Missions: God’s Heartbeat

His name is Dave.
He works odd jobs; chopping down trees, clearing land, working in gold mines. His home is a trailer. He’s got a way with a chainsaw, and in his spare time makes chainsaw sculptures for California tourists or curiosity collectors, creating everything from life-size grizzly bears to carved benches from good California redwood.

When Dave has saved up enough money from his hard work, he buys a plane ticket. Not to Mexico, not to Hawaii, not to NYC.  No, Dave doesn’t treat himself to a pampered vacation.  He goes to a dirty, turbulent third-world country.

When he arrives in this certain country (which I’ll keep anonymous) his blond hair and tall build make him stand out in a land not accustomed to tourists.  He makes his way to a little white building in the area where the Christians live.  There, this American backwoodsman is greeted by crowds of small smiling faces, clamoring for a look at their very own celebrity.

This is the Christian school that Dave started with his own work-callused hands.  Scores of the native children growing up in their oppresive Muslim homeland are given the chance to receive an excellent, Christ-centered education in this little schoolhouse.  This is Dave’s passion.  He trims trees with his roaring chainsaw and drives a tractor under the hot sun, because of these children.  He isn’t sent by a missionary board here in the U.S.  He has no training.  Mostly he hires qualified, educated natives in the area to teach and love on these kids, because Dave can’t be near his school all the time.  He hasn’t got a big job or a statewide church supporting network.  Dave is funded by that chainsaw.

Most folks would call Dave crazy.  His life has been endangered multiple times by radical Muslims.  He spends his time in one of the most violent and troubled nations on earth, all to give these children of Christian families encouragement.  All to be used by God to lead stubborn hearts to Himself.  Dave goes under the radar of most comfortable, suburban, pampered families here in the U.S.  He’s a hard worker, but his life choices make no sense to others.  But under that hot sun, driving a backhoe or mining for gold, Dave thinks of those kids, and that’s what keeps him going.

America’s heart for missions has gone cold.  Southeast Asian nations like Korea and Cambodia are sending far more missionaries out into the world than American churches.  The missionary life is looked down on.  What would convince someone to leave the comforts of America for the sake of people who often remain very hostile to evangelists, without expecting anything in return save scorn and hunger, pain and loneliness, poverty and disappointment?  This level of self-sacrifice must require a certain amount of madness.  Even many Christians in church view foreign missionaries with a strange mix of admiration, distrust, and unease.  Their stories of life in a foreign world, sharing the “old, old story” with faces of a different color in voices of a different tongue intrigue and confuse us.  We’re flustered because our world is so comfortable, and theirs, so very uncertain.

Once upon a time, the call of missions set America on fire.  Missionaries were viewed with respect as heroes of the faith, following the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) of Christ to the darkest parts of the world.  Individuals like Adoniram and Ann Judson, missionaries to Burma, achieved something like celebrity status in the States for their work (16 biographies were written about Ann’s life, with one so popular that a new edition was published almost every year for 26 years, from 1830-1856).

Now, America spends more money each year on dog food than on missions.

This reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:21; “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Obviously, judging from where we put our money, America no longer has a heart for saving the lost.  We’re more concerned about giving earthly sustenance to our pets than sharing eternal life with those who are perishing.  This is tragic.

Where is your heart?  How do you feel about overseas missionary work?  The God we worship has a huge passion for saving those who are lost, and He does not love those of us who are European any more than those who are Spanish or Pakistani, Chinese or Cherokee.  Jesus Christ is the Savior of the nations.  He is Lord of all men.

Without Christ, all of are helpless.  We have no hope.  Remember your salvation.  Remember your own story; remember God’s grace in your life.  Remember the sense of hoplessness you had before you knew Him as your Savior.  That is what millions of men and women are experiencing today, all over the world.  They may die without ever hearing the gospel taught plainly to them.

There are over 1500 unengaged people groups on earth…meaning that they have no churches or pastors.  1600 people groups are unreached…meaning that 2% or less of their population are evangelical.

These people need the gospel.  Our call as those who are saved is to declare God’s glory among the nations.  As you read these verses, open your own heart to see the mind and heart of God.  Listen to His heartbeat with every word.  Pray that you will share His passion for the lost and dying around the world.

