Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Act II in the story of Job

This is an amazing paraphrase of Job 1, by Anton Van Reenen, shared with me by a Nigerian colleague.  As we have begun praying daily together as an African and North American team, we have been so blessed and have been growing in praising God, confessing together, and even singing together (through Zoom, which really equals more of a joyful noise than a beautiful harmony).  We bear witness to what this person has re-written in a current version of how the story of Job might sound given COVID-19.

"There was a day that Satan came before the Lord, and the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” 
Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” 
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my church, how they gather every Sunday, and praise and worship My Holy Name. They do this year in and year out, every Sunday morning, all over the world. From the time the sun rises in the east until the sun sets in the west, My Name gets glorified, like a wave washing over all the earth.”
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Have you not blessed them with health, wealth and prosperity, with which they have built beautiful church buildings, and filled it with amazing technology? Have You not blessed them with all manner of talents that they bring together in these beautiful churches they built and worship You with beautiful music that appeals to their senses?
“But if You stretch out Your hand, and take all that from them, strike them down with a plague or even just the fear of a plague, they will go quiet and worship You no more. This wave of worship, running from the east of the earth to the west, every Sunday morning and evening, will stop, and all will go quiet. Who will worship You then? Who will still make Your Name great?”
And the Lord said to Satan, “They are in your hand.”
So, Satan unleashed a deadly virus upon the earth, and soon churches closed all over the world. Everyone, Christians and Gentiles hunkered down in their homes, and everything went quiet and Satan was standing there, watching, waiting. All the angels were standing in heaven, watching, waiting. God was standing there, watching, waiting, as a great silence fell over all the heavens and all the earth.
Suddenly one angel called out; “Listen!” Another called out; “I hear it too, it’s coming from the East”. In a small living room, in a locked up house, came the sound of a piano being played, and a voice singing;
“Holy, holy, holy,
Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see,
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity!”
And another angel called out “Listen, over there, in the West!” The sound of a guitar, coming from a bedroom could be heard with a voice singing;
“All hail King Jesus, All hail Emmanuel!
King of kings, Lord of lords, Bright Morning Star!
And for all eternity, I’ll sing Your praises,
And will reign with You, throughout eternity”
Slowly, from all directions on the earth, the sound of instruments and voices could be heard, louder and louder, until it became a symphony of worship, rising up to heaven. A cacophony of song, praising God, declaring His greatness, thanking Him for His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness. Songs of dedication and declaration, songs of encouragement, songs filled with the joy and peace that can only come from God, sung by thousands of men and women, young and old, wherever they were, accompanied by whatever means they had.

And God turned to Satan and said; “Did you notice, today is Friday, but My people, having been freed from all the business that filled their lives, worship Me every day of the week, for they still know that "I Am!" The wave of worship that runs from Sunrise in the East until Sunset in the West now circles the earth, every day, as the earth circles the sun.”

And all of heaven fell down on their faces and worshipped God, calling out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His Glory!”

And Satan turned and walked away, defeated as he has been since the day of Calvary.

I want to encourage you today, in this unprecedented time in the history of man, to not let your voice go quiet. To not pack your instrument away. All of creation and all of heaven is standing still right at this moment, waiting, watching. Now is the time to make your voice heard throughout the heavens, now is the time to pour out your heart before God.

Our churches might be empty. Our musical instruments silent. Our high tech gadgets useless, but it cannot compare to the instrument God gave you, your VOICE to worship Him. He is not looking for the crowds, just an audience of one. Seek Him in this time. Draw near to Him through worship. If you have never done this before, discover the beauty and blessings that come with intimate, personal worship of God. Your intimate worship of God is all heaven desires to hear! Satan tried to shut us up, but he just released a whole new sound and wave of worship of the church! A church called "YOU"!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Made on Purpose and for Purpose!

A recurring theme throughout our teaching is that we each have been made ON purpose (Psalm 139) and we also have been made FOR purpose (Ephesians 2:10).  Many of us, who are not involved in a formal (institutional) church ministry, sometimes wonder whether or not we are doing something that matters or whether it matters to God when we use our gifts for making things, cooking things, building things, serving people, and so on. 

So we try to remind people over and over that the call in Genesis 2:15 to work and care for the land is a good and holy thing! We are the Church Scattered!

