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Advent14 — The Waiting Begins

Yesterday, in churches and homes all over the globe, a candle was lit. The first of four. The beginning of a new year in the church calendar. The beginning of Advent.

Advent. A word that simply means coming. A word that is packed full of meaning and is wrapped up in hope, joy, peace, and love. A word that brings us to that place between knowing that the Messiah has come and waiting for the Messiah to come.

It is that brief period of the church calendar where we position ourselves with an oppressed people longing for rescue. We–purposely–find ourselves between Malachi and Matthew. Wondering if things will ever be better. Knowing that for centuries “better” has been prophectically pronounced.

The King is coming!

Prophets of old have told us. Our parents have passed it on to us. The King. He is indeed coming.

At any moment now.

And, yet.

We’re a captive people. Captive in our own land. Captive in our own homes. Captive in a world that couldn’t care less that we stand in anticipation of rescue. In fact, we are captive in a world that mocks our anticipation.

And, we wait.

The Prophets once told us that this King would be called Immanuel.

Immanuel. God with us.

And, yet, we wonder if God could ever be with us. How, into this mess of a world, could God come?

Death. Some of it to disease or accident. Some at the hands of another.

Illness. Some curable. Some not.

War. Some in the name of money or resource. Some in the name of the very God we hope will come near. Some of it even considered just and right.

Hunger. Some due to famine. Some due to stinginess of those who have more than enough. Some due to neglect.

And, into this world, we wonder how God could come. And, yet, He does.

We learned over the weekend that a group of gunmen stormed a residence in Central Asian nation and opened fire on three South Africans who were there to help provide education to the children of the nation. A father and two teenaged children gunned down, and then the house burned. The mother, a doctor, was at the hospital bringing healing to the hurting–some of whom may even have been in support of the gunmen. For Warner, Jean-Pierre, and Rode, they rest tonight in the arms of loving–and near–God. For Hannelle, questions and fear and no rest. Yet, still in the arms of a loving–and near–God.

Three lives given–given so that others–strangers–might have an opportunity to a life of fullness.

One life remaining–longing for God to come near.

It is there in the tension that we long for the Messiah. We yearn for the Kingdom where lion and lamb will lie side-by-side. We hope for the place where weapons of death–guns, and knives, and drones, and tanks, and missles, and planes–are beaten into things that bring life–plows, and shovels, and hoes, and rakes.

And, we wait for God to come near.

We’re hearing confirmation of the rumors that the World Food Progamme lacks the $60+million dollars necessary to continue to provide aid for refugees who have fled the conflict in Iraq and Syria. And, so, more than one-and-a-half million people are forced to wonder from where they will receive bread and milk. Hundreds of thousands of children sit on the brink of starvation. Rumor has it that it’s not just this United Nations program that is lacking funding, but it is also many Non-Governmental Agencies–some even faith-based–that lack funding.

We are also aware that some of the food, coal, blankets, tents, clothes that should have found it’s way to these displaced peoples didn’t. Whether stolen, sold, or otherwise, the situation is dire.

And, we wait for God to come near.

And, God does indeed come near.

He comes near in the birth of a baby. In the unlikliest of places. To the unlikliest of parents. Immanuel. God with us.

And, God does indeed come near.

At the hands of everyone who has answered the call to give more than they keep. The call to go where no one else will. The call to love the unloved–and the unloveable. The call to feed the hungry. The call to clothe the naked. In every answered call, God comes near.

And, God calls us to come near, and to be near. To be near the wife and mother who mourn. And, also, to be near the gunmen and their families. To be near the millions who are without a home or a country or a meal. And, also, to be near to those who have driven them from their homes and countries and meals.

Advent.

So, yesterday, we lit a candle. A flicker of light in the darkness. A candle that will be joined by another and another and another. And, then, by the candle of the Christ-child. And, then, by your candle–and mine.

Until, the room grows bright, and we are pushed out into the world to proclaim that the King has come. And, when the King comes, so does the Kingdom.

#Lent14 — Let’s Get Creative

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts. In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom. We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from First Samuel.

Now the LORD said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”“Take a heifer with you,” the LORD replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the LORD. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”So Samuel did as the LORD instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”“Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.When they arrived, “Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the LORD’s anointed!”In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen any of these.” Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out int he fields watching the sheep and the goats.”“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.And the LORD said, “This is the one; anoint him.”– 1 Samuel 16:1-6, 10-12 (NLT)

This is the Word of The Lord.

Last week, we introduced you to the 10/40 Window. That swath of the world that sits between 10° and 40° north of the Equator and spans from the east coast of Japan to the west coast of Africa. It’s the part of the world that is home to every major monotheistic religion. 85% of the poorest of the world’s poor live there as well.

