Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ready, Aim, Fire

“This charge I commit unto thee…that thou mightest war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18)

I think the below statements regarding the word “day” in the Genesis account of creation, have excellent reasoning ability attached to them! They are easy to know and remember and use next time you find yourself in a conversation with anyone regarding the topic of Theistic Evolution or the “day age” (long period of time) theory. Those 3 words, know, remember, and use are vital to a good discussion regarding the accuracy of scripture. I appreciate believers who have a greater understanding of these issues and a passion to see them righted, who take time to do the research, and then give us the tools we need in order to confidently engage a skeptic—and I REALLY appreciate when those tools are easy for my little mind to grasp (and therefore remember and actually use.)

We need to have “the truth” established within us...something to draw from in order to refute or counter “the lie” being thrown our way. We should strive to be prepared for the topic...! (the topic being anything that would defy sound doctrine—wouldn't that be prudent and wise?) This is crucial—especially for me—for I am easily flustered and feel ignorant when I am with a person who shoots down any scriptural text with impudence.

Mark Zook, missionary to Papua, Indonesia, taught the importance of using questions to make someone doubt their own position. What do you mean by that? is a good one for starters. Being confident of the truth (and of your own belief), coupled with good questions that shed light on the holes in someone else’s theory, is a powerful approach. This, of course, means we must fill our satchels with the proper ammunition and practice loading our guns and firing. (Firing on the lie…not the person believing the lie!) Using questions allows you the ability to be winsome and non-confrontational instead of negative and arrogant. You don’t want to encourage someone to hate you…but to question their own belief. It isn’t about getting your point across…it is about a lost soul or misguided believer coming to “the knowledge of the truth.”

This following article was written for a Creation Blog—it was used to remind me that God’s Word is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. It is the weapon He has given to us to use! God can take care of Himself and He defends His Word with accuracy every single time. It is our responsibility to be aware of the battles around us (the war on creation, on life, etc.) and then properly train and fight, as if to gain the victory! Read the Word daily…read it looking for specific truth. This teaches us how to handle our weapon, how to pull the sword out of its sheath and gain the strength needed to hold such a powerful piece of defense for long periods of time. Ask God to teach you how to defend His Word. We need to have the ability to wield our weapon with determined precision and valour! This is important if we are to fully engage the enemy—and see his defeat. Memorization, meditation, and opening our mouths to “make Christ known” are excellent field exercises to make us fit soldiers of the cross. There are also many sites online that can help us do just that—so many books written, so many dvd’s created, so many tracts published. These resources are often very easy to watch or read and grasp (like the blog post below) and were created in order to properly outfit the believer. Pick a topic and study it…glean from others and then go use what you have gleaned to the glory of the Lord.


The Book of Genesis in the Bible says God created the universe, and everything in it, in six days. Some people have tried to harmonize this description with the theory of evolution by suggesting that the “days” in Genesis must have been long periods of time, or ages.

But the Bible has its own amazing way of showing that the long “ages” idea is wrong. The days were real, ordinary, solar days of 24 hours each.

Here are the reasons why:

Genesis 1:14 says God created the lights to divide day from night, and to be for signs, for seasons, for days, and for years. If the days are ages, then what are the years.

If a day is an age, then what is a night? The concept becomes ludicrous when you try to stretch the length of a day.

Whenever the word “day” in the Bible is limited by a number (such as the first day, the third day, the sixth day) it always means a 24-hour day.

Whenever the word “day” is used with the phrase “evening and morning,” it always means an ordinary night-day cycle.

Among the Ten Commandments that God gave to Israel, recorded in Exodus 20, God said that His creation in six days followed by a day of rest was to be the pattern for the Israelites' working week: six days of labor followed by a day of rest. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work …,” God said, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.” This would not make sense if they had to work for six million years followed by a million years of rest.

Some people think that a day may mean a thousand years, because the Apostle Peter said that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). But Peter did not say a day is a thousand years, but it is as a thousand years. He is saying that God is outside time, that a thousand years are no more significant than a day in God's eternal scheme of things. People who say Peter meant that a day is a thousand years are ignoring the second part of Peter's statement, which says a thousand years are as one day. How could we count how many days are in a thousand years if a day only means a thousand years? It becomes silly when you try to force a meaning that wasn't intended.

The passage about a day being as a thousand years has also been said to mean that a day is simply a long period of time. But that makes nonsense of Peter's statement. It would mean that Peter was saying that “a long period of time is a thousand years.” See how ridiculous things get when you stray from the straight meaning of Scripture?

The clear meaning of the days of creation is the obvious one: they were literal, ordinary, 24-hour days. Nothing more and nothing less.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Serious Side of Life

“…be ye therefore sober” (1 Peter 4:7)

I have been memorizing the book of 1 Timothy and have been delighted as the Word of God has come alive in my prayer life, my conversations with others, and in my reading the whole of scripture solely from hiding this large passage in my heart.

The Holy Spirit is our teacher and He promises to use God’s Word to exhort, train, convict, comfort, and change us. All Scripture, Paul tells us, “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). According to these verses, God’s Word is the means we have for equipping ourselves adequately in order to be well-prepared—efficient and perfectly fit for whatever we may face in this life or the life to come! I desire to be prepared.

I have found that the first three chapters of 1 Timothy alone carry with them the proper tools for whatever I may encounter: it has shown me how to better pray for others, how to glorify the God Who called me, how to witness, how to defend the gospel, how to confidently stand upon the truth, what my purpose is as a believer, how to combat sin, how to worship, how to define false doctrine and what to do with it, what not to think upon, how to conduct myself in the presence of others and in the presence of the Lord, and more specifically, as a woman, how to live in a manner that pleases my Creator. These chapters expound upon the character and judgment of God—revealing His love, longsuffering, mercy, divinity, authority, wisdom, immortality, faithfulness to man, and incredible sacrifice. And, as if that is not all, memorizing this passage has increased my commitment to Christ—the Redeemer of my soul. It has stirred within me a deeper passion to see lost men brought to the knowledge of the truth. And it has instilled within me a greater love for the Holy Scriptures—a greater hunger and thirst for the things of God.

One word that continues to jump out of the book of 1 Timothy is the word sober! For men in leadership, this attribute is an absolute…but it is also commanded to be seen in their wives as well—and in chapter 2, women who adorn themselves in it bring glory to their God, beauty to their person, and order to the Assembly! It is understood that all women, married or single, must place higher attention upon dressing themselves in sobriety (“in silence”) than in jewelry or costly attire. Young men are equally exhorted to bring their minds under the subjection of such a discipline. In other words, the Spirit seems to say to my heart, this is of utmost importance to every believer—every elder, pastor, man, husband, wife, woman, boy, or girl. “Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord” (Zechariah 2:13).

I am finding that sobriety focuses my mind on the eternal, motivates a quiet spirit (and a reason to close my mouth), and adds intense passion to my prayers. To be sober, is to be serious.

The idea of being sober is confirmed through many of Paul’s letters and the apostle Peter; the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah (and others); and through Jesus Christ Himself.

The challenge that I continue to receive from the Spirit as I meditate on this letter to Timothy is “how much time are you giving to learning and putting into practice what it means to be sober?” And then the question arises from that challenge: and WHAT exactly does it mean to be sober?

The Strong’s Concordance defines the word sober as: “sound in mind, self-controlled, moderate in opinion or passion, discreet, temperate, abstinence from wine, circumspect. To discipline, to correct, to teach.”

Webster’s definition backs up the Greek language and gives further insight into how we may live this word out practically: “marked by sedate or gravely or earnestly thoughtful character and demeanor. Unhurried, calm. Marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness. Showing no excessive or extreme qualities of fancy, emotion, or prejudice. Well-balanced, restrained, rational.”

The idea of teaching our mind to be circumspect, controlled, and calm is wonderful. Who would not want to be all of those things at all times? The trouble lies not in the wish “to be”, but in the will to carry out such a desire. For that requires thought, time, and training. Discipline always involves training…a boot camp, so to speak, on being still before the presence of our Almighty God. In order to begin to “be sober” I will begin to feel restraint, correction, a possible heaviness…and I must not resist. To be sober does not mean we are comfortable. In fact, to be sober can be quite opposite our idea of comfort!

