Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Relentless Shepherd (October 2014 Newsletter)

“for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:10

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” –Luke 15:4

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?” -Luke 15:8

“Go and make disciples . . .” -Mathew 28:19

Much of my job involves pursuing people, searching for persons of peace, and seeking those who are lost, broken, desperate, and ready to receive the Lord and Savior. Jesus did not tell the lost to come to us, but He commanded us to go to the lost with the Good News of the Kingdom. We have been sent to seek what Jesus seeks, to pursue what Jesus pursues: a lost and dying world which He purchased with His blood.
The world often rejects the message, turns their back on the savior, and denies Jesus’ Lordship over their lives. They are rebellious and disobedient. They do not wish to have a king to rule over them (Luke 19:14). Jesus warned His disciples that they would be rejected, encouraging them, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16). We are all tempted to give up on people, especially those who reject us again and again, but Jesus reminds us that they are rejecting Him. And though we may grow tired, He never does. Though we may have to move on, God is still working.

I remember being lost and running from God as a freshman in college. God’s pursued me relentlessly. I rejected Him again and again, but the Good Shepherd never stopped searching for the lost sheep. He went after the lost one, until He found me. I think about how overwhelming it can be to try to follow up on all the conversations I’ve had with people about Jesus, but then I think about how God valued and treasured me so much that he swept through the world until he found me. Like the woman who lost her coin He sought me diligently until He found me ready to receive His Lordship and His love.

The Father had a specific purpose in sending Jesus into the world: to seek and to save that which was lost. All of humanity was lost in sin and rejected Him over and over, but He pursued us as sons and daughters. Jesus commissioned us saying, “As the Father sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21). God calls us to persevere in the pursuit of the lost. Love is patient. Paul lists “patient” as the first thing love is. In another translation it states, “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Paul ends his list with “Love never fails.”

As I pursue people of peace, I am reminded that love is patient with people, willing to be rejected again, willing to share one more time, willing to wait and willing to listen. I am reminded that love is guaranteed success. Paul exhorts the Galatians “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal 6:9). We will succeed if we don’t give up. He also writes, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, he will also reap” (Gal 6:7). We must not allow the enemy to discourage us or deceive us into thinking we will fail. We have to reap what we sow. If we faithfully sow the gospel, we have to reap a harvest. I am in a season of great encouragement as I see believers from a Muslim background sharing their faith and growing in Christ, and watching disciples beginning to multiply, but I know that today is still the day to strengthen ourselves in the Lord. Greater work is ahead, and the best is yet to come. “But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!” 2 Chronicles 15:7.

This month I was meeting with a Muslim family to teach English using stories that show God’s plan of redemption from Creation to Christ. I was nearly asked to leave because Genesis says that God made man to be similar to himself (in His own image). Because I was asked not to teach from the Bible anymore, the next day I planned to give a full Creation to Christ overview culminating with a command to make Jesus Lord. If I was going to be kicked out of their house, I wanted it to be for the full gospel presentation, which I had presented once before when I met them and told them my testimony.

I was praying the night before that God would give the head of the household a dream. When I came over I asked him if he had a dream the previous night. He said that he had. I asked him what happened in the dream, but he either couldn't tell me because of limited English or was unwilling. I still don't know what he dreamed, but I trust it was the Lord working to connect with the Gospel.

In spite of asking to not hear another story from the Bible, we went over the story of Adam and Eve disobeying God in the garden. I had him read it in his language. We talked about it. He liked the story, and in spite of believing that God making people to be similar to Himself was blasphemous, he has always been interested in the stories. I showed him a gospel video about Jesus as the Sacrifice for sin in his language.
He wants to hear more stories. I was not kicked out of their house, and we've dealt with most of the major objections. We serve a prayer answering God!

Read the rest of the October 2014 Newsletter

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Drawn by Dreams (September 2014 Newsletter)

SUMMER 2010: Before arriving at I______’s house Mike excitedly recounted how he first met I______, a Muslim friend, and his first visit to I______’s home. After mundane conversation and enjoying food, Mike asked, “Has anyone here had a dream of a man dressed in white . . .” going on to describe Jesus from the book of Revelation. I______’s brother-in-law spoke up, “No, none of us has had such a dream.” Mike thought nothing of it, but when he was leaving, I______ walked Mike to his car. Once alone with Mike, I______ asked, “How did you know my dream?” He went on to explain his dream, and Mike explained that Jesus appeared this way to many people in dreams and that this is how Jesus is described in the The New Testament.

Mike gave I______ a Bible and encouraged him to read it. I______ spoke with Mike often, though always surreptitiously, about his dreams. In one of his dreams he was standing in waist-high water. Then, “I went under the water and came back up.” In another he saw a cave covered in a stone. Then the stone was rolled away and a man dressed in white was sitting on the stone, “And the man was so happy.” In a third, I______ was standing with Mike and Jesus high on a mountain and below was a huge crowd of people, some whom he knew. They were all dressed in white and glowing beautifully. In a fourth dream, I______ was standing in a room in front of rows of people with the Bible teaching them.

