The Audacious Gospel will be back next week, wrapping up the Summer Series!
It had been a couple years since I’d seen her, but here she was - in all her refined glory, greeting me from across the table with kind eyes that made my heart want to gush. Her gaze is so sincere, curious, and so very full of hope.
This friend of mine has seen very much in her young life. She is kind and compassionate, has a deep place for justice, and loves with every ounce of her being. She exudes creativity, and I sometimes wonder how many famous people she’ll meet in her life and never boast about. Her person is impressive and confident, and her humility is what beckons my heart to love her all the more.
Any ounce of praise you give her she accepts, though with a slight flush and almost imperceptible shake of her head, and then points back to one encounter that marks her specifically. She’ll tell you she met a man who changed everything, and showed her a part of the world she never knew existed.
As a child, she spent a lot of time wandering the meeting places. The temple was the place of community and worship for her small town, and her sweet heart loved to observe the bustling about, this power of observation positioning her perfectly to zip in and almost unnoticeably to save the day, often. She lives with her eyes and her heart open, resulting in many last-minute saves to grandmothers with toppling fruit baskets, young children about to stumble upon a jetted-about stone, and sad hearts filled with courage through her touch. The phrase “actions speak louder than words” originates from how she lives her life, I’m pretty sure. She is of high value and knows it, but not piously so: everyone loves her; genuine affection runs deep in this community of hers.
There was a peculiar bunch she always watched in the synagogue. Amongst all the “normal” genuine people, from poverty stricken to those of affluence, were the Pharisees. They were the “Keepers of the Law,” of the very Word of God, but the sweet child always had her eye on them. Something about them prickled her tiny, wise soul, and even in her young years she knew it was Elohim calling her attention. She grew up with an innate knowledge of something greater than herself and what she could see with her eyes.
This peculiar people wandered about town loudly, always making their presence known, always dramatic in their bulky, ornate garb, always using big words as they prayed in the open commons. The sweet one never knew why they used such words in prayer; she spoke to God as she did her other friends and it worked just fine. Her Papa told her a story one time in whispered tones that Moses talked to God face to face, like a man does to His best friend. So she does too. Assuming the Pharisees must have a good reason for their odd behavior, she always resolved to believe the best in people. She’s remarkable, that way, that child.
Growing up, there had always been talk of the Messiah, an always wondering of when He will come and bring salvation for her people. There was a day always hoped for where the King of Kings would reign, bring justice for every wrong, take up His rightful authority, and redeem creation to its original state. Someday, she thought often, she would worship God and see Him. Many thought you could never see the most Holy One, but in her heart of hearts she kept the secret --- someday she would see God.
She was, you know, right.
Her love for God is pure, and her desire for all to know Him just pleases Him so.
Making the rounds in the temple courtyard, the sweet child moved from space to space as usual, without notice. Seeing the men selling the animal sacrifices scattered about various tables, bartering with the people coming to worship, stowing away coins for themselves and tricking at times those unaware -- it left her little heart indignant. "Do they not understand what this place is for?" She asked herself this often as she wandered, and wondered what it would be like to be in God’s presence. Undaunted, she didn’t realize no one else really thinks this way, and it’s good no one told her so. Little hearts must be let loose to dream and embrace the Creator God, without limitations and “This is how to and how not.” Or is it mistaken that the smaller the human the larger the imagination? I think not. God enjoys them possibly most, I do believe. Her content nature to dream and ponder was her protection from the criticism and scrutiny of the “wiser” ones.
She had just rounded the corner, but turned her head back quickly to see a man - the one from Nazareth - approaching the men selling their goods with fury in His eyes. Most everyone in Jerusalem was talking about him, how he’d healed many of disease and deformity, how he spoke with authority and knowledge. This man had caught her eye once before, and now, she couldn’t remove her gaze - she watched his arms fly up quickly, fall hard against the table, bouncing it’s contents about. His next motion flipped the table on it’s head, scattering the goods everywhere. He continued, casting table after table aside, turning, throwing chairs until each was not as they were just a moment before. Everything in the Temple stopped for a moment - Pharisees and commoners alike, mouths agape. Silence welcomed his booming voice: “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
The sweet child’s heart burned within her, skipping and leaping about - she recognized his zealous fervor, for it matched the indignation in her own heart. He was different than any other. He threw aside the salesmen but there was no question that he had the authority to do it.
Recoiling from the blow, the men quickly left the temple in a mortified huff.
Without a thought in her mind, she ran to Him, this sweet one, as fast as she could and stopped just short of his legs. She peered up at Him, and He down at her, now locking eyes with her intent gaze. She knew who He was, He could tell. She is a bold one, full of a courageous love.
Suddenly they were surrounded, encircled and pushed upon by the blind, the lame, the broken, and the little children making their way between legs and any gaps they could find. The Priests and Pharisees stood outside, peering, leering even, uncertain of what to do. He had offended them, of course, acted out of an authority they had not given. Whenever He came around, trouble ensued. They could feel every time, the grasp they were losing on their “flock.”
