Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Cost of Discipleship...

In my recent trip to Nepal, we visited with several communities and leaders of local churches. One pastor received us into his home, prepared us a meal and spent the best part of a day taking around his community to look at earthquake damage and potential projects.

As we were relaxing in his home, he told us his life story. He said it wasn't easy to be a follower of Christ in a place where there was so much persecution. There is constant verbal and emotional abuse from neighbors who don't like the church. There is actual physical abuse to persons and properties. And there is the constant secret threats that come to the believers day and night.

When we asked about the persecution and was it worth it all, he told a story of how he knew the value of being a follower of Christ.

He said that when he was a young boy, about 5 years old, local village leaders came into their home, tied his mother and father to some chairs, and then, in front of him and his sibling, began to beat them with wires. They beat them and demanded that they recant their faith in Jesus. But his parents refused to do so, no matter how hard they beat them or how much they threatened them.

He said that he knew that very day that their faith was something real and different. And he knew and committed that he would be a life long follower of Jesus no matter what might come.

Today, he is an overseer of hundreds of churches. And he is constantly singing and sharing about God's love and goodness...even in the midst of on-going persecution.

Jesus said, "If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it." (Luke 9:23-24)

What a great testimony. Oh that you and I would be so faithful...

Monday, August 31, 2015

From Persecution to Praise...

I visited our earthquake response projects and teams in Nepal last week. It was humbling to see the sacrificial work of local and expatriate partners in responding to the needs of over 2 M displace Nepali people. We have done food distributions, hygiene kits, temporary shelters, medical/health care clinics and reconstruction, just to name a few of the ministries going on.

I also heard some amazing testimonies. One local pastor told me about how he had some to faith 20 years ago and has endured constant persecution. He was one of the first believers in his village and had been beaten, threatened with death and his wife and children were constantly harassed by other members of his community. In the past few years, he said that the community where he lived began digging up the bodies of deceased Christ-followers and desecrated the bodies believing that they could discourage the gospel advance this way.

He then smiled and told us that things had changed since the earthquake. The pastor, along with our team members there, was able to help in the community through our disaster response projects. This shocked the local people. They knew they had been cruel to the small group of believers in their community. They felt bad and the leader of the persecutors came to the pastor and told him that they were sorry for all the things they had done to the local church and its members. They confessed that the followers of Jesus were good people and that there was something different about them. They even offered to create a special place for the church to bury their deceased and they would not continue to desecrate the bodies.

The pastor was grateful for all of this but he was more grateful that after so many years of resistance and persecution, many people are now responding to the gospel. And he credits the earthquake response as the tipping point to change the hearts and minds of the persecutors.

The pastor said that only God's Spirit can change the hearts of people but that acts of kindness by his church and BGR was God's tool to help initiate the change.

"Kindness to the poor is a loan to the Lord and He will give a reward to the lender." (Proverbs 19:17)

Monday, April 6, 2015

He is Still Risen...

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:32…

“He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything?”

We celebrated our most sacred of holidays yesterday as followers of Christ: Easter and the Resurrection Sunday. It is a celebration of God offering up His One and Only Son on our behalf. Churches all over the world were gathered together, overflowing with the regular members and thousands of others who maybe only make it to church that one day of the year. It was a sacred gathering to celebrate the Risen Savior. And as we prepared to gather together, I had this wonderful thought (based on the verse above)… 

"The fact of the resurrection should remind us that He sacrificed so much to give us eternal life that we can rest secure in the knowledge that He will also give us abundant life!"

As we labor in the sacred effort of making Christ known to every people, tongue, tribe, and nation, let us not forget that He is still risen. And He is constantly at the right hand of the Father interceding for us and all who have come to trust and have faith in His Name, Person and what He did on the cross. He is not only risen, He is risen forever and will fulfil all His wonderful promises. Not one of them will fail. He saves fully and abundantly! (John 10:10).

I pray you know the risen Savior.  And if you do, I pray you make Him known and help people experience the abundant life He promises.

He is risen…still! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Good of Suffering...

"There is a positive aspect to suffering. We all endure suffering to some degree, but the good news is that through it we can become like Jesus" Henry Blackaby

Nobody likes suffering. We are creatures of comfort, aren't we? We go out of our way to avoid inconvenience. Therefore, when suffering comes, it roots us out of our comfort zones and makes us, well...uncomfortable.

I am not trying to minimize the pain of suffering but I do believe that, as Blackaby says above, there is a positive aspect that we can focus on when trials come that will help alleviate some of our inward focus. If we accept that suffering is inevitable and that suffering is one of God's ways to conform us to the image of His Son, we then can maybe endure better the hard times.

Gold is not gold unless it passes through a flame and the crucible. A diamond is not formed without extreme pressure and time. And you and I do not become like Christ through our comfort alone.

Paul said it best when he said,...

"Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death - even to death on a cross..."

I really don't want to invite suffering into my life but if it helps to hold me into Christ's image, may I embrace it with an eye towards what God wants to do in me through that suffering.

Amen...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Telling Future Generations...

