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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

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Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, And Missions Collide // Sojourners

#3- Sojourners on the Earth

 

“Those that were scattered”… Arguably the most influential church in history was started by a small band of refugees who, in the midst their most painful season, took a simple step of faith and obedience that changed history.

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch… But there were some of them…who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” – Acts 11:19-21

Luke, the writer of Acts, gives us no insight into how the decision was made for these displaced believers to reach out across the “dividing wall of hostility” to share the gospel with people who were ethnically, culturally, politically and socially different than them but I am sure that the journey of their displacement from the Jewish “hub” of Jerusalem and their pilgrimage throughout the Greco-Roman world had much bearing on their eventual conclusion to preach the gospel to “the Hellenists also” and thus change history.

What was it that God was doing with this company of people that prepared them to pioneer the apostolic missions base of the New Testament? I believe that was God using their displacement according to His purposes and for His glory. I would go as far to say that it was necessary for them to go through their scattering in order to dislodge some fatal value systems they inherited from the Jerusalem church that would have prevented them from ever becoming the sending center they were destined to be together.

What was God aiming to dislodge and ultimately expel out of the hearts and minds of these Jewish believers by driving them from house and home, out of the bubble of “Jerusalem Christianity” as refugees into cities and towns to which they did not belong? I believe the Lord was warring against two subtle and lurking enemies of the gospel that were settling into the culture back in Jerusalem.

What was this monster hiding in the shadows right under Peter and James’ nose?

Well it is Pride but it has two ugly heads and they are named Nationalism and Ethnocentrism (Racism). They were and still remain the biggest enemy of the gospel and of missions.

These enemies of the embryonic missions movement had to be dealt with in order to see the fullness of what the church in Antioch was intended to be.  In this blog we will tackle the first and in the next blog we will take on the latter.

 

nationalism – exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups; loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness

 

NATIONALISM IS AN ENEMY OF THE GOSPEL

When you believed in the Lord Jesus and were baptized into the faith, you were re-born into an entirely new reality called “the kingdom”. Jesus says in the gospel of John, chapter 3, that you were “born from above” into a kingdom and a city that is from heaven.

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again [anōthen // from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” … That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. – John 3:3, 6

Jesus Christ, the God-man, was born of a woman but inherited a divine nature through the virgin birth from heaven outside of the curse Adam’s fall. He would live the life of complete agreement and total obedience to the Father that the first Adam failed to do. Then, he would allow men fueled by demonic rage to execute Him as a criminal in order pay the price of our broken covenant by death on a cross. In this, he removed the requirements of the curse from us by fulfilling the law on our behalf and it’s legal demands. By dying sinless, he could both pay our debt and take into himself the entire created order under the curse of Adam including you and I. He, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, would take us into Himself on the cross, not only dying for us, but dying with us and as us. When He came out of the grave, He did not come out by himself but instead brought with Him an entirely new order and creation that was re-born. What you formerly were and what you formerly belonged to has died in Christ on a tree. Paul tells us in Colossians 2 that we have died to the stoicheion of the cosmos. (Col 2:20) This is literally means that you no longer are governed by or belong to the fundamental principles and elements that govern this universe.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

You have died in Jesus and God has raised you with a new nature, not inherited from the first Adam but received from the perfect Son, the Second Adam, your older brother, Jesus Christ. You are altogether new and unique from what you once were. He has justified you as righteous, holy, and blameless because your life now is Christ’s and by nature you are joined with the Godhead.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself… – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

You are not from here. You were born from beyond the cosmos. The New Jerusalem has birth right citizenship. Therefore, nationalism at it’s core is anti-gospel because it is a lie that deceives the believer into thinking that where they live is where they are from and the culture they are surrounded by is the culture they belong to and must fight for.

The New Testament writers confronted this stronghold head-on. This was no side issue to the Apostles.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…But my kingdom is not from the world.” – John 18:36

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. – 1 John 5:4

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. – 1 Peter 2:9-11

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. – Philippians 3:20-21

But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. – Galatians 4:26

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, – Hebrews 12:22

…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. – Galatians 4:26

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… – Ephesians 2:19

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20


This is the reality of the “sent-ness” of every believer. You do not belong to your nation, culture or social sphere, instead you have been sent as an ambassador of the New Jerusalem to those realms to live out your days as representative of the city that is to come.

Most of us live our lives with far too little awareness of the heavenly realities around us. Most of us go through day after day and seldom feel the impact of the magnitude of what we are caught up in by belonging to Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the ruler of the universe. We woke up this morning and stumbled out of bed into the cosmic significance because of the finished work of the cross. We give little thought to it and consequently our lives often lack the flavor of eternity and the aroma of something ultimate.

