On this exact week, one year ago, the Renner family arrived in Orlando Florida. We sold our home and moved away from everything we were comfortable with to travel the 36 hour drive from Phoenix. We moved because I was hired to be the Lead Pastor of a Church that confirmed to my family that they wanted to change and grow. Well…let me simply say, this year didn’t go like I thought it would go…
This past year my family and I have experienced wonder and awe, inspiration and depression, joy and tragedy like we’ve never experienced in life so far. In Florida, I have encountered some very amazing and incredibly wonderful people and at the same time some people, that…well…I don’t even want to type it. Let’s stay positive.
One year. It has been the hardest year of my life. Yet…here we are, moving forward and facing joys and challenges that remind me I’m still alive and my heart is still beating and confirming that there is a lot of work to do for the Lord.
I’m concerned about my kids.
I’m concerned about my wife.
I’m concerned about our new Church Plant.
I’m concerned about a lot of things…but…
God is bigger than all my concerns.
So what does a man do? The answer is simple. The answer is good. The answer is not easy… I press on. I keep my eyes on the finish line of the faith. I refuse to be one who stands before Jesus trying to explain why I let life’s circumstances get in the way of my calling to reach those who are far from God.
I don’t know what this next year holds…
But I know who holds this next year!
Bring it on. I will stand on 1 Corinthians 10:13, “13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
I wonder what I’ll be blogging about this time next year?
ONE YEAR goes by so fast.
“God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in Heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”
DRINK IT IN:
When was the last time you were persecuted for being a follower of Jesus Christ?
Now…don’t misunderstand me here. Please don’t be like the people who stand out on street corners and yell from their megaphones, spew hate by picketing military funerals, or demand that people follow Jesus. These groups of people think they are honoring Jesus. They get more ‘pumped up’ when they get arrested, make the news and stir up controversy, because they think they are facing persecution on behalf of Jesus for doing good. This is not a biblical thing. This is not a holy thing. This is not something that Jesus did. These groups or individuals will state that their 1st Amendment rights give them the right to behave the way they do. They are right in the fact that legally, their 1st Amendment rights allow them to behave this way. However, the “laws” of God take priority over the “laws” of the land. In this case, they honor their 1st Amendment rights and dishonor their Lord and Savior. Jesus was always very kind and gentle to the people who were far from Him. I think that Jesus would use a mega-phone to let these kinds of people, who are behaving this way on street corners, know that they are actually doing harm to the Kingdom of Heaven…but I think He would “one-up” them…He would use a whip!
So, back to my question. When has your holy behavior landed you in “hot-water?” When have you been demoted for standing for Jesus in a gentle way? When did you not get the promotion because you refused to do things “under the table?” When were you left out of the circle of friends because you keep the “bar” to high? When were you last seen carrying your Bible to a lunch break to spend time with God? When was the last time you actually had to pay more taxes because you refused to lie about your income? When was the last time you dropped your ego and actually agreed to go to marital counseling with your spouse? When was the last time you got flipped off because you simply refused to drive ‘that’ fast? When was the last time people rolled their eyes at you for leading your family in prayer before your meal at a nice restaurant? When was the last time you gently spoke your biblical opinion about a hot “political” topic during a discussion about abortion, illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, or other “hot” topics? When was the last time you took one of your Saturday’s off and helped a neighbor in need? When was the last time you “persecuted” your bank account and personal lifestyle because you chose to give 10% of your income to the Lord’s work? The questions could go on for miles, but I think we get the idea.
Persecution comes in many forms. I’m simply asking when was the last time you faced any on behalf of Jesus Christ?
The following is a passage in Scripture that explains what happened to some Christians a long time ago for taking a stand, in love, for Jesus Christ.
“But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” (Hebrews 11:35-40, NLT)
SWEAT IT OUT:
Would you take 30 seconds and sit quietly and see if God would remind you of an area(s) in your life where you could take a gentle, stronger stand for Him? And If you do, take a gentle stronger stand for Him, it might have you being a bit persecuted?
I pray for you that you will take that gentle strong stand. I pray that you will be persecuted for doing it. I pray that you will be happy about it. I pray you will be glad about it.
For if you do…You know that the Kingdom of Heaven is Yours.
Well…that is what Jesus says.
“The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God.”
DRINK IT IN:
Do you want to SEE God?
Can you imagine seeing God? I have so many questions for Him. I have so many ideas of what God looks like. Again, I have so many questions. To see God, would change so many things wouldn’t it? Or am I just speaking for myself?
