Results vs. Reality

A great look at what ‘daily life’ really entails here in Honduras. We are so happy to have Lindsey become more involved in One Day Revival and look forward to the great vision that God is playing out in her own life and our lives together!

My Life in Pencil

Sometimes I can be pretty impatient when it comes to “ministry”.

I am definitely a task-oriented person, I love lists and accomplishing them, and I like being able to see a specific result of a goal pursued. Now I know there is nothing wrong with that – productivity is certainly what keeps life going, and laziness is something we are called to avoid in Scripture. But the longer I work as a full-time missionary, the more I have found that ministry often doesn’t fit nicely into my list-accomplishing mindset.

Growing up (and even into my first few years after graduating from university), my view of a missionary was someone who moved to some exotic place and basically lived life straight out of the book of Acts….every day they would go out to meet with the local people, do some miracles or preach a sermon (because of course they had magically…

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Welcoming and Eating with Sinners

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.‘”

Luke 15:1-7

In the 21st century we are not quite familiar with tax collectors and the negative reputation they had in society, but we can substitute many other modern examples into that blank that accurately represent the same feelings. For example, in our community it is easy to insert drunks, addicts, gang members, prostitutes, and any number of other labels of people who are often seen in the same light (or darkness, rather) as the tax collectors of Jesus’ time. What we can understand by the Biblical and modern examples is that Jesus was pretty buddy-buddy with the people that no one else wanted to speak to or even acknowledge. He was so close with them, in fact, that the religious leaders were appalled by him, grumbling and muttering about him in disgust.

It is easy to picture Jesus with these outcasts and cheer him on as we point our fingers at the Pharisees and religious leaders and condemn their lack of understanding. What is difficult, though, is to not just picture Jesus but to do as Jesus did. We are, oftentimes, content for the outcasts to ‘gather around and hear’ us as we preach about the Good News of Jesus Christ, but we are challenged to take that to another level, the standard that Christ set for us, by ‘welcoming sinners and eating with them.’ Yes, eating with them. Not leaving a meal and taking off, but eating with them.

A good friend of mine and volunteer in the ministry once relayed to me a story he heard told by Francis Chan. Francis and his wife (I believe) were preparing to invite a good number of impoverished people to their home for a meal. They were beyond excited to share with their guests the delicious food and welcoming atmosphere of their home; they just could not wait for the evening of the dinner! Zero costs were cut and all measures were taken to make this the most memorable evening ever. During it all, Francis made the connection to the Father and the way He desires for us to join Him at the banquet table- zero costs cut and all measures taken as He shows us His divine love.

I do doubt that Jesus worried himself with table runners, chargers, and centerpieces when he ate with the sinners, but I can imagine he welcomed them as one would welcome any distinguished and honored guest- or as Francis and his wife welcomed and ate with their homeless friends.

Chapter 15 of Luke has been on my mind a lot recently as we delve deeper and deeper into eating with sinners and ‘tax collectors’ in our own community. We have delved so deep, in fact, that we have gained negative attention from the local authorities. On two separate occasions in the past three weeks our home has been raided by anti-drug, anti-gang, preventative, military, and who knows what other kind of police. Each time we were accused of collaborating with the local gang as the authorities had received tips from someone in town to that effect. We were also accused of money laundering (that has to be modern day tax collecting, right?) as well as moving drugs. All this fuss just because we have opened our home to the sinners and tax collectors.

Obeying Christ’s example almost always comes at a cost. Not because it is difficult, but because the world continues to be firmly opposed to the Gospel. When I was finally given the opportunity to share about the ministry and why we do invite sinners into our home, I was (not so kindly) reminded that associating myself with these people could have negative repercussions for my own life, mostly because of the reputation that they expect me to uphold. Additionally, I was rhetorically asked why I even bother with ‘these people.’ Even knowing it was a question they did not want answered, I responded all the same. We work with ‘these people’ because they deserve to hear the Good News of salvation just as much as anyone else, including myself and the very same police officers. We work with ‘these people’ because the blood of Jesus Christ heals and redeems even the worst sinner.

Luke follows up this scene with Jesus and the Pharisees with two more parables that Jesus uses to demonstrate just how far the Father will go to bring one of His children home: the parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost son.

After just finishing Henri J.M. Nouwen’s short book The Return of the Prodigal Son, I cannot help but focus more on that parable. Nouwen discusses the impact that Rembrandt’s painting of the same name had on him the first time he saw it while visiting  L’Arche community in Trosly, France. The book is divided into three parts, signifying the three stages of self-reflection through which the painting brought Nouwen: the younger son, the elder son, and the father. In short, he confesses his journey from being the wayward prodigal son to the resentful elder son, unwilling to celebrate the younger son’s return. Ultimately, Nouwen challenges both himself and his reader to not only return to the Father, but to become Him. He states:

“Jesus wants to make it clear that the God of whom he speaks is a God of compassion who joyously welcomes repentant sinners into his house. To associate and eat with people of ill repute, therefore, does not contradict his teaching about God, but it does, in fact, live out this teaching in everyday life… If God welcomes sinners home, then certainly those who trust in God should do likewise.”

Additionally:

“As the Father, I am no longer called to come home as the younger or elder son, but to be there as the one to whom the wayward children can return and be welcomed with joy.”

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At some point, we must all grow up, so to say, and mature from the younger/elder son to the Father. Jesus is sharing about God’s amazing love and acceptance just as much as he is challenging us to live out that same love and acceptance. He is asking us to risk our reputations and put ourselves in the line of criticisms and false accusations as we dare to live out his commands.

