Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
So I am back from Nepal, and facing a few of my own giants.
We have carefully reviewed many options. Either a church keep challenging itself to grow, or it dies. Churches were built to build people, not just comfort them. Freedom Valley is no exception.
We have explored a lot of options on how to move forward. The bottom line is, after all of those options have been explored, it seems like the time is right to double our sanctuary space, so that we can continue to expand our ability to change lives, build families, and make the world a kinder, more excellent place.
Sunday night, I meet with key leaders to talk about why I think this is the time, and this is the way to reach our world more effectively. I want to hear from our leaders and have us seek the heart of God together, and move forward.
There is a lot at stake for us. I'm looking forward to the journey.
Monday, October 27, 2008
While the seminars have been done for two days, still we wait to leave Kathmandu, Nepal. Our tickets were far more expensive to get an earlier flight out. So we dideiced to take the last couple of days and save a large pile of money.
This gave me time to preach in another church, where people crowded in by the thousand. They all take off their shoes at the door, and sit on the carpet (Persian rug style that covered everything) for the entire service. You can really pack them in that way.
When we arrived, the service had already begun. They ushered us in through a side door near the stage. then an usher came and brought me over to the sernior Pastor, whose was sitting on the floor up against the stage. every square inch of floor space was taken, making sitting there even more uncomfortable.
When I introduced myself, I asked in anyone had been to Gettysburg and 5-6 people raised their hands! One of them was from Strasburg, next to my home town of Gap. She/they are missionaries over here. after the service we met another young American lady who is working for the United Nations's Unicef children's program as an interpreter. She grew up speaking 5 or 6 languages, and could help them tremendously i that way. I asked her how she felt about the U.N. efforts to help children and she said it seemed as if most of the money was wasted, and far too little actually helped anybody. Sad. But we as a nation are U.N. drunk, and keep giving them millions to waste.
But that was Saturday. This is Monday morning. We have said goodbye to Johannes, and Peter, and Walter, all from SOS international. Our India host Asoken and his family are still here with us, and providing any help we need as useless foreigners. He is Johannes' man here i India, and has seen 160 churches planted under Johannes' SOS international ministry, with almost no financial support from Johannes. Their last report was almost 3000 believers in those churches, and growing so rapidly that they may hit 4000 by Spring!
This morning Asoken (pronounced ash-ol-ken) asked for a last sevrice with us, and insisted in washing out feet. This is an amazingly humbling event. It is also amazingly bonding.
So we cannot wait to get on that airplane and come home! We are packing, doing last minute shopping, and generally getting it all put together. In a few minutes I need to go down and pay our bill for the week.
Thank you all for making this possible financially. And for carrying us in prayer. We have been tested in many ways, but God brought us through and helped us all along the way. we have seen healing, salvations, and Pastors being healed. We hope and pray that every penny of value was used to the uttermost for His Kingdom.
Friday, October 24, 2008
So I guess I will boldy ask yet again. In about an hour, about 11pm your time, we will be an our next service- a huge church service of 1500- to 2000 people. I covert your prayers as I preach.
Our seminar for India Pastors is over. Many of them headed home tonight. Some leave in the morning. A number of them have more than 4 days journey home, but bus, train, and whatever else they have to do. Some of them Pastor multiple churches, and as far as I can tell ALL of them plan to plant multiple churches yet this year.
As we prayed over them, God gave prophetic words, healings, and the healing of tears. A quick story: "Pastor Saybastian" told me that he had pain in his hip. It has hurt for 4 years. Two nights ago we prayed and he says he did not feel any pain at all since then. He was ecstatic!
As a team, we have survived some heavy stuff. We were rebuked for cultural insensitivities, and struggled to know which (if any) issues we should confront. So far we are all healthy, happy, and feeling as if we came and delivered what God sent us for.
Tomorrow I am preaching in a local church. They said 2000 people will likely attend this service. Then we should have about about a day to rest before we have to get on an airplane. I am so ready to be home, as I always am. My body may be here, but my heart stays in Gettysburg, with my favorite people on earth.
Thanks for being my friends,
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Johannes preached for 2 hours this morning, then I taught for another 2. I spoke about surving the brutal criticims in leadership, and asked them if some of them wanted prayer for their hurts. They ALL wanted prayer and we went to work, hearing so many stories of so much pain, persecution, rejection by their families, and criticisms over themistakes they are making in new leadership. It was such an honor to get to be part of their healing.
