Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Ricky, the Hunter of Wild Pigs

  • I read a refreshing Facebook post from my friend Stuart Green and it said -  "Follow Me, and I will make you" - successful? comfortable? happy? free? a bible scholar? a preacher? nope - "fishers of men".  That is what Jesus said, huh?  Let's work with it a bit. Jesus said many many times for his disciples to follow him, here are some familiar ones...

    Matt 8:22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me , and let the dead bury their own dead."  

    Matt 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me

    Matt 19:21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me ." 

    John 12:26  If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me ; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.  

    We've worked these verses over in Sunday School and have decided that basically what it means to follow Jesus is to live a good Christian life. But if Jesus is the master and we are the followers (the disciples) shouldn't Jesus decided what He makes us in to? And Jesus says that what He makes of His followers is fishers of men. So what exactly is that?  

    I've got a friend name Ricky. He is a "hunter of wild pigs". He knows where the pigs are, he knows how to catch them, and he catches them all the time.  He even will take you out to catch 'em  if you don't know how.  It's like that being a fisher of men. You know where they are, you know how to catch them and do it all the time. And you will even take your friend out if they don't know how. 

    Being a missionary where you are is simply being a fisher of men. It is simply looking out for people who need Jesus. It is being aware of the Jesus moment in every life, everywhere, all the time. It  is being ready at all times to give an answer for the hope that is within you.  And you say, "O man that is scary and hard" or  "that's for somebody else, not me".  

    Nope, for each of you who are following Him, that's who He is making you into.  

    How's He doing? 


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Father forgive them, but don't tell me they didnt know what they were doing

Jesus is heading up Calvary’s hill, beat half to death, bloody, weakened and he reaches the top only to be laid down and nailed to the cross and then raised high and dropped with a thud in the hole prepared for his tree. And then it happened, he saw them in full view. The ones who screamed for his death. The ones who had been purposely plotting since he raised Lazarus to put him away, for good. They had managed in a short few days to turn public opinion so vehemently against him that the same people who earlier in the week had thought he was come to be their King were screaming in unison for his head.

But here's what trips me up. When Jesus looked full in their rage filled faces he said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. Really?! They had been plotting, even with the devil himself getting involved,  really?! They “know not what they do”? Not so fast Jesus, don't you dare let them off the hook like that. They knew exactly what they were doing. And they don't deserve to be forgiven at all. They deserve death not some pass like they didn’t know what was up.

But Jesus was right about them. He always is. Did you ever think about what he was saying.  The Bible reminds us “we don't wrestle against flesh and blood”, there is something else going on, something spiritual, something other than, bigger than just what you and I are seeing. The Bible tells us when we show people the truth we are setting the captive free. The devil has taken them captive to do his will.

Listen dear friends who were abused as a child or date raped or who got addicted to a drug or lost in a physical affair with someone else's spouse.  Is it possible that the devil was using you to steal, kill and destroy you, to wreak havoc on your family, to destroy generations to come? 

We see people day after day that in their innocence the devil used an uncle or neighbor to destroy their soul and when they finally face this deep wound they almost cannot forgive.  Are you kidding me!? Let him off the hook? He ruined thirty years of my life?!

Friend, if you can hear the words of Jesus today and realize that they were used by Satan to destroy you, that they were blind and dead and wicked and yes, RESPONSIBLE  but could it be that we could see it from Jesus’ perspective...

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Help us Lord, help us see.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Homework helps the home work

Crosswind is a part of a group of organizations and ministries that help kids through school.  Our "Homework Club" is a service to children in the neighborhood that don't go to other programs (notably the Lighthouse, Boy's and Girls Club, Project Attention or the State after-school programs). With the help of the apartment owners (who have donated space for this ministry) and volunteers from the community, Crosswind helps children get their homework done. Also, we (with the parents permission) have access to their grades on-line, can follow their progress and be advocates with the parents for the children's success.

One of the side benefits of "Homework Club" is the relationships that are developed between the families and the volunteers.  The structured environment of State School is relaxed and this environment is more like home, in an apartment right next door to home.  And while the kids have to be respectful among other things in school, in a more relaxed atmosphere we help the children to see that these values are good for life, not just school. These values move over into home life and to catch our phrase make the 'home work'.

Additionally and most importantly, the spiritual development that cannot take place in a secular setting takes place at "Homework Club" as we care for the whole person especially the most important part, the only part that lives forever, the heart and soul.

Please take 2 minutes to get a glimpse of Homework that makes the home work.

Monday, February 18, 2013

I've got a friend I'd like you to meet

Crosswind helps folks... and in doing so we quickly learned that we didn't have all they needed.  We weren't lawyers, mental health professionals, policeman, parole officers, or bill collectors; we didn't have much money, we aren't an employment agency, we don't administer food stamps, and on and on. What we quickly realized is that we needed the community's help.  We needed relationships with people who run programs that will help us help others.  Much of our work is simply introducing people in need to people like you who can help them. "I've got a friend I'd like you to meet, maybe they can help you" is what we find ourselves saying more times than not.

More and more in my life as a believer I am finding this same principle to be true.  People want counsel or teaching or wisdom and I realize increasingly that I don't have what they need. Even being a good friend or a good husband or a dad, I just don't have the resources that the people I love need.  But, as with the practical resources above, I find myself saying over and again,  "I've got a friend I'd like you to meet, maybe they can help you". That friend's name is Jesus. He has everything I need, He is everything I need. What if being a missionary is nothing more than introducing our friends to THE friend? Isn't that what Jesus said when He commissioned us to "make disciples"? Go and tell people about a Friend who has all they need.

Gentry Parker is bringing a local missions conference to town on Friday, March the 1st.  It's free to any who attend. Come as long as you like, leave whenever you like. She is hosting it at Crosswind's ministry center here at 703 Tate. There will be a live feed with some of the most sought out speakers in the country like Francis Chan and David Platt as well as some of the best local missions practitioners and minds in the country like John Perkins, Jeff Vanderstelt and Alan Hirsch. It is for God's people who want to grow in what it means to be a missionary in their own town. It  is about how to make disciples of Jesus out of friends who need Jesus. It is for you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Silver and Gold Have I None

You know the story, Peter and John meet this crippled guy asking for money at the Temple gate. They say to him, "Silver and gold have I none but such as I have I give to you, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth  rise up and walk."

There is a real problem in helping folks.  Many Christians want to help but don't know how.  Somebody asks for money but you're afraid they're gonna use the money for the wrong things and if they do, you haven't helped. So, over time we just don't do anything 'cause we don't know what to do.

Peter and John solved the problem without using money. They got the guy back on his feet! By getting him on his feet he didn't need to beg anymore because he could work.  There is a great lesson in helping people in this passage and it is the core value of our FAITH housing ministry (link).  Get people back on their feet.

