Stepping Out Of The Audience

The text came in at 9:58 p.m. “Rachel, I just wanted you to know…”

I had been thinking about this woman just a half hour earlier. “It’s late,” I’d thought, “I will text her in the morning. It’s been too long since I’ve heard from her. I need to let her know we’re still here, and we haven’t forgotten her.”

The message was long—very long—and heartbreaking. Lives in shambles because a man saw an opportunity to use the weaknesses of others to afflict the fatherless in the truest, most revolting sense of the word.

Our texts went back and forth, but not for long because of the hour. My heart was breaking, and yet there was hope. As horrible as the situation has become, it is at a place where restoration can begin, and the Lord may allow us the opportunity to be a part of that restoration. It won’t be easy. In fact, it is overwhelming to consider the depth of the need as well as the time and the attention that this situation will require in the coming months. But God knew all of that when He brought our paths together, and this…this is where being a doer of the Word comes into play (See Wednesday’s blog to read more.)

 

James 1-27 work

God got very specific when he told us to be a doer of the Word. (James 1:22-26) He told us the dangers of walking away as merely a hearer: that in doing so we are deceiving (cheating) ourselves. He told us the marks of a man or woman whose religion is vain (without purpose or power) can be seen in the way they bridle their tongue.

But in James 1:27, He defines the religion that is pure and undefiled—free of the things that impair the force and vigor of our worship. Pure worship has two simple parts:

  1. Visit the Fatherless and the Widow in their affliction
  2. Keep oneself unspotted from the world

While the ideas are simple, neither is easy to perform. But both are right. Both are pleasing to God. And, as we saw in this earlier post, both are part of what God is talking about when He tells us He wants us to be doers of the word and not hearers only.

The second of these two is a very personal area, an area that is transformed through the renewing of our minds as we apply God’s word to our life and grow in our relationship with Him. We tend to focus on this part of God’s definition of religion far more than the first part.

The first, however, is where our faith and worship take on life not only before God but also before others. This is where we “step onto the stage,” as we mentioned earlier this week, and into the “arena of risk” as we mentioned last week. It is not the easy path. Nor is it the “soft” path. This God-ordained path requires the courage, chivalry, and humility to “defend the poor and fatherless” which only He can provide. (Psalm 82:3)

So this week, our challenge is simple, but not easy. This week our challenge is to participate: A challenge to step out of the audience and become a performer. And, as we set this challenge out, we’re also going to give you an opportunity to take the first step.

Beginning next week, on June 1st, we will be holding a prayer meeting on the first Thursday morning of each month. We would like to invite you to participate in it.

I know many of you reading this are not in Billings. That’s okay. You can still be a part!

For those of you who would like to attend in person, it will be held at FTN in the community conference room on the main floor from 10:30 to 11:30. (711 Central Ave, Billings, MT. Parking in rear. Come up the steps, and the conference room will be just inside the door across from the elevator.)

For those of you who are not able to attend in person, please feel free to join us by praying where you are during this time. In fact, why not bring together a group of people in your area with a heart for the fatherless, and pray together wherever you are! Let us know that you will be joining us in prayer, and we will send you the prayer list that we will be using for our meeting.

This is a very simple form of participation, very simple, but it is a beginning. And, lest we forget its true value—it is also worship.

Be brave! Be obedient! Step out of the audience by faith—God will not fail you!

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Are You Cheating Yourself?

It was the perfect evening—warm and sunny, but not hot. Not a hint of an evening thunderstorm, only a faint breeze that whispered across the school’s lawn. The actors moved across the stage, their brightly colored costumes catching the evening sun. One of the actors cracked a joke and the audience laughed. The other responded and the audience laughed again. A few moments later, everyone was fighting tears and stifling giggles all at once. They were a superb group of actors.

I had never been to a play in the park before, and I found that I enjoyed it immensely. As a writer, it was inspiring to see another’s work come to life, to see the product of their labor continue to cheer others for years after they were gone. Night fell, and the performance was soon over. The final curtain came down, the cast took their bow, my friends, and I gathered our lawn chairs and went on our way, discussing our impressions, laughing over certain scenes, and even growing philosophical over the meaning of the play. We left feeling as though we’d been a part of something special.

Theater Are you Cheating

There is something almost magical about theater. It takes you to places you have never been before, portrays things you may have never considered before or perhaps could never experience. An effective actor makes you laugh, cry, and even think about life in a new way. But the artist has something the audience will never have—they have lived the work while the audience has only observed it.

