Archive for December, 2009
Some end of the year fun here. I am happy to note that I first saw this video on C. Holland’s site Missionary Confidential. I found the comment stream there interesting. Would be happy for you to leave thoughts on this video here or on Holland’s site.
Also, I recently posted an entry on The Upstream Collective blog. Throwing this out there just in case you are interested.
Disjointed and missing everyone’s expectations, our Christmas journey this year was more than adequate. We enjoyed and struggled with 14 inches of snow on Christmas Eve. This was the day that we continued to live out the story and relationships which began months ago and was introduced in a previous entry entitled The Fight. The “Jones” family came over to join us for lunch and to open some of the presents our extended family had purchased for them. During our time we were able to share both a Christmas meal and family stories as well as reflect on the story and hope of Christmas.
Following the meal, as the Jones were leaving, we noticed a flat rear tire. After airing it up, we determined that the tire would not hold air long enough to make it home. So venturing into the blizzard in a 4×4 we purchased a new tire while serving others to free them from being stuck in snow and ice. It was great to have the father and son be a part of serving others that were in even more immediate need at that particular moment.
With the new tire mounted, we saw them off after towing them through the snow and ice out of the neighborhood. The following day we had the privilege of clearing snow from the drive so we could make the trek back to Dallas to be with other family and to continue the mission of Christmas and our family discipleship.
Yesterday we had another family seeking to disciple their children join us to host a Hispanic family that is also experiencing great need. Through our time with the “Lopez” family over the past months we have seen the mom make Christ her Lord. Since that time, the four children have been observing and processing the gospel.
We shared lunch and gave Christmas presents. The fellowship and fun later turned into an impromptu Little Caesar’s pizza dinner. It was during this second meal while taking in some of the Dallas Cowboys’ game that the dad was able to hear the good news for the first time. Though he was not ready to believe, he did initiate a hug with me and the other dad that shared the day and his family with him and his family. We continued to learn and will continue to teach. The good news made more sense to the shepherds when they could see and touch it and the same holds true today.
For generations and centuries, the Jewish people had longed and waited for the Messiah. Then in a non-descript town in far less than middle class accommodations, Mary and Joseph experienced the birth of baby Jesus. Shepherds, informed by the angels while out watching their sheep, came to the stable to worship the baby that was wrapped up in baby blankets and placed in a feed trough. It was a tender moment that would impact all of history, but so little was understood on that night.
With the key elements of the plot and characters present in the story, we have a sufficient amount of details to understand the events. But often our romantic nature wants to add in the details. Some begin the story as “the coldest, darkest night in all of Israel….” Perhaps the night described should be a Stephen King-esque setting if only the gospel writers had known how to pen the tale. But it is not essential in order for the hearer to realize the truth of Christmas for the night to have been unique in light and weather. Isn’t a manger and a stable bad enough? Isn’t the birth of the Son of God glorious enough?
There was a clear point to the story and truth of Christmas. On that night, God came to live among us. Emmanuel. The sending of God. The birth of the Savior. This story spoke to the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people that had longed to be freed from Roman rule. The story resonated with the Hebrew cry for help throughout a difficult history. Like salve to their wounds was the hope that peace could come to the earth and dwell among their people. That was the story. It happened.
But something else did not happen that night. A Pauline theology of salvation was not delivered to the people. No explanation was given to the hopeful as to what they needed to do in order to be born again. It was enough for them to believe–believe that their hopes were fulfilled in this infant. To believe that God had been faithful to his promises. Yes the future would be essential to the working out of salvation, but that was to be done over the next 33 years. On the night of Christmas, hope and peace reigned supreme with those who heard and believed that God, continuing to prove Himself faithful, would work out the details and explanations for the salvation of His people as He required.
While the darkest, coldest night is not found in the gospel narratives that I have read, there are other words that are insightful. Some words describing the responses of the characters include: terrified, good news, great joy, favor, amazed, treasured, pondered, glorifying, praising, waiting, marveled, blessed, gave thanks…. Much was made clear at the time of Jesus’ birth. However, much was still unknown.
Recently I posted a video about “Christians trying to convert non-Christians.” This Christmas story, I believe, speaks to that. What the characters knew and understood, they believed. Sometimes simultaneous with and sometimes prior to their belief they also had fear or questions they were pondering. The story of Christmas answered so many questions, yet it raised so many others. Here, in the manger, lies hope and peace. How is that going to work out? If this is the Savior, then what will the story line be?