When we lose touch with our heavenly citizenship we default back to our Nationalistic existence that finds it’s identity and feels it’s passions and claims it’s ownership over our political parties, economic status, social spheres, and cultural biases. When this happens, we lose that heavenly aroma on our lives and we can no longer be “peacemakers” standing between two opposing parties and bringing them together at the foot of the cross of Jesus. We forfeit the ministry of reconciliation when we become entrenched in the rhetoric of one nation opposed to another, one political party opposed to another, one race opposed to another, ect… We lose our ability to evangelize what we have antagonized, marginalized or tried to run out town with a court order or zoning law.

Nationalism confuses “the kingdom” with “my nation and it’s government”. When this happens, the church abdicates its role and authority and looks instead to the government or a political party as the manifestation of  “the kingdom”. We look to presidents, kings, senators and legislators to write laws that create the “Christian utopia” we expect to enjoy by coercing, pressuring or smothering anyone opposition to our “way of life”. When we confuse the advancement of political ideas with the advancement of the gospel, the believer then promotes that government and that nation as the primary catalyst for the advancement of the kingdom in the earth. So the nation, as we want or suppose it to be, must advance at all costs, especially at the cost of other nations. This is at its core anti-gospel and the enemy of the great commission.

When these lines begin to blur in the mind of the believer, then the enemy of the state becomes the enemy of the church. This will inevitably produce a prejudice and animosity towards any nation or people that is perceived to be a threat to “my nation” and “my way of life”. The litmus test of Nationalism in the church and in the heart of the believer is in whom we declare to be our enemy. This dangerous mixture of nationalism and so-called “Christianity” that identifies its enemy in opposing ethnic or political entities has born devastating and evil fruit throughout history. If we look in the rear view mirror, we will see Crusades, Inquisitions, and Genocides. One does not have to dig to deep to find the origins of thought that massacred 6 million Jews during the holocaust to be nurtured and endorsed by the church of that nation all in the name of God and country.

This violent spirit will, in turn, will cause the church to sell her birthright to disciple all nations (Matt 28:18) through the preaching of the gospel for the bowl of soup of political rhetoric and cultural biases that have little or no priority in the gospel. In short, nationalism makes the main thing, the tertiary thing (the gospel) and the peripheral things become of “supreme importance”.  

Whether we, as believers in America, can admit it or not, the money does not lie. How much money, time and passion the church in America spends on frontier missions and the advancement of the gospel among all peoples vs the money, time and passion we spend on partisan politics, culture wars, or maintaining our social-economic statuses does not even compare. As we say, “the proof is in the puddin’.”

All of the men and women commended for their faith lived and died in the light of the New Jerusalem and understood that they lived on the earth as “sojourners”. They lived in light of their position and reward in the New Jerusalem. This is Christianity 101. This enabled them to hold loosely to material possessions and national identities and emboldened them in radical acts of courage and love with martyrdom spirit.

By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God… These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. – Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16 

Only the cross frees us from Nationalism. Only in the denying of oneself, picking up the cross, and following Jesus can those thick cords of nationalism begin to break off of our hearts and minds. Through their suffering and pain, these scattered, sojourning believers in Antioch had experienced a revelation of the power of that cross. Clinging to national and ethnic identities had to be dislodged by the shaking of displacement and persecution. God, in His sovereign kindness, would allow them to be scattered from the comforts and securities of home, familiar, and roots so that they would be able to experience the reality of “seeking a homeland” and being “sojourners on the earth”. They had to experience the reality of having no homeland for themselves to discover that in fact they belonged to the “city to come”.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. – Hebrews 13:14

Antioch could have never been a “plant” of the Jerusalem church. If it was, it would have carried this ethnocentric and nationalistic culture with it. Those two realities would have choked out the destiny of the missions movement that in the prophetic womb of this company of believers. The mandate to the nations of the earth would have always taken a back seat to needs at home. The gospel would have been primarily to unto building their own nation. Their interpretive grid for the blessings of God would have caused them to spend it on themselves with no second thought about the unreached nations of the earth.

Instead, God took them on a journey of understanding the cross, doing a work in them through years of displacement that would culminate in arriving in Antioch and preaching to the Greeks also. And when the Holy Spirit would say to them a few years later,Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”(Acts 13:2-3), there would be no competing value, prejudice or indifference that would have to first be untangled before they could joyfully send their best to the ends of the earth.

 

R.A. Martinez

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Two Worlds Falling

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I consider if a privilege to write this tonight in a foreign land under Islamic skies. Just a short while ago, a blast sounded across our city from the top of every stone minaret proclaiming the catechismal and idolatrous call “Allahu Akbar, Ashhadu an la ilaha illla Allah, Ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah!”

