Don’t Turn the Page

I have friends in other nations.
I have friends in Israel who are constantly re-adjusting every moment of their lives because they have to stop and run to a bomb shelter.
I have friends in Ukraine who live right along the Crimea border, friends who are frustrated and frightened about the slow absorption of their nation into the hands of another.
I have friends in Russia who are having difficulty sorting out the news they hear in Russia and the news which comes from other parts of the world. They just want to trust truth, but it’s increasingly more difficult to see.
I have friends in Gaza who love the Lord and wish for peace. Everyone wants peace.
I have friends in Pakistan who are fearful of a military coup (or worse) brought on by yet another failed leader.

I have friends around the world who are, each day, finding themselves entrenched in battles ranging from war to disease that they do not understand and never induced. And I lay my head on my pillow each night, and worry if I’m going to wake in time to get my daily tasks complete. I get angry at things which don’t even matter and concern myself with vain pursuits. It’s all so benign in light of these worldly events. By contrast to most nations of the world, life in the U.S. is protected and sterile. While I appreciate all it takes to keep us protected, I also know that those attributes threaten to foster a sense of apathy to the world’s condition. But somehow, it hits home when we have friends in other nations who suffer. It’s one thing to hear the news, but an entirely different thing to consider how friends and people are coping.

I remember when we had a huge ice storm a few years back. It was around 4am when I woke to the power outage. Everything was eerily dark, and all you could hear was the sound of ice falling on ice. It finally became so intense that enormous tree limbs began falling on the large hillside and rolling down to the street, echoing like gunshots through our little valley. I laid there in bed and began to realize the severity of our condition. “Oh God,” I prayed. “Does anyone know?” I began to feel very small and very vulnerable. I began to realize how large and big this storm could be and how we could easily be a victim of its icy grip, not even a name in a paper but a number counted among the fellow victims. And numbers don’t reveal anything about the people who suffer. That is how people in other nations feel when they are in the middle of battles not their own. This was the resounding, final sentence in my morning prayer:

“And if they know, God, are they praying?”

You read the news, hear the news, consider the news. You know what goes on. It’s not given to us for the purpose of sensationalism or judgment, it’s not even given to us to ignore. We have a responsibility in this: We have the news so that we can pray. Yes, we can put our heads in the sand and pretend these things do not exist, but that doesn’t make them any less real to the people who battle or to those who lose their lives or loved ones in the battle.

Pray. Pray for those who feel lonely, vulnerable, weak and exposed. Pray that they might have strength of faith and steadfast trust. Pray that they have assurance of Christ. And if they don’t, pray that they might consider their eternal home and receive Christ so that there is peace in all circumstances. Truly, that is the only kind of peace we can hope to attain on this side of Heaven. Pray that they would not react in anger toward their enemies or to God. Pray that they would seek to understand and exercise penetrating forgiveness. Pray for the world through the headlines. Prayers are a way of dealing with the supernatural evil that encourages these worldly battles; they are your contribution to a situation you cannot control. Most of all, they matter. So when you read those difficult headlines, don’t turn the page. Instead, bow your head and pray.

Please reply with the name of the country or people you’ve been praying for. What battles are they fighting? What personal difficulties are people enduring? Do they know Christ? Because the work of prayer is important to prepare the way for the gospel, how can we pray along with you?


Do It Again!

Perhaps Gonature-summer-background-wallpaper-1080x1920d is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that He makes all daisies alike, it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.  -GK Chesterton (England)

I love this quote, especially on the heels of Spring. Chesterton points out that what seems monotonous to us is a theatrical encore to God. And when we peer our eyes closer and consider the sameness in nature, we in fact see something quite surprising: a subtle, yet striking difference on every petal, every feather, every water drop, and every blade of grass. And I suppose if you were to put two tiny grains of sand under a microscope you would note the uniqueness of each one.  Genesis tells us that God looked upon His creation and “saw that it was good.” He regarded the beauty.  He noted its goodness and recorded it five times in the words of scripture. And when He was finished he again “saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was VERY good” (emphasis mine). 

Has it occurred to you that God does this every day (and probably every moment)?  He creates new things every day and looks upon them and sees that they are good.  Each day is dazzling and it shines His creativity with such brilliant splendor. Amos testifies to this when he writes, “For behold, He who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!”  It is indescribable.  God’s creation has a language of its own, which is why we fail to articulate it with words.  Words mean so little in light of this triumph. We cannot consider these things without attributing a greatness to them and identify a Great Creator of them.

