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Monday, April 3, 2017

Let's Go!! DAY 10 - PICK ME!!

Then I heard the Lord’s voice, saying, “Whom can I send?
Who will go for Us?” So I said, “Here I am. Send me!” Isaiah 6:8 (NCV)

Ever feel inadequate? Like you just don’t quite measure up to everyone else? You see others going out and advancing God’s kingdom, but you don’t think you’ve got what it takes for Him to use you. Mother Teresa? Billy Graham? Sure. You? Not so much.
Isaiah could certainly relate. When Uzziah, the king of Israel, died, his world was suddenly thrown into a tailspin. Isaiah had grown up around the king’s court, so the news of Uzziah’s death left him feeling lost, confused, uncertain and hopeless. But at this low point in Isaiah’s life, God appeared to him.
Isaiah writes, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted.” It’s an awe-inspiring scene—God sitting on His throne while heavenly creatures of fire fly all around Him crying out: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory.”
Face to face with a holy God, Isaiah is overcome with a tremendous sense of his own inadequacy and unworthiness. He cries out: “Oh, no! I will be destroyed. I am not pure, and I live among people who are not pure.”
Isaiah’s response is perfectly understandable. It’s all too easy to feel like we don’t measure up when we compare ourselves to those around us—how much more so when standing in front of God! It may be because of our sins, our mistakes or the circumstances of our past. However, the reality is, before God, we are all in the same boat. Before Him, all comparisons are meaningless.
But watch what happens to Isaiah next: God sends an angel to pick up a live burning coal that was so hot the Bible says the angel had to use tongs just to pick it up! The angel brings the coal over to Isaiah and places it on his lips, declaring: “Look, your guilt is taken away, because this hot coal has touched your lips. Your sin is taken away.” Immediately, while he’s still standing there processing all of this, Isaiah hears God ask a question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”
When you were a little kid in school, how did you react when the teacher looked around the classroom and said, “I have a special errand that needs to get done today, and I’m looking for someone I can trust to deliver the message for me”? Did you slink back into your seat and hope you weren’t noticed? Or did your hand shoot straight up in the air with barely contained excitement? “Pick me! Pick me!”
That’s exactly how Isaiah responds. When he hears the Lord asking: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”, he doesn’t look around to see if anyone else will volunteer first. He doesn’t say, “I’m not qualified.” He doesn’t even ask where he’s going. Without hesitation, he jumps up and cries: “Here I am! Send me!”
Why does Isaiah’s attitude change? What causes him to change from declaring, “I am impure!” to saying, “Here I am! Send me!”?
It’s simple. He is cleansed by the fire of God. In God’s eyes, he is declared clean. All of his doubts about himself and fears about the future vanish in light of God’s cleansing, redeeming work in his life.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples found themselves in a situation similar to Isaiah’s. Before leaving, Jesus told them: “You will be My witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.” But now, Jesus—their Master, the one who had spoken those words—was gone. Their future was uncertain. Timid, fearful and not knowing what to do, 120 men and women isolated themselves in the Upper Room and bolted the door shut.
Ten days later, however, everything changed. Those 120 men and women came out of the Upper Room filled with courage and boldly went out into the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming the message of Jesus to everyone they met.
Why? What changed?
It’s simple. The fire of God had fallen upon them, and they were filled with His Holy Spirit. All their fears, doubts, weaknesses and insecurities suddenly became meaningless in light of God’s all-sufficient power in their lives. And God used those 120 men and women to ignite a fire that continues to blaze today.
Don’t let your past and present mistakes or circumstances hold you back and keep you from answering God’s call. It’s not about you and your abilities, strengths or qualifications; it’s about Him. He has redeemed you. In His eyes, you are clean. And what God has called clean, no one—not even you—can call unclean.

