Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Isaiah 61 Initiative, pt. 4: Oaks of Righteousness

Why do you minister?

Are you involved in ministry? What does it look like? What were your motivations? What are your goals?

These are important questions for anyone feeling called to help others, in any capacity. These questions are directed at the core of our ego, our expectations, our desires, and our sense of worth.

This is a touchy subject because as humans, we all have emotional needs. These were created by God, and in His Kingdom, they should be perfectly met. However, we live in the world, where people sin and fail, and we all are subject to the thorns that have filled the land. Recovering from those wounds takes intentionality and time, and ultimately, surrender to God.

Isaiah 61 is a promise of healing and transformation, which is why we stressed that this work must start in ourselves before we could ever hope to walk it out into the hurting world. And as we, and those to whom we minister, receive this healing, we become something glorious. Oaks of righteousness. To our modern ears, this sounds silly. We're well-behaved trees? What does this even mean? There is a theme of trees in prophetic imagery throughout the Bible, but to simplify things, step outside and observe an oak. They are tall, strong, and rise above their surroundings. They produce an abundance of fruit (in the form of acorns) and house all sorts of animals. They beautify the landscape and fortify the ground. All in all, they are good and wonderful things.

But we're not talking about trees; we're talking about people. And in the end, we're not talking about people, we're talking about God. “...that He may be glorified.” God anoints a servant with His spirit, sends the servant to proclaim good news and grant blessings, so that the recipients may be transformed into oaks of righteousness. However, they are a “planting of the LORD.” He is the one planting and growing the trees, and He is the one who receives the glory. There are alternate readings of this verse, however the bottom line remains: God grows and God receives the glory.

And this is why we started with the question, “why do you minister?” Isaiah 61 is a work of God, and not a work of man's strength. And the end result is transformation of others and the glorification of God. You should not seek to minister for the purposes of status, personal fulfillment, experience, meaning, or any other goal that points towards you. Doing so is toiling in our strength, and will not produce much fruit. God works, and calls us to take part in it. We should hunger for the things God is doing, and like the worker in Proverbs, it will be for our good: “A worker's appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on [Proverbs 16:26 NASB].” If our hunger is for our own fulfillment, it will urge us on towards endless striving.

It is so much better to desire God, and hunger to be where He is, to do the work He is doing, and to embrace the privilege of getting to wonder at the glorious oaks growing up around you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Fitting Encounter

     January 18th. Martin Luther King Jr. day. A day when the people of this nation remember the great struggles that have taken place on the battle front of racism. Many have lost their lives on that front and still do to this day. St. Louis stands as notably one of the most divided cities in the country, and as of late has been a hot bed for racial tension and violence.
     Where is this tension coming from? How did St. Louis, as well as many other major cities, end up in the condition it is currently in? What are the spiritual roots and impacts of the racism and oppression in these areas?
     These were the topics of discussion when we were visited by a group from Richmond, Virginia this week from the local YWAM chapter there. They set out on a trip across country with the goal of understanding, exploring and waging spiritual warfare against this longstanding racism that runs deep in our nation. They paid a visit to some of the key landmarks having to do with division and reconciliation in this area and we were able to share with them some of our experiences and struggles with overcoming the barriers of racism in our own ministry. We invited the group to watch the film "The Pruitt Igoe Myth" and open their eyes to some of the foundations of this generations old feud. I'm glad we were able to share this time with them and I hope that God continues to bless their search for reconciliation.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Isaiah 61 Initiative, pt 3: Instead of Ashes


This is a common topic when discussing the Gospel or ministry. But it is not the byproduct of activity, service trips, bible study, or institutions. It doesn't “just happen”.

This verse of Isaiah 61 shows purpose and direction. Why did God give His Spirit? Why is He bringing favor and vengeance? The servant is being sent with a purpose. These are essentially the marching orders of the one who is accepting the mission of Isaiah 61.

Remember that these were the words Jesus quoted at the start of His ministry, and declared they were being fulfilled. This was His mission. And because it was His mission, it should be ours, for we are His disciples, and we should be like Him and walk the way He did.