If He is so incredibly creative with nature, consider how vastly creative He is with each of us. In fact, the Psalmist says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” No one can look at any facet of the human body and not marvel at the way it works and the marvelous way it was created.  But the Psalmist also points out that the soul knows the depths of this wonder and attributes it to God alone.  Each and every one of us was created to glorify God in His creation, and if we don’t see it in nature, certainly we know it by the way we are made … fearfully and wonderfully. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  We were created to marvel Him.  We were created to walk in His way.  If we do not do these things, then we deny His creation.  In Timothy we are told not to neglect the gift we have.

The tender care he takes each day in creating new things demonstrates His vast love for us. Lamentations records it well: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  And the Psalmist reminds us to sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!

May we be reminded of God’s glory with the dawning of each day and give Him the praise He deserves, walk in His way, and sing to Him a new song of joy and thanksgiving; of humble gladness and delight.  Indulge today Him with your praise!


The Many-Sidedness of Christ

This morning I was reading in The Way, a devotional book by E. Stanley Jones.  Jones is so incredibly insightful and intuitive that it doesn’t take me long to get into deep thought about one of his topics.  Today this one caught my attention:  

“The straightforward, open proclamation is the best method. Jesus appeals to the soul as light appeals to the eye, as truth fits the conscience, as beauty speaks to the aesthetic nature. For Christ and the soul are made for one another.” – E. Stanley Jones

I began thinking about how Christ appeals to us in our differences, our gifts, and the purposes He has called us to, and the questions began to fill my mind.  So how does the landscaper consider Christ?  How about the cook, the writer or the educator? If God is the Creator of all things and has a plan and purpose for us, then how does He expect us to see and understand Christ through the lens of our gifts and interests?

Not more than two hours later, my daughter and I were cleaning out some storage bins and I happened across an old news clipping from the Gospel Advocate dated January 22, 1925.  I found the clipping years ago in an old book and tucked it away in a file.  I’m not sure what attracted me to the clipping then, but this day it spoke right to the very questions which lingered in my mind earlier this morning.  As you read, consider who Christ is to you in your gifts and occupation.

Jesus challenges the attention of the world by his many-sidedness.  He meets the needs of all classes and conditions of men.  As deep answereth unto deep, so does He respond to the movings of each soul of man.

Call the roll of the world’s workers and ask, “What do you think of Christ?” Their answers amaze us by their revelation of the universal appeal of Christ.  Someone (whose name has been lost) has collected the following examples of this universality.

  • To the artist He is the One Altogether Lovely.
  • To the architect He is the Chief Corner Stone.
  • To the astronomer He is the Sun of Righteousness.
  • To the baker He is the Living Bread.
  • To the banker He is the Hidden Treasure.
  • To the biologist He is the Life.
  • To the builder He is the Sure Foundation.
  • To the carpenter He is the Door.
  • To the educator He is the Great Teacher.
  • To the farmer he is the Sower and Lord of the Harvest.
  • To the florist He is the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.
  • To the geologist He is the Rock of Ages.
  • To the horticulturist He is the True Vine.
  • To the judge He is the Righteous Judge, the Judge of all men.
  • To the jeweler He is the Pearl of Great Price.
  • To the lawyer He is the Counselor, the Lawgiver, the Advocate.
  • To the newspaper man He is the Good Tidings of Great Joy.
  • To the philanthropist He is the Unspeakable Gift.
  • To the philosopher He is the Wisdom of God.
  • To the railroad man He is the New and Living Way.
  • To the preacher He is the Word of God.
  • To the sculptor He is the Living Stone.
  • To the servant He is the Good Master.
  • To the statesman He is the Desire of All Nations.
  • To the student He is the Incarnate Truth.
  • To the theologian He is the Author and Finisher of our Faith.
  • To the toiler He is the Giver of Rest.
  • To the sinner He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
  • To the Christian He is the Son of the Living God, Savior, Redeemer and Lord.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and was taken from what appears to be an interview of many people over a course of time in the mid-1920s.  How did this information strike you?  Who is Christ to you?


Purpose of Testimony

This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.  – John 21:24-25 (NASB)

This verse gently reminds me that I can tell story after story, but still not know the effect, whether great or small.  And I’m also reminded that the focus of our work is not in numbers, not in stories, and not in the adventure.  It’s in relating the glory of God for the purpose of reconciliation.  As you read the next few stories from this blog, consider God’s hand at work and the way in which He is elevated to a high place of honor and glory.  For when we go as we are called and share as we are commissioned, He works. Through sinful man, He works. Whether five people on the train hear the gospel and are saved or the young lady in the park said “no” to Him, He works.  We cannot know and we cannot measure.

John also reminds us here that knowledge of Christ, no matter the testimony, is still partial, and everything Jesus did during his three and a half years on earth is unreported and unknown.  Christ can never be known exhaustively, and therefore, His work through us can never be known exhaustively.  Each person will come away from a mission trip with a different story, a different testimony and a different perspective.

