At-Risk Families

Some of the 20-30 kids that meet from difficult situations every Monday at Lighthouse

For the past month, every Monday a group of 20-30 gather at Lighthouse Cafe. This ‘space’ and ministry vision came from Lena and Natasha as we spent some time praying what might God lead us individually to do. Sometimes we find ourselves doing the same things, the same way and get caught ‘not’ listening to what the Spirit might nudge us towards, and we want to be moving alongside Holy Spirit right?!

A team slowly assembled and each week the kids are being blessed with love, stories from the Bible, songs, food and games. What makes this group a little extra special is that these aren’t kids from churches, and not even traditional families. These are kids from either extreme poverty situations, or substance abuse scenarios – Many of the kids have suffered from various forms of abuse.

Some beautiful hearts serving right there!

To grow in understanding how to reach and love these children, Mir sponsored the team to go to Kiev for some Christian counseling courses over two weekends. The team REALLY loved learning and came back so enthused, their hearts beating even more for these kids. They’ve even started visiting the homes, and praying with some of the families and found hearts open – but the need is so great, and the spiritual battle intense in many cases.

Please pray for the children each Monday! It was a joy to see them running around outside today before it started. Also, some of our Club 180 youth have come to serve, along with some other believers from area church and youth group. It’s beautiful to see Ukranians leading the vision, and administration of it all. Thank you Jesus we get to come alongside and support emerging church doing God’s heart.

Any collective of believers set free from the disorder of this present age, who offer themselves in service of the mission of their God to alert people to the new unfolding order of things, can rightly be called a missional church. – Frost

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Post-Modern, Post-Christendom

I’ve been intending to write for weeks.

Life, and this semester’s course load at Fuller is more than any previous semester. In order to grapple missiologically with today’s emerging global culture, and understand how the church of Jesus should relate to it, it really helps to know how we got here! So much reading. What a mess.

Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant structures in our day – Vestiges of Christendom in a Post-Modern emerging Global Culture – Jesus is not finished. Enter #missiodei and a people bonded in Christ for culture shaping.

History, from Constantine, the Edict of Milan, synods, creeds.. the evolution from the church being a persecuted band of Jesus followers to the State institutionalized religion of the masses, absorbed into the social power structures. I never realized before that the true ‘secularization’ of the Church took place in the late 4th Century.. and has been largely reeling from that movement ever since. The Reformation had a temporary effect, but 150yrs after was dead and western Europe left with hundreds of independent, but similarly governed power structures.

The Protestant Reformers, for example, missed such central teachings of Jesus because they balanced it with every other teaching in the Bible as a way of maintaining their commitment to “the authority of Scripture” – Bruxy Cavy.

I find it particularly revolting that God’s word was used, quiet aggressively by Catholics and Reforming bodies to justify bloodshed and general attitudes of hatred and jealousy. How could the Word look anything other than the peace loving Christ, the logos of God? How do you miss the forest for the trees? There were many who understood Jesus coming, that took it on the chin and lost their lives in a brave unwillingness to succumb to the powers of evil, like the Anabaptists.

When Jesus is relegated to one of many important doctrines, religious fervor and blind hatred is a result. Nothing binds but Christ, holding too tightly any other non-slavific doctrine divides more than it will unite. Just look at the reformation itself – for so much sola-scriptura, never did the body of Christ become so fractured and divided! But the real issue was the secularization of the Church.. the very world the body of Christ was to influence was in bed with the world out of the gate.

Religious zealots throughout history use and abuse scripture to affirm their power structures. Christ, divests and serves. Their leadership looked nothing like God in Christ. For so many in history, and in today’s extreme religions, you can make scripture pretty much say anything necessary as long as you slap ‘For the glory of God’ next to it.

