Friday, January 30, 2009

Feed Your Soul - Nehemiah 10

Matthew Henry’s Commentary says it all about Nehemiah 10;

When every one helps, and every one gives, though but little, toward a good work, the whole will come to be a large sum. We must do what we can in works of piety and charity; and whatever state we are placed in, cheerfully perform our duty to God, which will be the surest way to ease and liberty. As the ordinances of God are the appointed means of support to our souls, the believer will not grudge the expense; yet most people leave their souls to starve.

“yet most people leave their souls to starve.”

We pray at ANC to be generous….as a church we have set the tone for those who have been around even a little while. We don’t give crazily…we are good stewards to what God entrusts to ….but we give liberally.

As a recovering materialist, I have to admit, I am selfish. An area in my life I had to give God, is our finances…and to bring Him first fruit. Tithing isn’t as much about the money as it is…..OUR SOULS. Yet so many folks never feed their soul through this ordinance, this act of obedience and worship.

One of the coolest things about bringing ‘first fruit’ is you come to recognize that fruit as NOT YOURS. You learn to do without it. You manage your life around what’s left.

This is indicting…but oh well….I caught a little bit of Dr. Phil the other day (the whole show)…..and he had on one of these crazy families that were supporting their kids well into there 20’s. The kids had no responsibilities or jobs…and mom and dad were footing the bill. Mom and dad were in debt over $100,000 while the kids were driving around in cars, talking on cell phones and partying with friends.

They had to teach these 20 somethings that, if you don’t earn, you don’t need a car or a cell phone…you cant afford it. It’s a basic principle….but we fall victim to the same line of thinking. This is why people run up so much debt. They buy stuff they don’t need and can’t afford.

The last thing they showed them was a piggy bank. It wasn’t a normal piggy bank, it was divided into 4 sections. There are 4 things we can do with our money. Spend, Save, Invest and Donate. Most of us, and I’ll admit we don’t plan as well as we should….we just spend. We say we try to save…but this all takes planning and living within the money we make. We would also like to donate….it sounds good….but again takes planning, and a change in our hearts and minds.

Like these folks in Jerusalem, they all gave their portion…a relatively small amount…but when combined with others….the whole will become a large sum. At ANC, we celebrate the things we are doing in the community and the world, we bless people, we take care of needs, we do larger things as a whole…than any of us could do individually…..and that feeds our souls.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Leading With Love - Nehemiah 9 (kinda)

So I’m reading Nehemiah 9, this a.m. and I am thinking again as the passage reads;
3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day… again, like yesterday…this reverence for God’s word, this expectance of those who were ‘believers/followers’ and I think about another verse (totally unrelated) but I guess its what I have been thinking about this week.
1Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
And this thought struck me….why would we lead with anything but love? Why have I led with doctrine my whole life? Doctrine (the message of the cross) is foolishness to those perishing….the bible even says it.
As we talked about in Community Group last night….feeding the homeless a hot dog or a hamburger…is a loving thing to do….its a token from us to begin a conversation. A lot of these folks can find a free meal all over the downtown area…..maybe not quite as tasty as the burgers we serve up….but they can get nourished and filled.
But the token of love is so that we find out their greater needs. We may feed 400 to find out the needs of 3. But even then, it may be shelter, it may be medication, it may be assistance wading through the maze with governmental agencies, it may be a job, it may be a dress for an interview, it may be supplies for his/or work….and these needs we can meet. Still leading with love, meeting the needs…..and ultimately….God may whisper to that person….ask them why they do what they do.
I believe the easiest less messy thing to do is lead with doctrine. Most people are intolerant of folks cramming religion down their throat….they recoil, yet we’ve done our job, we’ve ‘planted the seed’ ….. now it’s up to someone else to cultivate (i.e. love and nurture). If we can take an example of farming a bit further. Their soooooo much work that must be done prior to planting the seed. Farmers till the fields, fertilize, herbicide, retill and pray for rain at the appropriate time…..even before the seed is planted. Much love and work go into the crop on the front end prior to the ‘seed being planted’.
On a time scale…way more time is spent in the fields before the crop is growing…and being harvested…than the actual time to reap. It’s just messier, it’s less glamorous and you don’t get to see the results.
Leading with love is tilling the fields, its priming the pump.

This is why Christ asked….”do you want to be healed” to those that didn’t know him…and reserved “who do you say that I am” for those who knew and followed him.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Respectful & Ready - Nehemiah 8

“As was custom in the Old Testament….let us stand for the reading of God’s word!” I always wondered where my old pastor used to get this from.