Some people say, “Seeing is believing.” Well…I believe and I have not “seen” God. I think my faith is strong now and I haven’t seen God. I wonder how much stronger my faith would be if I actually saw God? I wish God would just show up and let me see Him. I’m guessing you wish that too. I wonder if I would fall flat on my face in fear if God showed up, physically. Bottom line though…Is…I WANT to see God.
Jesus tells, in this passage I am referencing today, how I can see God. He says, BE PURE. Jesus gets even more specific. He says, ‘Pure In Heart.” The pure in heart will see God. Let’s face it, the heart is where everything comes from. Now scientifically some would argue that everything starts in the brain. I’m okay with that. But are you positively-absolutely-for sure that everything starts in the brain. I like to think that the heart is where something spiritual resides and medicine and science will never be able to explain it. 1 Corinthians chapter 1 talks about how all the wisdom/knowledge of the world will never be able to explain how God works. God actually calls all that knowledge, foolishness.
So…I say…everything starts in the heart. Want an example? If you have what is typically called a “foul-mouth, potty-mouth, or simply a bad-mouth,” I don’t think you do…I think you have a foul-heart, potty-heart or simply a bad-heart.” Jesus actually backs that thought up by saying in Matthew 15:18, “But the words you speak come from the heart–that’s what defiles you.” I don’t want to go into detail on this now, because this is a teaching coming up soon in this Hydrate Series.
But, there it is. Jesus says, what comes out of your mouth actually originated in your heart.
BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY WILL SEE GOD! And so…I am working on “The Pure Heart” thing.
I wish there was this great formula or a 3 point sermon for Purifying Hearts. There is not. Well…I’m sure there’s a 3 point sermon about it…but it will be laughable. Some people say naively, “Just read the Bible more and your heart will become more and more pure. I want to believe that, but that would be like saying, “You want to have a really sharp sword, just read the manual on how to sharpen swords more often and it’ll get sharper!” In my not so humble opinion, purifying your heart is like sharpening a sword, purifying gold or having a perfect diamond.
Swords get sharper when they go through heat, and friction.
Gold becomes more pure when it goes through the smelter, over and over and the impurities slowly get burned out.
Diamonds are in their most desirable state after they have been cut and polished.
So…How do I get a pure heart?
First, give your life, your thoughts, your actions, your words, your mind, your ideas, your everything to Jesus Christ as Lord of your life. Read and study what Jesus commands of us and practice living it all daily. Then…LIVE ON! Now…Introducing…LIFE! It will come at you hard and it doesn’t care if you make it or not. Life will work you over and spit you out. This is called refining, smelting, cutting, polishing. So, its gut check time.
Did you ever wonder why Jesus’ brother in the book of James writes, “Consider it pure joy when you go through trials and suffering.” (James 1) Was James nuts? Or…did James understand how purity happens? Trials and Suffering are friction. Trials and suffering are smelters. Trials and suffering are where you get cut and polished. The book of Job chapter 23 verse 10, it is written, “I shall come out as GOLD after He tries me.”
Sounds simple enough, right? NOT! Whoever said that Christianity is a crutch for the weak, is a clueless-wonder to what Jesus really asks of His followers. A person who says that Christianity is a crutch, is a person who has obviously been hurt deeply by somebody who declares themselves to be a Christian and continues to let that “christian” cause them to stumble. I won’t apologize for that person. If you think that Christianity is for the weak, then I want to tell you to stop using people as your example. Stop following people. Start following Jesus. He’s not weak. He’s not a Hypocrite. Quit putting so much reliance on how others treat you, become responsible for your own study of truth and make a decision. People will always get in the way. If someone in your life keeps getting in the way of your heart being pure, then remove yourself from the person. Quit following that person. Quit blaming that person. Here’s our tough reality. The people who were supposed to be following Jesus are the ones who actually killed Jesus on the cross. Now, don’t forget…Jesus chose to go to the Cross. If Jesus didn’t want to die for you, He would have walked from the cross and nobody could have stopped Him. But…the ones who were supposed to follow Jesus were the ones who drove the nails that fastened Jesus onto the cross. Quit following people. Quit letting people cause you to stumble. Toughen up, follow Jesus and quit using people as your scapegoat as to why you don’t want to face the truth. I have personally found that most people who think Christianity is a crutch for the weak, have never even read the Holy Bible. Read it first…then…we’ll chat.
Since I am mentioning imperfect people getting in our way of us following Jesus. I’m choosing to do a Confession time. I have, many times in my life, found some very real and dark corners in my heart. All you need to have happen, to discover these dark corners of your heart, is a little hurt. Or a lot of hurt. That hurt turns into anger and before you know it, you have thoughts coming from your “heart” that would make a criminal sweat. Or am I just speaking for myself here? I’ll just try to speak for myself. I’m pretty sure…I could be a sniper. I think I could put a bullet through an enemies head and not lose one ounce of sleep over it. So many people think that all pastors are just lovey, dovey wonderful and kind, nearly perfect people. You know what I think about that? I think…NOPE!
