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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

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The Promise of the Seed

Is the Gospel a story or a promise? It is a promise that is unfolding in a story. It is the story of the manifesting promise.

I begin with the question and answer above because I believe that we need clarity as to what is the hope that we can cling to. A hope that can be touched through faith (Hebrews 11:1); a hope that is not just a blurry idea, but a clear promise. The Bible has a forward focus in its content and messaging, constantly looking to the fulfillment of God’s promises. Many of the authors of the books in the Bible were looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises that are clearly laid out in Scripture. Still today we are looking forward to the fulfillment of promises that God has made and that He will fulfill in His second coming. We are still awaiting the fulfillment of the Good News. We have had a wonderful deposit of good things to come (Ephesians 1:14, Hebrews 9:11) and yet we can know through the Scriptures that even greater realities of the Kingdom are in store to be manifested on the earth.

In this 3-part post we will take a step back and enjoy some of the unfolding story of the good news and how our King, Jesus, is bringing it to pass! We will take a look at: The first proclamation of the essence of the Gospel message, Salvation as Christ died and rose, and A look into the future through the Scriptures to the fulfillment of this wonderful promise.

The Promise of the Seed

The first recorded proclamation of the Gospel was pronounced as a curse against Satan in the hearing of Adam and Eve. As He did back then, Jesus continues to make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers in the heavenly places through His church (Ephesians 3:10). As the chains of slavery to fear, sin, and despair were falling onto the hands and feet of Adam and Eve (Romans 6:16; 8:15), our Redeemer walked into the scene and what to the serpent was a curse was a blessing to Adam and Eve.

“So the Lord God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent! Adam’s failure would be undone not by his seed but by the Seed of the woman, here we find the first indication that Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Adam’s failure would impact not just the human race but all of the creation that God had subjected to Man’s authority (Romans 8:19-21). For God gave Man dominion over the works of His hands (Psalm 8:6). The devastating results of man’s fall would be seen in the unfolding of time as the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in man, the fruit of man’s acquaintance with evil through rebellion, would mature.

Somehow through Adam’s agreement with the serpent to rebel against God, the dominion and authority entrusted to Adam was temporarily delivered to Satan. Death from then on would become the norm of the human experience; death of those things that are good and beautiful. Sickness, disease, corruption, etc. would dominate the experience of the created order. Satan in a moment went from being cast down to once again having power and influence. Paul described him as “the prince of the power of the air” as he wrote to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:2). The beauty and harmony that once existed in creation was disturbed by a filthy frequency in the air. “But God who is rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4) intervened in that moment with a sound of hope. The voice of God walked into the Garden of Eden.

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8

Can you imagine a voice that walks? How can a voice walk? I believe that this is the same Voice that created the heavens and the earth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-5, 14).

When all seemed lost, in man’s darkest hour a light shone with a promise that mankind could cling to. The pre-incarnate Son of God walked into the Garden as a voice of hope to fallen and guilty humanity when He promised that there would be a victory against the wicked power that had arisen on the earth. The power and authority that Satan had taken he would not be able to keep from the One who would crush his head. Jesus is the Light that was manifest to destroy the works of the evil one (1 John 3:8).

With sin in the mix humanity was separated from its loving creator and source of light. Lost in darkness, mankind was helpless but for God’s continual mercy that reached out to man, reminding man of the promise. Sinful man could not draw near to a Holy God, but God was at work among man to fulfill His promise! We can see His hand at work in Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Caleb and Joshua, the judges of Israel, Samuel, David, etc. God used each of these and many more in His redemptive plan to declare and bring about that promised Seed.

The promised Seed, promised to mankind, would bless the nations through the nation of Israel (Genesis 22:18). God chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his descendants to be the vehicle through which He would bless the nations; those who were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” who had no hope and were without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). In His sovereignty God chose Israel as the people through which He would manifest His great promise, Jesus the Messiah!  God intends to bless the nations through Israel and even after much of the nation of Israel missed their promised Messiah in His first coming they will still be a blessing in the earth. “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15).

