Category Archives: Persecuted Church

5 Friday Faves – The Insanity of God, a Magical Baseball Moment, Saving a Syrian Baby, Downton Abbey Returns, and Beauty & the Beast

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Here we are with another Friday. So ready for today! Not because I live for the weekend, but because this is a wonder all on its own. Where we are, school is back in session after Labor Day, so there’s lots of activity around us with getting kiddos ready to go to school. Last vacations, last school shopping, and then the firsts begin of this new school year.

Today’s Faves are all about film. Please share favorite films you have discovered, too (including video shorts on Youtube, etc) in Comments below.

1) The Insanity of God – This is a limited release documentary taken from the book The Insanity of God – a True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis. It follows the lives of a missionary family in Africa, and then tells stories of people they met in different countries of the world…These people became followers of Jesus in places where they would experience extreme persecution for that decision. Their experiences were difficult to watch, even as actors reenacted them . However, I still strongly recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about God. The most striking takeaway for me was how the suffering they experienced paled compared to their experience of God’s love and care, even in hard places.

Blog - The Insanity of God - Dmitri

I wrote about one of these persecuted believers here.

The Insanity of God will be screened once more on September 13 at selected theaters. The DVD will then be released on November 21.

Blog - The Insanity of God

2) A Baseball Magical Moment – My dad, who has Alzheimer’s, has had a rough week. He’s doing better now, and I’m thankful for family close by him who watch out for him. I bring that up because he loves baseball…well, actually, he loves BRAVES baseball. Still, I think he would love this baseball story about Michael Lorenzen, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Michael’s dad died recently, and the day he returned to play, he had an emotional and magical moment.Blog - Friday Faves - Michael Lorenzen - lindyssportsPhoto Credit: LindysSports

He hit his first homerun of his major leagues career. Don’t miss the video – really sweet, whether you’re a baseball lover or not. I plan to show it to my dad on our next visit.

3) Saving a Syrian Baby – The war in Syria and the refugee crisis have given us terrifying and anguished views of human suffering. One video that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed this week showed a medical team operating on a pregnant Syrian woman who had been critically wounded from a barrel bomb. They were treating her and at some point decided they needed to surgically deliver the baby. You want to watch this here. [The video is 6:17; for sure, watch 3:11 onward]. I know a little Arabic and there’s a lot of celebrating going on in the operating suite. Those doctors must see a lot of terrible wounds from all the bombing, but that day the war didn’t win.Blog - Syrian Mother and Baby - surgical team - mashablePhoto Credit: Mashable

4) Downton Abbey Returns – This week PBS aired a special titled I Miss Downton Abbey. It gave all of us fans another opportunity to revisit that fabulous ensemble cast and to hear some of the behind-the-scenes production bits. For any of you who still haven’t seen Downton Abbey, and now regret that decision, you are in for a treat this weekend. For those who have access to PBS broadcasting, Downton Abbey is going to be shown all this weekend – all 6 seasons – starting Friday evening and going through Monday. Woohoo! Blog - Downton Abbey - radiotimesPhoto Credit: Radiotimes

5) Beauty & the Beast – I just saw a news brief that in March, 2017 (which is 6 months from now!), a live action Beauty & the Beast is being released. Emma Watson is playing Belle and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens is playing the Beast. The buzz is already started about how can you take such a gorgeous animated film and re-do it. Why would you want to? Knowing Disney Studios, it will be amazing.Blog - Beauty and the Beast - Live Action - etonlinePhoto Credit: Etonline

Hope you have a sweet weekend…a holiday weekend for us in the US. I might binge a bit on Downton Abbey while doing laundry and other work around the house…until then, here’s the theme by my favorite guitarist – Nathan @beyondtheguitar.

Worship Wednesday – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong United

Blog - To the Ends of the Earth - Jesus I believe in you - Worship Wednesday - Hillsong - SlideplayerPhoto Credit: Slideplayer

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, Selah, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You! – Psalm 67:1-3

 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… – Revelation 7:9

What would possess us to have life-altering, death-defying good news…and then keep silent about it? Does fear motivate us? A lack of love? What keeps us silent?

How does one keep to herself the most beautiful truth and person ever encountered in life? With both freedom of speech and freedom of religion, how is it that I speak so little of Jesus? This Jesus who turned my life around so many years ago…and continues to transform me in ways beyond imagination.

