Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Works, Rewards, Value, Worth, Raiders, And Our Glorious Savior

"You are a sheep of his pasture.  Therefore you have everything you need."  Al Baker

For those who don't know, I love the Raiders.  I have loved the Raiders since I can remember.  growing up, Jim Plunkett was my favorite quarterback and Marcus Allen was untouchable.  I have seen the Raiders be very good and very bad and all though it is much more enjoyable to watch them when they are good, it doesn't really matter to me.  My kids are now Raiders fans.  We all enjoy sitting down and watching the games.  Last week was a bye week (no game), but this year has been great.  Not only are they doing very well at this point, but Derek Carr who is their starting quarterback is faithful follower of Jesus Christ.  I don't know everything about the guy, but he holds himself humbly and gives praise to the Lord.  After a game against a division rival I saw him gather players from both sides and take the center of the field and go to their knees and pray.  It was an encouraging thing to see.  After one game, my daughter asks me, "Is Carr going to stay loyal to the Raiders?"  She has learned a little about the mechanics of the system.  She was wondering when his contract is up and some other team comes and offers big money to him, will he stay?  I didn't have an answer for her concerning Derek Carr and the Raiders.  However, I did have an answer concerning how we as humans can sometimes view value and worth by what we get.  Society on a whole has really been set up as a works and rewards system.  Sports players think the multi million dollar contracts shows their value.  They say if a team wants my abilities, then they will pay me and I will feel they appreciate me.  When I was a field supervisor for a large construction company, they would do year end bonuses.  I remember talking with other guys and they would say how much they were given and I would, in my sinful flesh, say "what they don't appreciate me?  I got all the jobs that were losers from the start.  I would do my best and sometimes even make the company money.  Why don't they look at that aspect?"  The fact is, they did appreciate me and that is why I had a job and they even gave me a bonus.  It took a while for me to get that though.  See our society is set up that way from the beginning.  That is why so many times people have a hard time grasping the gospel.  Think what we tell our kids (well maybe you don't and I am just highlighting my bad parenting skills).  "If you do good in school, I will buy you an ice cream."  "Hey if you behave tonight at the so and so's, maybe I will get you a treat."  Do you see what is happening?  It is a works for rewards system.  We have ingrained our kids with that.  I myself have been ingrained with that.  The gospel says come and receive without price! That is a hard concept for some of us to understand.

Beyond that though, for those of us who do understand that, we can then fall back into thinking our value and our worth is by what we get or what we receive or by who pats us on the back.  And when we don't get stroked how we think we deserve our chins tilt up and our nostrils flare a little and we think we have been slighted and it is such an injustice.  Moments like that expose how ugly the remaining sin in our hearts is.  It shows us that we truly do not have a full enough grasp of what grace truly is.  Sitting here rehashing in my mind what has gone on in my life, my family, my ministry and looking forward to what will take place, I keep just getting overwhelmed by how gracious our God is.  Ministry can be hard.  Let me rephrase that, ministry is hard.  You are dealing with souls therefore you are dealing with people.  I know from my own heart, I am hard to deal with.  I am a sinner and I am messy and I have problems.  So I know when I minister to others, they are just like I am, broken and in need of mercy and grace.  The same mercy and grace that I have been given.  They are cut from the same society that is works for rewards.  So they have the same tendencies that I do.  People are people no matter what continent they are on.  And how arrogant is it to think that because you receive something, you are more valuable or that you even deserve to receive anything.  So materialistic items show value and worth?  Or spiritual gifting shows value and worth?  Would you tell a Somali who is dying from starvation that he is in that condition because he has no value?   I sure hope not.  But that is what we do on a more micro level.  Everything we have is of grace.  The issue is, so many times I think I know what I need.  I think I know what I deserve.  Jesus knows what I need.  Thank God I don't get what I deserve!  I  see people get bitter and angry because they think they deserve something or that they are not getting ministered to as they think they should be.  The Lord is sovereign and is working in each of our lives in the areas of our lives that are not in line with His character.  The Lord works differently in each person.  So many times we allow a root of ungodliness to form because Jesus hasn't done what we want Him to do.  Could you imagine walking up to Jesus and questioning what He is doing to His face?  Yet how many of us do that in our hearts?

