Floyd

Some of you may be wondering why Floyd has been so 'quiet' for the past while, some of you may have heard...Floyd has been in ICU fighting for his life since 23 February. It was a terrible oversight for me not to have posted anything about it, but with all that has been going on I just didn't think about it - please forgive me. Floyd has been ill with a very serious bactrerial infection which led to him going into septic shock. It has been a very hectic time with many challenges for the doctors to deal with but the Lord has been faithful and has kept His hand on Floyd and he is now stable.

There is still a long road of recovery ahead but we trust and believe that God will perform miracles of healing for Floyd. Sally spends everyday at the hospital with him and there are many, many people all over the world standing with Sally and praying for him - the Lord is building a wonderful testimony for both of them out of this difficult time.

Julie (Floyd's Personal Assistant)

Salvation 'excludes no one'

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This is an article by Jonathan Brenneman, from the Cape Times, 17 December 2015 issue. "During this time, Advent Christians around the world turn their attention toward Christmas and to that little town of Bethlehem, where Jesus Christ was born.  Bethlehem holds an extra special place in my heart because I know someone else who was born there, my mother.  My mother is a Christian Palestinian, as am I.  We are part of a Christian community that traces its origin back to the first followers of Jesus.

I am often amazed at the confusion that my identity as a Christian Palestinian causes for many of my fellow Christians.  In all their time learning about the Holy Land, both two thousand years ago and at present, they have never come to know their Chrisian brothers and sisters who inhabit the land.

This confusion is often caused by a specific kind of theology, that of Christian Zionism.  Christian Zionism divides the people of the region historically known as Palestine into two groups: Jews, whom God wants in the land and whom we should side with and non-Jews, who get in the way of God's plan and whom we as Christinas should oppose.

I grew up unsure of where we Christian Palestinians belong in this scheme.  What are we, the living remnant of the first Christians, to do? Are we all supposed to oppose ourselves, to deny our Christian identity, to convert to Judaism?  Or to leave homes that have been in our family for generations, to abandon the land where our Saviour was born, lived, preached the gospel, died and rose again?

Are we and our neighbours not loved by God?  Did the Redeemer of the universe not have a place for us in His redemption plan?  None of the Christian Zionist answers sounded like something the God I believe in would want.

As many Christians do when faced with such questions, I went to the Scriptures.  There I found something very different from the theology of Christian Zionism.  I learnt that God, through the Jewish people, had brought HIs son into the world to save it.  In Christ, salvation is no longer dependent on one's ethnic ties, but has been extended to all peoples in the world.  The wall of separation has been torn down.  This was made possible through Christ's death and resurrection, but also revealed by Christ's life and teachings.

Jesus did not exclude anyone from His teachings and miracles; He invited Roman centurions (Mt 8:5-13), tax collectors (Luke 19:1-10), Samaritans (Luke 10:25-37), "unclean" lepers (Mt 8, Luke 17:11-19), and "unclean" women (Mark 5:25-34, Mt 5:27-23, Luke 7:36-50) to follow Him.  These people did not fit into the socially acceptable categories of the day.

Jesus' life demonstrated, as Paul would later write, that there was neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal 3:28, Col 3:11), but all were welcome at the Lord's table.  This is not to say that God no longer loves the Jews, as some anti-Semitic theologians have said, but that God's love, through Jesus encompasses the whole world, not just one tribe.

When I brought up this new understanding with my Chrisian Zionist friends there were unconvinced.

They claimed that although God does love the whole world, His plan for the world has a specific, well defined ending, which includes Jews ruling the land of Palestine.  A Christian's duty is to support Jewish rule, regardless of what it entails.  This argument again raised questions, and again I went to the Scriptures.

This time I did not find clear-cut answers.  Instead, I found uncertainty about how and when the end would come about.  Jesus specifically said it was not for us to know (Acts 1:7), like how we do not know when a thief will arrive (Rev 16:15).  Paul reiterates this sayig that he sees through a glass dimly (1 Cor 13:12).  The Scriptures tell us not to base our actions on what we think will happen in the end because, regardless of our supposed certainty, we cannot know.

Instead, Scripture continually points to the life, teachings and example of Christ to show how we as His followers should live our lives.  Caring for those who society does not care for - outcasts without power - is central to biblical ethics.  This is not only demonstrated in Jesus' life, but can be found through the whole of God's redemption story in Scripture.

When the Jews are oppressed, God leads them on a long walk to freedom.  When Jews are the oppressors, God leads those they oppress to freedom.  The good news of the gospel is freedom for widows, for orphans, for strangers, for prisoners, for the "unclean", for the disenfranchised, for anyone without power.

In the land where Jesus was born, Jews were oppressed under Roman occupation.  Jesus challenged this oppression through love, while inviting both Jews and Romans to join Him.  Today, Christian Palestinians have sought to follow in His footsteps while living under Israeli occupation by inviting other Palestinians and Israelis to challenge the Israeli occupation's oppresssion with love.

In 2009 representatives from every Christian denomination in Palestine wrote the Kairos Palestine document - based on the South African Kairos document of 1985 - calling on Christians around the world to join their struggle against oppression with "faith, hope and love".  This Christmas season, I invite you to read the Kairos Palestine document and be challenged by the invitation to the church to "proclaim the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice, peace and dignity".  Only then will we come into the Kingdom foretold by the Scriptures, where the lion will lie down with the lamb, and where we will learn war no more.

  • Brenneman is with the organisation called Open Shuhada Street"

A Dream of Light That Brought Refugee To Jesus

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Achmed lives with his family in a refugee camp. He had never seen himself as a good Muslim and would often beat himself up about his lack. One night, he had a dream where he was in complete darkness. Then suddenly, a hand reached out to him, pulled him out of the darkness and into the light. The next day, Achmed met one of our workers, disciple Prabu, and shared about the dream. Although he was affected by the dream, he was unsure how God could ever forgive him for the life he had led.

Prabu began discipling Achmed, and over time Jesus opened Achmed's heart to His forgiving and loving nature as a Father. Achmed started a bible group that has grown into two groups! Jesus continues to show His love among refugees all around the world through dreams and stories!

Share the miracle, and show what God is doing among the nations!

Guest Article by Dr Dave Cashin

How ISIS is Spreading the Gospel

“I have been a Muslim for forty-one years, in all that time have never questioned Islam. But now, I have decided to leave it.”

A few weeks ago I received an email from one of my students. She has been working amongst Muslim women and had just had a phone call from one of her Muslim friends. The woman was weeping uncontrollably, and my student assumed someone in her family had died. After she regained her composure she made the following startling statement, “I have been a Muslim for forty-one years, and in all that time have never questioned Islam. But now, I have decided to leave it.” When my student asked her “why,” she related that she had been watching ISIS videos and the brutality that they justified as the “methods of the Prophet.” She decided to leave Islam.

I have often referred Islamic radicals as “proto-evangelists” for the Christian faith. The first of these was the Ayatollah Khomeini. His brutal regime in Iran, whose atrocities and policies have lead many Iranians to leave Iran, has also led to an exodus of Iranians out of Islam. Estimates are difficult, but the numbers significant. Outside Iran the numbers are firmer but no less astonishing. In Sweden, fully ten percent of the Iranian immigrant population has converted to the Christian faith. That is approximately eight thousand out of a total of eighty thousand in the entire country. Some Iranian believers have called the Ayatollah the greatest missionary because he showed us what Islam is really like.

The next great figure in this progression was Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden defined the rulers of the Muslim world as apostates for cooperating with the West.Though best known for the September 11, 2001 attacks, his group, al-Qaeda, quickly morphed from killing westerners to killing Muslims. Their brutality has particularly been harsh in Iraq and Syria, as has been actions by the Taliban in Pakistan. ISIS or the “Islamic State” is the latest in the progression of groups and states working for the absolute application of Islamic law. His declaration of a new caliphate has alarmed the Muslims world. His group’s clever–and successful–propaganda films glory in violence, hostage taking, beheadings, sex-slavery, and slaughter of Muslim and non-Muslims. The recent burning to death of a Jordanian Muslim pilot seems to have stepped well beyond even the brutality of Islamic law and it is likely that IS followers may shortly be defined as “apostates” from Islam justifying a new Jihad against them. This propaganda and terror war is being fought on the internet. Most westerners do not watch these films. But it was astonishing to see how quickly the film of the Jordanian pilot’s death spread throughout the Muslim world. The man’s father watched it on his cell phone in a public meeting.

As Islamic law, and the groups that espouse it, fails, where will people turn? When I met a group of Iranian Church leaders in Sweden their great fear was that Muslims would turn to secularism, even to atheism. Many have come to the Church but this assumes that the Church is a “safe space” for Muslims. The tragedy is that many Churches are not welcoming for Muslims. They regard them as the enemy. In a shameful display in Texas recently a group of Christians heckled a Muslim meeting and called on them to leave the country. The harvest in Sweden is partly a result of the Church taking a stand for Muslim immigrants and against local nationalist parties. The Church in Sweden is a “safe space” for Muslims. Is the evangelical Church in America a “safe space” for Muslims? The proto-evangelists are doing their job. Are we doing ours?

