A CHALLENGE TO OUR CHRISTIAN FRIENDS AND FAMILY

“If you are the praying type, please pray…”
Scrolling through my newsfeed this morning, this post stood out to me for a few reasons.
 
It assumes that not everyone reading their post is a Christian. Most of the christian statuses I see don’t allow for any explanation to non-christian friends. Is that because the writers just don’t have any? Or is it because they are targeting their christian friends? In which case, is it really worth encouraging existing christians, if it alienates everyone else?

It also prompted me to think about my life outside social media. I am moving to a new country soon. I have a chance to choose the people that I surround myself with. In America I have tended to integrate into christian circles. at least 80% of the people I interact with regularly call themselves followers of Jesus. I call that a failure. I have failed to fulfill the Great Commission in my circle of influence.

In American Christendom, we are so easily swallowed into the Christian subculture. Even those who are converted while in circumstances most removed from Christian influence, are soon enveloped into this “Christian world”. Before we know it, all of our friends are Christian, all of our activities have a Christian flavour to them, and we find we can no longer relate to those that aren’t Christian, either because being around them makes our old ways look tempting, or because they are suddenly too different from us. (And I know everyone is different, but I feel that this is a big enough occurrence that to make these generalizations is not dangerous.)

As we open up our circles of influence, my husband and I will be changing our tone on social media. We will no longer be assuming that the majority of people reading our posts are christian. We will be interacting with social media just as we will be interacting with people in the world around us. We know what we believe. And it informs our choices and our thoughts. But it will not be a “this is who we are so accept or reject us” attitude. We will be working hard to be all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). We encourage you to join us in this new journey!

I’m not going to make any prescriptive “you-shoulds,” or “you-shouldn’ts” , but I do want to pose some challenging questions:

1. Why do we post requests for prayer, bible verses, and theological prose on our facebook statuses without a second thought?
Is it because we know that 90% of our facebook friends already know Jesus? If so, what does that say about our progress toward Jesus’ command to make disciples of every nation? If everyone we already know, knows Jesus, then how are we reaching anyone that hasn’t heard? The majority of this world is NOT Christian. So if our corner of the world is filled with Christians, maybe its time we stepped into another corner…

2. How do we come across to people that don’t subscribe to our faith when we post things in Christianese? And I don’t mean this from a self-conscious perspective. But rather, if someone that doesn’t agree with my beliefs were to read that, does it sound as though I’m assuming everyone thinks like me? How pretentious is that? And further, doesn’t that just highlight the differences between us? I mean, I want my non-christian friends to feel just as a part of my community as my Christian friends do. Both in my life and on facebook.

3. Does your social media presence reflect your life? Is everything you see and participate in “Christian”? Are you interacting with people that don’t share your beliefs regularly? Or are you submerged in the Christian bubble?

Let us know your thoughts! And remember always, we are praying for you. Even if we don’t post it on facebook all the time! 😉

The Blessing of the Gospel

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE GOSPEL
This is a pretty meaty post. Sorry, getting a bit theological here!
1. The Simple Truth of it: We can know God!
 
The gospel is the truth that God paid the price to reconcile us to him, and because of that, we can be personally loved by him.
Knowing each of us closely is all he desires! Knowing Him doesn’t make life on this earth any easier or less painful, but it does make it count for something. And choosing not to share that, is denying someone else the chance to know that.
 
2. The Gospel is a story
 
The great narrative. The story of a world, full of meaningless lives. A God, that desperately longs for intimate relationships with each and every one of those people. The meaning of life is, To be Found. Found by a relationship with God. This life is about the spread of this story. This world is about it. Suffering and healing are thrown into the mix but they aren’t the focus. The focus is on God desperately trying to woo each and every one of us through millions of unique ways, and the moment we have been caught by his love, we are sent out to share it so he can use us to reach the rest. This story is about the gospel racing against time to rescue as many as possible before the clock runs out. This life is our one shot at finding love in God.
Everyone deserves that shot. That is why I share the gospel. That is my part in this story.