God continued to expound upon the initial promise He made against Satan and for humanity throughout the Tanak, that is, throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. Covenants and promises were made with the people of Israel starting with Abraham and passed along to Isaac and then to his son Jacob; promises through which Israel had a hope. These covenant promises included a blessing for all of mankind as God told Abraham that through his offspring all the nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). All the covenant promises find their ultimate fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ. Through the Mosaic (Old) Covenant, sacrifices were established that could cleanse man from sin outwardly allowing for a level of nearness to God not given to any other people. These sacrifices however were powerless to take away sins and to cleanse their consciences (Hebrews 10:1-4).

The condensed promise of the Seed was unpacked through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets throughout the Old Testament. Even the wicked sorcerer Balaam had a share in prophesying about the magnificent Messiah who would deliver Israel from her enemies (Numbers chapters 23 & 24). These promises were literal for blessing and deliverance for the people of Israel. A King would rule over God’s people and over the nations of the earth with righteousness and justice (Isaiah 9:6-7)! Is this not the desire of the oppressed in the nations (Haggai 2:7)? The desire of the nations is to have a just and benevolent ruler, One who cares for the orphan and the widow, One who overturns injustice and gives recompense.

The promised Seed would crush the head of the serpent and take dominion over the earth, and we know that it is God’s desire that mankind would also rule with Christ. Therefore the task of world domination that Christ will fulfill, He will accomplish with the participation and engagement of men and women (Psalm 110:1-3). However with the defilement of sin mankind would not be fit to partner with a Holy God. In order to have His desired partner, God had to cleanse humanity from sin.

 

Sebastian Angulo, MAPS Leader

 

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Antioch Series: When Worship, Prayer, and Missions Collide // The Divine Slingshot

#1- The divine slingshot

In Matthew chapter 9, it says that Jesus was moved with compassion as he saw the demonic harassment and oppression over the masses. The greek word literally means a gut wrenching sorrow or sick to his stomach as he looked out over the nations who were “like sheep without a shepherd”. His divine heart of love for the world could not stomach the oppression, affliction, injustice, disease, over the very ones he created in his own image for his own pleasure to display his own glory. He calls his disciples together and says,

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out [ekballo] laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38

The solution to the ache in the heart of Jesus was laborers. The problem was that there were no laborers that had yet been swept up into that torrent of compassion that was in the heart of Jesus and had gained the kind of authority in the place of prayer to be effective. So he calls his disciples together and gives them a divine prescription. He tells them to contend earnestly in prayer together until, like a slingshot, laborers start getting hurled out [ekballo] into the nations to carry his divine heart with apostolic power.

Jesus knew that 3 things would happen when they gather together.

1. They would see his worth. (worship)

2.The would feel his heart. (prayer)

3.They would be baptized with power for the assignment. (prophetic)

Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction (Matthew 10:1). You can be sure Jesus wanted the disciples to connect this kind of authority to the command to earnest corporate prayer.

Communities of corporate prayer and worship become the slingshot for laborers. The kind of laborers needed for the harvest in the nations are born, nurtured and sent from worship and prayer communities. Jesus has zeal that these laborers would reproduce this culture in every city and nation to which they are sent. (Mark 14:9, Malachi 1:11)

The majority of your New Testament can be traced to a House of Prayer in an city called Antioch. Many have never even heard of this prophetic community that could arguably compete with Jerusalem in terms of its implications for New Testament Christianity and lasting impact on the Church in the earth.

A little history…

In Acts chapter 1, Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives just before he ascends into heaven and gives the command to tarry in Jerusalem in prayer and worship until something happened. He points them back to the divine prescription of Mathew 9 that would, he promised, unleash an outpouring of the Spirit which would clothe them with power and thrust them out to declare his name and commandments in every nation.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”-  Acts 1:4-8

The outpouring at Pentecost was an empowerment for an impossible task that Jesus had mandated the apostles with. One small community led by a group of fishermen, tax collectors, rebels and prostitutes would touch the entire earth with power.

