June 20, 2016


Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

Greeting
Greetings to you in the name of the One who is our hope of glory.  As spring has turned to summer our MPC team is prayerfully preparing for the Wheaton school.  In April we had the great privilege of ministering to a group of missionaries at WoodsEdge Community Church in Houston, TX.  These kingdom workers are serving God in the massive refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and under government regimes that conduct raids on their churches and threaten their families.  Some are persevering in evangelizing the post-Christian peoples of the western world, and others are persevering through seasons of deep personal loss and inner trial.  With great joy we saw God lift burdens into His cross and restore the upright posture that enables His beloved servants to abide in Him in all things.
 
The generous hosts of this conference gave us all t-shirts that read, "Wherever you go BRING HOPE."  Yes and amen, for surely this is the vocation of Christ-followers.  But what is this hope we bring?  We have recently been shaken by news of the nightmarish violence in Orlando in which the lives of fifty priceless image-bearers of God were literally shot down.  Who could bring hope to the scene of such destruction?  I heard an NPR interview with an activist in the gay-identified community in Orlando, and was touched by his poignant questioning:  "When I see something like that [shooting], I know that there is a nagging problem in our cultural being, our sociocultural being that needs to be addressed. And I don't know how to address it" (Orlando Magazine Editor Reacts To Shooting At Gay Nightclub, 2016).  Indeed, fallen man does not know how to address the deep disease in our being.  Romano Guardini wrote of this contrast between humanistic grasping at hope and true Christian hope in his beautiful devotional work, The Lord:

"The social reformer aims at lessening suffering; if possible at removing it.  He tries to meet human needs in a practical manner:  to prevent misfortune, to readjust conditions in order that happy, physically and spiritually healthy people inhabit the earth.  Once we see this clearly, we realize that for Jesus the problem is quite a different one.  He sees the mystery of suffering much more profoundly  -- deep at the root-tip of human existence, and inseparable from sin and estrangement from God.  He knows it to be the door in the soul that leads to God, or that at least can lead to him; [suffering is the] result of sin but also means of purification and return.  " (p. 58)

Christian hope looks with the eyes of Christ, mercifully illuminating the true cause of our suffering: sin and estrangement from God.  Under the yoke of sin we try to hide our guilt, even from ourselves, to deny the deep voice of conscience, and to grab hold of whatever therapeutic myth or gnostic ideology keeps the blame elsewhere. C. S. Lewis lamented, "the greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin" (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology, p. 243).  Dietrich Bonhoeffer laid responsibility for this missing sense of sin at the feet of the Church, warning that we lose the true hope of God's grace "if our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fails to distinguish between natural and Christian existence" (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 98).  Christ-followers bring a hope to this world that faces the reality of sin for the sake of calling men to a real uplift, to the steep ascent of repentance and union with Him.    
 
As Guardini reminds us, Jesus made suffering into a door in the soul that might lead us to God.  In His descent into flesh, His being lifted up onto the Cross, His burial in the tomb, and His ascent to His throne in heaven, He took the sin and evil of this world upon Himself and ended its tyrannous reign over His creation.  "Herein lies the immeasurable depth and breadth of Christ's love.  Its power is the triumphant power of truth in a love which seizes reality and lifts it out of itself"  (The Lord, p. 58-59).  This seizing and lifting is not the "nice" work of social reformers.  It is the costly grace of the gospel of Christ:

"Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.  It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.  Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son:  'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.  Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.  Costly grace is the Incarnation of God" (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 47-48).  

On my way home from the missionary conference in Texas, I had a curious experience of carrying this costly grace of real Christian hope.  As I passed through security at the Houston airport, the TSA workers flagged my suitcase for additional screening.  I stood by, wondering what I was carrying that caused them concern, while the man opened my bag and searched through the contents.  Tucked amidst my clothing and personal items, he found a crystal-encrusted metalwork cross that was gifted to me by the pastoral team at WoodsEdge.  There it sat atop the mound of my belongings, the article of concern, and there I stood, the suspected smuggler.  It didn't take him long to determine that the cross was not a hazardous object.  The real problem confronting him was that the cross was not just a knickknack in my suitcase.  He found himself facing a woman who had chosen again that day to die to her old sinful nature and be taken into Christ.  As Leanne wrote, "to believe in Christ crucified is God's way of saving us," and there I quietly stood with Another living in me, Another who gave His life to be this man's King (Real Presence, p. 88).  The silent, pregnant moment of confrontation settled and he officiously put my suitcase back in order, zipping it closed.  As I thanked him for working to keep travelers safe, he voiced what seemed to be a defense of his resistance:  "We have to be careful.  What might seem safe could actually be dangerous."  His statement has echoed in my mind for several weeks now and I pray for him as he wrestles with this question of care and danger.  The Cross is dangerous, one way or another, and it is this dangerous hope that Christians bear into the world.  Someone is going to die, and our hope is that it will be the old man who lives in bondage to sin and death.  

