Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, and Missions Collide

#5- A Barnabas Company


At the core of Jesus’ invitation in the Gospels is the simple call to “follow him” and the radical cost associated with that decision along with it’s immeasurable reward. In Mark chapter 10, a wealthy young man came to Jesus. Here was a guy who was young, rich, intelligent, and influential. Think of all that this guy, with this kind of wealth and influence, could accomplish for the kingdom! He had a clean record and a good reputation. Not only that but he was ready to go! Jesus, make it easy for this guy, don’t scare him away.  If we can get him saved then he can start sharing his testimony among the other wealthy and affluent citizens, maybe even write a book, and do some fundraising for the cause.

Yet he lacked one thing. The bible says when Jesus looked at him He loved him. He knew that this guy wanted into the leadership team for what it could provide for him. It would give him the visibility, position, influence that he craved. Jesus looked into his soul and saw all of his wealth and affluence. Something else had so possessed his heart that he could never see Jesus as supremely valuable and worthy of all that he had.

You may be asking, “well what does that have to do with me?!?” If you live above the “poverty line” in America, you are in the top 2% of the wealthiest people in the world. If you live on or above the median income level in America you are in the top 1%.

We are starting to redefine Christianity. We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. A Jesus who would not expect us to forsake our closest relationships so that he receives all our affection. A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, he loves us just the way we are. A Jesus who want us to be balanced, who wants us to avoid dangerous extremes, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether. A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American dream.  – David Platt

 

Christ is fighting for our greatness! Not only in this age but in the age to come.  Jesus wasn’t trying to strip this man of all his pleasure. He was fighting for his greatness and for a reward that will last forever! Money and possessions are not inherently evil, but according to the Bible they can cost you your life and the love of them can cost you your destiny. This young man walked away from an opportunity of a lifetime. He could have been on Jesus’ apostolic leadership team.

There was another wealthy man who, in the grace of God, actually said yes to the invitation from Jesus. Luke introduces us to him in Acts chapter 4. Acts 4 is a snapshot of a community of people whose hearts and lives have been utterly revolutionized by believing in Jesus. They found themselves freely caring about people and freely selling land and houses, giving the money to the church for distribution to those with specific needs. Luke attributes this to the great grace that was upon them all. When grace moved, all of a sudden, people started falling out of love with “things” and started falling in love with the Lord and with His people. They had found something of more value than houses and comfort and possessions. They were becoming disciples of Jesus. Heavenly people. They were transitioning from their “ownership” mindset to “stewardship” for the glory of Jesus Christ.


Luke focuses in on two stories that are meant to complement and contradict what was going on in the community there in Jerusalem. The first account is of a man that will become one of the most influential and beloved men of the New Testament. Luke chooses to introduce Joseph. A wealthy man from Cyprus who owned land and was an affluent citizen in Jerusalem. He wasn’t a young and irresponsible man being swept up in a fad or a trend. He was being radically transformed by grace, from the inside out, into a heavenly minded vessel for the kingdom. And he was full of joy. So much so that the Apostles had nicknamed him “son of encouragement” or Barnabas.

He shines as one of the most mature, reliable, loveable leaders of the early church. Right here in Acts 4:36–37, Luke shows us how Barnabas’ trusted ministry began. It started with a demonstrated freedom from the love of things and a heart of love for the presence of God and the people of God. He sold a field that belonged to him and gave all the proceeds to the apostles to use for the movement. In this story he stands as the example of what the grace of God and the Spirit of Revival does in the human heart. It creates a bond of love for people and cuts a bond of love for money and possessions. These three things were distinguishing marks on Barnabas’ life.

Love for people, radical generosity, and great joy.

He was a Levite, well acquainted with Levitical law. Barnabas in this one act gives us a glimpse into “New Covenant” giving. “Old Covenant” required 10% tithe. The New Testament writers never give a number as a law for giving because giving was meant to flow out of a heart of joy and love, struck by the worth of the Lamb. Instead they write about Barnabas and others…

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints-– – 2 Corinthians 8:1-4

Do you see that? The grace of God was producing a wealth of generosity even in their severe affliction and extreme poverty. Old testament giving was 10%, New Testament giving is Barnabas. Barnabas found a greater joy then having influence and a greater possession than having wealth. He found a treasure hidden in a field and in his joy he went and sold all that he had. 

He sold his little field and he gained an apostolic assignment. He laid down his field at the apostle’s feet and picked up a mantle for a greater field called the nations of the earth.

Radical generosity changes history and unlocks destiny.


Immediately after, Luke then juxtaposes another story with Barnabas’. A man named Ananias who also sold a field.


What was wrong with Ananias and Sapphira? They loved their money and they loved position. They made the sale, they looked at all that cash, and they couldn’t bear the thought of giving it all away without getting something in return. So they kept some back (v. 2). They, like the rich young ruler who, thought if they followed some external religious law, could manipulate their way into the promises.  They wanted to look more generous than they really were. They wanted the apostles to think that they were like Barnabas perhaps. They not only loved money, they loved the praise of men. They wanted approval. So they lied to cover their covetousness, and to give the impression of radical generosity. If you love possessions and you love the praise of men, your love for truth will dissolve into deception and fraud. That’s the meaning of hypocrisy. Half hearted obedience is no obedience at all. They were struck dead at the altar so that all the church would know this one thing. The love of money and the love of the praise of men will lead to a wasted life.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:7-9

The truth is: You are reaping what you sowed five to ten years ago and what you do today is setting the stage for what you will walk in five and ten years from now.