I want to be done with that kind of silence.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and, some 40 days later, just before he ascended to the Father, he spoke a powerful charge to his followers:

“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 28:19-20

I’ve always loved that sending of Jesus’ followers. It was given to those with him that day…and every one of us since. Simple and clear, we are called to:

  1. Go. [next door and to the nations]
  2. Make disciples. [give witness in word and deed to the truth of the Gospel]
  3. Baptize them. [as an expression and witness of a life surrendered to Christ]
  4. Teach them to observe/obey all Jesus commanded us. [in word and deed, life on life, following Jesus]

Then he gives this wonderful promise at the end:

“I am with you always.” His great declaration of “I AM”.

This week a documentary debuted around the US. The film The Insanity of God was taken from the book, by the same name, authored by Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis.

It follows the lives of a missionary couple, Nik and Ruth Ripken…and then the focus turns to people they meet, from many nations, who chose to follow Jesus. Often against great resistance.

Ripken tells the story of a Russian pastor named Dmitri. This pastor, refusing to recant, was imprisoned for his faith for 17 years. Every morning, Dmitri would come off his cot, look toward the eastern sky, raise his hands, and sing to God. It was his own heartsong, asking for strength for the day. Blog - The Insanity of God - Dmitri

On the day his execution was set, and the guards walked him out of his cell, the prisoners all around him stood at the door of their own cells, raised their hands and sang that very song. Dmitri did not die that day but was miraculously released and restored to his family.

[Also watch Todd Smith’s story-song of Dmitri’s life [“Dmitri’s Heart Song – Jesus Is Alive“]

“”For us, persecution is like the sun coming up in the east. It happens all the time. It’s the way things are. There is nothing unusual or unexpected about it. Persecution for our faith has always been—and probably always will be—a normal part of life”…Those who number themselves among the followers of Jesus—but don’t witness for Him—are actually siding with [the persecutors]…of the world. Believers who do not share their faith aid and abet Satan’s ultimate goal of denying others access to Jesus. Our silence makes us accomplices.” – Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God

Watching that film and hearing story after story of people who loved God more than their own lives…rekindled the fire in my own heart. I do love God…grateful for his forgiveness of my sins, and the love He showed me in the person of his son, Jesus. He is worthy of both our worship…and our witness.

Worship with me to Hillsong United‘s “To the Ends of the Earth“.

Love unfailing
Overtaking my heart
You take me in
Finding peace again
Fear is lost
In all you are

And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it

Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*IMG_8531Movement Church

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong United

Blog - The Lord Bless You and Keep You - in Arabic and English

Wednesday Worship – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – Martin Luther

Blog - A Mighty Fortress Is Our God - suwallsPhoto Credit: Suwalls

“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.”Psalm 46:10-11

In the dark days of oppression, the great Reformer Martin Luther would sing in the streets of Eisenach, Germany, both to encourage himself and those within hearing. He wrote many hymns, but this one, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, written in 1527, became his most well-known. Inspired by Psalm 46, it became the heart cry of the Protestant Reformation.

“‘A Mighty Fortress’ so captured the spirit of the Protestant Reformation that when Protestant emigrants were forced into exile or martyrs went to their death, ‘A Mighty Fortress’ always seemed to be the song they chose to sing.” – Diane Severance

Blog - martin Luther - youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Severance also wrote about Luther’s love of music:
“Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions…which control men or more often overwhelm them…Whether you wish to comfort the sad, to subdue frivolity, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate…what more effective means than music could you find?”Martin Luther

We sang this great hymn on this past Sunday as Movement Church gathered. In the past, we worshiped singing this song usually with the accompaniment of an orchestra or pipe organ. This time, electric guitar riffs and a measured drum beat reminded us of the call to remember who God is…even in the midst of great struggle and the hard press of a changing culture.

This God is the Lord of the church…and we are His people…not just some seemingly silly church people clubbing together. His people are meant to be ready for whatever comes. Not because we are great or able, but because He is…He is our mighty fortress!

Worship with me in the way I learned this great hymn many years ago or in the more contemporary style of HeartSong (below).

