A Return to Rainy Season

By Scott Armstrong

I need to confess something at the onset of this article.  It’s regarding my spiritual walk and I am not proud of what I’m about to say.

I am very faithful at doing my devotions every day, but I do not always meet with God.

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Your reaction is probably this right now

What?! Doing your devotions is reading the Bible, praying and reflecting, all with the purpose of growing closer to God.  How can you do all those things and not meet with God? It doesn’t make sense!

You are right; it’s insane!  It’s like meeting up at a café with a friend you’ve longed to catch up with, and then spending the entire time on your cellphone.  I’ll go further: it’s like doing THAT and then returning home and contentedly checking “Meet with friend” off your to-do list.

I am faithful every day to read my Bible.  I pray and sometimes listen to Christian music.  But if I am not careful, it is all hurried.  Lost in the assault of appointments to come.  And worst of all, forgotten 5 minutes after I close the Bible.

It needs to change.  And that is why we took yesterday as our office to dedicate to a day-long spiritual retreat: listening to God through silence and his Word, confessing to one another, and praying for individual and ministry requests.  It was a necessary time of renewal that each one of us sorely needed.

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As the rain started to softly fall upon the grass and shrubs in our front yard, God led me to Isaiah 55, especially verses 10-11:

“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

I sensed him say:

“Just as the literal rain falling around you replenishes the soil,

allow me to refresh your soul every morning.

Don’t just open your Bible; dwell in my Word and let it dwell in you.

I desire to remake you into my likeness, but that takes time.

Are you willing to enjoy me or do you see me as another task to be completed?”

Ouch.

So I have committed to preparing the soil of my life to receive his nourishment every morning.  That can’t happen in five minutes of express-devotions.  Honestly, it won’t occur in 15 minutes either.  It will require making sacrifices in other areas.  THIS is the most important area.  THIS is the only real area that matters anyway.

If you have no devotional life, creating a habit of 5 minutes a day may be the first step.  God will honor that.  But if you have already developed the habit (or fallen into a rut), you need to take the next step.  Will you commit with me to make the necessary adjustments in order to move from ritual back to relationship?

In other words, let’s make sure we are faithful at “doing our devotions” every day.  But let’s make sure we truly meet with God during those times as well.

“Listen, listen to me…and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” –Is. 55:2

 

Trickle-Down Evangelism

By Jeff Christopherson

Are disciples becoming disciple-makers?

Does trickle-down evangelism work? If we feed the disciple enough, will he or she become a powerhouse warrior for the Kingdom of God?

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Here’s the version you’re most likely to hear: “We have to focus on our people. So many of them are immature and in desperate need of spiritual instruction. If we prioritize the growth and maturity of our people then that will have a trickle-down impact on their passion and ability to live on mission and share the gospel.” And so we design our churches for growth, consciously or unconsciously, through this filter.

This rationale at first seems prudent, but far too often the stated goal never comes to fruition. Rather than passionate, mobilized, mature believers, the church’s efforts end up fostering an inwardly-focused people who are increasingly isolated from the world they are commissioned to reach. Instead of a kingdom warrior, our trickle-down efforts seem only to muster an isolated, insulated, and evangelistically impotent churchman.

In reality, the longer it takes for new disciples to become disciple-makers, the more unlikely it is they will prioritize this work. Over time, the gravitational pull of their new relationships in the church will extract them from their relationships with others who are far from God and his church. The stronger the signal that church sends of ‘come and see’ over ‘go and tell,’ the less likely personal evangelism will ever take place. What’s worse, the more the pastor is observed as a ‘teller’ rather than ‘doer,’ the less likely the flock will be personally engaged in the work of evangelism.

So the trickle-down evangelism theory suffers from two fatal flaws: it creates a busy leadership that in their busyness become largely evangelistically unengaged; and, in our unending efforts to ‘equip,’ we have unintentionally isolated the mission force from the mission field.

New Believers and Evangelism

That’s why it’s vital that we create structures to unleash new believers into the harvest immediately after conversion. Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds believers that all those who have been reconciled to God through Christ have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16–21). This work isn’t for those who have crossed a certain threshold of sanctification; it is a mission given to all those who’ve trusted in Jesus for their salvation. “God saves and sends” isn’t a trite cliché; rather, it is the two-fold pattern God uses throughout Scripture and history to foster his missionary work in the world.