5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, "Amen! Amen!" Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

The word of God was due honor…and attention. As a servant would rise in respect to his master….he would also stand at the ready… case of instruction. This is why the people stood when Ezra opened the word of God.

We generally reserve worship for singing…these people worshipped at the reading of God’s word.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Higher Plane - Nehemiah 6

Many times the enemy uses friends and foes alike to distract us. How many times has a well-meaning person been a distraction from the work we know we are suppose to be doing?
Nehemiah’s example is to focus even more on the task at hand….and even call on God to strengthen his hands….so that he could do even more work.

I think something Nehemiah knew, that we should remember is that, when we get close to our goal….or whatever God has called us to do…the more “warfare” we will encounter. And it doesn’t always look like warfare either.
Sometimes it an email, veiled in concern, wrapped in gooey compliments…and then…. a divisive element.
My response all too often is knee-jerk, defensive …and sometimes offensive. We would be wise to follow Nehemiah’s response;
"I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?"

Something I just realized…that last sentence….why should I stop and go down to you….isn’t one of superiority…but in the instance of the email….one of a higher plane. Why should I stoop to the level that you are drawing me to. Conversely, we need to be careful NOT to be used to divide, or confuse, or quench the spirit.

I think Nehemiah’s discernment allowed to see the motives of those who would cause him harm, disguised as a meeting of the minds, and just allowed Nehemiah more resolve and focus.
Holy Father, give us wisdom and discernment. Reveal your plans to us and give us supernatural insight into those who may distract or cause us to stumble.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Above Reproach - Nehemiah 5

Sometimes in order to lead, sacrifices must be made. Nehemiah made a point to never use his position and office as one to take advantage. Especially in this difficult time, when his people were working so hard, and doing without….he made sure that;
- I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor.
- we did not acquire any land.
- I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.
I was reminded of an article I read last week about the inauguration. The cost of all the balls and galas totally over $150 million dollars, and in this time of economic crisis and people are hurting….The President could have really made an impact with what he didn’t do…or what he refrained from. According to the article…there were some cut and some things that were cancelled, but this Inauguration was the most expensive by far. Honestly, I’m sure the next one will be too.
But President Obama missed an opportunity to put his money where his mouth was. In light of our current economy and as a proponent to the poor and middle class….it would have made a lot of sense to under sell the Inauguration pomp and circumstance. Just so you know…I’m sure McCain would have done the same thing.
In this way Nehemiah’s motives were never questioned. I think this is a great lesson for believers and leaders. We walk a fine line anyway….but this is a way to live above reproach.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

From that Day On – Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah 4:16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall.

When the Lord is up to something, Satan is there with the attacks. We should not be surprised when faced with an attack….we should question if we are doing the will of God if there are NO attacks.

“From that day on” 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!"
“From that day on” 21 we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out.
“From that day on” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Nehemiah’s awareness, leadership and ability to encourage and communicate clearly, turned back the enemy. This story shows me the importance of prayer. To remained focused on God, to allow his to show us the enemy and give us clarity and vision.

We went to a PlantR meeting the other day, and Rob Campbell, the pastor Cypress Creek in WImberly was the speaker. He told us the number one need of a church….is intercessory prayer. And he basically said that I don’t have that gift, but someone in the body does…and we should pray for God to raise them up.

God, I pray right now that you raise up someone at ANC to pray over us. I pray they will come before you on our behalf all the time…and that you will hear their prayers. God give us wisdom in dealing with and looking for the enemy. Make us aware of him and his ‘doings’…..From this day on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pearl of Great Price - Nehemiah 3

Nehemiah 3:1 Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place…
32 and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs.

The Sheep Gate was a very significant gate. It was the gate that opened up to the market where the sacrificial lambs and sheep were bought, and then brought into the city.

Sacrificial lambs were ‘born to die’. I was thinking about this the other day, as we were about to have church service at Akins. Four girls walked up with their 3 sheep and 1 goat. The girls bought these animals when they were babies and raised them with a specific purpose in mind…..the livestock show. It is a show in the spring where livestock that 4-H members take their sheep, goats, chickens and hogs…and sell them at auction for money to use for college. Usually some big business leaders in town (who previously took part in 4-H as a kid) participate and drive up the prices so that the money brought in, becomes like a college scholarship. Much like the purpose these animals have, the sacrificial lambs in the market were born and raised with the specific purpose of becoming a sacrifice. The more ‘perfect’ (without blemish) the animal….. the higher the price. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, we know was without sin.....and was the “Pearl of Greatest Price”.

The Sheep Gate was the first gate that was rebuilt because of its importance, and so important that the Priests were the ones who rebuilt it. I don’t know, because it wasn’t mentioned….but I would assume that they had some pretty specific ‘specs’ that they wanted to make sure the gate was built to.

