Inspiration

Sick And Saved

In a foreign country with a foreign disease that has a 65-90 percent mortality rate. That was the plight of 2 American doctors earlier this month. They had contracted Ebola while serving others less fortunate in west Africa. Dr. Kent Brantley and Dr. Nancy Writebol were placing the needs, health and well-being of others above their own when they contracted the deadly virus earlier this summer.

They were released this very week after treatments here stateside. Brantley (who serves with Samaritan’s Purse) called it “a miraculous day” as he addressed the media from Emory University Hospital. Both he and Dr. Writebol (who serves with Serving In Mission) made some statements about their ordeal that should resonate well with us. When facing pain and even death, their faith provided a calm confidence through it all. In a time of uncertainty and unrest, they were certain of the One who can bring true rest and peace.

“When I was being put on that plane to come to the US, I knew I was leaving my home where all my things would be destroyed. I was saying goodbye to David, not knowing if I would see him again. I was getting on that plane unsure if I would be alive when I got to the US to see all of you. It was that moment when I cried out and knew, “Jesus, you have to be enough. Jesus, you are all I have—you are enough.” – Dr. Nancy Writebol

“As I lay in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness, and I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified,” – Dr. Kent Brantley

These words cut me. The phrase “enough” just wrecks me. What is “enough” for me? What am I selfishly pursuing that I think will eventually (or immediately) bring me to “enough”? It’s a question of true satisfaction. There’s nothing that exists that can bring me to that point. Except for the slain Lamb of God. Jesus is enough when facing death and disease and he’s enough when enjoying heath and prosperity.

If my thoughts are “…in my life or in my death, He (God) would be glorified…”, then not only is Jesus “enough”, he is simply all. there. is. 

 

Check out the full stories here. Photo cred included:

Christianity Today: Ebola and the Glory of God: An Interview with Nancy Writebol’s Family including Nancy’s Comments | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer.

Samaritan’s Purse Website: ’A Miraculous Day’.

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Stand With Our Iraqi Family

In case you weren’t aware, there is anarchy in Iraq. Last week, as terrorists took over, the condition of the country deteriorated. Our brothers and sisters, Iraqi believers, are being executed, severely attacked and driven out of their homes. They are begging for our intercession on their behalf before our almighty God. According to Christianity Today last week:

“Thousands of Christians have fled Iraq’s second-largest city as an Islamist terror group solidifies its control over Christianity’s main remaining stronghold in the struggling nation.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an Iraq and Syria-based Sunni offshoot of al-Qaeda, took over Mosul (pop. 1.8 million) earlier this month, the BBC reports.

Most of Mosul’s remaining Christian population of 3,000 fled for safer areas, according to World Watch Monitor.”

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Our brothers and sisters in Iraq need our support. And not just in Mosul. The past week has been a terrifying one in the country. The Baptist Press also issued a statement addressing the crisis and calling for action:

“Most pressing is a situation the White House calls a “looming humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding on a mountaintop near the Iraqi city of Sinjar, home to the country’s Yazidi religious minority, where some 50,000 Yazidi refugees are trapped with limited food and water. On Aug. 3, Sunni extremists known as Islamic State or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) seized the city as Sinjar’s Yazidi population fled fearing massacre. Many Iraqis without transportation escaped to the nearby Sinjar Mountains, a barren heap of rock where daytime temperatures can top 120 degrees.”

Here are 2 ways the BP is urging believers to act:

“1.  Most importantly, pray. God has ordained prayer, and He hears our pleas. Here are the prayer points released by the BP today:

    • Ask the Lord to awaken the world to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq and to provide pathways for Christians and others to respond.
    • Ask God to miraculously protect the Yazidis and other Kurds who fled into the mountains; ask Him to provide a means of rescue and temporary homes for the refugees.
    • Pray that ISIS leaders and soldiers would experience the love of Jesus Christ and that their lives would be transformed.
    • Ask God to preserve and embolden the small remnant of believers in Mosul and Kurdistan, so that one day through their witness, every Iraqi might have the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

2. Give. When it comes to crises like this, sufficient resources are critical.

Help respond to Iraq’s refugee crisis by donating to the International Mission Board’s general relief fund or by texting imbrelief to 80888, which will donate $10 to that fund. To give through Baptist Global Response, visit gobgr.org/donate or text bgr to 80888.(More info here)”

dailymail_iraq_prisonersIn case you’re surfing around the web and see it, the ACNS (Anglican Community News Service) has shed some light on the use of the Arabic letter N (pictured in the header above) in digital media:

Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby changed his Twitter and Facebook profile picture to the Arabic letter N as a sign of solidarity with Iraqi Christians. The symbol – meaning Nazarene, or Christian – is being painted on Christian homes by IS supporters to mark them out for attack; and is now being adopting by Christians around the world as an act of support.” 