This article originally appeared on the website for the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies at Columbia International University, and was used with permission.  Please click here to view this site.

Perfect Love Casts Out Terror!

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That’s how Jonathan, a co-worker living in the Middle East described his response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut. "Perfect love casts out terror." The outpouring of terror in Paris and Beirut make me angry – but it does not dictate my attitude to terrorists. Jesus defines my responses to terror, more than any government or act of terror ever will be able to do!

I know the difference between my response as an American citizen and my response as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. God’s kingdom comes above America, as much as I love my country.

There is a place for governments to protects it’s citizens. God has created them for that purpose. But while government armies can protect us, they cannot win the real war, the war for people’s hearts. That is the war that counts for eternity. And it is not fought with human weapons.

God challenged me years ago with these words, “You see yourself more as an American than a Christian –I want that to change.” I made a covenant with God in that moment to build my life - and my identity - on the words of Jesus

Perhaps these words from Jesus in John 10:10 can help you as much as they did me to respond like Jesus to terrorists and others far from God – I know they helped me:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

What we’re seeing in ISIS and its associates is a movement of fear: of killing and destroying.

Jesus is the leader of another kind of movement, a movement of life and love. People who use terror and violence to advance their cause do so because they are losing the battle for people’s hearts and minds.

That’s right. They are losing the battle precisely because they fight with hate and violence.

Terrorists get the media’s attention, but they don’t win the battle for people’s hearts. There are far more people responding to the love of Jesus than will ever join up with ISIS and it’s movement of fear!

Millions of Muslims are turning to Jesus around the world and it is precisely for that reason: they are sick and tired of hate and violence. They are tired of man-made religion. Of rules and self-righteousness. They want something more. They hunger for what only Jesus can offer.

All Nations, through our ministry called Serve Syria, is part of a movement of love and life. We are sharing the love of Jesus with Muslims in many countries, especially with the Syrian refugees.

One such Syrian refugee named Ishmael was a former secret service agent in Syria – assigned to assassinate those who opposed the regime. He was sickened by what he was doing, but fearful to speak up. He decided to run for his life – literally. He escaped at night across the desert with his family to Jordan.

There Ishmael met “George” (not his real name – changed to protect his identity as he continues to minister in Jordan). George led him to faith in Christ and Ishmael in turn started 38 Bible studies with other refugees – including back in Syria itself.

The real war on terror isn’t fought with drones and AK47s! It is being combatted with love by our dedicated workers who are right now serving on the Syrian border and in refugee camps in Europe.

Terror is just another word for fear. And perfect love casts out terror and fear!

5 Things You Need To Know About 21st Century Small Group Ministry

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Have you ever wondered why it's more difficult today for the church to attract urbanized non-Christian people? This article by Mark Howell, explains a simple but highly significant change in our culture... "When we woke up this morning, we woke up to a very different world than our parents lived in. Truth be told, we actually woke up to a rapidly changing culture. As we step deeper into the 21st Century there are some things you need to know about how cultural changes impact small group ministry. Wise leaders will be paying attention as culture changes.

  1. Biblical literacy is a distant memory in almost every setting. This reality must be anticipated in leader training, in the design or selection of curriculum, and in the development of the group experience. Continuing to operate as if everyone knows even the people, places and events of the Bible (let alone its meaning) is already the trademark of hopelessly out of touch ministries.
  2. The expectation that the Church provides something essential is rapidly decreasing. This is an important understanding. All of the research points to the changing belief about the Church. Worse than disagreement with beliefs or practices is the sense that the Church is irrelevant.
  3. “I am a spiritual person” is growing; “I am a Christian” is declining. A correlation noted in The Rise of the Nones and the research that backs up the findings of Barna and many other organizations is that the increasing number of those who indicate no religious affiliation is primarily about the decrease in the number of nominal (or notional) Christians; Christians in name only. This actually may provide some direction for ministries nimble enough to adjust strategy to offer meaning to “spiritual people (Think about Paul’s approach in Acts 17).”
  4. A Christian worldview is not held by the majority. Beyond biblical illiteracy is the emergence of a competing worldview (or multiple worldviews). The worldview of secular humanism sees virtually everything through a completely different lens. The sanctity of human life, sexual orientation, and a biblical understanding of marriage are just three front burner issues where profoundly different beliefs are the products of a vastly different worldview held by an increasing number of people. The practice of assuming “what we all believe” will require a major overhaul in order to reach friends, neighbors, co-workers and even family members who no longer believe what we believe.
  5. Cause has the greatest potential to connect. As James Emery White points out in The Rise of the Nones, there was a time when unchurched people responded directly to a gospel message, joined in community and then joined in the cause (1950s to 1980s). This was followed by a period when unchurched people responded first to an opportunity to join a community, found Christ and then joined in the cause (1990s to 2000s). What about now? White points out that the Pew Forum study revealed that 78% of those surveyed said that “religious organizations bring people together and strengthen community bonds” and 77% said “religious organizations play an important role in helping the poor and needy.” Interpretation? “We may have lost the opportunity to walk with them (unchurched people) and talk with them, but we haven’t lost the opportunity to do good to them and for them and with them (p. 100, The Rise of the Nones).” Providing opportunities to join causes that resonate with unchurched people (i.e., clean water, orphan care, sex trafficking, etc.) offer new front doors to relationship.

I hope you are thinking about these powerful new trends as you build your small group ministry. My thinking has been impacted by a number of books including The Rise of the Nones and The Next Christians."

Posted with permission from Mark Howell

Guest Blog...

This guest blog by Michéle Phoenix is outstanding! It speaks to me as a missionary, but it applies to pastors, elders, church workers, and all those who follow Jesus with a clear sense of spiritual purpose.  I trust it helps you as it did me... and if you serve on the missions commission of your church I would encourage you to discuss it with your co-workers. Five Permissions Missionaries Need  by  Michele Phoenix

You may have read my most recent article, “Six Permissions Most MKs Need.” This is a companion piece, one that recognizes the different needs of adults in ministry.

Extending these permissions might reduce the pressure that becomes toxic to missionaries. Sometimes that pressure is self-inflicted - derived from the unachievable standards they levy on themselves. And sometimes it’s imposed by supporters and churches who mean well, but fail to measure the human toll of a life in ministry.

So the onus of responsibility is twofold: on the missionaries who self-blame and self-shame and on the networks that back them, sometimes piling unreasonable expectations on people who work in circumstances they can’t fully fathom.

Permission To Be Confused:

We’ve sent out five hundred letters and our support still isn’t there. We’ve been praying for a coworker for years and no one has come forward to join us. We’ve thrown everything we have at it and the ministry still isn’t growing.

The truth is seldom stated so bluntly. Missionaries will often couch it in more palatable statements like “We’re trusting God’s timing” and “His ways are higher than our ways.” We want missionaries to display unflagging faith and confidence in difficult situations, and they try to live up to that standard.

But here’s the truth: it’s okay (it’s healthy!) for missionaries to get frustrated. It’s okay for them to question. It’s okay for them to wonder if they got the “memo” wrong. It’s okay for them to feel let down by the One who called them and not understand what His purpose is in the challenges they’re facing.

It’s okay for missionaries to be confused. But it requires that their doubts be accepted and that their vulnerability be honored. Because they’re in ministry, there’s a tendency to expect hyper-spirituality from them - the ability to reframe let-downs and failures as positives in God’s Kingdom. That’s not always possible when they’ve invested everything - funds, families, futures - in an endeavor that seems doomed.

If you want to support your missionaries, be affirming. Pray for miracles and have faith when theirs wanes. But also acknowledge the emotional toll of disappointment and the spiritual confusion it can cause. Give missionaries permission to question and feel defeated, if only for a time. It isn’t weakness - it’s a natural response to unmet expectations and to what feels like broken promises.

And if it doesn’t work out? If their prayers go unanswered and they’ve done all they can? Read Permission #5: Permission to Quit.

Permission To Be Flawed


Here’s a newsflash: missionaries aren’t perfect. Some of us struggle to get organized. Some of us battle temptation, carry the burden of depression, have trouble setting boundaries or suffer from anxiety. Some of us lie, gossip, overeat, misrepresent or exaggerate.

The missionaries you see standing at that mic on Sunday mornings have chosen a life that may be different from yours, but they’re just as human, just as frail and just as fallible as anyone else.

Unfortunately, there have generally been only two options available to missionaries facing challenges: to be released from service by their sending agency or to keep their struggles private. No middle ground. This simplistic response has either caused shame (for those who leave) or hypocrisy (for those who remain silent).

