A Strong Foundation

By: Scott Armstrong

A while ago I had a conversation with a college student who I see a lot of potential in.  I actually see gifts and graces in him to be a fantastic missionary someday.  He is passionate about issues of justice and helping the world to become a better place.

At the same time, he recognizes that his morality is lacking.  He wants to hold on to some habits and practices that are slowly eroding his effectiveness as a student, a leader, and a Christ-follower.  Sadly, it appears that he is willing to change the world, but he is not willing to change himself.

Stevenson Willis wrote a book chock-full of wisdom and called, The Proverbs of Leadership: Principles for Leading Your People to the Pinnacle of Greatness.  In it he reflects on this issue of character (pp. 110-111).  I hope you find it challenging.  I may send it to my university friend:

“As with all the great cities built to stand for the ages Jerusalem is established on a bedrock of stone.  The outer wall which protects it is likewise constructed, for the footings that support it have been set to such a depth that it cannot be moved. ancient-angkor-wat-antique-1531677.jpg

But what would happen if the plans for its foundation called for stones that were cracked? Or were it constructed with a base inadequate to carry its load? And what of the cities which might copy its design, unaware of the flaws concealed within? As sure as the sun will rise, each would collapse.  Maybe not today nor tomorrow, but the downfall of all would be certain and inevitable.

And so shall it be in the building of your character.  You may rise to a position of leadership based upon charisma or personality – and indeed succeed for a season – but such unstable stones are not sufficient to sustain you.  If you are to endure through the challenges which will come and emerge with a character worthy of replication, your life must be established on a foundation that will last. 

Integrity is the bedrock upon which character must be built; honesty with self, the first stone to set in place.

Do not bargain with life by coasting on talent or relying upon charm to reduce the payment required for success.  Though such gifts have value they are often misused by the short-sighted to avoid sacrifice.  If you are blessed with talent in abundance or skilled in the art of charm, do not deceive yourself and others by hiding behind your gifts to conceal your unwillingness to work.  For, as many have discovered too late, the cost of your discount will be great and soon subtracted from your character.

Anything of lasting value requires that the price be paid in full before its benefit can be savored.  Though talent alone may propel you to the summit, you will not be allowed to remain; for your conscience (and others) will quickly remind you that you did not pay the price which was necessary to get there.

Cheat by avoiding sacrifice and you swindle only yourself.

There are no shortcuts in the construction of character.  Though the price for building it may seem expensive today, to correct its flaws tomorrow following a failure will cost even more.  From this day forth be honest with yourself and pay with gladness whatever price is demanded for success in your endeavors”.

 

 

 

 

 

Walking a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

“So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” (John 4:5-9)

By Scott Armstrong

Have you ever noticed how good Jesus is at putting himself into other people’s shoes?  In this passage, we see him doing it again.  Jesus is a Jew that is on his way to Galilee, and he decides to travel THROUGH Samaria, instead of going around it, like most other Jews of that time. Jews did everything possible to stay away from Samaria and Samaritans, and the Samaritans felt the same way about the Jews.  Jesus is no common Jew.  Jesus walked into Samaria and sat down in a very common meeting place for women. It’s as if he is inviting a conversation from somebody that was coming to draw water from the well.  And that’s exactly what happened.

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The minute that Jesus stepped foot inside of Samaria’s borders, he became the outcast.  By no small coincidence, Jesus finds the Samaritan woman – an outcast in her own town.

I think this is a lesson that we all need to learn as early in life as possible.  Why is it that popularity is SO important to us when we are in Junior and Senior High? Why do we exclude people, just because they dress differently or talk differently or don’t run in the same social circles we do? Why can’t we try to put ourselves in other people’s situations?

How could you ever effectively minister to somebody that is excluded? In this scripture, we see that Jesus became the outcast in order to minister to the outcast – and it changed her life.  Could Jesus be calling you to find somebody that needs a friend? I think he’s at least calling us all to see the world as He does, and start including the excluded.  Maybe that means looking outside of your normal “clique” and involving some new faces. Maybe that means integrating your youth group, and making sure that Senior Highers know Junior Highers and vice versa.  Whatever the step is, start taking it now.  Change the world – one person at a time.

*This reflection is part of a series of devotionals written for youth by Scott and Emily Armstrong. 