After lunch the entire group hit the streets for hours of witnessing, casting out devils, and healings. It was very exciting stuff. My team and I spent the afternoon in a Hindu Temple- sharing Jesus. Amber Martin (she was amazing!) led several people to Christ, as did our interpreter. I was the back prayer warrior, and rarely if ever prayed so hard in my life.
Jake's team worked in other places. On their way back to the church, Jake was unhappy that he had not personally led anyone to Cjrist yet, so he stopped off a music store and admired a johnny Cash cd. The propietor came over, and Jake led him to Christ, referencing Johnny Cash's faith in Jesus! Those kinds of thigs were very exciting and rewarding. Other teams cast out demons, healed lame people, and saw a lot more salvations! There must have been more than 50 salvations I would guess. Johannes and Walter led our waiter here at the hotel, to Jesus, while Peter and Asoken led our driver to Christ!
But tonight we are all very tired. This team has all been getting up by 5 am so that we could each spend some extra time in prayer before we go to work. So our days have been long.
Tomorrow, we end our conference with an ordination service, in which 30 ministers will be ordained. Today Johannes got an update as to how his churches were doing, and was excited to hear that the SOS 120 church in India have about 1600 believers. This is up from 1000 in January, when he last received the report. He expects to top 2000 here before the end of the year.
Today, he and his team prayed over and plotted outa possible festival here in October, where they hope to lead many thousands to faith in Christ, and plant their first church here in Nepal. he is very pumped about that too!
So now I will drag myself to bed. Another satisfying and tiring day is done. I fele like I could fall asleep on my way to the room.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
We had a wonderful day here in Nepal, except for the terrible news that Joe and Vicky Cooper lost a wonderful nephew- Officer David Tome. Our hearts and prayers are with you in your grief.
Johannes' teaching first thing this morning, rocks my world as it usually does. Then I taught for about 3 hours, and we prophesied over each Pastor. Lana sent me a word that we would be shaping the leaders who changed nations, and I heard that a lot from the Holy Spirit as we ministered. We heard stories form a few who had their churches burned down more than once. For one of them it was his house that was burned down twice- because his church is in his house- about 50 people!
Terri Close also sent a word that she felt tremendous power when she prayed for us today. I felt it too, Terri. Thanks so much for praying and sending your prophetic words. Many of you wrote me, and each one meant more than I can say. It's like you are sending me injections of Jesus, and I crave them more than I crave breath.
Tomorrow we will teach, then do an ordination of 30 Pastors! Then we will hit the streets, two by two to heal the sick, cast out devils, and win souls. Johannes said "we will do crazy stuff. You stick with me Gerry, and we will get in trouble together" Angels quaver when he talks like that. Gerry does too.
Tonight we sat together until late (it's 11pm) talking about how to win nations to Christ. I am so small, and my faith ideas so puny when it comes to these things. Please pray that God will give me some ideas that could win more of the 9 million unchurched Pennsylvania residents who do not attend church. And some ideas for Armenia, and for the Dominican Republic. I need some kind of plan that raises my faith a notch or two above the pathetic line.
Please, please promise me that you will pray with me for that. I can't even stop weaping as I write this.
Thanks you all for being my partners. I feel like I need you so badly. This life changing gospel is so precious and so life giving, and we are reaching so few. But your prayers and partnership give me heeps of courage. Thank you so much.
Today I got a detailed account of your church staff meeting yesterday morning. As I read it, I was hit with one HUGE thought- I have an absolutely unbelievably incredible team of leaders working with me. Marvin, you are becoming superb at leading when I am out- even better than when I am there I suspect. Jason, Jeremiah, and each team meber- you are really outstanding people doing such outstanding work. I feel like I owe you more hugs than I ever give. You-all who read this- hug them for me today, will you? They are incredible people- completely dedicated to serving you to their last breath.
I love you all.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Our first day of ministry in Kathmandu, Nepal, has just come to an end. Johannes preached for 3 hours, I did 1.5, and Walter, Johannes' man in Bulgaria, taught for an hour.
Preaching jet lagged is about 10 times harder. Listening to someone else preach when your body is screaming to you about it really being 4 in the morning and you should be sleeping, is harder still. I had to get up and walk to stay awake, and even then was not confident that I could do it.
But we got it done.
Johannes showed us where everyone is sleeping- in the Sunday School rooms of the host church. There was simply not enough money to buy everyone hotel rooms, so they are sleeping on the floor of the Sunday School rooms- about 15 to a room. Johannes insisted that he would sleep with them last night, and equally insisted that we would not.