…..when the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. – Acts 2:1-2

Overnight, the church in Jerusalem explodes from a few hundred to a few thousand. Luke records this season of revival in Acts 3-5. Numbers began to be added daily them and unprecedented signs and wonders were being done at the hands of the Apostles. It is clear by Acts chapter 6 that they are just trying to manage and administrate this revival. All the while the to the ends of the earth mandate, which was the purpose of this outpouring of the Spirit, had come to rest on the back shelf of the prophetic words of the Apostles.

Then something transitions in Acts 7-8.

About a decade into the movement in Jerusalem, the “second tier” leaders are moving in such power and authority that it stirs up resistance resulting in the arrest and murder of Stephen. This event marks the beginning of what the Bible calls a season of great persecution for the church under the leadership of an up and coming young Jewish leader named Saul. The church is scattered throughout the region, on the run, and Acts chapter 8 picks up with one of the apostles, Phillip, who escapes to Samaria and others who were scattered “traveled as far as Phonecia and Cyprus and Antioch” (Acts 11:19-20)

When these “no names” arrive in Antioch they decide to preach the gospel to whoever will listen. They figured that if they are going to be persecuted and scattered from their homes because of Jesus and the gospel, they might as well earn it!

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists 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 11:20-21

All of a sudden something amazing happens, the hand of the Lord backs their simple obedience with signs, wonders, and miraculous power so that overnight they have a great number who believed. Up to this point they had only heard stories from decades earlier when Peter first preached on the day of Pentecost. Now they too were experiencing a Pentecost of their own! They were so taken off guard by this move of the Spirit that they sent word to Jerusalem asking for help.

Meanwhile…

…something strange and marvelous had happened to that zealous young Jewish man leading the persecution against the church. He had a life-altering encounter with the man Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and a word spoken over his life about his purpose and destiny (Acts 9:1-19). Over the next decade Paul is searching for how in the world he is going to fulfill this newfound calling and assignment to “carry [the name of Jesus] before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). He retreats to the wilderness of Arabia to unlearn everything that he had been taught sitting at the feet of Gamaliel and by spending 3 years sitting at the feet of another teacher, who would “guide him into all truth” and “search the deep things of God…and revealing the things freely given to us”. Paul later writes of this season, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ”. (Gal 1:11-12) Eager to launch his new ministry and declare everything he had received by revelation in the wilderness, he goes up to Jerusalem from Arabia hoping to receive the endorsement of the Apostles and get a seat at the table with leaders of this new movement. Maybe they would be able to vouch for him? Maybe they could send out a letter endorsing his ministry? Maybe they would even let him join their inner circle (Acts 9:26). Paul imagined this could be his big break and couldn’t stop dreaming of all the possibilities that were ahead of him.

His visit, however, does not go as planned. He spends a few weeks with Peter but no one else wants to associate with him because they are afraid. No doubt some of them had suffered personally at the hand of Paul himself, if not under the orders Paul had given a few year earlier. James, the brother of Jesus, finally agrees to grab a quick coffee with him. We don’t know what was discussed in the Jerusalem Starbucks that afternoon but after that meeting all of Paul’s hopes for strategic networking with the major leaders of his day were replaced with the stark reality that no one cares about his big ministry or his prophetic word that the Gentiles will be included in the kingdom. To make matters worse, he gets into a spat with the Hellenists and stirs up a trouble for the church in the city to which it says the brothers kindly, “brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” He leaves his first visit to Jerusalem without receiving the “right hand of fellowship” from the Apostles, with death threats on his life, no big break, no endorsement, and asked by the brothers to just “go home.” He says of this moment, “I was still unknown” to the churches of Judea and later he writes with a sting of pain but also great confidence that he is  “an apostle–not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead(Gal 1:1)

Unbeknownst to Paul, this visit proved to be more strategic and fruitful than he could have ever realized in the moment. Although the apostles had all but snubbed him and all the believers in the city were afraid of him, one man in Jerusalem saw something in this young anointed leader that was intriguing and pulled him aside. He wanted to hear the whole story from beginning to end, listening intently to every word Paul had to say. His eyes glistened with excitement when he heard the vision on the road to Damascus. His face showed empathy and concern when Paul described being chased out of Damascus by Jewish zealots. His tone gave no hint of skepticism or cynicism when Paul spoke about the things he encountered by the Spirit over 3 years in the desert of Arabia.

