I’m headed off this afternoon to speak at a camp for university students. They’ve asked me to teach on “Identity”, and it’s been a powerful time of preparation. So now I need your prayers that God will make an impact on the students. (Some are believers, and some aren’t.) It’s been HOT as a pizza oven in Sarajevo.
Earlier this week I had an opportunity to teach a conversational English class in another Bosnian city. It happened to be all girls, which was refreshing in itself. But it was also exciting because these young ladies were real thinkers, mostly university students with active minds. And we were talking about the worldview concept that “ideas produce consequences.”
Year ago, I learned that it never actually works to tell a person, or even to suggest to a person what he/she ought to believe. Even the Father of Jesus didn’t demand unreasoning belief. But rather he placed the evidence before us and challenged honest seekers to “Come… let us reason together,” (Isaiah 1:18) and to “test all things, and hold onto what is good.” (1 Thes. 5:21)
In a world where all truth is God’s truth I’ve seen that when people are challenged to honestly seek the Truth, they will inevitably be led towards the God of all Truth. Even though most of these girls fit squarely into a secular worldview, (products of an educational system that avoids even the mention of God), by the end of our class the conversation had gravitated quite naturally and squarely towards Him.
I love the way Jesus doesn’t make demands. He simply entered our world and walked among us as the Truth in sandals. And yet it feels like I’ve only begun to understand what that means.
I’ll have another opportunity to speak with some of these girls next week. Please pray for all of us here in Sarajevo.
Just time for a short post this morning, and then hopefully something longer in a few days.
I’m still pondering this idea of inclusion and hospitality as an overlooked aspect of God’s character. This past week I’ve been noticing how good it feels to be included when friends come together. Whether it’s a party, an invitation to lunch, or simply a cup of coffee, there’s something in our hearts – even for introverts like me – that yearns for inclusion.
The culture here is inclusive. Check out the picture below. I snapped it last night (Sunday) at 10:00 pm on the “walking street.” Nothing special happening. This is just a typical night in Sarajevo. And this is one of the things I miss when I come home to the states.
This week I’ve been spending time with Ahmed, George, Alen, and Mirela, all of whom have trusted Jesus in the past year. They bolster my hope for the younger generation. Already Ahmed has seen God come through in some powerful and miraculous ways. In one situation all hope was clearly gone until – after prayer – he received a phone call that turned everything around in a moment’s time. I love the way God pampers the young.
This week I’ve been reading Athanasius, “On the Incarnation of the Son of God.” He’s the fourth century brother who was most responsible for giving the us the Nicean Creed. The thing that grips me most deeply in his writing is the shocking hospitality of the Fathers heart towards mankind after the fall. I’ve grown up with a clear idea of a God who’s been “ticked off” with us ever since Eden. But what a tender picture Athanasius paints of a Father refusing to give up on his creation. It so perfectly fits Jesus’ story of a wayward son who’s heartbroken Father scanned the horizon in hope of his return.
Most people, I believe, are innately attuned to the concept of a God who has set himself against us in our sin. But Athanasius paints a God who is FOR us, who declares a resounding “NO!” to all that separates us from his love. I believe if people were able to grasp such a Father, there would be few who would reject him.
Sarajevo Summers are hot and lazy. Bosnian friends, if they’re able, escape to the coast, and routines that worked for the rest of the year are interrupted by the come-and-go of the community. Every day has to be reinvented from the bottom up. Some days are full and rich while others limp along like a three-legged dog.
I’m trying to fill my time with people, study, and creativity. A typical Summer afternoon usually means rich coffee bar conversation with friends exploring such topics as “Are our lives determined by fate, or by choice?”, or yesterday’s topic, “How do we hear the voice of God?” When friends go home I settle into a good book, answer Email, or work on that Christmas CD I’ve determined to finish before the year’s end. Gotta admit, though, it feels hugely out of context to be recording “In the Bleak Midwinter” from what feels like the inside of a pizza oven.
Here’s a short list of my summer reading so far. (I’m always open for suggestions).
- Escape from Reason: An Analysis of Trends in Modern Thought, by Francis Schaeffer
- Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot and Cold Cultures, by Sarah Lanier
- Iron John: A Book about Manhood, by Robert Bly
- My Year Inside Radical Islam: A Memoir, by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross
- Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance by Os Guiness
- The Book that Transforms Nations: The Power of the Bible to Change any Nation, by Loren Cunningham
Jet lag is still nipping at my heals, but since I mentioned getting some “good news” out, I figure I’d better deliver.
