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May the Great Commission never be something you only read about

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Where Is My Mission Field? 5 Practices

Often, many people who are willing to begin making disciples don't know where to start.  The question of "Where is my mission field?" can actually be misleading.  Sometimes, we don't recognize our current location as a genuine harvest field.  While it is true that God may send some of us to a new place, most of us will be called to stay where we are and bear fruit where we are planted.  There is a much better question to begin with.

Instead of asking "Where?" we should ask "Who?"  Making disciples doesn't depend on the place - it can be done anywhere!  Making disciples is about people.  All of us know people.  Many of the people around us are without a relationship with God.  There are some who haven't heard a clear, understandable message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, without realizing it, some of us have neighbors who represent an entire group of people who don't have real and ready access to the gospel, except for me and you.

So, to begin making disciples, no matter the place, we can engage in these five exercises:

1.Love - Ask God to love people through you.  We must not skip this essential step.  If we do, then people become a project, and the gospel message becomes a sales pitch.  Instead of making disciples we'll be making converts - something we are not commanded to do.  As we begin this process of identifying who we should focus our energies, let us ask the Lord, who is love, to fill us with His love.  May we be instruments of His compassionate, faithful love.

2.List - Make a list of your own sphere of influence, your social network, people whose lives you are already engaged.  They could be friends, family members, neighbors, or anyone you associate with on a regular basis (through work, school, teams, shared interests, etc.).  Your list will probably consist of around 20-25 people.  Which ones can you start sharing the gospel with?  Which ones can you enlist to help you share the gospel?  From here on out you'll need partners!

3.Locate - Identify and prioritize which groups of people to focus your work based on need for and openness to the gospel.  Go on a prayerwalk.  Walk through your own neighborhood, or pick one that has folks from different backgrounds or cultures.  Maybe hang-out at an ethnic restaurant or shop.  Take note of anything God shows you, people you meet, or any significant experience.  Ask God to lead you to someone who needs to hear the good news of Jesus. You can even begin doing this on a regular basis, going to the same places, sharing the gospel, or simply asking to pray for people you meet.

4.Look - Discover a person of peace from within each of these groups.  As you share the gospel, you will encounter barriers, opposition, and even rejection.  Don't worry - God has promised His word won't return void - there will be fruit as well!  You are looking for those who are receptive and eager to hear the gospel.  Once you find this person, spend lots of time with them, sharing in Bible studies, explaining the gospel, praying, and making much of Jesus.  This person of peace will be the key to reaching the entire group.

5.Listen - Follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  No formula or plan works.  God works.  And often He works through a plan or pattern of best practices.  But sometimes He does things in new and surprising ways.  Pray continually.  Learn to listen to the Lord and follow His lead.  Get wisdom and confirmation from your partners.  Stay in the Bible.  Stay on your knees in dependence.  Walk out in obedience and confidence in what God is telling you.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Considering Joy (Pt. 2): "The Serious Business of Heaven"

Read Considering Joy (Pt. 1):  "Wherein is Pure Joy?" here


In "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer", C.S. Lewis writes:

I do not think that the life of Heaven bears any analogy to play or dance in respect of frivolity.  I do think that while we are here in this "valley of tears", cursed with labour, hemmed round with necessities, tripped up with frustrations, doomed to perpetual plannings, puzzlings, and anxieties, certain qualities that must belong to the celestial condition have no chance to get through, can project no image of themselves, except in activities which, for us here and now, are frivolous.

For surely we must suppose the life of the blessed to be an end in itself, indeed The End:  to be utterly spontaneous; to be the complete reconciliation of boundless freedom with order - with the most delicately adjusted, supple, intricate, and beautiful order?

How can you find any image of this in the "serious" activities either of our natural or of our (present) spiritual life?  Either in our precarious and heart-broken affections or in the Way which is always, in some degree, a via crucis?

No, Malcolm.  It is only in our "hours-off", only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy.  Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for "down here" is not their natural place.  Here, they are a moment's rest from the life we were placed here to live.

