Category Archives: Missional

Responsibility of Joy

I have become less enamored with church. We are part of a small, home church community, and even that has been less than satisfactory. What I’ve come to realize is that nothing is perfect this side of Heaven. And by perfect I mean complete. The church itself is a walk of sanctification. As a body moves when the joints and members move with it, it can also be hindered when the joints and members are hindered. Interestingly, as we physically age, our joints and members cooperate less if we fail to exercise and eat well. Hence, the church. Unforeseen problems occur. Frustration ensues. People don’t cooperate. We begin to see that Advil temporarily cures the body’s ailment just as a powerful Bible study or a featured speaker cures the church. Yet this is the place where my faith has increased ten-fold; where God has exposed Truth in such a profound and uncanny way that one cannot deny the existence of the Spirit among the brethren.

So my admiration moves out of the church as an institution, to church as a living movement of the Holy Trinity working in accordance with the Believers for the cause of God’s everlasting kingdom.

I no longer walk away saying, “Wow, Pastor Edward had a great message today,” I now walk away saying, “Wow, God’s Word is alive and working in my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters.” I now admire, cherish and expose the work of the Holy Spirit among us. Becoming less-enamored with institutionalized church is a higher call of the mature Believer as long as we reposition our admiration on God and His work in the body of believers we call church.

But that can sometimes be tricky. People are part of the church, and I find that agape and phileo love is increasingly difficult. When Holy Truth is exposed it comes with itself a particular level of responsibility. I call it the responsibility of joy: and that is love. What’s not to love about our church members? Ah, when they challenge our teachings; when they don’t respect our work; when they question God; when they refuse to think outside the box; when they exchange the magnificent for the trivial, and so on. And then I realize it’s ME with the problem. I blindly enter into these relationships with a certain level of expectation, and when my expectations aren’t met, I grow increasingly weary of the individual. Foolishness sets in and my heart is hardened; no love can penetrate; the humbleness of the Holy Spirit is my only cure. Time begs a response. I have a choice to ignore or–-once again-–be sanctified by Truth. Hebrews 12:4-6 is a bitter but hopeful reminder.

Of these things I find that intimacy with Christ and living missionally is the cure–-at least for me. And that means I must intentionally spend time getting to know my Savior through His walk, His teachings, His expectations and His commands. Then I must share this Truth with others with no worldly expectation. As a matter of fact, my only expectation in sharing Truth is persecution–for we are truly savages in our core. In serving, evangelizing or teaching, I nearly expect a savage response! Anything above that is God’s full and complete Glory. None of it belongs to me. And sanctification has its fulfillment in God’s glory when we not only recognize that truth, but live for it.

Joy has its rewards, but it also carries with it a higher level of responsibility than we might ordinarily be comfortable with. Sadly, most people would rather settle for a complicated and shallow life of worldly happiness.

Father, may I be your servant who is enamored by you alone, understands the responsibility of joy and willingly shares these precious Truths with the brethren and savages alike.  Save me from my worldly desires which ultimately rob me of joy.  My dear Heavenly Father, draw me closer still.

Advertisements

Faith Without Works

hand reachingWhat use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. – James 2:14-17

In these verses James shares with us an important element of our faith. The outward result of our faith is works (e.g. missions). In his book, Victorious Living, E. Stanely Jones writes: “But a man may have an intellectual belief in everything in the creed of the churches and not have faith. Faith is an adventure of the spirit, a going out of the whole inner life in response to something we believe to be supremely worthwhile.”

Is this a challenge to us today? Are we being called to literally exercise our faith with good works? And what is the result of we don’t? Jesus gives us a warning in Revelation 3:16: “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” And James poses a rhetorical but chilling question, “Can that faith save him?” -James 2:14

Our conclusion would be that this faith is useless and brings no results to the kingdom of Christ, and I dare say, cannot lead to salvation as James 2:26 states: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

Our faith begs a response, and our response must be missional; works must then follow. When we go out in faith, Christ steps in and shines His light through us to a lost and broken world.

So I ask you, brethren, is your faith alive?


Watching the World through Glass Panes

WindowWorld

I’ve grown dissatisfied with this view of the world.

I have a huge window in my dining room which gives me a big view of the street upon which I live. I like to stand at that window and peer at the world early in the morning. A jogger passes by, a car speeds past, a stray dog sniffs something in the yard and moves along – all without any sound, all without any interaction with the people behind the glass.