Ultimately, for believers, the Sheep Gate represents Jesus and salvation through his sacrifice. We’ll remember that in John 10, Jesus referred to himself as the gate. Much like the shepherd would lay down in the gap in the fence, to become the gate, Jesus came lay down his life for us.

Sheep Gate also led to Golgotha, really completing the picture of the sacrificial lamb being led to its purpose. I also noted that the significance in this chapter that it was the first gate (v. 1) mentioned and the last (v.32). Much like Christ is the Alpha and the Omega…the beginning and the end.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On the Fly - Nehemiah 2

Nehemiah 2:4 The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven _____________

I had a pastor one time, always talk about praying on the fly, off the cuff…and what he was talking about were minutes just like this….when you are being questioned, sharing your faith, or just generally in a pinch.

Nehemiah, needless to say, walked into this situation as the kings cup bearer (to do his job)….but God used the situation (Nehemiah’s countenance) to open a dialogue with the king. I don’t think Nehemiah was prepared….I don’t think he had ever rehearsed what he might say to the king….and this was probably very ‘out of character’ for a king.

So ‘on the fly’ Nehemiah prayed…I don’t think it was an Our Father type prayer… I would guess it would have been something short and sweet like;
God give me your wisdom and the kings influence to bring you glory…Amen.

As it turned out, God spoke through Nehemiah and the king blessed Nehemiah and gave him literally full reign to do what the Lord was calling him to do. We are faced daily with opportunities to bless people, share our lives with people and share our faith. I believe we should always we praying and looking for these opportunities and when they come……pray ‘on the fly’.

Monday, January 19, 2009

God Moves Us - Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah 1:3-4 The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire." When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
God uses events to break our hearts and move us. Nehemiah is being moved by God not only to finish a project….but according to some commentaries I was reading….but God, from the beginning, had set His plan of redemption into motion, and Nehemiah was playing his part.
Nehemiah was living the good life. He had trusted people under him that basically did his job for him. As a cupbearer, you are to taste the cup of the make sure it isnt poisoned. But as cupbearer to the basically lived like the king...he was a trusted companion. Nehemiah had all the reason in the world to NOT listen and NOT care about the news he heard about Jerusalem.....yet God broke his heart.
Apparently, 100 years prior to Nehemiah, Daniel had prophesied about the coming of Christ, the Messiah. According to Daniel, Christ would come 483 years after the decree was issued to rebuild the wall. We could do the math, but the commentary I read, stated that it was exactly 483 years between the time Artaxerxes issued the decree and when Christ came into Jerusalem on the donkey, 5 days before his crucifixion.
Think about this now….Satan knows about the wall, he also knows about Daniels prophecy, and he knows about God's plan of redemption through Christ.….so we are about to see some MAJOR spiritual warfare going on.
I think about our own journey to ANC. How God used events and people to break Brandon and Jen’s hearts for the poor, the marginalized and the hurting. Then he used certain people and events in their previous church to move them out. Not only out of the church they were serving in....but out of their comfort zones. It would have been a much simpler process to plant a similar church to where they had been. Similar in style, similar demographic as where they had come from....but God wasn't really interested in simpler...
When I began praying about moving to Austin, God had been working on me for years….and even though it wasn’t an easy decision to leave…it was a fairly overwhelming sense that He was moving us out as well.
Its been amazing to see what God at ANC in the past 9 months. Not only as a church, but in the communities, among our partners, the influence God has given us and especially how God continues to break our hearts for those he originally he called us to minister to.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Boast in Cinnamon - Psalm 20

Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

The strongest of the strong armies had horses and chariots. It was how your measure the strength and proficiency of the army. They were the most advanced weapon of war and when you had victory over another army….you got to keep their chariots. So amassing chariots was one way to keep score. You were not only saying that you were wealthy….but also saying that when we fight…..we win.

This verse (NIV) says trust….but other translations say boast. The Message translation says that some are polishing their chariots and grooming their horses. This reminds me of when I was a teenager…and I would spend hours and hours waxing my car and polishing the wheels and Armor Alling the inside of car and the tires……to showcase what was important to me.

We spent about 30 minutes last night in worship (at the FMC conference) just thanking the Lord for what he has done for us…..not just the obvious (family, health and salvation)….but the obscure. One guy thanked God for cinnamon and chocolate and coffee…… and in that time some of us laughed. But he seriously wanted us to remember to take pleasure in the little things. That God created them.....for our pleasure.

God, I pray that all my boasts are now in you, the giver of all good things.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oxymoronic - Psalm 17

Psalm 17 :1 Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer- it does not rise from deceitful lips. 2 May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. 3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.