A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing;
Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And tho’ this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs — No thanks to them — abideth:
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’ Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.*

*Lyrics and Hymn Story: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – Tim Challies

The Weak Man Behind A Mighty Fortress – Mark Galli

5 Friday Faves – Housing the Homeless, Christmas Cookies, Sunrises in Winter, Healing from Trauma, and a Christmas Cactus

Blog - Friday FavesThis Friday came in so fast. I wish the time would slow down some…so much to savor and celebrate. Even those painful realities of life need time to process and make good decisions about…time… We grab hold of the minutes and squeeze the good out of them before they scatter. This is one of the reasons I write…I write to remember… all the good…and the hard… to take nothing for granted.

1. Housing the Homeless – The journey to housing for our homeless neighbors is complicated. Some we see at intersections in our cities, with their cardboard signs, have made a life, of sorts, on the streets. I have no idea how they survive winter. Others are freshly homeless, living in hotels, until they can’t anymore. Homelessness doesn’t come with its own guide of how to regain normalcy…the homeless need a compass. Thankfully, there are agencies who help these neighbors of ours, and help us learn how to help better. In our city, two agencies I want to highlight are Caritas and Hilliard House (or Housing Families First). Find out how you can get involved. “Homelessness isn’t a lifestyle, it’s an emergency.” – Caritas

L.A.'s Skid Row is home to more than 8,000 homeless people. With the help of domestic hunger funds given through the North American Mission Board, Set Free Church was able to provide a hot meal on Thanksgiving last year. Photo by Greg Schneider

Blog - Homeless - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

2. Christmas Cookies – Once a year, plates of cookies come out that speak love like none other. Home-made, cut-out decorated Christmas cookies amaze me. I don’t bake them but am grateful for the hands that do. So much work in making the buttery cookie dough, cutting them out, baking and then decorating them. A frosted Christmas cookie and a cup of coffee in front of a fire…bliss.Blog - Christmas Cookies - from Josh Griffin's FB page - by Patricia Good EckardPhoto Credit: Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

3. Sunrises in Winter – I don’t know what it is about sunrises in winter, but they catch me by surprise every morning. Rolling out of bed in the still cool darkness, pulling on socks, sliding into slippers, and making my way to bathroom, and then kitchen. Somewhere in the middle of that first cup of coffee, my eyes are drawn to the window…and then glory! The light of the morning sky… Maybe it’s because the trees are bare and we are able to catch the hues of light earlier, but I love winter sunrises best. They take the chill off and fill me with anticipation of the day. Joy…Blog - Winter Sunrise

4. Healing from Trauma – Recently I have been learning more about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and wrote about a valuable resource here.  Then, a friend told me about training she received last month in Amman, Jordan. It relates to caring for non-western peoples who have experienced severe trauma. The Trauma Healing Institute provides training in the US and internationally. “The Trauma Healing Institute at American Bible Society is equipping people, churches, and NGOs around the world to care for the more than one in seven people worldwide who suffer severe wounds of the heart and spirit in the aftermath of conflict, disaster or abuse.” I hope to sign up for this training in 2016. Watch the film Hope Rising to learn more.

5. Christmas Cactus – My mom-in-law is a master gardener. Her sunroom is its own botanical garden. She is always encouraging us to take some of her plants and we have two blooming Christmas cacti right now, because of her. My husband is our gardener (fortunately) or we would not have house plants. I love how these cacti, (or cactuses), “know” to bloom around the holidays (Thanksgiving or Christmas). From the plant family Schlumbergera, the Christmas cactus can be nurtured to bloom right on time. I am pretty sure Dave doesn’t follow a particular plan, but our plants are very forgiving…and are blooming just as they were meant to… Merry Christmas.Blog - Christmas Cactus (2)

Worship Wednesday – Fixing My Eyes on You, God – For King and Country

Blog - Fix My EyesPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3

I wonder at the commercial value of media’s generating fear among us. A strangling fear can choke out love and awareness of those real people behind the news commentators – people who desperately need hope and a future. For us, as Christians, as we watch the news of a world seemingly gone mad, what is our response?

Our action and reaction must always be to fix our eyes on God – to act in accordance with His love and character. To be driven by news media or public opinion is not an option for us as Christ-followers. We have a different path set before us, but we do not walk it alone.

Praise God that He has surrounded us with His own love and with “a great cloud of witnesses”. We are spurred on by the lives of those who have gone before us – who chose faithfulness over fear, peace over prosperity, security in Heaven over safety here. We are also emboldened to live such a life because of Jesus who lived such a life – without sin, in obedience to the Father, for our sakes.