Like the shepherds, ours is to tell the incredible story of hope and peace. I pray that this may be the beginning of a conversation–the beginning of a relationship. May others see the hope and peace of Christ in us. May they experience what it looks like for us because of Emmanuel. It is my prayer that they will hope and believe in something so much more for their life, their loved ones, their world. It is also my prayer that we will be faithful disciples to walk with them sharing our very lives so that we may enjoy their friendship, so they may know the one, true God.
From time to time I will be posting original writings of guests from around the world. In this post, a missionary in SE Asia shares a small part of the story he is experiencing. Thanks friend!
While training a [group in country] a young man sitting in the back came to my attention. He was 25 or 26 years old and had quite a story to tell. This young man had been a Buddhist monk until three months earlier. He came to the training to learn more about his new faith. The following is his story.
My family could not afford to feed me so they put me in the monastery when I was very young. It is all I have ever known. One day I was walking down the street, with my bowl, to collect food for the day. Without looking I stepped into the street and right into the path of a car. The car hit me and sent me flying into the middle of the street. When I tried to get up I realized my leg was broken. Some men helped me into a taxi that took me to the Buddhist hospital for monks.
The doctors x-rayed my body and told me it was not good. My leg had been crushed in the accident and it was inoperable; they would have to amputate. They sent me to a room, gave me some pain medicine, and scheduled the surgery for the next morning. I was so worried! I tried to meditate and called on the Buddha for help, but nothing worked. Finally I fell asleep and in my sleep I had a dream. A man dressed in white came to my bed and touched me on the shoulder. He told me not to be afraid; the doctors will not amputate your leg, I am going to heal you. As he walked out of the room, he turned around and said, “My name is Jesus.” The monk had never heard that name before so it had no special significance, but he remembered it. During the night he felt warmth in his leg, by morning he had feeling and when the doctors came to prep him for surgery they found his leg completely healed. The surprised doctors asked what had happened. The monk told them about the man Jesus, but the doctors had never heard that name before either. They told him, “You are healed so return to your monastery.”
Two weeks later the monk was on the street again collecting food for the day. An unknown believer approached him and began to share the gospel with him. As the believer told about God the young monk became confused. “I did not understand what he meant. What is the god?” The believer went on to tell the monk that God had a son whose name was Jesus. When he mentioned this name, Jesus, the monk stopped him. He told the believer his story and said, “This is the one who healed me, please tell me more about him.” When the believer was finished telling him about Jesus the monk replied,” this man healed me, I want to become a follower of Jesus.” He disrobed and left the monkhood, joined himself to the believers and was in my seminar to learn more about the faith he had come to embrace.
Aaron, a non-believer, said, “I’d like to say something about Christians trying to convert non-Christians.” This video provided by Jonathan McIntosh is VERY worthwhile.
Hmm. What do you think?
Lately, I have been thinking, studying, and writing a lot on the area of discipleship. Last week I was on my way to be with some church planters in AR. While in route, I stopped for a plate of fried catfish (perhaps this is important when considering being a fisher of men or perhaps I have just missed it the past several years) and to write down this syllogism.
Jesus calls us to be his disciples.
Therefore, I am to be a disciple. And…
He teaches his disciples to be disciple-makers.
Therefore, a disciple makes other disciples.
Two possible outcomes:
I make disciples.
Therefore, I am a disciple.
I don’t make disciples.
Therefore, I am not a disciple.
By extension, if this is the characterization of the disciples that make up the church, then it will be the characterization and evidence of the church. 2 Timothy 3:1-9 should not be descriptive of the church. However, verses 10-17 should be consistent with church.
Hirsch makes a similar argument in his upcoming book, Untamed, and in “No Disciples, No Mission,” a post on the Catalyst site. Not only is this a worthwhile read, it merits serious consideration and reevaluation.
Before wrapping up this post, I would like to encourage those who may attend the churchplanters.com conference this February 22-23 in the Atlanta area to consider participating in the pre-conference event with Alan Hirsch and the founders of The Upstream Collective. The event will deal with Lessons from Post-Christian Cultures. Like other Hirsch talks and Upstream events in the past, I am sure this will be insightful and thought-provoking.
Some ponder the question, “If a tree fell in the forrest and no one was there to hear it, would it make a noise?” This raises a few questions. First, would it? Second, how would we know? Third, does it matter? Fourth, now what were we discussing again?
