40 Day Journey – with Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Day 1

I am doing a 40 day devotional series with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I thought as I do so, I would take the opportunity to journal as I travel through this 40 day journey. This is primarily for me, but hopefully, there will be something that others can learn as they follow along. You can create your own journal and do your own devotional through Biblegateway. The link to the devotional is here – 40 Day Journey – with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Day 1 – so day 1 starts with a familiar passage, one that we often times see on bumper stickers and hear preached from the pulpit at least a couple of times a year.

Matthew 11:28-30 – 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

These three verses make up the greatest challenge for the Christ follower. Submission to take on Christ’s burden. On the surface, anyone who reads it thinks sure, sign me up for that. Who doesn’t want to have rest? The promise of an easy and light burden to carry forth seems quite attractive, especially the older we get. But what is the yoke? the burden? If it’s so easy and light, how come we don’t see more people who are content, or seem at peace with life?

I’m not a Bible scholar but the yoke for me or the burden is for me to follow Christ wherever He leads and while doing so, loving others and sharing with them, the truths about Jesus. In all three of these areas, I fail more times than not. At times, I know that I am following the path that Christ has for me to follow and there is a wonderful sense of peace and contentment. There are also times where I look at my day and see how I was able to demonstrate love through encouragement, physically helping or just being a good listener for someone. My greatest area of weakness, is my willingness to share the truths about Jesus. I’ve had moments where I’ve been able to share my story of what Christ has done for me or been given the opportunity to teach and engage others about our savior. But far too often, I ignore the promptings and let the moment pass.

In John 15:1212 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

There’s the burden, just one command that seemingly trips all of us up. Just love each other and you will find rest in Jesus. For the Christ follower we have already experienced Christ’s love for us in accepting that He chose to die for our sins and we commit ourselves to be His disciples. Yet, we tend to complicate everything by forgetting to keep it simple. We self impose standards that we can’t meet or worse, allow others to impose their standards on us and therefore get caught up in one burden after another trying to achieve an unattainable goal.

There is but one standard to strive for and that is Jesus. It really is true that for a lot of people, we represent who Jesus is and what He’s about. I pray that this day forward, that all who cross my path will see through me, that Jesus loves them and that He wants to have a personal relationship with each of them.

One component that I’m thinking about as I wrap this post up is my willingness to follow Jesus….wherever that may lead. How willing am I to truly do this? I will write more on this tomorrow but for now I need to think on this question for the remainder of today.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

Scott

A Story to Share

It’s been six months since I have written anything. Some of that’s due to writer’s block which I get on occasion and some of it’s because life simply happens to steal all of your time. Honestly though, the greater hindrance for me has been related to two themes. The first being that I have some deep, personal issues that I would love to write about but it would involve me writing about extended family members and that’s just something I’m not willing to do.

The other theme for a long time has simply been that I just don’t want to share too much of myself with others. The easy, superficial material is easy to cover. Sharing stories about my kids or relaying moments of parenting greatness and also those mistakes I have made are a lot of fun to write and hopefully, as helped others over the years. But to truly show any vulnerability has been off limits thus far.

This past Sunday I was given the chance to lead in facilitating a class at church. I pointed out to the group that it has been my experience and therefore, my belief, that when God allows us to experience trials and tribulations in our walk with him, it usually serves two purposes (there are probably more but…). One purpose is that He is trying to grow us in some way to be more like Christ. The other is not so obvious but at times can be a critical component of us growing in our faith.

This other purpose, as I know it, is that we are to share our story with others. Both the good and bad. I’m not talking about updating your social media of choice, although at times, that could be appropriate to do. I’m talking about being in tune enough with the people around you so that you can recognize the opportunities that you have to share your story. As I see it, our story really is a reflection of our faith.

For some their story reflects their faith in either themselves, family, work or any number of things. Regardless, we all demonstrate our faith in something. Others, as you look at their life, you see their faith story revolves around Christ. It permeates every junction of their life. You may not be able to describe it necessarily but it’s tangible and you recognize it.

