Thursday, May 03, 2018

Exhausting and Exhilarating

On Monday, April 23rd, 10:00 PM, I arrived home in Virginia; back from a two week trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Esther and I taught at the beautiful campus of Instituto Biblico Rio de La Plata (IBRP), Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Esther and I taught over 30 hours and preached 7 times. We taught discipleship, generosity, family life, church leadership, evangelism, coaching, and music (Esther only). Most of our down time was spend in preparing for the next thing they asked us to do. However, we were able to spend a day in town with Rocky and Sherry Grams, our missionaries and hosts. They are very special people to Centerpointe Church. 

It was an amazing trip filled with ministry and encouragement. You can review our video highlights here: 
Esther and I were introduced in every setting, and Rocky tells the students of the gift we gave in 2013 of $100,000, which paid to complete the dormitory that now houses many of the students. That gift goes down as a watershed moment for Centerpointe Church, the school, and thousands of future pastors, evangelist, missionaries, and teachers who will live in those dorms; growing, learning, and developing as leaders. This is a humbling experience because I am receiving thanks on behalf of our people's generosity. I did not make this decision alone; the entire membership gave out of the generosity of their hearts.

I remember someone saying at the time, “We could keep this for our building in the future which will add to our church; or we could give it to IBRP and it will be used immediately to complete their project and those students will reach multiple thousands around the world.” That statement was not only a statement of faith, but it has proven to be a prophetic word.

The school has over 300 resident students and another 500 that come on Saturdays to be trained for Christian leadership. They are sending missionaries around the world and and leaders all throughout Latin America. Romi is now in Paraguay, Aby is in Brasil, Gomez is in Peru, Romi is in Turquia, Adrian is in Espana, Betu is in Colombia, Cony is in Thailand, and the list goes on. Several students we met this week are heading to the northern countries of Africa. This is a place of calling as well as preparation.

The best words I have for this place are "passion" and "hunger." The students, pastors, and professors, are passionate for God, His Work, and His Word. They are also hungry for a new wave of revival in Argentina. 

Thank you Rocky and Sherry for one incredible trip.

I can't wait to go back!

Soooooooo Goooooood
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Friday, February 02, 2018

Blessed!


There is something powerful about a father’s blessing.  

A child dancer will scan the crowd for the affirming face of the parents. and a young athlete will look for the parents presence when making a play on the field. A student makes their way to podium to receive a diploma and looks toward where their parents are sitting.  More than the blue ribbon at a science fair, more than a trophy or plaque, a child longs for their mom and dad’s “great job!”

If blessing has anything to do with approval, children long for their father’s blessing and will do almost anything to get it.

I certainly know the feeling.

Growing up without a dad, I longed for male role models in my life to affirm me. Fortunately for me, I was surrounded by many uncles and men at church that filled that gap – as much as they could.

An unblessed heart leaves wounds. It leaves a deep longing. It searches out for ways to receive it, and in the absence of it, a close substitute will do; even if it leaves unhealthy and emotional scaring. You see it in girls that are attracted to the “father-type” figure and boys obsessed with winning at all costs.

What is true in the natural is also true in the spiritual. We long to hear those words, “well done.” We want our heavenly father to be proud. We want to know we please him. We want God‘s favor and blessing.

The Old Testament word for “blessing” generally denotes a bestowal of good. To live under God’s blessing means to live in a condition or state of being in God’s grace or favor.

In scripture, you can see the desire for both human blessing and heavenly blessing. Jacob was desperate for his father’s blessing, enough to deceive his dad into thinking that Jacob was his older brother. Jacob later wrestled with God to gain a blessing, and when he left that encounter, he had a permanent limp, but he also left with God’s blessing. Jacob’s sons gathered around him on his deathbed in order to receive his blessings. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain” (1 Chronicles 4:10).

People then and now continue to strive for God’s favor and blessing. For the Jews, a whole sacrificial system was designed to please God and to receive His blessing and favor. Other religions as well struggle to gain their gods favor and blessing through rules, idols, and massive temples. All throughout the Buddhist and Hindu dominated world, people offer sacrifices in order to please the many gods and obtain their favor. While in India, I noticed that almost every home had some sort of altar outside on the lawn. When I enquired about them I was told that fruit, vegetables, and gifts were left on the altar to please whatever god might be passing by, hoping that the god would leave a blessing.

We have a natural tendency toward a merit-based theology. We think if we do the right things, say the right words, pray the right prayers, God will somehow put us ahead of the line for favors; therein lies the problem. We think God is withholding his love for us until we are good enough to earn it, and if that is the case, how good do you have to be? I mean, do you have to be Mother Theresa good? If that is the case, we are all sunk.

So let’s address something right up front: our view of God’s view. Unless we understand the nature and character of God, we will never fully grasp the power of living under God’s blessing. From the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God set out to bless us, even more than we want to be blessed by him. This is why our concept of God is critical. A.W. Tozer once noted “the most important thing about a person is what comes to mind when they think about God.“ (The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1961)

To embrace the blessings of God, we must first embrace the concept of a loving Father. Most religions do not understand this concept; instead of loving God, they fear Him. To many, God is not a kind, benevolent Father, but a withholding and detached being. He is random in His gifts, or unconcerned altogether. However, this is not the God of scriptures. The God of the Bible does not wish to withhold from us; in fact, he takes joy in blessing us. When we look into his nature and character, we see someone who loves us and is passionate for us.

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Why is it so difficult to believe that your Heavenly Father has wonderful things in store for your life?

Just think about what God thinks about when He thinks of you:
You are His treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6)
You are the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:7–8)
You are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16–17)
You are a friend of Jesus (John 15:13-16)
You are His people (Jeremiah 31:3)
You are the sheep in His care (Psalm 100:1-5)
You are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:8-10)
You are precious and honored (Isaiah 43:1-4)
You are the reason He died and rose again (Romans 5:6-8)
Listen to the Apostle Paul’s prayer for us:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Paul wants us to “grasp”, or “comprehend”, or “to lay hold of effectively” God’s love for us. It is more than mere knowledge or a feeling; Paul is praying that we might understand it by experience. The Greek word for surpass is literally "overthrown" and refers to that which is thrown over when the container is already to full.  We cannot define all the mysteries of the ocean and fathom it’s vast expanse but we can stand in it and enjoy it.

We all know how you can feel something you can't comprehend. A baby feels his mother's love. They sense how deeply their mother loves them. There are times when they won't go to anyone else but their own mother because they know their mother loves them. But what does a baby understand about a mother's love? They can't comprehend it. But they feel it. When we get this – everything else will make sense.

If this is true, then God’s blessing is more about receiving than it is about achieving.

I pray almost every day that God will bless me and extend his favor toward me, but my prayers are just words in the wind if I don’t believe that he actually desires to answer them. Recently, in Bible reading, I read again these words and was so encouraged. They are words spoken to the tribe of Israel to Moses, and they are powerful.

If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:
You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.
The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you. The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your forefathers to give you.
The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.
(Deuteronomy 28:1–14 NIV)

Let’s make this a daily reminder for us that God is for us and not against us. He longs to bless His people and give them strength for today and hope for tomorrow.

There is so much more to discuss, but for now, we have to retrain our thoughts about God to understand that He absolutely loves us, demonstrated that love through His son Jesus, and has deposited the Holy Spirit in our lives to sustain us.

Click on the video. Close your eyes and receive from the Lord.


Chris Tomlin – You’re a Good Good Father