Thursday, May 29, 2008

Talking Points

Today I made a list of events from our mission adventure I hope to write about. There are so many things I want to pass along. Here are a couple . . .

We worshiped with Gypsies last Sunday night, and I spoke. The sanctuary was jammed packed -- men on one side -- women on the other. Every word of the message I brought had to pass through Peggy, my interpreter. When I finished the message there was a moment of confusion, and I thought I had misspoken or breached the culture. I held my breath as the pastor dialogged with the translator. After a few minutes I found out what the problem was -- they expect the preacher to speak for several hours!

If you take the time to read Acts 17 -- you will find the story of Paul introducing the gospel at the synagogue in Thessalonica (now called Thessaloniki). Luke tells about the mob being organized at the agora (marketplace) to take out Paul. Approximately 200 yards from the front door of the church (where we are doing our mission work), the Greeks have begun excavating that very agora. It is easy to look down into those ancient ruins and let your imagination take you back 2000 years . . .

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Touching Base

Greece and Bulgaria exceeds all expectations. The needs of the Bulgarian Gypsies is overwhelming. We have begun construction work in Greece. God is doing a great work here.
I look forward to having time to write about the Lord's presence during this trip.

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill

Friday, May 23, 2008

What Do I Do With My Desire?

This was first posted on my other blog -- Devotions for the Adventure.

When I speak of desires, I am referring to the desire to pursue an adventure of faith. Often, believers find themselves distracted by a desire to be somewhere else or do something else. The desire will not go away, but they are reluctant to pursue it.

Are there questions to can ask that will help discern the integrity of a desire? If you have a desire that will not go away, try putting it through these questions:

When do I sense this desire most intensely? Do I sense it when I am under pressure; is it actually nothing more than a desire to escape? If so, in most situations, don't pursue it.

Where did this desire come from? Does the desire emerge during intensely personal or peaceful times in your walk with God? If so, the desire may very well be a prompting from God.

What are you willing to do to pursue it? Are you willing to make a sacrifice to fulfill it? God's purposes usually require us to leave one thing in order to venture with Him.

Who is going to benefit if you pursue it? This may be the most defining question. Is the desire nothing more than the pursuit of a selfish pleasure? Or will my pursuit bring spiritual fruit and blessing to others?

Responding to godly desires will drastically change your world. Also, others you come in contact with will be deeply impacted. The following quote from Richard Blackaby puts the right kind of desires in perspective,

If Christians around the world were to suddenly renounce their personal agendas, their life goals and their aspirations, and begin responding in radical obedience to everything God showed them, the world would be turned upside down. How do we know? Because the first century Christians did, and the world is still talking about it.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

All Times And In Every Situation

However, some of the believers . . . began speaking to the Grecians about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number . . . believed and turned to the Lord.
~ Acts 11:20-21

Our seventeen member mission team is scheduled to leave for Bulgaria tomorrow evening. Once in Bulgaria I will deliver God's Word through a translator to a community in Sophia and then another community in Samakov. We understand Samakov to be one of the poorest places in Europe, and that the spiritual poverty there is even greater. The entire team knows how important it is that we lean on God's strength and seek His purposes for our ministry there. In Bulgaria we will be staying in the homes of Gypsy families who have come to know Christ. The sense of privilege and responsibility that comes with God extending an invitation to join His kingdom purposes there is indescribable. Following God is such an unpredictable Adventure.

In Greece the bulk of our time will be spent in Thessaloniki. Scripture gives evidence that the Spirit of God worked in a remarkable way there through the trio of Paul, Silas, and Timothy -- even though they spent very little time in Thessalonica. I have been reading through 1 and ll Thessalonians preparing devotionals for our team. Pray for us -- pray with us -- that our limited time and opportunities will be anointed to make an eternal impact.

Philippi is also on our itinerary. Did you know that the church at Philippi was the only congregation to maintain faithful support of Paul's ministry throughout his entire life? It was of the believers at Philippi that Paul said, Everytime I think of you, I give thanks to God . . . you have a special place in my heart . . . I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Jesus Christ.

Paul closed out his second letter to the believers in Thessalonica with the following words, Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.

Before you sign off will you make Paul's words a prayer for our team?

Friday, May 16, 2008

How Much Life?

Scientific and statistical probabilities demonstrate that if a single shaft of wheat is . . . allowed to freely reproduce and grow, it multiplies into a crop large enough to feed the entire world population--for an entire year -- within only eight years. ~ Neil Cole

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels -- a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. ~ Jesus Christ

Angela was a member of our middle-school youth group back in the late 70's. Friends called to tell us that Angela, now 32, had collapsed at her home and died of a brain aneurysm. Angela had made plans for her life to go on after she left this world -- on the bottom, left corner of her driver's license, written in red, were the words organ donor.

