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Where in the world is the church?

During World War II, my father was a prisoner of war under the Japanese. He, and those with him, endured unspeakable atrocities for more than three years. Although I was protected from all the details as I was growing up, it dominated our family in many ways. Looking back on it now, I’m fairly sure he would have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. It affected him for most of the rest of his life.

Today we have troops coming home from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are many veterans from the Vietnam War. Yesterday I came across these horrifying statistics. More than 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Every day. That’s one every 65 minutes. It’s more than are dying in combat.

Where in the world is the church? Surely Jesus has an answer.


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Do we have a heart for missions?

Here’s a great missions video put out by Act Beyond (formerly Mission to Unreached Peoples). It’s only too easy to get preoccupied with our own situations and nation. Let’s ask the Lord to touch our hearts with the things that are on his heart.

Choosing to step into pain

In my last post I shared some statistics that demonstrate the pain that the world experiences. Not that Christians don’t experience pain, but we do have Someone who walks alongside us in the midst of it. Alyce responded to that post, and her comments were so relevant and beautiful, I asked her permission to post them.


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We are called to step into other’s suffering.

It was something I wrestled with for a while with God. I used to facilitate a New Testament Twelve Step Recovery Program at a therapeutic community for women in recovery. Underneath their addictions were pasts of pain, abuse, and trauma. Their stories were unbearable and many times while driving home I would be crying to God and asking him all kinds of questions.  As the bridge for them between this world and Jesus’ Kingdom, I had wanted to pull these women into eternity. I didn’t know any other way to do it. One women in particular broke me. But God’s words to me were to “step into her pain.”

On one occasion in particular, I initiated yet another conversation with God. Thinking back to when He first told me that I would have to “step into her pain”. I kept running his words around in my head and thought, “But nobody does that. Nobody steps into someone else’s pain.” And for some reason while running it around in my head again I had to ask him,  “Who in their right mind would step into someone else’s pain?” I’m certain you know what the answer is that I received. I can’t communicate the exact response because it was a combination of words and visual images with no beginning, middle or end, and all at once, in a moment, it was a complete answer….. Jesus.

 

The world needs us

Consider the following:

17.6 million adults–1 in every 12–suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence

8% of people aged 12 and older have used illegal drugs in the past 30 days

Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. Every 14 minutes in the US.

The US divorce rate is the highest of any nation in the world

1 in 10 US adults is depressed

There is so much pain in the world. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed. He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows. We, the church, carry his message of salvation to the world.

Where is the church when the world needs her?

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Simple missions

This past weekend I met with a group of people to discuss missions.

Traditional church is complex and complicated. Think of what goes into a typical Sunday morning service, let alone the upkeep of a building, handling the finances, keeping the programs running. Ordinary people, who have no training in ecclesiology and who have jobs and families, would find it very difficult to start and/or run a traditional church.

Simple/organic church, on the other hand, is so simple, almost anyone can start one.

Traditional missions is complex too. They require mission agencies and mission boards to keep them running. Raising support is tough. It’s hard to adapt to a different culture.

A question I’ve been asking myself for some time is this. What would simple missions look like? Just as simple/organic church has a very different feel and DNA to the traditional, what would be the differences between simple and traditional missions?

What ideas do you have?

 
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Is the spiritual realm real?

Is there a spiritual realm, an unseen dimension to what happens here on earth? Is spiritual warfare just our imagination? Does what we do spiritually make any difference to what happens here on earth?

Understanding the reality of an unseen dimension that affects what goes on here on earth  jolts us out of religious complacency and a legalistic, religious Christianity.

Knights

For many years we were involved in a church plant in the East End of London in the UK. At that point in time, the area was not the gentrified place it has since become. It was a very run-down, neglected area of around 120,000 people, with 93% government housing. The unemployment rate, if I remember rightly, was about 17%. Within our church, (effectively a network of home groups) we had maybe 10 or 12 people who had been out of work for some considerable time with no prospect of employment.

As a fellowship we decided that this wasn’t just a natural problem but it had a spiritual component to it. So in one particular gathering, we put all the people who were looking for a job in the center of the room, while the rest of us prayed for them. Someone suggested that we treat it like the battle of Jericho, so we actually marched round them 7 times, shouting praise to God the final time. Then we prayed for each person individually.