In the previous Psalm, David is broken….knows that apart from God…he has nothing at all to offer good. But in this Psalm, David still knows the source of strength….yet holds himself to right living and good character.

Think about the sins that men most often succumb to;
Lust of the eyes
Deceitful talk or slander
Impure hearts or motives.
There may be others, but these are the biggies, and they are spoken about in the first three verses of Psalm 17. And I think that even as we lay in our beds at night, that when we pray (this is true for me) ….there are things that went on during the day, that we need forgiveness for. But David here….is saying…. Search me, probe the depths of my heart and examine me. Bold!

In Leviticus….God tells Moses to tell the Israelites, “be holy, because I am holy.” Our Holy creator, knows that we cannot achieve holiness, but He calls us to strive for holiness. In Moses time, he had just introduced the law…the Israelites lived under the law. Now, in Christ, we are now made holy.

How we go about holiness depends on our journey….
Freedom vs. Legalism-
I know that God knows my heart…but what I cant always count for is for others to know my heart.
There are both positive and negative things that a legalistic mindset produce. Likewise…freedom in my opinion, must be exercised with caution as well.
There is a balance, probably most people are legalistic early in their faith, or when they’ve been brought back ‘into right relationship”. Usually, if this is the case, there have been some deep dark transgressions, and the best way to overcome them…is through abstinence…and legalistic abstinence may be the most effective. Sometimes though, legalists never get beyond that and or to experience freedom.
Those exercising freedom, must always (in my opinion) temper freedom with the weakest among them in mind. So then, are we truly free?
Its been taught that children experience the most freedom, when they are given boundaries. Children with no boundaries typically become a mess. We likewise must temper our freedom, and use sometimes “legalistic” guidelines. I mean if we were totally free…..laws wouldn’t apply….but they do.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Goodness - Psalm 16

Psalm 16:2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing."

I think here is where secularists and Christians part ways. You will have to forgive me for just copying and pasting….but I found this wikipedia…and I, of course can’t put it any more succinctly.

The doctrine of total depravity asserts that people are by nature not inclined to love God wholly with heart, mind, and strength, as God requires, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God.

This also means that even the good which a person may intend is faulty in its premise, false in its motive, and weak in its implementation; and there is no mere refinement of natural capacities that can correct this condition. Thus, even acts of generosity and altruism are in fact egoist acts in disguise.

Take for example, Oprah Winfrey. I can’t think of a more visible, giving person to use…and I am not the true judge in this instance…but just using her for an example. But her ‘selfless’ giving has done nothing to her monetary value, but increase it. I hate questioning motives…but she has increased her net wealth by arranging to give of her empire. I’m more likely to believe that she leverages her position to use influence on folks to give stuff away in her name. Which would tend to make me believe that her actions are more about her empire than those receiving the gifts….which, still a nice by-product, isn’t cause to claim ‘goodness’.

Matthew quoted a scripture last night, as he was leading us in communion…., ”All of our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” These two scripture confirm for me that I cannot do enough good stuff…I cannot earn the grace I’ve been offered and that we must ‘tap into’ the goodness of Christ….so that his love can be poured out through us.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Stripped- Psalm 14

Psalm 14: 1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."

I dunno, I was thinking this morning. The bible says the foolish believe there Is no God, and the atheists say to believe in God is foolish….you wonder why there are so may people who just wanna fly below the radar.

Honestly, there aren’t THAT many vocal atheists. Most Christian’s too, by their own admission would tend to be less outspoken. So I just wonder if the apathy and the silence is due to just ….self-preservation. I don’t want to be/appear foolish so therefore I’ll remain silent.


Remember just a few short weeks ago we read….

2 Samuel 6:22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.

David would dance and leap for the Lord in a manner reserved for fools.

Last night in community group, we talked about the posture of humility. It might all do us some good to wash some feet…to get us in that pride-less posture before those we serve.

God, strip me of my pride (gently) so that I might relate to, find commonality with and be better equipped to serve those you have called us to serve.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Allowing that "Say" - Psalm 13

As the comedian Steve Martin once said….”A day without sunshine, is like……night!”