I heard someone being interviewed on the radio yesterday saying her opinion about the current world crisis was set because of her concern for her own children. She would do whatever she could to “circle the wagons” around them. I understand her concerns but not her conclusions. We all want a world where our children can thrive and discover what God meant for them in this life.

Focusing on our own children will not create that world. Focusing on God’s purposes for us in this current world, the only one we have, is our greatest hope for our children’s future.

Joel and Luke Smallbone, of the band For King and Country, sing a rousing anthem entitled Fix My Eyes. I previously wrote about it here. The song relates to looking back with regret to decisions made earlier in life and points to how we might live today.

I want to live such a life today.

Worship with me:

Hit rewind, click delete
Stand face to face with the younger me
All of the mistakes
All of the heartbreak
Here’s what I’d do differently, I’d

(Chorus)
Love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
On You

I learned the lines and talked the talk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows it)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
To walk the walk I’m supposed to walk, and

(Chorus)

The things of earth are dimming
In the light of Your glory and grace
I’ll set my sights upon Heaven
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes

(Chorus)

I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You
I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You

“That hope is why we do what we do to carry that into any situation, any environment, that we’re allowed to, to offer people not just a temporary fix but, God willing, offer them a changed eternity.” – Joel Smallbone

“A changed eternity”. What are you seeing about you and what are you doing to move our world, person by person, toward a changed eternity? Please comment below…and thank you.

Yesterday’s News – Ramadi Has Fallen – What Do We Do Today? And Tomorrow?

Blog - May 18 2015 News - Ramadi has Fallen

At first I didn’t even see the headline story. For so many years now, Iraq has been in the news. We have read so many accounts of military skirmishes and resulting casualties, that, too often, we go numb from the details. Compassion fatigue is one more assault on humanity. When I glanced again at the paper, I realized this was a particularly sad day.

Ramadi, Iraq, is just 70 or so miles from Baghdad. It is the capital of the Anbar province, and once had a population of over 700,000 people. Families who could leave to somewhere had long since gone. For those remaining, they went to sleep Saturday night in their usual situation, but woke up Sunday to a very different world. The Iraqi military was gone. Ramadi had fallen to terrorists. Over the course of several hours, hundreds were killed, and thousands fled the city.

Ann Voskamp is an American mom, farm wife, writer, and Christ-follower. She visited Israel and Iraq this year and has written a series of blogs about what she saw and the stories she heard. Into Iraq #1 and #2 (linked below) will give you a view into the world of these peoples displaced by terrorism. Take the few moments you’ll need to hear the voices behind all the faces in Ann’s photographs. These women and children matter to God. The men, as well, although many of them didn’t make it out with their families.

We can’t just read the paper and discard it as nothing but rubbish, without sitting, as best we can, with these displaced peoples. They have lost so much and are grieving, hungry, and homeless. Ann, in her writing, tells of one helping organization – Preemptive Love Coalition. We give through another – Baptist Global Response.

Ann tells about how you don’t see nine-year-old girls because they are taken and sold in slave markets in Iraq. We can’t even imagine. In fact, I think this is why we don’t pray as we could. These realities are so unimaginable we try to think they can’t be true.

Over a year ago, 276 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their secondary school by a militant terrorist group. Both Christian and Muslim girls. Taken. A few days later, an organization published a list of their names and encouraged people to pray for these young girls by name, committing to pray for one of the girls until she’s back home. I keep that precious girl’s name on my bedside table under my Bible and journal. Every morning, I pray for God to protect this daughter and to be near to her in whatever her situation is that day.

It’s a small thing…or is it?

When Ramadi fell to terrorists on Sunday, a chain reaction must follow. We will not turn away. We will pray. We will give. We will go, if we sense we must…as Ann Voskamp did, and so many others.

As we pray for those without homes tonight, we pray also for those who stole their lives from them. We pray for their enemies…as Jesus did and urged us to do so (Matthew 5:43-45). We are all in need of forgiveness. We are all in need of a Savior.

Let’s keep yesterday’s news before us – as real as are those little ones sleeping in tents or on concrete floors, wrapped in the arms of weary mothers, grieving the loss of their husbands…and as real as those children separated from those who love them, daughters and sons living strange lives imposed on them by others.