Please read the entire stories below. Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters, both young and old, as many are suffering even now.

Thousands Flee as Terrorists Take Over Iraq’s Christian Heartland | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

Iraq: Hell has broken out here and nobody cares.

The Radical.net Blog » Iraq.

Wind and Waves

When calm gives way to calamity

And foaming wakes of fury

Roaring with deafening defiance

Agitating our souls

His children may lose sight of Him

 

When swelling seas surround

And the torrent becomes torturous

Mindful are they of their Master

Despite fray and disarray

Wind and waves obey

 

When salty seaside breezes caress

And tides subside

Waves curl in beauty once more

And the rip current relents

Now glad splashing on battered stone and shell

 

Listen

 

He who spoke them into being commands them

Into the quiet heaviness of His presence

Grateful are we for His gales of grace

See Him once again

Wind and waves obey

Cornering The Everywhere God

With a few sentences below, John Stott helps us see the futility of backing God into our own little corner. How can I corner, limit or box-in a God who is omnipresent? It seems ridiculous but I try. Chances are you try too. I must always let Him be who He is – no manipulation, no redefining, no opinions – just our God and Father as revealed in His word. Think about Stott’s brilliant words here:

“To localize God, confining Him within limits which we impose, whereas He is the Creator of the universe.

To domesticate God, making Him dependent on us, taming and taping Him, whereas He is the Sustainer of human life.

To alienate God, blaming Him for His distance and His silence, whereas He is the Ruler of nations, and not far from any of us.

To dethrone God, demoting Him to some image of our own contrivance or craft, whereas He is our Father from whom we derive our being.

In brief, all idolatry tries to minimize the gulf between the Creator and His creatures, in order to bring Him under our control.”

Help me, Lord, to see you as you truly are! Help me to allow you free reign in my heart! Run rampant in every corner of my life! In both places I’ve hidden and places in the shadows!

Letters To Kim Jong Un – Missions Monday

What would you say to someone who has imprisoned and tortured 30,000 of your brothers and sisters in Christ?

That’s exactly what North Korean President, Kim Jong Un, has done to those in his country who confess Jesus as their Lord. For example, according to “Voice of the Martyrs” website:

“A witness saw a young woman who folded her hands in a praying fashion when the SSD [State Security Department] interrogated her. The SSD suspected therefore that she was a Christian. They took her to another room and beat her until she confessed.”
—Testimony before the United Nations Human Rights Council
Persecution means one thing to us as Americans. It means something completely different to our precious brothers and sisters across the globe. How will we stand with them? How will we support them? We can pray, take action and bring things to light that are happening around the world. 
VOM has made it possible for believers to send letters to Kim Jong Un. Join me and praying and taking action! Here’s an excerpt from the letter you can send electronically or physically:

“To: Mr. Kim Jong Un,
Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)

I am a Christian. I believe in the one supreme God and in salvation only through His Son, Jesus, who died on the cross for my sins and for the sins of all who confess Him and place their trust in Him.

I am aware of the treatment of Christians in your nation. I am aware that Christians are tortured, imprisoned and even executed simply for confessing their belief in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and for their willingness to share their faith with others, even though your nation’s constitution guarantees freedom of religious choice…”

To send Kim a letter head over to the “Voice of the Martyrs” website at http://www.persecution.com. Check out their great resources. Pray for the North Korean people and their president.

The Last and Least

The first and most.

These two words define our world. They defined me in my past and still cry out from my flesh. They blind us of the glory of the gospel. A gospel that wants to turn our value system upside down.

Being “first and most” fits in with a modern view of success and importance. We fool ourselves into thinking we’re missing out on life by not partaking in a worldly view that will ultimately leave us empty. Putting ourselves first and making the most out of “me-almighty” is a great way to be “puffed up” but a terrible way to live life.

But truthfully, living that way comes natural to me. Until I met Christ I lived as a young man convinced that I must become first – get ahead of everyone else by any means necessary, take part in the game of life along with everyone else by seeking pleasure in temporary, unfulfilling things.

