Musings from the Great Northwest – Part 3

ImageOur travels through the Northwest area of America brought great encouragement as we met some wonderful people. People, who with open hearts, welcomed us warmly as they shared their lives with us. As we broke bread and discussed the lives we each live friendship was born and Christ’s love was evident.

We walked into a room filled with people neither Kandy nor I knew. There were some busy serving food to those who had come in off the street, others were painting pictures for those dining to watch as the image unfolded, and another played the guitar and sang softly in the background. Conversations took place around us; some were loud while others softly spoke to one another. You could hear laughter from some and saw a tear welling up in another. Church was taking place as this body gathered together from the streets of Freemont. Love was given and received as people experienced the Gospel.

Across town we found ourselves once again in a new place with people we didn’t know. The table was quickly filled as everyone took their seats. It was a tight fit as we squeezed more bodies into the space than it was intended to hold. But that didn’t seem to matter. We laughed at the stories being shared, enjoyed the food that had been prepared, and found new friends with whom to share love. Rob, Sheila, and Ethan are fun people to get to know. They are full of life and willing to share it with others. They opened their home to us and treated us as friends. What better reception could you ever receive?

A few hours to the south on the east side of Portland, it was loud with conversations taking place all around us. We gathered in this public place with a group of young men and women. The eight of us ordered our food and the drinks with which to wash it down. We talked about our lives as we got to know one another. The discussion moved from funny tales of the past to impressions of the places we had visited and the people we met along the way. Soon we found ourselves sharpening one another as we talked about the things of God and what He had done in our lives. With open arms they received us and treated us as their friends. Who could ask for anything more?

And so, we once again discovered that wherever we find ourselves in this world it is the people who make the difference in a place. It’s not the mountain ranges on each side with peaks majestic standing tall, nor is it the bodies of water that bring peace with each lap of the waves. The buildings and bridges add to the landscape and are beautiful to look at. But in the end, when you reflect back on your time spent in an area, you realize that it’s the people that make the difference.

We found the beauty of God’s people and how His Church is still the greatest witness to our world when it is functioning in healthy actions of love. There were some who walk with Him today and know the power of His love and others who have yet to realize the truth of the gospel. We grew together and community took root as love began to change us.

Each one gave us something that no one else could give; a priceless exchange of love and life. Whether in Portland or Seattle, we found people who were ready to love and willing to give of themselves. With family and friends we experienced the love and care that occurs when people come together.

In the Northwest the need is the same as it is in the Midwest (and I suspect time will reveal it to be the need everywhere we travel): people need to see and experience the true church walking in Christ’s love. We can complicate this whole thing to the point where it immobilizes us from any activity that can provide what is needed. This is easy enough to do and our enemy is glad to try and make it happen. We can also choose to live another way, the way of Christ’s love where community is grown and disciples are matured.

Thank you, Northwest America, for being an encouragement to us as we continue in the journey of faith to the mission Christ has called us to!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing. They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.

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Musings from the Great Northwest – Part 2

ImageThere are many things to talk about in this series of blogs, but the purpose of this series is to share about an observation we made. During our time in the Northwest we became increasingly aware how the Holy Spirit is mobilizing and redirecting lives to live out the mission Jesus gave us.  It is about an awakening that creates awareness, which results in purposeful actions of grace and love.

Conversation after conversation we discuss the same basic message in different ways.  Some may say it is because our story directs the conversation and there is no doubt that it does impact the course our talks will take.  But I think that there is something even greater at work.  In sharing our story we find that others tell us their stories.  We talk about leaving everything familiar behind to follow the call of Jesus to be a missionary to the university district villages of America.  Others tell their exciting stories of great courage and desire to live out the call to the same mission.  Our tales are about different tribes and locations with the familiar aspects of developing community and making disciples.

These conversations revolve around the importance of living out the gospel mission, which starts long before a person ever believes in Jesus and continues for a lifetime once they do believe.  That is discipleship, a word that I have found scares some people because of the abusive ways it has been used.  While at the same time this same word stirs the heart of another who has loving embraced its truth.

Let me tell you about a young man that I meant on our trip.  Sam and I were tracking very well together as we shared about life.  The things we shared resonated within us.  He was amazed at our story of loving Jesus and laying everything down to serve in this mission.  And I was enjoying his story and journey to Jesus.

Then Sam said to me, “I could never do what you are doing.  I could never be a missionary.”  My heart sank; this young man who has an incredible story didn’t understand that he was a missionary.  He didn’t realize that he was living his life as a missionary every single day.  Why do I say this?  This young man was living his faith out in a beautiful way every day where he worked and lived.  Sam prayed with people, shared his faith in Jesus with others when it was appropriate, and most importantly he was loving them by meeting their needs.  But Sam didn’t understand what it meant to be a missionary because he didn’t understand what it meant to be a disciple.

As we continued to talk and I was encouraging him that he was living such a life.  I shared that we have all been given the same mission, to go and make disciples.  At which point Sam interrupted me and said, “That’s it, I can’t do that . . . Make disciples, you can’t make anybody do anything or be anything.  So I can’t live the mission because I can’t do that to people.  I just don’t think it is right to try and make someone do anything.”

Once again my heart sank as I realized this young man was making more disciples than many other Christians do and he didn’t understand that he was doing it.  Why?  Because he didn’t understand what it means to make a disciple.  He just did it, and I think that is cool, but could be even better if he did it with understanding.  So we explored the idea a little bit more and began to discuss about what it means to make disciples.  That it isn’t about forcing people to do anything, but rather creating opportunity for them to make better more informed decisions.

His eyes lit up as we developed a working definition of what it means to make disciples.  Here is what we tooled out in that short bit of time together: Discipleship, the process by which disciples of Jesus are matured as we become more and more like Jesus.  It is about learning the truth of the Gospel and then figuring out how to live the Gospel.  We have been given a purpose that is so much more than making converts to a religious system or institution.  Jesus gave us the job to go the distance with others as we both mature as His disciple, constantly learning, and disciple others to maturity along the journey.

Don’t know if I will ever see Sam again and enjoy some more time with him.  But what I do know if for that brief 2 hours together sitting in a pub in the Northwest we were making disciples as he sharpened my life and I had the privilege to help sharpen his.

Thank you Northwest America for being an encouragement to us as we continue in the journey of faith to the mission Christ has called us to!

* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author at the time of writing.  They do not reflect in any way those of the organizations to which they belong to or affiliated with.