The temporal link between saving and sending maximizes the potential evangelistic impact and builds life rhythms that foster evangelistic intentionality throughout the new believer’s maturation process.

First, those who have recently come to faith are far more likely to live, learn, work, and play with those who are far from God and his church. Their previous patterns of life were likely infused with those in need of seeing and hearing the gospel. Not only are they in relationship with the lost, but these relationships are the prime context to model the transformation that the gospel brings.

Who better to notice the change of thought and practice that follows conversion than those friends who have seen the fruit of unrighteousness that once defined a person’s life? Since the relational bridge to these relationships is already in place, it is wise to immediately leverage them for the sake of the gospel.

Second, this level of evangelistic intentionality creates rhythms that should define the life of anyone seeking to walk faithfully with Christ. The malaise and apathy toward evangelism that far too often characterizes God’s church is likely attributable to the fact that many new believers internalized their church’s priorities which failed to engage them in evangelism early in their Christian walks.

As a result, in order for evangelistic fervor to mark God’s church once again, they must unlearn all sorts of habits that seem to imply that evangelism is an arbitrary add-on to an otherwise sufficient Christian life. Linking saving and sending allows the church to build healthy practices from the outset, rather than expecting healthy rhythms to mystically emerge after long contradictory patterns have already been forged.

This mindset need not imply that it’s unnecessary to equip and train believers to maturity. What’s at issue isn’t this laudable goal, but the pursuit of discipleship in a way that is disconnected from the work of evangelism. We can’t expect that an extracted disciple’s growth in maturity will trickle-down to a waiting harvest no matter the quality and quantity of the sacred buffet that we offer.

After all, if disciple-making is the assignment that Jesus gave his church, then evangelism really isn’t finished until the evangelized find themselves as evangelists and disciplers.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

CCO – Nicaragua, 2017

From November 24-26, 2017 the Nicaragua North District held a Cross Cultural Orientation, with 48 participants from 4 countries in Central America: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. In addition, 12 volunteer missionaries were serving in the CCO. During this time, the youth were able to listen to testimonies of what God is doing in other nations, and also what He is doing in the lives of the missionaries who have decided to be obedient to God’s voice. Many of the participants confirmed their calling and others found out how to keep serving in missions.

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Participants’ testimonies:

Kevin.jpg“Thank you, Global Mission for such an amazing job. This past weekend was exceptional and, without a doubt, God spoke to me and made my heart uncomfortable to leave my comfort zone. Learning about the missionary work that we do as a church trilled me, but knowing about all the need that is still taking place in our world touched my heart. The fact of knowing that there is still so much to do challenges me to be involved in different ways: giving, going, praying and fasting. I want to be Jesus’ hands and feet here on earth, I want to have a missional heart as He does, in which He gave everything through love to those most in need. This CCO helped me to change my perspective of missions, it inspired me to be a part of them and to have a willing heart to be able to serve and without fear say: Here I am, send me.”

– Kevin Rodríguez. El Salvador.

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COM nicaragua 8.jpg“The CCO is a space where the youth can discover and understand God’s calling to their lives concerning missions. It’s a huge blessing to begin to prepare yourself, to have a prelude of how all of our missionary brothers and sisters live, and to listen to their experiences, to be able to see how God is glorified in their lives, and also to learn how to do missions from our own home. I thank God for the opportunity of being able to participate in the CCO and confirm my calling to missions. The more a missionary is willing to let the Holy Spirit to guide him, the more He will bless his work.”

– Edgar Revelo. El Salvador.

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“I’ve been serving as a pastor for the Church of the Nazarene, and I have never understood missions until the day I attended the CCO. Before this I used to give only 10 cordobas for missions, now I’m going to give as much as I can.”

– Pastor Modesto Leal. Nicaragua.

