Well, this year officially takes that cake as the wildest, wackiest year yet! It was exactly one year ago that I told Tricia with confidence that the Lord was drawing and calling us to a new season of ministry! Since that confession, it has been a wild ride.
The video below is quite possible one of the most beautiful illustration of the love of God that I have ever seen. I want to come to God this way in 2011. I want to approach him overwhelmed that he would love me and choose me. The more I know Him, the more I am startled by his love.
Note: Francis Chan has made a grand impact in my life THIS YEAR as his family is doing almost exactly what ours is doing. I obeyed the Lord and wrote him a letter. He got it. I may or may never hear back from him, but I obeyed the spirit of God and did my part.
Last week I finished reading "The Upside Down Kingdom" by Donald Kraybill. Outstanding, well-written, high impact book! It expanded my kingdom heart and enlarged my theology about what God envisions for His people.
- The Kingdom of God defies definition. It is pregnant with many meanings. This is its genius. It can stimulate our imaginations again and again.
- The Kingdom of God is full of surprises. Again and again, sermon after parable, Jesus startles us. The good guy is turning out to be bad. Those we expect to receive the reward get a spanking instead. Those we think they are headed for heaven land in hell. Things are reversed. The least are the greatest. The moral receive forgiveness and blessing. Adults become like children. The religious miss the heavenly banquet. The pious receive curses. Things are not like we think they should be! We are baffled and perplexed. Again and again, the kingdom of God surprises us.
- The poor understand dependence, simplicity, and cooperation. They know the difference between needs and luxuries. Having fewer entanglements, they're free or to abandon all else for the kingdom. They have little to give up. They simply walk in. And are grateful.
- We are accountable not for grandiose solutions to world problems, but for our personal obedience to our knowledge of the Gospel. It's easy to do nothing because we fear our small part won't count. It's true that one more baby, one more luxury car, and one more vacation home won't make a significant difference. However, when several million other people think and act the same way, the corporate consequences of our behavior are amazing. 5 million more pieces of litter, 10 million more gas guzzlers, and 20 million more babies will make a whopping collective impact. The belief that my behavior won't make a difference anyway doesn't excuse us from moral responsibility.
- The moment we see Church structures as identical with Kingdom, things get dangerous.
- The altar in the church building is no closer to God's heart than a restroom. The unfortunate use of the term sanctuary encourages us to use the church building as a sacred place deserving special reverence.
- When cultural rather than kingdom values primarily shape the church, the salt loses its flavor.
- Agape love is transformational. Agape is bold. Agape is inconvenient. Agape is risky. Agape takes time. Agape is expensive. Agape jeopardizing his social status.
- Coins inscribed with "In God We Trust" are an outright mockery when we spend billions of dollars for defense. We obviously trust weapons, not God!
- A peace that holds millions of people hostage to fear isn't peace. A peace built on military threats, bluffing, and bullying is not peace!
Yesterday, Tricia, Davis and I drove to upstate NY (East Greenbush) to bring in the new year with Tricia's family. This visit is extra special to us for several reasons. It will be our last time seeing Tanya, Artie, Abuela and the kids until 2013 (likely). So, our heart's desire is just to spend quality and quantity time with them. In addition, we are excited to be preaching at Calvary Assembly of God in Hudson, NY this Sunday. Calvary Assembly and Freedom Fellowship (our family's church pastored buy Art Henderson, Sr.) recently merged into one church, so we look forward to meeting new people and new partners in mission. This is one of our supporting churches. Excited to connect with other family and friends while here as well. Always nice to be back in my Sweetheart's hometown.
God has blown our mind, confirmed his call and shown his providing power over these last 4 months in ways that we still cannot wrap our mind around. Well, here is what just happened...God provided $123,000 in pledges and gifts in the last 4 months!!!!! Did you read that? That is the LORD! We praise him and give Him ALL the credit. We recognize that this is nothing we could have ever done on our own...it is OF GOD!
