Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm The AWANA Game Director, So...

(The above picture is our AWANA Sparks - 1st & 2nd graders - and their leaders.)

Every Monday evening I "man the whistle" at our AWANA club at Sunshine! Our AWANA night is a Bible outreach club for 1st through 8th graders. Our night contains a few elements: opening prayer/announcements, song time, Bible time (where Pastor Pete teaches a weekly lesson), handbook time (where the kids work on memorizing verses), and game time. AWANA is an acronym that stands for "approved workman are not shamed" - which is taken from the Scripture verse 2 Timothy 2:15. The main emphasis of the program is encouraging, teaching, and inspiring our young people to memorize God's Word.

This is our second year running our club, and it has been a very enjoyable outreach for us. Although we have the occasional behavior challenges (every youth/children's ministry does!), our kids are thinking about the Gospel and its implication for their lives, they are growing in their identity in Christ, and they are memorizing large portions of Scripture. I was personally involved in an AWANA club when I was in 1st through 5th grades at my childhood church. I have good memories of my days at AWANA. Not only that, but when I began reading the Bible again, during my freshman year of college, I would repeatedly read verses that I had memorized at AWANA. Those verses never left me. I may have not been able to recite them word for word from the King James like I used to be able to, but the foundation was there.

Game time and the AWANA game circle is my domain. On some Mondays I wear my game whistle all day, just to set the tone and prepare myself mentally for the evening (because let's just say you can't just turn on the "intensity switch"). We play various dodgeball games, beanbag games, balloon games, and the classic AWANA relay races. I try to emphasize competing hard, while maintaining a good attitude. I encourage good sportsmanship and the importance of both winning and losing with graciousness. These are not easy lessons for those who are competitive, but slowly some of these character traits are sinking in. I thoroughly enjoy the various perks of being the game director: wearing and using a whistle, utilizing a "5 count" to keep the kids on point, pretending to view an instant replay of controversial calls, and being humored by both the leaders and kids as they compete.

Here is a "snapshot" of our Trek (6th-8th graders) relays...

And here is a small taste of our T&T (3rd-5th graders) relays...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why Go?

One blog I read and appreciate is Floyd McClung's. Floyd is currently a missionary in Cape Town South Africa, but he has also served in Afghanistan and the Netherlands. He recently wrote a post called "7 Reasons To Go." I thought I would share part of it here, and you can check out the entry in it's entirety here.

Here are 3 reasons why we must go...

The Lamb is Worthy
At the end of time people will gather from every tribe and tongue and nation around the throne of God to honor the Lamb of God, all worshiping in their redeemed cultures. They will gather joyously around the throne of God and celebrate the victory He has won on their behalf. The One who died a shameful death to redeem the peoples of the earth will be the object of honor and praise for all eternity. All of history will be consummated in the praise of the One who gave Himself for us. He died to make us a kingdom of priests. He set us free from religion and fear and superstition so we might freely enter His throne room of grace. Everything is headed for that day. All we do that has meaning will find its fulfillment at that celebration. May it come quickly, Lord Jesus! This is the mission of God, and that is the mission of the church of God. The church's ultimate purpose is not the programs we offer to people or the missionary outreaches we do, or our budgets or faith giving, our missionaries dressed in strange costumes, not even about the lost people or the needs of hurting millions. It is about Jesus, the Lion who became a Lamb, the Redeemer of the all peoples, the Savior of the world. He is our great goal. It is for Him. We go to others so Jesus will receive the just reward of His suffering.

The Lost Are Dying
Most of earth's population will spend eternity separated from God if they do not have a chance to hear the Good News of God's salvation. Eternity is real, and though many people believe theoretically in hell, they don't really believe that a “good God will send people to hell.” May God impress deeply on our hears the terrible reality of man's lostness without a savior. Men and women need forgiveness of sins. There is no other way for that to happen than Jesus. It is by hearing, believing and calling on His name that people are rescued from a certain, eternal, separation from God.