Were we crazy? It must have looked crazy to any outsider. But over the next few weeks, every one of those people found a job.

Another example from a similar time period: There were riots going on in London, and they were approaching our area of town. The fear in the air was so palpable, you could almost smell it. There was a small corner store across the road from where we lived, and I remember looking out our living room window and watching the owner board up the windows. In the front yard of the house next door, a young teenager was preparing his arsenal of weapons to throw. We pulled together a few people and started praying, using the spiritual weapons of praise and the Word, believing that God would intervene and that Satan had no right to come onto “our ground.” As we listened to the news, the reporters gave a street by street blow on which areas of town were affected. The riots stopped at the very first street we regarded as our territory.

The spiritual realm is real!  In 2 Kings 6, when Elisha is under attack, surrounded by the troops of the enemy,  he prays that his servant will see the reality of the spiritual realm. All of a sudden, his servant can see horses and chariots of fire. God delivers them from the hand of the enemy. We need to have our eyes opened to see what’s really going on.

I’d love to hear some of your stories too.

My visit to Syrian refugee camps by Floyd McClung

The following is a report from Floyd McClung. It speaks for itself. It’s much longer than my usual posts, but don’t rush through reading it–let the Lord speak to your heart. 

 

I just returned home from a two-week visit to some of the Syrian refugee camps in the Middle East. Several people have asked me to share about my journey. Following is a summary of some of the things I experienced and learned, though there are many deep emotions I am still processing. I heard heart-rending stories of tragedy and loss as I met with the refugee families.

I met men who were suffering from wounds caused in the fighting. I “talked” with one man who survived a bullet wound to the head. The bullet entered his forehead and exited the back of his head. He is paralyzed, cannot speak, and yet he can understand everything. His wife sat beside him holding his hand. In that moment I did not see “a Muslim” but another human being, a man with a family he cannot feed and wounds he cannot get medical attention for.

In the same crowded apartment building, I met two brothers, both of whom had recently escaped from prison in Syria. Both brothers had bullet scars and shrapnel wounds. One of the brothers could not lift his left arm because he was tortured in prison – Syrian soldiers cut the tendons and nerves in his arm and wrist while he was held captive.

I sat with refugee families who lived in tents, and did not know where the next meal is coming from. I listened as one man said he wants to work but cannot because of his refugee status. That is true for several hundred thousand Syrian men, many from middle-class backgrounds, who are now refugees in Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. They are stateless, hopeless, and lost. And it is illegal for them to take a wage-earning job in their host country.

It is hard to assimilate all I witnessed and heard in those few days. I asked the Lord to allow me to feel what He feels and to see what He sees. Perhaps no one outside Syria can really understand what the Syrian refugees have been through. But still, I asked God to touch my heart in a deep and lasting way. He is still doing that in me.

I am a man of action, so what I saw and felt is meaningless to me if I don’t do something with it. I will act. I have come back to Cape Town filled with passion and purpose. I feel called to mobilize as many as I can to get involved, to give if they cannot go.

What was most striking to me in my talks with the refugees was their spiritual hunger and openness. They longed to know God had not abandoned them. They smiled with sincere appreciation when I spoke to them about His love for them, when I told them He spared their lives, and that He has a purpose for them. I reminded them that He is a creator, and He will create a new life and a new beginning for them. I compared it to being “born again.” No one objected when we spoke of the love of God revealed in Jesus.

Several million Syrian people have been forced from their homes, their land and their families because of the war. Some of the families told me about their houses being struck by bombs while they were in them. They lived to tell their story. Other families described the physical pain and discomfort caused by chemical weapons. One mother asked for prayer for her baby boy named Sultan.

More than one family had TVs on, blaring continually with live news reports about the fighting. Their TV’s are on night and day. They watch as the “rebels” fight against the Syrian army in their home towns. Places that were names on the news to me previously became more real when I met people from places like Homs, Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa – where the revolution began.

Can you imagine sitting with a family, while in the background a TV showed violent, bloody scenes of gun battles, RPG’s being fired from wrecked buildings, and snipers killing unsuspecting enemy soldiers? It was disturbing. It hit me that they were watching news reports about their family members and hometowns.

Most of the refugees grieve without knowing how to grieve. Their culture does not allow them to mourn their losses. Except for the first few hours after death, they cannot acknowledge pain when they lose their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons to the fighting. When waves of grief overcome them, they can only cry alone with no one to talk to.