But in this world everything is upside down.  That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends.  Joy is the serious business of Heaven.

Lewis is saying that Heaven is the most joy-filled place in existence.  God is the most joyful being.  And Jesus is the most joyful human ever.  It follows, then, that the more Christ-like we become, the more joyful we become, and the more fit for heaven.  Below, I want to take a brief look at the book of Philippians and what it can tell us about this serious business of heaven and how to grow in joy.

First, to grow in joy, we must Look Back and remember to ...
  • give thanks (1:3; 4:6) - Living in a continual attitude of gratitude is joyful living!  I know of no quicker way to restore the joy of our salvation than to list all the things you are thankful for, verbalize them, and give thanks to the Father who always gives good gifts.
  • intercede for others (1:4; 4:6) - I've never felt as close to God as when I'm on my knees, praying for others.  To make this a regular practice - taking our eyes off of our own circumstances and standing in the gap for another - is to walk in joy.
  • work together for the gospel (1:5; 4:1-3) - These three practices are interrelated - thanksgiving, intercession, and community.  They help to spur one another on to love and good works.  A Christ-centered community, living in unity and focused on a gospel mission is the most joyful group of people on earth.  Is this not what the church is called to be?
These practices will help us remain confident in Christ (1:6) - the joy of our salvation will be kept fresh and real on a daily basis.  Second, to continue in joy, we must Look Out for those things that can rob us of joy, specifically ...
  • lack of unity and fellowship (2:1+) - Most churches or communities do not experience the joy that God is setting before them because they are unwilling to experience it together.  They are robbed of joy because of a lack of forgiveness, unresolved issues, busy schedules, disunity and a basic love for one another.
  • religious rule-keeping (3:2+) - Another way to miss out on joy is by striving to keep man-centered rules or even God-centered commands in our own flesh and strength.  Show me a person who is highly religious and law-focused, and I'll show you a person who is without joy - tired, burdened, and probably angry or confused.
  • losing vision of "things that are above" (4:8) - It's real easy to lose focus.  The things of this world crowd in on our vision of the eternal, causing us to shrink back from the joy of the Lord.  The best we feel we can do, then, is to simply manage our time and find ways of coping or escape.  But God has shown us a way out of the mess we're in, with it's long days and fleeting, temporal moments of "happiness" into His eternal joy.  By meditating on Christ and the reality of His kingdom (see Mt. 6:33), we are given His perspective - one of eternal, abiding joy - even in the midst of the cares of this world.
Finally, we will grow in joy and therefore, in Christ-likeness, if we Look Forward to ...
  • resurrection hope (1:21+; 3:10+) - The great salvation we are promised will bring resurrection - new life out of death.  The last of the human freedoms, says Viktor Frankl, is "to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."  The follower of Jesus can always choose hope.  To choose hope is to ultimately choose joy!
  • Jesus' reign on the earth (2:5-11) - Our hope, if it is in Christ, is not misplaced.  Christ will, one day, rule on earth.  His kingdom will be advanced to every corner of the universe.  Until then, our work is to proclaim this good news.  This task of gospel advancement is a difficult but joyful business.  Let us work 'til Jesus comes!
  • future glory (3:20+; 4:18-20) - The entire book of Philippians was written and received in a context of suffering and persecution.  Paul's, as well as his hearers' bodies were slowly fading.  We know this weariness of body and weakness of mind.  And our hope is not in some ethereal future - floating about among the clouds - but is an earthy, solid ("harsh" according to C.S. Lewis), unshakable reality, where the glory we will share in will shine like the stars.  And our joy will be made full!

"Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again:  Rejoice!"  -Philippians 4:4

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How Do You Read the Bible?