“…Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received gracec and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations..” Romans 1:4b-5

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” Acts 17:30

“…and [Jesus] said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’ ”  Luke 24:46-27

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’ ”  Mark 16:15

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ ” Matthew 28:18-20

 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  1 Peter 2:9-10

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For ‘everyone whocalls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'”  Romans 10:12-13

We are called to be “world Christians”: believers following a global calling.  No matter our profession or means or lifestyle we must share Christ’s passion for the salvation of the nations.  This is truly the heartbeat of God.  To not be concerned with the salvation of the perishing around the world is to not be in line with the will and the plan of God.  John 3:16 does not say, “For God so loved Canada” or “For God so loved the USA”.  Rather, it says, “For God so loved the WORLD, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (emphasis added)  And the next verse continues, “Fod God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Faith in Christ is the only way to be saved.  As Peter teaches in Acts 4:2,“…there is salvation in no one else, for their is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  In order to be saved, we must come to faith in Christ through the knowledge of His sacrifice in our behalf on the cross, knowing that we cannot be saved through our own good works or intentions, but only by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But Paul raises the important question in Romans 10:14-15, “..how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed?  and how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ “

Paul himself, a Jew of the Benjamite tribe (Philippians 3:5), was called by “…he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” (Galatians 1:15-16).  In Acts 26:16-18, Paul records the words that Jesus spoke to Him upon his conversion:

” ‘But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I wil appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ “

Whether you are called to pray for the missionaries you know (praying is not a little) or help send them with your finances, or if you are called to radical action, joining the ranks of Paul and Dave and so many others in their quest to follow Christ wherever He may lead them, know that this is truly the passion of God.  So listen to His call, and then follow Isaiah.  “And I heard the voice of the lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’  Then I said, ‘Here am I!  Send me.’ “  Isaiah 6:8

I believe that more of us are called to share the love of God and the salvation of His name among the nations that we realize…or are willing to admit.  Tune your heart to His and listen well.  After all, as Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

One day, this will be the scene we behold around the throne of God.  And we will understand, truly, the indescribable richness of this treasure that we can never, never lose.

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying,

‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood, you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’ “

Revelation 5:8-10

 

Advertisements

Proverbs: Accepting Correction

“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Proverbs 6:23

King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, the Bible tells us. God granted his request for knowledge and discernment…a desire that he held above all others…and gave him an understanding mind and a wise heart. By inspiration of God, Solomon wrote several books in the Bible, including the practical book of Proverbs, which is rich in instruction and prudence.

One of Solomon’s major themes is the acceptance of correction, as evidenced in the above passage from chapter six, verse twenty-three, where he calls it the “way of life”. For a man as wise and learned as King Solomon to call the acceptance of reproof an essential part of life is an impressive statement.

What exactly was Solomon’s meaning? He expands in other passages throughout the book.

“He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.” Proverbs 10:17

“Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.” Proverbs 12:1

 

Here Solomon goes a step further. Not only is learning and receiving correction to be a way of life, but to refuse or to hate correction is actually to error; to be “brutish”.

“Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.” Proverbs 15:10

“He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.” Proverbs 15:32

“He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Proverbs 29:1 

There are consequences for a pride that is too great to listen to the advice and the chastening of others.

“Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.” Proverbs 13:18

Solomon was not only the wisest man who ever lived, he was also one of the most wealthy. Here, he gives his “secret for success”: the humility to listen to the wisdom, and even the criticism, of others.

“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.” Proverbs 13:1

“A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.” Proverbs 15:5

“Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.” Proverbs 29:17

Solomon links the acceptance of instruction to the parent-child relationship. He advises a “wise son” to listen, and encourages a father to correct his child faithfully. Those who adhere to correction are called “wise” and possessing of understanding.

“The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.” Proverbs 15:31

“A reproof entereth more into a wise man than a hundred stripes into a fool.” Proverbs 17:10

“Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.” Proverbs 19:25

The man whom Solomon calls a “fool” and a “scorner” who is too prideful to harken to reproof is “brutish” and can only be taught with physical injury, with the “rod”. However, the man who pays attention to the chastisement of others without haughtiness and with a spirit eager to learn, gains more from words than a fool does from blows.

Solomon also speaks praise for the honest individual who loves his brother or sister enough to correct them.

“As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.” Proverbs 25:12

“Open rebuke is better than secret love.” Proverbs 27:5

“He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.” Proverbs 28:23

The best and wisest instruction of all comes from the word of God.

“Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.” Proverbs 13:13

“He that turneth away from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” Proverbs 28:9

Those with the humility to listen to the words of others and, most importantly, to obey the commandments of God will be blessed and honored. Not all instruction is correct, but when we receive reproof of all kinds with a humble, discerning heart, sift through the words and discard what is worthless or unbiblical while keep what is worthwhile, we will truly grow in the understanding of the Lord.

Write to Sisters Keepers

SK has a new email address!  You can contact us with questions, comments, suggestions, submissions and anything else at sisterskeepersjournal@gmail.com.  Look forward to hearing from you!

America Remembers

Click here for photos of the commemoration ceremony held at Ground Zero today, September 11, 2008, the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Never Forget.

We curled up on Grandma’s bed, flipping through TV channels, looking for cartoons.  It was a fine Tuesday morning in September, and we were on vacation in Southern California.  The next day was my birthday, and I was going to be ten years old.

My 8 year-old sister held the remote.  It was hard to find cartoons that day.  I kept seeing weird scenes…pictures of huge clouds of billowing smoke seemed to be on every channel.  “Mama said something happened,” Michaela said, “Some planes crashed into a skyscraper.”

I didn’t think much of it.  I was 9-almost-10 and I already had a vague realization that news on TV was always bad and surreal and unimportant.  Finally, I tumbled out of Grandma’s bed and tiptoed downstairs.  The house was eerie in its quiet.  In the kitchen, Mom sat before the TV, watching something.

“What happened, Mommy?” I asked.  Rarely ever, before or since, have I seen her so shaken.

Soon, the whole world knew the truth.

Early that morning, all the way across the country, nineteen men had hijacked four commercial airliners.  Some of them were headed to San Francisco, near my home, the others to Los Angeles, near where I was at my Grandma’s.  But instead, two of the planes had been driven into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, New York.  American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon in Virginia.  The fourth, destined for the U.S. Capitol building, was crashed in a Pennsylvania field thanks to the bravery of its passengers.

On that Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, some 2,975 people died, including 411 emergency workers who sacrified their lives trying to end the fires and save others from the rubble and burning buildings.  24 people remain missing.  At least 6,291 people were injured.

Today, I awoke to the sound of voices from my past playing over the radio.  The woman crying as she told of her daughter, calling her on her cell phone, saying, “Mom, there are men on this plane, and they say they have bombs.”  A New Yorker, his voice unsteady with emotion; “The towers are burning.  There are people jumping out of the windows.  I can’t believe this is happening.”

Today is September 11, 2008.  Tomorrow is my birthday, and I am turning 17.

Some things never change…some things will never be the same.

There is a hole in New York City where once the World Trade Center towers stood, tall and proud, reaching to the sky.  There is a hole in the hearts of thousands of people who lost a loved one on that cold September morning.  There is a hole in the feeling of security and safety here in our nation, whose trust has been breached and whose innocence has been shattered.

But September 11, 2001 was not a day of defeat.  On that day, we were hurt but not defeated.  We were bruised but not broken.  We were crushed but not destroyed.  We have fallen but we stood strong again.

In New York, thousands of people were used to the sight of the magnificent Twin Towers.  They were a beacon, a symbol of beauty and unity and strength and everything good in this nation of ours.  And then one day, in a cloud of smoke, they were gone.  No one knew how and no one knew why, but everyone realized that their world would never be the same.

No one felt safe that day.  Even on the other side of the country, in sunny California, near LA where some of the flights were supposed to have landed, we all felt vulnerable…insecure.  Nothing was sure.  No one knew why this had happened and no one knew what would come next.  Driving home to Northern California shortly afterwards, we passed guards standing watch on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  No one knew when or where the next attack might be.

Even in this time of distress and turmoil there were heroes.  The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 paramedics.  The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers; the Port Authority Police Department lost 37 and a K9 dog.  8 EMS and paramedics from private units also lost their lives.  As hundreds of people flooded out of the Towers, swarming the stairs, panicked to get out…these brave men and women were going up.  Fighting the flow, they were looking for those who were too old or too weak or injured…those who couldn’t get out.  Many of these brave people never came down those stairs again.

Numerous individuals gave of themselves during this crisis…many of whose stories will never be told, who will never be recognized as the heroes that they are.