God is asking today, “Whom shall I send? Who will go?” Will you answer and say, “Here I am! Send me!”?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A CHURCH THAT NEVER SLEEPS - DAY 10

Matthew 16:16-19 "Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in Heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven."
As the son of a pastor, Matthew Barnett grew up in and around church. When he was 16 years old, Matthew was sitting on the hood of his car and God gave him a vision of one day going to inner-city Los Angeles and starting a church that would be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—a church that never sleeps. That sparked a burning desire in Matthew to bring a message of hope to the hopeless by serving both the physical and spiritual needs of those who lived in the inner city, but he figured it probably wouldn’t happen until he was at least 40 years old. Little did he know just how quickly God would move.
Just four years later, his father came to him and asked if he’d be interested in going to L.A. for a year to pastor a small church in the inner city. His dad had tried asking 10 other pastors, but they had all turned down the opportunity. It wasn’t an ideal situation—the church only had 18 people and was meeting in a tiny building far off the beaten path—but Matthew eagerly accepted the position.
Having grown up in Phoenix, Matthew’s first encounter with inner-city L.A. was a total culture shock. The first thing he noticed was that he was the only white kid in the neighborhood. But as he began to really look around, the people immediately captured his heart. He saw kids who didn’t have anything or anyone—no fathers, no mentors, no hope. They spent all their time on the streets because there was nowhere else for them to go. God spoke to him in that moment and told him, “If you reach the people that nobody wants, then I’ll send you the people that everybody wants.
With all the gangs, violence and brokenness surrounding them, Matthew and his dad decided the first thing they needed to do before the church could grow was to get busy helping the people rebuild their lives. They began reaching out to the community by providing food and clothing. They also bought 16 old houses in the neighborhood and turned them into recovery homes. Within one year, they were reaching almost 500 people each week. Their little church building couldn’t accommodate that many people, so they needed to find a larger facility right away.
One day as Matthew was driving down the freeway, he saw the old Queen of Angels Hospital. It had been vacant for over six years and was now for sale. The entire campus covered 360,000 square feet with a total of nine buildings and over 1,000 rooms. Located on 8.8 acres directly in the heart of L.A., the property was prime real estate. The Franciscan Sisters who used to run the hospital had already received numerous offers from people interested in purchasing it including Paramount Studios who wanted to use it as a location to shoot movies. Matthew and his dad sat down with the Franciscan Sisters and told them, “Look, we don’t have a whole lot of money, but we have a dream. And that dream is to have a 24-hour church that will be a place of refuge and rehabilitation for runaways, prostitutes, street kids, homeless people and drug addicts. When the sisters heard this, they got really excited and said, “Now that’s the kind of legacy we want to leave behind! Why don’t you go ahead and make us an offer?” So Matthew offered them 3.9 million dollars, and they accepted his offer even though they had another offer on the table for 16 million dollars.
They only had 18 months to raise the 3.9 million dollars. Although they didn’t have any money in the bank, they believed in their hearts that God had opened the door to purchase the hospital and He would be faithful to provide the finances. Sure enough, donations began pouring in from churches and individuals located all across the United States, and soon the Dream Center opened its doors.
In the first four years of the Dream Center’s existence, prostitution and gang violence in inner-city L.A. dropped 73%, the homicide rate dropped 28% and rape dropped 53%. Today, the Dream Center reaches more than 35,000 people each week through 40 weekly services and 273 ministries and outreaches. There are about 600 people actually living on the campus who have been rescued off the streets from prostitution and homelessness, and half of those are currently going through drug and alcohol rehab. What began as a God-given dream in a young 16-year-old boy’s heart has grown into a truly miraculous reality. The Dream Center is a church that’s reaching thousands of hurting people and offering them hope … 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s a church that never sleeps.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus asked His disciples one of the most pivotal questions in history: “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered Him saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Not too long after Jesus made that declaration, the church was born on the Day of Pentecost.
The church is not a building. We are the church. We are called to be the living and dynamic Body of Christ to a world lost and dying in darkness. We are Christ’s hands and feet in the world. He lives in us and acts through us. Jesus’ work on earth didn’t end when He ascended into heaven. It continues today in the lives of those who believe in Him, those whom He has entrusted and empowered. And the best way to demonstrate His presence in a broken world is through our deeds rather than our words. Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another. The only hope for us to win people to Him is by going outside the four walls of our church buildings, living out His love and being a church that shines light in the night—a church that never sleeps.