Often, the approach individuals, churches, and publishing houses take toward discipleship is as ethereal as the philosophical sophistry in the above paragraph. This is not, I believe, consistent with Christ’s approach. His teaching happens along the way in the midst of his travels and actions. As he goes, he is living out what he is teaching. As he is living it out, his disciples are observing, discussing, questioning, and at times even seeking to correct him. Ongoing, Jesus continues to live, model, and teach. Based on his model, it is all intertwined. Seamless. A life of integrity.
John wrote about Jesus turning water into wine. Through the disciples presence and participation at the event, they observed so many lessons that were key to their obedience and future faithfulness: Christ’s obedience to his mother, the miracle itself, willingness to use the sacred for meeting human needs, Jesus’ allusion to his purpose in the future, etc.
Skipping ahead a couple of chapters in the gospel of John, we read about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Once again, the disciples are there. Once again, the lessons are numerous and profound. Jesus is challenging the traditions and thoughts of man all the while explaining and living out the purpose and nature of God.
Sandwiched between these two stories is a conversation between the Savior and Nicodemus. This witty exchange provides an explanation of the gospel and is the background for the most popular sporting event poster in America–John 3:16. But how does John know this story? I propose that either some of the disciples are sitting in the room with Jesus during the exchange or Jesus later tells his disciples about the conversation. I can envision him talking with them over breakfast the next morning or during their journey out to the countryside retelling the story. Captured by the story, they will not forget the explanation of the gospel. Knowing the story, they will be looking to see what would transpire in Nicodemus’ life some short time later.
“So you got into a fight with several boys on the bus….What happened?” the principal asked. The student responded, “When they were making fun of me and my clothes, that was fine. But then they started making fun of my sister and I couldn’t help myself anymore.”
The outburst earned the young man a couple days of in-school suspension as well as the attention and compassion of the middle school principal. And based on previous history with the principal, our family would soon get involved.
For some time now my wife and I have wanted to change the focus of the Christmas season from getting a whole bunch of stuff that we don’t need to serving others that are truly in need. Instead of seeing our children turn glassy-eyed thinking about presents they may receive, we feel compelled to teach them to serve others. So a few weeks ago I began a conversation with my extended family about changing the family tradition. Though I can’t say there weren’t any bumps along the way, I have been so encouraged to see how we are, as a family, now focusing our energies on blessing others that are in need. Great need.
Just to paint the picture a little, the dad recently lost his job as a garbage collector. The mom spends most of her time in bed on strong medication with a chronic disease. The two kids who are still living in the home have learning disabilities and are picked on at school for any reason including clothing that is out of style. From preliminary conversations with the family, we learned that food was also a need.
This past week we were able to go with my parents and my immediate family to take a Thanksgiving meal and a bunch of groceries to the family along with some job applications where we have family history. While we were standing there talking, the kids were unloading the bags. Immediately, the boy washed an apple and started eating it while his sister began to peel an orange. Both commented about how good it was to have fruit. These were the very apples and oranges that our kids had picked out at the store just a couple hours prior.
After Thanksgiving, we met as an extended family to plan what we would do for this other family for Christmas, for job, and more. We really were seeking to answer the question how can we be the image of Christ to them. After that we went to different stores and shopped for various things for the family. With my wife and kids, we immediately started shopping for the young girl in the family. My children were delighted to pick gifts to give to this girl that they had already met. They wanted to pick clothes that would help her be warm…that she would really like…that would reduce some of the peer scrutiny for the future.
I think we are all going to learn more about the sacrifice of Jesus this Christmas than so many in the past. I am not certain today of all of the thoughts my daughters are having about building this relationship and being a blessing to others. They are enthusiastically working on a play that will tell the Christmas story as we share a meal together around Christmas. They are learning so much more through this hands-on approach than I could ever teach them in a countless number of lectures. This is obedience for us. It is pragmatic discipleship for them. It is a blessing for us all.
After a short time shopping we met back as an extended family at Chik-fil-A. While we were sharing ideas and showing what we had purchased, one of the employees came up and greeted my brother. We learned that their children went to school together. Upon hearing of the family’s need, he brought us an application and gift cards for the whole family to be the store’s guest for a chicken sandwich meal (woohoo for the #1 combo!). We were traveling back home when my parents called to share that the family was really appreciative. The dad was excited to be able to eat at Chik-fil-A for the first time in his life. My girls could not believe that there was a grown man in the U.S. that had never eaten at their favorite restaurant.
The discipleship continues….