Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Jesu Ni Uhai

At 15 years old my life was changed in the most radical way possible when I found out that what my heart was longing for was not stuff or popularity or girls or family or fun. My heart was aching with longing for meaning and I was keenly aware of the meaninglessness of life lived for all of the things this world had to offer. One night, lying in a tent in the jungles of Florida at a youth camp I found myself in a crisis moment and prayed that God would make Himself real to me. When I woke up I had a sense that something had changed, I grabbed a Bible and opened it up. My eyes fell on these words of Jesus, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
As I read the words, "rest for your souls", I felt like my heart was going to explode! I suddenly realized that what my heart was longing for was a Person and His name was Jesus. What money and friendships and family and pleasures could not do, Jesus could. What I needed was not anything this world had to offer, what I needed was Jesus. I began that day to feast my soul on the greatest banquet imaginable. I began to find my joy and satisfaction and meaning and life in my relationship with Him. I discovered that Jesus Himself is meaning, He is joy, He is peace, He is what our hearts actually long for and need! I told everyone I could find at camp. I wrote letters to every person I had addresses for back home. I wanted everyone to know the greatest discovery of my life. When I finally went back to my home a month later I began to tell my friends and family and anyone who would listen. I walked the streets of my city, the buses, the trains, the restaurants, even going door to door from house to house just telling everyone I could find who would listen. Most people graciously listened, a few even listened enough to taste this reality for themselves and were changed like I was. They too found Jesus to be their life and joy and meaning. My classmates, my teachers, my church, my parents all encouraged me and even helped me learn how to share with more graciousness, gentleness and wisdom. I graduated from high school and went to Bible College with the plan to spend my life telling people all over the world about the all-satisfying nature of Jesus and having a relationship with Him.
After my first year of college I travelled to Kenya to tell people about Jesus. In Kenya I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking in the open air to crowds of 200-500 people twice a day for a few weeks. Hundreds of people joyfully received Jesus as their meaning and life and peace and I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. 20 years later, I found myself in Kenya again training and teaching pastors how to bring people to Jesus. I had a wonderful time again and fell in love again with the beautiful people and country. Leaving Kenya 20 years later was emotional for me. In a small airport in Kisumu as I was going through security I absentmindedly forgot that the bottle of water in my hand was a forbidden as a liquid to go with me. The guard stopped me and pointed at my bottle of water. He let me know that I couldn't take it with me. I stopped and asked him where the closest garbage was so that I could throw it in. He told me not to throw it away but to take the time to drink it (even though there was a line of people behind me waiting). And then he spoke these words, "Maji Ni Uhai" - "Water is Life". I love learning vocabulary of languages when I travel and though I knew each of these words I had never heard them put together in this sentence before. He told me this was a very important saying in a hot, dry country like Kenya. As soon as I realized what he was saying it dawned on me. Jesu Ni Uhai!!! Jesus is life! That was the lesson I learned 25 years ago in the jungles of Florida. It was the message I had shared with anyone and everyone who would listen in my youthful days in my home city. It was the message I had brought to Kenya 20 years earlier. It was still the message I was teaching others to share in Kenya now and it was the message I wanted my whole life to be about.
I am 42 years old now. I still discover every single day that this world can't satisfy. I still rediscover every single day that Jesus alone can fill my heart and that if I will drink of Him who is the Living Water I will not thirst but be truly satisfied. Jesus is life! Jesu Ni Uhai! 

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Taking on The New Year

2017 is closing and a new year is upon us.
What are you thankful for from 2017?
What do you need to put behind you?
What are you looking forward to in 2018?

As I have been praying for this coming year over the last couple weeks, I have been challenged to make this a year of transformation. For me and those I love and influence it is a year to challenge the status quo. It is a year to determine we will not be the same or stay the same. It is a year to be dissatisfied with the way things are and to create and press into new things. It is a year for radical change. It is a year for fruitfulness like we have never seen before. I am praying for fruitfulness in our lives in three areas.

1. Character - May God produce the fruit of the Spirit, increased holiness, hope and love in your life like never before. This is a year to be formed into the image of Christ.
2. Good deeds - May God show you how your life will shine good works for His glory like never before in this coming year. This is a year to preform the works of Christ and live in the purposes of Christ for your life.
3.  Changed Lives - May God use you to be a witness and show the Person and reality of Jesus to those who don't know Him. This is a year to bear the fruit of the gospel and lead people to Jesus like never before.

The only way for us to bear this kind of fruit and to engage in this kind of radical change and transformation is for us to stay absolutely rooted. Rooted in our relationship with Christ, rooted in His church, rooted in His Word and prayer. I encourage you as you begin this new year to root yourself deeply into these things and determine you will not be moved. From this place of being rooted in the unchangeable you will be able to engage the change that is needed in your own heart and then through your life in this world.

"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Colossians 2:6-7

ishing you a Happy New Year. I look forward to seeing the transformation God will do in our lives this coming year!

How are you planning to see change and transformation in your life this year? What are you praying for?

Friday, November 24, 2017

Teaming Up Together With God

This morning I was finishing reading the book of Exodus in my time in God’s Word. I read about the building of the Tabernacle under Moses’ leadership. It made me think of the building we are doing with our current renovations at our church building but MUCH MORE the constant building we are doing in pursuing the call and purpose of God on our church to lead people in Moose Jaw and the surrounding communities to know, love and serve Jesus. God is building His Kingdom and inviting us to partner with Him in it.