In order for missionaries to feel safe revealing their flaws, we need to institute systems that will help them to work through their challenges without the all-or-nothing threat that has inhibited disclosure.

It’s a messy proposal, one that would require time and personnel many missions don’t have - following overseas workers personally and intimately, allowing for honest, bared-soul reporting in a safe context. It would also require intervention specific to the nature and severity of the struggle, not the “buck up and be quiet” or “buckle and leave” that has been the unspoken mandate for flawed missionaries until now.

The result has been ministries severed by premature departures or ministries stunted by the toll of non-disclosure. Imagine how Permission To Be Flawed (from friends, churches, mission boards and colleagues) and strategies/personnel in place to address the problems when they occur might change the experience and reporting of struggling missionaries.

Permission To Rest

For some missionaries, the 24/7 nature of ministry can take a personal and relational toll. In some cases, it becomes physical too - when the body can no longer sustain the strain of an all-encompassing, all-demanding work.

I need to add a caveat here: not all missionaries are engaged in such a strenuous lifestyle. Some have clearly delineated work hours in the day and periods of rest woven into their calendar year. It’s for the others that I make this point - those who are “on call” days, nights and weekends, trying to keep their heads above water in a whirlpool of things to do, goals to accomplish, needs to meet and people to save. The pace can be relentless.

The problem, when missionaries report periods of rest, is that it often comes without context. Because they try so hard to sound positive about the work they’re doing, you won’t hear the fatigue, discouragement or urgency in their communication. Yet for families like one I met in Kathmandu, traveling out of town for one weekend a month is the only way for the doctor-husband to get beyond the reach of constant medical emergencies, for the children to breathe unpolluted air and for the wife to have uninterrupted time to meaningfully connect with her husband.

To Western eyes, that family heading off to a resort every few weeks seems a bit extravagant - though I assure you that Nepali resorts are not Club Med! But the days away are life-giving, allowing the family to stay several years in a place others leave after just months.

Taking a Sunday afternoon nap, doing coffee with a friend or snuggling in with the family for a movie night shouldn’t be guilt-inducing, yet too often it is.

Missionaries may be doing God’s work, but they’re doing it in human bodies. If Jesus needed to get away during his time on earth (and He was God), surely we can grant permission to those who work in His name today to find appropriate respite from the rigors of their ministry.

Rest isn’t a luxury. It’s a God-mandated necessity.

Permission To Spend

In an article titled Guiltitude, I made the following statement: “We like our missionaries to look deprived and to live without. It adds a certain nobility to the minister’s status and to the giver’s sacrifice.”

We honor self-sacrifice and deem it a cornerstone of missionary endeavors. And indeed it is. Leaving loved ones. Choosing a non-traditional life in another culture. Abandoning dreams of financial prosperity for the rewards of evangelization.

Missionaries sacrifice willingly. And sometimes, out of a misplaced effort to be good stewards of donations, they sacrifice too much. The single girl whose furniture is stacked apple crates - because she doesn’t think churches are giving so she can buy a dresser. The family that spends two hours just getting to and from the grocery store on public transportation - because supporters are contributing to ministry, not to the purchase of a car. The couple that refuses the outrageously low offer of a home they can buy (cutting expenses by hundreds of dollars per month) because they fear the reaction of donors who can’t afford to do the same.

I call it misallocation of emotional energy.” Living precariously, making life more complicated than it needs to be, forces missionaries to invest their finite supply of emotional energy in coping with unnecessary duress.

Attrition numbers on the mission field are rising. In many of the interactions I’ve had with singles and families who have left their work, there’s been a common thread of just not being “able to handle it anymore” - people who have given it all up, even small material comforts, in an effort to prove full devotion through extreme deprivation. And they can’t sustain the effort long-term.

I’m not advocating for reckless spending or luxurious living. I’m advocating for supporters who understand that they’re funding the whole person, and that his/her quality of life will be a crucial factor in the longevity of the ministry.

For some, quality of life is hampered by intolerable heat and will be enhanced by an air-conditioner (horrors!). Others will be fine with the heat, but need to have WiFi at home to communicate with family and help their kids with schooling. Others will benefit hugely from investing in a generator so life doesn’t stop when the brown-out rolls through.

If there is a way to remedy a debilitating “lack,” however trivial it may seem, so the missionary can focus on more important things, isn’t it healthy for him/her to do so?

Even when given permission to spend, missionaries will need to grant themselves the license to identify what is causing a misallocation of emotional energy and find ways to reduce the stress it’s causing.

Permission To Quit

Guess what? “The Call” can be seasonal. When the strong impulse to enter full-time ministry propels singles and couples through the tedious steps of vision-sharing, fundraising, pre-field training, packing, goodbyeing and transitioning, we’d like to think that it’s a lifelong commissioning. Surely they didn’t go through all that for just a short time overseas!

In some cases it is indeed a lifelong thing. In others, it’s a temporary Call. For those who head overseas with a short-term perspective, returning permanently to their passport culture is a predictable and acceptable end. But for those who set out for what they think will be a long-term investment in Kingdom Work, an unexpected end feels like defeat. It’s all the more egregious if the end comes because of conflict or personal issues. Or loss of funding, which can feel like donor abandonment.

There is an acute feeling of shame that accompanies such departures - and often a lack of full reporting in order to protect one’s dignity or self-respect. Missionaries who leave because of painful circumstances feel they’ll be judged as uncommitted or too weak to sustain the demands of ministry. So they seldom describe the grievous details, making it difficult for those who care to truly support them.

There are departures from the field that happen for more “honorable” reasons: elderly parents who require assistance, educational needs of children, health challenges. All valid. All noble. But for the missionary who entered ministry feeling a life-long vocation and for the partners who sent him/her off with decades of service in mind, it can feel like an aborted Call.

Missionaries need to be given “permission to quit” when their goal has been reached, when their relatives need help, when interpersonal rifts inhibit ministry and when the health of the missionary family would be better served elsewhere. Or just when they sense the time has come to leave. The same God who directed them into ministry might not have intended for them to stay with it forever.

If you’ve known missionaries who have overstayed their appointment, you know that a timely departure is often better (for all involved) than a protracted lingering.

Churches need to see God as big enough to use even a shortened, altered or unachieved Call. And they need to respect the fact that the One who called missionaries out is just as capable of calling them back. Missionaries whose abbreviated terms feel like failures or broken promises will benefit from a theology of calling that acknowledges roadblocks, trials and changes as a means for God to redirect them into something equally as valid, even if it has nothing to do with traditional ministry.

If churches and supporters want to encourage missionaries to live in these permissions, they’ll need to exhibit a culture of personal interest, non-judgmental inquisitiveness and generous understanding. Ask questions that show sincere concern and caring, acknowledging the flaws of humanness and the stresses of ministry. Validate the person, exercise compassionate discernment and help him/her to find a way forward.

For missionaries to give themselves permission to be confused and flawed, to rest, to spend and to quit, a shift in priorities will have to occur, one in which their health - physical, spiritual, emotional and relational - is just as valued as the work they do, regardless of the pressure to put themselves (and their families) last.

See companion articles on Michéle's website here

Jesus Loves Africa!

Jesus loves Africa! Of that I am sure. There is great brokenness in Africa, but there is also great beauty. I see beauty in the hospitality of African peoples.

There's beauty in the smile of African people. And there is great beauty in the music  -  no one can sing like Africans!!

There's beauty in the spirituality of Africa… Even though that spirituality has often been hijacked and misguided by the enemy into ancestor worship and spiritism.

There's beauty in the courage of Africans. All throughout the continent of Africa you will find bold African evangelists proclaiming the Gospel. The church is growing faster in sub-Saharan Africa than any other continent in the world!

Though there is beauty in Africa, there is also brokenness in, and it breaks the heart of God:  we see the brokenness in the wars, preventable diseases, AIDS, famine, corruption and suffering children.

When I pray for Africa, hope fills my heart for the continent. But when I read the reports of problems I start to lose hope. So I know the answer for me... I need to be more impressed with God than I am with circumstances and newspaper reports. And I need to keep praying for Africa.

Isn't that true for all of us? Don't we all need to continually be more impressed with God's greatness than with human problems?

The church in Africa is the hope of Africa. And spiritual leaders are the hope of the church.

Sally and I feel called to give the rest of our lives to invest in the leaders and the church in Africa. Why? Because the church is the hope of Africa.

Every African leader needs friends who believe in them  -  and who will invest in their lives through friendship and discipleship.

