Free For Today

An ongoing discussion on disciple-making.

My Grace Is Sufficient

As we continue to prayerfully and hopefully march forward with the plans for Hosanna! House Ministries in the Lexington/Red Bank area of South Carolina, I find myself reflecting deeply and introspectively about past ministry. Over the years we have had great successes as well as many failures. I go there in my mind a lot, celebrating the Lord’s faithfulness in knowing that dozens came to faith in Christ through the ministry He called us to, and literally hundreds were exposed to the Gospel. Yet I also find myself rolling the failures over and over in my heart and mind as I seek to see these not as failures, but as learning experiences that will cause me to forego repeating the same mistakes, not cause hurt and pain to others, and cause me to be more surrendered to Jesus as a servant leader.

A phrase from the Scriptures that I am continuously reminded of comes from 2 Corinthians 12:9 where the Lord himself told the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness”. I do not like weakness! Quick honest confession: I do not always like being dependent on the Lord, on His provision or His timing. I want to make things happen. I want to exert my will. I want to tout my experience, education, gifts, and calling. I want to push the ball up the court and take a “run and gun” approach at times. But the Lord has other plans currently. The ball is moving slowly. I get frustrated, doubt and discouragement slip in. And He lovingly whispers, “My grace is sufficient for you!”

In the past I did not receive this well, whether it be from the Word, from the Spirit, or from others whom the Lord sent to speak into my life. I would find myself making statements like, “Don’t you know I have many years of experience?”, “Don’t you know I have a degree in Urban Ministry?”, Don’t you know I have been trained by…?”, “Don’t you know I went to seminary at… and with…?” Let’s say that pride was and potentially still can be a nemesis for me. It has taken the last two years of my life, after practically losing everything due to poor choices, for the Lord to break through much of that and to get me to a place where I ultimately desire to obediently serve Him, trust Him and believe that His plans, purposes and even timing are what end up being the very best for me and those He has called me to serve.

Hosanna! House Ministries and our commitment to “Making Disciples of All People Groups” is a culmination of many years of Kim and me living among and serving both the urban poor as well as the homeless. We want to have this place up and running, making disciples and serving those throughout the midlands who do not know Christ or may not know where their next meal is coming from. We miss the community and the relationships that always develop as we love and build friendships with those who find themselves in the margins. We love the ministry of serving those in need and desire deeply to see the Lord move mightily. Yet the Lord tarries at this time.

We wait! We wait on His timing. We feel very weak at times. We get discouraged and as I mentioned, doubt creeps in. But we wait! What I have been reminded of over and over is that the Lord is always more concerned about what He can do IN us rather than what He can do THROUGH us. Ultimately His goal for those who belong to Him is to make us more like Jesus and for many, myself included, that is one tall order. If He moves too quickly, the maturation process may not be as thorough and lessons are not learned at a heart level. This is not easy, but it is necessary.

As we patiently await His next move, we continue to pray, we continue to seek Him, celebrate His goodness to us. We do our best to believe in His plans and purposes for Hosanna! House, and we allow Him to remind us on a continuous basis that His grace is truly sufficient! And as we are faced with our own impatience, shortcomings and weaknesses in all of this, we do our best to believe the truth that the perfection of His strength residing within us requires our weakness to be both embraced and exposed. Our cry is simply “Lord please make us more like yourself, no matter what that may take!”         

Free For Today

An ongoing discussion on disciple making...

To be or not to be? That is the Question.

June 13, 2018

Most of us have heard of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And at some point in our lives we have heard the line from Hamlet that says “To be or not to be, that is the question.” This is also the question when it comes to Christians being committed to making disciples among all people groups. Disciple making must become more than what we do. It must be a part of who we are. Not “to do” but “to be”.

I have heard it said by numerous Christian leaders that what we currently have in the American church is a disciple-making crisis. I would agree! Consider the pie chart below that was released in March from the Barna Research Group. This may not seem like much, but it is actually rather tragic. I am personally more alarmed and concerned about the 17% portion than I am the 51% or the 25%. Only 17% could clearly articulate what it means to make disciples and this is the mission of the church (see chart below).

Imagine if you worked for a company that only 17% of the employees knew what their primary job description and responsibilities were. That company would absolutely fail. What if 51% said that they worked there, were on staff, but have never heard of what the company’s mission is, what they do, or what their job description is? Much of this with a company, and also with the church, falls on her leadership. If leaders are not talking Great Commission, they are not following the command of Christ. If leaders are not “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12-16), they are not following the commands of Christ and not being faithful to God’s Word. BUT! The responsibility ultimately falls on us to read our Bibles and know God’s Word and if we do, then we cannot get around the command to Go! Make Disciples. It becomes our being, not something we occasionally do.

Jesus, after His resurrection and just before His ascension, could have left us (the church – remember that the church is not a place or a building but a people. Us!) with all types of instructions and marching orders, but He didn’t. Like a great leader He kept things specific, concise, direct, to the point. He gave us a Mission Statement that was simple: Go! Make Disciples. Notice that this is an imperative, it is a command. He says “Do it!”