However, has this happened to you? Have you received a garland instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning, praise instead of fainting? Have you been transformed from a state of hopelessness to one of healing? If not, do not despair. This doesn't mean you are bad person, or unloved by God, or worthless. It simply means you need to pursue Jesus and ask for healing, ask to receive His Spirit. Like we mentioned before, the work of Isaiah 61 starts with ourselves first, so that we can be healed and transformed, and then empowered to go and repeat the works of ministry we've received.

But the bigger picture is that this is what God is doing. That He sent His Son to do it. And that His Son has a Body – the Church. As the Body of Christ, we should be doing the work of Christ. His hands should be working, His feet moving, His heart beating, His ears listening, His eyes seeking, and His mouth proclaiming. For some strange reason, God has decided to do so many things THROUGH His people, the Body of His Son. So the next time you ask Jesus to do something, remember that you might be the part of His Body that He tells to do it.

This theme of transformation is recurrent in scripture. You could phrase it as “from fasting to feasting”. Despair to rejoicing. Brokenness to healing. Desolation to habitation. Drought and famine to flowing streams and abundance. Transformation is what God does.

We are convinced this is the thing God is doing today. He is sending His Spirit on His servants, the different parts of the Body of Christ, to free captives and grant to them transformation, through these blessings: celebration, gladness, praise. They are proclaiming freedom and pointing people to what is beyond their misery and despair. Again, this is not a byproduct. It is accomplished through obedience to the Spirit, through work, through selfless and costly acts of love. Through this the Body really comes alive, as all the members get filled with blood, the joints begin to move and pull on each other, the muscles are worked and stretched, the heart and lungs grow stronger, and the feet become swifter. This Body becomes a real living organism, and accomplishes real ministry, which is the goal of Isaiah 61.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Isaiah 61 Initiative, pt 2: Vengeance

Few people like to talk about vengeance. As good Christians, we are to forgive, and let God repay. We would rather speak of justice. However, so many people's idea of justice is self-centered. Justice for whom, from whom, upon whom? Is justice having things fair for yourself? Is justice receiving the punishment for your sins? Is justice grace? Is your idea of justice the same as God's?

We are continuing our discussion of Isaiah chapter 61, which has inspired the Isaiah 61 Initiative, the name we've given to the work God has led us to in America's inner cities. Let's look now at verse two:

“[He has sent me] to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God.”

So even though we might not like the word vengeance, here God is anointing people to go proclaim it. Jesus stops short of this line when He quotes the verse in Luke chapter 4. Is Jesus shying away from vengeance? A quick reading of His teachings would say no, He doesn't. So why stop? Maybe it wasn't time then. His work was the favorable year, the culmination of the ages when the Holy Spirit was returning to man, and anointing and empowering them to go and do the works of ministry found here in Isaiah 61. The NLT translation gives a little clarity:

“He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD's favor has come, and with it, the day of God's anger against their enemies.”

So this isn't just blanket vengeance, it is upon the enemies of the mourners. This is a part of Isaiah 61 that we didn't understand until recently. God's heart is continuously for the afflicted, poor, brokenhearted, aliens, neglected. The Law of the Old Testament had numerous instruction for how to care for these people. In the New Testament, there is ample exhortation concerning loving our neighbors and enemies. This hasn't changed. The whole point of Isaiah 61, and therefore Jesus' mission (since He quoted it, saying, “today this scripture has been fulfilled), is to bring good news to the afflicted, to heal them, and set them free.

This continues to this very day. God is looking to the oppressed and marginalized, sending His Spirit upon people to go and care for them, and bringing vengeance upon their enemies.

Let's back up. The year of favor is easier to take in and discuss. All the good works of Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit, this new life, forgiveness of sins, the Kingdom here, now, in our midst. And a way for all the people of the earth to come and know God. However, further than that, it is this mission that Isaiah 61 is presenting. “Fear not, afflicted, poor, and imprisoned. I am sending My Spirit to you, through my servants, to heal and set free.” These are all good and commendable things.  We like them.

So how does a minister of the mission of Isaiah 61 proclaim the day of vengeance of our God?