 

Guest Article

This is an article written by Mark Buckley from Living Streams Church.  I think it is worth pondering on... August 2015 - Selah

I became friends with Larry Bresnan my senior year in high school. Larry went to a Fellowship for Christian Athletes camp after graduation and gave his life to Jesus. Larry found peace with God, started reading the Bible, and continually told me “Jesus is alive.” Even though Larry seemed to be on a radical Christian trip, his peace and persistence impressed me. If Jesus was alive, I wanted to get to know Him as well. In January of 1970, I followed Larry’s advice and asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Larry moved to Oregon, where he got married and had four children. Twelve years later, I heard Larry had colon cancer. My friends Billy Stockton and Mike Griffiths joined me in fasting for three days asking God to heal Larry. We drove to Oregon to pray for him. I was heartbroken when he died several months later. I have always been thankful for his influence in my life, which continues to this day. I had a dream about Larry last month. In my dream, I saw Larry with his curly brown hair, a bushy beard, and a big smile on his face. As I moved nearer to him, his face grew dark. I heard a voice say, “You cannot see his face.” “It doesn’t matter, I know what he looks like,” I replied. I kept moving closer to Larry because I was so glad to see my friend once again. Then a voice said, “I have a message for you.” At that moment, I realized it was the Lord speaking to me. He gave me a one-word message, “Selah.” I woke up after the dream just after midnight. I thought about the Lord’s message for a while, and then got up and opened my Bible to read Psalm 24. Selah is a Hebrew word used many times in the Psalms. It is used after particularly meaty phrases. Its primary meaning is pause. Pause, think about what this means, wait a moment, and let this truth sink in before going further. The editors of the new NIV Bible have removed Selah from their translation. That is unfortunate, because we need Selah now more than ever. It is a simple concept which can help us grasp truth. A nap is a Selah in your day. A Sabbath day is a Selah in your week. A vacation is a Selah in your year. A Sabbatical is a Selah in your career. Selah helps seeds of truth take root in our hearts when we read the scriptures. Selah can help restore our soul when we are on vacation. Selah can help us understand our spouse in a discussion. Selah can prevent us from saying something we regret in an argument. Selah can help restrain us when we are angry, and restore us when we are tired. Selah is what a golf pro told me to do at the top of my backswing. Selah is what Jesus said to me through Larry in my dream. I lay awake on my bed thinking about Larry alive with Jesus. I felt like I had seen him for the first time since he died. Then I thought about our son Matthew, and others I love who are alive with Jesus. I asked the Lord to forgive me for ever doubting the reality of heaven. My heart has been broken, and my heart has been healed, because Jesus is alive. Jesus said, “Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29). Christ is going to raise us all from the dead, so there is no reason to worry, or hurry. We all have battles, and we all have pain in life; Selah can help us appreciate our blessings as well. Psalm 24:7 says, Lift up your heads you gates; be lifted up you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Selah.

If you would like to read more of Mark's reflections, click here

Prayer Essentials for Busy People - Part Two

WHY PRAY? To strengthen my own resolve in prayer, I made the following list in my journal of biblical reasons for prayer:

FOR HEALING OF OUR LAND & REVIVAL OF GOD's PEOPLE  ~  2 Chronicles 7:14  "...if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place."

FOR WISDOM & DIRECTION  ~  James 1:5-8  "If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get His help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open."

FOR OUR SOUL TO PROSPER IN GOOD HEALTH  ~  3 John 1:2  "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers."

FOR HEALING & FORGIVENESS  ~  James 5:13-17  "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."

FOR A CLEAR CONSCIENCE  ~  Hebrews 13: 18  "Pray for us; for we are confident that we have a good conscience, in all things desiring to live honorably."

FOR HOLINESS FREE FROM ANGER  ~  1 Timothy 2:8  "I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting".

FOR THE WORD OF THE GOSPEL TO GO OUT SWIFTLY  ~  2 Thessalonians 3:1-3  "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one."

FOR KINGS & ALL IN AUTHORITY  ~  1 Timothy 2:1-2  "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."

FOR REJOICING IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES  ~  1 Thessalonians 5:16-22  "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil."

FOR OUR PEOPLE TO BE FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD  ~  Colossians 1:9-14 "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins."

FOR ABOUNDING LOVE  ~  Philippians 1:9-11  "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

FOR THE FEAR OF GOD  ~  Proverbs 1:28-30  “Then they will call on Me, but I will not answer;  They will seek Me diligently, but they will not find Me.  Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of My counsel and despised My every rebuke."

FOR PARDON FROM INIQUITY  ~  Numbers 14:19-20  "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” Then the Lord said:“I have pardoned, according to your word;"

FOR STRENGTH FOR THE TASKS GOD GIVES US  ~  Judges 16:28-29  "Then Samson called to the Lord, saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!”

FOR DELIVERANCE FROM OUR ENEMIES  ~  1 Samuel 7:5-10  "Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah. Now when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel had gathered together at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. So the children of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines....Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel."

FOR LEADERS TO TEACH THE GOOD AND RIGHT WAY  ~  1 Samuel 12:23-25  "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.”

FOR GOD's PROMISES & CALLNG TO BE CLEAR & TO COME TO PASS  ~  1 Kings 8:26-30  "And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive."

TO NOURISH THE LIFE OF CHRIST IN US PERSONALLY  ~  John 15:5  “ I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

FOR GOD TO BRING ABOUT JUSTICE FOR HIS PEOPLE  ~  Luke 18:7-8  "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

TO SEE THE BEAUTY OF JESUS  ~  Psalms 27:4-6  "One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek:  That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord."

FOR FULLY DEVOTED DISCIPLES OF JESUS' CHURCH TO GO, TEACH, BAPTIZE AND MAKE DISCIPLES  ~  Matthew 28:18-20  "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “ All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Prayer Essentials for Busy People

We need time with the Lord every day in order to live victorious lives and enjoy His grace in difficult circumstances. Communion with God must be the cornerstone of our lives otherwise our emotional and spiritual well runs dry. We need time with God for our fears to be calmed, our wounds to be healed, and our perspectives to be in line with His. When communion with God stops, our faith level drops and we start listening to the lies of the enemy. Discouragement takes hold of our hearts, and passion for Jesus dwindles.

With the stress and pressure that goes on in our lives, we need consistency in our times with the Lord. There are certain aspects of our relationship with God that never change, though change takes place around us.

The Lord’s Prayer is one simple model that can help us have that consistency. This prayer model is easy to follow at any time of the day - while you are driving to work or going for a walk - yet it is rich in substance, taking you ever deeper into God’s heart.

The Tabernacle model teaches us how the people of Israel were to relate to God. God gave Moses the design for the tabernacle in Exodus 25 – 31. I encourage you to get a diagram of the Tabernacle from your Bible or borrow one from a friend who has a study Bible so you can visualize it.

Each station of the tabernacle was important to the people of God in those days, and though the symbol has changed, the meaning is still the same for us.

The Tabernacle Model of Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer are linked in that they both describe essential ingredients of our walk with the Lord:

Adoration - Our Father in heavenAltar of Incense 

Consecration - Holy be Your nameAltar of Sacrifice/Burnt Offerings 

Intercession - Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heavenMercy Seat/Ark of the Covenant 

Infilling & personal supplication - Give us this day our daily breadTable of Showbread & Golden Lampstand 

Cleansing & forgiveness - Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against usBronze Laver 

Spiritual warfare - Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil oneOuter Court 

Worship & declaration - For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever!Altar of Incense 

The seven elements of the Tabernacle are as follows:

Altar of Sacrifice - The Altar of Sacrifice was where burnt offerings and sacrifices were offered to God for the sins of the people. Jesus is our sacrifice. It is vital that we “die daily” to sin, i.e., confess our sins each day and receive God’s forgiveness. Paul says in Romans 6:11 that we should consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God because of Jesus’ death for us. It is a powerful thing to daily confess our sins and sorrows, and then receive His forgiveness and grace. See Galatians 5:24, Philippians 1:21, Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6, 2 Corinthians 1:9

Bronze Laver - The bronze laver in the tabernacle was the place of cleansing. It was a bowl that contained water for cleansing. The bronze laver symbolized the need of the priests to be clean from sin as they came into the presence of God. We have an invitation from God: we can receive washing of our minds and hearts each day if we simply ask and receive by faith. John 13:6ff, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:26

Golden Lampstand - On the Golden Lampstand stood a candlestick, or menorah. The Lampstand provided light for the priests as they entered the “holy place.” It symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us as we live our lives each day in the “holy place” of our work and family life. It also represents Jesus, the light of the world. This part of the tabernacle reminds us to be filled with the Spirit. We need to consciously ask for and receive the fullness of the Spirit every day: God invites us to ask for the fruit and the power of the Spirit of God each day, and to ask Him to give us wisdom for the decisions we must make. Ephesians 5:18, Acts 4:8, 31, 9:17, Acts 5:32

Table of Showbread - The Showbread symbolized that God sustained the people of Israel. Each week twelve fresh loaves of bread were placed on a table in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. In the same way, we are sustained by the word of God. It is bread to our souls. We need the word of God, both written and spoken, to feed our hearts and keep us alive spiritually. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that precedes from the mouth of God.” Deuteronomy 8:3, Psalm 119:9-11, Romans 12:2. Acts 4:31, 13:5, Romans 10:17, 2 Corinthians 2:17, 4:2, Ephesians 6:17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 4:12

