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Archive for the ‘mission’ Category

Haunted houses and ghosts are about to become the seasonal rage once again over the next month or so.  Folks really get into Halloween.  I guess if getting the hell scared out of you is the point then perhaps more evangelicals should use scare tactics and haunted sanctuaries to grab the world’s attention.

But seriously, let us consider that those things that haunt us are oftentimes from our own past.  They are either things that we did or things that were done to us.  Both hunt us down in our sleep and haunt us during our waking hours.

Yet, imagine your past hurts helping you.  If your abuse-filled childhood helps you help runaway teens and teen moms without prenatal care, let it do so.  Past and personal struggles can make making it hard or they can open your eyes to numerous opportunities to advance and broaden the kingdom of God as you work through some of your own pain and struggle.

Pray for freedom from the dominance of your past demons over your life.  Fend off the persecution from your past.  Let it help you.

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Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. – Ezekiel 37:4

God can call us to prophesy, to speak, to call out, to tear down, or to simply say something.  He can even call us to call out to dry bones.

Yet, the Lord can also just pose a question like He did with Ezekiel in the previous verse.

Can these dry bones live?

If we believe, then our belief should be so solid that we answer God with assured confidence.  We can stand tall and speak boldly.  We should at least know that the Lord knows and let our confidence be in Him.

There are communities full of dry bones.  Classrooms are filled with dry bones.  Coffee houses are occupied by dry bones.  Prison cells hold dry bones captive.  Office cubicles host dry bones from nine to five.  Even church pews have dry bones dressed to impressed Sunday after Sunday.

We have to speak up and speak out.  We are called upon to speak so that those dry bones can have life.

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Every opportunity that we get to speak to or serve others is an opportunity to heighten and extend our reach to others.  Such opportunities equal open season for us to act as extensions of God’s grace and love, even His forgiveness and mercy.  We could serve as instruments in the Master’s hands.  We could simply reach someone else for Christ.

I say no to that.

It is not that simple.  We have to expand our evangelism.  We have to maximize our missions.  We have to increase our impact.

Look in Acts.  Barnabas mentored and partnered with Paul.  They took John Mark along with them on their missionary journey.  Later, Paul and Silas took along Timothy.  Somewhere in there, Luke his way into the text, too.

What do I mean?

Add an element of engagement to your ministry.  Engage youth in a mentoring and training program, even rites of passage.  Prepare youth for college withal rigorous teaching based on sound biblical principles and include a summer intensive tied to. community outreach and service.  Mandate scholarship recipients serve as summer interns with vacation Bible school or other church ministries, even working with the church administration.

Read Titus chapter 2 again.  It’s about how we engage youth through our churches and communities.  We, the pastor, the men, and the women, are to serve as a “pattern of good works.” We need to engage others in every effort that we make.

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In 1967, our vision was to reach Los Angeles. This vision broadened to include California, then all of America, then the entire world.  – from The History of Victory Outreach International

As Christians, we are to be in a position of ambassadors of Christ to others.  We can be a bridge between people and the Savior.  We need to be messengers who share the message of the Good News about the victory that is complete in Christ.

Victory Outreach started with a novel concept.  They sought to reach the city of Los Angeles with the gospel.  That grew and expanded since 1967. 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. – Acts 1:8 (ESV)

What if you simply set your focus on reaching a city or region for Christ, spreading the news about the victory that is available through Him? It is possible.  It is doable.  It provides us with a focal point for the work of the ministry.  We can do more for the Lord with a focus that can help us grow from there.  We can be voices of His victory on the street corners of metropolitans like Los Angeles or we can speak loudly about His victory in a rustic church out in a rural area.  Location matters as a starting point.  Location should not stifle us from doing the work of the ministry.

Where is your Jerusalem? What serves as your home base or headquarters? Start right there.

What is your Judea or Samaria? Identify surrounding areas near your locale to spread the news of Christ’s victory.  Use these as key points on your map of ministry.  These will serve as the points where you have identified the need for both the presence and preaching of gospel-believing people.

. . . and to the end of the earth

God will send you where He has for you to serve Him.  He may start you out in one place, but He may send you further and further away from “home.” He wants to use you.  He start you out right where you are and grow you right before the eyes of your family and friends.  He could also send you away to develop you far away from all that you have known.  He just wants you to serve as a voice of His victory and the victory that you have in this life through Him.

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 Meeting people where they are does not mean leaving them there

It is plastered on nearly everything that Life Path puts out there.  It is a mantra that is designed to keep us operating on a mission rather than remaining meaningless.  It is our vow to remain meaningful and missional while making a difference.  It is at the core of Life Path’s mission and existence.

