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.
“We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.” -Tertullian
Through its infancy, from Pentecost to Constantine, the church endured the flame and sword. Instead of decimating Christ’s bride, she flourished. God purified His saints through their suffering, and as Tertullian poetically stated, multiplied their number with their blood. From the darkness Christ’s disciples rose with such persuasive and indestructible power that even their persecutors were convinced and converted. The bride of Christ was beautiful and the world took notice.
Today in America it appears that Christ has been jilted by His bride. She has been seduced by wealth and comfort and her greater desire is for the protection of these false lovers than for the joy of her Beloved. Secluding herself behind the walls of her buildings, she has exchanged her true and vibrant identity for lifeless brick and mortar and made herself undesirable to the lost and spiritually lonely. She, who as the bride of God Incarnate and recipient of heaven’s tender affections could move the world to equally yield to Christ’s advances has lost her relevance in an increasingly godless society. She has become more an institution and protector of religious dogma than the catalyst of spiritual and moral revolution. Fortunately for the church and the rest of humanity, God is not done with His wayward bride in America. No different than the early days of their romance, He is devoted to her good and intent on her purification. Unlike the first three centuries, instead of persecution, could it be that today He is using the increasing godlessness of our society to provide the cleansing His church most desperately needs? How is this?
Attending services or reciting verses makes not a single disciple of Jesus. Cloistered members cannot salt or illuminate a world rotting and darkened by sin. Churches that define themselves by anything less than a devotion to obedient discipleship to Christ risk the road to extinction. Only churches whose leaders restore the church’s mission of making and maturing disciples of Jesus will embody the redemptive power of Christ’s death and resurrection so desperately needed this hour in America. Those churches that will dare to wade into the muck because they have resolved to remain at the foot of the cross will again become the beautiful bride of Christ to an increasingly godless generation. Instead of losing their relevance, these churches will find it. Instead of extinction, these churches will flourish as they become vessels of living water poured out to the barren souls surrounding them.
Persecution will always be an instrument of purification for the church, and is likely coming to Christ’s bride in America. Until then, it appears that the purification has begun with a call to obedient discipleship rather than attending and reciting because nothing short of it will cause godless America to take notice and embrace her beauty.
OpportUNITY. When the body of Christ unites as one, God provides opportunities for His body to be Christ to the world. Jesus said that our unity as His disciples would be proof to the world that He is our Messiah and Savior. So when the body of Christ comes together as one it makes perfect sense that God will give His body endless opportunities to reflect His glory and story to the world He died for to save.
He certainly did this for our team of students this summer! Our students came from a diversity of universities, states, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They brought with them life experiences that each contributed a wealth of insight and perspectives that were not all the same. BUT, what united all of this diversity was their unity under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The divisions that began to creep into the church at Corinth were rooted in a shift of focus from Jesus Christ to men. Paul mentions Christ by name 10 times in the first 10 verses of the opening chapter of I Corinthians. He concludes this powerful repetition with verse 10: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” In light of the context, what would that “same mind” and “same judgment” be but that Jesus Christ is Lord?
Every one of our students this summer united under that confession. Every one of our students were devoted disciples of Jesus. Intent on following in His steps and keeping in step with His Spirit, God brought them opportunity after opportunity to share His truth and grace with others. Not only did they share this truth and grace with others, but they discovered more of it themselves. That discovery was the result of their own humility and desire to continue growing in their personal discipleship. Their shared discipleship to Jesus as Lord brought them through their differences and presented them as one body of Christ to the rural communities they served. Each of them, on bended knee at the foot of Christ and His cross, gave undeniable proof of the truth and power of that cross, and the One who died on it for the salvation of us all.
I cannot adequately express my gratitude to Christ for allowing me to witness the power of His gospel in the unity of our students this summer. I pray that this same unity will prevail throughout the body of Christ, so that the world will believe He is Lord and Savior, and we are the answer to His prayer!
Last week in less than 5 hours we got 8 inches of rain in Newcastle! 8 inches! And the fact is, it wasn’t the first drenching we’ve had this year. God has been dropping the moisture on us for a while now. There’s more coming this week. Walking across my yard is like walking on a wet sponge. Squishy. For me, all this rain is a picture of what “full” looks like. I am struck by the power of John’s description of Jesus in contrast to Moses in the first chapter of his gospel as he introduces Jesus in such powerful, soul-piercing, illuminating statements starting with, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God “ to “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” to the climactic statement, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Like rolling thunder, John delivers Almighty God from the holy sanctum of heaven’s throne room and His filling the boundless universe, into our godless, fallen world to awaken and deliver us from our captivity to sin and corruption. Moses preceded our great introduction and awakening to the Son of God by bringing the Law with its exactness and unbending truth of God’s holiness and non-negotiable boundary between sin and righteousness, holiness and defilement. The Law was our necessary correction to show us we were incapable of forging a perfect obedience that could save us. Moses brought us the Law so that we could see with painful clarity our desperate situation before a holy God. And then the Lord of Hosts distilled into the virgin the holy seed of the Son and brought into our dark world the Incarnate Word, our Deliverer, Savior, Jesus, full of truth and grace. Full. Overflowing. Saturated. The living flood of God’s refreshing deliverance from our drought of unrighteousness. Our sin was so deadly, so devastating, it would take a deluge of grace and truth to bring us back from our sentence of death. I am so grateful He opened the heavens to rain down Jesus on us, God with us, Immanuel!
Thank you Jesus for the largeness of your being that you could hold the fullness of divine grace and truth. Thank you for being the truth we must know and embrace to find life again. Thank you for showing us the truth about God, ourselves and how to find reconciliation between the two. The truth sometimes cuts like a knife. Deep. To the heart. The cut stings, but the balm of your grace heals the wound and we are made whole; in our hearts and in our union with you our Creator. Yes, Father, thank you for the fullness of both grace and truth in Jesus. Sweet Reign of God. Oh how You have filled us to overflowing!