• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Lost people can be invisible

I shared this short biblical meditation with the World Team Global Alliance (WTGA) last week:

We read in Ruth 2:10-11: “Then she fell on her face bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”  But Boaz answered here, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how  you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.””

invisibleRuth was invisible to a large part of the world around her.  She was a refuge, an immigrant, a foreigner.  Yet, out of all the workers in his field, Boaz noticed her.  She was not invisible to him.  He moved towards this foreigner and served her in ways that way beyond the cultural norms of the day.

Our world is shifting constantly.  In a recent UN report, it was stated that a record 65.6 million people are either refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced across the globe. Will these people remain invisible to us?

In a blog post last month titled: What’s In a Name, I wrote: “No one calls her, ‘Ruth’… Ever feel that way in cross cultural ministry?  That somehow your defining quality is not ‘Steve’, ‘Heather’ or ‘Joy’?  That the words more likely to come out of a neighbor’s mouth are: “Oh, you’re looking for the ‘Czech guy’.  He lives two doors down.”  You can begin to feel like a name-less person without roots; a person just ‘passing through’.

Knowing that my identity is solidly anchored in what He says about me, I can move into my world with confidence and courage. I can give all my effort daily to serve the people to whom He has called me because His voice rings in my ears throughout the day: “You are mine!  I have bought you with a price.  No one can snatch you out of my hand.”

It is with that solid assurance that we are not invisible to our God that we can move into this incredible context of displaced people and ‘see’ who He wants us to see and to whom He wants us to minister.

This is our prayer as a WTGA and as WT workers as we move forward in this year.

Mission Forward

Mission Forward.  The term suggests movement or traction.  Perhaps, we ought to write forwardit: Mission (moving) Forward? More importantly, the term oozes enthusiasm and delight. Perhaps, we should edit it again to read: Mission (moving) Forward (with shouts of joy)?

You might be thinking that sounds kind of silly, but you and I know there is a difference between ‘moving forward’ in a long slow lane of traffic and ‘moving forward’ with a project where many team members are involved and contributing.  In both cases, you are ‘moving forward’.  However, the one brings you no real joy while the other creates a wellspring of joy that pushes you out to share the work with more people.

Our ‘mission’ is to work together in teams to see communities of believers birthed who will in turn give birth to other communities who will in turn give birth to other communities.  Our ‘vision’ is characterized by innovation, multiplication and expansion.  We want to approach the same task, but via different approaches or avenues.  Our goal is always a chain reaction of multiplication.  Our focus is on those who have the least opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If Mission Forward is currently synonymous with drudgery for us, then we may need some ‘outside-in’ perspective.  We may need someone to help lift our eyes above the grind and see how our God is at work in this world.  If Mission Forward isn’t currently causing that gospel joy to well up in our hearts, then we may need to ask the Spirit to drive 1 John 4.19 deeper into our hearts.  If Mission Forward is one’s current driving motivation, then we should spread that joy to others and draw them into the work.

Mission Forward.

Are you growing tired of being excited?

The other day, I talked about how “whether you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s, one of the first ways to ‘fan the flame’ again of the movement is to sit and listen to a new worker making one of their first presentations to supporters.  It warms one’s heart to hear how God called them to work among these people with this team to fulfill this common vision.”  Then I realized that might not be the case for everyone.

TiredWhen that kind of talk doesn’t stirs one’s heart, one’s excitement or passion reservoir may be in the red.  What I mean by that is that life and ministry, in the short term or long term, can gradually ‘snuff out’ the passion that God placed in our hearts at the start to multiply disciples and communities of believers, to bring the Gospel to lost people everywhere we go.

In reality, it’s the same with the impact of the Gospel in our lives. We can so easily forget the ‘music’ that wooed our hearts to Jesus. We need to ‘awaken’ our hearts afresh each day to that amazing story of Christ’s love for us.

So it is with the mission God to which God called us.  Hearing the stories of others (in print, in person, by video) can serve to remind us of God’s call on each of lives that brought us to Himself.  Hearing the stories of others can also serve to remind us of that call of God that brought us to where we serve and minister now.

We can all grow tired. We can all lose our passion from time to time.  Yet, we’re part of a movement and other members can ‘call us back’ to that passion which drove us to serve where we are; to ‘call us back’ to God.

What’s in a name?

Ruth arrived in Israel with Naomi after quite a series of difficult circumstances. Ruth, seemingly, did not even take the time to unpack her suitcases before she set out to find ways to provide for their material needs.  She ended up gleaning, by sovereign design, in the field whats-in-a-name-bannerof Boaz, a potential kinsman redeemer (2:20)

What strikes me the most in this biblical narrative is that everyone knows about Ruth, without knowing Ruth.  In other words, in spite of her incredible work ethic, Ruth is consistently referred to as the ‘Moabite woman’ (2:6).  No one calls her, ‘Ruth’.

Ever feel that way in cross cultural ministry?  That somehow your defining quality is not ‘Steve’, ‘Heather’ or ‘Joy’?  That the words most likely to come out of a neighbor’s mouth are: “Oh, you’re looking for the ‘Czech guy’.  He lives two doors down.”  You can begin to feel like a name-less person without roots; a person just ‘passing through’ another culture.