The sweet one watched him as He touched wounds, spoke with a soft authority, and talked of his Father’s will. She knew His Father, and she knew He was the One. He was the Creator. From the midst of the circle He healed, restored sight, made a man’s hand grow back properly, and made restless hearts stand straight. Every disease restricting the wounded from entry into the temple - based on the book of the Law - He healed, restoring relationship between God and man to it’s original intent. From her lips whispered, “The Son of David,” louder yet “Praise God for the Son of David!” The other children looked at her and began echoing, “Praise God for the Son of David!” Though some denied it, everyone knew that day that the Salvation long prayed for had come. The Messiah was standing in their midst.
She followed Him, from that day on. Sometimes bringing him water or bread, others just listening, but she absorbed His teachings better than most older ones.
If you ask my sweet friend why she is sweet, she will smile with genuine tears in her eyes and tell you that God gave her a tender heart. But if you press her further, she will remember this day, and say that firsthand she saw Jesus take the justice of His Father seriously, yet did not withhold kindness and wholeness from those in need. He does not move without the Love that compelled him to come in the first place.
With tears, she might tell you about another other time, when she followed Him to the cross through the angry, confused crowds. That time she did not see God’s justice, but heard her Messiah instead ask forgiveness for the very men who wounded him. She watched Him die that day, a thief’s death. Upon rising from the grave she left flowers beside, He said His death was for the many: that many would live, that many would love, that many would prosper in joy and truth - He came, absorbed injustice, and offers completion to anyone who will accept His free gift.
She knows of the beautiful way, and has sadly watched many reject Him.
But I know her heart is sweet because He made her so, because she knows that He delights in her. Her heart is kind because He is kind to her, and she knows it pleases Him. She loves justice because she walks with Him, and loves to be His friend. Deep friendship she offers to those around her, because she knows what friendship is. Fully alive, fully awakened, not one part of her being is without the knowledge of God, and she loves it that way. Persistent in love, loving the seeming unlovely, pursuing the ones who are forgotten, she demonstrates what it is to know and be known. She is not forgotten, so she treats others as though they are not. She is remembered, so she chooses to remember. From the depths of her soul, she is awake, and alive, and she thrives in the place of secret: she is never lacking and never left in want.
Her Papa told her once in a whisper that Moses talked to God face to face, like a man does to His best friend. So she does too.
This is the audacity of the Gospel, quite really. The Man who turned religiosity on it’s head to heal on the Sabbath, to meet the sinner and proclaim new life, to bless those who aren’t deemed worthy.
Audacity looks tender, is powerful, and real.
How do you believe this Gospel? Rend your heart; I rend mine.
There is strength in weakness and blessing in bravery.
Let yourself get broken before God, and let him tenderize your spirit.
Meet with Jesus today, and ask Him for a moment that will mark your life forever, too.
It was the end of Tylar’s three months in Nepal. His team of seven had packed up, finished with on-site debriefing and was ready to return to the good ‘ol USA. For those of you who have never been to Nepal, it’s a small, mountainous country in the Himalayas. It’s the third poorest nation in the world, and your first reaction getting off the plane might be, “Wow, this place is dusty.” Walking down the dirt road, you may get distracted by a wide city scape full of bright buildings and elaborate decorum, and then trip over a pile of trash. The Nepali people provide their city with “color amongst the dust,” according to Tylar; your eye is always pulled from one place to the next picking up on beautiful fabrics, paint, and people.
Nepalis take their time They’re extremely hospitable to each other and foreigners, are full of smiles, and so very kind. Tylar says the people are what catches your eye most. As you look across the expanse of color hemmed in by beautiful green mountain ranges, amidst wild cars with honking horns and whiffs of who knows what, you’ll see clumps of students walking, buddhist monks in pairs, mothers laughing outside their homes with their children, and taxis waiting on customers in groups. Nepalis love community and value relationships so much that they might come one to two hours late because they don’t want to leave the present moment with the person they’re with.
Tylar’s team had seen so much over outreach, and most of it unexpected. We have many missions teams that come back to our YWAM Kona base talking about how they saw hundreds of healings and salvations; our missionaries working there long term see similar fruit daily. This team, however, found open doors continually to churches, and spent most of their time training and equipping believers to follow Jesus and disciple their Nepali friends and families. One of the churches shared before the team left about the direct fruit the team’s discipleship seminars had. Their teaching times would run hours long because no-one wanted to leave: the Nepalis were so hungry to learn how they could impact people for the Gospel. The church shared that these Nepalis had already begun Jesus’ commision in Matthew 28:16 to go and make disciples, baptizing them.
In Nepal, many people don’t go to church because they have a deep desire to honor their families, but they are totally free to go to “Jesus settings” in homes, where they can learn about God and how to live from the place of His love.
As we’re reflecting together about his outreach, Tylar tells me he loves “the fact that Nepali people are equipped to [disciple and follow Jesus] without me...because I’m not in Nepal anymore. That’s the crazy faithfulness of God, because the Gospel is continuing without me doing anything.”
