Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matt. 5:3 – by: A.W. Tozer
Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply “things.” They were made for man’s uses, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.
But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.
Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne.
This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.
Our Lord referred to this tyranny of things when He said to His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
Breaking this truth into fragments for our better understanding, it would seem that there is within each of us an enemy which we tolerate at our peril. Jesus called it “life” and “self,” or as we would say, the self-life. Its chief characteristic is its possessiveness: the words “gain” and “profit,” suggest this. To allow this enemy to live is in the end to lose everything. To repudiate it and give up all for Christ’s sake is to lose nothing at last, but to preserve everything unto life eternal. And possibly also a hint is given here as to the only effective way to destroy this foe: it is by the Cross. “Let him take up his cross and follow me.”
From; The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer
I thought it might be interesting to for you to see what a day in the life of a missionary looks like—well 3⁄4 at least a day in my life.
We live in Tepic, which is our state’s capital city of about 400,000 people. Situated in an agricultural area that produces and abundance of: sugar cane, tobacco, mangos, avocados, bananas, coconuts and from the nearby coast fish and shrimp.
While we do have a car, I have gotten into the habit of taking walk-abouts. Walking is quite different from driving, where you are so focused on getting somewhere that you drive right on by a lot of life.
Today is Friday and Sol drops me off at the gym on her way to run some errands. I’ve been coming here for a couple of months now, ever since I blew out my knee playing tennis. At my age, I’ve got to do something to try and keep my heart pumping and blood circulating.
I miss tennis, but I’ve made some new and younger friends at the gym. There’s Roberto, Saul and Luz who are trainers and dozens more who like me have come for the torture of Cardio and weight training. It’s easy to make friends when you already have something in common3⁄4the love of torture.
It has been said that the sweetest sound to anyone’s ear is the sound of one’s own name. Dale Carnegie in his book, “How to win friends and influence people,” says that the fundamental act of calling other people by their name puts you solidly on course to establish a sincere relationship with that person. I took this saying to heart years ago and have since made it my business to learn and remember people’s names.
Still in my gym togs I stroll over to Intenzo (coffee shop) where I meet with Francisco weekly for a little one-on-one discipleship. On the way I pass Angela, an older beggar lady who I often joke around with, she is a regular outside the local supermarket. She doesn’t actually beg, but simply sits on a low wall with her walker alongside and a small plastic cup on her lap. As I draw near she recognizes me and give me a precious toothless smile.
I reach the coffee shop ahead of Francisco, which gives me a few minutes to pray about our meeting. I order my usual a double machiato decaf while I wait. Francisco was born in Colombia, abandoned as an infant, adopted by an American family and he is now volunteering here with a local orphanage. He struggles with the culture and doesn’t understand his wife (Mexican). We take his issues and find the Biblical principles that apply. If you ask him, he’ll say, “It’s working.”
After leaving the café I round the corner and pass a few minutes with another friend. Arnulfo lost his right leg to diabetes and unable to find any other work he opened up a clandestine shoeshine stand right on the side walk. Already a saved man, he was in a great mood today, after a two-year wait at the government hospital, he was finally being fitted for prosthesis. Arnulfo likes to read and I need to remember to stay ahead of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and bring him some books.
I’m headed towards home now and run into Iris along the way. She is a young girl who works in a local video store. We greet each other and I comment to her how much walking differs from driving in the way you actually get to talk with people.
In the next block my friend Hugo has a torta stand. A torta is a French roll filled with deep fried pork parts and drenched in a spicy dressing. Hugo was saved out of a life of drugs and alcohol a few years back, but hasn’t been to church in half a year. We meet on Wednesdays and talk mostly about marriage and family. I recently provided him with some coloring pages to use as he has started to read Bible stories to his two small children. His wife really likes that!
Across the street is the fruit stand of my friend Juan. Not surprisingly, he also has marriage problems. Juan could use some special prayer. The other day He was leaking some serious tears as he was telling me about his eight-year-old son from a previous marriage; how after 4 years together, his new wife, won’t or can’t, treat the boy as her son. Juan keeps making appointments to meet with me in private, but then calls at the last minute and cancels. It takes a lot of courage to allow your self to be truly known, especially for us guys.
