I'm willing to move where ever God wants us to." Gina said the other evening, as we were discussing our lives here in the Philippines.
Submission to God for an unknown future is a difficult lifestyle of trust in action. Last year, I asked my family to leave our predictable, safe, and comfortable life in Oregon. I asked them to leave friends, ladies' Bible studies, children's church, AWANAs, their pets, Foster Lake, bike rides as a family, the BMX park, their library, homeschool coop, their Fossil Distance Learning teacher, and their church. And, you know what? By God's grace, they did.
God has a calling on our lives. We've followed that calling, first as a married couple and then as a family, for almost 18 years. God has always, always provided for us financially, emotionally, and spiritually. The calling of Jesus in our lives has always been to reach the lost, and disciple believers.
We're in a vulnerable place now in our timeline of following God's calling because we've given up the safety net of family, friends, and employment. In a few years, we'll probably be in a more predictable season. For now, we walk by faith.
Like in the States, there are amazing times, as well as stressful experiences. Unlike in the States, these experiences seem to dig deeper emotionally. This requires us to sink our roots deeper into the word of God, and into the character of Jesus Christ. Walking into the unknown requires faith in our known, yet unseen God.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. 1 Peter 1:8
Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6
The Christian life requires us to crucify ourselves in order to live out life that Christ has given us. For most of us, this is a slow death to self as we walk our path, holding the hand of the Holy Spirit tightly. Our move to the mission field magnified this reality for the moment, making us more aware of the need to crucify our own desires.
Where ever you are in your timeline of grace, dig deep into your relationship with Jesus Christ. As you build your experiential trust in and faith in God, you'll move forward in living out the life of service to Christ. Put on your armor of light and bring hope to those who live in darkness.
We're at war with Satan and his evil forces of darkness. Everywhere you look, people are living in spiritual darkness, trapped by choices, diseases, devices, their past, vices, and empty religions. The kingdom of Satan spread across the planet when the light went out in mankind's spiritual heart 6000 years ago. Every human since has been born into this kingdom of darkness, doomed to pursue humanism instead of God. The kingdom of Satan is held back temporally by the common grace of God here on earth, or all of the Earth would be a chaos of rape, killing, slavery, and theft.
The kingdom of Satan is being replaced by the kingdom of Jesus Christ. 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ showed up and crushed the legal right of Satan to rule. After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of Jesus Christ became a world-wide war for the hearts and souls of humanity. The kingdom of Jesus transcends political boundaries and finds its way into the darkest corners of humanity. Every time a soul springs alive to produce faith in Christ and a life of worship, the kingdom of Satan loses ground.
"For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world." Ephesians 6:12
If you go to battle, you will be wounded. Christians throughout the ages have known this. As a general rule, if you ignore the battle, you'll be left alone. But, that is not the calling for citizens of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. In fact, our calling is to go to the ends of the Earth and make disciples. As we carry the Holy-Spirit empowered gospel into the darkness, as we battle the forces of Satan, we see souls eternally transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Light!
All People are Worth the Fight and the Battle Scars
Wounds that never heal will plague the soldier and eventually put him/her on the sidelines. There are several ways that the soldier can heal after the battle... and sometimes during the battle.
How to Heal:
1. Focus on Jesus Christ: Taking our eyes off of ourselves and our own rights and forcing ourselves to think about Jesus and His rights is a powerful antidote to Satan's chemical warfare. Listen to sermons and do personal Bible study about the person, work and jobs of Christ.
2. Living in the Word: Satan wages an information war in our heads and he pumps up the drama around us, targeting us through manipulative relationships and betrayals. We have to take every thought captive and vet it with the truth of the Bible. Dismantle humanistic philosophies that live inside of your mind and replace the with Christ-centered philosophies. If Satan attacks you with self or other-destructive thoughts, reject those and pray them out of your mind.
3. Daily Forgiving and Living in Love: Love covers a multitude of sins against us. We have to give God the right to judge, correct, or forgive the wrongs done to us. Living in the dark abyss of grudges will spawn emotional gangrene. Pray the hard prayers to forgive. Say no to the drama and memories that stir up anger and hurt. Instead, pray for those who have wrongfully hurt you.
4. Remember Who You Are: You were born a rebel against God. You still sin against God hourly. You deserve eternal Hell. But God, because of His great mercy and love for you, made you alive in Christ. Now, YOU have the identity of a child of God.
5. Rest and Relaxation: Create a space for rest and relaxation in your house. Create a drama-free zone where you protect your family from the Satanic attacks through others. Make an extra effort to do family days where your family can experience fun, peace, and a reprieve from the battle.
6. Remember Your Calling: All born-again Christians are soldiers who are called to fight our way into the kingdom of Satan, bringing the good news of freedom and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. This is not a special calling for only some. Soldiers sacrifice comforts to live military life. Remember this and give yourself permission not to pamper yourself. Give yourself permission to sustain injuries. Most of those injuries will not be life-threatening. Put some Duct Tape of the word of God on it, rub some forgiveness into it, and drink a cup of Hope. Arm yourself with the weapons of light and head back in to battle the darkness.
The night is almost over, the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and arm ourselves with the weapons of light. Romans 13:12
This puppy was covered with parasites and had lost a lot of his hair. He was used to being avoided because of he was so nasty. Then, I decided to do something about it. Although I hate parasites and really didn't want to touch him, my daughter and I gave him a bath. It was as simple as that. Cover his mangy coat with pet shampoo, rub it in with our hands, and rinse him off. The problem? We had to touch him. We had to caress the eggs, fleas and ticks swarming his skin. It was gross! I mean really gross! One of the black ticks jumped. But, the flat brown bugs were soggy and creepy.
