Saturday, August 29, 2009

Touch - The Second Tool of Reconciliation

Continuing our discussion about the tools of reconciliation found in the Bible, we discussed truth as the first tool. This brings us to the second tool: touch.

Have you noticed in the Bible what Jesus did in most of his encounters with people in need? He touched them where they hurt. With the lepers, he touched them when no one else would go near them (Mark 1:41). With the blind, he touched their eyes (John 9:6). For the crippled, he touched the place they suffered (Luke 13:13). When Simon Peter's mother in law lay sick in bed, he took her by the hand and she was able to arise and begin serving him (Matthew 8:15). A woman sick for 12 years simply touched the hem of his cloak and was healed (Matthew 9:18). And a father, whose daughter had just died, came to Jesus and cried, "...But if you come and put your hand on her,...she will live!" And Jesus did go, took her by the hand and she lived. (Matthew 9:25)

We live in a world that needs to hear the truth about Jesus. We also live in a world that needs to see and feel the touch of Jesus as well. Time and time again, Jesus touched people at their deepest need and he used that opportunity to speak truth in their lives. His proclamation of God's truth was validated in his demontration of God's love. Moreover, his demonstration of God's love through his healing touch was a visible sign of his proclamation of the Kingdom of God coming.

I see no evidence in the Bible of Jesus choosing one over the other: preaching or healing. I see plenty of evidence that he did these simultaneously, based on the need at hand and saw both of these as means to the same end: proclaiming and showing that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.

We often fondly quote Isaiah 55:11 as, "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

I think it proper to acknowledget that the touch of God through the Name of Jesus does not return back empty as well. In a world where 3 out of every 4 lost persons alive today live in the 10/40 window and considering that 4 out of every 5 of the poorest of the poor, those affected by war and conflict and those living on less than 2 dollars per day, live in that same window, we dare not overlook the touch aspect of the ministry of reconciliation.

We do speak truth to the nations and to lives that are in need of a Saviour, Jesus. We also are to touch those lives in the same Name, demonstrating God's love and His plan for individuals, communities and nations.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interlude - A New Song "The Power of Your Name" by Lincoln Brewster

This past Sunday, I had the privilege to share at Faith Methodist here in Singapore. They are in a month long focus on international minsitry opportunities and I delivered messages about transforming communities on Sunday morning to the youth and then to one of the adult congregations. In the afternoon, a colleague and I shared about practical, holistic ministry tools that they could use in their international missions efforts.

During the Sunday morning worship, we heard the worship leader share the theme song that they have chosen for their ministry month and it was the first time I had heard it. It is called, "The Power of Your Name" and is written by Lincoln Brewster. It goes...

"Surely children were not made for the streets
And fathers were not made to leave
Surely this isn't how it should be
Let Your Kingdom come!"

"Surely nations were not made for war
Or the broken meant to be ignored
Surely this just can't be what you saw
Let Your Kingdom in my heart!"

"I will live, To carry Your compassion
To love a world that's broken
To be Your hands and feet
I will give, With the life that I've been given
And go beyond religion
To see the world be changed
By the power of Your name"

"Surely life wasn't made to forget
And the lost were not made to forget
Surely faith without action is dead
By the power of Your name"

What a great song demonstrating the truth that God's desire for us is goodness and wholeness; not the brokeness and heartache that we see in the pattern of the world.

We are called to be ambassadors: ambassadors of compassion, ambassadors of wholeness, and, most assuredly, ambassadors of the ever loving and ever seeking God!

Yes, Lord! Let Your Kingdom come!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More On Truth as a Tool of Reconciliation

Let me expound a little more about the concept of truth as a tool in the ministry of reconciliation before we move on to the second tool.

In the great story of God, there is a deciever, Satan, who constantly works to discredit God's truth. In fact, "when he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) The truth is that God has created us and everything for himself. He desires for us to be in fellowship with himself and one another. His desire for us is an abundant life whereby we hear and respond to the voice of his son, Jesus, the good shepherd.

We live in a fallen world which is entangled in a web of lies. The enemy, Satan, is happy to have people believing in false gods, in no god or even in an incorrect view of who god actually and truthfully is. He is happy to have people accept less than the truth that God desires for our relationships with others. He delights in the falsehood that there cannot be happy marriages, godly families, communities where people care for one another and respectfully care for creation. And he is estatic to lead people to a marred self-image of who they are and how valuable they are to God the Father. In short, Satan is a weaver of the web of lies and uses this web as his main mode of operations to keep people and even nations in darkness.

This is why we stress truth as the first tool of our efforts at reconciliation. Speaking and living truth about who God is and who we are in relation to him is critical to break the web of lies that would so readily entangle us.

And it is not just any truth that we speak. It is the truth that God reveals through his word, the basis for all truth. His word is a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105) It is the truth that is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividng soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

Speaking and living truth to a lost and dying world blindly tangled in a web of lies...the first tool of reconciliation...