Gateway Church "Let's Go" Devotional PDF

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Let's Go! Day 9

God’s People

Day: 

9

“Then the good people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty 
and give you something to drink? When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our house? 
When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison 
and care for you?’ 
Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did 
for me.’” Matthew 25:37–40 (NCV)
Ron Hall grew up in Haltom City, just outside of Fort Worth, Texas. After serving a brief two-year stint in the army, marrying his college sweetheart Deborah and earning his MBA, Ron went on to become a wealthy international art dealer who traveled the world buying and selling million dollar Picassos and Van Goghs. Ron and Deborah were living the American Dream. One day Deborah spied an article in the newspaper about homelessness and it mentioned the Union Gospel Mission, a place in Fort Worth that ministers to homeless men, women and children. As Deborah read about the mission, she immediately knew God was calling her to get involved.
Deborah, dragging her husband, Ron, along with her, set out to volunteer at the mission by serving dinner to the homeless for about three to four hours every Tuesday night. Driving home after their first visit to the mission, Deborah told Ron that although society tended to look at those who were homeless as victims of their own foolishness and laziness, she felt like there was so much more to them below the surface just waiting to be discovered. That night, she dreamt about the mission, and in her dream she saw the face of a wise man from the mission who would change the city. The dream reminded her of a verse she had once read in Ecclesiastes 9:15 that said: “Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.” When she told Ron about the dream, he didn’t question it; Deborah was one of the godliest people he knew. She was constantly spending time with the Lord in prayer and seeking His will for her life.
For the next two weeks, Deborah and her husband volunteered on Tuesday nights at the Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth. With a perpetual smile on her face, everyone could tell that she truly enjoyed serving at the mission. When she looked at the faces of the people she was serving, Deborah didn’t see their homelessness; she only saw Jesus. She made an effort to get to know each person, calling them by their first name, and always insisted on referring to everyone who came to the mission as “God’s people.”
On their third Tuesday serving at the mission, a huge, 60-something-year-old black man dressed in rags came storming in yelling and threatening to kill whoever had stolen his shoes. Deborah leaned over to Ron and whispered, “That’s him! That’s the man I saw in my dream … the one who changes the city.” Ron looked at her in disbelief as she went on to say, “And I really think God’s telling me that you need reach out to him.”
After asking around, the Halls discovered the man’s name was Denver and that he came to the mission every Tuesday. Each time Deborah served him, she would look him in the eye and say, “Denver, God has a calling on your life.” When Denver warned her not to mess with him because he was a mean man, Deborah replied, “You are not a mean man, and I don’t ever want to hear you say that!” Wanting to be left alone, Denver started to avoid her. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to get Deborah to stop talking to him.
After a few months of volunteering, Deborah began wanting to do more than just feed the homeless. She wanted to see lives changed and broken hearts healed. Racking her brain to figure out how she could bring some joy into these people’s lives, she decided to have a Beauty Shop Night where she and some other volunteers could pamper the homeless women with manicures, pedicures, facials and makeovers. That led to movie nights and then birthday nights. All the while, Denver was watching the Halls’ actions. And over time, he came to the conclusion that they were a genuinely nice couple who was serious about helping people.
At Deborah’s urging, Ron invited Denver out for breakfast, and to his surprise, Denver accepted. As the two men ate breakfast, Denver came out and bluntly asked Ron, “What do you want from me?” Ron was taken aback for a second, but then deciding to be equally forthright, he answered: “I just want to be your friend.” Denver was silent for a moment, but then he finally said, “Let me think about it.”
It wasn’t immediate, but eventually a true, lasting friendship began to blossom between Ron, Deborah and Denver. They started to hang out and spend time together. The Halls even helped Denver get his driver’s license. Moving in both mysterious and miraculous ways, God used the friendship between Denver and the Halls to draw each of them closer to Him and to work in and through their lives to reach countless others. Because of their story and a series of God-ordained circumstances, over five hundred thousand dollars were raised for a new mission facility called “New Beginnings,” and Deborah’s dream of how God would use a man from the mission to change the city was fulfilled.
The Bible is clear that whenever we go beyond the scope of our selfish nature and reach out to those in need, Jesus considers our actions as if we are doing it for Him. Deborah Hall truly grasped this concept, and although he was a little reluctant at first, her husband Ron did too. They stepped out of their comfort zones to go reach out to individuals the world had given up on—the hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick and lonely … those whom Jesus referred to as “the least of these.” They allowed their hearts to be broken by the needs around them, and they chose to view each person they encountered as a child of God.
Will you ask God to help you see those around you with His eyes?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Let's Go - Day 8 - Who is Your Neighbor

