Today, I am a visitor in unfamiliar places. What is it that makes a “place?”
I sit in a coffee shop, a clothing store, and now on a bench in the mall. I am in a place not my own—a visitor. If I came here often it would be, in a way, my place. I would be a living thread woven into the garment called, “here.” I could put it on if I worked or walked here. It could be my place and I a part of it. But I am a stranger here, a vagrant, a loose end, not woven, not tied, so I watch and wait to move on, away from this place.
We’re on day three of our trip to Israel. We’ve been working with two ministries who are forging a partnership to reach the diverse population of the young nation ( just short of 70 years) of Israel. Much of what we have done so far is learn about the unique challenges of sharing the gospel here. Two things are significant to me:
There needs to be a healthy community of believers for new Christians to come to. One of the characteristics of Israel is division and disunity among people. This is also true among churches.
Second, we need to explore ways to communicate the gospel apart from the historical distortions of it, such as the Crusades and Nazism. We need to help people discover, or better to rediscover, the joyful Jesus, the rabbi of the first century who declared liberty to the oppressed and healed the sick. (You may be interested in a post of a few years ago about this topic. Here is the link.)
Those are big picture issues that don’t have any easy resolutions. Other things that we have discussed are related to the way American churches might help churches in Israel better communicate the Gospel through ministry partnerships and collaborative efforts of different kinds.
We’re headed for Israel this week. Wow. We really didn’t see that coming, but here we go. Leavin’ on a jet plane.
Why are we going? We’re not altogether certain about that. Our plan is to work with a ministry there that is rethinking its strategy and looking for ways to collaborate with congregations in the US. How our perspective might help in that remains to be seen. We tend to be less institutional and more organic or relational in our approach — we talk about “churches of the heart.”
Please pray for us as we set off this Thursday. We may not fully understand this open door until we’ve walked through!
One critical aspect for correctly interpreting scripture is to accurately assess and identify the hearers of the message. It makes a difference when we discover the audience. When we stand back and take a look at Jesus’ ministry to the multitudes, we find that He healed them, brought about spiritual deliverances, fed, and taught them. They gathered around Him, often traveling from distant villages, for what they would receive. Their poverty, illnesses and deep oppression sent them looking for a savior….to remedy their earthly needs. They sought One who had the reputation as a Sign Giver. ‘Please…..work just one more sign in our midst’. At the end of the day, He healed, delivered, fed and taught…but He did not entrust Himself to them (John 2:24). The multitudes came for what they would GAIN. Continue reading →
[Originally Posted at www.stonebutterfly.net in 2012. The Butterfly and the Stone can be purchased by clicking the "Books" tab above. ]
The cycle continues and we have to figure out what to believe again. He has left yet another “program.” This time it was a community of faith that apparently had expectations for his participation–imagine that. The result is that he is no longer there, and as always, we’re left to try to discern whether it is he or the community at fault. So, now he is going to look for another program–how hard, remains to be seen — and we have to wonder what is going to happen. Continue reading →
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