So back to class, as I was relating this message, which I’ve done multiple times with various groups and individuals, I was convicted that I need to be doing more of this myself. In one on one situations, I have always been willing to share my story. My wife would say a little to willing at times. Now I recognize that I am to share my story through any platform that God provides for me, including my writing.

Our faith is a process, a journey as we develop and grow. And for each of us we have a responsibility to share our story with each other whenever possible. The ups and downs that we experience along our journey are to be shared with others. Someone you know needs to know that they are not alone, they can get through this, or maybe just that you are there to support them.

Here’s a profound thought, at least for myself, we each have a unique story that is truly our own but eerily similar to any number of people we may know. But my story and your story are just chapters in a much greater masterpiece which is God’s story.

So as I begin this new intent or purpose if you will, to be more open, transparent in my daily walk, I will look to do so in my writing. I’m have no idea how this will work or that I’m fully committed to this as of yet, but I know I have to start somewhere and just be obedient to do this. Ah! maybe I’ll start there, being obedient. The times I’ve done this and many, many times I haven’t. That would definitely show some vulnerability.

Anyway, will see what happens.

Peace and thanks for reading!!

Life Lesson Series – serving continued

Beautiful-Examples-Of-Love-High-Resolution-Photos-7

I ended the last post saying that Love was another component to serving others. I have not always had a desire to serve others. Actually, for most of my life, my desire was to see how I could get others to serve me. Ok, that was a little sobering to actually type out but being honest, that is the truth. Now there have been times over the years where I willingly gave of my time, money or other resources without regard to what was in it for me but not very often.

Several years ago I remember hearing this verse in a sermon and was immediately captivated by it: Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus, God’s son, came to serve us and give is life as payment for our sins. Why did He do this? What was his motivation in serving us and ultimately giving his life in exchange for us? A love so great, so vast that even infinity doesn’t come close to measuring it. A love which desires to be in fellowship with you and I, regardless of our transgressions. Imagine someone loving and caring about you so much that nothing, not even death would ever deter them from having that relationship with you.

That’s exactly the kind of love Jesus has for you. We only need to accept what is truly the perfect gift. Once we do, we can begin to faintly understand the depths of His love. It is His love found within that compels me to serve others as He served us. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, seeking opportunities to help those in need. The tendency of most people when they see something about helping those in need is to think about those folks that may need help with material things such as money, food, shelter, clothing, etc. And yes, that’s part of it but to only focus on that aspect is to not fully engage in serving each other.

What about those who are in need of companionship, a word of encouragement or to feel needed. Surely all of us would agree that each of us desire to know that we are loved, at least a little. So maybe instead of asking how we may be able to serve one another, maybe we should ask how can we show love, one to another.  1 Peter 4:10 – Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 

As faithful stewards. Faithful meaning to do what we are called to do. Steward meaning to wisely use what we have been given. To serve others, extending God’s grace in all it’s forms, that we may show others that God loves them. Jesus was real clear about this as we find when reading Matthew 22:37-39  – 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

Peace and thanks for reading!!

People are just people – 11/8/12

As we got into the teaching time with the students, you could sense their excitement in having new people come to share with them. As I looked around the room, all of them had their bibles out and were on the front edge of their seats and all eyes looking forward. Initially I was nervous as I opened up our study time but that quickly vanished as we read some scripture and I begin speaking about what we had just read. It was such a pleasure to be up in front of these guys as you could just tell they were trying to soak up every word and being very attentive. With this group it was very easy to stand and speak about the things of God.

After my piece, I turned it over to Jimmie and he led the rest of our study time and truly did a phenomenal job in the short time he had to extol his wisdom. Faith Bradbury joined Jimmie for a short segment and talked to the kids about different ways to share the story of Jesus. As she was leading this time, you could see the kids really come to life as this is what is near and dear to all of them. Unlike most Christians that I know here in the states and including myself, we don’t always seem to have the same drive, desire to tell others about the good news of Christ.

