Sunday, May 31, 2009

Amos, Corinth Style

Message Paraphrase followed by practical loose paraphrase BC style just the general idea, not exegesis, you'll get the point...

1 "Listen to this, you cows of Bashan
grazing on the slopes of Samaria.
You women! Mean to the poor,
cruel to the down-and-out!
Indolent and pampered, you demand of your husbands,
'Bring us a tall, cool drink!'

Listen to this Corinthians, especially you leaders and well off business people who live in the nice homes in town, employers who don’t care for your employees and make it difficult for them to live while you live high off the hog...

2-3"This is serious—I, God, have sworn by my holiness!
Be well warned: Judgment Day is coming!
They're going to rope you up and haul you off,
keep the stragglers in line with cattle prods.
They'll drag you through the ruined city walls,
forcing you out single file,
And kick you to kingdom come."
God's Decree.

This is serious, I am God and I do this my perfect way:
Be warned, there is a consequence for what is happening in your city.
The people you’ve been neglecting have weakened you over all. You’ve become vulnerable and you are easy picking for all manner of destruction.

4-5"Come along to Bethel and sin!
And then to Gilgal and sin some more!
Bring your sacrifices for morning worship.
Every third day bring your tithe.
Burn pure sacrifices—thank offerings.
Speak up—announce freewill offerings!
That's the sort of religious show
you Israelites just love."
God's Decree.

I know what you’ll do, you’ll show up at church and sin some more.
You’ll sing your songs and give your tithes and have all sorts of concerts and religious celebrations, and you really think that all this is impressing me. Unfortunately it’s all talk no action. It was action that could have saved you but this is all you chose to bring.

6"You know, don't you, that I'm the One
who emptied your pantries and cleaned out your cupboards,
Who left you hungry and standing in bread lines?
But you never got hungry for me. You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.

When people started going hungry in your town, that was Me asking you to respond, but you didn’t.

7-8"Yes, and I'm the One who stopped the rains
three months short of harvest.
I'd make it rain on one village
but not on another.
I'd make it rain on one field
but not on another—and that one would dry up.
People would stagger from village to village
crazed for water and never quenching their thirst.
But you never got thirsty for me.
You ignored me."
God's Decree.

When unemployment went up that was me giving you an opportunity to rally to me and to each other for the sake of your people, but you didn’t.

9"I hit your crops with disease
and withered your orchards and gardens.
Locusts devoured your olive and fig trees,
but you continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.

Even when I gave you plenty and I made the economy great, you invested greedily and misused the money on yourselves and your 401K’s instead of using it for the good of all, and look what happened. And even when I let all this economic disaster happen you still didn’t turn to me but just hunkered down and waited for the worst to be over.

10"I revisited you with the old Egyptian plagues,
killed your choice young men and prize horses.
The stink of rot in your camps was so strong
that you held your noses—
But you didn't notice me.
You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.

So I let your young men and women go off and do whatever they wanted and they began getting addicted to drugs and diseased from sexual sin, they began getting pregnant and dropping out of school and their brokenness was painfully apparent and a scourge on your city, but you looked the other way hoping “they wouldn’t bother you” and you refused to turn to me and to them, and now look... you’re all affected.

11"I hit you with earthquake and fire,
left you devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah.
You were like a burning stick
snatched from the flames.
But you never looked my way.
You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.

Even the natural disasters I allowed, hurricanes like Katrina and the others, the fires of the southwest, the floods of the Midwest, tornadoes and draught, you ignored it all, but I allowed it all... all so you would return to me, but you never got it... I let you be attacked on ever front, militarily, economically, morally, socially.... and none of it knocked you off your high horse, you never came back to me... And it was all a loving warning from me a desperate call from me to you, hoping you would return to me the one who loves you and has the perfect plan for your lives.

12"All this I have done to you, Israel,
and this is why I have done it.
Time's up, O Israel!
Prepare to meet your God!"

First you wouldn’t turn and make wrong things right... Now you can’t! You’ve gone too far and all that’s left is the pain and destruction of the choices you’ve made... to ignore me and all my ‘not so subtle’ hints and to go on acting like every thing was okay when it really really wasn’t... I was trying to get you to come to me and now that's all you have left.

