Yesterday, we began our Lenten series, Impoverished, with the challenge to change the way we see the world so that we can join the Father in changing the world we see.
In my message, I shared how privileged I was to go to a presentation by Door International, a ministry with a mission to reach the world’s deaf with the Hope and Life of Jesus. There are seventy million deaf people in the world and yet only 2% of the deaf community know Jesus. There are over four hundred deaf languages in the world and yet only twenty of these have the Scriptures in their own language.
On Monday morning, I saw the world one way but by Monday afternoon, thanks to Door International, that had changed.
Yesterday, as I saw Barb signing for the deaf community, I didn’t see a ministry for the hearing impaired as I had in previous weeks. As a consequence of the Door International presentation, I now see that we don’t need a deaf ministry as much as we need deaf ministers; people who will take the Gospel to a people group who are unreached and unengaged.
I thought I understood so much about being deaf – I wear a hearing aid in my right ear – yet my perspective was inadequate. I came to see myself as impoverished. There was something I lacked.
Some may object to my use of the word, ‘impoverished’ to describe my experience because the term best describes abject material poverty. While that is true, it is possible to be materially wealthy and yet spiritually impoverished. This is the meaning of the story found in Matthew 19. Here was a rich young man who possessed so much and understood a great deal but came to Jesus because he knew something was missing. When Jesus reminds him of the great commandment, the rich young ruler responds with these words: “All these I have kept … What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20).
The word for ‘lack’ means to fall short and suffer need. The same word is translated in Luke 15:14 as ‘impoverished.’ This young ruler was wealthy yet impoverished.
On Monday I recognized the impoverished, incomplete way I viewed one part of God’s work in the world. My experience on Monday left me thankful for Open Door’s commitment to put God’s Word into the languages of unreached and unengaged people groups. My experience also brought me to the heart of the challenge we are putting before our church over the course of our Impoverished series. A challenge to see the world as God does. The world is broken. God has a plan and we are part of the solution.
Our desire in this series is not to teach but to reveal. In other words, we want this Lenten series to be experiential. To that end, we are inviting our faith family to join us in a number of things designed to challenge our perception of the world. We’ll begin with a seven-day subsistence diet fast that we are calling, “The Rice and Beans Challenge.”
Beginning from next Monday, March 13, we are asking each family to eat only of Rice and Beans for a total of 7 days. This could be every meal for 7 days straight, 4-5 meals a week for all 5 weeks of the series, or maybe 1 meal a day for 21 days. We aren’t going to dictate how this looks. Every family, every household, every life is different. Some have business dinners you can’t miss while others may have personal challenges or health issues to which they need to be sensitive. The key thing is that whatever is a true challenge for you or your family commit to that.
As you go through the challenge we will provide you with a seven-day devotional. As we combine the two, subsistence-diet fast and the devotional, we are convinced that there’ll come a moment where we’ll experience God, the brokenness of the world, our lack, and God’s plan to use us in a fresh new way.
This coming Sunday, March 12, we’ll turn to the Old Testament text of Isaiah 58. We turn there to prepare our hearts for the subsistence diet that awaits us in the days ahead. It is possible that the days of our subsistence diet will drag slowly, but it is what we would call “a fast.” Fasting can be expressed in various ways, but in general, it is a decision to go without something that we depend on – usually food – in order to reinforce our dependence on God.
Next Sunday we’ll also distribute the rice and bean starter pack and the seven-day devotional. In your program’s there will also be a card that challenges us to be willing to “eat less and give life.” On March 26, we are asking our faith family to be willing to invest the money they save by eating less in an over and above offering towards missions.
We do all this because our world is broken and the needs are great. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God has both a plan and a people to carry it out His redemptive work. The good news is that God is on the move through His church. We’re thrilled to be a part, however small, in God’s plan for the world and pray that through this series God will set us right as He continues His putting right project in the world.