Tomorrow should be about like today. But Wednesday, Johannes said that we would be sent out on an adventure for God. He said I am going with him, and if he gets thrown in jail, I am going in there with him too. He was kidding about the jail part.
Thanks everyone for praying with us and for us. I appreciate your kindness so much. A great big thanks to all who invested financially in this trip as well. May God bless you in a special way each day that we are here. I am asking Him to open the windows of financial blessing on you as well.
That is economic HIS bailout plan. Granted, it cost him more than 700 billion (the life of His boy was involved), but it's free to us. And I am praying it on you who sacrificially gave.
I love and miss you-all so much.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Clay France drove us up. I love his driving because it's like mine- aggressive, yet smooth and solid. he doesn't waster any time. He knew his route and executed it like a pro.
Okay, it's like my driving in my dreams!
Anyway, thanks for all your help with generous giving, and much prayer. I have never felt as covered in prayer as I have on this one. And probably never needed it more.
We ended up bringing $7000 with us for the crusade that we are conducting in Katmandu. We previously sent $9500, so that brings us to $16,500. This is short of the $25,000 we hoped for, but a good number nevertheless! I am praying God's richest blessings on all of you who gave so generously. YOUR economy will be abundant, YOUR homes will be blessed, and your life will experience the richness that comes form the bearing the burdens of those who suffer for Jesus! I love you-all so much for caring about this.
Most of you also give sacrificially (more than your tithes) to Freedom Valley's building program as well. You are blessed for it, and much loved.
But most of all, thanks for being my friends.
From here on I HOPE to stay in touch with you, but as you know, it can be tough to do so when one travels.
Friday, October 17, 2008
1. Assume that people like you; it s a self fulfilling prophecy in many cases. The opposite belief (most people will not like me) also tends to come true many times.
2. Do not think tired. Stop repeating over and over how tired you are. It makes it worse, and multiplies the resulting issues.
3. Be fully present. Stop doing things halfway. Be fully IN the things you chose to get involved in, or have to be part of.
4. Learn to pull rather than push. Lead people by getting ahead and pulling them toward you, not be getting behind and pushing. Everyone hates to be pushed.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Today again, I came out of the planning sessions for our possible upcoming building campaign, and I felt like a person who had been run over by a truck. And then run over again.
Vision excites me and makes me feel alive. I love dreaming about what could be, and thinking about how it could get done. But the details that go into getting it done, often make me with I had never thought of it.
I need some new and better way of thinking about these meetings, so that I can weather them better. I need to go into them with some thought, or approach that makes it possible to live through them and even thrive on them. Today was something I don't want to live through again, and since I need to be in these meetings, I will need to figure out a way to handle it better.
I am still loving the Harvest Cry event, because I am not in the planning meetings! If I was in the meetings, I'd probably end up hating the whole event. I feel like I need to figure out why I am affected this way so that I can practice some new approach to them.
It's not my favorite part of me.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Here's the deal; Frank canceled, so we changed the ticket for Jake Lewis to go. Now Frank is back on and the ticket is un-canceled.
The plan is to do teaching and healing services during the day, providing ministry and caring for Pastors and their families. In the evening, the plan is for a crusade to break out, one way or another, resulting in lots of salvations of precious Nepalese people.
Now a race to the finish, preparing, replacing myself here at ministry events that I will not be at, and packing bags.
We leave Sunday morning the 19'th, drive to JFK airport in NY, and fly to Abu Dabhi, then on to Katmandu, the capital of Nepal. We return on the 28'th.
Thanks everybody for praying for us! We did not yet receive the $25,000 needed. I believe we have about $15,000 or so. I am still asking for it, and believing that God has a plan.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
So it really is all about money. In spite of the ultra liberal shtick about being nice, and humane, and caring, and human rights, all we really care about is, who is going to make me richer. Who will put more money in my pocket. Who will make us more prosperous.
Never mind that we have fallen silent about the wanton slaughter of innocent people. (Call it a fetus, it will help you sleep). It's all about money. It is socially unacceptable for spineless politicos to even mention this useless issue. Those babies will never vote for us, so we don't care if they scream while we hack them to pieces so that we can have an easier life.
And I am about tired of whiney Christians who tell me that it's wrong to talk about politics in the pulpit, as if it waters down the gospel. Show me a 'christian' who advocates less political talk in the puplit, and I will show you a closet liberal who has not brought anyone to Christ in so long they cannot remember. The only reason they want us to shut up about character, life, and faith in politics, is that they stopped believing in it because of the sin they have embraced.