Being Like Them

By Freya Galindo Guevara

“ . . . I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22

When the message of salvation has changed our lives, we become passionate about sharing it.  That implies that we must find better ways to share it, both energetically and effectively. The Apostle Paul had an intense desire to share the Word of God and his own testimony with other people.  He realized something important.  Even though he wanted to share with everyone, when he traveled to different cities and towns he found that each one was different. They looked, thought and behaved in different ways.  Is it possible to share the same message with people who are so very different from one another?

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He gives us the answer to this important question: the answer is yes. Paul mentions that he voluntarily chose to act as a servant and, by doing so, win the most people possible.  The principles don’t change, and neither does his identity rooted in Christ, but he tries to enter the distinct environment of each group of people. His only purpose is to share the message of the gospel, not only with words, but also by living among them. Paul is not toying with his Christian behavior, but he does try to understand the perspective of different groups, not from afar but rather up close, even becoming like them.

We are all surrounded by people who are different but share something in common.  They all need God.  Maybe they don’t look or speak much differently, but they assuredly think differently from us. Are we trying to understand their perspective?  From a safe distance, do we try to share the only message that can change their lives? Or do we make an effort to draw close to those who are in need?

The urgency and importance of speaking the gospel compels us to get close to people.  We must choose voluntarily, without losing our Christian identity, to become like them so that they can hear the salvation of God and also see it through our testimony.

*Freya Galindo serves as a missionary with the Church of the Nazarene and is Global Missions Coordinator in the Central Field: Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Tear Down Every Barrier!

By Luz Jimenez Avendaño

“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  When they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3 

The Christian church was mature enough to make the biggest of decisions.  They agreed, after deliberation, to take the message of the gospel to the entire world. It was a decision they made under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The men of the early church did not follow their own will, but rather the will of God.

In Acts 13:1-3, the scripture talks about prophets and teachers. These two groups served different functions. The prophets did not belong to a single congregation.  They were itinerant preachers who gave their lives to hear the Word of God and share it with their brothers in the faith. The teachers belonged to an individual local church and their job was to instruct those who had accepted the Christian faith.

This list of prophets symbolizes the universal call of the gospel. Barnabus was a Jew from Cyprus, and Lucius was from Cyrene in North Africa. Simeon was also a Jew, but the passage gives a second name: Niger. Niger is a Roman name meaning black, which indicates that he would have moved in Roman circles. Manean was a man with connections to the aristocracy and at court. Paul himself was a Jewish rabbi from Tarsus in Cilicia. This group is an example of the unifying influence of Christianity.  Men from different lands and with different backgrounds had all discovered the secret of serving together. They discovered unity in Christ.

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God calls all believers to proclaim his word around the world. We are all called to share the good news of salvation. There is much to tell. Nevertheless, our prejudice towards a culture different than our own, along with customs, traditions, legalism and vain excuses, creates a problem.  Anything that inhibits the call of the Lord serves as a barrier to us obeying His command to “go.”

The truth is that we are believers, and in response to a heavenly call, we must share the marvelous love of God so that others can know him. These men accepted the call of the Lord. They were from different cultures, but they joined together in a single team to accomplish a single goal: to preach the message to those who were dead in their sins and needed to be saved.

Now is the time to break down every barrier and preach the good news!

*Luz Jimenez has served for five years as a volunteer missionary.  She is currently serving as the Global Missions and Genesis Coordinator in the Mesoamerica North Central Field, which includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Beauty in Diversity

By Freya Galindo Guevara

There is a type of joke that starts more or less like this: “There was a Chinese guy, an American, a Mexican and a Spaniard…“  The point of these jokes is to exaggerate the differences between different nationalities and exploit the impressions and clichés associated with the people from those countries.

In truth, thanks to the phenomenon of globalization, we meet people from distant and different places of the world living even in our own cities and neighborhoods.  A person can guess that someone is a foreigner because of physical appearance or different clothing, or perhaps based on their language or accent.  It is easy to notice the obvious differences between one person and another, primarily because they are from a country different from our own.

In many cases the world emphasizes the differences between races, cultures and nationalities in order to divide, discriminate and ridicule. As always, God shows us that his Kingdom is not like that. He finds beauty in diversity.  Can you imagine if we were all the same? How boring!