We will not turn away…

Into Iraq #1: Love in the Time of I***

Into Iraq #2: What the News isn’t telling You & Why We Can’t Afford to Pretend It’s Not Happening [Sozan’s Impossible Choice — and Our Very Possible One]

Chibok Schoolgirls Kidnapping, April 14-15, 2014

CAN Publishes 178 Names Of Kidnapped GGSS Chibok Girls

Names, Photographs Of Chibok Girls Abducted By B*** H**** Made Public

Nigeria Rescues 234 Women and Girls Kidnapped

Am I My Brother’s Keeper? – On Neglect – Part 2

Blog - Neglect - Orphan Girls in India

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. – Isaiah 1:17

Neglect – the word makes us cringe. If not, then it might do us well to examine our lives once again in the reflection of God’s Word. He is so clear in His teaching of how we are to live. I am so thankful for that because my tendency is to be fuzzy-boundaried – spreading myself too thin, giving precious little to anyone, and then retreating exhausted into the comfy fortress of my home sweet home.

Would you walk with me through this quick journey of sorting out what it is to NOT be neglectful? The one area I don’t intend to focus on is neglect of self – either body or soul. My sense is that when we lean into the urging of God’s Spirit in ministering to others, our own lives are so altered that we are the ones most benefitted by Him (Luke 6:38).

To not be neglectful is to incline ourselves, to lean in, to carry through, to attend, to be intentional, to purpose to:

1) Love* the Lord our God with all our heart. – The Great Commandment

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” – Matthew 22:36-38

When our lives are infused by our love for God, we begin our day with Him and end our day with Him. As He speaks to us through His Word, the Spirit, the church, and our circumstances, we become more and more in tune with Who He is and how He is working in us and around us. It’s not ordering our lives as “God, then, family, then job” – it is all God – at the center and permeating all of life. Let’s savor that a moment…all God.

2) Love* your neighbor as yourself. – 2nd Part of the Great Commandment

“And the second [great commandment] is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:39-40

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” “Who is my brother?” “Who is my neighbor?” – these questions take us to the heart of NOT being neglectful. We want to choose who this neighbor is. We want to be done when we’ve taken care of “our responsibilities” – our family, our school debt, our house payment. How does that make a Christ-follower any different than a decent law-abiding atheist? God doesn’t define “neighbor” for us because He holds onto the right (as righteous, holy, loving God ) of directing our attention to those for whom He will intervene through us…through us. It could be our own parents or children or it could be that friend who continues to struggle with addiction. Or it could be Bonno, the soon-to-be-orphan son of a beautiful South African mother dying of AIDS.

HIV/AIDS

Blog - Neglect-Orphans

We, as God’s children, are to give God the freedom to love our neighbors through us, in whatever way He chooses… Why this is uncomfortable and convicting is a testament to our journey of being transformed into the image of Christ. What joy He means us to have in being His instruments of peace and redemption. [I am all kinds of prickly over this, myself. Praying for my own undoneness in this.]

3) Love* the Church

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:23-25

The church is flawed because it’s peopled by folks like us. Does it mean we get to desert it? Don’t need an answer for what the Word already states definitively. We’ve all heard the lament “I don’t go to church because it’s full of hypocrites.” What better place for us (hypocrites) to be?! It saddens my heart at how people have been hurt by “church folks”. I have had that experience myself. Church folks do not a church make. Church is the Body of Christ – the people of God – we’re His and on His mission until He takes us Home. If we are followers of Christ we don’t get to step away from His church. We need each other in very real, concrete, daily ways. There are no spectators in the Body of Christ, no second-string Christians, no one on the bench. God means us to be all-in, not just on Sunday, but every day – life on life, living Christ with each other and in our circles of influence. It’s messy, and uncomfortable, and other-worldly beautiful…when we wholly follow Christ together.