Incarnational living starts with a choice. Incarnational living also calls for that same choice to be made daily.  That choice is to find my identity first and foremost in what Jesus says about me.  Despite how others around me may ‘label’ me, Jesus knows me and calls me by my name (Isaiah 43:1; John 10:3).

Knowing that my identity in solidly anchored in what He says about me, I can then move into my world with confidence and courage to ‘reach, invest, equip and release’ others. I can give all my effort daily to serve the people to whom He has called me because His voice rings in my ears throughout the day: “You are mine!  I have bought you with a price.  No one can snatch you out of my hand.”

If I could dream

Who would have thought that one day, one weekend would change the course of history.  Who would have dreamed of such an impactful shift in our world?

Thinking back on our Lord’s death and resurrection, I often imagine what went on in the minds of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection (Luke 24:36).  I wonder if the presence of the resurrected Christ brought a statement such as this one to their minds: “I would never have dreamed that …”  dream

Have you ever found yourself ‘dreaming’ of how things might go better if even small things changed?  Have you ever ‘dreamed’ about the potential that would be released in the ministry and relationship spheres of a team if solutions were found for certain issues that beleaguered them?

If I could dream, if I could envision how we as a global community of World Team would be different four months from now, I would see a community workers who ‘live out of’ the Gospel, not just ‘talk about’ the Gospel.

We have great resources available to teach us about and train us in the Gospel (for example, the Galatians study or Sonship materials).  Yet, I know of a lack of forgiveness among us.  Issues, situations or hurts from months or years past can be dredged up in our minds and keep us from moving towards others who are our fellow co-laborers to ask for forgiveness or offer forgiveness.  What happened to the Gospel in our hearts (Galatians 3:2)?  The Gospel stands as one of our guiding principles.  It is listed as one of our distinctives.  Nevertheless, our current lives cry out the contrary.

If I could dream, if I could envision how we as a global community of World Team would be different four months from now, we would be characterized by a lot more stories of people repenting, seeking forgiveness, and growing deeper in the knowledge and love of Christ.

Wrestling with pride

When you ‘wrestle’ with the flesh, you are taking on an adversary that never stops his or her attack.  At the same time, you can seemingly never get your hands on or around this opponent.  It’s like trying to grab one of the many dishes at a Hong Kong Dim Sum restaurant with chopsticks.  You are a debutant at this and you just can’t get those two chopsticks around that dumpling without it slipping out.   chopsticks3

The ‘flesh’ is another way of talking about pride.  Pride is full out independence.  It is being convinced that you need to do something, and that only you can do it.

The trouble with pride is that it has blinded most of us to its systemic presence and power in our lives.  Sure, we all know we are prideful from time to time. However, we would never admit that the overwhelming majority of our actions are tainted by pride; by our wanting to be noticed, accepted or appreciated.

When you try to ‘address’ pride in your life, it’s like that dumpling slipping between those chopsticks. It gets away from you and pops up somewhere else.

So, is wrestling with pride a lost cause?  You would start to think so after the numerous ‘defeats’ we each have had at the mercy of this adversary.  However, the simple act of calling out for help can be a first step in grabbing hold of that pride and addressing it with the help of another.

Calling out to God (Psalm 139:23-24) provides us with the grace and ability we need to go after pride.  Calling out to a brother or sister in our community of believers gives us the hand that we need to prayerfully engage and overpower our pride (James 5:16).

Why is it so hard (again)?

A friend and former prof, Jack, used to say that the evil one rubs your nose in your sin and drives you to discouragement and despair.  The Holy Spirit shows you your sin and drives you back to the cross for forgiveness.

When I wrote yesterday about how hard it is (or seems to be) to do partnership development, I trust you knew that was only a small tip of the iceberg.Tip of the Iceberg --- Image by © Ralph A. Clevenger/CORBIS

Why is life so hard?  Primarily because we struggle against sin, the flesh and the evil one.  The struggle is compounded by the fact that we can’t always distinguish which ‘one’ is working on us.

When our skirmish is against sin, we find ourselves face to face with that ‘law’ which works within us (Romans 7:23); that temptation when ‘fully grown brings forth death’ (James 1:15).  It is like running through a darkened hallway where you keep bumping into things, not knowing what they are, or what they might contain.

Those who went before us talked about ‘mortifying sin’ (see John Owens’ famous treatise, “The Mortification of Sin”).  Mortifying sin was the way people in those days talked about the need to deal with our heart (or our heart sins) in serious ways.

That sounds kind of rough, I know.  However, an Australian mate, Simon, made the comment over coffee today that he doesn’t often hear much talk about sin.  It’s more about the ‘help’ that Jesus can be to us.  Sin, in our lives, needs to be dealt with in serious ways in order for us to know more of the depth of the impact of the cross.

A Scottish pastor shared the following ideas as a way to practice ‘mortification’ of sin.  First, see sin for what it really is.  Self-deception keeps us from seeing a ‘struggle’ as idolatry.  Next, see sin for what it is in God’s presence.  “The masters of the spiritual life spoke of dragging our lusts to the cross (kick and scream, though they will), to a wrath-bearing Christ.”  Next, remember who you are.  You are no longer the ‘old’ man or ‘old’ woman, you are a new creation in Christ.   Finally, put sin to death.   “Refuse it, starve it, and reject it’.

None of this work can happen outside of the ‘great exchange’; outside of the Spirit of Christ at work in our hearts and giving us the grace to do the ‘hard work’.