Saturday, May 4, 2013

Finding Joy in the Journey to TEOTE! 2

So several Saturdays ago we shared a story from the beginning of our journey. This morning we wanted to share with you a story from last night. It's in the form of a message we wrote to a waiter that we've been building a friendship with.  We "bumped" into last night at our local pizza shop, getting a bite to eat before we went to a concert (or so we thought)...
hey man!
I wanted to let you know that the concert was not last night it's tonight... guess I need a smarter phone! (c: It became apparent to us that the Lord had used our desire to see Nate's concert to have our paths cross again and learn a little more about your story. So on a much more serious and passionate note I wanted to let you know that Marghie and I are entering into a new phase of the call that the Lord has laid on our hearts, and we have felt led to share with you what we believe He is doing. 
His story is calling us to continue the work of the ministry of the body of Christ to foster an environment through which a church planting movement among various UPG's throughout Central Asia and the Middle East starting in lower Kyrgyzstan and moving through all the countries from there back to Israel can become a reality. The Apostle Paul's style of purposely being a "tentmaker" to gain a posture among the nations as not to be a burden on ANYONE as he proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom and demonstrated how they could follow him as he followed Christ is our desire as well. 
Through this "tentmaking vehicle" of small enterprise development in various industries that are relevant to these cultures (currently focused on the fiber industry) - we believe that we can exist to glorify God and pursue a global vision to the ends of the earth as a premier small enterprise development organization that brings hope to local communities through economic, social and spiritual transformation. 
Our current phase of "preperation" has included the following components: waiting, listening, studying, researching, learning, brokeness, repentance, humility and developing a servant's heart. We believe the Lord when he says that, "if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." Part of this phase is discerning who God has brought into our oikos (Greek word for sphere of influence) for the sake of seeking first His Kingdom and living out this calling of His on our lives. 
I believe that the Lord has been preparing His people for such a time as this - a people called by his name, for His glory and in His ways and timing, and I also believe that in His time he will hasten it and He will take the least of us and the small things and make them mighty tools of redemption in His hand. 
Maybe you have sensed that the Lord has been preparing you and others in your oikos for such an adventure/journey with God as well to a place we know not of. Maybe you would consider joining us in this preperation phase and enter together with us into this time of focusing on these same components mentioned above as we have to "lean and learn" into the future that God has purposely designed for us to walk in. We know that His salvation is more than just what we have been saved from but what we are being saved to. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 
Please prayerfully consider these things and move forward as the Lord leads. 
Your brother and sister in Christ, be God's to TEOTE!,
JC & Marghie

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Finding Joy in the Journey to TEOTE!

So maybe you’ve secretly been wondering, “Are they ever moving to Kyrgyzstan?”
After 7 intentional years of moving in that direction some of you are surely beginning to wonder. Did this trip help move us any closer to understanding better the time frame that God has for us? The answer to that question is a big resounding YES! But when? We still really don't know, but we'll share what we do know.
I remember sitting in the youth room in Atlanta in the spring of 2004 and feeling the first earth shaking realities of Mike Taylor's talk on missions and the bowl of names of peoples that had no Bible written in their language yet from the presentation by Wycliffe and wondering why I even cared. I had a wonderful family, a beautiful house, a great youth ministry, an amazing senior pastor and a network of friends that was amazing. I remember Marghie and I asking Mike if it was normal to feel this way. He paused for a moment and then said, "No, it's really not. If I were you I would take some time to seriously consider what God is doing in your heart."
Nine years later our family has certainly looked pretty weird to most folks. The decisions we've made regarding kids, training, relationships, focus, investments, everything really has been affected by this realization that God was doing something new in our hearts. At the time I couldn't really put it into words except that I knew God was calling us to something new and that we had to be willing to lay down everything we knew and just follow him. By the spring of 2005 it was actually physically uncomfortable for us to stay in Atlanta. We had this growing sense that if we stayed any longer we might grow a callous heart towards what God was calling us into and so we did the most horrifying thing as a family we’ve ever done – we announced that we were moving back to Ohio to be with family, finish my schooling and spend time asking, seeking and knocking. Everyone was shocked, but probably no one was more shocked than us.
For more than nine months I went through what I refer to as a dark knight of the soul. In general I felt like a slug. The evil one kept trying to convince me that I had just made a terrible decision and that I wasn’t really follow God but my own selfish desires. It was confirmed it seemed over and over as we poured our hearts out to God and heard nothing. It was if God had turned his back, closed his ears and walked away.
It was like a void, barren wasteland.
[this is the first in a series of posts about: Finding Joy in the Journey to TEOTE!. Following the Lord to the ends of the earth is a joy! At the same time I must state that at times it does not feel like a bed of roses and skipping hand in hand with God. In fact, there’s been an amazing amount of sacrifice, tears, surrender, repentance, rebuke, correction, hardship and frustration. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last 9 years it’s that joy is not primarily an emotion but a character trait and a choice. We hope that these posts will help spur you on towards deeper abandonment to God’s story of love for all nations and stronger resilience to walk in the good deeds of God that he prepared for YOU before the foundations of the world.]