I must reckon with the reality that sobriety means being serious about all things. It is not a dissenting on humorous dialogue, pleasure, side-splitting laughter, or fun and games…! Laughter is, by God's definition, the best medicine! I love to laugh! But we are not to leave sobriety at home when we are off to be jolly! We must always take it with us. Sobriety is moderation—in all things. It is not forgoing the utmost pleasures of this life (pleasure was His idea) but it is allowing for tears—allowing your heart to fill with the knowledge of a lost soul or another's pain—and having the ability to step away from pleasure in order to meet those needs. It is letting the Lord stir His emotions inside of you
. It is learning to recognize sin—and grieve over it—in your own life or in the life of another. It is hating that which God hates! It is self-control—recognizing when you have fed your flesh enough! It is the ability to say, “Enough!” It is learning to be steady in your reactions and responses, and firm in that which you believe. It is consistency in your walk! It is a desire to feed on Christ MORE than the desires of your own heart—finding yourself needing Him more than your fun or your friends or your most earnest desires. And it is engaging yourself (your time, your energy, your passions) in those things that God loves—evangelism, exhortation, discipleship, service, prayer.

First of all it will require a saying “no” to some things in order to clear our calendar. We are not saying “no” to sin necessarily…we are just saying “no” to some activity that might be filling a valuable slot of time with lesser things! If we are to teach our mind to be sober we must make room for it. It will require periods of time. Sobriety does not just happen through quick daily reading of His Word. Although it doesn’t have to be a full blown inductive study every time we open our Bible, we must seek to create opportunities for digging deeper in the treasure of God’s Word. This will work best if we have a plan, a specific time, a passage, a notebook, and a heart content to wait upon our God!

Second, it will require a willingness to engage in prayer. “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7).

We need to be asking our Savior, the Man of Sorrows, to burden us with that which burdens Him. He is looking for disciples willing and ready to stay awake and pray along side their Master. I am often asleep with Peter, James, and John—not because I don't want to stay awake—but because I am not attentive to the Spirit. I say that I care about His desires and want to please Him but I find myself unable to “keep my eyes open”. Why? I think it is because in reality what I say is far from the truth
I really DO want my "sleep" more than the burden of prayer and the energy I must pour out in communicating to the Father.

I wonder...if those 3 friends of our Lord had purposed to stay awake that night in the garden, and helped each other do so, might they have succeeded? I wonder…if they had strained to hear what their Master was saying just "a stone's throw away," would they have been overwhelmed by Jesus’ emotionally disturbed pleas, obvious burden, and loud cry of utter surrender? Do you think that hearing such deep agony might have arrested their attention and driven sleep from their eyelids? Even without a full understanding of what was going on, I think those men would have been praying—praying for their friend in obvious pain and turmoil of spirit, and for themselves—that God would give them a greater knowledge as to what was happening.

That is what I desire—to actually hear the plea of God, to feel the beat of His heart through His Word, to sense His burden, to see His tears, to be overwhelmed by the need, and to not be able to shake that reality from my mind
to not be lethargic regarding realityso much so, that it will drive me to pray.

Jesus, we are told, lives to make intercession. That is what He does, all day, every day...! And He is asking us to pray with Him.

“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober…let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1Thessalonians 5:6, 8).

And third, sobriety comes with great humility! Being sober is being willing to take last place. It is willing to work hard and long even if no one is paying a lick of attention to your accomplishments for the
Kingdom of Heaven. It is focusing completely on Christ while you are on His mission! So often our eyes are turned to what we are doing (compared to what others are doing) and we quickly forget this important principle.

We far to easily dissect another believer’s actions and motives compared to our own (not compared to the Word of God). We become concerned with petty details which rob our spirit of sobriety (even when we are not aware of it)—consumed with how another's lack of help effects us negatively, how individuals replace our way of doing things, how the ministry is wearing us out, how someone is being elevated while we are being shoved under the carpet, how we are misunderstood, how we are persecuted, how we are having to pull all the weight ourselves, etc… Do these comments sound familiar!? In ministry we are tempted to look at all the joys and trials, all the happy, helpful people, and all the people that get on our nerves more than we look up at our Commander! When we are busy looking at everyone else it is because we are totally turned SELFWARD! Self is a barrier to sobriety.

In Romans 12:3, Paul reminds believers to guard against this form of pride, this indiscreet behavior: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

We must consider others more highly than ourselves.
We must turn away from self completely! This is an important part of being sober-minded. I believe this sin can easily creep in and invade our heart masked as a multitude of well-justified thoughts. Let us be careful to moderate every single frustration and bring it under the subjection of Christ, who “thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant…and being found as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). In the end (and even now because of eternity) all the pettiness does not matter!

To be sober is to remember Christ above all things. It is to take Him with you everywhere you go…whether it is to church, or to witness, or to dinner with a friend, or outside to play! He will teach us how to moderate our actions and bring every passion under control. He will help us see people as either lost or saved and therefore give us the knowledge that will motivate a boldness to share Christ. He will show us what to watch, read, who to spend time with, where to walk, what to pray, how to serve, what to think upon, how to be content. He will gain further access into our hearts, giving us a greater desire to know Him. The more time you spend with Jesus, the more intimately He will share His thoughts with you. It is from those incredibly rich times you spend with Jesus that practical application for your life will flow! It is from those times that your prayer life will increase…because you have now experienced the Savior sharing His burden with you. And you must carry it well!

The more this desire for sobriety grows in my heart and mind, the greater I am aware of how far I am from obtaining it. Let us strive together to be like Christ completely, “exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews
10:25). I urge you to memorize a portion of scripture—it is an excellent way to discipline your mind and your free time.

To be sober is to keep our eyes fixed firmly on heaven and keep before our face the image of eternity—we are to “love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8) and to pay utmost attention to the little time we have left. Jesus will come again and receive up into glory only those who have called upon His name! To be sober is to desire that which your Savior desires and He “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ…But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer…Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1Peter 1:13. 4:7, 5:8).

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Enemy Within

Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord” Isaiah 1:18

I am quite aware that naturally, dwelling inside this beating chest—inside this body that can be dressed up and easily made to appear intelligent or witty or wise—lives a wicked and deceitful heart! According to scripture, it is out of this rebellious heart—this heart that can feel compassion even if it does not house Christ—that will come every thought and intent of my mind...and, therefore, every action that follows! What good ever came from evil? None. God declares that even charitable acts (spun out of empathy) are as filthy rags, if they do not originate in Christ Himself.

That reality is startling and will take an individual from pride to either offense (wounded pride) or humility (dead pride) in about zero seconds! Wounded pride is a very dangerous thing to possess. It stops up the ears and robs one of understanding. It defies a holy God. Allowing the truth to “level” us, on the other hand, is vital to redemption and restoration. We must admit our true state—by agreeing with what our Creator concludes.

There are those who choose to be offended by truth and doubt God’s authority. They despise His “telling it like it is”—they do not believe He has either the right or the grounds to be so hard on humanity (good people who are just trying to survive life, for crying out loud!). They view God as an old “stick in the mud,” or worse, as a horrid dictator trying to control humanity out of an obsession with His haughty ego. Many find His Word hard and turn away.

But the truth of scripture is not meant to deject—it is meant to deliver—to deliv
er one from oneself. From one’s traitor heart. I desire to be humbled by this reality. To daily raise the knife on my pride and slay it utterly! I must not allow myself the luxury of petting or nursing any part of my old man—in order to do so (no matter how innocent or justified I feel in the matter) is to also obey its lusts thereof (Romans 6:12).

How ridiculous man can be! In order to save face, maintain some level of control, or to live a life free from the confines of authority man will choose to be bound to sin’s master. Bound—chained to unrighteousness and forced to do only what it dictates (Romans 6:13)! Christ’s desire is to free man from this bondage. Man is only fooling himself if he thinks he is consciously deciding his own destiny—scripture is clear, apart from repentance, man’s end is death.

We must allow our Creator to assess, diagnose, and prescribe the remedy our souls need for survival—or we will die with regret! This is obviously true for the unbeliever. But it is vital to those who are saved as well!

I” will always deceive me. Always! God, on the other hand, cannot! This fact alone causes me to look completely outside of myself for any counsel and direction regarding every single matter! I must desire to look to the Lord alone: to gather my words and obtain the discretion as to when and how to use them; for ability to decipher all my feelings, ideas, dreams, and desires; and, most importantly, to know that what I believe about God’s Word is acceptable to the God who penned it.