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There will come a day when all the diverse groups that have ever existed on earth—all the nationalities, races, languages and people groups—will be together doing one thing.  “…standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” (Revelation 7:9-10)

While we wait for that day, we must learn to appreciate the diversity that God has created, because that has been his plan since the beginning. We recognize that we are different, but that does not separate us. On the contrary, that unites us when we seek to worship the same God.

*Freya Galindo serves as a missionary with the Church of the Nazarene and is Global Missions Coordinator in the Central Field: Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

To Cross the Barrier

By Freya Galindo Guevara

“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

We can define culture as the combination of knowledge, ideas, traditions and customs that characterize a people group, social class, age, etc. Culture does not only refer to superficial, visible aspects.  Culture goes deeper.  It is inside of people. It is part of us.

Cultural factors can at any given moment, directly or indirectly, negatively or positively, affect the interaction between people of different cultures.  Crossing cultural barriers is not easy, but if we look to the Bible and specifically Jesus as our greatest example, we will realize that it is possible.

Jesus became flesh.  He became a man.  He became one of us.  He even lived among us! Jesus immersed himself in our culture.  He did not only share a message from a pulpit or a microphone. He truly lived among us as a human being. He identified himself with our bodies and our weaknesses.  And the incredible thing is that he invites us to do the same!  It is not enough to immerse ourselves solely in our own culture, ideas, values or customs. 

“Immerse ourselves.” An interesting phrase, right?

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In a swimming pool, if someone really gets in, they will end up completely wet because they are totally immersed.  Jesus wants the same from us, but not only in our own culture but also in the cultures of others.  What is the point of being immersed in our own culture?  It is something we already know and with which we are familiar.  It is where we feel comfortable and unchallenged.  God wants something more from each one of us.

Our God is multicultural.  He sent us to love all other people, including those who seem different from us.  What I am trying to say is this: we are called to love those who look different from us. In the end, when we do not share the same customs, ideas, or language, we must still understand that we are human and have the same need for God’s salvation and forgiveness.  That is where we truly demonstrate our love for our neighbor.

Jesus became flesh.  He became human and lived with us.  He invites us to cross the barriers that make us different and to make bridges that allow us to see us all as equals in our need for Him.

*Freya Galindo serves as a missionary with the Church of the Nazarene and is Global Missions Coordinator in the Central Field: Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

 

Seek Peace for the City

By Claudia Cruz Martinez

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:5,7

29171.jpgI have missionary friends who live in Mexico, and none of them have thought about changing their citizenship.   They are officially temporary residents.  They’ve built houses and planted fruit trees on the properties where they live.  Their children study at the schools in their cities. Societal and political problems affect them, even though they are not Mexican.  They wish that the cities were safer, that there would be less trash, that the roads would be in better shape, and that there would be less delinquency and corruption.  I have never seen them close their eyes to the social problems of this country, and I have never seen them indifferent to its needs.  They have always felt like one of us, but they know that Mexico is only their temporary residency.  It does not mean that they are anxiously awaiting a chance to return to their countries, but they are certain that God could take them to another country or send them back to their own nation.

God spoke his word through Jeremiah to a people who had been exiled from Jerusalem and taken as captives to Babylon. His advice was that they do everything necessary to live as residents because they would be there for a long time (70 years, according to Jer. 29:10 and Jer. 25:15). On top of that, they should seek peace for Babylon and intercede for the nation, because their own well-being depended on the security of Babylon.

As Christians, we know that we are foreigners on this earth, and that our presence here is temporary.  Still, we enjoy life, and make an effort to live in a way that reflects the eternal.  We cannot close our eyes to the needs of people around us.  We must not be indifferent to caring for creation, since God designed this place for us.  We cannot act as if we do not care for the hundreds of missing people, or the countless robberies and murders.  We must not be indifferent! If the city is unsafe, we also feel unsafe.

Wherever we live, we must long to see people reconciled to God. Jeremiah’s counsel is for us today as well: we must intercede and seek peace for our city.

*Claudia Cruz serves as the youth pastor in the Betania Church of the Nazarene in Ciudad Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Mexico. She is also the Global Mission Coordinator for the Mexico Field.