So our sweet YWAM team, at peace with their time in Nepal and in awe of what He did in the past three months, is now ready to go home. Do any of you readers remember hearing about a “plane crash” in Nepal about a year ago? Well….the day the team was meant to leave, a plane had a funny landing on the very short runway and got a flat tire. Everyone on board was fine, but it was the only plane flying in and out, the runway was a little messed up, and there wasn’t any of the needed machinery to fix it. Hello, third world. The team didn’t know it then, but they wouldn’t leave Nepal for three extra days while they waited for the needed machines to be TREKKED by foot, donkey, and sometimes truck, across the Himalayan mountains.
They had already said goodbye to all their friends, cleaned out their apartment, and here they were - stuck for an unforeseeable amount of time, waiting. I was in constant communication with our school’s travel agent, who suggested they send part of the team every day to the airport to check in on the progress and possibility of flying out, because there wasn’t an efficient way for him to contact the Nepali airport directly. (Before you go feeling horrible for this poor stranded team, they were totally fine. They had a place to stay, food, money, friends, and plenty of Settlers of Catan to keep them company, so don’t worry.)
The team went out that night to what they called the “tourist ghetto” for some food with friends. Tylar often got picked out by drug dealers, and this particular time was the same. He says he was “walking with a friend from Egypt, and a drug dealer asked me if I wanted his goods.” He jokes with the guy for a while, but says “before I know it, me and my two guys [from the team] were talking with him about how we’re missionaries and we love Jesus. He had a bad taste in his mouth about Christians, but was really open. We prayed for healing in his torn calf muscle, and I asked if he feels any better.”
“He doesn't answer.”
“So I ask again, and he says, so so tenderly, ‘I feel something happen in heart.’” Tylar’s British teammate, Joel, says, “That’s the Holy Spirit bro!” The three missionaries told the man about the truth of Jesus’ love and he then embarked on a journey of discovering the God who had truly just met him in the Bible.
Tylar stops for a minute, as if he really wants me to get what he’s about to say. “We asked ‘were you healed,’ and he said, ‘but, my heart.’” Tylar laughs, and says, “So we don’t even know if he got healed.” I know Tylar’s seen a lot of healings, including his own. I know he has tremendous faith to see God move, and is undeterred when it doesn’t work fully in a moment when he prays. He had explained to me earlier in our interview that healing “is a sign and a wonder. A sign that God is real, and makes you wonder about Jesus.” Some legend of the faith said that sometime.
Tylar tells me, “God wants to show his love and realness to people in the physical...But physical healing is never the end goal. It’s always deeper revelation of Jesus.”
“God is always up to something greater than I could imagine in that moment.” Tylar says we as believers need to be obedient to God’s leading, but that “we only see so far. Maybe it’s only the first step.” You can’t often see you’re smack dab in the middle of the dream he gave you until you look back.
Remember earlier, Tylar said that being friends with Jesus and obeying is like “walking up onto a party you didn’t know was there”? In this story, Tylar and his team’s first step following the Lord’s lead was praying for a drug dealer’s hurt calf. What they couldn’t see was that God was looking at the man’s heart and calling him into relationship in a deep way.
Jesus desires to know every person, and wants all to know His love - it’s what He came for. Sometimes that means he’ll heal a wounded knee or even cancer, but other times he’ll heal a broken heart or reveal his true love, and someone’s day and life will be changed forever.
By the way, the team left and was able to make it back for debrief with the rest of our Discipleship Training School just fine, with extra stories and “I was stranded in Nepal” credit for life. Two thumbs up.
I asked Tylar if he had any last words:
"Go on adventures with Jesus.” Keep your ears open, ask Jesus when you get to the store, “What are you already doing in this place?” and let him open your eyes to a party you didn’t know was there.
Isaiah 30:21 // "Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left."
So go for it.
Lean into the audacity of Jesus, and look for that audacious party he’s throwing in the middle of your supermarket, work meeting, or neighborhood BBQ.
Take the first step. He'll use it.
Expect God to do things, but expect even more for Him to surpass your expectations.
You just may look back and realize He fulfilled the dream that had always been on your heart.
May Jesus reign in the world!
Psalm 147:3 // He heals the brokenhearted, and bandages their wounds Isaiah 61:1/Luke 4:18 He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted
Mark 3:1-6 // Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath
Luke 12:11-12 // When you are brought before the synagogues, rulers, and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say. For at that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say.
John 10:10 // He came that we may have life abundant.
John 15:11 // I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!
Rachael is a missionary based out of YWAM Kona and has been to Papua New Guinea twice now. She works with the Ships (Mercy) ministry, and most recently returned from months on a boat visiting islands and administering medical care. Fascinating and rambunctious, she is a gem. Rachel has been a dear friend of mine for many, many years.