I was in Russia for a total of 15 days, and in that time I saw and heard many great and wonderful testimonies of transformation.  But I will only share a few so that you can know the amazing ways in which God works in Russia.  And even if I were to share all that I heard and saw, it still would be a partial report.  Much happens in the spiritual realm that is left hidden from us, and whether we work abroad temporarily, permanently or stay home, we must be acutely aware of that truth.

In a short commentary found in WORLD magazine, HCJB Global President Wayne Pederson writes, “Proclaiming the Gospel is not just for the salvation of individual souls—though it is just that—but also for the reconciliation of the world.  Scripture clearly states that Christ came to reconcile all creation to himself which makes our message more, not less, compelling.” 

May God have the GLORY.  Amen.

______________________________

Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NASB)


Fearing the World

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33 (NIV)

Theresa stood behind the counter going over my purchases when a friend of hers walked in and said hello. We three chatted a little about the heat and I made some comment about being a runner but having to stay indoors for my runs because of the humidity. Theresa’s friend teased her about her upcoming triathlon, and they both laughed about that as a future prospect. But Theresa quickly became serious and said that the hopes of any triathlon were nonexistent because “we don’t have much time left.” She looked away as she totaled my order.

As a Christian, I hear that a lot. As a matter of fact, I’m quite certain the whole world heard about that not too long ago with the false prediction of the end of the world on May 21st. Just in case, I checked in on the other side of the world at 5pm and it was still intact, so I knew we were okay–at least for one more day. There have been other predictions, and there are more to come with a huge community of people who have formed focus and support groups, many believing that the world will end in 2012. A simple Google search for “2012″ and “the end of the world” brings up nearly 300,000 hits. And YouTube hosts more than 65,000 clips informing and warning viewers about their fate in 2012.

Theresa’s prediction was based the earth’s core shifting, something she watched on TV, and no doubt, researches in the Internet. She also believes that we have less than a year left. I tried to make light of her seriousness and encouraged her to do that triathlon before the final countdown. Her friend chimed in and said she should make a final announcement on Facebook. Theresa didn’t like that either. “Oh,” she said, as she handed me my change. “That’s not good either. Anyone in their right mind should get off Facebook right away.” I immediately thought of the resources and friends I would miss.

As I drove from the store, I began thinking in hindsight how I missed the opportunity to ask Theresa what she plans to do in her year left on this earth. Or better, encourage her to live in joy, not fear; to know Christ and love and serve Him. I could have invited her to lunch to discuss her future plans for the next 365 days. And then I began thinking of all the counter clerks who fear the world. I imagined they work their eight hours, count the change, close the store and go home to another episode of Discovery Channel. They review the calendar and pencil in important things to do before the end of days. They feel a rumble under their feet and wonder of the impending doom. They know it can’t be reversed, so they warn us between transactions because, deep inside, they’re scared. And in a way, they’re right.

Honestly, I don’t like getting philosophical with counter clerks I don’t know, but I think I missed an opportunity to share Christ here. Whether or not Theresa knows Christ is unknown to me, but it is apparent she is thinking of human mortality, and if she’s willing to say these things out loud to a perfect stranger then I can only imagine what unspoken questions she has when the lights go out each night.

I thank God that I don’t fear the world and all its danger. I don’t even fear death, but I’m not foolish enough to think that the world could not stand still on its axis or that the days I plan have an expiration date. With God, anything is possible. In the meantime, I do ask that God make me strong enough to remember those who are lost and live in fear. They live without peace or hope, and whether they have one day left or a hundred, they are not far from truth which can set them free from the bondage of fearing the world. This world has nothing to offer and nothing to promise any of us. Jesus tells us in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Even in trials, Christ is near. He left His Holy Spirit to give us comfort and hope when the world offers shallow responses to questions contemplated and left hanging over the counter.

It is the soul reconciled to God which no longer lives in fear. Our only hope for these days–one or a thousand–is in Christ. We anxiously wait for His coming, but He patiently waits for us to share with those who still need to hear. This is a race but it’s also more than that. It’s a responsibility. And if we are ones who are reconciled to God, then we are given the responsibility to share Christ with those who live in fear.

When I return to the store in late August I plan to stop by and say hello to Theresa. And this time, I’ll invite her to lunch.


Lost Ballerina

On the third day of our trip, we met Glenda, an 89-year-old widow.  Once a gifted and graceful ballerina, she sat in her tiny apartment, sharing stories of her glory days, and becoming so entrenched that when she stood to show us a dance, she nearly collapsed.  Remembering her deformed feet, she reclaimed her seat on the tiny sofa and quickly composed herself.  Glenda would never dance again; never again dazzle audiences with her once vibrant grace and beauty.  She laid her hands in her lap and asked why we had come.  We shared the story of Christ and His love; we shared the beauty of our Creator.  She waved her hand at us, “Yes, yes, I know,” she said.  “Tell me something I don’t know!” I realized that while Glenda knew, she still would not trust.