3. The Gospel does not stop Going

Even when we refuse to voluntarily share it, God puts us in situations that will spread the gospel with or without us. God designed it to be inherently mobilising. Think about it.
Built into the great commission is the piece of ‘going’. And all throughout the history, when God revealed the gospel to a people, they had to go share it. Whether they went voluntarily, (Like Abraham, or Paul, or, or Celts, or the Christian crusades) or because of circumstances beyond their control (Jonah to Jericho, Naomi, Joseph, captives to Babylon, Arian Christians, Jews in World War ii).
4. With the blessing of the Gospel, comes the responsibility to share it 
 
The gospel is self-spreading. But we are called to share it anyway. There is such a momentum behind it. We are missionaries because we are sent by the gospel. It compels us!

We must never get complacent. We must never stop owning up to the responsibility we have to share the gospel. It is not enough to minister to those who already have it. That is important but it is not the true nature of the gospel. The gospel is always seeking to be found by those who have yet to discover it

5. It is our hope. 
This I learned first hand, in my time of sickness. Not only a hope for heaven, or a hope for healing and sactification, but a hope and a reason to keep going in this life. People lose hope when they have duties or responsibilities they cannot complete. But the sharing of the gospel is never complete.
So we are never without hope, because hope is built into our responsibility–into the Gospel. When I was sick, the one thing that kept me going was the knowledge that there are others yet that God has for me to share the gospel with. Therefore, there was no giving up. Because I still had a responsibility. A taste of “to live is Christ, to die is gain”, I think. Missional living until our part in the narrative ends!
6. The Gospel is designed to be brought by crossing a cultural divide 
Why is it important that the gospel cross cultural barriers? Because without those divides, we wouldn’t see the unifying factor. The gospel transcends culture. The ramifications of that are hard to explain to Americans, because we are generally so ignorant of the nature of culture. We know what we know, and anything outside of that is just different from us. We often don’t take the time to learn to respect other cultures.
When you understand the weight that cultural divides have, you understand how meaningful it is that the gospel transcends them.

This is why I think God designed his Gospel to be spread cross culturally. To show the incredible reality that God’s family exists in spite of all cultural differences, and that the gospel is really a message for all of humanity, not just a chosen people.

This is why missionaries will never lose their value. God will never stop sending them as long as there are people who have not heard. Being someone who has crossed a cultural divide to bring a message, is oftentimes enough proof to the listener, that the message truly matters. After all, why would anyone leave their own culture, to share a crazy story, if they didn’t believe it was true, and that it was worth sharing?
 
Also, if you think about it, in our own culture, we are a part. We stick to societal norms, we try not to bring attention to ourselves. If I asked you to go into your favorite coffee shop, and approach a stranger and offer to pray with them, there would be certain concerns that would immediately come to mind. “You can’t just do that, people will get upset!” “What if they ask me to leave?” “You can’t just walk up and introduce yourself to a stranger! Let alone try to pray with them!”.
 
But consider that I asked you to do this in a culture or country different to the one you know? You are already the odd one out, no one expects you to fit in anyway, so why not be bold and be a little uncomfortable? The value of a missionary lies in his inability to fit in. When a missionary begins to feel at home on the field, they have begun to lose their edge. 
 
 
7. The gospel by nature, both transcends and embraces culture. 
The spread of the gospel can only succeed if two elements are involved. Transcending truth, and enculturation. For a culture to accept the blessing of the gospel they must first recognize that it is a truth and salvation available to every people (that is why it’s handy to have the message come from someone who has crossed cultural boundaries) and then they must be shown that discipleship and worship can be shaped in ways that fit into their culture. Meeting both these elements shows a culture that they are invited to join something bigger than them, and that not only are they acceptable in their culture but that their culture is valuable and has something to offer the bigger picture.
 
The Gospel has certain constants that do not change. God bent the ways of this world, and sacrificed his son because he loves us and wants a relationship with us. Not just a chosen people, but all the peoples of the world. That is a universal truth, that everyone deserves the chance to hear. The transcendent nature of that message is powerful, because on its own, it unifies and connects all the peoples and cultures of the world.
That being said, the gospel is also a message that embraces cultural differences. Every people and nation, to accept the gospel, have to make it their own. Enculturating it into their nationality allows them to call it theirs, to make it a message that came to them, that they chose to receive. Without this piece, the gospel would just remain a message from outsiders. Being able to worship God in ways that make sense to one’s own culture and language is so critical. 
8. The gospel demands our action
 
What culture or demographic or people group has god uniquely shaped molded and equipped you to reach? Find out and then take the gospel there.