As we sat with him, he explained that he had stopped reading the Bible because every time he did, he had a dream. “I am scared,” he said. His father-in-law is an imam, and he was afraid of letting anyone know what God was doing in his life. Mike had not yet explained the full gospel to I______, and I was eager to see what God would do. Mike asked, “What do you think Jesus is telling you?”

“I think Jesus is saying, ‘Come to my home.’”
While God was doing amazing things in I______’s life, I was eager to share the full gospel message with I______. Mike had taken me to visit I______ because Mike was moving to a different ministry and was hoping to pass on the relationship. Neither of us realized the upheaval that was to come. Unfortunately it was an upheaval that distracted both of us. In the ensuing chaos, I lost I______’s address, and I lost contact with Mike as well. Many of us were simply trying to make sense of an increasingly difficult situation. As God redeemed the situation I thought about I______ often. In the following year, as God brought me and the rest of the ministry team into the center of His will and into the move of His Spirit, I prayed often that God would reconnect me with I______. It drove me crazy to think that there was someone out there in a two mile radius who was having such radical dreams of Jesus, but I could not connect with them. I prayed off and on for I______ for three years.
On Friday the 8th, I______ walked into the IHC ministry center asking for me. He wanted me to come to his home to teach him ESL. I was ecstatic, “Anywhere, anytime!”
Days later I went to I______’s home. He was extremely happy to see me, but he said that he was going to call to cancel the meeting. During the night a group of possums had torn through his roof and ceiling and into his house. There were multiple two foot square holes in his roof with rain coming into his house. He said he was so consumed with thinking of how to fix his house and if he was going to have to move that he didn’t think he could focus on learning English today. I told him I understood, but that we could talk for a short time and then I would return later in the week. He agreed, and I quickly began to focus on spiritual things. I told him my testimony, adding that now that Jesus changed my life I want to help people, so I teach people English for free, using the Taurat, Zabur, and Injil (Old and New Testaments) so they can learn to be close to God through Jesus. He nodded, “Yes, I saw you on the street a few days ago sitting with an older man. I know you, so I thought, ‘he must be giving him a lesson about God.’” I laughed and said, “Yes. I know God has been speaking to you and that you have had many dreams.” He nodded yes. Then he looked down and looked sad. “But I disobeyed. I did not listen.”
We continued our discussion and I showed him “The Prophet’s Story” short film in his language. I have seen the movie many times, but I became choked up while watching it, even though it wasn’t in English. I knew the Holy Spirit was working on I______’s heart. When the movie was over I asked,
“Do you believe this?”
He said, “Yes. I believe it.” He looked pained, “But Why did they [nail] him to the cross?” I explained why the religious leaders killed him, adding to the film’s explanation of Christ as the sacrifice for sin.
I asked him, “Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and rose from the dead?”
“Yes. I believe it.”
“Then you need to make a new decision to obey and follow Jesus as King.” I______ looked off into the distance. He nodded his head.
“Ok. Let me [think] about what I am doing [with my life].”
Two days later, I______ made a commitment to follow and obey Jesus as King. He is continuing to have dreams. In one God told him, “Jonathan is your [spiritual teacher]. You must listen to him.” Please pray for I______. There is so much more to this story, you could fill a book with I______’s dreams. While he is sharing his faith with a co-worker, he is scared to share with his family, “I don’t want to destroy my family.” I______ also has a number of serious immorality issues that must be repented of. There are far too many stories to tell this month, and I know the best is yet to come!
Read the rest of the September 2014 Newsletter
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Equipping the Saints (August 2014 Newsletter)

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers. For the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:11-12
As a full time missionary I strive to be faithful and diligent to devote myself to the ministry of the word and prayer, and to the preaching of the Gospel. When recording the lifestyle of the early church leaders, Luke writes “And daily in the temple and in every house they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” – Acts 5:42. I make it my daily discipline to declare the gospel to those who are far from God, following in Christ’s footsteps to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). However, God designed ministry and the ministry gifts for the Church. He commanded every believer to “Go and make disciples of all nations . . .” but He also gave us the task of the equipping and helping each other accomplish this great mission.
I devote about half or more of my ministry time to equipping the saints to make disciples, to hear the voice of God, and to minister in the power of the Spirit. In the great commission Jesus commanded us to teach disciples to obey everything that He had commanded us. This does not mean that we teach a list of rules or commands, but that we teach every disciple to have an obedient heart to the Word and the Spirit and we pass on His Word and mission. God desires every generation of disciples to equip the next generation for the work of the ministry. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul writes, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Paul was describing and instructing Timothy to pass on God’s word and to equip believers. And he had at least four generations in mind:
Paul>Timothy>Faithful Men> Others
One of my greatest joys is seeing others equipped and launched into making disciples.
This month I was blessed to be able to see my friend Sean, who I have been training and laboring with in the harvest, baptize two believers and start his own disciplemaking group. This is the fifth “second generation” group that has been started out of God’s work here in Detroit, which means the disciples who I have trained have gone on to start five groups in order to train more disciples and labor in the harvest. One of these groups started because when Sean was trained to pray for the sick, he went to the hospital to pray for a Muslim coworker who was suffering from an undiagnosed disease which, among other things, prevented him from eating for over a week. This man was instantly healed, and now Sean is studying the Bible with him and a number of friends. I am overjoyed at what God is doing through others and that the seed that He has planted in my life is reproducing. This is what only Jesus can do, and I am honored to be a part of His work. I am eagerly looking forward to even greater advancement of the kingdom and many generations of disciples and groups.
Read the rest of Augst 2014 Newsletter.
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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Giveaway!