The Poor are Suffering
We can easily become immune to the horrendous suffering of the victims of drought, famine, poverty and injustice. It is only by the grace of God than our hearts can be filled with the compassion of Jesus. The Bible says that when Jesus looked upon the crowds, He had compassion. May we have the same response, whether it be to a neighbor in need, a child's face in a Christian advertisement, or a news broadcast from the Horn of Africa. We know the statistics, we hear and see the faces, may we not become hardened to their plight. There are only two ways to maintain genuine compassion: getting involved with the poor, and maintaining a lifestyle of personal devotion and prayer for the poor.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nigeria, Boxes of Love, the Gospel, & Prayer

As many of you know I recently returned from a ministry trip to Lagos, Nigeria. While I was there I had the opportunity to preach in three different churches and to teach at a pastor's conference. It was a great trip, and the Lord taught me many things during my time there. We (Sunshine) also recently participated in the "Boxes of Love" outreach. Boxes of Love is an annual outreach sponsored and coordinated by the Agape Center, a ministry of Campus Crusade's Here's Life Inner City. A box of love contains a Thanksgiving turkey, several side items, and Gospel literature. We split up into two groups last Saturday and visited approximately 16 families (whom we have relationship with) to drop off the box, to pray with them, and to share the Gospel.

The Gospel
Both of these recent ministry experiences reminded me of the importance or the centrality of the Gospel message. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, says that the Gospel is of "first importance." It needs to have this same place of importance and high priority in our lives and ministries. Both followers of Christ and non-believers need the Gospel. When a non-believer believes on the Gospel of Jesus Christ a supernatural work is done in that persons' life. They cross over from death to life (John 5:24), experience a new birth (John 3:1-15; 1 Peter 1:3-5), are set free (John 8:36), and are saved and made alive (Ephesians 2:1-9) - to name a few of the transformations/effects of a relationship with Christ. They become possessors of eternal hope (1 Peter 1:3-5) and have peace with God (Romans 5:1). It is an amazing, miraculous transformation!

This amazing, miraculous transformation continues to happen in the life of the believer because of the ongoing work of the Gospel. I was reminded of this in a blog that I recently read. Jonathan Parnell wrote the following on the Desiring God blog,
"The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of those who trust him is old news. It is really old, really good news. So what are we aiming for in hearing again and again that which we've heard before? The hope in hearing the old, good news is that it would perpetually break new ground in our lives. Our hearts are like a jungle. There is untamed wilderness and darkness that has not yet been brought, as it were, under the rule of the One who has laid claim to it all. We need to hear the gospel again and again so that the old, good news of Jesus Christ would reach into these uncharted territories of our lives and fly the flag of its dominion. This is how we are "being saved." This is what it means to be overcome by the gospel."

We need to daily remind ourselves of the Gospel, and allow it to transform our lives continuously. We also need to share this life-changing message with others through personal witness. And it is the Gospel message that is our motivation to extend mercy and compassion to others and to contend for justice.

While in Nigeria I was given opportunities to pray with people during and after church services. I would either place my hand on their shoulder or hold their hand and lift their request(s) before the Father and seek to be an encouragement to them. I could tell that each brother and sister I prayed with was very appreciative of the time I spent in prayer with them (and I was blessed by it too). During our boxes of love outreach day, we would hold hands in a circle with each family and lift them up in prayer. It was such an encouraging time, and again everyone seemed so grateful for the time of prayer. Both of these experiences reminded me of times when others have prayed for me (either on the phone or in person) and how encouraging that always is. There is something powerful about praying for others and having others pray for you. It is a simple action to do for someone, but for whatever reason we don't seem to do it as often as we should.