The refugees struggle with feelings of abandonment by the rest of the world. They feel alone in their struggle against a ruthless regime. Hopelessness was tangible in every conversation.

At the same time, in every interaction with the refugees, they were incredibly generous and hospitable.

One thing is clear to me above everything else:there is great spiritual hunger and openness to the good news of Jesus. There are several million Syrian people suffering. They experience hunger, hopelessness, and confusion. I was overwhelmed with the desperate longing by the Syrian people I met to be listened to, to be helped, and to hear the good news of God’s love for them.

Their hospitality amazed me.

In every home, in every shop, and in every single contact with the refugees, I experienced warm hospitality and generosity.I witnessed amazing grace in the midst of huge tragedy and pain. Everyone we visited served us what food they had. They gave us coffee, tea, cakes, hot meals, and soft drinks – at great sacrifice to themselves. I was humbled and deeply touched by their kindness to me, a stranger.

No one turned down prayer. Everyone listened eagerly to the news that God had not forgotten them. They joined us respectfully as I prayed for them in Jesus name.

We have to respond while there is still time! This moment of opportunity and need will not last for long. When the immediate crisis is past, people will settle in new countries, or return to Syria to rebuild their homes, and then the opportunity to minister the love of Jesus will not be the same. Many of the refugees will melt into the local culture. Already thousands of them are doing their best to move out of the camps and into the towns and cities in their host countries, such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

We have to respond while the people are open! There are hundreds of thousands of refugee children. The UN is overwhelmed by the crisis. UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) leaders describe the tragedy as beyond any other faced by the United Nations in recent memory.

What can be done? You can give financially to help us send teams and provide food for the refugees. We have volunteers in All Nations lining up, willing to go. Short-term teams can go now to the camps. We can play with their children, listen to their stories, start schools, teach English, hire Arabic speaking translators, help them get medical assistance, and pray with them. We can share the good news of Jesus.

Every Syrian refugee has a name, a journey, and a story to tell. If nothing else, we can take a packet of food to a family, then sit and listen, and care for them. We can weep with them. And we can share the love of God with them.

I am returning to Lebanon in four weeks time.I would be grateful for your assistance with my travel costs. While there I will help train workers, and I will strategize and plan for meeting needs. I will visit some of the refugees and minister to them. I will arrange accommodation for teams coming in the next few months.

Beyond these initial impressions I shared above, I have concluded the following five things about the Muslim world and Syria… I include suggestions for how to respond, and how not to respond to the Syrian refugees:

The conflict in Syria has created an urgent, unique moment of opportunity. This crisis has an expiry date! It is urgent that we respond now, before the window of opportunity closes. Perhaps we only have 6-12 months to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Our response must not be a political response, though we all have our political convictions, but a spiritual and practical one. We, as followers of Christ, offer something no government or UN agency can offer. We must provide aid to those suffering, and we must do so in the name of Jesus, with prayer and the good news of Jesus.

Syria as a nation will most likely open to outside help for rebuilding their country once the war ends. We should plan now to be part of that response. There will most likely be ongoing tensions and fighting between various Islamic factions within Syria for many years to come, but the danger involved must not stop us from being involved. Danger is normal for those who get involved in crisis situations.

When we respond to the Syrian refugees, we have accepted an invitation by God to be part of him “shaking all nations, that they might seek after the desire of all nations.”Haggai 2

I learned on this trip that the Arab Spring began in Indonesia in 1996, not two years ago in Tunisia.The Arab Spring is bigger and has been going on longer than I realized. It began with the fall of Suharto, the world’s longest serving dictator in the world’s largest Muslim country. It was students demonstrating on the streets of Jakarta in massive numbers that forced his resignation. The “Arab Spring” continues to break out around the Muslim world. The Arab Spring is a spiritual shaking from God. It has shaken Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Malaysia, Somalia, Lebanon, Jordan, Sudan/South Sudan, Iran, and now Syria. It is as significant as the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