In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. Thomas Jefferson

Dogma, Latin for ‘believing or seeming to be true’ becomes a sadistic thing when the church elevates anything but Jesus as essential for life. When beliefs become settled certainties. Dogma leads to counter-dogma, communication ceases to be an exercise is true knowing or listening – and conversation becomes unending theater. We are not the sum of our beliefs as we aren’t the sum of our accomplishments or failures. We are. We are human, souls, broken, loved sinners. Nothing more, but nothing less. When we confuse our identity from God’s perspective in the Gospel, we build the wrong world – a world of ‘we’ vs ‘them’, of ‘right’ and wrong’, and cease being active agents of cultural influence for Christ. The Church is a poor example of love in this regard – it’s turned on itself throughout history and wages secular style war as ‘guardians of truth.’ In my view, these attitudes and actions only undermine their argument(s) – if you don’t look like Jesus, or listen to Him, how can you in fact be representing God?

I’m intrigued greatly by Augustine’s life, his massive, and in my opinion thus far, rather negative influence on what would set the course for 500yrs of Roman expansion and justified bloodshed as nations rose and warred for dominance. He, like many of the Reformers, were not trained theologians, they were in the right place at the right time, and had an assertive, intellectual prowess, with very questionable and definitely unproven character. Augustine just a couple years prior becoming Bishop, had a second wife, and two little ladies on the side, and was a known opponent of Christianity, completely absorbed in Greek philosophy. From this dude Aquinas expands more ideas, all within the snug vestiges of church + state power.

These dudes were Pre-Socratic thinkers, brilliant, but many of their concepts of God are pagan, and unashamedly so! Yet, we gobble up their ideas, especially related to the character and nature of God, and the structures of governance God’s people have found themselves in. Jesus is a blip on too much of religious history – it boggles my mind, but in some ways is a big relief when you see the actions of many of these so called saints – it would be harder to understand if they both elevated Jesus and were still so antagonistic towards Him.

Check out some of the loving Jesus-like attitudes from more famous reformers:

“Burn the synagogues; take away their books, including the Bible. They should be compelled to work, denied food and shelter, preferably banished. If they mention the name of God, report them to the magistrate or throw Saudreck [pig dung] on them. Moses said that idolaters should not be tolerated. If he were here he would be the first to burn their synagogues” – Martin Luther (speaking of the Jews)

The “implacable severity” of the death penalty is mandatory because “devotion to God’s honor should be preferred to all human concerns.” And in pursuit of this end, we “should expunge from memory our mutual humanity” as we exterminate heretics and blasphemers with righteous zeal. “Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt.” – John Calvin (defending his involvement in Servetus stake burning)

I learn from history, and do not discount the faith of those gone before. I have a database of amazing references and quotes from some of these same guys. I’ve visited Luther’s home, love many aspects of Reformation history and realize we live in completely different eras. However, we shouldn’t venerate those who missed major themes and realities in the Person of Jesus Christ. To learn from history is to not repeat it. May our legacy as believers be one of grace, much forgiven, much offered – recognizing Jesus is the glory of God. Jesus, not Augustine, Calvin, or any present day aspiring theologian gets to define God’s character and expectations of creation – that job belongs to One only. Christ-centrism should not be anything we have to learn as believers – it’s sad we have to work to keep Jesus central!

But what about now? Christendom is over,,, We live in a post-modern, emerging global world like never before in history! The western world no longer embraces state religion – the structures and systems are dissolving before our eyes in the west, even as ignorant efforts to rebuilt it’s buildings and programs here in Slavic countries are continuing. God’s people find themselves on the outside, looking in – but we’ve been there before. I think God’s people do their best work, in the trenches of culture, missionally, outside of power structures that only incubate and affirm the silent agreement of clergy – laity ideologies.

History is incredible, and grids our present day in more ways that I could have imagined. I’m thankful for the ‘forced’ system of education in this season of my life, I know God has ordained it for me, and preparing me for some future chapters here in Slavic culture. I’m finding Jesus to be refreshingly my everything – I hold my fluid learning loosely, there’s always another side, and I’m eager to learn it. Our greatest gift as leaders to those we are influencing is our posture of learning, and willingness to be shaped by Jesus.

