Support Your Not-So-Local Missionaries

Hungry. No, starving. She hasn’t had a descent meal in over eight months. Rice is all she’s lived on. She’s grown weak, and she’s exhausted. She’s tried so hard to carry out her mission, but how can she when she feels so alone? Her clothes hang over her frail body like loose rags. It’s nearly impossible to drag herself out of bed in the mornings. She doesn’t just feel like she’s surrounded by people who hate her and don’t want her there, the people do hate her and wave her off, telling her to go back home.

But today is supposed to be a good day. Today she should be receiving a care package in the mail. Gifts from her brothers and sisters who care. Today is going to be a really good day.

She travels nearly twenty miles by bus to the post office. To her delight, the box is there, waiting for her, with her name on it. The contents inside of it are for her! Her fingers flirt with the flaps of the box on the bumpy ride back home, but she wills herself not to open it just yet. What will be inside? Pop tarts? Bars of soap? Letters of encouragement? This is going to be such a good day.

When she gets home she squashes another roach on the kitchen counter. For the first time, she’s not thinking about the heat. She is just thinking about the contents inside that box. She grabs the scissors and cuts the tape. She holds her breath as she looks inside.

The first thing she pulls out is a brown pillowcase with a hole in it. She sets it aside. She tries to feel grateful when she holds up the next item in the box – a little boy’s t-shirt with cartoon characters on it. A packet of saltine crackers is next, followed by two bottles of water and a 4-oz tube of toothpaste that will probably last her a week if she rations it. There are no notes in the box. Nothing to convey sympathy, support, or encouragement. Not even a phone number to call, or an email address. She had been right. No one cares.

 

I’m not making this story up. The girl is fictitious, but there are missionaries scattered throughout the world who live like this every day. These are brothers and sisters who have sold everything they own to move away for several years to be among a people who don’t want their company or their message. They have taken up the call to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth and the best we can do is send them a bottle of water or some used clothes.

I read a while back that missionaries are grateful for support, but the thing they want most is company. Not all of us can drop everything and go visit the missionaries, but we can contact them, and find out from them directly what they need us to send. Let’s not just feel content dropping a few bucks into the offering plate. Contact the guy who’s in charge of missions at your church and get a directory of their names and emails right now. (And if your church doesn’t have a list of missionaries that it supports, find a new church!) Send them a message, a verse, anything – heck, tell them what they can pray for you about! Build friendships with our brothers and sisters… read their blogs, pray for them.

You may not hear very happy stories from many of them. But we are called to bare each other’s burdens. Listen to their stories, find out what they need, and act accordingly. We’re all called to spread the Gospel together. Let’s embolden each other to carry out that all-important task. It just so happens that on this day on March 29, 1943, the U.S. began requiring Americans to ration fat, meat, and cheese to help win World War II. These were just the beginning of the long line of sacrifices made on the home front. “Do with less so they’ll have enough,” read a poster from the Office of War Information. If Americans could sacrifice for a slightly lesser cause, how much more, then, should we sacrifice for our brothers and sisters, on the front lines of the great cosmic war?

 

Kung Fu Panda 2

Though Kung Fu Panda 2 wasn’t my favorite movie, I really appreciated the heavy themes of adoption and redemption. The two were married beautifully in this Dreamworks picture. Setting aside my personal preferences, I think it’s a wonderful movie for all families to see together. Check out this link for a more in-depth description of the movie by the vise president of Southern Baptist Seminary. http://www.russellmoore.com/2011/06/05/adoption-identity-and-kung-fu-panda/

Book Rec: Radical by David Platt

ImageHere is a book where the author actually has the guts to practice what he preaches. Or should I say, who does what the Scriptures actually teach. If you’re like most people, myself included, you fantasize about the American Dream on a semi-daily basis. Someday you’ll have that car featured in that movie. Maybe this time I’ll win that house on the HGTV contest. I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with wanting those things, or even having them. But often it’s our pursuit of those things that cause our hearts to go awry. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a better life. Just be careful of wanting a better life now. When we set our eyes on the fleeting things of this earth, rather than what’s to come in Christ’s heavenly kingdom, we can easily become distracted from what’s important and grow cold and sour that we don’t have more.

That is not how God intended us to live.

