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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

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Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, and Missions Collide // God rewrites our stories

#2- God rewrites our stories

How Jesus chooses and trains young leaders is profoundly important to the Antioch story and it is important to what God is doing across the earth as He is raising up Antioch Sending Centers”. These communities of prayer and worship are the “greenhouses” where God is cultivating laborers for the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the promise of the global harvest. There are leadership lessons that every young leader must learn if they are going to carry the weight of the much fruit that God intends to display through their lives for His glory.

Jesus is looking for something dynamically different than the world is looking for in leadership potential. Men are enamored with giftedness, intelligence, charisma, skill, and strength. Jesus is looking for purity, love, humility, and a willing spirit. Our destiny and assignments are dynamically affected by how we respond in the grace of God to Jesus’ leadership in every season of the journey. In this school of leadership there is promotion and demotion, fruit and pruning, favor and testing. Each season is an invitation to greater intimacy with Him and authority in the Spirit. He is forming leaders to be able to carry the weight of what He wants to release on the earth in the generation of His return. Each promotion and each test is sovereignly orchestrated by the Lord to address the deep issues of pride, ambition, fear and carnal wisdom that is currently operating in our souls that we cannot fully see outside of His help. Jesus is a tender leader, he walks with us gently. He does not show us the sin issues hindering our destiny all at once. Instead, He leads us through seasons, allowing us to cooperate with Him in grace. In the tests of delay and promotion, Jesus pries our grip off of what we imagined the fulfillment of the promises over our lives would look like so that we don’t reject the promise when it comes. In the delay, Jesus addresses the levels of our identity and self- confidence that are wrapped up in what our “dreams” and our “callings” are supposed to look like so we can be useful in stewarding what he actually wants to release. He breaks down all the confidence in what we think qualifies us and produces a brokenness that is a sweet fragrance to God. Many of you have already taken a few courses in this leadership school and know full well what I am speaking about.

Jesus is more committed to our destiny than we are.

He is currently developing the wisdom, humility and love you need to actually steward the fullness of the anointing and favor He wants to give you. If we remain unoffended at His ways, even when they seem contrary to our good and opposite from the prophetic promises given to us, we graduate each season. Soon we come to realize that the fulfillment of the promises are never like what we imagined and the fruit of obedience is not our primary reward, it is actually the intimacy we experience with Jesus on the journey that deeply satisfies us. He is our reward.

Jesus prepares apostolic vessels in the fiery furnace of delay. Those who won’t turn to the right or the left emerge as voices.

Peter declares to us that, if necessary, fiery trials are part of Jesus’ leadership over our lives to expose those hidden areas hindering our destiny. How we respond to those tests will determine how long and how often they are necessary. These fiery trials often have to do with the things that are closest to our hearts and emotions.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:6-7

Once, as a young leader, Peter had confidence in his own giftedness and zeal. He could remember firsthand what it felt like to go through Jesus’ leadership school.

Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night…” Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” – Matthew 26:31-35

Fast forward, Peter is utterly broken and quitting on his calling on the shores of the Sea of Galilee after denying Jesus three times. In his greatest hour of brokenness and need, Jesus, the tender shepherd, meets him and redeems his worst moment. Then and only then was he ready to “feed the lambs” and “tend the sheep”. Only about a month after this, Peter is standing up on the day of Pentecost, preaching with power and authority.


When God rewrites your story, He takes your worst moments and makes them the doorway into your destiny.


Here in Antioch, one verse changes all of history, “so Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Paul and he found him and brought him to Antioch.” (Acts 11:25) God, the great Author, was weaving a myriad of stories together in this one verse to bring about a historic moment. What happened in Antioch, like a earthquake in the spirit, sent shockwaves around the world that are still rippling throughout the global church today.

Without Barnabas, without Antioch, without those that were scattered, we do not get the greatest contributor to the spread of Christianity throughout the known Roman world, the majority of New Testament Epistles, our understanding of ecclesiology, missions, and Christian doctrine- we do not get the Apostle Paul. Yes, Antioch was the catalytic moment that launched the apostle Paul and therefore it stands as one of the most historic moments in church history. Before there were churches covering Asia Minor, letters written that would be read by countless men and women throughout history as inspired Scripture, there was a young anointed man with a historic calling on his life going through Jesus’ school of leadership.

God had to rewrite his story.

Barnabas went and searched for the young man, Paul, whom he had met a few years earlier in Jerusalem. Paul had all but quit. He was living back in his parents house trying to pick up the pieces of his broken life after a seemingly failed launch. Three years in the wilderness of Arabia, mistreatment by brethren, no acknowledgement by leaders, the disappearance of favor, dimming of vision for his ministry…. Not to mention everything he had was stripped away until he only has one thing left…. Jesus. The church in Jerusalem at that time did not want to associate with Paul and ended up sending him home to Tarsus. Back home in Tarsus, Paul had run out of ideas and opportunities to get his ministry up and running. He was back at his mom and dad’s house, trying to get a job as a tentmaker and trying to make sense of the last 10 years of his life.

But he was enrolled in the Lord’s leadership training program…

Barnabas finds him broken and discouraged. He was ready for one last leadership lesson from his gentle Instructor in the school of leadership. God uses even our worst moments and redeems our stories. 