- 1987- Salvation/Baptism: I committed to follow Jesus as soon as I could understand what it meant to me.
- 2002- Marriage: I committed my entire life and love to Tricia Rivera (now Kaye) promising to love her like Jesus loves the church...until death separates us.
- 2009- Ordination: Taking the call of God on my life very seriously, I was ordained for a lifetime of gospel ministry.
- Jesus must always remain first. Without intimacy with Him, the next two commitments will suffer.
- Tricia is after Jesus. It may be easy to keep her from rising to number one...but truth be told it is hard to prevent her from dropping to number three. She will always come before the church. (Kids come right after her. Yes, AFTER her.)
- Gospel ministry. Kingdom expansion. After numbers one and two are in proper shape, number three becomes a successful joy! I must never steal from the first two to feed the third.
What vows have you made? How are you doing at ordering your world with the most important commitments first?
The nature of true love is commitment. We don’t need to be perfect before we can commit our lives fully to Jesus or live sinlessly after we have committed our lives to Him. And we will struggle to give some things over to God’s control. But Making Jesus the ruler of everything does mean that ----to the utmost of my ability and knowledge ----we surrender total control of our lives and beliefs to Him.
To ask God to be in control of my life does not mean life will lose its edge. Jesus is not predictable or tame. To echo C. S. Lewis’s famous thought in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, He is not a domesticated house cat but a wild lion. He was a threat to the religious establishment of His day—as He will still be today. To quote Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, Jesus was baptized by a wild man. He inaugurated his ministry by spending time with the wild beasts of the wilderness. He was unfazed by a wild storm. There was an untamed wild power within him. If our answer to the question “What, would Jesus do?” is that he would be conventional, safe, respectable and refined, then we suspect you didn’t find that answer in the Gospels.
To be taken captive by the “wildness” of Jesus implies that life will be out of my control, but not out of His control. Every area of my life will be both surrendered to Him and radically reshaped by Him. Everything will be seen in a different light, changing the way I see life, church, God, politics, mission, and the world I live in.
Excerpt from the book "Follow: A Simple and Profound Call to live like Jesus" by Floyd McClung.
We came home today to the humbling news that a friend of mine from college has decided to sell his Flatscreen TV, Home Theatre System, DVD player, PS3 and other stuff and donate it to our mission. He will not be talked out of it because it is what God has asked him to do...and we feel totally blessed and humbled by the gift and His obedience. This guy has a HUGE heart.
Rumor has it that adjusting to living overseas is pretty stressful. Well, I can personally vouch for the fact that preparing to move overseas in no walk in the park either. Not complaining! We are incredibly thankful for the blessings we have each day. But this time has been one of high intensity and high pressure. Our MST recently got all over us about resting before we leave!
While I could rattle off multiple excuses (about not having a kitchen, traveling constantly and living under pretty intense pressure these days...many of which make great sense), I will just tell you the reality. I lost 32 pounds (weigh 263 now). I was down 35 (then gained 3) and hoped to make it to at least 50, but I am afraid I have come as far as I can for now. The holidays are upon me. So, I plan to live much more actively and lose more weight in Cape Town. I hope you will see much less of me when we return home. THANK YOU to those of you who walked with me and supported this endeavor. I am pleased to weigh 32 pounds less than I did!
Sooner or later it happens to everybody. You get a call from a friend and pick up the phone thinking they want to talk. You say hello, but instead of getting a response they just start talking about random things. You keep saying their name louder and louder, but they just keep talking.
After a few seconds or moments, you realize the truth: you’ve been butt dialed. They didn’t mean to call you. It was just the pressure in their back pocket that made it happen.
Almost always, it’s just meaningless chatter. What food they’re ordering. Directions they’re taking. Plans they’re making.
But sometimes, you’re let into conversations that you didn’t want to hear. The person on the other line begins talking about someone you know. Or worse, they begin talking about you. And it isn’t the same things they would be saying if the phone was in their hand rather than their back pocket.
