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Sojourner Stories Of Suffering: Orphaned, Imprisoned, Saved By Grace

Stories of Suffering

During this season of Lent, we’re journeying together through the Book of Job. It’s a story of suffering, faith, questions, and one man who cries out to God in the midst of heartbreaking affliction.

Over the next few weeks I’ll share stories of “suffering well” with you, from Sojourners at each of our campuses and from brothers and sisters that have come to know Christ through Sojourn International, our missions ministry. We’ll begin with one such story, as written by one of our missionaries in the field (I can’t tell you his name because it would put him in danger):

This is the story of a friend of mine who has suffered as much as anyone I know.  He lives in an area of the world where it would be dangerous to associate his name publicly with Christianity, so we’ll call him Adam.  His real name means ‘example,’ and that’s just what he has been to me, to any of us who follow Christ.

He was born in the capitol city of his country and at eight years old became an orphan.  A child alone in an overcrowded city, he ended up at an orphanage in a small town.  The orphanage sat across from a worship center of the local religion, so he basically grew up under loud speakers whose preaching woke him up in the morning and tucked him in at night.

He was a faithful student of the priests and a fine adherent of their goddess cult.  They taught him that he must labor to please her and she might grant him mercy when he dies.

Soccer was his outlet, that is, until he fell and broke his elbow.  Someone attempted to set it but didn’t get it right and left Adam with a contorted arm and nagging pain.

He was introduced to Jesus Christ as a teenager and at first was completely skeptical.  He struggled to choose between what he had been taught most of his life about the goddess and what he was hearing now about Jesus, who claimed he was the only way to mercy.  It sounded almost too good to be true—instead of working to please him, Jesus did all the work by sacrificing himself in our place.  ‘What kind of love is this?’ he thought to himself.

After a few weeks of consideration Adam covenanted to follow Christ instead of the goddess.  He was baptized not long afterward and grew as a young believer, learning to pray, obey the scriptures, and share the gospel with others.

In his entrepreneurial spirit he also opened a movie rental store.  Just as business really began to roll, a dump truck lost control and drove through the 5×5 building.  Thankfully Adam was not inside, but everything was destroyed, including his savings.  Adam wept but trusted God’s good hand in the loss.

Soon afterward he was given the opportunity to work as a taxi driver, which went great until he accidentally hit a man who stepped in front of him.  The pedestrian was fine but Adam was sentenced to three months in prison.  Enduring the shame and dire conditions of jail , Adam spent his incarceration sharing the gospel with as many inmates as would listen.  Several of them trusted in Christ.

We celebrated when Adam was released.  He was overjoyed, but destitute.  He moved into a tiny room on our compound until he could get back on his feet.  One evening while watching a soccer game with some friends a drunk soldier hit Adam in his bad arm with a club.  The bone shattered.  His thin frame reeled with spasms of pain for days.

Thankfully God provided enough money to send him for surgery in his hometown, the capitol city.  The operation was less than ideal, but it did leave his arm more functional than it had been in years.  Sometimes you couldn’t tell if Adam was smiling with joy or grimacing with pain—I feel like that says a lot about him.  Some days I wondered if he was going to turn away from God, questioning the one who allowed so many tragic things to come his way.  I know he thought about it.

About a year ago Adam helped lead a team of volunteers through a remote area of his country where people had never heard of Jesus.  Despite the danger to him Adam preached the gospel all along the way, powerfully refuting every sneering and doubtful question.  Nearly 50 people believed, in villages spread across dozens of miles.

After five days of hiking, Adam, even though slowed by nausea and exhaustion, decided to tell the group his story.  He recounted with detail blow after blow to his life, and I think for the first time he really began to put together how every single chapter of suffering had brought him closer to the One who suffered for him.  “I have nothing to complain about,” he said, hiking with new strength in his step.  “God has rescued me.”

A Call To The City


Today I invited Pastor Nathan Ivey, founder of our Seed ministry, to tell you about one of the new things I’m most excited about in 2013: Sojourn Urban Experience:

In the summer of 2013, Sojourn will begin equipping the next generation of church-led community developers through an innovative Leadership Development Program called the Urban Experience. God’s given us a picture of where he’s taking us. It’s not just an idea, and it’s not just some kind of fantasy. It’s rooted in solid conviction: a conviction that God’s glory, God’s beauty, and God’s mercy must advance. We believe this advancement begins right here in our backyard in the neighborhood of Shelby Park.

The Urban Experience is an opportunity for individuals to commit a year of their life to relocating into this community, training to live in the city, and effect spiritual change that produces social change. A once thriving place to live, Shelby Park has in recent decades experienced increased crime, home dilapidation, broken family & single parents households, resident transience, and drug and gang presence. We believe that the hope for this neighborhood is the gospel, proclaimed through the local church: men and women who are being shaped, formed and fueled by the good news of Jesus Christ.

This is a call for 6 men and 4 women to join us in the physical and spiritual revitalization of inner-city Louisville by moving into renovated houses, living missionally among the marginalized, and training in Biblical leadership. Participants of the Urban Experience will be developed in a 45 hour per week program including 15 hours of training and 30 hours on the front lines of the church’s effort to fight homelessness and the sex industry. These leaders will catalyze neighborhood renewal not just through practical ministry but also through being equipped to mobilize the church and local residents into action.