My past experience may give insight but it is never to be trusted (Proverbs 14:12)! Only what God says is to be trusted! He is not only the author of truth, of wisdom, of redemption, and of life…He IS every one of those words! You cannot separate God from His character. He gives life because He is Life!

And He doesn’t just pass out wisdom when we pray for it…He actually gives Himself to us fully when we ask.

I may know for certain that Christ’s blood has covered my sins. I may be assured of the resurrection from the dead. I may be confident regarding my eternal home. I may even have a heart that desires to live in a way that pleases my Savior. And yet, I am still in danger of being deceived. For the heart that desires truth also desires to be pampered, and pitied, and right! Therefore, I cannot “follow my heart”! I must only follow HIS.

In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul exhorts the church to “put on the new man” and therefore, (performing that action) man will be putting away all sin. The new man is made after God and is characterized by “righteousness and true holiness”—two attributes we would never gain through our own efforts, no matter how hard we tried. But they are what is required to satisfy a righteous and holy God! When it comes to the thoughts and intents of my heart (for out of this reservoir flows all my behavior) I must not rely upon my own understanding. I must take myself and set it aside! And then I must pick up the “new man” and clothe my mind and my will and my emotions with the garment of God’s absolute truth.

Our feelings, “compassions”, or preferences must never dictate our responses. Therefore, we might need to hold out on them—we might need to sit on them for a bit…and take time to consider if God would agree with what we think and feel is appropriate.

“Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord.” This plea comes after a rather disturbing discourse on God’s disgust over Israel’s actions. He wanted nothing to do with Israel’s appearance anymore. With strong language, God tells them that their sacrifices and feasts were a trouble to Him—“My soul hateth [them]…I am weary to bear them” (1:14). “Come now,” He says, “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (1:18). Our Lord wants nothing to do with “obedience” if our hearts are tainted and rebellious. No matter how holy our words and actions appear they are a stench in His nostrils. He longs for those who seek Him with a whole heart. He desires humility! With humility we are promised “the good of the Land,” but a stubborn refusal to submit to God’s standard will guarantee “the sword” (1:19-20).

Be wise and accept the Lord’s invitation to reason with Him…individually.

Ask Him to be an intricate part of every thought and every action—“Lord is this what I should think, say, do…is this glorifying to your Name…is this what your Word teaches?” Allow Scripture the influence over your feelings, compassions, and preferences FIRST…and then allow those God-given emotions to be used for His glory! They were given to us in order to motivate our response not to decide it. Without consideration we would never see a need. Without passion we would never speak out. Without sensitivity we would never work with those who required help.

But misplaced emotionsand the actions that can come from themmay actually hinder the work of the Lord.

“Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…” (Romans 12:1). Lay your beating heart down on that altar…your understanding, your intellect, your reasoning…and allow the Lord the privilege of replacing what He calls “cold stone” with a heart of flesh” (the Hebrew word bâsâr taken from the word bâsar which means “to be fresh, full”)…that you may “walk in [God’s] statues and keep [His] ordinances, and do them” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).

“Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord” Isaiah 1:18

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What in the World are We Doing?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16

I am becoming more and more aware that those who do not know Christ are often embedded with worldviews that literally forbid belief in an Almighty and Only God.

I sadly do not have to go into a "place of ill repute" to sense that reality. It is all around me. I am finding people close to me that have no fear of God, even among friends that grew up in Christian homes. They never truly believed while under the subjection of their parents and, therefore, have rejected the truth of God’s Word in their adult years. Sadly, they don’t only reject it…they fight against it. They seek to draw others away from their Maker as well. It grieves my heart to be in their presence and hear them “think” out loud.

In the library the other day, checking email, I was not so much taken in by the conversations around me (libraries are genuinely quiet places), as I was with what was on the computers in front of me (in full view). There seems to be no shame in our society, or at least very little, as a rule! While sitting in Starbucks or standing in line at a bookstore I have heard strangers talk about God and His Word as if they were picking dinner choices…what they like and don’t like…without any regard to His being Supreme Authority—not even regarded as a deity requiring a minimal amount of respect. No, He is thought of as a “choice”! And He is discussed as one. And they don't like what He is offering, thank you very much. This lack of holy fear gives them the awful ability to carelessly cast His law and His love out the window like a piece of unwanted trash—or to carefully and cruelly mock His existence.

It grieves me to hear people ignorantly talk about the truth that will one day decide their destiny. Speaking philosophically, they believe themselves to be very intellectual—but it is their very pride that condemns them to death
—“woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so shall their root be as rottenness...because they have cast away the law of the Lord of host, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:21, 24). “Professing themselves to be wise, they [become] fools” (Romans 1:22). They glory in their arrogant freedom to choose what they want or don't want to believe. But they are not freely choosing their own path. They are as dead men walking, “according to the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2)—completely bound to their lusts and fulfilling the desires of the flesh, as one would obey an oppressive master. They are slaves to their sin. And they are deceived to the uttermost.

Working in subsidized apartment complexes and public schools doing Good News Clubs I have also become more and more aware of the role parents play in educating their children in spiritual matters. Basically…they aren’t playing one. I hear it, I am exposed to it…I am saddened by it. We are several generations into a major lack of “the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) here in America, and many parents are either knowingly or ignorantly (both are inexcusable) instructing their children in unrighteousness. Turning a blind eye to unlawful behavior (either their child's actions or the behavior of those their children are exposed to on TV) does not make a parent makes them a teacher of wickedness. What is to become of them? There is so much filth taken in on a daily basis that confusion controls most of their daily decisions—even when they are completely unaware of it. Men and woman are so bound to the consequences of their own sin that they have no moral grounding to teach another what is right and wrong. This is a result of a Godless society!

Fear, pain, arrogance, pride, despair, anger, bitterness, extreme sadness…this is what I see when looking into their eyes. And what is welling up inside of me is a growing passion to be used more and more of God to reveal the risen Savior (the Lord who brings life and freedom to those bound in death) to the world around me—the world of coffee shops, libraries, and Wal-Marts—my world!

What is God calling you to do in “your world”?

Consider what He did for ours!

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Prayer—The Warrior's Resource

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

I am increasingly aware and appreciative of the prayers that others lift up on my account. I do not consider the time they give in prayer a light matter, but one of great importance. I am both humbled and made grateful for those who battle on my behalf—those who call or write to tell me so…and those who war even without my knowledge.

It is through prayer that I am empowered, encouraged, and exhorted by the Spirit. And it is through prayer that I am motivated to continue keeping on even when I would rather give up! Prayer works—not only in the visible realm, often delivering me from discouragement, depression, negative attitudes, a bad perspective, or a bad circumstance—but in the invisible realm as well, defeating principalities and powers of this wicked world, intent upon bringing the work of the Lord to naught.

Paul taught Timothy (his own son in the faith) to “pray for all men”
period. And I think we can pretty much assume he wasn’t referring to “God bless so and so” petitions either. Paul’s recorded prayers are not only powerful, they are wonderful patterns for us to emulate (Ephesians 1:15-23, Philippians 1:1-11, Colossians 1:3-14)not only for our family, those we worship with, the American church and its leaders, and our national authorities on every level—but even beyond our borders as well! How often do our prayers cross cultural and geographical boundaries? How often do we pray for local pastors serving the church in Nigeria, Nauru, or the Netherlands—and what about the believers who gather under their teaching (sometimes in secret)? Do we pray for their national authorities—and the influence society plays upon the Christians who must live under their rule?

Reality is, we are easily overwhelmed! T
o consider adding anything else to our already busy schedule can put us into a sweat—without taking the time to process the request we have already decided we really don't have time for it. We barely find a half hour to pray as it is...and now I'm suppose to add another couple countries to the list—with all their problems regarding leadership and religious persecution? Where in the world is Djibouti anyway? Honestly, I didn’t know until today! I had to look it up.

The truth is
—we don’t pray because we are not familiar with names, locations, or the religious bents of other countries! Because of this lack of information we often don't think past the end of our own block
! I personally have enough difficulty deciphering “politics” here at home…let alone remembering the guy who won the last presidential election in some far off African nation!

The fact is
—we can! About 5 minutes worth of research provides you with ample ammunition! We have so many handy ways of quickly (and I mean really quickly) pulling up just about any information we would ever need to know about any country here on earth. If you are blessed with some sort of Internet connection you pretty much have the world at your fingertips. In a matter of seconds your prayer page could look something like this:

Djibouti—Eastern Africa
President Ismail Omar Guelleh
Prime Minister Mohamed Dileita Dileita
US Ambassador and Representative (to the UN) Roble Olhaye Oudine

And viola, you are praying for a country and the people that make up that country in a way you have never prayed before!