Family after family come to us asking for silver and gold. What we do instead (in the name of Jesus) is get them back on their feet.  And yes, that does take silver and gold and checks and money orders. But by helping people get back on their feet, we take them out of begging for silver and gold all the time to where they can stand on their own, now not needing the financial assistance.

When someone comes to you asking for money, ask God to help you to see how to get them back on their feet.  In the last two years we have helped over 25 families who came to us having just lost their jobs and homes, many deep in debt with fines and past bills, having lost much including hope.  They thought that the quick relief of the most pressing bill at the time was the answer.  Instead, over time (usually not as long as they think), we get their feet back underneath them.

Once stabilized, they pay their own bills, with their heads held high not their hands held out. And they address some core issues, mostly spiritual, that really do put them on the Solid Ground who is our Lord Jesus.  Friends, our Lord stands ready to strengthen the weak. Many times we leave them weak by giving them something that Bandaids a problem rather than solves it.

Christian, you CAN help. Get 'em back on their feet.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Your Client Isn't You

We constantly ask ourselves a simple question at Crosswind, "Are we turning inward?"  Another way to state it is this, "Are we spending all of our time and talent and treasure on us?"  Have we become our own client?

It's budget time. There's no clearer check on whether 'we are who we say we are' than to look at our budget.
  • How much did we spend on us?  How much did we spend on them?  
  • How much of our staff did we hire for us? How many for them?
  • How many of our programs are for us? How many for them?
  • How many of our Bible classes are for us? How many for them?
It's really simple. We have made a commitment for our client to be our broken neighbor and not to become ourselves. To that end we budget, hire, plan and organize.  

When I was a traditional church pastor we hired music guys, for us. We hired youth guys, for our youth. We hired program coordinators, to design programs for us. We enlisted volunteers from us and for us. We enlisted Bible teachers for us and our kids. We used almost all our money on us, almost all our volunteers on us and almost all our talents on us. 

"I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls" - Paul, 2 Cor 12:15

The Crosswind model (some call a missional model) is to spend ourselves and be spent for others and not just for us.  We surely take care of each other. We have a portion of our budget and staff and volunteer time and programs for us. We love each other and want to ensure each other is healthy and whole. But most of all the above goes to them.

Practically it goes like this: Last month we had "dinner on the grounds" twice, but it was their grounds, in their parking lot, by us for them.  We have children's ministry every week, but it's for their children, by us for them. We hired four of the six of our staff... you get it, for them.  Four of our staff have nothing to do with caring for the saints in the fellowship, their entire job is to care for the broken neighbor.  

It simple, we believe Jesus meant it when he said " leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it..."  Sometimes we feel that whole wilderness thing too.  I had a dear pastor friend ask me one time if I wasn't neglecting the sheep, "Neglect them? Jesus said leave them in the wilderness! I don't think we're doing that yet." Ha!  Really though, our families have sacrificed some of the cool programs and things that others spend time, talent and treasure on. But it's because we believe God has called us to them, not us.

It's budget time, time to see if we're still on track. Time to check and see who our client is.

And it better not be us.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You've Gotta be Present to Win

Recently we had scheduled some time to engage with our friends in the community and I became aware of a schedule conflict with a very important forum in our area that I really 'needed' and definitely wanted to attend.  I decided to hang out in the neighborhood instead and as I sent my regrets I heard myself say regarding our community time "you've gotta be present to win." I at once thought it was a clever slip of the tongue but in hindsight it was really a cool way to say a life-changing truth that we have learned here at Crosswind.

There's a lot of things you can do 'long distance'. Very good things. Very needed things. You can donate to your favorite charities and :-) please do here. You can do meaningful 'need oriented' events (the recent health fair is one that comes to mind),  'special treat type' events (this time of year especially), attend and contribute to fundraisers, support your local civic clubs which in turn do periodic events and raise money for other charities/ministries and much much more.  All of these activities combine to bring blessing after blessing to those in need and to those who care for them. That we are thankful is an understatement.

But when you're present, you can

...make a new friend.
...understand the plight of someone who doesn't live anything like you do.
...convince someone that you care, not just about a class of people called 'the poor' but about them (you know, Susan and Latisha and Joe)
...watch a life change, little by little, month by month, year by year
...not just give a well thought and well presented gospel presentation on 'eveangelism night', but watch what the gospel does as it bears fruit in a person's life

I don't know, but for us here at Crosswind...

you've gotta be present to win.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A whole new level of outreach, something for nothing

Disclaimer: we think the best mission trip you can ever take is right in your own city. I love to go visit ministries around the world and get a vision for how to support them and even locally, to visit and share the burden with another city. But primarily, God has placed us in Corinth MS and it is our mission field and we love working with you in our city for its good. Having said that, I went on a missions trip this summer than blew my mind and stretched my heart.

I was taking one of our guys (Tony) to Michigan to "get right with the state" and had planned while there to visit a fellow missional guy (David Drake) in Grand Rapids to glean from the practitioners. We surely did learn so much from him and believe that his approach to being the church in and for your city is wonderful. But my biggest missionary surprise was yet to come.

Tony's mom (Mary) is one of those women you hear about that is tough and loving and just knows how to take care of a family. She raised five boys and served and suffered with her husband through a mental breakdown.She's just one of those kind of gals. Little over a decade ago, while working at a state hospital for the mentally ill, she met three wonderful ladies Ruthie, Mary Jean and Joni.

All were in their 60's and had lived in state hospitals since they were little girls. While working there she became aware of a very evil, unspeakable, exploitation of these women. She reported it to the authorities and all the perpetrators will serve the rest of their lives in prison thanks to her. But the victims, these precious women, what about them? They were non-responsive, couldn't talk, curled up in the fetal position. Well what happened next blew my missionary mind.

Mary decided that she would get certified by the state to take these victims into her own home so that they would be safe from abuse and loved in their later years, fully aware that they had nothing to offer her in return. No, they wouldn't recover, no, they would never get stabilized, never get their act together, never have have a productive life, simply, by taking them into her home she had resigned herself to a lifetime of service, a service that would offer her little and perhaps no reward and much labor. Ever changed a 60 year old's diaper?

The meaningful lesson I learned from this wonderful lady is this: The reason that you help people is for love's sake, for helpless people's sake, for God's sake, NOT for the sake of what you will get out of it or even more profoundly, for what they will get out of it. Jesus was "moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." So he did something, he taught them, healed them, cared for them and in case after case the Bible records that the people didn't respond to Him in faith, instead they left, healed and helped but unchanged.  Yet, he did it anyway. Why? Because He was filled with love and "moved with compassion". He served them and serves us indiscriminately, tirelessly because we need it and love demands it.