Next tool of reconciliation - touch...

The Tools of Reconciliation: Truth

Picking up from our last blog, I would like to begin talking about the tools of reconciliation modeled by Jesus. The first is truth.

Jesus had a unique way of always bringing back the conversation at hand to the truth of the matter. Not only did he speak the truth but he was actually the truth in flesh. He told his disciples that if they would hold to his teaching, "then you will now the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)He also proclaimed to them that, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

Time and time again, he used truth to confront those who spoke and thought errantly. Sometimes it was the religious leaders of his day. "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58) Other times it was to his own disciples. When Peter swore his undying allegiance to Jesus and pledged to lay down his life for him, Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!" (John 13:38)

Truth and speaking the truth into situations can be a powerful tool in our efforts at reconciliation to all levels of relationships that we deal with daily.

1. Man to God - So many people today have an incorrect view of who God is, if there is a God or if there is a whole pantheon of gods. To many, God or "the gods" are far removed from humans if he/they exist at all. To others, they have bought into the postmodern idea that we can basically make God who we want him to be or even can become our own god thus finding the salvation to all our needs within our own selves. The truth of who God is in the Bible cries out for us to speak truth in our efforts at reconciliation. God is sovereign, creator and ruler over everything. He is all powerful, all knowing and ever compassionate. He is merciful but just. He is holy and awesome yet personable and approachable. He is good and loving and righteous by nature. He has created us for his own good pleasure and our lives are fulfilled as we live to obey and please him. In a world with so many differing views of who God is, we should speak (and live) the truth as his "ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through reconciled to God!" (2 Corinthians 5:20) Jesus came to show us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who God is and how he truly loves us. He was God in flesh. Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father..." to which Jesus replied, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." Pointing others to who God really is, Jesus, is truth reconciliation.

2. Man to fellow man - The truth that we should speak here is that God's plan for our relationship with others is wholesome and mutually nurturing. God does not desire broken families. God finds no delight in people addicted to drugs, alcolhol, pornography, etc. Poverty, sickness and pain is not in God's heart for people. The reconciliation truth is that all of these things have come about because of mans' choices. See what Jesus did when he came in contact with people in need. He touched them where they hurt. To the blind, he touched their eyes. To the lame, he touched their legs. He took the sick by the hand. He spoke with authority to those demon possessed and touched their souls. The reconciliation truth is that God desires abundance in our relationship with others through the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

3. Man to creation - The truth that we speak and live here is that everything created by God has a special place in his heart. And we have been given the great and precious privlege of being assigned the task of stewardship of creation. To "care for" creation. Thus natural resources are not something we are to conquer, subdue and abuse, but rather something to be honored and cared for in a way that gives glory back to the owner creator. Jesus recognized the significance of God's creation. He was constantly using the simple illustrations of nature to communicate eternal principles to his followers. He urged them to, "Look at the birds of the air..." and "see how the lilies of the field grow". (Matthew 6:26, 28)

4. Man to himself - Those entrapped in sin and struggling in the multiple untruths of life, often have marred identities in regards to themselves. Poverty can convince a person that they are nothing and cannot help themselves. A life trapped in the evils of drugs, prostitution, or any dozen traps spiraling out of control, can convince a person that they are worthless, unloveable and beyond help. The reconciliation truth to those who have lost hope is that they, like all of us, have a divine spark in our lives in that we all are created in the image of God. The world tells a down and outter that they are nothing, that they are worthless. God truth says that they are somebody, created in his image, worthy to the point that God gave his only begotten son to die for them. The reconciliation truth we speak to those who are mired in the world is that God sees them in a whole different light than they see themselves and who they are at the moment is not the true person God has created them to be. With his help, they can become a new creation.

The ministry of reconciliation; the tool of truth...

Next blog, the tool of touch...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Ministry of Reconciliation

So, entrusted to us is the ministry of reconciliation. Since reconciliation basically means to change from enmity to friendship, i.e. resorting relationships to their rightful place, we should look closer at this word and concept in the Bible.

Reconciliation is something God accomplishes through grace on our behalf. God invites you and I, through His Son Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, to be reconciled unto Himself. It is something God has done for us and something we have to be willing to receive.

Never is God in need of reconciliation to us. He has no enmity towards us. The enmity is solely on our part and is a result of the orignal fall and choices made by our forefathers, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Make no mistake, first and foremost, it is us that are in need of reconciliation to God.

Hand in hand with this concept of the fall and the breaking of man's vertical relationship with God, are the horizontal relationships that were broken at the fall and are in need of the touch of reconciliation: man to fellow man, man to creation and man to himself. As reconciled creatures ourselves, as we begin to experience the grace and love of God through Jesus, we are entrusted then with the great and awesome task of becoming God's ambassadors of reconciliation to others, to creation and to ourselves.

But what are the tools are reconciliation that we are to use as we approach others in need of being reconciled to God, to creation and even to themselves? To me, we need look no further than the life and ministry of Jesus Christ while He was here on earth.