 

I turned 10 the next day.  It wasn’t a happy day.  At first, almost everyone forget.  It just plain wasn’t important.  On that day, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, sweethearts and friends, children and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbors, were still crying.  Some were waiting for news of their missing loved ones.  Desperate to know.  Rescue workers were searching through the rubble for anyone who might still be alive.

President Bush read Psalm 23 to a nation of hurting people.  His words calmed our hearts…words that were not his own, but were almost as old as pain and suffering itself.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…

Pray for the families and friends of those who were lost.  Today, they are remembering.  Pray for our soldiers, fighting our enemy in a faraway land…away from those they love…so that something like this will never happen again.  Pray for our leaders, that they have wisdom and boldness.  Pray for God’s people, that they reach out to those who are hurting.  Pray for our country.

And never forget what happened that September morning.

God bless America.

Purity Popularity

Jonas Brothers

At last Sunday’s Video Music Awards (VMAs), there was quite a buzz.  This isn’t unusual, the popular awards show is often the scene for shocking scenes and scandals, but what was unusual was the subject of all the attention.

The purity rings worn by the popular boy-band, the Jonas Brothers.  Kevin, Joe and Nick each wore a simple band on their ring fingers to symbolize their commitment to sexual purity until marriage.  This receving an offensive string of comments from the show’s host, Russell Brand, whose inappropriate words in turn earned him a scolding from singer Jordin Sparks and hotel heiress Paris Hilton.  Jordin, an American Idol winner and fellow purity ring wearer, said from the stage after accepting her award “it’s not bad to wear a promise ring”, while Hilton told Brand not to “pick on them”.  Mr. Brand later apologized.

Jessica Simpson, Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, and other stars have also worn similar rings in the past.  Many Christians like to use the rings as symbols of an inward commitment to save themselves for marriage.  Christian manufactors like Factory 79 make purity jewelry.  Organizations like True Love Waits support abstinence, purity rings and pledges.

Of course, the real issue is the commitment.  Susie Shellenberger, editor of the popular Christian magazines Brio and Brio & Beyond for teen girls, writes, “Of course, it’s important to remember that your commitment to purity is in your heart and mind — not a piece of jewelry. The jewelry is simply a statement of your pledge.”  In other words, you don’t need a pretty ring in order to make the decision to obey the Bible’s mandate that the marriage bed be pure.  But a ring can be a special reminder of that commitment, and even a conversation starter as to why you believe what you believe.

I don’t know the Jonas Brothers, Paris Hilton, or Jordin Sparks personally.  I can’t answer for their faith or their level of commitment to Biblical chastity.  But I am glad that Kevin, Joe, Nick, and Jordin chose to be vocal about their pledge to save themselves, and that Paris defended them.  In an age when teenage sex and pregnancy is supposed to be accepted, here are some young “pop stars” who have the guts to say, “I believe in something better.”  As for Russell Brand, that he would attack these young men for their stance is very disappointing, but not unexpected.  In the dark world of pop culture, it’s nice to see a little light.  Pray for these young people and their commitments…despite Mr. Brand’s unfortunate remarks, maybe doors have been opened in young hearts throughout a nation desperately in need of a firm belief in the beauty of virtue.

I Can Only Imagine.

Years ago I had a friend named Travis. His little sister and my little sister were the best of buds, and so Travis and I saw a lot of each other.  His mom gave me rides to school.  He was just a grade above me.  I remember him as a kind, courteous, and respectful boy.

I remember when he got sick.

I didn’t understand what “leukemia” meant, but it sounded scary.  Travis grew thin and pale and I remember going to the hospital with him and his mom.  Something called “chemo” became a regular part of my friend’s life.  And we all prayed for Travis.  A lot.

Finally, his cancer went into remission.  Travis was OK again.  People were still scared for him, but after awhile, we all started to feel better.  To feel like maybe, after all, things were going to be alright.

And then the cancer came back.  After that, things happened really fast.  No one was ready on the day when Travis went home to be with the Lord.

I remember bits and pieces of his funeral.  Mostly I remember a song…MercyMe’s I Can Only Imagine.

Shortly before he died, Travis told his mom and dad that it was OK, he was going to be with Jesus.

I don’t know what it will be like when I get to Heaven…when I finally see my Lord face-to-face.  I can only imagine.

I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
And I find myself
Standing in the Son

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

The other day, this song played over the radio, and I remembered Travis.

But Travis doesn’t have to imagine any more.