I am looking at the eulogy given at Angela's memorial service. A long list of unnamed organ recipients fill the middle page:

Angela's heart was donated to a 63-year old man

Angela's lungs were donated to a 37-year old woman in critical condition -- they were a perfect match

Angela's liver and one kidney were donated to a 52-year old man

Angela's other kidney was donated to a 53-year old woman in the Mid West and was a perfect match

Angela's pancreas, corneas, skin and other tissue will help more than 50 other recipients at a later time ~

Angela did not choose the time or means of her death, but she did make the choice that death would actually result in life. She had no idea how many lives death would save -- only heaven knows for sure.

Unlike Angela's life in the physical realm, Jesus said that in the spiritual realm we get to choose the means (crucified with Christ), and the time (die daily) of the death of our fallen flesh. In a spiritual sense every believer can be organ donor. We can give it all up. We can die to self. Our death will bring forth life -- only heaven knows for sure how much.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Round And Round

If Jesus were on earth you'd find him in a gay bar in San Francisco. He'd be with people suffering from AIDS. These are the new lepers. If you want to find out where Jesus would be hanging out, it'll always be with lepers. ~ Bono (U2)

For the first time since the 1980's Sandy and I are spending more time with non-church people than with church-goers. Vocational ministry began for us nearly three decades ago; it doesn't seem possible. In those early years we were in constant contact with non-religious people. Shortly after we were married we were fully engaged helping two new church starts. In 1983 we were commissioned to Northern Maine where we started a church from our living room. In spite of our short comings there was no lack of commitment to sharing the gospel. I am not exaggerating -- hundreds got saved during that first decade.

Over the next two decades contact with the un-churched became incidental at best; so did the number of people we witnessed placing their eternal destiny in the care of Jesus. For nearly twenty-years we have been faithful to preach God's Word, and committed to delivering the gospel as Christs' primary message. Yet we have spent the majority of these last twenty years speaking to religious people.

Life is much different now, we are still in vocational ministry, our church lets us focus outward -- for which we are immensely grateful. We are free to spend nearly all of our time with people who have little or no connection to church. The transition has required a succession of adjustments. Within the church our role is behind the scenes. Securities and even status that were once a given have less importance. We have been released from a spiritual identity that was so wrapped up in being front-and-center. Dependence upon God is going to places it has rarely experienced.

God's has taken us full circle.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Rare Prayer

Note: I am in the process of transferring some of my posts from -- Devotions For The Adventure. If you have been to the other site some of these posts may sound familiar.

"My eyes fail from searching Your word, saying, 'When will You comfort me?' For I have become like a wineskin in smoke, yet I do not forget Your statutes.'"
Psalm 119:83 (see also verses 84-88)

I can picture David bent over a set of scrolls, eyes blurry from searching God's Word. His finger traces back and forth -- line after line. Nothing. God's Word refuses to yield to his desires. His desperate soul has become like old leather -- brittle and cracked.

What is it he desires? Comfort.

What was going on that drew out this prayer? We have no details, but we do have clues: His discomfort was coming from prideful people who didn't play by the rules (85), he was the recipient of persecution that was undeserved and flat out wrong (86)!

What is the most important question we can ask during such times? I would suggest, "What is God's role in this?" The Spirit of God caused David to recognize he needed revival, "Revive me . . ." David spoke his mind and then changed his prayer! He quit asking for comfort and turned to a prayer for personal revival! God met him -- spiritual strength was revived.

Episodes in our life cause our spiritual knees to buckle. How often do we let our knees continue to bend until we are on our face asking not for comfort, but revival?

"Revive me . . ."

A Rare Prayer, indeed!

Eros

Eros will have naked bodies; friendship naked personalities. ~ C. S. Lewis

With the turn of a couple of words, Lewis gives nakedness a new, beautiful, faithful, and moral partner -- friendship. Without abandoning the suggestion that real friendships can be a bit raw, he speaks of a soul-to-soul relationship that bares all.