Again, this is much more easily said than done, especially once real or perceived-to-be-real consequences arise. I have to admit, I am slightly more hesitant to let our modern day tax collectors into the house after having a gun pointed to my temple by modern day Pharisees. But there is a boldness that one acquires as a child of the Most High, and that boldness is what allows me to continue opening my doors to ‘welcome sinners and eat with them’ even in the face of such serious accusations and criticisms. It is the challenge of Jesus to become the Father and to welcome the wayward children, to excite ourselves at the mere thought of preparing a table for our outcasted guests.

It is less than two months before our deadline to purchase the mission house we rent in town, and I cannot help but see these raids as spiritual attacks from the enemy to try to run us out of town. The light that our house provides to the wayward children of Ciudad España is a direct threat against the darkness with which the enemy desires to blanket this community.  The table that we prepare for the sinners both terrifies and angers the enemy.

In boldness and faith, we will continue to ‘welcome and eat with sinners’ as we strive to show them who the Father is.

The Highs and Lows!

Dani’s most recent blog post. Read to find out how things are going in her personal life as well as ministry!

Dani's

Finally getting a chance to write!
Skye has took a nap and Henry is in the living room with a bunch of boys from the football team he is coaching. They are watching the film Lion.
Its very rare that I get a single moment to sit and write. Life seems to get busy and the things you once had the time for, you don’t seem to have much time to do.
We have just started a bible study called “Breathe.” Its about the Sabbath and what it is to take time with the Lord and to rest in Him.
I realised there are many things I have not been doing so much of because my time has been used in other areas.
I know that there is a lot of things I need to sort out in my life to have more balance in certain areas and to make…

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Making Disciples

The word ‘disciple’ is a loaded word; it carries a great deal of weight and meaning.

We have adopted the English word from its Latin counterpart, discipulus, meaning pupil. (dictionary.com)

In the New Testament, the word initially appeared in Greek (as did all other words in the New Testament). The word was mathetes, meaning a learner requiring effort to think something through. (Strong’s Concordance)

In the Latin form of the word, it is easy to draw a similarity to English an word that we use fairly often.

discipulus- discipline

So, what can we really draw from this complex word? A disciple is a learner, but not just that. It is a learner who thinks things through, and if we touch on our English similarities, we can take it one step further:

A disciple is a learner who thinks things through with discipline. 

Now that I have exhausted (and probably bored) you with the etymology, what really is the significance of a disciple?

Jesus gave his last command to his own disciples when he left the earth: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mat. 28:19-20b)

But what does it actually mean to make disciples?

Coming from the United States where megachurches abound, it is easy to get fixed on numbers. How many people are in the congregation? How many new people did we bring in this Sunday? How many will come back next week? How many more can we attract next year?

We are bringing people in, but are we really making disciples?

In Luke 10 during his Sermon on the Plan, Jesus sends out 72 disciples to the towns where he would soon arrive in order to prepare the way for him.  But, in daily life, Jesus had only 12 disciples.

What a small number! Imagine a megachurch trimming their congregation to just 12 members. It wouldn’t receive much publicity and probably wouldn’t be considered a success. I do not presume to say that churches should have such small numbers, but I do believe there needs to be a shift from increasing numbers to making disciples.

Sometimes I get down on myself for the seemingly small number of people with whom I work on a daily basis. There are many that I visit and many with whom I interact, but those who are ‘by my side’ each day are few. By working with these few, my goal is to prepare them to then go and share with others, but they must be well-prepared first. If I were to have many, it would not be possible for me to prepare them well. And even so, I am not the one who is preparing them. God speaks through me to these young people so that they can know Him and His love.

Imagine all of the people in your very close circle of friends. I don’t mean how many friends you have on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I mean those who are on your speed dial who know each little detail about your life. There are not many, I would guess. Even more in this day in age, keeping up to date on each small occurrence in someone’s life is not easy. Now, to have a large circle of close friends in the sense that Jesus was with the disciples would involve sending group updates on a Facebook page numerous times a day, working in the same place, eating most meals together, and then some.

We exhaust ourselves by spreading our friendships so thin to the point that they are almost non-existing. And that spreading-thin seeps into the church, as well.

We are looking for numbers in the pews rather than disciples in our homes. A warm body does not a disciple make.

Discipleship involves time, and so much of it. Jesus spent everyday teaching his disciples all he knew about the Father. What time are we giving to our own disciples? And if we are not giving them any, then what are we making? Who are we teaching?

Jesus sends his own disciples out on the Great Commission in such a simple, straight-forward way. He basically says, “I want each of you to go and find a group of people. Baptize them. Teach these people all of the things I have taught you and teach them to listen to and actually do what I have said.” But the catch is, if we are to make disciples, how can we do that without a relationship? If Jesus the Son of God required hours and hours of personal time with his own disciples each day, how can we think that simply talking to thousands of people one day a week will have the same effect?

Something tells me it will not.

To make disciples is to create learners who are hungry for the Word of God and who yearn to ponder on His majesty. It is to teach. It is to build daily relationships. It is to show through those relationships the friendship that Jesus extends to us.

We are so excited in our new ministry to continue making disciples here in Ciudad Espana who will then share their hunger and knowledge with others. Our numbers are not nearly as important as our relationships, and we know that. But we are so eager to stoke the fires of those relationships so that they burn for the Lord.

It is a domino effect. It begins with you; it begins with me.

So let’s make disciples. 

 

 

This blog post was originally posted by Jennifer Olsen at http://www.jnolsenhonduras.blogspot.com