The verb tense in Matthew 28:19 is best translated “as you are going”. Jesus is specifically telling His disciples, and if we profess to belong to Him we are His disciples, that He has commanded and commissioned us to Go! Make Disciples. It is not a suggestion. But we have found ourselves at a place where only 17% of those who profess to be Christ followers understand what this means. This is absolutely a crisis and it is a tragedy! We must do better. After all, we have been gifted, by faith, with the Gospel message which is the very power of God unto salvation for all people who would believe (see Romans 1:16). We have the HOPE for hopeless people. It is the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Let’s get busy. Let’s be about our Father’s business and seek out individuals that the Lord would have us enter into disciple-making relationships with. It does not have to be formal. It is to be highly relational. It is not always about the transfer of information, but life-on-life living out our faith in the context of community. If you don’t know what it means to make disciples, find someone who does and ask them to disciple you so that you can disciple others. We cannot, not for another day, look at this pie chart below and be OK with that. It truly is a matter of obedience!

The Unholy Trinity - Me, Myself and I.

June 22, 2018

In my own struggles with sin, as well as the struggles that I have walked with others in, there has been one primary common denominator that seems to be present: a self-centered preoccupation with self. Independence and a great emphasis on self-esteem are seen as essentials in our culture. But biblically, and based on my personal experience, anytime the focus is on self, it leads us astray. From a purely biblical perspective Jesus says in Luke 9:23 that a prerequisite to following Him and being His disciple is not a focus on self, independence, or more self-esteem, but a lack of focus on self, interdependence, and more Christ-esteem.

I have often said that when we are fighting that battle that rages within us between the Spirit and our fleshly, carnal nature, what we actually have is the Holy Trinity vs. The Unholy Trinity. Of course the Holy Trinity is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But the Unholy Trinity is Me, Myself and I. The Bible tells us explicitly that we are to deny ourselves. In speaking of ministry to the poor, Isaiah 58 calls us to “pour [ourselves] out on behalf of the hungry.” The Apostle Paul in Philippians 2, as he is writing about “encouragement in Christ” and being like-minded, says that we are to “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (v. 3). He goes on to say that looking out for the interests of others is to “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (v. 5).

In a famous passage the prophet Micah boldly proclaims: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). There is no self in any of that, anywhere! To “do justice” and to “love kindness” and to “walk humbly with your God” all requires selflessness. The focus is on God and others, not self.

This is essential because the way that we go about our lives absolutely matters. There are things that go on, especially under the canopy of doing justice that matter to the Lord, yet we intentionally neglect these matters on a daily basis. It is heartbreaking how we, as “American Christians” tend to neglect the weightier matters pertaining to Biblical justice but believe that our church attendance alone, somehow gives us an out. People often say things like “but I go to church every Sunday” and that is a great thing, it is vital, but what if we stopped being so focused on going TO church and started focusing more on BEing the church?

What if our mentality was: I am the church! Yes! I attend a local fellowship of believers, but my walking humbly with my God is so much more than that. It is a holistic approach to disciple making that includes ALL people groups. Yes! I attend a local fellowship of believers, but my doing justice and loving kindness involves radical acts of kindness, extreme amounts of selflessness, and caring for the poor, the orphans and the widows. What if we could honestly say, I spend myself on behalf of the less fortunate and those in need because I possess the mind of Christ and the things that are essential to Him are essential to me? Imagine the impact on the world, on poverty, homelessness, lostness, teenage pregnancies, gang activity, sex trafficking, the refugee crisis, etc., etc. that the body of Christ would have.

After all, speaking of the poor, Proverbs tells us that “The one who shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will himself also call out and not be answered” (Prov. 21:13), CSB. Possessing the selfless mind of Christ and the deepest concerns of God is the solution! It is NOT a focus on self!       

What makes Hosanna! House different? Why Hosanna! House?

July 9, 2018

Many ask us “why?” concerning the ministry of Hosanna! House. Why is such a ministry needed and what makes you guys any different? Aren’t there other ministries out there that do the same thing? Is there really a need for another ministry to the poor and homeless?

The answers are not as simple as one might think because poverty and homelessness are both highly complex struggles that individuals and families face and we believe that one size definitely does not fit all. There are numerous questions as well as numerous answers, but I am going to stick to “what makes Hosanna! House different?”

I think the answer to this question is best summed up in stating that Hosanna! House is not about rapid re-employment or rapid re-housing, but is all about fulfilling the Great Commission handed down to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. You see, our mantra is “Making Disciples of All People Groups.” In verse 19 of the passage previously referenced, Jesus says “make disciples of all nations”. The phrase “all nations” in the original language translates panta ta ethnē. If you notice “ethne” is where we get our word for “ethnic” or “enthnicity” and it means “all people groups”. The Great Commission crosses ethnic, socio-economic, and all other boundaries and borders that tend to divide and separate us.