The Arab Spring is a spiritual movement and radical terrorism is political response to a spiritual phenomenon. If we see the Middle East through the grid of politics, of what America or the United Nations should or should not do, we will miss what God is up to. We must not think in terms of “radical terrorists” or “extremists” or the “threat to the West…” Much of the Islamic terrorism in the world today is a false-spiritual response to a massive turning of millions of Muslims to Jesus. It is Satan’s way of distracting us, of filling our hearts with fear, anger, and unbelief. We are living in the time of the greatest harvest ever among Muslims coming to faith in Jesus. Of course, Satan is not happy about that – so he is stirring up anger and hatred in the hearts of extremists to act violently, and thus to cause a polarization, a temptation to people in the West to respond in the same spirit. Don’t fall for it! This is a moment in history catalyzed by God to create deep hunger and spiritual crisis in the hearts of people in the Muslim world. It represents a historical turning point in the history of Islam. Respond with prayer, love, and faith, not fear, retaliation or suspicion. See and be impressed with what God is up to, not what the enemy is doing.

To be fully understood, the Syrian refugee crisis must be seen in the greater context of the “Arab Spring” and what is happening all over the Muslim world. Though there is a terrible war in Syria with grave injustices on both sides of the conflict, it is happening because God has seen fit to allow the status quo to be unsettled in the Muslim world. Many Muslims are asking why Muslims are killing Muslims? The crisis in Syria is a severe spiritual blow to Islam that represents a split in the heart of Islam, a division between moderate and radical streams of belief. There is a major spiritual conflict/divide taking place within Islam, and this divide represents a unique moment to share the love of Jesus with Muslims.

Finally, we must not buy into the dualistic, Western mindset that says we should not “take advantage” of people in crisis situations by offering to pray for them, or sharing the Gospel with them, or inviting them to faith in Jesus. Of course, we should not pressure people or manipulate them into “making decisions” based on what we do for them. But we must follow Jesus’ example and obey His command to announce the good news of the kingdom and to heal them. Sharing the love of Jesus, telling the good news of forgiveness and hope in Christ is not manipulation, but providing the spiritual hope people long for. Sadly, I witnessed relief groups separating their good deeds from the good news of Jesus while on this trip. It convinced me once again that hopelessness and Christ-less ness go hand in hand, and the core of what we do in All Nations is discipling people to faith in Jesus, the hope of the world.

Please pray about how you should respond to the Syrian refugees, will you?

Please pass on this letter to others, will you? Thank you.

Warm regards,

Floyd McClung

To donate in the USA, send a check made out to All Nations, and send it All Nations Support
PO Box 55, Grandview, Missouri. You can arrange to give to the Grandview office via EFT or PayPal for tax receipt purposes. Please attach a note and say it is for Floyd and Sally McClung

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A way to deeper fellowship–SASHET

Last Friday, everyone (no one was left out) in the church that meets in our home shared what is going on in their lives–not a casual, all is well with a bright and false smile, but an in-depth genuine sharing from the heart. To accomplish this, we used a tool that we’ve employed a number of times before that we were taught by John White from Lk10.com. It’s a brilliant tool to aid sharing in deep fellowship.

SASHET is an acronym for Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited and Tender. Many people have difficulty expressing how they are feeling, and this simple acronym facilitates identifying and expressing emotion. Each person chooses one or more of the words that most closely expresses how they are feeling and explains the reasons why. It’s a checking in process. So a person might say, “I’m checking in as scared and excited because…” Often we’ll stop and pray if someone shares a deep need, or we might break off to praise for something someone is happy or excited about. At the end, they’ll say, “And I’m in…” meaning they are fully present in whatever is going on. Everyone takes part because you go around the room.

We’ve had some of our deepest fellowship times using SASHET. Some groups use it every week. Our group doesn’t have any difficulty sharing and so we don’t personally do that.

Has anyone else used SASHET? What was  your experience?

 

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What you focus on counts

Over the many years I’ve been a follower of Jesus, I’ve noticed a trend. What I focus on makes a difference.

Every few years, it seems the Lord leads me to study a certain area/doctrine. Often it’s a matter of necessity. For example, when we lived in a very poor inner city area for many years, there were so many people with major problems, I longed to find a way to help them.

Usually my study comes in the form of questions. I’ll think of all the things I want to know about the topic and then read the Bible noting every verse I can find that provides an answer. As I study, I’ll make copious notes, and read different books on the topic. Finally, I’ll usually write a summary of what I’ve found. Sometimes the subject will occupy me for  a few weeks; other times two to three years.

