine going through a crushing without the church.

Before the crushing…I would roll my eyes at the person who would say, ‘The only good in me, is Jesus Christ.”  I used to call people who said that, “Churchy, or people who over are spiritualizing things.”  If you can’t stand that phrase, then you have not been through a crushing.  If you struggle giving the Holy Spirit all the credit in your life, for anything good, then you have not been through a crushing.

I can tell you, with total confidence, that anything good in me is Jesus Christ.  I mean that.  Outside of Jesus Christ I am Skubala.  If you don’t know what that word means then click it and read the blog post I recently wrote in regards to it.  (Please don’t be offended by it, but understand the truth of what I’m teaching in that blog.) You must grasp this…anyone outside of Jesus Christ is set for eternal destruction.  So, for clarity…anything good in me is Jesus.

So…I end this tough reality blog with the following 10 quick points from Chuck Swindoll’s message at that 2009 Catalyst conference where he taught about The Crushing…

 

1) It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.

2) It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed.

3) It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary.

4) It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders.  Stay real.

5) It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.

6) Brokenness and failure are necessary.

7) Attitude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.

8) Integrity eclipse image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes that matters.

9) God’s way is better than my way.

10) Christlikeness begins and ends with humility.

Life in Christ is tough.  If your life in Christ is not tough…then is your life really like Christ’s?  Just read the Bible for proof about that statement.

Geez…this blog is meant to be an inspirational challenge.  I know it will be inspiring to those who are going through a crushing.  I’m not sure how the rest will take this all.   So…I’ll end with this…Life in Christ is the only Hope of the world.  It is powerful, conquering and inspiring.  If you think this blog post has been depressing…then you have not been through a crushing and you have misunderstood me.  This blog is supposed to be inspiring and motivating.  When I read it…I am simply reminded that I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me!  Maybe this last passage below will remind you of  how much you are loved and how badly you should leave room for your crushing.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:38 

You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

Leave room for your crushing.


“DO IT ANYWAY”


People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.

It was never between you and them anyway.

~ Mother Teresa…this phrase was written on the wall of her humble home to remind herself and teach the children of Calcutta.


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