Or maybe the content of their conversation simply isn’t what you would expect out of them. It’s vulgar or low-level compared to the way it is when they’re talking to you directly.
Right now, this could easily turn into a judgmental or woe is me situation. But I want to flip the tables for a second.
What if the situation was reversed (because it often is)? What if your phone accidentally dialed when it was in your pocket?
- Would we say the same things we say about people?
- Would we have the same conversations?
- Would we sound as spiritual as we did in small group or at the coffee shop?
We often talk about the need for the content of our lives to match the content of our speech. When it happens, it’s called integrity. But it’s just as necessary that the content of our public discourse match the content of our private discussions. When it happens, it’s also called integrity.
What would it look like if we lived our lives as if our phone was dialing someone at all times? In other words, what if the microphone was always on?
I wish I could leave it at those theoretical questions. But I can’t. Because they’re not theoretical. The phone is always dialing. The microphone is always on:
"There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." Luke 12:2-3
(Credit for this post goes to Steven Furtick. I saw this on his blog and straight cuffed it. Thought it was great!)
This last 6 months of connecting with people and churches has been thrilling in many ways. Tonight, I just want to take a moment to give a loud shout out to all of the churches that are supporting us and partnering with us financially (prayer and relational too) over these next 2 years. ALL of them are a result of relationships and GRACE! Especially grace. Tricia, Davis and I thank you in the greatest way we know how! You are a gift to us that we treasure!
- Capital Christian Fellowship in Lanham MD (our home church and spiritual family)
- New Life Mennonite Church in Ellicott City, MD
- Wilken's Avenue Mennonite Church in Baltimore, MD
- Ethiopian Evangelical Church in Baltimore, MD
- Judah Temple in Mitchellville, MD
- Zion Church in Largo, MD
- Grace Bible Church in Lanham, MD
- Freedom Fellowship/Calvary Assembly of God in Hudson, NY
- Kingdom Life Empowerment Temple in Hyattsville, MD
- Celebration of Praise in Clermont, FL
- Trinity Assembly of God in Lanham, MD (My Home Church as a kid)
- Spring Valley Community Church in Royersford, PA
- Baltimore Washington District of Churches in the Lancaster Mennonite Conference (Our District)
There are many things I am learning these days. It feels impossible to capture it all. I tried my best to prepare emotionally for this season of NOT being a leader/Pastor in the way I used to be. Some days are hard, honestly. But all in all, I am learning the ever-important lesson of knowing where my value is--in Jesus, not in me, my abilities, my position or even my impact on others...it is all about Jesus!
That world is covered in spiritual darkness. Four billion people out of the 6.9 billion on this planet never heard the good news of Jesus, and are separated from Him by spiritual darkness, and even in some cases, deep deception. I have listed the reasons that compel me to go, and why I ask others to do the same, below.
However, these reasons will remain just one more list of things we "ought to do" someday, unless we submit our inner motivations to Jesus. May I request that you join me in thinking for a few moments about our reasons to make Jesus known to others? Would you please ask the Lord to speak to your heart as you read through this list?
At the end of time people will gather from every tribe and tongue and nation around the throne of God to honor the Lamb of God, all worshipping in their redeemed cultures. They will gather joyously around the throne of God and celebrate the victory He has won on their behalf. The One who died a shameful death to redeem the peoples of the earth will be the object of honor and praise for all eternity. All of history will be consummated in the praise of the One who gave Himself for us. He died to make us a kingdom of priests. He set us free from religion and fear and superstition so we might freely enter His throne room of grace. Everything is headed for that day. All we do that has meaning will find its fulfillment at that celebration. May it come quickly, Lord Jesus! This is the mission of God, and that is the mission of the church of God. The church's ultimate purpose is not the programs we offer to people or the missionary outreaches we do, or our budgets or faith giving, our missionaries dressed in strange costumes, not even about the lost people or the needs of hurting millions. It is about Jesus, the Lion who became a Lamb, the Redeemer of the all peoples, the Savior of the world. He is our great goal. It is for Him. We go to others so Jesus will receive the just reward of His suffering.