They believe that everybody is dirty, everybody lies, eveybody has an evil agenda, because it's what they are. I believe it's called projecting.
If God doesn't intervene soon, can this nation endure?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
1. More than half of them came directly from another church. That strikes me as very unusual. Most of these meetings historically seemed to be full of people who never knew Christ or have not been connected to a church in many years. So this seemed very different.
Importantly, they said that they felt called to Freedom Valley, which matters a whole lot to me. Of course there were also a few who said that "so far" I have not disappointed them with my preaching. (Warning: there is always next week!)
2. Several people brought up "women in ministry" as something they wanted to know more about. They were fascinated by Pastor Linda, and Pastor Jenn, as well as other leaders. Several said they have been heavily taught about how wrong it is to have women in Pastoral Ministry, and that they were willing to explore it, but had not been exposed to it before.
Several others were refreshed to see women in ministry, and had a totally opposite view.
I have not thought about this stuff in awhile. Of course I was raised in a church where it was taught that women should never lead, never Pastor, and all that. But it has been many years since I seriously re-thought this thing. I must say that I am far more content with the hermeneutics of our current stance "in Christ there is neither male nor female", than in the fancy foot work it took to make submission and orderliness in worship mean that women cannot hold certain offices in church leadership. I think our stance is far more consistent with all of scripture, and consistent with the nature and character of God as revealed throughout every context of the word.
The "women must be held to the traditional version of submission" group seems to be more reactive to the current societal problems of divorce, thinking that we can return to a lower divorce rate by enforcing an older version of the role of women. But I cannot see their logic, nor can we know that they are right about how they view history (was marriage better then?), nor can it be demonstrated that there is less divorce in those church cultures!
Nevertheless, it is interesting that at the core of their arguments seems to be a cultural thing, rather than an attempt to accurately reflect the Word of God. And it is just simply difficult to press their view into scripture, it seems to me.
Friday, October 10, 2008
It makes me jealous of myself. I want to be this guy when I grow up! Until then, it's nice that people like Charity give me this huge reputation to live up to.
From that Charity:
Is the economy going to fall apart, is our next president the one we deserve, have I prayed enough, read my Bible enough, witnessed enough, or cared enough about my neighbor. Some stress take a religious tone.
Do I have enough in my bank account, is my future taken care of, could my worries come true? Is my health good enough?
Okay, you get the picture.
But, the challenge for me is, to get my mind and thoughts off the possibilities and fears of what could go wrong, and get a bigger perspective. Like when you are looking out of an airplane window at 15,000 feet and see the highways full of scurrying cars, and the streets of the town bustling with people. Where are all those over stressed people going? And why? And can life be that important that everyone of them is so stressed about getting there so fast?
That 15,000 foot perspective changes everything when you sort of watch the panorama, rather than living out of your own two eyes only.
There are a couple of other ways to change perspective as well. A man told me recently that he had inherited $93,000 from his parents will. He called home to tell his wife as soon as he heard the news that they were now in a much better position financially. When his wife heard his voice on the phone, she started crying hysterically about a huge new bill for $631 that has come in the mail that day, and that they were hopelessly sinking in debt.
He couldn't get a word in edge wise, so he simply had to let her cry out her frustrations. When her sobbing finally subsided enough, he told her the news.
His perspective was different because he knew stuff that she did not know! That little information changed everything. $631 meant nothing in the light of the other information- $93,000!
Worship is like that. Everything changes when you get the rest of the story, and focus on the right facts. That God is in control, that He has plenty of money, health, happiness, and good days, for you.
This weekend, we start The Power of Worship. God help us
(make that ME)
really deeply, get it.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
If you focus on things that are bad and falling apart, you are drawn in that direction, inching your way toward that thing. Stress gets stronger when you focus on what could go wrong and think about how wrong it could be.
But when you focus on a peaceful, unified, strong, healthy whole, you can move in that direction too. Stress falls away when you dream about what could is right and could go right. And it puts in motion an inviolable power that creates an irresistible response.
God Himself is drawn to the power of worship. He lives in it, like He cannot resist the power of joy and the choice to exert it. And where He is, there is a fullness, unlike the emptiness and shallow pain that comes from a focus on stress.
I am looking forward to what happens as we journey into this thing- worship. Take a deep breathe and plunge into it with me! 7 weeks of life-building power!