There are some great parallels to this in Exodus chapters 35-40. In Ex. 35:10 Moses says, “Come, all of you who are gifted craftsmen. Construct everything the Lord has commanded.” In place of the word “craftsmen,” we could add each and every gift God has given each of us. “Come, all of you who are gifted musicians, encouragers, organizers, innovators, teachers, caregivers, greeters, baristas, pray-ers (intercessors), cooks, helpers, leaders, givers, worshippers, supporters…” and the list could go on and on. What a great picture of our church! Teaming up together to accomplish all God has for us to do here in our community and then around the world.

Ex. 35:21 says, “All whose hearts were stirred and spirits were moved brought their sacred offerings to the Lord. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle…Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing…” Every day I get to see willing hearts come together in various ways and serve the Lord. Thank you for letting God stir your heart and move in your spirit to bring your talents and gifts together to serve the Lord. This happens in thousands of small and big ways both on Sunday’s and throughout the week and God uses it to actually supernaturally change lives! Isn’t it cool that God puts His “super” into our “natural” when we offer it to Him? Just this week I had a young man in my office excitedly telling me how great it is that his friend got saved in our church a few weeks ago and he is seeing her life changed leaps and bounds every week since. Praise God!

Ex. 36:4-5 says, “Finally the craftsmen who were working on the sanctuary left their work. They went to Moses and reported, “The people have given more than enough to complete the job the Lord has commanded us to do!” What a cool thing to happen. The point is simply that when God’s people give what we have to Him willingly as He moves us, He supernaturally multiplies it and there is enough to do what He calls us to and then there more than enough left over. Just like the boy who ended up feeding over five thousand people with only one lunch because he offered it to Jesus (Mat. 14:13-21). At the end of this section of scripture (in chapter 40:34-38), when the Tabernacle is built, the presence of God came and filled it and the people of Israel had the Lord with them to guide and walk with them on their journeys.  May that be true of us as we pursue Him and His purposes together. Let’s be praying that this Sunday, He fills our lives and church afresh with His presence as we gather and we will see more and more lives (ourselves included) led to know, love and serve Jesus in increasing ways.

To God be the glory.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Keeping Worship Fresh

"Sing a new song to the Lord" is a common phrase used in worship in the book of Psalms. I find myself occasionally looking for new songs to express my own worship to the Lord.

Maybe you do the same. At our church, the worship leaders post on a facebook page to share with each other some of the songs that they are enjoying lately. Maybe you'd like to check some of them out and see if they enhance your own personal times of worship. May you encounter Jesus and His presence afresh as you listen to and worship with these songs.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Happy 500th Birthday!

500 years ago, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church Door in Wittenberg. This was one of the most pivotal events in Western history. Luther could not stand by any longer while the church (of which he was a part) was mired and bogged down with corruption and deception. His protest was against indulgences that were granted by the church to lessen the punishment due from God, either to themselves or their loved ones in purgatory. In the decades leading up to Luther's protest, indulgences had become increasingly commercialized and corrupt. Luther argued that indulgences were against biblical teaching and it was the Bible, not the Pope or the Church, which had final authority. In time, he translated the Bible into his native German, making it accessible to the mass of ordinary people. Previously the Bible was seldom read or understood beyond a few elite priests. 

The reformation had massive effects on the church and brought about a revival of genuine Christianity that has been surging forward for 500 years. Here are some of the wonderful effects we are living in today because of the reformation:

1. A call to reform the church around scripture. The church must continually call itself back to the Word of God as it's standard of truth and righteousness. Sola Scriptura!

2. A call to come to God by faith alone through grace alone. Man's religion continually attempts to put works in place of Jesus righteousness as our way to God. Human effort counts for nothing when it comes to being made right with God. It is only by faith in Jesus that we can be made right with God. Because of this man cannot glory in his own salvation. There is no place for human pride in the gospel. God alone gets the glory, God alone is the Saviour. Sola Fide! Sola Gratia! Sola Deo Gloria!
3. A call for the church to put it's focus back on Jesus and away from human hierarchy and pomp. Jesus is the head of the church, not the pope or anyone else. What we need is simply Jesus, He Himself is the gospel and when we know Him we know life and joy and peace. The church must be ever guarding against distractions from the primacy and presence of Jesus. Sola Christus!

At it's core, the reformation was not really anything new, it was a recovery of something old and true. It was the recovery of the gospel, the good news of salvation as proclaimed by Jesus Christ and His apostles. I am thankful for God raising up Martin Luther and many others in his day to restore the church to the truths of God's Word and as a result lead millions to know Jesus personally for themselves. Here are three things we can do on the reformations 500th Birthday.

1. Continually reform ourselves around God's Word. We all need to be reminded to come again and again to the Word of God and reform our lives and our churches around it rather than the traditions and ideas of man. (One of the wonderful effects of the reformation was to make the pulpit and preaching of God's Word central to the church and it's gatherings. Another one is the making of the Bible available to every person to read, learn and grow in.)
2. Continually bring ourselves before the wonderful realities of the gospel - God's grace and personal faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord. Let us love and share the gospel and be a gospel proclaiming people. 
3. Continually offer ourselves to be used by God to call God's church to reformation just like Martin Luther did until Jesus returns.

For 500 years God's church has been a continually reforming church. Not becoming something it's never been before, but returning to the gospel and our original mission, to the centrality of Jesus and His Word. To the mission of sharing God's love and the message of the cross to the ends of the earth. 

May God help us carry on this legacy. Happy 500th Birthday!