(Exodus 40:38) "For the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and there was a fire inside the cloud by night, visible to the entire house of Israel throughout all the stages of their journey"

You would think that the significance of the cloud by day and fire by night would be testimony enough for Israel to remain faithful to the Lord. However, it is amazing that the more they journeyed towards the promise land, the more it seems they forgot the provisions of the Lord for them along the way. They even came to a point where they remembered (incorrectly) Egypt, the place where they came out of enslavement, as the land flowing with milk and honey. Not a few times, God moved to wipe out Israel and start over with Moses but Moses pleaded on behalf of the people.

Why would Israel forget? The cloud of God's glory was with them daily. The fire of God's presence guided them through the night. On the surface, it doesn't make sense, or does it?

We as humans tend to become accustomed to the usual and tend to stop seeing the wonder of the miraculous the longer we see it. Life and everyday is a gift from God but most mornings we run through our routines and never stop to think of the One who made us and gave us life. Most of us are blessed way more than we deserve and yet we complain about the hardships we face. And as life becomes ordinary, routine and even monotonous, we forget to acknowledge and tell others just how special our God is, His goodness and His provisions.

I think the Israelites, like us, began to take the cloud and fire for granted. It was there every morning and every evening. Initially, it brought awe and reverence. Eventually it was just something they saw every day until finally, they began to lose their significance. I think the Israelites began to forget what or more importantly who the cloud and fire stood for.

May I always remember to tell my children, friends and family about the greatness of God in my life. Of all the miracles and wonders that He does for me, day by day, year by year. May I live each day in awe and gratefulness for the cloud and the fire that God makes plain to me. May I never take His presence and provisions for granted.

Amen!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Few Pennies Here and There...

Sunday was World Hunger Sunday. That's the day I collect my change (I do it about three times per year) from my "Bread Banks" and make my donation to Global Hunger Relief (GHR). GHR is a 100%, dollar-in, dollar-out way to make a difference in the world regarding hunger.

My "Bread Banks" sit on my dresser and desk at home. Anytime I find change lying around, I pick it up and put it in one of the banks. I especially look for change - quarters, dimes, nickels and even pennies - when I'm out walking, running or just around town. Amazing what you can find just lying around that nobody wants.

About every three to four months, the banks get full and I cash them in. I usually have about $15 to $20 to donate. Yesterday's haul was $20.12. Doesn't sound like much, does it?

Let's say I do this 3 to four times per year. That would mean I would glean about $75 in change that I can then turn around and give to global hunger causes. What difference does $75 make?

* Seventy five dollars could provide water and food for a day for 75 days for one person in the Philippines who lost everything after typhoon Haiyan hit their home
* It could provide almost 4 months of formula for a hungry infant orphan in Sub-Saharan Africa
* It would provide for a sewing kit for a young woman in India to be able to start a micro enterprise, earn money, feed her family and keep her away from sex trafficking to survive
* It could help provide 7 families in Bangladesh with enough seeds and seedlings to start a nutritious vegetable garden near their home
* It could provide 3 water filters for widows in the slums of a major urban center so that they could have clean drinking water
* It could also provide a pair of pigs to help a poor family in Central America have a better hope for the future

A few pennies here and there really do add up. They add up to helping people in need if they are redistributed back through good causes such as BGR and Global Hunger Relief.

If you would like to know more about these ways to help and how your pennies can make a world of difference, I would encourage you to visit:

globalhungerrelief.org

or

gobgr.org

As my parents used to teach me, "every penny helps." 

Friday, August 22, 2014

What I Saw Today...

(Note: These next few blogs are some that I wrote while on my Middle East trip this past week. I will be posting them this week)

Today was unlike any other day that I have had in a while. I travelled close to the border area of a war torn country, Syria. I went to a village that had more than tripled in size due to the influx of refugees. Makeshift tents were everywhere. Every crook and cranny was filled with people trying to find shelter. Animal stalls, garages and storage sheds had been converted to barely liveable units.

And I saw scenes…

I saw a young girl with her arm amputated and shrapnel wound all across her torso. She was still in shock and holding her arm up for any body who cared to see.

I saw a baby with shrapnel wounds constantly crying as a local doctor tried to treat her. She was writhing in her mother’s arms.

I saw a worn out man who had just fled his country two days earlier. He crossed over the border with his wife and five children. He is injured himself – bullet wound in his leg and lower back. He doesn’t know how they will survive.

I saw and old man who told us that he has not seen his two sons in over a year. He fears he will never see them again.

I saw babies constantly crying, literally screaming, and they cannot be comforted. They are traumatized and can’t recover from their fear.

I saw a little boy with scars on his face due to shrapnel. The scars stretched as he smiled.

I saw families being exploited in their grief. Many were paying $300 per month for the privilege of renting a filthy cattle stall for their family to live in. As bad as it was, they said it was better than living in make shift tents.

And you know what else I saw? I saw compassion. It was compassion in the hands and feet of our local workers as they were moving among all these needs, giving a word of comfort, offering help such as food and hygiene supplies and more than anything, taking time to listen to the stories of those hurting and then offering words of comfort and hope.

I saw hurt...I saw healing...I saw hope...