This man was generous and much loved, he was known for his gentle manner and encouraging words. Years earlier Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, introduces him as a wealthy man who was so happy to be a part of what God was doing and so sincere in his desire to serve, that he sold a field that belonged to him and laid all the proceeds at the Apostle’s feet. This man was name was Barnabas.

Paul sails home to Tarsus. His hopes for an apostolic ministry are shattered. He has no endorsement from major Christian leaders. He has no network to pull from. He has no idea how this word he heard from Jesus himself would become an assignment he could actually walk out. Paul arrives in Tarsus to try to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.

In Tarsus, Paul’s family was of a strict Jewish order. They were wealthy, prominent, landowners and strictly conservative. No doubt they had already heard about their son’s “psychotic episode” and his subsequent abandonment of the Jewish faith, his future, his career and his family. It is safe to say that by this time they had already publicly renounced him as an unbelieving gentile who was unworthy to even sit and dine at their table. He had shamed the family name. To make matters worse, some scholars believe that Paul was married prior to his encounter on the road to Damascus and that his wife, upon hearing of his conversion, left him and returned to Tarsus where she would be taken care of by his family.

Everyone in his hometown knew what had happened. As he lands in Tarsus, he made his way up to the house that was so familiar to him from his childhood, to beg his Father for permission to stay on the property. His family can’t hide their embarrassment that he is back home. His estranged wife didn’t want to hear the story of how he met Jesus, she just wants Paul to stop this crazy talk. She just wants her old husband back. He has to eat with the other servants of the house. The world seems to be crashing down on Paul. Deep questions arise in his heart about whether he had heard Jesus rightly. If he had obeyed, why is everything seemingly going wrong? Why, at every turn, is he getting farther and farther away from his calling to be an apostle to the Gentiles? Should he just quit and settle in to being a tent-maker in Tarsus? At least he knows he is good at that. Here in Tarsus the pain of promises delayed turn into questions of whether the promises were even real in the first place. Here in Tarsus, Paul is sitting on a history shaping, earth shattering, apostolic calling while he stretches the next goat skin over another tent frame to sell just to make enough money to live on. Hope deferred has made his heart sick and he is ready to throw in the towel on his calling. He remembers his excitement on his way up to Jerusalem to meet with the Apostles and scoffs at his once “big dreams”. Now it was time to get on with real life.

There was only problem with this plan. He had seen Jesus.

Back in Antioch…

The report comes to Jerusalem from the revival in Antioch. Gentiles are receiving the gospel, numbers are being added daily, power, signs and wonders and who was leading it? Just a group of ones that were scattered from the persecution. Peter reads the letter out loud to the leadership team and as he finishes, he looks up and surveys the room. Finally with a twinge of hesitancy he asks, “Anyone want to go Antioch?” Everyone has a perplexed look on their faces as the silence grows thick. Peter, looking for any hint of willingness in the eyes of his leaders, sees one man in the corner with a with a smile from ear to ear.

“I’d be happy to go if it I could serve in anyway”, the unmistakable voice comes from the corner.

So they sent Barnabas to Antioch. (Acts 11:22)

When Barnabas arrived he saw what was happening in this amazing church. This group of refugees were praying and worshipping day and night, fasting, preaching the gospel with power signs and wonders, embracing people from all different ethnicities and had an unusual prophetic spirit operating in their midst. He was so excited to see this move of God. It reminded him of the revival he got saved in over a decade earlier. He encouraged these inexperienced leaders to keep going, keep pressing in, keep hosting the presence! He wasn’t there to take over, he was there to be a father to this budding new movement. Soon Barnabas began to wonder what the Lord may be up to in this new outpouring. Why here in Antioch? Why with these scattered, unseasoned leaders? All of a sudden it dawned on him. It was so obvious that at first he couldn’t believe he didn’t see it earlier. All the elements were there.