I was recently forced to revisit my whole venture into ministry and social services.  I question the notion that the two are not the same.  If we are engaged in true ministry, we will perform some sort of social service to assist those around us get what they need to go further and grow to become more and more of who God has destined them to become in this life.  I truly have a problem seeing a difference from where I stand today.

Nevertheless, after searching my soul and looking deeper and deeper into what I have been called to do, I realize that I have to work further to maintain this mantra as a check-in to start and end my day.

  • Have I met people where they are?
  • Have I left people where I met them?
  • Could I do more or better?

In ministry, I must ask these questions.  At work, I must ask these questions.  I must ask these questions of every faith-based effort that I engage in daily.  I must ask these same questions of every community-based venture that I am involved in daily.  I have to ask it of myself as work in a nonprofit setting.  I must ask these same questions of myself as I work on for-profit models that will support the youth work that I plan to offer the youth within my community.

It is reflected in my work.  It is reflected in my writingIt is reflected in the ministry and service that I aim to offer beyond anything that I have done so far.  Join me in the journey.

Don’t forget to help us help youth! http://200club.chipin.com/200-club-youth-sponsors

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Seal Beach (La Jolla Cove) Art Poster Print - 11x17
Recently, I spent some time away at a training in the La Jolla area of San Diego.  Known for its picturesque beaches and scenery, this area makes one recall thatlife is a great adventure.  You begin to wonder how much of the adventure you have taken advantage of or simply avoided over the years.

Laminated Torrey Pines, La Jolla, California satellite poster photo view map print: 36"x24" glossyThe training refreshed me spiritually and otherwise.  Also, it renewed my vision and focus.  I even made a connection with an old friend who had been just as busy as I have lately.   We committed to getting together and making things happen for the benefit of our communities and the generation coming up after us.

All in all, I would have to say that it was truly time well spent.  I thank God for the opportunity to have been selected from among my peers to gain this training and experience as well as the responsibility to bring back what I have learned to the larger group.
Near La Jolla, California, Alligator Head Formation, ca. 1903 - Exceptional Print of a Vintage Photochrom Image from the Library of Congress Collection

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For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him (v. 64)

“Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (v. 70)

He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him (v. 71)

 

Jesus knew who it was “from the beginning,” according to verse 64.  He chose the twelve and knew well that one of them was “a devil.” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, “who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.”

 

Jesus knew it and had dealt it with it a while.  We see in John 12 that the objection of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany is limited to Judas in John’s version.  Unlike other gospels, Judas is the singular objector here and John is quick to point out his character here, saying: He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:6, NIV).” John even denotes him, in verse 5, as “Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him.”

The Bible is full of bits and pieces about betrayal, especially by those who are said to be close to us.  David says that he could have handled a stranger betraying him, but it was a friend, a “man my equal.” The prophecy of Zechariah points out that Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silverIsaiah presents the “man of sorrows” to the believer as the suffering and sacrificial Savior.  James simply said for us to submit to the Lord and that the devil would flee from us. 

We have to understand that these show us that we can withstand the devil’s attacks.  Just as Jesus withstood him during the temptation presented in the wilderness, we can withstand the fiery darts of the devil as he attacks us from all sides.  We can put on the whole armor of God, as it is written in Ephesians chapter 6, and have our defenses girded up against the enemy.

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There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.- Galatians 3:28 (NLT)
There are some who consider their congregations “open,” but their reality is something entirely different.  However, some of the churches that come out of a background of putting the protest in Protestant find it difficult to include all others when those others support gay marriage, abortion or legalized marijuana.  These churches are open in the name of Jesus, but they must remain mindful to stick to the way of Jesus.

I used to live near a Methodist church that prominently posted this slogan on its marquee and advertisements.   Open Hearts… Open Minds… Open Doors… Open what? I keep wondering just how “open” they are.  Are there doors more open than their hearts and minds? I should hope not, seeing as how I know some well-meaning Methodists and Wesleyans.

Our churches need to intensify their inclusion.  America has its first African-American president in Barak Obama.  Now, as we go forward in faith, let us open up and crank up our inclusion of others. 

Let us become:

  • More Intense with Inclusion
  • More Intentional with Inclusion
  • More Inclusive with Inclusion

Does your church invest in supporting underserved community members with necessary programs? Is your church campus a safe haven for at-risk youth and abused women and their families? Can those in recovery walk into your church without the shadow of shame? Can those returning from prison and jail enter your congregation without being judged and condemned all over again?

I love the story of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church’s origin as told in the Purpose Driven Church.  Warren shares that the ministries at Saddleback were developed based upon the needs of the people who came to the church.  He developed ministries that helped meeting the needs of people who came to them and who lived around them. 