Our conviction is that biblically the Lord commands and instructs us all to GO! And make disciples of all people groups. That is our commitment. Everything we do at Hosanna! House is centered on disciple making, but in a manner that we are making disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples. We are not a ministry committed to “rapid” anything. We are not focused or centered on meeting physical needs only and at times we even shy away from handing out food, clothing, etc. merely for the sake of handouts. We desire relationships, community, life-on-life disciple making and establishing a foundation based on a commitment to the study and application of God’s Word.

In addition, we desire to take men, women and families that the Lord brings across our paths through a disciple making process that not only leads them out of poverty and homelessness but moves them into living lives ON MISSION!

When individuals come to a place, through Christ centered disciple making of all people groups, that they get a God sized vision and purpose that involves mission, lives are radically changed. Not only do individuals potentially transfer from one kingdom (darkness) into another (kingdom of light) spiritually, but through disciples making disciples that make disciples, their lives take on a new purpose. Their lives take on a kingdom purpose that is ordained and commissioned by Jesus himself and that purpose, when centered on the Gospel, brings people into a new freedom for their lives.

As we strive to make disciples of ALL people groups, our greatest desire is not to feed, house, clothe or employ people (though those are important aspects of what we do). Our greatest desire is to share and show the Gospel of Jesus Christ! And through disciple making we introduce people to the life changing truth that they are in fact God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which He has prepared for them (Ephesians 2:10). As we make disciples, we communicated kingdom purpose, calling, gifts, talents and abilities in a way that individuals literally move from lives of material poverty and homelessness, into being ON MISSION, making disciples for the Kingdom of God! We instill Kingdom purpose through disciple making!        

Playing Well With Others

July 31, 2018

One of the issues that our society tends to have with the Church of Jesus Christ is that they often times see us as isolationists when it comes to not only the world around us, but when it comes to working together. Basically, folks do not think that we are able to play well with others. Individual churches become little kingdoms that are set aside to build and expand their own kingdoms (which are not kingdoms at all). Or, this denomination or ministry will not fellowship with the one down the street that has a differing view on a non-essential doctrinal matter.

[Brief Disclaimer – We do not expect others to believe precisely as we do about all doctrines, but absolutely the essential ones, especially the doctrines concerning Christ and Salvation. If we are going to partner, we are going to be like-minded in the essentials. BUT, we can fellowship and hang out at any time].

Ok, enough of all of that. Now… on to the real reason that I wanted to write this. This past Saturday we partnered with a group called “Let’s Be a Blessing” for a back to school party, clothing and school supply give away. We have learned over the past year that 80% of the children in a particular school district near us are impoverished! We desire to be extremely proactive in addressing that and all other areas of poverty around us. If we are going to make a difference, we will need to work together. If we are going to truly make a difference we will have to get out of ourselves and serve selflessly. 

After all, Jesus Christ himself said in Mark 10:45 that He did NOT come to BE SERVED, but TO SERVE! And to GIVE HIS LIFE as a ransom for many! He came to lay down His life for undeserving people! He gave everything for us, but we tend to give so little for Him. We MUST serve if we are truly His. We are SAVED TO SERVE!  However, so often it is the one doing the serving that gets blessed and changed the most. Consider this email I received from one of our Hosanna! House staff members Cat Clark.

"I have been so torn up and wrecked (in the best way possible) after Saturday. Due to my own selfishness and ignorance, I have NEVER seen such a need in our community. My eyes were opened to how we, as believers, need to take care of those that are in a season where they can't provide for themselves. I got to talk and pray with people who were literally starving and I got to help women find clothes for their children who seemed like they only had the clothes on their back. Jesus has ripped my heart open… and the fact that I have missed the calling to help these people due to my own selfishness and ignorance in the past.

What in the world have I been doing buying all of this dang junk for myself, and just sitting on it. Who do I think I am? No wonder I haven't seen the need in our community like this before because I couldn't see over my kingdom of stuff that I've bought for myself. I was reading this today in my study of Luke: “And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possess." - Luke 12:15. Ugh I’ve been sucker punched in the gut. I wasn't saved to make myself comfortable knowing my salvation, I wasn't saved to sleep better at night knowing that I know Jesus. NO. I was saved to help struggling people, to love them like Jesus did. To serve and to sacrifice for others - dying to myself.

No wonder I couldn't love people right, it wasn't a sacrificial love and I’ve had a heart problem. I finally get it - I was saved to serve. DANG. I've learned over the past 2 days that it's more than just a convicting saying on a t-shirt (LOVE them by the way), it's a lifestyle. I can't thank y'all enough for allowing CPCC to have their event at H!H. I would still be "asleep" in my ignorance and selfishness that Ephesians 5 talks about. No more! I can't keep being a worshipper to things and missing the higher calling Jesus has for me."

This not only speaks to the essential nature of partnerships in our community for the sake of the Gospel. But it also speaks to the way that the Lord Jesus Christ, in His infinite wisdom, takes the heart of the one coming to serve those in need and uses that to radically change their lives. If you desire to get more involved with us in meeting the spiritual and physical need of struggling individuals and families in our community, please email me at [email protected], reach out to us through our Facebook page, or visit our web site.

By Grace Alone,