In the post-Christian environment in the United States followers of Jesus must return to his timeless strategy of societal transformation. Simple put the followers of Jesus must seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. The world lights up when the followers of Jesus follow these instructions:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)
The light shines when people “see your good deeds…and praise your Father in heaven.” The church of Jesus needs rebirth of doing good so others can see–see the glory of God in a broken world.
Recently I listened to a podcast by Exponential ministries in which Rick Rusaw, Eric Swanson, and Brian Mavis spoke about externally focused ministry. I believe their simple strategy speaks volumes about how we need to earn the right to be heard in our world today.
“Good works” lead to “Good Will” in the hearts of the recipients which opens the door to sharing the “Good News” about the Kingdom of God and the reign of Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives.
God’s Good Plan: GOOD WORKS=GOOD WILL=GOOD NEWS
I believe today would be a “Good day” to get started–as the Psalmist says:
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. (Psalm 37:3 NIV)
El Paso: Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a Baylor Send-off party for a group of Baylor “baby bears” getting ready to go off to Waco this fall. The party was hosted in the home of a Baylor student and his family. Baylor President Kenneth Starr made an appearance at the party to welcome the students.
During Judge Starr’s brief and enthusiastic address my mind flashed back to his calling to be the president of the largest Baptist university in the world. He referred to himself as Baylor’s adopted son and he bragged on Baylor stressing its commitment to academic excellence with a distinctively Christian commitment. Scanning the crowd, I sensed most of these young men and women came from non-Baptist roots, but were thrilled about the opportunity to study and grow in a Christian university committed to exceptional scholarship.
Once again, I am convinced that Judge Starr stands among us as the “real deal.” He possesses all the skills of a great leader and thinker wrapped in absolute commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. As I stood there in the crowd, I was proud to be a Baylor graduate and a follower of Jesus.
Judge Starr keep up the good work!
At the burning bush, Moses encountered God on a mission. God acknowledged that He had seen his people living under the heavy weight of slavery in Egypt. At this point He informs Moses of His plan:
“So I have come down to rescue them….”
As I read this statement God moved my heart. In light of the plight of our land, and in particular the struggles of those of us who labor along the border of Mexico I found great comfort in trusting my life into the hands of a God who was willing to get His hands dirty.
When God came down to rescue His people He invited Moses to join Him in this mission of mercy. Likewise in our day, I believe God has heard our prayers and calls us to join Him at work bringing hope to our land.
In the midst of all the headlines that melt the heart look for the hand of God at work all around you.
When Jesus emptied Himself and “made His dwelling place among us.” The love of God took on flesh and blood and lived among us. Jesus’ example inspires us to “make our dwelling place” among people as well.
A couple of weeks ago, Joe Hugarte crossed the border to do ministry in the Cereso prison in Juarez as usual. However, this day would not be business as usual. While Joe ministered to a group of inmates gunfire broke out in the prison. Apparently a gang had smuggled into the prison assault rifles and slaughtered a large group from a rival gang. When the gun fire ceased seventeen laid dead, and seventy-two others wounded. Video footage of the attack showed gunmen opening fire on defenseless inmates with assault weapons the police collected over 700 shell casings at the scene.
When the prison erupted in violence a prison guard mistakenly ordered Joe into a cell block with the inmates instead of out of the prison to safety. In the confusion and panic Joe also lost his ID. This poses a major problem since the inmates don’t wear prison uniforms Joe blended in with the rest of the inmates–he look just like another inmate.
Once the crisis had passed, the inmates tried to convince the guards that Joe was a religious worker and that he should be released, but they would not listen so Joe spent the night in prison. In the overcrowded cell, he found a place up against the wall and tried to sleep sitting up.
About two in the morning the guards came in shouting and ordering the inmates out into the yard. The guard ordered them to strip down to their underwear and lay down in the yard with their faces in the dirt. Following orders Joe stripped down and took his place in the yard with all the other inmates. He laid there for four hours as the guards searched the prison looking for the stash of weapons used in the massacre.
Finally, Joe’s long night ended when the warden of the prison recognized him and granted him his freedom. (Just for record, Joe went back to the prison the next week to do ministry).
That long night, Joe embodied the “presence of Jesus” to those men. In their moment of crisis, Joe did not simply pray for them–he shared the danger with them. I can only imagine how his presence among the inmates powerfully proclaimed the gospel of our Lord. Just like Jesus, Joe pitched his tent among the people. He left the safety of his home to live the danger of those he loved.
The gospel we preach takes on real meaning and power when we live out its message by our very lives. Joe’s example inspires me to be more fully engaged in my world than ever before.
Thank you Joe!
During the turbulent days of the 1960’s John Perkins moved with his family from the relative security of California to the civil rights war zone of Mendenhall, Mississippi. He believed God had called him to go “home” and minister in the name of Jesus. Shortly after his arrival he became a target of the blood thirsty Klu Klux Klan (KKK) because of his growing influence within the African-American community.
Perkins received threats that eventually escalated to a death threat with a deadline. If he did not get out of town, then the KKK promised to end his life and ministry. On the day set for his departure, Perkins called a meeting at his house for the men of the community. At around seven o’ clock in the evening around one hundred men gathered in his yard. During the course of the meeting the men informed Perkins that they were tired of the “white folks” running off their leaders. He need not worry. He was their leader and they were going to stand with him and protect him with their own lives.
The spokesman for the group said, “You go back inside with your family and go to bed. We will stand watch in your yard tonight, and every night this year to protect you.” Perkins confessed when he went back inside his house, he realized those men would die for him. They so longed for a leader they would literally lay down their lives for him. God used that dark definitive moment in his life to stir up within him the courage to stand up and be their leader. In a sense the followers made the leader–their courage inspired his courage. He knew he could not run away to safety when his followers stood willing to lay down their lives.
This story stirred my heart. It taught me the incredible interaction between the people and their leaders. In a real sense we need each other. Leaders inspire people to be more than they imagine they can be and likewise the love and sacrifice of people inspire leaders to give their all.
The writer of Proverbs made this observation:
24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 NIV)
I wonder who I would be today if it were not for the people who have believed in me. Their love and confidence in me has lifted me up and encouraged me to grow and mature by giving more and more of myself to the task. Show me a great leader and I will show you a great people who believe in him or her.