Wednesday, November 08, 2006

God works when we don't feel like we can.

It's a weird place to be in... we've been working for the past year and a half, building a foundation, praying and hoping for things to start and now it's happening. And, it's happening so fast that it's difficult to keep up with. Two Friday nights ago, eight of the kids that have been coming to the skate park gave their lives to the Lord. This past Friday night, after I finished speaking, I asked the ones that had raised their hands and prayed, to stick around for a little while so that we could talk. I wanted to talk to them about starting a new believer's bible study. One of the kids that stuck around was a guy named Nicholas. He's about 17, from Argentina and has been coming to the skatepark for the past few months. After talking about the day and time that would be best for us all to meet, I told him that I didn't know he had raised his hand the previous week. He told me that he hadn't but that he couldn't stop thinking about things all week. He said that he wanted to find out more about God, that he wanted to get to know him and that he had lots of questions. I told him that I would love to sit and talk with him and asked him to stop by my house on Sunday morning.

Well, he came by and we spent two hours talking and sharing. He did have lots of questions but they were sincere questions. He really wanted to know how he could have a relationship with God. It was obvious from the conversation that he has had a lot of new age influence in his life, but it was also obvious that he saw through a lot of it and was really looking for a relationship with a very real God. As we talked, I answered the questions that I could, shared with him what the bible said and shared the gospel with him. At the end, I asked him if he would like to follow Jesus and have a relationship with God through him. We discussed it all...the problem of sin, our need for forgiveness and the price that Jesus paid to free us from the penalty of sin. He is a very bright kid...well educated and very analytical. It was interesting to hear him say that he agreed with what I was explaining but that it sounded too easy. "Maybe that's why so many people have a hard time believing...because it sounds too good to be true," he told me. I agreed with him and asked him what he thought. He said that he believed and that he would like to give his life to God. We prayed and then welcomed another brother into the family. It was pretty incredible and yet another sign of God's power moving in ways that are far beyond me.

My gift is not public speaking. After all this time of leading bible studies, talking in front of people, etc... I still stumble and stutter my way through. I get so nervous even preparing for house church that I feel like puking at times. My point is this...and I say this specifically to encourage others that have a difficult time speaking or sharing in front of others. Just do it and trust God with the results. It is the power of God that does the work...what He wants is people that are faithful and say yes. There's no other explanation for it. Some of the verses that speak the most to me were written by Paul in I Corinthians chapter 2. He says, "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not reason on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

One of the things I have wanted most in life was to be one of those pastors that people walk away from talking about "how amazing the message was" or "what a wonderful speaker he is." I often wonder why God called me to do something that almost tortures me. I definitely feel compelled to do it but it's not easy and it doesn't come naturally but, that's ok because God uses people that say yes and lives get changed. Be faithful, push through the doubts and fears, do what God has asked you to do and leave the results up to him. Time after time He amazes me with His faithfulness and it has been exciting to see the results.

Welcome to the family.

I have some great news to pass along and some additional prayer requests for specific people. This past Friday night at the skate-park was an incredible evening. As I wrote in our prayer requests last week, we are planning to start a very structured series of messages for the youth over the next nine weeks. Because of our plans, we wanted to see if we could attract some additional interest by hosting a movie and pizza night this past Friday. Our plans were to let the kids skate for a while, feed them some pizza and then watch a movie together. We decided to show a movie entitled “Something to Sing About” by the Billy Graham Association that my father had brought down earlier this year. Louie, the youth ministry director, asked me to introduce the movie before it started since I had seen it in the past and had recommended that we show it. I introduced the movie by talking about choices. We all have choices in our lives and our choices have consequences. I asked the kids to really pay attention to the characters in the movie and to really think about the choices they were making and the results of those choices.

The movie is about a young guy that gets out of jail after doing time for a crime he didn’t commit. The actors are all African-American, many of whom have been in popular movies and television shows. Anyway, when the guy gets out of prison, he is having a difficult time re-adjusting and finding work. Right away, he is offered an opportunity to make a quick buck by getting involved in the selling of drugs. He ends up meeting an older, Christian woman in a grocery store, who invites him to church. Not long after, he makes a decision to follow Christ. The rest of the movie deals with the consequences of this choice and contrasts it with the choices that were made by his friend who did get involved with the drug trade. The consequences of each decision are clearly portrayed and the gospel is presented a couple of times during the film. I have never seen the kids pay such close attention to anything since we started this program back in July. It was incredible. They were completely silent (a miracle akin to turning water into wine) and every eye was glued to the screen. Many of the kids here in Puerto Viejo are facing the same decisions day after day. Some of them are already playing the part of small time gangsters as they mimic what they see on TV.

Shortly into the film, I started feeling very strongly that we needed to share the gospel and give the kids an opportunity to respond. I asked Louie to share once the movie had ended and I asked him to be very direct with the kids. Louie laid it out for them and tied it in very well with the fact that each of us has to make a choice of whether or not we will follow Jesus. When asked if they wanted to follow Jesus, between eight and ten kids raised their hands and prayed. It was awesome. Afterwards, several of them immediately came and asked me for bibles. We are going to start a new believer’s bible study in the next week or two so that we can help these kids to get off on the right track. They are excited about their decisions and really want to begin learning and growing. Several of them came to our house church tonight. It’s exciting but it is also very challenging. These kids will need a lot of prayer. Everything in the world is stacked against them including the general apathy that seems to permeate the culture.