Are You Ready?

There isn’t any judgement in these questions as I ponder them for myself. Am I ready for Jesus to return? Will He find my house in order? Will I be engaged in what He anointed and left me to do? Or, will I be chasing after idols that don’t matter now or in eternity?

One of my deepest prayers is for the Church to arise. To desire true discipleship and to disciple. To no longer gloss over the hard truths, teachings and sayings of Jesus. To live sold out for Jesus regardless of life’s challenges and struggles.

I’m working toward this. Will you work with me too?

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.

(NASB 1995).

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Adventures in D.C.

Yesterday I took a day off from writing and did a lot of observing. It was quite the adventurous day! I started by making the hour walk from where I am staying to the Newseum and by day’s end I had walked 10 miles and burned over 1200 calories, but who is counting?!

Along the way I stopped for a bottle of water because a gal gets thirsty when the temperature is 97 degrees and the humidity is 100% at 10am. That is a bit of an exaggeration, at least it felt 100%. At the counter I handed the cashier my money and looked down for a few moments. Aretha Franklin was playing on the radio…RESPECT, (enjoy singing that all day, you are welcome.), and I was bee bopping. When I looked up to retrieve my change the cashier was sitting there, holding my money with the biggest smile on her face. I returned her smile and simply said, “I love Motown.” I made no excuses. Let me tell you, for the rest of my walk and even on the way home that song stuck with me. At every stoplight I had to wait I was dancing to the music in my head. It’s okay, I’m in D.C., and even if I wasn’t I would still dance to the music in my head!

My next stop was at Bolt Burger. If you are ever in the area I highly recommend stopping for a bite to eat! I had a delicious burger with bacon, tomato and red onion slices, and chunks of blue cheese over a bed of spring mix that was delicately tossed with olive oil and vinegar and blue cheese dressing on the side. D.C. has this protein style down! While at Bolt Burger I sat outside next to three young professionals and listened to their conversation, yes, I was eavesdropping. It saddened me to hear them complaining about their bosses’ who had sent them, instead of asking them, to attend a conference that would help them in their career.

After my bite to eat I continued on to the Newseum and was thankful to arrive and enter into some air conditioning for a little while. I’ll give you some of the highlights I enjoyed as there are six floors to cover. I enjoyed the FBI section with exhibits from fugitives, to foreign and homeland terrorism and artifacts from 9/11. There are sections of the Berlin Wall that were a gift from Germany along with one of the death towers that lined the Wall keeping watch for escapees before the wall fell. On one of the upper floors there is what once was the tallest communications tower that sat on top of one of the World Trade Towers. On this floor there is also an artifact from UAL flight 93, but you will have to wait until my blog on September 11, to hear about the significance of this to me and my family.

Having absorbed all I could from the Newseum, I decided to head back to where I am staying. Along the way I decided to stop at Starbucks and get an iced coffee. As I was waiting for my drink, the gal called my name and a man standing near me said to his companions, “There you go, Terese, that is a good name.” I looked at him and said, “Yes, with and ‘e’ not an ‘a’.” He proceeded to tell me he was an author and that my name would be a good elf name in his next novel. I told him I was an author as well and that I expected to see my name in his next book!

Continuing on, I entered my destination into the maps app on my phone and started walking. Still singing with Aretha in my head, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” as I approached a group of older men, sitting on a low concrete wall, and talking. I smiled at them and one of the men returned my smile with a huge smile of his own and said to me, “You look like you are having a good day.” I replied, “I have the joy of the Lord in my heart!” He smiled even more, pointed his finger upward and encouraged me to enjoy the rest of my day.

I kept walking when the strangest thing happened. The map app guided me to the left when I really could have continued straight ahead. Following the app, because GPS is never wrong, I turned left and began walking in an area that is currently under construction and some parts could be considered undesirable according to the world’s standard. I kept thinking to myself, “Why did the app send me this way?” Then I saw her. She was standing on the corner, crutches under her arms and a shoe boot on her foot and she looked like she was wearing and carrying everything she owned. I could tell she needed to get across the street but was hesitant about stepping off the curb. As I rounded the corner and was making my way up the street,  I heard an inner voice say, “Go help her across the street.” At first I ignored this thought and continued walking. Again I heard, “Go help her across the street.” So I turned around and asked her if she needed help across the street. She indicated that she did. I put my arm around her waist and told her to put her weight on me as I made sure the approaching cars stopped. She was very appreciative and kept calling me mommy, which may be a term of respect or endearment from another culture. I say this because she had an accent. We said our goodbyes and as I was walking off she called out, “Thank you mommy!”

Finally, I was back at the place I am staying, tired, but thankful that gold and silver I have not but I have Jesus and He is a free for all who will receive Him.

