Last week, World Vision informed us that they are nearly half-way finished with our well project in the city of Gemena in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Gemena has a population of approximately 170,000 people and sits near the exact center of the continent of Africa).
Our financial contributions from last year have gone toward a three-well project that will provide access to clean, safe drinking water for more than 36,000 people!
The finished project will include:
Improved sanitation facilities, with accommodations for people with disabilities.
Hygiene and sanitation training.
Water point management committees for each new water system.
Estimate completion date is December 2014. Thank you, Grace Church, for supporting this awesome initiative!
“If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (Matthew 10:42).
In the end it’s all about the “one.”
Today will be my last official Hole in our Gospel posting, and I think the most appropriate way to end is with Richard Stearns’ own words. He writes: “In the end God works in our world one person at a time. The hungry are fed, the thirsty are refreshed, the naked are clothed, the sick are treated, the illiterate are educated, and the grieving are comforted, just one person at a time.”
These are important closing words because after spending more than twenty weeks together reading about the dire state of our world we could be tempted to lose heart. We could compare our puny resources with the monstrosity of global needs and feel that our best efforts will still fall woefully short.
Or we could go the opposite direction.
We could recognize that while we can’t save everyone we can save one.
Although we can’t sponsor every child we can sponsor some.
We can’t water the whole world but we can irrigate a region.
We can do our part.
My hope for every Grace Church and non-Grace Church reader is that we would end this particular reading program both broken and resolved, limping under the weight and yet breathlessly excited to make a difference.
Several weeks ago I reminded you of the oft-quoted starfish story, wherein a small boy chose to rescue the stranded starfish that were within his reach even though he knew he could never reach them all. Let’s be that boy. Let’s carry God’s heart like we never have before. Let’s care at an unprecedented level. Let’s evaluate our time, talent, and treasure and commit to using all three for the glory of God and the needs of humanity.
When people come looking for us let’s be found along the seashore chucking starfish as far as we can possibly throw them.
 Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson: 2009): 257.
How do you change a bad perception to a good one? (And, no, this isn’t the beginning line of a cheesy joke—it’s actually a very important question)
If perceptions have grown dubious or negative, how do we change them?
I hate it when people draw inaccurate perceptions about me. And even more than that I hate the fact that people’s perceptions about me become their reality about me. This is true even when their perceptions have no bearing in truth.
What a person perceives me to be is who they will believe me to be.
It makes sense. I do it with you too. I read into your facial expressions and your actions or inactions and I draw certain conclusions that shape my perceptions about the kind of person you are. The frightening thing is that sometimes I’m probably wrong and I might be holding inaccurate beliefs about your life and character.
I hope this is what the non-Christian world is doing with us Christians. You’ve surely heard and experienced the grim statistics about how far out of favor Christians are falling with the general population in our world today. You’ve no doubt been on the receiving end of someone’s skepticism or mockery in regards to your claims of salvation or faith.
I really hope the mockery is wrong. I hope we’re not giving anyone in our corner of the world cause to doubt the sincerity and validity of Christianity. When they truly experience who we are, I hope their perceptions change.
Indeed, sometimes that’s the only cure for a false perception.
I am hopefully confident that true Christians will show the world such a blend of winsome grace, earnest conviction, and mobilized compassion that we could never again be perceived as anything less than genuine followers of Jesus Christ.
The Hole in our Gospel Reading Program Chapter Twenty-One: Why We’re Not So Popular Anymore
The problem with wake up calls is that they are necessarily annoying.
They have to be. A gentle, soothing alarm clock wouldn’t revive a sleepy teenager, and without some strong confrontation elements, Richard Stearns’ The Hole in our Gospel might not stimulate us to appropriate action.
However, sometimes the alarm clock message needs to be tweaked a little bit, and such is the case with chapter twenty: “A letter to the American church.”
In this chapter Stearns writes a Revelation-esque letter to America patterned after the style of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Although composed largely of Scripture and containing very relevant and timely challenges to the church in America, Stearns letter lacks one thing: affirmation.
The outline of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 follows a pattern of: affirmation–rebuke–exhortation–promise.
