Yesterday I had a stunning opportunity to lay out the Gospel to a dear Bosnian friend. He just sat down and started asking questions; The sincere questions of a seeker, and not the type of questions we often hear from those who just want to debate the differences between Islam and Christianity. It would be sketchy of me to use his real name without permission. So I’ll just call him “Nathaniel” because he reminds me of Jesus’ disciple: “an honest man – a true son of Israel.” (John 1:47)
In the end I was struck by how lucid and straightforward the gospel of the Kingdom is when it’s presented as it was intended: Forget the Four Spiritual Laws. The Apostle Paul “told them about the KINGDOM of GOD and taught them about JESUS from the scriptures.” (Acts 28:23) Phillip did the same in Acts 8:12: “But now the people believed Phillip’s message concerning the KINGDOM of GOD and the NAME OF JESUS CHRIST.” Even at the end of Acts we find Paul under house arrest in Rome “welcoming all who visited him, proclaiming the KINGDOM of GOD and teaching them about the LORD JESUS CHRIST.”
Even a child can understand a King and a Kingdom: a servant king who sacrificed his life for the Kingdom. The two go together like peas and carrots. It’s just taken me awhile to discover it.
I’ve had some encouraging conversations the past few days. I needed them, as I’ve been distressed by what feels like a hard place in the minds of so many friends. What’s the deal with us humans that we can want change so badly, and yet dig our feet in at the smallest suggestion that maybe our ideas need to be changed? Stanley Jones says we should take our brains out every so often and jump up and down on them just to keep them from calcifying.
Ideas are like seeds: they always produce predictable results. If you want tomatoes instead of beans, then you simply exchange the bean seeds you’ve been planting for the past generation and plant tomato seeds instead. Presto! Good and true ideas ALWAYS produce good results. And ideas that have no basis in truth ALWAYS produce death, poverty, joblessness, and despair. Whoever we are, whether American, European, or Bosnian, it’s a good exercise to investigate our ideas to see if they’re producing the results we’re wanting. And if they’re not, it’s time to consider a change. I’ve encouraged today because I see a few friends asking the right questions about their ideas.
There’s no internet access at Nazim’s place, where I’m staying. And that means I have to dash off these quick updates at La Hacienda, a smoky Mexican restaurant in the old quarter of Sarajevo. With distractions coming and going like television commercials, it’s not exactly the sort of place you’d choose to do some creative writing.
I was thinking the other day how truth gives birth to passion. Any non-musician will quickly tire of plunking around on an untuned piano. But tune the instrument and teach him a few laws of harmony and the passion of music will thrill him for a lifetime.
It’s the same with the Kingdom. For years my heart was dull and two-dimensional. The uninspiring fragments of life left me cold and listless until the curtains of the kingdom parted and Truth began to take root in my soul. From that moment on, nothing has been the same.
Pray that I’ll be able to point these dear people to the truth of the Kingdom. I’m convinced it is the only sure thing that can resurrect God-given passion and hope in the Balkan people.
Just a short note to say I returned safely to Sarajevo yesterday morning. It was a stunning two weeks of ministry with the most amazing students.
Every time I teach the Kingdom message it seems to gain momentum. Students are more engaged and more eager than ever to be discover that life really was meant to be an adventure. This week David, a bear-sized former gang member sat in the front seat of the room and protested daily at the end of class, “NO! We want to hear more!” It makes me laugh to see the way God has written the Kingdom story into our hearts like silent strings awaiting the musician. I’m convinced the church stands on the brink of a reformation bigger than anything we’ve seen in history. We’re all just getting hungrier and more desperate by the day as the world seems to fall apart around us.
The Macedonian school had three former drug addicts, including one who trusted Jesus only six months ago in a jail cell. Radical disciples they are, who had lost control and lost the will to live now excited to step into the story that brings hope and healing to the world.
David, Marshall & Clay. The fellowship of the King.
Romanians can steal your heart. They tend to be small, passionate, and full of fun. In this part of the world they’re far and away the most responsive to the gospel and the most eager to answer the call to missions. I expect this may be God’s way of honoring the thousands of Romanian martyrs who died under fifty years of Communism
Yesterday when I spoke on the Kingdom I had to keep stopping to catch my composure. Something about the way the Holy Spirit was at work and the beautiful openness of these students kept getting caught in my throat. I love it when God does that, but It’s really very hard to teach when you’re fighting back tears. The great joy of this week has been watching the young people come alive to the idea of God’s Kingdom.
Next week we’ll do it all over again in Macedonia.
The town Square in Medias, Romania.
The Medias Discipleship Training School
I arrived safely in Sarajevo yesterday afternoon and was met by a sweet welcoming party of friends. Will leave for Medias, Romania via train tomorrow morning at 7:15 am. It’ll be a two day trip, and I’ll begin teaching on Tuesday morning. My good friend, Clay will be traveling with me, which is a huge blessing.
Even though I’m back in town I’ve barely had time for more than a quick greeting with my Bosnian friends. But they all seem healthy and well. Down on the main street they have huge fruit sculptures: apples and strawberries. Clay says it’s God’s way of encouraging us that there’s fruit on the way. I like that.
In the disarray of my present circumstances, (which is to put it mildly), I’ve neglected to mention that I’ll be returning to Sarajevo this Thursday, April 24th. A good portion of the Summer will be taken up by traveling and teaching in Romania, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Hungary, and Bulgaria. And the in-between time will be spent in Sarajevo following up on ministry and relationships in the city and trying to hear a clear word from God about whether or not I should re-establish myself long-term in Bosnia.
Thanks to all of you who pray for me. The next month looks especially exhausting with all the travel, and especially now that I have no place of my own in Sarajevo. Please pray for the students to discover their “Kingdom eyes”, and for me to have the stamina I need as I travel.