Prophetic religions aim to transform the world in God’s name rather than to flee from the world into God’s arms as do mystical religions. Volf

The Gospel is the good news that God himself has come to rescue and renew all of creation through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Keller

The way Christians work toward human flourishing is not by imposing on others thier vision of human flourishing and the common good, but by bearing witness to Christ, who embodies the good life. Volf

Mission is more and different from recruitment of our brand of religion; it is alerting people to the universal reign of God through Christ. Frost & Hirsch

Certainty is the culprit. The spiritual person knows uncertainty—a state of mind unknown to the religious fanatic. Rohr

Postmodern views of history and national identity typically cancel a commitment to modern “master narratives” or “metanarratives” like progress and goal-directed history, and disrupt myths of national and ethnic identities as “natural” foundations of “unity.” Martin Irvin

‘If we can provide rational, scientific proof for our beliefs,’ Christians concluded, ‘we can refute the liberals and win!’. . . to keep fighting on that field of battle is to never reach the postmodern. This battle has taken the Church nowhere. As for postmoderns, we’re over it. Already we soar far above the limits of secular science. We are not bound by it. And we care far more about how to live than about how to prove. Laura Buffington

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Land of Forgiveness & Grace

Martin Luther calls the house of Abraham “the true church”—it is “nothing else than a kingdom of the forgiveness of sins and of grace.” Hofman

We are at home among hearts that experience grace. We are on edge and fear the judgment of those who trust in themselves. Christianity, they say, is a religion of the heart. “Christianity is at home in the existential,” says Kierkergard. To know Jesus is to know the Creator of Life, not simply facts about Him. The nature of knowledge is personal, deeply transforming when being is involved.

“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans and myself from the community of sinners.” Miroslav Volf

“Life is a long journey of preparation, of preparing oneself to truly die for others. It is a series of little deaths in which we are asked to release many forms of clinging and to move increasingly from needing others, to living for them.” Henry Nouwen

As we sojourn this broken world, the Maker calls us into a process of knowing Him through letting go, deeper trust, and a dying to the false self. I’m learning to walk in this more, though it’s unfamiliar in many ways. He uses crisis, hurt, trial, and disappointment to form the deepest etches of His character in us.

I know how to navigate the world in my projected, prideful and needy self – the person I thought I needed to become. That person is in the process of surrender. I’m finding new, surprising sacrificial power in the resurrected One. I know I’m on the right divesting path, but that doesn’t make it easier. I lack confidence in myself, but graciously finding it in another place – the land of forgiveness and grace.

We are to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Col 3:9. To grow into this new creation we are in Christ, we must put away all that is false.

“Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person; a false Self. We are not very good at recognizing illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves.” Thomas Merton

“Grant Lord that I may know myself that I may know Thee.” Augustine. We will only grow in depths of grace and knowing of God as we face our true brokenness and sin. Is our Gospel deep and wide enough for who we really are? God doesn’t relate to illusions, so we best recognize who we are, and are not. The space between Orthodoxy (belief) and Orthopraxis (practice) is called hypocrisy.

“A humble self-knowledge is a surer way to God than a search after deep learning.” Thomas Kempis

To dwell in God’s Kingdom community is to embrace reality as God sees it – a broken, forgiven, mercy-filled people dwelling in a new land of forgiveness. There are many fellow sojourners there, be strengthened among them.

Jesus, our King, Shepherd, Priest, and home.

“Jesus becomes the reference point for all genuine knowing, all true loving, and all authentically following of God.” Hirsch & Frost. Build your life on the Rock. Christo-centric living. Fancy word for letting Jesus do what He came to, love you for who you are – not for who you are trying to be.

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March 21, 2019

We had a wonderful, formative time in Minsk this past weekend with our Mir Leaders team. We began a study based from the book “The Critical Journey’ on the six stages of faith in the life of a believer. We also study Missio Dei in scripture, creative forms of prayer, and other intentional activities to help internal processing that I’ve adapted from my Fuller Seminary course. We’re already excited for our next retreat in the Carpathian mountains!