She is stunning, one of the most beautiful women I know, and absolutely infectious. She stirs up zeal in those around her, has a deep, contagious joy and enthusiasm about life: she is infectious. She has a brazen, unapologetic, audacious view of God and audacious ability to LOVE and bring truth to the people she comes in contact with.
The story begins, here...
As they got closer and closer to the shore of Karkar Island, Rachael realized the small dots on shore were actually 50 young, totally naked, very tanned kids screaming and jumping around, very excited for the arrival of the missionaries. The island doesn't really get visitors, especially white ones. Rachael says this welcome scene "was overwhelming:" clearly "the Lord had called us to come here, and they were all waiting. We knew God had something specific and special in mind then."
They tied up their ship...to a palm tree. The island itself, in Rachael's eyes, looked just like Jurassic Park. "You can't even describe how beautiful it was." I asked her what it felt like, being there: "Imagine being in an oven, covered by the stickiest sauce you could imagine. (She laughs). Like that." Karkar Island is quiet, calm, welcoming - "Except for when it rains--there are crazy thunderstorms...There aren't many birds, you can just hear the wind in the trees. And you can hear kids laughing everywhere you go."
Rachael says the kids would swim out to the Zodiacs (small vessels able to scoot to shore) at six am every day and yell the names of everyone on the ship they knew, waiting for them to come out. “One of the kids’ names was ‘Batman.’ And they didn't know how old they were, so they’d make up a number.” She saw Jesus “in the kids. They were always singing a song about Jesus’ love. I saw Jesus in their eyes, in their voices, in their smiles...when you were with them you knew you were with Jesus."
This medical ship had ophthalmologists, dentists, primary health care workers, and community development teams on board. They did the first eye surgery ever on the island: 64 cataract surgeries, 42 removals of eye moles, and many other surgeries on the boat. Rachael says "the opthamologist wasn't saved, but I think he is now." He came to worship with the teams every morning, prayed, and really loved the YWAMers.
There's no hospital or medical care on the island - "Women give birth on giant banana leaves by themselves." As a new mom, I can't even imagine. Major props to those PNG Mommas.
Rachael tells me that the people of Karkar Island are shy, but once you break that open they're the most kind, joyful, accepting people. "They automatically call you uncle or cousin."
"Every day we'd send the Zodiac to shore, [it would rain the entire trip] and a truck would go hours to the village, bring back villagers to the Zodiac, and back to the ship at anchor. The team would pray and show the Jesus film. We’d talk with them...if they didn't know English we'd pat them on the back," she says with a smile. It sounds amazing - the villagers would have their eye surgeries, and the team would watch them see for the first time.
You might think, “5o people on a ship? Close quarters? In unfamiliar territory, exerting themselves all the time? Yeah, that’s for sure messy.” But Rachael says their teams were of “One mind, one purpose, one heart...There was no drama. Everyone clicked.” When she talks about her teammates and the people they worked with, it’s all positive and endearing. “We were spreading the Gospel, working with local pastors,” often fitting 25 people in the back of a truck. Their ship’s camaraderie and positive culture she calls, “A God thing.”
The Harvest is Ready.
Rachael's impression of God after two and a half months on a ship is that “God just provides. He really showed how he did….With finances, but everything we needed. Environment, clothing, food, people, stability...When things got overwhelming, he was reliable. God provides in every way.” The way she says it is fascinating - she mentions finances and food without much emphasis - what’s more real to Rachael is God’s character and faithfulness in the midst of it all.
For Rachael, adventuring with Jesus "Is challenging but beautiful. And it’s pretty fun." She tells me that "We went to pour into the nation and community, to paint the glory of God for them and they ended up painting the glory of God on our hearts." People were "living in huts but willing to give everything they have" for each other and the visitors. They were open, responsive, "The most joyful people you could ever imagine."
I asked what makes their joy so great: “They aren’t consumed. People in the first world are absorbed in technology. All they have [in PNG] are their coconuts and their family. They're joyful because they have each other and love and they know the value of family and hard work.”
Rachael tells me that Papua New Guinea “just announced they are a dedicated Christian Nation...I think a lot of the joy has to do with the Lord being there and Holy Spirit being welcomed.”
Ok. Rachael, what would you say to a person who said, ‘Great for Papua New Guinea, but America isn’t a Christian nation anymore so there’s not hope for joy like that.’ "
She takes a breath, and with a kind, yet stern tone says, “You can’t underestimate the power of love. When someone gets a hold of true love, true Christianity….Man. You don’t have to start by changing America, but by individuals looking for something more. It’s about the love that transforms the heart. America can be transformed.”
The audacity of the Gospel is infectious. It’s infectious in joy, it’s infectious in love, it’s infectious in kindness. Rachel changes the lives of others daily, because she chooses to love, find joy, and delight. She chooses to be brave, not respond to fear, and walk in confident originality.
She believes in a Savior who came to set the entire world free, and believes that the Gospel really is such Good News to the perishing.
Live by the example of my friend this week.
We possess the Hope of nations, the Savior of souls, and Redeemer of all things.
