Death punctuates a believer's life but is not the end mark. It is eternal life that is the ellipses on the sentence that is your LIFE...
Jesus had a friend who died. He told his disciples that the situation would not end in death but would instead bring glory to God. When he arrived to raise his friend from the dead, Jesus made a bold statement, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Naturally, we are all born spiritually dead and disconnected from God. We live a humanistic or pagan life of rebellion against God, our bodies die and our spirits continue their dead states in Hell for ever. That's the bad news.
Then infinite LIFE stepped from eternity onto the human timeline and absorbed sin and death, and regained LIFE, purchasing for Himself the right to give LIFE to all who trust in Him as Savior and God. That's the great news.
For a Christ-follower, death is part of our experience. We put off the habits of death that we grew up practicing. We take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. For many, that means putting to death personal dreams in order to serve LIFE Himself. If you give up your pursuits to pursue LIFE, you will find LIFE. You story will not end in death, but in the glory of God.
Our time is short. We have a few more hours of daylight to bring the great news of LIFE to the millions whose lives will end in death. Be bold. Be brave. Be truly ALIVE!
Predators are difficult to spot at times, unless you are living on a tropical island, surrounded by poverty. People living in extreme poverty make extreme choices... choices like to follow a 70+ year man into his hotel in order to make a few thousand pesos. She walked behind him about three feet, single file. Her expression revealed nothing, just flat resignation. She was the age of his granddaughter. I didn't say anything except, "Good Evening." What else was there to say? (There is a lot that I should have said!)
Seeing these two yesterday, just outside of my condo got me to thinking: Why is this so sick and twisted? Today, I looked at the young ladies in my Bible class, and I thought, "What can we do to make sure that none of these precious young women grow up to those choices?
The answer is complicated, difficult to implement, and yet very simple: Teach them the children their need for Jesus, their identity in Christ and equip them to live lives that glorify God.
With God's help, we can educate and equip a whole generation to succeed spiritually, economically, and live righteous, God-honoring lives... well above the extreme choice line.
The Gate to the Kingdom
There is only one way to get into God's kingdom and that is to be born into it. All of us were born into the wrong kingdom, being born spiritually disconnected from God. In a fascinating, God-planned process, the Holy Spirit empowers a person's encounters with the truth of Jesus Christ, changing a rebel into a family member. The Holy Spirit changes a dead heart into a faith-filled, fruit-producing heart. Being born into the kingdom of God changes everything, including one's culture, ethics, desires and life-direction.
Jesus Was Kingdom Focused
"Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few."
Jesus looked at the huge number of people living outside of the kingdom of God and He felt sorry for them. They needed a Shepherd. They needed Him. Listen to Jesus' response to this problem: "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Our Work in the Kingdom
People tell me that they don't feel called to be missionaries. And, that is probably true for many people... as far as living out the gospel within another culture. I'd like to mention two points that I think will resonate with you. First, all who are in the kingdom of Christ are on mission. We just harvest in different fields. Some harvest in the valleys and some in the hills. Some on their home turf and some in other countries. But, all citizens of the kingdom of God are to be engaged in harvesting.
Last, notice the sequence in Jesus' command to his disciples. First, pray. Then, God sends. Daily, let's pray to be sent out into the fields. Long-term, let's pray about the locations where God wants to send us.
It's Easy to Forget
Last Saturday evening, I took my family out to pizza. As we sat on the patio, we could a variety of people having a good time on the beach. I took a little time to read the Bible to my wife and kids there at the table. The world seemed very normal. Kids playing in the surf, people taking selfies on the beach, and families eating pizza. At times like these, it is easy to forget that there are two kingdoms. It is easy to forget the urgency for evangelism and discipleship. A few moments later, an elderly German man swam up to the beach with a prostitute. They made their way across the beach and sat down at the table next to us. Suddenly, the reality of how sad and confused the world is without Jesus as their shepherd came vividly into focus.
I'm a missionary at a school about ten minutes from this pizza place. There, we are depending on the Holy Spirit to empower the truth that is being taught. Truth that can set a generation free from the kingdom of the weary and scattered. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. I am the good shepherd. Come to me all who are weary and carrying burdens, and I will give you rest."
When I was a young teen, I sold greeting cards to elderly ladies, watched children for the neighbors, and did yard work to earn money. At sixteen, I started working 30 hours a week at the local grocery. If you grew up in America, you probably had a similar assortment of jobs as a young person.
Last year, Threads of Hope started a school that will empower students to achieve their high school diplomas and then move on to trade school or college. This school has to be intentional because it has to teach solid academics, Christian-life skills, and the soft skills necessary to be high achievers after graduation. If you started a school to help a generation of kids find a deep relationship with Jesus and life success, what would you include?
ACTS is a place where kids learn God's word and how to apply it. They learn to think critically and apply their academic subjects. At the same time, them must learn about themselves through classes and activities that awaken their talents, skills, and dreams. Finally, they need our help to discover their unique paths for glorifying God and enjoying Him immensely in all areas of their lives.