4) Love* the Nations – Fulfilling the Great Commission

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. – Matthew 28:16-20

The nations have come to us. Still, there are peoples who will never be near enough to the Gospel message unless someone takes it to them. Through both demonstration and proclamation. We can’t leave this only to some elite group of trained vocational Christians. We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission. Every one of us is commanded to go to our neighbors and to the nations. How does that work? By a daily personal surrender and a Holy Spirit-driven intentionality believing that He will open doors as we step up and grip the handles. By truly loving – in word and deed – neighbors and nations. Here in this post-Christian era we find ourselves, more and more of the church are taking seriously our role in fulfilling the vision Christ gave us in His command: “a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ” (Revelation 7:9). The Great Commission is not just for pastors or overseas Christian workers – it’s meant for all of us – health care workers, engineers, teachers, stay-at-home moms, store clerks, technicians, students, and retirees…in the marketplace, wherever we are.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” – Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus doesn’t call us to save the world…He calls us to respond to Him in obedience, one moment at a time, one life at a time…as we take Him at His word, He saves a world.

Blog - Neglect #2 - Refugees

*Love – used in the fullest sense of that word – the Jesus sense of that word – not in the colloquial sense of that word – “Of course, I love my church, addict brother-in-law, controlling boss, lazy co-worker, Muslim neighbor…but…”

Family First! – Not a Biblical Viewpoint

Embracing the Biblical Tension Between Family and Church Ministry

What Does the Bible Say About Family?

World Hunger – Baptist Global Response

Overcoming Compassion Fatigue

What Does the Bible Say About Poverty?

A Neglected Grace – Family Worship – May I add Household Worship for Friends Who Share Housing?

Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of GOD

Blog - Habakkuk 3, 17ff

A Hymn of Faith – Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Reading the book of Habakkuk, we are spellbound by the devastating situation where the people of God find themselves.  Habakkuk wrestles with God over this, and finally yields in faith to the God he trusts…no matter what. Whether in hunger or high places.

The thought of being completely without food is pretty frightening. The stories we hear in the news of displaced peoples, who had to flee their homes and villages and figure out how to survive on foot, are heartbreaking. I can’t fathom that situation, yet I know it’s real for far too many right now.

I’m also afraid of heights. When we fly, I always get an aisle seat, and treat the experience as if I’m on a cross-country bus trip. I love to look at mountains, but being up in them, on narrow roads or cliff-edge paths, is not what I would choose for transportation or relaxation.

Reading through the short account of desperate times, as recorded by the prophet Habakkuk, reminds me of the raw nature of life sometimes. What is that situation for you that would be the worst you could imagine? The loss of a person or the lack of a provision?

Is there anything that could so devastate me that I would take my eyes off God?

I pray not…and Habakkuk gives me hope. He cried out to God, cried out against God, in the beginning, because of the horrific circumstances of his people, God’s people. Yet,  when we besiege the throne of God with our desperate requests, He hears His children and answers us. Not always in ways that suit us at the time, but He responds, with the wisdom of One who sees how all of life, all of history, fits together.

As we pray, whatever He does in answer to our appeals is up to Him – a perfectly loving, merciful and just God. Yet, there is a glorious spiritual transaction that happens, if we keep our eyes on Him. He restores our joy; He brings peace; He gives strength.

I love the passage in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is completely good. That does not mean that He keeps us always in comfortable places. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, as we look over the shoulders of Habakkuk, and see the world as he saw it…he still came around to seeing the goodness of God. We can also choose to rejoice in whatever situation we find ourselves. That is the faith that plants our feet surely on any path where God leads.

The Faith to Rejoice – A sermon on Habakkuk 3:17-19 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA

The Choice To Rejoice – A sermon by Richard Bray

When God Alone is Sufficient – A sermon by Jeff Miller, Trinity Bible Church, Richardson, Texas

Precept Austin Bible Study Helps for the book of Habakkuk

Aslan – Is He Safe?

 

 

We Grieve Differently – We Grieve with Hope

Blog - We Grieve Differently - Iraq - Persecuted Church[Adapted with permission  -Abby Wallace – Marketplace Advance]

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The news is almost more than we can bear. Violence, war, persecution, suffering, death, seeming hopelessness. We want to look away. Yet, we know we, as Christ-followers, are to confront such matters in ways different than the world. We cannot be silent or uninvolved. We cannot turn away.

Allow the encouragement through the Scripture below help you keep perspective, guard your hearts, and stay in the battle. Remember the battle belongs to the Lord, and we are His witnesses. There are not always words. Sometimes we can’t think of a thing to say to help…and yet, we are not to stand with our hands at our sides. We come near…reach in…take hold…we refuse to be put off by the world’s struggles. Jesus died for these embattled ones around us, and we are His people…meant to extend His love.