A funny thing happened today.  I picked up a book I had been reading, "Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes" by Kenneth Bailey.  Here are the last couple of paragraphs I read before putting the book down:

"In the Western tradition serious theology has almost always been constructed from ideas held together by logic.  In such a world the more intelligent the theologian, the more abstract he or she usually becomes, and the more difficult it is for the average person to understand what is being said ... In contrast, the popular perception of Jesus is that of a village rustic creating folktales for fisherman and farmers.  But when examined with care, his parables are serious theology, and Jesus emerges as an astute theologian.  He is, as noted, primarily a metaphorical rather than a conceptual theologian ... A metaphor communicates in ways that rational arguments cannot.  Pictures easily trump but do not replace abstract reasoning.  A powerful television image communicates meaning that a thousand words cannot express.  When used in theology to create meaning, the parable challenges the listener in ways that abstract statements of truth cannot approach....Theologians often use "illustrations" to infuse energy and clarification into their abstract reflections.  A metaphor, however, is not an illustration of an idea; it is a mode of theological discourse.  The metaphor does more than explain meaning, it creates meaning.  A parable is an extended metaphor and as such it is not a delivery system for an idea but a house in which the reader/listener is invited to take up residence."


Then, a couple hours later, I picked up another book, "Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes" by Brandon O'Brien and Randolph Richards.  I didn't even think about the similar theme as I began to read; I was mainly thinking of how I was supposed to return this book to my friend Jayson Georges several weeks ago, and that I probably wasn't going to finish before I saw him again.  I opened the book to where I had dog-eared the page - sorry Jayson! I hadn't cracked the book since before Christmas, so to read these words just two hours after reading the ones above were, for me, quite remarkable:

"When it comes to communicating the truth, Westerners drift more towards propositions than to artistic expressions.  Because we are somewhat uncomfortable with the ambiguity of metaphors, we tend to distill propositions out of them.  We want to know what they mean, in categorical terms.  A philosophical description of God ("omnipresent") is better than an anthropomorphic one ("his eyes roam to and fro throughout the land").  Or, so we think.  This is why books on Jesus talk more about the facts of his life than his parables.  To us, things like metaphors and parables sometimes seem like unnecessarily frilly packages for a hard truth.  We want to get past the packaging to the content; we want to know what it means.  These assumptions about the value of propositions and our unease with ambiguous language put us at something of a disadvantage when it comes to reading the Bible.  The biblical writers didn't make the distinctions we make regarding when metaphorical and potentially ambiguous language is appropriate.  We relegate it mainly to informal communication.  But the writers of Scripture recorded the profoundest truth in similes, metaphors, parables and other colorful and expressive (and potentially ambiguous) forms of language."


Interesting, huh?  What do you think?  How do you read the Bible - particularly Jesus' teachings and parables?  Maybe it's time to re-read them.  And although I haven't finished either of the books mentioned above, I recommend them to you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

31 Days of Giving: Last Day to Give

We invite you to consider partnering with us through giving financially.  Many people like to give end of year donations.  Would you choose one of the simple options below to make a tax-deductible gift?  Thank you!


How You Can Give:
4 easy ways to Donate Now

"...because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now..."  Philippians 1:5

Monday, December 22, 2014

31 Days of Giving: Thank You 2 Our Partners

How You Can Give:
4 easy ways to Donate Now


A BIG Christmas "Thank You!" to all of you who have partnered with us through 2014 ... here's some of the highlights of what you've done for us this year:

  • Prayed diligently for our family and our ministry
  • Supported us at $1,500 per month
  • Sent encouraging notes, cards and messages
  • Come to visit (this means more than you'll know!)
  • Provided a Sam's Club membership, a full tank of gas and lots of other intangibles
  • Shared your homes for visits, your table for meals and your ears for listening
  • Been a faithful part of taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the unreached peoples of the world!

We ask 3 BIG THINGS from each of you in 2015:

  • Pray even more fervently for God to do great things among the unreached in Atlanta - for the glory of His name
  • Continue giving (even consider giving a little more next year)   ...   NOTE NEW GIVING INSTRUCTIONS FOR 2015 - CLICK DONATE NOW FOR MORE INFO!
  • Refer 10 new, potential partners to us by January 1 - respond here with referral contact information

Again, we say a GREAT BIG "THANK YOU!"  From the Harpers - Nathan, Rachel, Chrisley, Jude & Drew.  Merry Christmas!