Whether it is one block over, or a continent over, go! There is no pretending that God didn’t create you to share the gospel. You cannot follow Christ and not be missional.

That is the inherent clause within the gospel. It cannot and will not stop moving. That’s how god designed it. He designed it so that just having the good news is all you need to keep it going.

So share it! Reach those that only you can reach. Because if you don’t, who will?

Benefits for Raising our Funds

Why ask for Support?

Many people are given the assignment to raise funds, and yet the reality is they have never raised funds before. So it is fair to ask the question “Why raise financial support?” I want to unveil for you the benefits of raising funds, and there are many.

“I grew up in a missionary home, where I saw faith at work. I attended Moody Bible Institute and heard every conceivable missionary message. I talked with many missionaries and read missionary biographies. However, it was not until I personally raised funds for our ministry that I comprehended the important reasons for developing a base of consecrated supporters. After nearly forty years, I have come to understand that raising financial support is necessary for many reasons.”

1. Raising Financial Support Attracts a Base of Prayer Support

If you worked on staff in a salaried position, few people would commit themselves to pray for you. However, when you serve in a missionary capacity, the people who invest financially in you are inclined to pray for you. Prayer follows financial investment.

2. Raising Financial Support Stretches Faith

To those about to begin raising funds, David Tucker of Regions Beyond Missionary Union International says: “You are about to embark on what can be one of the most maturing and spiritually fulfilling ventures of your life.”

Raising financial support can be a spiritual adventure. We love many aspects of it. But we rarely grow and mature by doing what is easy. When friends we expected to give do not, it’s discouraging. When days go by and our level of support does not increase, we have been tempted to question our call. Those are the days when we have to step forward in faith, trusting that God has called us and that in His time He will supply every need. Raising financial support is teaching us what it means to walk by faith.

3. Raising Financial Support Stimulates and Encourages Vision in the Body of Christ

Raising financial support calls for the missionary to interface with other believers who make up the body of Christ. When Christians meet face-to-face, they communicate vision, and their call. Another person’s enthusiasm and dedication will stimulate your interest and involvement in kingdom work.

In his article “The Tin-Cup Image Can Be Shattered,” Daniel Bacon describes the missionary who raises financial support as accomplishing three goals.

First, the missionary is a model for missions.  In essence, we are a walking testimony of God’s coveted plan for world evangelism. Bacon says, “The presence of a missionary is a living illustration of obedience to the Great Commission.” In raising support, it keeps God’s priority of ministry in front of the body of Christ and help others become mission-minded.

Second, the missionary becomes a mobilizer for kingdom work. It provides believers the opportunity to participate in God’s program for world evangelism financially and through prayer. Because of our deputation ministry, some may sense God’s heart for mission and join the work force.

Third, the missionary serves as a minister for missions and ministry. We work to facilitate effective communication that will bring together the mission agency and the local church. Bacon says, “The missionary obviously needs the church for support, but the church needs the missionary to extend, in obedience to the Great Commission, its ministry worldwide.”

 

4. Raising Financial Support Develops You as a Person

Bud Taylor of Source of Light Ministries, International, offers this perspective:

There are many things that God will teach you that you could not possibly learn anywhere else. You learn how to work with people and how to adapt under divergent, difficult, and sometimes desperate circumstances. That is when the realization dawns that we are so limited and God is so limitless! It is not as is so often misrepresented a punitive measure, but a privilege. It is not a promotional gimmick, but a prerequisite. In the process one learns poise, polish, and proficiency and how to use time, tact, and talent to [one’s] best advantage.

5. Raising Financial Support Stimulates Fellowship Among Other Believers

As we contact our network of people and add friends to that network, we become involved with caring, praying, and burdened people. Rewarding times of fellowship result as we interact with believers through the fundraising process.

6. Raising Financial Support Opens Opportunities to Witness

As we travel from place to place, making new contacts, God gives divine appointments with the unsaved world. And through those opportunities, we can begin to participate in others’ call to fulfill the Great Commission.

 

 

Scott Steele and Tom Frieze of International Missions say, “Missions was and is God’s idea, and it is a real privilege to speak to God’s people about God’s program and to enlist their petitions.”