By God's grace I want the Gospel to transform my life on a daily basis, in such a way that it overflows in my life - in my words and in my actions. I also desire to grow in the area of intentionally looking for opportunities to pray for and with others. The Gospel & Prayer: powerful, essential, transformational, necessary.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blessed In Nigeria

Just over a week ago I returned from my trip to Lagos, Nigeria. I travelled as part of a team from Hallomai International (www.hallomai.org), a ministry started by my good friend Blessed Madugba. Our team consisted of four Nigerians and three Americans. Over the span of our time there, I had the opportunity to preach at three different churches and to teach at a pastor’s conference. It is still hard to believe that I had this opportunity, and that I was able to play a small part in the work God is doing in Nigeria. God is crazy! As is always the case when we serve Him in ministry, I received more than I gave during my time there. My family in Christ in Nigeria blessed me in a few different ways. First of all, I was blessed by the hospitality we were shown. We were welcomed and treated as family. There is a greater emphasis there on “people over tasks.” Our family (in Christ) there made us home cooked meals, opened their homes, gave us many rides, and spent long, traffic-filled days with us. I look forward to continue to build relationships via email, skype, facebook, etc. with the brothers and sisters we met there. Secondly, I was challenged by my family’s dependence upon the Lord. For some of the pastors there is limited denominational support. The congregation may or may not be able to give enough to support both the pastor’s salary and the church expenses. The LORD provides. My family there, both the pastors and the church members, believe God for big things, and God comes through for them. In my travels now to both South Africa and Nigeria, I have seen a dependence on the Lord in both places that I do not often see here. Finally, I was reminded of the “globalness” of our God. He is the God of ALL Nations. During my time in different churches there I learned new songs, I saw joyful worship, and I heard prayers in languages I didn’t understand. It was beautiful! Christ is actively shining His light throughout the globe through different cultural lenses, and for ten days I had the opportunity to see Him at work in and through His Nigerian church. I only wish we could have more multinational, multi-cultural family gatherings to celebrate Christ and learn and build together. I was reminded afresh that we need each other!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Lord Is Our Provider & Our Provision

This past Saturday I was given the opportunity to be the closing speaker at my Grandpa Clark's memorial service in Lawton, MI. I was honored to be able to share, and below is what God put on my heart that day...

My Grandpa instructed the family, to not “make a fuss” when he passed, but rather to keep the service simple. I think I know why he gave these instructions. He wanted the focus to be somewhere else. William Carey, the pioneer missionary to India, was known to have once said something to this effect. He said, “When I die don’t spend too much time talking about the missionary, instead focus your attention on the missionary’s Savior.” So I want to do a final summary of my grandpas life in order to point toward His Savior. I want us to think about two things as we reflect on my grandpa’s life:
(1)The LORD was his Provider And (2)The LORD was his greatest Provision

First of all, The LORD was his Provider
• Let’s start from the beginning. When my grandpa was 1 years old, his father died. His mother was not fit to take care of him. The Clark side of the family even suggested that he be put in an orphanage. But the LORD was his provider. His step grandmother insisted that she and his grandfather take in him and his brothers, so that they would indeed have a home with family. The LORD was his Provider.
• The LORD provided my grandfather with an amazing singing voice. He had a booming, full, powerful voice. In fact as an older teenager and young adult a local church paid him so sing in the choir there. It was at that church one Sunday that the preacher gave an invitation to Salvation in Jesus, and my grandpa walked the aisle and prayed to receive Christ. So at the age of 21, my grandpa experienced the amazing Gift of Salvation. He received God’s amazing grace in the person of Jesus Christ.
• That same year, 1937, he joined the military and while in the military the LORD provided an evangelistic ministry. A ministry team was formed, and they began ministering at churches in England. In God’s Sovereignty, at one those church meetings, the LORD provided a wife and ministry partner.
• Fast forward the tape a bit, and when my grandparents returned stateside, the LORD provided two more children in addition to my dad who was born in England.
• During my grandpa’s seminary training the LORD provided a job as a camp director and many young people came to know the LORD.
• My grandpa and grandma would then serve at four different churches in Michigan – Wadhams, Lansing, Novi, and Decatur. At each stop the LORD provided a home for the family, a car to drive, and loving community. They never had much, but they always had enough. The LORD was his provider.
• When they moved to California, the LORD once again provided a ministry home – this time at Foothill Bible Church where my grandpa would serve as assistant pastor.
• Even when there was no formal ministry position for my grandpa, the LORD faithfully provided ministry opportunities for my grandpa to teach and proclaim the Word of God and to encourage others with his infections spirit fueled by the joy of the LORD. The LORD was his provider.
• As my Grandpa entered his 90s, his body began to break down. The LORD provided a sound mind and an unshakable memory of the Word of God. The LORD provided peace in the midst of pain and joy in the midst of sorrow.
• A few weeks ago, on a late Friday afternoon in California my grandfather passed away. The LORD was his provider, this time providing a heavenly home in the presence of His LORD and Savior.