I met them twelve years later, after she had loved them and cared for them patiently and carefully. She said Joni began talking again after three years and she smiled after about four. Suddenly, little by little, these deeply mentally handicapped victims of horrible abuse, came back to life. "It's birthday party day!" Mary Jean exclaimed as I came in full of smiles and joy. They talk together with big smiles in largely indiscernible words, Ruthie draws happy faces all day on paper after paper, Joni still has to wear mits at night to keep her from hurting herself, but they are safe and happy and it's all due to the love of a woman who, though she didn't know if she would ever do anything more for them but change their diapers and feed them, rescued them anyway.  Wow!

Honestly, I may serve the Lord for the rest of my life and never see a more wonderful scene. It's sublime, its over my head, its wonderful, it brings tears to my eyes and fills my heart in untouched places. "When you've done it unto the least of them, you've done it unto me" said our Lord Jesus. Well Mrs. Mary Kennedy, you have surely done it to our Lord Jesus. Well done!

Is it even possible to hear what needs to be said next?
Go and do likewise.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Ambiguous Jesus? (Part 3 of 3)

So which is more important? Talking about Jesus or Loving Your Neighbor?

What we have faith in will determine which is more important. I can hear you saying “that is easy, my faith is in Jesus.” Which begs the question; “Jesus who?” Ambiguous Jesus?

If you have faith that Jesus is the Christ, that he alone saves, then I believe that you will be driven to talk about Jesus, to  share your faith with those that do not know him. Let’s be honest, if that is what you believe to be true, to not say anything would just be mean.

On the other hand if you have faith that Jesus is Lord, that he rules and reigns and is making all things new, than you will be driven to love your neighbor, fight for human dignity, feed the hungry, and house the poor. The problem is that many people have put their faith in an Ambiguous Jesus (who is neither Christ or Lord).

If the most succinct way to say the Gospel is “Jesus Christ is Lord”, then to follow Jesus may look a lot like a community of people who both: talk about Jesus in a way that says he is the Christ…and love their neighbors in a way that says he is the Lord.

Nate Navarro (guest blogger)
Pastor of Missional Community at Austin City Life
Founder/Director at Music For The City

Monday, June 18, 2012

'Moving In' Is Different Than 'Dropping By'

   There is a big difference in visiting someone and moving in. I don't care if you drop by and all but if you bring a suit case or three and say your moving in well, that's another story. In a very real way that is the difference in living a missionary lifestyle and doing evangelistic events. When you are a missionary somewhere you pack your family up and move in. If you are on a 'missions trip' you visit for a week or so and do some good and go home.

   We're convinced that here at home the 'trip' approach doesn't work. When we first began visiting our neighbors we discovered that we weren't alone. As a matter of fact, everywhere we went other churches had already 'visited' on a trip. Whether it was a block party or a Backyard Bible Club, an Evangelism Explosion visit or a Roman's Road excursion... the neighborhood had already been 'visited'. What hadn't happened is that no one had remained, moved in, taken up residential relationship and friendship.

  When Jesus was going to go to neighborhoods he sent His followers ahead of Him to prepare the field. Many of the things Jesus told His disciples to do, the church today does also. He told them to pray for more harvesters, to go and do good, to preach the gospel. But there is one thing that Jeus told His followers to do that we rarely see His followers do today, remain. Jesus said if we were received as we were going, remain. Move in. Make friends. Build genuine friendships (just like the ones you go out to eat with). Put names in your cell phone and more importantly, let them put yours in theirs.

   I've got a story I want you to see, it's short and very sweet. It's the story of a single dad, trapped in a cocaine addiction. This story took four years to unfold. There were hours of friendship building, days and months of tutoring children, lice removal on more than one occasion, a complete removal of all furniture and replacing of same after thorough cleaning, trip after trip to the job center, extended family, child protective services, the police, rehab and finally Jesus and breakthrough and peace.

Four hard years. Worth every minute. Remain.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Missional? Social Justice? I’m Confused. (Part 2)

When I say “missional” you think __________. Let me take 3 guesses:
1 When you hear “missional” you think of a new kind of church, or a new model of church planting. Let’s rule this one out right away, because as I talked about HERE “missional” is just a fairly new word that describes something very old.

2 When you hear “missional” you think about how you are sent to share the good news of Jesus with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. You want them to know the good news that Jesus saves! Some would call this evangelism, or sharing the Gospel, or making disciples.

If this is where you land, I bet you are taking the great commission seriously. (Mathew 28:19-20)
3 When you hear the word “missional” you think about feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, joining the fight to end human trafficking, adopting an orphan, building a water well in Africa, or doing more for the homeless community in your city. Some would call this social justice, social action, or the social gospel.

If this is where you land, I bet you are taking the command to love your neighbor seriously.  (Luke 10:25-37)
But which is more important? Which is a priority? Just what should we be spending our lives doing?
I am going to propose that the answer to this question is simpler than you think.
I am going to propose that where you put your faith will determine what “missional” means to you.
I know….I can hear you saying “that is easy Nate, my faith is in Jesus.”
Which makes me want to ask you another question…“Jesus who?”

To Be Continued…

Nate Navarro (guest blogger)
Pastor of Missional Community at Austin City Life
Founder/Director at Music For The City


Monday, April 30, 2012

Missional? Social Justice? I’m Confused. (Part 1)

Mercy, justice, missional, incarnational,renewal, the social gospel…
These seem to be the buzzwords at this moment in time…
At the intersection of faith and social injustice.
We are excited!
We are inspired!
We are confused.

The Rise of the Missional Church
Over the last few years there has been an awakening of what it means to be a Christian, to follow Jesus, to be the Church…
Many refer to this awakening as the rise of the missional church.
In very recent history you may have only been able to find a handful of churches that would describe themselves as “missional”.
Today there are missional churches, missional communities (and Gospel-Centered Families of Servant Missionary Disciples) popping up everywhere.
But what is missional?

“Missional” is a way of living, not an affiliation or an activity.
- Reggie McNeal

Missional is redefining what we formerly knew as “church”.
Missional reminds us the church is not a building, a service featuring 4 songs and a sermon, a creepy sub culture, or a country club.
Missional is teaching us that the church is you and me:
*everyday and ordinary people
*who are putting their faith in Jesus
*who are rescued by his grace
*who are following him together
*who are sent to our neighborhoods, workplaces, and cities on his mission
I have this theory that “missional” used to be called things like “Christianity” or “following Jesus”, but since those words have lost their saltiness a new word was formed (an idea I wrote about HERE)

The rise of social awareness and action
In 2012 we are more aware of social injustice than ever.
From Kony, to racism, to human trafficking, the water crisis, and even the organic food revolution: we are more aware than ever that the world is broken.
We long to see things made right.
We want to change the world.
Some of us travel to 3rd world countries, some of us adopt orphans, some of us buy Toms, some of us serve with local non profits, some of us tweet about all of the above.
In 2012 philanthropy and social justice initiatives have invaded our Twitter feeds, Face Book timelines, and have helped us decide which shoes to wear.