We're moving to Mindoro to serve at ACTS. I will be training teachers, teaching, discipling, and working with curriculum. Gina will be mentoring, teaching enrichment classes, and standing in the gap for students. James and Grace will be encouraging students and learning with them. Please pray for and support us, as we take this bold step to bring the hope of Jesus to sixty-six young people at the Aninuan Chrstian Training School.
What if you were born into extreme poverty? Take a minute to walk in your brother's flip flops.
Living in poverty, you don't have the money for milk, vegetables, and nutritious food. By the time you are a teen, you have lost five adult teeth and aren't surprised when a sixth one breaks off while you're eating chicken at a friend's house. Your dad leaves you because he's feeling worthless and looking for a financial escape. Your mother dies when you are 13. School is difficult because you are always hungry and you can't think clearly. You can't do homework because it gets dark around 6:30 in the tropics and you don't have electricity. You have diarrhea often because you can't afford bottled water or toilet paper. It's hot in your 6 x 8 plywood shack with one cinder block wall, so you lie down on piece of damp cardboard on the dirt floor. Your 4-year old sister cries because she is hungry. When you drop out of school at 14, you shut the door on future employment and lock yourself into the prison of poverty. You are one of millions in the Global Church on planet Earth. You ask Jesus to send you help. Will He hear your desperation? He sends a family who brings you hope. Jesus starts a school for you. Jesus sends you a team of Christians who mentor, educate, and pastor you. Inside of you, where it had died long ago, hope is born again.
The riptide of generational poverty can be escaped. Normal, everyday people have to go to give a hand up, out of the current. It starts with the gospel and a smile. It continues with discipleship, meals together, homework help, starting a school, mentoring teenagers, teaching parenting classes, and helping college students get jobs and earn scholarships. It ends when those students grow up, get married and have the skills to raise their children Biblically. For Christians in the Global Church, the question we should ask God is, "Will I go or will I send?"
All born-again Christians are part of the global church. We've all escaped from the wrath to come and are supposed to live lives of thankfulness and purpose. As Christians, our purpose is to glorify God with our talents, time, and resources, and make disciples. That is a full-time life, so to speak. It is also something that is very difficult to do if you live in hunger, survival mode, and struggle with feeling worthless. It is impossible to glorify God with your talents when you've never developed those talents and gifts. If you live in extreme poverty, you have struggles that many of your other siblings in Christ have no concept of. You need some mature Christians to come to you, encourage you and build you up: Build you up into a Christian who can glorify God with your talents, resources and relationships.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11.
Generational Spiritual Blessings
God gave kids their parents to teach them how to grow up and glorify Him with their talents, lives and work. Parents are designed to teach their children the Bible and how to apply God's word in all aspects of their lives. As parents and children apply God's word to daily life choices, they start to reflect the purpose that God created them for: They start to reflect the glory of God's character in their daily lives. They enjoy a vibrant relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Children learn how to make life choices from their parents. One pair of parents making healthy, godly choices will create a family culture. That family culture will change behaviors two to three generations later. Biblical, generational parenting builds another layer of godly life habits with each successive generation.
Culture runs deeper than education because it is learned from birth. It takes a concerted effort to replace one's culture with educated choices. Christian parenting combines Biblical family culture with the daily education in applying God's truth to life choices, creating a powerful momentum.
Physical poverty is not a sin, but it is difficult to escape from when it becomes generational. Poverty can create a feeling of worthlessness and fatalism. Generational poverty can also be difficult to escape because of inequitable social systems. For example, it might be hard to develop the level of hard and soft skills necessary to get a good job because your neighborhood school is underfunded and understaffed.
Within an environment of inequality, fatalism, and extreme poverty, the family culture can break down and contribute to generational spiritual and physical poverty. It's possible for parents to tear their family apart by their choices. Many times, these parents make these choices in an effort to bring good to their children. Instead, they further cement generational poverty into their prodigy.
Why would a mother leave her 5-month old baby with an aunt and move away to Dubai? Why would a father leave his two sons with their mother and move to another city to work a part-time job? Why would a mother invest the best years of her life to raise another families' children, when her children are raising themselves? What happens to their children? What will happen to their grandchildren? One thing that I've noticed living here in the Philippines is the significant amount of children without a nuclear family. Some of the effects are broken identities, sexual abuse, emotional detachment, and minimal education. Who will stand in the gap for these kids? Who will teach them a Biblical worldview, and stop the cycle?
Go Make Disciples.
The first point to meditate on is that all of us are born into spiritual poverty and are broken by nature. We are broken reflections of the God who we were created to serve and worship. Our purpose is to reflect the glorious characteristics of God in our lives, relationships, neighborhoods, and work and to enjoy an intimate relationship with God throughout that process. Sin has cracked us, resulting in distorted reflections of God's character.
We're a family on mission to bring the good news of Jesus to the Philippines.