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
As President of the Borough Council, I generally cannot even vote, but I called for a roll call vote so that I would have the privilege of registering my lonely no vote. It passed anyway of course, and I can be okay with democracy in the long run.
But then we passed a change to an ordinance to fine people whose grass grows to 8" tall. (It was 12"). And we talked about a number of other problems the town has, all of which had someone proposing a new law. No truck parking in town, no skate boarding, no new residents without registering at the town office, no parking within a block of the square, are just a few that we considered or are considering.
Maybe I was not aware of how deeply held is my aversion to laws, and especially to new taxes, is. We seem to be in a law making frenzy and I cannot seem to slow or stem the tide!
My spiritual gifting is mercy, leadership, and teaching. I guess it is the mercy gift that makes me reluctant to enforce new laws on people, and tell other people what to do. But it is also a belief that laws should be kept simple, and we should be reluctant to tell others what they must do, leading by example, PERSONAL, not governmental discipline, and that government should restrain itself and give every freedom possible.
But I sure feel like a lonely reed, blowing in the wind. I have few friends in this pursuit.
It strikes me that as American society, we seem to be less and less respectful of God's laws, but more and more enamored with our own ability to control each other.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
He wants to talk with someone about how we might strategize the Kingdom of God taking over in America.
It's really rare to find someone who wants to talk about that.
Not that we don't all want to make a difference. Or that we don't believe that we will ultimately win when God personally takes over in a Book-of-Revelation type scenario at the end of time.
But it is so rare to find someone to want to discuss how it might happen, and whether or not we can be part of catalizing (there, it's my new word, meaning "to cause something to happen") it into existence. Perhaps we don't ultimately believe it is possible, or that it is out of our reach, or that we have no options except to plod along, hoping for SOMETHING to occur that could move it forward.
Whatever the reason, I have a craving need to find people to talk to about it. I feel really small and not nearly the leader that is needed to make this happen. But neither can I let it alone. And God stirs my soul unbelievably when the idea comes up.
So what would our world look like if we once again had a majority of people attending church, loving God, healing from their past, becoming visionary, and choosing healthy lifestyles?
It wouldn't even have to be 50%. Just a growing faith community would be enough. Winning instead of losing, growing instead of shrinking, would be enough to radically change everything. Momentum in the right direction would change everything!
I have been in meeting with some gutsy visionaries who were dreaming about the body of Christ growing 5%. That is how serious this is- we dream wistfully of tiny little growth numbers!
Not many people exist who even honestly dream of doing more than diminishing less rapdily.
And I am no better. I have little vision in my soul. That is, I don't honestly know that I have any ideas of how to get it done. I have tried a lot of things that didn't work, and a lot of things that work a little.
But by the grace of God, we desperately need something that works A LOT!
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Since Jocelyn's death June 18, we have now baptized 138 new believers in water. Her Father- Rick said tonight: "we ask for 100 salvations and they came more quickly than expected. So we are asking for 1000 now. And when we get that, we will ask for 10,000." I love Ricky's faith and am partnering with the Rife family to allow God to bring good out of bad.
God is bringing good out of bad.
Jocelyn's death was a bad thing to be sure. Satan stole her away from us. But God makes good things out of bad if you trust him and these good things bring some healing to the pain of losing a really awesome young lady.
Tonight, especially, we saw the harvest happen again.
10 were baptized.
I prayed with 1 lady to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and she spoke in tongues. God also allowed me to prophesy over her about her future in leadership.
And to top it off, we had one of the largest Saturday night crowds that we ever had! I feel like I can go home with that satisfied feeling that God has spoken, and I have been obedient.
There are some really powerful things happenings right now in the Saturday night service- God things. I am loving it.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
He will be preaching a sermon I heard before- at his daughter's funeral. While we all grieved, God spoke to him about how powerful Jocelyn's 15 years were because she got what few ever get; that love is what makes life work, gives it meaning, excitement, and burst.
We've been doing the Top Seven teaching of the Bible, and I love this journey. But the fact is, you can know them all as information, and miss what makes them work- love!
I can be unbelievably gifted, and smarter than Solomon, and still miss the value that puts it all together- loving people to share it with.
The Rife family applied their faith and went to work to make Jocelyn's loving heart make a difference. At the end of that week, we baptized 97 people and another 30 since. God used Jocelyn's story again and again to help hurting people put life together and go back to loving others, building relationships, and caring.
This is an amazing family, celebrating Jocelyn's amazing life, and gathering people to see her in Heaven.