Fily.jpg“It was an intense experience. The trainers had the necessary experience to communicate the message to the youth of our region who have the enthusiasm to serve our God. I’m thankful for the opportunity that the youth have to be involved in the churches. The CCO opens your eyes and heart to understand the calling that we receive from our Heavenly Father, in many ways. One of the sermons impacted me greatly. It was shared by Luz Jimenez. It made me reconsider, react and take up again the calling to missions with greater spiritual and physical strength. The CCO makes unique connections between the youth of our beloved Church of the Nazarene, and also brings us together as brothers and sisters. The CCO makes us share the tools that we are using to fulfill Jesus’ commandment for His Church. The CCO leaves a print in the heart that it will never be forgotten.”

– Filiberto Yat. Guatemala.

 

 

My Answer is Still Yes

My name is Freivy Lopez, I’m a member of the 2nd Church of the Nazarene in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico. For two years I served as a Genesis volunteer missionary in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. During that time, I developed many skills for God’s service. But, the best part was to learn to rely on God for everything.

Each day God taught me to rely on Him even in the hardest times, such as the day I had a gun pointed toward me for the first time. I recall hearing so much terrible news day by day, yet in my mind there was only one phrase “God is with you.” When the person left after pointing the gun at me, I cried like never before, and then thanked God because He protected me from what could have been something much worst.

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There weren’t just bad experiences however, as the days passed in San Pedro Sula I fell more in love with the simple smile of a child, and with each transformation that the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of so many people.

I can describe my two years in San Pedro Sula with the words: “Incredible and Blessed.”

January 13th, 2017, I returned home. I was happy to see my family and friends, but deep inside I had a feeling that something was missing.  As days passed by that feeling grew stronger.

People asked me if I was going to be a missionary again, my answer was, “Yes.”

On September 2017, I moved to the city of Monclova, Coahuila in Mexico. The project “Border Initiative” called me to serve as a volunteer missionary with the specific goal of planting new churches over the next 10 years.

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I want to encourage you also to say “yes” to the challenge God is putting in front of you. Don’t worry about anything else. God will make great things happen for you, if you will just trust Him.

And you know what? When you’re doing what God calls you to do, you’ll be a happy person. I can tell you, I am a happy person.

 

Everywhere, With Everyone, All The Time

By Scott Armstrong

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 11:18-19).

(Read Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28)

As a missionary—and sports fan—who lived in Guatemala several years ago, I discovered that Guatemala hasn’t really found out that there are many other sports outside of soccer.  They love their soccer, and players for the national team are heroes after a big win.  After an especially big victory over Costa Rica, I listened to the commentator on the radio excitedly praise the player who had scored both goals.  I can still hear him encourage the listeners in Spanish to “Bring Juan Carlos Plata into your home!  He deserves a place in the kitchen!  In the living room!  Talk about him in the morning, afternoon, and night!  Tell your kids what he just did for Guatemala!” 

Although that seems a little bit ridiculous, our verses for today point us in a similar direction.  This time, however, it is God’s Word that we should think about and talk about during the day.  His words and commands should be “fixed in our hearts and minds,” talked about “when you lie down and when you get up.”  Both parents and kids should live and breathe his Word 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  We should all be familiar with what he did for us and how his Word instructs us in our daily life.

Does this mean we can’t talk about anything else but the Bible? Are we just supposed to walk around high school and chant memory verses? Of course not.  But it does mean that we’re not just getting into God’s Word every day; it’s getting into you.  Sometimes we hurry through our two minutes of devotions and ten minutes later can’t remember what we read.  According to today’s passage, that is pretty far from what God wants for our lives!

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Is God’s Word in you or are you barely getting into God’s word each day? Is it a part of you or is it the essence of who you are? With all of the pressures of being a teen, it might be hard to imagine yourself just soaking his word in like a sponge soaks in water.  But it will make a world of difference.  When Jesus experienced the toughest of times, God’s Word was so much inside him that he oozed Scripture (Luke 4:1-13).  What would happen if you took with you today the verses you just read and carried them in your mind and heart throughout all of the activities, stresses, and temptations of the next 24 hours? It might just change your attitudes, conversations, and the way you react to tough situations.  Why don’t we find out? Read those verses again and ask God to help put them under your skin and into your heart and life today.