The rise of the Missional Church has met the rise of social awareness and action…
We are excited!
We are inspired!
And we are confused.
Should we be telling our neighbors and co-workers about Jesus?
Should we join the fight to end human trafficking?
Which is more important?
Why in the world would I want to do either?
In this series of posts I want to explore this confusion.
Although it is not guaranteed…
I would love for us to get some clarity as to why we find ourselves in a generation of people who want to change the world…yet we still can’t change ourselves.

To be continued….

Nate Navarro (guest blogger)
Pastor of Missional Community at Austin City Life
Founder/Director at Music For The City

Monday, April 16, 2012

Until I'm holy, I'm gonna hurt you!

It matters that we help each other get on in our spiritual walk. Until I do, I'm gonna mess you up.

It's really simple when you think about it. All sin is against you. I lie to you, cheat on you, gossip about you, am lazy and want you to pay, and on and on we go... all sin is against you. So it is really in your best interest that I stop.

In sanctification (God making me holy), I am quitting my sins... sins against my spouse, my children, my neighbor, my city, my government, my earth, or said another way... against you. There is no such thing as private sin, all sin affects someone or something.

So as God is sanctifying me, He is helping you too. As God fixes me, He is also fixing you. Let me give you a simple example. I sin and hurt you. Now you are injured because of me. God fixes me. I come to you and ask your forgiveness and make amends to you. That heals you. God fixing me, fixed you.

So as God is fixing me, He is also at the same time blessing all the things that I (in my sin) cursed, healing what I hurt, restoring what I destroyed, fixing what I broke.

As God fixes you, He fixes everything around you because a sinful you messes a lot of stuff up.

One of the reasons to help messed up people find "the God who fixes people" is because you get fixed at the same time. Remember, until I'm holy I'm gonna hurt you.

Please help me to be holy.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Honey, I ruined the kids."

So many times in outreach we meet people who are where they are as a result, in part, of a broken relationship with a parent. Now, at once all of us parents bristle, "don't be blaming me for my kids choices" or the others of us that with deep regret and some sense of ownership feel perpetually guilty and overwhelmed at the poor parenting job we did, especially when our kids are not doing so well. What to do? Here's some thoughts for ya:

1. We are all bad parents - I know that's hard for some to choke down but you HAVE messed up your kids. To cut us a little slack, we may have done the best we could with what we knew at the time, but even then there is no such thing as a perfect parent and that means your imperfect parenting has negatively affected your kids.

2. Your kids all have wounds from you that need healing - if you look at your kid's negative actions and attitudes many of them stem from reactions to wounds that you caused your children as you parented them imperfectly. Your kid has a bad self-esteem, your kid has an anger problem, or the way your kid "acts out" many times stems from your relationship to them. And your kids need to be healed from your mistakes in parenting.

3. God fixes parents - Just last month my 26 year old brought up an old wound that I had given him. When he was in the hospital I said it was the best time we'd had in a long time because he had been slowed down enough to share some quality time. He jokingly said that as he grew up I wasn't there when he needed me either and was always "helping someone else". Wow! A lump went up in my throat and right there in the presence of his close friends I confessed my sin of neglect and told him how that that was one was one of my deepest regrets in parenting him, and I asked him to forgive me. I love my son with all my heart but I sinned against my son and wounded him in his childhood. I am not a perfect parent. Jesus is. And Jesus used that holy moment to bring healing to me, Jeffrey's imperfect father.

4. God heals kids - No matter what we've done to our kids in our imperfection God can and will heal as they trust in Him. I suffered much at the hands of my earthly father and God has over time healed me from much of that suffering. Did he do the best he could with what he had? Yes! But he wasn't perfect and I suffered. The good news is that on that glorious weekend long ago Jesus bore in His body my bad parenting and my parents bad parenting and now lives to set me free from the ill effects of it.

Friend, don't hide from the fact that you've blown it and your kids have suffered. Own it, grieve it, confess it, reconcile it. But never ever think that what sin has done God in Christ can't forgive and heal and restore back to new.

I hope that what transacted between my son and I will help him too, time will tell, but know this, God was so loving and merciful to grant to me on that special day some healing from my regrets and sins.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Rebuilding Lives: Some Practical Stuff

Crosswind serves families that have come on hard times and have been displaced from their homes and are unemployed. Our effort is to serve them until they are stabilized, meaning able to provide for themselves. We thought we'd give you a glimpse of what a typical client needs so you could get a feel for what it takes to get back on your feet.

1. REAR VIEW MIRROR - they need help to get the negatives out of their lives so they won't be a continued hindrance:
a. Driver's License (many lose their license because of c. below)
b. GED
c. Clean record (old fines and charges pending)

2. JOB - many times an entry level job so we can begin to clean the rear view, then a more stable higher paying job once the obstacles are removed.
a. WIN Job Center - our clients wear out the job center folks :-)
b. Networks - friends in the community who have entry level positions
c. Newspaper and such- all available avenues to find job opportunities
d. Interviews - we transport clients to and from interviews
e. Resume - we make each client an up-to-date resume

3. TRANSPORTATION - very few of our clients have transportation
a. Meetings - every clients goes to at least 4 (four) meetings per week.
b. Appointments - doctor, dentist, job interview, job search, etc.
c. Groceries and stuff - the regular necessities of living

4. STABILIZATION - Once employed, a process begins to help them be self sustaining
a. Old bills - many leave bills unpaid (power, water, etc.) when trouble comes
b. Deposits - it costs about $750 to get in a low rent apartment
c. Furniture for new apartment - most have nothing when they move

These are just a few of the practical things that our friends need in order to get back on their feet. Each takes numerous hours of volunteerism and work from our great staff and many others. But that is not all...

It would be foolish to help someone with the above items and neglect the reason they got in that place in the first hand. So to that end most of our time spent is filled with counsel and encouragement and teaching that points our friends to the glorious work that happened on Calvary weekend and its implications in their lives.

Crosswind can't change lives, only Jesus can, but with practical love and purposeful proclamation we can point them to our Lord who is mighty to save and eager to make all things new.

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. Our staff and many volunteers are grateful. Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below, I'll be sure to answer each one.


Friday, March 2, 2012

When you're at wit's end, What would Jesus do?

In outreach, you will encounter so many circumstances where you don't know what to do. How do you witness to someone who will not hear? How do you help someone who seems to reject all help? Do we hold back here or move in? Do we correct or let them figure it out? What do we do when it seems like we've done all we know to do and don't know what to do next? The answer is easy isn't it?

What would Jesus do?