We have the answer for getting rid of spiritual parasites. But, it requires us to come in contact with people who may not be used to being touched, paid attention to, or loved unconditionally. It requires us to enter into relationships with people who are a sometimes teeming with spiritual ticks. Why? Because it is by making disciples that we rub the shampoo of the gospel of Jesus Christ into the souls of those who are plagued by spiritual parasites.
When we arrived in the Philippines, we lived at a discipleship house and were immersed in ministry 24/7. We were taking on the forces of darkness with our throttle wide open! We saw the hand of God vividly and celebrated His work of hope in the lives of the kids we were working with.
With the birth of 2017, the Master Mechanic told us to book some garage time, where He'd be making a few modifications, not a full rebuild, just some adjustments for a sustainable journey, which included learning Filipino culture, history, and language.
Garage time is punctuated by the reward of exploring the neighborhoods and riding the highways of ministry. As we learn Tagalog and culture, we hit the road to try out our new skills. At times, we open up the throttle on the open road of discipleship, and other times, we test drive Tagalog with neighbors and students. The keys to taking on the kingdom of darkness full throttle with the gospel are language, culture, prayer, and a servant's heart. Something to remember is that time spent with the Mechanic working on modifcations is ministry and is equally important as the time spent on the winding mountain roads of discipleship and evangelism.
Garage time is great for building relationships!
God sent us to the Philippines with a purpose and a plan. He knows the travel itinerary, the routes, tolls to be paid, sights to be seen, tune-ups, travel companions, and destinations. With the Bible as our GPS, and the Holy Spirit as our Navigator, we humbly anticipate God's plans for Swanson Mission here in the Philippines. Strap on the helmet of salvation. Turn on the high-beam of the gospel, we're heading out for a midnight ride... full throttle.
The kingdom of God that most of us are familiar with is the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ that extends across our spiritually dark planet one converted soul at a time. These souls are hard won because kingdoms are never extended without blood, sweat, and tears being shed. Valiant men and women give their lives to extend kingdoms. Some give their lives in a conflict, and many give their lives by fighting and sacrificing one day at a time.
The unique aspect of the kingdom of Jesus Christ is that the citizens all used to be autonomous from the King. They all used to be rebels, in pursuit of their own power. Then, they have a saving, heart-changing encounter with King Jesus and are changed from the inside out. In a moment, a new citizen is born into the kingdom of light. That citizen begins to live out the priorities of the King: faith, repentance, love for Jesus, love for others, forgiveness, kindness, submission to authority, gentleness, love for justice, mercy, self-control, diligence, patience, and holiness.
This spiritual kingdom isn't one that replaces political powers. Rather, these citizens are commanded by their King to submit to earthly authorities, as long as it does not cause them to sin against the moral character of God. Actually, Christians are commanded to pray for their governments. Many Christians work to bring peace, justice, and morality to their communities. The top-down directive from our King is to Love God, and Love others! That's why we fight for the plight of the widows, orphans, sexually trafficked, abused, and of those in danger of death by abortion. That's why we educate, counsel, coach, and extend helping hands.
When a Christian prays, "Thy kingdom com, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven," he or she is asking God to bring millions more into the kingdom of God through a saving, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. He/she is asking God to bring justice, peace and mercy into the lives of billions of people across the planet spiritually and physically.
Missions used to be for a few people who went to Bible school, went through a rigorous process with an agency, and eventually made it to a foreign country. Today, missions has become the privilege of every Christian. Everyone has a part to play, no matter his/her confidence, calling, or education.
There are four basic parts:
Sending: These people send missionaries by supporting them in prayer, funds, encouragement, and by validating them. Missionaries need people who believe in them and believe in the mission. They need cheerleaders, financiers, and a team of prayer warriors. Missionaries are vulnerable to physical, spiritual, and emotional attacks, so they need a team of senders who have their backs. A sender feels the weight of the lost. He or she thinks about missions and prays for friends who are missionaries. A sender likes to hear missionaries report at church. Senders usually have pictures of kids and missionaries plastered on their refrigerators. Where will you find a sender? At work carving out a paycheck, so he/she can send a child in Uganda to school and a missionary to the Philippines. Senders are usually making up an Operation Shoebox in October. Some senders pray throughout the day. Others, spend time in the war room. Who are senders? People from all walks of life who support, pray, and encourage.
Welcoming: A welcomer is always looking for opportunities to develop relationships with foreigners and immigrants. These could be overseas foreign workers, students, teachers, illegal immigrants, legal immigrants or tourists. (It's easy to get snared into immigration debates, albeit there is a place for those. We must always remember that our first allegiance is to Christ's kingdom.) A welcomer is a Christian who invites students into his/her home for meals, or befriends a family that owns an ethnic restaurant. Businessmen who relationally evangelize foreign colleagues are welcomers. A welcomer meets an immigrant family at the airport and spends a year helping them acclimate to US society. You may be a welcomer if you befriend an overseas foreign worker and invite them to your house for a birthday party. 62 million immigrants live in the United States and over one million international students study in the US. A welcomer takes advantage of those statistics and makes friends with others.
Going: These are the people who go, either long-term or short-term. They are ordinary people who decide to use their career-potential to live out the gospel as a guest in another community. Many missionaries aren't the smartest or most talented. They are the people who are willing to give up the homeland for a little taste of future glory. The people who go sometimes experience an inward call from the Holy Spirit. Others who go don't have any call. They simply submit to the fact that people in other parts of the world need to hear, so they go. I've met both types on the mission field. How do you know if you should go? One way is to meditate on the command to go.
In the World Today There are 5.5 Million Christian Workers
We're a family on mission to bring the good news of Jesus to the Philippines.