As it turns out, God sometimes does use even cheese sandwiches. When Ahmed came to talk several weeks ago he was distressed and questioning the whole purpose of his life. And during the course of the conversation, (which involved a TV special where someone’s life was “changed by seeing Jesus in a cheese sandwich”), we spoke about how God really does change people’s lives when they encounter the living Christ.
We prayed together, but then I had to leave for Hawaii. So I introduced him to Tom, Kristie, and the Romanian outreach team who loved him, shared their stories with him, and showed him Jesus in everyday community. But they had to leave as well, and so they passed the ball off to Clay, who sat up talking and praying with him until the wee hours of the morning.
So to make a long story short, we met for coffee on Monday, and Ahmed told me he’s trusted Jesus and experienced first hand a change in his heart. (He said he even had to restrain himself from hugging a group of nuns who passed him on the street last week, which is quite a thing for a young Bosnian!)
Yesterday another friend, (a recent convert), told me his story of having to defend his faith with a group of five Wahabbis, (the radical Islamic sect). He said, “A year ago my life was so boring. But since becoming a Christian, I wouldn’t trade all those years of boredom for my one day of talking with the Wahabbis.”
The two things I want to highlight here are the “hallelujah” of seeing God at work in people’s lives, and the team aspect of the Kingdom. Paul said:
” I planted the seeds, Apollos watered them, but God made them sprout and grow. What matters isn’t those who planted or watered, but God who made the plants grow. The one who plants is just as important as the one who waters. And each one will be paid for what they do. Apollos and I work together for God, and you are God’s garden and God’s building. .” (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
All my life I’ve wanted to be a part of an adventure, and part of a winning team. And the Kingdom offers both.
After forty three hours of travel across twelve time zones, I arrived back in Sarajevo on Wednesday night. My body is still in rebellion against the complete reversal night and day, fidgeting into the wee hours of the morning, and bolting awake to the sun high in the sky.
Soon as my mind catches up, (I keep saying “in a day or so”), I’ll try to write something inspiring.
This is the front entrance of the University of the Nations in Kona,
where I spent the past month.
One of the things that’s been firing my rockets here in Kona is the atmosphere of hope. Youth With a Mission has always attracted dreamers, and after spending these weeks among so many YWAM friends I’ve realized that my ability to dream has been severely effected by living in a post-Communist nation. Obviously that’s a problem, and I’ve already repented. But the reality is – the hopeless spirit of Communism never stops assaulting the human spirit, even when the person happens to be a Christian missionary.
To carry the Kingdom in one’s heart is to dream with God. The difference here in Kona is that people actually talk about their dreams. They tell stories of how their God-dreams are being fulfilled. Whether its providing drinkable water to African communities or beginning pre-schools in Albania, rescuing the young from sexual traffickers, or preaching the gospel to multitudes, God’s dreams are being fulfilled all around.
It turns out my nervousness about teaching long-term missionaries about the Kingdom was really unfounded. These people are just as hungry to experience the story of God as every other person I’ve met. We’ve had lively class discussions and lots of encouragement to keep on.
Praying for God’s dream: “Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done in Earth as it is in heaven.”
Just a note to say I’ve been in Kona (Hawaii), at the University of the Nations for a full week now, and experiencing a seismic shift in the foundations of my heart. I promise to do a more thorough update later, but for the moment I choose to spend this stunning Saturday morning experiencing God in the beauty of the Island rather than sitting over my computer writing about Him.
Over the next two weeks I’ll be teaching four two-day seminars on Biblical Worldview and the Kingdom. Already, after spending this past week as a student, I’ve had to go back and rethink, (in a very good, and positive way), some of the foundational ideas in my presentations. When it comes to the Character of God and the expansiveness of the Kingdom, there seems to be no end in sight.
Our little outreach team from YWAM Constanza arrived this past Monday to serve the city, pray, share their faith, and preach the Kingdom. They’re a sweet bunch, (two Bulgarians, a Brit, and an American), and my biggest regret is that I won’t be able to spend much time with them. I leave tomorrow for Portland for a five days of counseling, followed by three weeks in Kona (Hawaii) as both a student and teacher. I’ll be attending a seminar of the Character of God, and then teaching two weeks on Biblical Worldview and the Kingdom. Naturally I’m excited about the opportunity in Kona, but sad to be leaving my Sarajevo friends again so soon. Prayers for the time would be greatly appreciated.
The Constanza team, Veska (white shirt), Lorraine (baby blue shirt), Mario (light yellow shirt with the big smile), and Leah (black shirt), with Bosnian friends Alen (stripes), Aldin (“stop” shirt), and Ahmed (beige sweater).