God is moving on the earth. He's healing bodies, restoring vision, bringing joy, and joining people together in love.
Believe it for the world, believe it for yourself, believe it for America.
The Audacious Gospel. It's yours for the taking.
Luke 10:2 - Romans 10:9-10 - 1 Corinthians 15 - Matthew 12:21 - Romans 5:10 - Galatians 3:13
"By the blood of the Lamb and the WORD of our testimony"
We all know the late-great films capturing the epochs of history that stir up the cry of mankind for justice, for might, for power, for UNITY....Braveheart, The Patriot, Finding Dory...The past couple of weeks we had 117 young people and over 45 staff at the University of Nations, Kona - an epoch to accompany the greatest of all genres.
GOD IS MOVING. HE IS ACTIVE. HE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN THE YOUTH.
The Spirit of Revelation is faithful to reveal Jesus to us (John 16:13); God gives wisdom to ANYONE who asks (James 1:5); The lovingkindness of God is never ending, and His Faithfulness continues throughout the generations (Psalm 100:5). After 10 days, we sent the 117 young people back to their homes with fires in their hearts and bolstered faith in Jesus. Wholeheartedly engaging in worship, teaching, outreach, discussion, vulnerability, and in fun, they are ready to wholeheartedly engage as Jesus lovers in their schools, their families, their churches, and with their friends.
These are real-life, real-time testimonies of the Audacious Gospel. This moment for you reminds me of another epoch from 2 Chronicles 20, where God said "Stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf," right before rescuing an entire nation. And uncannily so. Now, stand and see!
Do you bear witness to this Audacious Gospel? Stop, and think about it for a moment - you can intentionally agree that the Gospel is true and let it shape your heart, your response to the world, and your perspective. The enemy is conquered by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony, and that of these young ones (Rev 12:11). People know we are Christ-followers by our love and how we show them Jesus (John 13:35). This means that how you view the world and God's involvement in your own life really matters and greatly impacts the people around you. So, do you bear witness to this Audacious Gospel?
Jesus had the audacity to say He was Savior. He had the audacity to claim Himself as Solution. He had the audacity to say He's the way for a full life. And he had the ability to prove Himself right (see this article).
These youth made themselves available, and God met them. And they are audacious. Sold in love, sold in joy, sold into a secure, transformative life.
To the King on the throne - His Kingdom has come and will come again.
A big theme of this Audacious Gospel series has been America.
The frequent reports say the country is dying. People think morality is gone, that the young generation has forgotten God, and that the “system” is set against Jesus-followers. Especially with such painful times in the news, things often appear rather dire. It’s estimated that one in twenty-five high schoolers in America really know Jesus and follow Him wholeheartedly.
But I don’t feel hopeless. I actually feel tons of hope, and tons of confidence. And it’s because I know a different story.
There's a fire in the heart of every young person and it's unstoppable.
They were made to be passionate.
They were made to carry vision.
They were made to be contagious in their joy and create waves of movement amongst their peers.
Some have passion for video games, some have passion for football, others have passion for book-work.
They are excitable, and excite the people around them with what they’re excited about.
Last week, YWAM Kona welcomed 120 students from all over America, the Hawaiian islands, and other nations for INfusion Youth Camp. The staff team is upwards of 50, all believing the same thing: God is moving in young people and will move through us. INfusion introduces students to the reality of who Jesus is, facilitates freedom from insecurity, shame, identity crises, and flip-flop living with true identity and original design, then training and equipping young people to know their faith, share it fearlessly, have fun with the Jesus, and know that they really are called by God for something unique. INfusion paints a picture of the Gospel.
Infusion's goal? That students would leave knowing what their Passion is FOR, who they are Devoted TO, and what they have Freedom FROM.
Seven days in and already these young people are different, carrying themselves with assurance, & many are getting healed from big-life pain.
This Gospel is audacious because it really can free young people in 10 days, releasing them into happy-hearted, Christ-like lives. It’s audacious because God is faithful to the short amount of time and the earnest hearts of the young students. It’s audacious because these young people are influencers that represent over 73,000 high-schoolers in America. 73,000!
Imagine: Training high-schoolers to lead their peers, their families, the nations - to Jesus.
I often wonder what would have happened if in my teen years if someone had told me, “You can be free from insecurity. You can actually live wholehearted for Jesus now, and you can help other people live full lives.” Does it make YOU think? What IF someone had said that to you?
God is working in our country, and He hasn’t forgotten the youth.
Next week, we’ll look at testimonies of the real-deal Jesus the students are meeting, and it’s wild: When you show someone the Bible Truth of who they are; When you help them get free enough to own it; When you give them permission to audaciously believe the work is finished by Jesus and they’re a new creation: there’s no stopping them.
This audacious Gospel? It’s for youth and it’s for America. Young people want to believe they are on the planet for something more than school, more than a nice house, more than a 9-5 job. We tell them that desire is right. God says so.
Let us never outgrow our youthful zeal and vigor. Young people want to change the world around them. And they’re doing it.
