I’ve had a chance to share some of my recent mission ventures with a handful of folks, but there is still so much rattling around in my heart … I have to put some of it in summary form (mostly for my own processing).
Satan’s Various Strategies and God’s ONE Solution
I imagine Satan thinks himself quite clever that in America he is an angel of light, filling big churches with man-centered teaching, entertaining shows, and Gospel-less preaching. People think they are “getting in good with God”, when all that’s happening is they are being duped by false-Gospels. I imagine Satan thinks himself quite powerful in Ethiopia where he advances false religions, witchcraft, tribalism, and demonic possession. People think they have no hope of freedom, when Satan holds on by a thread knowing his power is weak and his turf limited. All the same, over the years Satan’s strategies have changes and tweaks attached to them in order to best infiltrate the cultural milieu of the day (Os Guinness has a great book that cleverly exposes this – The Last Christian on Earth). BUT the clear and simple bottom line is that God’s strategy has never changed. The church has tried to change it to “stick better” or “present more softly”, but it’s always been about a Redeemer who rescues sinners by grace through faith. In Northern Ethiopia church planters are simply obeying the Word of God in sharing the Gospel with people trapped by Satan. Sometimes it’s praying for freedom from demonic activity, sometimes it’s sharing a story of God at work, sometimes it’s delivering medical supplies, but it is always about sharing the free and freeing work of Jesus Christ as the One rescuer of the soul. And over the past 18 months since we’ve been able to help in the training of these courageous men and women 55+ house churches have been established. WOW! These faithful brothers and sisters inspire me more than anyone else I have yet to meet in Kingdom ministry. Thanks friends for letting me be a part of seeing the Kingdom of God advance against the darkness in Amhara!
It’s Still and Always About Relationship
Crazy to think such an antiquated strategy for seeing life change would still be the case today, huh? Leaving Ethiopia I had the immense privilege of spending time with one of my favorite families on the planet (The Carrolls). I got to see what God has done through them in Uganda over the past decade. It wasn’t the amazing missions training center they built (and then freely handed over to the largest Ugandan denomination in the country) that impressed me. It wasn’t the focused devotion of this missional family (yes kids, you guys are all an amazing example of what a Christian family is called to be) that impressed me. It wasn’t even the powerful teaching that Dave has done on the heart of the Father (yes Dave … you are a deeply gifted teacher) that impressed me. It was the people whose lives have been transformed by the power of God through the love of His people. People don’t worship the Carrolls, but they have come to worship a great God because the Carrolls do. They have welcomed people into their heart and home to experience being loved and at peace. It’s not always easy, but it’s not that hard. It’s powerful Gospel living, but it’s not always “successful”. It’s full of joy and sorrow, delight and heartbreak. But it is the call of discipleship, and it’s still and always what God has called us all to. Imagine that – Loving Gospel Relationships as a strategy … maybe it’s not our cafés and cool music that change people’s lives. Thanks Dave and Jen for loving me, and letting me see and experience the powerful way you have loved a nation … and individuals.
This Is My Message and It’s Not Changing
I know, I’m blowing your mind here with the depth of insight and clever strategy I’m pumping out. We are all more alike than we are different. Sure, Ethiopia, Uganda, and America have great differences, but at the heart we’re all the same. The trappings of life are different, but the idols of the heart are the same: love of self, love of control, love of praise, love of comfort. And the temptations and distraction are as plentiful there as anywhere to think that there must be something more than the sovereign love of the Father, the all-sufficient sacrifice of the Son, and the ever-active transforming work of the Holy Spirit. I’m always tempted to change my message to sound more innovative and groundbreaking or to make people go “Ohh” over it. But I can’t, I won’t … there is just nothing else that I have to offer anyone on the planet than the inexpressible joy and satisfaction of the freedom and rest that comes through the cross. That’s my forever message and I’m sticking with it. Thanks Spirit of God for planting it deep on my heart, and always pushing it deeper in my life. Thanks Africa for being a good teacher to me yet again. And thanks to all of you who prayed for me … you were faithfully used to see the Kingdom of the Gospel advance as the glory of the Lord fills the nations!