Barnabas shows up next in Acts 9 about 6 years later. At this point, Saul has had his conversion experience and spent a few years in the wilderness before coming up to Jerusalem to try and join the apostolic leadership team. Everyone was afraid of this young “convert” and no one wanted to associate with him. But one man, full of love, grace and joy took Paul by the hand and marched him right up into Peter and James’ office and said, “You gotta hear this young mans story.” Barnabas believed in Paul and his calling when no one else would. He saw this diamond in the rough and was determined to put his arms around him and make sure was successful. He was a true spiritual Father.

When the Apostles heard the report of what was happening in Antioch, they knew there was only one man right for the job of shepherding this young revival community. They sent Barnabas. When he saw what was happening in Antioch, he knew that it was the perfect place for the young Paul to cut his teeth in ministry and leadership. Only one problem, he hadn’t seen Paul in a few years and heard that he had returned home to pursue a different path for his life. Barnabas believed in Paul’s calling even when Paul didn’t have the courage to believe in it himself.

I often say that Acts 11:25 is one verse that changed all of history,

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch…” – Acts 11:25


Barnabas goes and searches for this young man and finds him living at his parents house, completely resigning from his calling because of hope differed, disappointment, and wounds from leaders.

Imagine the conversation in the living room of Paul’s parents house. Whatever was said changed history.  

Barnabas returns to Antioch as an Apostolic leader to care for this young revival community and nuture it into maturity while mentoring Paul in Antioch. Pretty soon the community starts to reflect this DNA of radical generosity and love for people under the leadership of Barnabas. After he returns from Tarsus with Paul, it says they spent a whole year teaching a great many people (Acts 11:26). Two verses later, an offering is being taken up to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. This was no small love gift. Everyone in the church of Antioch pitched in. In fact it says that everyone according to their ability or NASB says it this way, they determined to send a contribution according to each of their means. Sound familiar? Love for people and radical generosity with joy!

In just a year or two he and his young companion would be launched out as the first Apostolic mission’s movement that will raise up revival communities all across Asia minor and be one of the few catalytic leaders in the rapid expansion of the church in the first century.

 

All because he sold a field.


Antioch Sending Centers are always marked by the lives of fathers and mothers who, like Barnabas, long ago “sold their field” to be a part of what God was doing on the earth. These ones are so marked with love, generosity and joy that they provide a safe place for young laborers to be formed and fashioned without the fear of over-correction, manipulation, or punishment. Their lives of faith and obedience over decades give permission for a new generation to go hard after God no matter what the cost. I believe that there are hundreds and thousands of Barnabas’ out there that God is sending to serve these emerging prayer, revival and missions centers across the earth so that hand in hand, not passing the baton, the generations can experience the greatest outpouring and missions thrust the earth has ever seen.

 

R.A. Martinez

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Missions From A Different Perspective

The following blog was written by a Middle Eastern international student:

 

There are 80 million people and 1,000 or less missionaries in my country. That’s 1 missionary per 80,000 people here, most of which have never heard the gospel. The work here is too difficult to do alone.There are only 5,000-10,000 believers. But it’s not just about the injustice of the matter, it is simply that it is just too much. The numbers and weight of the task is overwhelming. It’s hard, I cannot do this on my own. It is so important that people come and help because I cannot do this alone. The believers here cannot do it on their own. We need help, we need people to come and help us.

Before MAPS I knew it was important to share the Gospel, but now I realize the importance of it. I am thirsty to share the Gospel, I long for it to go forth. I know that this is my responsibility. I feel that God gave me this burden and I feel His heart for this nation and these people. But during MAPS I learned not only to feel His heart for my own people, but for all the nations. I cannot just pray for my own people. I am heavenly minded now, I must pray for all people. I got a heavenly mindset that I can’t just pray for my own country I have to pray for other people too because I am not in this world anymore, I am heavenly minded. This happened through MAPS that I now have a heart for nations beyond my own.

Being with MAPS taught me that even if I cannot just go out and share the Gospel with a thousand people every day, I can intercede for them. I have learned the place of intercession. I used to feel that I constantly need to do more and share with more people. But no longer do I just have to work more and always try to do more, but I have learned that I need to pray and cry out to God. I can do so much more through my intercession. I can’t just go on sharing the gospel alone I need His help. Yes, I need to share the gospel, I need to love people. But I also need to pray and cry out to the Lord every day and seek more of Him.

My people do not get love from their religion. What allah is giving them is all about judgement. Their god is distant from them. They also often do not get love from their parents. Not all people here, there are exceptions, but a lot of them are seeking for love from something. When they are seeking their god know that they are sinful and cannot find success in their religion and so they just give up. Their sins outweigh their good works and they feel that they are doomed to hell. But when we share the gospel with them we give them love that they have never experienced before. We give them pure love that is all about grace. Even though they do not deserve love, we love them because God is love. This is different from the world. This makes them begin to think and question, “Who is God? Who is this Jesus?” This is what my team does, they love the people here. Through this love the Gospel goes forth, and I am so thankful for them. I am so thankful for what God is doing in this nation. He is faithful, I know great things are about to happen.

It is a privilege to come here as a team. I am not alone. It is good that people said yes and came here to my country. When my team came to my country with me I felt like Moses when Aaron and Hur came to hold up his arms. When he was too tired and weary to hold his arms up any longer they came alongside him to hold up his arms that the battle might be won by the Israelites. When I see missionaries come to my country this is how I feel. You see, it is not about you or me, but it is about community. It is about being family. We get to do this together. The task of evangelizing this nation is big and heavy, but my team is here helping me. I do not have to do this alone anymore. I have a family around me who is fighting alongside me for the destiny of my people.