Altar of Incense - The Altar of Incense was symbolical of worship. Jesus longs to receive our worship by the choices we make, the thoughts we think, and the words of praise we offer Him in adoration. Our lives are to be incense to the Lord (2 Corinthians 2:14). He never grows tired of our worship. Worship allows intimacy to grow between the Lord and us. It is the love language of the heart. Genesis 22:5, Deuteronomy 11:16, Psalm 67:1-4, Psalm 86:9, John 4:21-24, Romans 12:1, Revelation 5:9-10,

Mercy Seat – Ark of the Covenant - The mercy seat was the lid that went over the ark, where the stone tablets of the law were contained. The priests sprinkled the blood of sacrificed animals on the mercy seat. The mercy seat symbolizes the mercy of God that covers our lives – and it represents God’s invitation to us to offer prayers and intercessions for others. An intercessor stands before God and asks for His mercy to be given on behalf of other people. Such an invitation should not be ignored or turned down! Acts 6:4, 12:5, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, James 5:15, Mark 11:24, 13:33, 14:38, 1 Thessalonians 5:25,

Outer Court - After the priest ministered to the Lord on behalf of the people, he went to the outer court of the tabernacle and ministered to the people on behalf of the Lord. When we marry our passions for life with our calling to tell others about Jesus, our worlds come together. We don’t have to live fragmented lives. As followers of Jesus, we are commissioned to go into the world on His behalf. We each have a sphere of influence that God gives us to tell people about Jesus. When this happens, we find deep fulfillment and the satisfaction of living whole-heartedly for God. Genesis 1:28, 12:1-3, Psalm 67:1-4, Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20

 

Devastation in Nepal

The earthquake devastation in Nepal keeps getting worse - more than 8,000 dead and many more missing and injured. Are the earthquakes in Nepal judgment from God, like one Christian blogger suggests? No way. Some believe the predominantly Hindu country is being judged by God. Obviously, God has a right to judge any nation any time He pleases, but I don't like such "hind-sight" prophetic utterances. They are without compassion.

I visited Nepal the first time in 1974. The Nepali church was small back then, about 1500 people. Today it is more than 600,000 people - and growing! A contagious, nation-transforming church!

I don't relate to the so-called prophets who jump on bad news after a calamity or disaster and state emphatically, after-the-fact, that these events are God's judgment.

Why would God judge a nation where the church is exploding in growth and having such a huge impact on people's lives? Nepali people are open to the gospel, not resisting it.

These so-called prophets of doom have a limited perspective, and often judgmental attitude.

When Sally and I lived in Afghanistan in the early 70's, we trained and sent a team to pioneer a ministry to back packers in Nepal. Many young people came to Christ through that ministry. Including many Nepalis.

We continue to be involved in Nepal through our All Nations workers, including sending more than $24,000 for food and shelter from South Africa and the United States in the last few days.

I have included an excerpt from a report by one of our All Nations workers below... it is incredibly moving.

NEPAL NEWS

 PREPARING TO TAKE FOOD TO VILLAGE

PREPARING TO TAKE FOOD TO VILLAGE

This is the old man who has lost his house and 11 family members. He just easily said, "Madam, I don't need a house. Use that money to send food to my village." It’s been 12 days and his village has not received one grain of rice. We have arranged with a different organization to take them food Sunday but he really wants to take them some today. This picture is him preparing to take food and water to his village. Please keep giving if you can. The need is so great!

We have done some immediate relief work with food and stuff, but what we are mainly concerned about is how to get people back on their feet so they can work and feed themselves again.  Lots and lots of organizations have come in with food and tarps and things, and we’re really thankful for that!  But what about a few months from now?  That’s what we are worried about.

Our focus has been on helping our own people and our own neighborhood, because nobody is helping them.  So basically we are building or helping build homes for at least seven families.  I just had a meeting with one group of five families who are relatives that all lived in mud houses.  We discussed what we can do, what we can salvage from the wreckage (mud houses), and that soon we will be digging them a well (maybe even today) and then when we can start the demolishing process, it will be mostly in their hands.

The other person we're helping is Babita’s family, our first believer.  Their mud house looks okay from the outside but the inside and supports have completely crumbled.  For the time being, their family of five is living with us.  Another family of three, a mother and her two children, are permanently living with us because their mud house was also destroyed but it’s not their own land.

 KIDS WE ARE HELPING FEED IN NEPAL

KIDS WE ARE HELPING FEED IN NEPAL

These are some of the kids that Heather and Maika, our All Nations workers, are helping.

Itinerary - Floyd McClung - 2015

APRIL 23 - 25:      Denver, Colorado  -  SIMPLY JESUS GATHERING

MAY 24:                 

Colorado Springs, Colorado  -  TBD (to be determined)

MAY 30 - 31:          

Castle Rock, Colorado  -  ROCK CHURCH

MAY 31 - JUNE 1:   

Castle Rock, Colorado  -  YOUTH WITH A MISSION - Leadership Training School

JUNE 5 - 7:               

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada  -  LIVING HOPE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

JUNE 14:                   

Pleasant Valley, Ohio  -  PLEASANT VALLEY CHURCH

JUNE 19 - 21:          

Tampa, Florida  -  CORNERSTONE CHURCH

JUNE 28:                   

Goodyear, Arizona  -  STREAMS CHURCH 

JULY 11 - 12:           

Phoenix, Arizona  -  LIVING STREAMS CHURCH 

AUG 14 - 16:           

Phoenix, Arizona  -  MEN’S RETREAT 

AUG 16:                   

Phoenix, Arizona  -  CITIZEN’S CHURCH

AUG 21 - 23:           

Lakeside, Montana  -  YOUTH WITH A MISSION - 30th Anniversary Celebrations

AUG 31 - SEPT 3:    

Kona, Hawaii  -  YOUTH WITH A MISSION DTS

SEPT 6 - 8:                

San Diego, California  -  ALL PEOPLE’S CHURCH

SEPT 13:                    

Norman, Oklahoma  -  NORMAN COMMUNITY CHURCH

OCT 4:                      

Omaha, Nebraska  -  ALL NATIONS CHURCH

OCT 8:                      

Dallas, Texas  -  CHRIST FOR THE NATIONS INSTITUTE

OCT 11:                    

Tulsa, Oklahoma  -  BELIEVERS CHURCH

OCTOBER 16:          

TBD

OCT 25:                    

Yakima, Washington  -  YAKIMA OPEN DOOR CHURCH

NOV 7 - 12:             

Tainan, Taiwan  -  ALL NATIONS GLOBAL LEADERSHIP and PRAYER SUMMIT

NOV 14:                   

Austin, Texas  -  HOPE IN THE CITY

Love Never Ends: A Meditation...

The following is a piece written by BRIAN ZAHND.  If you would like to see the original post or read more from Brian please click on the link to view his blog site -  Brian's blog  

Why is there something instead of nothing? The only answer I can imagine is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God… But why would God say, “Let there be light” and initiate Creation? The only answer I can imagine is God is love.

What is light? God’s love in the form of photons. What is water? A liquid expression of God’s love. What is a mountain? God’s love in granite, so much older than human sorrow. What is a tree? God’s love growing up from the ground. What is a bull moose? God’s love sporting spectacular antlers. What is a whale? Fifty tons of God’s love swimming in the ocean.

As we learn to see Creation as goodness flowing from God’s own love— We begin to see the sacredness of all things. As Dylan and Dostoevsky say, in every grain of sand. All of creation is a gift — a gift flowing from the self-giving love of God.

Why is there light and oceans and trees and moose and whales and every grain of sand? Because God is love — love seeking expression in self-giving creativity. Unless we understand this we’ll misunderstand everything and misspend our lives. In our misunderstanding and misspent lives we harm Creation— Including our sisters and brothers, all of whom bear the image of God.

Love never ends. At the end of all things there is love. Love abides. Love endures. When the last star burns out, God’s love will be there for whatever comes after. In the end it all adds up to love. So when you are calculating the meaning of life— If it doesn’t add up to love, recalculate, because you’ve made a serious mistake!

Existence only makes sense when seen through the lens of love. At the beginning of time there is love. At the bottom of the universe there is love. It’s in God’s ocean of endless love that we live and move and have our being.

Admittedly freedom allows for other things too (from cancer cells to atomic bombs)— But at the bottom of the universe it’s love all the way down. Cancer cells and atomic bombs will not have the final say. Love alone has the last word.

“Unless you love, your life will flash by.” (Thank you, Terrence Malick.) Love alone gives meaning to our fleeting fourscore sojourn. Why? Because everything else returns to dust. It’s love alone that never ends. It’s love alone that is greater than the grave. Death severs all save love. We remain connected to our departed loved ones by the un-severable bond of love.