I think of the story in Mark chapter two, the healing of the paralytic that was lowered through the roof.  Jesus says your sins are forgiven.  I imagine the guys who carried him going "whoa whoa whoa Lord!  That is not what we came here for!  That is not what we want.  We want this guy to walk!!!"  Lord, I don't want to go to Peru!  I don't want to go to Chile!  I don't want to downsize.  Lord I came to you so I could get this.  Lord why don't I have what they have.  I don't want this trial or this or that.  Lord why did you give me this!  Do you realize what the God has given you?  He has given you His Son!  What more do you need?  A spouse?  Money? Gifting? Power? Prestige? Recognition?  What is it that you need?  Are you going to get angry and bitter at God or someone else cause you didn't get what you think you need or deserve?  Are you unhappy and discontent with what God has given? Don't you think the Lord knows what we need?  Don't you think the Lord gives what we need and takes away what we don't?   Who are we to question what it is the Lord does?  He sees the big picture.  He is working the end game.  He is stripping away, molding, conforming and working in us His good pleasure.  Maybe the guys who lowered the paralytic through the roof were doing all that out of selfish reasons?  This is all speculation, the text doesn't tell us, but maybe they were tired of taking care of him.  Of carrying him to his spot to beg for money and food.  Maybe they were tired of rolling him over so he didn't get bed sores.  Maybe they just wanted him to walk so he could have life like them.  I don't know.  But how many times are we motivated to help or do ministry out of purely selfish motives.  I pray that I will never be selfish in my ministry.  I pray that I will never be bitter when the Lord does a great work in some other church planting ministry. I pray that I will not allow bitterness to swell in my heart when things don't go how I want them to go.  I pray that ungodliness will not take root in my soul.  It is easy to allow when you look around and you see things or you hear things.  Who am I to ask why don't I have a huge ministry and a radio program and books being published?  Lord aren't I doing your work?  To be honest, when I see one person show up at the church I pastor, I am blown away!  Thanks for coming back wow!  Do I even deserve to be able to speak forth God's word, of course not, that is all of grace.  But see, I could think that I am not valued or worth anything cause I don't get the rewards that I think I should.  That is an ugly place to be.  Another missionary from our sending church is here on furlough.  It was great seeing him and talking with him.  But I could have gotten bitter because he is on furlough when I am or whatever.  He is taking some of the focus that should be mine!!!  I could get angry because he got to speak at some gathering that I wanted to or whatever.  Oh my, that would be the ugliest heart.  That makes me nauseous to think that people are actually think like that.  Who are we but dust!  But isn't wonderful the Lord is in the business of changing hearts.  My heart still needs a lot of work.  Praise Jesus we have that promise in Philippians, "He who started a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus."  He is doing it.  There will be rewards.  It will be seeing Jesus face to face.  It is conforming to His image.  Yes we work out our salvation.  We put to death the flesh.  We kill these areas that we see that our so ugly.  We chop down the trees and pull the roots of ungodliness and selfishness and bitterness and the list goes on.

So anyways, off my rant and back to Carr and his contract, I told my daughter he might if the money is right.  He has to think about his family and his career.  I don't want to see him go, but that is the nature of the game nowadays.  Then I told her that even if the Raiders don't pay him what another team might, that doesn't mean the Raiders don't appreciate him.  It doesn't mean he doesn't hold value to the team.  And at this point in the conversation I can transition into a meaningful and life impacting speech.  I begin talking on the sovereignty of God and that God has ordained what will happen in Carr's life from beginning to end.  If God so wants Carr to sign a multi million contract with some other team then that is the way it is.  Hopefully Carr will use his talents and leadership to lead people to Christ.  It is more important to lead souls for eternity than to lead a team to a superbowl.  What we have to understand though, is that his worth and his value is not in his paycheck or accolades but in the blood that Christ shed on his behalf.  Then I said, your worth and value is not based on what life deals you, but your worth and value is in how much Christ loves you that He came and lived the life you couldn't, took the death that you deserved, taking all you sin and giving all His perfection and He rose from the grave granting forgiveness and giving life.  Don't you ever question your value or your worth because maybe you didn't get the big contract.  That is slapping our precious Lord in the face.  You are a child of the King.  Your worth and value and identity is in Him.  He has done the work and He is the reward.  I want you to do good in school.  I want you to help with the other crazy bambinos.  I want you to do good in your music, art and magic tricks.  I kind of demand it because you are my daughter.  I will help you, I will do all I can to see you succeed.  And see that is what Jesus does in a much greater way.  He wants you to enjoy the blessings of fellowship with Him.  To work hard at school.  To give it your all.  He gives the power to help.  You are His now.  Just like you carry my name, Petrik.  You carry His.  Just like you have mannerism's and quarks that I have.  You have His Spirit.  How amazing.  How gracious.  How merciful.