To be Christian is to be a cross-bearer.  As Leanne taught, we carry the Kingdom of God within us, and "His Light in us collides with the darkness in the world" (The Healing Presence, p. 201).  In this collision, truth is proclaimed, and Christ Himself offers men the privilege of repentance. In our fallen state, we refuse this offer and continue in bondage to worldly fear.  We fear the gunman who threatens physical death, we fear being shamed and disgraced, we fear the experience of pain and suffering.  The Cross opens to us the freedom to turn and choose to fear God instead.  In his commentary on the book of Matthew, William Barclay writes about the demand presented by John the Baptizer:  

"The coming of Christ necessarily involves a separation. Men either accept him or reject him. When they are confronted with him, they are confronted with a choice which cannot be avoided. They are either for or against. And it is precisely that choice which settles destiny. Men are separated by their reaction to Jesus Christ" (Gospel of Matthew Volume 1, p. 59).

Christian missionaries in the refugee camps of Greece (and around the world) are seeing men, women, and children choose life just as Leanne described:  "In the Presence, unless they will to remain separate, men are born anew.  Moslems, Hindus, Jews who walk into the presence and power of the Holy Spirit are quickly remade - they become Christians" (Real Presence, p. 96).  We who carry the cross obey our Lord even in facing real danger for the sake of His kingdom.  What a privilege it is, through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, to walk in obedience and carry this news of God's kingdom into the darkness of the world.  Praise God for the power of the Cross that stands, as Forsyth writes, solid and unchanged "amid the millions of souls that lift to Him their eye, their need, their cry, their trust, or their hate, as His holiness goes out in love" (The Cruciality of the Cross, p. 144). 

It is a joy and privilege to write to you, members of this peculiar people who carry the Cross.  We are learning together what it is to walk in Christ's footsteps: 
 
"It means to practice the Presence of Jesus and allow His love to flow through us to others; it means that we are to carry the life of Christ to other people and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come to you'"  (The Healing Presence, p. 200). 
 
Thank you for your letters, encouraging us with your prayers for MPC and your testimonies of the Kingdom breaking through in your lives.  We pray that this newsletter will be an encouragement to you - don't miss the wonderful piece we are sharing from Leanne's archives on the Spirit of Truth!  Please continue to pray for this ministry and the members of our team.  Thank you also for your gifts of tithes and offerings that open doors for MPC to reach those who need it most.  We are overflowing with thanksgiving at God's faithfulness and great love.  May His Kingdom extend throughout the earth!
 
No man is worthy of me who does not take up his cross and walk in my footsteps.  By gaining his life a man will lose it; by losing his life for my sake, he will gain it.  (Matthew 10:38-39, NEB)
 
Under the mercy,

Sarah 

References:
 
Barclay, W. Gospel of Matthew Volume 1. N.p.: Saint Andrew, 1962. Print.
 
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1959.
 
Forsyth, Peter Taylor. The Cruciality of the Cross. [American ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965.
 
Guardini, Romano, and E. Castendyk Briefs. The Lord. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1954.
 
Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology. London: Collins, 1979. Print.
 
Orlando Magazine Editor Reacts To Shooting At Gay Nightclub. KUOW. 94.9, Seattle, WA, 13 June 2016. Radio.
 
Payne, Leanne. The Healing Presence: Curing the Soul through Union with Christ. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1995. Print.
 
Payne, Leanne. Real Presence: The Christian Worldview of C.S. Lewis as Incarnational Reality/ Leanne Payne ; Forew. by John R. Sheets and Wayne Martindale. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995.
 
Upcoming MPC Schools 

Wheaton, Illinois
July 10-15, 2016
Click here for more info and here to register.
Registration deadline extended to June 21 - Register now!

Jeju, Korea
August 14-19, 2016
Click here for more information!

Pura, Switzerland
September 25-30, 2016
Click here for more info and here to register.
Registration open now!

Hamilton, New Zealand
January 15-20, 2017
Click here for more information. 

Houston, Texas
Date: To be announced
Click here for more information!