“Allah is Great

I bear witness that there is no god except the one Allah

I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”

Meanwhile, across the ocean, life in America goes on as usual. Tomorrow morning believers will wake up and get their families ready for church. Hip worship teams will scale dimly lit stages equipped with multi-million dollar production, lights, cameras and sound equipment to lead thousands of onlookers into 15 minutes of worship. After magnificent announcement and offering videos the pastor will take the stage and deliver an inspirational 40 minute sermon complete with humorous experiences, some biblical lessons and finally a touching call to accept Jesus to a room of bowed heads and closed eyes.

Others will fill out $150 ticket conferences this weekend to soak in extended times of worship, be equipped for the hundredth time to lay hands on the sick, prophesy, hear God’s voice and make their way to the front of the line to be blessed by the keynote itinerant man or woman of God who is carrying the word of the Lord for the month- hoping for the day they too will be the one on stage moving in the anointing before the crowds.

Regardless of Catholic or Protestant, evangelical or reformed, charismatic or fundamentalist, the cycle continues and life goes on and on, week by week. Regardless of denominational orientation, all find themselves in the cycle of American Christendom, far from the songs of the minarets. Far from the sound of the unreached world.

I’ll be honest this blog is difficult for me to write. I would much rather spend my time writing to encourage the Church of America in her walk with her Lord, to be thrust deeper into the love of God in Christ and to walk in the fullness of the newness of resurrection life through the finished work. I recognize that the lowest place on the prophetic totem pole is the cynical individual who’s prophetic ministry consists primarily in calling out the flaws and shortcomings of people and ministries, lacking heavenly authority and the tender heart of their Head Jesus Christ the Word. I realize more than ever before how much Jesus looks across the American church with deep love, exhilaration and joy, desiring their very best and highest good at every moment.

Having said that, I am troubled once again tonight by the polarization of these two worlds: The world of the Western Church and the world I am currently living in: the lost world of Islam. I am pained by this dichotomy. More than ever before we need these two worlds to collide in a gospel explosion that results in people movements to Christ. We need the western church to arise and answer the challenge of Islam like never before- for the sake of lost billions of souls.

Yet there is a clear separation of worlds with no foreseeable shift before us without a sovereign awakening by the Holy Spirit. We are entirely too disconnected from the grand crescendoing drama of Matthew 24:14 in America. We have created our own world- our own kingdom of heaven- to live in and from and have insulated ourselves by and large from the missional crisis across the oceans. It doesn’t take a prophet to see the current state clearly: We are our own existence.We have our own church culture detached from that in which we live. We fill our own bookstores, record our own music, study in our own universities, film our own movies, listen to our own radio stations, have our own politicians and run our own coffee shops. We have encased ourselves in a prism of largely middle-class suburban cultural Christianity. The collective result of this emerging subculture is a calcification and solidification of unseen cultural barrier between the church and the surrounding world making Her more and more missionally irrelevant. Moves of the Holy Spirit are understood only in the context of ministering to the saints, not in impacting the lost, so that His saving and healing activity is limited only within the bounds of this cultural kingdom. Often our lens of the outside world is interpreted through the warped perspective of what we see in the media resulting in our burrowing down in silent judgment towards others who are different- particularly Muslims. Couple this with long held bad theology concerning holiness (that holiness is an escape from the world, an abstention of interaction with it lest we be made unclean) and eschatology (that the kingdom of God isn’t primarily a future reality in the millennium but rather one we establish now pseudo-spiritually through material means) and we have ourselves a Christian kingdom of heaven on earth. A kingdom of heaven that is outwardly prosperous yet one that has all but abandoned her mission to the earth.

Consider Luther’s words,

‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?

If we were to be objectively honest with ourselves we have to see a real difference in the present culture of the church in America and the life of the Incarnate God in His earthly ministry. Jesus’ life shows us what it means to be truly missional. The Incarnation is the blueprint of all missions in the earth. Jesus was eternally before His Father in love and bliss and yet stepped out of His Father’s house and entered fully into our experience to rescue us. He fully became all things to all men to heal and save us to the uttermost. He took on the form of a servant to bring us back home to the Father’s house. Do we see a difference here?

We have built our own kingdom of heaven with the unsaid expectation that outsiders must enter on our terms. We have established the very nature of our evangelical approach on this premise! The primary evangelical and kerygmatic epicenter in our churches is from the pastor on Sunday mornings when he asks if anyone wants to accept Jesus. Statistically, most people who will hear the gospel from the American church have to hear it from a pulpit. They have to cross multiple unseen subcultural barriers- making their way through our Christianized universe- to even hear the gospel because we have allocated it to the role of the man on stage on Sunday mornings. The world must come inside our walls to hear the good news- to taste and see the Lord is good. Yet God in the Incarnation in opposite fashion left heaven to bring us home to the Father.