At the same time, I find myself involved in that area in a practical way too. It’s as though God is giving me not just the theoretical background but a useful skill set too. And then I find God uses me in whatever area it is I’ve spent time on to train others.

Some examples:

I spent two years looking at inner healing and deliverance–and have not only spent time with many people to see them set free, I’ve trained others to do the same.

When we moved here to the States, I spent much time looking at church from a different perspective–now I write books on the topic and we’re involved in training simple/organic church planters.

For years, but especially the last two to three years, I’ve been looking at the topic of women–and I’ve just finished compiling a book on this subject. Who knows where this will go.

God wires us all in different ways. I’ve been trained to think and study, and so some of this comes naturally to me. But I’ve also learned to take notice when I find myself with an interest in a certain topic or a focus on a certain need. Who knows what God wants to accomplish through that if I’ll follow it through.

Have any of you found the same?

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Guest post by Sean Steckbeck: Demonstration of Power

Sean Steckbeck is a good friend who sees God working in power in the lives of unbelievers on an everyday basis. It’s easy for us to think, “God does it over there.” It’s time for us to expect him to do it here too. John Wimber used to say, “You spell faith, R-I-S-K.” Sean’s post is a challenge for us all to get out of out comfort zones.

Driving in the back roads of southern Judea, we come to a small Palestinian village. We climb a rough mountain with our car and have arrived.  As we get out, we are immediately invited for tea and coffee and are welcomed with a great smile typical of Arab hospitality. My partner and I are Israelis. He is a Jewish Israeli who immigrated to Israel from South Africa and I am married to a native born Jewish Israeli. My wife’s brother was killed by a Palestinian PLO operative in Lebanon in the early 1980’s and politically we typically are right-wing. My partner is also well known for his garnering support for Israel and the Jewish people in South Africa.

Returning to the story, our hearts were pounding as our Muslim Palestinian hosts asked us , “Why would you come here? Don’t you know it is dangerous for you to be here?”

We smiled and answered, “There are many people who are willing to die for hate, we are willing to die for love.”

We saw that it clearly touched their hearts as they opened up and expressed to us that we had their trust.  We began to tell stories from the New Testament and ask questions, and then were called to eat dinner with them. As we ate dinner, my partner and I started getting words of knowledge about certain sicknesses that were in the room. This led to an outbreak of healings which the whole village gathered to see.  We spoke of Jesus’ healing power, and then went back home with a promise to follow up the next week.

When we arrived the next week, one young man fell asleep on the coach. As we tried to waken him, he fell on the ground and started manifesting demons. My partner and I started casting out demons, and again the whole village came to watch this display of supernatural–they had never seen anything like it before.

This led to the opening up of a seeker group, which eventually led to several other small house meetings throughout the area discussing both the power of God and stories from the Bible. Here and in other places we have now seen over six generations of simple church multiplication and 36 home groups and seeker groups both among Jews and Muslims.  This has also led to Jews reaching out to Muslims and Muslims reaching out to Jews!

Why would two Israelis be willing to risk their lives for their seemingly Palestinian enemy in a Hamas infested area?

I believe there are many reasons, but I would like to briefly discuss two:

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” – 1 Corinthians 2:4

In chapter of 1 Corinthians 2, just like today’s simple church movement, Paul desired to do things simply.  His message didn’t contain many words, but rather demonstrations.  He even boasted in his weak communication skills as an advantage! The one thing that Paul said that was working for him was demonstrations of power.

When I look at the ministry of Yeshua, as an example for us, we see his main apostolic methods were building a family and team in which to work through, telling stories, asking questions, eating at people’s homes, and demonstrating the power of God through healings and miracles.  Of course, Yeshua did this not in grandiose church buildings, but in the homes and marketplaces of everyday life.

I would like to challenge those in simple church and organic church who  have mastered storytelling, eating in homes, asking interactive questions, and building family; where are the demonstrations of power?  Do you have this missing element for starting a disciple-making movement?

Do you come with great methods, or do you also rely on demonstrations of power?

Do you consider healing the sick as optional, or a command to be obeyed?

Practice: Make a list of potential unbelieving neighbors who need a miracle in their life. Invite yourself over for dinner,  ask if they need prayer, and watch the power of God work!

This painting, entitled, “Grace,” hangs in the main foyer of our company. 

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