Friday, December 15, 2017

when you hear "pick up your cross"...

     Pick up your cross. Jesus said it to his disciples—it’s recorded several times in the Gospel accounts.(Matt 10:38, Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, and also a couple of times in Luke 9:23 and 14:27)
And it’s an ongoing thing: (note the ‘Daily’ that Luke includes.

     “Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Lk 9:23-25 NIV)

     When Jesus talked about picking up the cross, it was in conjunction with several different things: family, life, soul, material wealth.  There is even a subtle warning implicit in these statements: if you’re ashamed of me now, then I (Jesus) just might be ashamed of you later—when it really matters.

     So what does it mean to pick up one’s cross? We hear it all the time—“that’s the cross I have to bear”, “we all have our cross”. But I think that most people, especially in the West, don’t have a good understanding of what Jesus meant. At least when they use the phrase in relation to having to work overtime, or the car battery dying. We tend to include things like not getting along with our co-workers, someone at church, or the in-laws, and sometimes it’s just a bad hair day.
But then we hear the stories. Heartbreaking stories, real people who truly suffer for the sake of Jesus.

     I recently spent 2 weeks in a country several time zones away. While there I had the opportunity to listen to several men and women talk about their faith walks. Some of these people understand what it is to suffer. They tell of going to jail for performing a baptism. And the accusations that led to the jail time sounded like something coming out of Washington D.C.  Others told of being baptized, and then, on their way home, being waylaid and beaten: for the crime of converting to Christianity. Still others, when their family found out about their relationship with Jesus, were order to leave the home, were disinherited, cut out of the will, and left penniless and homeless.

     What would you do in those cases? I like to think I would be able to lift my head high, and carry on; but would I have the strength to do so? Would I change my mind and turn my back on Jesus or would I go back to the safety of what I had always believed.

     And some of my new friends have incredible stories to tell about their lives now. Some are pastors, others are evangelists, many have new found friends, and of course they have an abiding faith in Jesus. Some tell stories of the families who disowned them, years later, coming to a saving faith in Christ themselves.

     And as I listened to the stories, all I could do was praise God. The Lord of all creation is calling people to him, and using them to plant the seeds for others to follow also. And if I'm willing to pick up my cross daily and follow, then I get to be a part of this too.  And so do you.  Pick up that cross today, and everyday, and start following!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

whats it like to walk alongside?

Maybe you’re lucky enough to belong to a multigenerational church. Maybe there was an older person in your life that walked along side of you as you started and then continued on your faith walk—someone who you naturally bonded with, or who was part of the confirmation process, or who got appointed to be there for you in the absence of a strong Christian parent figure.  If you fall into that category, consider yourself lucky, very lucky; and so much luckier than a boatload of children throughout the world.  
Many of these children haven’t been exposed to the Good News of Jesus, and many are street orphans: latchkey on steroids. They have no one, and usually don’t even realize that there is hope for them.  Enter Craig Greenfield.  He’s been living, by choice, in a poor neighborhood of an Asian country. And while there he’s seen a lot of these street orphans, and as often happens, his heart was broken, by the things that break God's heart.
Many of us suffer the pangs of heartbreak and move on to something else. But this time is different. Craig, his wife and a few others set out to make a difference in the life of a child, and suddenly there is a movement.  Craig has co-written, with Andy Gray, a book detailing that movement.  “The Alongsiders Story: Equipping one generation to reach the next (Global Compassion, 2107) releases within the next few days.
I’ve been privileged to see an Advance Reader Copy, and to be able to bring it to your attention.  It’s a short book, less than 150 pages, but the authors pack a lot into those few pages.  They explain the need for someone to go along side some of the children of the world, describe the process that they use, share some of the materials that they use (along with the back story of how the materials came to be). Very importantly, they point out some of the mistakes that were made along the way—that way we don’t have to make the same mistakes) and look at what it takes to get an alongsider movement started in your corner of the world.
And in case your wondering if the process works, all the indicators are that it is very effective. You see this is more than taking a kid to Sunday school, and hoping that the lesson lasts him or her until next Sunday. This is intentional presence in the child’s life. Help with school work, share other bible truths, be a role model, and sometimes be there to walk her to or from school when there are bullies lying in wait.
Testimonies from the children involved suggest that they recognize how their lives are changing for the better as a result of the efforts of their Alongsider, and the Aongsiders themselves know they’re making a difference. Not just in the heart of one child, but in the culture of the whole neighborhood.
Yes, we have similar programs here, but this one is faith based, and what a joy it is to see a difference being made in someone’s eternity.
I was asked to write a review in exchange for getting an ARC,
I highly recommend it for anyone concerned about ways to help fulfill the Great Commission  by reaching children, who will then be able to reach others in their families and neighborhoods.  5/5.

Watch for this book soon! 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

trust and be trustworthy

There is a certain something required to make any relationship work. We all know that; sometimes we know what it is that’s missing, but don’t know how to get there, and sometimes we don’t even know what it is that’s lacking.

Mac Richard, in his book The Trust Protocol: The Key to Building Stronger Families, Teams and Businesses (Baker Books, 2017) suggests that the key ingredient is trust.  Without trust, we stumble through the trials of life, often finding that it’s easier to bail than it is to stay and work on the issues that are causing the problems in the first place.

Mac manages to incorporate any number of personal experiences, ranging from football, to marriage, to parenting, to church, and even a few interviews with some senior military officers. And in doing so he makes a strong case for being willing to do what it takes to earn that trust that all of us are so desperately seeking, and so passionately want others to see in us.

As someone who has struggled with this issue in the past, I think that this book has the potential to awaken an awareness in us: that we have to be trustworthy in all our relationships; and that if we’re not willing to demand that we can trust others than sometimes we might just have to settle for less that we deserve.

I received a copy of this book from BakerBooks in exchange for my review.