 

MAPS Global Student

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Taking Your Secret Place Public

What would it look like if you prayed and interceded for the lost or the unreached for 30 minutes every day in the secret place and then brought that into a house of prayer? How would God move if you spend your free time intentionally engaging and coming into agreement with God’s heart? In Hebrews 7:25 it says this, ‘Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.’

Jesus is always interceding for us. Intercession goes beyond just praying. It’s taking those prayers on yourself. He’s the only one that can since He died on the cross. He took all of that on already. Because Jesus lives in us and us in him, we can come into partnership with what he’s already doing constantly. We may not feel a heart for what we’re praying for, but He will give your heart what burdens His if you continue to press and and pray for it. Let’s continue to partner with it even if we can’t feel it.

If you only spend the time during an intersession set and no other time outside of it. That’s only 30-60 minutes a week praying into salvation for the lost or bringing the gospel to the unreached. That’s only two topics and there are so many other topics we can pour our hearts into that need to be prayed into as well. What if you take extra time during your quiet time in your secret place to pray into this things as well? In Matthew 6:6 is says, ‘But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’

There is something unique about taking the time and going to where no one can see you, where it’s just God and you, and pouring your heart out for the nations or the lost or how many people are affected by pornography, or abortion. Whatever the topic is there is something that is powerful and God loves when you pray and intercede in your secret place. If we practice and steward praying and interceding in the secret, our time in a house of prayer should look very different if haven’t been doing it in secret.

What comes out of our hear in our alone time probably looks different then when we do it in front of people. What if it didn’t though? What if you were just as raw with God in a house of prayer as you were in the secret place? I think things would visibly shift in the atmosphere around us if we practice this. Our boldness and honest needs to be the same in our prayers no matter where we are. The amount of people around us should not change anything. The fact we have a mic in our hand should not change anything. That difference needs to be smooths out and erased. We can’t let the genuineness and boldness of our prayers be different between the two.

It’s important to be intentional with interceding and praying for what burdens your heart. The more we do this the more we partner with Jesus, which will affect us many areas of our walk in life. This topic is something God is revealing to me I feel. Personally, I know I’m no where close to doing this but I want to steward this more and more. When we steward this intentionally, I believe it will change not just nations, but everything. And if everyone in the room is doing this daily, how could God resist moving?

 

Ryan Hoskins, MAPS Global Student

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The Seeds We Plant

Sometimes God gives us chances to build friendships with locals and share the full gospel; however, sometimes God only gives us brief moments to plant seeds. I want to be faithful with the time God has given me in this nation. I’m learning to be obedient and look to Him for how to respond when it comes to evangelism. Sometimes we are asked to be faithful to do the work of building and maintaining a friendship, and sometimes I feel a stirring from the Holy Spirit to share as much as I can because all I have is this moment. This was one of those occasions where I felt it was my one shot to love this person as much as I possibly could.

A couple weeks ago my team and I went out to play music and do evangelism. We worshipped freely in the open air. We danced and were filled with the joy of the Lord. The dance itself felt like a prophetic declaration that the Joy of the Lord was greater than the oppression, particularly on women, in this country. It didn’t take long for a small crowd to gather around – sometimes joining in the dancing with us. Many people said they were drawn to the joy they saw in us.

During that time I befriended this sweet woman. She wore a hijab and clung to her purse, clearly drawn to us but not totally trusting or sure why we were there. I used all the words I knew in her language to connect with her. It was amazing how much I was able to connect with her and love her even with a huge language barrier. My team member, who spoke the language, prayed for her and shared the gospel but was quickly grabbed to translate for someone else. All that my teammate communicated to me about my new friend was that her husband wanted to divorce and she didn’t want him to leave her.

I felt strongly that this woman just needed to feel loved and seen. She stayed by me the whole time watching the dancing. She clearly wanted to join in but was hesitant. I talked with her all I could. I hugged and grabbed her arm or hand every chance I could. (The culture here is VERY physically affectionate). Eventually, I got her to dance with me! She was all smiles, holding my hand and dancing in circles to “I Am a Child of God.” In that moment she got a taste of the true joy and freedom that we have in Christ! I can only imagine what that meant to her heart coming from a culture where the women are so oppressed. I’m sure we made quite a spectacle laughing and dancing together while she tried to keep her hair covered.

I was heartbroken when we had to leave. She didn’t have a phone or a way to see me again. I kept calling her the words I knew for “my friend” and “my love/my soul” in her language (which is something you call your friends.) When she left we hugged and used all the affectionate goodbyes. As I saw her walking away I yelled one last “goodbye, friend” and she smiled so big!

I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again but I know that planted a seed in her heart and I am praying for her everyday. I am praying that Jesus will encounter her. I am praying that Jesus will draw her away with His love and heal her heart. I’m praying that His will be done in her marriage. I’m praying that God uses whatever happens to lead her to salvation and true joy and freedom in Christ.

 

Katie Prock, MAPS Global Student

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Antioch Series: When Worship Prayer And Missions Collide // A Heavenly Family


#4- A Heavenly Family


By Acts chapter 6, the Apostles are so overwhelmed with the work that comes with revival that they call a meeting to figure out how to raise up and train “second tier” leaders to help carry the load of administration that comes with thousands of people under your pastoral care. They were in desperate need to return to the things they did at first anddevote themselves to the word of God and prayer.”  It is now about a decade since the day of Pentecost and they still haven’t left Jerusalem and there are no indicators that they were even considering the possibility of sending out laborers for the task that was given to them by the resurrected Lord Himself.