YOUR passion is for something. YOUR devotion is on purpose. YOU have freedom, from…..well, anything.
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
1 Timothy 4:12
2 Corinthians 5:17
When you know you’re fully loved and chosen, you're then enabled with power to fully love and fully choose others. When you realize you truly are awesome, you bring your awesomeness to the table and enhance the richness of your community. Awesome people naturally activate the “awesome” switch in others, and are invaluable to our world. World change happens by people who start small.
The Browns love Jesus and love discipleship - they are from Knoxville, TN, the true ‘Merica, and just moved to work with YWAM Kona over the winter.
To meet Jenn and Jim is to have an instant soul epiphany that you really are the most wonderful and most valued person in the world. They greet people with an openness and love that elicits a, “wow! I’m so lovely!” response from your heart. As a result, in three short months, our Kona Community has become better at loving, caring, and being present in relationships. I believe it’s because we’re all better understanding the identity Christ has given us: awesome sons and awesome daughters.
As usual, the interview starts with sipping coffee, this time watching the Browns’ three blonde kids - six year old twin girls and an eight year old boy - run around my living room with my now one year old blonde baby. PRETTY fun.
We start at the basics. I described the Audacious Gospel, and then we talked about their definition of discipleship. Jim says discipleship is “walking with someone into deeper relationship with Jesus,” and Jenn describes it this way: “The Pharisees read and got head knowledge. Jesus said, ‘Come follow me.’”
Years ago, they saw a need in their community because “there was no depth of relationship” with Jesus and people were flying solo as Christians - so the Browns started having Bible studies and worship nights at their house. People from church came and everyone grew in desire to know God more. One meeting a week went to two, and it still wasn’t enough. Jenn said that “as people understood who Jesus was, we were hanging out two times a week: churched people secretly dying with hidden bondage, the lost - 24 people [total] continued coming and started getting baptised.”
But “we needed more,” says Jenn. I’m smiling, loving watching her get more and more exuberant as she shares.
She says, “There was a ‘go’ [for the mission field] in our hearts but so much was happening at home, we couldn't.” Enter: Fascinate School. Fascinate is like a Discipleship Training School, but everything takes place wherever people are already planted. “Fascinate was for people called to influence where they were but not go [international].” Teaching times were Thursday, Friday and Saturday for three to four hours on topics like “The Gospel,” “The Father Heart of God,” “The Holy Spirit,” “Biblical Worldview.” Steel workers, university students, waitresses, anyone: outreach happened in their workplace, their local supermarket, their neighborhoods as they learned.
The kids are tumbling about, colliding and getting more and more boisterous with the blocks on the floor, occasionally calling out for Momma Jenn to mediate or for me to check out the cool artwork. I looked up at Jenn and Jim and asked if it was difficult, going after all of this ministry. Jenn says, “OH, we had plenty of excuses. Jim was working 50-70 hours a week; we had a young family; our house was too small; we were too busy.” But after meeting Jesus and watching Him transform lives, Jenn said “We were ruined for the ordinary.”
They invited young people to live in an apartment attached to their house, and daily discipleship began. Their new housemates would come in and out; use the kitchen; eat meals with them; help clean; connect after a long days of work. Talk about a “live-learn” environment.
“In the south everyone is a Christian; drug dealers believe in Jesus. But we saw people realize, ‘Oh, that means something.’”
They lived two minutes from “the hood.” When they first started going to meet people there, “We were snubbed, people were like, ‘You’re not a gangster,’ but we saw a shift when we started giving, - they let us into their lives.” We’d bring meals, groceries and soon find out “what’s up with the baby daddy,” falling in love with the families.
The question Jenn always comes back to is, “Will you get your hands dirty? Do we think [the Gospel] is just for Africa, or is it or here?”
One of their friends in Knoxville got it. She made the small step of putting water bottles in her trunk. At first it took some real gusto, but now, when they see a thirsty looking person, her kids expect to stop and give water away.
There is a risk to living with an open heart. It means we have to make a decision to step into vulnerability, where we could get hurt, and we could end up really, really sad sometimes. But it also means we can live in tremendous depth of relationship with the people around us, experience a great love in life that Jesus made possible, and experience an inarticulable joy.
The Gospel is Audacious because it is “Without Restriction to prior ideas,” it is “outside of the box,” it is vulnerable, wounded yet healed, and entirely full of an overwhelming, all consuming, anchoring hope. When we agree with this Audacious Gospel, step out and allow it to define our lives, we live deep, we live with purpose, and we see God’s action in the community around us. He is real, He is moving, and He is active….In your neighborhood.
Live Audaciously this week. Introduce yourself to your grocery clerk or to your neighbor.
As Jenn would say, “Can you bake a cake? Do that! What’s in your hand? Do that. Where are you? That is your mission field.”