Last night that very text came in from my co-worker about a seemingly helpless situation. I flipped back a answer but the question plagued me. To be honest, I didn't know what Jesus would do. If I did perhaps we would have done it. I thought over the last month about all the helpless moments where I wondered what to do about this or that. This last month was filled with a nagging sense of incompetency and inability. So many times we needed that answer, that 'right way to turn', right direction to take, right move to make and yet it seemed to allude us time and again. Then it hit me:

Jesus is already doing "what Jesus would do".

I had this kinda daydream like I was in a car asking the Lord which way to turn, "Would you turn left? right? gas pedal? brake? neutral? reverse?" And I sensed the Lord say to me: "Take your hands of the wheel and your feet off the pedals, I am already doing what I would do." That's it! He really is! Jesus is doing His will all the time, He is healing people's hearts, He is setting captives free, He is preaching the gospel to the poor. HE is! HIM! Wow, what a liberating thought.

Friends, you cannot be Jesus to someone else, He is being Jesus to them. You don't have to do "what Jesus would do", He is already doing it!

And oh by the way (because I know you are dying to ask the question) the "where do I come in?" part is answered above. When Jesus wants you engaged, He'll engage you, when He wants you to have the answer, He'll give it to you.

That's enough, isn't it?


Monday, February 6, 2012

"After all we've done for you?"

There is no place where your motive for doing outreach gets tested better than when the person you are helping takes your help and then disses you (that's disrespect for you 'not so cool' folks). Over and over again in outreach you feel used, unappreciated and disrespected. You give and give (time and treasure) to a person to help them get up and out of their situation and what do you get in return? Sometimes just a snub. No thanks, no heart change, no life change, nothing. In those moments (and they are more frequent than you think) your heart is exposed. Are you whining? Are you mad? Are you withdrawing saying "fine then..."? Are you frustrated? Burned out? Bummed out? If so, welcome to outreach! And more importantly, welcome to Jesus' world.

When Jesus healed the ten lepers how many came back to give thanks? One, and he was a foreigner, in other words he wasn't a Jew who knew to give thanks. It was as if Jesus was saying, How many did I heal, ten? Where are the other nine? Didn't any body give glory to God except this guy who wadn't even raised right? (Luke 17:11-19) Here's the question: Why did Jesus heal the ten? Because He had come to make all things new, to usher in a new Kingdom where the new King is a healer. He healed them because leprosy is a part of the fall, part of the broken world which He had come to set straight, to make new. He was glad that one saw it and "his faith made him well".

A friend said the other day, "Do unto others as God in Christ has done unto you." That's the only reason to do outreach. Because God in Christ reached out to me. I was blind, and He made me see, I was broken and He put me back together, I was lost and He saved me. Any other motive will leave you looking for thanks, frustrated at the slow progress of the "dysfunctional disciples", angry that they don't care that you sacrifice to help them, they just want your help.

Oh yea, we've all treated Jesus that way, haven't we? But he healed us anyway, he set us free anyway, he saved us anyway. Friends, help folks because you've been helped. Love because you've been loved. Sacrifice for the good for others because He sacrificed for your good. Then you can be glad for the ones who 'get it' and are thankful, but you won't be bummed out when they aren't.

When you realize all He's done for you it doesn't even make sense to say, "What, after all we've done for you?"


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Outreach Lessons To Learn In The New Year

Thought I’d throw some random thoughts together for those of you brave ones who will decide this year to take the gospel to your city in increasing ways.

Pack a lunch. As the old saying goes, you didn’t get here overnight and you ain’t gonna change overnight. Even with the transformational work of God in bringing us to faith in Jesus we begin a process of conforming to His image that takes time. Believe me, it takes time. Effective life change NEVER happens in a block party, visitation, an act of mercy, giving someone clothes or any other random act of kindness. Life change is a work of God that happens in the context of a faithful community investing in one another according to the various gifts God has distributed to us as we build one another up in love. So, pack a lunch, roll your sleeves up and get ready for some hard, sacrificial, thrilling work.

Leave your boxes at home. We have been trained to engage the community by inviting them to join us in our spiritual life ("Invite ‘em to church").  We find that if we enter their life it works better. The Bible never says that Jesus invited the lost to synagogue, it does say he ate and drank with sinners. Making real friends (How many time have you shared a meal with the ‘visitation' assignment?), real enough to include having a meal together, takes much more than an invite to a meeting or other programs. And as we got to know each other God seems always to give us opportunity to share the hope that lies within us to those who need to hear it.

When you get stuck, outsource. So many times the church won’t do what it takes to engage their community because they either ‘get in over their head’ or are afraid they will. We are over our head all the time around here. And when we get that way we remember we’re not in it alone. This is a small city, we know each other, get help! Day after day Christians call us and we them solving seemingly impossible problems.  It’s beautiful. God designed His church in a city to work together. There is no place like outreach where this is so natural.  There is a brother in our town getting his doctorate in Christian counseling (not mentioning names Chris). We can’t wait! Why? Cause we’re way over our heads sometimes and need his help.

Remember, it’s about them not you. We have designed the church to be about us, and we spend almost all our talent and energy and money on ourselves. Jesus however, left all that and came and spent Himself on us. And he calls us to have the same attitude as Him. Jesus left the ninety nine for the one, rebuked the ‘church guys’ when they told the suffering He was too busy or when they shooed the street children away. It was always about us. Always. And for us, it’s always about them.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You God

Thank you God.

Thank you God that my life is not perfect.

Thank you for tears, and struggles and times of dryness and frustration.

Thank you for not making everything easy and for not always giving me what I request.

Thank you for not always making known the “whys” of my life.

For God, it is during these times that I find my way to you over and over again. 

It is during these times that I am reminded of my deep need for you alone.

It is through tears of pain and suffering, fears of failure and loss, and days full of doubt and questions that I am closest to you, that I seek you the most, that I renew my trust in you and that my faith is truly strengthened. 

Without these difficult times, I would think I didn’t need you. 

Without these trials, I would not grow.

With a perfect life, I wouldn’t need a perfect God.

Thank you testing my faith and drawing me to yourself.

Thank you for being God in my life.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

-Leah McQueen (Guest Blogger)

Monday, November 21, 2011

This Thanksgiving Crosswind is thankful Jesse got his drivers license

Last night at our Gathering we celebrated Jesse getting his drivers license. No he's not a teenager, he's a 55 year old Christian friend who hasn't had a license for 17 years. Why is that such a big deal? And how is it 'the Christian thing to do' to help people get their license back?

Jesse's story is like so many other friends we meet. He came to Corinth from prison and heard about one of Corinth's great outreach ministries called Living Free. They asked if he could stay with a friend in our FAITH housing ministry and sure enough our Tony said yes. Then came the hard job of getting a job. Jesse is an eternal optimist, "Just turn it over to God Bobby, he'll get me a job." Okay Jess, but you haven't seen his criminal record and even if Jesus has saved him, not many folks wanted to take a risk on him.

