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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 — A Challenge to Bless

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 Book of Genesis.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all families of earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him.

Genesis 12:1-4 (ESV)

This is the Word of The Lord.

This is a tough passage for me to write about.  There are so many directions that I want to go, yet knowing that if I go all of them then this blog post would turn into a small book.

I could talk about how Abram is called to go to another country.  How that relates to the call that we have to leave family and home in order to take the message of the gospel of the Kingdom to far-flung corners of the world.  How it is everyone’s responsibility to answer the call to go.

Perhaps, I could draw parallels between Abram taking Lot along with him.  How it was the culturally appropriate thing to do, but really served to weigh Abram down in the process.  When God calls us to go, it often requires us to do things that are out of our cultural comfort zones.  Even though something might be culturally appropriate in our home culture, it might be a weight for us to take with us into another.

I could talk about how in these few verses we are presented with the whole gospel–we are blessed to be a blessing.  The whole of our existing is to be pouring the blessing we have received back out onto those whom we meet.

Yet, what I want to talk about is the idea of blessing.

Blessings are statements that give life and serve to call out of people those gifts and callings that God has given you.  Blessings position the recipient to live out the bottom half–“…to be a blessing”–of the whole gospel.

One of our favorite things that we find in the culture of Central Asia are blessings.  They are deeply imbedded in use language and culture.

For instance, in Turkey (and there are forms of these in other Central Asian cultures) as you are walking along the road and you see someone working, you say, “Kolay Gelsin” which means, “May your work come easy.”

Or, when your served food or drink the server will say “Afiyet Olsun”–equivalent to Bon Appetit–and your reply is “Elinize Sağlık” which means, “Health to your hands.”

When you arrive at someone’s home or place of business they will say, “Hoş Gelmisiniz”–“The blessing has arrived.”  You reply, “Hoş Böldük”–“The blessing is already here.”

It’s a beautiful part of the culture.  It’s one of the places where we see the Kingdom of God in the people and culture.  See, imbedded within each person on the planet are pieces–DNA–of the Kingdom.  All humankind is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  We are the Imago Dei.   As God’s image-bearers, whether we follow God or not, we have pieces of that Kingdom DNA inherent within us.  So, when we go to a new place or meet new people, one of the first things we do is seek out those pieces of the Kingdom that already exist.  These then become the foundations from which the Gospel of the Kingdom can be proclaimed.

The culture of blessing is something that I believe we are lacking in the western church.  We have all but regulated the phrase “Bless you” to a sneeze response instead of a calling out of God’s graces in a person.  It’s time we change that.

I challenge you over this week to bless people.  Bless them to know the Father.  Bless them to know the path to which they are called.  Bless them to have ears to hear His voice.  Bless them to be the person that they are created to be.  Bless them in their coming and going.

When you put your kids to bed, bless them.  Husbands, bless your wives.  Wives, bless your husbands.  Bless your co-workers.  Bless your enemies.  Bless the barista at Starbucks.

Get into a habit of blessing.  Make it a part of your being–after all, you are the Imago Dei (God’s mirror image).  It is in your DNA.  I bless you to be a blesser!

Go deeper than “God bless you.”  Ask God to tell you what He wants to say to that person through you.  And, then, say it.  Speak life over them.  Call them into their God-given destiny–into the person that God created them to be.

Over each of you, I pray the blessing (my paraphrase) that the Levites prayed over the people of Israel and that has been prayed over people for thousands of years (Numbers 6:24-26):

May the LORD bless–impart life to you so that you can walk out your God-given destiny–you.

May the LORD keep–hold you in the palm of His hand surrounding you on all sides: above, below, to the left, to the right, in front and in back–you.

May the LORD turn His face–look at you in the eyes as if you are the only one on the planet–to shine on you.

May the LORD be gracious–kind, full of mercy, abounding in love, and grace (prevenient, justifying, sanctifying) giving–to you.

May the LORD give you peace–not an absence of conflict, but Shalom (nothing missing, nothing broken).

