Journeying With Jesus

The Adventure of Faith

Risk Taking

My wife and I were at a dinner the other night and a friend asked me a very interesting question, “What was the most risky thing you have ever done in your life?” I think the answer I gave her was quite bland and unimpressive. My friend must have thought I was a toad. I’m sure she was thinking, “what a dud!” But the answer I gave her was true! I thought about my friend’s question in light of  my response and decided that is I could go back in time and elaborate more clearly, this is what I would have said.

I have traveled to Ethiopia and driven across miles of dirt and rocky roads far from civilization. I was going to places I have never been before in a vehicle that eventually had three flat tires before we returned home. But that remote and dangerous travel in a third-world country wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.checkpoint charlie

In my early twenties, my wife and I traveled to Austria. We hooked up with a mission agency that took Bibles and Christian resources behind what was then called the Iron Curtain. We had to pass through national check points with guards armed with machine guns as they scrutinized our  passports and vehicle. With this group we traveled behind the Iron Curtain to East Berlin, Budapest, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. Some in our group were caught at the border going into Hungry, questioned for hours, searched, held and eventually expelled from the country. We were aware that the secret police had the technology to listen into conversations while you were driving in the car. Times were often quite tense and scary. But this wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.

Iraq

Kirkuk, Iraq

A few years ago I traveled to Iraq to attend a conference of Iraqi Christians who gathered from all over their country. The war was waging, Saddam was still at large, and we had armed guards with us wherever we went. To fly into Baghdad, we had to stay at a high altitude until we were directly over the airport and then steeply spiral down to a landing. This was the only way to avoid being shot down by a shoulder held surface-to-air missile. During the nights you could often hear gun fire. But being in Iraq during the middle of war wasn’t the riskiest thing I had ever done.

Traveling remote distances in Ethiopia, smuggling Bible into Eastern Block countries, and being in Iraq during times of intense warfare all involved risk and at times were extremely stressful. But those adventures, although dangerous, did not define what I would describe as my highest risk.

The answer I gave to my friend was “church planting.” CHURCH PLANTING! Why is that so risky you ask.  Church planting in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties is so similar to what God asked of Abram. “Leave your family, your people, and your country and go to the place I will show you.” In this type of faith response, there are no guaranteed finances, people support, or pathway. God shows you as you go. For people who like to have a plan in place before they start the journey, church planting is a killer. It is pioneering work. You are constantly going into new territory. You are doing things you have never done before.  Sure there are things you can learn from others, but the particular path God has for you is quite unique. It is not for the timid. Many times Laura and I have wanted to quit. We often wonder if we are whacked. On this road of faith there is no security apart from God.

The other three ventures I described were quite risky for a short period of time. But we are on this current road of church planting untll death. While parts of the church planting journey grow easier as we learn, there are always new unexpected challenges to face.  Most people would not think of church planting as being risky…but believe me, it is the riskies thing I have ever done.

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June 8, 2009 Posted by | House Church, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of a Child’s Prayer

child_prayingA couple of weeks ago we were enjoying a Celebration Gathering of all of our Santa Cruz house churches. During our study time, four of the adults took about 10 kids, ages 3 to 14 for teaching and training on prayer.  Julie was teaching the children, in particular, how to pray for healing. After a short lesson from the Bible, we decided to let the kids practice on a real life subject.  I volunteered.

You see, about 3 months earlier I had gone down to the L.A. region to celebrate my oldest son’s 28th birthday.  He had rented out an ice skating rink and had invited about 50 friends to play broom hockey. Let’s just say I was the oldest person out on the ice by at least 25 years. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes into the game before I slipped on the ice, tried to catch myself with my forearm, and tore something in my shoulder. I heard it tear, I felt it tear. Since that fall three months ago I haven’t been able to put a shirt on without extreme pain. Sleeping has often been miserable. You can now see why I volunteered to be a good subject for the kids to practice on!

All the children gathered around and laid hands on me. I think it was a 10 year old girl who began.  “Jesus,” she said sweetly, “will you heal Mr. Gschwend’s shoulder….by tomorrow.” With that short plea, a little 3 year old girl piped in, “Amen.” Then the other children began to pray for me…some with boldness…some with timidity…but all with the phrase at the end, “by tomorrow.”

To be honest with you, I didn’t think much more about it. The next day, in the afternoon, I was changing my shirt and expecting to flinch as I felt that anticpated pain…only there wasn’t any. I slowly began to move my shoulder and arm around in positions that were usually quite painful…NO PAIN.  Then I remembered their prayers, “by tomorrow.”  Nahhhhhh, I thought. Could it be?  I decided I would test it out by sleeping on it that night. Me of little faith! To my surprise I had a great night sleep without any pain.

Here I am a month later…still no pain. My shoulder is healed. It made me wonder, how often do we underestimate prayer?  How often do we underestimate a child’s prayer? However, I think the Heavenly Father is mighty partial to the prayers of faith of little children. As a matter of fact, I think that the prayers of adults would probably see more answers if we approached God from the position of humility and vulnerability of a little child. You see…we are children and there is real power in a child’s prayer. God does heal today. I know that. So do the children in our church.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | House Church, Lessons learned | , , | Leave a comment