When you talk to these kids, there is a common thread intertwined within each of them. Although each have experienced turbulent childhoods they choose not to dwell there. When you talk to them individually, you can see that most of them come from a very dark time in their past – it’s in their eyes, their voice and you can just feel it but then, like a switch, as they begin talking about God, Jesus and Bridge 4 Hope, you see all the darkness, the pain just fade away and you realize there is an entirely different person standing in front of you.

This is what they haven’t forgotten – that when all seemed hopeless or that no one seemed to care, they were able to find hope and know that someone did love and care about them through Jesus Christ. And they understand, that there are countless others within their family, community, Cape Town, and across the world that feel the same way they did, so they take every opportunity that comes to tell others about Christ. They live Matthew 28:18-20 as they go about their daily routine of life.

After lunch, we all gathered back in the classroom to get our assignments from Asanda before heading out into the community to talk, listen, pray and tell others about Jesus. The excitement expressed by everyone was palpable as their was an expectation that good things were about to happen. My partners were two of the most incredible young ladies I have ever met – Abongile and Bomikazi. I was about to learn a lesson in what trust, courage and boldness really looks like and see, for the first time in a long time, how God can change lives if we would just be willing to live Matthew 28:18-20.

Going door to door is so far out of my comfort zone and is something I have rarely taken part in when given the chance in the past. As we walked to the community I was reminded of my prayer, that I would be open to follow and commit to whatever God wanted me to do, so here it is, something I wouldn’t choose to do but hey, were here, so let’s do this. As we approached the first house, I realized that I wasn’t really nervous, I was curious to see what would unfold. AB and Bom showed no nervousness, fear or even apprehension as they stuck their head in the first door and asked if it was ok to come in.

As I watched Bom engage the young lady in conversation, I was struck by the confidence she had and then noticed that AB was right behind her looking just as confident and ready to speak if need be. No tracks, no phamplets, just two people wanting to share a conversation with the folks they had just met. Although they were speaking in a language unfamiliar to me, I was amazed at how much of the conversation I was able to follow. As the conversation was winding down, AB asked a simple question – “do you know about Jesus?”. And although they said they did, they didn’t want to talk about it so Bom asked if it would be ok if we prayed for them and if there was anything specific we could pray for on their behalf.

I watched in amazement as house after house, these two ladies would engage the people in conversation and as they talked with them, I was able to watch their faces and noticed how intently focused they were on the task at hand. Nothing else mattered except what was before them and the desire they had to help people make a connection to Jesus.

Making our way from house to house, God was impressing on me on just how beautiful His creation of people truly is. 4 weeks later and I can still recall each and everyone that I met that afternoon. Seeing people through God’s eyes means that you see them through LOVE! And as I met these wonderful people, I saw beauty in each of them and my sole desire for each of them was that they would be open to hear about Christ and to know that He truly is somebody that loves and cares about them.

For AB and Bom, they had no idea of the impact they made on my life that day. They reminded me that day that I have no excuses for not sharing my story of what Christ has done in my life. To see how boldly, and courageously these young women were at their sharing their faith, renewed a sense of urgency within me and empowered me to know that God is faithful and that His word never returns void.

Not sure if I have 1 or 2 more posts left about our trip to South Africa but will definitely wrap up by week’s end.

Getting Excited

so, 4 days and counting! To say I am getting excited about the upcoming trip to South Africa is an understatement to say the least. Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jimmie Warren as we began discussing what topics we wanted to cover next week during our time to teach at the Bridge 4 Hope center. They offer various programs for their students and one of these is called EPIC.  Their current group of students going through this will actually graduate on the Monday right before we leave to come back home. It will be such a great honor to see their ceremony and then to be able to watch how God uses them in the years to come.