Something else was beginning to rear its ugly head in Acts 6 that was subtly going unnoticed in the Jerusalem movement. There was a deep undercurrent that was causing an ambivalence, yea even an aversion to the mandate to disciple all nations.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. – Acts 6:1


Yes, the busyness of revival was real, but something even more real was lurking in the shadows. We see the first glimpse of it in Acts 6 but it doesn’t come to the forefront until about another decade later in Acts 15. It finally comes to a head in ANTIOCH with a rebuke of an Apostle by another Apostle in front of the whole church.

Antioch becomes the flash point where God deals with the sin of racism in the global church in the first century. Antioch is the first place we see a multi-ethnic leadership over a multi-ethnic community. God was doing something unique in this community that was preparing them to be the sending center to the ends of the earth. God was tearing down strongholds that were preventing the church from fulfilling her destiny.

RACISM IS ANTI-GOSPEL AND THE ENEMY OF MISSIONS

 

As Gentiles begin to come into the kingdom and Antioch rises to prominence in the first century Christian movement, some teachers from Jerusalem, feel it’s their duty to visit these “barbarians” and bring some theological correction to their movement that was clearly “out of order”. Paul and Barnabas, who have been a part of this new multi-ethnic leadership team take issue with these racist ideas parading around as inspired words.

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” – Acts 15:1

Paul and Barnabas, who then were based in Antioch, challenge these ethnocentric, anti-gospel teachings and the debate makes its way to the very top. The Jerusalem council (Acts 15) was the first church council recorded and its purpose was to tear down cultural ideas that were masking themselves as theological truths and obstructing the advancement of the gospel to the ends of the earth.

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” – Acts 15:6-11

As the council reached its’ conclusion, those present penned a letter recognizing the legitimacy of these Gentile believers and exhorting them continue in the faith. The sent this letter to Antioch with a team of prophets accompanying Paul and Barnabas. This marks a significant transition in the Book of Acts where the church and leadership in Jerusalem no longer remain the central component to the Holy Spirit record of the God’s activity in the first century. From this point on Antioch and its multi-ethnic leadership team become the “central hub” of New Testament Christianity.

Even though Peter had the correct theological stance of “inclusion of the Gentiles through the gospel” at the Jerusalem council, we soon find out that having the right theological stance can be much different than acknowledging your own ethnocentricity and allowing God, by the power of the Spirit, to search you and fully deliver you from the culture that nurtured your fallen mindset.

When Peter finally makes it down to Antioch to see what is transpiring in this new apostolic center, he comes face to face with his own racism.

For before certain men came from James, he [Peter] was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” – Galatians 2:12-14

Paul’s rebuke to Peter’s conduct in Antioch is simple yet profound. I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

In other words…

 

The cross is the end of racism.

 

Paul says that his confrontation with Peter was over the truth of the gospel itself. Christ not only died for us, but died with us and as us. Now if you became one with Jesus on the cross and joined with Him in the grave, then it is impossible for you not to be raised with Him with a new nature. You died with Christ so that He could raise you with Him and justify you as righteous, holy, and blameless. God raised Jesus, vindicating His life of obedience, and in the same moment destroyed the power of death and the curse of the fall over you, having been raised with him. When he came out of the grave, you were reborn and now have a new nature inherited from the Second Adam.

You now are altogether different than who you once were. You no longer are identified with the nature you inherited from the first Adam. The finished work of the cross makes you a new creation.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

…and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.Colossians 3:10-11 

This new nature you have inherited is Christ’s nature within you. You in Him and Him in you. This nature is shared by all who believe in Him.

Something finally clicked with Peter in Antioch. Maybe it took a public rebuke for his racist attitudes and actions to finally be purged. Later he writes, near the end of his life to the church dispersed all over Asia minor, You are a chosen race [genos], a holy nation [ethnos]…once you were not a people [laos], but now you are God’s people [laos]…”. 1 Peter 2:9-10

These words from Peter take aim at any remnant of ethnocentrism that may have been lingering in the dispersed believers throughout the Roman empire. The same Peter that pulled back from fellowship with brothers from different races is now declaring that through the body and blood of Jesus, God has created a whole new genos, ethnos, and laos. This new family, race, and nation is made up of believers from every ethnic group on the planet. The Blood of Jesus has freed us from every earthly, Adamic, unspiritual, means of separation. We no longer are defined by our Socio-Economic status, Politics, or cultural preferences. Jesus is the end of Ageism, Sexism, Nationalism and most of all Jesus is the end of racism. The church is a global family of affection and the ruling aristocracy in the earth. You have more in common with the brethren in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia, and Indonesia than you do with your closest unbelieving friend that has the same political, cultural, and social views as you. You share the same spirit, blood, and nature.

Jesus displays this on his leadership first leadership team. The Lord handpicked men from polar opposite sides of the spectrum and turned them into something altogether new. He takes them through such a magnificent transformative journey that their former political allegiances, passions, paradigms, all melt under the power of the leadership and love of Christ and they in turn begin love each other in the same manner.

Racism denies the power of the cross and clings to the nature that we inherited from Adam. Racism and the Gospel are mutually exclusive. One cannot “deny himself, pick up his cross and follow Jesus” and at the same time attach themselves to ethnocentristic mindsets and racist attitudes. As Russell Moore so eloquently states, “You can’t serve Jesus Christ and Jim Crow at the same time.