Praying at First Presbyterian in El Paso, Texas.

Praying at First Presbyterian in El Paso, Texas.

#Advent13: An Ancient Path

As we have done in years past, we are again blogging our way through the Advent Lectionary readings.  We love this season as it allows us to take time to slow ourselves down and walk between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is time for us to live in full knowledge of the “Now” of the Kingdom without rushing the “Not Yet” of the Kingdom.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.  Our prayer is that these posts will serve as devotional meditations to focus your heart and mind on the imminent coming of our King!

A reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

The desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands. The desert will sing and shout for joy; it will be as beautiful as the Lebanon Mountains and as fertile as the fields of Carmel and Sharon. Everyone will see the LORD’s splendor, see his greatness and power.

Give strength to the hands that are tired and to knees that tremble with weakness. Tell everyone who is discouraged, “Be strong and don’t be afraid! God is coming to your rescue, coming to punish your enemies.”

The blind will be able to see, and the deaf will hear. The lame will leap and dance, and those who cannot speak will shout for joy. Streams of water will flow through the desert; the burning sand will become a lake, and dry land will be filled with springs. Where jackals used to live, marsh grass and reeds will grow.

There will be a highway there, called “The Road of Holiness.” No sinner will ever travel that road; no fools will mislead those who follow it. No lions will be there; no fierce animals will pass that way. Those whom the LORD has rescued will travel home by that road. They will reach Jerusalem with gladness, singing and shouting for joy. They will be happy forever, forever free from sorrow and grief.

— Isaiah 35:1-10  (GNT)

The Word of God for the people of God.

Isaiah is writing to a people in exile.  These are a people who have been through it—and most of it of their own accord.  They failed to follow God. They were exiled from the land that was promised them—a land that they never fully occupied.  And, now, on the banks of the Euphrates they wonder how to sing the praises of God (Psalm 137).  The Prophet—the same one who told them they were headed for exile—tells them that a road is being paved on which they will head home.

Isaiah’s prophecy doesn’t just hold hope—confident and joyful expectation in God’s goodness—for the Israelites waiting rescue from the grasp of their captors.  It holds hope for us.

As we travel throughout the world and talk to front-line workers, one of the—almost unanimous—prevailing themes that comes out of those discussions is that they are tired.  The are worn out.  The work is hard.  It’s long.  It’s often without immediate fruit.

One of the things that God has challenged us to do in our ministry to the “give strength to the hands that are tired.”  To speak courage to them.  To remind them of Who is on the throne of the Kingdom in which they live.

On more than one occasion as we have sought out the word of the Lord for where we were to go, this passage has been a part of that word.  A reminder of the call with which God has challenged us.  Go.  Give strength.  Speak courage.

And, that’s what we do.  Our “mission” is to speak life.  To impart blessing.  To pray over.  To give courage.

One of the most important things that you can do for us—and for our friends in the nations—is pray that we readily recognize the “Road of Holiness”—the ancient path.

In another of the exile prophecies, Jeremiah (6:16), tells the people to “stand at the crossroads and look.  Ask for the ancient paths and where the best road is.  Walk in it, and you will live in peace.”  Pray that we will always know which is the ancient path. That we may be able to stand alongside the workers in the nations and help them see the ancient path.  That we may strengthen them as they walk along the path.

It is the ancient path that we walk between the first lighting of the Advent Candles and the lighting of the Christ Candle.  It is the ancient path that leads us from the now to the not yet.  It is the ancient path that takes us from our home in Edmond into the nations and back again.  It is the ancient path that leads us all into the nations—be it physically, in prayer, through finance, or inviting the nations to us.

Strengthen the hands that are tired.  Give strength the the legs that are weak.  Speak courage.  Speak blessings—impartations of life that call one into their God-given destiny.

And, in this, we see the Kingdom come.  We see the now move closer to the not yet.  We see God’s desires accomplished in the nations.