“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, 
“Go and do likewise.”
One day, a lawyer came up to Jesus asking, “Teacher, what do I have to do to get eternal life?” Jesus looked at him, and instead of answering, He asked the lawyer a question of His own: “You’re an expert at the law. You tell me. What does God’s law say, and how do you interpret it?” Without hesitation, the lawyer rattled off: “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. And love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
After commending the lawyer for his answer, Jesus told him he should go and do exactly that if he truly wanted eternal life. The lawyer had no problem with loving God, but he wanted clarification. So he continued to press Jesus further and asked: “And who is my neighbor?” In other words, he was saying: Tell me who I have to love and who I don’t have to love. Who do I have to accept, and who can I reject? Who do I have to reach out to, and who can I just ignore? Aren’t there some people deserving of love and others who aren’t?
Jesus refused to answer the man’s question yet again. Instead, He launched into a story. The scenario was almost comical: The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus responded with: “There once was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho ….” Can you imagine the lawyer’s frustration? All he wanted was a simple answer, and Jesus started telling a story about some man who set out on a journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. But it was much more than just a story. There was purpose, depth and detail in this story that Jesus specifically included in order to expose all of the excuses we use to keep from loving and connecting with the people around us.
Everyone listening to Jesus that day knew the road from Jerusalem to Jericho wound 18 miles through the mountains and descended about 3,300 feet. And it definitely wasn’t a path you wanted to take after dark, because it was a notoriously popular hideout for bandits.
Sure enough, the man was attacked by robbers, stripped naked, beaten unconscious and thrown into a ditch to die. Eventually, a priest came riding by. During this time in history, priests held the wealthiest, most powerful and most respected positions in all of Israel. As both political and spiritual leaders, they were the pinnacle of Jewish society. When this priest saw the man covered in dust and blood lying by the side of the road, he angled across to the other side of the road to avoid him and passed on by. The priest was followed by a Levite—another spiritual leader. Seeing that the man had been beaten up by bandits and fearing for his own life, he hurried by as quickly as possible.
Now this is where Jesus did something that was absolutely gutsy: He introduced a Samaritan as the hero of the story. And here’s why it was so revolutionary: The Jews didn’t just dislike the Samaritans; they despised them. There was such deep hatred towards Samaritans that the Jews actually sang songs in their synagogues about how stupid they were. There’s even evidence that some of the prayers prayed in synagogues during the first century included requests to God to make sure the Samaritans wouldn’t be allowed to partake in eternal life! Can you imagine their prayers? “God, I pray for my wife, my kids, my parents. Oh, and could You please not let any of the Samaritans into heaven? Thank You. Amen.”
Well-aware of the Jews’ deep-seated hatred for the Samaritans, Jesus’ purpose behind making a Samaritan the hero of His story was both deliberate and significant. When the Samaritan came upon the wounded man, he was moved with compassion. He cleaned the man’s wounds and gave him first aid. Then placing him on his own donkey, the Samaritan took the man into the next town (which was most likely a Jewish town) where he booked him a room at an inn and paid for it.
Wrapping up His story, Jesus turned to the lawyer and asked: “Who do you think was a neighbor to the man who got beaten up?” Looking down at the ground, the lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say, “The Samaritan.” Instead, he mumbled, “The guy who showed mercy.” “That’s right,” Jesus replied. “Now go and do the same.”
So what’s the major difference between the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan? It all comes down to one word … compassion. When he saw the wounded man, the Samaritan didn’t say that the man “should have known better,” that anyone who was foolish enough to flirt with danger by traveling down the rugged path from Jerusalem to Jericho deserved to reap the consequences of their own poor choices. No, he picked him up and brought him to a place of healing.
Ask yourself today, “Who’s my neighbor?” It’s those who’ve been robbed by the thugs and bandits of the world—fear, despair, grief, pain, poverty, disease, hate, hopelessness, misery—then beaten up and left for dead. They’re around every corner we turn—from all walks of life. No one is exempt. No one is left untouched.
Do we keep our distance? Do we pretend not to see their pain and hurry on with our lives? Do we think to ourselves, “I’ll just pray for them” and then go on our way? Or will we allow our hearts to be moved with compassion? Will we stop what we’re doing—even if it’s something good, something spiritual—and kneel beside those who are hurting … those who are lost and alone … put our arms around them and carry them to a place where they can find life, hope and healing?
Ask God to soften your heart to those around you—towards your neighbors, your co-workers, those you come in contact with. Ask Him to stir up a love and compassion within you for them and their needs. Ask Him to give you the courage and wisdom to walk with them and offer them hope and life.
Compassion is the ability to see past the arrogance of sinful men and women and into the broken soul of human beings … into the heart that is desperately in need of the grace of God.
Matt Chandler