And through wonderful organizations like The Joshua Project, Strategic World Impact, and The Voice of the Martyrs you can
add the names of pastors and their flocks—along with their struggles and stories—to that list in time to share them with your family around the dinner table this very evening. It’s that simple. It doesn’t so much take time as it takes priority!

We need knowledge in order to be accurate in our aim. God wants us in full armor—and our “faces set like flint”—always ready to engage the enemy on many front lines. He wants us praying through someone else’s fight!

Going to our knees on behalf of the ministry of another is essential if they are to continue putting feet to that ministry.

I strive to continue in those things that I have learned of the Lord, being ready in season and out of season, to give an answer for the hope that lies therein! I know that your prayers work to help bring that desire to pass. Please pray that I will be faithful to practice what I preach. And to practice it even before I preach it. I pray the same thing for those of you who read this blog and seek to please the Lord above all else. I would like to know how I could pray for you specifically!

We are exhorted to “shod [our] feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15)…the time we spend doing just that will make us ready to walk into any situation the Lord desires that we walk into, for His glory alone.

What we wear on our feet is very important. The Lord knows the “terrain” (the details within each situation) better than we do. We must always choose the shoes He has ordained for that purpose. Let us be very attentive to the Spirit’s preparation.

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reporting for Duty

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

How do you view the idea of being owned—entirely? Have you ever grasped the full mentality of such a position? Does it feel a little stifling? Archaich? A contradiction to the Freedom we are promised in Christ?

Theologically, we may know we are the servants of the Lord—why, we sing about it at church, read about it in devotionals, and talk about it with other believers. To deny that position would be unquestionable. But practically, behaviorally, we may not always act as if our lives are under the orders of Another. We get up and walk wherever we please (John 21:18), not always checking in with our Commanding Officer—we take counsel with ourselves instead—doing that which is “acceptable” among other believers. We like to assume (assumption does not require reckoning) our declared love, worship, and devotion is all that Jesus (the One who died in order to purchase our redemption) wants from us. We believe we are giving Him a wonderful gift: our desire to serve Him. But when push comes to shove we may not fully complete a task He's given or completely forget to ask His opinion on a certain matter. We feel comfortable in our Christianity and are afraid to ask if He would like to see change. We pray “Your will be done” but often do not wait upon His bidding. Sadly, our knowledge does not always affect our actions—we talk and perform as if we will not have to answer for every word and deed. But, according to scripture—we will!

“Deana, a slave of the Savior...” is not the usual greeting I put in a letter to a friend or give as an intro when meeting someone new—but maybe it should be. Such a reference is telling, is it not? Everything that comes thereafter would be weighed by a perfect standard—whether I am putting my pen to paper or choosing a topic for discussion. This declared reality would require greater thought and constant dialogue with my Master when communicating with someone else. What I say or scribble must not be my words only...but my words approved by His Word! It doesn't have to take away style, opinion, love, care, or creativity...but it will take away sin! So much would be left unwritten. And in many cases, so many things would be left unsaid.

The apostle Paul was always quick to identify himself as “not of himself” but belonging to Someone greater. He began almost every epistle with the declaration that basically stated I do the bidding of Christ alone! The word servant, in 2 Timothy 2:24, literally means having a sense of subjection or subservience—a slave. If we have been bought with a price then we are not our own. Period. That absolute truth cannot be ignored without consequences. If we are pursuing the freedom we have in Christ, in a scriptural manner, then we will naturally find ourselves bound to the Lover of our souls with chords that are not easily broken! It is not a forced is a sacrifice of devotion—a compelling love that will drive us to commit all of our ways to the authority of Christ. This will be true even when our flesh screams for us to pick up pride in order to judge situations from a human viewpoint and react according to our natural inclinations. It is natural to respond to a negative comment with a negative comment. It is natural to be condescending to a fool who says “there is no God”—especially if that fool is obnoxious.

Paul knew that.

And that is why he reminded Timothy that he was the servant of the Lord—not a gifted pastor, faithful worker, or wonderful teacher—but a slave. “Timothy,” Paul is saying, “Remember, you belong to God entirely. You must obey, even when life (or the people who make up life) makes obedience tough!” No matter how foolish others may seem to be—no matter how stubborn, sinful, or set in their own ways—God would decide how Timothy should deal with them...not Timothy! I think we should take note!

“The servant of the Lord must not strive”—which means to war, to dispute, to quarrel. God does not want us to be quick to verbally draw our guns even if the other party is dead wrong. It is not our job to correct wrong thinking or modulate wrong actions. We are never told in scripture to war against flesh and blood but against the spirit of evil that dwells in heavenly places. As soldiers of the cross, we must fight against the power of darkness, not the individuals that are bound or deceived by that darkness.

There is a right way to handle the “foolish and unlearned” (vs. 23) and there is a wrong way. As servants of the Lord, it is our duty to discover what our response should include. Even when we are assured of the truth we must temper our approach—it is not about gaining the victory—it is, however, about gaining souls unto salvation! And that must be done in love. We must be careful not to tear down a person while we are tearing down their position—this is not the Spirit of Christ. Jesus Himself rebuked Jame's and John's brilliant plan to “call down fire from heaven” upon those who were rejecting the Lord. “[I] did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them” (Luke 9:55-56). The reality of eternity should affect our course of action—“if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (vs. 25). We must, therefore, strive to be relational—talk to them as if they “may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil” and become a brother or sister! (vs. 26).

That possible reality itself should help to keep our attitude in check. Paul says, “the servant of the Lord gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” Godly persuasion will be confident and pointed...but it will never be contentious or defensive. The Lord's servant must be mild, winsome, and full of kindness. It is possible to be right and pleasant at the same time—even if the other party is neither! This will require patience though—a willingness to continuously endure ill. “The servant of the Lord” must forbear! “The servant of the Lord” must choose to be gentle with all words, kind with every expression, winsome with his personality, and patient with all expectations.

Paul instructed Timothy to impart knowledge instead of quarrel—teach your opposition, don't argue with him. It is vital to be a student of the Word, of Gospel Doctrine, and of those subjects you wish to address if you desire to see change in someone else! Learn what to say in an excellent manner first, open your mouth second! God desires that His people be prepared—allow the Savior the opportunity to prepare you. Spend time with Him. Think. Learn. Pray. “Study to shew thyself approved” (vs. 15) and practice what you learn. Godly persuasion will wisely divide the Word of truth—it will not hit someone over the head with it!

Amy Carmichael said to “rebuke without a pang” is to not understand Calvary love. We understand such love only when we remember that we are not our own—we belong to a precious Savior who will never demand from us that which He did not voluntarily take upon Himself. Jesus, in order to please His Father, chose the life of a slave. He “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant...and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). Let us faithfully follow His example!

“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Risk Worth Taking

“Though it tarry, wait for it” (Habakkuk 2:3).

I think one of the most valuable lessons I have learned (and continue to learn) through the years, is that of sitting still. Sitting still may be an easy concept to grasp but it is very hard to put into practice. To wait upon the Lord requires a quiet mouth and a quiet mind—that would be no fretting, no complaining, and no worrying during that long (for isn’t any wait long?) period of “not moving” (Psalm 37:7). It requires a total trust in God, in His promises, and in His love. It means taking your hands completely off of the situation! It is setting your mind (and all that fills it—all those thoughts that just won't stop) down at the feet of Jesus! It is purposing to keep yourself at His feet!

Not too long ago I heard someone say that those who wait on God risk everything!

The world calls that foolish; God calls it most valuable.

Those who wait on God are vulnerable but they are never fragile—for their security is founded upon a rock that will never be moved. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart” (Psalm 27:14). “I wait quietly before God…He alone is my rock…my fortress where I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:6). There is nothing fragile about a rock! And no matter how we feel while we wait, our hold is firmly established on something much greater than our feelings—if we choose to trust the Father with the entire affair.

God shouts to His people through the prophet Isaiah: “Your strength is to sit still!” Shouts—that is what the scriptures say! He obviously wanted to get their attention—the Israelites where running around forming allies with other countries when God had already promised them the victory. We must be very careful not to do the same thing. When we are in our own little battles it is easy to forget God’s promised “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5)! We take up our armor and charge, either physically (through manipulation of others or rashly made decisions), or mentally (through spending way too much time considering all our options)! Declare your trust in that promise today—declare it by sitting still! Our actions (and reactions) say a great deal about what we believe…! Take time to evaluate yours today.