Live Audaciously; Dare to be ruined by the ordinary.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in [your] hand." Zechariah 4:10
“The legend of your Asian Karaoke precedes you, Ben,” I said as we sat down with iced coffees to shield ourselves from the blazing hot sun. He laughs causally and says, “Well you gotta give it all to the mic and let it be the judge.” Mr. Cool Cat, okay. I asked him more about it and he just looks at me, sparkle in his eye and mischief in his smile:
"Eyewitness is the only witness to have."
This is Ben: he’s the kind of guy who really puts his whole self into something. The guys got all kinds of skills - he’s kind, obviously fun, and will really do anything for anyone without a second thought. He listens with eye contact that says, “You’re important. Thanks for sharing.” Ben’s gone to Asia twice, and would love to live there permanently.
From Ben’s perspective, although there’s an odd sense of normalcy in Asia, there’s really only an illusion of the American first world. Traffic does what it wants, not necessarily following road signs and lights; Pollution hits you in all your senses; If you ask for help, you’re soon surrounded by a crowd of rescuers; If you need to move something large, strangers on the street drop what they’re doing. It’s a collective culture: people watch out for each other and are always aware that they have something to offer to someone else.
I asked Ben, “Were you ever lonely on outreach?” He says, “If I’d let myself, I could have been.” There are so many people, but he explains they don’t tend to have a lot of friends. You have to work on outreach to not fall under the same feelings as the land's people. In Asia, everyone is trying so hard to honor their families and do their best that they keep up a facade, going to school seven days a week or working their brains out.
Deep connection isn’t common, and people crave relationships. Ben says with an eagerness about him, “If you show any interest in someone there, they jump on it, and you can normally hang out with them within a day.”
Now just imagine you’re walking down a busy street, surrounded by Asians, when you hear some guy with an East Coast accent singing in English. You glance through the cafe window and see a white, red-headed man through the smoke with a mic and guitar. Curiosity gets you, you enter: you see a group of Americans and Europeans chatting with some Asians, maybe hear young Asian kids gasping at the redhead’s hair, while another Asian feebly attempts to mix Mr. Cool Cat’s jammin’ tunes. It’s almost comical, and you might actually think you’re in the hip district of San Francisco or NYC for a minute...until you see some randomly placed Asian object on the cafe wall.
About five days a week Ben would play music in coffee shops like these - “It sets up relationships [for the outreach teams], because people are interested in you and really look for any excuse to talk, even if they can only gesture to communicate,” he says. They end up making friends of other musicians, shop owners, and patrons of the businesses.
In Asia, you don’t stand on a street corner and preach the Gospel, but there is a ton of liberty in relationships.
Ben says that a man - we’ll call him Jack - once came up to him and one of our DTS students and said, “I think I need something to believe in, because I don’t have anything.” Ben grins at me now and says, “It’s so easy, we just explain who God is, the Gospel, and how to hear God’s voice. You literally can’t fail.”
So this Jack starts hanging out with the team, and after a few weeks, brings a friend along: “Daniel needs to know who Jesus is. Will you tell him?” Three months later, Daniel was “choosing Jesus,” too.
The team would often have people come and share dreams of Jesus or the cross without having any idea of who God is. I ask Ben what it's like, describing Who the dream is about to someone who has no idea: "It's awesome." Remembering one of those moments in particular he says, “You know when light shines on something, and it bounces onto your eyes? It was like that. God’s love” was revealed to “this guy, and it bounced off him and we felt it.”
Ben says the very potential of the Audacious Gospel gets to him, and as he says this, a sense of awe fills the little tent we're meeting in.
“God is bigger,” he says in a way that lets me know he can’t fully find the words to express what he’s really feeling. “God is faithful beyond our ability...God isn't tied down or held by what we can do." Ben expects that if he simply gives God opportunity, God will show up. He’s seen it with Daniel, with Jack, and others.
The Audacity of the Gospel, 'It’s like the Jack in a Box is about to spring...It could pop up in any given moment, manifest in any way. It’s not tied down to anything, it hovers over the city, people...it’s spontaneous. At any given moment, be ready. Have a plan, but be ready for it to change.” -BEN
This Audacious Gospel it doesn't require our ability. It's requires HIS.
Fun fact from Mr. Cool Cat Karaoke, God clearly loves to our natural gifts and enjoyments.
As you do things you enjoy this week, go to the grocery store, hang out with friends - set your heart in “availability mode." God is able, and he will use the opportunity.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21
After a month of being on outreach, Kenzie decided it was time to practice a greater level of spiritual discipline. As an outreach leader, there’s lots of responsibility and healthy pressure. So she picked up the phone, and made the call...to the gym. She found a $3 promo for 2 months, and went right in….well, almost right in.
Ashley is a single mother living the busy New York life; she’s sweet - a struggling believer, recently gone through a lot of loss. I don’t know if she’s a fitness lover or just in it for the job, but here she is - giving a gym tour. Ashley’s at work like any other day.
Imagining herself in the various rooms and exercise scenarios as they walk, Kenzie answers Ashley’s simple questions, like, “So what are you doing in NYC?”
