Archive for the ‘Mission’ Category

You Will Know My Followers By Their Love

January 16, 2014

I’m continuing my posts from the Tijuana Christian Mission. This is our last day. We’re flying home overnight, so back to work Friday afternoon.

What an amazing testimony to God’s love at work. These Jesus followers serve some of the poorest of the poor, the abused, the neglected. There is no false sentimentality, likewise no finger-pointing. Just sharing God’s love with a sandwich and a Bible lesson. A shelter for abused women. Orphanages for abandoned children. A hospice for lost people.

I’ve traveled and seen many things. But I’ve never been taken into an alley packed with people who have little hope, many the only hope they have comes through a needle. But appreciative to Christ-followers who share.

Jesus said, you will know my followers by their love.

Sometimes I wonder about some who claim his name, yet fail so much to love others.

When you see these illnesses of society, you realize how much work there is to be done.

I’ve seen changed hearts and changed lives. We need many more.

The Power of Prayer Plus Work

January 15, 2014

I am in Tijuana, Mexico this week visiting the Tijuana Christian Mission. Begun 50 years ago by an energetic young pastor, the mission now incorporates an orphanage in Tijuana, another in Rosarita, a shelter for abused women (mostly rescued from the sex trade), and a hospice hospital.

The founder (I’m probably not spelling it correctly) Sergio Gomez told us about his life and the ministry he has built. Rather God and he have built. I have written before about praying with intention. Well, he is the best example I’ve ever heard of prayers answered while praying specifically and with intention. As well as starting the path even when waiting on God to provide.

His family and the other staff are doing a great work (hearkening back to my Nehemiah discussions), and they “will not come down.” They keep the faith even when cheated and when promised support withers away.

I’m sitting in the courtyard typing this post listening to the boys playing basketball, a young girl rollerblading, the girls talking, a guitar lesson has just ended. Amazing.

Everything I’ve learned from my daughter about running a group home and dealing with troubled kids–they are living out. Most of the kids are victims of some sort of tragedy, and most are doing well. They’ve even had a college graduate recently.

If you are interested in learning more, just contact me.

[oh, sorry about the double post–I’m still learning how to use the WordPress app on my iPad]

Treat Everyone Equally

January 13, 2014

When most of you read this post, I will be in the air on my way to Mexico to visit the Tijuana Christian Mission. I’m going with three members of our church’s pastoral staff partly so that I can rejuvenate our mission ministry.

One of my small groups is studying James right now. As always, what we study seems to have immediate application. Twice early in his letter, James teaches on respecting everyone. Everyone in the community is equal before God. We should not feel either inferior or superior. We should not treat others as superior or inferior.

That’s one of the things I admire about Pope Francis, by the way. In an organization that retains most of the medieval trappings of power and authority, he is trying to bring some other traditional Christian teachings into the church.

I have traveled internationally enough to intentionally try not to be the “typical American.” But often I’m at engineering conferences. This is a different trip. I’ll be the only engineer. James’ teachings will be at the front of my mind. Although (probably as an American) I seldom recognize personally superiority or inferiority, going on a mission trip with the poor and dispossessed will be different, for sure.

James teaches two things early in his letter–respect for others and awareness of our own motivations. Nowhere does this come out as much as during travel into other cultures. Should be an interesting time.

Many Ways To Discipleship

July 1, 2013

Is there just one way to be a disciple? Are disciples like little toy Ninjas spit from an injection molding machine so that each is exactly like the one before and the one after?

The thing about becoming a disciple is that it is much harder than just saying you agree with some proposition. There are powerful and charismatic people who arise from time to time who have a vision of what a perfect person is like. He (almost always a “he” throughout history) then tries to develop a society of robots under his control.

Jesus was not like that. He had a core teaching. He expected his followers to abide in that core teaching. He also collected an amazingly diverse set of characters into his inner circle. Beyond the Twelve and into the next circle, there were religious leaders, wealthy people, recovered prostitutes.

I was thinking about this reflecting back on my life while I’m also reflecting forward into what I’m doing now. Have I always been a disciple? Have I always done what I should?

We can look to Paul for some advice. I, like many of my contemporaries, initially disliked Paul. In fact, I have a friend today who will tell people to get out the big, black magic marker when reading Paul’s letters to just blot out some of his words. People have been doing that for centuries.

That’s a mistake. It’s just that Paul tried so hard, sometimes he got a little confusing. And sometimes he was telling disciples in AD 60 how to organize without thinking about (it probably never occurred to him) organizing when Christ-followers (or Christians) became powerful and diverse.

But Paul addressed this discipleship thing a few times. What he said was that there exist a variety of people. These people in general possess a variety of talents. Each individual has at least one talent. These talents are what we devote to putting into practice Jesus’ commands–such as to go into the world and make disciples.