Love remembers. God’s love is great enough to remember all and to re-member all. If Creation is an explosion (or rapid expansion) of God’s love (and I believe it is)— New Creation (or resurrection) is the triumph of God’s endless love over death. This is the question: Which is endless, Love or Death? The answer is Love.

If God is love and if love never ends and if the meaning of being is love… And if Jesus is the supreme incarnation of God’s eternal love… Then that should tell us something about what it looks like to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus is a journey toward perfection in the love of God. It’s a journey that will take us a lifetime, and perhaps longer. But the trajectory is clear: We are always moving toward the way of love.

If what we’re doing, praying, preaching, saying, isn’t moving us toward love… Then it’s not the true way of following the love of God who is Jesus Christ. This needs to be said, because it is too easily forgotten. Loveless orthodoxy is death.

We’ve all seen those who in the name of Jesus have perfected meanness. The iconic and tragic-comic example would be the Westboro Baptist folk… But there are plenty of other less egregious, but still tragic, examples.

The journey of faith almost always begins as somewhat elitist (I’m saved!)— But it always move toward becoming egalitarian. (Peter learning Gentiles are accepted by God.) Love triggers the divine and deep (but often repressed) instinct that all things belong. (All God has created is good. Sin is the corruption, the hole, in the fabric of God’s goodness.)

You too belong. You too are accepted. I will make room for you. Over time, as we are properly formed, love will elicit this kind of language. Love is open. Love is expansive. There is a largeness to love. Sin is mean, petty, and small. The whole world of Hell in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce was no bigger than a grain of sand. Selah.

If Creation comes from the explosive expansion of God’s love— Then I find it significant that we live in an ever expanding universe. The universe is not shrinking, it’s not static, it’s expanding…at the speed of light!

God is love. God is light. God’s love is expanding at the speed of light. And what is the wrath of God? The love of God wrongly received. Either we go with the grain of love or we suffer the shards of self-inflicted harm. (And that you “did it to yourself” by resisting God’s love makes it no less of a judgment.)

What about the borders of your love? Are they shrinking? Static? Expanding? Who are you embracing in love. Fewer people? The same people? More people? I’m not worried about having borders of love that are too broad. Loving too many people will hardly be a crime at the judgment seat of Christ.

In my earliest days of following Jesus I had an air of triumphalism. (I’m on the winning team!) But as I mature I find triumphalism shrinking and love expanding. Today I find it much easier to love people who are very different from me.

I’ve learned to genuinely love people of other religions. (And still confess Jesus is Lord.) Jews…Muslims…Hindus…Buddhists…Atheists. I’m thinking of specific people…friends. But will they be saved?! That’s not my business. My business is to love and point to Jesus. (I do believe that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.)

Back to the question about our borders of love… Why would our borders of love shrink and not expand? Only one answer: Fear. As I observe the world — politically, socially, economically, religiously… I observe there really are only two forces that move people: Fear and Love.

So when you observe the events that make news (especially if there’s controversy)— Ask this simple question: What’s at work here? Fear or Love? Then ask yourself another question: What’s moving me? Fear or Love? Finally, make the decision to move with love and refuse to respond to fear. You can afford to make that risky move because… God is love and love never ends.

How I Pray Each Morning

I believe we can live victoriously every day. I believe we can enjoy the grace of God in difficult circumstances and when we are down emotionally. Personally, I need time with the Lord every day, or my emotional and spiritual well runs dry. When that happens, my faith level goes down and I start listening to the lies of the enemy. On a practical level, I love variety, so I change my 'quiet time' routine every few months. If I don’t, it gets boring and I lose interest. Sally is the exact opposite to me. She follows the same approach every morning, in the same chair, at the same time.

But I need variety. I think it’s a personality thing. I like variety in how I relate to Sally or any of my friends. I like to do different things with them. See a movie, go for a walk, play golf, take a hike in the mountains…the point is to hang out together but do things we enjoy at the same time.

But, with the variety and change, I also need consistency in my times with the Lord. There are certain aspects of my relationship with God that never change.

I thought I would share ‘a tool’ with you that has helped me spend meaningful time with the Lord. I use this tool in the mornings, and any time in the day for that matter. A friend passed it on to me many years ago, and I like it a lot. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that it contains elements of truth that should be part of how we relate to the Lord every day.

It’s really simple. This model of prayer, if you want to call it that, is so easy you can memorize and follow it any time of the day. You can do it while you are driving to work, going for a walk, etc. Yet it has lots of opportunity for substance and going deeper with the Lord as well. When I lack direction or my mind wanders, I know what to do to get going. If you like this tool and find it helpful, you may want to write down the seven headings on a 3x5 card and keep it with you as a reminder.

It’s based on the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. I encourage you get a diagram of the Tabernacle from your Bible or borrow one from a friend who has a study Bible so you can visualize it.

It will be easier for you to remember it that way, too. The Lord gave the design for the tabernacle to Moses in Exodus 25-31. Different features of the tabernacle were representative of how the people of Israel were to relate to God. For example, as the priests entered the tabernacle, they went first to the altar of burnt offerings, or altar of sacrifice, as it is sometimes called. They did that as a sacrifice for their sins. The altar of sacrifice is symbolical of Christ’s death on the cross.

If each station of the tabernacle was important to the people of God in those days, they are just as important to us today. I am so convinced of this truth, that no matter how I rearrange my quite times, I include these seven elements in my times of connecting with God. They are as follows:

  1. Altar of Sacrifice - It is vital that we ‘die daily’ to sin, i.e., confess our sins each day and receive God’s forgiveness. The Altar of Sacrifice was where burnt offerings and sacrifices were offered to God for the sins of the people. Jesus is our sacrifice. Paul says in Romans 6:11 that we should consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God because of Jesus’ death for us. It is powerful thing to daily confess our sins and sorrows, and then receive His forgiveness and grace. See Galatians 5:24, Philippians 1:21, Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:6, 2 Corinthians 1:9
  1. Bronze Laver - We have an invitation from God: we can receive the washing of our minds and hearts each day if we simply ask and receive by faith. The bronze laver in the tabernacle was the place of cleansing. It was a bowl that contained water for cleansing. The bronze laver symbolized the need of the priests to be clean from sin as they came into the presence of God. John 13:6, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:26
  1. Golden Lampstand - We need to consciously ask for and receive the fullness of the Spirit every day: God invites us to ask for the fruit and the power of the Holy Spirit each day, and to ask Him to give us wisdom for the decisions we must make. On the Golden Lampstand stood a candlestick, or menorah. The Lampstand provided light for the priests as they entered the ‘holy place’. It symbolizes the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us as we live our lives each day in the ‘holy place’ of our work and family life. It also represents Jesus, the light of the world. This part of the tabernacle reminds us to be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18, Acts 4:8, 31, 9:17, Acts 5:32
  1. Table of Showbread - We need the word of God, both written and spoken, to feed our hearts and keep us alive spiritually. Each week twelve fresh loaves of bread were placed on a table in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The Showbread symbolized that God sustained the people of Israel. In the same way, we are sustained by the word of God. It is bread to our souls. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that precedes from the mouth of God.” Deuteronomy 8:3, Psalm 119:9-11, Romans 12:2. Acts 4:31, 13:5, Romans 10:17, 2 Corinthians 2:17, 4:2, Ephesians 6:17, 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Hebrews 4:12
  1. Altar of Incense - Jesus longs to receive our worship by the choices we make, the thoughts we think, and the words of praise we offer Him in adoration. The Altar of Incense was symbolical of worship. Our lives are to be incense to the Lord (2 Corinthians 2:14). He never grows tired of our worship. Worship allows intimacy to grow between the Lord and us. It is the love language of the heart. Genesis 22:5, Deuteronomy 11:16, Psalm 67:1-4, Psalm 86:9, John 4:21-24, Romans 12:1, Revelation 5:9-10,
  1. Mercy Seat - Ark of the Covenant - The mercy seat symbolizes the mercy of God that covers our lives and it represents God’s invitation to us to offer prayers and intercessions for others. The mercy seat was the lid that went over the ark, where the stone tablets of the law were contained. The priests sprinkled the blood of sacrificed animals on the mercy seat. An intercessor stands before God and asks for His mercy to be given on behalf of other people. Such an invitation should not be ignored or turned down! Acts 6:4, 12:5, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, James 5:15, Mark 11:24, 13:33, 14:38, 1 Thessalonians 5:25,
  1. Outer Court - When we marry our passions for life with our calling to tell others about Jesus, our worlds come together. We don’t have to live fragmented lives. After the priest ministered to the Lord on behalf of the people, he went to the outer court of the tabernacle and ministered to the people on behalf of the Lord. As followers of Jesus, we are commissioned to go into the world on His behalf. We each have a sphere of influence that God gives us to tell people about Jesus. When this happens, we find deep fulfillment and the satisfaction of living whole-heartedly for God. Genesis 1:28, 12:1-3, Psalm 67:1-4, Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20

There you have it: seven aspects of our relationship with Jesus. My prayer for you is that you will grow in your desire to spend time with Jesus each day. He loves you and longs to be with you!

