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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.

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.

Missions Monday – The 10/40 Window

Where is the gospel needed most? Well, everywhere, by everyone, always. However, there is a strategic way of looking at the places in the world where the gospel has yet to be shared or that has very few believers altogether. This is the 10/40 Window.

The Joshua Project is an very helpful site for the pulse of gospel-need in places the name of Jesus has scarcely been heard, if heard at all. Here they break down the need on for the gospel in this part of the world:

“The 10/40 Window is the rectangular area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia approximately between 10 degrees north and 40 degrees north latitude. The 10/40 Window is often called “The Resistant Belt” and includes the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. The original 10/40 Window included only countries with at least 50% of their land mass within 10 and 40 degrees north latitude. The revised 10/40 Window includes several additional countries, such as Indonesia, that are close to 10 or 40 degrees north latitude and have high concentrations of unreached peoples. See the original and revised country lists on this page. An estimated 4.65 billion individuals residing in approximately 8,349 distinct people groups are in the revised 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window is home to some of the largest unreached people groups in the world such as the ShaikhYadava,TurksMoroccan ArabsPashtunJat and Burmese.

The 10/40 Window has several important considerations: first, the historical and Biblical significance; second, the least evangelized countries; third, the unreached people groups and cities; fourth, the dominance of three religious blocs; fifth, the preponderance of the poor; sixth, the strongholds of Satan within the 10/40 Window.

An estimated 2.85 billion individuals live in approximately 5,823 unreached people groups are in the 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window also contains the largest unreached peoples over one million. In addition, the 10/40 Window contains the overwhelming majority of the world’s least evangelized megacities — that is those with a population of more than one million. The top 50 least evangelized megacities are all in the 10/40 Window! That fact alone underscores the need for prioritizing 10/40 Window Great Commission efforts.”

How will you reach the staggering number of people who live in this part of the world? How will I? By the grace of God and in His power alone we can pray, send and go. 

For more on the 10/40 Window check out The Joshua Project’s page committed to this area of the world.

Jesus the Bassmaster…sort of

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. Luke 5:4-7

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Jesus is better than us at our careers. Jesus is better than us at doing our jobs we’ve received years of training for. Jesus knows more about what we do than we do.

Here Jesus is not just telling but showing us how fish are caught. We know that when Jesus calls us as his disciples he promises to make us fishers of men. He makes us fishermen. It is a transformational work of God, not of ourselves (lest any of us should boast). In Luke, Jesus schools the professionals on how to do their own jobs. They had given it their best, professional shot. They toiled all night with nothing to show for it. In their eyes there was no way to have success and even briefly questioned Jesus concerning his command to drop the nets again. They questioned Jesus, who had more than a little to do with the laws of physics keeping the boat on top of the water, who created  bodies of water complete ecological life and who also intricately, wonderfully “knitted” Peter together in his mother’s womb. You see, Christ is the one who shows us where and how to fish for men. He has authority. He is intimately aware of those around us daily and holds the key for us “fishing” effectively. He can do your job and lead your life better than you or I can.

God sovereignly gives us opportunities in quickly-passing moments with strangers and life-long relationships with close friends to “catch” people with his gospel. This is deeply true of every waking moment of our lives as believers.

The obedience of Simon Peter and the others brought about a huge catch that day. There were so many fish that they almost sank! Help was needed from another boat to wrangle all of the massive catch! This brought Peter to his knees, acknowledging his sin and need. When Jesus directs us and we obey, he takes care of the rest. And we are put in our place: at His feet.

Prepare your heart for a catch. Expect God to work. Let Jesus lead and guide your heart this week wherever you find yourself. He knows where to let down the nets. There’s no need to fear. He is the Master Fisherman.

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!

Shrugging At Brilliance

How can we shrug at the creative brilliance of God? Or say “meh” to magnificence? His handiwork in the things He has made demands a response: our pause, meditation and thankfulness for grace. Our worship. Those of us awestruck by creation see an artistry beyond comprehension. From the intricate detail of the tiny, fuzzy, creeping insect to the massive power of majestic mountain ranges cloaked in clouds: God is telling us about Himself. He is shouting it to us in claps of thunder and whispering it to us in Winter’s quiet cold.

Shrugging at such brilliance and mastery would not only be a commentary on our gratitude, but a statement about the Artist Himself. As if His grand work is not worthy of a second thought? This world is given as a testament to His love and goodness for us. Don’t miss opportunities to stop, ponder and worship the One who thought enough of us to plaster Himself all over this globe in beautiful green and blue.