The moment that Saul of Tarsus walked through the door at Antioch, God caught everyone into a glorious revelation of His divine plan and the goodness of His gentle leadership.

I don’t think we can appreciate the dynamics of this situation. The church of Antioch existed because of the persecution led by Saul against Stephen. (Acts 11:19) They were those that were scattered when they arrived in Antioch. And now, the man who was responsible for their persecution and the scattering of their families, driving them from their homes as refugees on the run for their lives, walks in the door behind Barnabas.

Antioch is where God rewrites our stories.

God brought Paul to the very place that was the consequence of his worst moment. His darkest hour- when he was a persecutor of the church and oversaw the systematic torture and imprisonment of every believer in Jerusalem- was now staring him in the face as he walked into the room.

God brought Paul to Antioch not only to launch him into his ministry but also to heal him from that orphan lie that constantly reminds him of the shame of what he has done and causes him to over compensate, over perform, and place unrealistic expectations on leaders and friends alike. He needed a father like Barnabas and a community like Antioch to walk with him as he begins to lean into a confidence that would carry him through the difficulty of his apostolic assignment. From this moment on he would know without a shadow of doubt…

Everything is Grace.

The Father doesn’t just redeem the good parts about us, He redeems even the parts we are most ashamed of and uses them for His glory. He doesn’t use us in spite of our weaknesses, He use us because of our weaknesses. He does He doesn’t choose men and women because they are talented, skilled or gifted. He uses whom He chooses and He chooses the weak things. Paul had to learn this  lesson before he could carry the kind of power and authority God intended to entrust him with.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7

Luke doesn’t give us any indicator that it took any amount of time for the leaders of the church to embrace Paul. Not only did they embrace him, but they put him in leadership in Antioch. Through their difficulty, their suffering, their displacement, and through their hardship they had too discovered something about the cross. So much so that when Paul “the former oppressor” walked through the door, they didn’t see him as the monster whose past disqualified him from his future. No, instead they hugged his neck saying, “God has redeemed our story just like He has redeemed yours”. In that moment, as the elders and families of the church in Antioch embraced him as a brother, I can imagine there were many tears as both persecutor and victim experienced the washing of the love of the Father knowing that all along– the pain, the confusion, even the weakness and sin of others was part of His divine plan, “to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) Freedom from shame, unforgiveness, and hopelessness becomes the doorway to our destiny.

Every leader that God raises up to shepherd His people has to learn this lesson and it’s usually through much pain, brokenness, and difficulty in relationships. 

“On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses– … 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. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”. – 2 Corinthians 12:5, 9-10

Paul could own his past, not in a condemning, self hatred or shameful way. He could own even his worst moments because they cannot disqualify him from his destiny but instead exalted the grace of Jesus. Now Paul can walk in confidence knowing that his past does not define him but only the call of God through the finished work of the cross.

Later Paul writes to Timothy, hopeful that his spiritual son would take these same classes in Jesus’ leadership school so that he too can carry the weight of being a faithful and gentle shepherd.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent… the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-16

This is the foundational bedrock for the prophetic and praying community that sends apostolic laborers: A family who gets healed together, carries assignments together. When we say that Antioch communities launch apostolic messengers, I don’t think we have even begun to scratch the surface of what that means for the hundreds of thousands of young “Paul’s” who are right now back in their “Tarsus”, disillusioned and discouraged, sitting on world changing callings and don’t know that they are in Jesus’ leadership school. They need a Barnabas and they need an Antioch. I will tell you this, Antioch has a lot to do with God redeeming the stories of people that we don’t think are qualified to be missionaries yet. 

 

R.A. Martinez

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Releasing The Heart Of God Through Creative Worship

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27.

We were created in the image of God, and part of being made in His image was to reflect His heart as Creator. There is a part of bearing His image on earth that can only come through art and creativity. I have found that I feel the heart of the Father when I create beauty, especially in places where there was none previously. It makes me wonder what He first felt when He created the world, and even more so when He first breathed life into Adam. I can imagine the joy in that moment, as His beloved son opened his eyes and stared back in wonder at his Maker. The excitement that must have hung in the air as He showed him the garden He had made for Him.

We don’t find the need to create beauty in the animal kingdom. They may build homes, but this is driven by practicality and the need for shelter and a place to raise young. With the exception of a few bird species, aesthetic beauty is not something animals desire to create. Even with these few bird exceptions, any attempt at aesthetics is merely to increase the chances of catching a mate, or an attempt to deceive the potential mate into thinking that they are larger than reality. There is no creating for the sake of creativity found in nature. We, as the only creatures made in the image of God, have been given this ability and desire to create beauty and order. The longing to create beauty for the sake of beauty is only found in the heart of man, and is not present in the heart of beast. Creativity therefore sets us apart from mere brute and beast, and allows us to demonstrate an aspect of the heart of God that no other creature can demonstrate.

