… claimed into JOY …

Where I sat and what I listened to still stand and sound very vividly in my head.  I have the priviledge to share with you the following now being transcribed into written words, it was His invitation to me.  It was His invitation to challenge me the way I sit, the way I stand, the way I live, the way I spend, the way my heart beats, the way I am convicted to put action into my faith.  I am praying that the following will challenge you too :

“One seizes the power of every moment and who unleashes the full potential of their life is that they have an advance mentality.  And no matter how much fear, no matter how much self doubt, how overwhelmed they are by the obstacles they face, they still move forward, and they jump.  And it’s a great privilege for me to introduce you one such person whose life I believe reflects these very attributes.  His life is a long obedience in the same direction.  It has been one of focus, one of intentionality, one of commitment; to a country for the last 20 years as God has used him to be involved in rebuild the broken gates and walls of the nation of Cambodia.  Brian has shown me that when we harness our potential for God’s kingdom and are willing to enter into those places of pain and darkness, one person indeed can make a difference.  And so, would you please welcome Brian McConaghy, the founder of Ratanak Foundation.

Well I’m not sure who that guy was being spoken about.  That’s humbling indeed to listen to.  What I hope is that you not catch any kind of a glimpse of Brian McConaghy over this weekend, but that you catch a glimpse of what God is doing with children in Cambodia.  When we were singing I was very conscious of the fact that we were not singing in a vacuum.  We’re singing in a rich rich historical heritage.

In the late 18th early 19th century England, which was at that time the naval and economic power of the world, was subjected to the madness of one man.  A man, who over and over and over again, would not give‑up on what was on his heart.  He worked years for his goals.  That man was Wilberforce.  And his long journey started with education.  He needed to be educated about the problems of this world in order to make it personal for him.  For if things are not personal,  we simply do not have the drive to make change.

In making it personal he understood grief.  I believe we too will understand grief if we take it upon ourselves to look at some of the ugliness this world has to offer.  But, more than anything else, he applied his faith.  The celebrated acts of Wilberforce were not so much acts of social justice as they were a logical outworking of his faith.

Today’s slavery is no less grotesque.  It is no less daunting.  There are thousands of people in sex slavery just in Cambodia.  There are millions in slavery throughout the world.  Let’s be under no illusion this is brutal brutal stuff.  Western society has the luxury to look away, to change the channel, to isolate ourselves in this western affluent cocoon, to create a studied ignorance in which we all live.  God has no such luxury.  He is compelled to be involved because this for him is intensely personal.  There are no options if love is involved.  We can only love that which we know.

And so I’m excited to see you here this weekend; that you are giving up time to learn and to know.  And my hope is that through the process of knowledge you will grow to love those who suffer, that that will become a personal thing for you.  The personal relationship that God has with all the unseen kids that we don’t know about drives him.  He is absolutely passionate for these children.

Rich Mullins, in one of his songs, has described the love of God as the “Reckless raging fury they call the love of God.”  I love that illustration.  For this is a father that is angered.  This is a father who rushes to the defense of his children.  Such love is not diminished, not sidetracked, not tamed, not domesticated, and it’s absolutely not afraid of grief.  So do we want to see as God sees?  Those are fearsome words.  That’s a very tall order for us.

What I’ve said to many people getting involved with Cambodia over the years is, “To learn to love Cambodia is to learn to grieve.”  Those two are absolutely joined.  We are subject to such grief if we chose to look into the darkness.  Like God, if you choose, you will share burdens, you will know grief, you may feel overwhelmed, you may experience trauma, you will know tears, as any of us who have worked in Cambodia know tears.

I would encourage you not to shy away from these things.  For such emotions are a picture of God’s heart for his children.  They drive us to action because it personalizes this.  These are no longer distant children, they become more and more real the more we learn.  That is dangerous stuff.  It’s life changing stuff.  But it’s very powerful stuff.

So, will all the hardships of the world, all the trauma of the children we are gonna hear about this weekend, will this drive us away?  Absolutely it will drive you away; if you do not have love.  Without love, don’t even start this process because that is what will keep you going.  That is the sole thing that keeps you going.

How much hardship, how much distress, how much grief would it take for you to give‑up on your own children if they were suffering?  There is no amount of hardship, there is not amount of grief, there is not amount of trauma.  Parents will keep coming back and coming back and coming back, year in, year out in the defense of their children.  And God calls us to make this whole issue, of far‑off children being exploited, personal.  He calls us to be as parents; driven.  That we will not give‑up, that we will not be dissuaded, that we will move forward whatever the difficulties, and we will see lives changed, claimed by him into joy.

And in so doing, despite all those negatives I’ve talked about, let me assure you that at the end of this process, and even as a blessing through this process, you can experience even joy as we see lives changed.  For this is a rich, rich thing, not easy, but it is a rich rich thing to serve our God for those who do not have a voice.

Wilberforce was faithful.  He was tenacious.  He was driven.  He was passionate.  He was a man of weakness.  He was a man that suffered from constant ill‑health.  In the great strong leaders we seek in the world today, he was a failure, but he had love and he had faith.  And he kept going for decades.

He stands as an example to us, of one who is tenacious.  His task was huge; ours is no less so.  But we work alongside the very same God he served.  And we have rights to expect the very same thing from God who loves his children and works for his glory in their lives.  I hope you experience just a little of that passion of God this weekend.  Thank you.”

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