Mountains. Rivers. Music.

Mir Leadership gathering this week in Carpathian mountains!

The past month has been a bit of a blur. We just returned from the Carpathian Mountains in Western Ukraine. If your vehicles don’t break down, it’s supposed to take around 10 hours. It took us 2 days, but we (sans our truck) arrived safely for a 4-day leaders retreat with friends from Belarus and Ukraine. It was a neat time for friendships to form, deepen, and be encouraged in Christ in this pristine setting!

Our theme was culture creation – I look forward to further teaching and consideration in this area in missional community, it’s fascinating and I believe a significant part of our calling as believers in every age. So much of Christendom thinks it’s enough to condemn or criticize the culture of the day – yet that rarely works or has any effect. In fact, it can do just the opposite in helping to fuel the incubated distance the Church has with the culture in the first place. The Kingdom of God is here, Jesus came, rose and has empowered us towards our God given design to fill the earth with reflections of how the world should be in Christ.

“The only way to change culture is to make more of it.” Andy Crouch

Speaking of culture and creating space inside of it for Christ, we returned to a rock concert outreach outside at Lighthouse Cafe park area. Two bands, one from Germany and another from Ukraine in a very loud, and professional stage setup. I appreciated the way in which the lead singer shared natural snippets of testimony, and encouragement for the youth to look to Jesus, turn away from destructive things which this culture knows very well. I think some good seeds were sown. We had some mom’s and neighbors express gratitude for hosting the event – I think folks are embracing some of the hope and love that we’re able to collectively bring as believers in our town. We’ve started including folks from our town to our Lighthouse staff meeting who have ideas for various kinds of family events – coming alongside and helping others, not just doing our own thing is something I want to see us do more of that we can become a greater asset as a growing missional community, in our community.

Lighthouse team met to clean garbage as part of a community wide initiative for creation care!

I read somewhere a good measure of your missional impact in a community is whether your ministry could disappear in the night, if anyone outside your group would notice, or even care? May we all become the kind of culturally relevant citizens, wherever we are around the globe that are essential to continued, and improving human flourishing, in this life and the next!

Books of the Month!

A Public Faith – Miroslav Volf

Culture Making – Andy Crouch

Gift of Being Yourself – David Benner

Clark, 13yrs – he’ll be our oldest for the summer.

Tomorrow, I’ll race to Kiev to pick up our friend and contact with World Challenge, Mark who will spend a few days with us. We’ll have another Widows outreach, as well as the regular weekly Children’s outreach. Then, later this week we receive a team from Texas of professional seamstresses! Unfortunately, the sewing machines and material from the US is still in customs.. hoping it clears in time for our workshops – but we have a backup plan. Would you pray for both the materials to get released, but also the team, and the many workshops, children, widows, mom’s.. we will be in 3 Cities over the course of the week. Sewing seeds, trusting the Lord of the harvest to increase and the love of Jesus to be experienced. Pray for strength, health, favor – and for our cars, it feels like every week something is breaking from these awful roads.

Our family of 10, down to 8, soon to 6 this week. We think we can.. we think we can..
Club 180 Youth continue to gather weekly – this past week warm enough for volleyball and kayaking!

I almost forgot, we ship off Brent and Tucker this week too! Brent will be gone for 4 months, Tucker for 3. Please pray for their safety, they will be driving huge farm equipment all summer, and they don’t exactly have a lot of practice driving much of anything besides our van.. at the end of the summer they will both have one shot to fly down to Texas for getting final documents on their permanent licenses.

Our family will be flying over to Canada, visiting the US July 25-August 25. One month. We are lifting up the itinerary to the Lord – honestly I have no time to try and make something happen, so trusting the Lord is the only option – a good option! We do want to make it out to Seattle to visit Jan and the Mir family at Lake Samm. As well, we are hoping to visit Texas, swinging down to visit friends in Longview, Dallas, and Austin. Our house has been on the market now for 6 months. We have had some good interest and one offer, but it wasn’t enough. We have now another offer this week, it’s very close, and do ask that you pray with us too! It has been a stretching time for us this year trying to get this Texas house sold and maintain all our Ukrainian expenses and world.

Our little girls excited to be out of the car after 10hrs, hiding in a cafe wall.

So many things I want to write, but Fuller has me wiped of extra energy. I read on average 3-4 books per month, along with many required articles each week, and writing assignments. In two weeks I have my final paper due for this semester on Missional Engagement in Contemporary Culture – it’s been a really diverse and interesting season of study – To make things increasingly difficult, I tend to get lost in side studies of interest during my course.

A Parenting Rant for Jesus.

Our family is studying all kinds of things lately as well, it’s been really fun to listen to what everyone is reading – from history of Buddism, to philosophy, biographies… Deb’s dream of our family being a learning community is coming to life! I really encourage you parents to let your kids explore and not overly control their learning process. I see many Christian parents especially think that you need to feed your kids just the Bible, and fear if you don’t fill them with enough ‘facts’ or ‘truth’ they will believe whacky things and not follow Jesus. We have found just the opposite. We’ve never required bible reading, prayer or other Christian practices. Until they are old enough, they aren’t Jesus followers, so let them awaken to who they are, and allow the Holy Spirit to do what He does best.

