Posts on Christian mission, ministry and service in God’s world.
Posts on Christian mission, ministry and service in God’s world.
We’re tempted to think our fears are useful, that they protect us from harm. Instead, fear does us more harm than good, as we see in this wise excerpt from Christine Caine’s Undaunted: Daring to do what God Calls You to Do.
Everyone fears something. Muggers lurking in dark alleyways. Losing your wallet — or, worse, your job, leaving you penniless. Automobile or airplane crashes… The sting of a poisonous insect. The ridicule of hecklers when speaking publicly. Rejection or disinterest upon meeting new people. Losing a child. Being abandoned by a loved one. Some of us fear failing. Others fear success…
Whether fear is subdued or strong, rational or irrational, the danger real or imagined, fear will always try to stop you, trip you up, and put your life on hold. Sometimes, just thinking about your fears can paralyze you.
When you allow fear to dictate how you spend your days, you allow life to pass you by.
If you made a list of History’s Top 10 Best Party Guests, would Jesus make your list? You may reconsider after reading this biblical story from Who Is This Man. Author John Ortberg invites us to a dinner that’s surely the most awkward party these guests would ever attend. In the encounter we glimpse the depth of Jesus’ compassion, and discover how his “crankiness and compassion” arise from the same source. Read, enjoy, embrace the awkwardness. -Adam Forrest
Jesus could be a very irritating person to be around. We are going to look at a dinner where he deliberately picked arguments four times running.
I say this because compassion is a quality Jesus might be most famous for. When a leper asked for healing, Jesus was “filled with compassion.” When a widow cried out to him, “his heart went out to her, and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’ ” Adulterers and tax collectors and prodigals and Samaritans all evoked his compassion. A compassion makeover was coming to the world.
There is a general perception that Jesus was one of those extremely tender feelers who just couldn’t stand pain. Elaine Aron has written a book called Highly Sensitive People about folks who startle easily, who are easily affected by others’ mood or pain, who care deeply about others’ opinions. There is nothing wrong with being a Highly Sensitive Person. I am one myself. What’s it to you?
But other parts of Jesus’ story do not make him look like an HSP. In a story told in all four Gospels, he saw people exploiting the poor in the temple; he took out a whip and drove them away, scattering their money and overturning their tables and saying, “How dare you.”
Most of us Highly Sensitive People do not throw furniture… Jesus was as militant as he was compassionate. How can this man be that man?
There was a day when he exhibited both qualities together.
This is the second in a 2-part story from Christine Caine’s Undaunted. In part one Christine sets the stage for her encounter with recently-freed sex slaves and their challenging questions. -Adam Forrest
“I don’t know,” I stammered at last. “I don’t know why I didn’t come sooner.” Such weak, small, light words for such a weighty question. “I am sorry. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”
The silence became even more pronounced. Time seemed to have stopped. Nothing else mattered to me at that moment but these girls, their despair — and what healing God could bring to them. Though the silence seemed to last for an eternity, I felt so clearly present, so tuned into the now.
“I want you to know,” I said with new conviction, “that I have now heard your cries. I have seen you. I see you now.” I turned to Mary. “I see you, Mary…” I turned to Sonia. “I see you, Sonia.” I looked intently at each girl seated at the table. “I see each of you. I hear you. I know you by name. I have come for each of you.”
I wanted to see these girls as Jesus saw them — not as a sea of needs, but as individuals he had called by name and chosen one by one and loved. I heard his words before I spoke my own: Tell them I have their names written in my book. That I came to give the good news to the poor. To heal the brokenhearted. To set the captives free. Tell them these promises are for here. Now. As well as for eternity. [Psalm 69:28; 139:16; Isaiah 49:1; Revelation 3:5; 17:8; 20:12-15; Luke 4:18].
This is the true story of an intense encounter between former sex slaves and author Christine Caine. As Christine reveals in this excerpt from Undaunted: Daring to Do what God Calls You to Do, the sex slaves had just recently been freed by police — but were perhaps still less than free.
I was personally very moved by this story. I’m thankful that Christine shared it so that I could share it with you here. -Adam Forrest
Though no longer in a physical prison, Mary remained silent, constantly tormented by recurring nightmares. The daily horror may have ceased, but the pain screamed nonstop.
Mary was safe but not yet free.
Stunned, I sat quietly for a moment after Mary finished her story. Around me, the young women at the table remained quiet too, almost reverent… Questions hammered at my broken heart: How could this possibly happen in our world today? No matter how much money is involved, how can anyone be so depraved as to make sex slaves of others — let alone make it an international operation, enslaving not just one girl but hundreds of thousands, again and again and again?
Sonia, a Russian girl who had arrived at the shelter the previous day, interrupted my flood of thought. “Why are you here?” she demanded, her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “Why did you come?”
What motivates Jesus-followers to serve others? To find out, let’s look at a key conversation between Jesus and Peter. (This is a devotion excerpted from Once-a-Day Men and Women of the Bible Devotional.)
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time … Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” -John 21:17
Much has been made of the question Jesus asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?” Pastors and teachers talk about how this question intentionally parallels Peter’s three denials of Christ. Others stress the different Greek words translated as “love” in this passage. But we must also recognize the emphasis Jesus placed on ministering to others.