Thursday, April 4, 2013

JC & Marghie are back from Kyrgystan

Okay so this probably won't come out right. Honestly my head is a little overwhelmed by this trip. But I have to share and ask all of you to join me in asking for wisdom and direction. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a better handle on this. One of the things that WOWed me this trip was that this world is more unjust and unfair than I previously thought possible. I'm sure there's a part of each of us that tends to think that in general you get out of life what you put into it. And that trying harder and being given opportunity to succeed is basically all that is needed in the equation for helping others in poor economic situations.
However, we met so many this last weekend who definitely didn't deserve the lot they had been handed in life... these were some of the hardest working, most compassionate, humble, self sacrificing, and dedicated people I have ever met, eeking out an existence in a climate that most wouldn't think possible to live in. Here's to you people of Chung Alai.
At 10,000 feet above sea level you have more joy, community, love and happiness than I believe I've ever seen demonstrated before. You've leveraged resources and opportunities given to you. You've maximized the surrounding tools and resources that you have. You've engaged and blessed so many strangers that have come along thinking they had an answer when really they didn't even know the questions.
For you life is a relentlessly double dose of H.A.R.D. How is it that you can wake up each morning with a smile on your face, a love in your heart, and a hand stretched out to serve and care for your fellow neighbor?
The mountains are an amazing site but the view of the people... WOW, I'm in awe! I left asking myself what did I really have to offer these people. In the three days that we were there I walked away wondering what if anything did I really have to offer these people. Dear Lord, teach us to number our days. Teach us to make the days count - somehow my soul forgot. How in such a beautiful country can daily life be so hard and daunting. What does your redemption look like there among the people of Chung Alai Lord? What new thing are you doing in their midst? Show them the way that they may walk in it, and teach me your ways that I can walk in your truth.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"A place where" vs. "A people who"

Walking away from my time spent in the Gospels this past week the one thing that struck me the most was Jesus was very decidedly initiating “the beginning of the end.”  You couldn’t help but think that the end is near - there’s just a few things that need to be done and then the end will come.  Right? Of course the very next thought that came to mind was why hasn‘t it?  If the end seems so eminent there in the Gospels accounts 20-60 years after Christ was on the earth why are we still here 2000 years later.

So that led me to this haunting thought, maybe we are finding ourselves repeating a story from the Old Testament where God‘s delivered people were not experiencing God‘s promise and rest because of their disobedience to his commands.  Maybe we in our unbelief are experiencing generation after generation who are wandering around in the wilderness never entering into God’s rest even though the Kingdom of God is at hand and our deliverance from sin has been completely provided.

So, if Christ said that He is going to build his church and the gates of hell are not going to prevail against it, maybe I've been looking at this passage with the wrong set of lens and trying to squeeze something out of it that’s not there.  Maybe we've taken the word build and wrongly assumed that Christ was associating it with a construction metaphor for a physical structure.  Maybe Christ’s use of the word build here is has nothing to do with a construction sense at all.  Can one not build a reputation or a following much in the same way a modern band would seek to develop a fan base?  What if Christ was building in this way?  Wouldn't that explain much better the context of the immediate verse?

Here is the first distinction between “a place where” and “a people who”.  There is always “building” when church is defined and viewed as “a place where”.  The building, as a physical structure, brings definition and a clarity to the task at hand. But a physical structure also brings restriction and a delusion to what kind of ministry can happen, with whom that ministry should involve, and how that ministry will be carried out.  It causes you to focus on a specific location, to establish a particular order and routine, and to adopt a certain set of norms.

The building also makes demands.  It requires large amounts of resources and energy to establish it.  It requires a great measure of leadership so that it can be best leveraged as a resource on an ongoing basis.  It requires that “insight into the future” be considered along with many detailed plans being drafted up so that what is built will accomplish what is expected or desired. And lastly it requires ongoing and progressive maintenance.

Not only does a building bring with it certain demands but it also makes certain assumptions.  It causes everyone to assume that it be used as a resource on a frequent and regular basis.  It assumes that proper stewardship be used in all aspects of the buildings potential.  And also it assumes that a good reputation must be established and upheld.

It is from these things: definition and clarity, restriction and delusion, demands and assumptions that a very powerful following can be amassed for it brings comfort, purpose and commitment to people to be defined as “a place where”.  Yet from the very beginning of the narrative that we find in the Scriptures we have always been prone to move from “a people who” towards “a place where”.

In the garden we find these two concepts in harmony.  Adam and Eve are God’s people and He is their God.  They are “a people who” in this way.  But they are also put in “a place where” everything is as God would have it.  It is only after sin enters the equation and Adam and Eve reject their status as “a people who” and God removes them from “a place where”.  As the story progresses we find them seeking to redefine what type of people they will be and where they will establish themselves.

Ironically, as the narrative unfolds God is always reluctant to re-establish “a place where” until his crown of creation reaffirms that they are “a people who”.  Time and time again God states his desire that we return and be His people and that we pledge allegiance to Him as our God.  In fact many times this very core principle that “we are His people and He is our God” is what invokes great emotion from God - whether to jealousy, anger and the wrath of God, or pleasure, joy and the peace of God.

We do find that God desires that He lead His people to a promised land - “a place where”.  But we also read that many times this place where is removed because they have refused to be a people who.  In the end of the story God ultimately brings those who have proven that they are “a people who” into “a place where” they can come in and go out.

But we find ourselves in the interim struggle with a message brought to us by God’s own Son that says, “You must be a people who, and you will not have a place where until this age is over... but I will be with you always even to the end of the age!”

So in closing, maybe buildings are necessary at times but they are not essential to what Christ is building, and that as His people what is of primary importance is not a place where but, a people who!