Early Christ-followers were remarkable in their service to fellow humans even from a political and social position of powerlessness.

I guess that in the end, am I using what talents I have to help people and further the Kingdom. Am I constantly developing those talents to help even more? That would be my task–and my test.

Celebrating Is Not Condoning

June 6, 2013

I have a friend who worries–a lot. She worries about being holy and how other people are not. Actually, she thinks she is holy and most other people are not.

She asks me, “If you are helping people who have made bad decisions in their lives and are now suffering with the consequences, aren’t you condoning their lifestyle?”

Let me tell you a story. Seems that a young man, probably early 20s, felt like a prisoner working in the family business. He sat calculating and dreaming. One day he approached his father, the owner, and told him that he had calculated already how much his share of the inheritance would be.

“Why don’t you just give me my inheritance now,” he asked, “and then I’ll be out of your hair. And I can go live a life of freedom.”

So his dad shuffled some investments and gave him the money.

They young man left his small midwestern town and headed for the big city. He spent his entire fortune on women, gambling, expensive hotels and buying drinks for his new-found friends.

When the money was gone, he found himself scrounging for food with the street people. All the old friends were gone since he had no money.

Coming to his senses (some of us take a long time to mature), he decided to go home and get a job in his dad’s business.

When he returned home, his dad greeted him with great joy and threw a huge party for the whole town to attend.

The dad’s other son asked, “Aren’t you condoning his actions?”

“No,” dad replied. “He has done what he has done, and all his money is gone. But he is my son, and he has returned home. Let us celebrate that.”

No, Jesus said. We are not condoning his (my) actions. We are celebrating every time someone who was lost is now found.

Don’t be afraid to help others. Don’t worry about what people think. Jesus celebrates every time you help someone who was lost so that they will be found.

All Dressed Up, Not Going Anywhere

June 4, 2013

Ever see a neighborhood boy endlessly shooting baskets, yet he never plays on a basketball team? I saw a girl dressed up as a cheerleader with no one to cheer for. We read the manual, teach the manual, but we never drive the car.

Sometimes I feel like life in a church–or actually just about any other organization–can be like that. We spend time teaching or reading or thinking, but we never actually do anything.

If you are in a market place organization, you have customers (I hope) to serve. It’s really all about designing and building a product that others (customers) will find useful and will buy and use.

If you are in a church, our “customers” are people who are not in a church. Their lives (the life of each individual person) would be better if they were taught how to live a life of freedom in the Spirit. But we spend all our time studying every little nuance in the manual (The Bible) and never really ever go out and meet one of our customers.

Yes, we all need to continue to grow–study, pray, think, ask, celebrate. But that’s not the point. It’s not all about us.

When Jesus taught, mostly it was about how you can live in the Kingdom of Heaven now and how his followers should show other people how to also this “Good News.” He taught, and he trained. Then he sent them out to actually work.

His last words on earth were for his followers to “go” and “make disciples”, not to “study” and “argue.”

I’m trying to bring this teaching into my own life. Both in church and in the marketplace. I encourage you to “go” and “do” today.

Go And Make Disciples

May 28, 2013

Repent!

What picture does that word bring to your mind?

I think visually. When I hear that word, especially with the exclamation point punctuation denoting shouting, I have a definite picture in my mind.

In the Lerner and Loewe musical “Paint Your Wagon” a guy discovers gold near a creek during the “Gold Rush” and eventually a city grows up there. In the space of only a few years, gambling houses, bars and prostitutes fill the city.

Then the preacher comes. He’s dressed all in black. Black hat. Black beard. Scowl on his face. He shouts at the people, “Repent!”

That guy comes to mind when I hear the word.

Too many Americans, and I’d bet in many other cultures, conjure a similar image. It has become a standard image of the sour person who loves pointing out the failures of others picture of a Christian.

That’s too bad. Repent simply means changing the direction of life. We were once going one way. Hurting others. Hurting ourselves. Then, we changed life direction. We got in tune with God. We started to live differently. We help others. We are focused on living with God rather than against Him.

Our Commission

I’m thinking a lot about a couple of passages.

After Jesus was resurrected, he visited the remaining eleven apostles (leading disciples) and gave them an instruction about what to do now: “Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Later, when Peter began to preach during the Pentecost coming of the Holy Spirit, he began with, “Repent.”

The reason I’m contemplating these passages (and further through Acts 2) is that I’ve recently taken on a leadership role for missions. To me, that is the crucial role in a church. As one of my mentors says, “Jesus started a mission; the church came later.”

Why do we do missions? Because Jesus told us to go to all nations (that would be all peoples, all cultures, all geographies) and make disciples (not scream at, but help them change directions and begin to follow him).

We help them change (repent); help them become disciples (follow and emulate the Teacher); teach them. Three action verbs. My study and meditation are merely to prepare me to do those things.