In the Psalms and now specifically in Psalm 13, David is obviously use to a dialogue with God. And at this point, for some reason, God is remaining silent.
David recognizes his ray of light, his source of strength, his abiding love and source of hope are in God alone. David submits himself to God….and in turn God provides life.
I think about Donald Trump, Lance Armstrong, Hugh Heffner, and Oprah Winfrey….they wake up in the morning and piss excellence….yet at the end of their day, THEY do not submit to anyone. When they lay their pillow at night, they do not thank God for the day, the wealth, the good fortune or the very breath that keeps them alive….they believe that THEY are their own source of life, THEY are the provider of all good things.
I find it fascinating that David…who’s wealth and fame far surpasses all these people combined, remained so humble, grounded and faithful.
In the book I am currently reading (The Reason for God, Keller) , there is a line in that states:
“You cannot enter into a deep relationship and still make unilateral decisions or allow your friend or lover no say in how you live your life.”
And it is THAT giving up the “say” in how you live your life that threatens so many people.
David was in that sort of relationship…and therefore he was ‘out of sorts’ when the Lord remained silent….he yearned for that direction, that correction, that connection and the overall sense of guidance that the Lord provided.

Monday, January 05, 2009

oh behave.... -Psalm 11

Psalm 11 gave me great comfort this morning. When so much of the world is in chaos, I was reminded this morning that we aren’t called to retreat into our homes, to the mountains or a cave. We are still called to GO. God is still in control, He is still sovereign and the world will not overcome Him…. The earth (this world) is God’s footstool, His Creation.

4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them.

I believe as Christians, it is important that we know this….which I believe we all do, but more importantly, I believe we are called to ACT like we believe this.

As 1999 came to a close, Christians were losing their minds. Computers were going to go haywire, the economy would shut down, you couldn’t get money out of the banks….why because the computers were going to freeze up. Supposedly programmers in the 60’s and 70’s never allowed for the change to the year 2000, thereby creating a year 00 that would have been thought it was 1900….and this would freeze them up.
You heard that programmers were being hired to solve the “crisis” worldwide, but no one knew how widespread the failures would be.
So Christians everywhere latched on to this as an “End Times” catastrophe. A noted Christian author, Steve Farrar who had previously written “Point Man” a staple in Christian books, now wrote “Spiritual Survival During the Y2K Crisis”. My pastor at the time, had Steve come speak to our church (I think he paid him $10,000 for this privilege) … a service to the Christian community. It was then, that I realized that this guy was a kook. And that he better be correct, or he would lose a lot of credibility.
The description of his book read;
Are you prepared for Millennium Meltdown? Best selling author Steve Farrar attacks the issue with candor and reason. And most important, he examines Y2K through the lens of Biblical truth. Without God's perspective and the practical answers of Scripture, you will be ill-equipped to handle the pressing questions of the coming crisis. If you want to avoid the fear, confusion, and panic surrounding Y2K, Steve Farrar will help you discover a biblical and practical plan for your family.
We had families in our church, hording gasoline, dry goods, weapons, ammunition, water, livestock, generators in an undisclosed location. Now its one thing to be prepared, but these folks are still eating Y2K beans.
Well, we all know what happened, nothing. And like I thought, Steve Farrar took a hit. He actually is still writing books, but his website, is void of any mention of the Y2K book. Good call Steve.
So as I look back at that crazy time, I’m reminded of our own, with the finacial markets a mess, housing in shambles, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, even a black democrat taking the office of President of the United States (I would venture to guess the same Y2K kooks are up in arms about this crisis too) ….God still knows what he is doing, He is still on His throne, and His plan is still in the works. Let’s act like it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

True Refuge - Psalm 9

Psalm 9:9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Oppression is the use of power to disempower, marginalize, silence or otherwise subordinate one social group or category, often in order to further empower and/or privilege the oppressor.
Psalm 62:3-4 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

I was watching on the news this morning, and this Michael Newdow, an attorney and noted atheist is wanting to remove the “so help me God” from the presidential inauguration. My first thought was….this is an ‘attack’ on Christianity at it’s core. At it’s core? Really? How myopic is that? That removing some ‘words’ from an inaugural address, is some sort of attack. Don’t get me wrong, I’d hate to see it happen. But we think an awful lot of us and our culture. Our economy, our president, our ‘way of life’, our media, our religious freedom....dont really amount to much globally or even in God’s economy. Meanwhile, the church is exploding in areas where oppression is at it’s highest.

Then I think of the countless numbers of churches in Asia, being persecuted….people jailed for their beliefs and those who face being cut off from their families because of their stances. I think of my friend Mari, who is going as a missionary to Northern Africa…and she has to writes letters and emails asking for pryer, or asking the L for guidance, or praise the name of J.

We say we are so blessed to be in this country where we aren’t persecuted….where we have freedoms….where it isn’t a crime to worship the Lord with other believers. Really? Why is it then….does Matt Thomas (and other missionaries) want so badly to get back to places where religious freedom doesn’t exist? Do you possibly think the real blessing comes from finding refuge in Christ alone?