God was building a slingshot.

What Barnabas did next changed the course of human history.

So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. – Acts 11:25-26

He had believed in Paul ever since he met him years earlier in Jerusalem. It pained his heart when the brothers sent him off to Tarsus. He knew this young man had a history-shaping calling on his but he needed to be put into the slingshot of Mathew 9 until he got an assignment.

Antioch was the place.

Barnabas went and retrieved the broken man from Tarsus and brought him to the family in Antioch that embraced him with open arms. It says for a year Paul, Barnabas and the church of Antioch met together contending in prayer, fasting, worship, saturating themselves in the word and warring with the prophetic promises.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” – Acts 13:2

One day in the prayer meeting, while they were worshiping the Lord, the Holy spirit broke in and took over the meeting. It was time for an ekballo. It was time to hurl forth laborers into the harvest field. Jesus had formed the kind of laborers he desired to send in Antioch and was ready to clothe them with power from on high.

Paul and Barnabas.

Then, after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and commissioned them with that divine commission that Jesus first uttered to those in the upper room years earlier, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded you. And behold, he is with you always, to the end of the age”. Then they sent them off…being sent out by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:4)

This commissioning wasn’t given in the strategy meeting about how to reach the nations, it was born in earnest corporate prayer. It was nurtured in a community that hosted the presence of God in worship. They did not despise the prophetic spirit but eagerly awaited the in-breaking of a “now” word that they could pray through into completion. (1 Tim 1:18) They were the slingshot that God used to launch Paul into his apostolic ministry that is still bearing fruit in the nations to this day. The expansion of Christianity across the Roman world, majority of your New Testament and the understanding that the Gentile nations are being grafted in to the promises of God can all be traced back to the moment when Barnabas went to Tarsus, picked Saul up out of his despair, believed for him when he could barely believe for himself, and placed him in the divine slingshot….Antioch.  

 

R.A. Martinez

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One Trip That Marked Me Forever

As I sat there fumbling to play the piano and sing the song that was before me I entered into a place of worship and intimacy in one of the most unreached and unengaged nations. I looked down to see the millions of people living in this city wandering about and I had something come over me. There are millions of people that live in this city praying to a god that will never hear, see or respond to them, yet here I am playing a weak song and asking my God to move and I can have full confidence that He hears every word that comes from my mouth and that He WILL respond. In that moment I gained a greater understanding of the need for Worship and Prayer in the Nations.

This encounter happened during my 90 day placement in the Middle East with the Missions and Prayer School. Before that moment I didn’t have much vision for the next 5-10 years of my life, I was just ready to go back home and figure it out from there. I didn’t expect that moment to happen and for the Lord to mark me in that way. If it weren’t for the opportunity to spend 3 months of my life in that nation I’m not sure I would’ve had that sort of encounter that didn’t need years and years of asking for confirmation. It was a real and tangible experience where I was able to see the need for the Gospel and for the lost to be saved.

During the 90 day placement you have the opportunity to engage with the local community in a different way than you would get to on a two week trip. You get to see the way the indigenous people worship and pray and how they have a resolve inside of them to follow Jesus no matter what the cost. When I encountered local believers I was amazed by the yes in their heart for Jesus. It’s not like how it is in America that when you meet someone in public and ask them if they are a christian and they say “yeah I go to church” or “yeah I grew up a christian” but don’t truly have a relationship with the Lord but just grew up that way. Most, if not all, of these believers are ones who grew up Muslim in a very conservative and devote family and when they chose to follow Jesus were disowned by their families, begged to not convert or even persecuted by the ones they love. When you meet indigenous believers in the Middle East, you meet ones that “count it all lost for the sake of knowing Him”.