We learn to love beyond ourselves when we embrace those that are ethnically and cultural different than us. The comfort of the homogenous bubble of Jerusalem Christianity was robbing the apostolic church from entering into the John 17 “glory” of being united in Jesus Christ across the diving wall of hostility that separated races. When we are surrounded by people who look like us, think like us, talk like us, and dress like us, our love is fenced in by our own comfort and self-importance. We are not loving like the cross teaches us to love, we are loving our self-reflection.

Racism makes us irrelevant because it refuses self-sacrificial love. Racism strips us of our authority as peacemakers standing between two parties at odds because it attaches itself to one side of the argument.  

Racism makes us deaf because we cannot hear the wounded groan of our brothers and sisters while our ears are clogged with cultural narratives. Therefore, we cannot “weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:15)

Racism makes us blind because we cannot see glaring injustices through the fog of political rhetoric. Like the lawyer in Luke 10, desiring to justify ourselves, we smugly ask Jesus, “WELL WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?!?!”

Racism is the enemy of missions because true missions is born out of a vision of the worth of Jesus that produces a self-sacrificing love for peoples and nations. These nations we would have nothing in common with on our own. Now the commonality we have with the unreached of the earth is the compassion of the Lamb that compels us towards and not away from our “enemies”. 

Here in Antioch they began to call themselves not by their ethnic identities, not by their national allegiances but simply by one word that described what they now were together, “Christians”. (Acts 11:26) Little Christs… crucified with Him, buried with Him, and raised with Him in the newness of life where there is no Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

What is the indicating marker in your life that tells everyone you are have been so radically transformed by the gospel and ripped out of your former passions, former mindsets, former allegiances? Is it not that we love what we formerly hated? And what does that love look like except to lay our lives down to serve those that could never repay us? Is it not that we care for our brother in his need?

 

Then we can truly call ourselves, “Christians”.

 

Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group. Jesus is calling the church to stare its racism in the face and repent. The current conversation about racial tension in America is an opportunity to do just that. Somewhere along the way we lost the biblical command to be “slow to speak, quick to listen, slow to angerand in its place we have inserted “categorize the opponent, attack with counterpoints, win the argument”. Make no mistake, God is using the discussions around police brutality, institutional racism, criminal justice reform, income disparity, educational inequality, southern strategy politics, privilege, ect… to refine us in love and humility. What’s at stake here is more than losing an argument, it might be losing our soul. The church in America divided over social, political, and economic issues says to the world that the gospel is weak, the kingdom is fractured, and Christ is an inadequate leader.

What we don’t realize is, by ignoring, dismissing or worse, actively emboldening one side of the conversation, we could actually be forfeiting our destiny as the church in this nation to become an Antioch at the end of the age. I believe that the church in America is called to be a sending nation that participates with the Lord of the Harvest in praying, training and sending laborers to the ends of the earth. We are throwing away our destiny with every dismissive, apathetic or argumentative attitude when it comes to race in America. The current racial climate is a training ground to teach us to love like never before and to cleanse us of our ethnocentrism so that we can actually look up and see the white fields ready for harvest in the nations of the earth.

 

R.A. Martinez

 

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Triumph Through Fasting

I felt the Lord stirring me to fast… I said “God Again?” “Yes again” He said.

As a ‘worker’ trainee on a short three month trip, I have been preparing for this season abroad. I have prayed, studied, meditated, and even fasted. In fact I had fasted right before coming on this trip for an extended time beyond the normal 3-7 day period. In many ways I felt I had prepared enough, done enough to make this trip a success. In my heart I resisted having to do more particularly when it takes away something that is a comfort, like food. And yet I feel my soul weakening here, my spirit growing dull, and the enemy’s voice growing louder. I must have thought before coming here that the enemies attacks would be less than they are or that I am stronger than I actually am in resisting temptation. So here I go preparing for the Lord’s grace to fast, but also preparing for whatever the Lord will do in the process.

Outside of my comfort zone of America, the enemy feels stronger than normal. Because we are humans, no matter how hard we prepare for these kinds of trips there is always something unknown that comes up in our hearts. For example, if we ask the Lord to give us love, patience, and humility, of course, He does. Yet, other areas that are hidden come up, such as anger, fear, or self preservation. The enemy of our souls has been messing with humans so long that he has a 1, 2, 3 step program. Step 1. He will try attacking your surface level weakness areas. Step 2. If he can’t get you there he will go to the deeper, hidden, weak areas and attack. Step 3. He will repeat steps 1 and 2 again and again and again, every time he feels he has you are going week in those areas. Your welcome!

My hope is in the fact that the Lord knows this all to well. Our weakness, temptations, and struggles do not cause Him to change His mind about our calling. In fact He will use the devil, and our weakness; unphased He approaches us and says, “I’m going to use this and make you triumphant.” “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. When we call on Jesus He comes to deliver us. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.

I am reminded that Jesus Himself after being commissioned to ministry went into the wilderness for 40 days and was tempted by the enemy. Not only was He tempted in the wilderness, in Matthew 4:1 it says the Spirit lead Him to be tempted. John Piper said, “The Spirit of God willed that the Son of God be tested on His way into ministry and He willed that Jesus triumph in this testing through fasting.” Somehow fasting played a big part of the triumph that Jesus had in the wilderness. Perhaps I have seen fasting in the wrong way. Many times I have seen fasting as giving up pleasure of food to get something I want; instead of a way of triumphing through testing.