The Tabernacle Model of Prayer and the Lord’s prayer are linked in that they both describe essential ingredients of our walk with the Lord:

Adorationv -  Our Father in heaven  -  Altar of Incense 

Consecration  -  Holy be Your name  -  Altar of Sacrifice/Burnt Offerings 

Intercession  -  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven  -  Mercy Seat/Ark of the Covenant 

Infilling and personal supplication  -  Give us this day our daily bread  -  Table of Showbread & Golden Lampstand 

Cleansing and forgiveness  -  Forgive us our sins, As we forgive those who have sinned against us  -  Bronze Laver 

Spiritual warfare  -  Lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one  -  Outer Court 

Worship and declaration  -  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever!  -  Altar of Incense 

Whose Side Is God On? by Greg Albrecht

The following is an excerpt from Spiritual Soup for the Hungry Soul Vol. 2 © Copyright 2013 by Greg Albrecht, published by Plain Truth Ministries, Pasadena, CA, USA.   Used by permission. "Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” - Joshua 5:13-14

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Have you ever noticed how many individual Christians and incorporated religious institutions assume that God is exclusively on their side? Many seem to think that God is a member-in-good-standing of their denomination. Many seem to assume that God carries the same national passport they do and that He always supports their country in any military altercation. Some even act and talk as if God supports their favorite athletic team and their particular political party.

But if you think about the whole idea of God being polarized and politicized for about three seconds, it really doesn’t make any sense, does it? After all the Bible clearly teaches that God loves all mankind equally. The man in our keynote passage who appeared to Joshua could have been an angel of the Lord, or this incident could have been yet another example of a theophany, an appearance of God himself. Whether it was the Lord or an angel of the Lord is really not all that important - what is important is the message given to Joshua and the context of that message.

As the book of Joshua begins, the nation of Israel (after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness) is poised to inherit the land God promised to them. Joshua has taken over for Moses as the national leader. As he is preparing for war against Jericho, the first city-state that he and the nation of Israel will conquer, Joshua has a visitor. In the midst of Joshua’s military preparations the Lord (or His angel) appeared with a drawn sword. As the commander-in-chief of Israel’s army, Joshua’s first question is natural: “Are you for us or against us? Are you a friend or foe?”

The answer is profound. In effect God says to Joshua: “Whether I am on your side is not the real issue. The most important question is whether you are on my side. You follow my directions and decisions - not the other way around.” If you are an American, I presume you know that the words “God bless America” are not in the Bible.  If you are a citizen of another country you probably understand that “God bless Canada” or “God bless England or Nigeria or Germany or Afghanistan or India or China or Indonesia” does not appear in the Bible either.

I love my country. I tear up when I hear the stories of those who have sacrificed for the freedoms we Americans enjoy. I sing the Star Spangled Banner and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with respect. I am thankful I have been given the opportunity to live in the United States. For that matter, I recognize and give thanks for the blessings of friends and family, and spiritual brothers and sisters who experience life within any democracy, in a country where freedom of thought, assembly and worship is given. And there are many such places in our world today.

My wife and I lived in the United Kingdom for a number of years, and enjoyed the blessings of life in such an environment. As an American, I am deeply moved by the beneficial work of Americans as they help people both within our country and abroad. But I am not blind to the sins of our country. I am not blind to the fact that no country or any political system is without sin. I am not blind to the fact that many wars are contested by countries and nations that are both wrong in their motives for fighting and killing.

I do not worship my country any more than I worship a church or a religion. I worship Jesus alone. When all is said and done, when we read history carefully, we find out that warfare is a dirty and corrupt business, and that there have been few times when one side is absolutely clean and righteous in their motivation for fighting and in the way they have prosecuted and carried out warfare. It is important for Christians to maintain their focus on Jesus Christ, rather than falling into the ditch of nationalism.

John 3:16, the most often quoted and memorized verse in the entire Bible, tells us that God loves the entire world. Romans 2:11 tells us that God does not show favoritism. God loves us all, and that all-encompassing, all-embracing love is one of the things that makes Him God. He does not have favorites. He is not partisan or political. He is above the kind of petty squabbles and conflicts that we humans get into. God is not involved in the struggles that often define us and consume us. He is truly above it all - He doesn’t take sides!

And that’s exactly how God replied to Joshua’s inquiry as to whether He was on Joshua’s side or on the side of Joshua’s enemies. God (or the angel who conveyed God’s message) said neither. The ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark records a fascinating story from Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ disciples came to Him and told Him about a man who was driving demons out of people, in Jesus’ name. The disciples told Jesus that they had told him to stop healing people, because, as Mark records them saying to Jesus, he was not one of us  (Mark 9:38).

“He or she is not one of us!” How often has that been said, over the centuries, in those exact words or something similar, by those who thought they were faithfully following Jesus? Some within Christendom become so confident in their creeds, doctrines, dogmas, practices, ceremonies and beliefs that they actually believe their position is one and the same as God’s position. Pride and arrogance are not far behind.

And, of course, pride and arrogance produces intolerance and condemnation. Sometimes those who say they are following God become physically abusive to anyone who disagrees with them - for after all, “those” people are disagreeing with God, aren’t they?

When we get caught up in thinking that God is on our side and when we start making critical comments about those who do not seem to be one of us, we are not reconcilers - we are not peacemakers - but instead we become divisive - we become angry and hostile to others. When our focus leaves Jesus, the Prince of peace, we cease to be connected with others, whatever their beliefs may be. The love of our own interests, our own nation, culture, religion and values turns us away from the love that God has for all humanity.

We make judgments that “God is on our side” and “those other people are not one of us” because we are living out of fear. Fear, along with shame and guilt, is a product of Christ-less religion. In Mark 9, when the disciples complained about someone who seemed to be healing and helping people, in Jesus’ name, but someone who wasn’t in their club, someone they didn’t know, someone who didn’t appear to be “one of us” - what did Jesus say?

Jesus said, Do not stop him  (Mark 9:39). Please excuse my paraphrase, as I put words in Jesus’ mouth, but is seems to me that He was telling His disciples something like this:

“Listen up guys. The gospel is not about whether God is on your side - it’s about the decision you make to be on His side. The gospel is not about whether someone is one of you - it’s about the incredible news that God is for all of us - not just you guys - but everyone. Taking sides is not part of God’s grace. That’s not how His love and grace work.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the end of the eye-for-aneye response, a response which, of course, makes everyone blind (Matthew 5:38-42). Christ-less religion often squelches the gospel, with fever-pitched cries for vindication, politically or militarily. May God forgive us when pulpits of Christian churches are used to cry out for bloodshed. The kingdom of heaven is a multi-ethnic, international, irreligious kingdom - it most certainly is not a war-mongering, nationalistic kingdom.

One of the major lessons of the book of Revelation is that religion and the state often combine as enemies of the true gospel, so much so that Revelation 18:4 calls to the people of God, who follow Christ alone, to “Come out of her, my people.”

The book of Revelation provides a warning and a chronicle of what happens when those who profess Christ jump into bed with either Christ-less religion or the idolatry of Caesar worship - the worship of a nationalistic human empire - or a combination of both. Just as there have been religious institutions in the past that were merely pawns of a nationalistic state worship, so too religious institutions today fall into the same idolatrous worship. They fly the flag of Christ, but they are no more part of Him than those who do not even claim to be followers of Jesus. It’s so easy to respond to martial music and join the crusade of demanding an eye for an eye, but we are clearly told that our citizenship primarily lies in heaven:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…  (Philippians 3:20). Our true, eternal citizenship is in heaven. As Christ followers may we realize that as we live here on this earth, wherever we may live, and under whatever form of government, that we, as Christians, refuse to bow down and worship our country just as Daniel refused to worship the golden idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had formed and fashioned.

As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we worship no golden idols here on earth. We bow the knee to the Prince of peace, not to any god of war. Our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven is based on God’s incredible love, which flows into our hearts and our lives by His grace.

In Luke chapter 9 we read that when the Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus and His disciples, James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to consume these enemies of the gospel. How dare they stand in the way of truth?

But Jesus rebuked James and John—and then, in the very next chapter, on the heels of His rejection by the Samaritans, Jesus chose a Samaritan as the good guy of His parable about the love of God—a parable we call the parable of the Good Samaritan!

The life of Christ involves turning the other cheek to the enemy who wrongs us, blessing the enemy who curses us and praying for those who abuse us. That is the radical grace and love of the kingdom of heaven.