In James 1:22, a similar scenario is drawn out for us. It says, “But be ye doers of the word…” That word “doers” seems pretty basic, but the Greek word has the idea of performing something, of “poeting” something. You see the word is:

Ποιητησ (Poietes) – Which literally means: a maker, producer, author, doer, performer, poet. In fact, this is where we get our English word “poet.”

The verse goes on to say, “and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Here the word for “hearer” is:

Ακροατης (Akroates) – Which means: a hearer (merely).

That’s right: merely a hearer.

So on the one hand, we have the performers, and, on the other hand, we have the audience. On the one hand, we have those who have picked up the Author’s work, ingested it, analyzed it, applied it, and brought it to life through their actions. On the other hand, we have those who have observed. They have heard the Author’s work, perhaps even been moved to tears or inspired by the performers of the work. Then they gather up their lawn chairs and go home. Perhaps they discuss it as they go. They talk about how beautiful the thoughts of the Work are, how brave and talented are the performers, how inspiring. They feel they have been a part of something special. But in reality, they have only observed it. They are deceiving themselves and don’t even realize it. Here the picture in the Greek just gets stronger.

Παραλογιζομαι (Paralogizomi) – Which means: To reckon wrong, miscount; to cheat by false reckoning; to deceive, delude, circumvent.

The audience has looked in the mirror (James 1:23,24), seen who they are, walked away, and have convinced themselves that they’re okay. They are cheating themselves. While they feel blessed to have observed something inspiring, they have missed the greater blessing of living it.

Of course, this passage isn’t talking about a play. It isn’t talking about an evening in the park, watching actors perform a masterpiece. It’s talking about life and the living out of God’s Word.

Up to this point, this blog has been fairly easy to write, but this is where it gets difficult because this is where we have to ask the hard questions:

• Am I a performer, living out the work of the Author and Creator of my faith, or am I merely a hearer?

• Do I watch as others do the work, or do I ingest God’s Word, apply it, and live it out?

• Do I allow myself to be inspired by others and their walk of faith, to be entertained, and then pick up my lawn chair and walk away, carrying my impressions, inspiration, and false sense of camaraderie and participation with me?

• Have I cheated myself, reckoning that I am blessed for having heard, missing the fact that the blessing is in the doing?

We know and understand that our salvation is not by works, but that does not mean that our doing does not affect our blessing. The New Testament addresses this over and over, both before Christ’s death and resurrection and afterward. We were created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and God has ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) So the question is: Do we?

You may be wondering what this has to do with the fatherless. It has everything to do with the fatherless, as we will see later this week in another blog. But for now, take a look around you, look at your responses to other Christians and their ministries, look at your involvement at church, in missions, and in your own neighborhood. Look at the Word:

Are you a performer, an actor, a doer—or merely part of the audience?

 

Joining God in the Arena of Risk

Have you ever tried to push a car up a hill? Some friends of mine did. They tried for an hour, pushing and pushing and then having to let the car roll back down the hill so they could try again. It wasn’t until one more person jumped in line behind the car that they finally made progress. That person wasn’t big or strong or especially fit. They were just another body. Sometimes that’s all it takes! Just one more person. YOU could be that person for Forbid Them Not Ministries.

One More Person

This summer at Forbid Them Not, we are focusing on Growing Together. The last two weeks we have challenged you to grow with us in the areas of (1) sharing the Facebook group with others and (2) Prayer. This week we hit the challenge that strikes where the rubber meets the road—or in the case of my friends, where the rubber meets the slippery hillside.

Forbid Them Not operates by faith. It always has. As the Psalmist said, we wait on God because “[our] expectation is from Him.” We have seen God do amazing things on very little. We have seen Him provide when we did not know where the funds would come from. When the Lord laid it on our hearts to hold the Forum on Fatherless in March, we had $116.79 in our general account. We had not taken out any of the month’s reserves for rent, insurance, salary, or any of our other expenses, but we knew God was leading us to host the forum.

Our first expense was purchasing postage for the letters that would be going out to pastors in our region. The postage cost $98. We took the step, bought the stamps, and trusted the Lord. Three days later, an unexpected $50 came in, a little later an unexpected $100 came in. God provided every step along the way. In fact, by the time it was all done, not only were all of the expenses covered but we were also able to give love offerings to our two guests speakers who traveled so far.