But not only was the LORD his Provider. The LORD was his greatest Provision. Can we thin for a couple of minutes about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that my grandpa came to believe on as a young man.
GOD – The God of the Universe created us in His image. God is all powerful and all-knowing and never-changing and eternal. He is worthy of our awe, of our adoration, and of our praise. This God created us and He created us to known Him and to have a relationship with Him.
MAN – However, this Holy and Righteous and Just God has a problem with us, or He has beef with us. You see we have offended God with our sin. The Bible says that all have sinned and that the wages of our sin is death. Our sin separates us from God! We cannot come to know Him in our sin.
CHRIST – However, God is not only holy and righteous, but He is loving. The Bible says that He loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die and pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus died for us. He took on the punishment for sin that we deserved. And after dieing on the cross, He rose again three days later. He conquered death. That is good news! Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrated His love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
RESPONSE – Our response is repentance and faith.

The LORD Jesus Christ died for my grandpa’s sins. He gave my grandpa eternal life. He lavished His grace upon my grandpa’s life. Jesus was my grandpa’s greatest provision, his prized possession, and his treasure. And you see when Jesus becomes that Big and that Beautiful in our lives, it radically changes our perspective on life – I would suggest in two major ways. When Jesus is our greatest possession we will have a different view or perspective of self & stuff.

First of all, when Jesus is our greatest possession we become more and more selfless. We increasingly live for His purposes and for His agenda. We increasingly give our lives for the glory of Christ and for the good of others.
Acts 20:24
Philippians 1:21
Philippians 3:8

Secondly when Jesus is our greatest possession we will have a different perspective on stuff. Materialism will increasingly loosen its grip on our lives. Because of His grace and mercy, our lives will increasingly be marked with generosity on behalf of others, rather than self focused accumulation of more and more stuff. This is how my grandpa lived. Because of Jesus, he lived simply. He lived generously, and He made eternal investments his entire life.
1 Timothy 6:17-19

Some might say, and even some Christians might say that my grandpa was not “financially wise.” You see there is no large earthly estate that he is passing on. My grandpa never earned a home. His kids are not getting large inheritances, and neither are the grand kids. But I am reminded of what Jim Elliot once said. He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose. My grandpa made eternal investments his entire life. He invested in people – today is evidence of that. Family we did not inherit money, but we inherited his legacy of faith in Jesus Christ and if we have believed we have received that Paul calls the Gospel of the grace of God.

So today we celebrated the life of a great man, but let us remember that he served a GREAT GOD who was both His Provider and His Provision. And may we come to know the LORD ever-increasingly as both our Provider and our greatest Provision. Amen.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Song Time In Nigeria

I Am A Child Of God

This past week we participated in a three day revival at Christ Believer's Assembly, located just outside of Lagos Nigeria. I had the opportunity to preach on Wednesday, Mike preached on Thursday, and then Blessed closed it out on Friday. Each day we were all asked to "give a word" to the congregation, and we had different opportunities to pray for different church members as well. After two days there, I realized that there was a good group of children who sit in the very back of the sanctuary. I explained to Pastor David that I lead songs with kids in Chicago, and I asked him if I could do so with the children at his church during Friday's service. He gave me the chance on Friday, and I think the kids really enjoyed it!

This Is The Day

This Is The Day In Nigeria from Dave Clark on Vimeo.