Most of earth's population will spend eternity separated from God if they do not have a chance to hear the Good News of God's salvation. Eternity is real, and though many people believe theoretically in hell, they don't really believe that a “good God will send people to hell.” May God impress deeply on our hears the terrible reality of man's lostness without a savior. Men and women need forgiveness of sins. There is no other way for that to happen than Jesus. It is by hearing, believing and calling on His name that people are rescued from a certain, eternal, separation from God.
We can easily become immune to the horrendous suffering of the victims of drought, famine, poverty and injustice. It is only by the grace of God than our hearts can be filled with the compassion of Jesus. The Bible says that when Jesus looked upon the crowds, He had compassion. May we have the same response, whether it be to a neighbor in need, a child's face in a Christian advertisement, or a news broadcast from the Horn of Africa. We know the statistics, we hear and see the faces, may we now become hardened to their plight. There are only two ways to maintain genuine compassion: getting involved with the poor, and maintaining a lifestyle of personal devotion and prayer for the poor.
Jesus commanded us to go, and go means a change of location. We have been commissioned to go, teach, baptize and make disciples. There are people waiting for us to obey, whether it be the villages of North Africa or the mountains of Tibet. They wait for our obedience. The issue is not whether or not we are called. All are called. All are commissioned. It is a matter of location, of those in the church will join with God in sacrificial obedience. Willing hearts hear His voice. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "As the Father sent me, so send I you..."
Without a vision greater than the pleasures of our culture and the comforts of life, we will perish. By joining God on mission, we find a vision worth dying for and worth living for. It is not enough to send our money, because money does not have to lay down rights, weep, or give itself. It is not enough to send native workers, because native workers cannot pray, love and disciple in our place. God uses people to reach people. He uses people to encourage faint hearts. If for no other reason, we must go for our sakes. If not, we will surely perish. For the sake of the church we must give our very best, lest we die from lack of sacrifice, from lack of personal involvement. If we will not, we will perish.
The highest motivation for preaching the gospel is not what lost or needy people receive from our efforts, but what God receives from our love for Him. Joining God’s mission is first and foremost about God. He created the nations to seek after Him and find Him (Acts 17:24-26). He brought them into existence so they might find their satisfaction in their Creator (Revelation 4:11). The Father is waiting. He longs for the worship and obedience of His creation. He made the nations. He made them for a purpose. Like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God is yearning for the peoples of the earth to come home to Him.
We are living in the time of the greatest revival in the history of the church. There have been times in church history when the Spirit has moved on one continent, and then other times when the Spirit has moved on another continent. What is unusual about this period of history is that the Spirit of God is bringing millions of people to Himself, simultaneously, on every continent. The church is growing mightily in China, Indonesia, India, Korea, Latin America, Africa -literally all over the world. God brought down the Berlin wall, and the communist governments of Eastern Europe, and now His Spirit is tearing down walls of fear and cultural separation that hide Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists from Jesus. It’s God's gracious invitation and the Church’s sacred privilege to participate in this unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit. Who would want to miss out on what our Father is doing on the earth?
God has chosen this time to gather people from all the peoples of the earth in a way He has never done before. It is the will of God for the Church to be part of what Father is doing. The Church is what God is doing; He is raising up a people for Himself from among all the peoples of the earth.
- We need prayer! Will you pray for us?
- We are looking for financial supporters! Can you support us with a monthly pledge (or a one time gift)? Monthly pledges that spread over two years really help the percentage increase rapidly. (A $500 one time gift may seem huge, and it is! But a $50 a month commitment over two years is $1,200 toward our budget!)
- Do you know people, businesses or organizations that may want to sow a one time year end gift?
"Walking With God" by Thomas Merton
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
This prayer, from Thomas Merton, is a source of strength to me while wrestling with my ever-present questions about God’s will. May it encourage you today, and may it become the prayer of a Church in endless formation.