In my last update, I was thrilled to report Jessica’s (not her real name) progress going into the holiday season. My wife and I were honored to join her family for Christmas dinner at Betel‘s town center church in Birmingham, England. We drove two hours on Sunday morning, 23 December 2007, and eventually found our way there. Over 200 people gathered for the occasion and shared a wonderful meal cooked by “the boys” from Betel’s men’s program. As I sat there watching families relish those few hours of joyful reunion with their wayward sons, daughters, and spouses, it occurred to me that I had never been in one place with so many drug addicts, ex-offenders, alcoholics, and prostitutes. Jesus loved to party with people like thisâ€”the broken and the outcastâ€”and it was thrilling to meet many of them and hear their stories. Continue reading
Many of my regular readers will be surprised and delighted to know that not all things are as gloomy as I sometimes portray them. I’m one of those “glass is half empty” types, but it’s amazing how God brings certain people into my lifeâ€”to speak a word of wisdom or direction or encouragementâ€”just when I need it most. Funny thing is, a lot of this comes from fellow Christians who live on the other side of the planet through this strange phenomenon we have come to know as “blogging.”
One of my new friends contacted me a couple of days ago via email in response to the news I shared about my recent diagnosis of a heart condition. Next thing you know, my phone’s ringing on Friday night from a brother I’ve never met who lives in another country, just because he wanted to be a tangible expression of the love of Christ in the midst of my weakness and discouragement. Thanks, friend! I know you’ll be reading this and I wanted to say how much I appreciate hearing your voice and getting to know you by phone. Love that accent, too! Several other friends left various comments assuring me of their commitment to pray and directing my attention to Father’s promises. Continue reading
One Jewish carpenter. A hand-picked team of twelve working class Jewish men who were required to leave their occupations and follow the carpenter around the regions of Galilee. A message about the present reality of God’s kingdom. Miraculous cures of the sick: people raised from the dead. Spiritual eyes and ears opened by the life-changing message and the power of an unseen member of the Trinity accompanying them. Religious systems overturned and conservative theologians of his day unmasked as religious bigots, blind charlatans, imperialistic traditionalists. The weak, marginalized nobodies given priority over the powerful and wealthy elite of his day. Imagine being part of it all!
When Jesus asked the question of his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” he discovered that most people thought he fit the profile of a prophet. According to the disciples’ answers, some thought he was John the Baptist back from the dead (beheaded just prior to the above conversation) and others felt he was a modern-day reincarnation of Elijah or Jeremiah. The most important question, however, was directed at the Continue reading
It seems that a lot of marginalized people have intersected our lives since we moved to Wales, and in almost every case it’s been a good experience for everyone involved. We met Steve, a 32-year-old heroin addict a couple of years ago who had become a Christian but just couldn’t shake the habit. He lived with us for awhile and we helped him find a residential rehab program in Birmingham, England, with Betel of Britain. Two years later, he’s now on staff and recently relocated to open up a new Betel ministry in Sydney, Australia. These two pictures illustrate the difference love, compassion, and investing time in one young man’s life can make: the image on the left just before Steve entered rehab and the one below taken one year later.
I hope to interview a new friend of mine named Ben sometime next week: we might even do a podcast together and let him share his story of homelessness as a 21-year-old young man estranged from his family in England. I’ll keep you posted on that development, but he told me today that he would be willing to do it.
Until then, I have been doing some internet research and found a couple of homeless bloggers. I spent a couple of hours this evening reading The Homeless Guy blog and I highly recommend it to you. Here’s a brief introduction by the author in his own Continue reading
This morning I ran across an intriguing statement written by a British colleague in ministry. He writes, “the theology that matters is not the theology we profess but the theology we practice.” It really made me stop and think. Most of us already know more than we actually put into practice, so one of my New Year’s resolutions will be to read less theology and live a more theologically-aware life. This will require a painful adjustment to my lifestyle. Yes, the dreaded “C” word (“change”) must become a reality if I want to transition “what I know” into “what I do.”
May God’s Spirit tap into the massive reservoir of truth stored in my head, making it flow down into my heart, moving my emotions (since I am far too reserved) and my will (for I am far too set in my ways) to serve the Lord in these days. What benefit could possibly be derived from listening to someone preach with passion and theological integrity, if it does not move me to more love toward God and my neighbor? What is the point of going to Christian conferences and seminars, unless the truth I hear will engage my stubborn will and cause me to make disciples of the nations? And how can I “enjoy” a lively and stimulating Bible study with other believers if the end result is simply more head knowledge with nothing to show for it? Here are a couple of things I am praying for in 2007:
- God, help me to invest more of my time and energies with those who do not yet know your Son as their Savior and Lord.
- Keep me from wasting my time in pursuing stimulating theological truth, unless I can see obvious benefits in my daily life and ministry.
- Use me to encourage my fellow Christians, especially those who are new in the faith, to simultaneously engage in practical ministry as they learn more of your Word.
- Lead me in the crucial work of discipling other believers, as well as being discipled myself, in the context of the Gospel community where I live and serve.
- Give me more passion for those who live on the fringe, of church and society, and to truly love them as you have loved me.