Make much of myself and the world will make much of me.

Looking back, I knew there had to be something more, but didn’t have time to consider what it was. Especially in my younger years, I was at the mercy of a swiftly moving stream of influence towards the “first and most” mentality. Time wasted thinking or meaning or purpose meant falling behind and being second or, heaven forbid, last!

The world’s system seemed so burdensome: get noticed, get the girls, get wasted, get the friends, get ahead, get the grades, get the most, get happiness? Fulfillment? Purpose? These things left me more empty than when I first began. They testified to my heart a need. A need for something more. More than this world could give.

By trying to be first in life we instantly put enormous pressure on ourselves to remain first. Stay ahead. And by virtue of our selfish desires to stay first, we must rely on our own power to do so. This is unsustainable and not the way we’re made to operate. We are made to worship.

Being the most in God’s upside-down Kingdom is the exact opposite of what the world would tell us. Jesus corrects the disciples misunderstanding and turns “greatness” on its head by comparing his Kingdom to a child.

Being “first and most” doesn’t fit the shape or aim of the God-Man who came to “serve and give his life as a ransom for many.”

Being the last and least isn’t about getting trampled by the world. It’s about believing that the gospel fundamentally changes our life’s economy. What once had value now is darkened by the shadow of God’s glorious grace in Jesus. He is now the treasure hidden in a field worth selling everything for. He is now our hearts desire. He is now the Lord of our lives. So that put’s me in place as I’m unable to save myself or give myself any sort of real, lasting purpose. Realizing Christ’s obedience in His death, I clearly see His love and am catapulted into life with that same love for others. I’m humbled by it. So I begin seeing the world as God does. “The Last and Least” is about putting others first and myself last. It’s about remaining a servant, the least, so that God will be made glorious in my humility.

This my heart’s desire even though I fail miserably. He is faithful to forgive me when I do. My confidence comes not from my own ability but in the ability afforded to me by his grace. Jesus help us to be the last and least, your servants!

Beauty Is A Beast

It’s not a typo. I mean “beast” in the way the cool kids do.

My wife and I had a conversation recently about beauty. It was awesome. After 12 years of marriage and nearly 15 ministering to young adult women and teenage girls, the following is what we discovered.

Beauty is a beast to figure out. True beauty is hard to pursue and discern. It’s a difficult undertaking for anyone. Whether it’s my 6 year old, a teenage girl, young mom or grandmother. Beauty is something that, if not viewed through the lens of the gospel, can be lost in a world of pencil-thin models, photoshop and caked-on makeup. The world is loud about their version of beauty. It’s also wrong.

Our value, worth and beauty is based not on pre-determined, worldly criteria. A new identity as sons and daughters of the King makes us heavenly royalty. Which is to be desired far more than maintaining attractive facades on these fading, temporary vessels. Our earthy bodies are fallen and tattered by sin. It is a “forever beauty” that women truly need. A beauty that is primary, based on what God says as opposed to an outward, secondary beauty based on what others say. Us guys should heed this word as well. Do we champion God’s beauty to our sisters? Are we helping them or hurting them?

Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  – Proverbs 31:30

Even before I knew Christ, while God continued to testify Himself to me as a teen, I began to see the emptiness of worldly beauty in the opposite sex. I began to notice those young women who knew and loved Christ had something deeper that actually spoke something about their Savior. And it spoke to me. It’s what I saw in my future wife as I began to get involved at a local church. I’m blessed to have her. She embodies scriptural beauty. The luster of her eyes reveals a window showing her satisfaction in Christ. Her smile gleams a joy found in the finished work of Christ. I love her. A lot.

Beauty in Godly women is a testimony of their blood-bought identity. Their outward beauty is made complete by their inward beauty. There is something beautiful about a woman who seeks the Lord; finding her acceptance and true beauty in her new identity in Him. What good is the outward is the inward is out of order?

Peter mentions in 1 Peter 3 that the beauty God finds precious is imperishable. This is “forever beauty”. God’s Beauty. I’m praying my sister’s pursue it. And I’m praying that I and my brothers can see them as God does also.

Just one dude’s perspective on beauty; guided in the matter by a very wise and insightful wife.

 

 

A Brave Boy Named Bill

Check out this awesome story of Bill, a young man who has impacted my life in a huge way in the short time I’ve been at Willowbrook. So cool.