The Spirit lead Jesus to where He knew the devil would try to tempt Him. Jesus didn’t fast in order to get something out of the Lord, but He humble Himself before His Father. By submitting Himself through giving up the pleasure of food, He was able to triumph over the devil and boldly declaring His full submission to the Father. Jesus showed that He wanted the Father’s will above His own temporary desire. He gave up the temporary in order to serve the purposes of the eternal. Nothing changed in the heart of Jesus when the devil tempted Him. It wasn’t the devil that gave Jesus His resolve to submit to His Father. His fasting was the proof of this submission and when the devil tempted Him He was able to verbally declare the resolve in His own heart. For those of us who do not claim to be fully God, fasting can shows us how we can submit to our Heavenly Father. If we can lay down our flesh in order to submit to the Lord by fasting it also can show us the triumph we can have over our enemy. When the devil tries to show us something desirable we have a deeper understanding that connects us to the truth that the temporary is lesser than the eternal. It’s a journey we Christians are on in understanding how to submit to the Lord. “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2.

And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3

I have spend the last few weeks meditating on the last part of this verse. “Man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” How profound and unfathomable is this statement. I can taste, see, touch, smell and know that God and his goodness is better than bread. Knowing Him satisfies to the very center of my being. I can forever find new manna which feeds me spiritually.

I love the Lord for showing me what it looks like to triumph through fasting. If I can fast it shows that I am capable of submitting to the Lord and resisting the enemy, and therefore I am capable of doing the will of the Father. When I am satisfied with God all other temptations grow distant and lack their appeal.

Caridad Haller, MAPS Student

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Global Shaking From A Different Perspective

Arab Spring. Iranian Protest. The Great Refugee Crisis. Civil War.

Masses of people in worlds of uncertainty. Unsure of where to call home, their country borders called into question. For many -this would cause great fear and panic to overtake their heart. In fact, Jesus says that “men’s heart shall fail them for great fear and for looking after those things that shall come on the world…” (Luke 21:26). With the events that will transpire in the future men and women will be crippled, paralyzed with terror. However, in the midst of these shakings we as believers are not only to have peace-we are actually to be able to advance the Kingdom of God.

How is it that believers as mere men and women should be exempt from falling aptive to this paralyzing fear. I believe the answer is also found in the text of Luke 21. The scriptures that their heart will fail, because they are looking after those thing. I believe that the fear or the peace comes from what we behold and look at. We know we are to look, behold, the One who sits on the throne-who is far above and beyond all that we see and do not see We are to desire to sit and gaze at the One Thing. I am convinced that as we look at Him, we begin to see how he sees-even how He sees these shakings. These shakings-although not His design- are used in His hand to produce the greatest of all goods-salvation.

In Acts, Paul addressing the people at Mars Hill -talked about the “unknown God”. He said He is the God of all mankind. And it is He who determines the boundary lines in which men should dwell. And He does this-so that men may grope for him-and seek Him, though he is not far off. So I believe in the midst of moving boundary lines, the moving of people groups, that in the midst of that tragedy that God is doing the ultimate miracle. He is giving men and women a groan for salvation, a desire for Himself.
I witness this during my first trip into a new region in the Middle East. Over seventy refugees were crammed into a townhouse, house of prayer and home to our host. They were living there. Forced from their homes. All that they had, left, deserted, they had nowhere to call home. Yet they were the most welcome guest of our host. We witness the first time he addressed these that he allowed in his home “My most honored guest….” his remarks went on for a long time. It was not the traditional gospel message. It was one explaining that from the beginning that God was using these shakings to intervene in their life and given them a chance of meeting with God. Most people listen with great intensity. They wanted God. So many of them stood to make this declaration that at one point-our host in disbelief made them sit back down. He re-explained to them-for surely they must not be understanding-this Gospel may cost them their life, they may be persecuted, isolated, shamed—and yet once again-with clear determination they stood. They wanted Jesus!

As I witnessed this, I realized that I have faith that during the greatest shakings -that Jesus has a reward. When I read Matthew 24 and I read that at the climax of history and with some of the greatest shakings on earth, with massive destructions–that this Gospel will be preached to all the ends of the earth and then the end shall come. I have become convinced that God will have his way in the deepest, darkest shaking. He will have His glory. The real question is will I have enough faith, enough determination to look at Him long enough to maintain His perspective over CNN’s. If I can do this-then I have the privilege in participating with Him in the reaping of the greatest harvest yet to come. In the midst of race riots, war, famine, migrations of people, I can stand with Him in the midst of great fear—and introduce them to the Prince of Peace.

Oh what a privilege!

Ronnette Cooper, MAPS Leadership

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God Does Not Disappoint

Sometimes, things don’t turn out the way we expect. I think for most of us we can actually say they usually don’t turn out the way we expect. Life happens, human hearts are involved and things are constantly changing around us. But in the midst of the tossing to and fro with the uncertainties of life and the moment you snap back from the initial shock of things not going the way we thought, there should always be something we can hold onto. Hope in the midst of the storm. Expectation in the throws of disappointment. The Father is always good, and he is working all things out for our good.

When the initial sting hits us in the place where it seems life is being turned upside down or when we are caught off guard, we don’t always tend to let the first thing come out of our mouth be that God is good. We begin searching for the reason why it is wrong, looking for something or someone to blame for the current state of our life. It’s rare that we can actually let the phrase “it’s going to be okay, because God is in control and He is good” come out of my mouth first. Sure we can sit there later on and know that, but do we really believe it and let that be what helps the impact of what life is currently throwing at us?

