R.A.M.’s mission is to evangelize and revitalize the rural communities of America by sharing the truth and grace of Jesus Christ through His word and compassionate action.
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” – Jesus
In other words, how we “see things” is paramount. Perspective is everything indeed! Why is that so, according to Jesus? Because if your perspective is skewed or compromised to begin with you can’t expect your conclusions that follow to be any less skewed or compromised. Uncorrected vision only leads to more pitfalls and error.
Paradigm is another way of saying picture or pattern. For many Christians associated with the Restoration Movement the word pattern resonates. For some it has a sweet ring to it; for others it is a grating in the ears. Regardless, whether we use the word pattern or paradigm it is important, critically important, light and darkness important, that we focus correctly and see things as God sees them.
Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months and then the harvest?’ Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for the harvest.” What an “eye opening” statement! Jesus contrasts two perspectives, two ways of seeing things, man’s and God’s. Man’s is skewed, compromised and darkened. God’s is clear, accurate and full of light. When we who claim to be Christians fail to see things as Jesus does we are filling our world with darkness rather than illuminating it with the truth. This must stop. It’s long overdue in American Christianity to see things differently. One perspective that is beginning to see some light of day is framed in the following question: Am I a Christ-follower or a Church-goer? There’s a big difference between the two. One is darkened to the truth of Scripture; the other blazes with the light of truth. They are entirely different paradigms. They embody and reproduce distinctly different patterns and outcomes. Which are you?
To help us get a clearer perspective of where we stand in light of the question and the truth, consider the following comparisons. (And if the brightness of the truth is at first slightly blinding, don’t panic. Give it a minute to sink in and try correcting your step accordingly. You’ll find as you walk in the truth your eyes will adjust to the light and the darkness will fade away.)
Am I a Christ-follower or a Church-goer?
Christ-followers are relationship oriented (towards God & others) – John 13:34-35; John 14:23; John 17:3. Church-goers are attendance oriented.
Christ-followers are always learning something new – Philippians 3:12-15. Church-goers try to remember what they’ve already learned.
Christ-followers read their bibles looking for Jesus with an eagerness to imitate and a readiness to obey – John 5:39-40; John 8:31-32; Acts 17:11. Church-goers might read their bibles.
Following Christ is non-negotiable – Luke 14:31-34. Going to church is optional.
Following Christ is daily – Luke 9:23. Going to church is weekly, monthly, annually or on an “as needed” basis.
Christ-followers are inclusive – Matthew 28:19-20; Galatians 3:28. Church-goers can be exclusive (white church, black church, my church, your church).
Christ followers are transformed by the Holy Spirit into the likeness of Jesus – II Corinthians 3:17-18. Church goers are informed about what their church believes.
Christ followers embrace change because it is the path to the Kingdom – Matthew 18:3. Church-goers fear it because they’ve never done it that way before.
Christ followers pray like they breathe, continually – I Thessalonians 5:16-18. Church goers pray at the appointed times: at services, during emergencies and sometimes before meals.
Christ followers grow up to serve – Ephesians 4:11-16. Church goers show up for services.
Note: All Scripture references from the Bible. All other references from I & II Opinions.
Is this all?
Nothing to follow the last tear to fall?
From dust we are to dust returned
Perhaps at least a lesson learned?
So hard to grasp when left to hold
Just lifeless bodies stiff and cold.
No beating heart, no clear bright eyes
No breath, no laugh, no gentle sighs.
All sound and motion, silenced, stilled
And where we were a void has filled.
Displacing us with emptiness
Erasing us with nothingness.
Or is this wrong, as right is right
And something more eludes our sight
That which was dust shall rise again
Freed from death the fruit of sin
Corrupt no more but glorified
Raised to live because You died.
Rural missions brings people into your life that show you the face of God in some of the most unsuspecting, yet profound ways. Walter Owen is one of those people. I met Walter a few years ago when RAM started ministering in the community of Carnegie, OK (pop 1700). He will be 89 years old this year. He is barely five feet tall and I doubt that he weighs a hundred pounds. But he is a giant of a man.
Don’t be fooled by what your eyes tell you. Spend a few hours with Walter and your heart will tell you something largely different! Walter is a living example of the paradoxical reality of the “unseen.” He has one of the kindest, gentlest spirits I have ever known infused with a strength and tenacity men twice his size could not match. His 89 years have included living through the Great Depression. (He told me of his childhood, growing up in a house with no insulation, the walls and windows fissured with cracks that let the cold winter winds whistle through while he and his family huddled near the single stove to keep warm.) He made his living through the back-breaking work of farming and ranching, adopted and raised three children, loved and remained faithful to one woman for 50+ years including caring for her through sickness and until her death. He has endured his own health issues from diabetes to heart problems; and rarely mentions them. His life has been a composition of sweet memories and hard disappointments. Even recently his home was burglarized, the thieves stealing several irreplaceable personal possessions. They robbed him of the visible and material, but they could not steal what they could not see. They could not steal the heart of this giant of a man.
I asked him this week about his health and he told me he doesn’t have as much energy as he used to, but he can still see good enough to read. And read he has! He informed me he’s already read through the NT approximately 10 times this year! But Walter doesn’t just read his bible. Through the years he has shared his faith on many occasions with friends and neighbors. Many of them he has brought to the same Jesus he loves. The love I see in Walter is none other than the power of the Holy Spirit at work in Walter’s small frame. It is this presence of God that transforms him into a giant of a man.
I told Walter this week that dynamite comes in small packages. He replied, “This one ain’t got no fuse.” I laughed and admired the humor and humility of this giant of a man. One other thing he told me, shortly before I left his house yesterday. He said he was looking forward to dying. It wasn’t said with despair. There was a longing in his eyes as he went on to describe what he meant, “No more pain. No more tears. No more sin.” It was the longing of a giant of a man. A man whose heart and soul have become too big for death to constrain. When I grow up, I want to be like Walter Owen.
” Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – II Corinthians 4:16-19