You have the chance to experience life as a worker in that nation by living the day to day even when the honeymoon phase is over and you miss home. It’s such an amazing opportunity to press into the Lord and experience life outside your culture and comforts. I encountered many struggles and trials in learning a new language, experiencing a new culture and interacting with ones who have given their lives to this but every time I felt that way I was met with the God of the breakthrough who carried me through and taught me to lean and trust Him. I grew more in that 90 days than I had before in my life.

Upon return you realize that your world view has dramatically grown and changed. You realize that from that point on you will never be the same. The things your experienced and encountered have forever morphed your mindset from the natural american bubble we live in to a greater perspective and reality outside of where we grew up. It’s almost natural from that point on to think of yourself less and begin to see the possibilities that have always been there.

Your heart automatically gets tied to the great commission. Whether you feel compelled to return and spend the rest of your life or even a season of time dedicating yourself to the task of the great commission, you without a doubt begin to live with the great commission plumb lined in your heart so that every decision you make after that is in someway affecting the completion of it. It’s an experience that marks you for what’s on the Lord’s heart. That the gospel would be preached in every nation.

 

Bethany Tombley, MAPS Global Leader

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The Singing God

All of our exploits of global evangelization are fixed immovably between the bookends of history: Beginning and End- Creation and Recreation. This intermediate dispensation is one of utmost peculiarity. In this flicker of a few thousand years of time there actually exists a sub-reality that stands in contrast with the rest of eternity itself. That sub-reality is that the eternal triune God, revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ, is not worshipped and extolled by all of what has been made by Him. One can hardly appreciate the gravity of this deficiency of praise because it has become the normal experience of Creation such that all the nations have forgotten the God who formed them (Ps. 9:17) and who upholds them (Heb. 1:3). Yet this is our reality- for now. Surrounding this age on all sides are choruses of endless songs that surge towards God in celestial bliss. The present darkness that stands in defiance to the command, “Let there be light!” will soon be engulfed in the praise of our singing God, never to rise again. The world missions movement is the expression of the Church’s role in administering the advancement of that light, of ending the darkness and replacing the silence with a song for all time.

Everywhere that God goes, song follows. It surrounds Him! It is what He enjoys. He delights in the worship of all that He has made. It’s what He chooses to live within; the very atmosphere around Him is electric with worship and always has been! God told Job that the hosts of angels, the “morning stars”, sang and shouted for joy during the creation of the earth. (Job 38:7). A multitude of angels burst forth in praise the night Jesus was born (Luke. 2:13,14). They live in perpetual worship before Him. (Ps. 148:2; 103:20) All around God’s throne are myriads of angels, living creatures and the company of the redeemed that sing His praises forever (Rev. 5:8-11;13). King David touched into the eternal reality of incessant worship and established it in his tabernacle around the Ark of the Presence of God 3000 years ago (1 Chron. 23: 30;31). God dwells within the canopy of His people’s praises (Ps. 22:3).

Even Jesus Himself sings songs of praise to our Father. On the night of His betrayal we see Him singing hymns to God surrounded by His friends (Matt. 26:30). In eternity past we see snapshots of the Son daily rejoicing before the Father (Prov. 8:30), praising Him among the assembly of the redeemed (Heb. 2:12) and giving glory to God (John 17:5). He even sings over His people (Zeph. 3:17). In this we see that Jesus is not a despot who stands aloof and demands songs arbitrarily from all creation but rather, He is the singing God who invites all of creation to enter into His eternal hymn of praise to His Father and our Father. He is the heavenly choirmaster- the worship leader of all ages. We are surrounded, not simply by praise, but by the praise of the eternal Son. In fact, His praise eclipses all other praise and we as redeemed creation are simply invited to join into His eternal song and hymn to God the Father. It is this eternal, unending song that He invites all of creation to join in and His invitation to every nation is the gospel!

Jesus’ commission to reach the nations is an invitation to the world to join a song that will never end. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. It is His plan to restore the tabernacle of David (Acts. 15:16-18) and for songs to erupt across the cosmos (Is. 24:14-16)- on earth as it is in heaven! (Matt. 6:10) It is incredible that He has given such a task to His people, the Church! We have no higher joy or calling than to sing our praises to God and to invite the world to abandon their sin, lay down their arms and worship the eternal triune God of grace- the singing God.