Consider Him who made friends with the sinner and tax collectors, who interacted with and loved the prostitute and leper and poor. There is a difference here. It is Jesus who said, “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20), yet we preach blessing equals wealth. It is Jesus who loved not His life even unto death. Do we embody this example in our life? The essence of missions is simply the Church’s participation in the mission of the Son but do we even know His example that we may begin our participation? Consider Him who died surrounded by His enemies- who sent us out as “sheep among wolves” (Luke 10:3) to mimic His example by carrying our own crosses in self denial for the reconciliation of those wolves around us. Do we look and live like the crucified God? Do we love our lives and hold them close or do we freely give them away for the salvation of the world in self emptying love? Do we intentionally live among the wolves or do we built affluent pens around us and our fellow sheep? I am of the opinion that if Jesus had employed the same methods of cultural engagement and evangelism that we do the world would have been lost- there would have been no cross!

I am not surprised that we are not engaging with the Islamic world on a large scale right now- but I am deeply hopeful tonight. I believe our Lord is changing the understanding and expression of Christianity in this generation- This is a prayer of mine. He is showing us the power of crucified love and is sending us in the same manner. “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you… receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21,22). Yet I am convinced that for Islam to melt off of the hearts of billions, the kingdom of the American church must give way to the outflowing Kingdom of Heaven. The gospel of self actualization must give way to the Gospel of God and of His coming Kingdom. I see millions leaving the West in self emptying love and going to the East as salt and light, lambs among wolves carrying crosses and songs of hope. I see the world of the west fade into something far more glorious and peculiar- one in which the prophetic picture of the Incarnation is repeated time and time again by millions of martyrs in the living and the dying. When the world of the American Church is emptied in self sacrifice by the power of the Cross the opaque Islamic world will be reborn under the power of the Resurrection.

There is a day when the minarets will never again play the songs of Allah. The song of the Lamb will take it’s place for all days. The day is quickly coming- the Lion is coming. I call the American Church in tenderness and sincerity to abandon their lives, take up their crosses and follow the Lamb into the heart of the Muslim world! Let us prepare the way of the Lord- let us make straight His paths! The Lion is coming!

Travis Owens, MAPS Field Staff

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Strength In Surrendered Weakness

Right from the start of this trip the Holy Spirit has been teaching me about the dynamics of how He works within and through a team. One of the things that has really stuck out to me, is how He often uses an individual’s weakness as a strength in the group. As humans it is easy to realize how our best and our strong points are beneficial to a team, but it takes surrendering to the Spirit to realize how He can work through our weaknesses to strengthen a team. I am learning on this trip that through the work of the Spirit, our greatest weaknesses can become our greatest strengths as we learn to listen to the Spirit’s leading and carry one another in the group.

In Scriptures we are commanded to carry one another’s burdens, and I’ve found that the Spirit is more than willing to help in this process. I am finding that often where He allows one to be weak, He will allow another to be strong in Him. He will equip one with what the other needs in order to keep us dependent on one another and allow us to work in unity with one another. He does this to teach us to build each other up in love. But beyond this, He desires to take the weak and make them strong. He desires to take the very details of our brokenness and turn them into highlights of our redeemed strength.

Our willingness to be weak is often what the Lord uses to teach both us and others to be strong. As I learn the value of weakness I become free to fully love my team for who they are, both in their weaknesses and in their strengths. I become released to speak hope into them as I value their surrender more than I value their performance.

What we overcome through Christ becomes a source of strength. So when we become weak with those who are weak, and therefore learn to overcome with them through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we become strong. When what the individuals have overcome become what the group has overcome, and the what I’ve overcome becomes the what we’ve overcome, then we are strong. As my ceiling becomes their floor, and their floor my ceiling, then so much more becomes in reach. In this way our biggest weaknesses become our biggest strengths in the team, because we learn together to rely on the power of the Spirit working through us and through our team to overcome together. We will learn to invite each other into our struggles by being vulnerable with one another, and therefore we invite each other into the revelation and the testimony that comes through our overcoming. Our willingness to be transparent will give room for our team to be empowered to overcome together.

We will grow as much as we are willing to be given to one another. As a team we are developing our strength as we learn to both overcome in our own individual weaknesses and to serve our team members. We are choosing to be committed to one another and to give our all.

In the end, we will be as strong as our surrender. The areas we are most surrendered will always be the areas of our greatest strength, for He Himself said that His strength is made perfect in weakness. Our power comes not from our own strength but from our surrender. I truly believe that as individuals on the team learn to live surrendered to the Spirit He will begin to work through our weaknesses and even turn them to great strengths within the team.

 

Hannah Davis, MAPS Global Staff