It’s the very window where I watched my children grow up, remembering my daughter playing safari in the tall grasses of the field across from us—now inhabited with a house—where, donned in a bathing suit, a bicycle helmet and fuzzy winter boots, she single-handedly played the part of six safari animals. To this day her imagination never ceases to amaze and amuse me. It’s the window where I saw a man I did not know carry my son’s limp body across my front lawn, a moment I’ll never forget where time stood still and I briefly thought, “can I endure this?” The next moment revealed the unspeakable gratitude of my heart when I looked into my son’s beautiful blue eyes, full of life, but slightly traumatized by the daring bicycle stunt gone awry. He was out playing again an hour later and all his buddies thought he was the coolest. I think he still is.

But I’ve grown dissatisfied with this view of the world. Through it are now a new generation of children, not my own, and it only serves to remind me of a happy chapter in my life which is slowly fading away. And while the children are lovely, the world never changes and my heart grows increasingly dissatisfied with this view.

Twelve years later, I find myself standing at the window in the dark of night, waiting for one of my kids to arrive safely home from their evening with friends so that I can go to bed and sleep peacefully, knowing they are once again safe. Yet as I lay my head on the pillow I am reminded that these windows are only our views on the world, not a fortress against danger, and I contemplate that against a heart which leans toward danger.

The confines of my home provide me no satisfaction, no security of what lies out there in the world. Yet my nomadic heart grows restless as the years drone on and I find myself with the insatiable desire to traverse these lands outside my window; meet people I’ve never met; learn a language; feed and water a human soul; open another’s heart to truths and promises he never knew existed; and unashamedly give God glory for the light of wisdom.

My window has moved to the pane of my computer where I travel distant lands using the wide world of the Internet (thanks, Al). I see smiling faces, battered women, children in refugee camps. I see people helping people and planes falling out of the sky. I watch in horror as men overcome men in shallow conquest, their victorious smiles last but a moment as they lie awake at night knowing it could have been them.

I read stories of churches and temples being torn down in the name of a false governmental idea; women beaten and jailed for talking to a man who isn’t her spouse, young boys and girls taken captive to a most vile and sinister ring of human trafficking known to mankind. I listen to mp3 links as women passionately bear their shame for abortions they now regret, their gripping stories compelling young women everywhere to keep the child. I watch videos with unclear and unfounded statistics about the intervention of anti-Christian religion in the United States, a religion where we might well see the second wave of Christianity. And then a new window becomes my focus. It stands wide and narrow but it also stands firm against Truth. It wants no part of my culture. And I hardly blame it.

Our world is changing; no one can doubt that. Our view of the world has become smaller; no one will argue that. And these views open us to something very frightening, disturbing and sobering. My hand reaches for the blinds. My first instinct is to pull the curtain, lock the window and retreat to my vain and selfish desires. How easy it is to passionately strive for worldly things and at the same time block out the world while doing it. We rush toward Wall Street while the child starves. We have pulled the curtain on love. We forget from Whom we come; for Whom we exist.

But I stand and watch because it is all I can do right now. Yet each day I find a new Truth which gives me solid ground upon which to stand, a mission behind the mission of educating the uneducated into the precarious world of the 10/40 window—a world without a savior—a world of bloodshed, oppression, marginalization and torment masked by a false sense of peace and tight-fisted governmental systems.

These are the places that draw my heart the most. And when the marginalized and oppressed smile at me through these panes of glass, I smile in return because I know their smiles are genuine, brotherly and loving. I want to be a part of that. I want to see the sunrise of their smile brought forth by authentic joy and utter Truth. I want to see their light of understanding as they read the Word and know Him for the first time. I want to call them my brother in the language they understand and stand hand-in-hand with them in grateful prayer to our Lord and King.

These windows on the world show us harvests ready for the harvesting. We cannot deny, we cannot grow complacent, and we cannot turn and judge our neighbor. We are to become so entrenched in the harvest that our response is not apathy and indifference but fervent and passionate prayer for the workers—the brethren called forth by none other than Christ Himself to come and harvest the fields.

Lift your blinds, O man! Open your curtains and unlock the window of your soul to the sacrificial love of Christ and stoop down to feed the hungry child. Go visit your field, ready for the harvest, and bend your knee to the lowly. For as you do He will lift you up and make your work a spectacular glory so all man can see and no one can doubt Whom you serve and from Whom your light shines. It’s time to open the window and see the world through the eyes of Christ.