Our team, which I am so grateful to be a part of,  will have the opportunity to take part in teaching these students over a two day period next Thursday and Friday at the Bridge4Hope campus. On Thursday, we are going to cover evangelism, studying techniques, leadership and other topics as well as giving our personal testimonies. And then on Friday, we will split the students up as Jimmie and I will teach the young men on being Godly men of Christ while Faith and Mandy will teach the young ladies about prayer and faith.

Jimmie and I are going use an outline developed from a recent study that we both had the opportunity to teach at our Sugar Hill Church called Kingdom Man that Dr. Tony Evans put together. Not sure if we can cover everything as the study is so rich with scripture, stories and practical application but I pray that however much we are able to give them, would be something that are to build on for a lifetime!! I am just amazed and humbled that God would allow us the opportunity to travel half way around the world and teach young people for two days as they near completing their program!

Jimmie will also have the privilege of preaching on Sunday the 11th while were there. I am excited for him and can’t wait to be part of that service with what I am sure will be a host new life-long friends! And really, as I think about it, it is really cool that we will get the chance to meet a lot of our brothers and sisters in Christ as a result of this trip! I think it’s easy to forget that for those of us who are Christ followers, that we have this huge family of brothers and sisters in our neighborhood, community, state, country and around the world. Would the world be a different place if we, believers, would treat each other like family? I’d like to think so! Anyway, sorry about that as I have strayed off topic.

While I’m thinking about it, thanks to all you for your prayers for me and our team as we prepare to leave and hope you will continue to pray for us when we are there. I would also like to publicly thank those who have given financial support to help make this trip possible.

I’m reminded of a couple of verses from 1 Peter 4:7-11  – The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 

Peace and thanks for reading!!

 

2 Weeks and Counting

Wow, 2 weeks from today, I will be leaving for 10 days for what, is for me, the longest trip I have ever taken and what I am expecting to be, the most exciting. In preparation for the trip, I have been reading everything I can on Cape Town and the people that make up it’s population and in particular, the area we will be working, which is, The Cape Flats.

Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest city and the second largest city, behind only Johannesburg in terms of population at nearly 4 million people. The Cape Flats make up the majority of the total population of Cape Town. Apartheid (racial segregation)was instituted in 1948 and shortly led to the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas according to race. As a result, formerly multi-racial suburbs of Cape Town were either purged of unlawful residents or demolished. In 1965, one entire area of 60,000 homes was destroyed and most of it’s people moved to the area now known as the Cape Flats.

Due to Apartheid, South Africa was sent reeling into economic depression and racial dissension. Only in the last 10 to 15 years as the Cape Town area began it’s ascension back and unfortunately, it will take decades for this region to recover. But there is hope as tourism as helped the Country to start rebuilding it’s economy. Poverty, poor healthcare and education remain the most overwhelming obstacles to overcome for this region.

Bridge4Hope is working to help in all of these areas as their Mission is: We exist to equip African individuals to be the catalyst of change in their society and to build sustainable communities together. We aim to bring transformative solutions to poverty, suffering, and injustice through holistic community development by the means of education, healthcare, small business development, and church planting. We seek to change the world, one community at a time.

One of their courses – EPIC – recently kicked off a new session with 12 new students. You can read up on this here: http://b4hope.wordpress.com/category/epic-leadership-discipleship-school/ . When we are there in 2 weeks, we will have the opportunity to work with these young folks one on one and in group sessions. It’s very humbling to think that God would allow me the opportunity to travel half-way across the world and take part in helping young people there grow in their relationship with Christ!

My prayer today is this: that over the next 2 weeks, I would be diligent in studying God’s word and preparing myself in such a way, that I may be used by Him in whatever way required during my time in Cape Town!!

I anxiously await to meet the people of Cape Town and submerge myself into their culture and prayerfully hope that through Christ, our team, is able to assist these young people in strengthening their relationship with Christ, their families, and their community.

Peace and thanks for reading!!