Someone else posted this photo so I’m stealing. I felt God’s confirming presence in this moment as we prayed for leaders of LIT, Widows and our new Kickstarter platform coming soon. I believe we have just begun our journey together in becoming more excellent listeners. Our ‘worship’ time this time consisted of no songs (unplanned), it just lingered and we together sought the Lord in the evening. Help us Lord rely increasingly on your wisdom, and Spirit’s power.
Into week three at Lighthouse with a new initiative towards at-risk families in our town. Our team gathers and provides a children’s program for these precious kids. Interestingly, and unplanned by us, a partner orphanage ministry started meeting on the 2nd floor with families together that are really in desperate situations, and many of the same children attend that. Double impact! We’re doing similar project in Minsk now as well, with our new partner Bettina with High5Give5. Children giving to children!
Just returned last night by train from Eastern Ukraine (Slavyanks). A crew of 6, including new partner Dar Draper from aged-out orphan ministry ‘Glow’ (North Carolina) journeyed with us we met again with leaders from “Good News Church”. They are working in many spheres, from orphan, front line war area, to rehab centers and now widows (we have begun partnering with them with our program). Gracious people.

After running a full orphanage for many years and seeing little success in the ‘graduates’ (suicide rates, prison, prostitution etc) they re-structured to focus on all the families that are moving towards having their kids taken away, and work with the parents and children along with the government to see restoration before it’s too late. Their vision is to restore as many biological families as possible – wonderful people serving here, and of course, beautiful little kids!

The orphanage itself was destroyed four years ago during the fighting in this area. It’s recently been restored and moves forward. Can you imagine, tanks purposefully destroying orphanages? The soldiers stole all the material, furniture, and even took the toys, smashing all that remained.
In Slavyansk, we grown to like this young couple here Oleg & Joana. They are worshipers, and musicians who are in the middle of some recording projects. Both super talented and have a passion to see a house of prayer (24/7) emerge. They’ve started but it’s been really difficult out of the gate.
During some time in prayer in Slavyansk with leaders and our team, the Lord moved on some hearts in significant ways. We discussed extending our LIT platform to this area, along with partnering with their own regional worship. We also were encouraged to share social media and production resources which could be very interesting. So much creative talent and vision gathering for something!
We visited several downtown spaces with potential for starting another platform in Slavyansk. This particular one has been sitting for almost two years, and we’ve connected in a very meaningful way with the owner. There’s quite a bit more I could share, but simply ask that you join with us in prayer for wisdom and guidance!

This is the inside of the cafe, it has two floors, and equipped with almost everything needed to get rolling. God is preparing, working and revealing some neat things.

Thanks for checking in – and please do join us in prayer as we are also experiencing, along with the positive movement, some discouraging things as well as we seek to walk the middle ground among churches that don’t have the same vision for Kingdom unity. We’ve been reminded by many that we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood. Remind us Father of essential unity in the Person of Jesus. Salvation is a Person! We’re not saved by right thinking. I used to think doctrinal unity was super important. I think a healthy doctrine OF unity in Christ is even better. Jesus said the Pharisees searched the scriptures thinking in them could be found eternal life. Not so. Truth is helpful when we know personally Christ, THE truth. We can intellectually know things about the Person we don’t. In fact, the posture of weakness, of a learner, one who sees their own blindness is the pre-requisite for union with God in the first place. To ‘know’ that we don’t know. To know the resurrected Christ puts all else into another category, no matter how essential we try to make it. Be careful, says Apostle Paul, if you think you stand, lest you fall. How can we lose this perspective of salvific essentials? I love the Morvian motto – cooler in Latin – In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. In essentials unity, in doubtful things liberty, in all things charity. We feel an increased, even focused vision for Kingdom unity in the Slavic world – it’s gonna be a rough ride and perhaps the Lord is shaping us for the difficult path of friendly fire. I’m comforted that He warns us of it, and even tell us to rejoice – not sure I fully grasp that part yet.

We’re also about to receive team of 15 orphans (teens) from GLOW at our guest house tomorrow for the weekend – gracious me we’re a tad busy! We also just started officially developing a new kickstarter platform for Russian speaking world, to attract investment to business and mission projects particularly for next generation. Speaking of platform, we just launched the widows online platform also which helps our volunteers track the budget and social/spiritual/physical needs. It’s taken 4 months, longer than I’d hoped but I’m optimistic that we can now more efficiently train and monitor expanding territory. We are doing this with World Challenge, our main sponsor with Widows.

Good news! Our septic is now working – I am SO thankful for Alyosha our friend and neighbor.

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