The wait makes our relationship with Christ more precious—it is because we have time (if we take the time) to know Him better. When we understand this concept we have a greater desire to sit still. How else would He get our complete attention? If we plead with God to change a trial to a blessing or fill lonely hours with companionship more then we purpose to commune with Him during the time of distress, we will never know true intimacy with Christ! When an anxious thought fills your mind this week treat it as an invitation from Jesus to “come in and sit with Me awhile”—for that is exactly what it is! The “prescribed waiting period” is not an endurance test—He actually enjoys our company!

Those who wait upon God have everything they ever need—their expectation is in Him—and they believe that what they lack He alone will supply (Psalm 62:5). “The Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for Him” (Lamentations 3:25). Sitting still is hard to do when something needs to be done. There will be times when you feel you must make an effort to change something that is bothering you, right a wrong, or remove a trial. Before you take any action, spend time before the Lord pleading His intervention and surrendering every “idea” you have as to when and where. And then, do that one thing Naomi counseled Ruth to do: “Sit still, my daughter [my son], and see how the matter will fall” (Ruth 3:18). This verse alone has brought me comfort upon comfort. It is the command to not worry—to not get uptight—when life is confusing or downright upsetting! It is a command that comes with so much relief—realizing that there is nothing I can do or want to do apart from Christ. It is much easier to “sit still and see” than to worry about how in the world it is all going to happen. Wouldn’t you agree?

This kind of trust in Jesus will bring utter delight to your Savior…and that is what you should desire above all things. As our True Lover, it is the most intimate gift we can give Him—for it is our most precious possession. “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act” (Psalm 37:7).

“Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God” (Psalm 123:2). He loves our eyes—He wants them gazing at Him! So often our eyes are darting to and fro trying to figure out which way is the right way! There is obviously something powerful about placing our eyes upon the Savior—He didn't just say He finds the utmost pleasure in those that look to Him for everything but in the eyes of those that look to Him for everything! I believe it indicates a voluntary act. It is something I must choose to do—a conscious decision to look away from my all my fears, worries, and problems in order to fix my gaze on Christ alone! And that, dear friend, communicates volumes to the Lord!

Next time you find yourself anxious over any matter, remember what Jesus said to Martha in Luke 10 and rest in the utter simplicity of sitting still at His feet: “My dear [deana—try placing your own name here], you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her” (Luke 10:42-43).

“Don’t be impatient…travel steadily along…He will honor you” (Psalm 37:34).

“Though it tarry, wait for it” (Habakkuk 2:3).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Too Many to Count—part three

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

And that great multitude cried with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).

I would like to post three more stories…short and to the point…but utterly important to ponder. Taking the time to revisit true accounts of who God used to further His gospel in the past will place that one goal we must have as believers firmly in our soul today. It was the last thing Jesus instructed us to do before He went back to heaven—“go and make disciples of all nations.” Period—to the point! The methods and means may vary but our purpose is the same—we must be about the salvation of man. That is what should motivate our every move. Hudson Taylor, John Paton, and Mary Slessor desired this purpose above all else. Their physical losses (comfort, family, health, fame, wealth) will be traded in for an eternal reward—forever rejoicing with those they were willing to die for.

Chinese from the Interior
Ningpo Province

Hudson Taylor was the first missionary to enter the Interior of China. He experienced the call to “go” as a teenager—“Go for Me to China”—the Lord spoke clearly on a December day, in 1851, and Hudson obeyed! Although he endured storms at sea and many trials on that five-month journey by boat, God miraculously saw Hudson to his destination at the age of 22!

Hudson Taylor began to learn the language and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the river towns until he moved “West of the mountains, South of the clouds, North of the lake”—Inland China—in 1865. Through his passion and vision the China Inland Mission was birthed! His fervent prayers and mighty influence drew more than 800 men and woman to leave the companionship of family and comfort of home to cross the ocean and minister within the far reaching miles of inland China. That number is staggering—one man's work encouraging 800 more to serve! At Hudson’s death in 1905 over 125,000 Chinese Christians were serving God in their own country. The Word of God increased in the mountains of China—the Word of God continues to increase in the mountains of China—all through the faithful obedience of one man. Our step forward, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at the time, may have a monumental effect upon the Kingdom of God.

Hudson’s family endured many griefs and hardships—Hudson himself underwent many trying years personally and spiritually while serving in a foreign land—but it did not deter him from the task. We do not share Christ’s Redemptive plan with others because we are emotionally, physically or spiritual “set”—we share because that is what our King told us to do. Hudson trusted all of his pain and confusion to Jesus and waited for healing and comfort—but while he waited, he worked. He received both revival of heart and harvest of souls.

Can you imagine what would have happened if Hudson Taylor had chosen to put aside God’s obvious command to “go” until he felt adequate enough to carry it out? Multitudes of Chinese alone will one day bow in worship before the throne of their great God—all because of Hudson Taylor’s humble response to the Spirit and obedience to the Great Commission!

The Tannese
New Hebrides

As a young man, John Paton heard the Lord say, “Go across the sea as the messenger of My love; and lo, I am with you.” John was determined to follow that order! In April of 1858, John said goodbye to his homeland of Scotland and sailed to the South Pacific. He arrived on the small island of Tanna (in the New Hebrides) in November of that same year. His faith was severely tested on that cannibal soil—he was overwhelmed by the superstitions and the cruelty of heathen at their worst. Witnessing war, murder, and the cooking and eating of human flesh filled John’s heart with both horror and pity—driving him at times almost to the point of despair.

It was the reality of God’s presence, “Lo, I am with you,” that gave him the strength to complete the task God had given him to do. Years and years of grueling trials, death threats, and grief were used by God as a machete to hack through the thorns and thistles hindering the furtherance of the gospel on the island of Tanna. Although discouraged, this man of God labored on and was rewarded!

Paton declared, "In heathendom, every true convert becomes at once a missionary. The changed life, shining out amid the surrounding darkness, is a gospel in largest capitals which all can see.” And so, John had the privilege of watching men transformed from brutal savages to those zealous for the things of Christ.

Paton died at the age of 83 in 1907. The last sentence of John’s autobiography states: “Let us commune with each other again, in the presence and glory of the Redeemer.” The angel told the apostle John that multitudes of every tribe and tongue would one day stand before their Creator in heaven giving all praise to the Savior of their souls—and because of John’s faithful obedience—the Tannese are included in that incomprehensible number!

Okoyong Tribe

At the age of 29, Mary Slessor stepped upon African soil along the Calabar River in 1876. Mary left a hard life in Scotland (her father was an alcoholic) to serve her Savior among the cannibal tribes of Africa. She entered what was known as “The White Man’s Grave” with incredible spunk and determination! The further Mary traveled the more needs she discovered and her heart was full with the passion to share Christ with those who had never heard. Working in the coastal villages she longed to go where no white man had ever gone before. As she would lay awake at night and hear the distant noise in the jungle, she prayed fervently that she would be able to go “and help reach them!” The human reasoning given her by other missionaries always said: “No. You would be killed. They cannot be reached.”

Despite this negative response, Mary never gave up praying. God answered the cry of her heart and in 1888 she traveled up river to the Okoyong people—feared by many other tribes. She was the first outsider to ever live among them. A day did not go by without a serious crisis. These people knew only vengeance and cruelty…through the gospel of Jesus Christ, lived and preached, Mary began to teach them what love looked like. Through her intense ability to work, share, learn language, and teach (despite sleepless nights, tropical disease, and physical exhaustion) the Okoyong began to accept Jesus. Free of pagan gods, the Okoyong were now released to understand the love of a Savior—the love Mary had demonstrated year in and year out! Idols disappeared and churches were built!

Azo Tribe

Although rejoicing in the salvation of her blessed Okoyong Tribe, Mary Slessor felt a great tug on her heart for the “region beyond”! The call was “Onward!” and she answered that call without looking back.

Without looking back—what an example of Paul’s “focusing all my energies on this one thing” exhortation in Philippians 3. Without entertaining one thought regarding any demands her body would have “rightfully” made for retirement, Mary settled among the Azo people. This cannibal tribe also rejected Christ’s message at first, but soon began to listen to what Mary taught because of her example! Although none could read or write yet many believed those things Mary taught. Soon more than 200 converts were reported and Mary begged for pastors to come and teach these new believers.