I propose and would like to show you in subsequent posts that there are a number of reconciliation tools that Jesus used. These include...

1. Truth
2. Touch
3. Transparency
4. Tenderness
5. Toughness
6. Timing

How do these six things apply to our call to the ministry of reconciliation?

Stay tuned for the truth topic with our next post...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Poverty Alleviation: The Ministry of Reconciliation Approach

Therefore, if poverty is the result of relationships that fail, what should be our ministy approach to alleviate poverty? Many of my contemporaries would say that we should have a ministry of transformation. However, I tend to disagree. Not that I do not want to see transformation of individuals and communities. I just believe that we do not have the power for transforming people. That power only lies with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. What I do believe is that our ministry approach in regards to addressing poverty should be the ministry of reconciliation.

The two New Testament root words for "forming" are "schema" and "morphoo". "Schema" forming refers more to the outside form of an object or individual. It's where we get the word "schematics" and is a diagram or representation of the inner workings of something or someone. "Morphoo" forming has more to do with the inner workings and a deep seated change of the essential nature of a thing or individual that expresses itself outwardly as that thing or person being a whole new entity.

Let me illustrate. Growing up, we made "seed" pictures in Sunday School by gluing seeds onto a tracing of an object. One time, we used corn seed to glue onto the outline of a corn plant. When it was finished, if you held it up and looked at it from a distance, it somewhat resembled a corn plant. It was a good "schema" of a corn plant.

However, if I had taken that same seed (which was actually corn) and planted in good soil, watered it and cared for it, eventually, that seed would have formed a young seedling. With more care and attention, it would have grown into a tall, healthy, and most importantly, actual corn plant capable of producing thousands of other seeds and plants. My point is anyone can glue seeds on a drawing and make a corn plant, but only God can make the living plant happen. This is the difference between "schema" forming and "morphoo" forming.

I propose that if we really want to see transformation, we had better concentrate on the ministry of reconciliation: man to God, man to fellow man, man to creation and man to himself. God doesn't expect us to transform anything; He does call us to be reconcilers...

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Chrsit and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Transformation - the goal...

Reconciliation - the task entrusted to us...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Four Failed Relationships of Poverty

In my last blog (apology given for the time gap between then and now), I ended the discussion with the four relationships in our lives which, which when broken, lead to poverty. Now I'll try and connect these specific relationship breaks and the type of poverty they lead to. Much of the skeleton for this idea is taken from Bryant Myers's "Walking with the Poor" but garnished with my own thoughts born out of experiences.

1. Man's broken relationship to God leads to poverty of spirit - When this relationship is not as God planned in the Bible, a person reaps spiritual. True, there are many "spiritual" people in the world today. There are also many ways and religions which attempt to help man find a way to God or spiritual satisfaction. From a Biblical perspective, however, every person is spiritually poor or, even worse, spiritually dead unless they have a faith-based relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Jesus said it best himself when talking to a teacher of the law, Nicodemus, and said, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

2. Man's broken relationship with his fellow man leads to poverty of community - When this relationship is not as God planned, a person reaps community poverty. We have seen from previous blogs that God has created us for not only Himself but also for community with one another. And His plan for community is not any ordinary community but community in the way that it was meant to be; where He is the chief and most glorious head and there is true koinonea fellowship and participation in the lives of our fellow beings. This is the basic reason that our efforts at community development with a Kingdom focus can be an effective tool in evangelism and discipleship. Our efforts at the ministry of reconciliation between brothers can be a beautiful picture of what God has done through His Son Jesus in reconcling us to Himself.

3. Man's borken relationship with creation leads to poverty of stewardship - When nature and creation are not viewed as having a special place in the heart of the Creator and simply viewed as existing for our exploitation without stewardship, a person reaps stewardship poverty. God is Creator and Owner of all. He has given us the ministry of stewardship of His creation. Genesis 2:15 says, "The Lord god took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Man was even given the charge to "rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Gen 1:28b). And our model/pattern for 'ruling' should be that of the King of Kings, the Creator and Owner of all that we were given rule over. Thus, our correct 'rule' should be a position of stewardship; not as owners, but faithful stewards of the true owner.

4. Man's broken relationship with himself leads to poverty of self - We all are created in the image of God. As C. S. Lewis says, "you have never met a mere mortal." The problem with the world today is that it tries to convince us that we are nobodies. We are not worthy of being loved so how can we love? We are not valued so how can we value ourselves and others? A part of the fall is that we are now living with marred identities. The world wants to tell us that we are no good, unloveable, worthless. God wants to tell us that we are His beloved and that He will do almost anything to seek us out and call us to Himself. In fact, He loves us so much that while we were yet sinners, He sent His beloved, only begotten Son to die for us (Rom 5:8).

So, if these four primary relationships and the broken state that can exist lead us to true poverty, what is the answer for us who want to be freed from poverty?

The one word is "reconciliation."

That is our next topic...