An Ancient Road, Perge, Turkey

An Ancient Road, Perge, Turkey

Lent 2013: “God, Do It Again!”

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 the Psalms.

It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God returned Zion's exiles. We laughed, we sang, we couldn't believe our good fortune. We were the talk of the nations—”God was wonderful to them!” God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people.

And now, God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest. So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

— Psalm 126:1-6 (MSG)

God was good to us.

God is good to us.

God will be good to us.

As I write this, it is late evening. The last call to prayer of the day should ring out from the nearby Mosque by the time I'm finishing writing and editing this post. I sit in our team hotel surrounded by my family. Our fantastic teammates are in their rooms scattered throughout the hotel.

We are so honored to be here with these folks. They hail from three countries: the US, Canada, and Australia. They are diverse. They range in ages from fourteen months to seventy. Married couples, families, and singles.

As we worship each morning, I often will look around the room and just be amazed at what God has brought together in this team.

And, in those times of worship and prayer, we pray as the Psalmist did:

“God, do it again—bring rains to our drought-stricken lives. So those who planted their crops in despair will shout hurrahs at the harvest. So those who went off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”

We walk through the streets of this city and see the faces of countless people. People who have quite possibly never heard the name, İsa (Jesus). People who only know God as He is presented in the Qur'an–distant and moody.

Yet, this is the same port from which Paul and Barnabas set sail for Antioch in Acts 14:25. Once upon a time, this was a land that understood who İsa was. It was a land where God was relational.

And, so, we pray: “God, do it again.”

And around this hotel people who answered the call to head into the harvest prepare for bed on a Tuesday evening.

Yet, we are but a few here temporarily. Many others across this nation go to bed tonight in homes they rent or own. In major cities and small villages. They sleep.

Wondering.

Praying.

Hoping.

That tomorrow the people of this rich and beautiful land “will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.”

They pray for breakthrough to come.

So, tonight (today for you reading this) we pray for their strength. We pray for their encouragement. We pray that they will not grow weary in well doing.

And, we pray–as İsa asked us–that “The Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into His harvest.”

Praying for one of the laborers in the harvest.

Praying for one of the laborers in the harvest.

 

Journey With Us

Yesterday, we received good news from distant lands.

Our VISA applications for an upcoming trip had been approved!!

I never knew how crazy and nerve-wracking the process of applying to visit another nation could be.

Follow the steps.

Read, re-read, re-re-read every single line of both the instructions and the applications.

Check, double-check, triple-check every page.

Make sure every single ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed.

Attach a credit card number.

Pray.

Overnight all the forms and your passport.

Pray again.

Wait.

Approved VISAs

Approved VISAs

After all that, they tell you it will take ten business days. Then, unexpectedly, you receive your applications back. Four days.

Now, it’s not always–or even often–like that. Most of the time it takes the ten business days–or longer.

I don’t know if the quick turn-around was God’s hand, a lack of VISA applications to this particular nation, plain old hard-working people who really want you to visit their nation, or some combination of the three, but I know it happened and I thank God for His hand in the process.

So, what now?

Following the Christmas Holiday, we will embark on a 3,000 mile tour of the southwest of the US. We’ll visit churches in Colorado and Texas, as well as friends (both new and old) and family in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Arkansas.

We return to Edmond on January 20.

Then, just 10 short days later, we will board a plane bound for a six-month stay in Central Asia. During our six-month stay, we will be primarily in two countries (we might jaunt over to a third country somewhere in the midst of that time) in our six-month (evenly divided largely due to VISA restrictions).

Our first three months will be a combination of further schooling and times of outreach. We will be attending a twelve-week school to help us further understand what life is like “on the field” full-time. This will aid us in working with front-line workers by helping us to understand the realities of “their world.”

In the second half of our trip (the half for which these particular VISAs were needed), we will be focusing on teaming up with some front-line workers who are helping the indigenous church (in both this country and others) to create wholly indigenous expressions of worship.