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do Something - Day 7

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

Have you ever been watching the news, listening to the radio or sitting in church and heard a story about some kind of crisis or injustice going on in the world and thought to yourself: “Somebody should do something”?
Have you ever considered the source of that thought? Where did that thought come from? Do you think that maybe … just maybe … that thought could have come from God? And maybe He’s wanting you to be the somebody who does something?
Nancy Zirkel and her husband, Doug, first learned about the AIDS pandemic when Princess Zulu came to speak at their church. Princess Zulu grew up in Zambia and lost her baby sister to AIDS … then her mother … then her father. At the age of 14, she dropped out of school and got pregnant. When she was 17, Princess married her boyfriend, a man 25 years older than her who had already lost two wives to AIDS. Now, at 28 years old, she is HIV positive. Although she knows that she will one day leave behind her two daughters, Joy and Faith, Princess says that God has given her joy and hope in the midst of her devastating circumstances. Because of her desire to do whatever she can to help others infected with HIV, Princess now travels around the world telling people about the AIDS crisis in Africa and urging them to do something to fight its spread.
When Doug and Nancy heard Princess Zulu speak about the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, they were blown away by the fact that the greatest humanitarian crisis in history was happening right now and they didn’t know anything about it. They thought to themselves: “We’ve got to do something! We’ve got to help. And if we didn’t know anything about it, most of the people we know—our family and friends—probably don’t know anything about it either. And if they knew, they’d certainly want to do something.”
So the Zirkels decided to raise awareness of this global crisis by throwing a party and inviting everybody they knew over to their home. They asked Princess Zulu to come explain to 50 of their friends and family about what was happening in Africa because of AIDS and then ask them to help by sponsoring children. Speaking about that night, Nancy says: “Doug and I planned to ask everyone at the end of the night to help by sponsoring a child in Africa through World Vision. But we also wanted to make sure people continued to respond after the night was over. We thought it would be a great idea to ask everyone if they’d like to throw a party of their own for their friends and family. I was the one elected to get up in front of all my family and friends and speak, and I was nervous about it. At the last minute, I started to chicken out and told my husband ‘I can’t do it! You go ahead and do it!’ And Doug, being the wonderful, supportive and encouraging husband that he is, simply said, ‘You can do it. I know you can do it. Now go.’ And he just kind of gave me the little push that I really needed. As I walked up there, I threw up a quick, ‘Please help me, Lord. Give me the courage, and put the right words in my mouth.’ Then I got up there and did it. I asked everyone if they would be interested in having a party. I told them, “If two or three of you guys have parties, and two or three of your friends have parties, this could grow and multiply. And who knows how many kids could be sponsored and how many lives could be saved!’”
Because of that night, new doors started opening for the Zirkels and wonderful things began to happen. World Vision approached them about taking their idea of throwing house parties and turning it into a national program to promote in churches across the United States. Nancy was also asked to speak to a group of children from kindergarten through fifth grade about how they could get involved in helping kids infected with AIDS in Africa. Knowing that many children feel like they can’t really do anything significant because they’re young and nobody pays attention to them, Nancy wanted them to fully understand that the opposite of that is true. So she talked to them about how the apostle Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone treat you as if you’re unimportant because you’re young.” Nancy then gave each of the kids a little coin bank to fill up with change. Within a few weeks, the children had raised over $15,000! Recalling that moment, Nancy says, “It was amazing! These kids came in with their banks filled to the brim. We had them dump their coins into buckets. They brought in so much change, the handles even broke on some of the buckets because they were so heavy! But these kids kept bringing in money with joyful hearts and compassionate spirits … it was just beautiful to witness.”
For Nancy and Doug, the act of “going” simply began by inviting friends and family members over to their home. When God placed a burden on their hearts, they didn’t sit back passively and say, “Somebody should do something.” No, they chose to act on it. And their willingness to trust and obey God’s leading bore fruit in ways they could have never imagined. Their simple act of obedience sparked a ripple effect that is continuing to impact the lives of countless others.
Maybe the thought of going out and doing something that God is leading you to do seems daunting. You may not even know where to begin. That’s OK. You don’t have to do something huge or complex. Simply ask God to show you how you can obey His leading. Then act on it, and trust Him to be faithful to do the rest.
Things great have small beginnings. Every downpour is just a raindrop; every fire is just a spark; every harvest is just a seed; Every journey is just a step because without that step there will be no journey; Without that raindrop there can be no shower; Without that seed there can be no harvest.
William Wilberforce

