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At lunch today I dove into my latest issue of Mission Frontiers – Mission Frontiers comes every other month from the US Center for World Mission.  I’ve read it cover to cover since the 80’s.  Today my attention was drawn to an article called “His Kingdom Come: An Integrated Approach to Discipling the Nations and Fulfilling the Great Commission.”

The article reviews a book by the same title – the book is a collection of 30 articles written by YWAM’s senior leadership team.  I LOVE reading how the 30 senior leaders of YWAM are saying the great commission is bigger than individual conversions.  After all, Jesus said “GO and make disciples of nations…” Sadly we have conveniently read that to only mean we are to disciple individuals in all the nations.  The late Dr. Ralph Winter was “ecstatic” about this current thinking at YWAM and he commented:

I am very excited about this book. It is important evidence of a major organization turning very gradually and definitely into a nation-building kingdom type of mission, in addition, of course to the ongoing stress on personal conversion.

No one is advocating downplaying personal conversion, only that we return to the mandate to disciple nations. Discipling nations is the mission of the church. It’s what the Founders of our nation did – 27 of the 56 signers of the Declaration had seminary degrees, many were ordained ministers.  These men laid a righteous foundation under our nation that we have since shifted away from. Today the nation is being discipled  by (called to follow) those who don’t know God and in fact, are hostile to him.

How do you disciple a nation with a nation of churches convinced they should stay separate from state? The leaders of YWAM are spot on – being salt isn’t about just about getting someone to say a sinner’s prayer, it’s about influencing culture and coming alongside those who shape society, including those who make laws.

I contend it’s impossible to disciple a nation and not be political. The leaven of the Kingdom must permeate every sphere of society (the loaf); media and entertainment, education, medicine, law, government, family, charity, agriculture, environment, and business.

On Sunday I shared out loud some of my latest thoughts on this… Would I rather have 700 people sitting there staring at me each weekend taking in my latest inspirational idea that will help their private faith in Christ? Or, would I rather have seven people from our church occupying seats at our state legislature or school board or city council? I know it doesn’t have to be either/or, but right now it is one and not the other – the church is disengaged.  So, how about you— in terms of discipling nations– those seven seats in the state legislature just may bring more kingdom transformation in a region than all the seats in our largest church auditoriums.

2010 will be a good year for the righteous to win elections – pastors should encourage key people in their congregations to run for office. “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.” (Prov. 29:2) I’m sharing this not out of anger or frustration but rather out of vision. My sense is what lies ahead will require Kingdom-minded people at the table where decisions are made.  We can continue to curse the darkness or we can embody the light in our nation.

The Muslims have the momentum on the dominion of the earth right now and we don’t want that for our kids future. Some say its too late because Christianity for most amounts to not much more than sitting in church each weekend looking at the back of the head of the guy in front of you. The salt has lost it’s saltiness and we wonder why we are getting trampled.

Home Cures That WorkHere is the first article for a monthly Spiritual Dimensions of Wellness column I’ve been asked to start writing for a Natural Health monthly magazine called “Home Cures That Work.”

I’m very excited about this as the audience is not church folk. Pray for this opportunity. I’ve been given full liberty to talk about Jesus, quote the Bible, give people true hope and a link will be included back to the prayer request area of our church website.

This month the focus is discouragement and depression. Next month the focus is stress and anxiety.

Beyond just having a bad day, many of us experience seasons of discouragement and depression. There are known forms and causes recognized when depression reaches a clinical intensity. However, whatever the degree of melancholy, there are spiritual factors to consider. We are not just physical beings, we are spiritual beings. This article touches on known spiritual factors contributing to mental health and wellness.

Discouragement and depression are directly related to hope, or the lack thereof. Hope is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life. Those who hope in nothing outside themselves have little to grab onto to pull them out of discouragement. Even putting our hope in other people is an inconsistent source of strength because people are just people. Those who put their faith in God find they aren’t tossed about when life turns sour. Jesus spoke of trusting in him to be like building a house on a rock and those who do, find themselves standing after the storm passes.

Isolation is an enemy. People are all the time wondering what their purpose in life is or what the will of God is for their life. One thing is for certain, God made us social beings and therefore it is not God’s will that we wander through life alone. Even introverts are wired for meaningful human interaction. Studies show that babies who are touched and loved have fewer health problems than babies who lie alone in orphanage cradles. The need for others is not something we out grow. It may seem like this point fits better in an article on the social dimensions of wellness, but this is ultimately a spiritual dimension because we are created to relate to God and others.

The solutions are to find a community (a small group at a church for example) of people who share your values and beliefs and be open with them. Find a place where you don’t have to fake it. It is important to surround yourself with positive people and seek out those who emit joy. But, transparency is more important than a superficial happy-clappy environment. The Bible says “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” In other words, whatever you are feeling at the moment is valid and we need others to be with us in those moments.

A frequent phrase in the Bible to the discouraged is “take heart.” There are encouraging things to embrace even when the chips are down. First, it is encouraging to know that even those we celebrate today as spiritual giants knew well “the dark night of the soul.” Though never fun, these are refining times intended by God to make us stronger and take us into deeper places of usefulness to him. Not one ounce of pain is wasted in God’s economy. We can take heart that what we can only see as bad, God will use for good. It’s when we reach the point of weakness that his strength is able to manifest in our lives. Really, we have to get out of the way and hitting these low points are indications we are in good position for his help.