Originally God was primarily known as Creator. We first knew God as Creator, as He first acted and revealed Himself as our Creator. Therefore, the primary way for mankind to bear His image on the earth would have been through creating. This would include gardening and artwork but also engineering and really any means of taking chaos and turning it to order. The original command to tend the garden was to take the raw materials and create, it was to take the potential that God created and bring it to fullness. God gave Adam and Eve a canvas with all the tools they would need to continue to create. In the garden there were endless opportunities for new growth, new life and new order, and so God placed Adam and Eve in the garden with the command to tend to it. Therefore, an integral part of worship is bearing His image on the earth through creating beauty and order. This would include building, art, math, song, dance, gardening, and many other avenues of order.

The essence of bearing the image of God on the earth is taking disorder and making order. In creating things that are good, we release God’s heart into the world. We are designed to reflect His creativity and to bring life, beauty and order into the earth.

When I look at the earth, I get excited because I see a wonderful canvas just waiting for the children of God to turn it to beauty. I see the earth and ground, groaning and waiting to be turned into a garden again. I see endless potential, every raw material and thing we would ever need to create order and endless beauty. I feel the excitement of the Father and His endless creative energy and passion.

Within the realm of music, we are given the ability and the elements we need to create, yet we are released into our own unique expressions. God created sound, He created notes and music theory and He breathed creativity into us. We then created instruments. We created songs and melodies and harmonies. In His creation of sound, we are given endless potential to continue to create through turning His sound into music. We get to take His overarching creation of sound, and we turn it into ordered melodies and music. What He created was a tool for us to use to continue to bear His image on earth through our own creation. It is after His own heart that we create, and this then becomes an avenue for worship. Everything He made is simply a canvas for us to use to worship Him.

God didn’t create a few songs, or even a few hundred songs for us to play and sing. Rather, He created a system in which we were provided the means of endless creativity in sound and song. For thousands of years we have now been creating instruments, melodies and music, yet the potential in what He has created for us has nowhere near been reached. We have not even begun to exhaust the limits of what He has given to us. All of this is so that we may be equipped to praise and glorify His name. He has given us everything we need to glorify and bear His image as a Creator in the earth.

He gave us the gift of creating. The canvas was there, and all the tools we needed. But He let us discover how to use them. He allows us to use sound that He created to make our own unique sound and He LOVES it. He is overcome by emotion as He sees us doing what He does. He loves seeing us manifest and demonstrate His nature on earth, and that is ultimately what we do when we create, administer, and engineer beauty and order in the earth.

The intention of all His creation is for us to use it to bring Him glory and so that we may have a means of doing what we see our Father doing. He created everything good, but He didn’t create everything finished and perfected because He longed to work through us. He wanted us to be able to do what we saw the Father doing. The longing for expressions of beauty through art, creativity and order is deeply written into our nature as sons and daughters of the living God.

I think creativity in the Christian life is meant to be a source of joy. God created the world joyfully, and I believe we are meant to create with joy as well. As we do what we see the Father doing, which is turning chaos into beauty, it unlocks an ability to feel joy in our heart. It serves as a reminder that God is working, and that He will turn all things to beauty.

In the Scriptures, creativity is held as a very strong value in worship. Over and over again we see the command in the Bible to sing a new song. In Scriptures we see no singular model, format or song to be solely used in worship, but rather we see God longs for endless creativity in the worship of His saints. Time after time God asks for the sound of worship to be released through many different instruments and even through dance. “Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:4-6.

In order to reach the depth of creativity in worship that God Himself deserves and desires, the creative song of every tribe, nation and tongue must be released. We see the beginning of this longing fulfilled in Revelation 5:9-10, “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on earth.”

There is a sound that God has placed in every tribe, tongue, people and nation that only they can release. There is a reflection of His heart that can only be released and demonstrated on the earth through the priesthood of every tribe, tongue, people and nation. The Great Commission is unto a creative renaissance as the nations are released to bear the image of God in the earth through worship. All of creation will be brought to their knees in awe and wonder as His name is made great through the creative worship of all the saints in all the earth. We go to the nations with the intention of equipping them and releasing them into their own creative sound and expression.

When worship stops or is not present, disorder and array naturally begin to occur. However, in the presence of God order is released through worship. This is why Paul states that God is not a god of disorder but of peace. He creates order in worship.

Worship is the means and the conduit of a rebuilding process. When God created the earth He made it as a sort of canvas for man. He then placed man in the garden, with the job of tending to the garden. But through the fall, sin and the curse of death entered the world. Now that there has been redemption, the world waits and groans for the sons of God to be revealed. I believe this is because the Lord will work through His sons and daughters to restore the earth to as it should be. Often we see that when a good father has a child, and that child makes a mistake and breaks something, the good father will involve the child in the process of making it right and fixing it. I believe God will do the same, and will restore the earth through His sons and daughters. I believe a creative renaissance will be a part of the restoration of the earth, as we step back into our place of bearing His image on earth.

The singular greatest mechanism for the rebuilding of a nation torn by war is the release of worship and creativity through its own people. This is why when MAPS goes to nations torn by war and terrorism, we often offer music lessons, and musical worship is always at the forefront of what we do. We believe that through the building of incense and worship in the nations, destinies of individuals and nations will be released and a restoration process will begin.

 

Hannah Davis, MAPS Global leader