“I tell her a little about YWAM, that my outreach team is here for a few months.” Nothing too extravagant. Fact-filled: Kenzie’s like that. She tells it like it is and is emphatic about whatever she does. If she’s sold, she’s sold, unafraid to tell you her conclusions in an easy, “It’s good, I know it” kinda way. Her beliefs really do depict the way she lives, and she’s the kind of person you want as a real friend.
Kenzie says Ashley’s “So curious I thought it was fake at first,” but it’s not just a courteous “I-want-to-make-a-sale” curious - “I could see she was hungry for something she didn’t have.”
So Kenzie invites her to dinner. Over the next couple of months, Ashley spent time with the New York outreach team. They hung out with her and her 2 year old daughter, did Bible studies, “helped her get free and follow Jesus. One time I walked in my living room, and two of my teammates were crying with her, walking her through forgiveness, and praying. Love was radiating. She found hope.”
In a big place like NYC, everything is vying for your attention. Lights flash, everything’s changing color, there are so many billboards, signs, sounds, movement -- Kenzie feels like "everything is in your face." You’re taking so much in with your eyes, “sometimes you just have to close ’em. I wore sunglasses in the winter.”
Everyone is trying to be the loudest and prove their validity.
I asked Kenzie what it was like, telling people about Jesus in Times Square, Central Park, the “normal” places, the movie backdrops, the “True America.” Her response? She pauses, looks at me straight on, and with a kind but decided tone says, “We have the best news. We just have to be bold enough to step out without a [timid] apology. Everyone wants to be loved. They just don’t know it’s Jesus.”
For anyone struggling with the idea that God doesn’t move in America - this team led 83 people to Jesus. In 3 months.
“Many say God isn’t moving in America.” Kenzie has the audacity to say, “It’s not true.”
“People say, ‘go to the Nations,’ and that’s great, but they forget we are IN a nation. The Gospel is here. I see God move here. Brokenness is everywhere....and God deserves his land back.” Kenzie says it in a way that stirs faith in my heart, just sitting at home, right on my couch.
Let this audacious Gospel stir your faith today, and convince you of the ability of Jesus.
Kenzie is audacious: the Gospel she believes in rescues in the “hardest” places and is hope. Jesus, Kenzie reflects, was moved with compassion and stopped for the one in front of him. He stopped for “the woman who grabbed His robe, he [stopped and] ate dinner with the short guy in the tree (Zacchaeus). We can do that too.” And,” she emphatically pauses, a growing grin on her face, “Following Jesus is fun.”
This audacious Gospel is hope. It’s simple. It’s fun. And it’s powerful.
God is moving on the earth. He is moving in America.
How will this audacious Gospel move you this week?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
THE AUDACIOUS GOSPEL
1. // Extremely bold or daring; brave; fearless; very confident
2. // Extremely original; without restriction to prior ideas; highly inventive
3. // Contemptuous of law, religion, or decorum
What makes the Gospel Audacious? The question is, what DOESN’T make the Gospel audacious? When Jesus came, He violated every man’s opinion of what the Messiah would be. He didn’t come on the clouds on a literal horse and chariot; He didn’t give the Jews wealth and an earthly kingdom; He didn’t hold to the cultural norms….at all; He ate with the prostitutes and thieves; He threw out the religiosity that the Pharisees created during 400 years of God’s silence.
Jesus had the AUDACITY to say He was God’s Son
He had the AUDACITY to say He was the Savior of the Jews, AND the Gentiles
He had the AUDACITY to say He was the solution to the world’s problems
He had the AUDACITY to say He came so that we could have the fullest life
He had the AUDACITY to heal, whomever He wanted
He had the AUDACITY to prove the Pharisees moot
He had the AUDACITY to turn modern thought on it’s head
He had the AUDACITY to love those called “enemy”
He had the AUDACITY to run when people tried to make Him King
He had the AUDACITY to throw the tables aside in the Temple that didn’t belong
He had the AUDACITY to say the Temple would fall and three days later be rebuilt
&& He had the ABILITY to prove Himself right.
He DID die.
He DID rise again.
He DID conquer death,
He was AUDACIOUS. He wrote the AUDACIOUS GOSPEL.
We are called to “walk like Jesus walked” and live FULL lives, to “go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them.”
In this summer series, we will be looking at stories and lives TODAY that testify
It’s real. God is ready. And He is moving.
How will you respond to this AUDACIOUS GOSPEL?
Luke 22:70 | John 12:32 | John 12:47 | John 10:10 | Mark 3:5 | Matthew 22:34 | Matthew 5:27-48 | Matthew 5:44 | John 6:15 | Matthew 21:12 | John 2:19 | John 17:22 | Luke 23:46 | Mark 16:6 | 1 Cor 15:55-57 | Isaiah 25:8 | Psalm 30:11 | Isaiah 41:13 | Revelation 19:2 | Revelation 21:5 | 1 John 2:6 | John 10:10 | Matthew 28:19
Next post Wednesday!
the audacious gospel
It's real. God is able. And He is moving.