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).