 

Travis Owens, MAPS Global Leader

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The Importance of Community

If you would have asked me even several years ago what makes a great missionary, I probably would have given you a very loaded response that included these main points.   

  1. Loving God with all their heart-including a deep life with Jesus, that is characterized by  of prayer, worship, Scripture reading and  fasting
  2. Commitment to learn and love people well.  This includes being a learner of culture, of history and of course serving.
  3. Clear focus on the task and the unwillingness to give up despite obstacles.
  4. The ability to communicate the vision and task with others-if you do this well your funding will not be an issue.

Today I still believe that all four of those components are essential to producing great missionaries. However, today I believe I would add a fifth component.  This fifth element I believe is the secret weapon, the “secret sauce” in not only in producing a good missionary -but in producing effective, long term missionaries.  The fifth component is “commitment to community and relationships”.  

I am well aware that when I say “community” some people may cringe because of bad or disappointing experiences.  However, we must throw that aside these setbacks and ask what does God want us to aim for when we are striving for community, and how does this type of community equip a person for long term missions? It is easy to define the word community as  a group of people that center the lives around one core reality.  But I believe the definition falls short of conveying the fullness of Biblical Community.  I believe in order to understand  how a community can train someone to endure the hardship and sacrifice of long term missions-we must speak of the characteristics of this community not just its definition.  

True community is the making of family by the intentional weaving together of resources, time, energy, goals of that community around the truth of the gospel.  The individuals in this community adhere to the Great Commandment to love God with all of their hearts, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.  The individuals are committed to living out the Sermon on the Mount in such a way that their hearts continually are cultivated for the fruit of the spirit to be manifested.  Finally the individuals know they can not obtain these characteristics individually but they are only able to live these components out in fullness -in the context of relationships with others that are equally committed to do so.  

When you have a group, or team of people that adhere to these standards -community is birth.  It is the intentional walking out of this lifestyle that not only births community but sustains the life of that community. This type of community equips one to be ready to endure hardship, to embrace sacrifice and to become missional.  

 

Ronnette Cooper, MAP Leadership

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Who Will Go?

In Matthew 24:14 Jesus said that “the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed through the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” It states that every People Group should  hear the gospel before the end will come. So I ask the question, Who will go?

Studies show that there are still nearly 6,800 unreached people groups, unreached means that there is less than 5% professing christians, that number represents around 3.1 billion people. Most of the unreached people groups are located geographically in what some scholars call The 10/40 Window from West Africa across Asia between 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees north. Global Missions is only sending 3.3% of our Missionaries to the unreached peoples, that breaks down to 13,000 workers which means 1 missionary for almost 237,000 people! Furthermore, less than 1% of every dollar that is given to missions in America is dedicated to the work among the unreached and unengaged.

I sit here in tears just thinking of the number of people who have never even had the option to hear the good news, to know of the great love of the Father or know that they do have a savior. It’s heartbreaking and it is a complete injustice.

But we have a great Hope! Jesus is writing the story, not us. I believe Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 that the Gospel WILL be proclaimed! In the midst of these outrageous numbers and statistics, we are hearing and experiencing amazing testimonies coming from the 10/40 window. Testimony of the Man in white showing up to muslims in dreams, healing and signs and wonders in refugee camps, and worship and prayer being established AND led by local believers!

We are in an hour in time where the Church needs to plumb-line itself to the great commission. Jesus gave the call to preach the gospel “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” to His Church. “Just as every believer’s first calling is the Great Commandment; every believer’s first ASSIGNMENT is the Great Commission because it is the preeminent mandate of the Church.”(R.A Martinez)  I believe, as the Church, if we put the Great Commission as the plumb-line of every kingdom assignment and orient ourselves with those that have yet to hear or have a witness that we would begin to think differently on how we spend our money and where we send our young people. May we be a church that when we hear the Lord say “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” that our first response would be “Here I am Lord, Send me.”

 

Bethany Tombley, MAPS Global leader