“This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:23

As we grow, we have no intention of operating in any way other than with our eyes on God as our Provider, but we do need to grow in the area of financial partners. We are currently operating on a “committed” income of less than $700/mo. (You read that right.) As mentioned earlier, this must cover all of our operating expenses, including rent, insurance, and salaries. We have a small amount remaining from this year’s Green Bean Project with which to help local single moms and fatherless children. We know that this is not an impossible situation because we have already seen God provide in mighty ways. We would simply like to invite you, to challenge you, to come along with us on this journey of faith.

I have always struggled with inviting others to partner with the ministry. Not because I do not have a passion for the ministry, not because I do not want the ministry to grow, but because I know what it is like to live on nearly nothing. I know that when you or I give to missions, especially above or beyond what we are accustomed to giving, it can be a huge sacrifice. As I shared in last weeks’ post about prayer, I am a natural listener and sometimes fail to speak. But I am also a natural “doer” for others and very often hesitate to ask anyone to do something, which I feel might burden or inconvenience them. Instead, I just trundle along and make do. I am so grateful to a man named Jerry Long, who is now with the Lord. He helped me see how wrong my perspective has been in this area. Last year, Jerry encouraged me to study Philippians 4:17. What I found amazed me.

Philippians 4:17 is a short, simple verse, but the use of one word in this verse packs a lot of punch. The verse says,

“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”

The word logos is translated as “account” 8 times in the New Testament. In all but two of those, the Scripture is speaking either of someone giving an account of us or of us having to give an account of ourselves. One of those two exceptions, Hebrews 13:17, tells us how to make sure those over us can give a good account (through obedience and submission). But Philippians 4:17 is the only verse that tells us how to have fruit that abounds to our account.

Paul was speaking to the Philippian believers, praising them for the fact that they ALONE ministered to him financially when he first went into Macedonia. He called the things they had sent to him, “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice well pleasing to God.” And then he made them a promise, a promise that is just as good for you and me as for the Philippians,

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Over the years, I have been concerned that by inviting others to partner with this ministry I was inviting them to take on a financial burden, but that isn’t true. The invitation to partner is actually an invitation to bear fruit and lay up treasure in Heaven, to fellowship with us in this ministry, and to watch God provide.

And so, I lay out this week’s challenge: Will you be that one who will step in behind Forbid Them Not and help push it up the hill? Will you take a risk and let God prove Himself? Will you lay up fruit to your account? Will you partner with Forbid Them Not?

I believe God wants us to grow. I believe He wants us to grow TOGETHER. And I want you to have the joy not only of watching Him work but also of being a part of that work. We’ve made it very easy to join us. Simply, click the link below to go to the partnership page on our website, which allows you to set up monthly investments in the ministry through PayPal.

We have already stepped into the arena of risk, and we have often seen His reward. Won’t you join us?

Click here to enter the arena!

Element of Risk

 

Confessions and How You Can Pray

Growing Together

This summer, we’re focusing on Growing Together at Forbid Them Not. Last week, I shared a short video with you that lays out some of our goals for this season of growing. (If you missed it, that’s okay, I’ll share it again at the end of this post.) In the video, I challenged you to join us in growing a group of people with a heart to see the fatherless come to Christ. This week, I’d like to challenge you to grow with us in the area of prayer.

 

Over the last year, I’ve been learning that I’m not very good about voicing to others the things that are on my heart. I’m a natural listener, and that is good for what we do here because if you do not hear, it is almost impossible to respond based on the Word or with discernment. But this strength comes with an inherent weakness—the failure to speak.

Most missionaries struggle with finding the right balance in prayer letters and blogs. What do I share? People want to hear what will encourage them. They want to hear that their investment in our ministry is paying off. But what about the struggles, the stark realities, the needs?

Some would say that if a missionary is truly walking by faith they will NEVER share the needs they are facing because they should be able to trust God alone to meet that need. God should be enough. And He SHOULD be enough, but what about the balancing principle that we are to bear one another’s burdens? How can you pray if I never tell you about the need? How can you comprehend the full depth and breadth of the answer, if I have never told you the full depth and breadth of the need?

So today, I’m going to speak. I’m going to be open, honest, and maybe a little blunt. I’m going to share with you how you can be praying for us, and I’m going to challenge you to COMMIT to pray with and for us.