Throughout the six-months, we will talk with numerous believers (most of whom will be first-generation believers) and hear their stories of redemption. And in keeping with the cultural norms of Central Asia, we will drink copious amounts of tea and eat incredible amounts of Pide and Döner.

Upon our return home in July, we will hit the road again on an estimated 5,000 mile tour of the US telling stories of God’s great works in the nations!

Here’s where you come in.

Our work–taking the Gospel to the least reached–is done on a completely volunteer basis. We do not receive a salary for our work. Thus, we are completely dependent on the faithfulness of God–expressed through His people–to meet our living and travel expenses.

In other words, we need your help. We need you on this journey with us.

Our total expenses for the next six months are roughly $3,000 per month. This covers all of our travel expenses, living expenses (places to stay/food to eat), in-country transportation, insurance, VISAs, etc.

There’s a couple of ways that you can help. First, you could make a tax-deductible, one-time donation. If you’d like to do that, then click here to be taken to our “Partner With Us” page.

The second way is to become one of our ENGAGING THE SPHERES partners. You can get more information by following one of the below links:

Finally, above all, we appreciate your prayers for us as we go.

Thank you for prayerfully considering partnering with us on this journey! We are grateful for you!!

 

Advent 2012: Preparing the Path: The End

As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emmanuel.

A reading from the Gospel of Luke

“It will seem like hell has broken loose–sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.

“And then–then!–they’ll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style–a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”

He told them a story. “Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter. When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. The same here–when you see these things start to happen, you know God’s kingdom is about here. Don’t brush this off: I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too–these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.

“But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly me a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.”

— Luke 21:25-36 (The Message)

THE END IS NEAR!

There. I said it.

Yet, before we go getting all Doomsday Prepper about it, let’s talk for a second about what that statement should and should not mean.

Should it mean to be ready? Yes. Should it mean to prepare your heart and spirit? Yes. Should it mean to stop everything you’re doing and hide out in a “spidey-hole”? No.

The end is near. Yet, here’s the question: If Jesus stood in front of you right now and said, “I’m not coming back for about 10,000 years” would it change how you live your life?

Preparing the Path is more than just getting ready for Christmastide. It’s about getting ready for Kingdomtide. It’s about getting your heart ready for the King.

It’s about getting the world ready for the King.

The. Whole. World. All of it. Every tribe. Every tongue. Every ethnos.

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ dialogue about the end times, he records Jesus making this statement: “When the good news about the Kingdom has been preached all over the world [to every ethnos] and told to all nations, the end will come.” (Matthey 24:14 (CEV))

And, so, just as it was two thousand years ago, the end is near. And billions have yet to have opportunity to hear the “good news about the Kingdom”.

Back during the summer, Stephanie was talking to a young lady in one of the largest cities in the world. This young lady was experience a time of sorrow at the illness of a grandparent. Stephanie asked if she could pray for her in the name of Jesus. The young lady–who’s on Facebook even–has no idea who Jesus was. It is estimated that 90% of the 80 million people who live in the same nation as this young lady are in the same category–they’ve never had an opportunity to hear the name of Jesus, much less the good news of the Kingdom.

And, so, we continue to work. We continue to travel and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. We continue to support those who live “on the field.” We continue to stand on hillsides overlooking cities and asking that The Lord of the harvest would send workers into the fields (Matthew 9:38/Luke 10:2).

Prepare the Path for the Kingdom to come. Take the good news of the Kingdom everywhere you go.

Overlooking a valley in Central Asia

Overlooking a valley in Central Asia

 

Engaging The Spheres: Arts/Entertainment and Media

For background on the ENGAGING THE SPHERES campaign, please review our earlier post: Engaging The Spheres: Overview.

On Tuesday, we presented a way for the Family to be engaged through prayer and finance with our family in the work of fulfilling the Great Commission.  Wednesday, we showed how Churches and Businesses can be involved.  Yesterday, we talked about the Education and Government sectors. Today, we turn our attention to Arts/Entertainment and Media.