The Book of Psalms contains the whole gamut of human emotion and many who find themselves in the up and down swings connect with psalm writers like David. In Psalm 42:5 he laments “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” He speaks of being in mourning and how “deep calls to deep at the sound of thy waterfalls; all thy breakers and thy waves have rolled over me.” But each of these honest moments lead to a reality beyond what we are feeling – that God is there and God is inclined to those who are discouraged. One man in our church regularly struggles with depression and he’s tried everything and his testimony is nothing worked until he started reading and praying the Psalms each day, out loud. One a day and this thing started to lift off of him.

In the fall of 2002, my father was tragically killed in an accident on a road near my home. This sent me into a season where I couldn’t even drive at night because I’d keep imagining people in the road. I didn’t feel like smiling for the better part of a year. Every email my father sent me the last few years of his life was signed off which these two words: “Chin Up!” One day I wrote those two words on a note card with this verse written underneath: “[God is] the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3). Everyday it was like the voice of two fathers encouraging me. The world started to take on color again for me. For sure we all have different views of God, but this is who I have discovered him to be – the lifter of my head. A good place to start is to pray – God, reveal yourself to me as the Lifter of my Head.

Church at the Gater Annie Johnson tells the world – Jesus heals! She’s such an inspiration. (Sorry I had to resort to a link, I couldn’t get the video to load.)

KELOLAND.COM – A Story Of Survival

This is also another win for adult stem cells. There have been NO cures or benefits uncovered in ANY embryonic stem cell research EVER!

My friend of more than two decades Bob Smietana, religion reporter for the Nashville Tennesean and for Christianity Today, noted a new article and book the other day on the poverty of modern Christian funerals.  Bob made the comment that one of his favorite writers is also a funeral home director and wondered what that said about him.  He was talking about Dr. Thomas G. Long, Candler School of Theology professor, and his new book, Accompany Them With Singing: The Christian Funeral, and this accompanying article in the Christian Century. I just ordered Long’s book but haven’t yet read it.

Aside from being one who laments the lack of theological and eschatological preciseness in the church today, my interest in this topic also comes as one who deals with death and funerals in some form every month either in the church I serve or as police chaplain in our city.  And, as many of you know, I’ve recently buried my beloved grandmother and both my parents.  Also, this summer I read N.T. Wright’s excellent (but not perfect) book Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church. I couldn’t agree more with what is being said by both Long and Wright.  Here are some important statements from the Christian Century article by Long:

These newer rituals, for all their virtues of freedom, simplicity and seeming festivity, are finally expressions of a corrupted understanding of the Christian view of death….

If Christian funerals today are impoverished, we must look primarily to the church’s own history… The fact is that many educated Christians in the late 19th century, the forebears of today’s white suburban Protestants, lost their eschatological nerve and their vibrant faith in the afterlife, and we are their theological and liturgical heirs….

In the meantime, the seeds planted in the 19th century continue to bear weeds.

Lots to factor in – the Civil War carnage resulting in a crisis of belief; Darwinism and the belief that making the best of earth IS “heaven”; cremation and ashes to the wind (a bit of a Buddhist notion that we are released to rejoin the earth); burials several states away…

So with heaven gone and with the cemetery miles away, neither the dead nor the living had anywhere to go, and the metaphor of the journey to God collapsed.

Great article in the Birmingham News this week about Church of the Highlands and my friend Pastor Chris Hodges. In talking about his church’s remarkable growth and success in reaching people he says, “We’re discovering it’s more who you are, not what you’re doing.” There is definitely a contagious life-giving DNA in ARC churches and Chris personifies it!

And, for altogether different reasons, there is a lengthy article today in the Colorado Springs Independant on my friend Pastor Ted Haggard.  Check it out — “The Resurrection of Pastor Ted.” It’s a lengthy interview where Ted talks about “the year and a half [of his life] when the sun didn’t come up… [when] no grass was green, the birds never sang, the sky was never blue.

The article quotes a recent Twitter update of Ted’s where he commented about a thought he had reading the Bible that morning… “Judas and Peter both sinned and repented. Judas’ suicide served the religious leaders well, Peter’s recovery exposed them.”

I really look forward to his wife Gayle’s new book which is coming out in December – Why I Stayed. Gayle embodies the faithfulness of God and mature love.

In a couple of weeks we are launching a new Sunday Night worship service!  LastCall starts October 11 at 5:30! 

LastCall will be identical to our two Sunday morning services and the plan here is to provide one more opportunity to worship before folks go back to work Monday morning.  This is perfect for those who had to work Sunday morning, felt like sleeping in or were out of town for the weekend but are back by Sunday night. Help us spread the word – word of mouth works the best!  We want people to know we are still open and there is still time to be still and know He is God!

Here’s the direct mail piece (40,000) that is going out mid-week next week. Let’s pray God uses this to reach those he’s trying to reach through us!

LastCall CATG

We had fun naming this service. The spiritual people in our midst  : ) wanted to go with the word “Still”.  However, LastCall fits the crowd we are trying to reach. Obviously we are borrowing the verbiage from the bar, and redeeming it. Sunday night services are great to see spiritually thirsty folks filled with the Holy Spirit. LastCall also makes us think of the trumpet call of God and the narrowing window of opportunity we have to respond to Him.

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