Jesse never lost heart. He went to the employment agency over and over and every single time there was an opportunity he was sure 'this was the one'. It was faith building to watch him suffer disappointment after disappointment but then just lift his head and smile and say, "the Lord's gonna get me a job Bobby, he is." Many times we thought that nobody would ever hire him. We gave him odd jobs to pay his monthly parole fees and tried and tried to find him work. He became a special project to one of the dear ladies at our job center and one day (almost a year later) she got him an interview at our recycling plant. Well that was the one. And boy you should have heard him celebrate. He took his first check and went to the job center lady and told her he was gonna buy her a big steak with it. She was so happy. She couldn't go but she said in all the years of helping people find jobs, he was the first one who had done that.

After that we went to work trying to get him some wheels and get his license back. Meanwhile, he got a ride to work with one of our volunteers. He found a car he could fix up for about 500 bucks and then we contacted the DMV to see about his license. We just started laughing... you kidding me?! All those outstanding tickets and fines. Oh my, how are we ever...? But Ronda the Great just started making calls and one by one we got it whittled down to about $2300 worth of fines in about three counties. Well Jesse said "I'll just get the money to get 'em paid off, that's all." And he went to work... by the way, he began paying his own light bill and rent right away, never once shirking from any responsibility. Lanny gave him a personal loan for a portion of it and the check cleared and the State was satisfied and Jesse was free to take the exam... oh yea, there is a test.

Jesse taught himself to read in prison sounding out one sound at a time so when he heard he had to take a test it was, well... a bit challenging. He studied and studied and was ready to take it. We took him up there and I swear when he finished I thought I was gonna break down. After all this time, that sweet, positive guy... he just shrugged, eyes moist but a big smile, "Oh well, I'll take it again." Later that week he said, "Brother Bobby, I turned it over to the Lord. I thought I could do it by myself last time, but this time I've turned it over to the Lord."

A week later he took it again. Take a minute to see what happened HERE

We love what we do and this Thanksgiving, Our Precious Lord we thank you for Jesse, for his life, for what he means to us, for the faith that he has in You that strengthens us, for your mercy to him, for his attitude in the midst of deep struggle, for your provision for him through the love of many of your children, and especially, for his Driver's License.

You are the Greatest God, we love you. Thanks again,


Monday, October 31, 2011

Faction Planting, or Church Planting? (Open mind required)

I have discovered that it is easy to recognize when something is not right, but it is much more difficult to ask ‘why’ something is not right.  Asking ‘why’ can be difficult because it may lead us to discover things that may change the course of our entire lives, as well as challenge our pre-conceived ideas that we consider normal and comforting.  This article is not only an attempt to address a very important and dangerous problem within institutional Christianity, but to ask ‘why’ this problem exists and keeps repeating itself.  I would like to ask you to read this article with an open mind. If you feel led, contribute your disagreement in a constructive way and add to the discussion by sharing your thoughts.  If you indeed love the church (people), then we really do have the same goal.

Often times the problem I’m going to share is perpetuated by the same people who would agree that the problem exists.  I would like to address the very serious problem of ‘factions’ (mistakenly called ‘local churches’) and why they exist.  Let me explain…

Have you ever drove down a street (especially in the Bible belt) and noticed all the different ‘churches’ on all the different street corners?  I know that I have, and it has perplexed me most of my Christian life.  A couple of years ago, we moved from Columbus, Ohio to the ‘Bible Belt.’  God used this experience to open my eyes to some disturbing things that exist almost everywhere in this country, but is more visible and severe in the ‘Bible Belt’ so to speak.  There was one stretch of road in the area that we moved to that literally had a church building every tenth of a mile.  Sometimes they were even side by side!  Some were big, some were small, and some were medium sized.  Many of these buildings also had some type of pithy advertisement outside (advertising a sermon topic or some famous worship leader / speaker coming) that seemed to plead to people driving by to come to their 1.5 hour meeting that Sunday.

The competition seemed very stiff to say the least as each institution was desperately trying to get more & more people to ‘attend’ their weekly meetings.  Some of these institutions tried to appeal to a younger crowd, while some emphasized their more traditional meetings to appeal to an older crowd.  This is right in keeping with the American consumer and shopping culture. When one institution’s weekly meetings weren’t good enough, people simply left and went down the road to something better.  While most institutional Pastors would agree this is a huge problem, most are also blind to the fact that their own system and understanding of the church is actually what keeps perpetuating the very thing they say they stand against.

If you’re like me, you have probably wondered how things got like this.  After all, aren’t we all supposed to be one family?  I have often wondered how these groups justify being separate from one another when they are, in some cases, literally right next to each other. (I know of one specific cinema that has 3 separate ‘church’ services in 3 separate theaters in the same building at the same time!  This is no joke.)   Rarely do the people, who attend the Sunday church meetings at one facility, have any meaningful fellowship with people who attend the facility next to them.  If someone is asked why they don’t connect with anyone at the ‘church’ facility down the street, you might hear an answer like this:

“I am pretty involved in (enter church name here), and they ‘go’ to a completely different church.  Why should I be involved with someone else from a different church?”

Although this type of behavior and attitude is normal today, it doesn’t take a theologian with a PhD to see that there is absolutely no example of anything like this in the New Testament.  Even the people that I have talked to who are not Christian seem to know that there is something wrong with this picture.  How can something that is supposed to be ‘one’ be so divided in identity and practice?

As a result, some ‘churches’ have attempted to fix this problem by trying to ‘collaborate’ a bit more.  Recently while visiting a particular city in the Bible belt, I visited a very well known ‘church’ and had a conversation with one of its staff members.  When the subject came to other churches in the area, the conversation went something like this:

ME: “So, are there many churches in this area?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Oh yes, there are many.”

ME: “Would you say there is much interaction between the churches in this area?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Oh yes, our Pastor really has a heart to work with the other churches in the area.” (said with excitement and a big smile)

ME: “Oh yeah, how’s that?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Well, we actually have an entirely different church that we let use our very own building for their weekly services and staff offices.”

ME: “Wow. That’s unheard of and quite generous.” (Tongue in cheek)

CHURCH STAFF: “Yeah, our Pastor really has a heart for all the churches in this area.” (more excitement and smiles)

ME: “Can I ask you a question?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Yes, sure.”

ME: “Is it a different church that you let use your building, or the same church?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Like I said, it is a completely different church. We like to work with other churches.” (Still smiling, but less enthusiastically)

ME: “I see. And you said that this is a completely different church that uses the same building?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Yes, that’s right.” (confused look)

ME: “Do you know why the church that meets on your property is not the same church, but a different church?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Well, because it is a completely different church.” (a more confused look)

ME: “Well I know that you said that it is a completely different church, but do you know what it is exactly that makes it a completely different church? After all, it is not location that keeps you guys separate because you guys are so close in proximity that you use the exact same building.  So again, why are these two churches different churches?”

