Monday, August 29, 2011

Celebrations of New Beginnings!

Niedzice Castle - symbol of the stubborn
thinking & fear that blocks out God's love
"Tree of Life" - Czorstyn castle ruins in the background
Symbolizing new life is possible amist the ruins of life
I've never considered myself to be a sprinter or much of an evangelist.  I'm more of a work horse...steady & sure...plowing the fields. I've never felt that I was particularly good at giving people the opportunity to accept Christ. I don't know if it is because of times, early in my walk with Jesus that people have "strongly" encouraged me to "evangelize" the lost...meaning people I didn't know & that I was poking my head into there world for a moment to make the close.  All that felt so artificial. Or because of times that I made a muck of it because I was doing out of my own strength & forgetting that the Holy Spirit draws people to God & I'm just the tool in his hand. So I focused my "service" on relationships thinking that that meant I was a discipler & I would leave the evangelizing to the "professional evangelists" or at the very least the ones who were gifted in it.

The Hidden Fruit
Today as I reflect on 25 years of ministry in Central/Eastern Europe and 15 years of full time ministry in Poland I have been challenged to re-think my views. I think that my logic only allowed me to hide the fears that keep from experiencing more of God & His blessings for both me & others.  Princess Diaries are one of my favorite movies & there is a line that constantly challenges me..."Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the knowledge that there is something greater than that fear". What is greater than introducing someone to their loving Father so that they can experience a new life...eternal life? Who made me god that I would decide who or who would hear the goodnews because it isn't my "thing"?

Jesus forgive me for my selfish pride & living a life of fear...forgetting that you have called me to live
a life of faith free from fear & full of your unfailing love.
"And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him." 2 Cor 5:18 (NLT)

That is all well & good but I'm still someone who is more relational & I hate "sales pitches" of any kind. How to reconcile this conflict? 
A few years ago I read John 1:14 "again" in a new way & it all clicked for me. "So the Word became human & made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love & faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one & only Son." (NLT) It was then that I realized that Jesus (The Word of God) is now living in me ... I am the flesh he now lives in & I get to make my home among people for the purpose of revealing the Father's unfailing love & faithfulness.  This type of life allows the Holy Spirit to draw people to himself...and if I am only willing those who are being drawn will ask about this life of love, faithfulness, acceptance & hope.  I just need to be ready with the answer Jesus has for them.  It is like scooping them up with a butterfly net if I'm faithful, open & obedient. 

Yesterday, after 1 year of praying & believing Jesus that he had told me to believe for 5 people to be baptized, I had the honor & privilege to baptize 5 people (my whole church Drzewo Zycia - Tree of Life) & lead one of the guests to Jesus.
In a place where anything that doesn't follow the hard line of the Catholic Church is a sect, these brave, courageous, & obedient individuals embraced their love for Jesus above all else.
Rejoice with us & pray for the continued protection of these young believers as they swim against the tide of the society to be the individuals God has created them to be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Garden(s) of Hope pt. 2

In my July Newsletter I shared, how miraculously one little act of hope, such as renovating a yard or garden could be contagious, postively impacting the lives of the unsuspecting & most skeptical.  A little more than a week ago I returned to Poland after a 2+ month stay in the USA as a result of my Mom's illness.  It was at this time that I found myself reflecting once again on "Garden(s) of Hope". 

My little garden of hope didn't look so hopeful.  In just 2 months it was overgrown with weeds, the new plants I had planted were growing across the gravel instead of up the fence. And the community grass had only been cut once in that time, resulting in 2+ feet of growth.  The garden that had been an inspiration of hope & what could be, now was (to be honest) a bit discouraging & even overwhelming. 

I learned a valuable lesson... Gardens of Hope...whether literal gardens, spiritual or relational all require care & maintaince.  There are all types of gardens/yards some are higher maintaince than others but if they are going to bring hope or inspiration they will require care.  So...I got out my garden gloves, the lawn mower & hit it. Now, once again we are back to a place where I can look at my little piece of nature & feel hopeful. I guess the greater question is what relationships, areas of life that were once so hopeful but now are overgrown with some aspect of life that is discouraging need some attention? Jesus help me to take up the tools necessary to make all aspects of my life "Gardens of Hope". 

"Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle & respectful way. 1 Peter 3:15-16a