Raising financial support is far more than raising money. It is ministry. It is relationships. It is watching God work His eternal program for the ages in a practical way.

6 ponderings on Suffering

RAMBLINGS FROM THE HEALING PROCESS

Some thoughts I’ve been able to suss out in the aftermath of my recent health trauma.

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1. God is not here to make the suffering easier. He is here to be the reason you push on day after day. He coaxes you through so that at the end you have an experience that is priceless because it enables you to relate to people you never would have been able to otherwise. Because if there is one thing in this world that no one is untouched by, it is suffering. Being Christian does not exemplify us from it. Being a Christian just gives us a reason to keep on going. So that one day we can share the gospel because of the doors that our suffering opened.

2. The end will justify the pain it took to get there. In this season I discovered a crack in my foundation of faith. I had always believed that when I hit rock bottom, God would move heaven and earth to help me. But after months and months of crying out, I didn’t get the miracle I was waiting for. In the midst of the pain and the depth of the despair, God might not rescue you. And it might feel like a personal rejection, an abandonment and a betrayal. It hurts like no pain you could ever have imagined. Christ knew it. He asked God why he had forsaken him. But the trauma of the moment doesn’t change the truth: this suffering will matter. And it may even damage our relationship with God here and now, but God has already weighed the options and found it worth the outcome. Little by little we will learn to trust him again. God is not unaware of the damage that suffering is causing to our relationship with him. But he sees something we can’t–the faith that will come to replace it.

3. The product of suffering is intimate trust. Following suffering, will always come some form of healing. It is in the healing process that trust is rebuilt. After being dismantled, building trust up again is a careful and refining process. And at the end of it, we discover a more solid faith in God than we ever had before. And that  is something that we get to carry with us into heaven. While suffering is a result of sin, it does provide us with the opportunity to gain intimacy with God in a way that we would never have had, had the world never been broken by sin.

We may wish we had never had to go through the things we did but in reality, without those experiences, we would never, not now nor in heaven, get to that level of trust with God.

4. There is priceless worth in our suffering. This is something we tell people in pain to make them feel better. It’s true. But when we are in the depth of the pain–What then? When we are stuck feeling like my pain doesn’t matter because if it did, God would help me… What is the truth then?
Why has God left me to hurt? He hasn’t.
But for all intents and purposes he has… because all we want in those moments is to be comforted. To be rescued. And this is where I wonder if perhaps these times are an echo of those who need the Gospel. A very real reminder of how it feels to be separated from God. A foreshadow of the eternity many will face. A reminder to keep going so I can reveal God’s love to someone who doesn’t know it yet. Maybe the value of suffering is not just in the aftermath and the results, but rather also in the experience of feeling abandoned.

5. Just because suffering is an inevitable part of life doesn’t mean we have to handle it gracefully. What do you do when you find out God’s not coming?
Despair? Give up? Turn your back? Or do you accept it? If we are supposed to just accept it, I haven’t the slightest idea as to how, because that definitely wasn’t the route I took.

Nor did Jesus. He despaired in the garden. And on the cross.

I think that God knows that there is a point in suffering where he will inevitably lose our trust. He knows that he will have to break our faith. But for whatever reason he deems it necessary.

Because we are human. Weak. Loss of faith is a given. There must be a loss to Satan to gain victory. Otherwise Satan would always see it coming.

There is no way around the despair. There is no way to make it easier. And God knows that. But we don’t. We think that if he would just rescue us we would love him that much more. But that is human reasoning. And therefore faulty.

If Jesus had to face despair, then so must we, I think. There is no getting out of it or making it easier.

6. Suffering is the result of our choosing sin. And it is hell. Literally. Being removed from God. If we did not have to experience that, then we would be escaping sin. And that is just not possible. Because the world is overrun with it. The miracle is actually in how frequently God is present. But instead we get upset at the few times that he submits to the restriction of sin.

Suffering is our chance to experience the consequence of choosing sin. And it highlights the contrast of sin and the gospel.

Suffering is grace uncovered. Without it we wouldn’t know just how present God really is. Suffering shows us a glimpse of what being without him would be like. And it reveals to us just how much he is with us. I see him in everything now. Feeling like he wasn’t here before makes him that much more here now.