Friday, July 27, 2007

No Greater Love

This week I have been reading a book recommended to me by a friend from England. Actually, he was reading the book himself and all the time he did so, he kept sensing the Lord telling him to send it to me. The book is by Mother Theresa and is entitled 'No Greater love' and is a summary of her key teachings, really a summary of the woman herself.

Mother Theresa became known throughout the world for her work amongst the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. This has been just one more powerful prompt from the Lord to me, about his call upon my life, and in particular to reflect his love and compassion for the poor and marginalized in our society.

Then again, just yesterday, someone read a passage from Isaiah 58 which has always tugged at my heart. The text goes like this;

"Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free,
And break every yoke?
"Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry,
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
"Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
"Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry,
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness,
And your gloom will become like midday.
"And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
"And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell." [Isaiah 58:6-12]

It causes me to reflect upon a parable Jesus told in Matthew 25:31-46 about the sheep and the goats (I encourage you to read the passage for yourself). Again and again in the Scriptures, from the old testament to the new, we see God's compassion for the powerless. I feel that to some extent my own ministry has not had sufficient focus upon relieving the needs of the poor. As I read the prophesy of Isaiah 58, God seems to calling Israel to a fast of compassionate ministry and justice. Working for the needs of those who are being unjustly treated and overlooked. God has a special heart for such people, he identifies with their suffering.

Surely the goal of his salvation being worked out in our lives, and our experiencing the liberating truth of the kingdom, is that we should seek justice for others. That we should spend ourselves on behalf of those less fortunate. In our desire to spread the good news of Jesus, we must first of all BE the good news, meeting real needs in people's lives. This a the way in which we demonstrate the love of God in a practical way simply because we want to be like Jesus who came to serve.

We can demonstrate genuine, practical love in all sorts of circumstances, we just need to ask the Lord to open our eyes and hearts to the needs around us. But I also believe that the Lord has opened a door through our connection with Myra Cross and the Dream Center. Just last night Carol and I shared a meal with Myra in our home. We were meeting to talk about a monthly worship and healing/prayer gathering we are planning to start next month. But she told of a man who had come into the food ministry yesterday morning to get some food. He had come with his wife. Despite being only in his 30s, he was bent over and found it difficult to get up and down. They took him into the chapel, invited him to kneel and prayed for him. There and then he received healing in his body and was able to stand up straight and touch his toes, when even just standing up had been very difficult for him. You can imagine the impact that trip to the food bank had on him and his wife!

We will experience the Lord's provision, his guidance and his light more in our lives when we give away what we already have. Our lives will become like a well-watered garden according to Isaiah - just like my Texas back garden today due to the persistent rains we have experienced - another beautiful sign in the natural of what God wants to do in the spiritual with all his children.

Praying for the harvest,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

God moving on UT campus

The following is part of a letter I received this week from Justin Christopher, the Director of Campus Renewal Ministries. This vision and action has come out of several years of praying and working for unity among the various campus ministries. They have embraced the Simple Church principles as a means of reaching, discipling and thereby transforming this college community in the Name of Christ. It is exciting to see how God is blessing their faith and commitment. I believe for no less for the wider community of Austin/Central Texas, and the Lord has called us to play our part in this.

It was encouraging to see their strategy of sending out students two-by-two (sound familiar?) but also the foundational importance of prayer. In our home church we have sensed the Lord's renewed call to be a people 'devoted to prayer' and for July and August at least, we have committed to gather every Sunday evening simply to come before the Lord in prayer & worship. This is in addition to our weekly gathering on Tuesday evenings - we just believe that to be devoted means that we will prioritize prayer and make sacrifices. But our longer term desire is to see the wider community transformed through the gospel of the kingdom, to see people coming to faith, being discipled and new simple churches being formed. So, a consistent part of our prayer is for workers for the harvest that God declares is ready.

Please pray for the work being done on UT campus and the people involved. But also ask the Lord to show you how he is calling you to the same work in your own context. May we begin to see a discipling movement emerge that leads to the establishing of new faith communities and the transformation of our city for the glory of God ....

Something tremendous is taking place among students at the University of Texas. Hundreds of students from over thirty different campus ministries and churches are working together to sustain 24/7 days prayer on the UT campus in the Campus House of Prayer (CHOP). These students are captured by a vision of seeing their campus transformed by God. They have a deep conviction that God will only reveal His glory in a transformational way on campus when the body of Christ unites in continual intercession.

Ministry leaders at UT, under the direction of Campus Renewal Ministries (CRM), have been working together for the last fifteen years, not simply by doing events together, but by actually pursuing a common vision to fulfill the great commission at UT. We are working “to see a viable Christian community in every college, club, residence, and culture at UT.” As part of our united commitment to research together, we have identified one thousand specific communities on the UT campus that we are attempting to reach. The goal: To commission missional communities of students into each of the one thousand. Two hundred of the thousand have commissioned missional communities in them already!