Mary walked those rough Azo paths until she was too old and feeble to do so. It was then she was carried. In January of 1915, the Lord took Mary home to heaven. Her body was taken down river to Cape Town. There she was buried on a hill next to the mission station where she first served. It was there her body was buried…for her spirit went directly to be with her Savior. After 39 years of dedication in Africa, Mary will one day have the privilege of praising her Redeemer with a vast number of the Okoyong and Azo Tribes (and I am sure countless others), bowing before His heavenly throne for all eternity!

Continue to read true stories of believers who risked everything for the sake of the gospel and, as you do, allow their faithfulness—their utter determination—to excite your own spirit toward fulfilling the Great Commission. Use their stories to excite your own children toward this end.

God was true to His Word, even when it looked like He had forsaken His own. Despite death, disease, fear, captivity, rejection, curses, loneliness, and heartache He answered their prayers—He carried them along and He eventually established His church among heathen nations. He did not do it automatically—in fact, many missionaries of the past were not able to see the full impact the gospel brought to the areas they pioneered. That is often true today as well. It takes time. Lots of time. It is hard to see spiritual progress…goodness, it is hard to see physical progress…especially when you are up to your knees in malaria, markets, misconceptions…cultural differences, language learning…or laundry for that matter. And that is why it is absolutely necessary to supply those, who labor in the field, with encouraging words! With reminders of God’s promises! “A good report” (Proverbs 15:30). The last was God’s idea completely—He desires that we provide refreshment for those far away!

Spend time this week crying out on behalf of the missionaries you know…those who have left family and the comforts of home, in order to draw others to this reality of the “heavenly throne” we are promised in the book of Revelation. Pray that they would be filled with hope and strengthened in their task. And then write and let them know you are praying.

Hudson Taylor, John Paton, and Mary Slessor had the support and prayers of their churches in Scotland and England—but they were not blessed to receive communication as readily as we are today. Take advantage of this technology more often…post a letter, send an email, make a phone call…! Let these dear servants of the King know that you remember their struggle, that you fight their battles in the heavenly realm, that you appreciate their extreme sacrifice, that you have not forgotten their dedication, and that you look forward, with great anticipation, to that wonderful day in eternity future when you will gather to worship the Savior with the very people they are being diligent to reach.

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

Monday, February 16, 2009

Too Many to Count—part two

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

And that great multitude cried with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).

Twice in Scripture, once through the prophet Isaiah and once through the apostle Paul, God declares—very poetically—His sentiments regarding those who fulfill the Great Commission! “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15). Beautiful—that is how He describes their feet…not their desire, not their willingness, not even their heart, but their feet. Odd! But there it is, in black and white, both in Isaiah and Romans!

What exactly is God wanting to express? Surely more than just His opinion of their outward appearence. The Greek word horaios (translated beautiful) means belonging to the right hour or season, flourishing. God is telling us something very important about the one who fulfills his duty to “go”: he is doing so in the most timely matter. And that, my dear friend, is very attractive to the Lord!

Sharing the gospel is “time sensitive” for there is an end to every man (set at conception) and an end to this world (which no man can know the hour). We are not to wait or drag our feet—not once the command is given. According to Romans 10:14-15, the lost will never be able to (fully) come to Christ without a witness to show them the way. To the Savior, the act of going—the actual walking (a sign of movement and determination with a goal in mind)—is highly treasured…and, therefore, to the Christian, the act of going must be highly prioritized.

Who will be in heaven before the Lamb, due to the “beautiful” way you walked this week, this month?

Bechwana Tribe

Robert Moffatt of Scotland, born in 1795, was called by God for missionary service when he was 19 years of age! He was a gardner by trade and dreamed of climbing the ladder of success...always imagining himself as wealthy and influencial—he could see his future stretch far in front of him—a future of comfort and ease. God had other successes in mind. On a six mile walk to a nearby town to shop, Robert passed a poster advertising a Missionary Service. It caught his eye dramatically and he could not help but read it over and over and over again:


Although the date was passed and the meeting transpired, he could not move from that very spot. As he stood there, it was as if time reversed in his mind. He found himself back in his childhood home, sitting by the fire and listening to his mother tell exciting stories of the Moravian missionaries taking the gospel to Greenland. And so, in one moment, it seems to me, Robert was transformed. “Will you give up your plans for My plans?” a Voice plainly spoke in his soul. “Are you willing to suffer that the heathen be saved?”

"Yes, Lord,” he said aloud—and from then on his one driving passion was to take God's Word to some far away place!

Robert sought out Mr. Roby, the man on the poster, and asked if he would secure him an appointment under the missionary society. Mr. Roby was so taken by this young man's earnestness and abilities he spent much of his own personal time instructing him for a service overseas.

As Robert waited to go abroad he took a gardner position in the home of the Dukenfieds. There he met their daughter Mary and discovered that her secret desire for missionary service was as full and strong as his own. He quickly fell in love with Mary and asked her to go to with him to the foriegn field—her excited “yes!” was thwarted when her father found out—“My wife and I have no objection to your marriage, if you will stay in this country; but we will never agree to our only daughter going to some uncivilized land where she would suffer many hardships and, more likely than not, die an early death!” Amidst the dissaproval of parents, the heartache of unfulfilled dreams and the fervent love they had for each other Robert and Mary chose to walk a higher road—they chose to walk beautifully. The love they had for their Lord, and the passion they owned to win the lost was stronger than their human desires for each other! Their determined decision was to part from one another—and so, Robert and Mary said goodbye knowing they may never see one another again.

Robert arrived in Cape Town, Africa in 1817. As a 22 year old, single missionary he dove into his work with ardency. After 8 months of language study, Robert began risking his health, and, at times his very life, to reach out to those who had never heard the gospel of Christ. He lived in African simplicity—his diet conisisting only of milk and dried meat. But Robert had great impact—not only on the natives but also on many of the Dutch missionaries serving in that region—he challenged their thinking greatly when it came to evangelizing the servants. One Dutch man told Robert it would be better to “call the baboons” than to reach out to the Hottentots working in his own home. After opening up the scripture and ministering its truth to the missionary, the man finally said to Robert, “You took a hard hammer and you have broken a hard head.”

Robert was very lonely, but the only news from Mary was that her parents still had not consented to her coming—in fact, they seemed more opposed than ever. In his next letter home, Robert's reply was painfully transcribed, but truthfully written: “In my suffering I am cheered with this one recollection—that it is for Jesus' sake and the salvation of the heathen.” These words came from a heart filled with the deep dissapointment of hope deferred.

But God has His own way, does He not? Almost 2 years to the month that Robert arrived in Africa, God delivered Mary, by boat, to the very town he lived! By an unexpected miracle, Mary's parents completely changed their minds and allowed their daughter the joy of joining Robert in his work.

God eventually led Robert and Mary to the Bechwana tribe on the Kuruman River. It was there they faithfully worked, preached, prayed, and endured great hardship for many, many years without the blessing of one conversion. But with beseeching prayer and steadfast forbearance, both Robert, and his wife Mary, stayed the course and witnessed the birth of a church in 1829 as 6 Bechwana believers were baptized.

God is a rewarder of all those who diligently seek Him! God blesses those who give up their own desires for His. After 30 years of labor, Robert completed the translation of the entire Bible before his death—completely fulfilling the task God had given him to do. The evangelistic movement grew deep and wide!!!!! Because of Robert’s faithful answer to God’s call many of the Bechwana tribe will be numbered in “the great multitude” that gather to praise their King.

I have been greatly effected as I have taken the time to study out the lives of this man and his faithful wife—what joy they brought their Master as they forsook all to carry out His Great Commission. Not only did God use their lives to gather many Bechwana to glory, but Robert and Mary's daughter (bearing her own mother's name) became the wife of David Livingstone. Many, many more were gathered to glory long after their death!

How exciting it will be to look upon the faces of those Bechwana men and woman around the throne of heaven all because 2 very real people, with very real dreams and deep rooted emotions, dared to live a life of total abondonment to their Lord and Savior.

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

to be continued...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Too Many to Count—part one

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

And that great multitude cried with a loud voice, “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).