Whose Side Is God On?  He’s on your side and on my side. God is on the side of our next-door neighbors whose dogs bark and bother us, the neighbors who never mow their lawn and who have loud parties. He’s on the side of people who don’t attend your church - or people who don’t attend any church - or people who are not even Christians. God’s love is big enough - there’s enough of it to go around, even for people who don’t even believe in Him - at least not yet.

Whose Side Is God On?  He’s on the side of people who live outside of our borders and boundaries, who speak languages we don’t understand and practice and love a culture we don’t know or appreciate. God does not take sides as humans do. He is not against anyone. He doesn’t have favorites. The real question for you and me is whether we are on God’s side.

 

 

How Jesus Related to People

Part Two...  2.  Community

From the crowds, came the seekers.  One senses in reading the Gospels that there were people in and out of Jesus' life who were actively seeking to know more.  Some of them are made known to us in the gospel accounts, like Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, or the Roman centurion.  There must have been many more who were actively interested in hearing His teachings.  They were people who had listened to Jesus speaking, seen Him perform miracles, or had heard about Him and wanted to know more.  Different people had different reasons for seeking Jesus: some were sincere, others wanted to find fault with Him, and still others were motivated by curiosity.  Some were desperate for help.  Jesus' response to seekers was very different from His response to large crowds.  He was more personal, but not always more friendly.  He was probing, questioning, and He almost always asked or demanded something costly from seekers.  Jesus tested them, but in a pro-active and loving kind of way.  He would give them something to do, a step to take, to show they were prepared to pay the price necessary to actually follow Him.  Jesus did not continually dispense truth to seekers if they did not show that they were willing to obey what He had already taught them.

Jesus modeled for us how to arouse the interest of people through telling stories and doing miracles.  But we also learn from Him how to ask seekers to go beyond spiritual curiosity or the miracle they have experienced, to hearing and obeying His teachings.  If they took one step, Jesus led them to the next.  Because we have the advantage of knowing the parable of the Sower, the seed and the soil, we know that Jesus understood that the hearts of people were all different.  Some were hard, some were responsive; and of those that were responsive, not all were genuine or lasting.

There are many examples in the Gospels of Jesus' interaction with this group of the not-yet-committed as He invites them to be obedient disciples:

  • Matthew 8:18-22
  • John 6:60-66
  • Luke 5:4-5, 27-28
  • Luke 8:19-21
  • Luke 14:25-33

For Jesus, evangelism was disciple-making.

Personal Application

Our 'community' is people we have personal contact with.  They are people who show spiritual interest, or who will show interest, if we pray for them and take time for them.  Make a list of people who you know personally who don't know Jesus.  Those are the 'seekers' God has placed in your life that comprise your 'community'.

3.  Core group disciples 

The core group disciples were those who were attracted to Jesus, who subsequently crossed a threshold in their lives and decided to trust Jesus.  Understanding grew gradually in the hearts of the disciples of what it meant to obey Jesus.  Jesus deliberately selected some of His followers for more responsibility.  It says in Luke 6: 12 that from those who were with Him, He chose twelve for apostolic responsibility; that is, to be set aside, fully ready to obey Jesus.

At this point terminology can fail us.  There seem to have been many of Jesus' disciples who were not fully in or fully out.  Jesus left it purposefully that way.  He did not draw up a list of rules like the Pharisees of His day, and decide – based on strict adherence to His 'rules and regulations' of discipleship – who was 'in' or 'out'.  Jesus invited people to be His disciples by drawing them to Himself, rather than by establishing an 'in or out' closed society.  But there was no question about whether He wanted obedience from His core team – that had to be absolute, because He stood at the centre of the new community He was creating.  There were people who were called disciples, but who had not counted the cost of following Jesus all the way – "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more" (John 6:66).  Jesus asked the twelve whom He had appointed to share leadership responsibility with Him if they, too, wanted to leave Him.  Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

Personal application 

Understanding the paradoxes of discipleship is crucial to this process of moving from crowds, to a community of seekers, to a core group of disciples.  This is not a hard and fast method, but a process to follow in order to find people in whom we can invest our lives.

Sharing Jesus is partly about discerning the 'crowd' in our lives, building relationships with a 'community of seekers' and then selecting a core group of potential disciples to invest in.  Sharing Jesus – what we typically refer to as evangelism – cannot be separated from a process of finding those who are responsive to Jesus.

Jesus taught and modeled the way in which to discern how open people are to the good news (Luke 8:4 and following).  He respected people, but also challenged them to go further in their search for God.  In the parable of the Sower, Jesus compared the good news to seed sown into the soil of people's hearts.  The 'soil' represented four different types of people's readiness to hear His message.  Jesus told this story to His disciples to help them to discern the soil condition of people's hearts.  In Luke 8:11, Jesus explained to them that the 'seed' is the message from God to people.  Luke begins chapter 8 by saying that "Jesus. . . began a tour of the nearby cities and villages to announce the Good News concerning the Kingdom of God. . ."  In His parable, the 'sower' of the seed is the disciples themselves.

 

How Jesus Related To People

This is Part One of an exerpt from my book 'Follow'... We can discover the answer to the question of what evangelism is, in looking at how Jesus related to people.  In my study of the gospels, I have found it very helpful to realize that there were patterns of how Jesus related to three different categories of people: the crowds, seekers who approached Him to learn more, and those He invited to be His disciples.  I summarize these three groups in this way:

  1. Crowds  -  those that gathered spontaneously or at Jesus' instigation.
  2. Community  -  seekers and followers who responded to Jesus - some out of curiosity and some who were sincere.
  3. Core group  -  disciples who chose to follow Jesus - those Jesus invited to follow Him and learn from His way.

Let's go over these three groups in a little more detail, because each of us as a follower of Jesus has the same three groups of people in our lives. 

  1. Crowds

We may not heal people like Jesus did, but we all have a good sized group of people we know and interact with, including neighbors, people at work, family, etc.  Those people are our 'crowd'.  Just as Jesus did good deeds and shared good news with all those He encountered, so can we.  On a 'crowd' level, Jesus did not try to accomplish what could be done only through personal relationship; He did reach out to people in order to influence them and was intentional about reaching people – but with distinctly different approaches.  My estimate is that He spent far more time interacting with small groups and individuals than He did with crowds, perhaps spending 75 percent of His time with His disciples.  I think Jesus saw interaction with the crowds as a way of 'planting a seed' in people's hearts (Luke 8:4-18); a way of arousing spiritual interest, and also a way of finding potential spiritual seekers and disciples to teach.

In every instance where Jesus interacts with large groups of people, He responds in one of seven ways:

  1. He taught them and shared the good news with them – usually by speaking loudly so the entire group could hear Him.
  2. He had compassion on them.
  3. He healed scores of them.
  4. He fed them – He didn't hand out the food Himself, but He found a way for them to receive food.
  5. He brought certain ones to life who were dead among them.
  6. He defended them from the religious leaders who mislead them.
  7. He inspired people to imagine life the way God intended it to be.

If you made a list of everyone you have in your cell phone and email list, those are all people you have connected with.  From this group of people, God wants to give you a few that you relate to more personally.

The one thing Jesus consistently did not do in all His interactions with large groups of people was that He did not pressure them to become one of His disciples.  He did not invite people to join Him as one of His close-up followers – He did that one-on-one.  He did try to arouse the spiritual interest of people.  He did speak to stir up their dreams and expectations for what could come from their lives if they sought after God and we should do the same.

From a big-picture point of view, Jesus was aware and intentional about making sure that the people in certain regions knew about Him.  He sent His disciples ahead of Him to all the towns and cities He planned to visit (see Luke 10:1).  That is not an uncommon phrase or sentiment in the gospels.  These verses are examples of the deliberate attempt by Jesus to spread the good news of His Kingdom far and wide:

  • Mark 1:38
  • Matthew 9:35
  • Mark 6:6
  • Luke 13:22

One thrust of the great commission that Jesus gave to His disciples was to take the good news everywhere.  He told them to "go into all the world", and to "make disciples of all nations".

Personal application 

How do you apply the 'crowd' idea to your life situation?  Jesus wants every person in your sphere of influence, in your relational and family network and in your geographical setting, to hear the good news.  He especially wants you to be aware of those around you who suffer.  That does not mean you are personally responsible for each of them, but you will never fully know your part in taking Jesus to the people in your 'crowd' if you are not praying for them to hear about and experience the love and mercy of God, found in Jesus.  That includes those at your place of work, your university, your neighborhood, your village, and in nearby disadvantaged communities.  God has placed you where He has placed you for a reason.  You become that person by being a listening ear, someone to debrief with after a hard day, a safe person to talk to when burdened with life.  Visit neighbors, walk around during coffee breaks at work, or take time to hang out with fellow students in your school, college or university.  Jesus wants to reach each person in your 'crowd' – through you.

'Community' and 'Core Group' to follow in Part Two