Tuesday, August 29, 2006

From Guest Blogger Wes Fikes:

God tells us He is our Father. As I grew up, that was great to hear, but I have a dad and he's a good one. So, honestly, that designation God was using to tell me about Himself really had no value for me. Until December 13, 2005. On that day, I became a father myself. I had never before understood, never before experienced having my own son. In my mind I imagined how much fun it would be to be a dad, but I had no idea what was in store.

I had no idea that when I looked at my son, I would want him to love me as much as I love him. I had no idea that when I looked at my son, I would want him to WANT to be around me. I had no idea that when I looked at my son, I would realize I have no real control over that. That is when I understood what God means by calling himself my Father.

My son's name is Samuel Austin. I love him. I understand so many things I only smiled at before - being so proud of Sam that I want to hold him up everywhere I go so everyone can see him; wanting to spend all day with him so I don't miss anything he does whether it is new or something he's done fifty times already; listening to his breathing while he's asleep at 3 in the morning. I didn't get that before. I do now.

I know how God feels when He looks at me. He wants to hold me up for everyone to see and say, "Look at my son! His name is Wes! I love him!" That's it, isn't it? That makes me feel so good: to imagine myself in Sam's place, little and squirmy, and getting embarrassed and tucking my head onto my Daddy's shoulder.

And I'd hold Sam all day, if he'd let me. But, he won't, so I put him down so he can play and explore the world I brought him into. Again, I see my Father God. He wants me close, but also loves to see me out enjoying who it is He made me to be. In my case, Sam and I are quite alike - we both like to explore and see what's out there. If I'm not careful, Sam will crawl out of the living room and go check out some other room - without telling me! I call his name, he turns and looks at me and comes crawling back with a big smile on his face. I'm smitten! When he hits my arms and laughs or makes his own special faces that only he makes, I'm lost, gone. I'm all over him with kisses and tickles and hugs and wrestling.

I want to feel him close to me, using me for his protection and security. I want to feel him relying on my strength to protect him, even from himself when he doesn't realize what he's about to get into. I want to be his daddy. And I get it, now. That's what God means when He says He's my Father. He is all those things and everything else that it means to be a Dad. I love you, Father, and I am excited to be Your son!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Showing the Father's Love

At some churches, good fathers are abundant. At Impact, many young men and women have voids in their souls where that father figure should have been. Some children grow up not knowing who their father was. Others only get to see them occasionally. Some fathers have other families, others are always at work, some are locked away, and still others who fall to their vices are only around to make appearances. They may be there physically, but the man that needs to be there is absent.

Alfredo Mendez was one of those tragic examples. After living his own life, rising and crashing repeatedly due to addictions and poor choices, Alfredo encountered Christ and woke up. At that point, he had reached the bottom. As reality came into focus, he found himself estranged to adult children with families of their own. They would have nothing to do with him. But then, what did he have to offer? Nothing.

So what is different now? Alfredo still lives in a shack and works hard for a very little. But there is something that has changed in Alfredo. Jesus. The shack he lives in is on Impact property so that he can be readily available for any need of the church. The work he does is for a Christian family that led him to Christ. They don’t pay a whole lot, but Alfredo wants to be around them as well. His hours are flexible so that he can be able to work for Impact as well. His greatest passion is what he has found in his service to Christ

The niche that Alfredo has found is in rediscovering a new kind of fatherhood. In a way he has adopted the young people of the church. Throughout the Fall and Spring semesters of the Bible Institute, Alfredo did everything he could to pick up three to six young people every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and take them to evening Bible classes. All of these kids are in great need of a father figure and hero in their lives. Someone who really cares for them today, and cares for their future. These young people know that Alfredo loves them. He loves them unconditionally. He loves them as he is loved, by his heavenly Father. His greatest desire is not that the young men and women that he is helping see him as anything special. His only desire is that they know his Father’s love.

The Father's love is emitted through the heart of Alfredo. The kids he encourages can see it, and others can see it. Even his own family can now finally see it and God has been at work in the mending of those broken relationships. To Alfredo, reconciliation with his family is miraculous. But that is what Our Father wants to do: the impossible. Our Father is present. Our Father is good. Our Father fills any void that might have been, and is in our lives. All we can do is humbly accept His love and do our best to reflect it into the lives of those around us. Alfredo is not perfect, but he has the perfect love of Christ in him and it shows. We are not perfect, but we have the perfect love of Christ when we are in Christ. What a joy to release what He has put inside of us, as we show to others our Father's love.

“…because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
-Rom 8:14

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sunday, August 6, 2006
Highlights: Marina Hernandez was baptized today! She has so much desire to serve Christ here at Impact. Pray that God channels her enthusiasm in a ministry that uses her gifts well.

A portion of the Hispanic worshippers attended an area-wide gathering of Spanish speaking Christians for a "Confraternidad" at Lawndale.

The Oklahoma mission team returned yesterday afternoon, as well as the Camp-of-the-Hills group. We can't wait to hear more and post some pictures.

67 of our Hispanic children were taken in by the First Colony Church of Christ to receive school supplies. A large portion of those were taken there yesterday to go shopping for school clothes as well. Several families sign up every year to go out with these kids and cover a large portion of their back-to-school expenses. Plus, its a LOT of fun for the kids and the "adoptive" families!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"It Seems Like Katrina Only Happened Last Week"
The following was taken from another blogspot of one of Impact's youth ministers, Wes Fikes.
“I just spent 5 days with 14 middle school kids. That is 120 hours of non-stop, around-the-clock, in-your-face attention from 14 kids who have more energy than 50 adults combined. For the first 3 days, we gutted houses in New Orleans. That means, we walked into a house that had been flooded with at least 8 feet of water, and some houses had 12 or 15 feet. The water had subsided months ago, but the damage was still as real as if it had happened yesterday. My kids carried out ruined furniture, shoveled mud and dirt, broken down walls and ceilings and carefully moved salvageable memories for 3 days. At the end of those 3 days, we rested. Destruction is hard work. On the fourth day, Sunday, we worshipped with a local church, then went sight-seeing in New Orleans - Cafe du Monde, the Aquarium, etc. On the fifth day, we came home tired, worn out, but somehow wanting to go back. God is good. I'd like to comment a little on what I saw. The amount of destruction from Katrina is overwhelming. Block after neighborhood block have houses that are still waiting for something to be done to them. As we were gutting a house on our first day, I began to realize the enormity of what happened. And I don't mean on a national, state, or even community scale. I mean the enormity of personal loss and upheaval......I believe this disaster has been monumental for the body of Christ. Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant, whatever. Differences aside, the body of Christ has taken a huge step in reclaiming its heritage - helping those who cannot help themselves, loving the hopeless and feeding the hungry. I believe the true nature of the church is shining in New Orleans. The church is who is gutting houses. The church is who is sitting with owners and listening to their stories. The church is loving people. The government isn't in there gutting houses. And it's not their job. It is ours, it is the church's. And we are doing it. Not out of obligation, but love.”