Then I took a nap!

Shalom!

 

Prayer Requests From The Gym

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I can be such a creature of habit. Every morning I arrive at the gym at least a half hour before class starts. My reasoning for this is these morning classes are quite popular and I have my favorite spot and want to set up my weights and mat and anything other equipment we might be using. This leaves me with about 10 to 15 minutes before class starts. I burned 458 calories this morning! But, I digress.

Most mornings I sit in the lobby area and either read “Power Of A Praying Parent” or the huge stack of colored 3×5 cards that have Scripture that I have turned into prayers for my family. Over the past several weeks my gym friends have been asking me what I am studying and I have had the awesome opportunity to share that I am praying for my family. If you know me you know I love the opportunity to share my faith. My intent wasn’t to share my faith in this way but it was for God! I simply wanted to spend my time before class in a constructive way rather than on my phone, which is exactly what I would be doing.

Since this all began I have learned that one of my favorite instructors is also a believer and shares the same passion of studying God’s word that I do. I even shared with her the awesome Bible software that I blogged about not long ago.

I discovered that one of my new gym friends is a believer as well and she asked me to pray for her. Today we exchanged numbers so we can encourage one another and meet every now and then for coffee.

Last week another gym friend asked me what I was studying and after I told her I was praying, she immediately asked me to pray for her best friend who was having a procedure. Today she told me her friend’s procedure went well! Praise God and thank you Jesus!

Just this morning another ‘classmate’ asked me what I was studying. He was so cute, when I told him I was praying for my children, he smiled and said, “Well, I’ll see you in class.”

Faith in motion.

Precious One, NEVER underestimate how God will work through you. Take a leap of faith with open eyes, open ears and an open heart.

Shalom!

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Use Your Words

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Earlier this morning as I was praying I was thinking about an encouragement that I see often across social media in various forms. The thought is if we are meeting with resistance or experiencing push back then surely God is getting ready to bless us. I’m still looking for where that is specifically in Scripture and if you have any verse references please leave them in the comments.

Resistance and push back are simply part of the enemy’s plan to lie, cheat, steal and destroy.  Especially when we begin to choose to go deeper into an intimate relationship with God. Satan doesn’t want us to know one iota more about our identity, authority or inheritance in Christ than we currently do because he knows what that will look like for him and glory to God it isn’t pretty!

As I continued to pray this morning I heard Holy Spirit gently whisper, “You push back, you resist.” In a moment’s notice my prayers did an about face and I began to fight back in prayer like the mighty warrior that I am.

Spiritual warfare is so real that is why it is so important to be in God’s word everyday. Holy Spirit infuses you with Scripture that he imprints on your heart and in your soul and when the moment is called for He brings the right verse to mind. He gives us His words for the battle.

Precious One, as the old saying goes, “Them’s fightin’ words!”

Shalom!

 

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Because Of A Box Of Fishies

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One day, years ago, while there was still a need to make lunches for my kids take to school, I was at the grocery store buying snacks for their lunches and another woman saw me put a big box, the biggest box to be found, of fishies (gold fish crackers) in my basket. She proceeded to tell me, unsolicited, that those crackers were the worse thing I could give to my kids. Oh, the many things I could have said to her! What she didn’t know was that I had a picky eater at home and if fishies were one of the five things I could count on my hand that this child would eat, well then, fishies it would be! (if you have a picky eater, it does get better! This child now cooks some excellent meals on hi…their own and will survive, especially as this child gets ready to move out on their own). I thanked this woman for her concern and went about my business. Whether this woman had passed judgement on me or not, I certainly felt like she had and that I had earned the biggest mommy fail moment of the year in that one short shopping trip.

At first glance 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 would seem that Paul is passing judgement, and he is, but not the critical kind of judgement that is negative and depleting of others. In fact, Paul stated that he didn’t even judge himself, it is the Lord who judges him. (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). Rather, Paul is judging the sin of one of the brethren, which caused this man to lose fellowship with God and the sin seeped into the congregation like a thick, dark goo touching and sticking to the rest of the congregation, even though the rest of the congregation wasn’t directly involved in the sin. Like a paint can that is dropped and splatters onto everything around it, the sin of our faith families affects us spiritually, emotionally and mentally and we may not even realize this.

And they were proud! Rather than being deeply saddened by the spiritual state of this man and the influence, subtle as it may have been, on the congregation they boasted about the sin.

It is important to point out that the sin of the man in the verse above was clear and habitual, it was not a judgement based on motives or opinions, the man was not repentant and Paul came from a place of wanting this man to be restored in his relationship with God and with others. It is very important to state that Paul had a relationship with the Corinthians.