Jesus affirms what is going well…rebukes what is deficient…gives strategy for the remedy…and then promises either blessings or consequences for obedience or neglect.
Stearns is not wrong to challenge us—I, personally, have benefitted greatly from the strong, unflinching message of his book. However, I want to remind you that the Lord also affirms you.
- He sees your acts of devotion and your quality decisions.
- He is aware of your commitment to live for Him in a world that is awash in unbiblical ideals.
- He hears your prayers.
- He knows the compassion that breaks your heart for others.
- He is grateful that you are His.
- Yes, He will continually call us to follow Him better and love our fellow-man more, but He is also forever committed to helping us reach those ends.
The Hole in our Gospel Reading Program Chapter Twenty: A Letter to the Church in America
I can’t stop thinking about her, and I pray for her almost nightly.
I worry about her, and I feel a love for her that is quite a lot stronger than I have any right to feel.
You see I’ve never even met her.
I’ve never heard her voice, I’ve never held her hand, but I feel like she’s another daughter. Her name is Susan Samanya, and Jessica, Amber, Maddie, and I have been sponsoring her through World Vision for nearly four years.
She is nine years old and lives in a Ugandan village with an outrageously high percentage of HIV-infected residents. She is beautiful, and it’s crazy how much love our family feels for her after simply donating a few dollars, buying her some gifts, and remembering her in our prayers.
It’s almost like Jesus was onto something when He said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34).
In a world awash with financial pressure and preoccupation let’s make sure that our monetary investments give our hearts room to run. If my heart really does follow my treasure I want it to find something more substantial to land on than bills, fast food, and entertainment. I want it to land on something that will last forever.
Let’s give to our churches and let’s give to the needs in the world that most align with the burdens of our heart. Doing so will ensure that our money never owns us and that the synchronization of our treasure and our heart produces something beautiful.
The Hole in our Gospel Reading Program Chapter Nineteen: Two Percent of Two Percent
How well has the American Dream worked out for you?
Richard Stearns suggests that the great American Dream ultimately fails because it was never intended to be the end goal for our life. Although we are profoundly blessed to live in a country dubbed “the Land of Opportunity” we were created for something vastly more than merely working hard, accumulating stuff, saving for retirement, and then hoping we have enough health leftover to enjoy our savings and our stuff.
According to Stearns (and the epic message of Scripture), we were created to partner with God’s plan to redeem our broken world. We were uniquely called, gifted, and blessed to become a blessing to the world. Along the way we will experience highs, lows, blessings, droughts, exhilaration, and brokenness…and every step of the journey will ultimately prove to be absolutely worth it.
Let’s enjoy our lives—indeed, followers of Jesus should drink deeply of the joy and wonder of this life—but let’s make sure we’re moving ever closer to God’s Dream versus simply an American one.
The Hole in our Gospel Reading Program Chapter Eighteen: Putting the American Dream to Death
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” This quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently summarizes chapter seventeen of Richard Stearns’ The Hole in our Gospel.
Let me summarize the chapter differently.
Where the cry of justice should be heard the church should never have laryngitis.
Psalm 19 states that creation speaks of God’s glory in such a way that there is no place “where their voice is not heard” (verse 3 NKJV). That should be our story too.
Certainly, no church can do everything, but every church should be doing something to ensure that God’s justice and glory gets heard in every corner of our world.
Here at Grace we’re attempting to do our part. Without excluding our other priorities of prayer, worship, teaching, and pastoring our community, we’re attempting to grow in our compassion and concern so that we’re never AWOL when we should be present to serve.
If you’re in the LA County area this Sunday night I would love for you to join me at our 5:30pm Bridge service where we’ll be viewing the human trafficking documentary, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. This heart-wrenching movie will undoubtedly enlarge our hearts with God’s burden for the women and children trapped in the sex trade industry. Afterwards we will receive information about how we can partner with Traffick Free Pomona, a ministry of Pomona First Baptist Church that exists to pursue the end of trafficking in our region.
Thank you for your heart and compassion for our world. You are needed and you are loved!
The Hole in our Gospel Reading Program Chapter Seventeen: AWOL for the Greatest Humanitarian Crisis of All Time
 Richard Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN: 2010), 190.