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Let's Go! Day 6 A Drop in the Bucket

A DROP IN THE BUCKET
Day: 6
One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.” … Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.
Taylor first heard about Cans for Africa while serving on a leadership council at the University of Central Oklahoma during his freshman year. A man from Kenya by the name of John Kipsitet came and talked to the leadership about Cans for Africa—an organization he started because he wanted to do something to help African children affected by AIDS. His desire was to raise money to build a shelter, a clinic and a school for the orphans of Africa.
The concept behind Cans for Africa was birthed when John first visited the US and saw empty aluminum cans lying discarded everywhere he went. He was dumbfounded by what he saw, because in Africa, cans are a valuable commodity. You never saw a can on the ground, because to the people there, it represented money. John realized that if people would just collect the cans and turn them in to a recycling center, they could raise money and make an eternal impact in the lives of millions of kids affected by AIDS in Africa.
When Taylor heard about John’s vision, he was compelled to act. At this point, Cans for Africa wasn’t much more than the vision of one man, and John had come to the leadership council at the University of Central Oklahoma asking for help. As John spoke, Taylor recalled the words Jesus had spoken in the Sermon on the Mount: “If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much” (Matthew 5:46). He realized that Jesus didn’t do things for others based on what He could get back from them; He did it out of the overflow of His heart.
Challenged to step out of his comfort zone, Taylor decided to get involved. He was appointed as the leadership council’s chairperson responsible for overseeing the Cans for Africa project. He made it his mission to galvanize support for the organization by creating thousands of flyers and spreading the word as much as possible. And together, Taylor and John have raised 20 thousand dollars by collect almost one million aluminum cans.
What’s an aluminum can to you? Probably nothing whatsoever. It’s little more than a drop in a bucket. But to those whose lives are being impacted by Cans for Africa, a can is the difference between life and death.
The Bible tells us the story of a boy who didn’t have much but turned what little he had over to the hands of Jesus, and as a result, thousands of people were fed.
Jesus had been teaching and healing people all afternoon, but now it was getting late and people were starting to get hungry. Not wanting to deal with the prospect of a hungry mob of people at least ten thousand strong, the disciples came to Jesus urging Him to send the crowd home so they could get food for themselves. But rather than heeding their advice, Jesus told His disciples to go out themselves and give the people in the crowd something to eat. The disciples were stunned. There was absolutely no way they could get enough food to feed such a large amount of people. They would all have to work a month just to get enough money together to give each person a tiny piece of bread!
The disciples halfheartedly made their way through the crowd, checking to see if anyone had brought any food with them. Peter’s brother, Andrew, happened to stumble across a young boy who had brought his lunch with him to come hear Jesus that day. We don’t know much of anything about this little boy. We don’t know his name, his age or where he was from. What we do know is what he did … he gave his lunch—everything he had—to Jesus.
The lunch wasn’t much. It was simply five pieces of bread and two tiny fish. It amounted to nothing more than a drop in a bucket compared to what they needed to feed a crowd of five thousand hungry men, plus their wives and children. The boy was probably reluctant to even offer his lunch. In the face of such an overwhelming need, it must have seemed puny. Nevertheless, the boy surrendered his lunch of two fish and five pieces of bread. He didn’t make his decision to give Jesus his lunch because it was logical or practical; he made it based on faith.
Jesus took the bread and fish, thanked God for providing it, and gave it to His disciples to disperse to the crowd. The disciples looked at each other in confusion, shrugged their shoulders and proceeded to obey Jesus although they probably thought He was going crazy. As they distributed the bread and the fish, something miraculous happened. The more food they gave out, the more food kept appearing! Not only were the disciples able to feed everyone in the crowd until they were full, but they were able to gather twelve basketfuls of leftovers!
To the vast majority of people, five pieces of bread and two small fish or an aluminum can are totally insignificant. It’s a tiny drop in a massive bucket. But a tiny drop in the hands of God is more than enough to feed a multitude of more than ten thousand people or build a shelter, clinic and school for orphans in Africa.
What about you? Will you give everything you have—whether you think it’s much or just an insignificant drop in the bucket—and surrender it into the hands of God? If you’re willing, God can take what you’ve given and miraculously use it to bring glory to Him.
Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee … take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Frances R. Havergal


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Let's Go! Day 5 Guess Whose Coming to Dinner?