Arts/Entertainment

Intercession

One of the things that God has placed on Stephanie’s heart is to help the indigenous church connect the Word in their heart language with the artistic expression that is at the core of their culture.  In other words, redeeming the culture and turning it into an expression of worship to the Creator.  From a prayer perspective, we are looking for three songwriters, worship leaders or worship teams, who would be a “prayer SWAT Team” for Stephanie.  This team would be “on-call”.  We would send you a schedule of when Stephanie was going to be leading worship, teaching on worship, or recording worship music/expressions, and ask you for specific prayers for those times.

Financial

Financially this area has a couple of dimensions.

Stephanie leading worship in Central Asia

Stephanie leading worship in Central Asia

First, Stephanie has written a number of worship songs.  We would like to get into the studio and cut at least one (maybe two) albums of Stephanie’s own “indigenous” worship.  At present there are 21 songs that she has written.  We are looking for 20 people who will sponsor 1 recorded track at $100.

Second, we want to purchase equipment which will allow us to do professional recordings in live indigenous settings.  We have the technological backbone we need, yet we need sound equipment.  We have found an ALESIS set-up that will work with the iPad and allow us to record up-to 4-tracks in real-time.  This set-up will be about $550.

The beauty of this is that we will be able to provide to you recordings of indigenous worship from around the world!

Media

Intercession

One of my big desires is to write a book.  What I envision this to be is a combination of Scripture, prayer, and stories from around the world of how God is changing live, communities, and nations.  We also want to publish some of these stories here on the blog, and use video/audio where appropriate and safe.  We would like to find three people who are published authors who would be willing to pray specifically for relationships with indigenous believers who would be willing to be interviewed and have their stories safely told.

Financial

As with the Arts/Entertainment financial needs, we have a financial need to make this all work.  We need to be able to record the conversations that we have with people (obviously with their permission) so that we capture their story.  We would then use that audio/video to put podcasts together, presentations, and serve as source material for blogs and books.  This equipment is a microphone/app set-up that costs about $250.

Finally, we would  like to purchase a projector that we can carry with us everywhere.  The particular projector is a 3M ultra-portable and runs (with the connection kit) about $325.

How to say “Yes”

If you would like to be involved with the aforementioned items, then here’s how to say “Yes.”

If you are a songwriter, worship leader, or member of a worship team, or you are an author and would like to commit to interceding for us, then you can email us at prayer@ledbytheword.com.  We will make sure we add you to our prayer alert and will keep you up-to-date with our schedule.

If you would like to sponsor a track for recording, or would like to help us purchase equipment, then simply email us at giving@ledbytheword.com.

Engaging The Spheres: Churches and Business

For background on the ENGAGING THE SPHERES campaign, please review our earlier post: Engaging The Spheres: Overview.

Yesterday, we presented a way for the Family to be engaged through prayer and finance with our family in the work of fulfilling the Great Commission.  Today, we want to share the vision for churches and businesses.

Churches

Finance

We are looking for five churches who will partner with us at $250 per month and 5 churches who will partner with us at $100 per month.  These church partners can be congregations or small groups within congregations (life groups, cell groups, prayer groups, men’s groups, women’s groups, etc).

Intercession

From a prayer perspective, we will provide regular updates (video and/or text) to keep you up-to-date on what we are doing, where we are, etc.  Additionally, we will be conducting a tour around the US in the fall of 2013.  During this tour, we will schedule to be with your church or group and share with you–in person–what God is doing around the globe.

Additionally, if you have (or are involved in) a group focused on praying for the nations, praying for missionaries, or studying Operation World, then we want to talk with you.  We would love to provide you information from around the world with how you can be praying for the work going on.

Praying with a small business owner in Central Asia

Praying with a small business owner in Central Asia

Businesses

Intercession

We are looking for a group of business-people (like an FCCI group) who will commit to praying for us as a group in each of their meetings.  We will provide you with regular updates and prayer needs.  During our fall 2013 tour, we will schedule a time to be with you face-to-face and share with you how your prayers are impacting businesses and communities around the world for the Kingdom.