ENSLAVED!

humantraffickingThere is nothing more vile and sinister as the wickedness of human trafficking in the U.S. and all over the world.  My missionary heart compels me to pack a bag and run—to these places—and offer relief through a helping hand, a shared word, a crust of bread.  Yet each morning finds me in that hollow place between comfort and grief as I pray and seek God’s will.  It is in that place that I realize His will for me right now is deep and fervent prayer.  We must believe that the wounds of any nation can be significantly healed through awareness and prayer.  I’ve listed below some ways you could and should help.  One person can make an incredible difference in the life of one young girl or boy, a life snatched for the purpose of the filling of a pocket. May God give us zealous and passionate hearts to respond to these so desperate.

TAKE ACTION!

Read Isaiah 58:6-11
A strategy of prayer is paramount to engaging our compassionate efforts.  This strategy must include both faith and faithfulness for the lost and broken.  Each prayer holds abiding value on earth and in heaven. Commit to praying specifically and fervently for hurting hearts.   There are three ministries below you can pray over and then seek God’s will for how you can help.  Action must first begin with prayer.  Then God will reveal the work He wants you to accomplish.

MINISTRY FOCUS – CALL & RESPONSE

Slavery is defined as exploitation, violence and injustice, and involves children and young people who are forced to work without pay and without the ability to leave.  Very often they are abused and beaten.  At over 27 million, there are more slaves in the world today than any other time in history.  Over 17,000 slaves are trafficked in the U.S. every year, and they can be found in restaurants, hotels, domestic and agricultural jobs. Slave traders made a staggering $32 billion just in 2007, and the numbers are dramatically increasing. http://www.callandresponse.com/trailer.html

_________________________

LABOR SLAVERY:

Subjection to involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or slavery for the purpose of using a person for labor.  Victims are often kept in a condition of servitude by abuse, threats and/or lockdown.  Female victims are often sexually abused.  Read Kumar’s story here:  http://www.callandresponse.com/giving_project_0809_ijm.html

_________________________

SEX SLAVERY:

The use of a person for a commercial sex act induced by force or fraud and used on the account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.  Sex trafficking is considered the largest specific sub-category of transnational modern-day slavery.  Read Puja’s story here: http://www.callandresponse.com/giving_project_0810_ten.html

What I see brings grief to my soul because of all the women of my city. –Lamentations 3:51

_________________________

CHILD SLAVERY:

The sale and trafficking of children for bonded and forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation and/or forced conscription into armed conflict.  Child slavery is perpetuated by poverty, debt bondage, mass displacement, pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, war, and the traditional roles of girls.  Meet Ravi, Rama and Rambo through this powerful video: http://www.callandresponse.com/giving_project_0809_fts.html

“You understand, O Lord; remember me and care for me. 
Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering–do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.” –Jeremiah 15:15


Cherishing Men

I was in a used bookstore recently, not really looking for anything particular but simply musing over the collection of spines. Alone and contented to be that way, I slowly walked up and down each aisle, coffee in one hand and a couple of books in the other. I blissfully looked over the colors, the words, the typesetting of each spine. I sipped my coffee and wondered what each author was trying to convey in these choices. How difficult it must be, I thought to myself, to arrive at one short title to sum up an entire book. In that title the author must capture my attention and pique my curiosity. He must speak volumes to me without saying much at all. He must make me want to slide the book off the shelf and crack open this possible treasure trove of information and knowledge. Just as I was about to leave the section on Foreign Politics, a bright blue spine with beautiful lettering caught my attention. “Cherishing Men from Afar.” The book itself is about Chinese foreign relations, but I simply adore the title. Now there’s a title, I thought, from which endless words and volumes could be–and probably already have been–written.

In his commentary on the book of John, Scottish minister Alexander Maclaren, eloquently points out that “the lost are seeking rest for their hearts, a home for their spirits, perfect truth in their understandings, perfect beauty for their affections and perfect goodness for their conscience.” And they do not even know they are seeking these things until they are faced with turmoils and trials which cause them to ask where hope can be found. We know these things ourselves, dear Brothers and Sisters, and in so knowing, we seek these precious truths for the lost. We are called to cherish these people, the lost and enslaved, and pray that their hungry souls find perfection in the knowledge, grace and mercy of one God, one Father, our Christ and Savior. Hence, we cherish these men from afar.

Continue reading