When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.

Born and raised in a strong Christian home, Micah spent most of her life actively involved in her home church until she moved away at the age of 18. Over the next seven years, she drifted away from church because she just couldn’t find one that felt like “home.” Shortly after she turned 25, Micah went through some situations that caused her to realize she desperately needed a radical change in her life and her hunger for God began to intensify.
She visited some churches near her home, but she felt isolated and alone when she was there. One Sunday morning, Micah decided to check out Gateway—a local church that some of her friends had recommended. Arriving about 25 minutes before the service began, she noticed that, unlike the churches she had previously visited, the greeters at the door looked her in the eye and immediately made her feel welcomed and at home. Micah found an empty seat near the front and patiently waited for the service to start. Mike and Karen Maddox, along with their three kids, sat down in the seats next to her, and quickly struck up a conversation with her.
The service began and Micah found herself drawn in and engaged by the worship and the message. When the invitation came at the end, Micah slipped out of her seat, made her way down to the front and waited for someone to pray with her. To her surprise, Karen Maddox came down to the front as well and asked Micah if she could pray with her. After they finished praying, Karen turned to Micah and asked, “If you don’t have any plans after church, why don’t you come over to our house and have lunch with us?” Micah gladly accepted the offer and went over to the Maddox’s home that afternoon. Mike and Karen made Micah feel like part of the family. That day, a relationship began that has continued to impact her life.
Although she thoroughly enjoyed the service and her time with the Maddox family, Micah didn’t go back to church until she lost her job nine months later. That experience completely rocked her world, and Micah realized that only God could help her now. The next Sunday, she went back to the church where she first met the Maddoxes. At that service, Micah made the decision to relinquish control of her life to God and depend solely on Him.
Micah quickly became a member of Gateway and joined the small group hosted by the Maddoxes. The group prayed for Micah’s job situation, and soon she got a job as a graphic designer at the church. After being a recipient of the Maddox’s example of kindness and hospitality, Micah has since opened her own home to host a group for young single ladies … all because of one family’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading to extend a dinner invitation to a young woman.
The Bible tells about another person whose life was transformed because of a dinner invitation. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector for the city of Jericho—similar to an IRS employee. He was notoriously famous for cheating people and had amassed a fortune by overtaxing the people. As the most corrupt guy in town, he was both a social and religious pariah, and people hated him.
When news reached Zacchaeus that Jesus had come to Jericho, his curiosity got the best of him and he decided to go see what all the fuss was about. Being a fairly short man, he wasn’t able to see above the crowd gathered around Jesus. But Zacchaeus didn’t get to where he was by not being resourceful. Looking around, he spotted a sycamore tree with limbs low to the ground that were ideal for climbing. He quickly scaled the tree, so he’d have a prime view of Jesus when He was passing by.
As Jesus was walking by, He looked up and saw Zacchaeus sitting perched up in the tree. Not having a house of His own, Jesus invited Himself over for dinner at Zacchaeus’ home. The Bible says Zacchaeus “took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy,” so it’s obvious that people really enjoyed being around Jesus. He never religiously judged or condemned people or looked down on them, except for those who were legalistic, hypocritical and judgmental themselves. In fact, it was the judgmental people who had an issue with Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ house, but of course, Jesus didn’t let that stop Him. And as a result, Zacchaeus’ heart was radically transformed. Here was a man who was as crooked and corrupt as they come, but because Jesus invited Himself over for dinner, Zacchaeus ended up not only giving away half of everything he owned to the poor, he also vowed to pay back four times the amount to anyone he’d cheated.
“Going” isn’t by any means limited to packing up everything you own and moving overseas to minister to tribes in the jungle. In fact, one of the most effective ways to minister is simply going out of your way to invite people over for dinner. Everyone has to eat at some point in time, right?
How hard is it to walk up to someone and say: “Hey, come over to my house and have dinner with my family and me this week” or “Let me buy you coffee this week”? It’s really that easy, and it’s always worth it!
Each of us is hardwired to pursue God wholeheartedly and to love one another without reservation. That’s the essence of the two greatest commandments—love God; love others. God wants us to reach out to others through our relationships with them. What better place to start than around the dinner table?