Finance

We believe that businesses are ordained by God to be lights within their community and beyond.  We cannot achieve the commission of Christ to take the Gospel into all of the world without business.  It’s critical both as a means to serve, and to support those who serve.  All are called.

Part of the ministry that God has called us to is to support work in areas that pastors and traditional missionaries cannot get in.  So, business people are going and establishing businesses.  They are hiring people.  They are running ethical, legal businesses for the purpose of profit.  Yet, they are furthering the kingdom as they run their business.  God has called us to come alongside these businesspeople and support them in prayer, counsel, and finance.

To that end, we are seeking three businesses who are willing to take 2% of the monthly gross profit from their business and use it to partner with us to achieve the objective to which God has called all of us.

How to say “Yes”

If your church or business is one of the ones that God is asking to join us, then here’s how you say “Yes.”

To commit to praying for our family email us at prayer@ledbytheword.com.  We will make sure we add you to our prayer alert and will keep you up-to-date with our schedule.

To join us financially, then simply email us at giving@ledbytheword.com.  If you are a church or church group, then please let us know the amount to which you are committing monthly.  If you are a business, then give us a rough idea of how much you would be committing monthly.

Engaging The Spheres: Family

For background on the ENGAGING THE SPHERES campaign, please review our earlier post: Engaging The Spheres: Overview.

The first of the seven spheres we’d like to engage is Family.  We believe that when God calls us to do something, He calls the entire family.  That’s the reason that Emily and Caleb are a part of this work that we do around the world.  God has called the entire family.

Our family inside the AyaSofya

Our family inside the AyaSofya

We also believe that when God calls us to provide prayer or financial support to a church, missionary, missions agency, or another place, He calls our entire family to be a part of that work.  Each of us are responsible to pray, raise funds, etc. for that call.

With that in mind, and understanding that at the center of the Seven Spheres of Influence is Family, we would like to ask your family to be a part of our work.

Intercession

We are building an intercession team for our family.  Each of us are finding five individuals that will cover us in prayer on a daily basis.  Stephanie and I are identifying five married couples to cover our marriage in prayer.  We are also looking for five families who will commit that they will cover our family in prayer.

We will support you in this commitment, by adding you to a regular prayer alert that will come in your email box.  This email will highlight the areas in which we individually need prayer, and in which we need prayer as a family.  All we ask is that each day (meal time, bed time, on the way to school, etc) you spend a few minutes praying–as a family–for our family.   If God gives you a word, verse, picture, image, feeling, etc. during that time of prayer, let us know.  It’s really that simple.  We give you specific prayer needs, and you cover us in prayer.

We should also say that this is reciprocal.  You will be prayed for by our family.  So bubble your prayer concerns back to us.

Financial

We are also looking for at least five families who will commit to supporting us financially.  Yet, we don’t want this to just be that Mom and Dad write a check each month.  We want your whole family engaged!

So, here’s what we would like to see.  Each person in the family is responsible for raising $10 each month.  For the kids, this could look like doing chores for mom and dad, raking the neighbors yard, etc.  For a family of 4, you would send a donation each month of $40.  Each member of the family will be contributing $10 each month.

How to say “Yes”

If your family is one of the families that God is asking to join us, then here’s how you say “Yes.”

To become a family committed to praying for our family email us at prayer@ledbytheword.com.  We will make sure we add you to our prayer alert and will keep you up-to-date with our schedule.

If your family would like to join us financially, then simply email us at giving@ledbytheword.com.  As a means of making sure our contact information is up-to-date, let us know the names, ages, and birthdates of each of your family members.  Unless you state otherwise, we will assume that you intend to commit to $10 per month per family member.  If you want or need to do more or less, then let us know what that amount will be so we can budget accordingly.

One last thing.  If you are not married, or you are and don’t have kids (or they’ve flown the nest), then you can still be a part of this.  Same rules apply!  We’d love to have you be a part of our ministry.