Here are 8 ways you can pray for us:

  1. That God would be magnified through this ministry.
    We want to operate in a way that allows Him to reveal that in HIM the fatherless find mercy. (Hosea 14:3)
  2. That our hearts and minds would be attuned to the leadership of the Lord.
    It’s easy to get caught up in all that needs to be done and suddenly realize you haven’t stopped to listen to the most important Voice. This ministry can be draining emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Pray that we will be aware of the need to spend extra time with the Lord and TAKE it. Running on fumes helps no one.
  3. That fatherless children, single moms, other guardians, and members of our community would come to the Lord through this ministry.
  4. That churches both in our community and in other communities would be strengthened through this ministry.
    Pray that we will have wisdom as we share with others what God has taught us about ministry to the fatherless and single moms and how they can apply it in their own communities.
  5. For wisdom and boldness as we reach into heartbreaking situations. Imagine this…
    You’re sitting face-to-face with a fourteen year old who, with tears streaming down her cheeks, says, “I’ve been a burden since I was seven years old. My mom kicked me out to please her boyfriend. He’s abusing her.” How do you answer her?

    A frantic phone call comes in from a single mom whose parents are telling lies about her and have pulled her into a custody battle with the state. What resources do you offer her?

    A fourteen-year-old boy wants to be a man and lead in his home, but can’t seem to resolve the anger and hurt caused by the rejection of his father looking him in the face and saying, “I don’t want you in my life.” How do you guide him to forgiveness?

    You receive a late-night text message from a single mom who has lost her children, “Is it wrong for me to hate the man who abused my children for the things he did to them?” What hope do you offer her?

    We need your prayer.

  6. For financial partners.
    We are currently operating on approximately 8.5% of what we estimate we need to be fully operational. This must cover our operational costs as well as our ministry costs. We have seen God do AMAZING things in our poverty, and we don’t ever want to come to a place where we are not relying on Him. But we also know that in order for us to minister effectively, we need partners who will consistently invest in this ministry. Our prayer is that God will raise up partners who have a heart for both the fatherless and this ministry.
  7. For volunteers
    We can’t do the work alone. It’s too big. 31% of the children in our county are growing up in single-parent homes, and 48% of the children in the next county! Laborers are needed. Over the summer, this will be one of our main areas of focus. Please pray with us that even now God would be stirring hearts to join us in projects, in mentoring and discipleship, in teaching classes, in providing transportation, in offering whatever talents the Lord has given them to be used to touch the lives of the fatherless around them.
  8. For wisdom in balancing time and priorities.
    Right now, we have a staff of two. We both have other work, are active in our churches, and want to be involved with family as much as possible. Sometimes balancing everything can be a bit like juggling knives. Please pray that, as Hudson Taylor said, God would be our one great circumstance, and that we would follow His direction and leadership. He has already provided and led in amazing ways.

So there it is. My heart. Our need. Prayer is something we often take for granted. It’s something anyone can do. It’s something we assume others are doing. Sometimes it’s something we commit to do and then forget about—sadly. It can become routine. But it shouldn’t. Prayer is powerful.

Will you commit to pray with us about these things, maybe not every day, but at least once a week? If so, please let us know by simply leaving  note in the comments. We covet your prayers.

In Case You Missed It, Here’s Last Week’s Video:

Growing Together

2014-08-15 10.53.29It’s spring, and that means things are beginning to grow and bloom. Some of you are already well into your growing season. In Montana, we are just beginning to see the leaves open up on the trees, the tulips are still blooming, and the lilacs—oh, the lilacs! I actually drove through an alley yesterday just to get an up close view of the bush behind our office. I love watching things come back to life in the spring and seeing the growing process through which the various plants go. It reminds me of the resurrection and the hope we have in Christ. Spring also encourages me with the potential for the ministry of Forbid Them Not to grow.

A garden only yields abundant fruit when it is tended with that purpose. As we come into this summer growing season, we would like to see Forbid Them Not grow in many areas, yielding fruit that will glorify God and change lives. Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing more of that vision with you, posting encouraging blogs about growing our “garden” of ministry and yours, inviting you to be a part of the growth of Forbid Them Not, and extending challenges that will help all of us grow in our ministries to the fatherless and single moms. We’ve never done anything quite like this before, so it’s as new to us as to you, but as Hudson Taylor said, “Unless there is an element of risk in our exploits for God there is no need for faith.” We are trusting Him to do great things this summer!

The following, short video shares a little more about our goals for the summer as well as our first, simple challenge for growth. I am looking forward to Growing Together with each of you.

 

Click here to join the Forbid Them Not Facebook Group!

Are you growing a garden this year? Tell us about it in the Facebook group!

Pictures Welcome!

See you there!

2014-08-15 10.53.29