While the “campus saturation” strategy, as we call it, is the practical hands-on strategy to reach the campus, it is only as effective as the prayer base that supports it. Students have united around various prayer initiatives over the years, but never has there been the upsurge of students hungry for God in prayer as there has been since the Campus House of Prayer opened last year.

These students want a sacred place near campus where they can come to seek the Lord together at any time. They want a regular place to cross paths with students from different campus ministries and churches. They want a place where they can grow in their prayer life, where they can hear God’s voice as to their role in reaching UT, and where they can pray into the larger vision to saturate UT with the good news of Jesus. In the fall of 2006 God has provided the perfect place for a Campus House of Prayer (CHOP).

The CHOP is right off UT’s main drag, Guadalupe. Students can literally walk over to seek the Lord for an hour between their classes. Students in dorms or west campus housing can safely walk there any time of day or night. Plenty of parking is also available for students who live in other areas of the city. The building has a spacious prayer room, two small community rooms for studying and building relationships, and two small offices. CRM has moved its national headquarters from Cedar Park to this building near campus so that other national ministry leaders and students who come to learn about CRM can come to the headquarters and really experience the unique work that God is doing here.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

a missionary church makes disciples

Last week I talked about what "mission-shaped" church looked like and identified five primary values. I was challenged by a comment made to me that probably most churches would claim to uphold these values, yet the reality was that they were not truly engaged in mission. So, I wanted to take at least one of them (maybe more in future weeks) and think about what this looks like in practice within BridgePoint. I hope that this both challenges and encourages you to seek the Lord in prayer but also to step out in faith and put flesh on the words!

"a missionary church makes disciples"

A missionary church is active in calling people to faith in Jesus Christ, and it is equally committed to the development of a consistent Christian lifestyle appropriate to, but not withdrawn from, the culture or cultures in which it operates. It engages with culture, but also presents a counter-cultural challenge by its corporate life based on the world view and values of the gospel. It encourages the gifting and vocation of all the people of God, and invests in the development of leaders. It is concerned for the transformation of individuals, as well as the transformation of communities.

To put faith in Jesus Christ implies to follow him as Lord and Savior, in other words to live by the values and practices he taught and modeled when he was upon the earth, to adopt a lifestyle that honors him yet which may very well bring us into conflict with others who choose a different lifestyle. This is why Jesus spoke the following words in the context of calling and commissioning his disciples to a missional lifestyle;

"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law -
a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." [Matt 10:32-39]

The words seem almost shocking to us and don't seem to fit with our "pc" culture. But that is just the point - Christ calls us to costly, loving obedience. Some of the language is the Hebrew way of making a point - Jesus is not canceling the command to honor our father and mother, but is saying that even that primary relationship must not be allowed to get in the way of obedience to him.

So how do we ourselves grow into this, never mind call others also? What I see Jesus prioritizing in the gospels, as well as his devotional life with the Father, is that he calls a group of men into community (the 12) and then a smaller number still into an even tighter, more intimate partnership (the 3 - Peter, James and John). In other words, this lifestyle is not imparted primarily through the "classroom", but through relationships, shared life, celebrating and mourning together, praying and praising together, teaching and discussion, commissioning and equipping. Lessons are learned as he sends them out not alone, but in partnership with another to hang out with (eat), to heal, and to share the message of this kingdom (obedience to Jesus who is God with us) that is available to all.

This kind of devotion and commitment does not come easily or automatically - it is worth noting that even one of the 12 (Judas) did not follow through. His fate is a sobering reality. For us to fight the good fight and finish the race [2 Tim 4:7], we need to be in partnership not just with God but with at least one or two fellow-believers. We also need to be part of a community of people where we are known and where we can serve. To consistently serve God by sharing our lives with those who don't know him yet, we need the encouragement and support (including involvement) of others.

For some time I have been encouraging people to see the Life Transformation Partnerships (or Groups) as a tool or model to help keep us on track. It has been encouraging for me to see more people taking a risk and inviting others into a partnership such as this. You can read more details about these by clicking here. It has been interesting to observe that it tends to be the younger people who are more ready and able to engage at this level. But I want to encourage all of us to see that there is great value in our being this purposeful and intentional - in fact it is the (slightly) older ones among us who have much to give to a younger generation simply because of their life experience. The challenge however, is to commit to a more intentional, intimate friendship for the purpose of promoting a missional and godly lifestyle.

Just this week we had dinner and celebrated 4th July with our neighbors
(ironically 2 Brits, a Mexican and an American!) I shared some of what I have been talking about here and invited my neighbor into such a 'partnership'. He was very open to the idea despite our age difference. I look forward to seeing how the Lord will use this for his glory in mine and his life. My genuine hope is that these more intimate and dependent relationships help us 'put flesh' on the call to make disciples - they provide the context for imparting the life of God into seekers and new believers as we grow. So I encourage you, if you are not in such a relationship to find one - not primarily for your benefit (though you will benefit), but for the sake of the other person. Learn to give your life away for in doing so you will find life.

If anyone needs help or more information about these partnerships, please contact me at

Much love and prayers,