Thursday, March 29, 2012

5:00 a.m.

I stopped by a friends house for lunch and conversation a couple of weeks ago.  It happened to be Spring Break week and his 18 year old son was on his way out to his part time job.  I greeted he and his father when I heard the Spirit speaking to me to repeat the following.  "Hey John (not his real name), now that you are 18 years old, I think you need a liminal experience."  "A what?" came John's response. "An experience that is transitional in developing a foundation in your life as you move into manhood."  John replied, "What does a liminal experience look like?"  "How about this summer," I said.  "we fly to Chicago for 3-4 days without any money, no cell phones and no place to stay and just trust God to supply all our needs?  At the same time, we would look for opportunities to spread the love and truth of Jesus anywhere the opportunity presents itself."  John got this large smile on his face as it say that he was all in.  John then said, "I have been thinking about growing stronger in my faith and closer to Jesus.  This is amazing!"  "Before we make those plans," I interrupted, "how about we see how faithful you are.  Going to Chicago is a huge commitment and proving yourself faithful is important."  John agreed and asked what I had in mind.  "How about we meet weekly to talk about Scripture we have read, confess our sins to each other and to pray really hard for lost people to come to Jesus."  John thought that was a good idea and asked when.  I knew John was interested, but I wanted to find out how interested he was.  I said, "John, because you are in school and working our options are limited.  The best option for me is really early in the morning on Wednesdays.  I currently have a 6:30am appointment so how about we meet at 5:00am at Starbucks?"  Without hesitation, John said that sounds great, I'll see you tomorrow, and off he went to work.

The next day at 5:00am, I was enjoying a Venti dark roasted brew at Starbucks.  John arrived somewhat late and said that wouldn't happen again.  I smiled and we talked about the process of a Life Transformation Group (LTG) and he agreed to be faithful that process.  The next week, John was at Starbucks at 5:00am ready to talk about God's Word, talk about our following Jesus and to pray for our friends who need Jesus.  I can't wait to see how God will use this young man in the decades ahead for His Kingdom building pleasure.  

My point for this short entry is to encourage us all to pray daily (10:2b virus) for men and women like John who are desperate for Jesus and are ready to learn and be faithful in following Him.  They are out there and they may come your way at the least expected times.  Be in prayer and be ready to act when the Spirit guides you.  Live out 2 Timothy 2:2 with all your heart and make Jesus' prime directive (Matthew 28:19-20) your prime directive.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Casual or Caustic Christianity - A Personal Note from my time in India.

(This entry was a note to our local network of Organic Churches here in Phoenix, Arizona during a trip to South India to visit Edith Greet's Bethel Foundation in February, 2012)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

Thanks for your prayers for Debbie and myself during these days while we are in India. They are felt and we are blessed. On a lighter side, I feel like I have gained 4kgs (9 pounds)! We are constantly being fed and there is always more food available. We feel like Kings and Queens - the hospitaly of the Indian people is amazing and I know I am learning much from their generousity even when they have so little (2 Cor. 8). 

Much of our time these days is being spent listening to and interacting with Edith Greet (Debbie's Great Aunt) who has done a marvelous work here in South India and yet, she is mostly unknown according to local people.  This is excellent because it means she does not seek her own glory or status. This is sad because I believe the more widely known this work is, the more influence her work will have well beyond this area. 

It seems that I am able to peak a little closer into our own US culture now that I have been here in India for almost two weeks. This trip is much different than any other I have been on. It is a much slower paced trip with less teaching and more observation and learning. This slower pace has aloud me to ponder my own life and our US culture. The Lord has also had me reading Luke 9, 10 and 14 which deals much with discipleship and the cost of it all. I would encourage you to spend some time reading Luke 9,10 and 14 on your own, asking Jesus to share His heart for you concerning following Him. 

In my journal the other day I wrote a short paragraph regarding Luke 14:34-35. This is where Jesus calls us to be salt but if salt loses its taste, it will become useless. I thought about my friend Dezi Baker who says that Chistians need to be different enough to make a difference..we need to be salty. We need to give flavor and a sense of preservation to the world with which we interact. If we simply, 'blend in' with our culture, we offer no preservatives nor flavor. In essence, we become useless. So in my life, I am purposing to become more salty/different so that I can make a difference - add flavor and offer preservative qualities to the lives of people with which I interact. I want to be a strong follower of Jesus, not a strong preserver of my comfort. 

One more thought from my time here in India thus far. I am learning that Christianity should not be casual but should be caustic. What I mean by that is that when Christianity is casual, it will normally conform to the culture we find ourselves, we blend in. I am seeing this lived out here in India and I see it a bit more clearly in our own culture. Here in Cochi, India, the Christian topic seems to be mostly about people adorning themselves with jewlery etc. (2 Peter 3:3-6). There is no thought that the car you drive or the motorcyle or even the watch you wear (watches have funcion and are therefore not adornments...even if they happen to cost a lot of money - so the logic goes). To us, this may seem like a meaningless focus but we have many such controversies in western Christianity. We think we are being spiritual or pleasing to Jesus when we focus on such matters, however, it seems to take our attention away from the command of Jesus to be making disciples and of His sending us out into the midst of wolves as sheep. When we focus on our own minor issues, we often just fit into the world. We may be odd to the world (you mean you can't wear jewlerly) but we are not salty (offering life and hope to a very thirsty world). 

What I mean by caustic is that Christianity should be attacking the culture by offering it a better way of living which attacks the current way of living. By offering love not selfisness. By offering generousity not greed. By offering words of encouragement to build up others instead of shooting words of self-preservation that build ourselves up. The word caustic may sound harsh, but Jesus was caustic. When He states that if we want to follow Him we must hate (place behind our affection and commitment to Jesus) all of our close relations or we cannot be His follower, that is caustic. When Jesus states that unless we die to our current life by taking up the cross daily (everyday), we cannot be His follower, that attackes (is caustic) our souls. When Jesus says that we must let go of our possessions and trust Him with them or we cannot be His follower, these are caustic words. They attack our self-preservation perspectives and demand we be transformed by the Spirit of God. 

So, this is more of a short reading of my journal than a report on our activities here. This trip is more about my soul being challenged and about me learning than about me teaching. When I look at the sacrfice that Edith Greet* has made to make an impact on the orphan girls of Kerala, India, I can hardly put my life in the same category. I do not mean to compare my calling with Edith's but when I look at all she has endured, accomplished and passed on, I want to imitate that with my whole heart. We look forward to being home and sharing our experiences with you in person. Please feel free to write us back or to respond to what I have written about what I am learning. I pray this note is of some benefit to you.

*May I encourage you to send a short note or gift to Edith Greet?  You may contact her at grtvirginia@gmail.com