Her grown son entered the apartment and her elderly eyes lit up.  She was full of delight, and nestled him beside her on the sofa. While my friend talked to him about the Lord, Glenda would attempt to change the subject or waive her hand at our “foolish talk.” But I couldn’t shake the feeling of love I had for her, and as we left her apartment I turned and told her that God wants her to dance again; He wants her to dance in heaven.  There was no response.  The door closed, and my heart broke.  (Koroblino, Russia, August 2010)

___________________

Glenda’s story is one of many I could tell, but this penetrates me most because, unlike the other people we visited, there was no visible impact when we shared the Gospel.  I feel it demonstrates the enormous need for hope, trust and freedom from despair for the people of Russia.  It also demonstrates the reality of mission work: some hear and are changed; some hear and turn away.  But it’s not our job to save the lost.  We merely listen, we tell the wonders of Christ, and then we pray.

E3 is a church planting ministry dedicated to taking the Gospel to the nations.  They work strategically with churches already in place to help establish new churches in areas where none exist.  In our Western minds, that’s difficult to understand because we have churches everywhere.  But in nations like Russia, very few Evangelical churches exist for hundreds of miles.  E3 works with Russian Christian nationals who are committed to following-up with the people we meet.  They dedicate themselves to starting these new churches, however small, but so desperately needed.

I’ve been working strategically with E3 team leadership for the past year, and have accepted the invitation to return and work with two back-to-back mission campaigns in early August.  And while I’ll be working with teams who GO, I need to build a team who will SEND.  A sending team is committed to prayer before, during and after the campaign.  I humbly request your prayers for this important and strategic trip.

Secondly, a sending team can also help give financially.  The total cost of both trips is $4000, and I’ve already contributed some of my own money to the mission.  The balance is due June 15, and I’m praying that God would bring sending partners who will pray and can help with the remaining cost.  Please see visit my sponsor page to help.

Thank you for prayerfully considering this request to join my sending team.  Together, and through faith, we can anticipate the movement of the Lord and trust that His arm is not too short to save the lost, nor His ear too dull to hear their call—and our prayers.  Thank you for praying for people like Glenda.

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. – Isaiah 59:1


Obedience (Revival – Day 4)

Obedience

And Samuel said, ”Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”  -1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)

Word Study

  • delight (willingly taking pleasure in something)
  • better (to make good; to do well; to adorn)
  • sacrifice (an offering)
  • obey (to hear)

How refreshing that our God, unlike other gods, does not rely on our sacrifices to be who He is or to reveal Himself to us.  God willingly takes pleasure in our obedience first and calls this a greater thing when compared to the sacrifice.  It doesn’t matter how grand our sacrifice, if it’s done without obedience it gains nothing.  But, oh, how tempting it is for us to sacrifice rather than obey.  We struggle with obedience because our flesh contends for self-magnification and idolatry, which ultimately rejects the Lord and makes gods of ourselves.  Obedience requires the intentional work of our will toward reflective, analytical and spiritual worship.

It’s interesting that the word obey here means to hear.  Even more interesting is that in many parts of the New Testament the word means to trust.  Hearing God, then, is closely related to trusting Him and visa versa.  God does not need our obedience for His purpose to prevail.  He will continue to glorify Himself and reveal His purpose whether we obey Him or not.  Our failure to hear and trust Him leaves us in a state of disarray.  We will not be under God’s protection and will fall prey to every evil temptation under the sun.

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” –Deuteronomy 28:1-6

Here in Deuteronomy 28 we see the glorious, life-giving blessings of obedience.  They are both temporal and spiritual.  They glorify God and give Him power as the HOLY GOD as we are blessed! They reveal Christ and the work of His Holy Spirit in our lives.  And through our humility there is faith, grace, purity and godliness.  Foreign to the life of a Christian are anarchy, chaos, disobedience, and disrespect.  Brethren, if you are ruled by any of these traits, it’s time to seek the face of Christ and beg His sweet forgiveness so that you may be filled with His blessings and live a life of unaltered joy and peace which surpasses the understanding of man.

If we love God enough, we will obey; we will keep his commandments. Let us so think of the temporal and spiritual blessings that He has showered upon us, and His constant, surrounding loving-kindness that out of appreciation we will hear Him, trust Him and love Him enough to do what He asks. Our gratitude to God can be expressed only in loving, humble obedience to his will.

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