Love your kids, love Jesus, and relax.

The goal is, I think, to form hungry learners. Jesus is truth because He is, not because we parent enough Christian stuff. Don’t be afraid to let your kids study everything, and anything that interests them in an effort to raise intellectually honest, and robust thinking believers. This world needs apologists, loving and mature communicators of the faith that saves. If they are just parroting verses or hold to your own views strictly, they won’t discover who they are, and their faith will not be their own – it will invariably come crashing down.

Salvation is Jesus, not a specific set of beliefs. Trust in Jesus, know Jesus yourself, and love your kids into the Kingdom setting the example before them as a humble, seeking, hungry believer. So far, our ‘hands-off’ approach, which flies in the face of almost all western Christian approaches I realize, is really producing a genuine hunger for spiritual things in our kids. Our oldest that have left (early 20’s) continue to deepen in faith. They wrestle with their faith of course, but not out of panic but as something they’ve already been allowed to experience as a natural part of living faith.

I walked through one of my kids rooms today and noticed, amidst a very messy room, CS Lewis by their bed. It hit me, we’re doing it! Go into another room and someone is reading some crazy eastern philosopher, and another the biography of George Muller. Deb has pushed me personally to study and think outside of the narrow fundamental Christian box that we’ve both been exposed to. None of us come from perfect or even close to perfect Christian streams. We have so much to learn from history and those that have gone before us.

Once you let go of a defensive posture in your own personal theology, and you hold things loosely – you realize your value is not in your beliefs, but rather intrinsic in the heart of God. This allows us to be wrong, without dismantling the foundations of our faith. I can be wrong about so many things, and probably am, but I’m not wrong in the essential love of Jesus over my life. Our kids feel this peace, rest, and if given the freedom to question on their own level, will find stride in their personal journey, they will make it their own.

Look for those intentional spirit led moments where you can bring God’s illuminating and transforming Word, as it fits with their hunger and openness.

We totally believe the Gospel (good news of Jesus) is the power of God to salvation, and essential for conversion – but the process is a dance, not a technical pattern or modular course we apply to our kids thought process.. it’s a relational, and deeply meaningful exploration of their uniqueness, including their deep brokenness. Let them start that process early, like 6-7yrs old, don’t fret at their lack of interest or connection with God in the 7-11yrs.. don’t rush them to outward symbols like baptism (don’t get me started on that!) – let your kids breath!

They are not you, their faith will not look like yours exactly, and that is WONDERFUL!

Trust Jesus and don’t parent out of fear. We’ve never forced bible reading, devotions, we don’t require them to go to church, or come to missional events if they don’t want to. We are quite possibly the worst Christian parents ever. Our goal is not to produce outward looking Christians, but inward integrity, humility, respect for themselves and others. Jesus makes increasing sense and the Cross blazes into their life by the work of the Spirit as we (as parents) maintain strong, loving relationship with them. I think for many parents their relationship with Christ is so lacking, that we know it’s not enough to sway the hearts of our kids by itself, so we lean on rules, law, and wield the Bible unwisely in the hopeful formation of our kids.

Your greatest gift parent(s), your walk with Jesus.

Ours is far from perfect, that is exactly the strength of honest parenting; acknowledging our continued hopes and failures. We are on a journey, imperfectly sojourning, dramatizing what a life-long, meaningful walk with Jesus looks like.

I did not intend to write any of that, wow. Just loving what God is doing in our kids, and know many parents struggle, you want to do the right thing. We were laughing just how different parenting is now after 22yrs of it from when we first started. I think the biggest thing, and I know Deb agrees, is to be yourself. I read recently that our missional outward efforts (including our kids) must reflect the character of our faith. I agree with that. Don’t reflect a Jesus or a brand of religion that simply isn’t you or your family. You have a DNA, your family is unique, no other family like you on earth! Be yourselves, let the natural love of Jesus emit and transform you, don’t force and apply other styles that make Christianity look weird. That’s just embarrassing and your kids know it, no matter how much you think it’s ‘good’. Diversity is God’s plan, not uniformity. Stop trying to be any other family – dive into what makes your family uniquely you.

Thank you for praying, supporting, giving – in Jesus name. Enjoy some pictures 🙂

Thank you Mathew, Bands, Paxa’s and Lighthouse Staff for serving! Pray for seeds sown and continued opportunities to deepen relationships in our community for Christ.
Extreme hiking group… 20km to icy snow-topped mountains. Clark went, the rest of us prefer the warm valley.
For my Dad – western ukraine got us quite lost following Google on the way home – but some beautiful farm land.
Enjoyed a little moment with Abbey. She has been enjoying some meditation practices and several times caught her eyes closed, ‘listening’ – love it.
Cows, goats, horses, normal to see walking around.
Thank you Father for your expressed beauty.
Deep discussions interrupted by photos! 🙂
Sleepy heads wake up for Coffee after hotel sleep.. I like the Orthodox Church in background.
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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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