“Feed my sheep,” Jesus said each time Peter affirmed his love for Christ. If Peter really loved Jesus, he would care for those who belong to Jesus. Notice that not once did Jesus ask Peter if he loved Jesus’ sheep. The bottom-line motivation for ministry was and is love for Jesus and a willingness to act.
There is another message here as well. “Even if you have failed,” Jesus seems to be saying, “I can still use you in the lives of others.”
Is “the gospel” just shorthand for the daily life of a Christian? If not, how does the gospel shape our daily Christian life? Tim Keller offers biblical insights in this excerpt from his new book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. If you like what you read here, get the book 38% off: Buy Center Church (Special offer good through Sept. 18, 2012). -Adam Forrest
The gospel is not about something we do but about what has been done for us, and yet the gospel results in a whole new way of life…
One of Martin Luther’s dicta was that we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that remains alone. His point is that true gospel belief will always and necessarily lead to good works, but salvation in no way comes through or because of good works. Faith and works must never be confused for one another, nor may they be separated (Eph 2:8–10; Jas 2:14, 17–18, 20, 22, 24, 26).
I am convinced that belief in the gospel leads us to care for the poor and participate actively in our culture, as surely as Luther said true faith leads to good works…
I have often heard people preach this way: “The good news is that God is healing and will heal the world of all its hurts; therefore, the work of the gospel is to work for justice and peace in the world.”
The danger in this line of thought is not that the particulars are untrue (they are not) but that it mistakes effects for causes. It confuses what the gospel is with what the gospel does.
When Paul speaks of the renewed material creation, he states that the new heavens and new earth are guaranteed to us because on the cross Jesus restored our relationship with God as his true sons and daughters. Romans 8:1–25 teaches, remarkably, that the redemption of our bodies and of the entire physical world occurs when we receive “our adoption.” As his children, we are guaranteed our future inheritance (Eph 1:13–14, 18; Col 1:12; 3:24; Heb 9:15; 1 Pet 1:4), and because of that inheritance, the world is renewed. The future is ours because of Christ’s work finished in the past.
Potent stuff today from author/pastor Mark Buchanan: Why “oneness” is superior to “equality;” the benefits of pursuing church unity; and what’s at stake if we don’t. Excerpt from Mark Buchanan’s book Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside-Down.
A brief open letter to Mark: “Dear Pastor Buchanan, your writing on unity convicts my introverted soul. For your next book, please write “Your Life Is Too Safe: The Introvert’s Field Guide to Joining Community.” -Adam Forrest, Zondervan
The Bible is little interested in equality. It aims much higher than that. From Genesis to Revelation, it calls us to this deeper, greater, tougher, sweeter thing: oneness. Oneness in our relationship with God. Oneness in our relationship with our spouse. Oneness with our relationships with other Christ-followers. Oneness in the church.
Oneness beats equality every time, because equality demands sameness. To be equal to you, I have to be as smart and strong and kind and generous as you. But oneness presumes difference. To be one with you, I have to accept your gift of otherness. I can be weak where you’re strong, and vice versa. Oneness requires my life to complement yours. It calls us to complete one another.
Yesterday Mark Batterson shared his experience with trying to Force a Miracle. Here’s the story’s unexpected conclusion — a real-life example of “seek and ye shall find,” and how the finding will often surprise … ye!
I love how this story hints that God is directing the scene, but Mark and his unnamed friends have their roles to play. That is exciting, because it’s true in our stories too!
This story is from Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears.
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan
Have you ever ever prayed for something that would advance God’s kingdom, but your plan didn’t work out? This can be disconcerting, to say the least.
“This could be God saying ‘Not yet’ instead of ‘No,’” a friend says. But a delay is mysterious when we see a clear need for God’s intervention. “Why would God wait?” I’ve thought. “Doesn’t he know the timeframe I’m working with? I only get about three score and ten years to make a difference!”
These concerns come out dramatically in this true story from pastor and author Mark Batterson. This story is from his book The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, and I hope you find it as encouraging as I did.
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan
What is the church’s role in extending God’s peace to the world? Mark Buchanan gives perspective in this excerpt from Your Church Is Too Safe: Why Following Christ Turns the World Upside-Down.
The primary gift God gives to those who trust in him is reconciliation with him. But the primary gift the people of God give to those who are reconciled to God is a community of reconciled people. We give them the gift of our own wholeness and oneness. We give the gift of community. We invite them to be part of a people where everyone makes “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” [Ephesians 4:3].
God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light [1 Peter 2:9]. But his intent is that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” [1 John 1:7]. So God prepares us to be a people who draw and who welcome every tribe and tongue and nation into the light by first making us light. And he does that, in part, by bringing those who are far away near. He does that by making the community of the converted also the community of the reconciled…
One sign that God has returned to dwell in the center of our lives and of our churches is that we become a living testimony of what we promise. We promise that in Christ all become new creations, no longer seeing others according to the flesh. We promise that in Christ we have the peace of God and the God of peace. We promise that we through Christ receive God’s love and forgiveness, and then extend it — with authority — to the whole world. We promise all this, but then claim exemption for ourselves in some petty matter or another.