It is also home to 47 out of 50 of the nations on the 2014 World Watchlist. These are the nations where the persecution of Christians is the highest. They are also the nations where it is the most difficult to be a missionary. These are countries with no religious VISAs. You can’t go in and say, “Hello, I’m here to be a missionary.”

Yet, God calls us to go to ALL THE WORLD. Even the hard part. Even the dangerous part. Even the part that is controlled by powers hostile to Christianity. God calls us to the WHOLE WORLD.

For many years in missions circles these nations were referred to as “closed nations.” Yet, God, in His wisdom and grace, has given those whom He has called to these nations “creative” ways to go. Therefore, we now call these places “creative access nations.”

In our Scripture passage, Samuel is given a pretty frightening call. He’s told to go to a city called Bethlehem and find a new king. This is problematic for Samuel. He’s already anointed a king. His name is Saul and he’s still living and reigning. To go and anoint a new king at this time is tantamount to treason.

Samuel points this out to God.

Notice God’s response. It wasn’t to change the mission. Samuel was still to go and anoint a new king. Rather, God gave Samuel a creative way to go to Bethlehem and accomplish the mission.

Creative access.

God uses this same technique today. Every nation on the planet has specific needs that can be met by God’s people. When God calls a worker to a nation, He will give a means to go. He will give creative dreams, plans, visions, and ideas to get into (and stay in) that particular nation. Some examples of the creative means of going are: tourism, photography, business, teaching English as a second language, and attending university.

Workers in creative access nations don’t merely use these means as “cover” for the real work. These means are the real work. During the course of their work, they encounter people who are hungry to know about Jesus. They live out their lives as Ambassadors of the Kingdom, and in their faithful representation of the Kingdom they bring light into the darkness. They proclaim the beauty of Jesus in the messiness of the world around them.

They proclaim that a new King is coming. Just as Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to proclaim. These workers go to where they aren’t wanted. They go to where danger exists. Yet, the do so because they’ve captured the heart of God for those nations.

For our family, the workers in these nations have captured our hearts and minds. God has called us to come alongside them to bring them life and hope and rest. He has also called us to make the church aware of the work that they do in these nations. He calls us to share with the church what He is doing around the globe—even in those places least reached by the gospel.

Would you consider partnering with us in this call? Here’s a couple of ideas of how you can do so:

Pray for us.

There is no way we could do the work that God has called us to do without your prayers. If you’d like to receive a prayer card to remind you to pray for us, email us at prayer@ledbytheword.com with your name and address and we’ll send one over.

Support us financially.

The work we do is expensive. We are currently booking travel for the Summer of 2014 that will take us points within the US, Central America and Northern Europe (budgeted at $6,000). If you would like to help us met this need, then click here to be taken to Get The Word Out! (they handle all our financial stuff) donation page. Be sure to select “Michael and Stephanie” from the drop-down. Or, you can mail a check or money order made out to GET THE WORD OUT! (due to IRS regulations, we ask that you include a note in the envelope designating the funds for Led By The Word or Michael and Stephanie) and mail it to:

Get The Word Out!PMB 3211610 Pace Street, Unit 900Longmont, CO 80501

Invite us to speak.

We love to talk about our friends around the world. We love to share what God is doing around the world. We would love to come and visit with you, your church, school, small group, camp, training school or conference. We love to talk about missions, prayer, Islam and worldview. Reach out to us at admin@ledbytheword.com and let’s schedule a time!

Caleb on the way to Central Asia

Caleb on the way to Central Asia

 

#Lent14 — 10/40

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Gospel According to John.

Jesus said:

My food is to do what God wants!  He is the one who sent me, and I must finish the work that he gave me to do.  You may say that there are still four months until harvest time.  But I tell you to look, and you will see that the fields are ripe and ready to harvest.

John 4:34-35 (CEV)

This is the Word of The Lord.

Today, I want to introduce you to a part of the world we love.  It’s the part of the world that has captured our imagination and dreams.  It’s a part of the world that we know is heavy on God’s heart, and, unfortunately, is not always so heavy on the hearts of His followers.  It’s the part of the world that we call the 10/40 Window.

Instead of adding more words to those that have already been written about this part of the world, we thought we’d share with you a couple of videos and urge you to allow them to spark your prayers for this part of the world.

First, a video shared by our friends at Within Reach Global:

Second, a video from our fiends at Rise Campaign:

Finally, our own video from the time we spent in Azerbaijan last year:

Our prayer is that these videos have given you a larger view of the 10/40 Window and the unreached peoples of the world.  That they have sparked your prayers.

If you would like to help us reach this amazing part of the world, then we’d love to have you partner with us.  You can visit our PARTNER WITH US page, or click HERE to be taken to Get The Word Out! which handles our financial support.

10/40 Window (Photo from Apple Maps)

10/40 Window (Photo from Apple Maps)