So, what does it look like practically for me, for you, for our faith families when a brother or sister has fallen into sin? I believe relationship is key and that is part of the beauty of fellowship with one another, we commit to each other in deep and intimate relationships through Christ and we hold one another accountable; unlike the lady in the grocery store, whom I am certain thought she was doing good by informing me of the disasters of feeding me kids fishies. I also believe it is vital for us to remain, abide, be at home with Jesus on a consistent basis and prayer is the foundation on which we ought to make all decisions. Everything we say and do ought to bathed in prayer before we ever open our mouths and take action. Ask God what your role is. Is He asking you to pray, be His voice piece or a mediator. If you are still unclear seek wise and godly counsel without giving particulars.  Ouch! I can recall a few instances lately where I have failed to follow my own encouragement!

As Believers nothing can ever separate us from the love of God but sin does break our fellowship with God (1John 1:6-7) and broken fellowship with God hurts us all.

Precious One, let your walk match your talk.

Shalom!

 

What The World Needs Now

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Loving others can sometimes be a hard thing to do. Especially when someone’s response to our love doesn’t meet our expectations. Or, when others have done something that causes us pain and grief. Perhaps we ought not have expectations to begin with.

The truth of John 13:34 is such a simple command but many times we allow our emotions, which are not a bad thing, to dictate our feelings. What if we sat everyday and allowed ourselves to experience God’s lavish love for us, filling us to overflowing? Might it be easier to love one another as Jesus continues to love us?

What the world needs now is love sweet love,
Its the only thing that there’s just to little of,
What the world needs now is love sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone. Dionne Warwick

We don’t get to pick and choose who we love. Jesus tells us we must love one another. What would it look like if we loved those who we feel don’t deserve love? Those who commit crimes, those who are in gangs, those who believe differently than us, those who cause terror throughout the world, those caught up in the bondage of all sorts of sin?

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8.

Precious One, and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Shalom!

Making Disciples: An Interview

Making disciples. What does that look like, really? Jesus’ second greatest command is to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Matt. 22:39). Now, if you’re a linear thinker like me, that literally means my neighbor – next door. Thankfully, Jesus also commands us in Matt. 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In all the nations we are to make disciples. That means the poor and the wealthy, the fathered and the fatherless, the married and the widows, the native and the foreigner.

We are further encouraged by James when he says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress….. James 1:27a. At the time James wrote these words, if widows and orphans didn’t have anyone to care for them they became beggars, sold themselves into slavery, stole or starved. And, this problem is still with us today, over 2000 years later. We still have widows, orphans, the homeless. They have become beggars and are selling themselves or their children into slavery or stealing for their next meal or simply starve. They are exploited and we are commanded to ensure that this exploitation stops and to give them hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

They go hand in hand, you see; caring for the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors around the world. That is exactly what my friend Patrick and his wife Barbara are doing through Living Bread Ministry. Read, now, their holistic approach in caring for the global poor.

HFT: Patrick, tell us how your vision for Living Bread Ministries was born.

ImageP: The vision Bárbara and I have for Living Bread developed over several years.  We have always had a heart for the poor, even as unbelievers, especially in Bárbara’s native Brazil.  After coming to know the Lord in 1999 he began to shape a vision for ministry among the poor and needy.  Our journey as Christians took us into two denominations and we noticed something very interesting about them both.

The first church we joined after coming to know the Lord was from a tradition that emphasized caring for the physical needs of people.  We later found ourselves in a church that was more focused on spiritual needs and thus emphasized evangelism.  We realized that these concerns were not mutually exclusive.  When we decided to begin a ministry among the poor we wanted it to be built around the local church so church planting was essential, but we wanted to plant churches that cared for whole people.  In early 2004 Living Bread Ministries was launched with the vision to plant churches among the poor in South America and equip those church plants to minister to their communities in a comprehensive way.  The vision has since grown to focus on the global poor.

HFT: Patrick, I’ve heard you say that you want to plant churches that minister in a comprehensive way. Please elaborate on what that means for your ministry.

P: As I mentioned, we don’t see a dichotomy between the spiritual and physical.  We believe the mission of the church involves ministering to whole people.  It’s not enough to feed someone and leave him or her dead in their sin, nor is it acceptable to lead someone to Jesus and leave him or her naked and hungry.  So, our focus is to plant churches among the very poor and equip those churches to minister to the needs of their community.

Practically this means each of our church plants is proclaiming the gospel and calling people to repentance, while at the same time responding to the tangible needs around them. Each church operates feeding ministries and is involved in any number of aid and development works.  Some help drug addicts, care for widows and street children, provide job skills or English classes, and others are helping the homeless get off the streets.