We invite you to consider partnering with us through giving financially.  Many people like to give end of year donations.  Would you choose one of the simple options below to make a tax-deductible gift?  Thank you!


How You Can Give:
4 easy ways to Donate Now

"...because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now..."  Philippians 1:5

Saturday, December 20, 2014

31 Days of Giving: ADVANCE

How You Can Give:
4 easy ways to Donate Now

"...because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now..."  Philippians 1:5


2 ways you can "HOLD THE ROPE" and ADVANCE the Gospel with us:

  • Serve with us - Join the GO TEAM.  Yep, that's right!  You can become a missionary too.  Learn to live on mission in God's world.  We have various ways to serve:  take a short term mission trip, or if you are 20-something or in college, then you may want to check out our summer internships.  Maybe you want to go all out, like we did and look into missionary training school.  Or, it's OK to take it slow and simply come by for a Nehemiah tour.  You can find us in Atlanta (where we are), or if you like it even hotter, then talk to our buds in Houston.  Wanna go overseas now?  We can arrange that too!  If you feel like God may be dealing with you in this area of missions, check out our EQ[u]IP page (at the top) and read some of the articles there.  We'd be glad to talk to you, recommend next steps, and pray for you about it too.  We'd love to hear from you.  And, if you are wanting to really understand what we do on a daily basis, you've really got to see it firsthand.  So, what are you waiting on?  Come see us!
  • Hold the rope - We need a few champions!  Someone who loves us enough to go the extra mile.  A few folks with the same vision - willing to cast that vision to others.  Someone who will dream up those BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) with us.  If this is you, please let us know.  We need you!  What can you do?  What does it mean to hold the rope?  Well, it simply means doing anything and everything you can to keep us secure at this end of the rope ... you, and whatever team you recruit/develop, will hang on at your end.  Of course, it goes both ways!  You can help spread the word.  Facilitate prayer meetings or fundraisers.  Lead a short term team to come over and help us for a few days.  Stay where you are and host a Perspectives class.  Invite us to share with any small groups or churches you are connected with.  Lead a small group to take the missionarytrainingschool.com course together.  Stay in touch with us and pass along any special needs we may have to the rest of our PRAYER and SUPPORT teams.  You get the idea.  If you are willing to consider this commitment, please contact us here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

31 Days of Giving: ENGAGE

How You Can Give:
4 easy ways to Donate Now

"...because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now..."  Philippians 1:5


2 ways you can "HOLD THE ROPE" and ENGAGE with us:

  • Give to us - Along with lots of prayer, we must also raise financial support - as all GFM staff are faith-based volunteers - for living and ministry.  The next best thing you can do then, is join our SUPPORT TEAM.  God has been faithful to provide for our needs over the past 3 years, although it hasn't been easy.  Recently, it has gotten even more difficult financially.  Starting in 2015, our anticipated support level will be at 50% of what we need.  Instead of thinking so much about money, we'd rather focus all of our energies on finishing the task that Jesus has called us to in Matthew 28:18-20.  Also, we feel that our call to this field extends, at least, through 2020 or 2021.  We are excited about the experiences that lie ahead.  Our hope is that you see the eternal value in this work.  As you can imagine, a full time missionary requires support from a number of people.  We need to raise $4,200/month in sustainable support to be able to remain in this mission field.  If you can support us financially, we would be very grateful.  Please click the DONATE NOW button.  All contributions are tax deductible.  Or, if you have any questions, please respond here.
  • Spread the word - Help us find more people who will join the PRAYER & SUPPORT TEAMS.  Can you think of any friends, relatives, associates or neighbors who would be interested in talking with us, receiving our updates or supporting us?  Spread the word through your social media networks.  Or course, word of mouth is always best.