Dreaming With Your Feet

Me and Bill in January Me and Bill in January

Last week, I mentioned a student who would miss our recital because he would be having surgery to remove a suspicious mass. The final diagnosis came today … that student, Bill, does have cancer but the doctors are sure they caught it early, say he only needs two rounds of chemo and are confident of a complete cure.

Hearing this news takes a little of the sting away … at least it will just be two treatments, at least he will recover completely. Thank you to all of you who reached out to me after the last post, expressing your support of our organization, our students, our volunteers and the families who have suffered tremendous losses this year.

I’ve been working on two other posts for this week – a recap of our gloriously amazing recital on Saturday afternoon and another on our “Next Step”…

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When Spinning Chaos Comes

When spinning chaos comes we hide, sigh

A wake of folded, crumpled memories left behind

In piles of mangled metal, wood, brick and mortar

Mud stained clothes and toys

Strewn photographs, trees and tears litter

Where structure stood.

 

When spinning chaos comes we have relief

As Grace tracks it away from our street

Sparing some of loss and lives

We emerge thankful although hurting

For those suffering and enduring

Where their lives stood.

 

When spinning chaos comes the King is near

Who knows our pain and dissolves our fear

With boots on the ground and knees bent true

He will rescue and heal

He will stand and be their true dwelling

A strong tower where their lives and homes stood.

 

 

My Soundtrack For Missions

We’ve all had music in our head. We walk to the beat. We pretend the rhythm is the commentary on whatever we’re doing or thinking. Swelling chord progressions and shredding solos can send us to millions of places in our minds. Feelings of worship, excitement, drama or lamentations can overcome us when we “hear” the music we love in our mind’s ear. With that said, Lecrae’s “Tell The World” has been the soundtrack of my heart as our church spent the past week in Costa Rica. If Holy Hip Hop isn’t your thing, give it a chance. Check out the powerful lyrics below the video. Lecrae has a way of making God and His mission look so glorious, because it is. God’s gospel is “good news”. If it’s that good to us we should “Tell the world”!

 

Lyrics:

Now, I’mma tell the world, tell ‘em
I’mma tell it everywhere I go
Tell the world, tell ‘em
Yeah, I’m a billboard
Tell the world, tell ‘em
And I’m broadcastin’ like a radio
Tell the world
You ought to know, I’m brand new

I know one thing’s true: I don’t even really deserve to know you
But, I-I’m a witness that you did this, and I’m brand new
So, I-I’m ready to go, and I’mma tell the world what they need to know
A slave to myself, but you let me go, I tried getting high but it left me low
You did what they could never do
You cleaned up my soul and
Gave me new life – I’m so brand new
And that’s all that matters
I-I ain’t love you first, but you first loved me
In my heart I cursed you, but you set me free
I gave you no reason to give me new seasons, to give new life, new breathing
But you hung there bleedin’, and ya’ died for my lies and my cheatin’, my lust and my greed, (and Lord!)
What is a man that you mindful of him?
And what do I have to deserve this lovin’?

Tryna make the moments last
Holdin’ on to the past
But, like a hero in a dream
Christ came, and he rescued me

Now, I’mma tell the world,
Tell the world, tell ‘em
I’mma tell it everywhere I go
Tell the world, tell ‘em
Yeah, I’m a billboard
Tell the world, tell ‘em
And I’m broadcastin’ like a radio
Tell the world
You ought to know, I’m brand new

I can’t offer you nothin’, but your care & kindness keeps comin’
And your love is so unconditional, I get butterflies in my stomach
I got the old me in the rearview, now the new me got a clear view
And I was so dead, I couldn’t hear you, too deep in sin to come near you
But you drew me in, you cleaned me up, so take me home, beam me up
Before you do, just let me tell the truth, and let these folks know that I done seen ya’ love
And it’s everlasting, infinite, it goes on and on, you can’t measure it
Can’t quench ya’ love, they can’t separate us from the love of God, there’s no estimate
My face look the same, my frame ain’t rearranged, but I’m changed; I promise I ain’t the same
Your love’s so deep you suffered and took pain, you died on the cross to give me a new name
Ain’t nothing like I’ve seen before, I got a beaming glow
I was low, down, and dirty, but you cleaned me, Lord
You adopted me, you keep rocking me
I’mma tell the world, and ain’t nobody stopping me!