Beauty of the Unexpected

Today is a sabbath day for me.  A day to change my normal routine, to rest from my ever spinning thoughts of production and efficiency, to see things I miss when I’m traveling too fast to notice them, to love well those whom I care for most but can’t spend the time that I may desire with during the work week, to ask God to renew my thoughts and refresh my heart in preparation for the coming week.

This morning I got up a little early (not uncommon for me – consequences of not being able to stay up late), used my French Press to make a nice cup of coffee and sat down at my table overlooking my back yard.  An interesting thing happened this week that caught my imagination.  Last month I planted some new flowering plants in my garden next to the pool.  This week one of those plants produced a flower that was nearly this size of the plant!  I remember when I was at the nursery picking out the right plants, my first impression of this one was that it kind of looked like a weed.   I almost walked past it, but something about the texture of the leaves made me look again.  It seemed to fit the big picture of what I was going for, so I put it on my cart and decided to give it a shot.  Little did I know that the plant that I nearly overlooked because of it’s weed-like disguise would produce the beauty that caused me to take notice today.  There’s something in there about how God sees and uses us, but I’ll let you mine that one out.  I have more discoveries to make today.

IMG_1298
Advertisements

A Life Well Spent

What is the best expenditure of one’s life? I’ve asked that question. In fact, that question has been influential in leading me to take the steps of faith that I’ve taken over the past year to serve with ReachGlobal.

From my perspective, the life of Jesus answers this question with great clarity. To build his Kingdom on earth, he did not establish an earthly empire. The Roman’s were already doing that with great resolve, and it fell in a matter a few centuries. He did not amass great wealth in an effort to care for the poor or to fund great ministry projects. He did not build great cathedrals to attract the masses. Jesus didn’t do any of these things. Rather, he chose 12 ordinary men with a relatively small following of disciples, and he poured his life into them.

The currency of the Kingdom of God is not power, wealth, or beauty. It’s service, love, and redeeming grace. And when we learn to invest into others with this sacrificial currency, God’s power, wealth, and beauty are manifest in the world.

What would it look like if we chose to spend our lives as Jesus spent his? What if we started serving, loving, and extending redeeming grace into the lives of people, and putting our trust in the work of the Holy Spirit to build the Kingdom of God through them?

As I invest my life to develop, empower, and release the men that God gives me to mentor and disciple, my Partnership Development Team, and African national pastors and leaders, my hope is to see that the expenditure of my life is just as Jesus would have it.

Perspective

My dad would have been 77 years old this week.  He went to be with the Lord nearly 5 years ago now.  I spent a little time at his graveside this morning and was reminded of a few simple things that may be worth passing on.  First, I miss my dad.  Part of the consequences of sin in the world is that the reality of death entered the world with it.  Although the separation caused by death won’t be remedied until we are reunited in Heaven, my hope lies not in this world but in the place that Jesus has gone to prepare for us.  Second, my dad lived a pretty selfless life and found great joy therein.  Jesus’ words ring true in my heart today, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Thanks for the reminder, dad, of why I do what I do.
Graveside

Source of Freedom

In anticipation of the celebration of Independence Day for the United States this weekend, I’ve been reminded of the depth of the privilege that the freedom we have in our nation gives us.  Even though our system of government and its out-workings will never provide the true freedom that we will one day experience in the Kingdom of God, when Jesus is King and sin is no more, we are very blessed.  I long that my brothers and sisters in war torn nations like Nigeria, South Sudan, and Central African Republic could experience the freedom and safety that I know as I write this from my home in Phoenix.

The freedom that we experience in our nation is representative of the fact that our governance was in many ways founded and developed upon biblical principle.  So how will war torn nations of Africa experience freedom?  I believe that the road to freedom for a nation happens when the church becomes an agent of transformation to build biblical principles into the fabric of the life and governance of a nation.  I pray that God will use me to build partnerships that will develop leaders who will lead their nation to experience the freedom that is only attainable when it is built upon the principles of God’s Word.

A Call for More Collaboration

Mike Edwards is one of my ReachGlobal Colleagues who is developing a dynamic ministry based upon collaborative partnerships in Berlin.  I agree wholeheartedly with his insights, and wanted to pass them on to you.

A Call for [More] Collaboration

by Mike Edwards

Over 180,000 people move from a rural area to a city every day. In the next four decades, one out of two people will move from the countryside to the city.

This global migration will generate challenges beyond our comprehension – challenges that need us to collaborate with others well beyond our current practices. The issues facing the urban world are simply too great for any one person or organization to resolve independently.