CHURCH STAFF: “Well…umm…(possibly thinking about this for the first time) because we have a completely different set of leaders, and different missional and doctrinal stances.  They even have their own marketing materials as well.”

Bingo!  That was the answer I was looking for, and I was also hoping this staff member would grasp the audacity of the situation. This is the reason that these church communities believed they were actually different ‘churches’.  It all comes down to different communities of people being factioned around different sets of human leadership and different doctrinal stances.  Again, it does not take a PhD in theology to see that this kind of example is foreign to New Testament thinking & teaching.  Can you imagine one group of Christians in the city of Corinth saying they were a completely different church from another group of Christians in the city of Corinth?  No way!

In the scriptures, you simply see the church of Corinth, Ephesus, Rome, Sardis, etc…There was only one church in these cities, and these churches were identified by which city they were located in, nothing else. Yes, there were many different local church communities that met in the same city (and no, they didn’t all meet together in one big group), but they all considered themselves a part of the same church.  They didn’t organize around specific human leaders or doctrinal affiliations, and they didn’t have different church names that distinguished one group from another like we do today.  There is no biblical evidence to support this practice.  It was simply the church of Corinth for example. They all had Jesus in common, and He was the head of their specific local fellowships as well as the larger church across the city.  Local church groups were simply identified by location. Church in Corinth was distinguished from the church in Ephesus because of location.  Again, this had nothing to do with being factioned around a different set of leaders or doctrinal positions.

There was, however, a specific situation that arose with the church in the city of Corinth when the church tried to separate from each other and faction around 4 different leaders. One group wanted to be identified as followers of Paul, another as followers of Apollos, another as followers of Peter, and then there was the ‘super spiritual’ group that wanted to separate from the rest of the other groups and say they were following Christ.  I’m sure these groups all had well sounding arguments as to why they thought they needed to be a separate faction from the others. I’m sure they liked these individual leaders and the teachings (doctrines) that each seemed to emphasize.  That is why they wanted to organize a separate group around these specific people.  This is no different than what happens today as we form separate ‘churches’ around human leaders.  If Paul hadn’t stepped in, there would have been 4 different ‘churches’ in the city of Corinth.  We would do well to consider Paul’s question to the Corinthian believers about this attempt to divide the body of Jesus into factions:

“Has Christ been divided?…” (1 Cor. 1:13)

The truth is Christ has not been divided, and His very own body here on the earth should reflect this glorious truth.  Unfortunately, this is not practiced today. I know that this might sound harsh, but most of what we call ‘church’ planting today is nothing more than ‘faction’ planting. It is NOT church planting. Yes, the church (people) can be caught up in these ‘factions’, but what is really meant by ‘church’, is simply just another faction.  How do I know this?  Because I have done it!

I was trained and taught to be an institutional church planter according to the system that was passed down to my spiritual leaders.  According to an institutional / factional understanding of the church, one of the first things that must be accomplished when thinking about a ‘church’ plant is the identification of a ‘point man’ or a human leader whom the faction will be built around.  After all, who will lead this thing?  Once the clergy figure is identified, then a faction of people can be built around them.  Eventually there is a ‘mission’ or a doctrinal stance that they begin to rally around.  Then they usually pick a name for themselves to distinguish themselves from the other ‘factions’ that are in their target area. Once they arrive at the city of their destination, they have simply added to the number of other ‘factions’ in the city that are calling themselves churches. This is a tragedy and it should not continue to be repeated because it has no Biblical precedent.  This violates the basic premise of what the local church actually is.

So, what am I saying?  Am I saying that local churches should not be planted?  No way!  I am saying that local ‘factions’ should not be planted.  A local faction is built around a human leader(s) that rally around a mission / vision for the city, or a set of doctrinal tenants. (This is not a good thing no matter how noble the specific mission may be).  A true local church must be planted around something much greater and more profound.  Many people can agree and recognize that there is a problem regarding the factional institutional ‘church’ culture that I have mentioned in this article, but until we’re ready to recognize and destroy the systems of thought that actually fuel these factions, (and until we’re ready to do something about it), we’ll just keep perpetuating and validating the problem.  The first step toward understanding what a local church actually is, is understanding what it’s not.  We need a repentance (change of mindset) regarding the very nature of church itself before we will have eyes to see the Bride of Christ as she truly is.

So, do you have a factional understanding of the church? 

I’d like to ask you to ponder some questions that may be revealing…

1. What is the basis of the relationship between you and others in your local church community? Is the basis of the relationship the fact that you both attend the same weekly meeting on Sunday or have allegiance to the same human leader(s) (pastor) or institution? If you answered yes to these questions, then you may have a factional understanding of the church. The basis of your ‘church’ relationships must be based on something greater and more profound.

2. When a brother or sister in Christ moves away or stops attending your weekly 1.5 hour ‘church’ meeting, do you forget about them, stop communicating with them, or stop viewing them as important family members? If the answer is yes, then you may have a factional understanding of the church. Our communication with them must be based on something greater and more profound.

3. When a brother or sister (IN CHRIST) disagrees with you regarding matters of doctrine, does that keep you from perceiving Christ in them and from valuing them as fellow brothers and sisters?  Does this offence make you angry and keep you from having fellowship with them?  If the answer is yes, then you may have a factional understanding of the church. You must be able to perceive something greater and more profound in them.

4. Do you belong to a ‘church’ simply because you greatly respect or have allegiance to a particular human leader or institution / denomination?  If the answer is yes, then you may have a factional understanding of the church. Your commitment to a local church community must be based on something greater and more profound.

5. Are you aware that in New Testament times, there were occasions in which local churches were planted by church planters who then left the local church on their own BEFORE elders were present and recognized?  Sometimes it was years before church elders / leaders emerged and were recognized.  Do you know how these churches functioned?  If you do not know these things, it could be because you hold to a factional understanding of the church.  The local church, as described in the New Testament, was governed and led by someone greater and more profound.

6. Do you know what specifically (not generally) should hold Biblical local church communities together? If the answer is no, it could be because you have a factional understanding of the church. (HINT: A local church community should never be held together by a membership document, commitment to a human leader / institution, or a commitment to a specific doctrinal stance since these things are Biblically foreign ideas)

I hope some of these questions have been helpful for you. Blessings to you as you embark on this journey of discovery.

For His glory in the church,
Jamal Jivanjee (Guest Blogger)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You can only help people if they want help

It's a simple statement that we all take for granted, especially when we are trying to help our fellowman, "You can only help people who want to be helped." I don't know who first said it, it was probably a person who had really helped people and saw over time that the ones who wanted help seemed more receptive to it. We don't think it's that simple here at Crosswind. Let me tell ya why.

1. When you're desperate you'll do anything for help. Very few people turn help down when they are really desperate. People will say anything, commit to anything and do anything when they feel desperate. It's only when they are a bit relieved from the urgency of their situation that you can tell if they really want help.