Yet, we constantly find ways to fake-bless our things. As David Platt shares in Radical, we have become masters at twisting the Gospel to meet our needs right now in our comfortable culture. Even in our churches we have a line of programs and events and shows and games and we say it’s all blessed because we tag Jesus’ name on it. (The people who hear the Gospel as a cozy, entertaining show, like a lot of churches portray, will be sorely disappointed when they discover what Christianity is really all about.) Even one non-Christian friend I work with noted that most Christian books are self-help books that just throw God’s name on every other page. He’s right. But this is not one of those books.

I’ll warn you upfront. This is not a comfortable read. Pastor Platt asks two questions that ought to be keeping us up at night. Am I going to believe Jesus? Easy peasy. Even Hitler reportedly believed in Jesus. Here’s the part that ought to keep us tossing and turning at night: Am I going to obey Jesus? Sit on that for a while.

Concerning the way most of us are going about our comfortable lives, Platt says that we’re “conforming Jesus into our image.” He’s right. A lot of us have fooled ourselves into thinking that Jesus is a middle-class, easy-going American whose offering the next best business opportunity. But in this book, Platt shares a handful of stories of people who follow a more accurate, less comfortable Jesus. There are people who meet underground, in secret, just to pray. People who sell everything to live in some undesirable part of earth to be with seemingly undesirable people. I’d like to tag a thought on this. Some people probably think these Christians are the most foolish people on earth, with no aspiration whatsoever. I think they have more desire to grow rich than the man in his corner office overlooking Wall Street. He invested a lot to get to where he is. But the people who give it all away have invested the most and they know that the return on their investment will be much, much greater.

I leave you today with a passage from Radical and truly hope you pick it up. “He (Jesus) has created each of us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and I propose that anything less than radical devotion to this purpose is unbiblical Christianity.”

DON’T Go To Church On Easter

ImageEaster is just two weeks away. Have you invited anybody to church?

Easter is a time for believers to gather together and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from the grave and our redemption through Him. But it is NOT an exclusive holiday. When Christ returns a second time, it’s not going to be done in secret, quietly, behind the doors of a church. No way! It’s going to be loud and explosive and every knee will bow and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of the earth. Folks, Easter is a dress rehearsal for Christ’s second coming, and all the world will see Him. So what are we doing keeping Easter a private family affair? When we signed up to become Christ’s followers, we agreed to take His message to the ends of the earth. The least we can do is take His message to the other end of our workplace. So here’s my challenge, unorthodox as it may be.

Don’t make plans to go to church on Easter Sunday if you don’t invite a lost person to come with you. Here’s why I make this challenge. First, it is a reminder that Easter is not about you. Second, how intimidating would it be to have to explain to someone that you didn’t go to church on Easter because you didn’t invite someone else to church? Now, I may be wrong, but how much less intimidating would it be to just throw out a simple invitation?:

“Got any plans for Easter?”

“No.”

“Want to come to church with me and my family?”

“Naw, that’s fine. Thanks, though.”

Easy peasy. Now you just need to keep praying for them and witnessing to them, since they now know you’re a Christian. Now you can celebrate the Lord’s resurrection with a clear conscious, knowing that you did what you could (and by all means, if the Lord is prodding you to do more, do it). And who knows? The most unexpected thing could happen and they might accept your invitation! And maybe… just maybe they’ll accept the bigger invitation to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and there will be an even bigger celebration in the celestial halls of Heaven than we could ever dream of here on earth.

Don’t make Easter about you. Make it about Jesus. And the thing Jesus is about, is bringing people from death to life.

Note: I understand that some readers may have faced (or may face) persecution or insults or hardships, especially my international readers. I do not mean to make light of inviting people to church and passing it off as something that is easy to do. But that does not negate the challenge (not mine – Christ’s). All of us believers must pray for the lost as well as fellow believers that God may grant them courage and strength. 

Discuss: The Hunger Games: Is It Going Too Far?

Image It’s hard to ignore all the buzz that’s going around about the movie coming out this weekend, based off of the mega top-selling book by Suzanne Collins. Hunger Games tells the story of Katniss  Everdeen who lives with her mom and sister in post-America. When the districts attempted to rise up against the Captitol long ago, they were defeated. As part of the surrender terms each district has to give up one boy and one girl to fight in a televised event where the only object to is to not be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen to participate by the lottery, Kat takes her place.