God is good. It’s true, I can sit here and recite bible verses and sing worship songs declaring that truth. But when it’s just me sitting in a room alone with pain and sorrow in my heart, can I still say God is good? Or rather, can I say it and truly believe it when my brother has cancer and could have weeks to live, my future is in question because I can’t find an answer I’m looking for, I’m slipping farther and farther into debt and the same lies and accusations of years past are creeping in and taking over? Or when parents are faced with the death of a child? Or in natural disaster when houses, cars, belongings and memories are lost?

Or if we are able to let “God is good” come out of our mouth it’s usually a defensive mechanism to somehow mask the disappointment we are about to face. No where in the Bible did it say don’t get disappointed or don’t grieve. In fact majority of the psalms are songs of grief and lament. A cry out to God to come and fix my current state of being. Yet, we tend to think we have to stop feeling that actual feeling and emotions and be happy and alright. But where’s the growth and beauty in that acting like it’s not there? How can you move forward from that moment and what do you gain but simply “letting it go”?

Saying God is good and He is working all things for our better is not neglecting or disowning the pain and sorrow you are in in that moment, though we tend to think that if we can declare that that we need to be happy and have it all together. Yet, don’t we know that God loves the process? The process where we are met with our brokenness and questions and are able to bring them to Him and lean on Him for the answers instead of searching in books, teachings, people or even ourselves. He’s not looking or expecting us to be met with pain and sorrow and to simple brush it off like it wasn’t there, because we all know that 2, 5, or even 10 years later that’s going to come back to us because we simply shoved it down and acted like it wasn’t a thing. I believe there’s a moment when we are met with all those things that the Father is waiting for us to come running into His arms, not saying everything is good and fine, but telling Him how we are hurt and in pain and how it feels. We read in the bible that Jesus actually wept, before making his way to the cross He actually went to the Father and asked for a way out, feeling the disappointment of His friends not staying up and watching with him or the intense betrayal of one of His own. He went to the cross and He took on the fullness of our pain and sorrow. He knows how it feels, Jesus being fully man actually felt human emotions and pain. So He’s not surprised when we feel those very emotions and actually have a response to them.

But in that moment, when we feel all hope is lost and that it’s gonna take alot to get back from this, He smiles at us, with tears in His eyes, feeling the pain and sorrow, fully knowing all that is happening. In that moment we can fall apart, in His arms. Not relying on ourselves to meager up some hope, but to lean into Him who is our Hope. He is our Hope.

His power is made perfect in our weakness. Not in my strength and what I can bring to the table. But when I let go, run into His arms and choose to trust Him with my heart and my life. Hope does not disappoint. God does not disappoint.

Bethany Tombley, MAPS Global Leader

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The Song Of The Birds

“The flight of the birds invites an entire nation to rise in the heights to meet its Creator through a new song.

The song of the birds awakens our souls; a song that invites us to unite in a melody of adoration and gratitude to the only God who opens the heavens to offer us a new day.

The song that has been inspired by the true God, the song that is not distracted by dark melodies.

The sun is appearing, reflecting only a glimpse of the glory of a great God, while the birds are preparing for a long day because a great fishing is coming. And they with their song have already prepared the perfect atmosphere for the fishermen, who launch their nets with expertise. They are very confident that the Captain has patiently prepared his boat to receive the most varied and gigantic fish.

This friendly harmony between birds, fishermen and the Captain of the boat produces an exquisite confidence.

A security that you will only find when you get on the boat of the One who extends his helping hand. When you look at Him and you recognize that the captain will take you to the right place and to a safe harbor.

It does not matter how strong the coming storm is, if the rudder will always be in the powerful hands of the Captain. And if you fall in very deep waters His net will be ready to rescue you.

During this great day, the birds continue to soar the heights, strengthening those who in the fishing boat are waiting for the movement of the waters. Sometimes the birds point out the place to find fish, other times they are fishing themselves.

At the end of the day, the Captain continues to guide and the fishermen are very grateful to see their nets full.

This is the moment where birds look for trees to rest on; leafy trees which serve as shelter and food. Trees with firm roots and strong branches where they can find rest.

The birds find only a few trees but the Captain shows them in the distance a fertile land with the promise that this fertile land will give them strong trees.

This promise makes the birds take flight and its song fills the atmosphere. The catch of fish is increasing and while it is increasing, thousands of birds appear to join in the song. More fishermen are ready to join into the great catch. The Captain smiles, and looking towards the fertile land, he finds that enough trees have already grown to give shade to the thousands of  birds that have joined us in this journey.”

I wrote this while observing the city I have been living in for placement.

One of the things that touched my heart in my first week in this city was the call to prayer.
The sound of this call transmits hopelessness, it sounds like a lament that oppresses the entire city.

I realized that at the end of the song the birds around began to sing very loudly and I felt like God in His perfect design surrounded this city with waters birds, fish, dogs, cats and all these represent His beautiful creation.
That same creation conveys hope and does not remain silent.

I felt that God in His mercy is building together with all His creation a new song directed towards Him who is the only one worthy of adoration.

When I survey the sea, boats, and fishermen surrounding the city, I imagine Jesus in a boat as captain preparing every detail of a wonderful fishing of souls.

The song of the birds brought to my mind the army of worshipers that God is raising in this nation to manifest His Presence.
The fishermen make me think of every worker willing and ready to spread the good news of salvation. The few trees reminded me of the need for many teachers and pastors who can take care of the worshipers and of course the new souls added by God.
While observing the city, I thought about the privilege of being able to participate in this journey, believing that the perfect government of God is approaching this nation.

