Tag Archives: missions

Do You Love Me?

I am reminded this week of Christ’s words to Peter just before He left him for the last time. “Do you love me?” He asked. It seemed almost rhetorical. “Yes,” Peter said. I’m sure Peter didn’t expect Jesus to ask again, and again. And the third time totally and completely touched this man’s heart to the very core. It riveted him.  One can nearly feel the emotional weight of the question–of Peter’s grief that although he sinned, this God-man was willing to reinstate the love and sow into Peter’s heart the seeds of mercy and forgiveness.

It’s the same question He asks of us over and over again. These challenges in our lives are not without purpose; not without reason; not without response. They are set in place so that we will be frustrated by them and find our broken hearts at a crossroad. Then He reinstates us with His simple, but profound words.

“Do you love me?” He asks.

It is rhetorical. Christ knows the answer. He wants us to know it and to own it. He wants our hearts to be His.

“Yes Jesus, I do. Please show me how to love you better.”

My answer is humble and simple, but in it bears the weight of responsibility.  It’s time to feed the sheep.

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The Stones will Cry Out

stones

But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if they become silent, the stones will cry out!

As most of us who run in circles of mission work have heard, there is great need for prayer and mission work in the 10/40 Window.  This is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude containing enormous amounts of people who have never heard the gospel.  Many things keep them from hearing such as location, anti-Christian religion, law, oppression, etc.  These are people who range from the nomads to the wealthy, the young and old.  They are part of large systems of belief which hinder the spread of the gospel, sometimes by their own culture of religion (e.g. folklore, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.), sometimes by oppressive political systems and sometimes by war and bloodshed.  In any case, it is an all-out war between the rulers of darkness and the Lord of the Heavens.  The 10/40 window is a spiritual blockade, pushing against the Gospel and keeping its inhabitants in darkness.

The vision in Luke 19:30-40 is powerful and profound.  Jesus has secured a donkey to go into Jerusalem, and as He headed toward the city, the crowd was overjoyed. It says, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  Well this didn’t sit well with the Pharisees, and they were insulted that the king who comes in the name of the Lord would come seated on a donkey.  They turned to Christ and asked him to quiet the crowd.  Instead, Jesus pointed out that even if He did quiet the crowd then the stones would cry out!

I am praying for friends in a nation of the 10/40 window who are working as missionaries, feeding the hungry, ministering to the poor.  Ethnic cleansing is beginning to occur in the region where they work, and my friends may be forced to leave or they will be killed.  As I was in prayer over them recently, it occurred to me that whatever the outcome, they have done well.  They have been obedient to God’s call on their lives and moved where He would have them work.  And whether they count it as loss or gain, God counts it all as gain.  And whether they go or are killed, we cannot deny the words of Christ that even the stones would cry out in their absence.

But these truths do not mean we mustn’t go, send others to go, pray or mobilize people under the commission of Christ.  After all, Jesus did not squelch the praises in His name and the joy surrounding His presence.  He simply stated a penetrating truth that even if He did quiet the crowd then His very creation would magnify and glorify Him!  Jesus was profoundly stating that God will accomplish His plan to redeem the world and bring glory and honor to His name whether man obediently participates or not.  Isn’t it incredible that even though He doesn’t need us to carry out His plan, that He chooses us be involved and allows us to participate?  How humbling to part of this great movement.

The oppressor of this world can push back the gospel from the 10/40 window only so long. He and his dominion can have spiritual stronghold for a time only allotted by God himself.  They are bound by scripture, and the end of the story tells us that they will one day be cast into the lake of fire for eternity.  While they give a false impression that they have control over these nations in the 10/40 window, we know they in fact are only biding their time.  They know the end of the story, too.  They know their time is limited.

So this knowledge calls us to a greater awareness of the world in which we live and the places where the Gospel is incredibly thwarted.  Our response is prayer, intentional and deliberate prayer.  And whether that prayer leads us to go, send or mobilize, it is still powerful and paramount to any action we might take to further an awareness of Christ and His Supremacy in the 10/40 window.  If you are not praying for these nations and these peoples, then you must start right away.  There is no greater need for prayer in the 10/40 window than now.

I’ve listed some resources below to help you get started.  These are just a couple, and while there are plenty more, I find these ministries to be consistent, dedicated and solid in their research.  If you are using other means to pray for the 10/40 window, please comment below.  I’d love to know what other people are doing to pray forth the Gospel to the darkest places of our world.

Beverly Peagues’ entire life is devoted to the 10/40 Window. There she does an incredible job to keep us all informed politically, religiously and prayerfully on the countries in the 10/40 Window. If you join her email list, you will receive a new country to pray for each day. You can also download a monthly calendar called the WIN Reporter which highlights two countries per day for prayer. The web address is www.win1040.com.  Click “subscribe” to join the mailing list.

There is also the Global Prayer Digest which you can purchase via subscription for $12/year. If you cannot subscribe they also publish the prayers online each day. GPD focuses on people groups in the 10/40 window. The focus for November is South Asia. http://www.global-prayer-digest.org/

If you’d like to get your group interested in people groups, please download this 20-minute activity that a friend and I developed for our Perspectives classes. Though it was specifically created to help our adult students overcome the inhibition of doing a research paper as part of the course syllabus, I find that it’s also a great way to promote awareness and prayer in any venue. http://www.box.net/PerspectivesPeopleGroups

I pray that God will expose you to new ways to pray for the nations of the 10/40 window. I encourage you to create cell groups in your church or school which will commit time each week to focus on nations and people groups in the 10/40 window. On that note, I am working on creating a curriculum of sorts to help people initialize prayer groups for the unreached, and will load it here when complete.

Grace, peace and thanksgiving to you and your household. May you be blessed as you walk obediently with our Lord Jesus Christ.


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.


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?


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

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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

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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

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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.

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