Through Christ, we have hope, and it’s ours to share. — But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  – 1 Thessalonians 4:13

The work He calls us to, we have the capacity to do. Somehow, as we obey, He lightens the burden. — Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

We are tempted to recoil from His work, to hide, to hope someone else will speak or act. He calls us as He called Joshua. Do we trust Him? –Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

His peace is what we bring to those around us. It makes a difference. — Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. – John 14:27

Our tendency is to turn our focus on the mess the world is in rather than on the One who is at work in the mess. He is present with us…and with those He’s brought near to us. — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:6-8

We won’t understand what God is doing always, but we must persevere in prayer for those around us. — To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. – Psalm 13:1-5

As we persevere in prayer, God clears our vision and encourages us to keep trusting Him. — I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.- Psalm 18:1-6

When hardship comes, and it will, He has given us great promises to take us through. Believe Him. — But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. – Isaiah 43:1-5

Our constancy of faith, singularity of purpose, and perseverence through trials are strengths we bring to the battle – to our circle of influence – we won’t give up on God. It’s not over yet. — Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14

An example of a life of faith in grief – Job — Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. – Job 1:20-22

An example of a life of faith after grief – David — David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. – 2 Samuel 12:16-20

Our example of a life of complete obedience and love – Jesus — Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:1-12

As Christ-followers, we are His laborers in the Harvest – we are all His laborers. The marketplace wherever we are is crowded, even in times of war, with those who desperately need Him. – we are His workers; He will redeem. — When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:36-38

Baptist Global Response

What Does the Bible Say About Grief and Sorrow

Worship Wednesday – Do Something by Matthew West

Blog - Do Something

Do Something by Matthew West

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
I’m gonna do something”
We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still

Lyrics     Writer: Matthew West (Into the Light album) 2014

Publishing: Songs of Southside Independent Music Publishing / External Combustion Music / Songs for Delaney (ASCAP)
 

1) Be informed. Every day we are slammed with bad news by the media. We are not immune to compassion fatigue and, in fact, can just let the news wash over us, suspicious of what’s true or not. As believers, we must not turn a deaf ear. We must weigh, every day, what is happening in the world, what grieves the heart of God, and what is ours to do about it. So what, if we don’t always get it right? I posted an amazing piece on Monday about the plight of Christian families in Northern Iraq. Then yesterday another piece came out about maybe it’s “not as bad” as we may have heard. Praise God if that is also true. However, we must take the news and op-eds and sift not just the information, but what we are to do as His people. I so appreciate what I gleaned from both pieces, and especially the step-by-step guidance given in the first.

2) Refuse to be silent. – If we are silent, we align ourselves with the persecutors. However, there is a way for Kingdom people to be the voice of the persecuted and oppressed. Language of hate and blame will not glorify God. Will not. Read Nik Ripken’s Insanity of Obedience.

3) Pray. Unbelief has to be the worst sin of all. We as Christ-followers must not fall to that temptation, especially in a world so racked with cynicism and lethargy and self-centeredness. So pray, believing, dear ones. Every day. Together and alone. Pray.

4) Give. There is so much in the Word of God about giving. Again, the world’s thinking creeps into our decision-making when we don’t give (either through our churches or to relief organizations) because we’re just not sure where the money goes. “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” – 1 John 3:17  We give to BGR. This relief and disaster response agency is constantly monitoring and acting on the disasters that we read about (earthquake in China last week, escalating emergency situations in Middle East, etc.). By giving to BGR, I can do something.

5) Go. “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 28:19-20 When Jesus gave this Great Commission, He wasn’t just speaking to those within His immediate hearing. He was speaking to the Church through the ages. He means for us to go, in obedience – to our neighbor, our co-worker, our friend. He may also mean for us to go short-term (2 weeks or 2 years) to another part of the world. He may mean for us to take a job with our company or another organization and spend much of our life among the nations. In obedience. For the lives of the people. For the glory of God.

“We ought always be ready to meet our Maker. Live this day as if it were your last. Resist sin. Extend grace. Share the Gospel. Look for Christ. – @pastorjgkell Garrett Kell – on my Twitter feed this morning.

Blog - Do Something Andrea

Andrea Pauline Kazindra, Co-Founder of Musana

Baptist Global Response

Youtube video of Story Behind Song Do Something

Youtube video of Matthew West’s song Do Something