Conferences and training opportunities:
conf
 

Orland Park, IL
June 24 & 25, 2016




July 23-29, 2016


Pasadena, CA 
August 20th, 2016




Blue Ridge Assembly
August 20-24, 2016
 
 

The Spirit of Truth
By Leanne Payne
from her newsletter archives, Fall 1990
truth
Christian Suffering and Persecution
 
Frank Peretti's novel, This Present Darkness, brings home to many the nature of suffering that accompanies spiritual warfare. Many Christians are overwhelmed at the nature of the evil and ungodliness that is today so highly energized and powerful as it takes over civic, political, and churchly structures. Just this past week, the newspapers in Illinois were carrying articles about concerned parents who were finding witchcraft and other such obscenities in school textbooks. One friend, in a chaplaincy, finds himself on a hospital staff with other chaplains who either practice sexual perversion or openly approve it in others. In some of them, there is an acknowledged and overt hatred of God, and one of the ways this is manifested is through (even as the Beast of Revelation) their blasphemies and slanders against the Name of God. This situation, a deeply entrenched one, is in a "Christian" Hospital. Unfortunately, such a situation is not rare today, and is usually "politically" protected. This chaplain is in the midst of a truly terrible warfare. He sees what the helpless and the dying are treated to, and receives against himself the bitterest hatred, derision and persecution. He is called to be a witness in that place. Two other friends, active in a Diocese full of the same, find themselves having to stand alone, often on powerful committees, where sexual perversion is not only approved, but where there is continual lobbying for the ordination of priests who are involved in it (all of this in the face of rampant HIV positive and full-blown AIDS cases among homosexual clergy who are already ordained). Christians, like my friends above, precious brothers and sisters in Christ, are called to stand, and speak the truth in the power of the spirit in the midst of demonized warfare.
 
In these cases, as Dr. Richard Lovelace writes, one's authority in spiritual conflict takes
 
on a new significance which is much broader than individual defensive spiritual warfare. Not only can we expect to carry out offensive warfare which takes ground away from Satan in the exorcism of persons, we can also undertake, when we have liberty from God to do so, the exorcism of structures occupied by demonic forces--not only fallen structures in the church in the process of reformation and revival, but also fallen structures in society which are instruments of injustice [See Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, pp 384. See 381-386].
 
Practicing the Presence of The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth
 
When we find ourselves in the midst of decidedly unholy situations, indeed, ones that are rife with and energized by the lies and activities of demons, it is then that -- in God's Presence and power -- we stand. And it is wonderful, at all times, but especially in these hard moments, to reflect on the fact that the Holy Spirit, sent to us by Christ, is the Spirit of Truth.

In writing on the practice of the Presence of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I've perhaps said less in regard to specific special ways of practicing the Presence of the Spirit. But, increasingly, as in situations I've just mentioned, I find myself invoking the Holy Spirit, and praising Him as the Spirit of Truth. And this is what I find myself saying over and over again to precious beleaguered brethren, "Do you know that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth! Invoke His Presence! Speak His truth. It may not be accepted right now, but it will sit on the heads of these people until they acknowledge it." True enough, there will be some who will not be converted by what they hear, but one day, even they, as the Scriptures say, will bow the knee before God and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
 
What a wonderful and mysterious power truth is. How it sits atop the most resistant head, and darts into the darkest heart. That head and heart may not choose to act on the truth, or to acknowledge it, it may even repress it very deeply, but once truth is spoken, there is a place in the human heart that knows it has heard truth, and it will have to wrestle with it from then on. It is the truth, and Truth Himself, that changes people, and structures, and nations.
 
I have a young friend who gets mixed up on what it means to be a witness. She sometimes therefore finds herself trying to "change" people -- especially those she loves. We are not called to change people, to order or control their lives. We do not transgress their wills, or attempt to coerce them into personal conversions or changes. Rather, we are called to speak the truth, to be the truth, and the truth is what changes people.
 
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for sending us such a Comforter, such an Advocate, such a Counselor and Guide, such a Holy Spirit!  Come, Spirit of Truth, and move powerfully in and through us to the healing of Your World.
 
RECOMMENDED READING: Dynamics of Spiritual Life by Richard Lovelace, Ch. 4, the section entitled, "The Indwelling Holy Spirit," pp 119ft. This portion important, for Dr. Lovelace shows very clearly there the theological misunderstandings some Christians have in regard to the Third Person of the Trinity, those that would hamper them from such a practice of the Presence as I outline above.

Leanne
Reprinted with permission, copyright 1999-2013 by Pastoral Care Ministries, Inc.

Photo Credit:

The Baptism of Christ by Andrea del Verrocchio [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.