With the limited imagination I own (and believe me when I say that it is very active, even if limited) I strain to grasp the grandeur of this future event—the beauty of these words spoken in every language, the unfathomable joy pouring from every heart, the reality of eternity beginning to dawn on every mind. I strain, but I am only able to catch glimpses! This promised reality is magnificent—the presence of God, the tribes of Israel, the elders, the beasts, the angels, and the redeemed from every nation all together in the glory of perfection—every eye fixed upon the One who reached down and rescued man from the utter darkness of the grave.

It is hard to comprehend that magnitude here on earth! But I find that taking the time to ponder my own salvation adds incredible emotion to my imagination—for I am numbered (although it cannot be numbered) among this heavenly throng! I was damned to hell—I was doomed to destruction—it was by God's mercy alone that I was not, and will not be consumed! And so it helps to consider how, when, where, and why the Lord rescued my own soul from condemnation. The more I think upon these realities and those God used to show me the truth, the more excited my spiritual senses become. I am grateful for parents, for friends, for pastors, and for other believers who prayed for my conversion, counseled me with scripture, and explained the gospel in its entirety. I am grateful for the Holy Spirit who pursued me, who drew me, and who enabled me to choose to believe and, therefore, to receive the gift of life. My own salvation was wrought with a great price! And I am grateful for those who “worked” to bring it about! The conclusion of life on this earth will birth an eternal worship service—the incredible awareness of just what that price was, while standing in the presence of the One who paid it—will be motivation enough to never stop “cry[ing] out in a loud voice.” In fact, that knowledge alone urges me to begin right here and now. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness and an urgency to share Christ with those who have not yet heard...

There will be a day when all we know will come to a full blown stop—“and an angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven and sware...that there should be time no longer” (Revelation 10:5-6). Time is a precious resource. And so, as Scripture declares, we must value it highly! “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

What about our relatives? What about our co-workers? What about our friends? What about our next door neighbors? Will they join us in praise to the Redeemer?

What about the tribal man sitting in fear inside his smoke filled hut—he has just buried his dead wife (and to appease the evil spirits, laid his living child alongside his wife's body before covering them both with earth). Completely oblivious to the hope Christ is offering, this man suffers unmeasurable grief. Darkenss fills his empty eyes, and, as of today, nobody has introduced him to the Savior Who waits to bring him peace—a word he cannot define.

What about the little Asain girl bound to the most hideous form of servantude? She has never felt the touch of a father's love or a mother's caress—only the horrific reality of being sold by those who should protect her. She desires death as relief from the physical abuse—unaware that Jesus can bring freedom and complete healing to her body, soul, and spirit. Darkness fills her very depths, pain has saturated all her senses—she can only see, taste, smell, hear, and feel its reality.

What about the Muslim woman enamored by a false god and a book that distorts the meaning of every attribute belonging to her true Creator—life, love, mercy, forgiveness, freedom, eternity, salvation, joy, truth, etc...? Deluded by an imitation, she is completely ignorant of the “God” she desires to please—this in turn brings bondage and inner turmoil. Will she be surprised on the day of judgement as her sentence of destruction is passed or will she gather among those who praise the Lamb that was slain—the Lamb slain to deliver her from lies and idolatry? Will Jesus take her by the hand and lead her “unto living fountains of waters...and wipe away all tears from [her] eyes” (Revelation 7:17)?

I have been giving a lot of thought to those who will one day stand before God in Revelation 7, “clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” This pondering has become a study and I have been challenged with my findings—challenged by Paul's “watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” exhortation to young Timothy (2 Timothy 4:5). I have also been reproved by the lives of those who have gone before me in order to fulfill the work of reaching the nations. I have read how they watched, endured, worked and faithfully completed their tasks.

The results of their faithfulness were often slow in coming and they definitely could not be measured on a human scale. Devotion to "reaching the lost" is utter folly to the world. It is never profitable to measure anything of eternal value according to the world's standard. Never.

But it is powerful to pinpoint the nations, the tribes, the towns, the villages, and the individuals who will be in heaven—and it is practical to discover who God used and how he used them to get them there. It is important, I believe, to take the time to soak up their sacrifice and let their choices influence our own. “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

Bear with me as I ponder this together with you. Observing, calculating, and drawing conclusions as to passion and practice in evangelism can be for our edification, our education, and our exhortation. I hope it is used to increase your prayer life—for it has increased mine. I desire that it will give you ideas, give you courage, and give you compassion for those who yet do not know Jesus. Our goal should be that of our Savior's: The Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Let's be willing to move out of our comfort zone in order to secure the eternal comfort of another.

John 4

There will be those from the village of Sychar, in the land of Samaria, worshipping the Savior in their eternal home because Jesus “need[ed] to go through” that unpopular place! Jesus chose to travel the road to Sychar (He chose the disagreeable route)... before He walked the lonely road to Calvary! He physically sat down beside a well and engaged a woman in conversation. He creatively drew her to a spiritual topic. And Jesus verbally communicated His plan! He took time to speak into the life of one woman…and because of that encounter He was able to speak into the lives of an entire community! Jesus is our example of missionary service—He left the glories of heaven in order to live, breathe, and minister upon “foreign soil.”

He took a road uncommonly traveled by Jews
He placed Himself where people would be passing
He took time to sit among those despised by His own people
He spoke to a woman
He talked about the nitty gritty of her sin
He presented Himself to her as the Messiah

“The woman left her water pot and went her way into the city,” declaring all that Jesus had told her to the people of the town. “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman which testified…and many more believed because of His own word” (John 4:28-40). I look forward to worshipping alongside this unnamed woman...and I can't help but wonder what the ripple effect of her boldness to share all that God had done for her has produced? How many more “Samaritans” will be present before the throne because this little town of Sychar believed!

Gentiles from Caesarea
Acts 10

The apostle Peter heeded the Holy Spirit’s command “to go” where he had never gone before. That act of obedience took him to those he believed to be “unclean.” But it was there, in Caesarea, that Peter declared the truth that states: “God is no respector of persons” (Acts 10:34-35). God had many things to teach this “missionary” and much of it he “learned on the way!” One step at a time.

He promptly followed the Spirit’s leading
He traveled to Caesarea trusting God completely to unfold His will (he didn't wait till it was fully revealed)
He shared his testimony of the vision he had with Cornelius and the others gathered together
He gave the gospel in its entirety

“The Holy Ghost fell on them which heard the word” and they were baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 10: 44-48). I am particularly moved by Peter's willingness to listen and follow the Spirit, without so much of a hestitation. He trusted the Spirit completely—even as God shook up his “little known world” and asked him to immediately step out of his cultural and theological box. “Just step out,” God basically said, “and trust Me to show you where to walk, who to talk to, and what to say!” There was a mission to be done and Peter chose to be used by His Savior to perform that mission...and because of that willingness, the Gentile church was born. A small group of believers (small enough to fit in Cornelious' house) will be among the throng in heaven worshipping our great King—all because one man dared to follow the Spirit's command!

Greeks from Antioch
Acts 11:20-26

Unnamed men of Cyprus and Cyrene (possibly converts under the missionary service of the church in Jerusalem) were the first to take the Good News to Antioch. There these men spoke to the Grecians, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ—“and the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed” (Acts 11:21).

Men left their towns to carry the Word to those who had never heard
They preached Christ in the strength of the Lord alone
The church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to exhort the new “Christians” (they were first called Christians in Antioch)
Barnabas enlisted the help of Saul—there they stayed for over a year—and “assembled themselves with the church and taught much people” (Acts 11:26)

It was from this church that Saul and Barnabas were sent out for missionary service—this body was formed, matured, and reproduced. The time that elapsed from being evangelizing...was pretty short. How exciting to think of the many that were saved, because of those missionary journeys.

I look forward with anticipation to the day I will worship with this special group of believers—all because “ of Cyprus and Cyrene...when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus.”

“I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

to be continued...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I’ll Be What You Want Me To Be, Dear Lord

“Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (1 Corinthians 7:24).

What do you want to be when you grow up? What are your plans now that you’ve graduated from high school? Are you going to go to college? Do you think you might go back to Russia? or Taiwan? or Mexico? Are you making plans to return to Indonesia any time soon? So, you want to be a missionary??? What’s your objective? your destination? your goal? In other words, “What exactly are you figuring on doing with your life—and when exactly do you plan on getting started?” Believe me, it would be very satisfying for all parties involved (myself especially included) if answering such questions were as easy as choosing what you wanted for dinner and then making it! And then eating it! Period. Planned, purchased, prepared, pastured! But, it is not! And so, many conversations—starting out with an ordinary question—end awkwardly. How does one explain the deep, deep desires of one's heart, the earnest longing to serve one's God, and yet the decision to wait upon His timing to fulfill both, to those who just want a simple answer? One doesn’t!