As you help others get better and to live differently, they become the spokespeople for what is possible within your church.  Ex-addicts go back and share the Word with other addicts who struggle with addiction.  Former gang members and drug dealers spread the word on the streets of what your church has done for them since they met Jesus at your church’s altar.  Your job? Keep intensifying your inclusion.  Touch lives like never before.  Make a difference in the lives of people who attend your worship services and who live around and near your church.  Remain open to innovative and inventive ways to invite and include people to be part of the family since we are all one in Christ Jesus.

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Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!
– Proverbs 6:6 (NLT)
Some people are full of ideas. Ideas just pop into their head all of the time. Inspiration and creativity spark inside their minds and they jot down something in a notebook or journal, even on their Blackberry or iPhone. They’re simply full of ideas.
I empathize with such people, for I am one of them. However, as I reviewed some notebooks from a few years back and got drawn in deeper and deeper into my own notes and ideas, I realized that I was full of ideas and need to convert more of my ideas into innovations. I would imagine that that’s the case with many others who share my flaw.
The Bible is full of verses that speak of productivity. Yes, I said productivity. Look at Psalm 1:3, John 15:8 and others that speak of fruitfulness, prosperity and service. Even as salt and light, we are called to produce something that leads to others glorifying the Father based upon what they see in us. Proverbs points out that the “lazybones” should look at the ant and take in the wisdom of such a creature who needs no supervisor or manager and is productive, being considered wise.
Here are some steps for converting your ideas into innovations:
  • Find Initiative: Get an idea about how to get started, but by all means get started and soon.
  • Focus Intensity: Keep your focus on doing and doing it right. Don’t get so intense that you get distracted or detoured doing other things. Keep your intensity focused on the right things.
  • Fortify Infrastructure: Build beyond a “one hit wonder.” Dream about other ways to enhance or expand your idea. Broaden the scope of your vision and build a structure that allows for it to grow and expand into a possible enterprise.
  • Formulate Innovations: Could your sermons become podcasts on iTunes or articles for online e-zines? Could you write a how-to article for your church or community newsletter on the topic? Could you blog or tweet regularly on related and relevant subjects centered around your idea? Think it out, and then plan it out. If you plan on going anywhere but where you currently are, you are going to need a map.

I pray that this is helpful to those who are full of ideas and inspired to convert those ideas into innovations.

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He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.- Matthew 10:1 (NIV)

Does anyone remember those Sunday school lessons where you had to recite the books of the Bible? Someone would always get stuck somewhere after Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Or, was it Leviticus? I remember Lutheran school in L.A. County, somewhere near West Covina, and we had to learn the names of the disciples.  We would focus on the “Big Three,” Peter, James, and JohnYou could always remember Judas. That guy just stood out from the crowd.  Then, like always, we would get thrown off with James the Less or Andrew, Peter’s brother, and whether it was Levi or Matthew.  Somebody would try and throw Paul in there and we’d all laugh like we such scholarly theologians ourselves, stumbling over names like Thaddaeus and Bartholomew.  Some folks would quote the Gospels like Mark and Luke were disciples of the Lord like the apostles.  We tried to recite the list of disciples by name, but never really got into what made them a distinct group of men apart from the multitudes and the many believers who followed Jesus and served as His disciples outside of the Twelve.

What made these men different? What did Jesus want to do through these twelve men?

These men were called to do the unorthodox.  They were sent out to do the unheard of task of missional ministry that spreads the Good News and shares of the coming Messiah.  Jesus was specific when He said: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matthew 10:7-8, NIV).  Jesus wanted them designated for the distinct task of preaching to share about eternal life and drive out diseases, healing the sick and raising the dead.  These were so important to Him that He prayed to the Father on their behalf prior to His arrest in the dark of night after the Last Supper.

So what has the Lord called on you to do? Has he assigned you a designated and delegated task to accomplish in His name?

If the Lord has pricked your heart with an inkling to do more for Him, it may very well include one or more of the following:

  • An increased openness to His Spirit’s leading
  • Growing challenged at every turn during and after your Bible study
  • Sensing a spiritual leading to serve at a greater capacity and a higher level
  • Frequent “confirmation” from others about what they see in you that the Lord has put in you or placed inside of you
  • A spiritual uplifting from doing “good works,” praising His name, and having some “good church” (even if it’s by yourself)

There’s are just some things that may be present or occur as you go along your Christian journey.  He can get to you any way He wants to, but are you available to be used by Him? He can designate and delegate something special for you as His disciple.  Can He count on you?

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