13Look who's here: Mountain-Shaper! Wind-Maker!
He laid out the whole plot before Adam.
He brings everything out of nothing,
like dawn out of darkness.
He strides across the alpine ridges.
His name is God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies.

I’m God, I made everything. I designed the world including you. And this IS how it works, no matter what. I’m God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There really is something we can do...

Got a phone call from a 'field op' the other day, "Hey Bobby, it happened again. A guy went in one of the girl's apartment, left about 30 minutes later, wasn't even ten minutes before she went to the grocery store to get food. What are we gonna do?" It's just a reality out here in the mission field... single moms often sell themselves for food and bills.

We had two initial reactions, anger and panic level concern. To be honest I wanted to hit the guy with a baseball bat, I was so angry. How could he prey on a needy gal who had run out of food?! But then what about her? I wanted to shake her... Where is your self-respect? Don't you know about disease and pregnancy and...

Maslow said there is a heirarcy of human needs. If hunger, thirst, bodily comforts and safety/security needs are not met, we are reduced to a lower level of self, more animalistic. In other words, the survival instinct kicks in... and we do what it takes. And predatory men in our town know that (not from reading Maslow, by the way) and take advantage.

James described it this way... "Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, "Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well" — but then you don't give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?"

PS The answer is: None. Nada, it does no good at all to preach and tell 'em 'what for' or anything else until you meet their practical, primal needs.

Enter the church...

We can do this... we must. I've often heard the church saying that welfare belonged to us... well, where were we that night? What if we knew her, and she trusted us enough to call us instead of him? Thank God for my missionary buddy. He called. We acted. But you know.... there's so much left to do.

PS This has happened three times in a month that we know of, surely much more that we don't. Some of these guys you know. They have places of prominence and one exercised his power over a truly vulnerable situation.

You wanted to see the inside of an outreach ministry... there it is.

Church... please help.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

An infection worth having

We're learning a new missions term...

It's been around for a few years and if you Google it you'll find over a million hits. Also, it's a distinctively Christian word and recently made up (your spell checker won't recognize it). We're a little behind learning it, but we're not behind doing it. Stay with me, I'll explain.

Crosswind is a distinctly 'missional' (that's the word) expression of Christian life.

Crosswind began with a few Christians who began to live like missionaries. They began to be affected by the seriousness of the brokenness in our city and they began to do something about it. Suddenly their new affection became an infection that deeply changed the way they saw their world, the church and their relationship with God. Soon they found themselves living a new lifestyle, a missionary lifestyle.

Missions was no longer a project, it was a way of life.

This bunch saw missions as something you do all the time not just in Africa or at home during the holidays. They began to engage the need in their community, getting close enough to smell and feel the poverty and pain, the brokenness and dysfunction. They sought God day after day to find solutions to the problems of their city. And they are still seeking...

Something else happened too...

When they showed back up to church it didn't feel the same. There was something very missing. And it wasn't doctrine or friends, good music or preaching. It was this new infection, this 'missional' lifestyle. These guys loved being missionaries and they deeply believed it was God who changed their lives, their hearts and their lifestyle... and the infection...

well, it's spreading.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

what if we're the problem?

In Acts, God tells the story of how he was moving a guy named Cornelius toward Himself. At the same time however, God had to move Peter from his rigid belief system and religious paradigm in order for Peter to be able to engage Cornelius so that God could save Him. You see, at the same God chose Cornelius he also chose Peter. Cornelius chosen to be saved. Peter chosen to bring the good news.

And interestingly enough, Cornelius was more ready than Peter!

You know where I'm going with all this. What if God is out in the neighborhood and he has Cornelius' all over the place, hearts that He is preparing, fruit ripening... And what about you? Is it possible that God has more work to do on you than on them? Are you stuck in the rigidity of religious life... and what does that look like for us? What are our 'Peter issues'?

Peter thought you had to be in the right group (Jewish) to embrace Jesus.