Many years ago my need for Christ became a burning desire to know Him more. I knew that knowing Christ would mean full surrender. Although the pride in my life seemed to work overtime to barricade such defeat, God in His faithfulness was the Conqueror! I knew for certain God’s hand was on me and that He was selecting me for service—but what exactly did He have in mind? The fact that God had called me was evident! But what was I to do…where was I to aim...where should I place my focus?

Because I knew the Lord wanted to be personally involved when it came down to answering the question—“What do you want to do with your life?”—I began to want to do only those things that would glorify Him. It was easy to choose what I wanted—harder to then choose to put those things in His hands, and leave them there!

“I’ll be what You want me to be, dear Lord,” I had told Him. I meant it! I mean, I thought I meant it, that is, until He gave me an answer I wasn’t quite willing to accept! It didn't look like the answer I was expecting. It required a lot of work—and yet it was not recognized. It was difficult to explain. It was hidden. It was secret. It was lonely. But the rubber needed to meet the road—my talk needed to become practical application. Our Savior doesn’t much care for words or sentiment—unless they are faithfully practiced. He wanted my willingness for sure, but even more than that, He wanted ME!

God declared just exactly what He had called me to be—not in a loud voice and not in an actual “thus saith the Lord” voice—but down deep, down in the recesses of my heart—and I knew that He was giving me my orders. As I took the time to find Him working within every circumstance He allowed to enter my life, I found Him—and there, in the midst of whatever was going on, He would draw me aside and whisper, “I want you to be a servant!” I desired to be a wife, a mother, a missionary, and one who would disciple many…He desired me to be HIS! His completely! The results are still unfolding—but the reality of my calling is sure! Whether I liked the answer was not the point. Would I be willing to obey?

How grateful I was, and am, for that word! I need clarification. My personality thrives on confirmation! He is faithful to continue to supply both!

Every past experience and every present situation has been affected. Not to say that I have behaved correctly within each one—but my attitude and, therefore my response, has definitely been altered within each one. The task is to serve all who are involved. Period! That reality, in itself, completely clears the air. When that assignment is applied, my way is visible. I have something to aim for. My focus is sure! My goal is reachable!

He has led me to serve my family, my church, the body of Christ, friends, strangers, children, and even those who are hard to get along with—especially those who are hard to get along with! The beauty of fulfilling this call?—well, I was able to fully commit to it when I was 16, 18, and 28—and yes, it means I am still able to commit to it today! I can do it when I am single or if I am married, no matter my profession or where I live, if I am in America or across the ocean! And working according to God’s will is what brings utter freedom and satisfaction.

This is exactly what Christ has called me to do…and as I wait for the fulfillment of all my dreams, this is exactly what He wants me to continue to do! As His perfect plan unfolds, changing my name or my position or my geographical location, He never wants me to waver in this task!

Christ leads me by His own example: “taking the form of servant, He humbled Himself” even to death (Philippians 2:8). Paul, therefore, exhorts me to “lead a life worthy of [my] calling, for [I] have been called by God” (Ephesians 4:1-2)—called by God to be like God!

What do you want to be when you grow up? Well, my simple answer—I want to be like Jesus.

“Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God” (1 Corinthians 7:24).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Key to a Quiet Life

“Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made on behalf of all men: for kings and rulers in positions of responsibility, so that our common life may be lived in peace and quiet, with a proper sense of God and of our responsibility to Him for what we do with our lives” (1 Timothy 2:1 Phillips).

As I ponder the change that January 20th brought to our Nation—all the media coverage, all the negative coverage, all the coverage period—I am easily out of sorts, depressed, or fed up! But that is not what God calls me to be. He desires to gather up those emotions and use them for the furtherance of His Kingdom. He wants me to use all my internal energies toward more constructive responses (ie praying, praying, or...uh...praying!). According to the 2nd Chapter of 1 Timothy, there is an important and “proper” response—one that leads to peace and quiet (at least in my heart and home—the promised peace to the world will come at Christ's return!)—and it is a response the Lord holds me responsible to keep! That is sobering to consider...especially when I consider the time I spent (or better put, did not spend) in prayer for my county this last week! Pray? Yes, I did! Consistently? Uhhhh, no, I did not! There is one word that comes to mind: minimal! And when I take a moment to recall the time I thought about or talked about my country, that word minimal, in regards to prayer, becomes very shameful indeed! I have been commanded to pray, and in the sight of God our Savior this is undoubtedly the right thing to do:“for His purpose is that all men should be saved and come to realize the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3). Writing out a prayer helps me to Biblically, and therefore, boldly, come before the throne of God. I ask you to join me in praying for those God has seen fit to put into office.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Your word tells me that I must pray for all people in authority over me, that I may live in peace, in godliness, and in dignity (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Lord, I give thanks this day for every branch of government and every individual that you have appointed to rule and judge within this great Nation. You appoint Kings and you take down kingdoms! You, O Lord, are Sovereign!

I plead Your mercy upon our President, Barack Obama, his cabinet, and our Vice President, Joe Biden; I plead Your mercy upon our Congress—those residing in the House and the Senate; I pray specifically for our Congressmen, Representatives, and Senators; I plead your mercy upon our Mayors and Governors; and I plead Your mercy upon our Supreme Court Judges—those who hold great power—as they pass laws that either reflect or discredit Your judgment. I lift up Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice David Souter, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Steven Breyer and Justice Samuel Alito, and ask that they will look to their higher Authority, the Eternal Judge, in the last day.

Whenever I assemble with other believers to pray, Your word tells me that it must be without anger and controversy (1 Timothy 2:8). Forgiveness is a major key to not being “outsmarted” by the enemy (2 Corinthians 2:11). I am familiar with his evil schemes and desire to come before You, Lord Jesus, with no harbored bitterness against anyone. Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord (Psalm 19:14).

As my prayer is to be an expression of my love, may it be pure and Christ-like, full of compassion and tender mercy! Lord, You felt great pity when you saw people, because their needs were so great, and because they did not know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36-37). Lord, You are that Great Shepherd and You are good. You promise to be a Guide to those who have gone astray. You promise to bring back those that are scattered. Lord, please rescue those that are lost—break their chains of bondage. Bind up the injured and strengthen the weak (Ezekiel 34).

Lord, I pray that these men and women would come to full salvation from sin and gain an understanding of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). I pray against the god of this evil world, who has blinded their eyes from seeing the glorious light (2 Corinthians 4:4). I pray that Your light would dispel their darkness and that they would be freed from the power of Satan and be set apart to God (Acts 26:18). May I stand firm against the strategies of the wicked one as I pray for those in authority over me—for I wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against rulers, and against authorities of the unseen world and wicked spirits in heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:11-12).

Lord, you desire that none should perish. I pray that our President and those who hold high office would believe that you exist (Hebrews 11:6)—that they would seek You with all their hearts, and that they would find You (Matthew 7:7).

I pray that those in authority over this country would display a godly and just rule (Proverbs 16:12). May they commit their works to You, for then their plans to succeed will come to fruition (Proverbs 16:3). I pray that those who govern this nation will seek wisdom from You alone, for You alone can grant it (Proverbs 2:6). I pray that they will please You in all their ways—for You promise to protect those who please You—even their enemies will be at peace with them (Proverbs 16:7).

Lord, I pray that these men and women would practice self-control, for without it they are like a defenseless city (Proverbs 25:28). Lord, their actions will greatly effect the protection of this county. I pray that they would have a tender conscience—that they would confess their sins and forsake them (Proverbs 28:13-14). And I pray that they would hate dishonesty and brides (Proverbs 28:16).

Dear Father, I pray that you will bless our Nation through these individuals. You have promised to listen intently to my prayer, and I am confident in Your word that says that whatever I ask according to Your will, will be given to me (1 John 15:14-15). It is Your will that none would perish. It is Your will that all would come to a greater understanding of the truth. I anticipate the remarkable secrets You will reveal (Jeremiah 33:3).

In Your most Precious Son’s Name, Jesus Christ, and through His Blood, Amen.

“Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made on behalf of all men: for kings and rulers in positions of responsibility, so that our common life may be lived in peace and quiet, with a proper sense of God and of our responsibility to Him for what we do with our lives” (1 Timothy 2:1 Phillips).