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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Church in the World Today

A church member asks, “How can I minister, even in my own little world, when it has pretty much become to me a foreign land?” It’s no longer the world I grew up in.

A Lucas County youth pastor is telling me that one of the small group leaders in his ministry community (a woman) has a number of young girls in her group struggling with serious eating disorders.
- Not the world I grew up in.

He talks about cutting - young men and women seemingly addicted to cutting themselves, and if not addicted, at least using cutting as a way to temporarily drive away the greater and more horrible inner pain they face daily.
- Not the world I grew up in.

Here are some questions parents asked online.

1. In a time of overbearing parenting and institutionalized narcissism, how can I cultivate caring in my children?
2. Sometimes my husband will say – we need to toughen these kids up; they have to live in a tough world. How do we balance teaching them kindness/gentleness vs being tough?
3. Growing up in an alcoholic family, and with anxiety as an adult, how does one manage anxiety with parenting?
4. Can you help me with spiritual principles for my 6-year old? She asks many questions about God and I don’t know how to discuss spirituality with her.

What a challenge for today’s church.

Where in your faith community can youth and parents like these turn for help? Can they turn to you? to your church? In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus called the 12 disciples and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and every sickness.

From the beginning, ministry in Jesus’ name was the work of the church. Another Matthew, Matthew West, has a contemporary song about living in, and then breaking out of, “My Own Little World.” The chorus of that song asks

“What if there is a bigger picture, What if I’m missing out,
What if there’s a greater purpose,
I could be living right now
Outside of my own little world?”

From St. Matthew to Matthew West, Jesus is the same.
The church gathers in his Name for worship.
That’s good! --- good for one’s soul.
The church disperses in his Name for ministry.
That’s also good! --- good for the world.
He is the Son of God. All power and authority are his. He calls. He sends. He disperses his followers to minister, even among wolves, with these words, “Do not worry about what you are going to say [or do] or how you will say it [or do it]. When the time comes, you will be given what you will say. For the words you will speak will not be yours; they will come from the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

- Not the world you grew up in?
- For sure!

But it is still God’s world. And it is still the world into which the church is sent. From the beginning, ministry in Jesus’ Name was the work of the church. It still is.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The JESUS Film - Overcoming the Darkness

In March and April we want everyone to have the opportunity to view The JESUS Film. We will be showing it in the churches, around town, anywhere we can. We have DVD and VCR copies to loan. VHS and DVD copies are available at the Humeston Library if you are unable to attain a copy at the church. The film can also be seen on your computer right here in over 100 languages (English, Spanish, or whatever).

I recently read an article in a devotional booklet about Candra and John Penny’ mission venture in Benin. The mission was called Benin Beginnings and was a JESUS Film mission trip.

They wrote, “Imagine visiting a remote nomadic West African village, sitting with a king, visiting the Voodoo center, and being confined inside after 10:00 pm because of the Voodoo worship ceremony going on outside.”

I said, “Oh yes, I can imagine.” I had an experience so like that in 1995 while ministering in Ghana, except it was a Voodoo tree upon which spells had been cast and which, reportedly, had the power to harm and kill. It was a frightening place. I could feel the evil.

Benin is an impoverished West African nation where hundreds of years ago its inhabitants were marched down dusty paths to the ocean where they were loaded on to slave ships bound for the Caribbean and the United States. Benin has many village languages and nomadic tribal groups.

Candra and John were visiting the Fulbe people, showing the film over and over in several different local languages. They and their team saw 19 new house churches started. Literally thousands of people in central Benin came to pray, to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy, and to open their hearts to follow Jesus.

What a miracle.

Pray for such a miracle in South Central Iowa these next two months, the miracle of Jesus overcoming whatever darkness is destroying people’s lives. Pray for God to use you in accomplishing this miracle.