15 Things I Want To Tell My Third Culture Kids

By Rachel Pieh Jones

I get to visit two of our Third Culture Kids in four days. And then in eleven days they will be ‘home’ for thirty days. Life is good. Until forty-five days from now. No, it will be good then too, just quieter and slightly more teary.

Part of me hesitates to hit the publish button today, it feels private. Is the internet the place for these things? But part of me thinks I’m not the only parent overwhelmed and honored and pumped up about raising TCKs. And this part of me wants to acknowledge that alongside other parents and our kids and to share in all the emotions of it. So here is some of what I want to say, and have said, to my own TCKs…

  1. You are the coolest kids on the planet. You cliff-jump and climb up and then down into active volcanoes. You flew internationally on your own before becoming a teenager. You sleep under the stars on the beach and know how to pee on a toilet or in a hole or behind a bush or where-there-is-no-bush.
  2. I know it is hard. I watched you, proud and teary, the first day of school when you didn’t know how to count to ten in French and on the first day of school in America when you didn’t know how to eat lunch in a cafeteria. I see your moments of hesitation when kids talk about something you don’t understand. I saw your shoulders droop that day you wore your traditional Djiboutian dress to church and then, once you saw how other kids were dressed, asked if you could take it off. I hear all three of you refer to a different place as home. 
  3. I don’t know what it is like. I know what it is like to parent a TCK but I don’t know what it is like to be a TCK. I’ve read books and listened to talks and attended seminars but you are forging a path I have not walked. I’ve got your back and I’ve got a box full of Kleenex and an ache in my belly from our shared laughter. I do not know what your particular journey is like but I will hold your hand, fierce, until the very end. 
  4. I am sorry for the things this life has taken from you. The names of all the friends you have said good-bye to are branded in my mind. Grandparents and cousins at your birthday parties and school events. The feeling of belonging to a specific place, house, culture, language. A mom who can be a parent chaperone without having an accent. Sports and musical and academic activities at which you naturally excel but will never fully experience. 
  5. I am thrilled for the things this life has given you. Adventure and a wide-cracked-open worldview. The opportunity to trust God when nothing around makes sense or when everything around makes sense. Friends all over the world of diverse faith and languages and skin colors and food preferences and economic levels. Multiple language fluency. Creativity and the intrinsic ability to look outside the box, to see from another person’s perspective. Real gratitude, stemming from an understanding that things are fleeting, gratitude for relationships and for time spent in togetherness. Adaptability. Courage. Courage. Courage. 

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  6. I want to hear from you. Tell me how hard it is, tell me the things you love, the things you wish were different, the things you would never change. I need to hear from you what it is like, I need you to be honest with me about the goods and the bads and then I need you to let me hold you. And I need you to hold me. 
  7. I cry for the choices we’ve made. And then I defend them with passion. It isn’t easy to parent a TCK, or any kind of kid, and I have wept tear-stains into our couches and our pillows and the shoulders of dad’s t-shirts. Sometimes I wonder if we have been crazy or irresponsible. But then I look at you and I cry again, good tears, because you are beautiful and complicated and deep and these choices have been part of forming you into you. 
  8. You are strong. You’ve been through evacuations and international moves and medical crises and hellos and goodbyes. You have tried new and scary things. You have laughed and cried but I haven’t heard you whine and complain. You have more than embraced life. 
  9. You are unique. No one else in the world has your story. And yet, you are part of an amazing community of people with stories similar to yours and stories different from yours, whom you can listen to and learn from. An oldie but a goodie. 
  10. You have built awesome memories. Remember the time you camped at Arta Plage and the flood came and the French military rescued you? Remember the time you carried baby God through the neighborhood in Balbala, head of a train of singing and clapping families? Remember meeting the Harlem Globe Trotters?
  11. You have grief. And that is okay, mom and dad are not afraid of it and we want carry it with you. 
  12. You are creative. 
  13. You are empathetic. 
  14. You are wise. 
  15. I am beyond proud of you.

You know that book, I Love You to the Moon? Well, I love you to Somaliland. And Kenya. And France. And Djibouti. And Minnesota. And anywhere else. And back.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.djiboutijones.com/2013/03/1-things-i-want-to-tell-my-third-culture-kids/