It’s about a half-mile home from here and I take advantage of this time to reflect on this- mornings-events and send a few prayers heavenward as I chug up the last hill to the house. I have the usual office stuff to catch up on, emails to answer, newsletters to write, two websites to work on and a book I’ve been laboring on for a couple of years. It seems like no sooner do I get a few chapters written when I get a newer revelation from God and must start all over again.
Soon it’s 3:00 and time to pick up Paloma from school. As we arrive home, Sol has our main meal of the day waiting. After eating we slow down for a while which often provides a good time for the three of us to sit and read the Bible together.
Many people in Mexico work until 8:00 PM. This makes getting together on work day evenings (6 days) difficult but Hugo is off early and he is bringing his 8 year old son Yuban over tonight. We’re going to mess around in a wild area next to our house. I’m thinking small fire and roasted marshmallows might work well.
Of course all my days are not a full as today, but I miss it a lot when they aren’t.
Experimental House Church (a work in progress)
By R. Cody Smith (also a work in progress)
“What do you mean, experimental house church? Are you saying, you don’t know what your doing?” Yep, that’s correct, and I’m trying real hard to become an expert at it!
At first it was a little disconcerting, but I’ve grown to like the concept very much. It seems that the more I think I know, the more likely it is, that I’ve left God behind, somewhere in my wake. By not knowing—and proud of it—I have purposely left all the important decisions up to the one who really does know—God.
Please don’t misunderstand, I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck (too easy)—no—I’ve lived long and studied hard to discover just how little I really know.
The following however, are some things that I’ve picked up along the way. I think God has showed me some; the others just make a lot sense to me and seem to work. You’ll have to decide for yourself, which is which. I guess we could also call this, “Everything I Think I Know About Starting a House Church.”
Let’s get real and not start out by kidding ourselves about the possibilities (nil) of a prayer-less ministry. Having tried and failed at all other methods I am convinced that the most important thing I can ever do, is to pray.
I personally find consistency in prayer to be one of the biggest challenges in my life. If I’m not vigilant, my lofty goals can easily slip on down my list of things to do, and show up somewhere after “check your email.” More often than not prayer requires a lot of discipline and often resembles plain old hard work. Sometimes it helps me to think of prayer as the heavy lifting of ministry. I imagine myself lying on the bench in a pool of sweat, my biceps are quivering and burning under the strain, just one more repetition, 350 pounds of dead weight slowly climbs aloft, and clink, finds its way onto the rack. Another prayer sent home…
Prayer also enables me to work from daily guidance, remember, even Jesus only did what he saw the father doing. One day is about all I can usually handle anyway. When I get too far ahead of myself I am easily overwhelmed by the possibilities. Simple obedience is always easier, like falling out of bed. Why make things more difficult? One day at a time.
Praying for the lost has the added benefit of allowing God to work his way in my own heart, enabling me to begin to love them just the way they are, just the way God loves them too. The Kingdom is for everyone who God is calling, not just the good candidates, not just the ones I like personally.
Some church planting experts have pointed out that intention is an essential part of beginning a church movement. Ok I agree, It’s sort of like tennis, if I hit the ball without a thought of where I want it to go, it could end up just about anywhere (usually does).
There is a difference between being intentional, and developing programs with five-year plans, and the balance is struck in prayer. So I say, by all means pray, and pray intentionally; pray with a purpose, pray specifically that God will fulfill the vision set before us. He wants us to succeed even more than we do, but please let’s not make our plans in a boardroom and then expect him to give u some kind of rubberstamp approval after the fact.
Pray for and expect miracles, but if they don’t come right away don’t worry, we’re going to need a lot of maturity on order to respond well when they do.
Do less, be more: When you get that gnawing feeling that you should be doing something, don’t. Just as Jesus did only what he saw the father doing, be patient and wait on the Lord, then do only what he shows you. One simple act of obedience can accomplish more in the Kingdom of God than years of toil in the flesh.
Be an ambassador. If a stranger came to my hood and asked to meet the “Man of God,” would he be directed to my house? Everyone knows who an ambassador is, and what he represents. Preach the Gospel on all occasions, use words when necessary” (Mother Teresa). Remember, you and I may be the only Jesus they ever meet.