By nature, people of faith should demonstrate this mindset of collaboration more readily than others. Interdependence is built into the character of God and passed on in God’s creation. Can you think of anything God created that is independent rather than interdependent? From ecosystems, weather, human bodies and molecular structures to a triune God – all function interdependently.

Cities also reflect this interdependence with many interrelated, interdependent parts. Each part operates within a highly complex living system, coexisting and rarely operating autonomously.

We must recognize our interdependence so we can come alongside others, sharing ideas, people and resources in our cities. 

Yet, what does this look like in practice?

I have a friend who tells the story of the churches in his city coming together many years ago to host a Billy Graham event. For a time churches put aside their own individual efforts for the sake of something larger in their city. The result? A positive and significant citywide impact.

Cooperative efforts like this should not be the exception. When we understand collaboration correctly, it becomes our posture and the normative action in the city.

No one organization can positively impact a city while operating independently.

Collaboration also extends beyond churches to public organizations such as schools, social and municipal groups, and others who are seeking the welfare of the city.

A biblical context for this is found in the book of Jeremiah. The exiles living in Babylon are admonished to pursue the good of the city: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you in exile.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Collaboration does not mean that we lose our distinctive characteristics to work with others. In fact, the diversity of the urban world calls us to embrace our distinctives in order to be effective in a diverse city. One-size-fits-all does not work in the urban world.

So, we must differentiate ourselves while at the same time moving toward others in cooperation. As we do this, we discover common values and goals – and that we can accomplish more together than alone.

For the ReachGlobal Berlin Team, the value of collaboration leads to a specific strategic posture as we deploy the team in the city. If someone wants to have a specific focus or pursue a new idea, we first ask, “Is someone already doing this in Berlin?”

If the answer is ‘yes’ we move toward others in cooperation, strengthening the existing effort rather than reproducing what is already being done.

Does this mean we will never create new initiatives? Not at all. But when we do, it is not to compete with others or provide a better option to what already exists. We must have clear and compelling reasons for not collaborating before we act differently.

By placing team members cooperatively in various ministries and sectors of the city, we bring together ideas and mobilize resources in a far broader context than we would otherwise. This posture of the team encourages cooperation, understanding different approaches and expressing the wide diversity of strategy needed to impact a city.

We can do far more together acting interdependently than we can alone. 

For more examples of how the ReachGlobal Berlin team and others are working collaboratively in the city, follow our blog.

Simple Beginnings Lead to Profound Impact

The movements of God begin with the simplest things.  A smile, a handshake, a question, an interruption to our day; all can be the beginning of a beautiful work of God.  I wonder how many of these opportunities that I’ve missed in life because I was not attentive to what God may have in store.  Now that I’m working in partnership development (and quite honestly because I’m raising support as a missionary) my eyes and ears have become attuned to the connections that God allows me to have every day.  I find myself asking the question “is God going to develop something from this?”  I’m pretty certain that 99% of the time the answer is “yes”, I just may or may not have the privilege of seeing the fruit of it in this lifetime.  I’m learning not to take anything for granted, to pay attention to the simple things, to step forward rather than sit back, to look for the unexpected, and cherish the little opportunities that come my way in anticipation of what God may have in store.

A Biblical Perspective of Partnership

A Biblical Perspective of Partnership The idea of partnership is not man’s idea, but flows directly out of the very nature of our Creator.  In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”   In the next chapter He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18).  Being created in the image of the Triune God, we have been made to function in community with one another, not alone.  Just as the three persons of the Trinity play their individual roles in perfect harmony with the whole of the God-head, we have been created as image bearers to live and work together in community as a representation of His nature.  Jesus made the importance of our representation of the Trinity clear when he said in John 17:22-23, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you love me.”  When we learn to live, love and work in harmony with one another to build His Kingdom, we not only represent him well, but function in alignment with the nature of God. Paul and Peter both apply this idea into their instruction to the church as they emphasized the importance of each one of us utilizing the gifts that God has given us for the building up of the body of Christ (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:1-16, 1 Peter 4:7-11).  Paul’s call for us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices” in Romans 12 is followed immediately by the admonition “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think”.  “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Individualism in ministry around the world flies in the face of the nature of God, and how we are to represent him as His image bearers through the building of His Kingdom through the church.  It is when we learn the art of interdependence that exists with the nature of God, and how to practice that as His church that we best represent Him to the world.  Consequently, it is my desire to see churches and ministries around the world whom God has gifted in various ways learn to glorify Him through the recognition of the giftedness of one another, strategize how to maximize those gifts, and to work together in love to build His Kingdom.