The fig leaves come off -- nothing is hidden -- yet there is no shame. Personality can robe itself in pretentiousness, but friendship is the changing room -- a safe place to try on authenticity and genuineness.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Porcelain Doves

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free . . . Malachi 4:2

A couple of days ago I got out the leaf blower and turned on the mini, man-made hurricane to clear off our back patio. Leaves and pine-straw began spinning, tumbling, and flying everywhere. Mother nature's debris got a reprieve because I had to shut down and move some patio furniture, work shoes, and a grill. Also, in one corner were tiers of brownish-gray, porcelain doves -- creations of our potter son -- delicate replicas petrified in various stages of flight. Not show-piece quality, but too good to throw away. What would I do with them?

I crouched down and began unstacking the pyramid of fragile glass. At the bottom of the pile, hunkered down, and looking alive -- but in reality dead -- lay a little black bird with white tipped wings and gray chest.

What was it doing there?

Why had it gone there to die?

Have you ever been sitting in your home or office and have a bird bounce off your window? I believe that is what happened to the the once living, dark cluster of feathers I looked upon. My guess is that the impact did not kill the bird, but rendered it unable to fly. This may be a stretch, but I also wondered if -- stunned and flightless -- the tiny creature believed the porcelain wings were real and a place of safety.

Sometimes, we, too, run smack into an invisible wall. The onrushing barrier is not something you can see -- it is just there. You are soaring along with a tail wind, totally unsuspecting, and suddenly -- bang! All you want to do is find a familiar shelter while your head clears. Presently, you are stunned and rendered helpless.

Over the course of our life we repeatedly crash into unseen forcefields -- we don't do it purposely -- and we don't understand why. We may even debate whether God -- or the Evil one -- put them there. But when the collision takes place, the Sun of Righteousness promises that he will rise up -- his wings are not porcelain -- the healing will begin, and we will be free.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nant'an

If any of you wants to be my follower . . . let him. Jesus

Acknowledgment: Rarely (at least for me) does a book written about business organization present metaphor that parallels faith in Christ. However, I have strung together some stories from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power Of Leaderless Organizations that does just that.

In 1519 Hernando Cortes stared in disbelief at the Aztec metropolis -- Tenochtitlan. Expecting to see savages, instead he saw an organized and civilized community. Cortes witnessed a developed system of highways, ingeniously constructed aqueducts, spectacularly ornate temples, and mystically intriguing pyramids.

He also saw gold. Everywhere!

Cortes arranged a meeting with Montezuma II, the leader of the Aztecs. His conversation was not a friendly one -- it was a monologue that could be summed up -- give me your gold, or I will destroy you. Montezuma believed that Cortes might be a deity and decided to yield his vast resources. Shortly after that, Cortes repaid Montezuma's trust and submission by killing him, placing the city under siege, and cutting off its food and water supplies. Within 80 days 240,000 were dead -- within 2 years the civilization that preceded Christ by centuries -- collapsed.

Less than a decade later Francisco Pizarro captured and killed the leader of the Incas, Atahuallpa. They, too, were plundered, and within 2 years the society became an historical footnote.

Over a century later the conquering Spanish headed to the deserts of modern day New Mexico to force a Christian conversion upon the natives there. They would make them Catholics -- they would transform them from hunters into farmers.

The primitive people were the Apaches. The Apaches had nothing -- except their way of life. No highway system. No permanent towns or cities. No pyramids. No gold. All that was valued was stored under their dark skin -- in their immense souls.

It did not work. They sure as hell had no intentions of becoming Catholic "Christians!"

For two centuries the Apache battled the Spanish tooth and nail. The wild people of the deserts persevered and prevailed. Why? Because every one of them fought from a spiritual compelling rather than command-and-control coercion of officers and strategy. Though militarily superior, the Spanish gave it up.

The Apache had no appointed chief or army commander, but they did have the Nant'an. A Nant'an was a spiritual leader who led by example -- not by coercion. Warriors fearlessly followed the Nant'an. Nant'ans lived, fought, and died alongside those they led. When one was killed, another seemed to incarnate the spirit of the fallen and press the fight forward. Inspired. Courageous. They resisted. Not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

The Apache have no word or concept for the phrase -- you should. Not one of those proud Native Americans had to follow their larger-than-life leaders. Neither Geronimo nor Cochise roared -- You should -- you must -- follow me! Apaches were empowered to choose against whom, and if, they would make war.

Today, there is another people who follow a Nant'an -- a spiritual leader. They, too, are wild, and stay close at his heels because they want to -- not because they have to. Their way of life has been passed along for centuries and is ferociously protected. These people of whom we speak are Christ-followers. Incarnating the Spirit of their leader, none of them are coerced converts. They are inspired. They are courageous. They willingly and individually respond to a fierce and rugged invitation -- If any of you wants to be my follower . . . let him.