Humility is of key importance. Beyond what I say I believe, I must truly understand and live as though there is absolutely nothing that I can do for God. He is fully capable of accomplishing whatever he wants. The only thing left to me, and that by grace alone is that I would be a true disciple of Christ, waiting on his every command.
Be yourself at all times, get beyond what other people think about you and persist against all odds to fulfill what God has put in your heart to do. Being a pioneer is lonely work at times and can be compared to swimming upstream, when the current is strongest and our strength fails, the most natural thing in the world would be to give in and go back to the status quo, mainstream current flow.
The late Keith Green, a radical—ahead of his time—pioneer, continues to inspire me by his own personal motto—“NO COMPROMISE.”
The house church strategy doesn’t change anyone; people only become changed when they meet Jesus. It’s Christ in you, having communion with Christ in me—God becoming flesh once again in our midst—that creates a Body relationship that is indispensable to authentic Christian living. Be the Body of Christ with others.
Church planting is really more of a strategy rather than a goal. Our real purpose is to be obedient to what Jesus actually commanded us to do and that is to, make disciples. In another place he also clearly stated, “and I will build my church.” I guess that means I can just be a disciple, invest myself in the lives of others, and leave the rest up to him. Wow, what a relief!
In the New Testament there are to be found at least twenty-two instances where we are clearly instructed on how to share relationships with other believers. Sometimes known as the “one anothers” They include such commands as: loving (Jn13:34), forgiving (Eph 4:32), honoring (Ro 15:7), sharing with (Heb 13:16), encouraging (Heb 3:13), and even confessing our sins (Jas 5:16), all to be done, to, for, and or, with one another. If seems certain, that if there is one activity of the church that brings joy to the heart of God, it would be the regular practice of “one anothering.”
Keep it simple: Jesus said, “we need to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of God.” I’m taking him at his word on this one. If little children can get it, it must be simple. Of course simple is not the same as easy, and generally the more church experience you have the harder it’s going to be (it’s the unlearning curve). Be spontaneous, avoid organizing, and avoid repetition. Get the pulse of the Holy Spirit. Meet when you are led and when you have something to do. Perhaps weekly is too often. Variety is important.
Church should be fun most the time. “Emerging Church” guru Andrew Jones describes his innovative work quite simply as, “throwing parties, telling stories, and making friends.” That’s so clever, I wish I had been the one to say it.
Proximity matters: Great community requires ongoing contact (daily is good). I have a dear brother who lives across town. We get together about every two weeks, and while we enjoy our infrequent fellowship, it seems we spend most of our time together catching up instead of going forward. On the other hand there are people on my street that I see several times a day. So why not work locally? Drop that net in the shallow water of your own hood. Anyone who breathes is a potential candidate for the kingdom.
The meetings between meetings that occur informally are of vital importance, church as community is meant to be a way of life 24/7.
Be church with your own family first. Then you can simply add new people when they show up. It amazes me to hear of professional ministers who neglect the spiritual life of their own family while busily pursuing loftier goals such as church expansion or the great commission.
Start with your own heart felt desire for a community of loving friends. That’s what they’re looking for too.
Thou shalt have no agenda for my people. Sounds more authoritative in King James English doesn’t it? When I have a plan for someone else’s life, it usually doesn’t take them long to figure it out. A Christian with an agenda is just about as welcome as a multilevel marketer. Purge from your heart any hidden design that you may have for the people that God has sent you. Don’t see them for the gifts they bring, nor as a means of populating your program. People can smell wrong motives a mile away. Yours must truly be a reflection of God’s only motive, selfless love.
(a miscellaneous collection—not a bowl of stinky flower petals and spices) Start discipling them even before they believe. First they belong then they become saved.
“Never do anything a one week old Christian couldn’t do on his own.” Felicity Dale.
Everybody is a priest and an evangelist: sharing your testimony keeps it fresh for you, seeing others experience salvation will keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
Trust God in others long before you think of trusting them as people.
That’s seven, the perfect number, so I’ll stop here. I’m certain you’re going to have some ideas of your own to add to this list.
Just memorize this tongue twister acronym, and perhaps some day you’ll know as little as I do. PBMKCFP, more than vowel-less prattle is actually the phonetic spelling of the Klingon word for spontaneous growth.