What is it for us? Do we think people have to go to our church? Be baptized into our denomination? Follow our churches practices? Go to church at all? Who are our unclean, impure people? Are they poor? addicts? can't take care of their kids? the "Well, if they'd quit sleepin' around, this wouldn't happen to them" bunch? the "they've been to rehab so many times there's no hope" bunch? I don't what it is for you or for us, but I do know one thing...

we must 'put up with anything rather than to hinder the gospel of Christ'. (1 Cor. 9:12b)

Remember what Jesus told Peter in his dream, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Does God have to do more to get us ready for them than to get them ready for Him? I'm just hopin that the church can feel that uncomfortable feeling, have that strange urge and burden, and listen when the Lord moves us from where we are to where we need to be so He can use us to 'save some'.

PS Don't think you're not Peter... just sayin'.


Monday, May 11, 2009

...and some weeks you start a brothel

We started a brothel last week. Unwittingly, of course. Shut it down quickly, of course. We're still learning. It's hard to know the line and where to draw it. What is real help? What is enabling? How do you know between the two?

Here's some thoughts...

We try not to endorse, sponsor, pay for, or assist in destructive behavior. In short, "We ain't buyin' your drugs." But... what about buying food, when we know you used your food money on drugs, isn't that the same as buying your drugs? Answer, "Yes."

"Do not be decieved, God is not mocked, for whatever you sow, that's what you're going to reap."

God has universal laws. Immutable. You can't change 'em. If you don't believe it, jump up. 100 times out of 100 you'll come down. Cause gravity is an immutable law of God. So is sowing and reaping. If you sow destructive behaviors, you reap destructive outcomes. And God intended for those outcomes to disciple you...

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Heb 12:11

Many times us "outreachers" prevent this redemptive process from happening. Maybe missing a meal will make someone prioritize food over drugs, or sitting in the dark cause you can't pay your light bill might help you prioritize using light bill money on bingo.

But let me tell you, the burden of mercy to those in need and knowing where the line is ain't easy. Like last week, we put two homeless single moms up for a couple days thinking we were helpin' and the motel manager called and...

...well, some weeks you start brothels.


Friday, May 8, 2009

...and that's why we're a mission

It's hard being a mission director after you've been the pastor of a church for a long time. You just see things so different. You see the church different. You see ministry different. When I was a pastor I used to think the parachurch guys (ministries like ours and others) were kinda bad. I thought that they took away from the church more than they gave back, especially in resources (people who volunteer and the money they donate). I always thought, "Hey, give me the money you're giving them and the hours of volunteerism that you give them and we'll do what they do."

But the truth is, we didn't.

And that's why we need mission houses, ...and that's why we're a mission.

It's hard for the local church to "leave the ninety nine... and go after the one until he finds it". After all, if you don't take care of the ninety nine, whose gonna pay the bills? ... and that's why we're a mission.

It's hard for the local church to honestly, fervently and constantly reach out to those who might take money out of the plate instead of put money in it, who are more of a liability than an asset... and that's why we're a mission.

It's hard for a church (see budget's, including the verry generous churches I pastored) to do missions in their own community. Most of us give to missions (pay someone else to do missions) or do missions projects (go somewhere else to help some other country or town) but it's hard to live a missions lifestyle... and that's why we're a mission.

Someone asked me if we'd ever become a church. I said, "Unless we stay a mission, we won't be on mission." ...and that's why we're a mission.

I've asked many a pastor friend to look at their programs for a given year and see how many volunteer hours they alloted in ministry to the neighborhood and not for their people. Honest guys (and they most are) say, "not many". We didn't at our church. Sunday School... for us. Home groups... for us. Preaching... for us. Good music... for us. Youth group... for our youth. AWANA... for our kids, etc., etc. etc. I know what you're thinkin'... but it's for them too. Be honest, how many of "them" are there? Not pickin', just sayin'... that's why we're a mission.

Maybe someday they can be the same, maybe someday the outsiders won't feel that way at our churches, maybe someday we will spend as much on them as we do on us, maybe someday we will spend as much time in their neighborhoods as we do at our building. But until then...

We're a mission.