I am not Ashamed

By Scott Armstrong

“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.” There it is, in black and white in verse 8 of the first chapter of 2 Timothy.  No getting away from it; testifying about what Jesus is doing in our lives is the expectation.  It’s what Christian’s do.  So, why is doing it so hard?

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I’ve been a missionary in various countries for the last sixteen years, and I’ve realized over that period of time that I, too, fell into the category of being “afraid” to share with non-believers what Jesus was doing in my life.  As a missionary, it’s part of my job description to be ready at all times to share Jesus Christ with whoever I might meet.  But amazingly enough that was part of my job description before I became a missionary, as well.  It is something that I should have been doing on a daily basis since the day that I became a Christian.

Maybe you’re thinking that you’re not experienced enough. What would you say anyway? Well, is God working in your life? Have you seen his healing hand, or his hand of protection, or his hand of mercy? Those are stories that you can share – nobody can say that they didn’t happen.  They might not believe that GOD was the reason that they resolved, but it shouldn’t stop you from sharing them.  Every time that you share about the greatness of God, a seed has been planted.

So, are you ready to start sharing what God is doing in your life with your friends? Don’t be ashamed to testify about how awesome our God is.  In fact, once you start doing it, you’ll find that it becomes easier.  Just like anything else, practice makes perfect.

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

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Maximum Mission – Honduras, 2019

From June 28 to 30, 2019, representatives from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the United States and Honduras worked in the La Ceiba community in Honduras, 98 participants gathering together to serve others through the Maximum Mission program. The weekend included visitation to a nursing home and an orphanage, creative evangelism, children’s vacation bible school, food delivery to families in need, house cleaning, crafting classes, beauty clinics (cutting hair, doing nails, etc.), among other activities.

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The participants were able to experience cross-cultural ministry through sharing with their Nazarene brothers and sisters from different countries, and they also had the opportunity to impact other people with God’s love and the gospel.

During this time many people reconciled with God and others accepted Christ in their hearts. Glory to God because He keeps using his Church to change the world!

Click below to watch a video showing some of the activities that made up this Maximum Mission:

–Luz Jimenez and Karen Pop, North Central Field Global Missions

The Story of Christina Begins

Recently, we have been receiving reports from our missionaries who have been planting churches through the Genesis initiative. They have been serving for more than a year in each of their assigned places and they are starting to see a great harvest. Here, we want to share one of the team’s testimonies in Queretaro, Mexico, written by Jhoselyn Barrios.

Christina is a 22-year-old young woman who has four siblings. She and her siblings live with their parents in Los Olvera. They moved to this place last year; previously they had lived in another municipality called Cadereyta. As a family, they have a plant nursery, which is their source of economic income.

We met Christina at the Community’s Center of Human Development, where we are serving as volunteers teaching computer classes and basic literacy. Some time ago, we enrolled in a Zumba class with the purpose of better getting to know the women of the community. Maybe some people will read this and say: That’s crazy! Zumba classes? But the truth is that it is a good place to meet people, to laugh, to empathize with others and to initiate conversations.

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After two days of getting to know her, Christina got in touch with us. We let her know that we were having a special activity for Women’s Day and also a beauty workshop. That’s how Christina began to get involved in our activities.

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After getting to know her more, we were able to schedule a visit to her home. Praise the Lord: that day all her family accepted Christ in their hearts!

A few weeks ago, Christina celebrated her birthday, and everyone was invited to eat at her home. We brought a birthday cake and a present for her. We spent time with her family and we felt at home when we visited them. Now they are one of the families that are receiving discipleship in order to be baptized. God is doing a marvelous thing in Queretaro!

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Isn’t it exciting to see what God is doing in our cities?! Please pray for Christina and her family. Also, pray for our two teams of missionaries working in Panama City and Queretaro.

 

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.

Wisdom in Contextualization: How Far is too Far?

By Ed Stetzer

How does the word “contextualization” make you feel? Free or fearful?

The $64-million dollar question about innovation and change is this: How far is too far? I can’t think of any question in the church much more controversial than this one. We’ve been asking it for two thousand years and rarely ever seem to agree.

Most of our discussions on these issues center around contextualization. We should change our methodology to better proclaim the unchanging message to a consistently changing world. But not all change is good, even when it is promoted under the guise of contextualization.

