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Following Jesus is not "Either/or" it is "Both/and"

By the time you read this Dave Smith, our Executive Director of Outreach Ministries, and I will be in Nairobi, Kenya preparing to visit the Mathare slums and see the marvelous work being done there in the name of Jesus through "Hope Partnership." Hope Partnership is a collaborative effort of Missions of Hope International (www. mohiafrica.org), Christian Missionary Fellowship (www.cmfi.org), East 91st Street Christian Church and a host of other North American churches. This partnership provides education, clothing and nutritious meals for the poorest children in the Mathare Valley slum through a child sponsorship program. They also offer health and wellness education, church planting, counseling and community transformation ministries through a micro enterprise loan program. After our visit to the Mathare Valley, Dave and I will spend some time with one of our missionaries, Shawn Redford, and then conduct some pastor training at one of our mission partnerships called Jubilee Village.


I ask that you pray for our trip as we learn from our brothers and sisters in Kenya and have opportunities to serve and encourage them. May we see what God wants us to see and commit to do what He calls us to do.


I don't know about you, but I have struggled for many years with how to serve globally. We have needs in our own backyard, and there are people struggling with spiritual and economic poverty in our city and country. Am I neglecting them when I focus on the needs of those halfway around the world? And then when I visit third-world countries and witness the extreme poverty, I have moments of guilt when I fly back to the safety and comfort of my middle-class world. I'm just being honest. These are real issues that North American Christians need to address.


In the Bible, we see that following Jesus is not "either/or" but "both/and." Jesus calls us to be His "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). God's promise in the Old Testament was that through Abraham's offspring "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 26:4). The Apostle Paul writes that this offspring is Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16), son of David, son of Abraham, Son of God.


Bob Roberts, Jr. wrote a book titled, Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World (Zondervan, 2006). That's right, Roberts calls these churches "glocal"--both global and local. Roberts believes that when Christians are transformed, their churches can be transformed, which ultimately will lead to global transformation. I like this thesis, because it puts the onus back on us rather than on the institutions we hope will do the transformational work for us. It's easy for us to palliate our conscience by writing a check and hoping someone else will do the work of transformation. Sometimes we miss the patent truth that oftentimes when we roll up our own sleeves to help others, we find ourselves being transformed in the process.


Hear me in this: If we're going to transform our world for Jesus Christ, WE have to be transformed first. If we want our churches to be transformed, then WE have to surrender to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives first. Churches are not buildings; they are people. And if we want our churches to experience revival, then WE have to experience revival. Through God's work in our lives, then we begin to see "glocally." We begin to see with new eyes, redeemed eyes, transformed eyes that care for our neighbor next door and our neighbor on the other side of the world.


Years ago, Rich Mullins wrote a song called, "The Other Side of the World," which says, "Well, the other side of the world is not so far away, as I thought that it was, as I thought that it was so far away. The other side of the world is not so far away, and the distance just dissolves into the love, into the love." The love to which Mullins referred is the love of Jesus Christ that ushers in the Kingdom of God. It is that love that transforms the human heart that leads to church transformation, community transformation and, ultimately, global transformation. The challenge I leave with you is to ask the Lord to transform your heart, so that you become a vessel to serve and transform your world both locally and globally. 


Coming Next Week: Lessons Learned from Kenya!

Praying from Your Heart and Mind - September 16, 2013

Praying from Your Heart and Mind


In our church tradition, we don't often write out our prayers. We tend to think of written prayers as more formal and somehow less personal. I've also seen this with a lot of preachers who believe that if they were to sit down and write out their sermons, they aren't being led by the Holy Spirit as much when they stand before the congregation to preach.


Well, I don't know about you, but I've heard a lot of prayers and sermons that could have benefited from a little more forethought! Although I'm all for people praying and speaking from the heart, I also think we can gain from the discipline of writing out a prayer every now and then. Join your mind, heart and pen (or keyboard) together to pray to the God of heaven.


A book that has helped me grow in this area is called Prayers Across the Centuries (Harold Shaw Publishers). The book is a collection of prayers from the Bible, the early and medieval church, the Reformation all the way to the present. This is a wonderful tool to grow in our understanding of the power of prayer and in the discipline of us learning how to pray. For example, here is a prayer of Polycarp (AD 69-155) who was the bishop of Smyrna and was martyred for his faith. Tradition has it that Polycarp was bound and burned at the stake, but when the flames failed to touch his body, his executioners stabbed him to death. I'm always willing to listen and learn from someone who has given his all for the cause of Christ!


Consider how much Polycarp suffered as you read his prayer: "Lord God almighty, Father of your dear and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have been granted to know you; you are God over all; over angels and other spiritual powers, over the whole created universe, and over those good people from every age who live in your presence. I thank you today for the privilege of being counted among those who have witnessed to you with their lives; of sharing the cup of suffering which Christ drank; and of rigging again to life everlasting with him, in body and soul, and in the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today into your presence, a costly sacrifice and so an acceptable one. This is all part of your plan and purpose, and you are now bringing it to pass. For you are the God of truth, and in you is no falsehood at all. For this, and for all the other things you have done for me, I bless and glorify you, through our eternal high priest in heaven, your dear Son, Jesus Christ, who shares with you and the Holy Spirit glory forever. Amen."


The richness and depth of this prayer can guide our minds when we must drink from a cup of suffering. The hope and peace expressed in Polycarp's prayer can encourage us to put our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ from whom we ultimately discover peace. As you reflect on Polycarp's prayer, may it be a resource to help you grow in your own prayer life. Whether your write your prayers, say them conversationally, or try doing a little (or a lot) of both, may your prayers come from your heart and mind in your journey of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.


 

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