The men and women God used to lead His people back in the Bible times were a rough and tumble bunch. One of Jesus’ Apostles was from an order of people that are called the Sicari. They were known as a group of assassins. I don’t have time to go into that detail, but just google it. Peter, tried to kill a man with his sword when the group showed up to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas was just bad in so many ways. Let’s go way back. Elijah killed 800 prophets of Baal back in his day, and God took Elijah straight to Heaven without having him die first. There are a lot of “not-so-goody-twoshoes” kind of people that God used and uses to lead His people. I admit that I can be one of those…in my heart.
Now…I know…I know…I feel you wanting to preach to me right now. The fruit of the spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. You don’t have to preach to me about how much love I’m supposed to have for all people. I agree. I love all people. I wouldn’t be a pastor if I didn’t love people. I am just tempted…at times…to be a sniper! LOL
SWEAT IT OUT:
Purity of heart. It seems that some people are just born with a pure heart. Its not true…people are not born with pure hearts. I have personally found that people who have pure hearts are people who have payed a large price of pain for that pure heart. It always seems like the pure in heart are gentle and kind and loving. I have found, when I asked those who are pure in heart about their life story, that their story is one that breaks my heart. These people, with refined, smelted, and polished pure hearts, now look back on their lives and can thank God….NOT FOR THE PAIN…but thank God that He helped them THROUGH THE PAIN. These people have now, “Come out PURE AS GOLD.”
Do you really want a pure heart?
Knowing how much pain is involved in getting a pure heart…I’m tempted to say no.
But if I don’t have a pure heart, then I know that I will never see God.
I want to see God.
So I will pray this prayer to God. Maybe you would pray it with me right now too? “Lord…I want to have a pure heart. But…Lord….PLEASE…as you turn up the heat on my life to refine me, smelt me, sharpen me and make me PURE…PLEASE DO NOT TAKE YOUR HAND OFF OF THE THERMOSTAT.” In Jesus name, AMEN.
I will end this post now…and as you step out today to continue your refining, smelting, sharpening, polishing and PURIFYING…take great confidence in 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure!”
I love that passage. So…bring life on! Whatever it takes for you and me to see God…bring it on! Right?
And when we have lived our lives through this life process of purifying our hearts…then…with pure hearts… you and I will go together into the presence of Almighty God.
And SEE HIM…yes…SEE GOD.
What a cool day that is going to be.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
You read the title right for this blog and for my experience today. And, no its not said in a blaspemous way. Its the only expression I can respond with after seeing Africa’s children and people in the conditions they are in.
I awoke this morning a half hour prior to my alarm clock going off due to some rooster outside my hotel room crowing at the top of his lungs that this is going to be a great day in Africa!
We gathered for breakfast and I am thankful that we had bacon for the protien instead of the kidneys of some mammal like we had our first morning. I do think the kidneys belonged to monkeys…but I’m not positive. They tasted like liver. So…the bacon was great…scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, potatoes and chipata (thnk thick tortilla).
We gathered for our first all team meeting. There are about 60 people from all over the nation gathered here through the leadership of Hope 4 Kids International. People from Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Nevada, California. They are of all ages and everyone of them very wonderful people. This meeting just gave us our options and game plan for the day ahead. Some do’s and don’t do’s when it comes to mixing with the African people. We prayed and we prepared for a great day.
As we loaded the bus…and headed to the first African School in Jubba, Uganda…I was not prepared for the mix of emotions that I would experence. As I type this I can’t help but tear up and get that feeling in my chest that makes me want to literally weep and at the same time be so proud of a people who have so much faith in God and joy for life. I have emtions of anger at the lack of effort from way too many Christians around the world but especially in America.
I wish I could post pictures on this blog, but due to something in Africa I can’t on this blogsight…but I can on my Facebook page. I will send some pictures to my wife via email and she hopefully will post them on our Facebook page. TrentandKelliRenner.
When we arrived at this first school, kids come running at and after the bus screaming and yelling for joy. It is quite a sight to see. There is something about their beautiful dark skin in contrast with their bright white smile and white’s of their eyes that makes them glow and you can’t help but get down and hug them as they mob you and touch you and hold your hands and look up at you and smile. They are fascinated by the white skin and want to touch it. We have some people in our group who have a lot of freckles and the kids where so experimenting to see if the freckles would wipe off. The kids immediately gathered in a room and sang some songs and danced with joy in front of us. I was so proud and moved to tears by their exceptional talent and passion for singing about thier love for Uganda and for God and how they want to grow up and be responsible and successful. All the teachers at the school looked so worn out, but yet had such a great joy in telling us about what they teach and how they spend their days with so many kids and orphaned kids. I captured some video footage of their dancing and singing and will post it when I arrive back in Arizona so I can utilize the faster internet speed.
