My earliest memory of being aware of refugees even existing simply involves sitting in a living room with a family I couldn’t talk to (because we didn’t speak the same language), and being served my first cup of Turkish coffee in a beautiful, tiny demitasse cup. I was about 16, and I had no idea what this family had experienced or how they had landed in a town near me. I still don’t, not specifically. But they changed my life with their hospitality, at a time when my world was very small.
Over time, God has provided more and more touch points for me with refugee families. Opportunities to help set up apartments, welcome families, and walk with them for a time. Opportunities to hear their stories and their dreams. Every time, I receive from them so much more than I give—a more complex world, a softer heart, a bigger God.
There is undeniable dissatisfaction with church among Christians around the world these days. People leave one local church for another or even stop gathering. The reasons could be worship music, length of sermon, leadership style, facilities…but I believe the underlying reason is that we misunderstand some fundamental things about the local church.
One of the truths that God used to open my eyes and affirm His call for me is the centrality of the local church. As I understand more about this truth, I learn to love and serve His church more. Let me share a few things with you.
Who owns the church?
Pastors often have a habit of saying “my church” when they talk about the congregation they pastor. Most don’t mean to imply that they own the church; but the problem is some pastors do act like owners. They are controlling and treat other members like slaves. Jesus is the one who established His church (Matthew 16:18), so He is the real owner. He loves and gave his life for her and sanctified her so that she might be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27). Does the local church we are gathering reflect the ownership of Jesus? What can we do to help others realize that Jesus is the owner?
This past month I’ve had one of those experiences where one name of God seemed to jump out at me from every direction – when I read my Bible, when our pastor talked on Sunday, when we sang worship songs, when I talked with friends, in blogs I read… sometimes 3-4 times a day…eventually I got the hint that God is wanting to show me something about Himself.
The Sovereign Lord.
I guess I have an issue with authority, control and trite, religious comments. Because I admit that I’ve actually avoided focusing on this attribute and name of God. It seems like people typically say, “God is Sovereign” when they can’t answer the question “why?” or when something bad happens. So, saying “God is Sovereign” felt like an excuse or a “disclaimer”. “God is Sovereign, so oh well” or, “He is in control, you just need more faith.” That doesn’t inspire hope, faith or trust…just resignation to God’s unknowable will and His whims to do whatever He pleases.
This blog was originally posted in August 2015. Entry one of a six-part series.
“Imagine for a moment how you would feel if you were in their shoes…”
It was a phrase I heard many times as a kid. I remember vividly the birthday party that really helped me grasp this concept.
Recently, we had friends visiting our place and we had good conversations about ministry and life in general. Somehow the topic of loving your neighbor came up, and one of them said that this is one principle he struggles putting into practice the most. I appreciate that he admitted it publicly and, even though I teach this idea everywhere, I have to say that this is also my struggle.
We define ‘our neighbor’ in different ways, but in general, we agree that they are people we encounter everyday, acquaintances and strangers. Interestingly, in the ‘Sermons on the Mount’ Jesus raised this truth to the next level. He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’” (Matthew 5:43).
As we travel around sharing about the amazing way God transformed hundreds of communities out of poverty, the response is most often, “How can my church/ministry/program see transformation like that?” We regularly lead TCT orientations in Asia and Africa to answer that question. But those of you in the U.S. have been left wondering. We’re excited to let you know that this year at the International Wholistic Missions Conference (IWMC) we will run a track that covers exactly that—a slightly shortened version of the orientation that we run in other nations.
While the Truth Centered Transformation (TCT) program is primarily designed for rural churches in the majority world, the transformational principles that undergird the program are universal. Those principles, what we call the Framework for Transformation, can apply to any program anywhere. Our track at the IWMC will focus on some of the elements of this framework, as well as giving practical “how to” information for getting started with TCT in the majority world.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
When we hear of God as our Shepherd, the very common passage, Psalm 23:1, comes to mind. It is so common…we hear this verse or the reference of it in our homes and at Sunday School, and we see the imagery of it depicted in different forms. Regardless of it being a very common verse, I urge you to ponder and take a deeper look at God our Shepherd—Jehovah Rohi.
David wrote Psalm 23 based on his reflections and experiences as a shepherd. He realized that was exactly the relationship God had with him. The Amplified version reads, ‘The LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want.’ (Psalm 23:1).
Poverty is complex. How we address poverty is tricky. To wildly over-simplify things, we can think of poverty in two categories:
- generational poverty—poverty that you see around much of the majority world; poverty that you are born into and never seem to get out of, and
- situational poverty—poverty that comes from an outside event, like a natural disaster or a health crisis.
The causes of each are different and so, naturally, the solutions are different. For now we will just look at the first—generational poverty.
Imagine a poor rural village in the majority world. What do you think are the best ways to help them? For years I would have said give resources and train them in the basic life skills that they are missing. Today I would argue that one of the most important things that we can do to address poverty is pray. Why? Well there are a few reasons.
Have you ever come across a person whose name seems to fit them perfectly? Take for example the Olympic gold medalist and fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. Isn’t “Bolt” the perfect name for him?
Live long and you will notice that the examples are bountiful.
- Race car driver Scott Speed
- Singer Bill Medley
- TV gardener Bob Flowerdew
- Meteorologist Sarah Blizzard
Their names just seem to fit their characteristics perfectly!
Your name is a marker. Sometimes it ironically reflects your talent or job like those mentioned above while other times it simply marks your identity to a family—who you are and whose you are. Either way your name is significant and you will carry it with you for your lifetime.
Happy New Year from Reconciled World!
In October, we announced that Reconciled World’s theme, which we believe we heard from the Lord, is
Be still, and know that I (the Lord) am God.
Now, here it is January 2017—a shiny New Year—and time for a reality check.
The truth is, I’m a doer. I get an insane amount of things done. I took a personality test one time that labeled me a “Driving Driver.”
Proverbs 31? On it.
Psalm 46:10? I have a long list of super plausible
excuses reasons for why that verse was not written to me. I’d write it out for you, but I have too many other things to do.