Mike Arndt, raising his hand …….
In my early grades at a Catholic elementary school in Long Beach, California, I went to the weekly Catholic mass. I would sit in the pew looking about, standing, sitting, kneeling on queue. Then the homily or the sermon would come while we sat looking up to the elevated pulpit. In this church, St. Barnabas, there was a Scripture in large letters above the pulpit—a reminder. It was quoted from James 1:22 “Be you doers of the Word and not hearers only.” In that early age, I, like a child lost at sea, did not know what it really meant. All these decades later, that Scripture has stayed with me, and…I think…maybe I am getting it. And like that Bible verse, I have discovered that what we learn along the way—to our surprise—comes out later.
Two weeks ago Kalyn and I were in Beirut visiting Mare and Drew and our 3 glorious grandchildren. They and their team have been reaching out to the Lebanese people and the Syrian refugees for several years. Their team is passionate in their desire to see Jesus become established in many broken lives. With first hand knowledge, we know that Jesus changes desires, brings favor, creates opportunity, heals hearts, and gives new direction. While in Lebanon, we had the opportunity to visit those hurting families that Mare and Drew have been sowing into in the Syrian camps.
In Lebanon, like Africa, the ideal for mission-minded folks is to find someone who is hungry for the truth in Jesus, someone who is ready for a dramatic life-change that will brings risks, and hopefully someone who has a desire to impact his family, friends and neighbors. Drew and Mary and their team have been reaching out to the needy in Lebanon.
Sitting with Mahmoud, with his wife and children in their canvas tent in the makeshift refugee camp in the Becha Valley, here I was, once again, stepping into a foreign culture with truth for every man. But our visit was neither random nor an accident. We knew. We had been here before, but in different settings and with different faces. And as before, we “felt” our hearts in play. I listened as Drew translated Arabic. Mahmoud was a successful entrepreneur with 25 employees before the Syrian revolution. Because of his success, he was targeted and captured. Escaping, he had to leave home and everything behind, as he fled with his family across the border to Lebanon. Sitting with Drew & Mary, Kalyn, and the kids, we listened to the journey of his heart. As I listened and Drew translated, I thought, “His home, his city has been destroyed; his livelihood gone; his living circumstances radically, unexpectedly altered. Though their crisis is one of millions facing this horrible plight, our paths had now crossed. We were sitting with them. It was now personal Why was I hearing this story? What could I possibly do to help? Again, we had been in this situation before and we had processed these questions before, so our confidence and faith was up.
Because of our experience, we also knew that it was no accident we were there. We understood that we were representing the King who sends His ambassadors to speak into situations to bring hope, alter vision, and breathe life. As I listened I heard a seeking man, asking questions, intrigued with the Scriptures, wanting meaning and purpose to wrap around all that He had suffered and lost. He took his time explaining in Arabic to Drew engaging questions about the Scriptures—and their importance to him. He was wrestling with Kingdom things.
We listened and discerned. After hearing his struggles and discoveries, from this kind of experience, I knew that it was time to step up, to speak up and deliver words that have life. I carefully reminded him of the chosen ones in the Old Testament—Abraham, Daniel, Joseph, Moses, and others who had ended up in foreign lands through troubling and dramatic circumstances. From our experience we have witnessed how words can explode into revelation in the Father’s timing. So it looked like words, but the power of Jesus does something to words. Words have power. Words to hopefully create vision for his new season, words to create a picture of sustainable hope, “that he would be an elder at the city gates where many would come for his wisdom.” I felt a heart connect with him. Our intention was to bless and bless. Towards the end of our time, he sent someone to purchase 2 chickens and other food items in order to bless us. The power of a blessing.
The Syrian hospitality in their obvious needs humbles us. But the right thing to do—is to receive with gratefulness and thanksgiving. And then literally pray specific blessing into their lives. It was no accident that we were there. We know that the Lord is moving in their hearts in bigger ways than what we can measure. It was obvious how much they enjoy and love Mare and Drew and their kids. Sharing the hope of the life-changing Jesus only comes through genuine relationship. Meeting Jesus is not suppose to be a quick fix; transformation is a metamorphosis. It takes time, “line upon line, precept upon precept,” as new desires and new identity form and take shape.
Having been here before, receiving sacrificial blessings in tangible form from the Syrians moved me to give what I was able to give: praying in a specific blessing. This is an important opportunity that we have learned. If I have nothing to give I should not be bothering them. We represent the King. We are to give and bless them in their needs. Often we pray for safety where there is danger, or financial provision where there is lack, or peace in the family where there is conflict. We have heard the testimonies of these kinds of prayers. We pray specifically so they can see the Father’s hand in their lives. We give something essential for their sustainable lives, and in so doing, point them to the power of Jesus.
Two months ago I was invited to speak to a group of struggling Africans who had been taking a course on “job readiness.” It is a program to teach what is important in terms of being an outstanding employee—positive attitude, work ethic, teachability, and other values. They wanted me to speak about the hope and vision of the gospel to these unemployed Africans looking for a better opportunity. I had spoken many times about “job readiness” in the States, but this time I asked the Lord for His Word in this season for these needy Africans.
I felt that the Lord wanted me to speak about how “words have power,” “the power of being a blessing.” In a culture of serious needs it is easy to focus on want and need. I shared how we are called to be givers, blessers in our circle of relationships. And that we can only do that as we align our hearts and minds to that of Jesus because He is the source of blessing and giving. He gives us truth, wisdom, and grace to give away. Life-changing truths. We are to be pro-active with our words. I kept using the phrase “words have power.” When the session was over, I did not realize the implication of what I was saying to this particular African group. In their culture it is a supernatural culture where curses can predominate. Often it is a “scolding culture,” “a culture that verbally beats up” those around them—their children, their relatives, and their neighbors with words that tear down. I inadvertently was challenging them to stop the generational line of curses toward those who do not agree with them, but to speak life. It surprised me when one of the group came up and repented and asked God to forgive her for the way she had been speaking to her children that morning. Words have power. And she decided to change, to be a carrier of a blessing and see the lives that she cares for change around her.
During family life in our home in Tulsa on 54th street, we discovered a fresh opportunity to change thinking and emotions. On a given night, with our 5 kids around the dinner table, we would say, “Tonight let’s each one of us say what they really appreciate about mom.” On another night we would choose one of the kids. Then we would go around the table with each one of us blessing the targeted family member for that night. It was refreshing and life-giving word of affirmation. It required us to stop, reflect, then articulate what was unique and powerful in our family member. In retrospect I see how words have power. And what I learned at the family table, over the decades, I have been using in Africa. Words have power. Words with the Spirit of Jesus in them create vision, bring hope, change desires, lift up, refresh, and motivate. He calls us to be ready to step up, speak out as He is the Word of Life.
In His Life,
mike and kalyn
Father, (this is Rob) Help us to see the power of life is in us in-Christ and how this transforms everything. Help us to reassess what we have perceived to be real in the light of resurrection-reality. Until we are animated by your life, may we be silent. As we walk in your spirit may we raise our hands – giving voice to our personal reports of Your Life within us, among us. Let this be.