At this school, Hope 4 Kids International and the support it receives financially from people has created what is called The Chicken Project where hundreds of chickens are producing eggs and other chickens for income and the Ugandans we are supporting are working themselves toward self sufficiency. Everything is so nice and clean even though its among dirt and mud. We had to spray our shoes before we entered the dirt pen with sanitizer so we didn’t carry germs into the chicken pens and huts that could wipe out the whole flock.
We said our goodbyes with this group and it is so very difficult to leave these kids and get on the bus. They walk with you, holding your hands and grasping at you not to leave. They let go and stand there and just stare you in the eyes. Some smile and wave and some cry and some laugh and run to chase the bus for as far as they can keep up.
We then arrived at an orphanage called Smile Africa. This the place that messed me up emotionally. This orphanage is a property that has rescued children from abusive parents. We met babies that were left for dead in the streets. We met children who were thriving and well but would have been burned to death had someone not run into the burning hut…set on fire by an abusive father trying to kill his family. These children are all from one type or group of people in Africa that are considered outcasts. I don’t know how to spell the name of this group of people, so I am spelling it like their name is pronounced. The Karomojung People. They are rejected by others. But Christ accepts all people and it is such a joy to see hundreds of these kids without their parents going to school, lining up for their one meal for the day and we got the pleasure to hand deliver the bowls of a very scientific mix of food that provides all the nutrients they need for the whole day. They eat this plastic bowl of food with what everybody calls Ugandan Chop Stix…aka…Their fingers. I will make sure I send a couple of pics that Kelli will post.
Many of these kids were walking around with very runny noses, no pants or even underwear, sitting in the dirt and have very rough lives as they push each other for food and treat each other in a very rough manner. The staff of Smile AFrica had so much love and patience for these kids…aged newborn to teens as they teach them education, politeness, and life skills. What I saw these kids going through just makes me scream that its not okay…its not right. I had to walk away multiple times to prevent myself from just weeping in front of everybody. As I type this I have had to stop and wipe tears multiple times. My life will never be the same after this trip. Please save the money and make this trip next year or as soon as you can. I think we are commanded by Jesus to go. Take your older kids with you…it is safe. The African people so love Americans.
As I handed each child their plate of food…a mix of rice, chicken flavoring, extra nutrients and vitamins the body needs, vegetables…I bent down and whispered to my self each time…”This is unto you Jesus.”
Jesus said when you “give a cup of cold water to the thirsty, food to the hungry and care for least of these….you do so to me.”
I physically looked into the face of Jesus today. I will never be the same. I will never experieince church worship services the same again.
We were done serving the Smile Africa Children at 2PM (5am AZ time) and we headed back to the hotel for a quick lunch. I had “Fish and Chips.” Pretty good. They serve you a glass bottle of Coca-Cola. What is it about those glass bottles that make it taste so good!?
AFter lunch we got back on the bus and headed to a Village that one family from America has sponsored. Through H4KI you can round up about 45,000 dollars and from fresh dirt build a fresh water well, school, Church, a house for the village pastor a medical clinic and many other cool things. Get your church to sponsor an entire village all on its own. Get together with as many families as needed to raise that kind of money and create a village town square with everything I just mentioned. It is so life changing for thousands of people. For 10,000 you can provide a fresh water well which would allow thousands of people to have fresh water and no longer walk miles to fill up jugs with polluted water that the whole family must drink to survive, but end up dying because of the water born diseases.
I could share so much more from just this one day.
The whole experience makes me fall to my knees and cry out, “Oh My God…What can I do to be more of your hands and feet.
So many people give up on God because they don’t understand how a loving God could allow such injustices and horrible conditions for people to live in. God doesn’t allow it. He provided the answer to the problem. Its you and me. When we do nothing to be a part of the solution to this problem. We are the ones who allow such injustices and horrible conditions for people to live in. God has provided us as Americans so much. We must become givers. All our support we give through specifically H4KI…is not used as a welfare program. It is used for training and equipping the African people to become self supporting and learn how to provide for themselves so they may prosper. To whom much is given much is required.
You are the answers to so many people’s prayers. People are praying to God right now asking for God to intervene in thier lives and pull them from such horrible situations. God created you and me to be the answer to their prayers.
Oh My God!