The story goes on to tell about a group of kids, aged 11 to 18 (12-17?), who get thrown into a forested arena and are forced to kill each other. The only way to win the game is be the only survivor. The only way to survive is to kill your opponents. So my question to you is this: Should this type of movie (or book) be marketed to our teenagers? I have read the book and it is violent, and from what I’ve read about the movie, it flirts with an R rating. If you don’t think this should be marketed to teenagers, would it be better for adults? At what point would you draw the line in dealing with violence in teen movies? If you don’t think it’s a problem to market this kind of movie toward teenagers, what, then, would you consider inappropriate?

I know this blog is young and I’ll be lucky to get one comment, but for anyone that cares to participate in this dialogue, feel free to comment. Let’s hear your thoughts.

Book Rec: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

 It’s 1943. A United States Air Force bombardier and an Olympic runner find themselves drifting in a deflating life-raft in the Pacific Ocean. Tethered to them in another raft is a third crewman, with a gash on his forehead. They’ve been at sea for twenty-three days. Below them are hungry sharks bumping their raft when they swim by. Above them they just barely hear the hum of an airplane approaching. Rescue! They fire two flares. They wave their weak arms frantically in the air, hollering hoarsely at the tops of their lungs. The plane draws nearer and the three men realize that it’s not about to rescue them. It’s a Japanese bomber and it’s firing at them.

Folks, that’s only the beginning. The first part of this book is enough to be a volume of its own. It tells the story of one of the greatest runners in the world and his unforgettable journey to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he saw Hitler himself.

It took Hillenbrand nearly a decade to research Unbroken. You can find an interesting article about her here: http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2010-11-10-hillenbrand10_CV_N.htm

I hate to give spoilers, so avert your gaze if you promise to read this book. But a note to those of you who are reluctant to read it, let me just tell you, this book is an evangelical tool. Give this book to your non-Christian friends and family members for their birthdays this year. Pass it out on the street-corners if you can afford that many copies. Do what you can to get this book into the hands people who are on the fence of Christianity. It is as good a testimony as you will hear from any pulpit at church.

I don’t give many books or movies perfect scores, but this is one of them. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that Unbroken is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read in my life.

The Ant and the Tootsie Roll

I am indebted to Pastor Francis Chan for sharing this wonderful picture about an ant and a wall. It’s been so long since I’ve heard it, I’ve revised it a bit. Check out Francis Chan’s books, Crazy Love and Forgotten God.

There was an ant who was walking his normal course and came suddenly upon a Tootsie Roll in his normal path. How did this get here? the ant thought. Now, Tootise Rolls were fine, except he was allergic to chocolate and it was much bigger than him, so it was nothing more than an obstacle in his path. He could have walked around it, but of course, that would not be part of his normal course. So the ant got down on all knees and prayed, “Dear God, roll this Tootise Roll away from my path!”

So God, in all of His majesty and glory said … no.

The ant tried again, this time bowing his head to the earth. “Dear God, if You love me, you will roll this Tootise Roll away from my path so that I can safely walk across it and continue on my innocent way!”

Again, God said no.

The ant tried a third time, now lowering himself as far into the earth as he could get and yelled out, “Dear God, this Tootsie Roll has been put here in my path. Please roll it away so that I may cross it and carry on my own personal business.”

No.

So the ant grew red in the face. (Luckily none of his friends were around because they would have panicked thinking he was a fire ant.) So the ant said to himself, “Fine. If God doesn’t want to do the job for me, then I’ll do it myself.” So the ant pushed his back up against the Tootsie Roll and pushed and pushed as hard as he could and finally the Tootsie Roll gave way and began to roll.

Once it got moving it rolled way quite easily, and the ant was beginning to learn two lessons: 1) If you want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself, with or without God’s help. And 2) It’s a lot tougher than people think for an ant to move twice its body weight.

The Tootise Roll rolled right off his path. But suddenly, there was a crunch. The ant didn’t remember anything crunchy being in his path. So the ant scurried to the other side of the Tootise Roll and pushed it away.

He recognized the shoes, the bracelet, the necklace… it was his mom! It all suddenly made sense! God didn’t roll the Tootise Roll away because it would have crushed the ant’s mother! God was trying to save him the pain of loss. But the ant chose to defy God and ended up suffering loss. Just then, the ant learned another lesson – God says no to things for a reason. You’d better listen to Him for God’s sake – or rather, for your own sake, otherwise your mom could get crushed by a Tootsie Roll.

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