Thinking about all this, I believe that though my trip has been long, I have arrived at the place where God has called me to join His eternal purposes in this specific time and hour.
The center of God’s will will always be the best place to be.

And this poetic writing was what flowed from my mind.

 

Ligia Ossa, MAPS Student

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His Fierce Pursuit

I feel so incredibly blessed to be a part of this 90 day placement. To say that I was shocked when I learned that I would be joining the team back in November is an understatement, and I still go through moments where I am, once again, hit with the revelation of “holy crap, I’m in the Middle East.”

My journey leading up to this moment has been pretty crazy in my opinion, and I truly believe that my Christian walk has been sped up more than I think I deserve. It has taken quite awhile for me to make sense of how I could be serving the Lord in an unreached nation right now, when I was denying His very existence only a year and a half ago. But it’s important to remember that God truly does work in mysterious (yet, always good) ways, and in time frames that are hard for us to understand sometimes.

His ways are not our own and if He did work in the ways my mind sometimes does, I can promise you I would still be at home mulling over lies about my lack of qualifications as a Christian, and wallowing in guilt and shame over the years I spent rebelling and denying Him.

It took me awhile before I began to understand why He would send me within such a short amount of time, why He was so willing to use me already, and why He was speaking so clearly to me that this placement is just the beginning of a life of missions. I was believing all kinds of lies, no matter how dumb they sounded, and it wasn’t until I actually made it to the Middle East that I was really able to begin replacing those lies with truths.

It is crazy how much power a lie can have over you if you don’t break agreement with it. For example, if I did not break agreement with the lies that:

  • 1) I am not qualified to go on placement because I haven’t been a Christian long enough (I know that sounds pathetic, but trust me, it can truly tear a person apart)
  • 2) I have so much catching up to do in terms of reading the Bible and knowing more about God, I couldn’t possibly be of any help to the placement team
  • 3) I have sinned too much in the past to be of any use to God

Along with so many others (some I’m still discovering), I would not have been able to persevere and do what it took for me to get here.

Now that I’m on placement, the Lord has been giving me deep revelation of His love for me. It sounds so simple, because it is, but if you miss the simplicity of how steadfast and whole-hearted His love is, you miss the opportunity of knowing what it means to have freedom in Him, discovering your identity as a child of God, living life without self-condemnation, and seeing that everything that ever was and is to come is because of His love for us.

As soon as I was able to even slightly grasp the vastness of God’s love for me, I started to see past the lies that have been hindering me from stepping into my identity and destiny.

It’s so amazing to sit back and reflect on what God has brought me through since the day I gave my life over to Him in 2016, and see that He has been leading me to truth and revelation of His love the whole time. That, although He is using me to serve the church in the Middle East, He is also using this trip to serve my own beliefs about myself and Him. With every new revelation comes a truth replacing a lie that has unknowingly been keeping me from stepping further into my identity as a daughter.

I am so moved by just how much God loves His children, and how I am still barely scratching the surface of what is the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of His love. I am loved with a love that is so crazy, He allowed me to completely turn away from Him, deny Him, turn others away from Him, and then run back to Him at my lowest point. Not only did He accept me, but He was waiting patiently for me and welcomed me with open arms, ready for me to step into what He’s always had planned for my life.

Throughout my participation in MAPS, the saying, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called” has become so real to me. He has made me qualified through my willingness to say “yes” and surrender my heart to Him over and over again. It’s so interesting to me how God can use an assignment He’s placed on your life to not only grow His Kingdom, but make you more whole in the process. My heart is filled with joy at the fact that He is in constant pursuit of my heart and wholeness throughout my walk with Him.

I could cry every day for the rest of my life at the revelation that God loves to use even the most “broken, unfit” people for the good of His Kingdom. How wonderful it is to know that your qualifications in the eyes of the Lord are not based on the years you’ve been a Christian, but on your own willingness to say “yes” and be molded by Him along the way. That there’s no timeline you have to follow with X amount of years as a Christian under your belt or having gone through inner-healing to such-and-such extent or knowing a certain amount about the Bible or being fully developed in at least one spiritual gift. While these are important things, it legit does not matter to Him where you are at with all of it. He loves to teach and bring you through these things along the way, and is in constant pursuit of your heart and wholeness in the midst.

I am seeing so vividly now that it really only takes a surrendered heart and a weak “yes” for God to take your hand and bring you into His will for the generation you’re a part of. He will use you no matter the experience you have as a Christian, and is delighted in what you have to offer every moment. There is never a time where He is disappointed in your lack or weakness. The longer I’m here, the more I see that there’s a lot of strength to be found in having weakness. You find yourself leaning on the Lord more than ever in order to get through and overcome situations, and you come out on the other side of it with so much more wisdom and revelation than you had going in. I love how God works!

Reflecting on where the Lord has led me in such a short amount of time is so crazy, and I don’t think I will ever be able to not get emotional at the reality of how far God’s love and grace stretches no matter how far gone you think you are. The amount of inner-healing the Lord has been walking me through is astounding. If I had not said “yes” to going on this trip, it would have taken me years to gain the revelation I have gained in less than a month of being here.

At the end of it all, it’s not about how much I deserve anything. It’s about the fact that Jesus’ name deserves to be proclaimed and lifted up in the nations, and my saying “yes” is all it takes for Him to use me for the good of His Kingdom. He desires my heart as well as the heart of the nations, and will pursue both in the process of using me.

 

Amber Barnett, MAPS Student