2. Many times the help people want isn't what they need. We see this all the time. People want help with a late bill when what they really need is to learn how to live within their means. Not being cruel either cause sometimes that's not very much. Many of our clients only have 6 or 7 hundred dollars a month and no matter how good you budget, it's hard to make it on that.

3. Most importantly, people who need help want it now and sometimes now just ain't enough time. Most people didn't 'get here overnight' as the old saying goes and the help they need isn't going to come overnight. Many people have developed over time a way of doing life that guarantees that many hurts and hangups are in their future and in their children's future. And it takes a lot of time and patience and painfully doing things different and failing and getting back up before the fruit of that change takes place. Get help quick schemes never help.

Here's where you come in as a missionary.
In case # 1 Will you help relieve the pressure on someone's life even if you find after you have they don't want help?
In case #2 will you fearlessly offer people what they need rather than a quick fix that only ensures they'll be back?
And in case #3 will you be the one who stands with someone as they change, lovingly and patiently teaching them the ways of God, picking them up when they stumble, giving them a second chance or a third?

We have come to see that the only way people change is over time as God renews their mind by His word and His grace and as they put into practice the new ways that God is showing them complete with all the surprises and hurdles and victories. We call that discipleship.

You can't do that at a block party.
You can't do that by paying a late bill.
You can't do that handing someone a gospel booklet.

You can by loving, by making friends, by staying around, by being confident in God and His gospel, by sacrifice and trial and headaches and tears. We believe that's how people change.

My guess is that you'll have to change to believe it too.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Power of Community: Sometimes all they need is you.

Almost every person that comes to our ministry has one thing in common; we're all they have left. When the troubles of life begin to compound and you begin that downward spiral that ends in desperation and ultimately destitution, your friends are few and in the end even your family leaves. Solomon once said by the Holy Spirit, "Pity the man who falls alone." Sometimes the greatest ministry you can do is to add just one person to an alone person's life, and that one person may just be you.

It's easy to judge at this point. "They are just reaping what they've sown." Or "If they would have treated their people better they wouldn't be alone." And all this is true. In most cases the loneliness is a result of sin somewhere in their not too distant past. And yes, reconciling with their families is certainly a large part of their recovery. But today, right now, they need a friend, someone who can stand with them in their trouble.

The gospel is the story of a friend who rescued His people in their trouble. Isolated by sin and suffering it's fatal consequences, a Savior came to us in our trouble and rescued us. No one could help us but Jesus, so "he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil 2:7-8) And in that spirit, we reach out to those in our city who are alone, isolated by family and friends, surely due to someone's sin, and we offer friendship and with that friendship hope.

"Two are better than one, ...for if they fall, one will lift up his fellow." (Eccl 4:9-10) Sometimes all we do at Crosswind is "add one" to a broken person's life. And in so doing we "lift up our fellow" Corinthian and begin a journey to help them restore their lives to wholeness, starting with life that comes through Jesus and ending with all the fruit of that relationship.

In the last couple of weeks the sweetest "thank you's" that our missionary teams have heard sounded like this, "When I was down I didn't have anybody, but you stuck with me and see what God has done." Friends, you might be the 'one' that God is calling to a person who is alone, broken by all manner of things, waiting for a friend to "lift them up".

Add one. It makes all the difference in the world.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The pressure cooker makes good beans.

Back in the old days people cooked beans in a pressure cooker. They turned the heat up, put a lid on the beans and let her cook. Turns out pressure cookers make good beans.

Many of the people we work with are in pressure cookers. The situations they find themselves in is very stressful and many times they don't think they can hold up under it all. Missionary organizations like ours and others in the city find this dynamic troubling. We love the people who are in a bind and want to relieve the pressure. But many times by relieving the pressure, by turning the heat down, the beans don't get cooked and we do more harm than good.

Pressure is good. It is creative, it forces you to think outside the box, to take drastic measures and many times those are the very measures that you need to take to change and do good. Dr. King when leading the movement against racial prejudice called it "creative tension". When blacks sat down at the front of the bus with their white neighbors it created tension. The pressure was on, the heat up. This tension fostered an environment where communities became willing to address issues that had been long neglected. When applied to outreach ministry this tension is most necessary for change.

Crosswind and several partners run a transitional housing ministry. Over the months we have seen great successes and turn around stories. Lives touched by the gospel all moving in a new way, living out a new way. Inevitably though, there is the pressure cooker. One family gets a job and yet still has to save for utility deposits and then has to wait for an apartment to open up or address some old fines or broken relationships. Always pressure. We don't shy away from it here. You couldn't if you wanted to. We've seen family after family be trained by the pressure that they are in, God using it to "test the genuineness of their faith" or to discipline them for a while to bring about "the peaceable fruits of righteousness".

Pressure is good, it trains us, if we will heed its loving embrace. Don't turn the heat down and spoil what God is trying to do in someone's life. Stand with them there and love them as God uses you to help them learn the lesson in the pressure cooker. You'll be in it one day too.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Call to action: Do as little as you can

I think that many people don't do anything because they try to do too much.

We believe that Christians are a sent people. We believe that every believer experiences that inner urge to 'go' and reclaim the world broken by sin for their King... but why do we find it so hard to do? Is it just because we're selfish rebels? I don't think so. In the next few post I am going to detail what it is that I see that freezes believers up and keeps them from fulfilling God's call on their lives.

The first is simply that we don't think we can serve God 'out there' unless we quit our jobs, sell the farm and become missionaries. We create such big expectations for ourselves that when we realize we can't or won't meet them we get discouraged and resign ourselves to 'pew sitting' and passing out bulletins. Or we start getting out there and we realize that we have jobs and kids and stuff and we just can't do what we expected of ourselves so we get discouraged and go back to coffee and donuts with our Sunday School class. Friends, here's a challenge for ya...

Just do as little as you can.

"Awww" you say, "I can't believe you just said that." Doesn't Jesus say to be faithful with small things, didn't the prophet encourage Israel not to despise the day of small things? Friends, something is always better than nothing. By doing something small you begin to grow, it's not more than you can handle, it doesn't burn you out and in it you can begin to see the shape of ministry that God has prepared for you. Make no mistake about it, you ARE God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand that you should do them (Eph 2:10). God has work for you to do and it isn't just handing out bulletins and taking up the offering. It's redemptive work, kingdom building work, work that glorifies God and advances His work in the world.

Start this week, find a friend to help, meet a need that you know of, reach out to that friend you know is going thru a tough time, do something small, something good. Don't overthink it, just be led by the obvious around you. And have a blast God says, Go, eat your bread with joy, ...for God has already approved what you do. Eccl 9:7

If you have bitten of more than you can chew and want to get back in the game but don't know how... do as little as you can. You'll have a blast.