The Costa Rica Effect

Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. The towering mountains and lush, vibrant vegetation make it’s landscape simply breath-taking.

But aside from the aesthetics, the people are beautiful. Through their hospitality they have shown me what it truly looks like to serve others. Many of the believers here have already made a deep impact in my life: a pastor and his family along with men and women of God who are bent on serving our King with committed, humble hearts.

As I’ve examined myself and what God was teaching me it was obvious that other members of my team were experiencing something similar. Both students and leaders have shared that committed, humble, hospitable, God-fearing people here have caused them to think about the attitudes and norms of our Americanized Christianity.

Maybe it’s good to leave the familiar for the adventure. Maybe it’s good to fly away from time to time. Maybe leaving “The Bachelor” for the mission of sharing an actual love story in a beautiful, tropical, foreign land would be good for you, but bad for ratings. This love story has a Son sent to a lonely place for a lonely purpose and a lonely death, forsaken by his father. But after only days this Son defeats the sin (mine and yours) that sent him there in the first place! He is then received back by his father, who knew all along of the anguish and torture his Son would endure. This would be, and still still, a history-changing, life-altering story for all mankind; worthy of our mission endeavors.

As the comfortable shores of home vanish in the distance our Father has a way of speaking to us, showing us our misconceptions and pointing us to his own heart. One of a diverse love for all of his diverse children in every possible corner of the world. I’m very glad that in my little corner I have the privilege to serve with incredible leaders and
quite a crew of student-servants who are drawing closer together and closer to our Lord. Great things are happening!

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Our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria Need Jesus Too.

Paul said in Romans that it was his ambition to preach where Christ was not already named.  He was obedient to take the gospel to people and not just invite them to an event or program.  As it was with Paul, so let it be with us.  Let us not be slow to take the gospel with us.  Who would  leave something so precious in one place?  If Christ has transformed our lives in a miraculous way then He is worth the efforts to take Him to the nations…and our own nation.

We will travel a little over 5 hours tomorrow to take this message to people who desperately need to hear it.  Lost  people.  Funny how I was on a team who did the same thing a little over a week ago…but to a country around the world.  Do you know who we were trying to reach?  Lost people.  Just like the lost people who you passed on the road today.  Just like the lost people you work or go to school with.

Let us be so consumed with Christ that He literally causes us to see spiritual needs here at home, regionally and across the globe.  Let us “live in view of God’s mercy” each day.  Let us be aware of the lostness that exists here in the States.  Let us have the compassion of Christ.  A compassion that drives us into a head on collision with the lives of others.  May the impact of that collision be one of God’s love and grace lavishly  offered to those people in our lives.

He is all we have to offer.  No matter where you are – at home or abroad.  Jesus is all we have to give.

Pray for us.

jb

The Ukraine Mission 2010

We just arrived home from Kiev, Ukraine and my data services are back to flowing like the mighty Mississip.  It has been both refreshing and sobering to experience God on this trip.  We were well spent for Him, no doubt. We are physically drained but Spiritually rejuvenated.

One of my favorite quotes of the trip came from one of our translators, Olga.  She said “prosperity brings rejection” when speaking of Gospel penetration in more populated areas of Ukraine.  Early in this nation’s history (in the early 90’s when they gained independence) the Gospel was welcomed quickly in many areas.  Obviously, Ukraine was under Soviet rule prior to that.  She noted that as Ukraine dealt with it’s freedom and started to gain roots they became apathetic towards the message.  Bibles used to be given out in large cities in huge quantities.  People were hungry for it. Now the hunger is gone and Christianity is almost viewed by current governmental leadership as another cult.  As the nation began to prosper on it’s own the nation became more and more apathetic to God’s word.

Seem familiar?  Could it be that this same apathy has led to the rejection of the power of the Gospel in the U.S.?  Could this apathy be driven by our own prosperity as in Ukraine?  Maybe the U.S. and Ukraine are not so different after all.

After flying over 10,000 miles I understand more our desperation for the message of Christ.  Despite our prosperity or living conditions, turning our back on the Gospel is just as wrong here as in Eastern Europe.  No matter how little or much you have materially, if you lack Christ you lack purpose, direction, meaning and true life.

What are we clinging to that is driving our apathy towards God?  Crucify yourself so that you may live (Gal. 2:20).

jb