I am hoping Carr sticks around.  He has brought a level of excitement to the Raiders I haven't seen in years.  But more importantly.  I hope my heart stays pure and I don't allow the flesh to rule my thoughts and desires.  I want to serve Christ out of pure love for Him.  I want to have clean hands and a pure heart.   Most importantly, I hope my daughter finds all her value and worth in Jesus Christ and not in what she may or may not receive from this world.  I hope she will understand grace in a way that will motivate her to share the same grace of Christ with everyone who comes across her path!    

Thursday, November 10, 2016

As I sit here on furlough

It is a brisk Thursday morning as I sit on the bed and reflect on all that has gone on over the past few weeks.  I have so many random thoughts that I just wanted to vent.  We are more than half way through our furlough and we have seen the results of the presidential elections, met with family and friends, spoken at churches, skated several local parks, and had plenty of good food to eat.  Furlough is always like an out of body experience, not that I have had one of those, but furlough is what I imagine that would be like.  It is like this weird time warp deal.  Things have changed, people have moved on and lives have been altered.  We expect to see everything exactly as it was when we left, but we have been gone for five years and life goes on.  Sure, in our minds the last memory of here is stuck so we have expectations when we come here that life will pick up just as it was in our memory bank.  It is not that way.  This happens every time we come back, you think we would not set ourselves up for that.

Living out of suitcases and running around from place to place, isn't necessarily the most relaxing thing to do.  The kids don't seem to mind too much having their cloths in a suitcase but it drives Nicole and I nuts.  Our kids are good travelers but every couple days they ask can't we just not go anywhere today?  On days where we just call it a down day and we go to the beach and hit a skatepark they say, "wow life here is fun!"  They don't realize that the life they are living on furlough is not the life we would be having if we lived here.  That is something hard for them to comprehend.  Their clothes wouldn't be in a suitcase and we would be driving from Santa Cruz to Sonora to Turlock and back to Santa Cruz that same day and then do it all over again the following day because we have to meet with someone else.  We wouldn't be able to go to the skatepark at 9 am when no one is there.  This would not be our life. This is not only a thought the kids need to know, this is something that I must remember as well.  There are moments when we are here and I think to myself, life here is what I am use to.  This is the way I would like to live (not the running around, just the location), but then the Lord gives me a little nudge.  "This isn't your home, this isn't your calling, this isn't what I have for you and your family."  And believe me, I am so grateful for what the Lord has called us to do.  There are just these moments.

My parents posted a blog just yesterday (there is a link on the home page of this blog).  It was wonderfully written and expressed what is happening in the ministry the Lord has entrusted us with.  I was so encouraged when I read that.  At times, I need to be reminded of how faithful the Lord is and what He is doing.  It is exciting, but at the same time so difficult.  As was said in their blog, we love Cajamarca and all the people the Lord has brought into our lives.  To be honest, I have prayed more on this furlough and prayed more fervently and heart felt in a long while.  I find myself just pleading with the Lord for Refugio and the people.  I have said this trip will be a good test for Alvaro and the church, but I think the Lord had in mind that it would be a good test for me and my heart.  Refugio is the Lord's church and He is the one who has built it and the one who has led it.  And He has done that in spite of me!  I have made so many mistakes and yet the Lord continues to work just showing and proving that it is all by His grace.  As my favorite line goes, "I am just a knucklehead, but God loves to use knuckleheads."  It is the Lord who builds His church and He will continue to build His church in Cajamarca.

In April we have a wonderful team coming down from Halfmoon Bay to continue in that work!  The Mud and Miracles group.  About 30 people have signed up and are planning on making the trip.  Last night we got to go up there and I shared a short message from God's word and then we talked about Peru and answered questions.  It was such a blessed evening.  We love our church in Halfmoon Bay and we love this team.  We are praying that the Lord would do a radical work in each of their hearts.

This past week, some of our close friends has us over for a lunch after church.  It was great time of fellowship and relaxation and the food was straight up nothing less than amazing.  Miguel killed it!!!  It was such a blessed time with all of them.  We love getting together with our loved ones.  The Gibby's have of course been blessing our socks off.  They are our peeps, like for reals.  There are certain people the Lord brings into your life that you wouldn't ever have expected and they bring out the best in you and Gibby's are that for us.  They are some of the most special people.  The Wise family is another and they have been beyond amazing to us and our love for them is beyond expression.  I can't even express how much it means for us this love and support we get.  Speaking of that, CCC has an incredible fundraiser for our move to Chile.  They went above and beyond.  It was evident how much they love our families.  They are so invested in what the Lord is doing.  It would not be possible to do what we have done and are going to do without them.  So many people came out and listened and talked and caught the vision.  ALL of us are eternally grateful.