I am all for innovation. But it should be used as means to better contextualize the gospel, not simply for its own sake. We need to evaluate where that line is, so that we do not cross it and lose the very reason God has placed us here.

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Measuring contextualization

Contextualization is, obviously enough, all about the context. Walking with my nose in the air could mean I think I’m better than you. Or it might mean I’m trying to protect you from my nosebleed. Context provides meaning to your interpretation.

Gospel contextualization began the moment Christ came teaching in synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23). Christ presented words and deeds to His audiences in ways that were meaningful in their language and culture.

The language was Aramaic. The culture was Jewish (with a bit of Roman and Greek tossed in). The reaction of the crowds, especially the religious leaders, makes it clear that Christ’s words and actions were meaningful in His cultural context.

Changing in order to contextualize is not watering down the message of the good news of Jesus. The opposite is true. To contextualize the gospel means removing cultural and linguistic impediments to the gospel presentation so that only the offense of the cross remains.

But when we think about changes and contextualization today, it is easy to think you are the only one who has it right. Everyone to the left of has changed too much and lost the gospel. Everyone to the right is a bunch of legalists who haven’t changed enough and can no longer have a conversation with culture. To overcome this temptation, we need to establish what is unchanging and look for signals that our changes have gone too far.

More art than science

God designed it so the unchanging message of Jesus can fit into changing “cultural containers” in order to reach people where they are, and to take them where they need to go. Contextualization is a skill the missional church in the U.S., like international missionaries, must learn and use.

Contextualization, however, is more of an art form than a science. Clear lines that provide hard and fast boundaries for every language and culture don’t exist, especially as it relates to our orthopraxy (the way we live out the gospel). But there are certain gospel lines that we cannot cross.

What are the signs we’ve crossed un-crossable lines? If we have lost the clear proclamation of the gospel—Jesus’ death on the cross for our sin and in our place—or we downplay repentance and forgiveness, I think we’ve removed the intentional stumbling block of the cross. That would be a first warning sign.

If we teach the message in such a way that excludes or de-emphasizes the Bible, I think that’s a difficulty as well. If I find myself underplaying the role of Jesus in salvation or the necessity to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, that’s another red flag.

What works today

Some segments of our evangelical churches have adopted some changes and are doing anything they can through advertising, media, social media, coffee houses, movie theaters, music, the arts, and other venues to have a meaningful conversation with the world. Some Christians feel that giving any ground toward what they perceive (often rightly) as compromise with the culture will eventually cross the line into a heresy and pluralism slide.

Obviously, we don’t want to be syncretists with the gospel message. But contextualization means change will occur. We will be looking for new ways to translate the gospel that help others grasp its message. This is not accommodating the culture; it’s building meaningful relationships with people and speaking with them about the gospel (on the gospel’s own terms) in ways that make sense to them.

So when has change gone too far? When the gospel no longer looks or sounds like good news and Jesus no longer looks or sounds like the Jesus found in the pages of Scripture. But if the feet of those who bring the gospel are beautiful upon the hills, it is at least partly because those who hear the gospel are able to understand meaningfully the wonderful person and work of Jesus. The feet can still be beautiful even after you change shoes.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today.

There’s an app for that! Well, maybe not…

By Scott Armstrong

I use apps on my smartphone several hours a day.  You probably do, too.

Twitter? Fantasy Football? Tracking your steps every day? Yes, there are mobile phone apps for all of those.

But you already knew that.  Did you know there’s an app for virtually shaving yourself? What about milking a cow? Or that there’s even an app for nothing? That’s right.  It literally does nothing.  The screen goes gray…………and does nothing.

Make sure you download it today.

There seems to be an app for everything.  There are millions of apps for things I truly have never thought of in my life.

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But as far as ministry goes, there are still areas that apps have not touched.

Giving me 26 hours a day instead of 24? There’s not an app for that.

Helping me to fit in seamlessly in a new culture within 1 week? No app for that.

Getting my neighbor down the street to respond to the gospel and see his life changed? Nope.

Many apps help you save time.  But they don’t give you more time.  Time is the great equalizer.