This is where things get uncomfortable.

Race. Class. Xenophobia. Pride. Comfort. Division. Standard of living. Escapism. Neglect. Insulation. Apathy. Corruption. Abuse of power. Faith without works.

God is shining light on dark, neglected and abused places. In doing so, He is tearing open long-hidden wounds and revealing secret sins. He is calling His people to live by the customs of the Kingdom, not the ways of the world. And one does this by laying down one's life, denying one's rights, and ridding oneself of expectations. And then going to the afflicted and serving. This is exactly what Jesus did. It is what He calls us to do. It is the mission of Isaiah 61.

Do not be mistaken. This is not a trendy call to social justice. Remember, your definition of justice may not be God's, and may have more in common with the world's definition. In being separate from the world, we have to realign our values with God's. Also, notice to whom the servant should be proclaiming: to those who mourn. “Take heart! God's favor is coming! And He is bringing vengeance upon your enemies!” And yet this isn't a vague, empty promise. As priests, we should be testifying to the works of God, and teaching people the difference between the holy and the profane. As we are serving and ministering, and watching God working, we should be communicating this to people, so they will know who God is and what He is like.

Have you witnessed this work of God in your own life? Have you witnessed it in the world around you?

Isaiah 61 is about good news and good works. Proclaim.   

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Opportunity Center - An Arts & Technology Center in Hyde Park

Informational Meeting

Tuesday January 12, 2016 at 6:30pm.Hosted by Sun Cafe 1435 Salisbury Street St. Louis, Mo. 63107

Please join us as we present our plans for expanding our work in the Hyde Park neighborhood. This informational meeting will present our 2016 projects to the public. Light refreshments will be provided. Please sign up on our Facebook event page or email terry@sunministries.org with your plans to attend. Seating is limited.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Isaiah 61 Initiative, pt. 1: Good News

Sun Ministries is a missions organization. We seek to facilitate the training and relocation of missionaries to America's inner cities, in order to plant faith communities. Not churches, programs, or communes, these faith communities are just that – communities of believers living out their faith in real and active ministry. Our missionaries are taught to pastor their communities as they live and work in neighborhoods for healing and restoration.

We call this work the Isaiah 61 Initiative. We've been inspired by the words of Isaiah chapter 61. The next few blogs will explore these words and what they mean to us.

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners...”  Isaiah 61:1

These are the opening lines of Isaiah 61. These are the same words Jesus quoted at the start of His ministry, as recorded in Luke chapter 4. This was Jesus' mission. He is saying, “This is why I'm here.” We believe that Jesus' followers are called to this same mission. We believe the Spirit of the Lord is upon each of us to bring good news - good news of healing and freedom.

This first requires our own healing and freedom. We do not feel you can effectively minister to hurting people if you don't know your own pain, and have freedom from it. You can't lead someone to freedom if you continue to sit in prison. Overcoming this can be hard, and impossible on your own. Many today are held captive by pain, pride, fear, ignorance, or even traditions and ways of the world that set us on a course of activity or accomplishments that never see true ministry. We must become humble servants, willing to seek truth that frees us, so that we can follow our Lord to spread good news. These are the ministers that can take on the mission of Isaiah 61.

For us, this is the heart of ministry. The physical needs we can supply are good and necessary. But Jesus didn't come to bring us jobs and food. He came to set captives free and bind up the brokenhearted. All the programs and resources and opportunity can become meaningless if a person never receives healing, or if they are never told that they have been set free. And as we have been healed and set free, we can now come alongside others and share this good news.

Friday, January 1, 2016

10 Year Anniversary

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Sun Ministries. We haven't used this BLOG much since we started our FaceBook page in 2013. It appeared to be a better format to engage people. We could see response and interact faster. What is lacking there is a format to discuss the deeper truths we see God teaching us here.

We have moved past proof of concept on our movement of inner city renewal and reformation. We are operating 5 businesses, own 10 properties, have 8 missionaries and are ready to expand all of our services in 2016.

This page will be utilized for communicating the more complicated things. You can follow this page for much more in the coming year. Here is to another 10 years and beyond!