We encourage and challenge you to apply for this opportunity: you can do so at sojournurbanexperience.com by March 15th. For additional information, or to sign up to attend one of our Exploration Weekends on February 2nd-3rd,16th-17th, & 23rd-24th contact us here.

Your Soundtrack To Ecclesiastes

We’re picking up steam, heading into the final two weeks of our Ecclesiastes sermon series (hear my “Two Path” sermon from this past Sunday here). With that in mind, we recently asked Sojourn’s community on Facebook and Twitter “What song would you put on a soundtrack to Ecclesiastes.” And wow, did we get a lot of responses. Here is the track list (several of these songs received multiple votes, with the top vote-getter being “Turn, Turn, Turn”).”

  1. “Turn, Turn, Turn” by the Byrds
  2. “Over The Sun” by Shane & Shane
  3. “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen
  4. “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas
  5. “Hotel California” by the Eagles
  6. “Rejoice” by Pedro The Lion
  7. “Happy Is A Yuppie Word” by Switchfoot
  8. “Wherever I May Roam” by Metallica
  9. “Blowing In The Wind” by Bob Dylan (a couple people also said “Everything by Bob Dylan”)
  10. “Party All The Time” by Eddie Murphy
  11. “Latter Days” by Over The Rhine
  12. “Nothing Even Matters” by Lauryn Hill
  13. “Hurt” (Johnny Cash version)
  14. “Carry On My Wayward Son” by Kansas
  15. “How It Ends” by Devotchka
  16. “Broken Bicycles” by Tom Waits
  17. “Blue In Green” by Miles Davis
  18. “Everybody Hurts” by REM
  19. “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones
  20. “After The Storm” by Mumford and Sons
  21. “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel
  22. “River of Tears” by Eric Clapton
  23. “The Long Day Is Over” by Norah Jones
  24. “The Whiskey Isn’t Working Anymore” by Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt
  25. “More To This Life” by Steven Curtis Chapman

We also had some votes for “Every song that Bruce Springsteen/ Drive By Truckers/ Death Cab For Cutie/ sings”

Can you think of any songs to add to our Ecclesiastes sound track? Tell me about it in a comment below …

Down With Map Fragments: Faithmapping Is Here

One year ago, Pastor Mike Cosper and I set out to write a book that would show, in the words of Charles Spurgeon,

“It’s the whole business of the whole church to preach the whole gospel to the whole world.”

The book is called Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas For Your Spiritual Journey, and I’m excited that it’s finally before you. Hundreds of Sojourners picked up copies this past weekend at our services, and it’s also available in paperback and Kindle here, as well as many other retailers like Crossway and Westminster Bookstore. You can also register to win a free copy, on Twitter. Your first step is to read the Faithmapping excerpt from Crossway Books at this link, or below:

Step #2: On Twitter, share a quote or idea that impacted you from the excerpt, along with the #Faithmapping hashtag. We’ll choose ten winners at random, using the random number generator at Random.org. Remember, you must use the #Faithmapping hashtag, so we’ll know you’ve registered. We’ll announce winners this Friday, February 1. If you’ve already gotten a copy, I’d love to know what you think. What are your takeaways from Faithmapping?

What You Need To Know About Epiphany

Adoration_of_the_Magi_Tapestry

Yesterday was Epiphany Sunday, a Christian feast day that caps the season of Christmas.

“Epiphany” simply means “appearance” — it’s a time to celebrate the appearance of Christ on earth. In Church history, Christians have observed a day of Epiphany to commemorate the revelation of the Messiah to the Magi. Many churches in the Western world celebrate this day either on January 6 (at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas) or on the Sunday closest to this date. Some call it “Three Kings Day.”

Wait A Minute — Is Epiphany Is Just One Day, Not A Whole Season Like Lent?

Traditionally, it’s a one-day feast.  But more and more churches are treating Epiphany as a season of the Church Calendar. It’s a time to focus on the revelation of Jesus in the minds and hearts of his disciples as He ministered on earth, and a time to realize the mission of Christ’s Church: to spread the gospel. Observed as a season, Epiphany lasts until Ash Wednesday, when the season of Lent begins.

Why Should Christians Observe Epiphany?

For one thing, this is all the excuse some of you need for not feeling guilty about leaving your Christmas tree up for a couple months after Christmas Day. Same thing with Christmas music — go ahead and crank up your “Silent Night,” “Hosanna In The Highest” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

Second, Epiphany helps us focus on important aspects of Jesus’ earthly ministry, such as:

  • the miracles
  • the parables
  • the prophecies
  • the teachings and sermons

It is also a natural bridge between Christmas and Lent.

What Are Some Bible Texts For Daily Devotions During Epiphany?

Here are a few:

  • Psalm 72
  • Isaiah 49:5-7 and Isaiah 60
  • Matthew 2:1-12
  • Luke 13:22-30
  • John 8:12
  • Romans 15:5-13
  • 2 Corinthians 4:4-6
  • Ephesians 3:1-12
  • Titus 2:11-14
  • Revelation 21:22-26

 

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