I Contributed to a BookIt has been quite a while since I held a giveaway, but I am hoping to bring a few back, (along with some more project posts, which I always seem to be promising). For those who are unaware, I co-authored a book on divine physical healing with my fellow missionary-evangelists of WMI. The book is part of a larger project designed to help train the body of Christ in ministering physical healing, which is headed up by the documentary Paid in Full. I am prepared to give away multiple copies of the 360 page 40-day Training Manual, simply asking that you post a review of the book in return. It is a quick read in spite of it's size and is designed for devotional reading. 

Here's how to enter:
1. Enter your first and last name in the comments section no later than Sunday July 13th
2. By entering you promise to read the book,
3. And post a 250 word review on Amazon.com
4. With a disclosure of material connection statement (example: "I received a complimentary review copy from the authors. I have given an honest review.")
For a bonus entry include the URL of your blog and promise to post a review on your blog as well. I will announce the winner on Monday July 14th. I will also contact the winner. The winner has two weeks to respond and claim their prize.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Becoming Fruitful Soil (July 2014 Newsletter)

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. – Luke 8:15
In a discussion group, a friend and mentor recently asked "How does a person BECOME 4th Soil? (30-60-100)” referring to the “Parable of the Sower” in Luke 8 and Matthew 13, which speaks of a farmer who sows seed on four different kinds of soil. Only the fourth soil produces a good harvest, but it multiplies the seed that was sown into 30, 60, and 100 times what was planted. Jesus defines the seed as the Word of God (Luke 8:11). As followers of Jesus we are called and empowered to multiply the Living Word that God has planted in us. This includes making and multiplying disciples, and every gift and calling in the body of Christ.
Many who confess Christ find their fruitfulness and God’s Word stolen from their lives. These are first soil people (Luke 8:12). We must be aware that we are in a war, with a real enemy who seeks to destroy us. Others have shallow roots and do not endure trial or persecution, as the second soil (Luke 8:13). Many in our entertainment-addicted culture become unfruitful because of the concerns and pleasures of this present world. They are choked and unfruitful as the third soil (Luke 8:14). The fourth soil clings to the Word and endures, producing a harvest.
I responded to my friend from Luke 8:15 and Matthew 13:23 in a few translations, “4th soil: noble and good heart, honest, hear God's word and understand it, hold on to it, cling to it, retain it, persevere, endure, are patient. Luke 8:15 and Matthew 13:23 sound a lot like John 15:1-15 to me. Abiding in Christ, in His Love and in His Word, changes us into good soil.”
Abiding in Christ is our foremost responsibility. We are to find our rest and our roots deeply in Christ, His love, and His Word. We are to remain in Him, endure in Him, persevere in Him. We are to cling to His Word by reading and listening; we are to cling to Him in prayer. He promises, ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5. This is the secret of fruitfulness. This is how we can change and become fourth soil. This is how we can persevere in what the Lord has done in our lives. As a full-time missionary, I know that my first and most vital responsibility is to abide deeply in Christ, to use my time and my effort to go deeper and deeper into a relationship with Jesus that fills my life with His life and overflows into the lives of others.
This month I was sharing with my Muslim friend W____, after sharing the story of Zaccheus with him from Luke 19, he asked me to pray for his kidney stones. He had been miraculously healed of a rotator cuff issue months ago. After praying for him the second time, he said the pain was gone. After he emphatically told me what happened. I warned him from Matthew 11:20-24, telling him that those who are healed but refuse to repent and believe in Jesus will face stricter judgment. I told him that he needed to think deeply about what God was doing in his life.
The next time I saw him, he told me that every time he tries to read the Bible I gave him, “Satan makes me fall asleep.” I was glad that he was acknowledging the war over his soul, and told him the story of the four soils, emphasizing how Satan steals the word from the first soil. After finishing the story I asked him a question I’ve learned to ask frequently of both unbelievers and believers, a question I ask about myself and I ask about those I work with: “What soil are you?”

Read the rest of July 2014 Newsletter.
Read previous Newsletters.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bibliotheca by Adam Lewis Greene

A friend alerted me to this astoundingly beautiful project by Lewis Greene, who it turns out is a friend of a friend. The brilliance, dedication, and pure art involved in this endeavor should make it a favorite among Bible aficionados. You can view the video below and then hop over to the Kickstarter page.