As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.
A reading from Paul's epistle to the church at Philippi.
Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I've warned you of them many times; sadly, I'm having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ's Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.
But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.
— Philippians 3:17-21 (MSG)
Paul, writing to the church he helped plant at Philippi, has come to an important point in his life. He has come to the understanding that living as a citizen of “high heaven” isn't an easy thing to do. It is going to require sacrifice.
He offers an admonition to the church. He says to “keep track of those you see running this same course.” In other words, you aren't in this fight alone, nor do you have to be.
We're spending this week in conversations about the majority religion in Central Asia. The person leading our conversations is a believer who was the first in their family to make a decision to follow İsa. As they told their story, they made this comment: “When I came to decide to follow, I thought I was the only person in my country who had made this decision.” (Today in that nation only 2.75% of the population are Jesus Followers. Then it was only a few tenths of a percent.) They continued, “I was so happy to learn that I wasn't the only one.”
Following Jesus is hard. So, Paul admonishes us to find others who are following and join them in the journey.
In other words, community.
Yesterday morning, we heard a report of a person (in the area we are now in) who made a decision over the weekend to become a follower of İsa. Not a decision made lightly. It took many months of conversations–discipling. Yet, after hours of hearing the Gospel, they committed to follow. They laid down their nets, left the fish, left the boats, and followed.
And, here, Paul would say to them, partner with others who follow. And, Paul, would tell us the same thing.
For us, these partners are you who read this blog, those who pray daily for us, and those who give to send us to come to the nations.
It is the team of people who we have working with us here, and the team we'll join in another location at the end of April.
It is you who email, Skype, Facebook, and tweet us encouragement.
It is the individuals who have guest written for us this week, and who will guest write for us in coming weeks–these individuals who we have asked to Pastor (Shepherd) us.
It is those who when Stephanie and I were children poured into us the stories of God's work in the world.
It is MJP and the board of Get The Word Out! who cover us as we go.
So, to each of you, we say thank you. We couldn't do it without you. We wouldn't do it without you.
And, with Paul, we admonish you. Connect. Be community. Be family. Be the Kingdom. Don't do it alone.