Monthly Archives: May 2011

Love Casts Out All Fear: Juarez-style

When I walked in Iglesia Baptista Eben Ezer in Juarez, the first thing I saw was a huge map of Juarez. Pastor Nicholas had invited me to come visit with him about strategic plan God had laid on his heart to reach the most dangerous city in the world with the gospel. Through an interpreter he shared with me about his passion to put a gospel cd in hands of every household in Juarez which was going to be a “God-sized” task for a church averaging two hundred in attendance. His ten-year goal was for his people to hand deliver 500,000 gospel cds.

As I listened to him share his passion in his heart language of Spanish I really did not need an interpreter for what I was experiencing. His passion transcended our language barrier. He was speaking the language of the Kingdom of God–a language I have grown to recognize.

In a city where people are going into hiding, Pastor Nicholas and his people are going into the streets bearing good news.

The Apostle John knew all too well the dark face of evil. He was the only disciple who stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus suffered and died right before his eyes at the hands of evil men. In his long life he knew persecution and rejection. He knew the high cost of following Jesus. It was out of this context he wrote:

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:16b-18 NIV)

During our brief visit it was clear to me that Pastor Nicholas knew the love of God, and it was this love that was compelling him to reach out to people of Juarez. John was right “perfect love drives out fear!”

At the end of the day the courage we long for to be the light in a dark world will come out of a heart of love–a heart filled with love–a heart in love with Jesus–a heart in love with those around us.

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2%

In a recent interview on a Catalyst podcast, David Platt, pastor of Brooks Hills Church in Birmingham and author of Radical shared about how he challenges his people to give 2% of their lives to serve the Lord in a context different from their own, and he promises it will revolutionize the other 98% of their lives.

2% of your life breaks down to approximately one week. What would happen if you gave one week of your life to extend the work of the Kingdom of God into a place that desperately needs the light.

Over the years I have seen this transformation time in time again in the lives of the people I love and serve. I remember a young man from the tiny little down in the Panhandle of Texas climbing on an airplane for the first time in his life on a journey to Thailand. He came back with a heart for the world leading him to a change in his career and eventually to serving overseas on the mission field in South Asia. One of my favorite picture I have ever received was a picture of him baptizing a young man in a bathtub as part of a house church celebration.

I remember a group of senior adult quilters who delivered hand-made quilts to an inner city neighborhood in the process of giving away the work of their hands God confronted them with the work of His hands in the faces of the children. Within weeks, these godly women organized a summer camp for these children so they could experience life like the boys and girls in their home church.

This year why not spent one week of your vacation on “vocation” for the Kingdom. Go volunteer and make a difference in the lives of the least of these. I suspect it will be one of the best weeks of your life!

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.–Paul (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)

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The God of the Cross

This morning as I was reading the El Paso Times I came across a grisly story of darkness rearing its ugly head. It appears one of the waring cartels in Juarez decided to send a message to its enemies by leaving the severed head and hands of one of its victims on the hood of a SUV. This kind of inhumanity still troubles me.

As I was pondering this dark image in my mind, I read the following statement of John Stott:

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the Cross.’ In a real world of pain, how could one worship a God who is immune to it?”

The cross of Jesus screams out to the world that we worship and serve a God who not only knows our pain, but shares it. He knows the sting of hatred, and lashes of rejection. He felt the searing pain of suffering on our behalf. God is not indifferent to our suffering He shares it.

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“Us vs. Them”?

This week I was listening to an interview of Erwin McManus, author and pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles. The interview was on a Catalyst podcast, and a statement he made stimulated me to think deeper about my life and ministry.

McManus stated that when he became a Christian than he began to be indoctrinated into the “Us vs. Them” mentality of the “church vs. the world.”  Instead he advocates that the followers should think as follows:

“Us for them rather than us vs. them”

I resonate with this view. I do believe Jesus called us to be “us for them” rather than against them. Clearly Jesus defined his mission in very similar terms when he said:

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV)

Being “for them” means loving people–meeting needs–acts of compassion–sharing the good news. It means crossing streets and tearing down walls of separation between us and others.

The power of the gospel resides in what it is “for” rather than what it is “against.”  This week I will strive to be “for them” in everything I do.

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Numb: The Death of Osama bin Laden

Last night via my teenage daughter’s Facebook, I learned of the death of Osama bin Laden. In a matter of minutes I witnessed the jubilation and celebration on the streets of America with a strange flood of emotions.

My mind raced back to file footage of celebrations on Arab streets as young people there celebrated tragedies in the lives of Americans. I fear we have been caught up in the addictive clutches of a revenge mentality. Getting even is far more intoxicating than justice–sadly we want our enemies to suffer and die if possible horrible deaths.

As a follower of Jesus I am struggling with “loving my enemy” and celebrating his or her death. Too be frank I am not in the mood to celebrate–I am in the mood to grieve over once again having the face the dark realities of evil among the human race. In a moment of time I can close my eyes and see the horror of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center crumbling and falling. I can go back to a cool morning when I walked around the massive hole at the foot of Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood. Hatred brings ugly hues to life–it is dark, nasty and toxic.

I believe President Obama had it right when he said:

Justice has been done!

Evil must be stopped. Brave men and women must stand in the gap to defend and protect the innocent, but we don’t have to enjoy it–nor celebrate it. I pray we will not take on the character of our enemies who seem to be consumed and blinded by hatred and resentment.

This week during the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, her brother James read the following words from Paul in his letter to the Romans. His words seem very fitting for our day. May they be our marching orders in the days ahead.

Romans 12:1-2, 9-18

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

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