Some apps help you to learn a language or discover more about a culture or country. But the hard work of spending time with real people and eating their food and beginning to love them for who they are with no selfish or ethnocentric motives? That can’t be microwaved.

I’ve explored lots of apps that provide ways to share the gospel, but no app exists that guarantees life transformation.

The idea of apps is usually to make life easier.  They might help us get work done, interact with others, or have fun. Apps are handy ways to directly assist us in some way and streamline sometimes complicated daily processes.

But ministry just isn’t like that.  Honestly, it drives me crazy.

Recently I was lamenting to my wife that the local church we planted in Dominican Republic just isn’t advancing like I want it to.  Supposedly we are equipped, capable ministers who have been effective in many different places and ministries.  We have not just gone to the training seminars on how to impact the city; we now GIVE the training seminars! What, then, is the problem?! Why aren’t all the neighbors we love and care for flocking to service every week? Why do new Christians take two steps forward and seemingly three steps back in their walk with Christ?!  On a less spiritual level, why are our accounts always so low and why does the stupid bathroom outside our sanctuary keep malfunctioning?!  Aaaargh!

Much of our lives are dominated by apps that help us do things quicker, cheaper, and more efficiently.  But almost always ministry – genuine, roll-up-your-sleeves, incarnational ministry – isn’t like that.

I would love for there to be shortcuts.  But no app exists for this stuff.  The Holy Spirit needs to do a deep work in people’s lives, finances, and even bathrooms.

Lord, quick or slow, app or no app, begin that work in us.

More Peaches, Better Peaches

By David Busic

A few months ago, I spent the afternoon with Junior and Jaci Rodrigues. They are Nazarene church planters who have helped to birth five congregations. Although they are both from Brazil, they have planted and are pastoring a church in Argentina. The city where their church is located is hard soil. It is the academic capital of the country and home to many universities. Being very secular and post-modern, the city is more aligned with North America and Western Europe than many other places in South America. A high percentage of the population are atheists and agnostics. They are the only evangelical church in their entire urban neighborhood.

The church building is in a semi-commercial neighborhood with many apartments and small houses close by. They were able to purchase it for a good price because for many years it was an illegal abortion clinic. The proprietor of the clinic died in the clinic and was not found for several months. Thus, many in the neighborhood believe the building is cursed. The church meets on the first floor and the Rodrigues’ live on the second floor with their two children. The congregation is growing and is having a Kingdom impact among their neighbors.

The back area of their small building opens up into a little courtyard. There is a peach tree there that had never produced fruit before. However, shortly after they moved in, the peach tree suddenly began producing peaches. Lots and lots of peaches! So many, in fact, that they could hardly keep them off the ground, and a number of peaches began to fall into their neighbor’s back yard area. One day their neighbor came by to pay them a visit. Jaci invited her in and said “I’m sure you’re here because of the peaches falling into your yard. We are so very sorry. We will be happy to come and clean them up for you.”

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The neighbor woman replied: “I am here about the peaches, but not because I am upset. I am curious and have a question. For the last 20 years, I have lived next door. This house has been an abortion clinic and that peach tree has been dead. It has produced no fruit — not a single peach. But when you moved in with your church it suddenly came alive and became fruitful. I want to know what happened? Did you put a spell on that tree?”

Jaci was surprised but prepared. “No,” she said, “There is no spell. All I can tell you is that this was a dark place of death, but now it is a shining place of light and life. I guess that is why God is blessing our peach tree!”

Their neighbor was intrigued and began to attend their church. Today she is a new Christian and growing in her faith.       

This amazing story reminds me of what Jesus said to His disciples about missional fruitfulness: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing . . . [but] if you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:5, 7 NIV).

Pastor Junior and Jaci Rodrigues are remaining in, relying on, and abiding with Jesus. Christ in them is bringing light and life to dark places. It was my privilege to ordain them as elders in the Church of the Nazarene.

In the inaugural chapel sermon for Nazarene Theological Seminary, General Superintendent J. B. Chapman challenged the faculty and students with a clear mission: “More preachers — better preachers.” I have always liked that phrase. I would like to suggest a small twist to the phrase and turn it into a prayer. What if all of our missional outposts, every local church, had a similar refrain: “More peaches — better peaches.”

More fruit — better fruit. May it be so for all of us.