The churches are making disciples and modeling in the community what it means to obey all that Christ commanded.  The result: the church is an agent of transformation in their community.  We’ve seen church members take in orphans, care for blind widows and the handicapped.  It is significant that they have done these things even though they often are just as impoverished as those they are helping.

Typically, church planting and humanitarian ministry are done separately.  We are bringing the two together in the context of a local church led by members of the actual community.

HFT: Patrick, I’ve also heard you use the terms interdependence and Three Self Paradigms. How does each of these thoughts apply to LBM?

P: The Three Self Paradigm is a view that most Western mission agencies have operated by for a long time.  The paradigm arose as a corrective to the “dependence” of indigenous works upon foreign aid and missionaries.  Often missionaries would work to plant a church but when the missionary left the field and the foreign resources dried up, the church would disband.  As a result the popular belief became that to correct this missionaries must work to plant truly indigenous churches which was defined as churches that were self-governing (local leaders), self-propagating, and self-sustaining.

The self-sustaining aspect became the focus and mission agencies determined that all financial assistance to indigenous works results in dependency.  As a result, mission agencies and missionaries determined not to give financial resources to help any indigenous works.  This is still a foundational principle among most Western mission agencies.

While the issue of dependency is a real one, one of the unintended results of the focus on self-sustaining is a lack of church planting efforts among the very poor.  Often church planting has been reserved for the middle class and wealthy while to poorest communities have only received humanitarian ministries.  They’ve been given bread but in many cases have been left without a local church.

This is where the concept of interdependence comes in.  We affirm that dependency is an issue, but we believe it has less to do with the giving of financial resources and more to do with Western missionaries proclivity to control indigenous workers, often using money as a means to do so.  We do not believe the proper response to a concern over dependency is to abandon the poor because they cannot “sustain” a church.  Rather, we believe the way to avoid dependency is through interdependence.

We are not called to be dependent, but neither are we called to be independent.  Like the human body each member is interdependent upon one another.  We need each other.  No single contribution is more significant than the other.  By beginning from this perspective, the local community has ownership of the church from the beginning.  It’s their church and they work to grow and sustain it.  We may provide some financial capital, but they also provide financial resources, according to their means, and they provide the human capital to love and care for the community.  In this case who is dependent upon whom?

HFT: Barbara, here at HFT we encourage women in their identity and authority in Christ as ambassadors to the kingdom of God. As women, how do we assert these qualities for a ministry such as LBM’s?

B: By using our gifts and talents to further His kingdom and fully surrendering to his plan. As Patrick’s wife and co-founder of LBM I am fulfilling my purpose as his helpmate (Gen. 2:18); I am a sounding board for new ideas and opportunities, as well as a prayer partner for the needs and future of the ministry. As the Lord entrusted this ministry to us, I am able to use the languages I’ve learned and the cross-cultural experiences the Lord blessed me with from my early years into my teenage years. I also have an opportunity to serve on the leadership team of Living Bread Brazil as I am a native Brazilian. The Lord has given me a love for people, community, relationships, languages and other cultures. By creating me in his image, He has given me the responsibility to care for all of his creation. This responsibility brings the need to surrender and be obedient to him in the role he’s given me. I must daily die to self and surrender to his plan so that I can carry on with my duties in his creation, part of which is my role in LBM. As disciples, whether men or women, we are called to deny self take up our cross and follow Christ.

HFT: Finally, tell us about the human trafficking aspect of LBM. Is this something that has always been on your radar or something that evolved from your ministry work?

P: We have always been concerned about the comprehensive needs of the poor.  The global poor are very susceptible to many issues; hunger, disease, and exploitation to name a few.  Human trafficking is an issue that preys upon the most vulnerable, the poor.  Whether the issue is sex trafficking or forced labor the poor and needy are especially vulnerable.

They often have no voice and no advocate, because there is no local church in their community.  In urban slums, where community has totally degenerated and everyone is fighting for survival, no one is looking out for the weak.  Traffickers, factories, brothels, etc take advantage of this to prey upon the hopeless.

We believe that by establishing Christ centered local churches in poor communities, discipling them to care for and protect the weak, and by providing some basic essentials like food kits, medicine, etc we can impact this issue.  When people are no longer desperate and vulnerable the traffickers cannot prey on them.  When toddlers are no longer crying from hunger then mothers are no longer desperate enough to send their twelve year olds into prostitution in order to by bread.

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In Brazil.

HFT: What are the ways our readers can contact you for more information?

You can check us out online at www.livingbread.org and email us info(at)livingbread.org.  You can also connect with us on Facebook www.facebook.com/livingbread and on Twitter @Living_Bread.

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In Brazil.

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In Thailand.

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In Brazil.