While I'm stuck in Grand Rapids and not able to get out to be with the people I love in so many parts of Africa, I like to look in the eyes of those who have accepted the call to be a Minister in the Marketplace.  So the other week, I made this video to the music of Stephen Curtis Chapman's song, Meant To Be.  The words are below and it beautifully captures these Biblical thoughts.  Some of our team have suggested that this song could be a theme song for DML!

Please watch this, be encouraged for yourself in whatever it is you do, but also look at the eyes of the beautiful business owners in these pictures and say a prayer of protection for them!

Long before you drew your first breath
A dream was coming true
God wanted to give a gift to the world
So he wrapped it up in you
Every step that you've taken
Every move that you make
Is part of his plan

You were meant to be touching
The lives that you touch
And meant to be here
Making this world so much more
Than it would be without you in it
You were meant to be bringing
The gifts that you bring
And singing the songs
You've been given to sing
You are perfectly, wonderfully,
Beautifully meant to be, yeah
You were meant to be

Long before you took your first fall
You stumbled to the ground
God started telling the story of you, to the angels gathered around
Every failure and victory
Everything in between
Its all in his hand

(Steven Curtis Chapman, Meant to Be - used with permission)

Monday, May 4, 2020

Do You See Grapes or Giants?

The book of Numbers, chapters 13 and 14, tells the story of the leaders of the tribe of Israel who were sent to scout the Promised Land and report back to the Israelites as to what they saw.

Remember that just prior to this, the Israelites had witnessed God in action many times as He brought them out of Egypt with miracles and plagues.  They had also just walked through the Red Sea on dry land. 

Remember that those selected to scout out Canaan were leaders, probably because they were men of vision and standing.

Yet, of the twelve men that returned, ten reported that the people were giants and that the Israelites would not survive if they went up against them.  The people joined this chorus, wishing that they had never left Egypt, and developing a plan to return.

Except for Joshua and Caleb.  Whereas the other ten saw the giants, Joshua and Caleb saw the grapes.  

These were grapes so big that it took two men to carry back one cluster on a log between them.  

In these grapes, Joshua and Caleb saw the provision that God had for them.  They saw the grapes as the promises and blessings of God.  And given what they had just witnessed with God's power, provision and protection, it seemed easy and obvious to see.

Joshua and Caleb begged the people not to focus on the giants: the enemies and adversaries to the promises and provisions of God.  But unfortunately, they were the only two that could look at the environment in Canaan and apply what they had just witnessed to this new environment.  And unfortunately for them, they had to wait forty years with the rest of the Israelites, wandering in the desert.

If all we see is giants, we will be ineffective.  Many of us are held captive by a "giant" mentality, in which we see negativity everywhere we look.  We are slaves in a "giant" prison.

But some of us are trying to break out.  We want to go for the grapes.  

We need to think grapes, walk grapes, and talk grapes.  When we close our eyes, we should see grapes.

Once you taste those grapes, the giants don't matter.  

The giants are on OUR property with OUR grapes.  The grapes are the reward for standing on the word of God.

In this time of the pandemic, do we see grapes or giants?  At this time in our lives, what are the grapes and what are the giants?  

What is God calling us to do as individuals, communities, ministries, or the Global Church?  Which do we focus on - the grapes or giants?

The DML team has been praying together daily about this and we believe that God is calling us to a time of repentance and revival.  We believe that some of the giants are traditional church and some of the grapes are the people released from the building.

One of our partner pastors in Burkina Faso wrote this to us in this past week:
Never have I felt ashamed of myself and for the Church like I do at this time.  We are so powerless to show the move of the Good Samaritan in a hungry world.  I think that the day Jesus asked the disciples to feed the mob themselves in the desert, the disciples gave a better answer than most churches could give today.  They said in Mark 8:4-5, "But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?"  "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked.  "Seven," they replied."  Rather, our untold answer would have been, "Lord, what do we have to do with feeding people's stomachs? Have you not come to feed people's soul?" No empty stomach will stand and listen to a talking man.
NEVER THAT AGAIN! Our better answer should be, "Lord, with you on our side, we are ready to care about all that you care about that is human:  missionally, socially, economically, and environmentally.
To tell you the truth, the experience of COVID-19 has opened our eyes!  We need to be fully Christian and to fully disciple every congregant, by taking into account all that God has for humanity. 
I don't know what your grapes and giants are.  But together, as the body of Christ, may we see grapes rather than giants in this coming week!