As our days are coming to a close on this furlough, we still have several things going on.  My speaking schedule is still pretty booked.  I will have one Sunday off and one Wednesday off.  We have several close friends we haven't had the chance to get together with yet, but we will in this remaining time.  Nicole's parents have purchased Disneyland tickets for the whole family!  When I say the whole family, I mean for them, us, her brothers and their families and her sister and her family. We are looking forward to this time.  The kids are excited and it will be fun.

Well thanks for reading through my venting and what has been going on!

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

God wants us

I have a book called "A Year with C.S. Lewis" that I am reading every morning.  And what this book does is it takes a short section from his writings for you to read each day.  I have read C.S Lewis stuff and I appreciate how he thinks and gets me to think, and I know that he has some issues that I disagree with, but then again I don't agree with anyone 100%.  The Bible alone is where I find 100% truth, but nevertheless I really appreciate the thought process and some of Lewis's conclusions.  There is no doubt he was a great thinker but I wouldn't put him on the level that some do.  Anyways, today  the section opened up with the words "For it is not so much of our time and so much of our attention that God demand; it is not even all our time and all our attention; it is ourselves."  That is so well put.  That is so convicting and challenging.   God isn't so concerned with our time and attention, but ourselves.  This is about priorities.  This is about submitting our lives to God.  We may try to spend time with God.  "Oh gotta give God the start of my day."  So we make sure that the first thing we do is spend some time in prayer and in the word right when we wake up.  And that is good and needed.  But sometimes that can just come routine and that can just be so we can say I have given God the start of my day and did my God thing.  God wants more than just that.  He wants us.  See God knows that if He has us, He will have our time and attention.  If we are God's then everything we do will have pure motives and thus will be for His glory and for His attention and all our time will be for that purpose.  For me, I can think "I am a missionary.  I left my beloved Santa Cruz and moved to the Andes Mountains.  I am doing things for God."  But what does that matter if the Lord doesn't have me.  I think at times we can think that we have to do something extreme to be really sold out for Christ or to really be able to say we have given ourselves to God.  "Look at what I am doing!"  We can trust in our works and actions.  Even as I type that, "Look what I am doing" I can feel my skin cringing!  It was about me.  It wasn't for the Lord, so obviously He doesn't have me if I can truly think that.  And I know that there will be times that we all struggle and even have self righteousness which is one of the most ugly sins there are and it doesn't mean that we haven't given ourselves to God, but I can't look at what I am doing or have done.  That sure can be a breading ground for a self righteous pharisaical attitude.  That can also be a hinderance in being content with what the Lord has called you to do or where He has placed you.  I look at certain missionaries or pastor's and go "Wow, they are doing the thing, they are the real deal, I need to do more."  But God wants you and me, not our attention or time.  Attention and time come when we are His.  He knows that.  We can't reverse that order.  God has placed each one of us right where we are at.  We need to be content and we need to just be faithful and not look to others as our standard or our motivation.  We can't look to what we do but to who Jesus is and what He has done.  Trust me, God wants our attention!  God wants our time!  But first and foremost God wants us.  Those are byproducts of the prime product.  The giving of ourselves doesn't mean that we have to pack up and leave our town and move across the world.  The giving of ourselves means we walk in the Spirit and walk in the ways of Jesus.  It means submitting to the providences of God.  It means living for Him!  It means trusting in Him alone!  It means dying to self!  And don't get confused that the action is a demonstration of the giving of your self.  "Well I moved to Peru, so I have given myself."  No that means nothing.   You can do an action with impure motives, for selfish reasons, to bring glory to yourself or to try to earn God's love.  Be faithful where ever the Lord has placed you.  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and then all these other things will be added.  God wants you.  God wants me.  So much so that He sent His only Son to take the punishment that we deserved.  To cleanse us from filth and our sin.  He laid down His life.  Imagine for a moment who He was.  What Christ left.  What Christ endured for His people's sake.  Put that into perspective and then allow the Spirit to help you lay down your life.  He wants us.  Every part. Jim Elliot said "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."  Jesus said "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."  Maybe today, we can loose our lives for Jesus.  Maybe today, we can give ourselves to God.  I was challenged by that C.S. Lewis quote.  I don't know about you, but there is so much of me that needs to go to the cross.